Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. About the Author
- +3. Picking a Hero
- +4. The Draft
- +5. Perceptive Play
- +6. Combat Techniques
- 7. Conclusion
- 8. ChangeLog
This guide will take you, step by step, through the entire process of playing Arena. Assuming that you have already mastered the basics of Hearthstone, and had some practice in the Arena, this guide will give you all the information you need to eventually get 12 wins.
2. About the Author
This deck is presented to you by Pesty, a professional Hearthstone player playing since closed beta. She is a consistent legend player in both Wild and Standard with multiple high-rank finishes.
3. Picking a Hero
Each class has specific strengths and weaknesses in Arena. For the most part, these traits come from the class's Hero Power, and their class specific cards, particularly those of Common rarity. However, the differences between classes is a lot less pronounced than it is in Contructed, as most decks will contain the same standard of high quality neutral cards if drafted well.
Despite the similarities, there are classes in Arena that are considered stronger than others. However, the differences between tiers of Class are very small, and even the bottom tier classes are capable of 12 wins regularly with intelligent drafting and high level play. You may find that your personal success rate differs from what we suggest, due to your play style and own strengths or weakness as a player. With all that said, we will present you with a tier list of Arena classes, and a breakdown of each classes strengths and weakness, however, keep in mind that this is simply a guide, and that even among the very best Arena players, opinions differ widely on the relative strengths of each class.
- Tier 1 (Excellent): Mage, Rogue
- Tier 2 (Great): Paladin, Hunter
- Tier 3 (Good): Druid, Priest, Shaman, Warlock,
- Tier 4 (Average): Warrior
Mage has the most versatile of the 1 damage effect Hero Powers in Arena, since it is unaffected by Taunt and does not cause you to take damage yourself when targeting minions. Mage is another of the most versatile classes in Arena, with cards like Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice and Frostbolt enabling you to draft very aggressive Tempo decks, while cards like Fireball, Polymorph and Flamestrike can allow you to win a slower, more Control based game.
One of Mage's greatest strengths is that many of its strongest cards are Common, or Basic rarity, meaning that Mage is extremely consistent to draft overall. This consistency leads to Mage being considered the strongest class overall by many players.
It should be noted however, that the key cards like Fireball, Frostbolt, and Flamestrike are less likely to be drafted overall due to the increased number of cards in the game. You should value drafting removal highly when building a Mage deck, even suboptimal cards like Forbidden Flame, since you cannot always guarantee you will be presented with those perfect removal cards.
Check out our Mage Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Mage.
Since the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Paladins have had a huge boost in power in Arena, turning what was one of the strongest classes into arguably just the strongest. Part of their strength is the flexibility their range of cards offers for drafting options. They have the potential to draft very fast and aggressive decks, utilising cards like Argent Protector to retain minions on the board and force the tempo of the game onto your opponent. You can draft very effective late-game focused Paladin decks using powerful Control cards like Truesilver Champion and Consecration to push the game long, letting you gain incremental advantages with the 1/1 tokens you can generate each turn. Recognising which of these styles your deck is leaning towards once it starts to take shape and picking card appropriately is key to success with the class.
Journey to Un'Goro further increased Paladins ability to flood the board with cards such as Vinecleaver and Lost in the Jungle. When combined with cards like Lightfused Stegodon, Dinosize, and Spikeridged Steed, your 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits to become very threatening and often forcing opponents to commit resources to removing them prematurely.
Perhaps the only weakness of Paladin is that many of their strongest cards, such as Aldor Peacekeeper, Rallying Blade, and Sword of Justice are Rares and Epics, meaning that they will not be offered to you very often, reducing the overall consistency of the class. It is also worth mentioning that if you are lucky enough to be offered Tirion Fordring, you should take it immediately as Tirion is widely considered to be the single strongest card in all of Arena.
Check out our Paladin Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Paladin.
As a Rogue, you will often lean towards an aggressive play style rather than a control one. This is due to a large number of cards that allow you to maintain a good momentum throughout the game (tempo cards), as well as your Hero Power. The Rogue Hero Power is completely dominant in some matchups, particularly Paladin, since your 2 Mana investment deals with 4 Mana's worth of Paladin tokens. Rogue's will often lower their own Health in the process of clearing minions with their Dagger, and as such, healing cards should be drafted more highly. Even in decks with no healing however, you should still be aggressive with your own life as a resource, as your Dagger is always key to victory. Cards such as Deadly Poison will always provide you with card advantage, while the majority of Combo cards and Backstab will contribute to the tempo and put your opponent under a lot of pressure.
The downfall of the class is its somewhat one dimensional nature. As Rogue decks will usually be outclassed in the late-game if they have not been able to gain an overwhelming advantage early.
Check out our Rogue Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Rogue.
