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    The Dragon's Den: Introduction/Life and Mana


    Hello, everyone! Welcome to Dragon's Den, where I will introduce a variety of topics pertaining to Hearthstone, and in particular the theory behind playing this game.

    I have been playing Hearthstone since around December of 2013, starting just before the closed beta ended. I was rank 20 in the previous test season, and my maximum arena wins are 5. My love for Hearthstone began immediately upon playing the game, and I have been attached to it ever since. My favorite class in Hearthstone is Mage, with Warlock as a close second.

    Dragon’s Den will explore the theory behind card games, using Hearthstone in particular as a focus. In my first few articles, I will explain three concepts that are important to every card game: Card Advantage, Tempo, and Life/Mana. Let's jump right in.

    Life as a Resource

    Although the resource of life in Hearthstone appears simple, there are complex methods of interacting with it. You start with 30, and you lose if you get to 0. While certain cards increase your life total, it cannot go above 30, the global maximum. A few ways you can interact with an opponent’s life, including your own; are hero powers belonging to the Warlock, Hunter, Druid, Priest, Mage, and Warrior. The Warrior and Druid hero powers give you armor, which blocks 1 point of damage for each point of armor you have. Your life total can also be affected by spells, battlecry abilities, and of course, minions swinging at your face.

    Some mechanics that affect life total are direct damage, direct healing, battlecry damage and heals, and deathrattle damage. The following cards illustrate these mechanics, accompanied by a brief explanation of each.


    Fireball is a spell that deals direct damage. This card is pretty straight forward, it deals 6 damage to any target you choose.


    This card is an example of a spell that does direct healing. When played, it heals the target for 6 points of life.


    Ironforge Rifleman is a minion whose battlecry effect deals damage to a single target. Battlecry means that the effect listed after Battlecry happens when it enters play.


    Voodoo Doctor is a minion whose battlecry heals a target. Just like the Ironforge Rifleman, this effect only happens when the card is first played, and the card sticks around as a normal minion afterwards.


    Leper Gnome is a minion whose deathrattle deals damage. Deathrattle is an effect that happens once, upon the minion’s death. Unlike the effects listed above, this is not targeted, and instead only damages the enemy hero upon this minion’s death.

    The most important thing I can stress about Life is this: If you have any other amount besides 0, you're still playing. This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but one thing I can’t stress enough: you can always snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Some players concede when they hit 5 life because they see no possibility of victory; and I am here to tell you that so long as you have above 0 life, you should be fighting. In Hearthstone, a single minion’s death can swing the game in your favor. You could draw that one spell that assures your victory, maybe your opponent takes suboptimal action and gives you the advantage. Either way, remember as long as you have more than 0 life, you can win.

    This certainly isn't the last you have heard of Life. The finer points require me to explain Tempo and Card Advantage first, so expect more Life in the future.

    Mana as a Resource

    Mana in Hearthstone is incredibly simple, in comparison to games such as Magic. You begin the game with 1 mana crystal and gain 1 every turn, up to a maximum of 10. The player that goes second receives The Coin, a card which gives them a bonus mana crystal when it’s played.

    This system is markedly different from other popular card games. Compared to Magic and Pokemon, Hearthstone’s mana is extremely stable. Instead of drawing resources (Magic’s land or Pokemon’s energy) from your deck, mana is automatically granted. In other TCG’s, you can generally only play one of these resource cards per turn (certain card interactions notwithstanding). Unlike Hearthstone, there is no ceiling for the amount of these resources in play at one time.

    Mana is used to play cards, whether they be spells, minions, or secrets. They are also used for your hero power, all of which cost 2 mana. It is important that you use as much of your mana as possible every turn. This ensures maximum efficiency in the cards that you are playing. If you are left with 1 mana at the end of a turn, and you could have played a 1 mana card, why didn't you? There are situations where withholding mana is the appropriate play, but as a general rule of thumb you want to spend all of your mana.

    There are some cards that affect your mana total, whether temporary or permanent. Innervate, for example, is a Druid card that gives you 2 mana crystals on the turn you use it. Cards like this can be used to gain incredible advantages in the early game, as they allow you to play cards with higher costs sooner than normal.

    Efficiently using your mana is a topic in it’s own right. Knowing when to cast a 4-cost spell as opposed to casting a 2-cost spell and your hero power is a great example and bears further analysis. As with life, I will be revisiting mana in regards to Tempo and Card Advantage, so expect to see more on it in later articles.

    Closing Thoughts

    Thank you, kind audience, for joining me for the first installment of Dragon's Den! I shall be putting out more articles in the future, with my next article focusing on Tempo, how to obtain Tempo, what Tempo is, and how life and mana relate to Tempo.

    As an aside, I am always open to playing a game of Hearthstone with you, unless I am presently occupied. My battletag is Dragnosis#1884. I am available to play games with you, discuss deck theory, even give you arena advice, just hit me up. Thanks for reading!

    My name is Dragnosis. I have been a member of MadCast since March of 2013, and have been an RFM in MadCast since February of 2014. I am an officer in Guild Wars 2, and I play many other games as well, such as Hearthstone, Diablo 3, and League of Legends.

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