Beginner’s Guide To Battlegrounds
The Battlegrounds mode forms a unique part of the Hearthstone gaming experience. Although still accessed from the main title’s client, it is essentially a game within a game that unites the original’s card-based gameplay with the conventions of the Autobattler genre. In contrast to the likes of Arena or Adventure modes, which also deviate from the usual duel set-up but still use most of the same decks and mechanics, Battlegrounds employs a whole other set of cards and completely changes the player’s role. Read on to find out more about this mode and why it may be for you.
One of the draws of Battlegrounds is that all Hearthstone owners can play it without the need to meet any requirements. You do not even need to level up your heroes or unlock cards. Everyone has the same access to Heroes and cards from the mode’s special set. The only progression occurs within the matches themselves. Each match is like a mini-tournament consisting of eight players who take turns fighting each other in one-on-one rounds. At the start of the match, you will need to choose one out of two random Heroes to lead your forces. Every round consists of a Recruit Phase and a Combat Phase.
During the time-limited Recruit Phase, you will be able to purchase minions from the tavernkeeper in exchange for Coins, which replace the Mana Crystals from regular ranked or casual matches. You will receive three Coins in the first round. With each subsequent round, your income will grow by one Coin before hitting a maximum of ten. Any remaining Coins do not carry over, so there is no point in not spending all of them. Note that you can gain additional Coins in each round by selling minions, which will become necessary eventually as you may only deploy seven minions at a time and have no other reliable way to get rid of deployed units. You may also spend Coins to refresh the minions on offer (one reroll per Coin) or upgrade the tavern.
Higher tier taverns offer superior minions, though each minion costs three Coins regardless of level. If you want to buy a minion later, you can freeze the current offer for the next round. Any gaps in the frozen offer (for instance, from some of the minions having been bought) will be filled in by the next round, so you should not lose out. You may also use this phase to apply active Hero Powers (often for a cost in Coins) and cast one-off spells.
Recruit Phase is also an opportunity to arrange the order in which your minions will act, letting you optimize their effects. Any enchantments you put on your minions during this phase will remain in subsequent rounds. Collecting three minions of the same kind (during this phase, but also through summons in the next phase) will give you a Triple Card version of that minion, which comes with considerable advantages:
- All stats multiplied by two;
- In some cases, stronger special abilities;
- All Enchantments from separate minions kept;
- An unused Battlecry (if applicable);
- A cosmetic effect reminiscent of Golden Heroes and similar cards;
- A spell that allows you to choose one out of three minions who are one tier above your current tavern’s level, up to six.
After making your decisions in the Recruit Phase, you can watch their results play out in the Combat Phase. This fight is like a fully automated duel between you and another player’s recruited force (except when there is an odd number of remaining battlers, in which case one competitor will face an AI opponent who shares a defeated player’s tavern tier). Minions from the opposing sides will attack each other one by one. If either player manages to wipe out all enemy minions, their hero will get to attack the enemy hero once with strength tied to the tavern’s level and a bonus from the tier of each surviving minion. If neither side has minions left, the round ends in a draw.
If you survive this battle, all of your fallen units will be brought back to life. Any buffs or debuffs incurred during the automated stage will be lost, and any additions to your board will be removed. Hero health loss, on the other hand, will remain. Losing your hero means you’re out of the match. The final goal is to be the last one standing but ending in the top four counts as a win.
Who Will You Face?
The battleground is a competitive mode with its own matchmaking rating (MMR). Winning a game in any position makes your Battlegrounds MMR go up. However, your final place will influence the amount by which it rises, along with other factors like your and your opponents’ current MMR, your average win ratio, and the consistency of your performance in earlier matches. Players with an MMR below 6,500 (the point that approximately 10% of all players reach in 2021) receive a small bonus to help them along. True champions can rise as high as 13500.
There are no special rewards or ranks tied to this MMR at present, though that may change later. Instead, MMR serves its primary purpose of ensuring that players face opponents at roughly the same skill level. The visible MMR is not fully aligned with the actual rating. For one thing, only the visible rating is reset during major expansions. The actual MMR remains the same, and the visual rating usually catches up with it over the next few matches.
The mode currently supports group queues of up to four players. Their advantage over other players is factored into the assorted MMR calculations. Alternately, larger groups can play in unranked private Battlegrounds games.
Heroes and Minions
One more peculiarity of this mode is that its cards aren’t drawn from any standard deck. Instead, all heroes and minions are unique to the Battlegrounds (while some may be derived from cards seen in the main game, they are distinguished from them and may have very different mechanics).