The Druid Hero Power is decent, as you can use it defensively and slowly stack up armor, or aggressively and trade your health for potential card advantage. Cards such as Swipe, Starfire, Druid of the Claw, or Ironbark Protector will always have pretty big impact on the board during the mid-late stages of the game, while cards such as Wrath and Claw offer the Druid great solutions for the early game.
The Journey to Un'Goro expansion provided many strong improvements for Druid in Arena. Tortollan Forager in particular provides a huge amount of value for the class, bolstering early-game potential while not sacrificing the ability to play large threats later in the game.
The weakness of the class is its one dimensional nature. Almost every Druid deck relies on outclassing the opponent in the late-game with high value cards and hard to remove Taunts. It is very difficult to draft a Druid deck aggressively, since very few of their class cards play into this strategy, however the addition of Shellshifter and Verdant Longneck has helped make this less of an issue. They are flexible enough to function as strong cards for potentially more aggressive Druid drafts, while also being solid defensive cards for more standard Druid Arena decks.
Check out our Druid Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Druid.
The Shaman Hero Power is unfortunately random, which often makes it a gamble, and the totems are mostly a simple delay for your opponent rather than a serious threat. In order to benefit from your Hero Power, you need board control, which is sometimes hard to achieve. Shamans have some really powerful cards such as Fire Elemental and Hex, while the majority of Overload cards such as Stormforged Axe, Forked Lightning, and Lightning Bolt require some careful planning in order to generate advantage and not delay yourself. Shamans can be very strong, but much of their strength lies in their Rare cards such as Lightning Storm and Feral Spirit, which is not something you can rely on drafting consistently in the Arena.
The Journey to Un'Goro expansion added various Elemental synergy cards to Arena, which fit excellently alongside many strong Shaman-exclusive Elementals such as Hot Spring Guardian, Earth Elemental, and Fire Elemental. If you are able to draft a few of these cards, cards like Servant of Kalimos and Blazecaller are suddenly able to offer a combination of huge value and tempo thanks to their powerful Battlecries.
A key to drafting Shaman successfully is valuing buff cards highly. Cards like Dire Wolf Alpha and Defender of Argus amongst others can turn your often useless Totems into an attacking force, and create card advantage for you over the course of the game. Cards that buff your entire board such as Stormwind Champion are particularly strong.
Check out our Shaman Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Shaman.
Warlock has arguably the strongest Hero Power out of all the classes in the game. Having access to card draw whenever you see fit is a hugely benficial trait, since cards are the fundamental tool used to win games. This ability allows you to draft a very aggressive, low curve and overwhelm your opponent in terms in Tempo. Historically this was clearly the strongest way to draft Warlock decks, and remains strong still.
However, Warlock also has access to powerful removal spells such as Felfire Potion and Blastcrystal Potion which provide the ability to draft successful Control decks. The Arena changes in March 2017 also drastically increased the viability of Control decks by lowering the frequency of common cards and many early-game minions as a result. As you are now much less likely to get overwhelmed in the early-game you are now able to play a more controlling style if you are able to draft a deck consisting of many high quality mid- and late-game cards instead.
Since Warlocks rely on lowering their own Life Total to maintain resources, cards such as Deranged Doctor and Rotten Applebaum have much higher value than usual. A card that heals you for 4 can be viewed as allowing you to draw 2 extra cards over the course of the game.
Check out our Warlock Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Warlock.
Hunters are often powerful in Arena, but are usually one-dimensional, relying on strong Tempo or Aggro decks to create pressure on the opponent. The reason for this is the linear nature of the Hunter Hero Power, which only causes damage to the opposing Hero. Although Hunters do have access to some strong Control cards like Multi-Shot and Explosive Shot, and some high value late-game minions such as Savannah Highmane, even the most Controlling of Hunter decks will eventually end in a race to finish the opposing Hero.
Check out our Hunter Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Hunter.
The Priest Hero Power can be a great source of card advantage if you can heal your minions that survive combat. However, if you are unable to get onto the board, the Priest Hero Power can be a liability, since it has no effect on the tide of the game if you are unable to heal minions with it. The Priest class cards will always make you lean towards a control play style, as you will either need to create advantage through cards such as Mind Control or Temple Enforcer in the late game, or through efficient minion combat and Hero Power usage. This makes cards such as Holy Smite, Shadow Word: Pain, Holy Nova, and Power Word: Shield essential for your early-mid game play.
Northshire Cleric is one of the best card draw engines in the game. And most highly successful Priest decks contain at least one of these cards. Priest is notorious for having the highest level of variance between good and bad drafts. A strong Priest deck is amongst the best possible decks in Arena, while a weak one can feel helpless and impotent.
Check out our Priest Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Priest.
