As much as we wish we were perfect hyper-calculating cyborgs when we play Hearthstone, we are all too human. Be it through tiredness, tilt or just plain temporary idiocy, misplays are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to optimise our play. By identifying common patterns of the stupid, or not-so-stupid mistakes we make, we can get that extra edge. So with that in mind, here are several subtle but extremely common misplays to recognise and avoid.
The “I meant to do that!”
I’m guilty of this one. Sometimes our shame at a misplay will compel us to cover up our mistake by pursuing a completely different strategy where the play makes sense. As a classic example, let’s say we just hit a Twilight Drake with our Blood Razor, setting it to 2 health. Since we have Slam in hand, this is a pretty bad misplay, as we missed a free draw. But if we Execute it instead, we’ll have fooled our opponent into thinking we didn’t have any other option, and only we will know our mistake. However, assuming we value Execute more than Slam, we’ll be in a worse spot as a result.
This kind of misplay makes a bad situation worse. Our inability to own up to our error makes it even less likely we can redeem ourselves and win the game. At its worst, it’s a form of denial, preventing us from learning and improving our play.
To avoid this type of error, whenever you notice a misplay, stop and re-evaluate the situation. Consciously decide to make the best decision for that moment, instead of retro-actively justifying prior decisions.
Overdraw is a powerful tool in a few situations, as well as advancing a fatigue gameplan. It’s particularly potent against Combo decks that rely on drawing multiple key pieces. However, it often comes at a cost. If you’re overdrawing your opponent, you’re often giving them additional resources while expending your own. To make matters worse, often overdrawing your opponent is utterly irrelevant. If they don’t have multiple combo pieces and the game isn’t going to fatigue, destroying cards from their deck is often totally irrelevant.
Many players eagerly play Naturalize or repeatedly trigger Acolyte to overdraw their opponent; even if it means losing tempo, expending resources and filling the opponent’s hand with useful cards.
Before overdrawing your opponent, consider what it costs. Sure, you might get their Gul’dan, but it might just make Gul’dan closer. Does your opponent’s deck have multiple dependent synergies that are worth interrupting? Will the game go to fatigue? How many cards will you give them in order to burn some? How much tempo are you giving up?
It’s no secret that tilt massively reduces winrate. When you’re annoyed, you make more mistakes. But the impact goes deeper than mechanical errors. When you’re in a bad mood, then pessimism can make you play overly cautiously.
If you’ve just lost to perfect top-decks multiple times in a row, you may be tempted to play around that second Hellfire early on. But lucky and unlucky streaks aren’t real, and your prior experiences will have no effect on your odds in future games.
It’s important to separate your play from what has happened in recent games. If you’re on a winning streak, you’re not any more likely to draw the cards you need, and vice versa. When you’re not playing, think through your gameplan in different matchups, and only deviate from it based on what has happened in the game you’re in. Keep your head in the game, not in the last one.
Finally, an incredibly common cause of misplays is just habit. A lot of learning Hearthstone decks is learning patters and responding to them. Even in a broader sense, we learn how to make “good” trades, how to recognise strong development, and what’s a “safe” life total against different classes. Unfortunately, a lot of what we learn isn’t universally applicable. Rules like “save hard removal for big threats” or “prioritise lifegain against Aggro” are generally correct, but counterexamples come more often than you think.
Pro players in particular tend to be adept at finding the best play even when it seems counter intuitive. Using hard removal on a small minion, developing rather than healing against Aggro, and taking unusual trading strategies are often correct in a given situation.
Ignorance is bliss
It’s hard to avoid tunnel vision. This is especially true when evaluating how you’re playing. It pays to take a step back and look at your decisions neutrally.
Above all, the best way to address misplays is to find them later and analyse them. Find a way to record your games, be it through video or dedicated deck trackers. Watch back your losses and find the mistakes, especially in the losses.
And don’t be too disheartened at the ones you find. Recognising mistakes is the best way to get better; or at least, less bad. At the bare minimum, you’ll at least get better at recognising your opponent’s mistakes as well.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.