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Hearthstone slang part 2: Gameplay

The second instalment of our segment explaining Hearthstone terminology is about key gameplay concepts.

Board Advantage

You have the board advantage when you have more minions on the battlefield than your opponent. You might also have the board advantage if your minions are fewer, but with bigger stats or useful effects. When you have the board advantage, you force your opponent to prioritise dealing with your minions as soon as possible, instead of damaging your life directly. This might come in the form of unfavourable trades or the use of damaging and Removal spells. When the enemy is wasting their Fireballs on your minions, they are not using them on your Face, which is good.

Card Advantage

This is a much simpler concept – you have the card advantage when you have more cards in hand. This is arguably the most important edge to have in the game, as more cards means more options, the possibility to react to a wider variety of threats and more combo pieces.

However, card advantage is not always as simple as counting the cards in your hand and comparing them to the upper part of the screen. It affects the way you draw cards. For example, Coldlight Oracle draws two cards for both you and the opponent. This is not giving you card advantage. On the other hand, cards such as Acolyte of Pain have the potential to draw you three, or sometimes even more cards (if buffed), which is almost always amazing. So much so, that back in the day people used to jokingly call him the Acolyte of Gain.

Like almost everything in Hearthstone, the advantage can be turned against the player. Too many cards in hand put you in danger of Milling if you start to overdraw (or the opponent forces you into drawing). This is when our fishy Oracle comes in hand.

Health Advantage

We won’t get into detail here, as it is quite self- explanatory what that is. But we would touch on an old saying card-gamers like to use: ‘the only difference in Health is between 0 and 1’. It’s a common rookie mistake to go directly for the opponent’s Health or protect yours at the expense of much more beneficial plays. Good players know when to push and when to protect themselves while keeping their attention on the board state. Some classes such as the Warlock and Warrior even use life as a resource – everything goes, if it means your opponent loses the game before you do.


This is the one you probably hear all the time without knowing what it really means, as it is a rather key concept in deck-building games, but one that’s not obvious to outsiders.

In short, having the tempo means being ahead of your opponent in terms of cards played, forcing them to react to your plays, instead of making an advance.

Key part of tempo play is playing the right minions every turn, not wasting any mana. A good example of tempo play might be seen in Murloc builds. In a perfect game, a Murloc player should put one or two minions on the board turn one, followed by a 2-mana costing minion on turn two, followed by a Murloc Warleader on turn three. Depending on the cards, this means between 7 and 13 damage on the board by turn three, and if the opponent doesn’t do something drastic (Hellfire, Consecration, etc.) they should be dead and gone by turn five.


This term is used in a couple of ways. The top-deck is the top card on your deck, the one you’re about to draw next. When you’re looking for a specific card to close the game, you hope to ‘top-deck’ it. Another use of the term is when you’re out of cards in hand. Usually, you don’t have a reliable draw engine on the battlefield, so you rely on the card you draw at the start of every turn. This is called ‘being in a top-deck mode’. When a game comes to this phase, especially if both players are in the same position, is when a lot of excitement is had, because the luck of the draw decides who wins and who loses, keeping both players and audiences on edge.

Our series will continue with the exploration of gameplay terminology in the next instalment!