The Warrior Hero Power has no influence on the board, which requires strong minions and weapons to create card advantage and board control. Having cards such as Fiery War Axe, Molten Blade and/or Blood Razor is essential, and games without them are extremely difficult to win. You can easily achieve a 12-win Arena with a Mage without Fireballs or Flamestrikes, however as a Warrior without weapons it is much more difficult, and quite unlikely.
Check out our Warrior Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet to see the value we attribute to all the cards you may be offered as a Warrior.
4. The Draft
Choosing your class will roughly decide your play style, based on the common class cards available to your class and the impact of your Hero Power on the board/game. The starting picks of the draft are likely to define your deck's tempo, as you will be picking cards based on their value and their impact on the board. As you progress to the later stages of the draft, your picks will be greatly influenced by your current Mana curve.
Your starting picks should always be chosen based on their value, regardless of their Mana cost. Using our Arena Card Ranking Spreadsheet will help you make the best choice in the early stages of the draft, but you need to keep in mind that as the draft progresses, the value of a specific card diminishes by having multiple copies of that card, or having many cards with the same Mana cost.
For example, imagine that you are drafting a Priest Arena and your first 5 picks are Argent Commander, Mind Control, Temple Enforcer, Shadow Word: Death, and Stormwind Champion. You are nearly set for late game, and you should pay close attention to your Mana curve before you commit yourself to the late game so much that you would need to pick every low Mana drop regardless of their value in order to support your early game. It is completely fine to grab a second Mind Control or an additional Temple Enforcer, however if you end up having 10+ late game cards, the early game will be difficult, which will allow your opponent to create an advantage that you might not recover from. It is also possible to end up having several Mind Controls in your hand, which you will not be able to use until the late game.
4.1. Mana Curve
The Mana curve of a deck refers to the distribution of cards within the deck, when taking into account their costs. When it comes to the Arena, you should always strive to have a good play or a proper response to your opponent's actions in any stage of the game. You will never be bound to a specific amount of cards you need to pick for each Mana cost, however you need to realize that regardless of which class you play, the early game will be extremely important, and skipping turns by simply using your Hero Power rather than presenting your opponent with a threat will always be sub-optimal unless you can create advantage with your Hero Power.
Below, we present you the most common types of viable Arena Mana curves.
4.1.1. Late-game Mana Curve (Control)
Late-game Mana curve means having a sufficient amount of early game minions / spells to help you transition into the later stages of the game. Your deck's role is to establish board control, and slowly building up your advantage for your transition to the late game.
This type of Mana curve works best with control decks such as: Priest, Druid, Mage, and Warlock.
4.1.2. Early-game Mana Curve (Aggressive)
A great alternative is the early-game Mana curve, which focuses on putting your opponent under immense pressure and bringing them within kill range in the early-mid game. Decks with such Mana curves often require a good finish, which is not necessarily a Fireball to the face. You can simply have great removal to deal with your opponent's mid-late game drops, and to help your minions to push through.
This type of Mana curve works best with aggressive decks such as: Mage, Hunter, Warlock, Warrior, and Rogue.
4.1.3. Mid-game Mana Curve (Balanced)
The mid-game Mana curve will often spike out at around 4 Mana cost, as the majority of classes have extremely powerful class cards concentrated on the mid-game, which will allow you to create card advantage and take board control.
This type of Mana curve can work very well with any class.
5. Perceptive Play
Knowing your opponent's class and its strengths can have a great impact on your gameplay and decision-making. Part of becoming a better player in the Arena is learning to anticipate your opponent's actions before they happen, and minimize their impact on your game. We will guide you step by step so that you can develop the right mentality for facing each class.
Druids have an offensive Hero Power, which will create immediate card advantage if you play 1-health minions. Although it may feel bad to drop a 1 Health minion on turn 1, simply to have it die to the opponent's Hero Power, it is still usually correct do so if you have strong follow ups for the next turns. Arena is very much about initiative, and being the person presenting the threats to your opponent and demanding answers from them (also known as Tempo), is one of the most important aspects of the game.
Swipe is one of the most powerful cards Druids have in their arsenal. You can expect that a Druid will Swipe away your board the first chance they get, so when the Druid is close to having 4 Mana, do not give them the chance to kill 2 or more of your minions with Swipe, if at all possible. If you have a minion on the board with 1 health that your opponent seemingly ignores, you can expect Swipe to be used the following turn, and you should attempt to trade that minion off before it dies to Swipe. Exceptions can be made to this scenario where using Swipe will absorb the Druid's entire turn, in this scenario it is often OK to allow them a decent Swipe, and then simply present a new threat for them to deal with on the next turn.
Druids in general often pack a lot of minions with Taunt and strong late game cards, which makes cards with Silence and direct removal extremely powerful against them. This is especially true towards the late game, when you are trying to execute a Druid, or to simply push through their minions. You should always hold on to your Silences, as well as cards such as Assassinate, Polymorph, or Hex until you can take out a minion that would potentially be a 2-for-1 card, unless you can create immediate advantage at the current stage of the game.
