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How To Build A Deck in Hearthstone

Last updated on Jan 17, 2018 at 23:55 by Aleco 16 comments

Table of Contents

In this guide we will walk you through the essential steps required to build a solid, viable, and competitive Hearthstone deck. Everything we write here applies exclusively to Constructed decks. If you are interested in learning about the Arena, check out our Arena guide by Kat.

The quality and strength of the decks you can build depends on the size of your card collection: the bigger your collection is, the better your decks can be. However, do not let this fact discourage you from designing new decks if your collection is still small. It is still very possible to build solid, viable, and fun decks even with a small collection.

As we will see, deck building is a complex and initially non-intuitive process which will probably be quite difficult until you have extensive Hearthstone experience. With that in mind, it is a very rewarding activity that can help you build a much better understanding of the game.

1. Why Build Your Own Decks?

With the large variety of decks that are published on various websites (we have many here on Icy Veins), you might be asking yourself why you would even bother making your own decks if you could could just copy a professional list that is likely to be much better. There are several advantages to building your own decks over copying decks from the internet:

  • If you build your own deck, you will be extremely familiar and comfortable with it. This helps you play the deck better, and also allows you to modify it more easily without "ruining" it.
  • Winning games with a deck you built yourself is very satisfying. While winning games is satisfying in general, if you are winning with a deck you created from scratch, it feels even more rewarding.
  • Building your own decks gives you an edge because your opponents will not know what to expect from you. While opponents will likely be aware of the smartest plays to make against popular decks on the ladder, they might make tremendous mistakes against your decks due to false assumptions they may make.
  • Building your own decks makes them ideally suited to your playstyle and preferences. Each player has a different set of strengths and weaknesses as a Hearthstone player, as well as a different set of preferences for various strategies. Some players enjoy decks that are fast, others prefer a slower, more controlled pace, and others like to assemble intricate combos. Some players are more interested in making constant trades, while others like to attack the opponent directly to put them under pressure. If you build your own deck, you can create exactly the type of deck you enjoy playing instead of trying to have fun with someone else's creation.

Perhaps most importantly, building your own decks allows you to get a much better understanding of the cards and of their interactions. In the long run, this will make you a better player, both in Constructed and in Arena.

2. The Key Elements to a Successful Deck

2.1. Powerful and Consistent Win Condition(s)

One of the most common mistakes made by new players when designing a deck is a lack of focus towards a singular goal. Individual cards, no matter how powerful they are on their own, are only at their best when they are being used to advance towards the same goal as all of the other cards in the deck. This singular goal is often referred to as a "victory condition", or "win condition", and it should be one of the very first things you decide on when building a new deck. Having a clear win condition in mind as you design your deck should help inform you which cards belong in the deck most (cards that help you achieve your win condition) and which cards might not be worth including (cards that do not help you achieve your win condition).

The best win conditions are both powerful and consistent, though you will often have to choose between power and consistency when selecting a win condition. The most powerful combos in Hearthstone are capable of killing an opponent in a single turn from 30 life, but as a win condition these combos are incredibly inconsistent. Conversely, some of the most consistent win conditions (such as those found in aggro decks) are incapable of anything powerful in the late game. It is important to keep in mind that there are no "correct" or "incorrect" win conditions to choose from, only win conditions that are more powerful or more consistent that others.

The win condition of your deck will quite often dictate a number of cards which will be "automatically" included in your new list. For example, if you are designing an OTK (one turn kill) Mage deck, your deck will automatically include Open the Waygate, 2 Sorcerer's Apprentices, 2 Molten Reflections, and an Archmage Antonidas. The 24 remaining cards should either be focused on finding ways to increase the power of the deck's win condition, or to increase the deck's consistency at assembling the win condition. In this example, the end result of assembling the OTK Mage deck's combo will be infinite Fireballs! As this win condition is incredibly powerful, the remaining cards in an OTK Mage deck should all be focused on increasing the deck's consistency, or its ability to assemble its combo pieces.

