Hearthstone is a relatively new card game. We do not have everything figured out yet. Luckily, we have decades of experience of other card games to draw from, most notably Magic. I have advocated the use of Magic articles in both Hearthstone and Yugioh. Magic is the most well developed card game in terms of theory, and the games are similar enough that many of the same concepts apply. The idea that we will be looking at today was introduced by Patrick Chapin in his book Next Level Magic. It is an idea that I have used in every card game I have played. It is applicable to gameplay but also deck building and card evaluation. This concept is known as the four perspectives. These four perspectives are top down thinking, bottom up thinking, front back thinking, and back forward thinking. For this article we will only be looking at the first two, top down thinking and bottom up thinking.
Top Down Thinking: Looking at what is there
The first of the four perspectives is top down thinking. Top down thinking is looking at what is there, and the implications of that. To illustrate what I mean, we can look at a turn from a game that I recently played
We can use top down thinking to assess this game state and choose the optimal play. I am playing Combo Druid. He is playing Warrior. The game began with both of us passing turn one. He used hero power on turn two. I used Wild Growth on turn two. He responded by using Shield Block on turn three. The inclusion of Shield Block means that we can assume he is playing Control Warrior. It also means we can assume he is playing Shield Slam. This turn, I have two viable options. I can either The Coin Druid of the Claw or I can [Coin], Innervate, Dr. Boom.
Dr. Boom is the higher power level play, but it comes with some downsides. Because of his early Shield Slam he is at the perfect armor count to make Shield Slam a fairly clean answer. There is also the possibility he is playing Big Game Hunter. We have no reason to believe he does not have either of these cards in his hand. If anything, the early Shield Block is indicative of holding Shield Slam in hand. The aggressive play of ramping out Dr. Boom has the advantage that if he does not have an answer for it, we will be put much farther ahead than we would be if we just play Druid of the Claw. However, Druid is favored in this match up. We do not necessarily need to go for even a medium risk, high reward play.
These considerations led me to go for the safer play. I chose to The Coin Druid of the Claw. This would let me get a little bit more information before I decide to go all in on an aggressive Dr. Boom play.
Bottom Up Thinking: Looking at what is not there
Bottom up thinking is closely related to top down thinking, but instead of looking at what is there, we will be looking at what is not there. To illustrate this perspective we can use a later turn from the same game we looked at previously.
First let’s go over what happened in the turns between this one and the one we looked at first. I used The Coin to play Druid of the Claw on turn 5. He played [Kor’kron Elite] and Inner Rage to clear my Druid of the Claw. His use of [Kor’kron Elite] and Inner Rage means that we can discard the theory that he is playing Control Warrior. Instead, we can assume he is playing Patron. His use of Shield Block is still indicative of having Shield Slam somewhere in his deck. However, his decision to use [Kor’kron Elite] and Inner Rage to clear shows that he probably does not have Shield Slam in his hand at the moment. With this information I decide to Innervate Dr. Boom on turn five.
His response was to play Axe Flinger. This means that instead of playing Patron, he is playing Axe Flinger Warrior. We can safely ignore the threat of Grim Patron for the rest of the game. His choice to play Axe Flinger for no value means we can safely assume his hand is bad. To be specific, we can assume he has no playable minions and instead a plethora of combo pieces. Since he did not Shield Slam our Dr. Boom we know he did not draw Shield Slam off the top.
This leads us to the current turn. We have the choice between playing Loatheb and [Thaurissan]. We can apply bottom up thinking to our own hand. We do not have Savage Roar, and we do not have very many threats. There is no cycle in our hand currently. This means we need to get a lot of mileage from each card we have. We also need to kill him before he kills us, but since he just played Axe Flinger he is probably not going to be in a position where he can threaten lethal anytime soon. I chose to play Loatheb. This play is correct on the assumption that he does not have many minions, and it plays around Brawl, which is a card we have not checked for yet. He conceded the following turn, which probably means his hand was full of useless combo pieces and he had no way to stop our board.
While fairly simple, these two perspectives are the cornerstones for how we choose our plays in every one of our turns. By looking at what is both there and not there, we are able to make an informed opinion on what the optimal play is in every situation.