Managing your Hearthstone collection – basic principles, best practices, and realistic expectations

First, a little about me.

This is a throwaway, not my real account. I’m a reasonably successful player – I’ve made it to low single digits several times on the ladder, never had the gas (read: time) to push to legend. I have made fairly smart choices with my dust and crafting that have brought me to the point where I can play 95% of the things you see on the ladder without dusting half my cards to craft them.

I am not a F2P player. Nor is this a post to cater to those who insist on being F2P (more on that in a second). I’ve also been playing for a while. This post isn’t about money, it’s about making the best of what you have in the long term, whether that’s $10 or $500. If you haven’t spent a lot and/or don’t intend to, that’s okay. This post will still work for you. Read on.

Preliminary truth bombs:

  • First and foremost, if you insist on being F2P, you will always be behind. This is intentional design on Blizzard’s part. It should not shock you, surprise you, or make you sad – it’s the reason the game exists. As long as there is a card you don’t have, there will always be pressure to spend more money – especially when you see players do well with cards you don’t have. It’s the business model. This is reality no matter how many smart-ass comments you can come up with or hell you can raise on forums. It simply is.
  • Trying to complain about the game in terms of what F2P players can do is altogether pointless. It won’t help you, it will just keep you frustrated. If this is you, read on.
  • There is no medal, achievement, badge, or card back for doing anything F2P. It is an altogether worthless designation used to malign people who spend money on the game in order to make you feel better. This mindset is counterproductive to winning, which is infinitely more fun than bitching about ‘another 40 dust pack’ on reddit. Read on.
  • As in any ‘collecting’ type activity, you must learn to manage your expectations. You can’thave everything at once unless you just have an obscene amount of money to spend. This is true whether you’re playing Hearthstone, saving up for a new PC build, picking antiques, or life in general.
  • Finally, the good news: if you think long term, having a very competitive collection within your budget is absolutely a possibility. Let’s get started.

Basic principles

1) Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your collection be. Like most, when I first started playing I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but I knew I enjoyed the game enough to commit to it. Building a collection only works if you commit. Hearthstone has been in my top five /played games for well over a year now. You are rewarded fairly well for consistent playing. If you don’t play for six months and then come back you can’t complain about all the gold the game didn’t give you. Now is a good time to note that…

2A) Dailies are essential to your long term plans. This is what snowballs your collection. Best practice: Always re-roll (turn down) a 40 gold quest to give you a chance at a higher one. If you don’t get a 60 or 100, it’s okay. We’re thinking long term, remember? Try to keep overlapping quests whenever possible just to preserve your sanity and keep it from being a grind. Additionally,

2B) Dailies don’t have to take forever. Remember, the quests only expire if you let them stack up and then don’t do them. Just get them out of the way even if you don’t have time to get on the ladder and try to push a few levels up. Your clock is three days. Consider using ‘cancer’ decks (more on this dubious term in a moment) to get some of the longer quests out of the way faster if time is an issue. Personally, doing quests in casual is when I do most of my experimenting (which is fun to me); other days I just want to burn through them and get them over with. Either way, just do them.

3) Disenchanting is the worst enemy to a long term strategy if you do it wrong. This is a big one and almost worth its own post just to explain why. Disenchanting is why you see those comments from people who say “I spent $100 and can only play mill druid!” Bullshit. If you blew a $100 on packs/expansions and can only play a niche deck then you fucked it up pretty bad, probably dusting a bunch of things you didn’t need to just to craft that one flavor of the month deck everyone told you would smash the ladder. Do yourself a favor and don’t burn your resources by doing this without extremely good reasons. This brings us to…

4) Learn the concept of value. If you dust The Black Knight to craft some epic or a few rares early on, and then you end up really needing TBK later on because the meta shifted hard to the right, that sucks. I know this from experience because I did this early on with Harrison Jones (my second ever pack legend drop). I was an idiot, it sucked and I learned my lesson.

5) Build around what you have, not what you don’t. Eventually you will get some class legendary to drop that can totally transform your capabilities. Chances are you probably already have one or two (or more). If you want to be successful, build around what you have. If Cenarius drops, don’t leave it collecting dust (har) or worse, disenchant it because you want to play control warrior. Every single class now has an archetype you can follow and win. Winning is fun, remember? Build around what you have.

6) Manage your expectations. Realize that no one pack is going to do it for you – it’s getting as many of them as possible that matters. This means dailies – see above. Have faith in the percentages and don’t get discouraged. And never, ever get caught up hoping for one or two particular cards from packs – it won’t happen. Realize ahead of time that most of your packs will be one rare, 4 commons. This is okay. In the long term it will pay off.

7) Finally, when it comes time to craft, go for big-value, neutral legendaries before anything else, including class legendaries. Apply this logic to epics and rares as well – what has the broadest application? Class metas fall in and out of favor, but Boom is forever. My first crafted legendary was Ragnaros (pre-Naxx) and it completely transformed the game for me. And after you craft the first one, it just gets easier and easier to choose as you stock more options.

Obvious, up front choices include Boom, Sylvanus, Ragnaros (yes even with BGH being common, he’s powerful), etc. – look around and see what people are putting in their decks that amplifies your collection’s overall power quotient the most. Same with epics, particularly with classes you’re invested in. Other people have created excellent lists of what you should craft first, so just look around because I’m not linking them here.

Subnote 7b) If there’s ever a decision to be made between overall value and niche usefulness (for instance: should I craft Harrison or Thalnos?), value is almost always the way to go. People who know the answer don’t have to ask which one to craft. Deep, I know.

Ready for the next level? Here we go.

Intermediate principles

1) The meta doesn’t care about your feelings. Want to play your special snowflake control shaman but just can’t seem to win any games? Tough shit. Playing fatigue mage but nothing seems to go right and your opponent always seems to topdeck their way out? Grab a tissue. This is a card game made by imperfect human beings using finite resources and programming – there will alwaysbe decks that are better than others. How does this apply to building a collection? Because we want to win. Winning is fun, makes us want to play the game, and rewards us with gold for more packs.Keeping this mindset will make you tilt less. Like poker, leave your emotions at the door.

2) No one cares about your gold cards except you. Seriously. No one. I can’t tell you how many threads/comments I’ve seen asking “should I dust my precious amazing gold (insert trash epic/legendary here)?” Do yourself a favor and consult this extremely shitty flowchart

for reference. Gold cards are no better than skins in League of Legends – yeah they look cool, but no one remembers you have them five minutes after the match is over and they offer zero competitive advantage. Would you rather win or have a card that has a moving face? If it makes you feel better, load up a gif of the golden version of whatever card you want while you’re playing and just imagine it’s on the board when you play it.

3) This could almost be a subset of intermediate point one but deserves its own spot: cheap ‘cancer’ decks are not below you. First of all, calling a card deck in a video game ‘cancer’ is so unbelievably shitty to people who actually have cancer, but I digress. Aggro decks are legitimate parts of the meta. Yes, this includes face hunter. Whether they are overpowered or not is none of your concern – if you want to win, nothing should be off the table. Back when my only legendary was Cenarius and I sucked at Hearthstone because I only wanted to play my own bastardized version of control Paladin, I decided to pick up zoo after Reynad’s now famous post in this sub about it and I found myself, unsurprisingly, winning a whole lot more. But something else happened too: I started to get better at the game because I climbed in rank and played better opponents.

Yeah, sometimes it’s fun to kick back and BM people who play these decks (I’m guilty) but at the end of the day they’re trying to do the same thing you are, win. And winning is good for the collection. So open up your mind to different possibilities. Especially if you are on a budget, these decks can present newer and higher quality of opponents, which is a good thing overall. Which leads to my next point,

4) Realize right now that you cannot simply buy your way to the top. This should encourage you if you’re a low budget player. This post is being written in a meta where the most powerful deck for reaching legend ranks costs less than 2,000 dust (yes, I’m talking about Face Hunter). Once you get to rank five or so you realize that the quality of your opponent matters just as much as the deck and the most legendary-heavy deck in the game (Control Warrior) isn’t required (or even preferred, many times) for success.

5) If you feel the primal urge to craft something, wait. If it passes, it probably wasn’t worth it. Just because that Twitch streamer popularized something doesn’t mean you need it. What is your overall goal? Have a plan and don’t get caught up in flavor of the month nonsense.

6) Develop a ‘lineup’ of decks and classes that are your main and secondary choices. Not only does this help you mentally organize your game, it will streamline crafting decisions for you down the road. For example, since I ‘main’ Paladin and an early Jaraxxus drop (my third ever legendary drop) invested me in Warlock decks of all types early on, I’m more likely to craft for those two. This did limit my options for other classes especially early on, but you’ll find it’s better to whole-ass one or two classes than half-ass every class at once.

7) Arena isn’t always the best way to get cards. This gets said all the time and I just want to address it. If it works out well for you, great, I’m sure it’s awesome. If you suck at arena, you’ll build your collection slower. Simple as that. Don’t do something just because someone tells you. Try arena out a few times and see if it works for you. It didn’t for me.

Light at the end of the tunnel. We’re almost done.

Advanced principles

1) Keep an accurate, up-to-date written (electronically, obviously, Google Docs is my preference) inventory of your collection. Stratify by rare, epic, and legendary. Have a formula that indicates how many cards from each set (classic or GvG), assuming you’re using a spreadsheet, that you’re still missing so you can make informed decisions when purchasing packs with your hard-won gold. Additionally, keep a list in order of preference of the epics and legendaries you’d like to craft next and in what order you’d like to get them. Update often, because trends change.

It seems like a lot of hassle but it’s a quality-of-life thing that’s pretty easy to maintain and use after you set it up.

2) Meta knowledge can be difficult to constantly peruse since it changes so often, but can certainly save you some frustration from bad crafting decisions. For example, I feel really bad for anyone who crafted Gahz’rilla instead of Boom early in GvG because of an inaccurate knowledge of how they worked in the meta. Same cost, crazy insane difference in application. Or some poor rogue who crafted Gallywix instead of Sneed’s. It just pays to know what is good. My motto is to let other people spend the time doing all the theorycrafting and just benefit from their knowledge. My time is valuable.


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