The essential beginner’s strategy guide to Hearthstone (and The Grand Tournament)

hearthstone strategy guide tgt featured image
Blizzard Entertainment’s latest game has been growing at a vigorous pace over the last year, hitting 30 million registered users this May. Hearthstone is what’s known as a collectible card game (CCG), a genre pioneered in the 90s by Magic: The Gathering and its many imitators. Players collect cards representing creatures, spells, and other fantastic things, and build 30-card decks that they can use to play against each other. The game is tactical without being overly complex, and fast-paced enough that you can easily squeeze in a few games on your daily commute.

If World of Warcraft’s endless cycle of decline and rebirth is any indication, Blizzard will be keeping this game up and running for over a decade. So, if you have avoided Hearthstone up ‘til now, there’s still plenty of time to learn. Pull up a chair and read our guide to the basics.

The first step is obviously to install the game. Hearthstone is available for free on computers as well as Apple and Android devices. Regardless of which platform you want to play on, you will need to create a Battle.net account. Battle.net is the platform for launching and updating all of Blizzard’s games. Even if playing on a mobile device, you will need a Battle.net account. Your progress in single-player modes and your collection of cards are linked to your account, so whenever you log in to Hearthstone on any device you will have access to your collection.

Once you have your account set up, you can download the game through Battle.net on the PC, or through the Apple, Google Play, or Amazon app stores if you’re on a mobile device. With all that taken care of, it’s time to start playing.

Click a tile to jump to that part of the guide

Next page: The Basics

Before you can do anything else, you will have to play the introductory missions. These six encounters will guide you through some basic aspects of the game, like the different types of cards and how to interact with the game’s interface. The game will hold your hand through most of these battles, so don’t worry about screwing up.

Anatomy of the board

board screenshot updated

The board is oriented with you on the bottom side and your opponent on the top.

  1. Deck – The collection of cards you will be playing with. Each player builds their deck of 30 cards before the game starts. It is shuffled at the beginning of the game.
  2. Hand – The cards you currently have available to play. You are able to see the cards in your hand, while the cards in your opponent’s hand will appear face down.
  3. Mana – The resource that allows you to play cards. Both players start with one mana crystal and gain another one each turn, up to ten total. Every card has a mana cost. When you play a card, you will empty however many mana crystals are needed to pay its cost. At the start of your next turn, your empty mana crystals will refill.
  4. Health – Both players start with 30 health, and the first to 0 loses. Although there are spells and abilities that can restore lost health, a player’s health can never go above 30. However, some abilities grant armor, which functions similarly to health. Damage dealt to a player who has armor will reduce their armor rather than health.
  5. Hero Power – Each hero has a unique power, which you can use by clicking this icon. Hero powers cost two mana to activate, and may be used once per turn.
  6. Minions – The creatures you summon to fight your opponent.
  7. Enemy Minions – The creatures your opponent summons to fight you.

Card types

Minions – Cards that stay on the board after being played. Minions can attack your opponent and their minions, and many have special abilities that can change the state of the game. Normally minions can’t attack on the same turn they are played. Each class has its own unique minions; however, there is also a large pool of neutral minions, which any class can put in a deck.

Archmage Antonidas Card

Mana Cost: The amount of mana required to play this card from your hand.

Attack: The amount of damage the minion does when it attacks.

Health: The amount of damage a minion can take before dying. Certain effects can restore a minion’s lost health. There are also effects that can increase the maximum health of a minion.

Note: In discussions about Hearthstone, players generally describe the stats of a minion in the format Attack/Health. So for example,  the card pictured above, Archmage Antonidas, could be referred to as a 5/7 minion.

Text: The effects and abilities of a card. Not all minions have an effect (colloquially known as “vanilla”) but for those that do, there are a wide variety of effects, some common and some very unique.

Spells – Cards that have an immediate effect when played and then disappear. There are many different spells, and they are all unique to a particular class.

Darkbomb(12299)

Weapons – Like minions, weapons stay on the board when played. They allow a hero to attack as if they were a minion. Also like minions, weapons have an attack stat, which determines the damage the hero does when attacking with one. The other stat on a weapon is durability, which determines how many times a hero can attack using that weapon before it disappears. Some weapons will also have abilities.

weapon2

Secrets – Cards that remain on the board after being played. Unlike minions and weapons, you cannot see what specific trap your opponent has played; they will simply appear as a question mark on your opponent’s hero portrait. A player’s secret will activate when certain circumstances occur on their opponent’s turn, i.e. when an enemy minion attacks.

