Misplays in Hearthstone often go unpunished.
Featured image via Bilzzard.

Misplays Are Rarely Punished in Hearthstone

Dec 22, 2016
Featured image via Bilzzard.

Misplays are something that everyone encounters in Hearthstone. If you’re not sure what the term means or can’t figure it out from context, a misplay is a way to describe making incorrect or sub-optimal moves in a game. Everyone makes misplays, and these unforced errors can often decide the outcome of a game. However, the real issue in Hearthstone is that misplays are rarely punished, especially at higher levels of play.

Misplays in Professional Hearthstone

The difference between playing Hearthstone “perfectly” and making a few misplays is enough to separate casuals and pros. Since high level games are played on the ladder, your overall position on the leaderboards is going to be determined at least partially by how many games you play.

Here’s the thing: misplays don’t actually make much of a difference. This might sound strange, but bear with me–at a professional level, misplays are usually just sub-optimal plays. Common misplays include making inefficient trades, missing slightly easier clears, or clearing the board instead of hitting lethal. All of these are obviously misplays. Unfortuantely, they’re also small enough that making a single misplay can easily be recovered from. And this, my friends, is a problem.

Hearthstone: Too Static?

When your opponent misses lethal and leaves you at between one and ten health, it sucks. They messed up big time, and yet in almost every case, you’re still dead. Because of Hearthstone’s minion-based combat, if someone misses lethal, their board is usually still full. This means that in order for your opponent to recover from their misplay, they must clear and heal. There aren’t a ton of cards that do that.

Because Hearthstone’s board clears are inefficient, it’s very difficult to capitalize on a difficult situation. Twisting Nether is one of the only reliable board clears, and even it doesn’t remove Deathrattles properly. On a related note, healing is another uncommon card effect, and it’s usually quite useless. Reno Jackson provides the best heal in the game, but even he can’t help you if your opponent is working with a big board.

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Close Games: What We’re Missing from Misplays

Typically, the only time where misplays are truly punished is in incredibly close games. If you miss lethal and your opponent has two fireballs in hand, you can easily die. But those cases are few and far between. Typically, one player takes control of the board, and the game will play out based on their decisions. If they miss lethal, their opponent will still have to deal with the board. Once again, this is incredibly difficult — nine times out of ten, you’re still going to lose the game.

You should be able to capitalize on your opponent’s misktaes. The real issue is that Hearthstone refuses to print cards that severely punish misplays. The only card that let you take advantage of an unforced error, Molten Giant, was nerfed to oblivion. Molten Giant used to be the king of punishing misplays, especially if you had healing of any sort. Drop one or two Molten Giants, taunt them up, and play Reno or even Jaraxxus if he’s discounted. That’s how to come back from a misplay. While gamers usually bristle at the mention of “comeback mechanics,” the inability to win games due to misplays is frustrating for everyone involved. It cheapens the victory for the winner and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the loser.

Misplays in Seatstory Cup VI

The reason I’m so aggravated by this at the moment is because of the misplays in Seatstory Cup VI. The tournament was great, I loved it, but there were blatant misplays that went unpunished. The worst for me was in the match between Torik and C4mlann. Here’s the picture of the situation:

An example of a Hearthstone misplay at Seatstory Cup VI. This game is between C4mlann and Torik.

It may not be obvious, but the best play for Torik is to steal the Azure Drake. Then use the spell power bonus on Holy Nova to clear the board and draw some cards – a huge swing that clears the opponent’s board while having a massive card advantage. Instead, he played Drakonid Operative and ended with this board state:

Example of a Hearthstone misplay at Seatstory Cup VI. This is a screenshot from a game between C4mlann and Torik.

Notice him turned away after realizing how poorly he had played it. And yet, he won anyway. Torik made no play mistakes and actually took risky plays that were rewarded. And yet he lost.

Another example was during the finals, when Sjow missed lethal, but won the next turn anyway.

To quote Reynad’s cast during the event: “There is no justice.”

Seatstory VI Cup BannerEdwin Van Cleef Banner
Dec 16, 2016
Grimy Goons Banner
Dec 13, 2016
Kun the Forgotten King
Dec 11, 2016
Dirty Rat isn't even that dirty. Literally unplayable.
Dec 9, 2016
Stephen Draper
Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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