Battlegrounds is one of the newer game modes in Hearthstone where eight players battle it out to be the last one standing. The game mode features an MMR system, where points are awarded based on placement. Top 4 is considered a win in Hearthstone’s daily and weekly quests.
At the beginning of the game, players are given a choice between two heroes which can be increased to four with the Battlegrounds Season Pass. Some heroes are more powerful than others, so it’s important to choose the right one. Gallywix is considered one of the best heroes in the game, as his hero power can give you ridiculous amounts of gold; King Mukla isn’t nearly as powerful and isn’t picked very often. Looking at a Hero Tier List is a good starting point, but it’s also important to consider the minion types when choosing a hero: Dinotamer Brann works great in a Murloc lobby, but he’s much less powerful if Murlocs are banned.
A – Gold
You start the game with 3 gold, which is increased by 1 each turn until it reaches 10.
B – Bob’s Tavern
Here you will see a set of minions randomly generated from the minion pool. A minion can be bought for 3 gold and sold for 1 gold. Selling a minion returns it to the pool.
C – Tavern Upgrade
There is a base cost for upgrading to each new Tavern tier, eg. upgrading to Tier 2 has a base cost of 5 gold. The cost of upgrading is reduced by 1 gold each turn, so on Turn 2 you can upgrade to Tier 2 for 4 gold. A minion’s Tavern tier is denoted by the number of stars in the top left corner of the card. Naturally, higher tier minions are stronger in that they have better stats and more powerful synergies. You start the game at Tier 1 and the highest level is Tier 6. So once you upgrade to Tier 2, your minion pool consists of Tier 1 and 2 minions; once you hit Tier 3, you will have Tier 1, 2, and 3 minions in the pool; and so forth. The amount of minions in the Tavern also increases as you level: an additional minion is added at Tier 2, Tier 4, and Tier 6.
D – Refresh
The dreaded Refresh button. This button allows you to replace the minions in the Tavern for 1 gold. Let me give you a valuable piece of advice: don’t expect any favours from the Refresh button!
E – Freeze
The freeze button enables you to lock the current set of minions for next turn. This prevents the Tavern from refreshing when the next Recruit Phase starts. Freeze the Tavern when you see a minion you want, but don’t have enough gold to buy it on that turn.
F – Hero power
Active hero powers need to be clicked, whereas passive hero powers don’t need any action from the player. Active hero powers typically cost 0 to 3 gold (with a few exceptions), so you need to learn which turns are optimal for hero powering. Your hero power can also affect your upgrade curve. Heroes like Elise and Galewing usually hit an early Tier 3, whereas Millhouse Manastorm will stay at Tier 1 for longer.
Recruit Phase & Combat Phase
Every turn is split into two parts, the Recruit Phase and Combat Phase. During the Recruit Phase you will buy minions and work on your board composition; during the Combat phase heroes battle each other. Your minions will attack from left to right with targets being chosen randomly (Taunts are always attacked first). A general rule of thumb is to place your stronger minions on the left where they will have an immediate impact. Some minions have passive effects that trigger during combat: a Soul Juggler will deal 3 damage whenever a Demon dies, Scrap Smith will generate a Blood Gem for every Taunt that dies. So it makes sense to place these minions on the right, where they have a better chance of surviving.
If either hero has minions left after the combat, that hero wins the round and will deal damage to the other hero. Damage is calculated as follows: the sum of the Tavern tiers of all the remaining minions, plus the Hero’s Tavern tier. At the beginning of the game, there is a Damage Cap of 15, meaning you cannot take more than 15 damage at a time. The Damage Cap expires once a hero has died and the game has reached Turn 8–both conditions must be met.
Once a player dies, he becomes a ghost. If there are an uneven amount of players left in the game, one human player will face the ghost. The ghost’s board composition will be the same as when the player controlling it died. Facing the ghost usually means a free turn, so it gives you a chance to level or set up a strong future turn. But be careful of dying to the ghost!
Battlegrounds has a growing minion pool, which we can put into three categories:
Single minion type
Minions that are of one type, eg. Murloc, Beast, Undead.
