Battlegrounds is still in beta, but it’s already caught on with players and may even prove to be the game mode that saved Hearthstone. It’s got a lot going for it. It’s open to everyone, free to play. It’s the one guaranteed way to grind out gold for new players who don’t have the card collection going yet. It also provides some much-needed variety from the usual Hearthstone game, with a fresh “Battle Royale” take on the game.
We won’t repeat for you the basic rules; they’re nicely covered by the Gamepedia Hearthstone wiki now that they have a maintained entry for it. Instead, we’re going to offer straight talk about how to play your best strategy, gleaned from our own experiences. There’s other guides out there, but they’re not updated to the new patches, not as in-depth, and also… well, not as accurate as we’re going to be.
Overall Hearthstone Battlegrounds Tips:
Be sure you have opened 20 packs from the most recent set (dead easy if you were active during release) to get access to your pick of three heroes instead of two. Hero choice can make or break your strategy. Try to at least play every hero once, just to get a feel for how they work. Experiment with different styles and strategies, which we will cover below.
Always remember that the minion pool is limited, with only so many copies of each to go around. One game you might be able to corner the market on a certain strategy, the next time you don’t see minions for that strategy anywhere. Knowing when to switch strategies mid-game can save you, as can using your intuition from the draft format of other TCGs like Magic: The Gathering. If strategy A forces you to refresh constantly while strategy B is wide open, switch to strategy B.
The most important skill component is Battlegrounds is speed! You have a maximum of 60 seconds to make up your mind in the Tavern and make your plays. That’s at the end; the beginning gives 30 seconds per round and it increases. This is before the time for a match is deducted! So if you just had a long match, you have less time in the Tavern. Animations count off from this time as well, so if you’re playing something with a leisurely animation (we’re looking at you, poison!), you will have even less time in the Tavern. Players have complained that the timer is too short, so this may be extended in the future.
Given the above, PC players have a tremendous advantage and always will. The faster your device clock speed and pointer skills (be they mouse or stylus), the better you are at Battlegrounds. Along with that, certain heroes are preferred for the speed factor, given that some of their powers require you to do a lot of finagling in the Tavern in order to take advantage of them.
- Tribal: Pick a tribe and stick to it, hoping for good synergy.
- Bi-tribal: Pick two tribes and try to squeeze value out of their combined strengths.
- Goodstuff: Don’t care about tribes, just want the strongest minion each turn.
- Commitment: Many hero powers build up your minions each turn, but if you have to sell a buffed minion later, your advantage is gone. These are high-commitment heroes.
- Flexibility: These heroes don’t depend on keeping buffed minions around.
- Offensive: Build fast and have a punishing mid-game which knocks out competitors quickly to secure a spot in the top four.
- Defensive: Take a leisurely pace and count on sticking around an extra couple turns to develop a strong late game.
We’ll cover minions and other strategy matters in part 2 of our Hearthstone Battleground series!
Meet the Heroes:
You’ll be limited to a pick of 3 randomly selected heroes from the pool of 24. Which one you pick will be a decision process involving relative ranking against the other two, and your preferred strategy and play style.
We’ll present Hearthstone Battlegrounds heroes alphabetically with our own rankings (1-4, best-worst).
Power: Procrastinate: Skip your first two turns. Start with two minions from Tavern Tier 3. (Passive)
Suited for: Defensive, Commitment, Bi-tribal
Upsides: Strong mid-game boost
Downsides: Too luck-dependent, strategy lock-in
Our ranking: 3
A. F. Kay gets over-rated in other skill guides. Skipping your first two turns is a huge disadvantage, and the turn-three spike only lets you discover from a choice of three random minions, which may or may not be coherent with a good strategy. From there, you still have to catch up on Tavern tiers and building your board. Your whole game depends on having fantastic luck turns three and four, and not being shut out of your chosen strategy.
A. F. Kay is the gambler’s choice. Your best play is to try for two tier-3 minions that work well together towards tribal unity and then hope that tribe stays open. If you have to sell those first two minions later, there goes your advantage!
