With no way to directly talk to the random foes you face on Ladder, there is only one way to communicate: the Emote system. These short six words or phrases may seem innocuous at first, but they have quickly developed into their own language; each one dripping with implied salt or sneer. Hearthstone is a game of information and bluffing, as well as identifying the mathematically optimal play. By utilizing the hidden meanings of emotes, you can steal wins from losing situations by exploiting your opponent’s hubris or paranoia; as long as you weren’t squelched in the process!
What it means: “Thanks” is perhaps the most straightforward emote. Ostensibly expressing gratitude, it’s usually to taunt an opponent after they play right into your hand. They overextend into AOE? Thanks can hammer home their error as you flamestrike. They assume you don’t have Reno and set up two turn lethal? Thanks makes the “We’re gonna be rich!” that much sweeter.
How to exploit it: Outside of simple BM (Bad Manners), Thanks, like “My Greetings,” is a surefire way to express confidence, arrogance, and make your opponent unsure about their play. When your opponent emotes Thanks, they are usually trying to tilt you by highlighting the way you played into their hand. The best counter is to figure out exactly why your opponent is so smug and use it against them.
A classic way to utilize it yourself is after a Druid Mulches one of your minions. Emoting Thanks might make them think you got a spectacular random minion in return. This can lead them to hold back removal for no good reason. Another example is if your opponent gives you draws off your Acolyte of Pain in an effort to fatigue you. “Thanks” can encourage them to believe that they are helping out your game plan, implying you have a combo finisher or something that they will try and play around, when in fact you have none. Or they may just attempt to prevent future draws. On the flip side, when they draw voluntarily, emoting “Thanks” can imply you’re intending to fatigue them. They may then be unprepared for your unexpected burst or value-based combo. More traditionally, bluffing AOE by thanking them for each additional minion played can prevent them from giving you a board too big to deal with.
What it means: Despite its tone, Threaten is the most impotent of emotes. Usually used in a losing situation as a futile expression of semi-serious rage, it implies you have little else to do with your hand. Sometimes yelling about how your magic will tear them apart is the only response to their overwhelming board.
How to exploit it: Since its use is typically from a losing position, try using it to press your advantage. Play around their remaining outs, and assume that the cards left in their hand are overly situational, or outright useless.
Implying you have no response can be hard to bluff, but incredibly potent. Typically the way to use this emote is by acting as if you have no response to a minion or board, when in fact you are holding back your most powerful answer in the hope that they go all-in and get destroyed by your perfectly timed counterplay. As well as obvious interactions with AOE, consider using it with hard removal: if you trade your whole board into their Ragnaros Lightlord while using this emote, they will hardly expect the Entomb on their Warleader or Tirion the following turn.
What it means: Outside of its traditional use at the start of the game, Greetings is the supreme expression of confidence. By far the most BM-worthy emote, Greetings is used to infuriate and provoke your opponent when you are sure they have no counter to your devastating play. It is used before lethal, but often also before simply powerful plays, like dropping Harrison Jones into Doomhammer, or Alexstrasza after a tempo Reno.
How to exploit it: If your opponent uses Greetings, they are likely becoming overconfident. Look for awkward or risky plays that might unseat them; perhaps offer them a “well played” to lull them into a false sense of security before aggressively pursuing a risky but rewarding line of play they may not have the answer for.
Using Greetings yourself makes your opponent overestimate your position. They might look for low percentage chances at lethal, or Hail-Mary plays from Discover or other types of cards. Typically it makes them play overly aggressively to try and win, despite your perceived advantage. It can also cause people to play overly defensively if they fear you have set up lethal. If you discover a card, then Greetings can make your opponent fear the worst (such as Coldarra Drake in Reno priest, or Sacrificial pact against a warlock that seeks to play Jaraxxus). It’s best used in combination with a card capable of punishing an overly aggressive play, like lifegain or a beefy taunt. It can also be a value play that can punish overly defensive action (depending on context).
What it means: Wow, at its most basic level, indicates mild surprise or shock. This is usually relating to in-game RNG; a particularly bad or good hand, or outcome from a random event are usually the most likely inspirations. This is most typically used after the player in question is on the receiving end of bad luck (though it can also be used in a conciliatory sense after good fortune).
How to exploit it: If your opponent emotes Wow without anything especially noteworthy happening on board, they are usually indicating frustration at their hand. Use this against them by playing to your deck’s strengths, and perpetuating the current advantageous situation.
Using it yourself can, like Threaten, imply your situation is weaker than it is, allowing you to goad them into overextending or making an incorrect read. For instance, passing turn one without comment might indicate you are a Control Warrior; but emoting Wow whilst mousing over certain cards before passing over the turn might make your opponent believe you are a frustrated Pirate Warrior with an unfortunate mulligan
What it means: Oops is either used sarcastically as BM, or sincerely in order to indicate recognition of a misplay. Occasionally it’s used for BM purposes, but otherwise is one of the most sincere emotes.
How to exploit it: Your opponent recognizing their screw-up makes this emote harder to exploit.
Things get more interesting when you use it yourself, however. For instance, seemingly incorrect plays that in fact disguise a higher-level strategy can be passed off as a misplay. For instance, you might deliberately leave yourself with one, rather than two, weapon durability as a Rogue. This plays around Harrison Jones, but you can pretend it was a mistake. This could perhaps lead your opponent to save Harrison for a turn you don’t play around it (that, of course, will never come). Or, if playing one of the few remaining Warrior decks that incorporate Battle Rage, then your lack of Hero Power whilst undamaged can be passed off as negligence, rather than seeking to encourage your opponent to damage your hero for a future extra draw.
What it means: Well Played is sometimes used mid-game, either sincerely to acknowledge a good line or spot-on read, or sarcastically to shame an opponents misplay. However, the overwhelming majority of uses of Well Played occur right at the end of the game, when lethal is all but assured.
How to exploit it: Most of the time, your opponent emoting well played indicates resignation if losing, and acceptance of victory if winning. If they use it unexpectedly, it’s often wise to play defensively.
Well Played is perhaps the easiest way to bluff lethal in the game; opponents are often hardwired into panicking the second they hear it. This can push them to adopt sub-optimal and overly defensive lines of play to play around anticipated burst damage. A perfect way to do this would be against any Reno deck while they are at a low, but not dangerous life total. Forcing them to Reno early can allow you to squeeze in extra damage that you otherwise miss. It can also give you the breathing room to stick a powerful minion. A classic move is while playing against a low-health Jaraxxus. A Well Played can bait out taunts or healing. You can then nullify before you draw your true combo that will actually win you the game. Fear is arguably the most powerful emotion, and as such Well Played becomes the most powerful emote to bluff with.