TL;DR: I played a F2P account for one year, averaging 2 games a day, to accumulate 5,000 gold, 9210 dust (with 595 dust in extras), and a tier 1 Wild deck that can be used to climb to rank 5 every month for the foreseeable future and is legend capable. The account is well poised to take further advantage of the Hall of Fame, and has enough flexibility in terms of resources to jump into Standard if there's a deck that seems appealing. The main take away is that Hearthstone is quite F2P viable and strongly rewards delay of gratification paired with focused resource expenditure. Hoarding dust until Hall of Fame announcements, investing in the classic pack, and focusing on wild gives the best value for in-game resources. Whizbang provides a very cheap and efficient means to hit 15 rank every month and engage in Tavern Brawls, to tide accounts over until a tier 1 deck can be crafted.
A year ago, on June 13, 2018, I decided to create region alts to take advantage of the free Golden Pack from last year's
New Pack Day event. Hearthstone collections are region specific, which means that when you switch regions, you're effectively starting from scratch.
Initially, I made a conscientious decision to not expend any money or in-game resources, while accumulating resources efficiently. This eventually turned into an extended project of seeing just how well a free to play account can be managed over the course of a year.
The main strategy I initially employed was to expend as few resources (in terms of both in-game and player time) as possible in order to accumulate as many resources as feasible. For this purpose, I initially did not purchase ANY packs, and rather stockpiled gold until it became clear where it should best be spent, i.e. once the Hall of Fame inductees were announced.
In the meantime, I collected enough dust to craft Whizbang once the Boomsday Project was released. Although Whizbang was capable of hitting Rank 15 from its release, I was only playing Whizbang on ladder in order to finish non-class specific daily quests. Consequently, it wasn't until February 2019, with the Faster Climb Ranked Play Update, when they reduced 20-15 from 5 to 3 stars, that I started to regularly hit rank 15 with the account.
I converted around ~19,000 gold between June 2018 and early April 2019 into mostly Classic packs and a few legendaries deep into Witchwood, and crafted ~13,000 dust worth of Hall of Fame cards. With the Hall of Fame payout, I crafted an Odd Paladin deck (featuring a Golden Baku, which was effectively crafted for free), and I hit rank 5 with ~75% win rate from rank 15.
On average, I played about 2 games a day, and my play sessions ranged between seconds to an hour every day.
Daily Quest Optimization
The basic approach initially was to maximize gold income and while minimizing player time by (1) Reroll 50 g quests daily (if available); (2) complete Class-specific Win quests in casual; (3) prepare class-only decks for Class-specific Play cards quests in casual and play to lose. General quests were to be completed with Whizbang on the ladder for the purpose of climbing. I minimally relied on friendly matches for quest completion, but it is a viable and efficient approach.
The goal was to reroll 50 gold quests daily, if present, while completing high value quests. There's quite a bit more optimization in order to serve this goal: when to complete quests, when to leave the account alone, which quest to reroll. Packs are valued at 100 gold.
Single quest days: If it's a non-50 gold quest, complete it immediately, if it's a 50 gold quest then reroll it. If it's a non-50 gold quest, complete it immediately, otherwise leave it for the next day.
Double quest days: If there's a non-50 gold quest that can be completed without triggering the 50 gold quest, then complete it immediately. Otherwise, progress the non-50 gold quest as much as possible without triggering the low value quest, and then reroll the low value quest. After rerolling, complete all high value quests without triggering the low value quests. If both quests are low value, or if the high value quest cannot be completed without triggering the low value quest, leave the account for the day
Triple quest days: A quest must be completed this day. The priority is to complete as many high value quests as possible without triggering low value quest. Once one quest has been completed, the reasoning defaults to double quest days. If all the quests remaining are low value, complete the easiest of the quests.
Events: Events often spawn Legendary Quests or Daily quests with bonus rewards. Because event start times are often not synced to server rollover, the game rewards players who login immediately after server over to complete quests, and then receive a new quest when the event begins.
Casual Mode for Class-specific Win Quest Completion
Casual mode uses a hidden Match Making Rating (MMR) in order to pair players of similar skill/collection. By deliberately conceding many times, and conceding matches after victories, a player's MMR can be artificially kept low, and allow players to be matched against newer players, or bots when there's an infestation.
Manipulating casual mode's MMR is an optimization for play-time by getting ~80% win rate with basic decks, when the player is playing to win. Hence, low-MMR casual mode is ideal for quests that require specific wins.
Class-only builds for Class-specific Play Cards Quest Completion
Initially, there isn't enough basic cards for each class to complete their play X Class cards quests. Fill the missing cards with cycle cards like Novice Engineer, Loot Hoarder and Gnomish Inventor. Once more class cards are accumulated, low mana cost cards are of higher value because more cards can be played to serve quest completion. Echo cards are also of high value, because at 10 mana, they can often be used 5 times.
