A common struggle for new and free-to-player Hearthstone players is gathering enough cards to be able to compete with other players. Compared to those spending real money on the game, it takes far longer to collect cards (especially in the early stages of an account).
That said, there are many ways to gather Hearthstone cards without spending a dime. This guide will outline how to leverage different game modes in Hearthstone to more efficiently assemble a reliable card collection without any detriment to your bank account.
Hearthstone has three resources that allow players to add cards to their collection: Experience, Gold, and Arcane Dust.
Experience is earned through leveling up each of the nine Heroes. While you cannot spend experience, accumulating it unlocks Basic Cards and their golden versions.
For new players, experience is the primary resource used for acquiring new cards. Those who have been playing Hearthstone for some time receive a less impactful payout (golden cards) for earning additional experience.
Gold is the primary in-game resource in Hearthstone. It can be used as a means of either purchasing Card Packs, Solo Adventures, or Arena runs in Hearthstone. There are several ways to earn gold that will be covered in the remainder of the article, most which simply require time spent playing the game.
Arcane Dust is Hearthstone’s crafting resource. Dust can be used to create cards that weren’t opened in packs in order to fill out gaps in decks or card collections. Disenchanting cards is the main source of Arcane Dust in Hearthstone, but dust a card nets significantly less of this resource that it costs to craft a card.
A table outlining the crafting costs of each card rarity can be found below. [source]
Before looking at how to gather the different in-game resources available in Hearthstone, we’ll first review the different game modes. Each of these game modes rewards players differently and all can be utilized by an F2P player to get more cards.
Depending on the age of an account, some of these game modes are more time efficient in terms of amassing gold, dust, or cards than others. Recommendations will be made for how to take full advantage of each mode to get a more robust card collection.
The tutorial is a new player’s introduction to Hearthstone. Here, the player is matched with a series of six bosses that slowly increase in difficulty. Over the course of these six scripted missions, new gameplay elements are slowly explained and released to the player.
All decks (both player and A.I.) are preconstructed and the tutorial must be completed before a new account is granted access to the other game modes. Upon completion, players receive the Mage class along with a Basic Deck for the class.
At this point, all neutral Basic Cards become available.
Practice Mode provides an outlet for new players to get a better feel for some of the foundational Hearthstone mechanics. In this game mode, players matched against the Innkeeper NPC who pilots decks consisting of, for the most part, the same Basic cards available to a brand new account.
Practice Mode has two difficulties: Normal and Expert. Normal Practice Mode should be beatable with the preassembled Basic Decks for each class. Expert Practice Mode, however, may require decks to be refined with some of the additional cards unlocked along the way.
Need a strong deck using only basic cards? Check out our Basic Hearthstone Decks!
New accounts are usually better off spending some time in Practice Mode until they unlocked all Heroes and Basic Cards. Doing so has the benefit of completing most of the Introductory Quests, as well.
In order to unlock the remaining 8 classes, players must defeat each class in any game mode. Because so few resources are available at this point, Practice Mode is a great place to unlock heroes. Simply defeat each Hero (in any game mode) to receive the corresponding class and Basic Deck.
Basic Cards are unique in that they are unlocked by leveling up heroes. As such, they can neither be crafted nor disenchanted. Reaching Level 10 with a class will make all of the remaining class-specific Basic Cards available.
While Practice Mode does not grant as much experience as other game modes, it is still a great place to level up Heroes and unlock Basic Cards since you avoid running into players with more experience (and better cards).
Introductory Quests are one-time offerings available to new accounts. These quests tend to be more lucrative than the Daily Quests received beyond this point. Unlike Daily Quests, however, many of these early tasks can be completed in Practice Mode allowing new players to quickly polish them off and reap the rewards.
|Win 5 Practice Games||Win 5 games in Practice mode.|
|First Blood||Complete a game in Play mode.|
|The Duelist||Play 3 games in Play mode.|
|Ready to Go!||Unlock every Hero.|
|Enter the Arena||Enter Arena Mode.||1 Arena Run|
|Crafting Time||Disenchant a card.|
|Level Up||Get any class to level 10.|
|Crushed Them All!||Defeat every Expert AI Hero.|
|Got the Basics!||Collect every card in the Basic Set.|
Play Mode matches you up against other players of (ideally) similar skill and is the most reliable game mode for completing Daily Quests. Play mod offers two options for competition (Casual and Ranked), each of which has different benefits. This game mode also provides players with the most reliable place for completing Daily Quests.
