The Arena is a game mode where players compete against each other using specially constructed decks to earn substantial rewards. It features strong elements of luck and chance, with players essentially gambling upon their own success to try to earn rewards by winning as many games as possible before their deck is knocked out. Each admission to the arena costs either 150 in-game gold or real money equivalent to $1.99 USD, €1.79 EUR, £1.49 GBP or $4.50 BRL.
Upon entering the arena, the player will be allowed to select one of three randomly selected classes. They can then choose from a series of randomly selected cards to build a new, unique deck. Unlike other play these cards are not limited by the player's current collection, and there is no limit on the number of each card that can be included in a deck (including legendaries). Players then use their decks to do battle until they have suffered 3 losses, or claimed 12 victories, at which point they will be granted a number of rewards depending on their success. Winning at least seven games before being eliminated guarantees that the player will earn their entry fee back in gold. Players do not have to play all of their Arena games in one go, and can return to continue their run whenever they wish.
After selecting a payment method (150 in-game gold or real life currency equivalent to $1.99 USD, €1.79 EUR, £1.49 GBP, R$4.50 BRL, 66 RUB), the player will be presented with three random hero classes to choose from. Once a hero has been selected, they will then be shown thirty different sets of cards, each set featuring three different cards. The player must select one card from each set to be included in their new Arena deck; the two cards not chosen from a set are effectively discarded. Once a card has been chosen, the player cannot undo their selection. Collectible cards of any card set and rarity may be presented for selection, except for cards from the Promo set.
Unlike in constructed play, where each deck can feature a maximum of 2 of each card (and 1 of each legendary), there is no limit in Arena decks to the number of each card that may be featured. Some cards, especially those of lower rarity, may appear several times in different sets. Each selection set features cards of roughly equal value. For example, sets may offer three common cards, or three legendary cards. It should also be noted that only neutral cards and cards for the selected class will be suggested for Arena decks. As the player picks cards, the current decklist is shown on the right of the screen, and the deck's mana curve is displayed at the bottom of the screen, serving to give a quick indication of how the deck is balanced. Once the deck is complete, clicking the "Play" button will queue the player up for a battle against another Arena player.
Deck construction in Arena differs from that in other types of play; while the player is still able to construct a deck before doing battle, in Arena the final deck is as much the result of luck as it is careful strategy. Players have no way of knowing which cards will be offered next, making each choice difficult to make. Additionally, the fact that each card may appear several times through the selection process alters the normal rules of the game and makes weighing each card's value against that of another a slightly different process. Players with a specific strategy in mind can only hope that cards fitting to that strategy will be selected for them; or else must bend their strategy to fit the cards on offer. Because they feature randomly selected cards, Arena decks also largely transcend any involvement of real money expenditure in their construction, placing players on a relatively even playing field.
Play in Arena consists of a series of battles between Arena players, with each player using their specially constructed deck. Matchmaking for each pairing is determined by the player's win/loss record for the current run, attempting to find a player with as similar a record as possible.
During each Arena run the player can suffer up to three losses, with the number of losses so far displayed on the Arena screen. Once a player has lost 3 times, or won 12 times, their run will end, and rewards befitting their success (or lack thereof) will be offered. Once the run has ended, the player's deck will be destroyed, and cannot be viewed or played with again.
Players can also choose to retire their deck at any time and claim their reward. However, it should be noted that completing all of a deck's Arena matches cannot reduce the reward on offer, only improve it. Retiring a deck should therefore be a last resort used only when unwilling to play with the deck any longer.
It should also be noted that if either player is disconnected from the server during a match and fails to return through the reconnection feature, that match is counted as a loss for the disconnector.
Once the player has won 12 games in total, lost 3 games, or retired their deck, they will be given a Key to open up the chest for their reward. Much like when opening a card pack, the player will be presented with a number of individual rewards, and must click on each in turn to discover their contents.
A range of rewards are possible, with both the number of individual rewards granted and their possible contents determined by the number of games the player has won. Rewards may consist of Goblins vs Gnomes card packs, gold, Arcane Dust (used for crafting) and individual cards from either the Classic or Goblins vs Gnomes sets, including golden cards.
Each Key will grant the player a number of rewards, but the contents of each reward is determined randomly according to a range of possible values for that Key. Higher-level Keys grant a larger number of rewards, with more valuable contents. Higher-level Keys also have a range of possible values for the total number of rewards granted.
