The Casual Competitor #1
by Bryan “Kraska” Castro
Elements of Strategy – First Things First (Part 1 of 2)
Elements of Strategy is a series of articles that will focus on teaching fundamental strategic concepts to casual players wishing to improve.
When I was thinking about what I should write about for my introductory article for Legend of the Innkeeper, I thought a natural start would be what we should all be thinking about when we play Hearthstone – winning the game! Oh, and having fun of course! Specifically, today I’m going to discuss the concept of Win Conditions and how knowing yours and your opponent’s will help you build better decks and make better decisions on your turns.
What are Win Conditions?
First, let’s go back a step. The goal of winning Hearthstone is quite straightforward – get your opponent’s life total to 0 before yours gets there. However, the beauty of the game is that there are multiple ways to do this. With 9 Heroes with varying powers and class cards, to the hundreds of neutral cards, there are unlimited combinations from you to choose from. How you plan to use these various combinations to win the game are your Win Conditions.
In Hearthstone, Win Conditions may involve the aggressiveness of the deck. It may also involve getting specific cards on the board for specific combinations or synergies – e.g. Grim Patron Warrior or Demon Zoo. Some decks have one main Win Condition in their deck while some may have more than one. In general, decks that have one or two main Win Conditions may be able to produce their Win Condition more often (because more of their cards are built to support it) while decks with multiple win conditions are more flexible and can perhaps deal with different types of problems that their opponents may throw at them.
During a game, if you accomplish your Win Conditions, you will most likely win the game – thus the term “Win Condition.” Of course, your opponent will have something to say about this too. Your opponent will try to accomplish his Win Conditions first or somehow deter you from accomplishing yours! You will be doing the same thing. Whoever does it better, faster, or has more luck will win the game. I’ll give some examples of this a little later in the article.
Win Conditions and Deck Building
The development of the Win Conditions for your deck may come from different sources. You may have a particular card or set of cards you like and want to build your deck around it – and then your Win Conditions revolve around getting those cards in play and maximizing their value. On the other hand, you may have specific style of play that you prefer and you may want to choose a class and cards that support that style – for example, you may want to play aggressively or you might want to squeeze out a victory more methodically.
Whatever the inspiration for your Win Conditions, the core of your deck needs to support and enable those conditions. There are a lot of good cards in Hearthstone, but you can only have 30 in a deck. Understanding your Win Conditions will help you choose the ones that are best for what you are trying to accomplish. Let’s look at an important example from two popular decks.
The Hunter class in Hearthstone’s Ranked Seasons 13 and 14 had two main popular decks with similar, although distinct Win Conditions. The Face Hunter was perhaps the fasted deck on the Ranked ladder and it’s sole Win Condition was to hit your face fast and win the game before you had a chance to breath. The Midrange Hunter was a flexible deck that had a pretty fast start, but relied on the strength of its middle game drops such as Savannah Highmane and controlling the board with its weapon to overpower slow decks while keeping faster decks in check. By the way, Season 15 has seen the emergence of a hybrid of these two deck ideas.
It was usually very easy to tell the two apart starting from the earliest turns and by understanding the Win Conditions of each deck the distinction is easy to comprehend and almost obvious. Face Hunter’s preferred 1-drop was the Leper Gnome while the Midrange Hunter preferred the Web Spinner. Both are great for what they do, and both do very well to support their deck’s Win Conditions. Let’s compare them and see how they do this.
The Leper Gnome is a 1-mana cost minion with 2 attack and 1 health. It has a deathrattle ability that deals 2 damage to an opposing hero when it dies. Why is this so powerful particularly in the Face Hunter deck? Remember that their Win Condition is to win fast! Having a 1-drop that starts the show off by dealing damage to your opponent’s face no matter how they respond sounds like an ideal choice to start the game.
On the other hand, the Webspinner is a 1-mana cost minion with 1 attack and 1 health. However, it’s deathrattle is to summon a random Beast minion when it dies. This aligns perfectly with what Midrange Hunter is trying to do because having an extra minion which includes some heavy hitters such as Savannah Highmane, King Crush, or Gahz’rilla is excellent for a deck that doesn’t need to beat you in the first five or six turns.
The bottom line is that choosing cards for the core of your deck isn’t just about getting the best value because there are a lot of valuable cards to choose from and we can’t possibly fit them all into our deck. Instead, it’s about finding cards that will support and align with the goals – the Win Conditions – of your deck. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll discuss how understanding your and your opponent’s Win Conditions will affect your game play decision making.
Here are some questions and suggestions to help you apply what we’ve discussed today.
- Take the deck you are playing most right now. What are the Win Conditions for your deck?
- Do the core cards in your deck support your Win Conditions?
- Are there other cards in your collection that may be more effective or efficient that the cards you currently have in your deck?
- When you look at a deck on a site like Hearthpwn.com or Tempostorm.com, try to identify the Win Conditions for that deck.
- When you watch a pro streamer who shows their decklist, try to see why the player chose specific cards and how they align with the Win Conditions for their deck.
Hearthstone Puzzle #1
At the end of each article, I will give you a position to ponder from one of my games. In the following position, try to find the lethal solution that wins the game! I’ll give you the solution next week! (Click on the image for a larger version)
About the Author
Bryan “Kraska” Castro is a business owner by day, but enjoys playing Hearthstone by early morning, lunchtime, and night! You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/backrankbrawler or read his upcoming Hearthstone articles exclusively at LegendoftheInnkeeper.com.