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HearthstoneJul 2, 2018 10:00 am CT

Everything you wanted to know about Hearthstone Arena but were scared to ask

You’ve ventured into the ladder, braved dungeon runs, and hunted monsters. But one button on your Hearthstone menu remains neglected, the mysterious realm of Arena. Opinions on Arena are as varied as the Hearthstone player base itself. Some say it’s the only way to play and the best way to make gold. But just what is Arena? What makes it different from Constructed play and should you invest your time, and currency into it?

Basics

Let’s start with the basics. Arena is an alternative game mode in Hearthstone. In this mode, you play an Arena run. The run is broken down into two parts: the draft, and the games. The draft is like building your deck for Constructed play. You’re presented with the choice of three classes. After that, you are given batches of three cards. You get to pick one card from each batch to add to your Arena deck. This repeats thirty times until your entire deck is built. You take the deck you drafted into games against other Arena players. Your run continues until you rack up twelve wins or three losses. When your run is over, you get rewards based on how many games you won.

The draft

The first choice you make in an Arena run is picking your class. Some classes are stronger in Arena than others based upon their hero power and available cards. Right now, the Arena is under the effect of Toki Timekeeper. She’s added some new cards which have shaken up the Arena scene somewhat. For the Taverns of Time, Mage and Shaman are considered the strongest classes. Once the event is over, Paladin should rise back up to the top. Warrior, Priest, and Druid are classes to avoid.

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The batches of cards presented are made up of the cards for the current season. Your personal collection doesn’t matter — you don’t have to own a card to see it in your Arena draft. This can be a bonus for high skill players who don’t as of yet have a large collection of cards for Constructed play.

Just like how you wouldn’t throw any thirty cards into a constructed deck and expect to find success in Constructed, you can’t just pick cards at random during the draft. Some cards which are powerful in Constructed play aren’t as good in an Arena deck and vice versa. Deathspeaker doesn’t see much play in Constructed, but it’s good in an Arena deck. Oaken Summons is a key card in Taunt Druid and used in Token Druid, both top tier decks in the current meta. It’s a below average card in Arena.

It’s difficult to build combo decks in Arena. You don’t know if you’ll get all the pieces. Cards with tribe synergy can be dicey as well — you don’t know how much of any tribe you’ll wind up with. You can try to build a more aggressive deck, but the draft is set up to give you a good variety of mana values. It might not work as well as it would in Constructed. Games rarely to go to fatigue.

Good Arena cards concentrate on reach, removal and board presence. You’ll end up with a minion heavy deck with a few spells sprinkled in.

The Hearthstone community has created tier lists which rank the power level of each card for Arena. When you’re first drafting, it’s recommended you have one of these lists handy. It’s sort of like having Matthew Berry’s cheat sheet at your Fantasy Football draft. HearthArena is my personal favorite, but the Lightforge and Liquid Hearth are popular as well. Arena Value allows you to practice a draft.

The games

Arena requires a different mindset from Constructed. The three key concepts to keep in mind are wide boards, minion trade value, and tempo. There are few spells and even fewer board clears. You win condition is infinite damage from your minions. You need to maintain board presence at all times. Board presence gives you options. You want to make smart trades and leave your opponent few countermoves. Face isn’t always the place. There’s a bit of nuance and skill to determine if you should push toward lethal or keep board advantage.

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There’s little to no scouting. So much of a Constructed match is identifying your opponents deck so you can thwart their win condition. You never know what your Arena opponent might have gotten in his draft.

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to hold onto your AoE spells. If you can create or maintain board advantage without using it, don’t, even it looks like an ideal situation. If you use it now, you won’t have it later when it might be your only way back into the game.

Top decking

Card draw is another rare commodity in Arena. You need to consider card advantage with every play. Card advantage means how many cards you have relative to your opponent. More cards gives you more options. At some point, both players will get to the point where they have no cards in their hand and both are “top decking”. This is where your only card is what pulled from the top of your deck.

Like with any card game, there’s a bit of luck in how the deck falls, and there are times it seems your opponent always gets the exact card he needed from his draw. This is the nature of the beast. You’ll remember the times your opponent top decked his Fireball to take you out (aka top deck lethal), but you’ll soon forget when you pulled your Bomb Lobber the turn you needed him.

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The rewards

You always get a card pack for your Arena run even if you don’t win a single game. If you consider a card pack is normally 100g, you’re only risking 50g by entering. You also receive some amount of gold and Arcane dust. At seven wins, you’ll get 150g.  If you can win seven games on a consistent basis, you’ve done what’s known as ‘going infinite’. No, you haven’t joined Murozond. You’ve earned back your original entry fee and you can use it to enter again. Getting to seven wins isn’t easy and requires you to be an above average player. It might take you some time to reach that level of play. Even reaching five wins is considered doing extremely well.

Every player has a finite amount of currency to use to buy packs or Arena runs. Each player has to make their own determination of which way will be the most profitable. Telling someone ‘just go infinite in Arena’ is like saying ‘just do the Mage Tower’ for an appearance.

Like any new game mode, expect to struggle a bit during your first few runs, but see if the mode appeals to you. From time to time, Blizzard will offer free Arena runs like they did the first week of the Taverns of Time. This is the best time to give it a try. You might find it’s your new favorite way to play.

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