Hunters are often extremely aggressive, and you need to take into account their Hero Power might just do enough damage to finish you if you fall behind with board control. Against a Hunter, you should always attempt to establish board control as quickly as possible, and to play rather aggressively against them yourself.
Hunter Secrets can have a great impact on the game, and you should play carefully around them and take specific steps towards triggering them in order to ensure minimal impact on the game. Attacking with a minion will trigger a Freezing Trap, attacking your opponent's hero will trigger Misdirection, Wandering Monster. or Explosive Trap, attacking a minion will trigger Snake Trap or Venomstrike Trap, and playing 3 or more cards in a turn will trigger Rat Trap. By analysing your opponent's play, you can anticipate which Secret it is.
For example, let us assume that your opponent played a Secret without having any minions on the board, while you have a Novice Engineer and a Bloodfen Raptor. You should attack with your Novice Engineer. Here are the possible outcomes to this situation.
- The Secret triggers and it turns out to be a Freezing Trap, in which case you just created card advantage, as you will be able to recast your Novice Engineer and get an extra card from it, while your opponent lost a card and you kept pressure on the board.
- The Secret triggers and turns out to be an Explosive Trap. Both of these minions were guaranteed to die to the trap (and by not playing another minion before attacking, you minimised the damage the trap did). You lost both minions, but since you already got a card from your Novice Engineer when you played it, the Explosive Trap only took out your Knife Juggler which makes it a 1-for-1 trade.
- The Secret triggers and it turns out to be Wandering Monster. You now have the ability to trade for the minion with your Raptor, or use some other method to remove it from the board.
- The Secret triggers and it turns out to be Misdirection. Your Novice Engineer will either attack you for 1 damage (instead of the 3 damage the Raptor would have done, had you attacked with it instead), or it will attack your Raptor, which will survive. In either case, your opponent suffers card disadvantage and you have prevented your hero from potentially taking 2 damage.
- The Secret does not trigger. This means that the Secret is either Venomstrike Trap, Rat Trap, or Snake Trap. At this point, you are free to play out the rest of your turn as you see fit, but should now keep these three Secrets in mind for your future turns.
Whenever you are facing a Secret, approach it step by step in an order that would cause the least card disadvantage for you, so analyse all possible scenarios before you decide to make your play. In anticipation of Explosive Trap, never play your minions before attacking your opponent's hero.
Multi-Shot is an extremely powerful turn 4 play. Anticipating Multi Shot often means trading with one of your minions in order to ensure that you only have one minion on the board (thus preventing the Hunter from using Multi Shot). If you simply ignore the Hunter's minion(s) and attack him directly (especially on turn 3), you are likely to see both your minions die to Multi-Shot. Should your opponent have no minions, you should play an inferior minion and use excess mana on your Hero Power, or simply play a minion that has enough health to survive a Multi-Shot and make it 1-for-1 card.
Explosive Shot is rare, and you will not face it every match, however you should always place your minions on the board as if you were anticipating an Explosive Shot. This means that you should place your biggest minion (the one with most health, and the minion your opponent would want to cast Explosive Shot on, dealing 5 damage to it) at either side of your board, and never in between two minions, especially not between 2 minions that have 2 health or less.
Against a Hunter, you always need to keep an eye on your health, as they will attempt to push for the kill range and their Hero Power can seal the deal even if you manage to play a solid taunter. Having board control and advantage against a Hunter from the early stages of the game is almost an ensured win.
Mages are rather difficult to play against, as they have many small traps in all stages of the game, and their Hero Power makes efficient minion trading difficult, since they can always come up with that 1 extra damage needed.
Although it may feel bad to drop a 1 Health minion on turn 1, simply to have it die to the opponent's Hero Power, it is still usually correct do so if you have strong follow ups for the next turns. Arena is very much about initiative, and being the person presenting the threats to your opponent and demanding answers from them (also known as Tempo), is one of the most important aspects of the game.
Mage Secrets should be approached carefully, and before you make your play you should analyse the impact of all Secrets on the board.
For example, let us assume your opponent attacked you with a Bloodfen Raptor and played a Sunwalker and a Secret, while you have a Chillwind Yeti on the board, and Assassinate, Backstab, and a Bluegill Warrior in your hand.
Keep in mind also the following about Mage Secrets:
- Counterspell gets triggered by casting a spell.
- Mana Bind is also triggered by casting a spell.
- Spellbender gets triggered by casting a spell that targets a minion.
- Mirror Entity, Explosive Runes, and Frozen Clone get triggered by playing a minion.
- Vaporize and Ice Barrier get triggered by attacking your opponent's hero.
So, in our case, the worst thing that you can do is Assassinate the Mage's Sunwalker. This risks running into a Counterspell or Spellbender, giving your opponent a high value spell in case of Mana Bind, which is why you should check for those secrets first in this scenario. Play Backstab on your opponent's Bloodfen Raptor, and if a secret triggers, you can safely Assassinate his Sunwalker and kill his Bloodfen Raptor if necessary with your Bluegill Warrior (if the Secret is Spellbender, the resulting 1/1 minion can be killed by your Hero Power).
If the Secret did not trigger on targeted spell cast, you should play your Bluegill Warrior to test for Mirror Entity, Frozen Clone, and Explosive Rune. If Mirror Entity triggers, you can trade the Bluegill Warriors, or simply take out your opponent's with your Hero Power.
If the secret did not trigger on a minion cast, you should attack with your Bluegill Warrior to check for Vaporize, as it is the last Secret that can cause potential harm to you that turn.
The effect of Cone of Cold can be diminished by placing a minion with Stealth, or an otherwise untargettable minion such as Faerie Dragon between 2 other minions. This will prevent your opponent from hitting all 3 minions with Cone of Cold. Alternatively, if you have many minions on the board, you should position them in such a way that a single Cone of Cold cannot hit all of your most important minions.
Mages will often try to hold on to their Polymorph until you play a serious threat. Should you have an extremely powerful card in your hand that is guaranteed to change the course of the game, you should save it and attempt to bait out the Mage's Polymorph with other minions.
Flamestrike is one of the most feared cards in all of Arena. Some people aim to play around this card for the whole game, and simply slow play their hand too much, causing the Mage to be able to outvalue them with their other strong cards. Instead of this strategy of fear, a better strategy is to force them into situations where they are forced to use their Flamestrike, but it is still poor for them. For example, by creating a board of two 4 Health minions and a 6 Health minion, the Mage is under enough pressure that they must Flamestrike to survive, but after doing so you remain in control of the Tempo of the game. Try not to worry too much about card advantage when it comes to Flamestrike, as the card will always create favourable situations in that sense. Instead, focus on retaining Tempo after the Mage has cast it, and remember, sometimes they simply will not have it, leading to your aggression being rewarded.
Having a good position on the board is always great against the Mage, as they will not be able to push you within kill range and finish you off by a topdecking a Fireball. Keep in mind that over-extending on the board can have bad impact on your game, as a single spell such as Flamestrike (even one topdecked later on) can destroy your entire game.
When playing against a Paladin, you should always attempt to keep the board clear. Their Hero Power minions will not be a huge problem, however they are all potential targets for Blessing of Kings (and even Blessing of Might), which is why you should always attempt to get rid of them with your Hero Power (if it is an aggressive one) or with your minions.
Argent Protector in the early game can have devastating consequences, which is why you should always trade your 2-drop for the Paladin's 2-drop, even if your minion is superior in quality.
You should always be aware of the Paladin's strong 4-cost cards, Consecration, Truesilver Champion, and Hammer of Wrath. Should you have advantage on the board, you can anticipate that the Paladin might play Consecration on turn 4. This means that playing an additional 2-health minion on turn 3 is usually a bad idea. Cards that survive Hammer of Wrath (4 or more health) or even that survive Truesilver Champion (such as the Chillwind Yeti or Sen'jin Shieldmasta) are ideal.
Since Paladins have weapons, you should always try to hold on to your Acidic Swamp Ooze, unless you have no other alternatives.
Paladin Secrets often have much less impact on the game than Mage or Hunter Secrets, however you should always test their triggers and try to create some advantage in the process.
- Eye for an Eye triggers from any source of damage, and if you have your opponent in kill range and you are on low health yourself, you should always attempt to inflict as little damage as possible with your first attack.
- Hidden Wisdom triggers when you play 3 or more cards in a turn. Generally this Secret poses little threat. However, you should still try and play around it where possible, especially on turns you are using The Coin.
- Noble Sacrifice is the second most common Secret in Paladin decks, and if you have an aggressive Hero Power such as Rogue or Druid, you should always attempt to trigger it by attacking with your hero (thus creating card advantage) instead of attacking with a minion.
- Redemption is extremely powerful, however any decent Paladin will never play it if they have Hero Power minions (or other very weak minions) on the board. Regardless, you should always attempt to attack the worst minion on the board before engaging into further trades. Redemption can be extremely powerful with Deathrattle minions such as Harvest Golem or minions with Divine Shield, as they will come back in play with their abilities.
- Repentance can be decent, and it will often be one of the last Secrets you check for, so make sure to play a minion with as little health as possible if your opponent's Secrets did not trigger on attacking.