Explosive Trap(344) Card

Key words to know

As mentioned, there are a wide variety of effects and abilities that a card can have. Here are some of the common ones to look out for.

Battlecry: An effect that triggers when a minion or weapon is played.

Deathrattle: An effect that triggers when a minion or weapon is destroyed.

Taunt: Minions that have Taunt must be attacked before any other enemies. As such, cards with Taunt are great for stalling aggressive decks.

Silence: An effect that removes all effects and status changes from a minion.

Charge: An ability that allows a minion to attack on the same turn it is played.

Divine Shield: An ability that negates the next instance of damage a creature takes.

Stealth: Prevents a minion from being targeted by spells, abilities, and attacks. Minions lose stealth when they deal damage.

Next page: Choosing a class

Choose a class

Character Selection Screen

When you build a new deck, you will first be asked to choose a class. Classes are characters who have access to a special ability called a “Hero Power,” which costs two mana and can be used once per turn. In addition to their hero power, each class also has spells and minions that only they can play. For example: only Warlocks can put Flame Imps in their decks, while only mages can have Fireballs. There are no restrictions on which classes you can play or how many. You can have a deck of each class, if you want, or multiple decks of one class. The only limitation on your collection is that you can only have nine decks at one time.


artwork-malfurion2Druid
: A guardian of the forest, the Druid specializes in getting mana quickly and summoning large creatures. Using creatures with high health and taunts, they can set up formidable defenses that their opponent must break through. Many Druid cards allow the player to choose between different effects when they come into play, i.e. Druid of the Flame, which you may summon as either a 2/5 or 5/2 minion.

Hero Power: Shapeshift – Gives the Druid 1 attack (this turn only) and 1 armor. Neither effect is huge, but getting both gives the Druid some versatility.

artwork-rexxar2Hunter: An aggressive class focused on taking out the opponent’s health quickly. Many of their minions are Beasts, and they have a number of cards that synergize with Beasts. For example, when Houndmaster is played it can give a Beast +2/+2 and Taunt.. A mixture of low-cost minions and damage spells allows them to demolish their opponent before there is time to react.

Hero Power: Steady Shot – Deals 2 damage to the opponent. This reliable source of damage allows the Hunter to keep constant pressure on the opponent.

artwork-jaina2Mage: A master of magic, the Mage uses spells to destroy enemy minions or stall their opponent, controlling the flow of the game. Mages have a wide variety of spell effects, allowing them to react to any situation that arises. Mages specialize in using high damage spells to eliminate enemy minions or drastically reduce their opponent’s health. Mages are also one of the few classes that have Secrets, and their diverse effects mean that opponents have to play cautiously.

Hero Power: Fireblast – Deals 1 damage. While it may seem weak, the Mage’s power provides amazing utility, as you can use it on anything, friend or foe.

artwork-uther2Paladin: A champion of justice, the Paladin specializes in summoning minions and using spells and abilities to make them stronger. By improving a minion’s attack or giving them abilities like Divine Shield, and also by weakening enemy minions,  Paladins can turn a seemingly lost cause into a won battle. The Paladin also uses weapons with unique effects to control the board.

Hero Power: Reinforce – Summons a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit. The Paladin’s power means they will always have the option of putting a minion on the board, and while a 1/1 may be weak, the Paladin has plenty of spells and abilities to make it useful.


artwork-anduin3Priest
: A control-oriented class, the Priest uses cards that allow it to steal its opponents minions and copy the cards in their deck, turning their own tools against them. Using their many heals and health boosts to keep themselves and their minions alive, Priests can maintain their defenses for a while. They also have a number of options for removing or weakening enemy minions, such as Shadow Word: Death or Shrinkmeister.

