Hearthstone Returning Player Guide (March 2021)

Are you considering coming back to Hearthstone? In this returning player guide, I take a look at the most important things you need to know to get started with Hearthstone again!

Important note! There are returning player rewards that you will get if you have not logged into Hearthstone for 120 days. The returning player quest line will be updated from 9 Classic packs to 15 packs from recent expansions in the 20.0 update. Returning players should wait for that at this point to maximize their rewards. The estimated launch of patch 20.0 is around March 23rd, so check whether your Hearthstone is version 20.0 before logging in. If you already logged in, it’s not a disaster: you will get fewer returning player rewards, but can partially compensate for that by getting further in the rewards track before it resets on March 30th.

Free deck for returning players

One of the first things you will get is a free deck if you have not logged into Hearthstone for 120 days. The game merely prompts you to choose which class you want a deck for without showing you what’s in them. They are not all equally good!

The free decks will change with patch 20.0. Before the patch, Paladin and Rogue are your best options. The post-patch decks are somewhat weaker, but Paladin is still a fine choice. I have examined all the decks in more detail in this video:

The Core set

Basic and Classic sets are rotating out of Standard format on March 30th. They will be replaced by the 235-card Core set that is given to all players for free!

The Core set cards can change every year: you will lose any that rotate out, and automatically get any that rotate in. The Core set cards cannot be disenchanted.

You may want to hold on to your old versions of Core set cards because of this, so that you will continue to have access to them for Wild. You also need the originals if you want to play the Classic format, which is vanilla Hearthstone the way it was in June 2014.

The Standard rotation

The Standard format consists of Basic and Classic (or Core after March 30th) and expansions from the current and previous year. Older expansions rotate out of Standard when the first expansion of a year is released.

In 2021, when Forged in the Barrens is released on March 30th, the Standard format will consist of Core, Forged in the Barrens, Ashes of Outland, Scholomance Academy, and Madness at the Darkmoon Faire.

You will want cards from all of these expansions to build Standard format decks.

Getting cards from packs, and mini-sets

Hearthstone has a duplicate protection system: you will always get new cards from a set until you have opened all playable copies of every card of a specific rarity. For example, you need to open two copies of each Common card in a set before you start to see duplicate Common cards. Likewise, you need to open two copies of each Rare card in a set before you start to see duplicate Rare cards.

If you disenchant a card, it still counts as acquired and you are not guaranteed to get it back: the exception is Golden cards – if you disenchant a Golden card that you got as a playable copy, you will open a regular version of that card first after getting a full set of cards of that rarity. For example, if you open a Golden Common and disenchant it, you will open a regular version of that card once you have opened two of each Common card from that set.

You will get a Legendary card within the first ten packs of a set. After that, you will get a Legendary card at the latest every 40 packs, and on average every 20 packs.

The way the system works means that you want to open at least some packs of every available set in Standard.

We can also calculate fairly accurately how many packs you need to open to get all the cards of a specific rarity:

For Ashes of Outland, Scholomance Academy, and Forged in the Barrens (before the mini-set):

  • 28 packs for all Common cards
  • 64 packs for all Rare cards

For Madness at the Darkmoon Faire (including the mini-set):

  • 36 packs for all Common cards
  • 88 packs for all Rare cards

Mini-sets are a new thing for Hearthstone since Madness at the Darkmoon Faire. They’re basically like adventures in that they add some tens of cards to the game, but they include no single-player content and they are added to the most recent expansion so that they can be opened from the packs of that expansion and crafted. When a mini-set is released, there is also a bundle for real money and gold to get all the mini-set cards without opening packs.

Every expansion in 2021 will have a mini-set that will be released around halfway through the expansion’s cycle.

Solo content and adventures

There is no new solo content with exclusive rewards in Hearthstone, nor does the new solo content cost anything.

Strictly speaking, the Ashes of Outland Demon Hunter Prologue opens the Demon Hunter class and gives some class cards for you until patch 20.0, so if you return to the game before that, it is the first thing you should do. After patch 20.0, Demon Hunter can be opened by playing against it in practice mode and the solo content will give you one Demon Hunter card pack.

The other current solo content is Book of Heroes. These are short, but occasionally challenging, story missions built around each class. Completing the story gives you one class card pack for that class.

The solo content is completely optional.

Rewards track

Hearthstone’s quest system was revamped in late 2020. There is currently a battle pass style rewards track in the game, and all quests give you experience for the rewards track instead of gold. You get gold from the rewards track.

There is a free path and a paid path, but don’t worry about buying the battle pass: the paid path is mostly for cosmetics and while it gives you some gold, you will not get enough gold to be comparable to buying packs unless you play a lot. If you play a ton, it will actually give a fairly nice amount of gold. The gold gains are from xp bonus, so they are not retroactive: you need to know whether you want it right at the start of a new season to get good gold benefits.

You get experience from quests and from simply playing the game – all modes included, including Battlegrounds! Quests form the bulk of the xp gain, so try to complete as many of the weekly and daily quests as you can. Other than that, just play the game.

Remember to have fun!

Those are all the most important things you need to know to come back to Hearthstone. Have fun!

You can also find this guide in video format on Youtube: