Hearthstone’s Classic Format And Deck Archetype Guide

Hearthstone’s Classic mode has finally arrived, and while it might feel familiar if you have been playing since 2014, newer players could find the changes jarring. At its core, Classic mode is like taking a trip into the past where you craft decks using the original 240 cards in the game without any balance updates, or content from Adventures or Expansions. Your Basic, Classic, and Hall of Fame cards will have different stats when building a deck in this mode, just as they were in patch from June 2014.

For example, we can look to everyone’s favorite, overzealous Paladin, Leeroy Jenkins. In both Standard and Wild the Legendary minion costs 5 mana to play, but in classic mode, you have access to the pre-nerfed version which only costs 4 mana.

To celebrate the launch of Classic mode, all players who log in to Hearthstone will get a free, Golden Classic Card Pack.

The Biggest Differences Between Modes

Put simply, Classic mode will be slower, more predictable, and in many ways, will feel fairer than both Standard and Wild formats. This was due to a smaller pool of cards to choose from and little RNG. Today’s meta decks in Standard and Wild are almost exclusively made up of cards from Adventures and Expansions, because power creep has made it so that new cards are often given more stats, greater value, and more powerful effects than older cards.

As a result, dominating in Classic mode will rely more on tempo, initiative, and card advantage, all with cards that are “weaker” than newer cards. In July 2020, esports player Maxime Pelletier described in detail how these used to be fundamentals to top levels of play but have been replaced with keywords like Rush, as well as giving too many classes safe access to card draw with few drawbacks to the point where fighting for the board is largely irrelevant. Check out the video below for an older video that teaches the fundamentals of card tempo, value, and board positioning, mostly using cards form the Basic and Classic set.

As mentioned, RNG also plays a far smaller role in Classic mode. There is no Discover keyword, nor is there Zephrys the Great or Babbling Book to give you a game-winning solution. Instead, what you bring in a deck is what you get.

Strong Deck Archetypes

Hearthstone has always been an expensive game to play if you want to play certain decks, but there are also some excellent free-to-play options. Below are a few of the most popular deck types from 2014, which should be just as strong in Classic mode, but keep in mind that the list is hardly exhaustive. With that said, players found new ways to min/max the content in World of Warcraft Classic, and the same could happen here with new strategies.

One class that embodies both price points is the Warlock thanks to its Hero Power, which is by far the best in the game and gives you access to consistent card draw. The Warlock Hero Power is so powerful that Blizzard almost changed it prior to the launch of the game but could not find a suitable replacement.

With such reliable card draw, Zoolock is one of the best decks to jump into Classic mode. It is cheap to craft, requires no Legendary minions, and demands that you focus on proper board positioning to be played effectively. Even today, Zoolock variations can often find a spot in any meta, so be sure to check out the deck that started in all in Hearthstone.

Handlock is the other side of the Warlock deck archetype which also takes advantage of reliable card draw to discount the cost of Mountain and Molten Giants, get the most value out of Twilight Drakes, and then add taunts with Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus. Both decks are strong and capable of taking you to Legend, and because the Hero Power is so powerful, Blizzard was forced to give the Warlock class subpar cards with each new expansion. Below is a template of the more common options for both Zoolock and Handlock.

Face Hunter, or Smorc Hunter, is the next deck archetype that is sure to be powerful in Classic mode. As the name implies, face is the place, and you pilot this deck as pure aggro. There are several notable nerf reverts that will make this a deck to fear. First, Eaglehorn Bow will again gain durability charges from any Secret that is activated, not only from your own Secrets. Second, Starving Buzzard is again going down to 2 mana from its nerfed 5 mana cost, and combined with Unleash the Hounds, you will have an immense amount of draw.

Ever since this was nerfed, the Hunter class has never had as much draw power available to them, so be aware of Hunters that will be able to close out games quickly. Like the Zoolock deck archetype, this is a relatively cheap deck to craft, with Leeroy Jenkins being the only Legendary used as an excellent option to get in that last bit of damage. Midrange Hunter will also be another strong option, with Savannah Highmane being one of the best midrange drops in the game. Below is what a great start for a Smorc deck.

Wallet, or Control Warrior, is next up on the list, and is the original control deck in Hearthstone. Unfortunately, it was somewhat rare to see in play years ago because, as its nickname implies, Wallet Warrior was damn expensive in 2014 thanks to needing Legendary cards like Grommash Hellscream, Alexstrasza, Ragnaros the Firelord, Cairne Bloodhoof, Harrison Jones, and sometimes adding in tech or optional cards like The Black Knight, Bloodmage Thalnos. Add in Epics like Shield Slam, Brawl, and Gorehowl, and you might need 10-15,000 dust for a single deck.

Still, Control Warrior was a great deck in the early days of Hearthstone. Unlike today in Standard and Wild, an opponent cannot generate the near-infinite value we see in games. In most cases, once a minion is gone, they are gone for good. There are no full-board resurrections, so working to control the board to outlast and outvalue an opponent is a viable strategy.

Lastly, there are several options that could be considered Combo decks, though unlike today, they are less able to create One Turn Kills (OTK) from 30 points of health to zero unless under the most precise of conditions. Instead, most of these decks require board control and a turn to setup for a big finish. For this, we have Freeze Mage that stalls the game with Frost Novas and Ice Blocks, Miracle Rogue with bouncing Leeroy Jenkins and Cold Blood, and both Mid-range Druid using Force of Nature and Savage Roar, and Malygos Druid with big, cheap spells to the face.

Will The Meta Ever Change?

In all likelihood, the meta will largely be solved from day one. These were among the best decks in 2014, and only with the discovery of some new card interaction could there be any substantial change. With that said, so many players have been passively growing their Classic mode collection over the years by simply playing the game, that decks previously too expensive might now be a more common sight. Otherwise, Blizzard would need to make targeting balance changes to keep players interested in Classic mode past its initial launch window.

Still, if you are looking for a slower paced form of Hearthstone that rewards strategic play, while also sparing you from the random shenanigans of Standard and Wild, then Classic mode is definitely for you.

NEXT: Why Can’t Blizzard Figure Out Its Esports Scene?

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The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.

Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.

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