Hero Power: Lesser Heal – Restore 2 health. The Priests’ power provides amazing utility, letting them keep their creatures alive far longer than they should be.

artwork-valeera2Rogue: A sneaky class for those who want to set up big combos. The Rogue likes to play lots of cards in a turn, stacking their effects to destroy their opponent. Rogue cards make use of the Combo mechanic, which gives them an additional effect if the Rogue has already played a card that turn. For example, if a Rogue plays a Defias Ringleader, they put that 2/2 creature on the board. If a Rogue plays Backstab and then plays a Defias, the Ringleader’s effect will activate, giving the Rogue both a Ringleader and a Defias Bandit. Rogues use a variety of cheap spells as well as effects that make their cards cheaper in order to ensure they can always trigger their Combos.

Hero Power: Dagger Mastery – Equip a 1/2 dagger. With this power, the Rogue can always have a weapon on hand, giving them flexibility in dealing with enemy minions.

artwork-thrall2Shaman: Controlling the primal elements, the Shaman uses strong creatures and damage spells to control the board. Their cards often have low mana costs relative to the effects they provide, but this power comes at a price; many of their cards have the Overload mechanic, which limits the mana they can spend next turn. For example, Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage for a mere one mana. However, it has Overload (1), meaning that on your next turn one of your mana crystals will be unavailable for use.

Hero Power: Totemic Call – Summon a random totem. There are four totems that can be summoned by this ability, with varying stats and effects. While the totems are weak, their abilities can greatly impact the outcome of a turn.

artwork-guldan2Warlock: For those who like to live dangerously, Warlocks damage themselves and their creatures to gain advantages, always looking for ways to trade up on their opponent. The Warlock has many Demon minions, which are stronger than usual but have additional costs beyond mana. The Pit Lord, for example, is a 5/6 for four mana, which is stronger than most 4-mana creatures, but it requires an additional cost of 5 health from the Warlock.

Hero Power: Life Tap – Draw a card and take 2 damage. The only hero power with an additional cost besides the mana, Life Tap makes up for it by giving the Warlock immense flexibility. Being able to draw a card on any turn means the Warlock will always have options, never having to deal with an empty hand.

artwork-garrosh2Warrior: Wielding strong weapons and creatures that thrive when dealing or taking damage, the Warrior seeks to annihilate their opponent’s minions through brute force. Many Warrior cards provide Armor, which functions as health but has no limit. Thus the Warrior can easily go above the maximum health limit of 30. High armor allows the Warrior to play fearlessly with regards to attacking. The Warrior’s minions often get better when they take damage, such as Frothing Berserker. To synergize with this, the Warrior also has a number of spells that can damage their own minions and make them stronger.

Hero Power: Armor Up! – Gain 2 armor. Extends the Warrior’s life total, providing amazing defense. Given the Warrior’s numerous weapons, this constant supply of armor enables them to attack minions personally without worrying about losing too much health.

Next page: Playing the game

Playing the game

Now that you have presumably picked a class and built a deck, it’s time to test your skills and collect more cards. Before you begin playing against real people, make sure you have a solid grasp of how a game progresses. You will probably remember this from the tutorials, but here’s a quick primer just in case.

Start of game

At the beginning of the game, a virtual coin will be tossed to determine who goes first. The player who goes first starts with three cards in hand, while the other player draws four and also gets a card called The Coin, a spell which costs zero mana and gives them one extra mana crystal for a turn.

After the coin toss, both players have the option to mulligan, shuffling cards from their starting hand back into their deck and drawing new ones. You may select any and all of the cards in your starting hand to mulligan, drawing a new card for every card returned. You only get to mulligan once, so think carefully about what you have in hand and what you want.

How a turn works

At the beginning of your turn, your empty mana crystals are refilled and you gain an additional mana crystal, up to a maximum of ten. After this, you draw the top card of your deck. Any effects that trigger at the start of a turn will also happen.

To play cards that are in your hand, simply select the card and place it on the board. If the card has an effect that requires a target, you will have to select that target before the card will activate.

Each player starts with one mana crystal, and will gain an additional mana crystal at the beginning of each turn. When you play a card, you will drain a number of your mana crystals depending on the mana cost of the card. At the beginning of your next turn, these empty mana crystals will refill.

Your minions can attack your opponent or any of their minions. Select one of your minions, and then select the enemy you want them to attack. If your minion attacks the opponent, it will deal damage to their health equivalent to the minion’s attack. If it attacks an enemy minion, they will deal damage to each other, reducing their current health. If a minion’s health drops to zero, it will be destroyed.

