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Besting Battlegrounds: A Battlegrounds Strategy Guide

by - 2 months ago

Hearthstone’s Battlegrounds was announced at Blizzcon and released–in Beta form–just a few days later. Since that time, it has taken the Hearthstone community by storm, bringing old faces back into the game and taking over most streamers’ content. Many of us, myself included, are, frankly, obsessed. But a perhaps equally large number of players (again, myself included) don’t have prior experience with autobattlers, and may not know where to start when entering the Battlegrounds. This article should help with that.

Last updated: January 12, 2020–Patch 16.0.8:

We’ve had a few Battlegrounds updates since this guide has been updated, including the biggest update since the mode launched–the removal of Nightmare Amalgam from the game. we have also had heroes come and go, as well as changes to various minions. The result has been an upheaval of the basic way we play the mode, as well as more specific differences to tierlists and micro-decisions, which means a major overhaul of this guide as well. The constantly shifting things in and out of the game means that some portions of the guide have merely been crossed out for now, with the expectation that they might be relevant again at a later time. Other potions have just been deleted or rewritten, including some improvements to the portions (like the Battlegrounds Basics) that didn’t have in-game changes. Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoy! 

I. Battleground Basics

Bob believes in you.

A. Tutorial “Cliffnotes”

The Battlegrounds tutorial does a good job of teaching players the basics of the game, so we’ll start with the assumption that you have at least played through that. If you haven’t, go ahead and do that first. As a reminder, here’s an outline of what the tutorial covers:

  • Buy minions for 3 gold. Sell minions back to Bob for 1 gold.
  • You can also pay to upgrade your Tavern Tier (cost goes down by 1 each turn) and to re-roll the minions offered to you (always costs 1 gold).
  • You can hit the snowflake to freeze the board, so that it’s offered to you again on the next turn. You can hit the snowflake again to unfreeze if you change your mind.
  • You don’t keep any unspent gold from the round.
  • You can move minions after they’re placed on the board. Otherwise, normal board space and positioning rules apply.
  • Minions attack from left to right and attack random targets, unless there is a Taunt on the board, in which case, they attack that first.
  • Combat ends when one or both players have 0 minions left. If both players hit an empty board at the same time, it is a tie and no damage is done between the players. If one player has minions left over and the other does not, damage is equal to the winning heroes Tavern Tier + the Tavern Tier of each of the surviving minions (tokens have a Tavern Tier of 1, but cards that were generated from other cards keep their Tavern Tiers).
  • Buy three of the same minion and they will combine into a more powerful version that goes into your hand (no matter where the original versions were).
  • When you play the combined minion, you will get a Triple Reward, which is a free spell that allows you to discover a minion of one Tavern Tier higher than the Tavern Tier you are at when you play the upgraded minion (not the Tavern Tier you were at when you made the minion, a subtle but important distinction–Blizzpro note: we could have sworn it was the inverse before, but we got feedback and tested it ourselves and confirmed it works this way now; we’re not sure if this is a change or if we were mistaken before).

B. Other Basic Rules and Facts

Here are a couple other basic things to keep in mind that are not covered in the tutorial:

