Deciphering Hearthstone’s new ranking system

Though it certainly wasn’t the fanciest part of the plethora of goodies announced for the Year of the Phoenix, the long-overdue overhaul of Hearthstone’s ranked ladder will also be an important part of the revamped gameplay experience, with the matchmaking algorithm the real beating heart of it all. The changes show a newfound willingness from Team 5 to introduce complexity to their core gameplay systems, which is why we also devoted a few paragraphs to a thorough description of this system.

What Is Hearthstone’s New Ranking System?

Like so many other adjustments in Hearthstone, the basics are kept in place, but the underlying elements are very different from what they used to be. The 50 overall rank levels are kept – now open to the entire playerbase – but each are reduced to three stars, and every player will be reset to the very bottom at the beginning of each season. The list goes from Bronze 10-1, Silver 10-1 et cetera until Diamond 10-1 and Legend beyond it. Promotion to a new league serves as a rank floor, and the same goes for Rank 5 of each “league”.

Though it may seem like a massively lengthened climb at first, the star rewards were also adjusted accordingly, granting quite a lot of bonus points for each win until you get back to your spot from the previous season. A Legend player will get ten stars for each win initially (eleven for those who finish in high Legend), plus any winstreak bonus that may apply, which means they can get out of Bronze with just three wins. Every rank floor reduces this star bonus by one.

You can find a complete breakdown here, including the new rewards and further details about the new MMR-based matchmaking approach.

What Does This New System Tell Us From a Design Perspective?

More than just changing the way the ladder works, the new system also tells us two important things about Team 5’s new approach to Hearthstone’s core elements. First, they are more willing to introduce added complexity for a better end result – and second, they are more willing to utilize successful systems from other games.

The Bronze/Silver/Gold/Platinum/Diamond progression path served Blizzard well across its other titles, and it was always somewhat baffling to see Hearthstone shy away from it. In fact, the game’s beta featured a very similar system with nine ranks (Novice, Journeyman, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grand Master). The March 2018 changes tried to keep the existing system intact with a minor slate of adjustments – resetting Legend players to Rank 4 instead of Rank 16 and changing all ranks to five stars to improve matchmaking, plus the introduction of rank floors – but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the formula. With the Year of the Phoenix, it’s been rebuilt from the ground up, a long-overdue adjustment. It’s the sort of system which will no doubt become clear and obvious the moment we see it in action, but a textual description of it nevertheless remains complicated. Needless to say, Hearthstone devs tended to avoid this kind of an approach in the past, often an the expense of their own product.

The main goal of these changes, at least as I see it, is two-fold. First and foremost, the new matchmaking system resets everyone to the bottom of the ladder to ensure that each rank is guaranteed to have a high population at any given time. Previously, low ranks were filled with genuine newbies and deranking full-collection griefers, leading to a poor experience for everyone involved. (I once made a climb from Rank 50 on a brand new account in preparation for an article and I almost immediately ran into full-fledged meta decks, albeit extremely poorly piloted ones. The Knights of the Frozen Throne prologue reward Death Knights also didn’t help things.) Now, even the lower ranks will be widely populated at the beginning of a season – also eliminating the need for having five stars per rank –, which should ensure that the MMR-based matchmaking system can actually find suitable opponents for you based on your past performances at all tunes. Ex-Legends will be paired with fellow high performers while a brand new player won’t have to worry about going up against one of these veterans. Even with the resets, this should make the overall ladder experience the smoothest it’s been to date as this system has the potential to pair you with similarly performing players throughout your entire climb.

Second, it serves to make the grind more rewarding for F2P and low-investment players, also serving as an important new way to grow your Classic collection. The fact that Arena began to award packs from the latest set made it a much less effective way for newcomers to stock up on evergreen cards, something the weekly Tavern Brawl reward never fully alleviated. Now the climb provides additional rewards, can be fairly quick based on your previous achievements, and promises fairer matchups overall. Though it takes a bit more explaining than the previous systems – and a much greater emphasis based on the opaque MMR – these are promising changes overall.

Legend and Wild: Still Pretty Much the Same

Though this overhaul is more than welcome, there are still certain issues which were raised years ago and still weren’t adequately addressed by these changes. Way back in January 2017, Ben Brode has gone on record about what Team 5 then considered problematic with Hearthstone’s ladder. Though most of the concerns were addressed with this large-scale change (adding winstreak bonuses in the high non-Legend ranks, the introduction of an MMR-based matchmaking and more ranks and leagues serving as a better way to express the difference in percentiles), the highest rungs remain virtually the same as they used to be.

