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Legend in the Making - An Advanced Guide to Competitive Hearthstone: Part 1

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In part one of this comprehensive guide to reaching Hearthstone's highest rank, I teach you all the skills you'll need to dominate ranks 25 to 15.

Legend in the Making: Part 1

Raks 25 to 15 - Knowing your Role and Embracing Mistakes

I was a total novice at Hearthstone when I began my quest to reach legend. I wasn’t even level 10 with all the classes yet and I only had one legendary card in my collection.

Yet here I am three weeks later, completing my quest to reach Legend on my first attempt.

Hearthstone Screenshot 04-26-17 17.34.36.png

There were two things which motivated me to shoot for the highest rank at Hearthstone. My first motivation was that I had recently finished reading The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy and subject of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer who later went on to become a world champion martial artist. The book focuses on the learning principles which Josh developed throughout his careers as a chess and martial champion, which he credits as the primary reason he was able to achieve such tremendous success across two vastly different disciplines. I was eager to try out the lessons I had read about in the book and Hearthstone seemed like the perfect arena for me to put these lessons to the test.

My second motivation for reaching Legend was that I had recently quit playing competitive Magic: The Gathering, mostly to save money for my upcoming move to Australia. Hearthstone seemed like a great way for me to scratch my competitive card gaming itch without breaking the bank. I know many Hearthstone players feel the game is overpriced, but trust me when I say that it doesn’t even come close to the price of MTG. If you don’t believe me just check out the cost of Grixis Death’s Shadow, the most popular deck in the Modern format right now.

As it turns out, my two motivations for reaching legend were my greatest assets. My foundation in competitive MTG had taught me all the fundamentals I needed to climb the Hearthstone ladder, and the lessons I had read about in The Art of Learning provided me with the tools I needed to identify my mistakes and make the best use of my limited time.

A month later I decided to see if I could repeat my results on another card game, so I set my sights on Eternal Card Game’s highest rank – Master’s League. Sure enough, I was able to repeat my success and reached Master’s League on my first attempt.

Why you should trust me

I’m far from a pro at Hearthstone and I’m certainly not a gaming prodigy. I’m a huge fan of Blizzard games, and will begrudgingly admit for the sake of building trust that I placed into Bronze League at Starcraft 2 and Silver League at Overwatch. I don’t have any innate skills or instincts which separate me from the average gamer. All I have going for me are the card game fundamentals I learned from playing competitive MTG and the learning concepts I’ve picked up from The Art of Learning. Both of which I believe I can effectively teach in this guide due to my experience as a writer.

Writing is currently my primary source of income. Though there are many other well-written guides on how to reach Legend, I hope that my ability to distill advanced concepts into clean and effective language will ultimately separate this guide from others like it.

The Art of Learning

I firmly believe that one of the two main reasons I was able to reach Legend on my first attempt was The Art of Learning. Its one the most highly recommended books I’ve ever come across and an essential read for anyone interested in high-level competitive performance.

It’s not particularly long, but its also not the sort of book you want to blast through in one or two sittings. The lessons in it are highly conceptual and may take some time to fully internalize. I highly recommend you get the book and commit to reading a chapter a day during your climb to Legend. A chapter a day takes just 15 minutes, and if you have time to play Hearthstone you have time to read a book. I’m willing to bet that reading The Art of Learning will contribute more towards your goal of reaching Legend than playing extra Hearthstone or spending the cost of the book on extra packs.

Section 1 - The three biggest obstacles to any first-time Legend push

Before you decide to commit the massive amount of time and effort it takes to reach Legend you should be aware of the three biggest obstacles standing in your way. These obstacles are largely procedure-oriented and don’t require any special skills or knowledge to overcome, but they are just as important to your climb as any anything I’ll be teaching in this guide.

Obstacle #1 – Time

It takes a ton of time to reach Legend, even if you’re really good. According to this study a player who wins only 50% of their games should expect to play a whopping 875 games in a single month to reach Legend from rank 20, while a player with a 60% win rate should expect to play 246 games. A 60% winrate at Hearthstone is pretty good, and 246 games is a lot of games. If you can’t commit to playing 300 games in a single month then you probably shouldn’t even attempt to push for Legend at all.