  • You can triple up on tokens generated by minions (at the Tavern, not during combat) as well, not just the minions you buy. However, if you buy a third copy of a token generator, it will triple up with the other two generators before you can play it and the golden version will make a golden token–which you can’t triple up. Therefore, if you want two triples from your token generators, you actually need four of them.
  • All minions pull from the same pool of minions, which means that when you buy a minion, that makes it less likely to appear in subsequent offerings. Conversely, when you sell a minion, it is more likely to appear in subsequent offerings. When you triple minions, they count as being outside the pool. When you sell a golden a minion, all three copies return to the pool.
  • When you are at a Tavern Tier, the minions that are offered to you are a straight-random selection from your Tavern Tier and all the Tiers below you (if any). There is no weighting to make it so that you are more likely to get higher tier minions as you get higher in Tavern Tiers, for instance.
  • In Tavern Tier 1, there are 12 unique cards and 18 copies of each; in Tavern Tier 2, there are 15 cards, with 15 copies of each; in Tavern Tier 3, there are 19 cards, 13 copies of each; in Tavern Tier 4, there are 14 cards, 11 copies of each; Tavern Tier 5, 14 cards with 9 copies of each; and in Tavern Tier 6, there are 8 cards, with 6 copies of each. These numbers have changed slightly over time as various minions are moved from tier to tier, or straight removed from the game, but the numbers remain roughly the same. You can use that information to calculate some baseline odds of rolling a particular unit you want, as community member and Coin Concede cohost, Ridiculous Hat has done in an easily consumable form (also including a Dancing Daryl calculator).
  • The number of minions offered during the buy phase goes up by one on even Tavern Tiers.
  • You get additional features for having acquired packs from the most recent set (currently set at Descent of Dragons). At 10 packs, you get a stats page (at the time of writing, that is still unavailable, but the first phase of it is expected to go live on December 5th); at 20 packs, you get to choose from three heroes at the start of the game, instead of just two (this is a big difference, in terms of gameplay); and at 30 packs, you get special emotes. Once Descent of Dragons goes live on December 10th, you can get those packs via gold, but until that point, you can only unlock those features by buying the pre-order bundle.
  • You can mouse over your opponent’s heroes on the left side in order to see some information about how they’re doing. The information you get from them on the left can help inform what their composition is looking like (such as, if they are still at Tavern Tier 3 and they have not had any triples, they almost certainly do not have a cleave, since the first cleave is at Tavern Tier 4). The player that is bumped out from the list is the one that you will be going up against next.
  • When there are an odd number of players left, one player will get paired against Kel Thuzad, who will play as the player who most recently died. Keep an eye out for when people die, and what the last person to die had when they died. If you get paired against a person who died several turns ago, their board will be no match for yours and you can safely be greedy by spending all your gold to upgrade your Tavern Tier early, or by ending your turn with less than a full board so that you could buy that one last minion.

II. General Tips, Builds, and Strategies

Although Battlegrounds is constantly changing–be it via balance changes or natural meta shifts–but there are some general rules and trends that you should at least be aware of as you enter the Battlegrounds.

A. Basic Flow of the Game

The first thing you should know, is the basic cadence of the first few turns. Which tends to be as follows:

  • Turn 1 (3 Gold): Buy a minion, preferably one of the two that has a Battlecry that summons a minion.
  • Turn 2 (4 Gold): Upgrade your tavern to Tavern Tier 2.
  • Turn 3 (5 Gold): Sell your token (if you got one) and buy two Tier 2 minions.
  • Turn 4 (6 Gold): Buy two minions.
  • Turn 5 (7 Gold): Buy a minion and upgrade to Tavern Tier 3.
  • Turn 6 (8 Gold): Buy, sell, reroll, and/or use your Hero Power to buff up your team as much as you can.
  • Turn 7 (9 Gold): Buy a minion and upgrade to Tavern Tier 4.

That’s the level one, most basic start to most games with most heroes. Certain heroes, card offerings, and metagames will make it sometimes better to deviate from that plan, but you should still keep that plan in mind as your basic outline. After the removal of Nightmare Amalgam and the nerf to Lightfang Enforcer, for instance, people far more frequently diverge from this basic gameplan, as it is no longer as important to race to those key minions that almost everyone is vying for. Still, as they say, you have to learn the rules to know when to break them and this is a good rule of thumb for maximizing your value for the first half of the game.

B. Basic Metagame and Strategies

Another important thing to note is what the general metagame looks like, as that will dictate both what minions you will want to look for and when you want to time your triples. It’s better not to fight what is being offered to you by forcing a particular composition, and instead to make the best of what you can with what you get, but this knowledge can help you maximize your plays within whatever you are building–and will help inform you on when it might be time to pivot to something else.

For instance, even after the recent changes, one of the best and most common strategies is to build a big board of a few different types of minions–a “Menagerie,” as it’s called–so you can take advantage of the highest amount of minion buffs. Usually, that entails a Nightmare Amalgam or two, a powerful Mech, a powerful Beast, a powerful Murloc, and a powerful Demon (with Amalgam(s) filling in for the tribes you’re missing), as well as Brann and/or Lightfang Enforcer to give the rest of your units several big buffs every turn. That means a few things for how you play, but the main major gameplay things it dictates are:

  • It means you always take Nightmare Amalgam early, and often in the mid-game, too, as it will become an important part of your end composition; and,
  • It means you aggressively look for pairs on your turns 4-7 while buying, and that you try to save triples for until you make it to Tavern Tier 4 (often even freezing a particular minion for a few turns to do so), so that you have the maximum number of chances to discover Brann and/or Lightfang Enforcer as early as possible; and,
  • Key minions, like Nightmare Amalgam, Lightfang Enforcer, and Brann Bronzebeard, will appear less frequently than their counterparts, since everyone’s snatching them up and holding on to them through their final comps.