Back when finishing in high Legend spots was the main way to get ahead in Hearthstone esports, many decried the fact that the final day of the season was almost as impactful as anything that came before it combined, with single wins and losses, counter-queues and sniping potentially pushing someone out of the top spots with no time left to make up for the fact. Coupled with the volatility of the ladder as a whole, the highest placings at the end of the month are ultimately still somewhat random. The growing number of regular Legend players across the different servers also devalues the accomplishment of the climb somewhat. Is one pack from the latest expansion enough of an incentive to get back to Legend after you’ve made it the first time? Probably not. It would have also been nice to see something done to the Wild ecosystem, but with whispers about a larger emphasis on that side of the gameplay experience (not that this is saying much) might make this subject worth revisiting on the other side of the Year of the Phoenix.


Luci Kelemen is an avid strategy gamer and writer who has been following Hearthstone ever since its inception. His content has previously appeared on HearthstonePlayers and Tempo/Storm's site.

Check out Yellorambo on Twitter!

Leave a Reply


  1. SanctusFR
    April 1, 2020 at 2:35 am

    I don’t see any change or interesting thing about this, is the same exact system sold as something new. You will rush as before, now faster but there are more leagues so.. same. The last 5 raks will still be exactly as they used to be, no bonus. So why change it at all?

    Bronze = 10x
    Bronze 5 = 9x
    Silver = 8x
    Silver 5 = 7x
    Gold = 6x
    Gold 5 = 5x
    Platinum = 4x
    Platinum 5 = 3x
    Diamond = 2x
    Diamond 5 = no bonus

    • SanctusFR
      April 1, 2020 at 3:29 am

      It’s even worst, now reaching diamond 5 (ex rank 5) will be almost impossible to miss. even with less than 50% win rate you are granted to get there since you will get multiple stars each time you win (even with no win streak) and lose only 1 when you lose.

  2. SanctusFR
    April 1, 2020 at 1:26 am

    Faced 60% hunters so far xD, you get bonus depending on your last month ranking and it gets lower as you rank up.. I started with 10x bonus (ended in rank 2 last month), everyone starts at Bronze 10, now I’m at Gold league and my bonus went down to 7 stars. I guess it will be 1x at the last ranks close to legend. Rewards that are 1 time only are the ones that say “for reaching X rank for THE FIRST TIME” that means the 2nd time you reach that rank.. I guess…

    • SanctusFR
      April 1, 2020 at 1:41 am

      My experience:
      Bronze started with 10x
      Silver was 7x
      Now gold is 6x

      I’ll update

    • SanctusFR
      April 1, 2020 at 2:08 am

      Also win streaks give you 2x your number of stars thats insane hehe You win 3 times in a row you can get 20x stars

    • SanctusFR
      April 1, 2020 at 2:11 am

      Beyond rank 5 gold stars went down to x5 now
      Bronze = 10x
      Bronze 5 = 9x
      Silver = 8x
      Silver 5 = 7x
      Gold = 6x
      Gold 5 = 5x

      And probably so on

      Platinum = 4x
      Platinum 5 = 3x
      Diamond = 2x
      Diamond 5 = no bonus

  3. HakanBeal
    March 31, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    does anyone know?
    the instant rewards are just for first season or every season we got instant reward packs and cards?

    • HakanBeal
      March 31, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      additionally what are the star bonusses for ranked 1-2-3-4-5 so on?

      • Ridanculous
        March 31, 2020 at 7:36 pm
        ^ most things are there.

        The way it’s worded above, I believe instant rewards are *every* season

        I was rank 8 last season and have Star x10 at the moment.
        In Wild I was rank 15 (I think, not 100% sure) and have Star x8 there.

        • Ridanculous
          March 31, 2020 at 7:37 pm

          Sorry wrong numbers. Rank 8 last season and have Star x8
          Wild I was rank 15 (I think, not 100% sure) and have Star x6

          • HakanBeal
            April 1, 2020 at 1:25 am

            ohh that is good info down there thank you for star bonusses
            and here we go this is my theory about stars:
            legend to 5 ranked got 10 stars (I know that because I was 3 ranked and got 10 stars)
            6 ranked to 10 ranked got 8 stars
            11 to 15 ranked got 6 stars
            16-20 ranked got 4 stars (because my wild was 17 or 16 I guess and got 4 stars)
            21-25 ranked got 2 stars (that is just a guess)

            so we got new ranking system with leagues:
            these are just my thoughts
            diamond league 10 stars
            platinum league 8 stars
            golden 6 stars
            silver 4 stars
            bronze 2 stars
            I am not sure btw.

