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HearthstoneJun 10, 2020 10:30 am CT

Tavern Pass brought a real money advantage to Hearthstone Battlegrounds, and we’re seeing it in action as players who pay get more Heroes

In the excitement of the Hearhstone Ashes of Outland release, the Tavern Pass may have gotten overlooked. The Pass allows players to buy “perks” for Battlegrounds like advanced stats, visual emotes, a third and fourth hero to choose from at the start of a game, and early access to new Battlegrounds Heroes. These range from purely cosmetic to strategically important.

Most recently, Tavern Pass subscribers have gotten early access to the four new Pirate Heroes two weeks before everyone else, giving them a head start on the new Battleground meta. For non-subscribers, the Heroes will be available on June 23.

The price for the Tavern Pass has dropped since it launched: it now costs $10 (down from $20) or 1,250 gold (down from 2,500 gold). But it’s still a bit of a hard sell, even though Battlegrounds regulars get some pretty big benefits.

Tavern Pass perks

These perks have been part of Battlegrounds since the beginning. The visual emotes are interesting and fun, but don’t have an accompanying audio cue, so they’re even less noticeable than the standard emotes from the Ladder games. Advanced stats show things like your top five Heroes by wins, most played Heroes, how many first place finishes you’ve completed, and more, which can help inform your choice during Hero selection. Knowing which ones you excel at can help you pick the right one. Of course, that all depends on what Heroes you’re offered.

Having the option to choose from four heroes instead of two is the most impactful of all the perks. As hard as Blizzard works to balance the Heroes, there will still be some that are just better than others. Players find the best of the best and tier lists come out not long after any update. With four options instead of two, you’re more likely to have a good Hero to choose from. With only two, there’s a real chance you’ll have to pick between two duds and hope you can eke out a 5th-place finish.

And then there’s the early access to Heroes we just mentioned. Tavern Pass subscribers are currently playing Captain Eudora, Skycap’n Kragg, Captain Hooktusk, and Patches the Pirate two weeks earlier than anyone else. When a Hero is first introduced is the most likely time for them to be out of balance with the rest of the Heroes — and we’re seeing this in action already, because these Pirates are pretty tough to beat.

Getting access to a powerful new Hero can score you wins while the rest of the players wait — and it’s definitely a serious selling point for picking up the Tavern Pass right now.

An Ashes of Outland change means everyone has to pay

The perks themselves didn’t change in the Ashes of Outland update, but how you acquire them did change. In the first incarnation of Battlegrounds, players earned perks based upon how many card packs they had purchased. Card packs are purchased with in-game gold as well as real money, and most players buy card packs as part of the expansion, either through the pre-order or over time as they earn gold from quests. Whether they spent real money or not, most players would eventually earn the perks and after some time, the overwhelming majority of players in Battlegrounds would have them.

If you bought the pre-order, you essentially bought the perks as part of the expansion — which made sense because perks are only available for the length of that expansion. If you earned all of the perks in Descent of Dragons, you had to earn them again in Ashes of Outland. If you purchase all of the perks in Ashes of Outland, you’ll have to purchase them again in the next Hearthstone expansion which should come out around August.

The Tavern Pass goes for $10 (or 1,250 gold), a fairly sizable investment for perks in a single game mode. The Descent of Dragons perks started at 10 packs (1,000 gold) and you would get all the perks for 30 packs (3,000 gold).

While seemingly cheaper, there’s a big difference: now perks are a separate purchase. You used to get a pile of cards you could use in any game mode alongside the Tavern Pass — now you’re paying for the perks alone.

Before, if you wanted 30 packs and all the perks, you just paid 3,000 gold. Now, if you want 30 packs and all the perks, it’s 4,250 gold. It’s far less likely that most players will have the perks now — which makes perks like early Hero access and the choice of more Heroes each game all the more powerful.

In my own playing, I’m noticing far fewer emotes. This might be because people aren’t using them, but it could also indicate people aren’t buying the perks. The price drop might also indicate the perks aren’t exactly flying off the shelves.

Is the Tavern Pass a good deal?

Even at the reduced price, I still don’t find the Tavern Pass to be a good value proposition. While there’s little doubt it’s nice having early access to the new Heroes, any new strategies are readily available on the internet for all to see. Even if you have the perks, RNG could still work against and not give you any of the four in your pick of Heroes for that game. Having four Heroes to choose from is a big advantage, but it’s not worth 1,250 gold by itself, especially when that only lasts for about until the next Hearthstone expansion comes out, likely in August.

It feels like Blizzard is trying to make Battlegrounds stand on its own as a revenue generator and to make up for some of the lost revenue from a shrinking Arena player base. While the recent changes to tribe rotations have helped, even as part of a card game, Battlegrounds are simply too reliant on multiple levels of RNG to be worth paying for as its own mode. It’d be like asking players to pay for Brawls.

The game would be better served to return to the idea of awarding perks through the purchase of the preorder, or through purchases of card packs — which would also have the benefit of keeping Battlegrounds a fairly even playing field.

But with another expansion likely coming out in a month or two, we’ll see what Blizzard has planned for the future of Battlegrounds — beyond throwing new Heroes in the rotation — soon.

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