So you want to get into Hearthstone, one of the best card games around - but you're not quite sure what type of deck will give you a fighting chance against other players. You've come to the right place. Hearthstone's lively tutorial matches do a great job of introducing all the fundamental mechanics - but with hundreds of cards to choose from in the Standard format, you might not know where to even begin. Fortunately, you can build a variety of great decks on a budget once you've opened a few packs and familiarize yourself with the crafting system, which lets you break down unwanted cards to create crucial pieces of your next deck.
There's a whole world of unique strategies, powerful combos, and clever plays to master in Hearthstone. But for beginners, it can be immensely helpful to know the predominant deck archetypes you'll encounter in competitive play, no matter which class your opponent is using. With that in mind, here are three decks built around three distinct, primary playstyles - aggro, midrange, and control - that will give you a better sense of how to pilot certain decklists based on their main win conditions. Best of all, you won't need mountains of Arcane Dust to craft them: none of these decks include any cards of Epic or Legendary rarity, which are expensive to craft and hard to come by in packs. Hearthstone's latest expansion, The Witchwood, hasn't made waves for budget decklists, as its most influential cards are predominantly Legendaries - but it introduced a few cards that add to the core strengths of these tried-and-true archetypes.
Budget Aggro Deck: Zoo Warlock
Aggro decks win by playing tons of small, cheap minions and flooding the board before their opponent can react. This Zoo Warlock deck is the perfect gateway into this ever-popular archetype, giving you the tools to rush down your enemy with an army (or zoo) of small demons that can quickly overwhelm unprepared players. It's also a great way to familiarize yourself with the concept of treating your life total as a resource that's sometimes worth spending, as you use the Warlock's Lifetap hero power to refill your hand at the cost of some health. Knowing when to attack the opponent's face and when to preserve your own life total by trading minions on the board is crucial to excelling with any aggro deck, and Zoo Warlock (also known as simply Zoolock) is the perfect way to learn.
On early turns, you'll summon plenty of minions that have above-average stats for their cheap cost, like Kobold Librarian, Voidwalker, and Flame Imp. Tough-to-remove Taunt minions like Tar Creeper and Saronite Chain Gang set you up for big swings later when you drop a Fungalmancer and buff up your board, while Despicable Dreadlord burns down any opposition (and obliterates Paladin tokens). If your legions of juiced-up minions don't finish the game outright, you can often close out the game with the surprise damage of Soulfire or Doomguard. A few additions courtesy of The Witchwood include Duskbat, which gives you free 1/1s when comboed with Vulgar Homunculus, and Witchwood Imp, which can give you some highly advantageous minion trades thanks to its Deathrattle effect.
Budget Midrange Deck: Midrange Hunter
Midrange is really just another way of saying 'the midpoint between Aggro and Control.' Your general strategy is to control the board early on with constant minion pressure and efficient minion trading (i.e. you kill a minion without losing your own), but you need to close out the game before things go too long and your cheap minions can't compete with 9- or 10-mana minions and spells. Hunter excels at the Midrange archetype thanks to the powerful synergy of Beast minions, which are strong on their own but get even better when paired with Houndmaster and Kill Command. And with the two damage a turn offered by the Hunter's Steady Shot hero power, you can directly snipe your opponent's health to zero by the time they've assembled some defenses on the board.
You're really hoping to stick a Dire Mole on turn one, so that you can snowball an advantage with cards like Crackling Razormaw and Scavenging Hyena. As the game goes on, you'll need to estimate whether you should be using cards like Kill Command and Eaglehorn Bow to punch your opponent's face and hopefully end the game quicker, or eliminate some of their minions to make way for your own stampede of Beasts. This deck also creates some neat combo opportunities: Hunter's Mark and the immunity of Candleshot let you instantly eliminate any threatening minion without taking a hit yourself, and the 2/2 Hyenas spawned by the Deathrattle on your Savannah Highmane will also have Charge if you have a Tundra Rhino in play. Witchwood newcomers Lifedrinker and Vicious Scalehide can help seal the game by simultaneously gaining you life and chipping away at your opponent's resources.
Budget Control Deck: Dragon Priest
Control decks excel when the game is in the later stages, as both players reach the 10-mana mark. When you have that much mana to work with, Control decks can dominate the pace of the game with their expensive cards - but they need to be able to stall the early game before Aggro and Midrange decks run them over. Playing Control decks on a budget can be difficult, as many Control decks heavily rely on a full suite of Legendary- and Epic-rarity cards for their power and consistency - but this affordable Dragon Priest deck has some great tools to stave off early aggression while you set up for an explosive late-game kill.
During the first few turns, you want to play Northshire Cleric and Shadow Ascendant, which the opponent needs to deal with right away or risk falling incredibly behind. And even if you don't get the 1- and 2-drops you're hoping for, the Dragons that give the deck its namesake are a huge boon at any stage of the game. Duskbreaker is the star of the show, as it'll wipe out enemy minions during the early game (as long as you're currently holding a Dragon in hand), while Twilight Drake and Bone Drake have solid bodies that can easily contest any minions your opponent plays. Nightscale Matriarch pairs perfectly with Spirit Lash and Circle of Healing to help refill your health and minion forces in one go. Finally, your big finish comes from the classic Inner Fire + Divine Spirit combo (which can be done even sooner if you've got the spell cost reduction from a Radiant Elemental). This combo can transform a high-health minion like Wyrmguard into a 22/22 monster, or create an early one-turn-kill out of nowhere if your opponent doesn't keep your Twilight Drakes in check.
General tips for getting cards and gold quicker
When you’re first starting out in Hearthstone, your collection will be pretty slim - but it's easy enough to build it out just by playing, without the need to spend real money (though that's always a time-saving option). There are simple ways to earn free card packs and the gold needed to buy additional card packs, as well as expanding your set of Basic Cards.
- Getting a Class up to level ten will unlock all its Basic cards, which sometimes end up being the most powerful, prevalent cards (like Mage's Frostbolt or Priest's Mind Control). Leveling up each Class is a piece of cake - just play games with them in any mode!
- Make sure to play the Tavern Brawl on a weekly basis. Each new Tavern Brawl offers a card pack for your first win, and they're often a great way to play with cards you don't own thanks to the many themes and special modifiers active in the Brawls.
- If you get a quest for a class you don't enjoy playing, you can always reroll it and exchange it for a different quest by clicking the 'X' at the top right. This can only be done once a day, however.
- For those who don't mind a challenge, some delayed gratification, and the potential for lower returns, using gold to purchase Arena tickets can be a great way to improve your general skill. You're guaranteed a card pack at the very least, and the crucible of Arena will teach you how other players make smart minion trades and effective use of their hero power. Just be aware that you have to draft your deck from a random selection in Arena, rather than building your desired deck in advance.
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