Hearthstone players who want to improve will probably have looked around and asked for tips and the most frequent answer they probably got is to “know their deck”. What does this seemingly simple phrase actually mean? We’ll be discussing what it entails in this article.
The most basic form is to actually know what is in your deck. A lot of the players seem to prefer to use decks that have been proven to be successful by many players and there is nothing wrong with netdecking, as deck building can be difficult and a lot of the decks are already built and perfected to a high degree.
When learning a new deck you should go through the whole list and make sure you know how many copies of each card are in there. Having an image on the side or a tracker to help you learn the list is also very useful when you play out your games.
After you have looked at the decklist, you should go and evaluate each card and explain to yourself or ask a peer why they’re in the deck. What does X provide for this deck over Y, is this card decision a meta influence? Going through why each card is in the deck will also help you figure out the win conditions of the deck, as well as synergies with the other cards. This phase is also very important because when you do decide to tweak the deck to a different meta you can easily go back and recognize what you need and don’t need, test it and tweak again.
A good example of asking why a specific card is found in a deck can be found below, where a reddit user questioned the inclusion of Knife Juggler in midrange hunter.
Many users have chimed in their opinion on the card, here was my response:
The very start of the game presents you with one of the most important decisions you have to make in the game, what cards do you keep and what cards do you throw away. There is no straightforward guide for mulliganing, there are a ton of variables you have to know and it all comes down to experience. You can read general mulligan tips but most of the time they just aren’t good enough.
Things to consider when mulliganing
- The class of your opponent
- The archetype you assume your opponent to be
- The other cards in your hand
- Do you have the coin
Let’s take Midrange Druid as an example:
You always want to mulligan for wild growth and innervate so that you can ramp up into your bigger minions and fill out your curve. Depending on your opponent you may want to keep Keeper of the Grove in your hand. Keeper is good against aggressive decks like hunter, especially when you already have an innervate. It is also good against warlocks because if it is zoo, you can silence eggs or deal two damage to minions like Knife Juggler & Flame Imp. If it's Handlock you can silence Twilight Drakes. However, if your opponent is a Rogue, Keeper of the Grove is not a very good keep and this is where you would throw the card away in favour of other cards. Experience with the deck and playing against other decks allows you to decide what cards you really need and what cards you should try to mulligan for.
How you play will change as you get more experienced with your deck. In some matchups you will learn that you want to play more aggressive, whereas other matchups you want to take the control route. There will be matchups where you want to Hero Power more than others. In the Hunter vs Rogue matchup, you want to fit in as many Hero Powers as possible while putting pressure on the board.
Knowing the opponent’s deck also helps in knowing what cards you want to save for later; for example, you would usually want to keep a silence for Tirion against a paladin. Another example would be playing loatheb in the later stages of the game rather than on turn 5 to put on pressure against a freeze mage.
Win Conditions and pushing for the Killing Blow
There are many times where you might find yourself in a position where you realize that if the game goes any longer while you play on the defensive you most likely won’t win. Experience allows you to realize what that point of the game is and allows you to decide that you have to switch gears into a more aggressive approach, or a line of play that could cause you to lose the game if your opponent has the answer, but puts you in a much better position if they don’t, rather than just delaying your loss.
This may be as simple as relying on a top deck for lethal the next turn and calculating the odds of drawing it. It may be as complicated as a few turns ahead where you have to plan out your strategy and put a Druid of the Claw in charge instead of taunt form and try to survive. You should know how much damage you have left and take calculated risks in order to win, because a delayed loss is still going to be a loss.
If we look at druid again, you may be in a position where you were ahead all game and have a high life total. You have Force of Nature and Savage Roar in your hand for 14 damage as well as an innervate for a hero power. However, your opponent heals with a healbot out of range. You may have to decide whether you want to clear the board with combo or decide to wait on the second Savage Roar because you have innervate and will be able to do 22 damage. Knowing the matchup and both decks will allow you to decide which option is better.
The phrase “knowing your deck” has a few factors to it and is not as simple as it may seem. Knowing your deck includes knowing why each card is found in the deck, knowing how to mulligan for each matchup, how to play your deck against different decks & classes and identifying ways to win with your deck.
This is how I define what this phrase means and I hope I made this seemingly ambiguous phrase a lot clearer.