Alright, for all you Hearthstone players that can’t—or refuse to—spend any money on the game, how do you compete in ranked mode?
The unavoidable reality in Hearthstone is that you need to earn gold on a consistent basis. Without gold, you can’t purchase card packs. And in turn, you can’t disenchant cards to get arcane dust, which is used to craft cards that you don’t have.
This means that you have to commit to playing Hearthstone regularly—ideally every day. Daily quests are your most important source of gold. They typically reward 50-100 gold each, and you can complete up to a maximum of 3 daily quests a day.
But let’s say you already have a lot of arcane dust in hand. How do you spend the dust wisely? If you’re going to spend most of your dust on one expensive meta deck, this can lead to a dilemma.
What if I can’t get good at the deck? What if it gets nerfed and falls out of the meta? What if I get bored playing the same deck repeatedly?
Cheap meta decks are very rare. So, rather than waiting for one to come by, I recommend two methods to conserve your resources when building decks. One is to build budget decks, and the other is to make tweaks to the meta decks.
I mentioned about budget decks before. Although they are weaker than the meta decks, some budget decks are still viable for climbing to higher ranks—even to the Rank 1-5 bracket.
Budget decks tend to contain a lot of minions and spells with low mana cost. The deck strategy is simple: end the game fast. You want to establish board control right away with cheap minions, and maintain board advantage with efficient trades. The cheap spells are used to remove your opponent’s minions early. This is essentially playing for tempo.
Why this playstyle though? Because budget decks inherently have one core weakness: they are unable to challenge in the late game.
Expensive meta decks contain cards with high value. In Hearthstone, value typically come in the form of generating additional resources for yourself. Examples include generating cards in your hand or shuffling more cards into your deck (e.g. The insanely high value minion Ysera, Unleashed).
The longer the game drags on, the more chances your opponent has to play their high mana value cards. A budget deck cannot sustain against decks that keep generating value for themselves.
Therefore, your one goal is to kill off your opponent before they have a chance to play these cards. But of course, you still need to control the board in the early turns by removing your opponent’s minions. DO NOT just go for the opponent’s face.
There are a number of Hearthstone players in the community that are kind enough to share viable budget deck lists online. Search “Budget decks” on Youtube or Google and craft decks that appeal to you.
A word of warning on budget decks though. Because they have the same playstyle of ending the game quickly through minion pressure, it can get quite boring playing them repeatedly to climb in ranked mode.
Tweaking meta decks
If you look closely at the composition of expensive meta decks, you will notice that legendary and epic cards make up a significant portion of the total cost. After all, each legendary card costs 1600 dust while each epic card costs 400 dust.
So, the first thing you need to do to reduce the total cost of a deck is to replace a few of the legendary and epic cards.
Some cards can’t be replaced if they are instrumental to the deck’s win condition (e.g. Malygos in combo decks that win using high burst damage). But if there is another card that serves a similar purpose, it can be used as the replacement.
Here’s an example: We know that Leeroy Jenkins is a powerful legendary minion that is generally used as a finisher due to its high and instant burst damage. However, there is also Reckless Rocketeer that does the same thing. Although Reckless Rocketeer is obviously a worse card, it is the ideal replacement if you don’t have Leeroy Jenkins.
Another thing you can replace expensive cards with is tech cards. In Hearthstone, tech cards are used to counter decks that are strong in the meta.
If weapons are a common feature in meta decks, then minions with weapon removal (e.g. Acidic swap ooze) will be included in most deck lists to counter this. If there are powerful deathrattle minions in meta decks, then minions with silence ability will become more common.
Tech minions tend to have decent attack and health values for their mana cost. So, even if the meta doesn’t necessitate tech minions, they are still descent inclusions for any deck.
Now, it should be obvious that you are weakening the deck by replacing legendary and epic cards. So, if you are going to end up replacing all the legendary and epic cards in a meta deck, then why craft that deck in the first place?
That’s why you should, ideally, only craft meta decks if you have already obtained some of the key legendary and epic cards from opening card packs. This way, you won’t be spending as much dust compared to building a deck from scratch.