There are few things you can do to make it easier on yourself when it comes to time management and Hearthstone. Firstly, and I can not stress this enough, do not play any Arena. Trust me, I understand that Arena is fun. I understand that doing well at Arena is the best way to grow your collection. But unless you’re willing to commit two or more hours a day every single day of the month to Hearthstone then you simply wont have the time to make Legend. If you spend the coins you’re earning from wins and quests on packs instead of the Arena I promise you’ll still be able to grow your collection and build new decks while climbing to Legend.

Next, I recommend you try to work Hearthstone in to your schedule. If you want to get to 300 games you need to play a minimum of 10 games a day, every single day of the month. Alternatively, you could aim for longer play sessions of 15 to 20 games so you can afford yourself a few days off per week. Speaking for myself I didn’t play anywhere close to every day of the month during my own push for Legend (I took one week off entirely) and found that I got better results from marathon sessions of 20 to 30 ladder games.

Obstacle #2 – Using a Deck Tracker

Using a deck tracker is essential for any first time Legend push. My weapon of choice is the aptly named Hearthstone Deck Tracker, but any deck tracker works fine so long as it provides you with replay functionality.

The most obvious benefit of a deck tracker is that it trains you to play to your outs, a concept I’ll teach in the part four of this guide. Having a window open which shows you the cards remaining in your deck serves as a very useful reminder of your remaining avenues to victory and we’re in the market for every advantage we can get.

The greatest benefit of a deck tracker is not the deck window but its replay functionality. Replays are the most essential tool we have for identifying and correcting mistakes in our play, and a tool we only have access to if we use a deck tracker. The ability to watch replays is absolutely critical to the learning process, which means that a deck tracker is absolutely necessary for rapid improvement.

Obstacle #3 – Choosing a Deck

I know this is going to be a tough pill to swallow for many of you out there but it's time to give up on your pet deck and play a net deck. I know it hurts, I too am a brewer at heart. My first ever published article on MTG was titled A Brewer’s Manifesto, which discusses in detail why I love brewing MTG decks and the competitive advantages which come along with playing brews.

If we want to make Legend we need absolutely every percentage point and tiny advantage we muster, especially from rank 5 to Legend. The unfortunate truth is that you are only kneecapping yourself by playing an off-meta deck. Do yourself a favor and hop on over to hsreplay.net to see which decks you’re closest to making, then make them. You can type cards from your collection into the “Included Cards” tab and it will tell you which meta decks they currently fit into.

If you don’t have the cards to make one of the top decks in the meta there is absolutely no shame in spending some money to buy them. I spent 100 bucks on packs when I got started to get all the dust I needed to build Aggro Druid and Elemental Shaman, then earned the rest of the dust I needed to build Dragon PriestCombo Priest, and Midrange Hunter during my climb to Legend. I didn’t need to spend another penny, but I did it anyways because I really really wanted to play Burn Mage and needed an Alexstrasza. So much for saving money.

Section 2 – Ranks 25-15 and Knowing your Role

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The most common (yet subtle, yet disastrous) mistake I see in tournament Magic is the misassignment of who is the beatdown deck and who is the control deck in a similar deck vs. similar deck matchup. The player who misassigns himself is inevitably the loser.

Micheal Flores – 1999

Who’s the Beatdown? is the most widely read article in the history of competitive MTG. “Who’s the beatdown?” is one of the most fundamentally important concepts in both MTG and Hearthstone, yet I’ve found that it is widely ignored at all levels of the Hearthstone ladder. In my very final game before reaching Legend (rank 1 with 5 stars) my opponent made a massive misplay which demonstrated they didn’t understand “who’s the beatdown?” at all. Its entirely possible that internalizing the concept of “who’s the beatdown?” will be enough to push some players into Legend by itself.

