While other Blizzard titles like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm dominated the competitive gaming space in 2016, the digital card-based Hearthstone also saw some of its most massive updates and shifts in the metagame to date. Over 300 new cards were added between Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, making for plenty of brand new deck builds and strategies to adapt to.
Hearthstone may seem simple at first, but getting ready to rise through the competitive ranks and play it like an e-sport can take serious amounts of practice, packs and playstyle changes. Below, we’ve assembled a list of the best deck you can build for each class to become a serious Hearthstone competitor.
Druid decks have always made use of their Hero Ability to manipulate mana crystal reserves and play powerful cards early on. The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion added a new family of cards for Druids to play with, based around the Jade Golem. This creature isn’t a playable card itself, but can only be summoned by other spells and minions. Each monster’s stats shift, based on how many other Jade Golems the player has already summoned. The first will be a 1/1, the second a 2/2, and so on.
A successful deck will make use of the cards Jade Behemoth, Jade Blossom, Jade Idol, and Jade Spirit, all of which can summon a Jade Golem. The Idol lets you summon multiple Golems quickly and with low cost, while the Blossom can accelerate your mana growth. This will put you ahead early in the game, making way for higher-cost cards like Aya Blackpaw, who summons a Jade Golem as both a battlecry and deathcry. Coupled with standard Druid cards like Innervate and Wild Growth to control your mana, this deck will allow you to get powerful Jade Golems out well before your opponent will have a chance to counter.
Secrets are one of the most useful mechanics for any Hearthstone player. Since they remain hidden until sprung, even the most experienced opponents can never know for sure what lies in wait. Hunter decks use a wide range of spells that can damage the enemy and remove minions from the battlefield, and the Karazhan adventure added more ways to ramp up their destructive power earlier this year. Cloaked Huntress is an essential card, as it will allow you to play spells for zero mana cost. With two of these in your deck, you’ll be in good shape to rely on powerful spells including Explosive Trap, Freezing Trap, and Snipe.
The Secretkeeper is a great class-neutral minion to include, as each time one of your secrets is revealed by the opponent, it gains additional attack and defense. Some additional class-specific cards will make up the rest of the deck, with spells like Tracking and Kill Shot to help you control the field. Any beast minions, or cards that allow you to summon them, will make your arsenal of spells and secrets more formidable. Keep a Houndmaster around to bolster your beasts late in the game, and you should have no trouble winning more than a few matches with this deck.
Just because Mage is the class introduced in the tutorial doesn’t mean it isn’t responsible for some of the most competitively viable decks in Hearthstone. Freeze decks have dominated ranked play since launch, and for good reason. Using spells to clear up the opponent’s side of the board and counter their strongest monsters is a tried-and-true path to victory. Ice Lance and Freezebolt can deal damage and freeze enemies, while Ice Barrier and Ice Block protect your hero in critical situations. Frost Nova and Blizzard can instantly freeze all enemy minions, giving you the opportunity to pick off weaker characters with your hero ability, Fireblast.
Mage decks rely on damaging spells more than class-specific minions, so neutral cards with the ability to help you draw cards are essential for a Freeze deck. Low-cost minions like Novice Engineer and Loot Hoarder will fit in well with the bevy of damaging spells you deal out. Powerful spells like Flamestrike and Pyroblast can be used near the end of the game to strike a decisive victory, but you shouldn’t need more than one of each in your deck. Stock your deck full of standard Mage spells like Fireball and Arcane Intellect, and you’ll have a reliable strategy that should win plenty of games.
The aggressive, or Aggro, playstyle used to rule Hearthstone, but recent expansions have moved the focus elsewhere. Mean Streets of Gadgetzan added another layer of strategy with many new cards, and made Paladin the de-facto class for Aggro. This deck relies on low-cost minions and spells that can buff their strength and grant new abilities. Small Time Recruits is one card you’ll need, as it allows you to bring multiple one-mana cost minions into your hand immediately. Those minions should include Argent Squire, Southsea Deckhand, and Selfless Hero. You should also bring Light’s Justice, as a weapon you can play early on, and Smuggler’s Run, which grants all of your minions additional attack and defense.
More powerful weapons like Truesilver Champion and Rallying Cry should be in your deck, as well as the pirate minion Small-Time Buccaneer, who grows stronger when you have a weapon equipped. Make use of your minions with Divine Shield to take down other minions, as they won’t take damage from attacking a powerful foe, and use your weapon to focus directly on the opponent’s health. Watch out for spells that can silence minions, as many of the cards you will be using have naturally low attack and health, but are powered up by spells like Blessing of Kings. This deck lets you play multiple minions at a time, and stack bonus buffs on them to fortify your defenses and control the board.
Priests are a unique class in Hearthstone because the Hero Ability allows for a consistent, reliable method to heal themselves. At the cost of two mana, any minion can regain two points of damage taken and stay in the fight longer. Many Priest decks rely on increasing the maximum health of their minions and constantly healing them to wear out the enemy forces, but another, more engaging strategy involves one of the most popular types of card in the game—Dragons. Class-Specific cards like Wyrmrest Agent and Twilight Whelp add to the synergy of this deck, as they grow stronger in the presence of other Dragons. Additionally, Azure Drake and Blackwing Corruptor are class-neutral minions that will populate this deck well.
