Last updated: 14th September 2017
Hearthstone is a free-to-play collectible card game. If that sounds strange, collectible card games are known to cost a ton to play, after all, it kind of is. Hearthstone does live up to its name in the sense that if you play a lot, you can actually unlock everything in the game for free and even have a full collection.
Typically collecting cards for free involves becoming a good Arena player and playing Arena a lot for the rewards as other means of collecting in-game gold and cards are rather slow. However, you really need to be a good player to benefit from Arena, as with mediocre performances you are better off simply buying card packs instead of Arena access with your in-game gold.
So, let’s say you want to improve your card collection a bit faster or just don’t have the time or dedication to grind for everything – games are played for fun, after all, and if you have the means to have fun faster, why not go for it. You are probably still interested in getting a good deal though, so what is the best way to spend real money on Hearthstone?
Groundworks: earning in-game gold and packs
First, let’s take a look at how in-game gold is earned in Hearthstone, as it is useful to understand what you can achieve by just playing before spending real money on the game.
In-game gold and packs are earned in the game by doing the following:
- Win 3 games against human players in play mode (Casual, Ranked, Tavern Brawl): 10 gold, up to 100 gold (30 wins) per day
- Daily quests: 40-100 gold each. One new quest is granted each day, and you can store up to 3 quests in your quest log, after which new ones will not be given until you complete one. You can also re-roll one quest per day to try to get a better one. It is generally useful to re-roll the 40 gold quests.
- Unique quests: There are some quests that are not shown in the interface, but grant gold or packs when the criteria are met. Full list can be found in the Gamepedia Hearthstone Wiki. http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/Quest
- Tavern Brawl: Your first win in the weekly Tavern Brawl awards a pack of Classic cards. In order to access Tavern Brawl, you need to have at least one hero who is level 20.
- Arena: Entering the Arena costs 150 gold. In Arena, you draft a deck from random cards (not your collection) and play with it until you reach 12 wins or 3 losses. The more wins you reach, the higher the reward. Each Arena run is guaranteed to reward a card pack (worth 100 gold), even if you lose all games. The additional rewards scale up so that with seven wins you get enough gold to immediately enter the Arena again while also getting a card pack, and with four to six wins you are making a profit compared to just buying the card pack directly. 34.38% of Arena runs end with four wins or more.
In order to get started with Hearthstone it is therefore a good idea to unlock all the classes by defeating all the AI opponents on Normal difficulty, also defeat all the AI opponents on Expert difficulty for an additional 100 gold from a hidden quest, and level one hero to level 20 as soon as possible so that you can play in Tavern Brawl, as that gives you one free pack every week.
Without playing Arena, you can expect to earn one pack of Classic cards from Tavern Brawl each week, as well as 70-150 gold per day from playing in Play mode if you complete the daily quest there each day (150 gold is for the win gold cap of 30 wins per day – a ton of playing). As each card pack costs 100 gold, you can get around 6-11 card packs per week (including the Tavern Brawl pack).
Groundworks: Card pool rotation
In spring 2016, Blizzard introduced card pool rotation into Hearthstone. The idea of deprecating old cards has been around in the card game genre for 20 years, and it has proven to be absolutely vital in order to keep the games fresh, so it was only a matter of time when Hearthstone would adopt this practice.
Blizzard’s take on the subject was to introduce two game modes: Standard and Wild. In Wild, all cards are playable, whereas in Standard (the main competitive format) the card pool rotates.
Basic and Classic cards are always legal in Standard, and the other legal cards are ones from sets released in the current and previous calendar year. The rotation cycle takes place upon the release of the first expansion each year. Blizzard also rotates select powerful Classic cards into Wild on annual basis – so far, players have been given a full dust refund while also getting to keep the cards for such rotations, which makes Classic cards a safe investment.
In the first rotation in spring 2016, the Naxxramas adventure and the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion rotated out of Standard and are now only playable in Wild, in single player mode, and in selected Tavern Brawls. They are thus not completely useless, but no longer see competitive play.
In spring 2017, the Blackrock Mountain adventure, The Grand Tournament expansion, and the League of Explorers adventure rotated out of Standard format.
In spring 2018, the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, One Night in Karazhan adventure, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion will rotate out.
In order to optimize your spending on the game, it is a good idea to pay attention to when cards are going to rotate out of the Standard format.
