The Holy Trinity – Card Advantage, Tempo Lead, and Life Count

In HearthStone, you have a number of various resources at your disposal that you have to use in the most strategic way in order to achieve victory. Some of them such as mana crystals are immediately apparent even to the most inexperienced adventurer. However, some others are more abstract and require a bit more clarification which this article aims to provide. These concepts are very basic card game concepts and are an integral part of every single game of Hearthstone.

Card Advantage

This concept is the most commonly neglected one by beginners. They look at a 0-Mana card like Wisp and think to themselves: “Oh that is a great card! I can play it for free.” But they will quickly notice that for some reason they tend to run out of cards rather quickly. This is because the card itself has to be looked at as an inherent type of cost as well. Consequently, the goal of midrange and slower control decks is usually to generate enough card advantage in order to overwhelm your opponent in the mid to late game. To understand how card advantage works, look at the following examples: Example 1: Your opponent plays a Leper Gnome. Then you use Rockbiter Weapon on your hero to kill it. Your opponent used one card to play the Leper Gnome and you used one card to kill it with Rockbiter Weapon. Therefore, in terms of cards it is a one for one, an even trade. Example 2: Your opponents plays a Leper Gnome as well as Silver Hand Knight which spawns both a 4/4 and a 2/2. You kill all three minions by playing Twisting Nether. This time your opponent plays a total of three minions by playing two cards. You use one card to kill all of them. Therefore, in terms of cards it is a two for one. You have generated a card advantage of one.  

Tempo Lead

Tempo is what you will ultimately need to win the game. No matter how big of an card advantage you have over your opponent. At some point you will actually want to kill him. In order to do that you need tempo. The most common type of tempo lead is board control, i.e. loads of minions that beat the living crap out of the opposing hero. You can also win by dealing direct damage to your opponent with spells. Even though tempo and mana aren’t exactly the same as we will see in the next point, mana generally provides the best way to measure the rather abstract tempo lead in a game. Consider our examples from before: Example 1: We killed a 1-mana Leper Gnome using a 1-mana Rockbiter Weapon. Hence, we spent the same amount of mana as our opponent. We are even in tempo with him. Example 2: Our opponent plays a 1-mana Leper Gnome as well as a 5-mana Silver Hand Knight. In total, he spends 6 mana. We kill all his minions by playing Twisting Nether for 8 mana. Thereby, we put ourselves at a 2 mana tempo disadvantage.

Hearthstone Screenshot 12-01-15 10.34.47

Life Count

Life is a specific tempo concept that we ignored in the previous points, in that it cannot be measured by mana advantage and represents it’s own type of resource. It

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is part of the tempo concept because the life count is what you want to protect or damage for your or your opponent’s hero, respectively. Your seven minions won’t do a lot if the opposing Hunter simply Steady Shots you to death before you can actually kill him. Back to our examples: Example 1: Since you used the Rockbiter Weapon on your hero, you take 2 damage when attacking the Leper Gnome. Additionally, you take two damage from his deathrattle. You lose a total of 4 hit points. Example 2: Twisting Nether kills all opposing minions before they can attack your hero. However, the Leper Gnome still deals damage to your hero with his Deathrattle. You lose 2 hit points.  


As you have probably already noticed, the three concepts of Card Advantage, Tempo and Life Count cannot be completely separated from each other. Instead, they are different perspectives of every interaction. Adding everything up we receive the following total effects in our two examples: Example 1: One for one in cards, even in tempo, lost 4 lives. This results in an unfavorable trade. Example 2: Two for one in cards. 2 mana tempo disadvantage, lost 2 hit points. As you can see, in example 2 we cannot clearly determine whether we won the trade or not. In that case it depends on what concept you value higher for your particular game plan, i.e. your overall strategy. If you are Hunter, then you will usually try to race your opponent as fast as possible and go for tempo while a Warrior can outlast his opponent with his defensive hero power, and thus, rely on more on card advantage. In any case, you should always be aware of all three aspects before you decide which one you value the most and understand that they are tied to each other. Even if you go for the card advantage route, this card advantage will ultimately lead to a tempo advantage in the late game because you will still be able to play multiple cards in one turn when your opponents is already running out of cards. A good way to practice this is to play arena because arena games tend to be much slower with much less focused game plans.   twitterlogoFollow FaKe on Twitter! Twitchlogo Watch FaKe on Twitch!

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