The Common Denominator

Last Updated: August 17, 2016

Greetings all, Thundyr here.  I previously wrote the Hearthstone Journeyman Guide series, where I started a fresh account on the US server and detailed my journey from rank 25 to rank 5 while spending not a dime on packs or adventure sets.  My collection grew from nothing to one capable of building the vast majority of legend-viable decks across all classes, including a 10,000+ dust value Control Paladin (and have unlocked the first wing of Karazhan with gold).  The depth of this collection had the unfortunate side-effect that it became increasingly difficult to write new articles that were relevant to newer players, especially those who also followed the Free-to-Play path.  As time passed it became apparent that the articles written at the start of the series had lost relevance to the Standard format because they were written at a time long before Standard existed.  While most of the concepts remain valid their context does not, and therefore their value to newer players is diminished. In an effort to correct these first world problems I'm starting a new series that will focus initially on the Classic set only, as it is the only expert set that will remain a constant for all new players and will continue to provide the backbone for most competitive decks.  I will offer guidance on how to grow the concepts discussed here into whatever the Standard format of the day is, and will revisit these articles and decks from time to time to freshen them up when significant changes occur to the gaming environment.

The Journeyman Player

The "Journeyman" is the player caught skill-wise between apprentice and master, with a Swiss-cheese-style collection containing more holes than substance.  This is the player who, at a minimum, has every hero at level 10 and therefore has unlocked all the Basic set cards, and has some familiarity with them even if only gained from contests with the Innkeeper.  To get that far one has likely opened 10 to 20 packs of "expert" cards from both the introductory and the initial burst of play mode quests (hopefully all from the Classic set), some cards from which will appear in commonly-searched deck lists.  The entirety of such a collection is probably valued under 500 dust.  By stark contrast, the average competitive deck costs upwards of 1500 dust, especially since Sylvanas Windrunner (worth 1600 dust on her own) is currently used more often than a kick drum at a heavy metal concert. To make matter worse, the daily quests do not necessarily roll for the player's best-developed classes, leaving the player to re-roll one of them each day hoping to get a 'hit'.  This series will look in depth at the decks and strategies available to the Hearthstone Journeyman as he steps out into the wild.

The Startup Collection

I have created a fresh account under the name "Nyarlathotep", which should be familiar to followers of H.P. Lovecroft and whose works or their spin-offs are surely inspiration for Hearthstone's Whispers of the Old Gods set.  I could have chosen the name of He Who Shall Not Be Named, but then I would not have been able to tell anyone the account name.  This would have made things awkward.  People would also mistakenly have thought I was referring to Voldemo... ah ha ha, almost got me there!  Anyway, I feel Nyarlathotep is a much more interesting character with a more interesting ... name. I will use the exact decks discussed during these articles and no others so that my rank is always a true reflection of their power.  Unlike other players who will be hoarding dust to spend on crafting Legendary minions (which you should) and hanging onto those rarer cards that don't feature in mainstream decks just yet (which you also should), I will be tailoring this collection around the article decks while not worrying about whether I'm losing value by doing so.  I presently have 88 cards from the Classic set in my collection which includes 1 "nice to have but seldom played" epic in Sword of Justice, and 0 legendary cards.  I completed the free Arena run with 5 wins which gave me an Old Gods pack, which in turn means I own a playset of Beckoner of Evil and C'Thun because they are doled out like soup to the poor.  I don't intend to play Arena with the account but you should.  None of the heroes have reached level 20 so I cannot even play the weekly Tavern Brawl! But in truth all of that is irrelevant, so forget what you just read.  Nyarlathotep's purpose is merely to demonstrate why you only need 6 Classic set commons...