If you can enter into each game with an understanding of your role in the matchup you will completely dominate this stretch of the ladder. In my experience, the vast majority of players from ranks 25-15 have no absolutely clue about their role in a matchup and will haphazardly throw their spells and minions around without any semblance of a game plan in mind. These players completely fail to see the bigger picture, and approach each decision as the game presents itself to them without bothering to ask themselves “why?”. They play their cards simply because they can, not because they should. Does this sound like you?

In this section, you will learn how to eat these players for breakfast.

So, who is the beatdown?

In every game of Hearthstone there is always one deck which is more aggressive than the other. This deck is the aggro deck, or “beatdown”. Even in a matchup between two highly aggressive decks, one deck is always slower than the other and should assume the role of the control deck in that matchup. This might not seem intuitive, but in a 29 out of 30 card mirror match where the 30th card in one deck is more expensive than the 30th card in the other one, the deck which has the more expensive card in it should assume the role of the control deck while the other deck should assume the role of the aggro deck.

Just because a deck is the control deck in one matchup doesn’t mean it will be the control deck in another one. The role of the aggro or control deck changes from matchup to matchup and can even change places depending on who goes first.

Most of the time its pretty easy to identify who the aggro deck is. Aggro Druid, for example, is the aggro deck against nearly every deck in the game. But what does that mean, exactly? Is it the aggro deck against Pirate Warrior? What about the mirror match? We’ll cover those concepts shortly, but first we should establish how we go about identifying who the beatdown is:

  1. The deck with the bigger minions and more expensive cards is probably the control deck.
  2. The deck with more card draw (Lay on HandsCabalist's Tome, and Mana Tide Totem) is probably the control deck.
  3. The deck with more removal (cards like HexMeteor, and Vilespine Slayer) and board wipes (BrawlVolcano, and Starfall) is probably the control deck.

Another helpful tool for identifying your role is the Metagame Clock from reddit’s competitive hearthstone subreddit. The most aggressive deck is at 1 o’clock (Pirate Warrior) and as the clock progresses clockwise the decks become more and more controlling. This is a great tool to get you started out as you learn how to determine your role in every matchup, but it doesn’t include many decks and isn’t always 100% accurate.

Knowing which deck is the aggro deck and which deck is the control deck can sometimes be a difficult question to answer, especially when two similarly configured midrange decks go head to head. The key concept to understand is that in the vast majority of games, one deck is always the control deck and one deck is always the aggro deck. Identifying which role you are in a matchup should inform almost every decision you make in that game, and misidentifying your role in a matchup is the most likely reason you are losing games at the lower ranks.

Things start to get really tricky when you take into account that roles can even vary from game to game within the same matchup. You might switch roles in a matchup depending on which cards are in your opening hand, which threats from each deck have already been removed from the game, and which cards each player can afford to play around. In general, the closer the decks are to each other in “beatdowniness” the more likely they are to switch roles in the middle of a game, and the further they are apart from each other the less likely the are to do so.

Highly aggressive and controlling decks

As a rule of thumb, the more aggressively a deck is built the worse it will be at playing the role of the control deck against similarly aggressive decks. Conversely, as decks become more and more controlling they become worse and worse at playing the role of the aggro deck against similarly configured opponents. The decks found on either end of the aggro-control spectrum are designed with extremely narrow focuses, and are generally good at one thing and one thing only.

From the perspective of determining “who’s the beatdown?”, its quite rare (though not entirely impossible) that a deck like Jade Druid or Pirate Warrior would have to play a role other than one they are designer for. This is why I believe these decks tend to draw the most ire from newer players. I’ve heard countless complaints about how frustrating these deck are to play against due to how “obvious” they are to pilot. The reason they seem so obvious to pilot is because the role for these decks is so clearly defined that an inexperienced pilot is likely to execute the principles behind “who’s the beatdown?” while playing with one of these decks without even realizing they’re doing it. This gives them a significant advantage over other players who don’t understand what their role is in a matchup.

Embracing Mistakes

Our first lesson from The Art of Learning is that mistakes are essential to the learning process. We should not fear mistakes, but accept that they are vital part of learning and our most valuable teachers. The quickest way to learn and improve at Hearthstone (and at life in general) is to make mistakes, identify those mistakes as quickly as possible, and never repeat them. The best way to identify our mistakes is to watch replays of our games.

