Hi, my name is Judge, and I play so much heckin’ Arena.
I have multiple #1 finishes in the mode, and dozens of months of top 10 finishes too. I have played TENS of THOUSANDS of games of Arena. After all this, I feel like few others can help you, dear reader, decide whether this mode is something you may enjoy – and I intend to do just that. I have heard many an “ARENA KEKW” in my day – some justified, some not so much. So, forget what you’ve heard, and let’s dive into this somewhat biased (but I’ll try not to be) rundown of what Arena is, its pros and cons, and how YOU can have the best experience possible in the mode of Hearthstone Arena.
Before we get into the strengths, weaknesses, and differences from other modes Arena possesses, let’s go ahead and explain for those who don’t know what Arena even is. If you’ve played or know exactly what this mode entails, you can skip the first bit of this next section.
WHAT IS ARENA AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM STANDARD?
The rules of Arena are basic. Once you enter the Arena, you will get to choose 1 of 3 random classes to play for your Arena run. After you select your class, you will then have to choose 1 of 3 random cards to add to your Arena deck. These cards are usually from a specific series of expansions – very rarely will every card in the game’s history be in Arena – you can check which expansions are in Arena currently via Patch Notes or social media because it is NOT always Standard. To make your 30-card deck, you simply repeat this step 29 more times, picking 1 card from 3 offered, until you have a full deck!
Once you have your deck, you play games against other players who have done the same steps as you to create their deck, each having the same or roughly a similar win/loss record as you do. Your run is over if you get 3 losses, or if you pull off the rare feat of getting 12 wins, the maximum number of wins you can get in an Arena run.
There are a couple of things I don’t think are objectively pros or cons in how Arena is different than Standard, but they may feel like one or the other to you specifically and may influence whether you want to play it. The main example of this is how Arena gameplay tends to trend. Since, unlike Standard, you can’t build or include the exact counters or tech you want in your deck consistently, ping damage, AoE (Area of Effect) damage, and hard removal, ALL become less consistent to have. You may have some of one of these things, but none of another. As such, the general playstyle of Arena often rewards tempo plays and early stats more so than Standard – you can’t sit back and wait for one of your many clears if your deck doesn’t have them consistently. Though this isn’t the case for every single deck, it is for most, so depending on the style of plays you prefer this may feel very refreshing, or too linear. Another thing that could be either a pro or con is the challenge of deckbuilding the mode offers. Every single deck you draft is different, so general deck-building skills are very important, and it is not an easy skill. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t confident in your deck-building skills, I have some tips to not have a bad time at the end of this article.
THE PROS OF PLAYING ARENA
There are several great things that Arena offers that other modes do not – this fact is what drove me to play the mode so much in the first place many moons ago. For me, there is one winner amongst these factors, and that is that EVERY SINGLE DECK IS DIFFERENT. This is such an excellent thing. There is never a repeat match of the same decks playing each other. You will never play the same deck in multiple runs. In Standard, you can get the same matchup of 30 cards vs. 30 cards many, dozens, may I even go as far as scores of times in a month, for some. This uniqueness keeps the mode fresh and exciting. It makes burning out from monotony or repetitiveness a lot more difficult.
Another very cool thing about Arena is that its decks can break the traditional rules of Hearthstone! Normally, a Standard Hearthstone deck can have two copies of any non-legendary card and one copy of any legendary card max. In Arena, there is no limit to how many copies of a card you can draft into your deck, so long as you are offered them! This means you can get 3 or 4 of some fun card or even multiple of the same legendary. This also adds an extra level of fun and uniqueness that the stricter rules of Standard (rightfully) don’t allow for.
The last point for pros I’ll make should be taken lightly, because it is a very tough thing to achieve, and can only be taken seriously after navigating one of the big CONS that I’ll outline in a second. If you improve and become a very strong Arena player one day, you can earn infinite gold. Common lingo from Arena players and enjoyers is an Arena run “going infinite”. No this doesn’t mean the deck is going to win forever. It means the deck will go 7 or more wins. This is because when you get 7 wins, you ALWAYS get at least 150 gold back – the same as what you paid to get in. Therefore, players who average 7 or more wins per run make infinite money. Now, this is a bit of an unreasonable goal to try to obtain. VERY few players can truly average 7 or more all the time. They are called Hard Infinite players. Aiming to be a SOFT infinite player, although still difficult, is something far more reasonably obtainable. This is when you can make infinite gold – but with the help of the rewards track. The average you need to make this happen is far lower than 7, especially with the fairly newly revamped rewards system. For most, I’d wager this number is in the 5’s – still high, but reachable.
