Professional Semi-Professional #2 – Time is Money

Are you a working professional? Focus on the economics of Hearthstone spending with Subzerowins and why time is money.


“Heh! How you doin’?”

My name is Subzerowins, and as you can already tell I am going to put on my best goblin impression.

This article is once again for you budding “professional semi-professionals”. Don’t know what I mean by that? Click this link to read the first installment of the series to catch up. But as Gazlowe says, “Keep it quick kid, I ain’t got all day.”

Are you back yet? Great – because time is money, friend. This sentiment is going to guide us on today’s adventure. In this article we’re going to break down some of the costs involved in playing Hearthstone and how we can overcome them. I hope at the end of it, we come to the same conclusion – spend money on Hearthstone, it’s worth it.

The Costs of Hearthstone

Hearthstone is free to play – you don’t have to spend any real money to enjoy the game. This, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t spend money at all. Let’s take a look at some of the costs associated with the game, as described in US currency:

1. Software

  • Gold cost: Free
  • Real life cost: Free
  • What this gets you: Access to play the game!

2. Packs Classic or Goblin v. Gnomes

  • Gold cost: 100g per pack
  • 2 packs = $2.99 (or $1.50 per pack)
  • 7 packs = $7.99 (or $1.43 per pack)
  • 15 packs = $19.99 (or $1.33 per pack)
  • 40 packs = $49.99 (or $1.25 per pack)
  • 60 packs = $69.99 (or $1.17 per pack)

Packs get you either five classic cards or five Goblin vs Gnomes cards. At least one of the card will be a rare or better, but sometimes you get more! Cards also have a chance of being golden. These golden cards have special animations and disenchant for more dust than the normal card.

3. The Arena

  • Gold cost: 150g per attempt
  • Real life cost: $1.99 per attempt

What it gets you: Pick a card from a random selection of three cards from the entire card pool. Do this thirty times and you have crafted a deck. Play this deck until you either win twelve times or lose three times, whichever comes first. You don’t keep what you drafted, but rather earn rewards based on the amount of wins you have accumulated. Rewards include dust, gold, packs, normal cards, and even golden cards.

4. Solo Adventures (Curse of Naxxramas)

  • Gold cost: 2,800g total (700g per wing)
  • Real life cost: $24.99 total ($6.99 per wing)

What this gets you: different scenarios to play against an AI. By beating these scenarios you can earn access to all of the Curse of Naxxramas cards.

So there you have it – these are the possible in-game costs found in Hearthstone. Now, we need another data set to help understand these costs in context.

Breaking Down Income

As a professional semi-professional you have an advantage that many players don’t: an income. Evaluating that income for our purposes requires two sets of information. The first is salary, and the second is amount of time worked.

What do you do? Are you a trade-prince-gallywix?

Unlikely. Let’s look at some jobs that a professional might hold, and find some usable data.

We can find some good estimates of income from the U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics website. The page used includes the most recently compiled national data on employment and average income. For those more interested in this data, they have additional links that breakdown various regions in the U.S.

Let’s start with the legal profession. Lawyers, according to this data, make roughly $130,000, with a mean hourly wage of $63.46 assuming a normal workweek. From my personal knowledge of the field, this number is skewed by two factors. One, “big law” skews this number up because these large firms start associates at $90,000 to $160,000 depending on the region and the size of the firm. Many lawyers in smaller practices or government positions make between $50,000 and $75,000.

Second, that “$63.46” hourly rate also assumes roughly a 40 hour work week, which is a bad estimate. How do I know this? There are fifty-two weeks in a year. Most estimates account for two weeks of vacation and holiday time, so move that down to fifty. At forty hours a week times fifty weeks, that’s 2,000 hours. $130,000/2000 hours= $65/hour.

Most large firms, however, require between 2,100 and 2,200 hours to be billed clients. Time sitting around reading fun hearthstone articles tragically can’t be billed. 2,200 hours in a fifty workweek year means billing forty-four hours a week. With un-billable time, actual hours worked creeps up to nearly sixty hours a week. Simple math gives us a total of roughly 3,000 work hours in a year (60 hours a week x 50 work weeks). This means the realistic hourly rate of attorneys is $43.33.

That means a lawyer will, using this figure, make about $0.72 every minute. That’s some serious coin. In fact, I think it might be some serious gallywixs-coin.

With the preliminary math out of the way, it means a high-priced lawyer will be able to buy two packs of cards after about five minutes of work. That same lawyer can buy sixty packs after about an hour and a half of work. That lawyer can buy entry to the arena after three minutes of work, and the entirety of Curse of Naxxramas in just over thirty minutes.

This math can be applied to any professional. Accountants and auditors make an average of $72,000 annually. They enjoy a mean hourly wage of $34.86. People in this profession could buy sixty packs in about two hours.

Physicians make an average of $187,200. They have a mean hourly wage of $90.00, though I suspect this number likely suffers from the same skew as found in the lawyer section. Assuming for a moment it is accurate, a physician could buy sixty packs in about forty-five minutes of work.

I selected these three jobs for discussion as they are the classic examples of a professional job in society, but the census list is literally hundreds of entries long, and the math could be done on any of these professions – I encourage you all to determine your own hourly rate and see what you’re worth (in Hearthstone purchases). The next section looks at what this raw data means for you as a player.

The Coffee Break Dilemma

In the same way we calculated income per hour (or minute) above, we can do the same for gold earnings in the game. Ranked play will earn you 10g for every three wins. Let’s then assume two facts:

1. Every game takes about ten minutes.

2. You win three out of four games you play (a charitable estimate at medium to high levels).

That means every forty minute cycle you earn 10g from ranked. Without any other gold income, and using this above average win-rate, it would take ten forty-minute cycles, or 400 minutes (over 6.5 hours), of ranked play to earn one pack.

