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Hearthstone in 2018 is a vastly different game to what it was on release. Heaps of expansions and adventures have swelled the card pool. New modes have been added, both single-player and multiplayer. We have different formats now: Standard for cards from the latest expansions, Wild for everything else. Add to that the massive expansion in third-party tools – in-game overlays, data aggregation websites, tier lists curated by pro players, etc – and starting out in Hearthstone suddenly looks a lot more daunting than it ever has before. Install Hearthstone now and you’re staring down scarcity. You won’t have the cards everyone else seems to have, and the little gold you earn from the game’s introductory quests won’t last long. It’s easy to see how this can be demoralising, especially when the pool of playable cards spans multiple sets instead of just one. New players seem to be faced with two options: spend a fortune on packs or accept that they will never be competitive at the game. This is not exactly true. While packs do help, there are still ways to climb the ladder without completely emptying your bank account. Courtesy of the rotating nature of the Standard format, you are never so far behind that it’s impossible to catch up. It does help, however, to know what you're doing. Which is why we've put together this handy guide, summing up the most efficient methods to build up your collection and conquer the opposition. Starting off, it's a purchase every new player should consider making...

Think about buying the Welcome Bundle

Look, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this article promised a free-to-play solution, but here I am trying to get you to buy things. And okay, fair enough, but hear me out: The Welcome Bundle is far and away the most value-for-money you can get in Hearthstone. For £3.99 GBP (or some other comparably low fee, depending on where you live) you get 10 Classic packs, plus one random class Legendary card, also from the Classic set. For comparison, if you were to buy two Classic packs by the usual method, it would only set you back £3. Hearthstone Welcome Bundle The Welcome Bundle was designed to ease the burden on new players by offering a lot of cards for a disproportionately low fee. For this reason, you can only buy it once per account. You can still get by without the Welcome Bundle, but if you’re going to spend money on anything in Hearthstone, spend it on this.

Get good at Arena

In Arena, you pay a set entry fee (either gold or real money) and get to build – or ‘draft’ – your own 30 card deck, which you’ll use to compete against others who have done the same. You play up until you either lose three times or get to 12 wins, receiving awards at the end of the run that ramp up according to the number of wins you get. Arena is hands-down the best way to spend your gold. A card pack costs 100 gold, while an Arena run costs 150. Bearing in mind the Arena reward for zero wins is one pack already, and higher scores can reward multiple packs plus gold, even a mediocre Arena player will find themselves making up that 50 gold difference fairly quickly. Hearthstone Arena Plus, if you get good, the rewards become even more lucrative. Master the Arena and you could become an 'infinite' player, averaging enough wins to cover the entry the cost of future arena runs, effectively meaning you would never need to pay real money for Arena runs. Going infinite for long periods is the best way to grow your collection without relying on buying packs. This is easier said than done, of course. Going infinite requires both superlative in-game skill as well as sound judgement in the drafting stage. To get to this point takes experience, and that’s something you can only accrue gradually over the course of many Arena runs. There are some shortcuts, however. Take the website HearthArena, which offers a comprehensive tier list for every card you could possibly draft in arena. HearthArena assigns a numerical value to each card in each class, even ranking neutral cards differently for different classes depending on how well they synergise with that class’s cards and hero power. The result is an extremely useful resource that will dramatically improve the accuracy of any new player’s draft. I’d recommend you use it.

Master one deck

Many players get dispirited quite quickly on ladder when they discover a lot of their opponents seemingly have perfectly built decks, tuned for the metagame and featuring numerous Legendary cards. And although this isn’t always as true as it seems – lower-ranked players often have legendary cards, but not necessarily useful ones, and their decks are usually pretty outdated, too – I can still get behind the sentiment. Baku the mooneater It’s true that new players struggle with limited resources. But building a deck that can compete at the highest level isn’t actually all that difficult. If you grind for a little while, gathering yourself the 4000 or so dust required to build one of the cheaper decks in the meta isn’t too hard at all. And decks like this will always exist. The example that springs to mind in the current meta is Odd Hunter, a competitive version of which can be built for 4000 dust. There are plenty of others: just scroll down the list on HearthstoneTopDecks until the dust requirement looks palatable. Once you have that one viable deck, the only barrier to your success is learning how to play it. Persistence is key here – don’t be tempted to disenchant all your cards and ragecraft another deck if you don’t immediately see success. The next tip also might help you climb the ladder...

Watch streamers

It should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to improve at Hearthstone is to watch the best. There are no shortage of top level players regularly streaming on Twitch, many of whom make an effort to explain the reasoning behind their plays. A good way to learn is to try to figure out what you would do each turn, then see what the pro player does and see if your play matches up. If they did something different, try to figure out why. Kripp doing his thing Watching streams is also a neat way to discover new decks: not just the cards, but how the deck feels to play and what the matchups are like. When you don’t have too much dust, you’ll want to spend it wisely.

Don’t forget to complete your Daily Quests and Tavern Brawls

All players are issued a quest every day. These range between 50 and 100 gold in value, with the reward granted when the player has completed some kind of in-game task. Some are easily completed, such as '2 Victories,' which only requires the player to win two games with any class. Some are considerably more specific: 'Murlocalypse', for example, asks you to play 75 Murloc cards to earn a 100 gold reward. Daily Quests The important thing is to clear them as quickly as possible, and make sure no more than three stack up. Three quests is the maximum quests you can leave: any new daily quests beyond that won’t have a slot available and will disappear into the ether. Also remember you get one re-roll a day, so if you don’t like the look of a quest (or maybe you just want another shot at one with a higher gold reward) you can click the spiral arrow next to it and a new one will appear. The other regular earner is Tavern Brawls. A new Tavern Brawl challenge is issued every week, and they tend to vary pretty wildly in content but always award one pack for their completion. And free packs, as should hopefully have become clear by now, are pretty good.

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