Hearthstone is like any competitive video game: there are many players that set their sights high but fail to achieve results… In so many cases, this is because they don’t have a growth mindset! It’s common for players to complain about being unlucky or having bad RNG. But more often than not, the issue is that they’re unwilling to accept and correct their mistakes in deck preparation, mulligans, or gameplay! (On that note, check out my guide to winning tough matchups here!)
A good mindset and the right approach are the two most important things in Hearthstone. Having played poker in the past, I know how tilting a run of bad luck can be. It can make you stop thinking rationally and overwhelm you with emotion! In a competitive environment, letting your feelings get the best of you can be a recipe for disaster. Let’s look at some of the most common pitfalls and how you can avoid them!
Mentality of a Master
I’ve heard players I greatly respect (in one case, Jon ‘Orange’ Westberg) mention how many mistakes they’ve made or that they played a particular tournament poorly… and I’ve seen them messing up occasionally with my own eyes! Is Orange a bad player because he admits to having made mistakes? Of course not! As is often said, you have to be willing to fail if you want a chance to succeed. Orange has won 4 Premier and 2 Major tournaments since 2015, and enthroned his name among the Hearthstone elite!
There are many players who have made a similar breakout through hard work, consistent results, and a few key tournament finishes. The thing they all have in common is a growth mindset. You have to accept that you’re not playing optimally, that you do make mistakes, and you need to try to improve rather than complain. To do anything else is to throw away your chances of competing!
For another example of a growth mindset, just look at the 2017 Spring European and World Champion, Frederik ‘Hoej’ Nielsen. After his big win in Shanghai, he responded to congratulations by asking “Did I make any mistakes?” Now that’s the answer of a person who’s always looking to improve!
Own Your Mindset
It’s very common (and understandable) to complain after things don’t go your way. In the latest Dreamhack Valencia tournament, I lost a series to a Control Shaman where several situations didn’t go in my favor. After the series I was pretty mad, but not because I was unlucky… Rather, because I didn’t play the series optimally!
Try to affect the things that are under your control, rather than dwelling on random outcomes. Don’t let them affect your mood and your mindset. After all, Hearthstone is a game of chance and skill, and sometimes the draw itself will decide the outcome of a match!
Give Yourself A Chance!
The ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is known for his many tales, including “The Hare and the Tortoise.” In his tale “The Castaway,” we find the phrase “Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει.” This is often translated as “God helps those who help themselves.” In our case, I don’t mean that you should be praying to supernatural entities during your games… Instead, try to put yourself in a position where you will benefit from a positive RNG outcome!
Estimate the risks of each play and compare them. If you currently have a 25% chance to win the game by playing it safe but a possible Gentle Megasaur into +3 Attack and Windfury gives you a 30% chance, then you should take the risk every time! Many players will ignore risky but valuable lines of play because they simply don’t want to “gamble.” This is fine when the “return on investment” is the same, but if there’s a discrepancy between the win and loss outcomes? In this case, then it can lead in making decisions which are mathematically suboptimal!
This phenomenon is known as loss aversion. In economics, it’s been found that people tend to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. In other words, it’s better not to lose $5 than to win $5. Some studies have even indicated that the bad feelings from a loss are twice as powerful, psychologically speaking, as the good feelings from a win!
Avoid These Mistakes
To sum up, here are some of the most common mindset mistakes you can make in Hearthstone!
1) Be (excessively) results oriented.
A deck that went 0-3 or even 0-6 in a Conquest tournament isn’t necessarily bad. The sample size is simply too small to make an educated conclusion! Sometimes you should trust the numbers, but don’t forget that a single tournament (or even two or three!) doesn’t mean everything.
2) Thinking of “ex’s…”
And I don’t mean romantically! In other words, don’t let yourself dwell on past turns or games.
After making a tough decision, it’s common for your mind to turn over the options long past their relevance. This can be really detrimental to your thought process, and certainly won’t help your current game. It’s very rare that a Hearthstone game doesn’t have critical choices to make… By not focusing on the game at hand, you’re sabotaging your chances!
3) Thinking in terms of “highrolls” and “lowrolls!”
Against less experienced opponents, you should expect to win more than 50% of the times. But against evenly matched opponents, it will be the sequencing of draws and the deck matchup that usually determine the winner! Claiming your opponent “highrolled” undermines the competitive integrity of the game: if you call yourself a pro, bashing the game is only harming yourself and other professionals. You’re never entitled to the win… Make sure you earn it!
4) Believing you’re “always unlucky.”
Let’s face the truth: players with a win rate of less than 50% after a very large sample of games are playing poorly. Being unlucky is a fine excuse in the short-term. When you’re considering hundreds or thousands of games, luck is no longer the defining factor for the outcomes!
5) Not admitting that you make mistakes!
There’s no single player that has consistently prepared the best decks and played optimally since the start of the game. Even some of the most decorated players in Hearthstone’s history, like Pavel or Thijs, have had rough patches in their careers. If you think your deck selections are on a very high level and you’re playing perfectly then I will personally sponsor you and fly you to every event… but chances are you are either already taken or you don’t!
6) Not being willing to learn or accept help from others.
This comes down to recognizing that you make mistakes, and identifying those mistakes to learn and improve from them. If you don’t have that willingness to learn, then there’s no way to yourself from making the same errors over and over again! And don’t be afraid to ask others for an unbiased opinion or analysis, especially your coach! They may offer suggestions that you would miss on your own.
7) Having a negative outlook on the game.
When you’re feeling pessimistic and things go wrong (which they inevitably will!), it just fuels your original upset. This can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a vicious cycle! This mindset takes away from your ability to focus and lessens your desire to learn and improve (because you can just blame everything on the “bad” state of the game).
8) Lacking the desire to become better every day!
A growth mindset starts from within, from the desire to improve every day! That will motivate you to question, analyze, and learn from past mistakes. It sounds easy but this requires effort… In the same way that you have to work to grind the ladder, win open cups, practice strategies, and so on, you need to make a conscious effort to work on your mindset as well! For most, this is not something that comes naturally.
Self-reflection is a vital component of a growth mindset. When you lose a match, you should always assume that you made a mistake that resulted in the loss. Go back, analyze your plays, and try to find a way you can do better next time. Above all, don’t blame other people or factors for the outcome. Use your losses and mistakes as motivation to get better!
The Victor’s Path!
Competitive Hearthstone is only interesting because the uncertainty is very high and players aren’t playing optimally. Imagine a (very stale) Hearthstone metagame in which the players are playing the same 4 – 5 best decks and pilot them perfectly. Every matchup is solved and pros have reached mastery of all the matchups. Would that really be that interesting to watch or compete in? The idea feels similar to Korean StarCraft: the players have been playing the game for so long that it’s almost impossible to reach their level if you start fresh. Viewers and players alike love mistakes, “wacky” deck selections, and all other forms of the unusual and unknown. This is what makes Hearthstone the game we all sometimes criticize, but above everything – love!
Thanks for reading! If you want advice on how to incorporate this advice and make your competitive breakout, try a lesson!