Hi! I'm Asmodeus, Hearthstone coach and author of The Complete Guide for Hearthstone Player. Welcome to the third episode of Coaching Insights. This series is inspired by recurring themes and patterns I've noticed from my coaching sessions with Hearthstone players. I've decided to share those insights whether it's an important concept which I find myself teaching over and over again, or just a pattern I've noticed in my students. Those things will help you get better at the game without having to figure it all out by yourself.
In this episode, which I hope you won't be surprised to find out, we will not explore the secrets of an underground organization: "The Order of Actions". Instead we'll break down and explain the correct order of actions which you should use to make the most optimal plays in Hearthstone. This is especially helpful for beginners but keep in mind that the mistakes I'll mention happen even in the top 100 of legend ranks.
2. The importance of sequencing
If you watch enough Hearthstone streamers, you've heard them comment on their opponent's play, making sarcastic remarks along the lines of: "nice sequencing bro" or "great order". That's because they recognize the importance of playing your turns optimally to maximize your odds. Even in the cases where it does not matter, you should still exercise the correct playstyle to forge good habits. If you manage to make it your second nature, you'll increase your win rate without even realizing it.
There is no way to predict every single scenario, so if there is something you can do differently to boost your odds, at no cost other than your effort, then there is no reason to not do it. Everything matters and great players aren't where they are because of one great quality they possess. They're at the top because of the hundreds and thousands of little things and adjustments they do. Start developing your mental checklist and practice the correct order of actions every time you have the chance, until it's the only way you can play.
3. Make plays during your opponent's turn
Sometimes you'll be faced with a scenario that even pro players can't solve in the 75 seconds they're given each turn, but you can do something to help you in those situations. You can use the time your enemy takes to make his plays, to think about your available options and the best way to proceed. Even before you see your opponent's move, try to predict the most likely plays he could make and think about your answers to them. By going over these common scenarios you're practicing your ability to read the enemy, your ability to visualize turns as well as preparing yourself mentally to deal with his play before it even happens.
Sometimes your enemy will throw at you something completely unexpected and after gathering yourself from the shock, you'll lose valuable time scanning through your options, which you could have done beforehand.
Use these questions to assist you in planning ahead during your opponent's turn:
- How much mana will I have next turn?
- Which cards will I be able to play?
- Can I use hero power together with some of them?
- How much damage do I have on board and coming from my hand?
- Am I likely to have lethal damage and finish the game?
- Am I ahead or behind in cards? What about the board position?
4. Patience wins the games
Even players who know the right order of actions won't always play correctly. Nearly every time it happens it's because they played too fast. Dont rush when you see a play, as one of the greatetest chess masters, Emanuel Lasker, said: "When you see a good move - look for a better one".
When your turn starts, try to simply sit back and don't even touch the mouse or your screen. You have a lot of time to make your move, and there is no reason why you shouldn't use it. Additionally, by hovering over the playable cards, you're giving information away to your enemy. He can infer from the highlighting of your cards their mana cost, if they're a spell or a minion, if they're applicable to the current situation on the board. That's a lot of information that you're giving away for free and for no reason. Conceal the information about your hand until you've decided on everything you're going to do this turn.
5. Play it out in your head
Since you're holding back and thinking through your turn, try to play out the entire turn in your head. Often you'll find out that you have some spare mana left, which you can use to draw more cards. If you didn't think your entire turn through, and just went for the most obvious move, you'd end up drawing afterwards which is a big mistake that could have been prevented if you simply thought what you're going to do before doing it.
A big sign that you're playing against a thoughtless enemy is the classic: "play one card immediately, then become undecided for a minute". You don't wanna be that guy who throws a card into play and then thinks about the rest of his turn after limiting his options and locking himself out of better plays.
Consider more than just one turn. Think of the most common responses that the enemy deck is capable of, at this point in the game, and look for a way to play around it.
6. Basic Priority list
In the majority of situations, the order of plays will look something like this:
- Draw cards if you've decided on doing it at all – they may change what you ultimately do this turn
- Roll the dice – for example if you play shaman, getting a specific totem might affect what you can do this turn, or hitting certain targets with Flame Juggler could allow you to trade more efficiently.
- Play minions with trigger effects first – Questing Adventurer or Knife Juggler will benefit from playing them before other minions.
- Play the rest of your cards or use hero ability.
- Attack enemy minions or the hero.
