PV’s Playhouse – Hearthstone for Magic Players

Hello!

My article today is going to be a little different—it’s about Hearthstone. For those who don’t know, Hearthstone is Blizzard’s card game, set in World of Warcraft. It’s simpler than Magic, but it has a lot of overlap in terms of how it’s played and what skills are necessary to win—many of the famous Hearthstone players have played competitive Magic at some point. It’s also quite fun and, from my experience, way more complex than people give it credit for; it turns out there is a lot of room for a game to be simpler than Magic and still not be simple at all.

I picked Hearthstone up last month, after knowing nothing about it. Today, I would consider myself competent, because I already intrinsically understand most of the concepts in the game. I reached the Legendary ranking the first month I started playing (which is the best out of 25 rankings you can have, but not super hard to get to), and reached Legendary again this month. At the time of writing this, I’m ranked 15th in the North American server. (Edit: At the time of finishing writing this, I’m ranked 144th…)

That said, there are a lot of things that are not like Magic—and a lot that are, but not in the way that you would expect them to be. I had to go through a process where I had to assess which Magic concepts translated into what in Hearthstone, and which did not translate into anything at all, so that I could actually use the knowledge that I already have.

The goal of this article, therefore, is to explain Hearthstone in Magic terms. The target demographic are those who already play Magic and want to either start playing Hearthstone, and the people who already play Hearthstone and want to get better. I realize this is not going to appeal to every ChannelFireball reader, but that’s true of basically every subject, and I think it’s worth a try for the people who are interested in it, especially at a time where I can’t reasonably write about Standard because of the PT.

I will start with the basic rules, so that people who have never played Hearthstone before can follow the article if they are interested. If you have already played it, you can skip this part.

The Basic Rules

The base rules of Hearthstone are very simple. You choose a class (out of Rogue, Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Priest, Mage, Shaman, Warlock, and Hunter) and then you can play any cards from that “color” and any amount of neutral cards, which every class shares—it’s not unlike EDH. There are no two-color decks, so a Rogue card will only ever be seen in a Rogue deck, for example. Decks are 30 cards and you can play two copies of each card, and one copy of each Legendary cards. Each class has a Legendary card and there are a bunch of neutral ones.

Each class also has a specific Hero Power, that you can use once per turn and costs two mana. For a list of Hero Powers, you can go here.

You start with 30 life, three cards if you’re on the play, and four cards if you’re on the draw. Each turn, you draw a new card and automatically gain a Mana Crystal, which is basically a land. You can use it that turn, and you get it back next turn (so on turn two you have two Crystals, three on turn three, and so on. It caps at 10 Mana Crystals). If you’re on the draw, you are also given a “Coin,” which is a one-time Mana Crystal that you can use whenever you want—a Lotus Petal.

There are three types of cards in Hearthstone: Minions, Spells, and Weapons. Minions are the creatures, and they have a power and toughness just like in Magic. A creature can choose what to attack; it can hit any minion the opponent has, and it can also directly hit the player—there is no blocking. Damage also doesn’t wear off at the end of the turn. So if I hit a 2/2 with a 1/1, the 1/1 will die and the 2/2 will effectively become a 2/1 for the rest of the game.

Spells are just like Magic spells—they have a cost and an effect. There are only sorceries in Hearthstone—you can’t do anything on your opponent’s turn. A subtype of spells, the Secrets, are like Traps that trigger when something happens—those effects do happen on your opponent’s turn, but you usually don’t control them. Three classes have Secrets: Mage, Hunter, and Paladin. You can find a list of Secrets here.

Weapons are things you equip to your Hero; they have an attack value and a durability. Attack is how much they hit for, and durability how long they last—every time you attack someone with a Weapon, it loses 1 durability, and if that gets to o it’s destroyed. Normally a character with zero power can’t attack, and Heroes ordinarily have 0 power, so for them to attack you need to give them a weapon. Once you do, they behave like creatures, attacking once per turn and taking damage from whoever they get in combat with.

In Hearthstone, there are two game modes—Constructed and Arena. Constructed is just like Magic, and Arena is drafting, except you do it by yourself—every pack you have the choice between one of three cards and whichever you don’t choose just vanish. You draft 30 cards, and play all of them. If you are starting, I’d recommend playing some Arenas so that you get familiar with most cards and can choose what you like best for Constructed. Arena is not ranked, but you can get gold, cards, and dust by doing well; you play up to twelve wins or three losses, and get prizes based on how many wins you get before that point.