The most important tool you have for improving at Hearthstone is your replays. If you ever finish a game with a feeling that you could have won but didn’t, or if you don’t understand why you lost in the first place, take this as a signal to go back and watch your replay. Especially during the ranks 25-15, you should be watching replays of every single game loss. It might seem like a waste of time, but every game you lose while repeating mistakes is a far greater waste of time than watching replays.

While watching your replays you want to be mainly focusing on the question of “who’s the beatdown?” until its completely ingrained in your subconscious. The goal is to reach a point where you no longer have to use any of your brain power to identify your role in a matchup. You want it to feel completely intuitively.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself while watching replays to check if you are correctly identifying your role in a matchup:

  • Could I have won this game if I played the opposite role?
  • Did I play my role in this matchup correctly? (We’ll dive into this shortly)
  • Was there a point in the game where it was necessary for me to swap roles to give myself a chance to win?

The concept of “who’s the beatdown?” is so vital to improving at Hearthstone that it should be the only thing you are focused on at these ranks. This falls in line with our next lesson from The Art of Learning: focus on learning only one thing at a time, and don’t focus on learning anything new until you have mastered the first thing. As you progress through this guide try to focus on applying just one skill at a time as best you can. Don’t put too much weight into the results of your games, focus on improvement first and trust that the results will come later.

The Aggro Player

The aggro player has one goal and one goal only:

Kill ’em dead! 

The longer the game goes on the easier it will be for the control player to outclass the aggro player with their bigger and better stuff. The way you can gain an advantage with your smaller minions and spells is to leverage your superior speed. When in doubt, point your damage towards the face and aim to kill your opponent as quickly as possible.

Even as the aggro player, some trades are still too good to pass up. It is often necessary to protect a high value minion (such as a Frothing Berserker which is growing in power) by trading your low value minions into their board. Trading away low power minions to protect high power minions still fits in line with the aggro mentality of kill ’em dead! as it often represents the fastest way possible to kill the opponent, otherwise known as a “clock”.

The Clock

The clock is a term which is used to define how many turns away a player is from dying, assuming that the board doesn’t change and every attack goes to the face. If your opponent is at 10 life and you have 4 power worth of minions on board, they’re on a 3 turn clock (4+4+4>10). Adding two power to this board would reduce the clock to two turns. In this context, there’s really no difference between adding one power to the board (5+5=10=dead) or two power (6+6=12=dead), which brings us to the concept of “clock management”.

One way to get the most of out your clock management is to consider how you can deal the most damage per card. This is easy to do when it comes to burn spells (a Fireball is almost always going to be 6 damage) but its a little harder to conceptualize when it comes to minions. Since you want to inflict the highest possible amount of damage per card, you would do well to to not play minions into boards where they are likely to die prematurely. For example, let’s pretend that we’re an Evolve Shaman in the aggro role against a Mage. If we play out a turn one Patches the Pirate he’s likely to get killed by Jaina's hero power and only deal one damage in the process. If we choose to wait on that Patches until the turn we cast Bloodlust, Patches will deal 4 damage instead of 1.

One of the easiest ways for an aggro player to lose is to overextend their resources into a board wipe like Brawl. If you’ve already presented your opponent with a one turn clock and they have yet to cast a Brawl this game, what benefit is there to playing out any more minions? You’re already winning next turn anyways and you don’t get bonus points for winning by larger margins. Presenting just the right amount of damage to your opponent without committing your strongest cards to the board forces your opponent to use their annoying board wipes while allowing you to hold on to your key resources. If you can present more threats to your control opponent than they can provide answers, you’ll eventually win.

Overloading the control player’s resources

The dream for an aggro player is to get such an amazing opening hand that they can kill their opponent before they even have the chance to put up a fight. It goes without saying that games don’t always play out this way. So what can you do if your hand is relatively normal or if your opponent has all the tools they need to fight off your initial attack? This is when we should start thinking about overloading our opponent’s resources.