There are currently over 50 heroes available. Those heroes are never duplicated in the same match. Each Hero has a special Power, which may be Passive or Active. Passive Powers are often activated freely at the start of each Combat Phase, while Active Powers may be used over the Recruit Phase. Heroes start with 40 Health by default, though a few of them have powers that affect this stat.
The minions in Battlegrounds are relatively simple, though the ones at higher tiers tend to be much stronger. Nearly all of them belong to one of eight tribes, such as Pirates or Mechs. Minions from the same tribe often have synergies based on this affinity. Also, each tribe lends themselves better to certain strategies – like in an ordinary ranked play, Murlocs can form large hordes quickly, while Pirates reward attacking as much as possible. Only five tribes can be available in any given match. One of them is the latest tribe to be added – in this case, the Quilboars. All minions come from a shared pool, so recruiting them also denies them to your enemies.
More heroes and minions are introduced to the mode on a regular basis, while some older choices are temporarily retired. However, it is pretty common for them to return, with or without changes to their mechanics. The constant turnaround helps keep this experience fresh.
You can enhance your experience by buying Battleground Perks for a total cost of either 2500 Gold (most likely gained from Arena wins or finishing Weekly and Daily Quests to advance through the Reward Track) or just under $20 (albeit with frequent discounts). The benefits include:
- Stat trackers for various player result in the mode;
- Choosing between four hero options rather than two;
- Using special emotes in Battlegrounds matches;
- Being able to access newly-released Heroes two weeks or so early.
However, those perks will reset at the release of each major expansion, at which point you will have to buy them again. As such, it makes the most sense to buy them just after an expansion comes out, assuming you expect to play the mode a lot while it lasts.
Why Play Battlegrounds?
At present, there are no special rewards for playing Battlegrounds beyond the appeal of its unique gameplay. However, you can still derive some benefits from it that connect to the rest of the game. As with many other modes, you can earn XP to progress up the Rewards Track by playing Battlegrounds, at an average rate of 300 XP per hour. Also, victories and other accomplishments in this mode can count towards the completion of Weekly and Daily Quests. Some quests may even have requirements that are specifically connected to this mode, making it a handy and low-stress way to round out your regular progression.
Quick Tips for Beginners
There is a perhaps surprising level of strategic depth to Battlegrounds. Between the different minions, their interactions and arrangements, and Hero Powers, there is plenty that depends on player input in the Recruit Phase. As such, coaching may be a worthwhile proposition if you desire to get better at Battlegrounds quickly. That aside, there are a few basic tips to keep in mind as you start to master this mode:
- Pay close attention to the meta. It changes frequently, but it is all the more worthwhile to remember what heroes or tribes are currently dominant, whether you get the chance to play as them or end up fighting against them;
- Don’t waste resources. There is no benefit to ending the recruiting phase while there is still time or leaving over unspent Coins. If you can’t spend Coins on anything else, refresh the tavernkeeper’s offer until you see minions you can use and then freeze the board;
- Try to always buy a minion or (if you are not leveling up the tavern) two. Even if they aren’t the best you could get right now, they will be better than nothing, and you could always use them to trade up to something more suitable later;
- Upgrade your tavern and use appropriate Hero Powers when you can afford to without losing your minion-buying momentum. Be careful not to fall behind in the race to the strongest minions;
- Decide on a composition strategy. One of the simplest approaches is to focus on one tribe. On the other hand, sometimes grabbing up the best individual units can be worthwhile too. Ultimately, it depends on having the best synergy within your army, usually focusing on one or two especially powerful minions that interact well with the others;
- Pay attention to your rivals. You may always check out who you will be fighting in the next Combat Round in advance and learn a lot of information, such as remaining health or performance history, by checking out their profiles. That can show you when you must play it safe and when you have more freedom to focus on your deck’s long-term development.
More than a year has passed since Battlegrounds’ November 2019 launch. Although the mode is technically still in beta, it has already become a mainstay of Hearthstone. Fortunately, whether one should play it or not is purely a matter of taste. Those players who find it simplistic and boring lose little by not taking part. Others, however, appreciate its unusual challenge as a welcome break from the sometimes stressful and meta-dominated scramble for a higher Rank. The brisk pace of the mode’s ongoing development means that its local meta has little opportunity to get stale, adding to its popularity. If you haven’t played it yet, perhaps you should give it a try!