Outside of any powerful Dragons you may want to add, this deck mostly relies on the standard Priest cards to deal with the enemy and keep your heavy-hitting minions healthy. Northshire Cleric lets you draw an additional card any time a minion is healed, so playing one as early as possible is helpful. Using spells like Power Word: Shield and the Shadow Words can make it more difficult for the enemy to attack you. If you keep your minions at full health and make sure your opponent doesn’t summon anything too powerful, you should have no trouble climbing the ladder with this deck.
This deck relies on risky plays and leaves a lot to chance, but if you can make it past the first few turns, your chance of controlling the board grows more likely. Make use of your Hero Ability early, but keep the Dagger equipped until it is absolutely needed to pick off weak enemies. Get a Questing Adventurer out as early as possible and make use of its ability to gain attack and defense for every other card you play. This Miracle deck includes lots of zero-cost spells, like Backstab, Counterfeit Coin, and Preparation, useful for trick plays that can surprise the opponent. Some of these cards can also be used in combos, getting a boost in power as long as you play any other card on the same turn.
However, the most important card in this deck is the Gadgetzan Auctioneer, which lets you draw a card each time a spell is played. You will want to get this six mana-cost minion out as early as possible, and start playing many of the spells you’ve amassed in your hand. Azure Drake is a fairly common minion that can be used to draw additional cards as well as power up spells. Build up high-damage combos with cards like Cold Blood, Eviscerate, and the SI:7 Agent to keep pressure on enemy minions and quickly take them off the board.
Overload is one of Hearthstone’s most difficult mechanics to master, but when used properly, can unleash devastating power early in the game to quickly take the lead. Cards with Overload will prevent you from using a specified number of mana crystals on your next turn. Feral Spirit is a useful card that will put two Taunt minions on your side of the board, and Totem Golem is remarkably strong for a 2-cost minion. Tunnel Trogg is essential to an Overload Shaman deck, as it will gain an attack point for each crystal you can’t use. Having these formidable cards out early will let you put the pressure on your opponent and build up to even stronger cards, like the useful Azure Drake.
Any strong Shaman deck will make use of Totems, both from the Hero Ability and played on their own. The Flametongue Totem is a proven standard, allowing you to buff multiple minions at once. Mana Tide Totem can continuously let you draw extra cards, and the Thunder Buff Valiant minion can add 2 attack to each of your Totems. Additional spells like Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, and Hex can frustrate the opponent by damaging some of their most valuable minions. Using a mix of Overload cards, Spells and Totems early in the game to and remove your opponents’ strong minions while playing your own will easily give you the upper hand.
The proven path to victory has hardly changed for Warlocks over the course of Hearthstone’s life. Certainly the most dangerous and difficult class to master, Warlocks typically play fast and reckless, drawing a high number of cards with low mana-cost. Class-specific cards and your hero ability will allow you to aggressively take control of the board and skip the typical war of attrition that make up many matches. For two health and two mana, Warlocks can draw an additional card each turn, increasing the chance to gain a hand full of important, powerful minions as early as possible in the game. Flame Imp, Voidwalker, and Imp Gang Boss are some low-cost minions required for every Warlock deck.
You’ll want as few minions over five mana-cost as possible, so you can play multiple cards per turn to overwhelm the enemy. Using abilities that can power up your other minions is a great idea, cards like Defender of Argus and Dire Wolf Alpha provide strength to those adjacent on the battlefield. This strategy relies on doing damage to yourself in order to play more cards, so it is crucial to build up multiple powerful minions early in the game. You will constantly be drawing and discarding, all while focusing attacks on the enemy hero. The longer a duel goes on, the more opportunity your opponent has to play their strongest cards, so you’ll need to rush and drain their health while keeping the pressure on the minions they play early on.
Hearthstone has always had Pirate cards, but it really wasn’t until the Gadgetzan expansion that this variety came into its own. Most of these Pirate cards can be used by any class, including Southsea Deckhand, Bloodsail Raider, and Dread Corsair, but Warriors get access to some of the minions that make a Pirate deck the best it can be. N’Zoth’s First Mate and Bloodsail Corsair can equip you with a weapon and buff it, as long as you have other Pirates in play. Warrior players are smart to make use of weapons, as well as cards that can buff their attack power like Upgrade and Heroic Strike.
Playing Pirate minions quickly, equipping a weapon, and buffing both your minions and hero will lead to decisive victories using this deck. While there aren’t many great Warrior cards for late in the game, a combination of low-cost minions that continually make each other stronger should give you the upper hand early enough that your opponent can’t fight back. Make use of Patches The Pirate, if you can get your hands on one, which will rush into play when you summon your first pirates. Keep the pressure up with strong weapons and a horde of pirates, all while building up your armor with the Warrior’s Hero Ability.
AJ Moser is a freelance journalist and recently exiled Game Informer intern. To read more of his work, as well as musings on Star Wars and the indie rock scene, follow him on Twitter at @AndMoser.