Hearthstone Deck Building Basics: Tips & Strategies [GUIDE]

Hearthstone deck building is a key skill for improving your game. A good deck will help you win more games, and win faster.

It’s important to understand the basic concepts—what makes a good deck, what makes a bad deck, and how to build your own Hearthstone decks to be competitive.

Even though this is a game of strategy, the first thing that most players think about is which cards they want to include in their decks, even though they might not all work together and lack a clear goal. A good deck needs to have a clear purpose and direction.

Hearthstone deck building is one of the most enjoyable elements of the game.  Building a unique deck, testing it out against other decks, continually optimizing the deck through minor tweaks – then seeing how well the deck fairs in constructed is a satisfying experience.  It’s also a great way to gain more knowledge of the game.

This guide will discuss the various elements and strategies that go into building a successful deck.  From ensuring you have a good strategy in mind, all the way to how you can continually optimize your deck.

Let’s start out with some of the more basic strategies, such as deck types, and move on to advanced topics from there.


Deck Archetypes

Hearthstone Deck Archetypes

The first thing you need to do before you even begin picking out which cards will be in your deck is to decide on the core strategy of the deck.

There are many online tools that analyze cards to determine which cards look good and include as many cards that seem good without thought to synergy or strategy. 

Many of these decks do not focus on an overall theme and turn out to be highly luck based.

There are many different deck strategies to consider, such as whether you would prefer to play a deck that puts pressure on your opponent early in the game for quick wins, or if you are the type of player who excels in a slow, strategic game.

We suggest trying out various deck types, and heroes to get an idea of your preferred play style. 

You may have an idea of what type of deck or play style suits you best based on the classes you prefer to play in WoW.  For example, Mages have a lot of burst damage abilities while Warriors can take more damage.

Your overall goal for the deck will determine what types of cards you should include in your deck and the deck’s mana curve. 

We have written a resource on Hearthstone Deck Archetypes that will introduce you to the various deck types you will encounter while playing Hearthstone, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Following a deck archetype brings a number of benefits:

  • It allows you to focus on the core strategy of the deck, which prevents you from creating a deck that tries to do too many things.  Too often this can blow up and end up doing nothing at all.
  • Sticking with a deck-type is good for learning the fundamentals of the game.  If you have a plan in mind when you begin building your Hearthstone deck, your play becomes more consistent.
  • By trying out various deck types, you will not only gain better insight into your preferred play style but you will be exposed to multiple situations.  Over time this will help you figure out counters and discover the quickest path to victory.

Master the Mana Curve

Master the mana curve when deck building in Hearthstone

You will also want to familiarize yourself with the principle of Mana Curves and how to ensure your deck has an appropriate mana curve.  

We have written a more in-depth Introduction to Mana Curves which you can read, but for the time being here is the basic information you need to know:

A Mana Curve is ensuring that your deck is appropriately weighted with cards of varying mana costs.  By balancing your deck appropriately, you can ensure that you have cards to play during all stages of the game.

While many may think this means you should ensure you have a similar number of high-cost to low-cost cards, it is better to have lower-cost cards than higher cost, as you can still play lower-cost cards during any stage of the game.


Card Cycling and Top Decking

Hearthstone Card Cycling & Top Decking

While a lot of effort goes into building the perfect Hearthstone deck, there is always a certain amount of pure luck involved when it comes to real-life testing. 

You may have carefully crafted your mana curve to favor low-cost cards, yet only be able to draw cards that cost a high amount of mana. 

In some games, you may even find yourself holding all of your high-cost cards, wondering where you went wrong.  While luck is always a factor, this can be managed better if you take card cycling and top decking into account.

Top decking is a situation players want to avoid at all costs, yet some of us invariably run into it.  Most of us have been in a situation where we have no usable cards in hand and are hoping that the next draw will lead to something we can play.  

This situation is problematic because it removes strategy from the game, and turns it into a game based on luck of the draw.  Instead of planning your moves in advance, you are praying that the next draw will offer what you need.

To avoid this situation, you want to try to build your deck in a way that allows you to keep useful cards in your hand throughout the entire game.  You also should practice good resource management. 

Newer players often feel that if they have the mana available, they might as well play all the cards they can with the mana they have – after all, their mana will reset next round anyways.

It is also important to hold some cards back rather than showing your entire hand, as this will keep your opponent on their toes. 

If your opponent notices you are top decking and have little to no choices, they are more likely to throw out cards they know you can’t counter. 

When you are holding onto cards, your opponent must consider whether or not that card can negatively impact whatever move they make.

Card Cycling and Drawing Power

Another way to avoid top decking is to play cards that allow you to manipulate your deck.  One of the commonly used cards in this scenario are cards that allow you to draw another card.

Other cards allow you to look at the top cards in your deck and choose the one that fits your situation the best.  This is known as card cycling. 

