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For players new to Hearthstone, the arena is a tempting, and intimidating proposition. For 150 gold you have the chance to pick 30 cards (from a random slate of 3 at a time) and get as far as you can before you fall three times. The further you make it, the greater your awards are.

The arena is a even playing field upon which you are finally able to prove your intelligence, capacity for strategic decision making and your ability to vanquish foes who might have otherwise defeated you in ranked play with hands laden full of legendaries.

The arena is a even playing field upon which you are finally able to prove your intelligence, capacity for strategic decision making and your ability to vanquish foes who might have otherwise defeated you in ranked play with hands laden full of legendaries. This is all sounds wonderful. But, is it really so easy to enter the arena and come out ahead of where you started? Bear in mind that the cost of a single card pack is 100 gold and you only start to break even at around three or four wins (with the combined value of the guaranteed pack with entry + any additional rewards). With those ominous thoughts forming a dark cloud above our heads let us reflect on how to best extract maximum value from our participation in this zero sum game.

Practice First

Build yourself an arena bank and start doing runs once you’re more likely to be successful!

Especially when you’re just starting the game, try and get a feel for the different classes, potential cards to played, good trades and synergies and general strategy and game knowledge. Though you may be able to scrape out 2 or 3 wins in your initial arena runs it would be better to hold for a while and wait until you’re on a more solid foundation before jumping into that inferno. Build yourself an arena bank and start doing runs once you’re more likely to be successful!

Quick tip: If you have any quests that are 40 gold then you should try abandoning them first (by clicking the red “”X”” on the corner of the quest box in the quest log) to give yourself at getting a 60 or 100 gold quest. If you’re looking to raise funds for arena, quests are far your best option for that and you wouldn’t want to squander a potential 20 or 60 extra gold! Don’t abandon anything higher than 40 though, as chances are you will receive an equivalent or lower value quest (the 100 gold quests are very rare).

Pick Wisely

 If one card is just better overall than one with synergy it makes sense to go for the overall value play. Remember, there’s no guarantee those cards will line up nicely in your hand!

Although it may be tempting to go for fancy combinations/strategies when you’re drafting your arena deck it’s better to draft cards that are more reliable and generally useful. This is because there is no guarantee that the clincher card/cards you’ll need to make your earlier pick effective rather than subpar will show up when you need them. What you can do is build on the cards you chose previously and look to make for effective synergies with your future picks. For example, if you choose the Gadgetzan Auctioneer because you have a few spells you’d be able to play in combination with him (thus taking advantage of the card draw upon spell cast provided) that would make spells available further more valuable because of their potential to synergize. Nevertheless, try not to get too carried with building on one card or a set of cards. If one card is just better overall than one with synergy it makes sense to go for the overall value play. Remember, there’s no guarantee those cards will line up nicely in your hand!

For more guidance on drafting see Liquidheart for excellent arena tier lists written by Trump (a well known, and quite talented, Hearthstone streamer).

Keep Track of Your Deck

Arena is a completely different from ranked play where you would have carefully deliberated over which cards to include in your deck and are likely at least somewhat familiar with what’s waiting beyond your current hand. In arena, you’ve just drafted 30 cards that you sought to combine together in an effective manner, but you’re likely not able to recall what’s available to you easily. So, what I like to do is take some quick printscreens of my arena deck which I can then reference should I be at loss with regards to what options are available to me (during the mulligan stage or just for planning considerations). Remember to take two shots if you happen to have enough cards to the point to where you need to scroll down!

Try and Suss Out Your Opponent’s Strategy

Because of the somewhat random nature of arena it can be difficult trying to guess what your opponent will be doing. But you can look for tells to help you in figuring out what his gameplan will likely be. Things like whether he/she is not playing a lot of cards early would let you know that either they have a late-game oriented deck or are more combo-oriented (like the Unleash the Hounds Hunter playstyle). If they’re playing out a bunch of cards early you can posit that they are set on taking you out early on and try your best the stem the bleeding. Do be careful with not taking this too far though. Given that they also had to select from a slate of 3 random cards at a time it doesn’t make sense to expect the elaborate combinations you see on the ladder. Just settle with the fact that you’ll be able to guide your decisions that little bit better.

