Today is the day. The last day of the season always brings chaos as everyone is pushing the ladder for rank. It’s always a crazy day full of big swings, but I have put together a couple of suggestions to keep you sane. In my opinion, the best advice I can give any Hearthstone player for today is “Know when to say “when”. This is multifaceted advice and applies to many aspects of laddering on the last day of the season. There are several things to take into account. These things include, but are not limited to, where you want to finish, what rank is a realistic finish for you, what rank you are as you move into today’s meta, what deck you are playing, and then what decks are being played in the sub-meta of your rank position. I don’t even know if sub-meta is an accepted term, but for the purpose of this post, we will use it as a way to describe the meta associated with your basic position on the ladder. For example, if you are in rank 25-21, you will be playing in a different meta than those who are rank 9-5. I divide the ladder into 5 sub-metas, starting at rank 25 and ending at Legend. I group the ranks as follows 25-21, 20-15, 14-10, 9-5, 4-Legend. In my opinion, each has a sub-meta within the rank, which means that your deck will have to be able to navigate the threats present in the decks of that sub-meta in order to move into the next sub-meta. Once you reach the next sub-meta, changes may need to be made in order to address changes in the meta of the decks you will be facing within that rank and sub-meta. Depending on where you are on the ladder, You may find it necessary to abandon a deck, or even your playstyle, if the meta is showing a strong counter to your deck type.
So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the different “when” conditions. If you find yourself losing more than you are winning, then it is time to consider a “When” condition. You need to be able to look at your situation and determine whether the deck you are playing needs to be altered, whether your losses are due to misplay, whether it is the result of bad matchups, whether you can adapt your playstyle without altering the deck, or if it is time to switch to something new. In some cases, the “when” condition will change depending on what your ultimate goal for the end of the season. Are you striving to hit Legend, get above rank 5 or 10, or angling for a personal best? Factor these goals in as you look at the statements below.
1. Know when to alter your deck to suit a new sub-meta. – This is an important “when” because sometimes you will just face a few decks that your deck doesn’t handle well, but that isn’t necessarily a sign that the sub-meta has shifted. Sometimes you may just run into a string of bad draws or opening hands, or it could be a sign that your deck is not consistant in the face of the rising skill level or your opponents. Evaluate HOW you lost and the characteristics of the decks and players you have lost against. Have you seen those characteristics in the decks and players you won against before you went on your slide? If not, then it could be a sub-meta shift, and you may need to change out a card or two that isn’t working or tech in a card to counter a particular mechanic. If you had just advanced from one of the rank groups I listed before, then you may be entering a new sub-meta and it may be time to re-evaluate your decklist. If you haven’t left the sub-meta, then it could be the sign of a different problem.
2. Know when to tough it out. – Sometimes, you will get into what I call a “wolf pack”. A “wolf pack” is a group of control or aggro decks, in a sub-meta, that are designed specifically to counter the current meta or sub-meta. These decks tend to advance quickly through sub-metas in ranks 25-6, when win streaks are available. You may encounter these in groups of 3-4 at a time, as they tend to be streaky, winning against the designed counters, but losing to each other. Running up against them can hand you 3-4 straight losses quickly, and it can be frustrating. This isn’t always a sign to change up your deck though, so be careful and identify the difference between a “wolf pack” and a sub-meta shift. You can either continue to play, or take a quick 15-20 minute break, and see if the trend continues or whether it was just a “wolf pack”. If your deck was working well, and you haven’t advanced out of one of the groupings I listed before, then you may have just encountered a “wolf pack” and altering your deck to adjust to them may cause your deck to lose it’s identity and could weaken the overall performance against the majority of the decks in the sub-meta.
3. Know when a deck list has been countered. – As you progress through the ranks, the sub-metas will shift. Depending on the decklist, you may be fine for many games, then suddenly hit a wall of counter decks. This could be a sign of a major sub-meta shift, and your decklist may no longer be effective, or may just be ineffective in the current sub-meta. If it is the latter, then you can switch back to your deck after you have climbed out of the current sub-meta. As you go through the season, you can often just power through these shifts, or wait until a sub-meta changes over, but today is the last day, so if your intention is to climb as high as possible (through ranks 25-6) then you will need to switch to a deck that can handle the current sub-meta. Things get murky the higher on the ladder you climg. After win streaks are no longer available, then winning percentage vs. number of games played is a decision you will have to make on your own based on your playstyle. Remember that all decks have hard counters, so if you find yourself on the receiving end of this, it may be time to find a counter deck of your own to play. Exposing a counter of an existing sub-meta is the quickest way through the sub-meta as your win percentage increases and you can take advantage of win streaks.
4. Know when to say when. – This is the hardest thing for players to do. There comes a point where you have to accept that, for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to win with what you are doing. This could be because of any of the previous “When’s” I have listed above, it could be fatigue or mental state. Whatever the reason, knowing when to remove yourself from ladder play is crucial. Sometimes you need a break, or sometimes you are getting in your own way and just need to work through something. My magic number here is 4 losses. After 4 losses, I stop and evaluate my “when’s”. If I need a break, I get up and take a break. I promise that the amount of time you take on the break will be less than the amount of time you will spend climbing back out of the hole you have dug yourself into trying to play through it. If I don’t think fatigue is the issue, then I switch to casual mode and play a few games with my deck to get my groove back. Then after a few wins in a row (my magic number is 3), I switch back to ladder and see if the issue has been corrected. If it hasn’t, then I step away from Hearthstone all together and come back in an hour or more. During this time, I am not thinking of Hearthstone or the ladder, so when I come back, I can look on my situation, the sub-meta, and my decklist with fresh eyes. If you come back and your situation hasn’t changed after 3 games, then it is time to call it a season and prepare for next month’s climb.
I incorporate the “when” concept into my play all season long. That being said, remember that for the purpose of this article, we are talking about just the last day of the season. Today needs to be about efficiency and progress. Whether you are pushing for rank to achieve this season, or whether you are playing for placement stars to get a jump on next season, today is all about climbing as far as you can as fast as you can. Figure out what strategy works for you, and if you start losing more than you are winning, then it may be time to evaluate your “when” condition.