- Getaway Kodo can also be strong, much like Redemption and is most powerful when activated on minions with powerful Battlescries. However, as it activates under the same condition as Redemption, precautions to play around Redemption should take priority as a minion coming directly into play is more threatening in most scenarios.
Board control in the early game against a Paladin is essential, as the game can get out of hand rather quickly. Never over-extend on the board with minions that can die to Consecration.
The Priest Hero Power cannot make advantage without minions on the board, which is why you should always attempt to keep the board clean. Cards like Power Word: Shield and Kabal Talonpriest can also easily make Priest minions nearly unkillable, allowing huge value to be gained when combined with the Priest Hero Power.
Northshire Cleric is a priority target to kill at almost all times. A common mistake for new players is to prioritise killing a larger minion and undervalue the power of drawing cards with the Cleric. Unless there is no obvious way on the board for your opponent to injure a minion and heal it, you should make killing Northshire Cleric your top priority.
Minions with 4 attack are amazing against Priests, as they have just the right attack to be safe from Shadow Word: Pain, Shadow Word: Death, and Shadow Madness. When you have minion buffers such as Defender of Argus or Shattered Sun Cleric, it is always good to buff your 3-attack minions and put them out of harms way. Keep in mind that buffing a 4-attack minion to 5 attack can often be a bad idea, as it becomes a target for Shadow Word: Death.
Keeping Priests under pressure is always great, however keep in mind that they can wipe the board clean with 5 Mana by playing Holy Nova. You should never over-extend against a Priest with too many 2-health minions.
Should the game get delayed in later the stages, you can expect that your opponent is holding on to a Mind Control. You should attempt to bait it out with minions that you can deal with yourself, rather than playing your best card and risk losing the game to it next turn.
Priests win games by beating you down with their minions. Usually that takes mid-late game to happen, and your goal is always to punish their lack of early game by being extremely aggressive. Their Hero Power is their main source of card advantage and board advantage, so you should not allow them to use it for healing minions. Keep the board clean.
Rogues can have an extremely aggressive early game, and they excel at being able to instantly turn the board in their favour. When facing a Rogue with The Coin, you can expect that they will hold on to it until they can trigger a combo with it.
A Rogue will often sacrifice a great deal of their health attempting to create card advantage with their Hero Power, which you can exploit to your advantage if you have strong finishers. Try to keep the Rogue under pressure as best as possible.
Towards late game, you can expect that your opponent is holding on to an Assassinate, which you should bait out before you play your deck's best minion. Give them a reason to use Assassinate on something else.
Playing aggressively against a Rogue is always a good idea, as they will have to think twice before they sacrifice any more health for their Hero Power.
Shamans require board control and advantage to win, and you should take out their totems at any stage of the game unless there are more efficient targets to attack. Although it may seem pointless to kill such low priority targets, Shaman players will always draft buff cards as a priority, and leaving even small targets on the board for them to buff can lead to disaster.
Since Shamans have weapons, you should always try to hold on to your Acidic Swamp Ooze, unless you have no other alternatives. This does not necessarily mean to hold on to your ooze until the late game, but you should play a different 2-drop in the early game, as it will always bait out their Stormforged Axe should they be holding onto one.
Towards the late game, you can expect that your opponent is holding on to a Hex, which you should bait out before you play your deck's best minion. Give them a reason to use Hex on something else.
Leading into Turn 6, you should always be wary of Fire Elemental. Try to avoid giving your opponent a perfect 3 damage target for a Fire Elemental to target if at all possible. Although it is impossible to deny a Fire Elemental value for the entire game, making them play it inefficiently on Turn 7 is much better than allowing them to play it on curve.
Always pay attention to Shaman's exact Mana total on each turn. If they have used Overload cards on the previous turns, you can rule out certain possibilities for their plays on the next turn. Taking advantage of their overloaded turns to seize the advantage can be very beneficial.
Having board advantage against Shamans means that you are winning. You should never let them have multiple totems, as they can create insane advantage or possibly kill you with Bloodlust.
Warlocks are tricky. Regardless of whether they play a control or an aggressive deck, their health can be turned into card advantage with their Hero Power.
Should a Warlock have an empty board and 4 mana, you are likely to see a Hellfire. Do not over-extend against a Warlock if you have board advantage. Pressure them as best as you can with what is currently on the board.
When setting up your board against Warlocks it is also important to be mindful of Defile, which can be very punishing. When you have the option to trade with multiple minions, you should consider the Health of your minions so that you do not leave the board in a state where there are multiple minions with consecutive Health values, which could trigger a successful Defile chain.
Allowing your opponent to use their Hero Power means you are not pressuring them enough, and they will create a lot of card advantage that will be hard to recover from. Keep them under pressure, establish your advantage on the board, and you will force them to react to the current state of the board rather than freely use their Hero Power.