Certain rewards are guaranteed for each Key. The remaining rewards are determined randomly from a number of possibilities. The type of each reward appears to be chosen individually from the range of possibilities, with the result that each possible reward may be granted multiple times by the same Key. For example, a Key may reward several individual portions of arcane dust, several individual cards, or a mix of the possible reward types.
All gold and dust rewards have a range of possible values. Individual card rewards may be common, rare, epic, legendary and/or golden, and are not limited by class. All individual card rewards have an equal chance to be from the Classic or Goblins vs Gnomes sets, and those from other card sets will not be awarded. Higher rarities/golden versions of individual cards appear to be far more common at higher levels, but according to some reports can occasionally occur at lower levels. The top three Keys may reward any rarity of card, but will not reward non-golden common cards. The 12-win Key no longer rewards dust as a prize, instead providing other rewards.
All Keys grants the player one card pack. Keys at higher levels also offer a guaranteed gold reward, of a larger amount than other possible gold rewards for that Key.
Players will always be awarded one card pack regardless of the number of games they have won, and even losing 0-3 will also grant a small amount of gold/dust. Since card packs can be purchased directly from the shop for 100 gold, this essentially makes the additional cost of an Arena run 50 gold, minus however much additional gold or dust is rewarded. If the player can earn more than this amount back in additional rewards, the run can be considered to have been profitable. Gaining experience in playing Arena can of course also be considered a worthwhile reward.
Winning at least 7 games will earn the player their entry fee back in gold, in addition to other rewards. Winning 3 to 6 games compensates for the difference between buying a pack directly and earning one through Arena.
The presence of different rewards can affect the size/quality of the other rewards selected for that player. For example, being awarded a common card will increase the value of the other rewards granted by that Key. This may be due to the likelihood of the player already owning or simply having no desire for any given common card, making it likely they will simply disenchant it, for a mere 5 Arcane Dust.
Rewards are based solely upon the number of wins for the current run, and are not affected by performance in previous runs.
The below table aims to chart the range of possible rewards for each key. The 'No.' column lists the number of individual rewards granted by each Key. NB: All individual card rewards have an equal chance to be from either the Classic or Goblins vs Gnomes sets.
This table represents a collective effort to chart the range of possible arena rewards. The possible ranges of dust and gold rewards are presumed to be slightly larger than those stated, and individual cards are likely available at slightly lower levels than currently listed. Additionally, it is possible for higher rarity cards to be obtained at far lower levels than listed here, but the probability of this appears to be extremely low.
Please contribute to the table by adding your own arena rewards! When adding data, please note individual rewards, eg. 235 + 85 + 20 gold, rather than simply 340 gold.
|Wins||Key||No.||Rewards||Random reward pool|
The strategy in arena is considerably different than in constructed play. The emphasis in "draft" mode is to know the powerful basic cards and which classes have the best class-specific cards. Constructed, on the other hand is much more reliant on the player's card pool and synergies between the cards they choose to play. Players may wish to make sure they have a good grounding in the game and the capabilities of each class before entering the Arena, as the admission charge can make Arena play costly for unsuccessful players.
There are two key differences between Arena and constructed play. Firstly, the deck is not limited to 2 of each card. This can allow players to build outlandish and otherwise impossible decks, such as a mage with 7 x Frost Nova, a priest with 5 x Northshire Cleric, or a warlock with 2 x Malygos. In regular play players can use this limit to anticipate their opponent's possible cards; for example, it can generally be trusted in regular play that a priest who has already played 2 x Mind Control has no more Mind Control cards in their deck. Arena offers no such certainty; a player may lack many key basic cards, or may feature several of the same card. This affects Arena play because players are far less able to anticipate the deck construction and play of their opponent.
Secondly, players must select their cards in a fairly random process. This typically results in relatively random and unpredictable decks, and has two consequences: firstly, players cannot necessarily use their opponent's known cards to deduce the style of the rest of their deck, as is possible in constructed play; and secondly, there is a strong advantage when constructing a deck to attempt to build a strategy that is versatile, easily formed from multiple possible cards, and can function well in spite of key cards being missing from the deck. Class-specific cards are also generally selected less commonly in Arena card sets than in constructed play, making strong synergy decks less likely to find success in Arena.
Arena competition presents a very specific pattern of player elimination. As each player must either win or lose each game to proceed to the next match, it is possible to calculate the specific percentiles and distribution across the possible win/loss records. This allows players to mathematically rank their run in the Arena according to the percentage of players who have achieved the same record.