The player’s hero character can also attack, if they have a weapon equipped. When a player attacks a minion, they deal the weapon’s damage to the minion, while the minion deals their attack damage to the player.

You can use your hero power by clicking on it and paying two mana.

Once you’ve done everything you want to do, you can end your turn by clicking the End Turn button. Note that turns have a time limit. After 90 seconds, your turn will end automatically. You will be given a warning when you have 15 seconds left.

And that’s the long and short of it. You and your opponent will take turns back and forth until one of you loses all your health.

Next page: Game modes & features

The Grand Tournament, or: the good, the bad, and the wacky

Dust off your lance and oil up your greaves, because The Grand Tournament has come to Hearthstone. The game’s second expansion brings with it a couple new mechanics and 132 new cards that will likely shake up the competitive format. With some of the most bizarre card effects yet, TGT will be nothing if not interesting.

The Grand Tournament’s theme is right there in the title, a martial competition between the heroes of the Warcraft universe. As such, the expansion is fittingly designed around a crucial but little explored aspect of the game: hero powers. Every class in Hearthstone has their own unique ability, and for the most part these abilities provide simple but potent effects. Despite how often they are used, hero powers have occupied a very small section of Hearthstone’s design space, with very few cards that interact with hero powers. Until now, that is.

Many of the new cards in TGT either improve hero powers or produce some sort of extra effect when they are used. Maiden of the Lake, for example reduces the cost of hero powers from two mana to one. Garrison Commander allows players to use their powers twice per turn (as opposed to once per turn normally).

maidengarrisoncommander

New mechanics

Inspire

The big keyword for TGT is Inspire. This mechanic directly improves the value of hero powers by providing additional benefits when one uses them. These effects can range from the minor (such as giving a creature +1 Attack) to the staggering (summoning a legendary creature). Inspire abilities crucially provide extra value from the mana spent on using a hero power. In the past, hero powers often resulted in a loss of tempo, as their effects were minor enough that any 2 mana card in hand would probably benefit you more. However, now it is possible to stack up inspire effects and get massive tempo swings from hero powers.

Unfortunately, despite how intriguing Inspire is from a design perspective, many of the cards that use it seem fairly weak. Blizzard seems to have adjusted the stats and mana costs on Inspire cards to be worse in exchange for the Inspire effects. The problem is that Inspire effects require an extra two mana investment to make the card work, so many cards with Inspire require a bit too much time to be worth the cost. 

Of course, there have been cards in the past that seemed underwhelming and later turned out to be amazing (hello, Grim Patron) so it’s entirely possible that decks based around Inspire will prove to be competitive. Only time and experimentation will tell.

Jousting

The other big mechanic in TGT is “jousting.” When one plays a card with jousting, both players reveal a random card from their decks. If the card revealed by the jousting player has a higher mana cost, his joust card gets a bonus of some sort.

warhorse

Take for example Armored Warhorse. When played, both players reveal a minion from their decks. If the Warhorse’s owner reveals a minion with higher mana cost, the Warhorse gains Charge, meaning it can attack the turn it is played. In a sense, jousting is like adding a mini game of war to Hearthstone. The somewhat random nature of the ability means that games can become wildly unpredictable. Joust seems best suited to control decks, which tend to play high cost minions and thus are more likely to successfully get joust bonuses.

Game modes & features

By this point you should have a decent understanding of the gameplay. As mentioned, there are a number of unique creatures and spells in the game, and the best way to learn about those is to play. For those new to Hearthstone, there are a few more things that might require explanation, all of which can be seen on the menu screen.

hearthstone menu updated

The main menu has a few different options. Play, naturally, is what you choose when you want to play a normal game against people. When you choose play, you have two modes to choose from: Casual and Ranked. Gameplay is the same for both, the only difference is that in Ranked mode you have a ranking attached to your account; winning games will increase your rank, losing games will decrease it. Casual mode has no such system of rewards and punishments, it’s just a mode for people who want to play.

