[Editor’s Note: Anthony is taking a much-needed and well-deserved week off so please enjoy this repeat of his first piece for Hipsters of the Coast: a look at competitive Hearthstone from the perspective of a Magic the Gathering player.]

Magic’s long history of intricacy, depth, and nuance has made it the best physical game in the world, by a lot. The higher level of competition you face, the more these elements matter in the long run. No decision is ever clear cut, even if it seems so. We could go on for hours about each and every minute detail, and how they can matter over the course of a game, match, tournament, and season, and it would all be relevant. But how does any of this matter when it comes to Hearthstone?

It can be easy to look at the randomness of Hearthstone and scratch pretty much everything you know. In fact, I can say with confidence that that’s what many players do when they get started, especially if they come from Magic. The lack of control over anything but the board—the absence of discard spells that target the opponent, the very expensive or highly situational wrath effects, and the seemingly large amount of aggression in the early game—can be very off putting for many players looking to get into the game. Well, judging a book by its cover can often mean that you may fail to appreciate the chapters when you do open it.

One of the most important things to remember when playing Hearthstone is that different skills will matter more. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Deckbuilding and tech choices: Decks in Hearthstone are 30 cards without a sideboard, and in tournaments, you’ll use multiple decks in elimination style rounds. This means that you’ll see the majority of your cards (and in many cases, all of your cards), very often throughout a game. Being limited to two cards per deck, and one of each Legendary card, means that every single choice you make with your decks will matter much, much more than in Magic. In turn, your “tech” will matter a lot more as well. Adding a second [Mirror Image] to your Tempo Mage deck to fight against Zoo will mean so much more, more often, than adding a single Supreme Verdict in your Modern Jeskai Control deck against aggro. You must have your deckbuilding abilities down, as games can be often decided because of them before the games even start. By the same token, you must also understand when you’re going too deep, and pull back when necessary.
  • Board management: Everything works in the context of the board state, even the heavy control match-ups, like Control Warrior mirrors. Understanding what’s important in your deck, what’s important in your opponent’s deck, and when things become more and less important, will all translate to the board state at some point in the game. There are a few exceptions, such as the occasional one turn kill combos, but for the most part, you need to be able to assess how efficient you can be with each and every turn on the board. Just because you can use [Execute] on that [Thing from Below], doesn’t mean it’s better than just casting [Justicar Trueheart] and leaning on your [Tank Up], putting the onus on your opponent to deal with Trueheart, adding an even more powerful buffer, as well as saving [Execute] for when you need it.

One of the most important aspects of the game is something to be handled both internally, and mentally. This aspect is the swing. The swings in this game are very, very real. There will be games, a lot of games, where you will be very far ahead, and a single card will lose you the game on the spot. (I’m looking at you, [Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End].) This is especially tough to deal with when you start climbing high on the ladder, and can easily lead to tilt. I can’t tell you how to mentally deal with the swings, as every person is different, but in the game, it goes back to what I said above. Understand what cards equate to the worst possible scenarios, and figure out how to mitigate their effects, if you can afford to.

To add another dynamic, you also want to play cards that help enable swings in your favor as well. If you’re playing Tempo Mage, a single [Flamestrike] can mean just that against Aggro Shaman, and [Firelands Portal] can mean that against big bodies. In Dragon Warrior, [Book Wyrm] can be a great solution in the mirror against opposing [Twilight Guardian]s, so your [Alexstrasa’s Champion]s and other smaller threats can push through.

Lastly, there’s the metagame. It’s highly recommended to just play one of the better decks in the format. Things are a lot tighter in Hearthstone, so your deck decisions will matter much more in a shorter span of time. This means that you’ll wind up gaining and losing even more of an edge on your deck choice, on top of everything else. While that Reno Freeze Mage deck may be pretty fun, if your goal is to climb the ladder, you don’t want to mess around with decks that simply aren’t tuned or aren’t good. It may be tempting to take a less refined deck and try and make it better, but that will be a skill you’ll develop as you play more and have a better understanding of the overall game.

With all of that, here are the decks I recommend the most to any experienced Magic player looking to make the move:

Tempo Mage

This deck is likely the closest to a Magic deck you’ll ever play in Hearthstone. It has a strong resemblance to any Delver of Secrets decks that you have seen or played, with the ability to swing back into the game with [Flamestrike]s, Yogg-Saron, and [Flamewaker]. Your curve is very strong, your removal potent, and the random value ([Babbling Book], Cabalist’s Tome) is almost always useful, with the most situational card probably being [Shatter].

Midrange Hunter

One of the better value based aggressive decks out there, backed by the most powerful offensive Hero Power in the game. Midranger Hunter tends to snowball whatever advantage it has by around turn five, just long enough to close the game out with [Call of the Wild]. Your cards are standalone strong, and many games will teach you how to be efficient with your mana. I’d highly recommend this deck if you prefer a much more aggressive playstyle, without the difficulty of Zoolock/Discolock.

Dragon Warrior

If you like Jund, but don’t like Junding as much as Midrange Shaman Junds, then Dragon Warrior is the Jund that likes to attack. The deck is also relatively cheap compared to a lot of other decks, and is almost unstoppable when you have any strong curve. The challenge with this deck is figuring out what to do when you don’t have one of those busted curves, and this is where your Magic skills will come into play. You have tools for almost every front, and it’s easy to identify which cards are applicable to a given situation.

Of course, there are a ton more factors to consider and take into account, but this is the gist of what you’ll need to hone those skills and take that extra step. The climb up the ladder is long and grindy, but having a leg up on the competition from playing Magic will certainly help!

Anthony has been competing in games for the better part of his adult life and is dedicated to improving his game, improving his community, improving himself as a person, and most importantly having fun and enjoying himself while doing so. You can check out his stream to find out which video game is the latest to catch his attention.

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