One of the big complaints about Hearthstone is the price to play when you first start. There are a ton of legendaries released, and if you are unlucky you may have not received much in the way of playable cards. This is unfortunate, so we’ve gone ahead and created some budget decks that should serve you well if you are in the Bronze or Silver divisions. Some of the stronger builds should be viable throughout Gold and possibly even Platinum if you master them. We don’t recommend those decks in Diamond or to attempt a Legend climb, unless you replace some of the budget cards and turn them into actual meta decks.
Luckily for new players, Blizzard has been giving out quite a lot of freebies recently – we’ve been getting free packs, Legendaries and other goodies during expansion releases and events. Plus, the game got cheaper when no duplicate rule was applied to other rarities besides Legendary. Still, it’s hard to deny that despite that, the game is quite expensive. F2P players should easily be able to build one or two full meta decks per expansion, but the issue is that they can’t play whatever they want. So once they commit to crafting some cards, if they want to switch to another class – tough luck! That’s why we think that those budget decks can come really handy. No matter if you want to do Daily Quests for another class, test a deck before crafting a full version or just play around with different options, they should be a good option for new and F2P players.
Budget Deck Rankings
While rating budget decks is quite difficult because their power heavily depends on the exact meta you face (which varies between servers, ranks and time played). But here’s how I would rate them, from best to worst:
- Aggro Rogue
- Aggro Demon Hunter
- Secret Face Hunter
- Zoo Warlock
- Pirate Warrior
- Pure Paladin
- Aggro Token Druid
- Totem Shaman
- Tempo Mage
- Tempo Priest
Defining a Budget Deck
We’re trying our best to keep the budget decks as cheap as possible, while making it as strong as we can. Overall, builds should be within 1.5-3k Arcane Dust range.
When it comes to Commons & Rares – it’s simple, all of them are allowed. It’s very easy to get a full Common & Rare collection (especially with the no duplicate rule across all rarities), and even if you’re missing some of them, they’re cheap to craft.
As for the Epics, we try to keep as little of them as possible. If a deck can be built with no Epics at all, we don’t add them. However, if some Epics are key cards and you can’t make a deck without them, between building a different, much weaker deck and adding Epics, we’ve decided to go for the latter. We still try to keep a limit of 2 Epics per deck to keep them cheap.
Legendaries are completely excluded, UNLESS it’s a Legendary that was recently given out for free. For example, Galakrond cards from Descent of Dragons or Altruis the Outcast from Demon Hunter’s Initiate set.
Cheap Hearthstone Decks
Be sure to click on the deck name at the top of each deck for a full guide! It includes mulligan, strategy, as well as upgrade paths for each of the decks.
Demon Hunter class was introduced in Ashes of Outland expansion, and it quickly became a go-to budget class because of its powerful Common/Rare cards, as well as a Demon Hunter Initiate set players got for free. It’s an aggressive deck utilizing its 1 mana Hero Power as well as a plethora of cheap cards to kill the opponent as quickly as possible.
It didn’t really change much in Scholomance Academy compared to how it looked like last time, but with a few cards nerfed, they had to be replaced with new options – sometimes seemingly “weak” Neutral cards that work quite well in the build. As for the new tools it got. The deck was already great at cycling in the last expansion, and now it’s even better. Voracious Reader lets you refill your hand after dumping it on the board, while Skull of Gul'dan provides additional mid/late game card draw combined with tempo push (since most of your deck costs 3 or less, you’re likely to play your cards on the same turn you play Skull). The only other new card in this build is Demon Companion, which is a solid 1-drop that scales well as the game goes by – 2/3 of time it should add some extra damage to your board, potentially making a difference between your opponent surviving and you killing them.
The best thing is that the deck is nearly a full build – you can play it like it is and you should be able to climb to Legend if you play well enough.