Until you assemble a good collection of cards, it is recommendable that you stick to Casual. As you move up the ladder in ranked, you will encounter decks that are finely tuned for competitive play, and many decks will have Legendary cards, the highest rarity cards with devastating abilities.

Solo Adventures are story-based challenges in which you will face off against powerful boss characters. These bosses have unique cards and hero powers not available to players. As you progress through the adventure, you will unlock new cards that can’t be acquired in any other way. You can gain access to adventures by spending real money or gold. As of now there are two adventures available: Curse of Naxxramas, in which players battle through undead horrors and unlock cards focused on death; and Blackrock Mountain, in which players must thwart the competing rulers of the mountain and acquire powerful dragon cards in the process.

The Arena offers a unique challenge for those who enjoy deck-building. By paying an entry fee (150 gold or $1.99) you get to draft an Arena deck. You start with an empty deck and will be presented with 3 cards to choose from. You choose one of these cards to go in your deck, the other two disappear, and you are presented with a new set of three cards. You repeat this process until you have a deck of 30 cards which you can then use to battle other people in the Arena. There are two ways your arena run ends: with 12 wins, or 3 losses. After you finish your Arena run, you will get prizes based on your number of victories.

The “My Collection” tab is where you can view all of your cards and construct decks. If you have cards you do not want, you can destroy them to get a resource called “Dust,” which you can use to craft new cards.

Hearthstone’s latest game mode, “Tavern Brawl,” is also the hardest to prepare for. Every week, Blizzard creates a new set of rules for the Brawl, often with bizarre results. One week had players assuming the roles of boss characters such as Nefarian and using special decks exclusive to said boss, while another had players using decks consisting almost entirely of Unstable Portals, which is a mana card that provides a random minion. For those who want a change of pace from standard games of Hearthstone, Tavern Brawl is a rollicking and chaotic experience. Players are even rewarded with a free pack of cards for their first Brawl victory each week, so it’s always a good idea to try it out.

Green and gold: the shop and how to use it

The other notable features of Hearthstone are The Shop and the Quests tab. The Shop is a place for you to spend real money of gold to buy packs of cards, Arena entries, and Solo Adventures. While Hearthstone is free to install and play, most cards can only be gotten from packs or by crafting them using dust. Buying packs is overall the quickest way to build up your collection of cards. If you don’t want to spend money, there is an in-game currency, gold, which you get simply by playing the game. Essentially, you can acquire everything in the game through either time or money; the only question is which do you value more?

Packs contain 5 random cards from a set, and every pack will have at least one card of rare or higher rarity (the rarities are common, rare, epic, and legendary). There are a number of buying options, and you can save money by buying packs in bulk. You can also purchase an individual pack for 100 gold. As of now there are two sets from which you can buy cards, “Classic” and “Goblins vs Gnomes,” each with wildly different cards.

Quests are challenges that players can complete to earn gold. Players are issued a new challenge each day. There are no time limits to complete them, however you can only have three active quests at a time. Quests will usually be simple tasks such as playing twenty creatures of a certain mana cost or winning five games as a particular class. Players can also earn gold simply by winning games; every three games won will earn 10 gold.

Next page: Advanced studies

Advanced studies

So you have been playing a bit of Hearthstone. You’ve hit rank 18 on the ladder, you went 5-3 in your last arena run; you opened a pack and got a Lorewalker Cho; you quickly dusted your Lorewalker Cho to make something, anything better. You have some experience under your belt and now you want to rise to the next level.

Hearthstone is a simple game on the surface; anyone can pick it up and get a feel for the game after 15 minutes or so. At the higher levels of play (for example, tournaments where players are winning substantial cash prizes) there is a constant evaluation of which strategies work well and how to improve them, even if just slightly.

The most important step in pursuing any craft, whether it be learning guitar, woodcrafting, or Hearthstone, is to learn from others. Thankfully, the Hearthstone community is bustling with people examining and writing about competitive decks and Hearthstone theory.

In addition to all the keywords players learn to recognize in Hearthstone, there are some more advanced concepts that are important to understand if you want to play at a higher level. These concepts are common to collectible card games in general, and many Magic: The Gathering players in particular have written a great deal about them.

