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Esports Hearthstone

In Praise of Positioning

Hearthstone isn’t just about smacking minions together. Sometimes, you have to think of where those minions are. Positioning is easy to overlook in most cases. But the cards that emphasise this aspect of gameplay add much-needed decision-making, interaction and depth.

Optimising adjacency

Turning totems into terrors

One of the first and most powerful positioning tricks is from adjacency buffs. Cards like Dire Wolf Alpha or Flametongue Totem seem mediocre at first, but once you learn proper positioning, their adjacency bonus can be brutally powerful. By chaining weak minions into favourable trades, you can gain massive value and tempo.

But getting the most out of them isn’t easy. For instance, you want to make sure your taunts are buffed to maximise their defensive deterrent. However, you also want to keep your weak, low health tokens close to the centre for easy chain-trading. Not to mention that you have to consider your hero power always creating minions on the far right. Add onto that trying to predict your opponent’s removal strategy, and you have a massive amount of gameplay depth for a simple mechanic.

Meteoric removal

Adjacency also comes into play with the use of removal cards like Meteor and Supercollider. These powerful options create interesting decisions not only for the player using them, but those playing around them. By forcing your opponent to position creatively, it expands gameplay.

Take Supercollider. The weapon can be devastatingly powerful in the right situation, but clever positioning can make the card utterly useless. By properly positioning taunts, tokens and high-health minions, you can play around it. However, that’s only half the story. You also need to consider what your opponent can do to set up for it. A well placed removal spell can screw up your plans to avoid the hammer, or punish you for overextending. Both players need to carefully weigh up the opponent’s resources and gameplan in order to outplay the other. This kind of cat-and-mouse gamesmanship is where Hearthstone truly shines.

Hand positioning

Positioning doesn’t just take place on the board, it occurs in the hand, too. The difference between a good and a great player is often the ability to read your opponent’s hand positioning.

Players will often mouse over cards they’re considering using, giving away vital information. When a card lingers in the far left-hand side, it’s often indicative of a clunky combo piece. By tracking the position of hand cards during different game-states, a great player will whittle down the options of what they can be down to just a few options. All of this is dependent on how positioning, use and tracking of in-hand card interacts.

But this isn’t just a one-way game. If you know your opponent is tracking your hand positioning, you can use it to your advantage. By using top-decked removal instead of the one you’ve been holding, you can bluff all sorts of things. You can use your in-hand cards strategically to get maximum use of cards like Soul Infusion or Stargazer Luna. You can even strategically hint that a certain minion is a certain spell to play around contextual cards like Demonic Project. These are just a few of the ways hand positioning helps to mold the strategic side of Hearthstone.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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