Life after the tutorial in Hearthstone

It turns out Illidan was wrong. You were prepared, in Hearthstone, at least. After a climactic battle you bested the Betrayer and closed out the Hearthstone tutorial. What do you do after that?

Unfortunately, Hearthstone's very minor narrative ends there and you're left to fend for yourself in what can be a horrifying world of Leeroy Jenkins', Ragnaros' and more. Your opponents are dropping legendaries and you're just trying to figure out how to keep Goldshire Footman out of your mage deck. Today we'll take a look at how to move forward in a game that features little in the way of linear progression.

While you'll receive some quests early on to take your deck out into the wild against other players, go ahead and shelf that idea for a bit and head on over to Hearthstone's practice area. In this safe environment you'll get the chance to play against the AI, while also unlocking all of the other classes. You won't need to worry about making other players wait while you try and figure out your moves, nor will you need to feel any sort of pressure over potentially losing. These beginner AI decks are designed to teach you the basics of the various classes and in turn help you grow your understanding of the game as a whole.

You won't just be spinning your wheels, however. There are a couple of quests that correspond with unlocking the classes and leveling them all to ten, ensuring you'll also get some gold and an arena run out of mastering the basics. After besting all of the basic AI opponents, Expert AI opponents will become available. While they're not super difficult if you're a veteran of the genre, they'll provide a good 'next step' for new players who are able to conquer the more simplistic decks. These opponents will have access to more menacing cards that you'll likely run into while playing in ranked mode. Proving your mettle against all of the expert AI opponents will award 100 gold.

Mentioned earlier, you'll be given a free arena run while completing the aforementioned introductory tasks. The arena is the default resource for individuals looking to grow their collection without spending a dime. Players can win up to twelve times per arena run and are given better rewards per run. The catch? If you lose three times, you're out. It normally costs 150 gold (or 1.99 USD) to get into the arena, making the one you get for free exceedingly precious. You'll likely want to hold on to it until you're a bit more familiar with the game, as it'll make both your drafting and play choices far sharper.

If you choose to wait to use your arena run, the next logical step is to take your skills out on the mean streets of play mode against human opposition. You might have success with the introductory decks, but it's generally better to try and build something of your own, as you'll likely have at least a few new cards from when you first booted Hearthstone up. We'll talk in-depth deck building in a future article, but here are some basic rules:

  • You generally want to have more low cost cards than high cost cards. There's nothing worse than an opening hand that features a six mana card, a seven mana card, and Deathwing. Give yourself a good enough spread to where you'll have early options unless your deck is not designed to have those early options.

  • Pay close attention to your class specific cards. They're generally a step above basic and expert neutral cards. An example of this would be Fen Creeper. It's definitely tough at three attack and six toughness, but Druid of the Claw is a lot better as it costs the same mana and can be made into a four attack six toughness creature that can also be used as a four attack four toughness minion with charge. This is common. Make sure you know your class cards!

  • Be sure to include area of effect spells. These will always be class specific and can help you turn the tide. Most feature some kind of gimmick (with the exception of Consecration) but they're must haves as decks featuring swarms of low health creatures will always be relevant.

Again, deck building is a surprisingly deep science and these are just cursory hints designed to get you thinking about the process.

After forging your weapon of choice, it's finally time to get out there and find someone to duel. You'll have some initial quests that are fairly simple, something to the tune of 'go fight people'. While you obviously want to win, try and look at each match as a learning experience, both about the game in general and the deck you've crafted. You might find after a few matches that one class is not to your liking, and you want to switch it up. It might also become clear after watching a shaman go crazy with Doomhammer and Rockbiter Weapon that you also want to be a master of the elements. You have nine deck slots total, so you're definitely free to go back into the lab and do some home cooking in order to build a deck that suits you.

Similar to Warcraft, Hearthstone has daily quests. They can be completed in ranked or unranked mode and all of them award gold. They're the closest thing you'll have to guidance after finishing all of the starting quests, and they'll help you get the monetary resources required to build a more complete card library. You're allowed to abandon one quest per day, so if you get a quest to play priest or warlock and you don't really like either, you'll get one shot to roll the dice again for something more to your liking.

We'll end this initial primer with answers to some popular questions.

What do I do with my gold initially?

I mentioned it earlier, but the arena is awesome if you have a good understanding of the game and are feeling lucky. Arena rewards vary based on your performance within, but you'll always get at least one pack and some dust/gold. At seven wins, you actually just straight up get 150 gold, which pays for the arena run. If you feel like you can reliably make it to seven wins and farm the arena, go for it! If you're not quite there yet, there's no shame in just dropping 100 gold for a pack of cards. It'll help you build out your collection and give you some early results. Opening packs is a lot of fun, and who knows? Tirion Fordring might just be waiting for you!

I queued for a game and got rolled over by 83 of Azeroth's most storied heroes and villains. Is there a newbie friendly zone?

Unfortunately, there is not a specific ladder for newer players with smaller libraries. At the higher ranks of ranked play mode (25 to 20) you're more likely to see individuals closer to your skill level. This is not to say you won't run into someone who built their deck out of pure swag, but it's less likely. Conversely, if you hop into unranked mode, you are absolutely rolling the dice. You might get someone with no cards, you might get a Handlock. Try sticking to ranked play mode initially.

Is it better to craft neutral or class specific cards?

This is a tough question to answer, mostly because it relies heavily on how you want to play Hearthstone. If your only goal is to create a deck worthy of your favorite Warcraft class, feel free to craft those class specific cards and never look back. Generally speaking, neutral cards are more useful because you can play them in multiple decks. You might be high on rogue today, and tomorrow decide you really want to play paladin. Argent Squire is a great neutral card for aggressive versions of both classes. Additionally, climbing the ladder generally requires multiple decks. Control priest might be awesome around rank five, but you still need to wade through all the aggressive decks around rank ten, and maybe midrange druid handles it better. Having a diverse neutral minion library makes playing multiple decks a lot easier.

Hopefully this introductory guide will make it easier for you to get into the game and enjoy it as much as I do. Tune in next time when we take an in-depth look at which neutral minions are worth crafting first.