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Hearthstone: Know when to fold 'em

Matt Low

Hearthstone matches can be won or lost depending on the cards in your opening hand. Thankfully, you have the option to mulligan specific cards out. I used to be an avid poker player years ago. There's this old catchy song where the main verse goes something "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em"! That logic also applies here. Each class has it's own unique strengths and cards and you need to know which cards will help you against them early or late. You also need to know your own deck.

We'll go over a few example matches against assorted classes. Today, I'll be using a shaman control deck and I've included a quick video at the bottom narrating a match against a priest. But first, a few concepts to go over!

Factors that go into mulling your hand

  • Card mana cost
  • Turn order
  • Your class
  • Your opponent's class

Mana cost: If your hand is full of bomb cards that are going to set you back 7 mana or higher, it means you won't be doing much the first turns and you're forced to play off the top of your deck (otherwise known as "top decking"). You're hoping for cheaper cards and spells to play and this doesn't always work out well. I'll almost always get rid of my hand if it consists of cards higher than 6 mana.

Turn order: Going second means I have the advantage of an extra card. But it means that for the first bit of the game, I might end up reacting to what my opponent's going to do. I'll always be a step behind unless they choose to pass and provide me with a free turn to catch up. Most decks don't have much in the way of a 1 or 2 mana drop. Aggressive minion decks will have a few cheap minions that they can put on the board to apply some minor pressure. If I'm going second, I'm hoping to see at least 1 or 2 removal spells and a few minions of my own that I can place.

Class: Your class cards will have a large impact here along with the class deck that your opponent is using. Advanced players will have a bit of an idea of what type of cards and deck archetypes to expect. You'll want to choose and mulligan your hand accordingly so that it gives you with the best options of reacting to your opponent or that you have your own threats to drop down to make your opponent react to them.

Against Mages

Earth Shock, Hex, and Forked Lightning are excellent cards to open with against a mage. The fact that I won the coin flip and get to go first is a shame though as it means my opponent basically gets a free turn out of it. Most Mage decks rely heavily on spellpower type cards to get going like Dalaran Mage, Kobold Geomancer, and Ogre Magi.

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

I can either toss these cards and hope for a more aggressive hand or sit on these and react to my opponent. Forked Lightning will easily deal with any cheap minions the mage throws out first (Novice Engineers, Mana Addicts, or the Kobold Geomancer) on turn 2 or 3. I can sit on Hex for any major mage drops like a Twilight Drake or shut down a growing Questing Adventurer. Lastly, I can use Earth Shock as an emergency silence against any unexpected surprises or as an emergency Spell Power buff removal. Against most mage decks, you're expected to go to the mid to late game. The bad thing about this hand is that it reacts to your opponent. Against other class types, I would have kept the Forked Lightning and removed either the Hex or the Earth Shock (depending on my opponent's class).

Against Warlocks

There's only a few insanely top tier warlock decks right now. At the masters level, the one I come across the most is the Warloc (yes, without the "k") deck. Why is it called Warloc? Largely because it has a swarm of murlocs in it backed by the damage and card drawing of the Warlock hero power. If it's a marloc deck, then it's going to be a race as my strategy is to survive the early turns as much as I can until I can stabilize and draw into my own threats. The Shieldmasta and Defender of Argus are solid cards to start with.

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

I would've liked to open with Feral Spirit or a Forked Lightning or a Lightning Storm, but the taunts will help in slowing down this fast and aggressive deck. The Mana Tide Totem isn't going to be needed. What's the point of drawing extra cards if I'm staring down a board full of angry and hungry murlocs, right? The Twilight Drake is also going to be a keeper although I could've thrown that away for the chance at a damage spell. But I'd rather have the Drake as it'll synergize with the Defender of Argus. Remember, I'm going second which means I'll get a coin. Using the coin on turn 3 gives me an extra mana crystal allowing for an early turn 3 Twilight Drake which will get Taunt and +1/+1 the subsequent turn with the Defender of Argus.

Against Rogues

This is not a good opening hand against a Rogue. With the ability to kill by turn 5, you need cards that can stop their threats cheaply. The fact that I'm going turn 1 means that the Rogue player will have access to a coin allowing them to convert it into extra health and damage for the Questing Adventurer. Rockbiter's the only card I would keep in this pile because at least I can cast it on Thrall himself and remove it quick. Sure enough, the game was over after 5 turns because I had no response to an 18/10 Questing Adventurer on turn 4.

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

Even worse, I drew into a Ragnaros and Al'Akir instead! Two dead cards that won't be serving me at all. I would've been lucky if I even entered turn 8! I'm so happy rogues are getting nerfed!

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

Against Shaman

Bloodlust is a finisher here. The Shieldmasta is great as it does provide a stopgap for turn 4 if this is an aggressive shaman player. I do want to sit on a Stormforged Axe or I can gamble and throw it away. Personally, I'd rather hold onto the axe because it lets me deal with any annoying totems that might pop up. I have to be careful to not overextend and play more minions than I need to with the threat of Forked Lightning and Lightning Storms.

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

Against Priest

I haven't run across that many top tier priest decks. All I know is that they're a little weak in the early game and they take a few turns to get going. You want a hand with minions that you can lay down onto the board quickly to apply as much pressure as you can so this hand is a definite keeper. You also want to watch out for the whole Divine Spirit and Inner Fire combination because it can turn innocuous creatures into something larger and scarier.

Hearthstone Know when to fold 'em

A removal (or a taunt on the board) should help deal with those kinds of surprise situations. Another big impact card is Mind Control. If I'm playing my own bombs like Ragnaros or A'l'Akir, I better damn well expect a Mind Control coming next turn and have a plan in place accordingly. I'm hoping to have enough minions on the board with a Bloodlust where the Mind Controlled minion doesn't even matter or I'm hoping to have a Hex that I can use.

These are just a few situations and things to keep in the back of your mind. Hearthstone matches can be won or lost before it even starts based on the cards you have in your hand. Choose wisely!

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