Arena is one of the game modes in Hearthstone. Players can pay $1.99 or 150 gold to pick from 3 random Heroes and then build a deck of 30 cards from a selection of 3 random cards a time. Since you are matched against other randomly built decks all players are on somewhat of a level playing field regardless of their collections, however, some players will be luckier with their deck than others. Once the player reaches 12 wins or 3 losses (whichever comes first) the run will end and the player will be rewarded a combination of packs, gold, cards and dust based on the number of wins achieved.

Why Play Arena?

Arena is great way to build your collection without spending real money. No matter how many wins you get you are guaranteed at least one pack and if you can average 6 or more wins you can "go infinite". Going infinite refers to performing well enough in arena to never have to spend real money and always earn enough gold to pay for your next arena run. Since you get at least 150 gold back for 7 wins or more than you will hover around even at the 5 win average. Anyone who puts in the time to learn proper arena strategy is capable of going infinite. It takes 30 wins to earn 100 gold in ranked to purchase a single pack. Since even the best Hearthstone players have win rates around 60% that means it would take around 50 games to earn one pack compared to an average of 9 to stay above water and earn a pack in arena.

 

Playstyle, Tips, and Notes

The play style in arena is a much slower and more controlling style then the fast-paced, aggressive tactics that are often seen in constructed play. Since the decks are random, players do not have access to all of the removal that is in every constructed deck so minion trading is a far more common and reliable way to maintain board control. This also means that the value of cards is completely different in arena than constructed as well. Minions with strong stats are worth quite a bit in arena as they can trade with multiple creatures over a few turns while constructed play often values the battlecry or immediate effect on the board that creatures have.

One of the most important things to do when playing arena games is make effective and positive trades. This means you should look for attacks which kill enemy minions while leaving your minions alive. Sometimes this can open you up to area-of-effect removal spells but since these are less common in arena you don't have to play around them as much as you do in constructed. Some AoE is very common, however, so be aware. This all comes down to experience and paying attention to tells that the opponent may give as to what is in their hand. A Mage that fire blasts a minion with 5 health on turn 6 is indicating that Flamestrike is in their hand and you should avoid flooding the board with low health creatures. As a general rule it's correct to try and keep the opponents board as clear as possible since minions with buffing Battlecry effects are common place as they are generally thought to be strong cards.

 

Drafting Strategies

Arena drafting is not an exact science. There are a lot of articles ranking cards in exact order based on value but during an arena draft these values fluctuate based on the class you are playing and the cards you have already selected. It's good to understand the base value of the cards as a starting point but knowing how to adjust these values based on your previous picks is also very important.

If you learn nothing else from this article, learn this; nothing in arena drafting or play is necessarily right or wrong. I have drafted decks that seemed amazing on paper and have then gone 2-3 with them. I have also drafted decks that seemed like absolute garbage, considered retiring and then won 12. I can give you some guidelines and general rules but getting good at arena is also going to take experience and a willingness to adapt during your drafting and game play.

I generally break the draft into three parts. Picks 1-10, 11-20 and 21-30. During the first ten picks I focus on taking the best card of the three based almost exclusively on value. Look at the stats versus the mana cost of your three choices and pick accordingly. During this phase of the draft you do not have to worry about your curve or specific mechanics. Draft for absolute value instead of synergy with cards you don't have and may not get a chance to draft. During this phase cards like Chillwind Yeti, Boulderfist Ogre and Harvest Golem are king. You are building the foundation of the deck here and as the draft moves forward you will fill in the gaps in between.

During the next ten picks you will start to value your curve and important mechanics that you are missing slightly more. At this point in the draft it is important to take stock of the amount of card draw mechanics, two-drops and removal you have. In arena you want at least 4-6 two-drops so you can reliably mulligan for them at the start. Since you cannot load your deck up with board wiping spells like you can in constructed you need to be able to play minions early to avoid getting snowballed and losing tempo. I also prefer 2/3s over 3/2s since you survive most 1-drops and potentially kill two creatures. Having a good curve and a creature to drop on each turn is actually the most important way to win in arena. When playing your games try keeping track of the times when you drop something each turn and note what your win rate is compared to the games in which you miss even one turn.

