Hi all! I’m takeeacy, a F2P (free to play – meaning that I haven’t spent money) legend player who’s also in medical school – I’m a person with very little time, so I try to be very efficient with the way I grind ladder or collect cards. Today, I want to share with you my method of obtaining a significant collection with as little time as possible.
Share this article with your friends who are just starting new Hearthstone accounts!
Why start now?
More than ever before, this is the best time to pick up Hearthstone as a new player or with a new account. This is because the Naxxramas expansion is bringing in powerful new cards that have displaced many old cards and is reshaping the meta so that many old cards and old decks are no longer viable.
What this means for the new player is that the expansion has leveled the playing field more than ever before; old Legendaries, some epics, and rares are giving way to many of the new Naxx cards. Several old cards that veteran players had put major effort or money into obtaining them are no longer required in the upcoming meta; new players can skip all that and leap into the new meta.
Since Naxx cards are all guaranteed upon purchase, players can be guaranteed very strong cards for a low price of 700 gold. On the other hand, 700 gold typically will yield 7 card packs – using the typical drop rates of cards, that means that there may be 1 epic and around 6 rares and 26-27 commons – many of which will not be that strong or great.
As long as the new player can gather the gold to get all the adventures, they will have a much stronger starting base of cards than players who started before Naxxramas. The Naxxramas cards lend themselves to creating decks with even mostly just Naxx cards, so there’s a lot of room for play with having just the Naxx cards and a bit more.
Also, the Arachnid Quarter for Naxx is still free and that will save you 700 gold! Blizzard had announced that this was a 1 month only promotion! Play it while you can for free 🙂
How do I start?
After you finish the opening tutorial, you get to play more freely. There are a few 1-time quests that I recommend you take advantage of that aren’t explicitly listed in the game. Here’s the list of such quests, and I highly recommend that you go through them in the order I’ve listed (it doesn’t have to be strictly this order though). Once you get your gold, don’t spend it yet! I’ll talk more about how to best spend your gold later.
- “Ready to Go!” Unlock every hero – you get 100g for unlocking all the heroes. You can do this by beating each class once whether this is in Play mode or under Solo Adventures or even Arena. Once you unlock a class, you can use it to play and unlock more classes and collect EXP. I recommend playing against the Normal AI heroes to make it quicker to unlock champions and to familiarize yourself with the game if you haven’t played much before.
- “Crushed Them All!” Defeat all Expert AI heroes – 100g. Once you beat all the Normal AI heroes once, I recommend just playing against the Expert AI; I don’t feel that you can learn much from normal AI heroes. Once you beat all the Expert AI heroes, I would recommend going into Play mode and learning from other players.
- “Level Up” Level 1 hero up to level 10 – you get 1 card pack. Open this immediately! You may be able to use the cards to strengthen your other decks. There’s no reason to hold off on opening them later.
- “First Blood” Complete a game in Play mode – 1 card pack.
- “The Duelist” Play 3 games in Play mode – 100g.
- “Got the Basics!” Collect every card in the basic set – 100g. You can do this by getting all 9 heroes to level 10; your starting basic set is only short the 5 class cards that you have to earn along the way from level 1-10. For this reason, I would recommend that you stop playing a character once it hits Level 10 and first try to rank all your characters to 10 before you settle on your favorite hero.
- “Chicken Dinner” Win 100 games in any mode – 300g. This will come much sooner than you think because it counts any and all games you played in any mode, especially if you played a decent amount of games against the AI.
- You also get 1 card pack each if you play once on an iPad or if you own select Blizzard games
While you can play around with the preconstructed basic decks, I don’t think they’re very good or very strong; trying to beat the AI with them may take longer with these preconstructed decks, so I’ve included a basics-only custom deck (on the right side of this page) that you can start out with at Level 1 – there are 24 neutral cards that can be put into the decks for all 9 classes.
Here’s a list of which cards to add and finish the deck by each hero class.
- Mage – 2 copies each of polymorph, arcane-intellect, fireball
- Warlock – 2 copies each of voidwalker, shadow-bolt, gnomish-inventor (a strong, balanced neutral card that replaces itself by drawing you 1 card)
- Warrior – 2 copies each of fiery-war-axe, execute, Gnomish Inventor
- Shaman – 2 copies each of rockbiter-weapon, hex, Gnomish Inventor
- Priest – 2 copies each of northshire-cleric, power-word-shield, holy-smite
- Paladin – 2 copies each of hammer-of-wrath, elven-archer, Gnomish Inventor
- Rogue – 2 copies each of backstab, deadly-poison, assassinate
- Hunter: 2 copies each of tracking, arcane-shot, multi-shot
- Druid: 2 copies each of innervate, claw; 1 copy each of mark-of-the-wild and Gnomish Inventor
The deck I’ve included revolves around putting a lot of minions on the board and buffing them to be stronger for killing other minions and ending the game. I only really recommend using this build for beating the AI heroes; once you get all the basics for a class (when you hit level 10 for that hero), I recommend checking out some Basic-only decks on this site.
Adventures (Curse of Naxxramas)
The decision tree branches off here; up until this point, all the recommendations are the same for both people who plan on being F2P and people who plan on spending a bit of money. If you plan on spending money, I highly recommend prioritizing spending on the buying the 4 Naxxramas wings – it is the best bang for your buck.
If we do the math, we’ll see why buying the Naxxramas wings is a greater value than buying card packs and arguably arena. Naxxramas costs 2800g if you buy them with the in-game gold; if you spend cash, it’s $20.
Let’s compare this to the in-game ratio of gold to card packs; 100g can buy you 1 card pack. Thus, we see that purchasing the Naxxramas wings would give you 2800g value for $20. On the other hand, if you purchased card packs for $20, you only get 15 card packs, valued at 1500g or 100g per pack – which makes $20 for 1500g. If we break it down to each dollar, we see that this would mean you get a rate of 75g per $1.
If you buy the $50 dollar card pack bundle, you get 40 packs, valued at 4000g – which makes $50 for 4000g and thus 80g per $1. Back to comparing it with purchasing Naxxramas wings, $20 gets you 2800g which is equivalent to 140g per $1. This is almost double the value of spending $50 on card packs.
TLDR (too long, didn’t read)
Buying Naxxramas wings is a much better value than buying card packs – you get a gold to dollar rate of 140g to $1 as compared to the best value card pack bundle at $50 which has a gold to dollar rate of 80g to $1.
How long does it take to make 100g (enough for 1 card pack)? In the game, it takes an optimistic estimate of an average of 6 minutes per game if you play a very fast deck like Zoo. Given that you need to win 3 games to make 10g, then you need 30 wins t0 make 100g.
If you have a relatively solid ~60% win ratio (close to what many Legend players have in ranks 5-1 up to Legend), you would win 3 out of every 5 games. So you could estimate that you would win 30 games out of every 50 games; multiply that by an 6 minutes per game and that would mean it takes 300 minutes (or 5 hours) to play 50 games and win 30 of those to make 100g.
It takes 5 hours to make 100g assuming a 60% win ratio with an average of 6 minute games (50 games)
Of course, there are daily quests and that improves this math by a lot, but this demonstrates the baseline rate of making gold via Play mode when you’re not going for daily quests. There are 2 main types of daily quests – 40g ones and 60g ones. We’ll just discuss by and far the most common subtype of the kind where you either win 2 games with either of 2 specified Heroes (40g quest) or 5 games with either of 2 specified heroes (60g quest).
Now, to complete the 2 wins, most players probably will at least win 3 times, thus they would usually earn at least 50g on a day with that quest (by accounting for the 10g every 3 wins). For the 60g quest, most players would probably win at least ~6 games instead of just 5 necessary for just the quest, thus they would usually earn at least 80g on a day with that quest.