Patch 16.0.8 update: the “Menagerie” build no longer drives the pace of the game, as the composition got both harder to pull off and weaker with the removal of Nightmare Amalgam, but we’re keeping this section in here, crossed out, because if they bring Nightmare Amalgam back, we expect the meta to revert to this, at least initially, unless big changes are made to prep for Amalgam’s return.

Right now, the Deathrattle build kind of slots right in to the same cadence as the Menagerie used to: upgrade your Tavern Tier on 4, 7, and then 9 gold; look for your best deathrattle minions (Selfless Hero, Kaboom Bot, Spawn of N’Zoth, and Mechano-Egg) along the way; save your triples until you are at Tavern Tier 4 so you have a chance to discover a payoff card (Baron Rivendare being the best, of course, for Deathrattles). This is one of the stronger compositions these days, and part of that is that it can pretty easily fit into that basic cadence outlined above. However, even then, the composition is not nearly as popular as the Menagerie build was, so it dictates the flow of your game less than it used to. The better tactic is to just get the best, synergistic if possible, minions for the first few turns, and then make your moves based on the strengths and weaknesses of the build you end up with. 

You go through the same analysis no matter what composition you are going for: identify the key minions and what Tiers they are on so that you can maximize your chances of getting them as quickly as possible. I have a section below that gives you the basic rundown of how to do that for each major comp these days.

Next, you want to keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of your hero and comp, and try to move towards choices that synergize with your strengths and/or cover your weaknesses. For instance, George the Fallen has a hero power that permanently gives one of your minions Divine Shield. This power is more useful for something like Demons or Beasts, where you want to make sure a key minion survives and there aren’t great ways to make sure it does so, and it is less of a benefit to compositions like Mechs, where you already get Divine Shields naturally. In that sense, it opens up space for you that is a little weaker in most of the other classes. Similarly, if you are looking at your composition and find that it is weak to Divine Shields, you might want to pick up a cleaving minion; if your comp has no way to handle giant minions, you might want to look for poison effects.

Finally, keep in mind that we are currently in a pretty aggressive metagame, where people often spend more early turns building their board up with the best of whatever they are offered, instead of re-rolling a bunch for the perfect thing or leveling their Tavern Tier up aggressively. You often want to get to a full board as early as possible, as that increases the chances that you get to dictate attack order. Early on, quantity is generally better than quality, but once you get to the mid- to late-game, everyone has full boards and you need to focus on making sure you have quality minions.