Card advantage – One of the most crucial aspects of playing a card game well, card advantage is the idea that having more cards than your opponent gives you an advantage over them. This refers to both cards in hand and on the board. Often, a play can be evaluated in how much card advantage it won or lost the player. For example: You play Lord of the Arena, a 6/5 minion with taunt. Your opponent has two minions, a 3/3 and a 2/2. He attacks your Lord of the Arena with both. Your minion dies, but so do both of theirs. They’ve traded two cards for your one, a net gain of +1 for you.

Another example: Player A has four minions on the board and each one has four health. Player B plays a Flamestrike, which deals four damage to all enemy minions. Thus Player A has destroyed all of B’s creatures, spending only one card to remove four of their opponent’s. If A had kept one or two of those creatures in their hand, B’s Flamestrike would only have been a 1-for-2 trade. Success in Hearthstone is often determined by scenarios like this, maximizing the value of your cards.

Tempo – Somewhat similar to and intertwined with card advantage, tempo is a complicated concept about which much has been written. Perhaps the simplest way to think about tempo is to view it as the rate at which you are defeating your opponent. In theory, if you are making more efficient use of your mana than your opponent, you will come out ahead of them. Let’s say on turn five your opponent spends all four of their mana to play a Chillwind Yeti, a 4/5 creature. They do nothing else that turn. Your turn five begins, and you spend one mana to play a Mana Wyrm. You then spend your remaining four mana to cast fireball, killing their Yeti. You both had five mana to spend on your turns, but you now have a creature on the board and they have nothing. They now have to play catch-up.

Next page: Popular decks

Deck building and popular decks

Looking at some of the top decks being used is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind that popular strategies regularly rise and fall, and that sometimes a new set of cards will be released or player will simply notice a tactic nobody else had previously thought of. That said, some of these decks may no longer be considered strong in a year or even a month. Competitive Hearthstone is a teeming pond, with new life frequently springing up to replace the old. To stay on top of the game requires one to constantly track trends.

Deck building

Popular decks may change as new cards are added or players discover new ways to use old ones, but the principles of building a deck tend to remain the same. Your goal in Hearthstone is always to bring your opponent’s health to zero and there are numerous ways to go about doing so. There are three basic archetypes of decks, outlined below, each with a particular way of destroying an enemy.

  • Aggro: Decks focused on using many smaller, weaker minions to rush an opponent before they have a chance to react.
  • Control: Slower decks that focus on keeping opponents locked down, usually by using spells to keep the enemy board clear. The goal is often to grind the enemy down before finishing them off with large minions or damage spells.
  • Combo: Decks focused around using a particular combination of cards to achieve a massive effect. For example, using a bunch of creatures with the “Spell Power +” ability to boost the damage of spells, then quickly blowing up the opponent.  

When you begin to build a deck, it’s important to consider how you want to attack your opponent, as well as the tools you have available. Hunters, for example, naturally lend themselves to aggro decks due to their small creatures and the various ways they damage opponents. Priests, on the other hand, have many spells aimed at weakening or destroying enemy creatures and thus are suited for playing control. However, it is entirely possible to build a control hunter deck or a combo priest.

In addition to class and style of play, it is important to consider some of the advanced concepts such as mana curve. As a general rule, you want to have a distribution of mana costs such that you can always play a card on any given turn. Getting more specific, you also want to have a curve that suits your deck’s style. For example, an aggro hunter deck will have many cards that cost between one and three mana, gradually falling off from four mana onwards. A handlock deck, on the other hand, will be stacked with expensive cards like Mountain Giant because that specific deck can find ways to get them out quickly.

If you are trying to reach a high ranking in constructed play, it is important to read up on what decks are popular, and think about decks that might be effective against those. This process of studying trends and adjusting to beat them is called the “metagame.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with simply building a deck you find fun to play, either.

Popular decks (subject to change)

Facehunter

You have already seen this deck. If you play Ranked, six games out of ten you will play against this deck. You’ve seemingly seen it a thousand times in a thousand lifetimes. It’s the dark shape you see out of the corner of your eye when you’re walking home at night. It’s every mote of dust that floats before your eyes, all the ones you notice and all the ones you don’t.