The aggro player can attempt to attack the resources of the control player on a number of different vectors. One way is to continuously “go wide” by presenting boards of four or more minions again and again, demanding board wipe spells from the opponent. If you can present more wide boards than your opponent can present board wipes, you’ve successfully “overloaded” their board wipe resource and have put yourself in a good position to win. This is a very common way for Aggro Druid decks to steal wins against control decks. Aggro Druid can first create a wide board presences with cards like Fire FlyBloodsail Corsair, and Patches the Pirate, then buff them up with Mark of the Lotus and Power of the Wild to demand a board wipe from their opponent. Once the board wipe has been played they can play a Living Mana to create a new board all over again and demand another board wipe. Then they can play another Living Mana. This is often too much for control decks to handle, but it requires planning from the aggro player to execute correctly without overextending.

Another resource the aggro player can attack is their opponent’s removal spells. If you can present more fatties (cards like Bittertide Hydra) than your opponent has spells to kill them, the final unanswered fatty will often win you the game. This is how Pirate Warrior wins most of its games. It demands an answer to threat after threat, and if their opponent ever stumbles and allows the Pirate Warrior’s threat to stick around too long they pack enough face damage (such as Arcanite Reaper and Mortal Strike) to quickly finish them off.

Try to be keenly aware of the cards your control opponent has already played so you can attempt to run them out of gas on that vector. Beyond the cards in the opponents deck, there is one more resource the control player badly needs which the aggro player can attempt to overload: Mana.

Tempo

Tempo is a term you’ll hear a lot in competitive card games but it is rarely well defined. In my mind, tempo is just another way of saying that a player is attempting to overload their opponent’s mana by endeavoring to create a board advantage or speed advantage at the expense of their own cards.

The classic example of a tempo play is a card which returns a minion to their opponent’s hand, like Sap. Casting Sap puts you down a card against your opponent as it only removes their minion temporarily, but it creates a board advantage and has the potential to create a massive mana advantage (tempo). For example, if your opponent spends 8 mana and their entire turn to cast Tirion Fordring while you only spend 2 mana to return it to their hand the following turn, you come out way ahead on mana for the turn and are way ahead on tempo.

Another tempo card in the context of aggro decks is Innervate. It costs you an entire card to play something two turns ahead of schedule, but if you’ve ever lost to an Aggro Druid that played Innervate into Vicious Fledgling on turn one then you understand exactly what it means to be behind on tempo.

The aggro player can frequently use their deck’s superior speed in the early game to gain control over the board, which forces their opponent into making unfavorable trades to stay alive. That’s tempo. If you’re forcing your opponent to use their spells and minions with high mana costs to deal with your own threats which have a low mana costs, you’re creating a mana advantage for yourself and are overloading your opponent’s mana. As an aggro player there’s no greater feeling than killing a control player who is sitting on a full grip of juicy cards they never got the chance to play, and there’s no worse feeling than being empty handed and out of threats while your control opponent has all the resources they need to take over the game.

Turning the Corner

Once the aggro player loses control over the board they are unlikely to ever get it back. Your best shot at winning the game once you’ve lost control of the board is to point everything at the opponent’s face and hope to god it eventually adds up to 30. The moment the control player gains control of the board is referred to as “turning the corner”. It’s the aggro player’s job to never allow the control player to turn the corner just as much as its the control player’s job to turn it themselves.

The Role of the Control Player

The primary goal of the control player is just as simple to grasp as the aggro player’s:

Don’t. Get. Killed.

All you need to do is turn the corner and the game should be firmly in your grasp. It often doesn’t matter how quickly or efficiently you turn that corner, just that you are able to turn it eventually with a safe life total in tact. Every decision you make as the control player until turning the corner should be to keep yourself as far away from dying as possible. As long as there exists even the slimmest possibility that you could die your job is to eliminate that possibility. Seek and destroy! Your stuff is bigger and better than theirs, and in matchups where your deck is significantly more controlling than theirs it really doesn’t matter how efficiently you traded your resources for theirs as long as you are able to eventually turn the corner. Kill their stuff, kill it again, and keep trading every one of your minions into theirs until they run out gas.

