Previously, we discussed the fundamentals of PvP in Hearthstone's latest Gacha inspired mode, Mercenaries. While combat vs. a fully geared opponent will always be an uphill battle for F2P squads or those not willing to grind PvE bounties ad nauseam, Mercenaries PvP is, at its core, about thinking ahead and predicting your opponent.
Now that a popular meta has been established and the most effective Mercenaries have revealed themselves, predictable turn 1-3 scenarios involving key meta Mercenaries have become the norm. In this guide, I will outline advanced PvP tips and tricks to better prepare you for these situations and, ultimately, increase your win percentage.
1. Tavish Stormpike (fighter) is powerful, but not unbeatable
Not getting destroyed by an opponent's starting Tavish is likely the first major frustration players will encounter in PvP. Thanks to his equipment, Rigged Wiring, Tavish gains enough bonus HP to survive a turn 1 onslaught and, when that happens, he becomes a trap arming PvP monster capable of decimating caster lineups.
To defend against Tavish, consider Grull (Protector) and his Dragon Skull equipment that grants fire resistance to your mercenaries. The added protection makes focusing Tavish down much less punishing. Another general rule is to always try and deal damage to Tavish on turn one — his aim shot will deal bonus damage otherwise.
Lastly, almost all Tavish players use the Rigged Wiring equipment in order to stack traps and ensure your Mercenaries take heavy damage eventually. To counter this, try setting off explosive traps when your starting mercenaries are already low HP or you expect them to die that turn anyway. Doing some robs Tavish of trap value and limits his effectiveness.
Stacked bear traps should be triggered on turns where your Mercenaries already plan on dealing AoE damage. In many cases, you can kill Tavish's bear on the same turn it appears.
2. Blink Fox (caster) as a protector revenge killer
While not very popular during the game's initial release, Blink Fox's power, and flexibility are now undeniable. This is largely due to its Mind Thief ability being 0 speed and the Tenth Tail equipment allowing players to plan in advance which ability they will copy.
However, Tenth Tail has an interesting nuance to it. When it first comes into the battlefield, regardless of the "true" last enemy ability cast, Mind Thief will always copy the last enemy ability of the opponent's first turn. Depending on the matchup, this can make the turn Blink Fox comes into play a huge tempo swing against medium to low HP protectors that need to die.
A common example is Blink Fox copying the enemy Tavish's Aim Shot ability. Since Blink Fox always goes first with 0 speed, enemy Protectors have no choice but to take 40 damage before any of their defensive abilities can help them.
3. Abilities that lower speed are vital in disrupting combos
Bru'Kan's (caster) Muddy Footing ability and others like it are major factors in Mercenaries PvP. While the most common use of speed lowering abilities is finishing off Mercenaries before they get a chance to act, an equally effective way to use it is in disrupting enemy combos.
In the example clip above, you can see how Prophet Velen is unable to combo with Avenging Wrath because it was slowed down to speed 10.
4. Most winning squads include a "sweeper" for late games
Presently, Sylvanas (fighter), Ragnaros (protector), and Diablo (fighter) are popular choices for Mercenaries you want towards the end of the game. What they all have in common are powerful AoE abilities that can finish off low HP Mercs. In addition, because all Mercs start with their abilities on cooldown, saving Mercenaries with long cooldowns last allows you to use these powerful abilities immediately instead of waiting.
Regardless of the meta, you can expect Mercenaries to have low HP towards the end of the match. Consider making sure your squad has a strong closer that can take advantage of this.
5. Samuro (fighter) Mirror Image as a counter to "random target" abilities
Any Mercenary that summons additional units can, in a sense, counter random target abilities by creating more "bad targets" for your opponent to hit. However, Samuro's Mirror Image is uniquely effective at doing this due to the move's high speed. When Samuro uses a fully upgraded Mirror Image at 3 speed, he is usually the first to act.
That means, after the attacks are made, the remaining mirror images hang around as damage sponges for any "random target" ability from your opponent. Varden Dawngrasp (caster) is a popular pick due to her Flurry ability slowing down entire squads, but its random targetting can be punished consistently by Mirror Image and abilities like it.
6. Passive healing punishes sloppy offensive
Anduin Wrynn (caster) and Malfurion Stormrage (protector) are powerful meta picks largely thanks to the passive healing they provide their squad nearly every turn. Because so much of Mercenaries PvP is decided around whether a player secures a kill or not, not paying attention to passive heals leads to incorrect damage math and lost games.
For example, Malfurion's Equipment Liferoot Staff heals allied Mercenaries whenever the player casts a nature ability. The "did I kill it" math changes if your damage happens before a nature ability does and, in some cases, makes it more advantageous to purposefully allow Malfurion and his team to act first and lose value via overhealing.
7. Winning the Sylvanas Windrunner (fighter) mirror match
Because Sylvanas is such a popular sweeper, many ranked Mercenaries games end in similar Death Volley standoffs. Reclaimed Souls in combination with Death Volley threatens to blow up either sideboard, meaning the Sylvnas with the most attack usually enjoy a game-winning edge.
One way to get an advantage is by playing Sylvanas early with the intention of casting Reclaimed Souls before the opponent Sylvanas does. if this happens, the superior attack Sylvanas has the opportunity to use the faster speed Banshee Bolt and kill enemy Sylvanas she has a chance to make her death rattle threatening.
Another way to gain an edge is to purposefully create friendly characters you expect to die (Tavish Bear Traps, Samuro Mirror Images, Warmaster Voone Dragons, etc) in order to ramp up your Reclaimed Souls faster than the opponent.
8. Coinflips are inevitable so try and plan around them
If you've played Hearthstone long enough, you know all too well about the coin flip nature of many competitive matchups. Mercenaries is no different and speed ties, especially in mirror matches, can feel like unavoidable coin flips that don't reward strategic thinking.
However, that doesn't mean we can't galaxy brain our way into advantageous coin flips. After you suspect a speed time is inevitable, the next step is assessing what happens whether you win or lose the flip. For instance, if losing the coin flip results in dead allied Mercenaries, winning the flip should have equally devastating results for your opponent. If it doesn't, the coin-flip isn't worth it as the risk is skewed against you.
In these scenarios, keen players will search for plays that mitigate the "if I lose the flip" scenario while simultaneously taking the coin flip and hoping to get lucky.
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