First things first: the Welcome Bundle
Now we are ready to look into what to buy. The first answer is simple, buy the Welcome Bundle. The Welcome Bundle gives you 10 packs of Classic cards and a random class legendary card from the Classic set for €4.99.
As Classic cards do not rotate out of Standard, they are a solid investment, and the guaranteed legendary is a great deal as well. The Classic set class legendaries are generally very good, with most of them seeing top-level play still today.
In any other bundles, card packs cost at least €1.17 each, so getting 10 of them and a legendary card (generally worth at least a few card packs on its own) for €4.99 is unsurpassed value.
Note that you can only buy the Welcome Bundle once per account, so this will not help you too much in the long run, but it’s a great place to start.
Best bang for the buck: Adventures!
After your one-time purchase of the Welcome Bundle, buy Adventures. Adventures are great value for money, as you get guaranteed cards.
Unfortunately, Blizzard discontinued adventures in 2017. All future cards will be released as expansions, so you will need to buy card packs. There is currently one adventure left in Standard format, One Night in Karazhan.
One Night in Karazhan adventure comprises four wings at 700 gold each, so a total of 2800 gold. With real money, it costs €17.99. Card packs are cheaper when purchase in larger quantities, but even with the largest 60 pack bundles, the cost of a single card pack is €1.17, so One Night in Karazhan costs the same as approximately 15 card packs – while its gold price is that of 28 card packs.
One Night in Karazhan rotates out of Standard in Spring 2018, so you will only have limited time to play with it in Standard format. It is still a powerful set of cards at a reasonable price, so it is worth considering.
Buying card packs: in bulk or pre-order
If you plan on spending more money on Hearthstone than just the adventures, the next stop is card packs. Card packs are cheaper to buy in bulk, so it is a good idea to plan ahead and buy a good amount when you decide to commit.
The best card pack deals from Blizzard are the pre-orders of new expansions. For Knights of the Frozen Throne, for example, the preorder was 50 packs for €49.99 – €1.00 per pack as compared to the best bulk price that is still €1.17 per pack. It is still not at the level of the Adventure prices, but comes in a close second.
Blizzard’s current plans are to release three expansions each year. Buying the preorders of those expansions would add up to an annual cost of around €150 for playing Hearthstone. This is similar to the cost of a subscription-based MMO, so my recommendation for spending on Hearthstone is to buy the preorders of new expansions.
What do you get when you preorder? For a regular 130-something-card expansion, 50 packs will give you two copies of just about all the common cards as well as a good number of rares, some epics, around 2-3 legendary cards, and enough dust to craft a couple of key cards you want, perhaps even a legendary. For example, I preordered the Grand Tournament expansion and wanted to build a Dragon Priest deck with the new toys that came in that set (Wyrmrest Agent rare, Twilight Guardian epic, Chillmaw legendary). Unfortunately, I only got one of the five cards I wanted from the packs (a Wyrmrest Agent), but got enough dust to craft the one rare and two epics I still needed. Did not quite get enough to craft the legendary as well, but even that would have been possible.
Looking for an even cheaper way: Amazon Underground on Android
There is a popular way to save a bit of money on Hearthstone purchases: making the Hearthstone in-app purchases through the Amazon Appstore version of Hearthstone and paying with Amazon Coins, which can again be bought cheaper in bulk and often offer some of the coins back on in-app purchases. In best cases, this amounts to 30% cheaper prices, but the offers vary all the time.
In order to take advantage of this method, you need to download and install the Amazon Underground app store on your Android device (or on your PC through an emulator, such as Genymotion, which is free for individual users – note that getting an emulator to work properly may not always be easy) and install Hearthstone to the device from there. Then you can buy Amazon Coins from the Amazon website and use them to pay for your in-app purchases.
You can find Amazon Coins on Amazon (your country may affect your eligibility to buy Coins and/or to make purchases with them):
Remember to check in-game for Amazon Coin prices of the packs or Adventures you intend to buy before buying Coins as you cannot convert Coins back to real money.
(The Amazon links are affiliate links, purchases made using them earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you)
When you use real money on Hearthstone:
- Welcome Bundle is great, but you can only buy it once per account
- Adventures are by far the best thing to buy in general, but they have been discontinued and are in Standard format for only a limited time anymore
- Preorders of new expansions come in second
- Bulk purchases of card packs come in third
- You may be able to save some money by buying through the Amazon app store for Android version of Hearthstone