Hearthstone’s Ranked Mode Overhaul Two Months In: How Good Is It?

Hearthstone’s ladder system was revamped in April 2020 when the old 25-rank ladder was retired in favor of a new 50-rank ladder. The change went far deeper than just the number of ranks and stars as it also touched the monthly ladder grind, season rewards, and matchmaking. We have now played two full months in the new system and it is a good time to take a look at how successful it has been: Is it more even? Is it more competitive? Is it more rewarding? Is it more fun?

Is It More Even? (Bronze Is Not the Same as Bronze Anymore)

One of the most confusing aspects of the new ranked system is its matchmaking: As long as you have any star bonus left, your matchmaking is based on your matchmaking rating (MMR) instead of your rank. Once you run out of star bonus, you start to get matched by rank until you reach Legend, where your matchmaking is again based on your MMR. Furthermore, your MMR is never reset anymore, it carries over to the following season seamlessly.

This means that for good players who only play a few games, competition does not get weaker as you near the end of the month as it did under the old system: if you play less than people of your skill on average, you used to fall behind them in the climb and faced weaker players before the next reset. In the new system, you will constantly face worthy opponents, so your winrate is closer to 50% but the games should be of higher quality. A player in Bronze who starts playing late in the month can play all of their games against Legend players if they are rated high enough.

For the most part, the new system does a better job than the old system in finding worthy opponents. As a curious side effect, when I climb later in the month on other servers, the quality of games collapses when I hit Diamond 5 and drop out of star bonus, only to jump back up when I reach Legend. There is a curious area where you play without star bonus and can face anything from top players climbing alternate servers to casuals just chilling at a rank floor.

Chilling at a rank floor is far from being as chill as it used to be though. Because your MMR is not reset, you can lose a lot of it when experimenting or playing meme decks and then face a long and hard grind to get your MMR back up if you want to play seriously again. A new season cannot save you anymore.

What makes it all more confusing is that you cannot see your MMR anywhere. The closest you get is seeing your Legend rank, if you’re in Legend, because Legend ranks are just people sorted by their MMR. What you cannot see is how big of a difference there is. Is the #1 spot ten wins from where you are, or is it 100 wins away? There is no way to tell.

The system is far better at matching players evenly than the old system under the assumption that all players are always trying seriously to win. The moment you deviate from this designed path and start to explore new archetypes, for example, the system still treats you as if you were playing your best deck with your best effort, so if you start losing you have obviously lost your skills. The simplified view the system has of the game sadly punishes some of the most interesting aspects of playing a card game: building and testing new decks.

Is It More Competitive? (How Hard Is It to Get to Legend, and Does It Matter?)

It can be difficult to separate the effects of the Standard rotation and new expansion from the ladder rework, but overall there are more players in Legend than ever. A community effort to track the number of Legend players in various regions has come up with these approximate numbers at the end of the month:

Server Month Standard Wild
NA March 3,470 639
NA April 30,971 4,531
NA May 20,016 3,477
EU March 6,515 1,133
EU April 60,366 8,769
EU May 38,978 6,257
Asia March ? 364
Asia April 18,776 2,252
Asia May 12,270 1,630
China March 13,449 27,433
China April 118,247 84,809
China May 93,552 59,751

Roughly nine times as many players reached Legend in the first month of the new ranked system than in the last month of the old ranked system. In the second month, there were still around six times as many Legend players under the new system than in the final month of the old system. So while the first month can partially be attributed to the new expansion, the numbers staying high in the second month seems to indicate that the new system results in more Legend players.

However, for a mid-Legend player from the old system, the difference is not big, and any difference that does exist goes the other way: it actually takes more games to reach Legend from Bronze 10 with a 10x star bonus than it did to reach Legend from Rank 4 in the old system. It takes more games, but you don’t have to have as high of a win rate: even a 50% win rate takes a 10x star bonus player comfortably to Diamond 5, from which all you need to do is to win 15 games more than you lose, the equivalent of climbing from Rank 5 to Rank 2 in the old system. With a smaller obstacle to climb at the end, more people are able to pass the gate and become Legends.

Legend is not an exclusive club in the new system, although, given the size of the player base, even tens of thousands of Legend players remain a small portion of the whole.

What is new is that once in Legend, there is a whole new grind in front of you. With MMR values not getting reset, the top ranks slowly creep up, and it becomes a bigger grind to climb to the top once you are in Legend. I actually lost thousands of ranks by testing new decks for around 200 games, going from around 1000 to 6000. I had to have a terrible win rate to do that, right? Well, I suppose. It was 52%. You need to keep winning at a good rate in Legend or people will pass you by. Consider Sidisi’s climb in Legend this season: 91-47 (66% win rate) to climb from 3290 to 1090. To reach the higher ranks, the grind has simply moved to take place within Legend, where you cannot even clearly see the progress you make because your MMR is hidden. In contrast, players with high MMR need to play less than ever. For example, Meati was able to get a #2 finish in May with a 124-87 (59%) record for the entire season after grinding hard in April with almost 1000 games for a #13 finish.