In Hearthstone, there’s no trading; your cards are solely your own. There is, however, Dust. You can turn cards into Dust (Disenchant) and then use Dust to create whichever specific card you want. Cards of higher rarity cost more to create, and Gold cards (foils) turn into a lot of gold if you Disenchant them. There is absolutely no use for any third copy of a card, so feel free to Disenchant all of those; the game has a function that does this automatically.

The Rules Differences

Since we’re used to Magic rules, we expect certain things to behave in certain ways, and it’s quite shocking when they don’t. Here are the main differences:

• The text in the cards is not always relevant. Take, for example, King Mukla. It says “Battlecry (which is equivalent to “when this comes into play.” Deathrattle is “when this dies”): Give your opponent two Bananas.” That’s it. Now, what’s a Banana? There’s no way of knowing! You basically have to Google it. (Turns out a Banana is a spell that costs 1 and gives a creature +1/+1). Lord Jaraxxus is even worse; it says “Destroy your Hero and turn it into Lord Jaraxxus.” How are you supposed to know what Lord Jaraxxus is? Do you even want to destroy your Hero for that? You have to Google that too.

• When they say “owner,” they really mean controller. If I steal your creature and you bounce it, it’s going to go back to my hand. There is no ownership.

• Cards will often retain their forms through multiple zones. This is very random and happens with some cards and not with others. Druid of the Claw, for example, can turn into either a 4/4 charge (haste) or a 4/6 taunt (meaning it has to be attacked) when you play him. If you bounce him, you will bounce the current form of the card, and it will be replayed as the current form—you don’t get the choice again. If you bounce a token, it goes back to their hand and can be replayed.

• When you copy a card, you copy everything. There is a card called Faceless Manipulator, which is basically Clone, that took me three tries to figure out. It turns out you get an exact replica of the card that is currently in play. If I have a 2/2 that has +2/+2 on it, I’ll copy a 4/4. If I have a 2/2 with one damage on it, I’ll get a 2/2 with one damage on it.

• The maximum hand size is 10. If a card would be put into your hand, for whatever reason, and you have 10 cards in hand already, instead it’s destroyed. This is actually highly relevant because, in Hearthstone, decks are only 30 cards, and some archetypes are built with the expectation that they will eventually draw their 1-of (such as Alexstraza or Leeroy Jenkins), and if you mill that they might get in trouble. Even if it’s a 2-of (which is, again, the maximum amount you can play), seeing that you got rid of a Swipe when they’ve already played their first one gives you a lot of breathing room.

• If you run out of cards in your deck, you get Fatigue and take one cumulative damage a turn; the first time you would draw a card, instead you take 1 damage; the second time you take 2, and so on.

• If you get to ten Mana Crystals, you can’t get more. With a one-time deal mana producer, like Innervate or Coin, you need to use a mana Crystal and then play the mana producer to “replenish” it. With Wild Growth, if you cast that on ten mana, you get to draw a card for your troubles.

• Names don’t mean things. Harvest Golem creates a “Damaged” Golem, but that’s just its name; it can’t be targeted by Execute. With Noble Sacrifice, you put a 2/1 Defender into play—it normally doesn’t matter since it has to block, but once I had my Defender survive and I just didn’t attack with it because my mind was ingrained that defenders can’t attack, which has nothing to do with Hearthstone.

Mulligans

Mulligans in Hearthstone work quite differently than in Magic. You get to swap any number of cards for an equivalent number of cards. Before you choose that, you get to see what Class you’re playing against, but you don’t know their decks. Some classes are very one-dimensional—Druid is always midrange, Shaman is always control, Priest and Warrior are almost always control, Hunter always plays the same cards regardless of the version. Against those, mulligan decisions are easier. You only need to know the stock lists and which cards are good against them. Some cards are better on the draw (such as the Rogue SI:7 Agent and Defias Ringleader), and some are better with other cards (for example you might keep Blade Flurry if you have Deadly Poison but not if you don’t), but it should be pretty easy to figure out.

The tricky part is when you play against a deck that could be aggro or not—such as Warlock, Rogue, or Paladin. In this case, cards that are good against one version are usually horrible against another. My advice here is that you plan as if the person is your bad matchup. For example, when I play aggro Rogue, I know that Miracle Rogue (a Rogue combo deck) is an easy matchup, so I make my mulligan decisions assuming I’ll be playing against another Aggro Rogue. I mulligan cards like King Mukla and Coldlight Oracle because, even though they are good against Miracle, you don’t need them early—it’s a good matchup anyway. If your opponent is playing aggro, however, having those cards will be devastating and will likely lead to a loss.

