In Hearthstone, things can sometimes seem grim before you even get to see your opening hand. I still remember the despair every Freeze Mage felt when “Jaina versus Garrosh!” was heard. One of most lopsided battles in Hearthstone history, this tough matchup favored Warrior with a staggering winrate over 80%. A good Freeze Mage player had a plan in mind going into the game. If executed correctly and with the right draws, it could pull off the impossible and kill Garrosh before he could Armor Up out of range!
Entering the Year of the Mammoth and Journey to Un’goro, there are many viable decks but one-sided matchups are still common. If you want to climb Ranked or finish high Legend, you can’t shy away from hard games: embrace them instead! Let’s look at some truly tough matchups and discuss how should you approach them to maximize your chances for victory.
Tough Matchup #1: Quest Warrior vs Jade Druid
Have you been watching the Hearthstone Championship Tour? In a true clash of titans, StanCifka (playing Control Warrior) wouldn’t pull the trigger and eventually fell to Kolento’s Jade Druid on the 21st of May, missing the final invite to Shanghai.
As Warrior, you should try to complete the Quest as soon as possible, keep board control, and keep pressuring. You’ll just have to hope Malfurion isn’t able to stabilize with an Auctioneer power turn! The best way to prevent that is by sniping the pesky Goblin with your Dirty Rats: either play them or Discover them with MVP Stonehill Defender. This is exactly how the Czech superstar piloted the matchup. He even managed to pull out one Auctioneer, but little did he know Kolento had two copies in hand! After Fandral stuck to the board, he went for an Auctioneer power turn, stealing the game back from Cifka.
Tough Matchup #2: Quest Rogue vs Aggro / Control
Half-jokingly referred to as “Rock-Papers-Scissors,” it’s no secret that Quest Rogue destroys slow Control decks but struggles against aggressive foes. Aggro / Token Druid is probably the strongest of the pack. According to Legend stats from ViciousSyndicate, Aggro Druid has close to a 70% winrate against Quest Rogue. Now that’s a tough matchup! Other well-positioned decks that prey on Quest Rogue are Pirate Warrior, Hunter, and Aggro Shaman.
New builds of Quest Rogue include a three total Taunt minions and have a slightly better chance against ultra-aggressive opponents. Rogues should aim for a very quick Quest completion while simultaneously preserving health with Taunts and Glacial Shards (very handy against Hydras). Don’t forget that Vanish on Living Mana can swing the game, since the Druid doesn’t get anything back that way!
Going the other way, control decks have a tough time against Quest Rogue and their optimal strategy actually resembles aggro. Just kill them before they can complete the quest and snowball out of control! Every class has different tools to achieve this, but some cards that are highly effective against Quest Rogue are the following:
- Sunkeeper Tarim & Aldor Peacekeeper: their effect does indeed work on 5/5s.
- Ice Block: to get an extra turn of going all-out for the kill.
- Counterspell: to counter their Quest.
- Dirty Rat: to snag the card they want to combo with or snipe a bounce minion.
Tough Matchup #3: Token Druid vs Quest Warrior
In the matchup presented, it’s very important whether your opponent knows that you’re playing Aggro Druid. If he knows you are, he shouldn’t keep the Quest in his mulligan phase. If he guesses wrong, he’s playing with one “dead” card in his hand which makes things easier for the aggro deck. As the aggressor, you have to double down to kill them before they can stabilize on board. If you have a good start and are able to play around board clears then go ahead and show respect for cards such as Ravaging Ghoul and Brawl. Otherwise, if you have a mediocre or bad hand, assume they don’t have the answer – and just go for it! You’ll be surprised at how many times they can’t respond and you’ll win the game simply by being aggressive.
The fact that you can still win against slow decks even with bad hands shows that Aggro decks are still alive and well in Un’goro!
In short, there are three rules we can keep in mind when facing a very tough matchup:
1) Force your opponent to make mistakes!
In general, if you’re playing competitively you should try to conceal as much information as possible so your opponent can’t mulligan correctly. You should also take your time and avoid making the contents of your hand obvious.
Look at the following example from my team (Greece) vs. Portugal in the Hearthstone Global Games. Our play here is obvious (Savage Roar) but if we use our whole turn like we’re “thinking” we could potentially conceal the information that we have two copies in hand.
We roped the turn and Portugal didn’t use their Lightning Storm, playing around Living Mana instead (which we had pretended to think about casting). As a result, we killed them next turn! Had we played the single Savage Roar immediately on turn 5, Portugal would probably have used the board clear and our defeat made certain.
2) Increase variance – try to create High Risk – High Reward opportunities.
Let’s assume you are playing a 30% winrate matchup. If you are able to go for a random outcome play (e.g. Dirty Rat) that would either straight up lose you the game or put you in a big advantage, then you should consider doing that. That play would be correct if your winrate after average outcome of the “risky” play will be higher than your average winrate hadn’t you gone for the aforementioned play. Similarly, when you have a big edge over your opponent or are playing a very favorable matchup, you should play the game as “safe” as possible, minimize risk and “grind” your opponent.
3) Last but not least, identify your main win condition!
Sometimes your path to victory isn’t totally obvious. When playing a very unfavorable matchup, you should try to find unusual ways to steal the win. If the opposing deck has a clear win condition, try to deny it. It might take some time to learn how to counter a particular opponent, but it’s usually possible! As seen in the previous examples, the best way to win a tough matchup is by trying something outside the usual plan.
Thanks for reading! When you’re behind, you’ve got to get riskier to keep the dream alive. Tough matchups occur for every deck, but with some forethought and a plan, they’re no insurmountable obstacle! Get the lucky Rat Brawls, kill your opponent before they complete their Quest, and you’re on the way to become Legendary! And look for more Hearthstone content from me every week this month!