Everything you need to know to win in Hearthstone Battlegrounds
To win Hearthstone Battlegrounds mode you’ll need strategy, skill, and a dash of luck. Like other “autochess” or “autobattler” games, the basic strategy of Battlegrounds is to build an unbeatable army, and each decision should further that ultimate end.
But how do you build a winning board? We’ll take a look at how to dominate in each stage of the game so you can rack up Battlegrounds wins.
Hearthstone Battlegrounds basics
Hearthstone Battlegrounds is an eight-player auto-battler. You pick a Hero, and recruit minions from various tribes (Mechs, Beasts, Demons, etc.) to build a board of undefeatable minions. From there it’s automatic: you send your army into battle and watch them autoattack your opponent while you cheer or cry (mostly cry).
Your Hero starts with 40 health (with one exception), and when your health is reduced to 0, you’re out. The last Hero standing wins first place, but the top four are all considered winners.
Instead of mana, Battlegrounds uses gold as a resource. You start with three and each round you earn one more, up to 10. Just like mana, gold does not carry over from one round to the next, so your unspent gold is wasted.
You use gold to buy minions (3g), refresh the Tavern with new minions (1g), and/or upgrade the Tavern’s level (varies).
Minions are divided into Tiers, which represent their quality. Each round, Bob will offer you a selection of minions from all the Tiers you’ve unlocked. If you’ve upgraded the Tavern to Tier 3, you’ll see Tier 1, 2, and 3 Minions offered, but no Tier 4 or above.
Minions can be sold back for 1 gold each, including tokens generated like the Tabby Cat from Alley Cat or the Murloc Scout from Murloc Tidehunter.
If you buy three of the same minions, Bob will trade all three for a Golden copy with better stats and buffs. Any buffs from the ones you already had carry over, so if you have Magnetized a Mechano-Egg with an Annoy-o-module, when you get your golden Mechano-Egg back, it will still be Magnetized with Annoy-o. When you put the Golden on the board, you discover a minion from a higher Tier than your current Tavern level.
Battlegrounds uses a Match Maker Rating (MMR) to group eight players of similar skills. You start at 4000 MMR, and a top four finish will usually result in an MMR increase. According to Dean Ayala, Senior Game Designer for Hearthstone Battlegrounds, this is how players rank:
- 5000 or less: 62% of players
- 5500+: top 20%
- 6000+: top 10%
- 7000: top 1%
…and if you’re in the top 1%, you should be writing this article, not reading it.
How to play Battlegrounds
Each round of Battlegrounds is broken in two phases: an active Recruit phase and a passive Battle phase. All your decision-making is done in the Recruit phase, where you build and empower your minion army.
During this phase, your resource is gold, which works just like mana. Here’s what you can do with your coins:
- Upgrade the Tavern (cost varies). Each Tier costs more than the last, and the cost is reduced by 1 gold each round you don’t upgrade.
- Buy a minion (costs 3 gold)
- Sell a minion (earn 1 gold)
- Get a new selection of minions (costs 1 gold)
- Freeze the board (costs 0 gold). This will lock in the minions on the board, so they’ll be available when you start the next round. If you see a minion you need but you don’t have enough gold, freeze the board and buy it next round.
While minions you buy (but don’t play) will stay in your hand, gold cannot be carried over from round to round. You always want to think a round or two ahead in how you’ll spend your mana… err… gold.
When you go into the Battle phase, there’s not much to do. Just pay attention to inform your decisions for future rounds.
The best Battlegrounds Heroes
As hard as the developers work to balance all the Heroes, there are still differences in their power level. When you start a Battleground, you’re given a choice of three hereos, so there’s an RNG factor. Whether it’s three great choices, three “meh” choices, or some combination, you want to pick the best Hero available — and to do that, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the Heroes in the current rotation.
The best of the best
- Deathwing: This hero has a strategy all his own based on building a board cleave minions, Deathrattles, Divine Shields, and tokens. If you can find the right minions, Deathwing is hard to beat.
- Yogg Saron: It’s hard to lose the early rounds by recruiting with Yogg’s hero power, which gives you time to develop your strategy and be aggressive in leveling up your Tavern.
- Edwin Van Cleef: The Hero Power can turn a so-so unit into a good unit and a good unit into a great one. Just remember to save a gold to use it, and don’t use it if you haven’t bought any minions.
- Arch-Villain Rafaam: I continue to be surprised his Hero Power hasn’t increased in cost. At worst, you’re getting a minion to sell for 1 gold. At best, you’re getting a key minion or perhaps even that last minion you need for a triple. Remember to check your opponents to see if its worth it to use your Hero Power.
- Nozdormu: With more minions in the Tavern now, there’s a greater variety to what you’ll see. Getting a free roll increases your chances on hitting a build-defining minion and its accompanying pieces.