Being the control player often requires you to make more decisions throughout the course of the game than your aggro opponent. Aggro players tend to take flack from control players for playing “easy deck”, but I don’t think this is a fair criticism. Though its true a newer player is much more likely to mindlessly pilot the flavor of the month aggro deck to modest success than the flavor of the month control deck, this doesn’t necessarily mean that aggro decks are intrinsically easier to play than control decks. The margin for error for aggro players is much smaller than that of their control opponents. A single mistake or lapse in judgement will frequently cost an aggro player the entire game while control players are afforded a bit more wiggle room.

On a conceptual level, the control player’s path to victory is much more clearly defined that that of the aggro player. Aggro players regularly have to pivot their strategy and construct new game plans on the fly to find a way to win, while control players just need to focus on stabilizing the board to ensure victory. Just. Don’t. Die.

The only time you should not be pointing every last ounce of your resources towards keeping yourself alive is when it becomes clear that your aggro opponent can kill you if they have the right cards. Cards like BloodlustLeeroy Jenkins, and Savage Roar can seemingly kill out of nowhere, and it isn’t always possible to sculpt the board in such a way that you won’t die to these threats. What can you do when you no longer have the ability to play around these cards?

Be aware of your clock

The control player will regularly be in a position where they have more cards in hand and the larger minions on board, but still feel as though they are on the back foot (behind on tempo) and are frantically scrambling to stay alive. When it is no longer possible to play around cards which may or may not be in your opponents hand, check to see if its possible to switch roles and put your opponent on a faster clock than they can put you. Though you can never leave your opponent with a lethal amount damage on board, its frequently possible to clear just enough of their board to potentially keep yourself alive for a turn while threatening lethal damage on the following one. When you know you’re dead to a Leeroy Jenkins but are unable to do anything about it, its probably more correct to put your opponent on a clock and pray they don’t have it than it is to keep waiting around for them to draw it and kill you.

Getting greedy

Newer players tend to place far too high a value on plays which generate big swings in card advantage and opt to hold onto their resources for far too long. They also tend to put way too low a value on keeping their life total high.

The most common example of getting greedy is when a player decides not to use a removal spell on a minion so they can set up a devastating board wipe the following turn. In matchups where the decks are very far apart in beatdowniness (such as Pirate Warrior vs Taunt Warrior) its often incorrect for the control player to not protect their life total as aggressively as possible. Their late game plan is so much more powerful than their opponent’s that they easily can afford to throw their weight around to keep their life total nice and juicy.

The opposite is true when decks are very close to each other in “beatdowniness”, where card advantage and board control are often more important than life totals. These games regularly come down to “the last minion standing”, and are unlikely to be lost because of the 3 extra points of damage you took while waiting a turn to play Flamestrike. Even still, there is always an aggro player and a control player in matchups between similarly configured decks. The trick in these matchups is to determine who is who.

Midrange Matchups and Mirror Matches

Midrange decks are designed to pivot fluidly between the aggro and control roles. Unlike the decks on either end of the aggro-control spectrum, midrange decks tend to have a less focused gameplan and often trade deck synergy for raw power of individual cards. In a midrange vs midrange matchup, its not entirely uncommon to have both players assume they’re playing the same role, switch roles in the middle of the game, or abandon the idea of roles entirely to focus on assembling a different kind of gameplan.

Not all midrange decks are created equal, and the most lopsided matchups in Hearthstone tend to be between two midrange decks where one is slightly bigger than the other. If the smaller deck doesn’t have enough ways to leverage their speed to create a tempo advantage they’re stuck in a situation where they’re forced to go into the late game against a deck with more firepower than them. As the player who’s outgunned, its generally best to abandon the idea of winning as the aggro deck and focus instead of assembling a devastating combo.