I’m calling the deck “Aggro” token Druid to differentiate it from slower Token builds, like Treant-based decks. Token Druid was in and out of the meta for the last few sets, but it was always a slower build. This one is different and plays more like the older, Un’Goro-era Druids. The goal is to flood the board with small minions, and either keep buffing them or just finish the game with Savage Roar. The deck has multiple ways to flood the board early and a great refill in a form of Voracious Reader.
Just like Demon Hunter, it’s basically a full meta build – the archetype is just very cheap and requires no Epics & Legendaries, and that’s great news for budget players. On the other hand, even the full meta deck isn’t particularly powerful right now, but sadly that’s the best Druids have got.
At this point you’re probably seeing a pattern, but yeah, sadly budget decks are usually aggressive – most of the slower builds require at least a few Epics / Legendaries to work, while it’s much easier to build a faster deck without them. In this case, I’ve decided to go for no Epics either event though our budget rules allow up to 2 per deck, simply because they aren’t really necessary.
Face Hunter has pretty much always been the cheapest Hunter deck you can play, with very low curve and a straightforward game plan – killing your opponent as quickly as possible. And it still is – this time with a Secret flavor. It’s also another build that is close to being full, competitively-viable list, which is great news for those who don’t have a lot of Dust to spend. Scholomance Academy has really boosted the deck, with 10 new cards from that set present in this list.
Tempo Mage used to be a very notable and powerful Hearthstone deck, until Mana Wyrm got nerfed a few years ago, all of its synergies have rotated out and the deck was left in the dark for a long time. Then came Rise of Shadows and Mana Cyclone, where the deck has made a comeback in a slightly different form. But that, too, got nerfed. And now, Tempo/Cyclone Mage is getting yet another comeback, partially thanks to the new Spell Damage package (Lab Partner, Primordial Studies, Cram Session), partially thanks to the strong, cheap spells and partially thanks to the new threats / pay-off cards. Sadly, many of those pay-off cards are expensive, and our budget rules allow for up to 2 Epics and no Legendaries at all. That’s why the version we’ve got here had to cut quite a lot of them.
The deck does most of what it needs to do, it has solid board control, it cycles a lot and generates a lot of cards… but the issue is that it’s quite hard to win the game without your actual win conditions. I had to sub them for cards like Fireball (which gives more reach) and Wyrm Weaver (which is actually a solid threat too, but your need to trigger Spell Burst for Mana Wyrms and then they need to stick). Still, it’s playable in the current state, and then it has a very clear upgrade path if you have some more Arcane Dust. Sadly, Mage doesn’t really have an alternative – Highlander or some kind of Combo deck is even more expensive to build and absolutely not fit to play on budget.
Scholomance Academy has been really kind to Paladin. The class wasn’t exactly on the bottom before that, but it was unimpressive to say the least. When released in Descent of Dragons, Pure Paladin was considered a meme – Paladin didn’t have enough good class cards to pull it off, it simply wasn’t worth it. Things haven’t changed that much in Ashes of Outland, however with all the nerfs to other classes combined with a couple of buffs to Paladin (Aldor Attendant and Libram of Justice), it was slowly gaining some traction. And now, finally it got enough strong class card to see competitive play. Not only that – it’s one of the best meta decks.
The selling point of Pure build is dropping any Neutral cards to be able to play two pay-off cards – Lightforged Zealot and Lightforged Crusader. Both of them are quite powerful, but sadly I could fit only one into this build because of the Epic limit. The budget version of this deck is quite alright, but it’s still missing a bunch of important pieces such as the Crusader I’ve already mentioned, Argent Braggart or High Abbess Alura. That’s why I thought about going for Murlocs, but I feel like even though it might be slightly better up front, Pure Paladin has a much better upgrade path.
Tempo Priest is a really interesting build. It’s probably one of the most attempted decks that never actually worked. Players are trying to build it basically every expansion, but as far as I remember it has never gotten a mainstream competitive attention. Some players have thought that things will be different in Scholomance Academy, that they will finally find the “unicorn” build – but no, as it turned out, so far the deck isn’t looking that great. Yes, it has got quite a few solid tools, such as Frazzled Freshman or Power Word: Feast, but all of that is still not enough to beat the current meta.