You can, with high skill, earn consistent gold in arena. On average, a player must win seven times before they recuperate their 150g investment (and gaining a pack for their troubles). Using the above assumption of the length of a game, seven wins and three losses would take one hour and forty minutes of time.

You can also earn varying amounts of gold for completing daily quests (in either Ranked or Arena mode). Here are two that are currently in my inventory. The first is “Paladin or Priest Dominance” which will net me sixty gold after five wins on either Paladin or Priest. The second quest is “The Meek Shall Inherit” which will net me forty gold after I play thirty minions that cost two or less. These are nice boosts, but combined would only get me one pack of five cards. Furthermore, depending on your deck preferences, these quests could take a long time to complete.

Remember what the theme of this article was way back at the beginning? That’s right – time is money, friend. As a lawyer, your time is worth $43.33 an hour. As an accountant, your time is worth $34.86 an hour. As a physician, your time is worth a whopping $90 an hour. In six and a half hours of being a doctor, you would earn $585. In that same span of grinding ranked play, you would earn one pack of five cards.

Let that sink in for a minute or two. No, seriously, take some time to think. Now, if you just followed that instruction literally, and are a professional, you have just earned enough money to enter the arena when you get home. This high hourly rate is your fast-track to enjoying Hearthstone. Without a strong disposable income, getting high-level cards is a long and arduous grind. You, my loyal reader, can just buy some packs. Still not convinced? Think about your coffee break.

You start by getting up from your chair. You walk over to the Keurig machine and think about which K-cup you want to use. After mulling it over, you pick French Vanilla and select your cup size. It gurgles for a second and then starts brewing your midday pick-me-up. After a few moments the machine quiets down and starts gulping in water to get ready for the next coffee-seeker. While this is happening you put in your milk and sugar and head back to your desk. You sit down and see that about five minutes have elapsed. Guess what? You just “worked” long enough to buy two packs of cards.

Wasn’t making that pretentious coffee drink way easier than grinding hearthstone for six and a half hours? Yeah, I thought so.

Making Purchases

So now that you are convinced to spend real life money, how should you go about spending it? For those playing the home game, you can appease the gadgetzan-auctioneer by only buying “the best deals anywhere.” Please note that before you begin, please check your disposable income levels. While it is definitely fun and worth your time to buy cards rather than to grind gold, if you just bought a Tesla, twenty new suits, and a new Fragbox PC maybe you should just double check the bank account. Real life comes before Azeroth in all its forms, even Hearthstone.

After evaluating your pay per hour (or minute), and making sure you wont break the bank, it is my opinion you should buy in bulk. As shown in the tables above, buying in bulk gives you the lowest unit price and thus the cheapest cost pet card. Between two packs (the lowest amount you can buy with cash) and sixty packs (the highest amount you can buy in bulk), you end up saving thirty-three cents per pack. Over sixty packs, that thirty-three cents becomes $19.80 in savings. Just because you have a disposable income doesn’t mean you should throw away twenty dollars.

Let’s also look at the cost of the solo adventure: Curse of Naxxramas. Buying all of the wings together saves you 29% of the total cost of buying all of the wings separately. It drops the cost from $6.99 a wing to $4.99 a wing! By buying smart you stretch out your disposable income, which in turn could let you buy a few more packs.

But maybe you need some more motivation to buy? Let’s consider this whole mental exercise from another angle. People love going to the movies, and most think it is a worthwhile pursuit. It rarely suffers from the same stigma associated with spending money on video games. My local movie theater charges me $10 a ticket. Not counting the price of a date, or the concession stand, that is $10 for an hour and a half of entertainment. I don’t get to keep or record the video, and in fact, I could be prosecuted for doing so.

Compare this cost to Hearthstone. In particular, compare that to the cost of five (5) arena runs. For argument’s sake, let’s assume you have the five worst arena runs in the history of arena. Even with this dire assumption, you still get to make five new decks and you get a minimum of fifteen Hearthstone games. You also receive a minimum of five packs of Goblins v. Gnomes that you get to keep for the life of your account, not to mention a small amount of gold and dust. Now assume you win some games. You can get to enjoy up to seventy games (Twelve wins and two losses per run), and earn as many as twenty-four packs plus various rewards for your $10 dollars. This is yet another thought experiment that puts spending money on Hearthstone in perspective.

Spending on Knowledge

But wait, there’s more! Why stop at the advantage of getting high-level cards more easily than most other players? You should also consider buying high-level advice for a competitive advantage. For $4.95/month or $24.95/six months (less than the cost of the five wings of Curse of Naxxramas), you can get premium access to There are some extraordinary players on this website, and some of the most in-depth and helpful articles are on the premium side of the page. I readily admit that the first time I hit legend was because of the guidance from an article on this very site.

So, if you are looking for another way to leverage the competitive advantage of having a disposable income, look no further than the articles available here, many of which are free!


As I said last time, with the right perspective, tips, and skills, there’s no reason those of us with lives outside of Hearthstone can’t achieve meaningful success in the gaming community. One of the ways we can do that is to utilize the fruits of our labor. Many players have time to commit to the game. But as we all know now, time is money. Use that money to fast-forward through the boring grind. Buy those packs without guilt. Pay for those arena runs. Watch your card collection grow and enjoy the game. As the meta evolves, new decks and new strategies evolve with it. Having a large card collection lets you build new decks to capitalize on holes in the meta. That is how you can spend less time in Hearthstone and still have a serious impact as a professional semi-professional.

As always, reach out to your community below in the comments. Good luck on your new adventure, and I’ll see you again in our next installment.

Yours truly,


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