Once again, this is an optimization to minimize player time for quest completion. Because no win is necessary, playing in MMR, and playing to lose, will serve both goals of completing the daily quest and decreasing MMR, so that Win quests become easier.
Basic decks aren't usually good enough to hit Rank 15 for the Monthly Ladder Rewards, so I never bothered to devote the time to the climb. However, Whizbang offers some competitive recipes, and was easily Rank 15 capable. Therefore, when I had to complete a quest without needing to use a specific quest, I would ladder with Whizbang.
The Arena: Lose twice and forget
Arena provides players the opportunity to obtain a free pack and gold/card/dust resources every few months from Blizzard's forced retirement compensation. To this end, I would build Arena decks and play until I hit 2 losses and leave it gets auto retired. The caveat is if I hit 7-wins before 2-losses, I will complete the run for a chance at bonus rewards.
I ended up getting one compensation ticket for the end of the Taverns of Time event, two tickets for the beginning and end of the Hallowe'en Dual-Class event, and one more for the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. I can't remember if there were other Arena events that triggered force deck retirement, but if there was, this account ended up get compensation tickets for both the event's beginning and end.
I opted not to use the Arena as a source for resource collection. This usually isn't recommended for newbies, and I would rather just develop my main account than an alt.
Gold and Pack Purchasing
This is easy: I didn't spend any on packs until near the end of the Year of the Raven. Arena was usually free due to the compensation ticket, although I must have spent 150 gold sometime because my highest Arena run was with 8-wins.
Once I decided to spend gold, the guiding principle was straightforward: purchase a single pack at a time and stop immediately once a legendary is purchased. I had about 19,000 gold to convert into as much dust as possible before the Year of the Dragon rotation.
For Year of the Mammoth expansions, i.e. Journey to Un'goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds and Catacombs, I only purchased packs until I hit the first Legendary and stopped. Given the rotation system and the fact I didn't know initially if this account would be standard or wild focused, I opted to skip over the Year of the Mammoth expansions in favour of whatever Year of the Dragon may bring. This also ensured that I would have the best possible gold/legendary ratio for these sets.
For Year of the Raven Expansions, I also only opened Boomsday and Rastakhan's rumble packs until I hit the first non-golden legendary. This account got very lucky because it received a Golden Myra's Unstable Element before opening a normal legendary from Boomsday (due to separate pity timers). Witchwood initially followed the same pattern, but Hall of Fame changed things. After crafting a golden Baku and golden Genn (to prevent accidentally pulling a normal version of each card), I ended up going 5 legendaries deep (3 legendaries deeper than the other packs, which works out to be ~65 packs in total) in hopes of fishing out rare and epic hall of fame inductees. I ended up unpacking a golden Murkspark Eel and two HoF epics.
When it came time to craft cards for the Hall of Fame, I ended up going 8 legendaries deep or ~130 packs (note quite a few packs were from quest rewards and not purchased with gold). Classic packs hold their value more than expansions because they do not rotate, and often form the core of evolving archetypes from expansion to expansion.
Because I effectively ignored Years of the Mammoth and Raven, I have 5,000 gold to spend on Year of the Dragon, if I choose to participate. This account is perfectly happy to accumulate further resources and jump into standard in the next Standard Year if things are interesting.
Crafting and Dusting
Generally, I did not craft or dust unless it would necessarily improve my ability to collect more resources/quality of life for the account.
Dust only when necessary
There is no advantage to converting cards to dust, unless (1) a nerf has hit the card and Blizzard is offering full dust refund or (2) that dust has an immediate use. Keeping cards, rather than dust, allows for the possibility to take advantage of future card nerfs, and in the case of legendaries will prevent opening duplicates.
When it comes to dusting, I prioritized dusting golden copies of cards that I already had non-golden copies of. I would also dust extra cards, which can be found by typing "extra" in the collection search bar. This is fairly typical dusting priorities.
Craft Cards that Improve Quality of Life or Rate of Resource Accumulation
There wasn't anything to craft when the account was first made. With the release of the Boomsday Project, the first craft of this account became obvious: Whizbang, the Wonderful. I crafted him using the Taverns of Time dust (plus some monthly and arena rewards) so that I could play ladder to complete quests and try to hit Rank 15 for the golden rare rewards. It wasn't until 2019 that I regularly hit Rank 15. Whizbang is also very useful for constructed Tavern Brawls, when he isn't banned at least.
Save up dust for Hall of Fame
I knew Hall of Fame would be coming in April, and usually announced sometime in March. So after Whizbang, the goal was to stockpile resources to best take advantage of Hall of Fame. Before I purchased any Witchwood packs, I purchased enough Standard packs until I had accumulated 6,400 dust from extra cards in order to craft golden Genn and Baku. I did not want to open a non-golden Genn or Baku accidentally. Then I opened Witchwood packs in order to see if I could pull other Hall of Fame inductees.
I up spending 11,200 crafting 4 golden commons, 2 golden legendaries and 2 golden epics. I ended up receiving 13,300 from Hall of Fame.
Craft Decks, Not Cards
Instead of crafting the most commonly played legendary, i.e. Zilliax, I ended up crafting the Wild Odd Paladin deck. It's been strong since its inception, as either a Tier 1 or Tier 2 deck. Moreover, it consistently beats Big Priest. It is wild legend capable, and I piloted it with a 42-16 record (72% winrate) from Rank 15 to Rank 5. Odd Paladin should allow this account to reach Rank 5 every month for the foreseeable future, increasing the monthly rewards from 155 dust to 505 dust.
Note: I waited until after the Hall of Fame dust was distributed before crafting the deck. If I had crafted the deck before Hall of Fame, I would not have had enough dust to craft as much as I did in preparation for Hall of Fame.
Wild is a better investment long-term
I knew from experience that chasing the current standard expansions was a losing battle for new players. Rather the account would either save up resources to jump into a new standard year (i.e. Year of the Dragon in this case), or to wild.
Wild has several advantages over standard from a value perspective: Cards don't get rotated out, new expansion have less impact over the meta (i.e. you don't need to craft new cards), ladder play is less competitive between ranks 25 and 10 making the climb more efficient, and deck archetypes are highly varied between ranks 25 and 5 making the climb more enjoyable. Paradoxically, for some players, the meta being mostly similar from expansion to expansion is a detriment.
Committing to a Tier 1 wild odd paladin deck only really cost about 4,200 dust, if ignoring the Hall of Fame cards. This largely helped my decision to transition the account to wild. I would still have 9,000 or so dust going forward, with the option to purchase either Year of the Dragon expansions or more classic packs in order to get extra cards for dust.
Consequently, for the foreseeable future, this account will be able to hit rank 5 and even legend if I decide to devote the time to it. New expansions can come, and they will unlikely affect my ability to get to rank 5 every month. I don't know of any further dust expenditure that would allow me to collect resources faster. Dust can now be put to use for my amusement, rather than to further optimize resource collection.
Note on Newbie Strategy
There is a bevy of things that must be accomplished with a new account in service of the most important part of long-term resource accumulation: daily quests. This requires unlocking and leveling classes to 10, clearing legendary quests, and leveling one class (mage in my case) to 20.
Legendary Quests and Daily Quest Slot Management
An account created on June 13, 2018 effectively only had one daily quest slot to work with; there were two legendary quests taking up the other slots: (1) the Year of the Raven Lunara win 10 Standard games quest and (2) the Monster Hunt Quest chain. Moreover, it was during the Taverns of Time event, where quests were worth 60, 80 or 100 gold and dust, so managing quests and rerolling 60's for 100's and 80's was vital to maximize resource collection during this time.
The Lunara quest had the higher completion priority because it could be completed faster than the Monster Hunt quest line. The Monster Hunt was actually 4 distinct quests, which would replace itself. Mage, in my opinion, had the strongest basic deck, so I came up with my own version of the 0-mana Mage starter deck to complete the quest.
Level a class to 20, preferably Mage
Having a class at level 20 unlocks Tavern Brawls, which is usually good for a classic pack per week. It also allows clearing Legendary quests which reward packs from participating in Tavern Brawls. This is a high priority and should be done ASAP.
Level all classes to 10
Having all classes at level 10 unlocks Arena, which allows the lose-twice and forget approach to Arena management.
For more tips and tricks for new players, see this guide.
Other Notes and Caveats
My year-long project focused on resource collection and management, and did not factor in "fun" as a consideration. Many of the decisions, both action and inaction, were done in the service of resource maximization. I had another far more developed account to have fun on, and so I was fine leaving this account alone for a day or two. Therefore, be cautioned that following every protocol I described may not result in the most fun experience.
Also, the Year of the Dragon Hall of Fame inductees resulted in unusually generous dust awards. Moreover, I got to double dip with Baku, so that I can have a golden legendary in my Odd Paladin deck. Clearly, your own mileage will vary given that I just happened to start this project in what is likely the peak Hall of Fame rewards year.
Lastly, I'd like to express disappointment that we aren't haven't another New Pack Day for the Golden Classic pack this year. Blizzard has certainly been generous over the past year, but I just really love the idea of getting an annual Golden Classic pack and I'm sad to see it not come to pass.
I've been playing since beta and have all 9 Heroes Golden. I hit rank 5 every month, once I found out about how ladder rewards worked. Made legend in both Standard and Wild (Top 100 in the month that I did it for wild). Haven't gotten on the Arena leaderboard (yet?) though.
h Oh yeah…
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