C. Some General Tips on Placement

Placement is very important, as it can often determine the difference between a win and a loss with the same comp. Usually, after you’ve made all your moves for the turn, you want to spend a bit of time moving your units around and making sure they are in their best spots. Then, watch the combat phase–instead of tabbing away–to see how your placement did, and to make note of your opponents’ comps. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • You generally want to put minions that you want to die early (such as those with Deathrattles that buff your board in some way) towards the front of your comp, so as to maximize the chances that they die and get their effect off to maximum value. Occasional exception: when your next opponent is Rafaam, you might want to mess with your first minion placement if you can afford to do so, so as to prevent Rafaam from getting out of control early.
  • Conversely, you generally want minions that need to stay alive for their effects (such as those with static buffs, like Murloc Warleader or buffs whenever one of you other minions is summon or dies, like Mama Bear and Junkbot, respectively) more towards the right, so they don’t hurl themselves to their death before you get their full benefit.
  • Watch out for cleave effects. Even if you have something to the far right, it might still be in danger of dying early if it is right next to a Taunt. You can use less important minions as a security “buffer” between your Taunt(s) and your more important minions, as insurance against such cleaves.
  • You generally want your token generators to have room to generate their tokens, or else you’re not getting their full value. For token generators that only generate a few tokens (like a Security Rover), that means they should probably go somewhere towards the middle. For token generators that generate many tokens (like a buffed Rat Pack), you want to make sure they are more to the right, so that more minions would have died by the time they do so. Be careful about giving token generators Taunt, as it may result in them dying first and not having room to get their tokens out! In the specific case of Cobalt Guardian, you generally want it directly to the left of whatever mech-producing minions you have, and to place both such that there will probably be room for the generator to make at least one token–you want to maximize the odds that your Cobalt Guardian gets at least two instances of Divine Shield, or else you’re leaving its value on the table.
  • Big Taunts and/or Divine Shields, especially things Magnetized by Annoy-o-Module, are common. You should anticipate your opponent doing this, and set your first attacking minion up as your Divine Shield buster. Good choices for that are minions with weaker bodies (like Brann) that you don’t mind losing, and/or cleave minions (Cave Hydra or Foe Reaper) that can pop multiple Divine Shields and/or take something else out as they pop the shield. Your second attacker should then be someone who you think is up to the task of taking down the big taunt–or at least putting a meaningful dent in it–like a big guy of your own, or a Poisonous minion.
  • Related tip: later in the game, it’s often a bad idea to have just one big taunt, even if it has Divine Shield, as it is very common for people to anticipate this and put a Poisonous minion second from their left, specifically to kill your big taunty Divine Shield minion. If you can, you should think about getting yourself a few Taunts–which has the added bonus of allowing you to take advantage of the very powerful Strongshell Scavenger buff–or find some other way to mitigate this strat.

A decent board, but not the best placement. Normally, you’d want your token generators to have room, and to make sure your buffing minions are to the right of what they are buffing. On top of that, Zapp is a good first attacker as it can snipe important minions while ignoring Taunts.

III. Key Minions and General Gameplans for the Main Strategies

Lightfang Menagerie and/or Brann Menagerie

The Lightfang Menagerie and the Brann Menagerie builds were already discussed above. The key cards are good minions to soak up buffs, the namesake card(s), and then at least one rotating slot to buy and sell more buffs each turn. The makeup of the “few good minions to soak up buffs” depends a little on which route you are going, with Lightfang obviously caring more that you have a specific minion of each type to eat buffs, whereas Brann can lean more into just a couple tribes. Another major difference is that with Lightfang, you are often looking for triples of your specific minions, as you are more loathe to sell the big guys you’ve built up, whereas with Brann, you want to buy–and then immediately sell–just about any buff you can get. Menagerie Magician, Primalfin Lookout, and Strongshell Scavenger (if it has targets, though Defender of Argus can help with that) are all amazingly powerful once you have Brann out. Edward Van Cleef and Brann (when he is an available hero) are good from the Brann Battlecry build, since they both already like you buying and selling a lot. The Curator is good with either version of the Menagerie build, since he starts with a key target, ready to go! Rafaam can end up giving you stuff that helps either Menagerie build, depending on what you get, but tends to be a hodge-podge anyway, since you are stealing from everyone else’s builds, which sometimes lends itself to Menagerie builds.

The new Menagerie engine?

However, both versions of this composition are substantially weaker now than they were before Nightmare Amalgam was removed from the minion pool. It’s simply much harder to get your menagerie buffs to land, and you are now much slower to get the ball rolling, so it’s no longer the best play at every stage of the game and may not be the best strategy at any phase. I would no longer recommend aiming for this type of composition unless you are playing as Wagtoggle, who was buffed with the latest patch and appears to be pretty solid if you can find her the right targets. Still, regardless of your hero, if the cards are offered to you, you can definitely get a top 4, or even a 1st place, so don’t fight what the cards give you!