Cards that perform the roles above, do well in any deck.  It is advisable to have some of these cards regardless of the type of deck you intend to play.  Some examples of cards that allow card cycling, and prevent top-decking, include:

Other class-specific minions provide you with the opportunity to draw additional cards.  For example, the Mage class can use Arcane Intellect while rogues can use Shiv or Sprint.

When building a Hearthstone deck, and evaluating whether or not you have enough drawing power – keep in mind that you are “wasting” a card to draw a card. 

Due to this, spells like Arcane Intellect are a good source of drawing power, while something like Mind Vision is a poor choice considering you can only draw one card, and the card you draw comes directly from your opponent, meaning it is unlikely to synergize well with your cards. 

Instead of using Mind Vision, it may be a better choice to utilize that space with a more efficient card.


Hearthstone Deck Building: Card Types

While your deck may focus on a specific class and type of build (Burn, Control, etc).  There are certain card types that most well-rounded Hearthstone decks are likely to include.  

When you are building your deck in Hearthstone, it is important to note potential race effects and synergy between cards. 

For example, there are currently 8 races in the game:

  • Beast
  • Demon
  • Dragon
  • Elemental
  • Mech
  • Murloc
  • Pirate
  • Totem

Many cards apply buffs to other cards of a similar race, and as such there are decks built around minions of a specific race – such is the case with Murlocs.

For example:

Beasts: Have natural synergy with Hunters – Starving Buzzard, Tundra Rhino, Unleash the Hounds all add good synergy to a Hunter deck.

Demons: Warlocks can summon demons as well as play cards that interact with them:  Sense Demons, Demonfire, Sacrificial Pact, etc.

Murlocs:  Most Murlocs are synergistic with each other as they have effects that buff other Murlocs: Murloc Tidecaller, Coldlight Seer, Murloc Warleader, etc.

Pirates:  At the moment there isn’t a whole lot of synergy with Pirates, but I expect more cards to be created in the future.  Right now Captain’s Parrot and Southsea Captain are two cards which interact well with other Pirate cards.

Dragons:  There are currently no cards that interact with Dragons, though I expect this to be added.

Minion Cards

Let’s start with minion cards, the most common.  Minion cards consist of a variety of races such as humanoids, orcs, trolls, or even beasts and dragonkin. 

While your class cards are likely to have a variety of class specific creatures, chances are good you will need to include minions from the neutral side as well.

If you’ve been playing Hearthstone for any length of time, you have likely noticed that minions often have abilities that play off other minions – for example, beast minions tend to buff and play well with other beast minions, while Murloc minions do the same. 

Each minion has a different mechanic, which helps increase its synergy with other cards, or can potentially override other card mechanics. 

For example, if a minion has both Stealth and Taunt, the Taunt ability cannot work until the stealth ability has been removed.  For a detailed guide on the various card mechanics, view our post about Hearthstone card mechanics.

In addition to the mechanics they have available, such as Battlecry, some Minions have Passive Abilities. 

These are mechanics which stay in effect until the minion is either silenced or removed from the game.  A few examples of passive abilities include the Knife Juggler‘s damage and the Master Swordsmith‘s buff.

Removal Cards

There are various types of removal cards in the game.  Removal cards affect the board by neutralizing, removing, or controlling the enemies minions.

The majority of classes have different ways to deal with minions.  For example, Hunters have a Kill Command while Druids can Naturalize.

There are also cards that offer board clearing abilities such as Flamestrike or Consecration. These cards work extremely well against creature decks.

Other cards such as Sap, remove the card from play and return the card to the owner’s hand. 

You should always be careful before using Sap on a card that has a Battlecry ability, as the player can then put the card back into play, and utilize this ability twice.

Mind Control, a Priest card, can remove the enemy card from the opponent and take control of it.  

Always consider whether or not the Priest has a Mind Control card stashed away before playing your high-cost, high-damage minions, or they may take your card and win the game.

It is a good idea to include 3-7 removal spells in a deck, depending on the deck’s goals and purpose.

Utility Cards

There is another set of cards which work more as utility cards.  These include weapon cards, transformation cards, and secrets.

Weapons

A weapon card allows your Hero to equip a weapon and do direct damage, or increase the direct damage you do.  As of writing this, 5 of the 11 classes (Hunters, Paladins, Rogues, Shamans and Warriors) can utilize Weapon cards. 

However other classes can use a weapon if they take control of your weapon card through various means.

Weapon usage is restricted by Taunts, and a Hero can only attack with a weapon once per turn. 

Note that if you attack your opponent’s card, the card will still damage your Hero.  Take this into account when deciding whether or not you should clear a card from the board, or damage your opponent directly.

In addition to causing damage, weapons can also have special effects.  For example, the Truesilver Champion will heal the Hero for 2 health each time the weapon is used to attack.

