Ben Brode Discusses Current Ranked System and Tournament Mode

Ben Brode took to Reddit to discuss the weaknesses of the current ranked system as well as the much requested Tournament Mode.

I want to expand a bit on the first answer (I love twitter, but sometimes 140 just don’t cut it).

I think there are 4 major weaknesses to our current ranked system: (1) Top end players have to grind too much to get fun matches each month. (2) Low end players have very little progression: just a few wins and then they get “stuck” at rank 20-17. This is the vast majority of active players. (3) New players who enter ranked get crushed hard (after a pretty good experience in Casual). (4) Doing the same thing over and over again each month feels like a ‘grind’.

I think we can do all that (hopefully – this stuff is difficult to predict without live testing). The hardest to hit is number 4, since progression is fun, but the more you have, the more ‘grindy’ it feels. I actually think that things like a potential Tournament mode could help with that even more than any specific change to ranked.

So, Tournament: I think there are a couple specific ‘fantasies’ related to playing in a Hearthstone tournament. Put another way: What is fun about tournaments? I think different players have different things that draw them. For me, for example, one of the things I enjoy is going to a venue, meeting my IRL opponent, and sharing a tense battle with him or her. Then I like to go over and check on my buds, to see how we’re doing as a group against the crowd. We have a lot of people attending Fireside Gatherings each month (and running tournaments), it’d be nice if we could make that process better in the client.

There’s also a strong desire to have the ability to compete for glory against other players from the comfort of your home. Hearthstone is by its nature a competitive 1v1 experience, so Tournaments would need to offer something above and beyond what we’re already doing. If you want a “packaged” experience, where at the end you are crowned a winner, Heroic Brawl and Arena actually get part of the way there, although they don’t feel like they fit the whole fantasy that people are missing.

There’s, I think, two ‘obvious’ tournament mode implementations that we had considered recently.

(1) Pump a bunch of players into a bracket. Wait for all players to finish, then start the next round. Repeat until there is a winner. Upside: Clear tournament fantasy. Downside: Long waits between rounds. Need to clear a day to play, but you might be out in the first round (really variable time commitment)

(2) If you’re familiar with the development of Arena (and if you’re not, here’s a very old video going through it ), it’s basically a story of us trying to solve the problem from the first approach in an 8-player bracket. The result is a competitive, asynchronous event. Heroic Brawl is essentially the version of tournaments that can be done asynchronously online.

Now, I think 1 is only really ok for in-person events, and we already have 2 and for some reason it doesn’t feel like it’s scratching that “tournament” itch. So we’ve been exploring some crazier ideas. 🙂

We’ve been reading threads about ‘tournament mode’ here and other places (and in different languages) that range back years, scouring comments and trying to get a full picture of what we think the community (which isn’t a single entity, but lots of individuals with different perspectives) will enjoy. I always enjoy reading and discussing what people want from tournaments in Hearthstone, so please keep it up!

An aside: When I make comments like this, detailing our philosophy and confirming what is or is not in our plans, I often read responses like “pr talk” or “says nothing”. We do have the option of only doing communication in the form of announcements, but we’d be communicating a lot less, and not here on reddit. I love talking with the community. I think it’s healthy to vet our ideas and get feedback on them before we commit to any specific implementation. But I think the expectation needs to be that it’s a conversation, and we’re explaining where we’re at and our thoughts, not announcing specific changes. Looking forward to reading your thoughts!


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  1. Frecky
    June 5, 2017 at 11:09 am

    How about a Match Format?
    Where you have to Win a Best of 3?
    That feels more competitive and you have the option to hate something out. We have many tech cards which are supporting this idea.

    And what about a Format in Hs like the Tavern Brawl recently thr one you can only play commons and rares from basic and classic set.
    Expand this to every common and rare card in the game, give it a rank system and you create a new format for budget and beginnig player.
    Magic for example has the pauper format and this is quitr popular.

  2. CD001
    June 5, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I have 2 problems with ranked play.

    #1 because it’s more competitive than casual it gets very “meta-focused” and, in Standard, above about rank 12 it begins to get very samey; the same half-dozen decks over and over again. Things get shaken up when a new expansion is released but it generally only takes a couple of weeks for the new meta to become established and it’s back to the grind. I’m sure some people love that and it’s not really a problem with ranked per-se but it’s just not something I enjoy immensely – which is why I play Wild more now, the greater variety.

    #2 there’s no real incentive to grind from rank 15 unless you’re prepared to commit to getting at least rank 5. The rewards for rank 6 aren’t so vastly superior to rank 15 for it to be worth it.

    On the plus-side though, I do like the little “safety buffers” every 5 ranks now – it makes those losing-streaks at lower levels far less painful. Weirdly, it’s not so bad above rank 10 since you need 5 stars per level up or down so you need a worse losing streak to drop a rank or two… there’s just something disheartening about losing ranks even though, really, in absolute “stars” is makes no difference.

  3. Sna7ch
    June 3, 2017 at 1:30 am


    Your idea is quite interesting, but I would add something to it. Let’s say your system (and let’s call it The System in this post) would kick off at rank 10. Players would still be able to choose between ranked play as it exists today or The System.