Casual games match players based on an internal, hidden MMR. The more success players have in the game mode, the higher-skill opponents they’ll be matched against.
Players with fresh accounts enter Casual and can only be matched with other new players. As such, it is recommended that players just starting Hearthstone start their Play Mode journey in Casual. Starting in Casual offers a new player-friendly game mode for completing Daily Quests and earning gold from Daily Victories.
Ranked games match players based on their current rank alone. Because of this, it’s possible to be matched against players with significantly more experience and cards. Before entering Ranked play, it helps to have an established collection as this is where most of competitive game play takes place.
There is still some incentive for playing Ranked, however. Each month, players that reach at least Rank 20 are rewarded with a card back and, depending on end of season rank, additional cards of increasing value.
Below is a table of the reward structure for Ranked Play. [source]
|Legend||3 golden commons, 1 golden epic, card back||550|
|1||2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 25 dust, card back||525|
|2||2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 20 dust, card back||520|
|3||2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 15 dust, card back||515|
|4||2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 10 dust, card back||510|
|5||2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 5 dust, card back||505|
|6||2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 25 dust, card back||225|
|7||2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 20 dust, card back||220|
|8||2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 15 dust, card back||215|
|9||2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 10 dust, card back||210|
|10||2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 5 dust, card back||205|
|11||1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 25 dust, card back||175|
|12||1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 20 dust, card back||170|
|13||1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 15 dust, card back||165|
|14||1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 10 dust, card back||160|
|15||1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 5 dust, card back||155|
|16||1 golden common, 25 dust, card back||75|
|17||1 golden common, 20 dust, card back||70|
|18||1 golden common, 15 dust, card back||65|
|19||1 golden common, 10 dust, card back||60|
|20||1 golden common, 5 dust, card back||55|
Like Casual, Ranked play offers a place to complete Daily Quests and accumulated gold from victories.
Each day, players receive a new quest that offers a variety of rewards. For those who are not looking to spend real money in Hearthstone, these quests are the main source of gold and, as a result, cards.
Players can have a maximum of three quests in their log at a time and quests can be rerolled once per day. Doing so will grant a new, randomly selected quest from one of the lists below.
More details about the available Daily Quests can be found in our Hearthstone Gold Guide!
Daily quests rewards range from 40-100 gold. To maximize gold accumulation, players should reroll all 40 gold quest to seek more lucrative endeavors.
It should, however, be noted that new accounts must complete a minimum number of the basic, 40 gold quests before better options become available. In these early stages, quests should be prioritized around the classes with the most/best available cards.
In addition to quests, players can earn gold by winning matches in either Play Mode or Tavern Brawl. Every 3 wins awards players with 10 gold, up to a daily maximum of 100 gold (or 30 wins). Arena mode, because it rewards players based on wins, does not include this bonus.
While less time efficient than daily quests, gold earned by winning matches provides a nice source of supplemental gold.
Arena is Hearthstone’s limited format and potentially a great source of in-game income for free-to-play Hearthstone accounts. In this game mode, players select from three cards offered to them until they complete a 30 card deck. Players are then matched against other Arena decks until they lose three games. Each win accumulated in this game mode increases the possible rewards.
Looking to improve in Arena? Check out our Hearthstone Arena Beginner’s Guide.
The table below shows the rewards structure for Arena. [source]
|Wins||Key||Reward Structure||Random Reward Pool|
Because of the possible payouts, Arena does have an entry fee of 150 gold. However, since every run guarantees a card pack, it only takes between 3 and 4 wins for an arena run to result in a net gain. At 4 wins, the average gold payout is about 66, which means the pack awarded effectively comes at a discounted price of 84 gold. Progressing further in a run will provide a greater return on your 150 gold investment.
While it doesn’t take too many wins to get good value out of Arena, there is more to consider than average rewards. Each run requires time spent outside of other game modes. This means that, while Daily Quests can be completed in Arena, players cannot receive gold from Daily Victories. Time spent in Arena, also means players are also not progressing in Ranked play to improve their end of season awards.
In general, Arena can be leveraged by players with plenty of time (who also enjoy the game mode), but players that only have a few hours per week to play may be better of competing in Play Mode.
Tavern Brawl provides players with a custom game mode in which the rules change on a weekly basis. Access to Tavern Brawl is unlocked by reaching Level 20 with any hero.
Because many Tavern Brawls include a preconstructed deck, this game mode frequently offers a more level playing field for new players lacking a large collection. Players can both complete Daily Quests and earn gold from Daily Victories in Tavern Brawl. As such, when decks are prebuilt, new players may have a better shot at accumulating gold in Tavern Brawl than Play Mode.