Deathrattle

In a few ways, Deathrattle comps have taken a spot something like a that which the Menagerie builds held before Nightmare Amalgam was removed from the game. As explained above, it is similar to the old Menagerie builds in the sense that it tends to follow the same game cadence: level on 4 gold, 7 gold, and 9 gold, and try to triple into my core Tier 5 minion (in this case, Baron Rivendare instead of Lightfang or Brann). You can do that, because the core minions (such as Kaboom Bot, Mechano-Egg, and Baron) tend to line up decently for it, and are some of the best minions for the earlier tiers anyway, so you don’t fall behind in the early game–as was also the case in the old Menagerie builds. But, it is also similar to Menagerie in that there are actually two different ways you can take this build: those that are primarily mech-based and those that are not. Usually, what you do is you try to find the best minions you can early and throughout the game–which, luckily, includes some of the key Deathrattle guys–make sure you get your Baron(s), of course, and see how you can go from there. If you end up with lots of Kaboom Bots and Mechano-Eggs, then you spend your endgame looking for Kangor’s Apprentices; whereas if you end up with more Selfless Heros, Spawn of N’Zoths, and/or Goldrinn, the Great Wolfs, then you look for Ghastcoilers at the top end. I don’t have a specific turn on which I tavern tier up from Tavern Tier 4, but you definitely get to Tavern Tier 5 at a regular pace, if you can, and then you can continue to look for your Baron(s) and triples for your Deathrattles, and try to triple into your Tier 6 top-end minions.

Once you have your golden Deathrattles and your (golden, if you’re lucky) Baron, you get something like 6 activations of each Deathrattle per death! I like to make sure some of my important Deathrattles have Taunt, both to protect your Baron and to make sure your Deathrattles go off in the right order. One last note that is important to remember: if you have a golden Baron and a regular Baron, you get a total of 4x your Deathrattles, so you can keep that in mind as well. This is one of the more powerful strategies in the game right now. In the early game, you are just picking the best minions you can, so you do fine early; then, in the middle of the game, you get your power spike if you hit that Baron early; and then in the late game, it is one of the strongest finishers you can get–though if the game goes too long, you can’t quite scale as well as some of the other strategies. Basically: if you can survive until you get Baron and a few good Deathrattles, you will usually get a Top 4 finish, and can definitely take home plenty of first place finishes, though you will sometimes get outclassed, and are always a little reliant on your minions attacking and being attacked in the right order–and if you have Ghastcoilers and/or Shredders, hoping you get good drops from them, too.

Mechs

Early on in Battlegrounds, Mechs were the go-to and dominant strategy. However, since that time, Junkbot was moved up to Tavern Tier 5, and Millie Manastorm was removed from the game and then brought back again, with a nerfed hero power. As a result of the changes, Mechs are no longer king. Though, there are definitely some strong mechs to look out for. Cobalt Guardian is still one of the best Tavern Tier 3 minions in the game, and it synergizes very well with Replicating Menace and Security Rover, both of which are solid cards in their own right. Even early cards like Harvest Golem and Kaboom Bot can serve you well into the mid- or even late-game. Metaltooth Leaper is only a Tavern Tier 2, so you can expect to see them early and often in most games. Generally, you don’t decide to go pure mechs unless/until you get a Junkbot, but they’re strong enough that you can commit to it earlier, if you get the right Tier 3-4 guys, and not be too punished. The biggest weakness of Mechs is that their only answer to big guys is their own big guys, usually in the form of Junkbot, and sometimes Cobalt Guardian doesn’t get his Divine Shield when you need it. The general game plan is to do the basic turns 1-7 outlined above and then sit on Tavern Tier 4 for a while to collect your key mechs and, hopefully, triple into a Junkbot. This strategy can have some overlap with the Mech-based Deathrattle strategy, so if you are lucky, you can push that decision off until you get that triple and decide based on which you get offered then. One important note, however: if you’re planning on using Khangor’s Apprentice, putting Replicating Menace on your giant, taunted Mech may become a liability, so if you are planning on straddling the line between the two builds and deciding on that nine-gold turn, keep that in mind.

Murlocs

Murlocs used to be considered one of the weakest Tribes in the game, but then there were balance changes–and another wave of balance changes–and a new minion added to them–to make them much better, helping them skyrocket up the tierlists! Perhaps a bit too high up the tierlists… So they were adjusted back down a little to make up for them getting all those buffs. After all those changes, Murlocs in a decent–but fair–spot, which, you know, was probably the whole point of all those balance tweaks.