Conversely, if you were attempting to design an Aggro Murloc Paladin deck, the core nucleus of cards that dictates your deck's win condition is much larger than that of an OTK Mage deck. There are many powerful and aggressively-oriented Murlocs which constitute the core of an aggressive Murloc deck. Since the core of the deck is as many as 14 or 15 "Murloc-matters" cards, the deck will very reliably be able to draw its core cards on a game-to-game basis, and will be very consistent at assembling its win condition. In this case, your primary goal when selecting the remaining cards for your deck should be to increase the deck's overall power level as much as possible without diluting the consistency of the win condition. This can be accomplished either by adding more cards that are individually powerful for an Aggro strategy (such as Corridor Creeper) but may not necessarily be synergistic with Murlocs, or by adding a number of meta-dependent cards to help you take on the decks you are likely to be facing. If you'd like to learn more about how to adjust your deck to reflect the current metagame, check out our article on Adapting to the Metagame

2.2. A Stable Mana Curve

Cards that cost high amounts of Mana tend to have much more powerful effects than cards which cost low amounts of Mana. Of course, filling a deck with only high-cost cards would leave you incapable of making plays in the early game. It is self-evident that a well built deck will strike a balance between low cost and high cost cards. This balance is commonly referred to as a "Mana Curve".

A deck's Mana Curve is the distribution of cards in the deck when sorted by Mana cost. A normal Mana Curve will appear like a bell curve, with an equal distribution of low cost cards (1 2, and 3 Mana) and high cost cards (6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 Mana), and a comparatively greater number of cards which can be played in the mid game (turns 3, 4, and 5) than cards which can be played in the early or late game. A balanced Mana curve is how we can take advantage of the fact that cards with higher Mana costs have more powerful effects, because it is the best way to ensure we are playing a 2-cost card on turn 2, a 3 cost card on turn 3, a 4-cost card on turn 4, etc. This is called "curving out", or using all of your Mana on each of your turns. Players who are able to spend more Mana than their opponents will be able to do more powerful things, which means that decks with better Mana Curves will more consistently be able to do powerful things than decks with imbalanced Mana Curves.

As you fill out your deck, try to keep in mind that the best card for your deck might not be the card that is most powerful or consistent, but the one that slots best into your Mana Curve. Always try to take a look at the Mana Curves of decks with similar strategies before finalizing a new deck list. The curve of most aggro, midrange, and control decks should look very similar to the curves of other decks within the same archetype.

3. Building the Deck

Now that we have outlined the most important elements of a well-built deck, it is finally time to start assembling it!

3.1. Step One: Adding Core Cards

As outlined in the section on win conditions, core cards are the cards that dictate the win condition your deck is attempting to assemble. These are the cards that may have led you to decide on building this deck in the first place, and will quite often be heavily synergistic with each other. Core cards may also be cards that are too strong for the strategy you are using (such as Patches the Pirate in Aggro decks) to ignore, and far above the power level of similar cards. For example, Jade Druid decks consider Wild Growth, Swipe, Nourish, Spreading Plague, Malfurion the Pestilent, and Ultimate Infestation to be core cards despite the fact that they do not say "Jade" on them. This is because players believe there are no cards which could replace any of these listed core cards which would increase the power or consistency of the deck.

Throughout the deck design, testing, and tweaking process, try to tamper with your core cards as little as possible. Since your core cards are the reason you are playing the deck in the first place, they should never be removed from the deck to make room for other cards. If you feel as though you are consistently drawing your core cards but that they are underperforming, this is likely a sign that your deck's win condition may not be powerful or consistent enough to be worth building a deck around.

3.2. Step Two: Adding Class-Specific Cards

The next step is to include the best situational class-specific cards you have available to you. Most classes have cards that seem to be "auto-includes" in nearly every popular list. Very few Rogue decks can be found without a pair of Backstabs in them, Priests tend to always have Northshire Cleric, and Mages these days seem to never leave the house without a couple of Arcanologists. This is due to the fact that these cards are far more powerful than alternate cards with similar Mana costs, and because class cards are categorically more powerful than neutral cards.

