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Learning to play this game well

So this tournament has already taught me a lot. I had essentially no experience with the game; it’s been a good crash course. There are several different places that I’ve noticed where my knowledge is lacking. Here are most of the questions I find myself not knowing the answer to:

  • How are each starter decks played? And the matchups between them.

  • How to use the starter decks/tech 1 to set you up for your tech 2/mid game.

  • How does each spec win the game? As in, What is it trying to accomplish? Is it playing a long or short game?

  • How do you come back if they don’t make mistakes?

  • The previous question makes it feel like the first couple of turns are extremely important to get right. How should I be doing them?

  • Common multi-color combinations. I’ve gotten beat by some really clever combinations and I can tell the one I threw together doesn’t synergize well. I wasn’t around on the old forums to know what any of these are.

Each of these questions could use it’s own topic. Anybody that feels qualified to speak about it feel free to do so. I could also elaborate with many more questions to refine any of those that someone is unsure about. I know looking at other people’s games is helpful, and I have, but it would also be really nice to have people walk me through thought processes.

It seems better to learn one thing at a time instead of everything all at once. So can we just start at the beginning? Right now I’d like to just start a discussion about the starter decks and how the first two or so turns of the game go in different circumstances. What are common openings, but more importantly what are you trying to accomplish by doing them besides just putting units down?

Since the Black Starter is the most popular in the current R.A.C.E. and the starter I am using for my multi-color deck, let’s talk about it first.

I’m playing it with only Orpal who feels like the worst early game black hero to work well with it.

It definitely feels like a starter that has more than one focus; where depending on what you think you are going to do some cards are very important and some are easy candidates for workers. Are the choices just Skeletons or Vandynanigans? Or are there other ways to play it?

Graveyard sounds like a really good card but I never seem to be able to spare the gold to play it.

The deck also only has 5 creatures, all of the others have one more. Does this have much of an effect? Are you any more hero reliant early on than the other colors?

Am I trying to really gain any ground with this? It feels more like a stalling, so I can build up kind of thing. Unless I just want to spam skeletons.

Those are my current thoughts, please correct/chastise me and show me what I am missing.

The tldr version of all this is I just have a whole lot of questions and I’d like to hear people who know answers explain them.


Check out the black section of the thread called “Card Ratings: The Starter Decks” which contains some good base level discussion of the individual cards.

Openings are very different between P1 and P2, and there are further variations based on what your opponent is playing. That said: these are the standard openings:

As player 1:
Strong combat hero (eg Vandy, Grave, etc.) + 1 drop unit
Generic 2/3 hero + 1 drop is a weaker version of this
Garth + Make a skeleton + Pestering Haunt is a variant of this

The other option is to play a 3-drop (not recommended if your opponent is Black Starter)

As player 2, you’re looking to summon a hero + play a 2-drop (or, for black, Garth + Skeleton + 0 or 1 drop)


Good generic advice is to look up some discussion of tempo in Hearthstone. Codex isn’t entirely about fighting for control of the board, but it’s a big part of it. Learn how to identify ways to increase/gain/reverse tempo, and you’ll have a much better time.


I’ve never played Hearthstone, so maybe that would have given me some crossover experience. I’ll definitely read a lot tempo in it tomorrow.

I’ve read through all of the card ratings before, and going through them again. They are good information, but I feel like I want to know more interaction and how they work together to accomplish different types of things. Maybe what I want is just more specific matchup advice.

The point about being player 1 or player 2 is really important.

Let’s get super specific for a bit. White is popular and the other deck I’m playing in the tournament. I’m doing better with it than my multicolor one. So what does the Black vs White matchup look like? What goes through your head before the game even starts when you sit down and see that you are Black going first against White? Or the other way around.

I really just need to play a hundred more games.

Basically this. My go-to advice for anyone is to play a toooon of games, and if possible, play the same position a bunch of times. So, if you want to learn White vs Black, play it a bunch as Player 1, then play it a bunch as Player 2. Try different things. Think about and figure out what you lost to. Try to adjust to fix it. Figure out why you lost (or won) the next time. What was different?


For white and black specifically, the ongoing RACE 3 games are an excellent resource. Read along turn by turn with one side, think about what you would have done, and think about what the player actually did.

Then, when you look at what the opponent’s reaction is, you can go back and think about what the best play would have been, if you knew the reaction wouldn’t change. Etc, etc, etc.

The first two turns of a matchup should be possible to flowchart out, with every possible play from each side, and looking at how they compare.

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A very basic description of Tempo, by someone who was never good at MtG, and barely plays HS, and may therefore be using the term incorrectly.

Put another way, tempo is pressure. If you “have tempo” it means you have the ability to force your opponent to react. The simplest illustration of the concept is the difference between P1 vs P2. Typically, P1 has tempo by default.

Pretend for a second that both players are playing without spells and without hasted units, because it will make it clearer. What does a standard opening turn look like in Codex? For P1, a very typical opener is a worker, a hero, and a 1-cost unit. For P2, it’s a worker, a hero, and a 2-cost unit.

Given the difference between a 1-cost starter unit and a 2-cost starter unit can mean a 1/1 vs a 2/3, why does P1 have tempo? Because on P1’s 2nd turn, they can attack with two things, and play another unit to patrol with. If P1 manages to kill P2’s 2-cost unit, what do things look like for P2? They start their turn with just a hero, and there’s a 2 or 3-cost unit patrolling against them. So they worker, and they drop another unit.

P1 has tempo because they get a first kick at the can. If they played a cheap unit with high attack, and/or started with a combat hero (good stats and cheap to level), they try to snowball that by clearing P2’s board and dropping bigger and scarier units to (1) patrol, protecting themselves, and (2) to swing next turn, continuing to grow the snowball.

P2 fights this with their economic advantage. One extra gold per turn means they get access to 2-cost minions on turn 1. If their patroller can survive with even a single point of health, that means they can attack with it, and try to force P1 into the defensive, reactive position.

Now add spells and hasted units - and units with abilities in general - back into the mix. Haste is often great for maintaining or stealing tempo, because it’s damage that your opponent might not have planned around. Direct damage and removal is basically fancy, patroller ignoring, hasted damage, if you think about it in tempo terms.

Both players try to get the most value out of whatever they play. Gold efficient exchanges, two-for-ones, are the means by which you secure more tempo, or wrest it out of your opponent’s grasp.


This is a YouTube series where Trump walks through some basic concepts about Hearthstone play, but the concepts can carry over to Codex with some adaptation. The most applicable lessons are about Controlling the Board, Favourable Trading, and Spending Mana Efficiently.

Wow, will he make Hearthstone great again?


nah, that would be inhuman.

This is a difficult question, and the answer is that most starters has enough things in it to make it play somewhere from fast to semi-slow or semi-fast to slow. I find myself not having enough time to play Jail as blue against faster decks, and therefore have to play things like Traffic Director instead. In other matchups, where the opponent has more expensive units so that they can’t possibly play more than 1 unit each turn, then I will try to play it, and worker Traffic Director instead.

Black on the other hand, is currently played as a more agressive deck (mostly because of Vandy and Metamorphosis) but it has exellent late game options with Graveyard and token stalling with Skeleton Archery. So Most starters can play both slow and fast.

Thanks for all the feedback. I think it would be great when this RACE is over to highlight a couple of the more notable matches and look at them more closely. Like the match that lasted the most turns, a match with a really good comeback, or whatever else people would find interesting/informative.