There is also the elusive 11x star bonus to compete for when you are in Legend. With 11x star bonus, you will receive bonus stars for winning all the way to Legend, which means that you will reach Legend in roughly a hundred games even if you lose more than you win. We asked Game Director Ben Lee for more details on how to achieve this reward, and he told us that it is based on MMR (not fixed ranked) and it is tweaked to include roughly the top 10% of Legend players. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to know if you’re eligible for the 11x star bonus until after the season is over, but maybe this piece of information can help you to make a rough estimate if that is your goal.

Overall, then, getting Legend is now easier than before, although it still remains a major achievement. However, getting high ranks in Legend is a bigger grind than before unless you already have good MMR, in which case you can play less as long as you can maintain a good win rate.

Is It More Rewarding? (Packs or Golden Cards?)

From a pure dust perspective, the new system is slightly more rewarding than the old system. If you disenchanted all the golden cards you got under the old system and you disenchant all the cards you get from packs in the new system, you will end up slightly ahead with the new system.

The new system also gives you rewards when you reach specific ranks for the very first time, which adds another incentive to make that push towards Legend at least once.

The old system was better if you want golden cards and you intend to keep them. Other than that, the new system is more rewarding.

Is It More Fun? (Why Are We Playing?)

You are more evenly matched most of the time in the new system and you also get somewhat more cards as rewards for playing, both of which can be good things.

On the other hand, the new ranks can be confusing now that matchmaking has been separated from your rank. Much of the progress you make each month is an illusion, designed to keep you playing the game. Star bonus will slowly carry you to almost where you were, from which real progress can begin. Do you mind that you are being “tricked” to play the game? So far, people have been happy to keep playing, so the new system seems to be more fun than the old one. Time will tell whether it lasts.

What is your experience with the new ladder system? Have you been happy with it? Let me know in the comments!

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/OldGuardian Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/old_guardian

Check out Old Guardian on Twitter or on their Website!

Leave a Reply


  1. HeheEdison
    June 21, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    A simple question, what rank in legend can get a 11x initial star bonus?

    • Orasha
      June 21, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      It will fluctuate from month to month since only the top 10% of legend players get the 11x bonus.

    • JoyDivision
      June 23, 2020 at 2:22 am

      I got the 11x star bonus on the Wild ladder this month although I only finished Diamond 3 in May … in April, I got to 517 legend (again, Wild) but ‘only’ got a 10x star bonus in May.

      So all in all, how you get the 11x star bonus seems very random to me (in Wild at least). Well, I guess I’ll have to wait what happens in July. 😉

  2. Paranoid
    June 20, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Personally I don’t like the changes because now you can’t play meme decks against competent opponents also the season rewards for higher ranks I think are worse after all I already have most of the cards it sucks for get cards I already have at least I was getting golden epics before which is the same worth as a legendary.

  3. James37
    June 19, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    The new ranked system is Blizzard’s new way of wooing over the playing public. A star multiplier basically guarantees progression and rewards until you hit the 1-star climb to legend something which is no doubt very popular. With no star multipler, the match making is based on rank not MMR and that means if you’re unable to do so in the early parts of the month then it will get a lot easier towards the end of the month. So with a lot of effort and trying I think most people will hit legend at the end of the month – again leaving a good taste in the mouths of the playing public. Very clever design Blizzard.

  4. BigE
    June 19, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    I only started playing in January, so I have just about the same amount of time with the old as with the new systems. The new seems much better. I was crushed, CRUSHED, the first time I opened a ranked chest (maybe a 10 in the old?) thinking I’d get cards and dust and such to build a new powerful deck only to get a dusting of dust and some crap golden card. The new rewards combined with rarity protection really helps the budget minded of us build collections. I like opening packs as a reward. I hope to finish my climb back to diamond 10. Someday maybe I’ll have the skills and time to make a run to legend.

  5. Orasha
    June 19, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    While I am grateful to the new system as it’s the main reason I’m able to hit legend now, the grind inside of legend seems insane, as you were saying. While I’m fine with the rank numbers basically being a trick since they don’t matter, what does irk me is that you can’t see your opponent’s rank until you hit legend. I get that this is part of the trick, if you don’t see your opponent’s rank you might assume they’re closer to your own then they may or might not be, but it still feels bad. It also fosters confusion even among legend players: I’ve seen high legend finishers badmouth those in the “dumpster” because they’re facing lower ranked opponents… even though who they’re facing is based on MMR.