However, sadly, for those of you who play on the budget – it’s your only option. Galakrond Priest is even worse on the budget, while Highlander Priest is straight up impossible to build without Legendaries (because they’re the only reason you run Highlander in the first place). That’s also the reason why I wouldn’t try to upgrade it too much – use the cards you already have, but don’t craft it. If you want to play Priest, there are better options.
For the last two expansions, Galakrond was a go-to Rogue strategy – while it came in a few flavors (regular, Secret, Stealth), the general gameplan was similar. The same thing can be said about the new Aggro Rogue decks in Scholomance Academy too. We have a few different versions – more tempo-oriented, full face deck, Stealth build, weapons build etc. At this point, all of them fight for their position in the meta and it’s difficult to say which one will turn out to be the best.
As for the budget version – to be honest, it’s quite powerful. Full version is pretty cheap, and when we have a cheap, high tier meta deck it always makes for a good budget option. While I had to make a few adjustments because of the 2 Epics limit. It was a very difficult decision, but I had to pick between Greyheart Sage and Secret Passage. Both of them are really strong, both of them are pretty key cards, but I decided to go with Sage, since it makes for a better curve. But I absolutely wouldn’t mind you going for Secret Passage instead. Ideally, if you can afford, play both.
After the class’ popularity and power around the middle of last Standard year, Shaman has been in the dumpster for the last couple of expansions. Some people thought that things will look brighter in Scholomance Academy, but sadly they don’t. While Totem Shaman has got a few interesting tools, the entire meta around it got even better. Decks are generally well-equipped to deal with the early game pressure (or they put early game pressure themselves), so it’s a bit hard for Shaman to stack multiple Totems necessary to win. It’s not impossible, and in a few matchup the deck works really well.
As for the budget version – it’s pretty close to the full one. Sadly, with two Epics limit, we had to settle on 2x Splitting Axe, which is simply a necessary card in this build. That’s why we had to cut Totem Goliath / Runic Carvings which made the deck rely more on the early game aggression and snowballing. Compared to other budget decks, it’s not really the best, but probably not the worst one either.
Zoo Warlock is one of the oldest archetypes in Hearthstone, dating back to the early 2014, shortly after the game’s official release. Of course, it looked quite different back then, but the basic idea behind it remained similar throughout the years. Your goal is to play efficient, low cost minions that can trade well to gain tempo, and then refill your hand with Hero Power. The latest version of Zoo was created in Scholomance Academy, and it relies on self-damage cards, but runs some “change health” synergies in general, including a small Soul Fragment package.
Sadly, since we’re on the budget that limits us to only one Epic card (or rather two copies of it), I had to make a difficult choice between Darkglare, Diseased Vulture and Flesh Giant. All three are great, all three make the full deck competitive, but I think that Darkglare is the most important one – it lets you cheat a ton of mana and it works very well with all your self-damage cards. Luckily, the deck is actually quite close to the full build – once you throw those Epics in, you’re basically good to go.
Warrior has been really popular for a while now and in Scholomance Academy players have a lot of choices when it comes to the class. There’s – of course – Bomb Warrior and Big Warrior, but also the (now less popular) Enrage Warrior or even – that’s right – Pirate Warrior. The last one isn’t very common on the ladder, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. In fact, it’s a pretty solid deck, definitely capable of hitting Legend. However, people don’t really play it because there are better Aggro options – Rogue in particular, which can even play a very similar, weapon-oriented style, but more efficiently.
As for the budget version – sadly, some important cards needed to be cut. Good news is that they’re solid crafts anyway, so you should be able to use them in other builds as well. But the question is – do you want to go for a full deck? Pirate Warrior is not a popular meta deck, for the reason I’ve already mentioned. I would actually recommend going for Aggro Weapon Rogue instead, or if you want to play Warrior, Bomb or Big would probably be better (albeit expensive) choices. However, if you’re set on Pirate Warrior, then we’ll cover the full build in the last section!