Another thing that you can do is wait to see how many cards they mulligan, then mulligan yourself. A deck like Handlock (a late-game Warlock deck) will rarely keep all of its cards, since it has so many late-game ones that it doesn’t need early. If they have four cards and keep all four, they are more likely to be Zoo than Handlock.

Tempo

A lot of Hearthstone is about sequencing and planning ahead. I think that’s slightly easier to do than in Magic because a) you know you will effectively draw a land every turn and b) there are very few things your opponent can do to stop you, and none of them on your turn.

What makes sequencing tricky is the hero power, which you can use once per turn and is the best source of card advantage in the game. Every turn you do not use your hero power, you’re giving up a resource. At the same time, the hero power is usually much weaker than any spell you could cast, so you might fall too far behind if you keep using it instead of developing your board.

When I am playing Hunter, for example, I make sure I use my Hero Power almost every turn. If I draw a turn three River Crocolisk, I won’t play it. I’ll just Hero Power, because the Hunter’s Hero Power is equivalent to an attack from the Crocolisk anyway, and it can’t be killed—if I play Crocolisk and they kill it, I wasted 2 damage. Then, on turn four, you can play your two-drop and use the Hero Power again. When you are playing Warrior against a burst deck (Hunter, Mage, Aggro Rogue), try to use your Hero Power every turn—it’s usually better than whatever it is you are going to play unless you’re in the very early stages of the game.

When I play Aggro Rogue against Miracle Rogue, for example, if I’m on the play, I’ll usually hero-power on turn two rather than play Knife Juggler (yeah I play Knife Juggler). If they have nothing, I wasted some damage, but it’s likely that they have something. If they Backstab it I lose 1 damage from the dagger attack, and if they have SI:7 Agent, I just gave them the opportunity to Coin it out. They can still do that next turn, of course, but then they use up their third turn instead of their second, and it gives me another turn without the SI:7 Agent in play.

You should also sequence things to be as awkward as possible for your opponent’s hero power. If you are playing against Mage, Rogue, or Druid, playing a 2/1 minion into two open mana does effectively nothing. It’s much better to wait until you can play two 2/1 minions in the same turn—that way they can kill one, but the other will get to attack. Even if you can’t play two, it’s better to play it on a turn where they would do something else. If you’re playing against Freeze Mage and you pass on turn two with an empty board, it’s likely they will use their Hero Power anyway, because they have nothing else to do. If you play it on turn three however, you present them the choice between killing your guy or casting one of their 3-drops.

Combat

Combat in Hearthstone is very unique, because you can attack anything, there is no blocking, and damage doesn’t go away. This means that toughness, for example, is a more important attribute than it is in Magic; overall, over the course of a game, a creature with more toughness will do more damage because it will survive longer. Having 1 or 2 toughness is a pretty drastic difference because Druid, Mage, and Rogue can all kill a 1-toughness creature with their hero powers.

The key to Hearthstone combat is to attack them when they want to trade, and attack their creatures when either they want to race, or combat will be more profitable for you this turn. In Magic, if you trade, no one gets ahead—both people lose their creatures. In Hearthstone, however, you can just attack them, and then, if they trade, you get ahead by one attack. Say I am playing an aggro deck and I have a 3/1 to my opponent’s 4/3. Normally, I would like to trade, but I know that he can’t afford to let my 3/1 live, so I know that he will very likely choose the trade himself. If I attack him the result is the same (both creatures die) but he has taken 3 damage.

This applies mostly when you want to win on damage, and not on board. If you want to win on board, you usually take the opportunity to “trade up.” Say you have a 3/1 and two 2/2s, and your opponent has a 3/3. In this scenario, if you attack him, his 3/3 will eventually trade for both 2/2s. Unless you are threatening his life total significantly, you want to just kill the 3/3.

Winning

There are two types of wins in Hearthstone—board wins and burst wins. Board wins are the ones where they overwhelm you with superior board presence and eventually win the game because they have more resources than you. Burst wins are the ones that attack your life total and hope to kill you before you can use your spells. Decks that aim to win by having board control usually attack minions, and burst decks usually attack players.