This deck owes its strange name to is straightforward premise: you use cheap minions, damage spells, and weapons to deal damage directly to your opponent on every turn. If you can’t play a card or simply do not want to, you can use the Hunter’s hero power to get in some guaranteed damage. It’s a relentless style of deck, and because Facehunters tend to never include cards that cost more than 3 mana, they will rarely ever have a bad opening hand.

On top of that, it is a really inexpensive deck and does not use any epic or legendary cards. As such, it is popular among newer players who want to climb the ranks quickly.

Handlock

A deck-type that makes spectacular use of the Warlock’s hero power and even turns Warlock’s big drawback (self-harm) into a strength, Handlock decks are expensive, requiring many epics and sometimes legendaries, but they offer a fun experience for players who like to live on the edge.

Handlock decks focus on drawing as many cards as they can. This not only gives the player options, it allows them to play strong creatures like Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant that necessitate lots of cards in hand.

Life Tap serves two purposes, both by drawing cards and by hurting the player. Losing a lot of health quickly allows the Warlock to summon early Molten Giants, which the opponent will need to deal with immediately. If things get too hairy, cards like Antique Healbot and Earthen Farseer can keep you alive.

Freeze Mage

A deck of fire and ice, Freeze Mage uses spells like Frost Nova and Ice Barrier to stall their opponent, whittling away at them until the Mage can unleash a huge amount of burst to finish them off.

True to its name, Freeze Mage is a style built around slow, methodical play. You’re not concerned with crushing your opponent immediately so much as keeping them from destroying you. If they get out a few strong minions, playing Frost Nova to freeze them and then dropping a Doomsayer will allow you to clear the board with minimal effort. If you can get a Frost Bolt and two Ice Lances in your hand, you can take off a third of your opponent’s health for a mere 6 mana.  Knowing when to use your spells is essential with this type of deck, but when played well it is very difficult to overcome.

Control Warrior

Let it never be said that you can’t have brains and brawn. Using weapons and smart use of buffs to eliminate any minions the opponent plays, the Control Warrior hopes to exhaust the enemy’s deck and then start dropping huge late game threats like Ysera.

Control Warrior is famous among Hearthstone players for how expensive it is to build: with at least five legendaries and a few epics, most versions of this deck have a net worth of more than 12,000 dust (for comparison, the Facehunter deck linked above has a value of 1320 dust), lending the deck its nickname, “Wallet Warrior.”

This deck is popular for the number of favorable matchups it has against common decks; in particular, it is strongly favored to win against Facehunters owing to its many options for dealing with their small minions, as well as cards that keep the Warrior alive, such as Shieldmaiden.

Patron Warrior

Another Warrior deck that rewards intelligent play, Patron Warrior is named after its key minion, the oddly cheerful Grim Patron. The Patron is the star of this deck because of its outrageous ability: whenever it takes damage and survives, it summons a clone of itself. When combined with cards like Whirlwind and Inner Rage that allow the Warrior player to deal slight damage to their own creatures, it is very easy to get a board full of Patrons.

Despite the name, however, the Grim Patron is not the only lethal weapon this deck has. Far from it, actually. The deck also runs Frothing Berserker, which gains damage every time a minion takes damage and can easily end up with 20 attack if the Warrior makes some crafty plays. And of course when all else fails the deck can fall back on Grommash Hellscream.

This deck has numerous paths to victory, making it one of the most powerful decks in the competitive Hearthstone scene. It also requires careful planning to get off its big combos, so if you want a deck that will challenge you and also demolish your opponent, this is definitely one to consider.

Midrange Druid

Taking advantage of the Druid’s ability to get extra mana through cards like Wild Growth and Innervate, this Midrange style deck like to get out strong threats like Druid of the Claw early, forcing the opponent to burn through a lot of cards to remove them. By the time they manage that, the Druid is ready to pull out the bigger guns, including the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo, which presents a whopping 14 damage on its own.

This Druid deck is always able to explode, even if they don’t seem to have much on the board. Because of this, opponents can never feel entirely safe.

Hopefully this selection of decks gives you a good sense of the variety of strategies available in Hearthstone. As you improve at the game, experimenting with different classes and deck types is a great way to keep things interesting.

Updated on 8-24-15: Added description of the new Tavern Brawl mode and updated the “Popular Decks” section with some additional commentary on how to build a proper deck.

Editors' Recommendations