Given that 15 out of the 25 possible quests give 40g, we can estimate that in general the chance of getting a 40g quest is 60%. We’ll ignore the fact that finishing a quest prevents you from doing the same quest again in the next 5 days & how you can reroll your daily quest once per day. The estimated expected value would at least ~60g per day if you played like I suggested, earning at least 50g on 40g quest days and 80g on 60g quest days.
Daily quests will get you roughly 60g per day on average.
Understanding Drop Rates
If you play just to finish quests per month, you can expect 60g x 30 days = 1800g. If you win maybe an additional 60 games from playing here and there throughout the month, you can add 200g to that making 2000g per month.
Let’s assume that the average game is 10 minutes; this may be a bit generous, but if you consider decklist tweaking and all the other time spent in Hearthstone, but not playing games, it’s not a bad estimate. If you play at an average of 10 minute games at 60% win rate, that would estimate to be around 17 hours a month (or just over 1/2 an hour a day and maybe a bit more on weekends) on top of the daily quests. This last part was added on so that we can more easily calculate the kinds of cards you can expect to get per month.
Given that Legendary drop rates are 1/20 packs, Epic drop rates are 1/5 packs, 1 extra rare in a pack at a rate of 1/4 packs, you can statistically expect 1 Legendary, 4 Epics, 18 rares (? correct me if I’m wrong), and 77 commons per 20 packs or per month if you play at a rate of 2000g per month. If you keep all of your legendaries (you really shouldn’t dust them unless it’s nozdormu), you can expect around an average of 73 dust per pack if you dust everything else. Of course, these are statistics, so initially people’s results may vary, but with more card packs, your results will usually approach these values unless if you’re really unlucky.
These calculations are to give you an expectation of how fast your card collection will grow as a F2P player if you play in Play mode exclusively – aka slower than many of us would like. I also set the break-even point for those who have some money to spend and don’t want to spend that much time grinding for gold. For example, using the most efficient use of your cash, if you spend $20 on Naxxramas (valued at 2800g), you save almost a month and a half of time grinding for gold if you play at a rate of 2000g per month (which I estimate to be about 1.5 hrs per day; 1/2 an hour per day as mentioned earlier + 1 hour per day to do the daily quest).
Thus, if you work for roughly $10 an hour, you can spend 2 hours earning $20 dollars and save yourself 1.5 months (~70 hrs playtime) of gold grinding if you play 1.5 hrs per day.
One caveat, if you play more than 1.5hrs per day, your rate of earning gold per hour is lower since a greater percentage of your gold is being generated from the 10g Play mode payoffs as compared to the players who rely more so on daily quests as the bulk of their gold income.
Drop rates were calculated by these fabulous authors on reddit:
Playing the Arena
The much better way to build a collection as a F2P player is to play arena.
The arena entrance fee we know is 150g. The average payout at 3 wins and 3 losses is around an equivalent of 50g (actually just a bit less)which is the break-even point; at 3 wins and 3 losses, you get 1 booster pack + an equivalent of 50g (not preferred) or often just 50g. At this point, it’s almost as if you just spend 100g on a booster pack and now have 50g left over. You haven’t netted any losses.
When you score lower than 3 wins and 3 losses in arena such as 2 wins and 3 losses (trust me it happens even to the best of us at times), then you are netting losses, and it would’ve just been more value to just buy a booster a pack. Going 3-3 means that you have a 50% win rate in arena; if you can increase your rate above 50% and thus above 3-3, you are starting to start profiting in gold relative to buying booster packs.
For example when you score 4-3 in Arena, you will generally get a card pack + a gold reward of around 65g or an equivalent. Thus, for the 150g you spent, you got 1 booster (100g value) + 65g and have netted 15g over just buying a booster pack and having 50g leftover. The key is to improve your average arena win rate so that your net profit is higher and higher.