Power: I’ll Take That!: Next combat, add a plain copy of the first minion you kill to your hand. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Goodstuff, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: Lots of choice, flexibility, early-game perks
Downsides: Huge Tavern chock pressure requiring fast play
The strength of Rafaam is obvious: Get an extra minion for just one gold! You’ll be swimming in extra minions in the mid-game. However, it’s not all good: You have to kill a minion to get one, the first minion you kill is usually the weakest on your opponent’s board, and in the Tavern you will scramble to make room to drop extra minions to sell and recomp your coins. On the plus side, making merged golden minions can happen by sheer accident, and you’ll have so many minions in hand by late-game that you’ll easily be able to sell off your whole board and switch strategies mid-game.
Arch-Villain Rafaam requires a fast player. His strategy goes very deep, so you’ll need to think about your next play almost constantly. He’s good in the early game because you win rounds by sheer force of numbers, and good all game long because of his unbounded flexibility. Stay loose! You may find it advantageous to play with only six minions on the board to give you room for shuffling them around in the Tavern.
Power: Skilled Bartender: Reduce the cost of Tavern Tiers by (1). (Passive)
Suited for: Tribal, Commitment
Upsides: Access to upper tiers sooner
Downsides: Weak early game
Bartendotron is suited to any general strategy you want to play, but unfortunately his power looks better on paper than it plays in real life. Just because you upgraded the tavern doesn’t mean you’ll only see minions of the highest tier, after all. Over time, you’ll only be a turn or two ahead in tiers relative to other players.
Bartendotron exceeds at tribal strategies, which depend on getting clutch minions at a certain tier before other players grab them. With a little luck he works great, but often he places mediocre.
Hero: Dancin’ Deryl
Power: Hat Trick: After you sell a minion, randomly give two minions in Bob’s Tavern +1/+1. (Passive)
Suited for: Commitment, Goodstuff
Upsides: Easy buffs to random minions late game
Downsides: No early game advantage, randomized power, no long-term strategy, requires frantic play
Every guide out there pins Daryl to the #1 tier. They are wrong. Most of those guides were written when HS Battlegrounds first came out. Buffing two random minions in the Tavern is worse than the heroes who buff predictable targets or those who just buff everything! And he requires you to sell minions first, meaning you’re out of luck until mid-game and then only in a good spot if you hoarded tokens and get lucky on refreshes.
Only attempt Daryl on a high-clock desktop with all graphics optimized. Start by buying a full board of tokens from Alleycat and Murloc Tidehunter. Take your early game beatings while leveling up. Now in the mid-game, refresh the Tavern until you get a minion worth buffing, then buy the other minions until Bob is down to two. Now sell your board minions as fast as possible and buy the buffed minion. Play it. Yay, all that work for a single 7/9 Psych-O-Tron, and you only had to sacrifice 15 life to get here! Now prepare for the inevitable elitist snobs who will condescend to you “Well Daryl takes skill to play right!” Your response: “Or I could pick one of the dozen other heroes that give me buffed minions WITHOUT having to jump through thirty hoops like a trained seal!”
Power: Sharpen Blades: Give a minion +1/+1 for each minion you’ve bought this turn. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Commitment, Offensive, Tribal
Upsides: Strong targeted buffs all game long
Downsides: Must be able to buy and sell minions quickly
Edwin is a contender for strongest hero in Battlegrounds. Even if you just buy one minion per turn, his power is relevant. You’ll often find yourself buying extra minions just for the buff. There is no scenario where he’s a bad choice. Buff up your taunts to survive early game. Buff up your aggressive beaters and go on the offensive. Buff your lords (minions with strong tribal dependency) to ensure they survive until late match.
Edwin is almost OP, maybe due for a nerf. There’s very little that can go wrong with him. Ideally, your best bet is to go with a tribe with emphasis on strong lords. But he can work on general-build Goodstuff too. He’s an overachieving hero that’s good at anything and bad at nothing.
