The Hearthstone fall reveal included tons of news: Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion, new Duels game mode, and a new rewards system. However, one of the most important reveals was mentioned only briefly: the mid-expansion mini-sets. In this article, I will examine the concept of mini-sets in more detail, looking at both the good and the bad aspects of the new release schedule.
What Are Mini-Sets and Why Are They Coming?
Hearthstone receives three major 135-card expansions each year. Alas, this is not enough new content for a card game, and Hearthstone has struggled with the meta becoming stale on the latter half of each four-month expansion cycle. There have been various attempts by the team to mitigate this: more balance changes during each expansion, various events that bring back or add new cards during an expansion (such as the Doom in the Tomb event that temporarily brought back 23 Wild cards in 2019 – including the hated Evolve), and even a 35-card mid-expansion adventure, Galakrond’s Awakening, in 2020.
From all of these experiences, it seems that the team has concluded that an adventure-sized injection of new cards to the pool in the middle of an expansion cycle is the most effective way to freshen up the meta.
Mini-sets will be new 35-card expansions that are launched in the middle of an expansion cycle. Unlike adventures, they are added to the current expansion and not sold separately. This turns the 135-card expansion into a 170-card expansion midway through its initial season: cards from mini-sets are immediately able to be crafted and they are opened from the same packs as the main expansion cards.
From a gameplay perspective, this sounds great. Galakrond’s Awakening was successful in refreshing the Descent of Dragons meta, and the new mini-sets have a good chance to keep the game fresh for longer periods of time than the current system.
But what about the cost? Will players be able to keep up with all the new cards?
Are Mini-Sets Cheaper or More Expensive Than Adventures?
The angle that Blizzard wants to emphasize is that you are able to craft the cards from the mini-set immediately. There are some obvious upsides to this: have you wanted to play Warrior in the past ten months but you’re missing Risky Skipper? Tough luck, you need to open three chapters of Galakrond’s Awakening to get it, and that would be 2100 gold, please. Or how about some Highlander Mage but you don’t have The Amazing Reno? That’s all four chapters, so 2800 gold or $19.99.
Mini-sets are cheaper than adventures if you only want one specific card from them.
However, the situation changes drastically if you actually want to play multiple decks that need cards from them, or if you want to collect the full set.
We do not have the rarity distribution of mini-sets yet, but we know that the mini-sets will have 35 unique cards in them and as it happens, Galakrond’s Awakening also had exactly 35 unique cards in it, so we can look at that adventure for reference.
The rarity distribution of Galakrond’s Awakening is as follows:
- 4 Legendary cards
- 4 Epic cards (8 copies overall)
- 12 Rare cards (24 copies overall)
- 15 Common cards (30 copies overall)
If the new mini-sets follow this rarity distribution, collecting all the cards is a costly endeavor indeed: the crafting cost of all the cards is 13,200 dust (equivalent to 132 packs, not that anyone would craft them all instead of getting some packs), and it takes tens of packs to get them all even if you already have the full original 135-card set:
- Opening 4 Legendary cards from packs takes an average of 72.7 packs
- Opening 8 Epic cards from packs takes an average of 36.2 packs
- Opening 24 Rare cards from packs takes an average of 21.0 packs
- Opening 30 Common cards from packs takes an average of 8.4 packs
If you disenchant all the duplicates to craft the final Legendary, you need to open an average of 50 packs to get the full mini-set. Remember that the full Galakrond’s Awakening adventure cost either $19.99 or 2800 gold? A full mini-set costs around $60 or 5000 gold. That’s a 200% price increase for the real-money customer compared to an adventure of similar size.
Furthermore, all of this is coming on top of the three annual expansions. The cost to maintain a full Hearthstone collection just went up by $180 per year – that’s a price increase bigger than an entire annual subscription to World of Warcraft. Compared to adding three adventures instead of three mini-sets, the price increase is $120 per year.
Even a more modest attempt to pick up all the Common and Rare cards from each mini-set requires the purchase of an additional 63 packs per year and is more expensive than buying entire adventures. Having the cards come up in the middle of an expansion cycle further complicates the matter: do you open all of your packs at the start of the expansion or do you save some for the mini-set? What should you do in this new environment?
When Should I Open Packs Now That Mini-Sets Are Coming?
Mini-sets add a whole new dimension of min-maxing to your pack openings. I’m sorry, this will be far from fun. It’s easy if you collect a full set of each expansion, but for the majority of players, there are some real decisions to be made.
You see, with duplicate protection, you are guaranteed to pick up all the Common and Rare cards in a set within your first 70 packs, usually a little before that. After that point, you need to decide how many packs to open and how many to save for the mini-set, which will require another around 21 packs to pick up all the Common and Rare cards. If you open fewer than 100 packs per expansion, the most cost-efficient way to open your packs is to stop opening packs after you have all the initial Rare cards, and open the rest only after the mini-set has been released. This means fewer Epic and Legendary cards at the start of the expansion to play around with and more pre-planning to optimize your resources.
Opening packs as you get them will no longer be an optimal strategy, which is totally counter-intuitive and anti-fun.
We do not yet know the full details of the new rewards system. How many packs you need to save for the mini-set depends on how many packs you will earn during the expansion cycle. If there are significant pack rewards, it might be possible to open all of your day-one packs at the start of the expansion and then start saving packs as you earn them to be opened when the mini-set is released.
A Glimmer of Hope?
There is still some hope that not all of this doom and gloom will come to pass. Blizzard has two main levers that they can pull to adjust the cost of mini-sets:
First, Blizzard can adjust the rarity distribution of the cards in mini-sets. They will inevitably be more expensive than adventures, but if they included only two Legendary cards instead of four, for example, that would bring the price down somewhat.
Second, the new rewards system will be unveiled on November 12th. Blizzard has repeatedly said that the new rewards system will provide players with more gold and packs than the old one. After seeing the cost of mini-sets, these rewards would need to be substantially higher to even keep the overall cost of the game the same, and bringing the cost of the game down would require something like doubling the current reward level. There is still a chance that this might happen. November 12th is going to be a big day in showing us the true future cost of Hearthstone.
We will do another cost analysis after knowing exactly how quickly you can earn gold and packs with the new rewards system – right now we only hope that it will be quickly enough.