Let’s say you’re Dragon Priest playing against a N’Zoth Paladin. As the Dragon Priest you don’t quite have the speed to go underneath the Paladin in the midgame, and your late game plan will probably get crushed by N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Playing the straight up aggro deck will get you nowhere, as will playing the control deck. In this situation you still have two good options – you can set up a massive Lyra the Sunshard turn or attempt to assemble a Divine Spirit/Inner Fire kill. Once you’ve identified that the aggro plan isn’t going to work in a midrange-midrange matchup, your best option is to assemble the pieces necessary to combo kill your opponent. This means that you cannot afford to play any of your combo pieces until the turn you are ready to go off. In the above example, this implies that you have to wait until you have both Lyra the Sunshard and a Radiant Elemental or two in hand before playing any of them out.

In a midrangey matchup between two very evenly matched decks, the standard playbook for “who’s the beatdown?” can go out the window. In these matchups the true battle often isn’t over the player’s life totals, but for control of the board, card advantage, and squeezing every ounce of value out of your cards. Though there will be times in many midrange matchups where the players assume the role of the aggro or control player due to the nature of the situation, attempting to rigidly apply the concepts of “who’s the beatdown?” can get you into trouble. Mirror matches are very similar to these midrangey games as they are also won or lost more by board control and hunting for small advantages than they are by playing aggro or control roles.

The player who goes first in a mirror match is inherently ahead on tempo by virtue of getting to play their stuff out first, as such they are generally in a position to play the role of the aggro player. This is exacerbated in mirror matches at the higher ends of the aggro spectrum where decks are already ill-suited to play the control role. In Pirate Warrior vs Pirate Warrior, the player who goes first has a massive advantage. On the other end of the aggro-control spectrum, the player who goes second in a mirror match is often in a better position to play the control role by virtue of the fact that they begin the game with an extra card in their hand. The events which unfold throughout the game are still undoubtedly the greatest factor in dictating the roles each player should assume, but the innate advantages and disadvantages which come along with going first and second are more greatly magnified in mirror matches than they in other kinds of matchups.

Section 3 – Conclusion

Learning and applying the lessons of “who’s the beatdown?” are the first steps any aspiring Legend should take in adjusting their play. Knowing your role informs every decision you make in a game of Hearthstone and provides you with a solid template to follow in the majority of your games.

There’s more that goes into a winning game plan than understanding your role, so in my next installment of "Legend in the Making" I’ll cover the topic of “having a plan”. Now that we understand the driving force which behind the decisions we make, its time to learn how we can use this knowledge to construct cohesive, multi-turn strategies which will pick apart any opponent who plays without a similar amount of foresight. Knowing “why” is step one, knowing “how” is step two.

Homework

The three biggest obstacles of any first-time Legend push:

  • Commit to playing 300 games of Hearthstone in a single month. Try to work Hearthstone into your daily schedule and quit playing Arena.
  • Download and install a deck tracker which provides replay functionality.
  • Start playing net decks.

Lessons from The Art of Learning:

  • I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Art of Learning and commit to reading one chapter (roughly 15 minutes) per day.
  • Embrace your mistakes, they are your greatest teachers. Watch replays of every one of your losses so you can identify your mistakes, then note these mistakes in an effort to never repeat them.
  • Focus on learning one thing at a time. Learn that one thing completely before moving on to the next one. Depth, not breadth, is the path to mastery.
  • Don’t focus too much on the results of your matches while you’re attempting to learn a new skill. The key to learning is the process, not the results. Trust that the results will come in time.

Knowing your Role:

  • Begin each match by identifying your role as the aggro or control player. Use this knowledge to inform all of your decisions throughout the match.
  • As the aggro player – Get ’em dead!
  • As the control player – Don’t. Get. Killed.
  • Be aware of the importance of board control and card advantage in midrange matches and mirror matches.

See you soon for part 2!

– Aleco 

 

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what an awesome guide. and in great detail. tyvm i will try it very soon. i have spent quite a lot of money back at start of hearthstone. but can't make all of the new decks. hope i get cards soon. always been a reno player thx to MTG highlander

Edited by Sikolik

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Amazing guide @Aleco. I feel like everyone, not just beginners, can benefit from this. Thanks for sharing, I can't wait for the other installments. :) 

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World class guide!
I've started to play hearthstone this year.
I've spent also some real cash to buy packs.
Sometimes I had days, where I have lost all Matches.
I will try this for sure.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Peace ShaDoWf1ST

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This guide is incredible! I always wanted to better understand what is needed for legend.