    Rank 10
    – Choose The System > Choose 2 decks from different classes > Battle with same player until one wins 2 games. If score is 2-1 (win 2 stars – win 1 star), if score is 2-0 (win 3 stars, lose 1 star)
    – Choose Ranked Play as it exists today

    Rank 5
    – Choose The System > Choose 3 decks from different classes > Battle with same player until one wins 3 games. If score is 3-x (win 3 stars – win x stars), if score is 3-0 (win 4 stars, lose 2 stars)
    – Choose Ranked Play as it exists today

    At Legend rank, I don’t know how the maths are done for winning and losing ranks, so it would had to be different.

    Point is.. provide some reward to people who commit to play more games, but give the option to opt out. I never reached Legend, my best rank was 1, but… Although I consider myself a semi-serious player, sometimes I just want to play a quick game in my mobile, and The System would take that way from me, and I’m pretty sure many serious players sometimes want to do just a quick match.
    Another reason is that I bet there are many players to achieve rank 10, 5 or maybe even go to Legend Ranks and depend solely on 1 or 2 classes (or decks) with cards they crafted over time.

    Remember, Hearthstone is still a F2P card game.

    Overall, there should be some mechanics that could apply to those with a more competitive spirit, such as myself, but with some spins to make it more interesting and less grindy.

    • Baddude
      June 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Hello thanks for your comment. My idea was to replace the actual system with a (let’s call it) the Lineup System. Maybe from rank 5 rather than rank 10.
      Well then players would only get stars this way so players wouldn’t get the choice of playing just one game.
      The goal would also be to get an experience closer to the tournament as you climb the ranks.
      However your last point is true, that would make it impossible for a player to play a quick game one his mobile after rank 5 except in casual. However a lot of player who reach high ranks (me included, like you I’ve only reached rank 1 but several times I’ve been above rank 5) go to Casual if can’t really concentrate on their game. So there is still the option, and that’s the actual meaning of ‘casual’ opposite to not competitve…
      I think you might have had the same experience as me where at one moment the boredom of repeating the same Match-up over and over in high ranks is stronger than the envy to reach legend rank (even in the Un’Goro Meta which is the most diverse and balance since Hearthstone was created). Actually the actual ranking system makes it more difficult and boring to climb the Ladder because no class is dominating the others which is a big paradox because it also makes the game more interesting.

      • Baddude
        June 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm

        Humm, sorry I misread your post. Actually your idea is very interesting. The players would have the choice between a Lineup system that could get you many stars at once or the actual system. This is a good idea.
        And it would allow Blizzard to test the new system and if it doesn’t attract players then just take it out, the way they try new mechanics in Tavern Brawl.
        Anyway I hope they change something in the ranking system which is really too linear and kills in my opinion the effort they’re making in balancing the game by creating new cards and mechanics.

        • BloodStrike
          June 5, 2017 at 8:52 am

          I saw your posts and i came up with an idea. What’s if they put 3 game modes in ranked? One mode is the one we have now, on another mode you could ban a class or deck for your opponent and you will win after beat 2 of his decks (like a tournament system), the stars would be counted in individual games but in the end the winner would win an extra star and the loser would lose an extra star, and another mode equal to the previous one but with 3 games and instead of an extra star would be 2. This would bring more diversity, it would be possible to play a fast ranked game like now and would be more at stake when you play more games against the same opponent.
          In legend the maths would be different but like baddude said they would manage to solve that problem.

  4. Baddude
    June 2, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Here is my suggestion. It concerns mainly the problem if grinding at high ranks.
    A tournament mode would be great but what is really interesting in my opinion in the tournaments is the fact that you get to play against another player with a lineup of 3 or 4 Decks whether it is in Conquest or Last Hero Standing mode.
    So it requires more skill to beat the opposing player than in Ladder where you just get one chance with one deck, and a bad draw or RNG can determine your win.
    So my idea would be to change the ranked mode so it’s not so linear and boring especially at higher ranks. So the solution would be once a player reaches rank 10 or 5, then he would have to play against other players not just one time but at least 3 times, using 3 decks of different classes. The winner would then get 1 star and the looser loose one. Of course every player would need only 2 stars to get to the next rank since each win would mean 3 victories.
    To make a difference between rank 10, 5 and legend for example, players could pick 2 Decks from 2 classes at rank 10 then 3 Decks from 3 different classes at rank 5 and finally 4 decks at rank legend.
    This would make sense because players have more chances to get to play in proper tournaments in higher ranks.

    Pros for this system : it would encourage players to play different decks and classes from higher ranks instead of playing hundreds of games with the same deck.

    You could actually play slower Decks to get higher in ranks since your progression would not be so dependant on playing as many games as possible. Right now Aggro Decks are the most popular from rank 5 to 1 because each game lasts shorter time whether you win or loose.

    Cons: winning a game against one player would take more time since you would have to get 2 or 3 victories, but since it would be only in higher ranks it would only concern serious players who are already willing to play hundreds of games consecutively to reach legend.

    It would be difficult for players who don’t have all the cards to gather several competitive Decks to play this way. However once again, in higher ranks, there aren’t that many players who don’t have the required cards to play 3 competitive Decks.

    You would play several games in a row with the same player. But again from rank 5 you’re playing against 2% of Hearthstone players so you often get to play the same players again and again.

    Finally the main problem would be to adjust the star system so that Reaching legend rank would not be too easy or too difficult. But I know Blizzard game designer can figure this out.