Murlocs are good at early game, since so many of their strong cards come early, and they are good in the late game (if the game cooperates and gives you what you want), but their main weakness is towards the middle of the game and their reliance on a key Tavern Tier 6 minion late. The reason why Murlocs are so strong early is that you already usually want a lot of their cards early: Murloc Tidehunter is arguably the best Tier 1 minion for any build, Rockpool Hunter is above-rate, and the other early murlocs are pretty solid as well. Like always, you probably don’t want to force Murlocs, because most strategies are worse when you are pigeonholing yourself early instead of going with what the game offers you, but if you see yourself getting lots of strong Murlocs in the first few Tavern Tiers, you might choose to lean into it. Usually when I play Murlocs, I just play pretty normally and happen to be offered lots of strong Murlocs that I, of course, take. Coldlight Oracle, Murloc Warleader, and/or Old Murk-Eye are pretty important for surviving during the mid-game, and then you can spend a few turns at Tavern Tier 4 trying to get triples (aiming for Brann, Primalfin lookout, and king Bagurgle), and then spend a few turns at Tavern Tier 5 doing the same (looking for Gentle Megasaur, your main payoff card). Finally, once you get to a good spot to do so, you Tavern Tier up to 6 and just look for Megasaurs and maybe some final triples or other good Battlecries. The end-goal is to make a board of beefy murlocs that have been hit by a couple Gentlesaur effects so that they all have Divine Shield and Poisonous, and then, if you’re lucky, Windfury and maybe even the Deathrattle. Since you are already looking for Poisonous, the attack buff is the lowest priority. For the same reason that Brann is good with Murlocs, Shudderwock is a particularly good hero if you are planning on forcing Murlocs.

Demons

Demons also got a buff in recent patches, in the form of Floating Watcher, which instantly became one of the strongest Tavern Tier 3 minions in the game if you have the support for it, and the buff to Soul Juggler, which is really good once it gets golden now. Demons also have two different–sometimes overlapping–compositions with kind of overlap with those two powerful 3-stars: one in which they make a few beefy guys, and one in which they go for more of a token route, hoping to take advantage of Soul Juggler. Demons have some of the strongest mid-game plans in the game, as that is when their guys have the biggest relative size advantage, but have weaker early and late games. Their early game struggles from the fact that their cards take a little while to get rolling, and damage you in the meantime. Their late game struggles because they do not have any natural cleaves, Divine Shields, or Poisonous, which are basically the three most important mechanics late in the game. They rely on just being bigger than their opponent, which doesn’t work well if you opponent has infinite health (Divine Shield) and infinite attack (Poisonous). Another weakness, at all points in the game, is that many of their synergy cards don’t themselves hold the Demon tag. Still, I’ve had them work for me a decent number of times, especially since far fewer builds have Divine Shield and Poisonous, now that Amalgam is out of the game. Wrath Weaver is as weak as you can get on a turn 1 play, but it is better now that Floating Watcher is available, since they synergize so well with each other. Still, punting the first few turns isn’t that appealing, so you don’t usually hone in on Demons on turn 1 unless your other initial offerings were equally as bad or happen to all just line up very well. You really lock in to Demons around Tavern Tier 3, where some of their very best minions are. You spend a few turns getting what you need there, and especially picking up doubles, and then you upgrade to Tavern Tier 4 and immediately get a triple and aim for Mal’Ganis or Voidwalker (both are great on that turn for either build, but the Soul Juggler version prefers Voidwalker and the “beefy minions” version tends to prefer Mal’Ganis), Battlemaster is also not bad. If you don’t get either then, you need to either pivot or force Tavern Tier 5 quickly to go digging for him. Your various demons were hurting you throughout the game, so Mal’Ganis is key to letting you keep the demon train going–though, Mal’Ganis also shuts off Floating Watcher, so if you have a bit of a health cushion, you could afford to wait a bit longer for more Watcher value. Once you have him, though, you just stay on 5 for a long time and look for triples. Demons have no Tavern Tier 6 target, so you never have to Tavern Tier up for them. If you have the space for them, playing two Annihilan Battlemasters onto the field before you buy your third makes for a MASSIVE golden once you build it. Due to Demons’ inherent weaknesses, some of the better heroes for Demons are Patchwerk (more life cushion for you to damage yourself before you get to Mal’Ganis), George the Fallen (to cover the lack of Divine Shields), and Nefarian (to counter enemy Divine Shields; roughly equivalent to covering the lack of cleaves).