The Sword of Justice grants minions that are summoned (while the card is active) a +1/+1 health at the expense of 1 durability for each minion summoned.

There are card effects that can remove a weapon, or affect the durability of your opponent’s weapons such as Acidic Swamp Ooze, Harrison Jones, or Bloodsail Corsair.

Transformation Cards

Transformation cards, such as Polymorph, will permanently transform your card into a 1/1 sheep. While this doesn’t eliminate the card entirely, it removes much of the card’s threat.

Secret Cards

The other type of utility card available is a Secret card.  These cards are put into play and activated when a specific condition occurs. 

If your opponent uses a secret card, you can tell they played a secret, but you will not know which card it is, or the conditions which activate it until the mechanic has been triggered. Multiple secrets can be active at the same time.

At the time of writing this, only Hunters, Mages, and Paladins have access to Secret cards. 

We have written a detailed article for each of the classes’ secrets including what the secrets are, how to detect the secret which was played, and how to counter the secret. 

We also have a section discussing the best times to play your secrets to ensure they are most effective.

Adjacent Card Effects

This may be more of a card mechanic, but I wanted to add it here because it may not be readily apparent that you can position your minions wherever you want on your side of the board. 

There are some minions which grant buffs to adjacent minions such as the Dire Wolf Alpha or Sunfury Protector.

Alternatively, you should keep this in mind when placing cards because opponents may be able to damage minions adjacent to another minion.

For example, the Rogue has the ability Betrayal, which causes a minion to deal its damage to adjacent minions.


Optimizing and Refining Your Hearthstone Deck

Optimizing your deck

After you have created your deck, and have played a few games with it, you will begin to notice strengths and weaknesses which will allow you to refine and further optimize your deck.

Keep in mind that each deck will have its strengths and weaknesses compared to other deck types – however if you find yourself frequently running into a specific situation, or consistently losing games – you may need to refine your deck.

As you play keep note of the following situations, and refine your deck accordingly:

Do you notice certain cards are never played?

If you have played a few games and noticed that you tend to draw a certain card on a regular basis, but decide not to play it for whatever reason – it is likely that card doesn’t fit well within your deck. 

While it may be great in some situations, those niche uses tend to be few and far between and it may be a better idea to include a card you will use more regularly.

Do you find yourself stuck in the early phases of the game?

If you find that you are unable to play the majority of cards you draw during the first few rounds, your deck may not have an appropriate mana curve. 

If you remove some higher-cost cards and add in low-cost minions, you will have an easier time obtaining early game cards to play.

Do you run out of cards (top-deck) frequently?

Adding more draw cards (such as Novice Engineer) will allow you to draw cards more frequently.  You may also need to consider adding in more high-cost cards to better level your mana curve.

You have lose against decks that can play multiple minions:

If you find you are consistently matched up against decks that play swarms of minions that quickly overwhelm you, you may need to add some AOE which will help you counter large amounts of minions with a single card.

You have difficulty with single, powerful minions:

This may be a hint that you need some more or better removal cards added to your deck. 

Removal cards such as Assassinate or high-damage spells such as Fireball will help counter and eliminate these situations.


When building your Hearthstone deck, as well as playing, it is important to keep in mind that Hearthstone has several “caps” .  Some of these are obvious, while others may be discovered at a poor time.

Deck Limitations

Decks may only contain 30 cards, you cannot create a deck with more or less.  Within that 30-card limit, there is a secondary cap of no more than 2 of each card in your deck. 

This does not apply to Legendary cards which have a maximum of 1 per deck.

Minions on Board

There is also a maximum number of minions or cards you can have on the board at one time.

While this is important information to all players, I find this particularly troublesome when playing a Warlock using a summoning portal, or when playing a Beast deck.

Maximum Cards in Hand

You may only have a maximum of 10 cards in your hand at any given time. If you have 10 cards in your hand, and it is your turn to draw, the card drawn will be destroyed. 

You will not be given a choice to discard a card from your hand, the game will show you the card you drew, and immediately destroy it.

Conclusion: Hearthstone Deck Building

Hearthstone is a game that’s been around for a while, and it’s still a favorite among new players and veterans alike. It’s easy to get started with Hearthstone, but the more you play the more you’ll want to make your deck as good as it can be.

There are two ways to build a deck in Hearthstone: with a pre-made deck or by building your own from scratch.

Pre-made decks are great for Hearthstone beginners because they give you an idea of how to play, but you’ll have to keep buying new decks if you want new cards. If you’re looking for something more long-term, then building your own Hearthstone deck may be right for you!

Building your own deck is relatively easy, all you need is some basic knowledge of how cards work together and how they affect each other in battle.

Hopefully, our Hearthstone deck building guide is helpful to you in getting you started crafting cards and building your own deck.


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