The Deck-building Premise

Armed with the Basic set cards and a smattering of expert cards, the Journeyman player will be capable of determining that at least one rare and one common card in the collection will never see play (for example the Savagery and Priestess of Elune that I got in my 3rd pack).  By disenchanting these cards the Journeyman will gain 25 dust, but more importantly will gain a bonus 95 dust when disenchanting the first card from the collection; a once-off, hidden quest reward.  This gives 120 dust in total.  Common cards cost 40 dust to craft, and with a small amount of luck the Journeyman will have 3 other commons that are powerful enough to be played in serious decks.  So I have set the target that the initial decks will run a maximum of 6 Classic set common cards, with the rest of the deck coming from the Basic set only. The goal is to provide enough insight into each deck's purpose that the player could build the deck immediately thanks to the "first disenchant" 95 dust reward, and it will be sufficiently strong that the player can reach rank 20 or beyond no matter the metagame of the day.  At rank 20 the player will qualify for a reward chest at the end of the season, which will contain at least the seasonal card back, 5 dust and a random golden common card (worth 50 dust if disenchanted); in other words, half the dust investment made by the player in crafting the deck will return almost immediately.  I will not suggest that the player craft *all* the cards I will use for the 9 classes, as it is much more important to save the dust to craft Legendary minions, but there are a few staples that will make daily quests and gaining the initial ranks much simpler. My secret requirement (shh... don't tell anyone) is to also try to make the decks distinct from the body of "budget deck" work made by other players, specifically the "0 dust" decks that litter the internet and are built on the mistaken concept that new players won't open playable cards in their packs.  Having said that, some truly excellent guides exist for these decks so I do not wish to simply switch a few cards and claim the work as my own.  I want to demonstrate that even with as few as 6 commons one can craft an effective deck with a strategy different from that provided with the Basic set, a strategy that might not occur to the player brought up on 0 dust decks and their linear "improvements". For the record, Nyarlathotep reached rank 20 some time before the end of the July 2016 season by going undefeated from rank 25 on the strength of crafting 2 of the commons in the Druid deck below (thanks to some luck with getting a playset of Druid of the Claw from a single pack).  The account is presently at rank 18 and I have not deviated from the "Six-Common" decks.

The Break Point

As one gains experience in ranked play one will discover there exists a finite dividing line that separates those players with enough cards to build at least one top deck and those who do not.  The break point is passed when one is playing against exclusively "legend viable" decks that have been copied off internet sites.  While it is true that many of the players just above the break point are likely weaker players propped up by powerful cards, one should not underestimate them as one could easily be playing an experienced player who simply has not had much available time to play during the current month (such as when pro-player Reckful was somehow paired against a rank 21 player with a strong collection).  Even though we will only be using 6 commons our target is to be good enough at Hearthstone that we can reach this break point rank every month; to be the "best of the rest".  Honestly, what more could we achieve? Naturally, the ladder reset that occurs each month bunches everyone together below rank 15.  As the month progresses so the break point moves upwards from 20 at a pace not exceeding 2 ranks per week.  As we open more packs and use newer cards to strengthen our decks, so we will elevate our rank above the break point despite playing "under-powered" decks; to use skill and knowledge of the metagame as our advantage rather than luck or money.

