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The best Hearthstone decks for beginners

With the debut of Hearthstone's Rise of Shadows (opens in new tab) expansion and the set rotation into the Year of the Dragon (opens in new tab), the Hearthstone meta has shifted completely - and plenty of staple cards are no longer part of the Standard format. If you just recently got into Hearthstone or you've been away for a while, you might find that some of your favorite cards aren't eligible for Standard decks now, so you might be in need of new, affordable deck. We've got you covered, thanks to these fun, very viable decks that you can easily build on a budget. They also work perfectly for the free-to-play crowd that doesn't want to spend a cent as they climb up the ranked ladder. 

Hearthstone's early 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 effective, inexpensive decks 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 don't often show up in packs. For more budget decks like these, check out the fantastic selection over at Hearthstone Top Decks (opens in new tab)

Budget Aggro Deck: Zoo Warlock 

Zoo Warlock

Aggro decks win by flooding the board with tons of small, cheap minions, beating up their opponents before they 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 Voidwalker (opens in new tab), and Flame Imp (opens in new tab), and Saronite Taskmaster (opens in new tab). Soul Infusion (opens in new tab) can beef up these minions even further, and excels when combined with Doubling Imp (opens in new tab) for twice the boosted stats. But your biggest plays revolve around Scarab Egg (opens in new tab), which should be sacrificed ASAP to EVIL Genius (opens in new tab) or Grim Rally (opens in new tab) for a huge board advantage thanks to its bug-spawning deathrattle effect. If your opponent does manage to clear the board, you can instantly reload with a well-timed Rafaam's Scheme (opens in new tab) after it has built up power in your hand (which also works great with Knife Juggler (opens in new tab)). 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 (opens in new tab) (though sadly, the trusty Charge minion closer Doomguard (opens in new tab) has been moved to the Hall of Fame collection). 

Deck code: AAECAf0GAA8w8gH1Bc4H2QexCMII9PcC0/gC9v0C3IYDxIkD7IwDq5EDiJ0DAA== 

Budget Midrange Deck: Midrange Hunter 

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 (opens in new tab) and Kill Command (opens in new tab). 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 hoping to stick a Shimmerfly (opens in new tab) on turn one, which will refill your hand when it dies, playing strong minions or powerful spells every turn after to gain an early lead. Scavenging Hyena (opens in new tab) is a fantastic card in and of itself, but works even better when paired with a Springpaw (opens in new tab) that can instantly trade with an enemy minion and pump up your Hyena. As the game goes on, you'll need to estimate whether you should be using cards like Kill Command and Headhunter's Hatchet (opens in new tab) 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 (like the 5/5 Rush minions summoned by Twinspell Unleash the Beast (opens in new tab)). This deck also creates some neat combo opportunities: Dire Frenzy (opens in new tab) is amazing on any of the beasts summoned by Animal Companion (opens in new tab) (especially Huffer), and the 2/2 Hyenas spawned by the Deathrattle on your Savannah Highmane (opens in new tab) will also have Charge if you have a Tundra Rhino (opens in new tab) in play.

Deck code: AAECAR8CyfgCsIsDDqgCtQPeBLsF2QfrB5cI2wntCYEKoIUD+ZYDnp0Dx50DAA== 

Budget Control Deck: Silence Priest  

Silence 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 Silence Priest is a fun take on totally outlasting any early aggression while you set up for a one-turn kill in the late game with an explosive multi-card combo.

During the first few turns, you'll likely want to play Northshire Cleric (opens in new tab) and Acolyte of Pain (opens in new tab) so you can start drawing more cards and have more resources than your opponent. The exception is if you get some of your strongest minions, plus the means to silence them so you can actually swing with them. Big minions like Ancient Watcher (opens in new tab), Hench-Clan Shadequill (opens in new tab), and Arcane Watcher (opens in new tab) have inherent drawbacks to offset their amazing damage and health stats - but if you silence them using Unsleeping Soul (opens in new tab), Dalaran Librarian (opens in new tab), or Silence (opens in new tab), you can abuse their power level to make easy minion trades on board (then refill their health with a Circle of Healing (opens in new tab)) or smash your opponent's face. Silence (the card) is also great if your opponent has a minion you can't deal with, or on a Witchwood Grizzly (opens in new tab) to instantly make a 3/12 powerhouse. Once you've got control of the board, you want to set up your big finish with the classic Inner Fire (opens in new tab) + Divine Spirit (opens in new tab) combo, which can create a gigantic minion that obliterates your opponent with a single swing.

Deck code: AAECAa0GAA/4At0E5QT2B6UJ0QrSCvIM+wzy8QKDlAOHlQOumwOCnQPInQMA 

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.
  • Speaking of quests, try to log in any time there's a Hearthstone event going on - the quests will usually give out increased gold, Arcane dust, or even entire packs.
  • 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.

Looking for similar kinds of strategic card gaming? Check out these games like Hearthstone you should be playing right now (opens in new tab).

Lucas Sullivan is the former US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. Lucas spent seven years working for GR, starting as an Associate Editor in 2012 before climbing the ranks. He left us in 2019 to pursue a career path on the other side of the fence, joining 2K Games as a Global Content Manager. Lucas doesn't get to write about games like Borderlands and Mafia anymore, but he does get to help make and market them.