Hearthstone Gameplay Guide – Arena, Ranked and Casual Modes
Back in January I gave my favourable first impressions on Hearthstone’s closed beta phase. Now that open beta is in full effect and streams of new players are experiencing their first foray into Hearthstone I thought it was high time for some more content and some further insight into the game. For this article I will be focussing on the three types of gameplay found within Hearthstone; Ranked, Casual and Arena. I will briefly cover what you should expect to achieve in each game type along with some basic tactics, playstyles, deck lists and a video of my attempts at each area.
Casual mode is the first game type that any player should acquaint themselves with. Here is where you unlock the heroes for each class and where all of the basic cards can be collected by advancing each class to level 10. Casual mode itself consists of two game types; The first against scalable AI of your choosing and the second against a live opponent in unranked play.
Playing against the scalable AI is a great way to introduce yourself to all the heroes and get to grips with how their various unique cards and abilities work without unsettling yourself too much. Once you unlock a few heroes it’s a good idea to pick one or two that you feel more comfortable playing and stick with them until you’ve really got the basics of the game nailed down.
Once you’ve built up some knowledge of your class by playing the AI, and have reached at least level 10, you can begin to construct your first deck, which is always a hard thing to do. You’ll have a few cards that you know work well with your playstyle and a few that are random picks. The great thing is that you can experiment and change your deck around as you gain more experience and more of an idea of what you want to do with your cards on each turn. There are also various deck guides that explain what the best cards are and how to use them effectively.
Below I have posted a video of a Bloodlust/Windfury Shaman deck I created and tested out in unranked mode. The deck is not perfect by any means but the general idea is there and as I’m playing casual the win ratio is likely to be higher which is handy for completing those daily quests and earning a bit of extra gold.
The general idea of the above deck is to build up as many minions on the board as you can, remove your opponents taunts and then wait for the opportune moment to use Bloodlust and then Windfury on your highest damage minion. This tactic often results in one turn kills but is vulnerable to rush and taunt heavy decks. A link to the deck list can be found here.
Ranked gameplay is generally considered as Hardcore mode within Hearthstone as this is where the serious players go to show off decks they have honed to perfection after hours of trial and error and many changes to their cards. Make no mistake there will always be gimmick decks and players who play inefficiently with their cards, but these you will usually find languishing around the bottom of the leagues.
If you’re serious about wanting to advance through the ranks and become a better player you need to be flexible with your hero class, flexible with your play styles and above all, knowledgeable. I would suggest checking out a couple of the pro players YouTube channels or official websites as these are often crammed with useful tips and examples of gameplay techniques that can help you better understand the mechanics of the game. A prime examples of someone to watch is none other than Hearthstone’s first professional player Trump. His Twitch channel, on which he regularly streams can be found here and his arena tier list here.
Below I have included a video of my attempts at ranked gameplay with a control mage deck. While I succeed at three out of the four games, it’s fair to say that the victories are far from the walkover that you would expect from unranked gameplay.
The goal of the above deck is efficient trades, control and flexibility and can be quite aggressive especially if you manage a turn one mana worm followed by a few spells. It can work equally well as a control deck however, as the high health minions coupled with spells and the mage’s hero power make for some efficient trades. As you can see from watching the video above the games are a lot closer and it’s often the case that just one wrong move can cost you the win later on in the game.
Arena is where most of the fun is to be had (that is when you have a spare 150g to enter) and is also where you can potentially maximise the use of your gold. To explain that a little better, buying a pack of cards costs you 100g, whilst entry to the arena costs 150g. The rewards from arena if you win enough games can be around two packs of cards plus 200g and the minimum reward one pack of cards. So if you think your skills are up to the test, paying the initial extra 50g can make things a lot more worthwhile in the long run.
The idea of arena is that you play to either a maximum of twelve wins or three losses, which ever comes first. Depending on the amount of wins at the end of your run, your reward will differ. You use the same deck of 30 cards for your whole run and these are chosen at random just before you start your first game. Unlike ranked or casual gameplay, in arena all of the games cards have a random chance of being available for you to choose putting players on more even grounds in the respect that a new player would have just as much random chance at getting good cards as a veteran.
Below I have included a two part video of me creating and playing an arena deck. If you click through to YouTube on the first video I have included in the description, my reasoning behind choosing the cards that I did.
Arena runs can vary dramatically in how they are played out as sometimes you will get a class you don’t play very often, or just not have very good cards. Other times things can go in your favour. Either way it’s good to learn which general cards are efficient to play in arena and try to stick to these with class specific cards on top. It’s a bad idea to try and select cards that would work with a gimmick deck such as a murloc rush down deck as what you will often find is one or two murloc cards showing up and then none for the rest of the deck.