The first thing that beginning players of trading card games like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone latch onto is their life total. The objective of the game is simple; reduce your opponent’s life to zero, while preserving your own. While this remains true for most TCGs, it doesn’t actually affect one’s decision making during a match as much as one might think. Life or health is a tool, just like any other mechanic in a game, that can be used to one’s advantage. A card like Yawgmoth’s Bargain may seem fairly weak to a new MTG player, but it is obviously very far from that.
A beginning player may look at Yawgmoth’s Bargain and see “Skip your draw step” as being a huge disadvantage. In some cases, it could be considered a disadvantage, but the ability to Pay 1 life to draw a card is incredibly powerful. You may be losing life, but you may also draw a card or a series of cards that will help you win the game before your opponent even has a chance to kill you. If you have the right cards in your hand, then 1 life is no different than 20 life. This obviously becomes more true depending on what format of Magic you’re playing, as older formats tend to be much quicker and can result in turn 2 wins, if not turn 1, but it still holds true in most deviations on the TCG template. Hearthstone is no different, as cards like Flame Imp show that a Warlock is very willing to sacrifice 3 life to get a good creature out on turn 1.
While this little guy is not even close to being as strong as Yawgmoth’s Bargain, he does show how the same rules about life totals apply to Hearthstone. The Warlock is all about sacrificing future stability for instant gratification. The key is to win before your future sacrifice becomes relevant. A 3/2 for 1 mana is incredibly good and the 3 life loss isn’t that big of a deal, as long as you play the card correctly.
This isn’t to say that a player’s life total is not important in a Trading Card Game. Obviously that’s not the case, but it is an important tool that can be used to one’s advantage rather than something that must be protected at all costs. As long as you’re alive, one life is no different than one thousand life, so use it wisely and don’t fear playing strong cards that force you to sacrifice your health total. You’ll probably win before your sacrifice even becomes an issue.