Embrace the Unpredictability

If you make unpredictable plays it is harder for the enemy to prepare for them and they have a chance to be more effective.

You don’t really have an idea what your opponent’s hand may contain. However, they don’t really have an idea what’s in yours either. Do you have 4 Ice Lances? Maybe you could consider trying to save them all and combo them with a Frost Elemental attack to do a shit ton of damage that wouldn’t be possible in Ranked Play. Do you have one Fireball in hand and another available in your deck? Consider saving them to unleash them both at once and do a surprise 12 damage to the face (preferably to finish them with). If you make unpredictable plays it is harder for the enemy to prepare for them and they have a chance to be more effective. So, if you’re forced to make decisions you wouldn’t have made in a regular scenario, consider that an opportunity to catch your opponent offguard and grind your way to victory.

Play to the Strengths of Your Class

This advice applies to any form of Hearthstone you are playing but is especially pertinent in Arena. Because you have the opportunity to grab more than the traditional limit of 2 per each card you can really capitalize on the strengths of your class. To me this means grabbing as many Fireballs, Truesilver Champions, Animal Companions, Unleash the Hounds and Fire Elementals as possible (within reason of course). If 2 of a card is really good, then often times 3 or 4 of that card is also pretty sweet. This is especially true for cards with lower mana costs because of the reduced chance that you’ll be stuck with multiple unusable copies of a card in your hand (like 3 Flamestrikes for example).

Curious about which classes fare best in the arena? Check out Hearthstats for stats by month detailing win rates for arena and ranked play (based on data submitted by users).

Take Your Time

You’re playing Arena! You’re excited! You’re whupping your opponent! Oh wait. You just made a sub-optimal decision and threw your lead. Gosh darn. You didn’t do the math correctly. Oh noooo, you forgot to account for that particular effect… *tears*

Take those extra few seconds to think and you’ll end up cursing at yourself a lot less often.

We’ve all been there. We’re doing great. Flying ahead. The game is in our hands and then we make mistakes we shouldn’t have due to inattention. So, given that arena is even higher stakes than usual (you’re spending precious gold or your own hard-earned money to play it) it makes sense that you should try and apply the entirety of your intellect whenever possible. Try and take a second to breath and reevaluate the decision you’re about to make. Is it better than the other options you have? Is there a different order you should do it in? Are there cards that could still be coming in that could shift the way you’re planning your turn? Take those extra few seconds to think and you’ll end up cursing at yourself a lot less often.

Know When to Take a Break

You’ve just had a terrible arena run and only picked up 1 win out of the four games you played. You’re annoyed that RNGesus wasn’t on your side during the draft or, seemingly, during any of your games. You’ve still got 200 gold in the bank and you’re going to start another run. Great, good for you for not giving up. But consider taking a break. If you’re on tilt you’re less likely to make quality decisions during the drafting stage or your subsequent games and even if you’re not one to get angry it’s still good to take a moment to relax and clear your mind. Hearthstone is a game entirely based around making strategic decisions and thinking intelligently so take a moment to refresh your most important asset (your brainpower!) before diving into it again.

With these tips in hand perhaps you’ll be able to achieve a 12 win run eventually. But as long as you’re able to enjoy yourself, improve and preferably make back the gold you spent I would count it as a worthwhile investment. For me, there’s nothing quite like the rush of having an extended arena run going and feeling the pressure build with each successive win.

Once I get everything sorted for streaming I’m going to be streaming the respective games I play (Dota 2, CS:GO, Hearthstone, etc) so look out for my stream at twitch.tv/nickthepezant if you’re interested, :).

That’s all for now! Have a pezant day.

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).”

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