The reward for a single victory in each week’s Tavern Brawl is a Classic Card Pack. Because of this, reaching Level 20 for a single hero should be a top priority for new players. Enabling this game mode has a significant, positive impact on a free-to-play account’s ability to add cards their collection.
In years prior to 2017, content was release on a schedule of two full expansions and a solo adventure. Solo Adventures are purchasable content that gives players access to single-player content that, upon completion, awards players with the entirety the of cards from the set.
One Night in Karazhan
One Night in Karazhan is the lone Solo Adventure in the current Standard rotation. Content in Solo Adventures is released one wing at a time with a cost of 700 gold per wing and each wing must be purchased in sequence.
In the past, Solo Adventures were widely considered the best value for your gold because of the guaranteed nature of the rewards structure. For instance, the average Arcane Dust value for any Hearthstone pack is about 102.71. However, due to the randomness of pack openings, this dust value can vary wildly.
With Solo Adventures like One Night in Karazhan, the dust value is known ahead of time and the Arcane Dust value per 100 gold of the full One Night in Karazhan Adventure is 105.35, clocking in just ahead of the average pack.
For convenience, the Arcane Dust value of each wing is provided below. [source]
|The Prologue||Free||20 Arcane Dust|
|The Parlor||700 gold||620 Arcane Dust|
|The Opera||700 gold||740 Arcane Dust|
|The Menagerie||700 gold||590 Arcane Dust|
|The Spire||700 gold||980 Arcane Dust|
|Total||2,800 gold||2950 Arcane Dust|
While One Night in Karazhan does provide guaranteed value for your gold at a slightly higher gold to dust ration than packs, cards from the set will rotate out of Standard in April of 2018. As such, F2P players are left with a difficult decision in terms of whether or not to purchase the expansion. There are undoubtedly powerful cards in the expansion, but the expiration date on the set should give players some hesitation before purchasing the Solo Adventure.
To determine whether or not to purchase the Solo Adventure, players must weigh the immediate need of cards required to complete decks against the total cost of obtaining that card from the Adventure. For instance, a single card in The Menagerie wing requires 2,100 gold to obtain which, to a player with limited resources, may not be worth giving up 21 card packs for.
Knights of the Frozen Throne marks the first full expansion to include single-player missions. These expansion missions, thus far, have proven to be more challenging than both battles with the Innkeeper and previous Solo Adventures. That said, it is still possible to complete many of these missions using only Basic Cards.
Knights of the Frozen Throne
The Knights of the Frozen Throne missions consist of a prologue and three wings.
The Prologue rewards players with a Death Knight Hero Card.
Each wing, save the third, matches players against three bosses in Icecrown Citadel. These boss fights require you to build a specific deck each boss’s unique strategy.
The third (and final) wing is an epic battle against the Lich King himself. Here, a fairly large pool of cards is necessary to default this especially challenging foe.
After completing each wing in the Knights of the Frozen Throne missions, players are reward with a card pack from the expansion.
Prologue: A Fateful Encounter
Reward: One Death Knight Hero Card
If it feels like the Lich King’s deck is stacked against you in this mission, that’s because it is. In the early phase, Jaina must die in order to become a Death Knight.
After her demise, Jaina is resurrected and granted access a much more powerful deck which should enable you to make short work Tirion Fordring.
Once the Prologue is completed, you’ll be rewarded with a random Death Knight Hero Card.
Reward: Knights of the Frozen Throne Card Pack
Lord Marrowgar is the first boss in Knights of the Frozen Throne. In this encounter, Marrowgar heals to full each of his turns, negating any non-lethal damage you did in the previous turn. As such, you must kill this boss in a single turn.
Fortunately, Lord Marrowgar seemingly has little regard for his own life and will blindly Bone Storm your entire board, dealing one damage. Neutral Basic Card Gurubashi Berserker really shines in this mission. Utilize the Priest hero power to protect this minion and maintain control of the board until you accumulate 30 damage on a single turn.
Bone Spikes can pose a problem if left unchecked but can be stolen with Mind Vision and used to your advantage.
Since Deathbringer Saurfang can only be damaged by weapons, Warrior is a good choice for this encounter. In his basic set, Garrosh has access to two weapons: Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper. Although this offers the potential for 26 points of damage, drawing 4 cards out of 30 is not always reliable. Fortunately, Heroic Strike can be paired with weapons to provide critical extra damage.
