The current Hearthstone ladder is getting a complete overhaul on April 1st 2020 with the introduction of the new league system. In this post, I will go through the new system and what it means for players in detail.
Background: the old Hearthstone ladder
In the old system, the Hearthstone ladder consists of 25 new player ranks (ranks 50-26), 25 regular ranks, and Legend.
In order to advance through the ranks, you need to gain stars. You gain one star for a win and lose one star for a loss. Below rank 20, you cannot lose stars. Below rank 5, you gain bonus stars for win streaks: every consecutive win starting from your third win in a row grants you two stars instead of one.
There are rank floors that you cannot drop out of during a season. Ranks 20, 15, 10, 5, and Legend cannot be lost during a season.
Ranks 50 to 16 are three stars each, ranks 15 to 11 are four stars each, and ranks 10 to 1 are five stars each.
Matchmaking is based on your rank. When you are on rank 10, for example, the game attempts to match you against other players who are on rank 10 with a similar number of stars as you. Legend matchmaking is an exception: in Legend, players are matched based on their skill, and the system attempts to match you against other players of similar skill level (hidden MMR, matchmaking rating).
Each season lasts one month. You receive rewards depending on the highest rank you achieved during the season. The rewards are golden cards and dust with the dust value of the reward ranging from 25 to 550. The most important ranks are 15 (dust value of 155, up from 75 of rank 16) and 5 (dust value of 505, up from 225 from rank 6).
After the season ends, you are set back four ranks from your highest rank, including your stars within that rank. Legend players are reset to Rank 4, 0 stars. If you have ever reached rank 15, you cannot fall below rank 20.
The new Hearthstone ladder in detail
The new Hearthstone ladder is divided into five leagues that each consist of ten ranks, and Legend rank on top of it all. Each rank consists of three stars, and there are rank floors that you cannot fall off from every five ranks. There is also a separate 40-rank new player ladder.
At the end of a season, everyone gets reset all the way to Bronze 10. However, there is a star bonus mechanic to rapidly get you close to the rank you were at: for each win, you get stars according to your star bonus, but for each loss, you only lose one star. Your star bonus is reduced by one for each rank floor that you pass.
The minimum star bonus you have at the start of the season is as follows:
- Bronze 10-1: 1x (current rank 25, no additional stars gained for wins)
- Silver 10-6: 2x (current rank 20)
- Silver 5-1: 3x
- Gold 10-6: 4x (current rank 15)
- Gold 5-1: 5x
- Platinum 10-6: 6x (current rank 10)
- Platinum 5-1: 7x
- Diamond 10-6: 8x (current rank 5)
- Diamond 5-1: 9x
- Legend: 10x
- High Legend: 11x
However, star bonus also depends on your matchmaking rating: if you have skipped a season or played very little during a season, you will still retain a star bonus closer to your previous finish.
In practice, your star bonus will carry you easily to within 5 ranks of your previous rank floor, after which you will need to earn stars one by one.
Win streak bonus is available until Diamond 5. Every consecutive win starting from your third win in a row grants you twice the stars you would usually earn: if you have 10x star bonus, you can get 20 stars from a single win!
However, win streaks when you’re on a star bonus are not easy to come by, because the matchmaking system has also been renewed. When you have star bonus left, you are matched based on your skill, not on your rank. Therefore, a Legend player plays against other Legend players, even when on Bronze 10. Once you run out of star bonus, you will be matched based on rank, until Legend, where you are again matched based on skill.
This system means that despite the monthly reset, players will keep playing against other players of similar skill level all the time. If you’re a fairly new player, you cannot meet experienced players until you climb the ladder, even though you both start at Bronze 10.
Season rewards have also received an overhaul. End of season rewards are as follows:
- Bronze 5: 1 Standard Rare card
- Silver 10: 1 Latest expansion pack, 1 Standard Rare card
- Silver 5: 1 Latest expansion pack, 3 Standard Rare cards
- Gold 10: 2 Latest expansion packs, 3 Standard Rare cards
- Gold 5: 2 Latest expansion packs, 5 Standard Rare cards
- Platinum 10: 3 Latest expansion packs, 5 Standard Rare cards
- Platinum 5: 3 Latest expansion packs, 7 Standard Rare cards
- Diamond 10: 4 Latest expansion packs, 7 Standard Rare cards
- Diamond 5: 4 Latest expansion packs, 7 Standard Rare cards, 1 Standard Epic card
- Legend: 5 Latest expansion packs, 7 Standard Rare cards, 1 Standard Epic card
The reward curve has been smoothened a lot, there are smaller jumps between ranks. In general, you want to aim for new league levels, because rank 10 of each league adds a card pack to your season reward.
There are also first-time rewards for reaching each ranked floor that culminate in a Legendary card for reaching Legend for the first time. You will get the first-time rewards regardless of what rank you had in the previous system.
Comparison of the old system and the new system
Matchmaking is a major change: you will have good games immediately from the start of the season even if you miss the first day or two because matchmaking is based on skill as long as you have star bonus left.
If you watch streams, especially early in the season, it can be hard to tell what level of gameplay you see. A game on Bronze 10 can be a high-Legend game or it can be a real Bronze 10 game.
When you run out of star bonus, you will be matched based on rank again until Legend, at which point the quality of games can vary depending on how late in the season it is.
Climbing the ladder is more rewarding, and the rewards are more steady. The biggest individual jump in reward dust value is 100 for a card pack as compared to 280 in the old system for reaching rank 5. However, if you’re still missing cards from the latest expansion, the card packs can be even more valuable.
How much of a grind is it to get back to where you were at the end of the previous season?
- High-Legend players have an easy road to Legend, because their star bonus extends all the way to Legend. Even with a sub-50% win rate, they will get to Legend in less than 100 games. Their path to Legend is shorter than it used to be.
- Other Legend players will run out of star bonus at Diamond 5, after which they need to get 15 stars the old-fashioned way, the equivalent of climbing up from rank 3. With MMR-based matchmaking, it takes around 60 games for them to run out of star bonus (50% win rate, with win streaks), so the grind will be longer for them, as it is like taking 60 games to get out of rank 4 and then progressing as normal.
- A rank 10 player (Platinum 10) needs around 50 games to get to Gold 5 (50% win rate, with win streaks), where they run out of star bonus and will progress the final 15 stars as before. It is like spending your first 50 games to get your first star and then carry on as usual from there.
- If your season’s highest rank is close to the next rank floor, you may be penalized for that because you get a guaranteed star bonus only according to the rank floors you have reached. Platinum 6, for example, is a terrible place to finish unless your MMR qualifies you for a higher star bonus than your rank.
- If you want to estimate a full Legend climb based on your previous finish, you can use Coinconcede’s calculator. It does not allow you to set separate win rates for your time with star bonus and without one though.
Finally, here is a video recap of the new system, if you prefer to listen to the explanation: