A Gamer’s Perspective: Hearthstone: A Poor Man’s Survival Guide
A brief disclaimer before we get started: while this article is mainly aimed at newer players, particularly those considering playing with the open beta having released recently, I will (for the good of humanity) be assuming that you’re familiar with the basic terms and concepts of Hearthstone – things like it featuring micro-transactions, what gold is used for and what the Arena is. It’s all fairly intuitive, but if you feel like you need a primer, feel free to take a glance at our preview, which explains much of that with artful depth and brevity, and at Reddit’s New Player Guide, which also provides an introduction to the terminology and mechanics, as well as a bunch of useful links.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get to it.
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I managed to worm my way into the closed beta a little over a month ago, and even in that relatively short space of time, I’ve completely fallen in love with Hearthstone. I love TCGs and CCGs (naturally, I’m a huge Magic: The Gathering fan), and I’ve found it refreshing to play something that is (superficially at least) slightly less mentally taxing and, more importantly, free to play.
I’ve started to enjoy Arena (if only that meant I was getting good at it, too), and competitive constructed play seems like a bunch of fun as well – I, along with pretty much the entirety of South Africa, will be playing in the Do Gaming League for Hearthstone (registrations are sitting at just shy of 300 – the largest entry for a singleplayer game league in DGL history). While both the Arena and constructed really excite me, I’ve found myself starting to hit a wall that many newer players who don’t invest money into the game seem to – my gold balance is far, far lower than it needs to be for me to play the way I would like to. Being on a gap year and having to spend all my money on petrol and my Magic habit (not necessarily in that order) means that I really don’t have the extra cash to sink into a game like Hearthstone, especially when I know some elbow grease can get me to the same place that a couple hundred rand would. So, I’ve had to adapt the way I play and spend my gold, to find workarounds for this problem – trying to mould myself into a vaguely competitive Hearthstone player, at the same time as making sure I don’t break the bank.
What is to follow is the brief outline of my current ‘keep Hearthstone free to play’ guide – a few brief tips to help you along the way, if you’re in a similar position to me. This is by no means an exhaustive guide – I don’t presume to be in a position to be able to write one of those – but hopefully it can point you in a direction and get you thinking about how you can adjust your own play and spending to help you not only spend as little as possible on the game, but also become a better, more skilful player as you do so.
Quests Are Your Friends:
To get cards, we need packs. And to get packs, we need gold. And to get gold, we do the quests.
If you’re a new player especially, listen up. There are a bunch of quests you can do to boost your gold balance if you’ve just started your account. First things first, head over to practice mode and take on the Basic AI’s to unlock the decks you haven’t already – once you beat all 8, you should net 200 gold. Once you’ve done that, go take on the Expert AI’s – you’ll get another 100 gold for that, and then another 200 when you level all of the classes up to level 10 (unlocking all the basic cards for them). If you need help deck-wise along the way with any of that, this deck should get you past the Basic AI pretty easily, and after that you can use these basic decklists to take on the Expert AI, and once you’ve beaten them all, real life players in play mode to level up your classes faster.
Phewf. Now that we’ve done all that, we don’t touch our gold. I repeat: DON’T do a thing with your gold. The temptation to buy packs is strong, I understand, but future you will regret it big time. Next on our agenda is the daily quests.
There are three different types of daily quests – most are for 40 gold, some for 60 gold and some, very occasionally, for 100 gold. A feature which is disabled at the time of writing (but should be patched back in soon) is being able to ‘reroll’ a quest (click the red cross in the top right corner of it, and get a new quest in its place instead). Why do this? It doesn’t get worse than a 40 gold quest, so if you get one of those you can only win if you reroll – you could get one worth 60 or 100 instead. Given that you only get dailies once a day, those higher value ones can speed your progress pretty significantly.
Let’s assume we’re doing all the dailies we can – it’d be pretty dumb not to. Worst case scenario, that’s 120 gold over three days. Plus, to finish dailies you usually have to win games, so let’s say you win 9 games in Play mode over those three days – that’s 150 gold right there. Question is, what do we spend that gold on? That’s almost 2 packs, right?
Never Buy Packs:
This probably seems counter-intuitive. How the heck are we planning to get cards if we never buy packs? This is where we need to take a bit of a step back and think about things. If we’re on a budget, we don’t just want to be using our gold to get packs – we want to use our gold to get value. Essentially, taking our 150 gold, and turning it into something worth more than a pack and 50 gold.