Blood Beasts heal Saurfang for 3 damage which, which can be problematic for a deck that has limited damage potential. Removing these from the board is a high priority. Kor'kron Elite lines up nicely against these minions and can prevent them from getting a single heal off. If you save burst damage and draw weapons, you should be able to get through this quickly.
Including additional weapons, along with Upgrade! effects, would make this Deathbring Saurfang a little easier to manage.
Lady Deathwhipser poses a unique challenge. This boss begins with 90 armor but provides you with Valithria Dreamwalker, a massive dragon with 30 attack. Unfortunately, Valithria can only attack when at her full 5 hp and Lady Deathwhipser damages all minions down to exactly 1 hp each turn.
Here, you need to maximize use of your heal effects to get the requisite four attacks to face. Try to maintain control of the board and use your heals only when you can ensure damage goes to face. All healing effects must be paired with your hero power to enable Valithria attacks.
Reward: Knights of the Frozen Throne Card Pack
Blood-Queen Lana’thel starts the game with two 0/10 Sleeping Acolytes. On her turn one, Lana’thel overrides your hero power into Vampiric Bite, which requires you to bite a minion for 0 mana, giving it +2/+2. While this seems like a huge buff, it MUST be used each turn and cannot be used twice on the same minion, hence the Acolytes.
As a result, playing minions on curve is absolutely critical. Additionally, minions that spawn tokens, such as Murloc Tidehunter and Razorfen Hunter become immensely valuable. Mulligan hard for an early-game curve and this mission shouldn’t be a problem.
The battle Professor Putricide is as chaotic a fight as you would expect from the ultimate Mad Scientist. This mission is separated into three phases. Each time you strip the Professor’s armor, his hero power changes and he summons a minion. The three phases are outlined below:
- Hero Power: All Secrets cost 0 mana.
- Hero Power: All Weapons cost 1 mana.
- Summon: Festergut (3/5 minion. At the end of your turn, deal 3 damage to all enemy minions.)
- Hero Power: All cards cost 5 mana.
- Summon: Rotface
The key to this encounter is timing the transitions between phases so you have an answer to the summoned minion. Shadow Word: Pain is fine for Festergut, but you’ll probably want to Mind Control Rotface.
Because Putricide can play Secrets from all three classes, it can be a challenge to play around them effectively. Below is an exhaustive list Secrets available to this boss:
- Hunter: Freezing Trap, Venomstrike Trap, Dart Trap, Cat Trick.
- Mage: Counterspell, Frozen Clone, Duplicate, Vaporize.
- Paladin: Avenge, Getaway Kodo, Sacred Trial.
Having Acidic Swamp Ooze in hand when Putricide plays a big weapon can create huge swing turns, so hold the Ooze until you can get value from it. Additional weapon removal would certainly help your chances in this match, as would Secret hate.
Sindragosa is another boss that operates in distinct phases. Here, the undead dragon freezes any minions on your board when she falls below 20 and 10 hp. To account for this, it’s important that you manipulate damage and kill off minions to ensure nothing is in play when these breakpoints are hit.
Utilize direct damage spells to drop Sindragosa below each threshold and then immediately reestablish your board presence. Mind Blast is critical to this encounter, so feel free to hard mulligan for it and Northshire Cleric. If you’re careful with your damage to face, this encounter should be a breeze.
Any additional direct damage spells will make this fight easier. Big, beefy minions don’t hurt either, so long as you aren’t sacrificing early game board control.
The Frozen Throne
Reward: Knights of the Frozen Throne Card Pack
Bonus Reward: Prince Arthas Hero Portrait
The Lich King
The Lich King provides a truly unique gameplay experience as he enforces restrictions based on which class you selected to challenge him with.
Unfortunately, the Lich King poses a far greater challenge than the other six Knights of the Frozen Throne bosses and cannot be completed with Basic Cards alone. There’s still hope for budget-minded players, however, as a Murloc shell can be used to overrun poor Arthas before his critical turn seven with many classes.
For more details about defeating the Lich King with all nine classes, be sure to read this article.
About the Author
A card game veteran, Roffle has been infatuated with Hearthstone since closed beta. These days, he spends most of his time tinkering with decks on ladder or earning gold in Arena (f2p btw). In particular, Roffle has a wealth of experience in competitive Wild Hearthstone, including a top 16 finish in the inaugural Wild Open Tournament and numerous high end of season finishes since the format’s inception. Follow him on Twitter or check out some of his articles on Roffle.net.