Sometimes you'll have a choice between drawing a card from your deck first or Discovering a random card through something like a Jeweled Scarab, or getting a completely random spell from Babbling Book. In that case, you'll have to evaluate your position in game first. If you're slightly ahead, slightly behind or about even with your enemy then you should go with drawing from your deck first since It's more likely to be a good card in general.
If you're very behind, you need to know which cards are still left in your deck and if any of them can save you. Then you have to estimate the chances of drawing them and compare them to the chances of getting something better from a random draw. If the random draw gives you better odds or you have nothing left in your deck that could save you, then you go with the random draw.
If you're very ahead then you can afford the risk of getting a bad, random card and take advantage of the potential upside of acquiring something ridiculous that could end the game right away and leave your enemy in a hopeless position.
7. Complex scenarios
It is impossible to address every single scenario in this article, which is why I'm focusing on giving you tools to evaluate your turns. Every turn has to be treated individually, which further shows the importance of taking your time and thinking before acting. There will be many complex board states and possible plays which you won't be able to figure out on the spot and that's perfectly fine. Make sure to save screenshots of these moments and analyze them after the match is over. You'll learn a lot from doing that because you'll have unlimited time to think about all of the possible scenarios that could have escaped your mind in the heat of the moment.
There are also many specific keywords you should pay attention to when deciding on the optimal order of your plays. For example, there is a difference between "whenever you cast a spell" and "after you cast a spell". If you have a Violet Teacher on board, as well as Wild Pyromancer then if you cast a spell, your Violet Teacher will create a 1/1 token first and then Wild Pyromancer will kill it with his AoE.
If you have two trigger effects which are worded in the same way, then they should work in order in which they were played. For example, Wild Pyromancer and Flamewaker share the same keyword: "After". This is why, if you've played Flamewaker first and it has only one point of health left, a Wild Pyromancer, that came into play later, will allow the Flamewaker to shoot his missiles if you cast a spell and only after that he will kill him with his AoE effect.
If you want to learn more about these complex mechanics you can check out the Advanced Rulebook developed on hearthstone gamepedia.
8. Common traps and mistakes
Dynamic mana cost
One of the hardest things to anticipate are dynamic mana costs. For example - when you're planning your turn, you're likely not expecting your enemy to play Mana Wraith or getting an Innervate from Nexus-Champion Saraad. Be mindful of these possibilities and adjust your plan to include options that use the additional mana. This is the reason why I advise going over your entire hand even if you can't use some of the cards this turn.
Auras and temporary buffs are often a source of silly mistakes. When playing with cards like Flametongue Totem or Dire Wolf Alpha you need to account for the loss of a buff if your positioning changes or if you trade these minions. If there is an aura, a temporary buff, or a trigger effect (indicated by a lighting icon on the card - such as: Frothing Berserker) you need to be really careful and account for the changing board state with each card you play.
This ties to the last point. Remember that when you play your minions you can change their positioning, and thus affect the aura buffs or block yourself from optimally using Defender of Argus. A Summoned minion, such as Spirit Wolf, will always appear on the right side of the board, so if you wish to position a summoned minion in the middle, you have to play them before placing other creatures on their right side.
Not resolving random actions
Many players know about the importance of drawing first, but not as many realize the importance of resolving random effects first. When you've decided to play a card like Barnes in your turn, you should probably do it before everything else. For example, if you have Azure Drake in your deck, this might open you to a previously impossible play, like using a spell damage Wrath to remove a Flamewaker hiding behind Mirror Image
Not maximizing odds
Maximizing the odds of your random effects is one of the most important skills to learn. This is the difference between getting lucky and making your luck. This happens commonly with cards like Ragnaros the Firelord and Knife Juggler. A good way to think about maximizing your odds with these cards is to ask yourself these questions:
- How many good targets I can hit and how many bad targets I can hit before I make this trade?
- How many good targets I can hit and how many bad targets I can hit after I make this trade?
And then go with the higher proportion of good to bad targets. Remember that the enemy face is most of the time a bad target, unless you're setting up for lethal.
9. Closing words
Thank you for reading and hopefully this clears things up, especially for new players, when it comes to making the plays in a correct order. As always I encourage you to share your opinions or questions in the comments, I'm always happy to answer them and good luck in your games!
If you're interested in 1 on 1 Hearthstone coaching - you can find more information about it here: Coaching with Asmodeus