  6. Solojazz
    June 19, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    My one problem is with the legend grind. For the first 2 weeks of June I was sitting between top 150-200 legend and was playing consistently. Then after taking a 5 day break, the meta had shifted and the deck I had been playing was in a bad spot. I ended up having a rough loss streak (maybe like 2-8). A lot of the losses were in a row and it absolutely tanked my rank in that one session (~600). I tried switching decks but wasn’t as experienced with the new deck as the old one and although my win rate wasn’t as bad, I was losing ranks more than I was gaining. Now I sit around 1,300 and feel gridlocked. Wish there wasn’t such a punish for one bad session of hearthstone.

    • Orasha
      June 19, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      I’ve had similar experiences as well. One session started off strong and I had like 6 or 7 wins in a row and I was climbing. Then I lost 2 in a row and fell lower then I was when I started the session. Really takes the motivation away when you feel like you can’t climb at all.

    • Gibilan
      June 20, 2020 at 11:43 pm

      This happens because there are way more legend players than before and there is alot more fluctuation in the ranks. Thats why you get “punished”. There are alot more players->more decks->more games->and the % of you matching vs an unfavoured class/deck is higher. P.s even the decay rate is higher than before.

    • JoyDivision
      June 23, 2020 at 2:30 am

      What really bothers me is the psychological aspect… on one side, you’re ‘afraid’ of losing, on the other you HAVE to play to climb out of the dumbster. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I have to tell myself time and time again that it is only a game…

      Fact is, I think to myself that it would’ve been better for me to not have played more since I hit Wild Legend on the 2nd of June – started off at 160, fell to 1.300 (tried some decks and had bad luck with others). Now I’m at 940 with the same ‘gridlocked’ feeling you describe.

  7. Axiotes
    June 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    I think it is more fun for me, for two reasons: First, you actually have a more dynamic climb. Before I’d spend most of my time within a pretty small range (Rank 5-3) since I am a solid but not great player and I don’t play for hours at a time. Second, as you said, it’s just a bit easier to get to Legend. That is, it’s still hard, but it’s in reach for a more casual player. Before, making it to Legend seemed impossible unless I spent hours and hours grinding.

    I never had this problem when I was playing at rank 3 or 4, but my friend plays at lower ranks, and it was pretty ridiculous that he’d sometimes get matched up against really high level players and decks. The new matchmaking system is more fair.

    Are people being tricked to play the game? Isn’t the whole point of an incentive system to incentivize playing? If the ranking and reward system gives you reason to play more, that’s what it’s for.

  8. Sheikhhadii
    June 19, 2020 at 10:57 am

    “matchmaking has been separated from your rank”
    Can you explain it a lil?

    • Gibilan
      June 19, 2020 at 11:37 am

      If you have a multiplier, you are matched by MMR. When your multiplier runs out and you go from game to game with 1 star, just then you are matched by your rank ( ex Platinum, Diamon ), or wherever you are situated in the rank system.

      • Orasha
        June 19, 2020 at 5:39 pm

        I don’t think this is correct. I’m pretty sure you are always matched by MMR, even after your star bonus runs out. For instance, when I was playing in low legend I started queuing into Diamond players, who presumably didn’t have a star bonus anymore (it would be unlikely that they all had 11x).

        This is why Old Guardian says matchmaking has been separated from your rank, because you can be matched with players in any other rank as long as they have an MMR near yours.

        • Gibilan
          June 19, 2020 at 9:29 pm

          Yes. But you faced players from D5. If you start with the 11x multiplier, even at D5 you still got the 2x multiplier. The multiplier beeing active for that player it matches him by mmr and not by rank. And in legend you always match by mmr. So your legend mmr can be close to someones from D5. P.s Since the realease of the new system i started in both st & wild with 11x. It s easier than it seems to get the 11x multiplier. You don t need to be “high legend” to get it, since the legend playerbase grew with this new system. Look on those tables on this article on how many legends were in March and then again in April and May. Mindblowing numbers!

          • Gibilan
            June 19, 2020 at 9:30 pm

            And the mmr & ranked matchmaking is from Blizzards official post when they realeased the new system

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      June 19, 2020 at 6:12 pm

      It means that your rank doesn’t matter for the matchmaking. You’re matched only based on hidden MMR – your rank is just to illustrate your progress. That’s also why you don’t see your opponent’s rank before you hit Legend – it would be pointless, because you can be in Bronze and get matched against someone in Diamond, because you have similar hidden MMR.

      • BigE
        June 20, 2020 at 5:15 am

        Rank matters for those rank floors and those sweet, sweet rewards, flooding one’s brain with endorphins. The wonderful hope of an orange tinted card in a pack. Ooooooh.