It is very likely that these "endemic" class cards should be included in the deck you are currently designing. Take a peek at some of the many deck lists we have here on Icy Veins to see if you can identify any class cards which appear to be endemic to the class you are working with, then use them to fill out some of the remaining slots in your deck.

3.3. Step Three: Adding Neutral Minions

After filling out your deck a bit with class cards that strategically align with your deck's win condition, you should be able to fill most of your remaining slots with neutral cards. These neutral filler cards will, on average, be less powerful than the class cards in our deck, but it is always more important to have cards which help you accomplish your deck's win condition than have cards which are individually powerful. There are very few decks which will ever be able to find enough class cards to fill an entire deck, which makes synergistic Neutral minions a necessity for most home-brewed decks.

Though there are far too many neutral minions to exhaustively cover in this guide, there are many non-Legendary neutral minions which crop up in a wide variety of decks. Take a look at these powerful neutral cards to see if any of these might fit into your deck:

Aggressive Decks Controlling Decks
Fire Fly Tar Creeper
Corridor Creeper Acolyte of Pain
Cobalt Scalebane Doomsayer
Bonemare Plated Beetle
Knife Juggler Stonehill Defender
Argent Squire Wild Pyromancer
Acherus Veteran Dirty Rat

3.4. Step Four: The Last Few Pieces

If you have not already managed to fill your 30 card deck, there are several kinds of cards you can consider for final the few slots.

First, you can take a second look at some of the cards you may have passed up earlier in the deck construction process. If you were picky enough during your first pass of adding cards to your deck, the "best of the rest" might be good enough to fill your remaining slots.

Your second option is to start adding tech cards to your deck. Tech cards are cards which are particularly powerful against specific strategies, and are the best way to improve your matchups against decks which are naturally strong against yours.

The power of a tech card is entirely dependent on the texture of the metagame you are currently facing, as they are strong against some decks but weak against others. If the metagame has lots of aggressive decks in it, add some defensive tech cards to your deck. If there is a popular combo deck which relies on a specific combination of minions to win, a Dirty Rat might be able to disrupt the combo from ever going off. Hop on over to metastats.net to check out which decks are being played the most in the current meta, then see if you can find any tech cards which might be able to counter them.

4. Testing and Tweaking Your Deck

Your new deck is now ready to hit Play mode, but your work is far from over. Building a viable and competitive deck is an iterative process which requires testing, adaptation, and constant tweaking of your deck.

As you play games with your new deck, try to identify which cards are most strongly correlated with you winning or losing games, and which cards are over or underperforming. Between games, try to replace cards that feel weak with cards you have yet to test out or may have removed from the deck previously. Do not be afraid to experiment a bit with cards that may or may not actually be strong, as it is often very difficult to tell whether or not a particular card will be good in your deck until you get the opportunity to see it in action.

If you ever find that your deck is consistently able to assemble and play its core cards, curve out, and execute its game plan, but it is still losing, it might be time to go back to the drawing board. Not every win condition is worth building a deck around, and sometimes there will be no amount of testing or tweaking which will make a deck competitively viable. And that's okay! A big part of the fun when it comes to playing decks of your own design is the design process itself, and every deck which comes up short will have brought you one step closer to the next amazing homebrew.

5. ChangeLog

  • 17 Jan. 2018: Rewritten entirely to reflect the modern Hearthstone landscape.
  • 18 Nov. 2016: Updated the guide to remove mentions that are now obsolete, especially given shifts in the meta-game and new adventures.
  • 19 Aug. 2014: Removed mentions of certain cards that we advised to never use (since the meta-game changed in such a way that they became viable).
  • 29 Mar. 2014: Removed a mention of using Tinkmaster Overspark, since the card is no longer competitively viable.
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