During this phase of the draft you will also start to get a sense of what kind of deck you are constructing and can make a conscious decision to continue down that path or to move in a different direction. If your deck is looking very fast you can continue to draft for an aggressive style of play and try to run opponents over or you can start picking late and mid game cards to round out your deck. There is no hard and fast rule on this. You must make this decision and it is during picks 11-20 that you still have time to pivot if you feel that it's necessary. Card synergy also becomes a factor during this phase. If you already have some secrets then cards like Mad Scientist become better. If you have a lot of cards that buff other creatures then Nerubian Egg could be a good pick. Do you already have a bunch of Mechs? Then Mechwarper and Tinkertown Technician become viable.

During the last ten picks you shift your focus to filling holes in your curve and missing mechanics move to the top of the priority list. At this point in the draft you might pick an Acolyte of Pain over a Chillwind Yeti and it could be correct. The values of the cards shift completely at this point and this is where experience and feel become extremely important. You must also decide if you have too many of a certain card in your deck and avoid it, even if it seems to be the strongest of the three picks. A good basic rule for judging whether you have too many of a certain card is to imagine if you had two in your hand and asking yourself if that would be negative. Two Truesilver Champions is fine for example. Two Assassin's Blades is not fine because the four durability makes it hard to use quickly causing the second Assassin’s Blade to become a dead card.

In arena cards that can stand alone have extra value as you cannot rely on getting combo pieces together reliably. However, during this last phase of the draft you can select cards that synergize because you know what you already have. An example of this is a Faceless Manipulator. If you don’t have any big creatures to copy in your own deck then the card is worth much less as you will be relying on your opponent to play something worthy of Facelessing.

Every class also has a certain number of “auto-pick” cards that are just better than most neutrals and you want a lot of. In my next article I will discuss these and some class specific strategies to help you have a better understanding of why some classes are good or bad in arena.

 

Arena Class Rankings

Some classes are just better than others in arena. This is usually based on the strength of their common class cards and hero ability.

 

Tier 1

Mage - the hero power is incredibly powerful since it can do one damage anywhere. Strong commons include Fireball, Frostbolt and Flamestrike.

Paladin - a very strong hero power since a 1/1 every turn forces the opponent to continue to remove them. Strong commons include Truesilver Champion, Consecration and Blessing of Kings.

Rogue - the hero power can be buffed and also gives two attacks for the price of one. Strong commons include Backstab, Deadly Poison, Eviscerate and Tinker's Sharpsword Oil.

Tier 2

Shaman - the totems can be incredibly useful especially with buff cards like Flametongue Totem but are random and can be unreliable. Strong commons include Fire Elemental, Hex, Lightning Bolt, Rockbiter Weapon and Stormforged Axe.

Priest - the hero power shines if you can achieve board control but if you don't have the board can be completely useless. Strong commons include Dark Cultist, Holy Nova, Power Word: Shield, Temple Enforcer and Velen's Chosen.

Druid - the hero power has some flexibility since it can also heal for one but is just a bit weaker than Rogue and Mage. Strong commons include Druid of the Claw, Ironbark Protector, Swipe and Wrath.

Tier 3

Warlock - drawing a card is the strongest hero power in constructed but in arena where tempo is king this does nothing to the board. Strong commons include Darkbomb, Dread Infernal, Hellfire and Voidcaller.

Hunter - if you can build an aggressive deck then the hero power can be effective but that is not guaranteed in arena. Strong commons include Animal Companion, Houndmaster, Kill Command and Unleash the Hounds.

Warrior - the hero power is almost useless in arena since Shield Slam is an epic card and very rare. Strong commons include Arathi Weaponsmith, Cruel Taskmaster, Death's Bite, Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper.

 

Final Thought

I'll leave you with this final thought. It's important to know the basic value of cards when drafting arena, but lots of people know the basic values. What separates a good arena player from a great one is the ability to adapt throughout the deck building process and understanding the strengths of the deck during play. Creating constructed decks is closer to a science but drafting in arena is an art form.