I have been playing for years, usually with fully meta competitive decks. I wanted to always believe the only thing stopping me was time... and now I know that to be 10000% true. 300 games is just SO LONG. At +/- 5 minutes a game, that means 25 hours a month. That's the "minimum" it would take. Blizzard started sending out a monthly wrap-up email of your stats, and I only played 120 games last month (got to rank 12) and felt like I played quite a bit (ALWAYS finish my daily quests and every brawl pack at minimum). That means I have to play at least twice as much.

RIP Legendary goal.

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I gotta say, it has been a while since I've read a "improve in ranked in X game" guide and actually thought to myself "shit, i never would have figured that out".

I feel like the basic idea of control vs aggro is naturally learned but only practiced outside of the game. In video games now adays everyone is given one role at a time and they pick that role; that is probably why it is hard for new players to get around the idea that their role can change from game to game.

The tools you presented in the article are also super useful for returning players like myself. I have plenty of cards to make the best of the best shaman decks, but I've been out of the game for so long that I was struggling to adapt to this meta's shaman decks(im used to naxx and vanilla midrange).

 

Great article, looking forward to part 2 :)

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8 hours ago, Aleco said:

Do not play any Arena. 

By far the best advice of the whole bunch.

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Great guide. I play all the time on my iPad but I can never crack above rank2/3 on my iPad. Sometimes I forget what I've played or lost track of just which cards are left, particularly in long control games...which lets face it, will be even more common with KFT. Playing on PC with a decktracker is far less stressful.

On the flip side, Arena made me a better player by understanding mana curve and managing my cards for value. I feel more confident teching in cards on Ladder and My arena runs are consistently above 6-7 wins.

Edited by Abom

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10 hours ago, Aleco said:

I know this is going to be a tough pill to swallow for many of you out there but it's time to give up on your pet deck and play a net deck.

Is this advice legit or are you trying to secretly promote using our decks? :P 

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Fantastic article, thanks.

Shame it's in wild now, but Sir Finley choices (or indeed choosing just to hold on to your own power and not play him at all) in aggro v aggro often used to highlight when people forgot/didn't know they are, or have become, the control deck. 

Edited by Bozonik

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Great guide, can't wait for part 2!

I know I don't have the time to invest 300+ games a month since the very beginning of HS, so legend is not even conciderable.
But it does make the game more fun if you know what you are doing, even if your goal is only to make level 10 by the end of the season :)

Also the book suggested has gone on my short list.
Always looking for books that will not only help me in my free/gaming time but will also help me develop my skills of the professional life I am forced to live!
Only downside is; now I will have to choose between reading and HS in that precious little free time :D

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On 8/4/2017 at 2:35 AM, Bozonik said:

Fantastic article, thanks.

Shame it's in wild now, but Sir Finley choices (or indeed choosing just to hold on to your own power and not play him at all) in aggro v aggro often used to highlight when people forgot/didn't know they are, or have become, the control deck. 

Ah the good old days of Finley! I loved that card in mirrors, it was genuinely game changing depending on your choice.

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re: the net deck advice, I'm not sure I correctly understood how to get hsreplay.net to tell me which decks I'm closest to making. Is there a function there (or anywhere) that can import my collection from the game, compare against the netdeck library, and output the decks that are closest?

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6 hours ago, briala said:

re: the net deck advice, I'm not sure I correctly understood how to get hsreplay.net to tell me which decks I'm closest to making. Is there a function there (or anywhere) that can import my collection from the game, compare against the netdeck library, and output the decks that are closest?

You just type the "meta" cards that you have, normally legendaries or epics since they are the most expensive, into the included cards part. It should show you what decks you can make using those.

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On 8/20/2017 at 1:38 AM, alonsocn said:

Great article! Thank you Aleco, For sure I will read part two and three! 

Good luck with hunting legend! :D

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