- Dancin Daryl: I know many other tier lists have him as one of the best Heroes. Once you figure out how to buy and sell minions to target his buffs, he’s a powerhouse, but I’ve knocked him down a tier due to his learning curve and skill cap.
- Nefarian: This Hero Power is a direct counter to Divine Shield, and can sometimes outright win an early round. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help against a Nadina Dragon build since she puts the Divine Shields up after the Hero Power has gone off.
- Reno Jackson: Reno is all about drawing one of his key minions: Baron Rivendare, Brann, Kalecgos, Mama Bear, or Razorgore. It’s high risk, high reward, but Reno wouldn’t have it any other way. Just remember you can only use his Hero Power one time during the whole game.
- The Great Akazamzarak: Ice Block alone can turn a 5th place into a 4th by letting you survive one more round. Early on, Splitting Image, AutoDefense Matrix, and Venonstrike are all strong Secret choices.
- Shudderwock: Murlocs benefit the most from Shudderwock, but he can work with other tribes, too. I’m not a big fan of Pogos unless I’m Shuddewock.
- A.F. Kay: Another high risk, high reward Hero. If you roll great on your free minions, you’re headed for a good game.
How to win Battlegrounds
There are two overarching strategies players use in Battlegrounds. I call them “Survive and Advance” and “No Guts, No Glory.”
No Guts, No Glory players are always thinking of the end game: they want 1st place. They’ll take a weaker unit early or mid game to build to a specific comp they feel is strong. While they do see more 1st place finishes than a Survive and Advance player, they also see more 7th and 8th place finishes.
Survive and Advance players are thinking more round to round. They try to assemble a good comp, but their focus is on having the best set of minions for surviving the next battle. This will get you into the top four more often, but ends up losing steam in the late game leading to 5th place finishes.
Pay attention to your opponents
Winning isn’t just about making smart choices when building your board: it’s about watching what your opponents are doing.
On the right side of screen, you’ll see icons for the other heroes. You’ll see players communicate via emoji here, but more importantly you’ll see when they level up their Tavern or get a triple. And if you mouseover their icon, you get tons of information:
- Their current Tavern tier, indicated by the number of stars in the upper left
- How many Triples they have, indicated by the blue icon
- How many consecutive wins they’ve had, indicated by the fire icon
- Info on their last two battles, including who they fought, whether they won, and how much damage they took or dealt
- What minion tribe they’re using and how many minions of that type they have
One hero will be indented, indicating you’ll play them next, which is a good time to do some information-gathering.
While there’s no strategy that will work for every situation, Kel’Thuazad indicates you’re playing a defeated hero. When you see him pop up, you can usually be more aggressive in leveling up since you’ll probably (but not always) win that round. If you see your next opponent leveling up, it’s safer for you to level because they won’t have a ton of gold to spend on minions.
Turn-by-turn Battlegrounds strategy
The only thing you can do on your first turn is buy one of the three minions offered, so choose the best one. These are my favorites:
- Token generators like Murloc Tidehunter and Alleycat are good since you can sell the tokens in later rounds for gold.
- Rockpool Hunter, Dragonspawn Lieutenant, and Vulgar Homunculus have great stats, though Vulgur will cost you health.
- Righteous Protector, Mecharoo, and Red Whelp all have a good chance to at least get you a tie in the first fight.
Most of the time, you should level up on your second turn so you’ll have the chance to be offered Tier 2 minions on Turn 3.
Rafaam and Millhouse are the exceptions. Rafaam’s Hero Power is worth at least one gold, maybe more, and Millhouse has the ability to buy two minions this turn — so if you have one of those Heroes, look to buy minions instead.
You have two good options here:
- Buy two Tier 3 units by selling either a token or your Tier 1 minion
- Roll twice to try to get a single stronger minion
Look for minions like Spawn of N’Zoth, Kaboom Bot, Rat Pack, Zoobot are good (assuming Zoobot has a target). If you see a minion you want, but you don’t have enough gold to buy it, freeze the board so the minion will be available during the next recruitment phase.
Buy the best two minions offered. If you see the possibility for a triple, freeze it on the board instead of buying it because if you wait until turn 5 to buy it, you’ll get a better minion to discover.
Level the Tavern to Tier 3 and buy the best minion you can. The reason you waited on buying the triple is when you play the gold minion, you get a choice of minions from tier higher. If you bought the triple on turn 4, you’d see Tier 3 minions. By waiting until after level to Tier 3 on turn 5, you’ll see Tier 4 minions.
We’ve talked about builds before, and many build-defining minions come at Tier 3. These are units like Cobalt Guardian (Mechs), Soul Juggler (Demons), Pack Leader (Beasts). Find one and start buying minions to support that build.
Since Dragons took over the Tavern, it pays to level up almost as soon as you can. Tier 5 and Tier 6 got some great additions and Sated Threshadon, one of the clunkers from Tier 5, was removed. Many players get gun shy about leveling if they’ve lost fights and have low HP. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
Good luck out there!
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