Early this year, we kicked off our Opening Moves series, where we took a closer look at the early game of competitive Hearthstone. We followed up in July with Midgame Moves. This week, to celebrate the end of the year, we’re bringing you Endgame Moves. Today, we examine what the takeaways should be from both victories and defeats.
Win or lose, you learn something from every game of Hearthstone—or you should. But it can be difficult to identify what the something is, as Hearthstone is a game wherein you can make the best play and lose, or the worst play and win! Rather, “You have look at what's correct, and why is it correct,” said 2014 Hearthstone World Champion James "Firebat" Kostesich. Over time, if you consistently choose the correct play, your win percentage will improve, no matter the outcome of any single game.
You learn when you miss lethal, mess up a mulligan, or when the line of play you were taking turns out to be wrong. “You can come up with a great game plan and for the first five turns that game plan makes sense,” Firebat said. “But, by turn six or seven, you should have switched to a different game plan. You get so entrenched in looking at things a certain way that it's hard to shift your mind to think about the situation differently.”
Firebat cites his first major tournament appearance as a moment when he learned that keeping an open mind is critical to success. “I was playing Druid and I had Innervate in my mulligan, but for some reason I got it in my head that I needed Wild Growth because I knew it was better in the matchup,” Firebat said. “I choose to mulligan away the Innervate which caused me to lose that match. Pre-nerf Innervate was two free mana crystals! That was a rough start to a tournament.”
Hindsight is 20/20—but only if you look behind you. “I watch replays of myself playing all the time and watch them with other people,” Firebat said. “You get a different perspective on it that really helps.”
And Break Stuff
Self-analysis is paramount, but don’t let it be a closed loop. “Try new things,” Firebat said. “Make your own mistakes on purpose to see what happens.” By way of example, Firebat offers the parable of Skulking Geist: “The data says not to keep [it] against Hunter. But Deathrattle Hunter has six cards that cost one mana, so Skulking Geist is probably pretty good to keep against them! There must be some outside factor skewing the data, so let me try using it for ten games and see how it goes. Trial-and-error learning is one of the most impactful and memorable forms of learning there is.”
Finally, if doing all of the above doesn’t immediately pay dividends, don’t give up. “Things can go wrong for a long time before they go right,” Firebat said. “There are a lot of players out there that are top-tier–caliber players that maybe just got their first tournament win after playing for four years at a level like mine. Put in the effort and keep going, even if you're not getting the results.”