When Hearthstone was first released and new players were getting their boards wiped clean by Flamestrike on turn 7, the first spark of a competitive meta emerged. Patient gamers began to anticipate a turn 7 Flamestrke in advance and conservatively develop their minion board in order to rob the opposing AOE spell of its effectiveness.
This type of value-based Hearthstone tactic is just as important in Hearthstone's newest game mode, Mercenaries. Frequent comparisons to Pokémon help gamers remember the rock-paper-scissor style color wheel (protector-caster-fighter) but the similarities between gameplay don't end there.
Just like in competitive Pokémon, winning taking down the opposition in the Player vs. Player Fighting Pit is largely influenced by two things: a player understanding of ability speeds and whether or not their lineup has sufficient synergy to out-value the opposition each turn.
How do I PvP?
After defeating the level 13 Barak Kodobane bounty, players can build a Fighting Pit and access PvP mode. While PvE mode is ideal for getting started, the most strategic Mercenaries gameplay emerges when players face each other. Don't worry if your initial Mercenary line-up used for PvE doesn't perform well against a human opponent, as a winning PvP squad takes patience to develop.
8 tips for PvP in Mercenaries
While opponents equipped with powerful wallets will likely stomp F2P players in the early stages of the mode's release, learning the basics of Mercenaries strategy can help any player see success in the Arena.
1. Be mindful of where you place Mercenaries that taunt.
Taunt is an important mechanic in Mercenaries and, just like in classic Hearthstone, where a Taunt Mercenary is placed is important. Mercenaries with Taunt should, generally speaking, be placed on the far right or left side of the board. As there are numerous abilities that have cleave effects, placing an ally next to the Taunt minion with a solid health pool or a type advantage can help mitigate harm.
2. Speed is vital and so are speed-altering abilities.
Many of the top-tier Mercenaries have abilities that are either reliably speedy or alter the speed of ally/enemy abilities consistently. It is a devastating blow to have one of your Mercenaries killed before it uses an ability and many powerful strategies rely on manipulating speed and turn in order to accomplish this.
Speed and turn order should be among the most important factors that determine your turn's actions. If you find your Mercenaries dying before they have the chance to act, consider reassessing your strategy with speed mechanics in mind.
3. Divine Shield and Invulnerable granting abilities cause big blowouts.
Divine Shield and Immune are powerful because they effectively negate the actions of offensive enemy Mercenaries. Tirion Fordrige is a popular divine shield option and Blademaster Samuro's Whirling Blade is relatively fast enough to dodge incoming attacks with support.
As many of these abilities have a cooldown, think carefully about when you use them. As a rule of thumb, the most desperately your opponent needs to kill your Mercenary, the more impactful Immune and Divine Shield become.
4. The first trio of Mercenaries you play matters greatly.
Because a PvP match starts with each player playing three of their Mercenaries simultaneously, the immediate synergy of the trio needs to be impactful. As a general rule, it is a good idea to lead with a starting trio that, regardless of what your opponent does, can begin the match with a value-generating turn one.
5. Consider the color meta often.
Some Mercenaries have proven especially powerful in the hands of players and, as a result, you can expect to run into them frequently. The legendary fighter (green) Sylvanas is very powerful so players can expect to run into her often -- this inherently makes any caster (blue) more vulnerable and any protector (red) more useful.
If you find yourself frequently losing against a specific Mercenary, an effective solution is to simply use more of that color's counter. This is especially important for F2P Mercenary squads that find wins by reacting to the meta as opposed to joining it.
6. Negating the offense of enemy Mercenaries is vital.
Abilities that Freeze, Root, or reduce attack are reliable "2-for-1's" as they damage an enemy while also negating their offense. Malfurion (see abilities below) may not deal loads of damage, but Entangling Roots made faster thanks to Cenarion Surge can be a huge tempo swing when timed correctly.
If you suspect your opponent is attempting to negate your offense, deny them the opportunity by using a defensive buff or healing ability instead!
7. AoE abilities are useful for finishing off low HP mercenaries.
Leaving an enemy Mercenary at 1 HP feels bad and is usually the sign of a losing game. Using an entire turn to overkill low HP Mercenaries is bad tempo and things can spiral out of control if the enemy has access to divine shield buffs.
As a result, most competitive comps include a Mercenary with an AoE ability to help negate the loss of value. Two Mercenaries with high single target damage and one with "clean-up" style AoE is an effective combo at any rank.
8. Identify priority targets and follow through.
Based on the color of your composition or the effectiveness of your opponent's trio, you should be able to identify a priority target that needs to die ASAP. This is usually a Mercenary that enables a powerful synergy or one that provides passive, stacking benefits like spell damage or heals.
It is absolutely vital that, once you decide on killing an enemy Mercenary, you think a turn or so ahead about how you plan on securing the kill. Leaving low HP Mercenaries alive or slowly dealing AoE damage as opposed to swiftly killing one target usually leads to value loss and defeat.
Mercenaries is a bit more complex than other PvP game modes, but the fundamentals of winning still resemble Hearthstone. Early plays that generate tempo and valuable 2-for-1 trades are marks of a successful Mercenary lineup.
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