Warriors lack late game, which is why you will often be facing extremely aggressive Warriors that excel at early-mid game with their weapons and powerful class minions. Warriors primarily rely on their weapons to create card advantage and secure their position on the board.
Similar to other aggressive classes, you should play rather aggressively yourself against a Warrior. Throughout the course of the game, a Warrior will attempt to make up for their lack of late game, by pressuring you with minions and attempting to maintain board control and creating card advantage with their weapons or efficient minion combat, which will often cause the Warrior to sacrifice a great portion of their health in the process.
Since warrior relies on weapons, you should always try to hold on to your Acidic Swamp Ooze.
Warriors can often have strong burst potential. Kor'kron Elite and Arcanite Reaper can lead to an unexpected finish, so keep the board clear once you establish your board presence. Always prioritize taking out their minions and never attempt to race a Warrior for the kill if you are in their potential kill range.
Always play aggressively against a Warrior, as their Hero Power has no impact on the board, and having a solid board position in the early-mid game against a Warrior will make your late game much easier.
6. Combat Techniques
When it comes to combat decisions in the Arena, it is often crucial to identify and choose the best option even if several really good ones are presented to you. Below, we will analyse each scenario to help you pick the best approach.
6.1. Trading Minions
Regardless of how aggressive your deck is, you should always prioritize making the best possible trades, rather than pressuring your opponent and allowing them to make the worst possible trade for you. Keeping the board clear will always help you avoid any potential traps your opponent can set for you by buffing their minions and making trades even worse than they could have been, or creating an even bigger advantage with their AoE damage spells.
However, in situations where all potential trades on the board are more or less equal, attacking your opponent's face to create pressure and assert yourself as the aggressor can be more beneficial. Often, the correct way to evaluate a turn is to consider attacking your opponent's Hero, then ask yourself what the punishment is for doing so. If you can think of a realistic scenario where you get punished for making the greedy attack past the minions, then trade, if you cannot, then go ahead and attack the Hero to create pressure. This will come with time, and it would be impossible to list every feasible scenario in which you can get punished, but below are a few examples to look out for.
- Shattered Sun Cleric can make your opponent's 2/3 minion a 3/4 which will take out your minion and create card and board advantage for your opponent.
- Argent Protector will always give your opponent card and board advantage if they have a suitable minion to buff with Divine Shield. You should never allow the Paladin to have that option.
- Power Word: Shield can easily make any 2-drop a 2-for-1 and possibly more if you allow the to use their Hero Power to heal the minion.
- Weapons such as Truesilver Champion can remove your minion while maintaining the minion you chose to ignore on the board.
- Consecration can wipe your entire board, making 2-for-1 or possibly more for your opponent while allowing them to take board advantage. Take out your opponent's minion, and try to bait out Consecration with a 2-for-1. Similar approaches apply to any other AoE damage spell such as Holy Nova, Blizzard, or Flamestrike.
6.2. Pushing for Lethal Damage
In certain scenarios, you may look at your hand and decide that you have enough tools to finish the game. For example, if you hold two Fireballs in your hand as a Mage in the late-game, and your opponent is below 20 Health, you may decide that it is time simply to push for damage and ignore the notion of minion combat altogether. This strategy is fine, and in some cases recommended, but you do run risks by employing such a strategy which are outlined below.
Each time you allow your opponent to have priority when trading minions, you run a great risk of losing any hard earned advantage you have made in the earlier stages of the game. The trade can turn out to be much worse than you initially estimated, and can potentially shift the state of the board in your opponent's favour, which is why you should always consider whether it is worth taking the risk.
There are several factors you should consider before you decide swapping from efficient minion trading to pushing your opponent within kill range.
- Your deck and Mana curve. When playing an extremely aggressive deck, you will often have an outstanding early-mid game plan, however the late game will be mediocre at best, and every big minion your opponent plays is a potential 2-for-1, which is why you should push for lethal when you consider your opponent's late game stronger than yours.
- Your opponent's class and AoE damage spells. When your opponent plays a class that has decent mass removal, you should consider the previous stages of the game. If your opponent was offered a 2-for-1 or more and did not use their Consecration, Holy Nova, Flamestrike, or other mass removal when they were under pressure, it is unlikely that they have it in their hand. The possibility of your opponent drawing a solution from the top of their deck remains, and you always run a small risk of that happening.
- Your hand. When you are are holding on to a response to your opponent's most threatening defensive plays possible, you should always go for the kill. Silence, strong minion removal, direct damage spells, weapons and minions with charge should build up your confidence and help you decide whether or not you should push for the kill. Special mention should also go to the card Drakonid Crusher, since with this card in hand, aggressively lowering your opponent below 15 is actually a value play, as well as a Tempo one.
