Card Advantage in Hearthstone
Table of Contents
One of the most significant factors when it comes to winning games of Hearthstone is card advantage. Card advantage refers to any situation where one player has more cards in their hand than their opponent. Having access to more total cards than your opponent gives you more options than them, and is obviously quite an advantageous spot to be in. Though Hearthstone games can be won without ever having card advantage, a significant number of Hearthstone games (particularly those between similarly configured decks) are fundamentally decided by which player generated more card advantage throughout the course of the game.
There are two primary ways to generate card advantage: ensuring your deck has drawing power, and making sure that you are getting value out of your cards. Let's take a closer look at each of these concepts:
1. Getting Value
In general, finding ways to 2 for 1 your opponent is the best way to generate card advantage. A 2 for 1 is any situation where one card generates 2 cards of value, and can come in many forms:
- You can get a 2 for 1 if a weapon kills two of your opponent's minions.
- You can get a 2 for 1 from an SI:7 Agent with Combo if it kills a minion with its Battlecry. This creates a 3/3 (worth one card) and kills one minion (worth one card) for the cost one card.
- You can get a 2 for 1 (or more) from a board wipe such as Flamestrike whenever the board wipe kills 2 or more of your opponent's minions.
- Perhaps most simply, an Arcane Intellect is a 2 for 1 because it draws 2 cards for the cost of 1 card.
Most classes will not have access to cheap and effective card draw spells like Arcane Intellect, which means that majority of decks will need to generate card advantage by making smart value plays. Value plays are plays that aim to generate card advantage, or at the very least, not generate card disadvantage. Many new players tend to not give much thought to the actual number of cards they use to handle their opponent's minions. This can put players in a poor position in the late game where there opponent will have card advantage over them.
There are no hard and fast rules for getting value out of your plays, but if you keep a keen eye out for 2 for 1's and seek to avoid situations where your opponent will be able to 2 for 1 you, I think you will find that more and more opportunities for you to "out-value" your opponents will arise. This might entail that you stop playing minions if you anticipate a board wipe on the following turn, that you start arranging your minions correctly against Mages with Meteor, or that you do not play a 2-health minion into your opponent's Loot Hoarder. Not getting 2 for 1'd is just as good as generating a 2 for 1 of your own, making safe and well-planned Hearthstone play a cornerstone of generating card advantage.
2. Drawing Power
The most straightforward way to get card advantage over your opponent is to play cards that draw cards, like Arcane Intellect and Sprint. The amount of cards your deck can draw, as well as its ability to reliably draw cards on a game-to-game basis, refer to the drawing power of the deck.
There is no simple rule for how much drawing power your deck should have, every style of deck demands a different amount of drawing power to function. Aggro decks need very little drawing power, while control decks typically want quite a bit. Though drawing extra cards is great, card draw spells typically do not affect the board and are not very strong when you are under pressure from your opponent. The trick is to pack just enough drawing power into your deck to able to refuel when you are running low, but not so much that you will be unable to play to the board on key developmental turns in the mid game (typically turns 3 through 6).
Whenever you are evaluating a card draw spell, you should keep in mind that each card has an inherent cost of one card. Therefore, a spell like Arcane Intellect (draws 2 cards) nets you one card, not two, while a spell like Mind Vision (draws 1 card) merely replaces itself without generating additional value. Therefore, cards like Mind Vision should not be considered a source of card advantage.
If you are newer player who is just learning about the concept of card advantage for the first time, you're already well on your way to some drastic improvements in your Hearthstone play. Simply being aware of the concept of card advantages will set you down the path towards generating it, just remember to keep an eye out for 2 for 1's!
- 18 Jan. 2018: Rewritten to reflect Aleco's Hearthstone guide reworks.
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