Hearthstone is one of the best card games around, but it might seem a little daunting for anyone who's just starting out. The lively tutorial matches do a great job of introducing all the fundamental mechanics - but the Basic decks you're given for each class probably aren't going to cut it when you're ready to take on other players. And 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 familiarized 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. You also won't have to buy any Adventures like One Night in Karazhan (which is set to rotate out of Standard soon anyway when the Year of the Raven begins).
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 HP. 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 plop down plenty of minions that have very strong stats for their cheap cost, like Kobold Librarian, Voidwalker, and Flame Imp. Once you've established a board, you can buff up your minions with Demonfire, Bloodfury Potion, and the extremely powerful Crystalweaver to swing the momentum even further in your favor. Tough-to-remove Taunt minions like Tar Creeper, Saronite Chain Gang, and Vulgar Homunculus will help you fend off opposing forces, then you can swing for the final hit with Soulfire or Doomguard. You can circumvent the usual drawback of having to discard for those last two; simply play these powerful Warlock class cards from an empty hand (which you should be able to clear out quickly due to all your 1-cost minions).
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 play 1-cost minions like Alleycat or 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.
Budget Control Deck: Jade Druid
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. Jade Druid (which gets its namesake from the increasingly strong Jade Golems it summons) is an extremely powerful Control deck, but it's also the most expensive deck on this list when it comes to crafting cost, as it simply won't work well without key Rare cards like Jade Idol, Spreading Plague, and Nourish. If you make it to the late game with Jade Druid, you can create an infinite army of gigantic Jade Golems that are almost impossible for most decks to contend with.
Early on, however, your Jade Golems will be far less impressive, creating tiny minions you can use to make trades early on (along with the Attack and Armor created by your Shapeshift hero power). Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, and Nourish should be used ASAP to give you more mana crystals to work with ahead of your opponent, getting you to the incredibly strong 6-mana cost spell Spreading Plague. This card can single-handedly shut down your opponent's offense if they've flooded the board with small minions, giving you plenty of extra time to set up more defenses like Druid of the Claw and Jade Behemoth. Once you know he'll survive, you can drop down the Gadgetzan Auctioneer, which lets you draw tons of cards off of cheap spells like Earthen Scales, Jasper Spellstone, and the self-copying Jade Idol. If you've survived this far into the game, your victory is all but assured.
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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