- Your state of the game. When you fall behind and you consider your deck incapable of providing you with solutions to the current state of the board, you should always consider going in for the kill and letting your opponent deal with the board while you hope to topdeck a solid finisher.
Whenever you decide to push your opponent for lethal damage, evaluate your hand, position on the board, and your opponent's likely responses to your play. If you consider it to be worth the risk, go for it.
6.3. Racing Your Opponent
When you decide to go for your opponent's face and your opponent responds aggressively by attacking your hero rather than trading minions, you should consider the following scenarios if you are unable kill your opponent on the following turn.
- Your opponent has a strong finisher and is trying to push you in kill range.
- Your opponent is not satisfied with a potential 2-for-1 use of an AoE damage spell.
- Your opponent has no solutions to the current state of the board and is hoping for a good draw.
In most scenarios, you will make the right choice by playing it safe and minimizing the risk by going back to efficient minion trading, however if you consider your finisher strong enough to seal the deal on its own the turn after and your health high enough to take another swing and remain outside your opponent's kill range, you can go for the kill.
6.4. Skipping Your Attack
On a rare occasion, you will find skipping your attack beneficial, however in most scenarios you put yourself at great risk by doing so and you should only do it as a last resort and when you have advantage or solid alternative plays.
For example, let us assume that, as a Mage, you have Chillwind Yeti on the board and your opponent plays a Secret. When you establish that the Secret is not Mirror Entity (by playing a weak minion, such as a 3/2 minion), you can skip your attack and check if the secret is Vaporize next turn with your weaker minion, rather than with your Chillwind Yeti.
As another example, let us suppose you are playing against a Paladin and you coin out a Knife Juggler and your opponent plays a Secret. The Secret is quite likely to be Noble Sacrifice, and if you have no alternative ways of triggering it (Druid or Rogue Hero Power, attacking with a weapon, attacking with an inferior charge minion), you should consider skipping the attack with your Knife Juggler, hoping to trigger the Secret on your next turn with more efficiency.
Another situation that comes up quite commonly against Paladin is them casting Blessing of Wisdom on one of your minions. This will grant your opponent a card any time you attack with that minion, and is often a sign of desperation from your opponent. If you are close to sealing lethal damage, then this is more likely to be a desperation move from your opponent to slow you down, and you should continue attacking. However, if you simply have a dominant board presence in the early or mid-game, then it is more likely to be a method of drawing answers they need to counter you, and you should refrain from attacking until a favourable trade presents itself, allowing you to kill off the Blessed minion.
Watching streams and reading guides will certainly help you become a better player, however before you can truly master the Arena, you will need to develop the right kind of mind set that will allow you to see the best possible play when there are several really good options available.
Knowing each class along with its strengths and its weaknesses is crucial when it comes down to deck construction during the drafting stages of the Arena. Paying attention to your Mana curve and understanding the importance of early game, regardless of the class you play, will always be reflected in the quality of your deck, regardless of the cards available to you. Sometimes you will have the option of picking several Legendaries, or you will be flooded with Epics, while other times you will simply be happy if you got one or two decent Rares. Spreadsheets can help you master the drafting part of the Arena rather fast, however eventually you will develop your own drafting strategies and put your own values to the cards.
Experience and knowledge of each class will help you develop and improve your perceptive play and combat techniques, which are the essential qualities of every Arena master. Luck is certainly present and it might have an impact on your score, however in the long run it comes down to your skill and your skill only.
- 11 Apr. 2017: Guide updated to include cards for the 2018 Standard rotation.
- 25 Apr. 2017: Guide and Class rankings updated for the Journey to Un'Goro expansion.
- 17 Mar. 2017: Removed references to Wild cards to reflect their removal from Arena.
- 17 Feb. 2017: Class rankings updated to reflect MSG meta.
- 22 Nov. 2016: Fixes for removed cards from Arena, Tier List update.
- 15 Oct. 2015: Updated Tier list, Secret information and general strategy for TGT meta.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. About the Author
- +3. Picking a Hero
- +4. The Draft
- +5. Perceptive Play
- +6. Combat Techniques
- 7. Conclusion
- 8. ChangeLog
- This Week's Tavern Brawl: A Witchy Recipe
- Shudderwock Animation Speed & Battlecry Cap to Be Fixed Soon
- Ben Brode Leaves Blizzard
- Hearthside Chat: Monster Hunt
- Blizzard Balance Gifting Now Available
- Ben Brode Answers Unsolved Hearthstone Mysteries
- Icy Veins Podcast Episode #14
- What's the Move #21 - Azari Incoming!
- Primalfin totem vs Baku Paladin
- Dungeon Runs
- Competitive Concedestone
- Mad Magician
- Hearthstone Shaman Spells, Minions, and Weapons
- Basic Warrior Deck
- Spiteful Druid Archetype
- The art of free to play