There is still a lot of difference between decks that have similar paths to victory, however. Handlock and Zoolock (you can find those decks below) are both board decks, but one is aggressive and one is not. The type of card you want against Zoolock is very similar to the type of card you want in your hand against Aggro Rogue, and very different from the one you want against Handlock. For this reason, I don’t love this classification very much, and would prefer to classify decks as early game and late game in addition to that, which will give you a better idea of what you need to do to beat them and what cards you want. Handlock, for example, would be late board control; Zoo, early board control. Aggro Rogue, early burst; Hunter, late burst.

There is a lot more math in Hearthstone than in most Magic decks, because everything is out there in front of you. They can’t use instant-speed removal spells and they can’t block! Adding up your damage total and planning the turns ahead is therefore very important. In many games, you find out that you could just kill them if only you had attacked them the turn before. In this regard, most wins in Hearthstone could be considered on-board wins.

Another difference is that control decks often run actual kill conditions—things that are there solely to finish the game. Some Handlock decks, for example, run Leeroy Jenkins + ways to pump him + Faceless Manipulator (which, remember, copies everything, even the pumps). In that deck, Leeroy does absolutely nothing besides being a way to kill them—it’s the equivalent of running a Searing Wind in UWR Control. I am not a big fan of that, for obvious reasons, but it is common.

The Decks

If you play Constructed, those are the decks you’re more likely to meet:
(Those deck lists come from Hearthstonetopdeck.com, which collects decks from a bunch of tournaments/matches)

Warlock

Zoo:

2 Voidwalker
2 Flame Imp
2 Doomguard
2 Argent Squire
1 Elven Archer
2 Young Priestess
1 Shieldbearer
2 Dire Wolf Alpha
2 Knife Juggler
1 Ironbeak Owl
1 Earthen Ring Farseer
2 Harvest Golem
2 Scarlet Crusader
2 Shattered Sun Cleric
2 Defender of Argus
1 Argent Commander
2 Soulfire
1 Mortal Coil

Zoo is the White Weenie of Hearthstone. It aims to play a bunch of guys and pump spells and achieve superior board presence through the use of both bigger minions and its Hero Power. I do not like this version very much, but it was the newest I found. In my opinion, builds with Abusive Sergeant are much better, but it should be fine to give you an idea of how the deck works.

Zoo has some reach, with Soulfire and Doomguard, but it’s not an explosive deck. With three cards in hand and seven mana, it’s unlikely that it can deal more than 5 damage to you (whereas a deck like Rogue could potentially deal 16). The best way to beat Zoo is to either control the board and play big taunters (since they have no way to effectively deal with them other than Ironbeak Owl) or to just explode their face once they drop to a low enough life total with Flame Imp and Hero Power.

Zoo is the cheapest, most affordable competitive deck you can have (second is probably aggro mage). If you don’t want to spend money, play a couple of Arenas and you should have this deck already, and it’s good enough to get you to Legendary.

Handlock:

2 Ancient Watcher
1 Ironbeak Owl
1 Acidic Swamp Ooze
2 Sunfury Protector
2 Earthen Ring Farseer
2 Sen’Jin Shieldmasta
2 Twilight Drake
2 Defender of Argus
1 Leeroy Jenkins
1 Faceless Manipulator
1 Sunwalker
2 Molten Giant
2 Mountain Giant
2 Soulfire
1 Mortal Coil
1 Power Overwhelming
2 Hellfire
1 Shadowflame
2 Siphon Soul

Handlock is a deck that does nothing in the first turns of the game (usually its turn two play is to just use Hero Power) and then plays some big minions and tries to taunt them. In Magic terms, I would compare Handlock to a Tron deck. Against this deck, you have to be aware of life totals, and sometimes it’s better to not attack them. For example, if they are at 14 and will have five mana next turn, attacking them down to 13 can let them play Molten Giant plus Sunfury Protector, and in this spot it might be better to just leave them at 14. The best way to beat this deck is with direct damage—with a deck like Hunter, for example, I almost never lost to it, since I could deal them so much damage in the beginning, unopposed, that when they finally got their Taunts online I could just finish them off with Hero Power and Kill Command.