A hybrid minion has two types, eg. Mech Demon, Quilboar Naga, Undead Pirate. Dual types will be available if either minion type is in the lobby, eg. if there is either Undead or Mech in the lobby (or both), the game will feature Undead Mechs.
A minion that has no minion type.
In a game of Battlegrounds, only half the minion types will be featured; the other half will be banned. Neutral minions are present in all games. Knowing minions and minion combinations is very important, and it takes time to master board composition. A good starting point would be playing an easy single minion style like Naga or Quilboar, as most of the synergies are fairly obvious. Once you have an understanding of basic single minion types, try some more advanced compositions like Mech or Menagerie.
It’s also crucial to think about countering other heroes, and you can sometimes beat a much stronger opponent by running counters. Leeroy the Reckless counters big minions, Sin’dorei Straight Shot counters Undead, Zapp Slywick counters Titus Rivendare, and so forth. One of the strongest counter minions, especially in a Menagerie setup, is Mantid Queen, which is basically a guaranteed Divine Shield Poison minion.
Once you have three copies of a minion (in your hand or on your board), they will become one golden minion, which is a more powerful version of the card. The triple will typically have double stats and a doubly powerful Battlecry, Deathrattle, or passive effect. The best part of tripling is you get to Discover a minion of the next Tavern tier, so if you make a triple on Tier 5, you get to Discover a Tier 6. Finding an early Tier 5 or Tier 6 can give you a decisive advantage in the game.
Let’s run through a game of Battlegrounds in a turn-by-turn fashion.
The most common play on Turn 1 is buying a minion. What you should be looking for here is a good tempo minion or a token. A token is a minion that can give you extra gold: Shell Collector’s battlecry gives you a coin, and Sellemental gives you a 2/2 Water Droplet when sold, allowing you to gain gold without sacrificing tempo.
Here you will most likely be upgrading to Tier 2 for 4 gold, but it also depends on the hero. Millhouse Manastorm will typically double buy on Turn 2 and only upgrade on Turn 3, and a hero like Lord Barov is looking to hero power on Turn 2 instead of upgrading.
On this turn you have 5 gold, which makes things awkward as buying a minion will leave you on 2 gold. Levelling isn’t great either, as you’ll have to sell your one and only minion to have enough gold. This is where the token comes into play. Having that one extra gold means you can double-buy or even power-level to Tier 3. Double-buying on Turn 3 is very strong and should give you good tempo.
On this turn you will have 6 gold, making it possible to double-buy. If you feel like you have enough tempo, you can push to Tier 3 and roll once for a potential Freeze.
Upgrading to Tier 3 now is considered normal curve. You have 7 gold so you can exactly upgrade and buy a minion.
On this turn you have 8 gold so you you can roll a few times if necessary. This is where you’re looking to set up tempo for the mid-game, and also start thinking about a potential line of play. Are you doing single minion or Menagerie? Do you want to hit an early Tier 6 or prioritise tempo? Is there any triple potential for a Tier 5/Tier 6 discover?
This is another curve upgrade turn, and you can exactly upgrade to Tier 4 and buy a minion.
On Turn 8 you’re looking for powerful Tier 4 minions, and the best case scenario would be tripling up to discover Tier 5 minions. As of Patch 26.2, the base cost of upgrading to Tier 5 was increased from 9 to 11 gold, so power-levelling on Turn 8 is going to be difficult, unless you have something like Corpse Refiner or Freedealing Gambler. If you have the tempo and the gold, levelling to Tier 5 this early is a strong play.
Turn 9 and beyond
This is where you need to start transitioning from a mid-game to a late-game setup. At this point you should have a few strong minions and your board must have scaling potential.
From time to time, Blizzard will introduce new mechanics or reintroduce old ones. Most players will be familiar with Buddies, where each Hero has a synergistic Buddy that can have a decisive impact on the game. Another impactful mechanic is Quests (currently not active). Each hero receives a Quest at the beginning of the game, and the Quest has a certain requirement before giving the player a reward, eg. play X Battlecry minions or have X minions die.