Once you break 7 wins – 3 losses in Arena, you get an average of ~160+g plus a booster; at this point, you are playing arena for complete profit! Each 150g you put in, you generate 160g back and a booster which is a 260g value – much better than spending 100g on a booster. This means that you can play Arena for essentially for free & if you’re doing your daily quests, you are just racking up your gold and getting your packs for free from Arena – you can obviously spend your remaining gold on even more boosters.
The Arena rewards go sky-high up to ~330g + oftentimes 1 golden card + 1 booster (and occasionally 2 boosters) once you get 12 wins in Arena. The big caveat to all this is definitely the time investment – it often takes me ~2.5 hours for my 12-2 Arena runs; this should be the maximum time length per run. It’s obviously much more profitable and efficient than playing in Play mode, but it still requires quite a bit of time.
Still, if you’re a F2P player, then this is the most efficient method – spend your money exclusively on Arenas. Even the best of us don’t always consistently get 7-3 every game, sometimes the cards you’re dealt in Arena just aren’t that good. Therefore, I highly recommend a newer player whose average Arena is under 6-3 to stock up at least ~600g as a reserve to continue playing arenas; this way you can always play Arena even if you had an unlucky 1-3 Arena. Your really good Arenas will earn you back what you lost. Any excess gold over ~600g can be spent however you like. The newer you are and the lower your Arena score, I more strongly recommend just spending gold on Arena exclusively.
In the beginning, many people have to rely on quests and some Play mode grinding to support playing 1 Arena every 1 or 2 days. With practice, you can be playing Arena all day 🙂 At 6-3, you can play 1 Arena a day and make back 100g + 1 booster; the remaining 50g can easily be covered by the daily quest. An additional note, daily quests can also be done in Arena!
Arenas are not easy to play, so I would recommend playing in Play mode a lot first with Basics only decks (featured frequently on this site) until you hit a wall with them around rank 15. That way, you would be walking into Arena with a better sense of the game and have a higher starting average! Arena will take some time to learn – I began averaging 3-3, but I practiced by playing about 1 Arena per day and slowly started averaging around 7 or 8 wins on my Arena runs after about 1.5 months of playing Arena every day.
Play Arenas if you’re F2P and don’t spend any gold on booster packs until you can constantly float at least 600g as a reserve to play at least 4 Arenas. Arenas become more profitable than Play mode if you can average above 3 wins and 3 losses; you can essentially play for free and get free boosters if you average 7-3. Arenas are especially great for newer players who don’t have that many cards to play with – Arena allows you to play with cards you don’t have yet 🙂 I highly recommend checking out the Arena guides on this site to improve your Arena play!
Dust to dust: To dust or not to dust? & Crafting
If you’re a F2P player, I strongly recommend against disenchanting. I especially do not recommend disenchanting things that you don’t already have two copies of.
The only time that you definitely should disenchant something is if it’s had a recent change and Blizzard has changed the DE (disenchant) value to the crafting value; oftentimes, DE values are between 1/8 to 1/4 of the card’s crafting value.
Disenchanting your extra copies (when you have more than 2 copies) is fine, but I prefer holding onto my cards until I want to craft a Legendary and hope that one of the cards I was holding will be able to DE at full crafting value. I highly recommend against crafting cards except for Legendaries (best value craft especially since it’s the least probable to get multiple copies of Legendaries).
The crafting priority is definitely Legendary>Epic>Rare>Common. This is because if you play long enough (for example 2 months of 1 Arena every day), you’re very likely to get more than 2 copies of each common and most of the rares. Crafting rares is the minimum level you should craft at; since there are 81 rares and you only usually get 1 rare per pack, it’s very difficult to get 2 copies of the same rare early on while you play.