Rogue

Miracle Rogue:

2 SI:7 Agent
1 Edwin VanCleef
1 Bloodmage Thalnos
1 Earthen Ring Farseer
1 Leeroy Jenkins
2 Azure Drake
2 Gadgetzan Auctioneer
2 Backstab
2 Shadowstep
2 Preparation
2 Deadly Poison
1 Cold Blood
1 Conceal
1 Sinister Strike
2 Eviscerate
2 Sap
2 Shiv
1 Blade Flurry
2 Fan of Knives

Miracle Rogue is the purest “combo” deck in the format. The main idea behind it is to play Gadgetzan Auctioneer and chain off a bunch of cheap spells to amass a hand that kills them the following turn—usually involving Leeroy Jenkins and Shadowstep. In Magic terms, I think Miracles would be Elves—you can win by attacking but sometimes you combo off, but you don’t necessarily win when you do combo off—it’s very possible to combo off and lose. The best way to beat miracles is with a very fast deck, such as Aggro Rogue or Aggro Paladin.

Aggro Rogue:

1 Defias Ringleader
2 SI:7 Agent
2 Argent Squire
2 Southsea Deckhand
2 Leper Gnome
2 Loot Hoarder
1 Faerie Dragon
2 Arcane Golem
1 King Mukla
2 Coldlight Oracle
1 Leeroy Jenkins
2 Shadowstep
2 Cold Blood
2 Deadly Poison
2 Eviscerate
2 Sap
1 Blade Flurry
1 Assassin’s Blade

Aggro Rogue is the Mono-Red of Hearthstone. You play some guys and eventually you burn them out. If the opponent does nothing, you can kill them very quickly, and if they do something you can still power through the last points of damage. With Aggro Rogue, it’s usually correct to go for the face rather than for minions, at least with your own minions—let your opponent do the trading (the exception is when playing against another aggro deck, and then it depends on your hand). The best way to beat Aggro Rogue is to have big taunters and life gain—such as Druid or Shaman. Miracle Rogue is usually a good matchup, but even that can be hard if they play and draw Sen’jin Shieldmasta and Earthen Ring Farseer.

Aggro Rogue is the deck I played all the way from level 5 to 15th place Legendary, and I think my version is better than the one people usually play. This is what I play right now:

Defias Ringleader
SI:7 Agent
Argent Squire
Southsea Deckhand
Leper Gnome
2 Knife Juggler
1 Worgen Infiltrator
Arcane Golem
Coldlight Oracle
Leeroy Jenkins
Shadowstep
Cold Blood
Deadly Poison
Eviscerate
Sap
Blade Flurry
Assassin’s Blade

My version sacrifices the matchup against control a little for a better matchup against other aggro decks, which is where you need help. This deck is a bit like Affinity to me in the sense that it’s very easy to win with it—you can just kill people—but playing correctly and sequencing your spells, especially the stuff with combo and your Hero Power, is very hard, and knowing when to go for them and when to go for creatures is also not very easy. I’ve played it a lot and I think I’m quite good at it, and I still mess up constantly. I would definitely recommend this deck because it lets you win while also exposing you to the finer concepts of the game and letting you learn.

Hunter

1 Timber Wolf
2 Starving Buzzard
1 Stonetusk Boar
Leper Gnome
Faerie Dragon
Arcane Golem
1 Wolfrider
Leeroy Jenkins
2 Hunter’s Mark
2 Tracking
1 Flare
1 Arcane Shot
1 Misdirection
2 Freezing Trap
2 Explosive Trap
2 Kill Command
2 Unleash the Hounds
1 Deadly Shot
2 Animal Companion
2 Eaglehorn Bow

Hunter is the Hearthstone equivalent to Burn, though I like the Hunter deck a lot more than I like Burn in Magic. It is not like Sligh in the sense that it deals damage with creatures and then wants to burn them—it just wants to burn them from 20 (or 30 in this case), and it usually goes 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 5, 7, 10 or something like that—you use your Hero Power almost every turn. In fact, most of your cheap creatures are late-game cards and should not be played on turns 1 or 2—it’s sort of Combo Burn in this regard. Unleash the Hounds is their signature card and the one you should try to play around the most, since it gives them a bunch of cards with Starving Buzzard and a bunch of damage with Timber Wolf.

There is another version of this deck that is a bit slower and plays Savannah Highmane, and I like that one quite a lot as well. It’s a bit slower, but it’s very interesting to play and requires a lot of patience, while also being able to just burst them out some of the time. When I started playing, I wanted to be able to go to the late game but I didn’t own the expensive cards that are good in the late-game mirrors, so I just played a slower version of Hunter that was in my mind the equivalent to Big Red.

