This format is used in our Hearthstone Wednesday Commons league.
- Decks are limited to basic and common cards only. No rare, epic, or legendary cards are allowed.
- Cards of any rarity may be played if discovered through an in-game mechanic.
- Decks are also limited to standard cards.
- For regular play, we stick to regular Conquest (three decks is a lower bar for new players), though competitive play should consider adding a “Bring 4, Ban 1” provision to prevent the overwhelming power of Warlock Zoo from warping the meta in this format.
Goal: The commons format helps level the playing field between players with large card pools and newer players. There is still an advantage to the more experienced players, but newer players have a better chance to stay closer, win occasional games, and be generally competitive.
I thought I’d share my views on the basic/commons format, both to help more experienced players adapt more quickly to its restrictions, and to assist newer players in understanding what is important. The biggest difference with the no higher rarity cards is the lack of some of the crazy impactful single cards, as well as combo-style strategies. This is kind of Hearthstone 101. So, some keys to the format:
This is probably the most important element of the early game in the format. With very limited board clear available, if you are able to get on board and stay ahead, making favorable trades and dictating game flow, you’re likely to win the game. There is no super strong individual card like [Sylvanas Windrunner], [Ancient of War], or even turn 3 [Feral Spirit]s to quickly wrest board control back. Simply staying ahead on board, making good trades, and chipping in damage to the enemy hero’s face is a very valuable strategy for many decks. For example, the games Priest wins is usually those where they can keep things under control, and the ones where they lose are when the opposing board spirals out of control and holy nova either doesn’t show up or can’t clear everything.
It should make sense that having more cards is better than having fewer cards, in general. In Hearthstone, in some ways, your creatures are your removal as well, so the board often ends up trading off, leaving the person who has expended fewer resources in a better position in the long game. Obviously, raw card drawing is a way of accumulating card advantage, but there are other ways as well. If I have to crash my 2 3/2s into a [Chillwind Yeti] to get it off the board, Yeti got a 2 for 1. If I use Mage hero power to ping off a 1 toughness guy, I got a 1 for 0. Likewise, if my [Loot Hoarder] trades for a 3/2, I also got a 1 for 0 (since they’re down a guy and I drew a card to replace the Hoarder). A large taunt such as a [Bog Creeper] can usually take 2-3 guys with it when it goes down.
Of course, this is all well and good, but if you’re incredibly behind on board because you’re sending your loot hoarders in to hit Yetis and ping them off but taking 12 points from the Yeti before eventually killing it, well, I know who I’m betting on to win, and it’s the guy with the Yeti. It’s really a blend of these two concepts that will lead to success in this format.
Additionally, there may come a point in the game where you’ve lost card advantage and board advantage, but your opponent is low enough that if you get lucky, you might just be able to go to the face enough to steal a victory. Knowing when you can abandon cards or board and just try and win is something that takes time to get used to, but is a critical skill for long-term success with the game.
So, how can we use this to tell us why certain heroes/decks are good (and which are not)?
Weapons, for example, are usually pretty easy 2 for 1 card advantage (barring an [Acidic Swamp Ooze] ruining your fun), and in particular, [Fiery War Axe] is one of the most efficient cheap “removal spells”. Yes, you’ll take some damage, but that’s usually damage you’d have taken from the creature by being attacked by it anyway, and you get it off the board, thus helping with board advantage as well.
The Mage hero power lets you trade up and kill x/1 creatures without spending a card, so it can be a big source of value as well.
Priest, in addition to having flexible removal (important for not falling behind early, and helpful for not having to trade 2-3 for 1 to take down a large minion like [Boulderfist Ogre]) and an outright card drawer in [Northshire Cleric], it also has an incredibly subtle 2 for 1 built into its hero power. In the absence of healing, imagine a [Chillwind Yeti] vs. a [Water Elemental]. They each hit each other once, and they both end up dead. The priest hero power allows the Yeti to hit, be healed up to 4 health and be able to survive another combat with the [Water Elemental].
Additionally, this also explains why Warlock Zoo (lots of good cheap, aggressive creatures) is just the best deck in the format once you have all of the pieces to build it – it both has insane board control (cheap creatures and enhancers to help them trade up) and the warlock hero power gives you just a ridiculous amount of card advantage if your life total isn’t being pressured (which maintaining board control should help you avoid).
Other pure aggro decks seem to be a bit inconsistent. Non-Warlock aggro decks are very good at doing the first 25 or so points of damage, but the last 5 are a crapshoot. It’s pretty much all down to the card advantage problem. Without the warlock’s ability to draw a lot of cards, eventually the constant 1 for 2s doom you – yeah, you’ll get through some damage, but then yeti or what have you will pick off 2 of your guys before dying, and a sweeper will set you way back. If you draw well, and your opponent doesn’t have the answer they need, aggro can get the job done, but if they have it, you’ve probably just lost because you have no way to refill your hand, leading to inconsistent results at best. There are a lot of coin flips where if your mid-range/control opponent has the right answer, you can’t win, and if they don’t, you almost can’t lose.
The implications for deckbuilding then are this – the starting point for most decks should be a mix of solid creatures along the mana curve, along with any good removal the class possesses. If you run all large drops, you’re pretty guaranteed to fall way behind on board in the early game and have an incredible struggle to catch up. If you have all 1 and 2 drops without a good way to reload, you’re likely to run out of cards by the midgame, and be left drawing small minions while your opponent is playing out solid 4, 5 and 6 mana guys. Certain classes can skew one way or the other, but it’s a good general guideline.
And finally, cards with the discover mechanic are exceptionally strong, as they enable cards with higher rarities to be played in the format, and open up the possibility of finding truly game-changing cards.
This has gotten very long, but hopefully, it was interesting and increased your understanding of the format. In the absence of single, game-changing cards, and with a fairly minimal amount of sweepers (most of which only do 2 damage), these 2 basic concepts seem to factor heavily into who wins, and what makes for a viable deck.