That’s why we’re going to use our gold on the arena instead. If you’re a newer player, this can sound like quite a daunting undertaking, and spending the initial gold you get on a few packs to get you started is extremely tempting, but as soon as you do start getting into Arena (which you inevitably will), you’ll regret it. At this stage, you don’t need more cards to play constructed – you can easily gain 8-10 ranks using only the basic cards.
Trust me on this: you want to hang onto your gold until you’re ready to play Arena.
Why play Arena? First and foremost, even if you completely whitewash you’ll still be netting a pack as a prize. So if you go 0-3 and win nothing besides a pack, the actual price of your Arena was only 50 gold. For that 50 gold, though, you got a bunch of experience with cards and classes you wouldn’t have otherwise, on top of being put in a position where you had to think seriously about weighing up how good cards really are in comparison to one another – all of that goes into ultimately making you a better player. In my opinion, that’s easily worth 50 gold. And that’s not even taking into account the potential to make a profit on that 50 gold you invested, if you manage to get enough wins.
But, but, but what if Arena is scary and you suck at it? Don’t worry, I do too. Luckily, though, we aren’t alone, and there are some good resources out there you can use to improve your abilities in Arena – both as a player and as a card-picker.
The best thing you can do for your Arena play (and play in general, in fact), is to start watching streams – far and away, I’d recommend giving Trump a look. He’s one of the best Arena streamers out there, has a huge Youtube library, and will change the way you play the game in the best way possible. One of the things I have to stress, though, is if you want to improve (in picks and play), you have to watch actively – that means engaging with the video in a meaningful way. Don’t just watch him make amazing decisions, pause the video before a decision and figure out what you would do in that place – once you’ve decided, watch what he does and how it differs to your play. I’ve learnt a tonne already simply from using a technique like that to expose the flaws in my thinking and card analysis.
Watching Trump is great and all, but if only he could be by your side, helping you make those picks as you create your Arena deck. What’s that? With his Neutral Minion Pick List, he can? Well, that’s awfully convenient, isnt it?
Pick lists have been hugely helpful for me – it puts the difficult decisions in someone else’s hands, and reminds me over and over again that consistency in card draws is way more important than that retarded combo the optimistic side of me wants to try and draft. Like I said, Trump has one for neutral minions, and Vivafringe has not only a pick list for class-specific minions, but also an entire guide on Arena – giving that a read through will also completely change you the way you play for the better.
Once you’ve done some stream watching, read some guides and you’ve got those pick lists handy, you should be feeling prepared (if not quite confident) to try out an Arena run – go for it. You probably won’t go 12-0 (or anything close to it) on your first one, but with all the resources I’ve listed here your improvement curve should be pretty quick, and Arena is the sort of thing it takes practice to master. That’s why we haven’t spent any of that gold you’ve been saving up just yet – the more you pour into Arena, the faster you’ll improve at it, and the faster you’ll start making a profit.
Disenchant For Greater Value:
Hearthstone, like most other CCGs, features a form of card-swaggification; much like foils in paper card games, Hearthstone features gold cards, which can be unlocked or randomly acquired from packs. There are only two things you need to know about gold cards: they perform exactly the same as their non-swaggity counterparts, and they disenchant for more dust.
Practically, what does that mean? As soon as we can (usually post-patch, when we have an idea of whether or not a card will be changed), we disenchant them for the dust. Worst case scenario, you decide you actually want the card you disenchanted, and you can use the dust to craft a normal version of that card again – no harm no foul. Otherwise, we can use that dust to craft staple cards that we haven’t already opened, which we need to fill out our constructed decklists. The same goes for more than two copies of a card, too – when you get a third copy of any card, disenchant that as soon as you know it’s safe – a third copy will be entirely useless to you, but we can always find uses for dust.
At the end of the day, making Hearthstone free-to-play definitely isn’t easy – it’s going to take a bunch more work to crack that first Sylvanas unlocking packs through the Arena than it would just by dumping cash into the game. At the same time, though, I can guarantee that it’s going to feel a whole lot better cracking it after you’ve put all that work in for it – plus, by the time you get there you’ll almost certainly be the kind of player who can actually use Sylvanas (or whatever legendary you pull) to her full potential.
Are any of you guys playing on a budget? Got any tips you think I missed out here? Let the world know in the comments below – also, shout if you’ll be playing the DGL. If you’re good, it gives me a chance to try and avoid an embarrassing defeat at your hands.