Mage

Freeze Mage:

1 Archmage Antonidas
2 Doomsayer
2 Novice Engineer
1 Bloodmage Thalnos
2 Acolyte of Pain
1 Azure Drake
1 Alexstrasza
2 Mirror Image
2 Ice Lance
2 Frostbolt
2 Ice Barrier
2 Arcane Intellect
2 Ice Block
2 Frost Nova
2 Fireball
2 Blizzard
1 Flamestrike
1 Pyroblast

Freeze Mage is a sort of turbo-fog deck that burns you out. It’s very weird and looks to me like it can never win, but it certainly does win. The goal is to stall the game up to a point where you can play Alexstraza—ideally with Ice Block in play—and then just burn them out the following turn. I do not like this version of the deck, and prefer one that plays Molten Giants.

The best ways to beat this deck are either by being very fast—their sweepers are expensive—or by playing the Warrior class. Since Armor and life aren’t the same, they can’t Alexstraza you down to 15 life—or, well, they can, but you keep all your armor, and then they can’t kill you. Imagine you’re playing against a deck whose only kill condition is a Fireball and 25 lands—at some point you’ll be at 25 life and they won’t be able to win. Freeze Mage versus Control Warrior is probably the most lopsided matchup that you currently see in Constructed.

Aggro Mage:

2 Mana Wurm
2 Sorcerer’s Apprentice
2 Water Elemental
1 Loot Hoarder
2 Knife Juggler
2 Leper Gnome
1 Faerie Dragon
1 Amani Berserker
1 Bloodmage Thalnos
2 Wolfrider
2 Azure Drake
2 Arcane Missiles
2 Mirror Image
2 Frostbolt
2 Ice Lance
2 Arcane Intellect
2 Fireball

This deck is very similar to the Aggro Rogue deck, except I think it’s slightly less powerful overall in exchange for having a better time against Taunters, since your Fireballs go through that while their Leeroys do not. In my experience, there are more things that can go wrong with this deck, since it has fewer sources of continuous damage and relies more on one-time burn spells, which can be a problem when they kill your early drops, but this is also a fine deck to play and cheaper than the Rogue deck, since you don’t need to play the Bloodmage.

Druid

2 Keeper of the Grove
2 Druid of the Claw
2 Ancient of Lore
2 Harvest Golem
1 Big Game Hunter
2 Violet Teacher
2 Azure Drake
2 Argent Commander
1 Ragnaros the Firelord
2 Innervate
2 Power of the Wild
2 Wild Growth
2 Wrath
2 Savage Roar
2 Swipe
2 Force of Nature

There are many flavors of Druid, but they are all relatively similar; their main characteristics are big minions and the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo, which hits for 14 on an empty board and can be used either as a kill or as a pseudo Cone of Flame. This deck is Token Druid, which runs Violet Teacher and Power of the Wild, but versions that play Chilling Yeti and versions that play a little more ramp also exist. In Magic terms, I would say Druid is the RG Ramp.

Playing with or against Druid is infuriating, because it seems like none of their cards do anything except for the card that kills you, and that’s always the one they have. When I play Druid, I can never win a game, and when I play against it I can never beat it—it’s like Vayne, Master Yi, and Yasuo in League of Legends, you know you’re going to lose whenever they are involved in either team because if it’s their team it’ll go 10-1 and if it’s your team it’ll go 1-10. This deck has some very clunky draws that fold to everything, but it also has some very powerful Innervate draws that can beat anything that is thrown at you.

Shaman

2 Flametongue Totem
2 Unbound Elemental
2 Fire Elemental
1 Al’Akir the Windlord
2 Argent Squire
1 Bloodmage Thalnos
2 Defender of Argus
1 Gnomish Inventor
Azure Drake
Argent Commander
2 Earth Shock
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Rockbiter Weapon
2 Feral Spirit
2 Hex
2 Lightning Storm
1 Lava Burst
1 Doomhammer

Shaman is a strange deck. It can beat everything but it can also do nothing. In this regard, it’s a little like Druid. I don’t think there is a way to flat-out beat Shaman if their draw is good, but I imagine Miracle Rogue is pretty good against it. Your matchup against aggro hinges drastically on whether you draw Lightning Storm or not, for example. Shaman is one of the decks I’m least experienced with or against, so I don’t have much input here. In Magic terms, Shaman would be The Rock or Jund.