THE CONS OF PLAYING ARENA
There is one enormous con when it comes to playing arena that I believe has played a massive part in lowering the mode’s popularity over the years – THE MONEY. Yeah, being an infinite player sounds great, making non-stop gold would be swell. But this can only be an end goal after NOT being soft infinite for probably a while unless you already play at a very high level. It costs 150 gold to enter the Arena, and unless you get 7 or more wins in your run, you are NEVER getting enough gold to play another run. It is worth mentioning that you do get other rewards than just gold, and you are always guaranteed a pack in your rewards. Losing a bit of gold but getting some dust and a pack may be beneficial to you. But as far as getting people into playing more of the mode, and its longevity, this is a big downer. How can you get a new player to play Arena when they lose 150 gold every time they try? I know I went 0-3 on my first run because I had no idea what I was doing. At that stage, 150 gold is a lot! You barely have any cards in your collection, and that money seems much better off being spent on packs. Here’s a fun fact: THE ARENA REWARDS SYSTEM HAS NOT CHANGED SINCE BETA. It’s very unfortunate to see what I view as a fun and unique mode-locked for many behind an archaic reward system. There are THOUSANDS more cards now than there were in beta – so your pack, dust, and gold you get from your rewards are just worth less than they used to be.
A far less egregious con of playing Arena is that the nature of choosing random cards and classes can cause long droughts of undesired class options and even sometimes cards. Not every class in the Arena is created equal – sometimes certain classes are by far better options. It can feel bad to only get the poorer performing classes and cards with no chance to build something that can compete with your opponent’s #1 Top Dog Deck. Likewise, it can be fun to hit a few great Legendaries or best classes in a row, such is the nature of games with RNG.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR ARENA GAME
The absolute best way to avoid the major con of Arena right now (losing all your money) is to not lose.
To finish off our Arena talk today, here are a few tips on how you might go about losing less.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE DRAFTING ENOUGH 2-DROPS AND 3-DROPS
One of the most common mistakes I see Arena beginners make is drafting too heavily. Heavier, more expensive cards tend to have more powerful and potentially more fun effects than small cards. That being said, they will be no fun at all when you have lost on turn 6 because you played no cards. Of course, everything changes from deck to deck, but my general rule of thumb is to have 5 twos and 5 threes in my deck. A third of my deck I want to be well-stated, tempo-orientated, 2 and 3 mana cards. That’s how important early tempo is. If you have these, you will be able to play your bombs later.
- USE HSREPLAY.NET
There are a few different tools to help you draft a better arena deck. Every one of them varies in their idea of what good cards are and what kind of player will benefit from them. Although NONE are going to give you the best deck you could have by following them completely, using the DECK WINRATE percentage for cards in the Arena tab is going to give you the best idea of which card is most powerful. This is especially helpful for the first half of the deck, as you don’t need to worry about what you need to complete the deck as much and can focus on pure quality. HSReplay also provides a list of which classes are performing the best, which is very helpful during class selection.
- PRIORITIZE HARD REMOVAL AND AoE
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Area of Effect refers to cards that hit a range of minions on the board, like Flamestrike or Hellfire. These types of cards, along with the ability to remove big threats, are very important in Arena, as they can provide large, sometimes insurmountable tempo swings. It is possible to have too much removal, but if you have absolutely none, you are going to want to change that overtaking a strong mid-game card even if it has a higher win rate.
That’s all I have for you today folks. The Arena is so unique and complex. It’s a deck builders’ dream, even if it is a shame that it’s so demanding on your gold reserves at first. I hope I have given some insight into the ins and outs and the good and the bads of Arena, and I hope my tips are helpful to at least some of you. If you want to see an Infinite player in action, watching other good players is, of course, another great way to learn – you can find me at twitch.tv/Judge or on Twitter (Do I have to say X yet, think I can still get away with Twitter) @HiMyNameIsJudge and I would be more to play and answer more specific questions you might have.
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