The Ultimate Craft List

There is a collection of Classic cards that you should never disenchant unless you have an excess of them or they are nerfed by Blizzard.  These are staples that will generally always be included in viable deck lists.  I am putting this here so that you don't make a mistake by taking the dust for a card you underestimate.  Some cards simply never come around again and you will be forced to spend dust later to craft them.  For example, on my main account which has been running since the Hearthstone beta two years ago, I am yet to open a Flare or a Holy Fire, both of which are merely rare. My further purpose is to present a list of cards to consider when crafting, as some tend to be more valuable than others.  Those listed as "vital" are craft-worthy, while the "useful" cards are worth waiting for from packs as they only find application from time to time.  Cards not listed have the potential to be disenchant targets when one needs that last 100 dust to craft the next legendary minion.  For cards where one generally only needs a singleton of a card I have added "(1)" after the card name (though having a second might not always be a bad thing!). Druid.  Vital: Ancient of War (1), Wrath, Druid of the ClawNourish (1) Useful: Cenarius, Power of the Wild. Hunter.  Vital: Eaglehorn Bow, Unleash the Hounds, Savannah Highmane, Freezing Trap, Explosive Trap. Useful: Snake Trap (1) Mage.  Vital: Archmage Antonidas, Ice Block, Blizzard, Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Mirror EntityIce Barrier. Useful: Pyroblast (1), Ice Lance, Cone of Cold Paladin.  Vital: Tirion Fordring, Lay on Hands (1), Aldor Peacekeeper, Equality, Divine Favor. Useful: Avenging Wrath (1), Noble Sacrifice, Redemption, Repentance, Argent Protector Priest.  Vital: Auchenai Soulpriest, Cabal Shadow Priest (1), Circle of Healing. Useful: Thoughtsteal, Shadow Madness (1), Holy Fire, Inner Fire Rogue.  Vital: Edwin vanCleef, SI:7 Agent, Eviscerate, Preparation Useful: Shadowstep, Cold Blood, Conceal Shaman.  Vital: Doomhammer (1), Lightning Storm, Lava Burst, Feral Spirit, Mana Tide Totem (1), Earth Shock, Lightning Bolt. Useful: Al'akir the Windlord, Unbound Elemental, Stormforged Axe (1) Warlock.  Vital: Lord Jaraxxus, Doomguard, Void Terror (1), Power Overwhelming, Flame Imp, Siphon Soul (1), Shadowflame (1). Useful: Bane of Doom (1). Warrior.  Vital:  Grommash Hellscream, Shield Slam, Brawl (1), Armorsmith, Cruel Taskmaster, Slam. Useful: Gorehowl (1), Frothing Berserker, Battle Rage, Inner Rage. Neutral.  Vital: Sylvanas Windrunner, Ragnaros the Firelord, Ysera, Alexstrasza, Bloodmage Thalnos, Doomsayer, Sea Giant (1), Knife Juggler, Sunfury Protector, Defender of Argus, Azure Drake, Wild Pyromancer, Abusive Sergeant, Ironbeak Owl (1), Acolyte of Pain, Dire Wolf Alpha (1), Loot Hoarder, Worgen Infiltrator, Earthen Ring Farseer, Argent Squire. Useful: Leeroy Jenkins, Harrison Jones, Malygos, Baron Geddon, The Black Knight, Mountain Giant, Faceless Manipulator (1), Blood Knight (1) , Secretkeeper, Ancient Watcher, Coldlight Oracle, Injured Blademaster, Mind Control Tech (1), Twilight Drake, Violet Teacher, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Sunwalker, Southsea Deckhand, Harvest Golem, Cult Master (1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1), Dread Corsair, Spellbreaker (1).   The Absolute Core There are neutral common and rare cards that I believe are more than merely vital to a collection, and many of the commons listed here will make appearances in the decks below.  If you are willing to spend the dust on non-Legendary cards while your collection is still in its infancy, then that dust is best spent here: Abusive Sergeant, Acolyte of PainDire Wolf Alpha (1), Earthen Ring Farseer, Argent Squire, Harvest Golem, Loot Hoarder, Ironbeak Owl (1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1), Azure Drake, Knife Juggler, Defender of Argus, and Wild Pyromancer. You will use these cards so much you would want to purchase virtual card sleeves to protect their mint condition. 

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The Common Denominator

Last Updated: August 17, 2016

Greetings all, Thundyr here.  I previously wrote the Hearthstone Journeyman Guide series, where I started a fresh account on the US server and detailed my journey from rank 25 to rank 5 while spending not a dime on packs or adventure sets.  My collection grew from nothing to one capable of building the vast majority of legend-viable decks across all classes, including a 10,000+ dust value Control Paladin (and have unlocked the first wing of Karazhan with gold).  The depth of this collection had the unfortunate side-effect that it became increasingly difficult to write new articles that were relevant to newer players, especially those who also followed the Free-to-Play path.  As time passed it became apparent that the articles written at the start of the series had lost relevance to the Standard format because they were written at a time long before Standard existed.  While most of the concepts remain valid their context does not, and therefore their value to newer players is diminished. In an effort to correct these first world problems I'm starting a new series that will focus initially on the Classic set only, as it is the only expert set that will remain a constant for all new players and will continue to provide the backbone for most competitive decks.  I will offer guidance on how to grow the concepts discussed here into whatever the Standard format of the day is, and will revisit these articles and decks from time to time to freshen them up when significant changes occur to the gaming environment.

The Journeyman Player

The "Journeyman" is the player caught skill-wise between apprentice and master, with a Swiss-cheese-style collection containing more holes than substance.  This is the player who, at a minimum, has every hero at level 10 and therefore has unlocked all the Basic set cards, and has some familiarity with them even if only gained from contests with the Innkeeper.  To get that far one has likely opened 10 to 20 packs of "expert" cards from both the introductory and the initial burst of play mode quests (hopefully all from the Classic set), some cards from which will appear in commonly-searched deck lists.  The entirety of such a collection is probably valued under 500 dust.  By stark contrast, the average competitive deck costs upwards of 1500 dust, especially since Sylvanas Windrunner (worth 1600 dust on her own) is currently used more often than a kick drum at a heavy metal concert. To make matter worse, the daily quests do not necessarily roll for the player's best-developed classes, leaving the player to re-roll one of them each day hoping to get a 'hit'.  This series will look in depth at the decks and strategies available to the Hearthstone Journeyman as he steps out into the wild.