Hero: Elise Starseeker
Power: Lead Explorer: When you upgrade Bob’s Tavern, get a ‘Recruitment Map’. (Passive)
Suited for: Tribal, Bi-tribal, Commitment, Defensive
Upsides: Climbs tiers just a touch faster than average, timing is flexible
Downsides: That ‘Map’ costs 3 gold to use!
Elise is a well-balanced hero who is at her best with a strategic player who thinks ahead. The Recruitment Map feature lets you discover from three randoms of the given tier, selected outside the minion pool. This is great for tribal strategies and high-commitment, but poor for early game building because the 3-gold cost is too prohibitive to be an advantage early on.
Elise works best if you treat her like a less-bad A. F. Kay. Level early and level often, taking a few early-game hits in exchange for having guaranteed access to more choice in higher-tier minions. Your late game is outstanding, because you can horde maps and minions, selling off the excess and building a stronger board.
Power: Boon of Light: Give a friendly minion Divine Shield. (4 Coins)
Suited for: Losing
Upsides: Teaches you a hard lesson you never forget if you play him once
Downsides: You have chosen the way of pain.
Every Battlegrounds strategy guide dumps on George, and rightly so. He’s the number one candidate for a patch to buff his hero power to only cost 3, maybe even 2. At 4 gold, his power is irrelevant until late game and then barely functional. There are divine shield minions at every minion tier already. Divine shield also doesn’t stack, and once you have invested 7 gold in a minion with shield, you’d be crazy to sell it. To add insult to injury, there’s also Nefarian, a hero whose power negates yours – while being 3 gold cheaper!
If you play George, do it for the challenge. His best board is murlocs, which lack shields on their own. If you can get a board full of murlocs with poison and divine shield – AND buffed, don’t forget that, you may squeak into the top 4. Lots of luck, Donald Duck!
Power: Temporal Tavern: Refresh Bob’s Tavern. Add a minion from a higher Tavern Tier. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Bi-tribal, Goodstuff, Flexibility
Upsides: Sometimes breaks incredibly lucky and gets good minions early
Downsides: 2 gold is just a mite too expensive for this advantage
Toki is a hero that does require some skill to play well, because her power is almost nonexistent. You refresh the Tavern repeatedly anyway through the course of the game; throwing in an extra random from a higher tier doesn’t do that much. Toki is another candidate for a balance patch, either making her power repeatable or cutting its cost to 1 gold.
To play Toki, ignore her power in the early game and focus on defensive boards while leveling up. In the mid-game, use her power selectively. Even at your luckiest, you’re going to have a hard time making this work.
Power: Graveyard Shift: Take 2 damage and add a Gold Coin to your hand. (0 Coins)
Suited for: Tribal, Bi-tribal, Goodstuff, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: Money! Spend more, do more
Downsides: That damage adds up fast, requires fast play to take advantage
As any demon tribal player will tell you, taking damage in the early game for a strong early advantage is a great trade-off. But beware: her power gets less relevant as the game wears on, because by late game, time is in shorter supply than gold.
When you play Lich, play hard or go home. Despite the pain you’re taking already, demon tribal is good for her just because of the minions Floating Watcher, which gets a buff off your damage, and Mal’Ganis, whose immunity removes your power’s downside. In the meantime, an extra refresh to the tavern helps you find the right minions for your board. In a pinch, you can always horde coins in your hand for later, which can add up to an extra minion every three turns in exchange for (ouch!) six damage. Or spend the coins on earlier upgrades. That’s the cool thing about money, you can spend it on anything.
Power: Bloodfury: Give your Demons +1/+1. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Tribal, Offensive
Upsides: Great with demons
Downsides: You’re out of luck if you’re shut out of demons
Ol’ Jerry is one of the few heroes with a built-in tribal synergy. How good he is is up to one question: Are demons open? If nobody else is playing demons, you’re just about guaranteed a spot in the top 4. Otherwise, you’re gonna have a hard time.
Jaraxxus’ strategy is “play demons.” Don’t faint, demons are under-rated. Vulgar Homunculus is the best turn-one buy minion, but of course Wrath Weaver is necessary to add to your early board too. By the way, there are no demons or demon lords at tier 6, so just relax and level up when it’s cheap.
Power: Tinker: Mechs in Bob’s Tavern have +1 Attack. (Passive)
Suited for: Tribal, Commitment, Offensive
Upsides: Strong mech tribal, free power
Downsides: Sucks when mechs aren’t open
Mechs are plentiful, versatile, and strong at all tiers of the game, a solid tribe that always has at least three players competing for them. Milly would be a little more helpful, however, if her buff was to health in addition to attack, or even instead of. That being said, a free buff to all mechs with no further commitment is a strong advantage.
Milly’s strategy is obviously to play mechs, but remember that you can go Bi-tribal without much disadvantage too. For mech strategies, prepare to have an open space on your board to take advantage of magnetic minions.
Power: Nefarious Fire: At the start of next combat, deal 1 damage to all enemy minions. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Flexibility, Defensive, Goodstuff
Upsides: A strong power that’s always useful
Downsides: Not too relevant late game against boards without divine shield
In the early game, Nefarian is a beast, picking off weak tribal boards and often deciding matches you otherwise had no business winning. In the late game, minions tend to be buffed outrageously so that the one damage is less important, but is still strong against divine shield. Even then, his power only costs 1 gold, so there’s never a reason not to use it.
Nefarian gives you the leisure of picking any tribe or strategy you like, then leveling up aggressively in the early game since he defends you so well there. A couple taunts plus his hero power lets you coast to mid-game unscathed. Be vigilant, however, because your power advantage dwindles to nil later. Build a strong, resilient board selectively, because his power does nothing to buff your own minions.
Power: All Patched Up: Start with 50 Health instead of 40. (Passive)
Suited for: Tribal, Flexibility, Defensive
Upsides: Gives you extra turns to build a master plan, passive power
Downsides: Easily overestimated
Patchy is often seen in the top 4 for one good reason: He has an extra ten health, so he often makes it through sheer persistence while the lesser heroes pick each other off. Even though he was nerfed from 60 health down to 50, he still tends to do well. Just don’t get complacent to taking damage anyway, because one match against an aggressive player can cut you down to size fast!
Patchwerk’s best play is to level often and early, while buying some taunt minions along the way just to increase his longevity. He works well with any tribe, but is especially good at demons with his 10 health buffer against their health tax. His health advantage on average works out to just one, maybe two, extra turns in most cases, so spend it wisely.
Power: Wax Warband: Give a random friendly Mech, Demon, Murloc and Beast +1 Health. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Goodstuff, Commitment, Offensive
Upsides: Cheap power, builds fast, never without a strategy
Downsides: Forces you out of tribal synergies, also negates non-tribe minions
Recently the all-purpose tribal minion, Nightmare Amalgam, was removed from the pool, hitting poor Waggy the hardest. At the same time, competition for tribes means little to her, since her power makes you want one of each anyway. It is possible to build a selective board with one of each tribe, giving you predictable results, but you’ll have to be very lucky to pull it off.
Queen Wagtoggle is OK if you’re stuck with a hard choice. Literally buy anything in the early game and count on her buffs to blindly land you some tougher minions. Watch out for minions with no tribe, because she does nothing for them. As cheap as her power is, she’s actually under-rated just a bit. At least she’s no Rat King.
Power: DIE, INSECTS!: At the start of next combat, deal 8 damage to two random enemy minions. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Flexibility, Defensive
Upsides: 8 damage to a couple minions on your opponents board can decide matches even late game
Downsides: But sometimes it doesn’t
Raggy is a temperamental beast, unleashing fury for just 2 coins on early boards. Later on, his power becomes less relevant, although sometimes he gets extremely lucky when he takes out key tribal lords like Pack Leader, Soul Juggler, or Murloc Warleader. The random effect makes this an unpredictable hero, although even against big buffed minions, 8 extra damage is still better than nothing.
Ragnaros almost demands that you play a defensive, late-game strategy while his power keeps you protected. Be advised, however, that this still does nothing significant against a couple Righteous Protectors turn 2, so have a couple minions around to finish off the opponent’s board. Raggy stays strong well through the mid-game while you selectively build a board. Late game, it’s all riding on your wise choices up until now.
