A new Ranked Ladder arrived for Hearthstone, featuring lots of stars
Gone are the days of climbing from Rank 25 (or 50 for new players) to Rank 1. The new ranked ladder is now divided into five Leagues (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond), with 10 Ranks each: from 10 to 1. Winning games will net you stars, and earning three stars is required to move on to the next rank. Losing a game will lose you a star. Rank floors still exist — those ranks where, even if you lose a game, you’ll get the helpful (or dreaded) “can’t lose stars at this rank” message. Ranks 10 and 5 are the new floors.
The Legend rank remains the same — you move to it after Diamond 1, and once you’re there you still can’t get knocked out of it. There is still, however, an entirely separate ladder for new players, which goes from Ranks 40 to 1. At the start of a new season, everyone will always return to Bronze 10.
But then, I can hear you asking, how will your progress in the previous month give you a boost? Well, let me introduce the concept of Bonus Stars.
Bonus stars and matchmaking
No, we’re not talking about Elise.
You will gain a number of Bonus Stars at the start of a month, based on your previous performance. This number will be determined by the maximum Rank you reached: up to Silver 10, you’ll gain two Bonus Stars. For every other Rank Floor you were able to hit, you will get another star — Silver 5 gives three stars, Gold 10 gives four stars, etc. — up to ten Bonus Stars for players who were able to hit Legend.
Basically, your Bonus Stars are the amount of stars you’ll earn whenever you win a game. So if your Bonus is four, each victory nets you four stars total. And they are affected by Win Streaks up until Diamond 5, so if your current bonus was five for example, a victory under a win streak would earn you ten stars! However, Bonus Stars are reduced by one for each Ranked Floor you pass. As you keep climbing, your bonus will lower until it’s completely gone, but hitting new Ranked Floors is the only thing that affects your bonus — losing games doesn’t change it at all.
As a result of all these rank changes, the matchmaking engine has also been improved. The ladder now has two matchmaking pools: one is for players with a star multiplier higher than 1, and it uses an MMR system. The other is for players who are at 1 Bonus Star, and it matches opponents by Rank only.
Blizzard has already posted a warning: purposefully tanking your MMR (in order to face “weaker” opponents) doesn’t work. Blizzard will recover your MMR up to a certain — hidden — threshold. Also, MMR doesn’t reset between seasons.
Your just desserts — card backs and more!
For all this star-totaling efforts, the end of season rewards have also been improved. You’ll now receive a number of cards usable in Standard mode and card packs from the latest expansion. This rewards is cumulative, so you’ll get the rewards from every previous rank you’ve climbed.
There are also a number of first-time rewards, that you’ll earn on the first time you hit a certain rank: these include Classic cards and packs, and a Classic Legendary card for the first time you hit Legend.
And lastly, you can now collect your shiny new card back as soon as you get your five wins, instead of having to wait until the beginning of the following month. A minor change, but a welcome one.
What does this mean for you?
For everyone along the ranking spectrum, this means fairer matches overall, since you should be ranked against players closer to your skill level. Despite the fact that every player will go back to Bronze 10 at the start of a season, the new MMR system should pit you against players of similar skill, and the Bonus Star system means that higher skilled players should climb quickly to their ranks of origin — which has the added benefit of ensuring that the grind is reduced.
My advice: the dual pool system means that, if you play casually, you should play while you have a star bonus. You should expect to keep climbing ranks during that period, since your Bonus Stars ensure that wins count for more than losses. Once you lose your Bonus Stars, the climb is no longer as casual-friendly.
Good news if you want to complete your collection: the increased end of season rewards, combined with other changes — such as the fact that you no longer get duplicate cards until you’ve earn two copies of that card in your collection — makes collecting cards easier and quicker than ever. Less expensive, too.
If you’re a new or returning player, it should be easier to play catch-up, with the new Classic card rewards. Classic cards are always in vogue — they don’t rotate out when new expansions get released, so they’ll always be useful to you, even if you take a long break from the game.
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