  4. JoyDivision
    March 29, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Wait, what… ‘adding winstreak bonuses in the high non-Legend ranks’…

    So, there’s the possibility for a winstreak right ’til you hit legend? No more grinding like it was from ranks 5 to 1? OMG… I actually might want to hit Legend again, then. 😉

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      March 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

      Yes, but only if you hit high Legend. Just hitting Legend (10x star multiplier) gets you to Rank 5 DIamond on bonus stars. Hitting “high Legend” (11x star multiplier) gets you all the way to Legend on bonus stars. What is “high Legend” you might ask? We don’t know yet :/

      At least that’s what I think it will work like… Yeah, the system could use a better explanation. I hope that they will post one when the season ends.

  5. Raymoney
    March 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    What do you mean by the changes to the Wild Ecosystem?

    • Davis The Savage
      March 28, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      Maybe like, balancing the meta a bit, because wild is largely centered around a few core decks, with not many other decks being entirely viable

      • Raymoney
        March 29, 2020 at 3:51 am

        Let’s see what this year is going to bring…

        Mage has 3 viable decks:
        – Secret Mage
        – Tempo Quest Mage
        – Highlander Quest Mage
        – (Highlander Mage)

        Rogue has also 3:
        – Odd Rogue
        – Kingsbane Rogue
        – Aggro Rogue
        – (Highlander Rogue, Big Rogue)

        Warlock has also 3
        – Mecha’thun Warlock
        – Cube Warlock (3 versions)
        – Darkest Hour Warlock
        – (Reno Warlock, Egg Zoo Galakrond Warlock)

        Warrior has 3 aswell
        – Galakrond Warrior
        – Pirate Warrior
        – Odd Warrior
        – (Bomb Warrior)

        Druid has 3:
        – Jade Druid (many versions possible)
        – Embiggen Token Druid
        – Malygos Druid
        – (Linebreaker, Togwaggle, Star Alinger Druid)

        Shaman only has 1:
        – Even Shaman
        – (Highlander Shudderwock Shaman)

        Priest has 1:
        – Reno Priest (multiple versions possible)
        – (Quest Highlander, Combo Priest)

        Paladin has 2:
        – Mech Paladin
        – Odd Paladin
        – (Aggro, Secret Paladin)

        Hunter has 1:
        – Reno Hunter
        – (Mech Hunter)

        I even see standard versions of Galakrond Rogue and Embiggen Druid perform reasonably well in de Wild format.

        It is easy for people to take one of the decks above, master it and become legend in wild. And only for 5 to 8k in dust.

        And looking at the new set, I think Paladin and Hunter will catch up for sure in the number of viable decks. And Warlock gets another. And maybe Demonhunter will join the fun.

        In Wild you can play whatever you want, but the environment is more about skill and knowledge of the Meta. There is more diversity than in standard. In standard only Dragon Hunter, Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Rogue were played on the ladder before HoF rotation. In Wild there are a lot of Mages, but Even shaman beats them all, Embiggen Token Druid aswell… But they get eaten alive by Cube Warlock and Jade Druids… Who in turn are helpless against Quest Mages etc, etc…

  6. BlueyesOwl
    March 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    There are some questions that didn’t have been asked or answered.
    Firstly, new players rewards (+30 packs) will still be given? Cause the first 25 ranks have been made for those only and none could go down there again.
    And second question, will be the legend card back still on as a first timer legend reward?
    They mentioned about the season chests and monthly card backs but they didn’t mentioned anything about legend’s card back.

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      March 28, 2020 at 8:09 pm

      Yes, there will be a new version of “new player ranks” you won’t be able to go back to.

      Yes, Legend card back will still be there for reaching Legend for the first time.

      Devs have answered those question on Twitter, reddit and other social media. But I honestly think that they should round up those answers and make an official post with more details. I know those, because it’s a part of my job to look for those things, but average player doesn’t follow devs on Twitter. Maybe they’ll do one when the new system hits.

      • BlueyesOwl
        March 29, 2020 at 11:38 am

        Thanks for answering and those infos.
        I’m playing for closed beta and if is hard for me to get those infos, I can’t imagine how hard will be for a new player.
        Maybe you could do a paragraph on the article about new system and rewards or a new newbies article with these.

        Thanks again