I’m assuming that most everyone who plays this game has their main focus, and by extension the bulk of their experience, on ladder playing constructed. Ladder and arena are two different animals that need to be approached differently and if you can’t seem to get more than a few wins in arena despite being a good ladder player then it’s probably because you’re approaching them both the same way. Let’s get into it.
I know it seems obvious but power level does connect to a lot of different aspects of arena. Constructed decks are going to almost always be more powerful and streamlined than arena decks. The main thing this affects in-game is how you play around certain cards.
For example, in constructed you would probably play around a Dawn’s Wrath from a Mage opponent that seems to be playing Control, but since it is a Legendary your opponent is not likely to have such a powerful boardwipe effect in arena. Now, I know a couple of you are probably groaning, “That’s ridiculous! I just lost to double Dawn’s Wrath in my last arena and ended up going 0-3 because everybody had the nuts and the game didn’t let me draft anything but garbage.” I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but it’s very infrequent and you’re going to win a lot more
games where you just jam everything in one lane to take it over and punch damage through than you would be to play around it and let your opponent stabilize. I know that’s a pretty specific and extreme example but it gets my point across.
Another example deals with cards that are almost exclusively 3-ofs in constructed lists. It’s very unlikely that you can get that kind of consistency in arena and the same is true for your opponent. I’m sure a ton of people have had the displeasure of playing against a Midrange Archer on the ladder and suffering through pre-nerf Soulrest Marshal into Soulrest Marshal into Triumphant Jarl, but things like that just don’t happen in arena nearly as frequently and don’t need to be taken into consideration. Your opponents are much more likely to have a vanilla 5/3 for 4 than their second or third Murkwater Shaman. Cards that are commonplace in constructed just don’t pop up in arena nearly as much (specifically Epics and Legendaries) so don’t hurt your win rate by playing around things you don’t have to.
Who’s the Beatdown?
By this, I don’t mean figure out who’s the beatdown every game, I mean figure out who’s the beatdown every turn. In constructed there are usually very clearly established roles for each deck from the get-go whether it be control v. aggro or a control/aggro mirror, but things in arena are rarely so cut and dry. As a result, each turn you need to evaluate where you are on the board and how much pressure you have or can generate. If necessary, don’t hesitate to dial it back and try to set up some favorable trades, stop breaking runes, and even try and goad your opponent into breaking runes for some card advantage when you’re at a healthy life total. I’ve played a ton of games where I had the board and had been aggressive but a removal action, big creature, or Prophecy card made me have to pump the brakes and reevaluate the board to prevent myself from falling too far behind.
The same can be said for being too controlling. If you’re just sitting there never trying to actually kill your opponent then it’s not hard for them to get you to a low life total. Then, all of a sudden you can’t race a few creatures placed in the Shadow Lane and you end up losing the game.
Most of the time in arena if you push the wrong game plan at the wrong time too hard then you will fall behind and the game will get away from you. It’s not super uncommon for you to switch from being aggressive to slowing down and fighting for the board multiple times in a game, and knowing when it’s time to switch gears will give you a lot more opportunities to take games that you wouldn’t have been able to before.
Don’t Be Too Afraid of Prophecies
I know in constructed there are times where you are content to sit and hold the board because you don’t want your opponent to get a Prophecy to swing the game, but in arena there just aren’t that many great prophecies to be had on average. The ones that do show up a lot in draft just aren’t that great so don’t worry as much about not breaking runes. I’m not saying don’t play around them at all – just know that not every one you break is going to be a Piercing Javelin or Lightning Bolt. With some of them you can just say “ok” and deal with them. Just be wary of the good common rarity prophecies such as the aforementioned Lightning Bolt in the colors your opponent is playing and plan accordingly.
Those are the main points I wanted to get into today, giving everyone a look at how the two game modes are different so you can adjust your play style accordingly. I will get into more arena specific topics in the future such as the best ways to draft different classes or how to know when it’s better to draft a control or aggro deck, but today I just wanted to go over the main things I felt needed addressing. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. Hopefully you found this helpful, and until next time, get out there and grind some arena!