Paladin

2 Aldor Peacekeeper
2 Guardian of Kings
1 Tirion Fordring
1 Elven Archer
1 Faerie Dragon
2 Wild Pyromancer
1 Mind Control Tech
1 Big Game Hunter
2 Spellbreaker
2 Sen’Jin Shieldmasta
2 Defender of Argus
1 Harrison Jones
1 Faceless Manipulator
1 Stampeding Kodo
1 The Black Knight
1 Sylvanas Windrunner
1 Baron Geddon
2 Equality
2 Consecration
1 Lay on Hands
2 Truesilver Champion

This deck is not very common, but it’s grown in popularity lately because some famous streamers have been playing it. The idea of this deck is to kill your opponents’ minions with Equality plus small damage effects (Consecration and WIld Pyromancer), and then to play big minions. Some people play more Heal spells, such as Holy Light. This is probably the most expensive deck in the game right now, along with Warrior.

In Magic terms, this would be a tapout-control style of deck with a ton of sweepers, similar to UW. There is no true equivalent to blue control, since there are no counterspells, but this is probably as close as you will get. These decks are much better in Hearthstone than in Magic, though, since creatures are basically all you want to kill, so removal is counterspell most of the time.

There is also an Aggro version of Paladin, based on Divine Favor; it’s probably even less popular than the slower Paladin decks, though, so I wouldn’t worry much about it. Just make sure that, if you do play against it, you don’t have a gigantic hand size so they can’t Divine Favor you out.

Warrior

2 Armorsmith
2 Cruel Taskmaster
2 Kor’Kron Elite
1 Grommash Hellscream
2 Acolyte of Pain
Big Game Hunter
Azure Drake
1 Sylvanas Windrunner
The Black Knight
Argent Commander
Baron Geddon
Ragnaros the Firelord
2 Execute
2 Whirlwind
2 Shield Slam
1 Slam
2 Shield Block
1 Brawl
2 Fiery War Axe
1 Gorehowl

Warrior Control is a deck that relies on early game spells and late game spells, with a gap in the middle; it can deal with small guys and it can go over the top of almost anything, but it suffers a little against a deck with mid-game sizeable guys if you don’t draw your few cards that deal with them. It also doesn’t work very well against Miracle Rogue, since you can’t stop them from doing their thing. It’s also very expensive.

In Magic, Warrior Control would be a deck with a lot of cheap removal and big finishers. I’d equate it to UB Control from a while back, where you played Disfigures and Doom Blades into Grave Titan, without having any sort of Wrath (though you do have Whirlwind and Brawl). This deck is also more capable of going aggressive with Kor’Kron Elite, which not everyone plays but I think is good since it’s removal plus a different game plan. I consider this deck to be a better version of the Paladin deck.

Priest

2 Northshire Cleric
2 Auchenai Soulpriest
1 Temple Enforcer
2 Wild Pyromancer
2 Earthen Ring Farseer
2 Injured Blademaster
2 Azure Drake
2 Circle of Healing
2 Holy Smite
2 Power Word: Shield
1 Mind Blast
2 Shadow Word: Death
2 Thoughtsteal
2 Holy Nova
2 Holy Fire
2 Mind Control

As of this moment, Priest is simply not a competitive deck. There is one streamer that plays it and everyone else who tries goes 1-10. If it was a Magic deck, it’d be a Shouta Yasooka deck—you look at it and can’t exactly understand how it works, and you certainly can’t win a game with it, but he always goes 9-1. In fact, Priest decks are so bad that they need to play a card that lets you cast cards from the opponent’s deck (Thoughtsteal), in the hopes that they’ll actually be able to cast something good. I suspect Priest will get better with the new set, though, since the new Priest card is very good, and so is the 2/3 for 1.

I think the best way to play Priest is to use your Hero Power offensively—you attack a minion, then heal yours back to maintain a board advantage. Using it to heal yourself over and over, like a Warrior power, is generally not going to work wonderfully because you lack the late game that Warriors have (with the exception of Mind Control, I suppose). This mechanic is very unique to Hearthstone, where creatures can be attacked, so I can’t really think of a Magic equivalent to Priest.

Well, that’s what I have for today! I hope that was enjoyable and I hope it either sparked an interest in Hearthstone, or helped you get better if you already play it. Please let me know in the comments what you thought of this, so I have a more general idea what people want (though don’t worry, I’m still a Magic writer and will not stop writing Magic articles even if I do end up writing Hearthstone articles in the future, so I’m not asking you to choose between the two—merely if you would also like stuff like this on top of what you already get).

See you next week,

PV

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