Battlegrounds is a completely new mode in Hearthstone that changes the way you play. You could even say that it’s a new game built into Hearthstone. The general idea behind it was to take the recently popular Auto Battler genre and translate it into Hearthstone. It doesn’t play like most of “Auto Chess” games, and it still feels a lot like Hearthstone, but that might be an advantage!
Combat in Battlegrounds is based on minions, which are recruited in Tavern. Hearthstone players should be familiar with most of them, although we’re getting a few unique cards that were never a part of the game before. Minions have exactly the same effect they have in Constructed, but some of the keywords might work slightly different given the new rules of this format (more about that later).
First and most importantly – minions are spread between six different Tiers. When you start a Battlegrounds match, your Tavern is at Tier 1, which means that you can only recruit minions from Tier 1. As you play, you will upgrade your Tavern up to Tier 6. Each upgrade costs more gold than the previous one, but don’t worry – not only you get more Gold per turn (up to 10), but upgrade’s cost gets reduced by 1 Gold each time you visit Tavern (so if the current upgrade costs 8, it will cost 7 next time you visit). Depending on your strategy and the minions you’re looking for, it might be worth to start weak and rush to the Tier you need, then look for the correct minions. Or you might go slowly and build up your power going through the lower Tier first.
Recruiting minion costs 3 Gold coins – a currency that you get each time you load into Tavern. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Tier 1 or Tier 6 minion – stronger ones aren’t more expensive (but you need to unlock them first). You can also sell your existing minions for 1 Gold. It’s good way to get rid of small minions that you bought early and no longer need in order to create some board space. You can also buy Battlecry minions just for their Battlecry – given that their bodies are usually weak anyway, you can buy it, use it and then sell to get 1 gold back (so all in all, their Battlecry costs you 2 Gold). If the minions currently offered aren’t interesting, and you don’t want to spend your Gold upgrading Tavern, you can always re-roll for 1 Gold. It’s a very important part of the game, and especially later after a few upgrades you will re-roll a lot, looking for some specific minions that fit your current strategy. And if you see something that you like, but you happen to not have enough Gold to buy it immediately, you can Freeze the current board for free – you will see exactly the same minions on your next Tavern visit.
In general, keywords work similarly to how they do in Constructed. For example – Divine Shield means that a minion can get hit once without taking damage. Deathrattle means that something happens when it dies (however, it’s important to note that minions don’t die permanently – you get them back between rounds). Some more confusing keywords might be Taunt and Battlecry. Attacks in Battlegrounds are random, but Taunt still works – it’s just that minions with Taunt are prioritized (e.g. when your opponent has 2 minions with Taunt and 4 without, your minions will attack one of the two Taunts first at random). Battlecry triggers only once – when you first put the minion on the board after buying it. That’s why Battlecry minions are often bought just to trigger it and then sold.
A very important part of Battlegrounds are stat buffs, but we need to draw the line between temporary and permanent ones. Stat buffs during combat are temporary and they will disappear once you get back to Tavern. For example, Spawn of N'Zoth buffed your entire board by +1/+1? Nope, when you load back to Tavern, those buffs will no longer be there. However, buffs that are done DURING your visit in Tavern are permanent. Any kind of Battlecry that adds stats adds them permanently, since it’s done in the Tavern. “At the start/end of turn” effects also trigger during your Tavern visits. Getting into the Tavern counts as start of your turn, getting out of the Tavern and heading into combat counts as the end of your turn. For example – Micro Machine gains +1 Attack every time you load into the Tavern, and that buff is permanent (since it’s done during your Tavern visit). Minions that buff themselves or other minions over time start really slowly, but they can snowball if given enough time. That’s why you need to balance correctly between immediate power and snowballing effect – if you try to snowball too hard, you might die early, and if you only go for immediate power increases, others might outgrow you many turns later.
The last feature I want to talk about is upgrading your minions. Once you get your third copy of the same minion, they are automatically combined (and you get a “triple card”). In general, their stats and effects double in power. For example, a Kaboom Bot is usually a 2/2 that deals 4 damage to a random minion on Deathrattle. Once upgraded, it’s a 4/4 that deals 4 damage twice. They also keep any buffs individual minions have, so if one of the Kaboom Bots had +2/+4 and Divine Shield, the new, upgraded minion will also have the same buffs. It might seem like upgrading is not a great deal, given that you need to combine THREE minions to gain DOUBLE the stats/effect, but in reality it’s very useful, because it increases the board space. Just like in regular Hearthstone matches, you only have 7 board slots, so if you concentrate power of two minions into one body you can now put more minions in there. You also get a special card for your trouble – upgrading minions lets you Discover a minion from higher Tavern Tier for free (e.g. if you’re at Tier 4, you will always get a Tier 5 discover card). While you won’t always get something useful, it’s a solid way to refill the board space you’ve opened immediately.
Below you will find a full list of currently available minions. We have exactly 81 when at the launch, but we will get more in future updates.
It’s not exactly common knowledge at this point, but it was confirmed on multiple occasions – there’s a certain pool of minions shared among every player. Number of copies of each minion in game is limited – when players buy it, the number decreases (and vice versa – when they sell it, it increases). Here’s how many of each minion from a given Tavern Tier are there in total:
- Tier 1: 18 copies
- Tier 2: 15 copies
- Tier 3: 13 copies
- Tier 4: 11 copies
- Tier 5: 9 copies
- Tier 6: 6 copies
It means that if, for example, one player has two copies of a certain Tier 6 minion, other players will see it significantly less often (because there will only be 2 copies left in the pool). In fact, if three players have 2 copies each, others would not see it at all until one of those players sells it!
It’s very important, because each strategy has some key cards in higher tiers. Going for a highly contested strategy (such as Mechs) might not always be the best idea if you see every opponent already going for it. It means that you will be fighting over the same pool of minions, while a player who goes for another strategy will get his cards much more consistently.