There was a point in which every player has come to hate the overly aggressive decks. If you’ve never played an aggro deck and you keep facing them while laddering, there is a high chance that you’ll think you keep losing to “no-brain” SMOrcing. However, not only are aggro decks hard to pilot over a high amount of games, but they also define the meta structure in a way that usually no other deck can.
Why aggressive decks are hard to pilot? – Analyzing the mentality of playing an aggro deck
There is a general thought that aggressive decks are brainless decks, that is totally wrong. Yes, there will be times that the aggressive player opens with the perfect hand, while their opponent draws nothing useful, ending up losing on turn 5, but this is not usually the case. If you set aside the joy that one can feel while playing an aggressive deck, there is some laddering mentality behind it. When you want to climb fast, choosing an aggro deck is always a solid option. For example, if an aggro deck and a control deck have the exact same win rates, you should always choose the aggro over the control deck, if you want to climb fast. That is, because the games that you’ll play will be extremely shorter, and thus, you’ll end up playing more games! This is useful when you know how to pilot an aggro deck perfectly. When playing aggro, you ask yourself the most important question that Hearthstone can present you, quite often. That question being: “Do I trade or do I go face?”. When you face aggro this might not seem complicated, but in the scenario where you are the aggro player, this decision is crucial! Wasting just one damage on turn 2, might cost you the game. It doesn’t matter if you are up against aggro or control, most of the games that you’ll lose, you will be one turn away from lethal. This means that every decision counts!
Once again, there is no golden rule when it comes to trading. The outcome of your decision varies, depending on the deck you face, the current situation of the board, and of course, your reach. At its core, Freeze Mage is considered to be an aggro deck, because you don’t focus on the board to win. You focus on damaging your opponent’s face immediately, through your spells. So, what you should do is ask yourself the right questions. These are questions like:
Do I win with my board, or just with weapons/spells? If I have to win with my board, I have to protect it. This means I have to trade.
Can my opponent heal themselfs? If not, I should probably rush face, as long as I have the reach.
Can I win if I play around the “x” card? If not, I have to ignore that scenario, and play my game accordingly!
In specific situations, things get more complicated, but as your experience level rises, you will be able to answer these questions in the most efficient way. Mastering an aggro deck means that you know the line of play that gives you the most chance to find lethal on the following turns. You have to think ahead of your turn, know how your game is going to go, and then play to maximize your chances. This is why aggro decks require a lot of practice and a flexible mentality, for you to pilot them correctly. The best way to observe that, is by watching a high-level streamer playing an aggro deck. It is almost guaranteed that some plays might seem weird to you, while there are obviously better plays in your mind. As the game progresses, you will understand why their play was correct. This is usually about knowing how each specific match up progresses, and abusing your opponent’s weaknesses as much as possible. Last but not least, your best teacher should be you. Take the time and reevaluate decisions that you feel were crucial after you lost a game. Try not to get angry, and focus on your potential misplays. This is how legends are born!
Why aggro decks define the meta? – Evolution of each meta structure in relation to aggro’s state
Blizzard’s player base is consisted mostly of casual players. This means that most players want to play some quick games and have fun, while not dedicating too much time into the game. In addition, most players prefer short games over long ones. Losing a long game is always more frustrating than losing a short one. This is the reason why most players prefer aggro decks rather than control. In Hearthstone’s history, there were some really powerful aggro decks, and there still are. However, when aggro decks take control of the ladder, players will try to counter them immediately. Let’s take for example the pre-Rogue nerf meta. For quite some time Quest Rogue, Token Shaman and Pirate Warrior were the most played decks on the ladder. So, people started playing Freeze and Burn Mage. These decks are favored against the previously stated ones. While Quest Rogue annihilates control decks, it is unfavored against any kind of Mage that has control tools. Aggro decks forced players to start playing different decks, in order to win! And that’s the beauty of Hearthstone. After some time, people started playing anti-aggro versions of Dragon Priest. Jade Druid became more popular because it’s favored against any kind of slow pace deck. The point to make here, is that it is of high importance to have viable aggro decks in every meta. This way, you can see a meta evolve, rather than becoming stale because one deck is just better than every other. You need to have a competent aggro deck in every meta, so that players can adjust to that. This way, the meta becomes a dynamic construct, rather than a static one. If you are new to Hearthstone you might not be familiar, but there were decks that were favored against every opponent. This makes the game repetitive and boring. From a design perspective, it is really hard to create balanced 1-drops. If a class has powerful one drops, they usually tend to snowball the whole game, because Hearthstone is meant to be a Tempo game. But as we’ve seen, Blizzard has learnt from their mistakes. This is why the Un’Goro meta had a variety like no other.
We see how players adjust from lowers ranks to higher ones. On legend rank, freeze mage and secret mage have completely overcome Token Shaman.
While most players would rather have no aggro decks in the meta, it should be quite clear that their presence is of high importance, even if they do not end up being Tier 1. Sometimes you will lose to aggro while you’ve done no misplays. And that’s Hearthstone. The best thing you can do about that is to learn how to counter these decks, be flexible with the deck that you choose to climb with, and always reevaluate your potential misplays. Aggro was and always will be a strong archetype in Hearthstone.
Author: George “Pestilentio” Spanos
George studies applied physics and mathematics and is a self-taught web developer. He is a founding member and the webmaster of Hearthstone Puzzles. His strongest point is his ability to provide in depth insights, regarding whatever game he focuses on.