Power: Burbling: Your next Battlecry this turn triggers twice. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Goodstuff, Commitment, Defensive
Upsides: Quite handy in certain circumstances
Downsides: Surprisingly irrelevant most of the time
Poor Shudderwock, he looked so good on paper! Alas, his 2 gold power cost negates most early-game advantage. There just aren’t enough battlecry effects in the minion pool to take reliable advantage of his power, most of which are in tribes anyway. To add insult to injury, his whole power is granted for free by running Brann Bronzebeard, which isn’t even a minion most players pick when they get the chance. Oh, and the two powers don’t even stack.
To play Shuddy, you want to either decide early on a tribe or buy lots of Alleycat and Murloc Tidehunter so you’ll have tokens to sell later. He makes Pogo-Hoppers good from the second one you buy, but there aren’t enough of them to matter much. Your best bet is to run Goodstuff and count on luck.
Power: Stay Frosty: At the end of your turn, Frozen minions get +1/+1. (Passive)
Suited for: Bi-Tribal, Goodstuff, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: Zero cost, relevant right away
Downsides: Forces you to lag a turn behind in board development sometimes
The easily overlooked Sindragosa is an aggro-player’s dream. For 0 gold, you are getting a buffed minion turn 2 and every turn after. It costs nothing to freeze a Tavern at the end of turn, and you’re under no pressure to buy those minions next turn – but you’re better off taking advantage. However, his power doesn’t stack, requiring you to buy minions all the time just to keep getting any benefit.
Playing Sindragosa is an exercise in patience, but it pays off. He excels when obtaining tripled golden minions, since all three buffs stack on the final minion. He’s also good for magnetic mechs, since the buffs stack there as well. He does, however, require you to break the normal pattern of level-refresh-buy. Instead, reverse that order: Buy a minion, level up, refresh until you see what you’ll want next turn, then freeze.
Power: Power Up!: Give a random friendly minion +1/+1. After you sell a minion, refresh this. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Um… something?
Upsides: Actually can shine with combined skill and luck
Downsides: Too durdly and weak, requires fast play to take full advantage
Sir Finley fans could just about stand to raise a petition demanding the plucky hero get an upgrade. He deserves so much better. However, if you snag tokens and play a low-to-the-ground early aggro strategy without worrying about upgrades too often, he can be a contender. Even though he’s the only one with a hero power that refreshes, that’s pretty useless in most cases.
To make Finley work, you’ll have to forego leveling until later in the game and get Alleycat and Murloc Tidehunter early. Later on, hope for triples, because the free extra minion is one more body to sell. Finley requires the strategy of a chess player while giving you a payoff that’s barely worth the trouble.
Power: Banshee’s Blessing: Remove a friendly minion to give adjacent minions +1/+1. (0 Coin)
Suited for: Tribal, Commitment, Offensive
Upsides: Free power, predictable buffs
Downsides: Costs you tempo, requires fast finagling
While Sylvanas is a bit underrated, it’s not by much. Her power is free, but it isn’t repeatable in a turn and costs you a minion you could have sold back to the tavern. Later in the game she gets better, as by then you have a chance to sandbag minions to play, and can drop a battlecry buffer, then re-position it and kill it off to get even more buff. She’s also one of the only heroes whose power depends on your minion positioning, so play fast.
Sylvanas is at her best in the mid to late game, when buying and killing off minions is not so big a deal. The trouble is that it’s such a pain to get there. With luck, you’ll pick a board early and be able to stick with it, because she requires too much of a sacrifice to negate later. If other players contest your niche, you’re in for a hard fight.
Power: Menagerist: Start with a 1/1 Amalgam that has all minion types. (Passive)
Suited for: Tribal, Bi-tribal, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: You get a free minion right from the start, all tribes welcome
Downsides: You’d better make good choices and have good luck in the early game
Before the minion Nightmare Amalgam was patched out of the game, Curator was nothing special, but still strong. Now, however, he’s the only one who gets to run an Amalgam, so he’s ever so much more relevant. Pick your minions right, and you can get a super-buffed dude with poison, taunt, and divine shield. Have bad luck in finding buffs, and your free minion is a useless twig.