The Startup Collection

I have created a fresh account under the name "Nyarlathotep", which should be familiar to followers of H.P. Lovecroft and whose works or their spin-offs are surely inspiration for Hearthstone's Whispers of the Old Gods set.  I could have chosen the name of He Who Shall Not Be Named, but then I would not have been able to tell anyone the account name.  This would have made things awkward.  People would also mistakenly have thought I was referring to Voldemo... ah ha ha, almost got me there!  Anyway, I feel Nyarlathotep is a much more interesting character with a more interesting ... name. I will use the exact decks discussed during these articles and no others so that my rank is always a true reflection of their power.  Unlike other players who will be hoarding dust to spend on crafting Legendary minions (which you should) and hanging onto those rarer cards that don't feature in mainstream decks just yet (which you also should), I will be tailoring this collection around the article decks while not worrying about whether I'm losing value by doing so.  I presently have 88 cards from the Classic set in my collection which includes 1 "nice to have but seldom played" epic in Sword of Justice, and 0 legendary cards.  I completed the free Arena run with 5 wins which gave me an Old Gods pack, which in turn means I own a playset of Beckoner of Evil and C'Thun because they are doled out like soup to the poor.  I don't intend to play Arena with the account but you should.  None of the heroes have reached level 20 so I cannot even play the weekly Tavern Brawl! But in truth all of that is irrelevant, so forget what you just read.  Nyarlathotep's purpose is merely to demonstrate why you only need 6 Classic set commons...

The Deck-building Premise

Armed with the Basic set cards and a smattering of expert cards, the Journeyman player will be capable of determining that at least one rare and one common card in the collection will never see play (for example the Savagery and Priestess of Elune that I got in my 3rd pack).  By disenchanting these cards the Journeyman will gain 25 dust, but more importantly will gain a bonus 95 dust when disenchanting the first card from the collection; a once-off, hidden quest reward.  This gives 120 dust in total.  Common cards cost 40 dust to craft, and with a small amount of luck the Journeyman will have 3 other commons that are powerful enough to be played in serious decks.  So I have set the target that the initial decks will run a maximum of 6 Classic set common cards, with the rest of the deck coming from the Basic set only. The goal is to provide enough insight into each deck's purpose that the player could build the deck immediately thanks to the "first disenchant" 95 dust reward, and it will be sufficiently strong that the player can reach rank 20 or beyond no matter the metagame of the day.  At rank 20 the player will qualify for a reward chest at the end of the season, which will contain at least the seasonal card back, 5 dust and a random golden common card (worth 50 dust if disenchanted); in other words, half the dust investment made by the player in crafting the deck will return almost immediately.  I will not suggest that the player craft *all* the cards I will use for the 9 classes, as it is much more important to save the dust to craft Legendary minions, but there are a few staples that will make daily quests and gaining the initial ranks much simpler. My secret requirement (shh... don't tell anyone) is to also try to make the decks distinct from the body of "budget deck" work made by other players, specifically the "0 dust" decks that litter the internet and are built on the mistaken concept that new players won't open playable cards in their packs.  Having said that, some truly excellent guides exist for these decks so I do not wish to simply switch a few cards and claim the work as my own.  I want to demonstrate that even with as few as 6 commons one can craft an effective deck with a strategy different from that provided with the Basic set, a strategy that might not occur to the player brought up on 0 dust decks and their linear "improvements". For the record, Nyarlathotep reached rank 20 some time before the end of the July 2016 season by going undefeated from rank 25 on the strength of crafting 2 of the commons in the Druid deck below (thanks to some luck with getting a playset of Druid of the Claw from a single pack).  The account is presently at rank 18 and I have not deviated from the "Six-Common" decks.

The Break Point

As one gains experience in ranked play one will discover there exists a finite dividing line that separates those players with enough cards to build at least one top deck and those who do not.  The break point is passed when one is playing against exclusively "legend viable" decks that have been copied off internet sites.  While it is true that many of the players just above the break point are likely weaker players propped up by powerful cards, one should not underestimate them as one could easily be playing an experienced player who simply has not had much available time to play during the current month (such as when pro-player Reckful was somehow paired against a rank 21 player with a strong collection).  Even though we will only be using 6 commons our target is to be good enough at Hearthstone that we can reach this break point rank every month; to be the "best of the rest".  Honestly, what more could we achieve? Naturally, the ladder reset that occurs each month bunches everyone together below rank 15.  As the month progresses so the break point moves upwards from 20 at a pace not exceeding 2 ranks per week.  As we open more packs and use newer cards to strengthen our decks, so we will elevate our rank above the break point despite playing "under-powered" decks; to use skill and knowledge of the metagame as our advantage rather than luck or money.