This mentality applies even more so to crafting Epics and crafting Legendaries. When I craft rares though, I often prefer crafting just 1 copy and hope to already have or pull the other copy. Whereas there are 85 commons and you usually get 4 per pack, you’ll quickly accumulate all the commons. While crafting commons is relatively cheap at 40 dust, I still think that dust is better spent on more expensive cards. When you finally get multiple copies of that common, you can only dust the extra copies for 5 dust each. That 35 dust you lost is often just not worth it; if you play Arena exclusively as you are building your collection, patience pays off 🙂
Addendum: A reader reminded me – disenchanting golden versions of cards yields a lot more dust! I believe that for the F2P player, it’s almost impossible for a F2P player to amass a full deck of golden cards in any reasonable amount of time for a normal player who can’t play Hearthstone for a living. I’ve been playing since beta, and I still don’t have enough dust to craft a golden deck or get enough golden cards from packs for one. Even if you had a deck full of only golden commons, that would be 400 dust x 30 cards = 12000 dust orwhich is enough to craft 7.5 legendaries or, alternatively, requires 30 legendaries worth of disenchanting. That said, I would DE any golden cards that you don’t have any particular sentimental attachment to – the dust adds up very quickly! Of course, don’t DE your golden copies if you don’t yet have 2 copies of the card – just wait until you have two regular copies and then DE the golden one! Disenchanting a golden copy to craft a regular copy doesn’t yield much net dust if it yields any at all.
TLDR (too long, didn’t read – a summary)
NEVER craft commons! Try craft the rarest cards you need first (ex. Legendaries)! DE golden cards if you already have 2 regular copies of the card.
If you must play constructed ASAP as a new F2P player
If you want to play a strong constructed deck capable of hitting Legend while you are still building your full collection of commons and rares, the two powerful yet cheap decks I recommend are Zoo (~1100 dust or less for the full deck) and Midrange Hunter (~800 or less dust for the complete deck). Right now, Zoo is in a bit of flux, and I think the optimal decklists have yet to be determined. A player who is hoping to craft a Zoo deck should wait until after Naxxramas is fully released and the meta settles. Midrange Hunter is more cheap and can easily use the soulbound Basic cards as solid substitutions. I think this decklist will change less so than Zoo, so if you had to pick one deck to play constructed, I would recommend building towards Midrange Hunter.
I would recommend crafting the rarest cards first because by the time you’ve finished crafting the rarest/most difficult to craft cards, you’re likely to already have many of the commons needed for the deck. If you still need to craft commons then to complete the deck, then you can save a lot of dust. The other way around (crafting commons first) will likely leave you with a ton of wasted dust and will generally take even longer to complete the deck.
One version I would recommend is Spark’s Midrange Hunter (there are other free to view versions online as well!)except that I would run 2 tracking, 1 deadly-shot, and 1 stranglethorn-tiger over 1 stampeding-kodo, 1 maexxna, 1 tundra-rhino, and 1 eaglehorn-bow; this would also lower the dust cost by 120 dust (~700 dust total)!
If you want to play the deck and want to craft right away, the most key cards to craft are the 2 savannah-highmane. There are lots of cards to tinker around with in Midrange Hunter 🙂
I believe that having 1 constructed deck for Play mode is not bad for the times when you get tired of playing Arena. That 1 constructed deck will also be your way to generate gold; pick a deck that is fun and one that you like so that grinding gold will not be a chore 🙂
If you have lots of patience, I recommend tinkering around with the Basics only decks that Sheng has written on this site! The longer you can hold off on crafting non-Legendaries, the faster you can finish your desired decks!
Midrange Hunter is a cheap and strong deck to craft if you really want to play a constructed deck capable of hitting Legend ASAP. That said, start by crafting the rarest cards first (esp. Savannah Highmane) before crafting your commons. It is more preferable to play around with Basics only decks & upgrade them as you pull cards from packs instead of crafting cards, but if you have to play a competitive deck ASAP, then pick ONE deck you really like and will be happy grinding for gold with. It may be worth it to make a solid deck (it’s okay to craft commons for this deck after you’ve finished crafting the rarer cards first) so that you can grind for more gold when you can’t or don’t feel like playing Arenas.
Let me know if you have any questions! Post comments and feedback below! I want to make this guide as useful as possible as well since I am also trying to get a few friends to start playing Hearthstone!