Your strategy with Curator is obvious: Use your extra minion wisely. But don’t let it stop you from just playing a good tribe, as the amalgam will still get buffs from whatever you’re playing. In a pinch, just glue all the magnetic minions you can buy onto the amalgam and build whatever board you want for the rest. Or just give it divine shield and poison, then keep it for an opening tempo play.
Power: Prestidigitation: Discover a Secret. Put it onto the battlefield. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Flexibility, Defensive
Upsides: Uh, secrets?
Downsides: Secrets suck
What were they thinking? The discover-secret power would be over-costed at 1 gold; at 2 it’s worse than worthless. The pool of secrets is even limited to these, as if allowing access to the full set of Hearthstone secrets would have overpowered him. Furthermore, the secrets expire after one trigger just like normal secrets, and three out of the nine available secrets have no effect if triggered on a full board!
I’m sorry, if you picked Akaz, you’re on your own here! At least his ability doesn’t constrain your minion selection, though it doesn’t help either. The best you can say is that maybe that ability will help some in the late game. Maybe you can record your game and post it on Twitch later to reap some sympathy.
Power: Reborn Rites: At the start of next combat, give your right-most minion Reborn. (1 Coin)
Suited for: Tribal, Flexibility, Defensive
Upsides: Make it your best minion, and you get it back
Downsides: With just one health, if it got killed once, it’s getting killed again
Well, another day, another mediocre hero power. Lichy is a decent guy alright, but reborn is just a less relevant power in a format that depends on killing everything. At just 1 gold, the hero power stays relevant all game long at least. It’s better in the early turns where a divine shield taunt can get in two extra hits, but blah otherwise.
Your right-most minion should be a mech, preferably a Mechano-Egg with Annoy-o-Module and Replicating Menace magnetized onto it, so you have divine shield twice with spitting tokens. You’re prepared to refresh Tavern all day to make that? Good!
Power: King of Beasts: Whenever you buy a [tribe], give it +1/+1. Swaps [tribe] every turn. (Passive)
Suited for: Bi-tribal, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: Free power, works well if you’re crazy
Downsides: Deliberately engineered to drive you crazy
What’s worse than having a buff limited to a tribe? Picking a random tribe each time! However, Ratty isn’t all bad, since his power is free, “repeatable” in a single turn. You can’t even play Goodstuff though, because his power has no effect on tribe-less minions. Then again, this is an infinitely usable power, so if you load up a board with cheap minions early on, you can switch tribes mid-game and be able to afford a new full board of buffed minions when the right tribe swap comes around.
Advice for those playing Rat King: make sure that you have absolutely amazing luck. Well, actually, just follow his recommendation for the early turns, level up when you can, and use his buffs on random tribes to survive early game while you plot your late-game revenge.
Power: Puzzle Box: Hire a random minion in Bob’s Tavern and give it +1/+1. (2 Coins)
Suited for: Goodstuff, Flexibility, Offensive
Upsides: Not only are your minions buffed, but cheaper too
Downsides: Random ones – go fish
Last but most definitely not least, Yogg is similar to Rafaam. Near guaranteed to make top 4 based on the simple fact that cheaper minions are better already, and the buff makes them sweeter. His ability makes it so that you can thrive on cheap buffed guys early on, selling back the ones you don’t need to buy even more minions. Even the randomness can be controlled by buying up other minions to narrow the selection.
Let’s put Yogg this way: Activate is ability turn 1 to get a random buffed body, suitable to survive turns 1 and 2. Turn 2, upgrade Tavern. Turn three, buy one and hero power one, total three minons, two of them buffed. Ride the tempo from there. Swap and trade minions mid-game to build your board for late game. Honestly, if you can’t win with Yogg, you’re just not trying.
Join us next time for the rest of our Hearthstone Battlegrounds guide! (Seriously, we didn’t know it would be this long!