The Ultimate Craft List

There is a collection of Classic cards that you should never disenchant unless you have an excess of them or they are nerfed by Blizzard.  These are staples that will generally always be included in viable deck lists.  I am putting this here so that you don't make a mistake by taking the dust for a card you underestimate.  Some cards simply never come around again and you will be forced to spend dust later to craft them.  For example, on my main account which has been running since the Hearthstone beta two years ago, I am yet to open a Flare or a Holy Fire, both of which are merely rare. My further purpose is to present a list of cards to consider when crafting, as some tend to be more valuable than others.  Those listed as "vital" are craft-worthy, while the "useful" cards are worth waiting for from packs as they only find application from time to time.  Cards not listed have the potential to be disenchant targets when one needs that last 100 dust to craft the next legendary minion.  For cards where one generally only needs a singleton of a card I have added "(1)" after the card name (though having a second might not always be a bad thing!). Druid.  Vital: Ancient of War (1), Wrath, Druid of the ClawNourish (1) Useful: Cenarius, Power of the Wild. Hunter.  Vital: Eaglehorn Bow, Unleash the Hounds, Savannah Highmane, Freezing Trap, Explosive Trap. Useful: Snake Trap (1) Mage.  Vital: Archmage Antonidas, Ice Block, Blizzard, Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Mirror EntityIce Barrier. Useful: Pyroblast (1), Ice Lance, Cone of Cold Paladin.  Vital: Tirion Fordring, Lay on Hands (1), Aldor Peacekeeper, Equality, Divine Favor. Useful: Avenging Wrath (1), Noble Sacrifice, Redemption, Repentance, Argent Protector Priest.  Vital: Auchenai Soulpriest, Cabal Shadow Priest (1), Circle of Healing. Useful: Thoughtsteal, Shadow Madness (1), Holy Fire, Inner Fire Rogue.  Vital: Edwin vanCleef, SI:7 Agent, Eviscerate, Preparation Useful: Shadowstep, Cold Blood, Conceal Shaman.  Vital: Doomhammer (1), Lightning Storm, Lava Burst, Feral Spirit, Mana Tide Totem (1), Earth Shock, Lightning Bolt. Useful: Al'akir the Windlord, Unbound Elemental, Stormforged Axe (1) Warlock.  Vital: Lord Jaraxxus, Doomguard, Void Terror (1), Power Overwhelming, Flame Imp, Siphon Soul (1), Shadowflame (1). Useful: Bane of Doom (1). Warrior.  Vital:  Grommash Hellscream, Shield Slam, Brawl (1), Armorsmith, Cruel Taskmaster, Slam. Useful: Gorehowl (1), Frothing Berserker, Battle Rage, Inner Rage. Neutral.  Vital: Sylvanas Windrunner, Ragnaros the Firelord, Ysera, Alexstrasza, Bloodmage Thalnos, Doomsayer, Sea Giant (1), Knife Juggler, Sunfury Protector, Defender of Argus, Azure Drake, Wild Pyromancer, Abusive Sergeant, Ironbeak Owl (1), Acolyte of Pain, Dire Wolf Alpha (1), Loot Hoarder, Worgen Infiltrator, Earthen Ring Farseer, Argent Squire. Useful: Leeroy Jenkins, Harrison Jones, Malygos, Baron Geddon, The Black Knight, Mountain Giant, Faceless Manipulator (1), Blood Knight (1) , Secretkeeper, Ancient Watcher, Coldlight Oracle, Injured Blademaster, Mind Control Tech (1), Twilight Drake, Violet Teacher, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Sunwalker, Southsea Deckhand, Harvest Golem, Cult Master (1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1), Dread Corsair, Spellbreaker (1).   The Absolute Core There are neutral common and rare cards that I believe are more than merely vital to a collection, and many of the commons listed here will make appearances in the decks below.  If you are willing to spend the dust on non-Legendary cards while your collection is still in its infancy, then that dust is best spent here: Abusive Sergeant, Acolyte of PainDire Wolf Alpha (1), Earthen Ring Farseer, Argent Squire, Harvest Golem, Loot Hoarder, Ironbeak Owl (1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1), Azure Drake, Knife Juggler, Defender of Argus, and Wild Pyromancer. You will use these cards so much you would want to purchase virtual card sleeves to protect their mint condition. 

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