Beasts

Beasts have had, perhaps, the biggest fall from grace in Battlegrounds. Beasts (read: Mama Bear) were hyped up at the Battlegrounds reveal and, so, everyone rushed to find her. Beasts were also popular early on because they are relatively easy to build (just buy all the “Beast” stuff) and to play (put your Goldrinn and/or Hydra on the far left, your beefy beasts in the middle, your token generating beasts towards the right, and your cards that buff your tokens or benefit from them dying on the far right). It’s a very linear strategy and, as a result, is great for people who are just learning the game. However, as strategies evolve and players get better, Beasts haven’t kept up. They still have a very powerful midgame (probably the strongest in the game, really), but they don’t scale late as well as the other Tribes do, and they, like Demons, suffer from the lack of Divine Shield or Poisonous. They do have a natural cleave effect over Demons, but that is offset, in my opinion, by the fact that they are much more susceptible to auto-losing due to a key minion–like your Mama Bear–getting sniped early. Nowadays, I play Beasts early and mid- if they are offered to me, but I really don’t like sticking to them late if it can be in any way avoided. The most powerful midgame cards are Rat Pack and Pack Leader, which combo well with each other. Scavenging Hyena is sometimes solid in the early-to-mid game as well. As you move up the Tiers, Cave Hydra is the only thing that really excites you until you get to Mama Bear (both Goldrinn and Highmane are fine, but not really hard targets). Then–and this is another problem with the build–you want to start looking for triples and duplicates of your cards so that you can replay them after you have Mama Bear on the board. One last tip: do not play Houndmaster on your Rat Pack–you want that card to die after most of your board is gone, so you get the max number of tokens. Similar to Demons, the problem with Beasts is that they tend to want to “fight fair,” winning by just throwing a good number of decently-sized minions at you. Similar to Demons, there are certain heroes that can help you do that a little better. Nefarian and George the Fallen can help you make up the Divine Shield deficit, and George is particularly good, since your primary concern in most Beast builds is keeping Mama Bear alive long enough to summon six 7/5s off your (usually golden) Rat Pack. The Lich King is decent with Beasts for the same reason.

Tech Cards

As you watch your combat phases, especially later in the game, you should get a pretty good idea of what your opponents are building. Sometimes, you can pick up key tech cards to counter what your upcoming opponent is doing–that can be the difference between finishing first and finishing fourth! For instance, Zapp Slywick is good late because it counters several key, strategy anchoring cards, such as: Junkbot, Mama Bear, Baron Rivendare, Soul Juggler, and Khangor’s Apprentice. It also just disrupts your opponent’s position, which might make your cleaves more effective. However, Zapp is hard-countered by Maexxna, which is usually your lowest-attack minion and, therefore, kills Zapp on his first attack. Foe Reaper is just a generally solid minion, but it is also a good tech card against opponents with many Divine Shields–I have had Murloc-build mirrors where we both had Divine Shield and Poisonous on all our murlocs, and so that Cleave was the deciding factor in that game.

IV. Specific Hero Strategies

[Planned for a subsequent version of this guide.]

V. Miscellaneous Niche Tips I Couldn’t Fit Anywhere Else

  • If you are going against a Nefarian late in the game, and you have a Cobalt Guardian, you should set up your board to give Cobalt Guardian Divine Shield back before it attacks. One way to do that is to put a token generator before it. If your token generator is a Security Rover, though, then you can next level your opponent by selling down to 6 units and keeping your Cobalt to the left of your Rover–spending that extra gold to invest in the next turn. The whole point of Nefarian is to use his hero power every turn late in the game to clear Divine Shield, so your opponent will almost certainly use it. When the hero power goes off, your Cobalt loses Divine Shield, then your Rover generates a minion and immediately gives it back, then your minions get to attack as they normally would.
  • If you are going against the new hero, Rafaam, you will want to switch up your placement. No longer will it be a good idea to put your Lightfang or Brann first to pop a Divine Shield, unless you plan on that player dying in the next turn or two. Even cards that deliver buffs might be avoided if you have a better option. Keep that in mind when you see you are going up against Rafaam.
  • This most recent patch is the first time we have had more than 24 heroes in the game. That means, for the first time, even if all players had unlocked all the in-game bonuses, not all heroes will be offered in each game. That means that you will no longer see all or most of the best heroes every game. However, in practice, I haven’t noticed a substantial difference.

Nicholas Weiss

Is a lawyer by day and a cardslinger by night. He's decent at both. He's been playing Hearthstone since open beta and writing about it for a few years now.


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