Note that these statistics do not represent the player's actual chances of reaching any number of wins. Success in Arena is substantially determined by deck construction and skill in playing each match. The numbers below merely reflect the proportion of players who reach each number of wins. In addition, while these numbers reflect the intended design, for reasons of shortening queue times it is possible players will not always be matched against players with precisely the same score. However, given the large player pools currently seen in-game, any deviation from the design is expected to be negligible.
Number of wins
Players may complete their Arena runs with between 0 and 12 wins, with the number of wins directly determining the scale of the prizes awarded.
The below table lists the percentage of runs that reach each number of wins. For example, Arena runs achieving 5 wins are in the top 22.66% of runs. 50% of Arena runs will achieve 3 wins or higher.
Exact sequence of matches
Each Arena run features a potential of 14 matches for each player, with runs ended upon reaching 3 losses or 12 wins. In each match, it is possible to win or lose the game, dividing the players between one of two possible paths.
The below table shows the percent of runs that will reach each given point on the overall potential sequence of matches, with numbers rounded off to two decimal places. The numbers in bold indicate possible final scores, assuming the player does not retire their deck. For example, we can see that only 0.02% of runs end at 12-0, and that the most common score is either 1-3 or 2-3, with more than a third of all Arena runs ending with one of these scores.
For those who are interested in the underlying mathematics, the below table shows the basic model using a theoretical count of 8192 players (2 to the power of 13), which is the smallest number of players capable of placing a whole number in each position.
Effectively, this table takes 8192 ball-bearings, and drops them through a maze which evenly divides them at each interval, thereby illustrating overall player distribution across matches. From this we can see that for every 8192 Arena players, only 2 will reach 12 wins with 0 losses, making this a 1 in 4096 achievement.
The design of the arena provides for a very different way of playing Hearthstone than that found in constructed play. In comparison, arena rewards players based more on their ability to construct decks from a less than ideal selection of cards, and to improvise in unlikely match circumstances. It also features a greater emphasis on basic gameplay skills, rather than complex strategies and specific gimmicks. Arena is far less dependent upon knowledge of the current meta, and sees far fewer highly organised decks, but frequently features unlikely, improvised and sometimes extraordinary plays which can be extremely hard to predict.
Arena also provides a second chance for cards rarely seen in constructed play. Many cards widely considered poor choices for constructed decks are presented to players as arena picks, and end up finding their way into players' decks. Because of this, the diversity of cards seen in arena is far greater than that of constructed, again contributing to a greater focus on improvisation in response to unexpected circumstances. This is one answer to the often asked questions regarding the existence of certain seemingly poor cards; while they may rarely be chosen in constructed, their presence in arena broadens the variety of the game mode, and allows it to offer almost an additional set of cards to that seen in constructed play. Not only does their presence provide a greater range of options, but due to the random nature of arena picks, these otherwise panned cards have the opportunity in arena to become valuable and even game-winning choices, due in part to the other unlikely cards presented to players when constructing their decks.
Because of the far greater difficulty in constructing a deck with a specific design, knowledge of the current meta, and the ability to play around a central gimmick or specific strategy are far less valuable in the arena. Improvisational skills are highly important, both in responding to an unpredictable opponent and in playing a less than ideally constructed deck. Players cannot rely on a common sense expectation of what the opponent's deck should hold, nor on a consistent or balanced deck of their own. While "net-decking" the latest top-ranked decklists can provide great advantage in constructed, arena is far more rewarding of a knowledge of the constituent parts of a deck, and the many ways in which they can be combined when ideal opportunities fail to present themselves.
For these reasons, a different type of player can expect to shine in arena than in constructed play. While it is possible for players to excel at both, many will find themselves consistently seeing more success in one type of play than in the other. Players with a greater knowledge of the current meta and a focus upon refining specific decks and strategies will likely fare better in constructed, while those less well-versed in the latest trends may have a better chance in the arena. The lack of opportunity for ideal deck construction allows players with less advanced deck building knowledge a greater chance of success, with familiarity with the latest decklist less valuable than a shrewd instinct for the basic building blocks of the game.
Arena can also provide a break from the relatively construction-focused domain of constructed play. While success in constructed often requires constant tweaks to a deck, and may punish players who do not keep an eye on the latest developments in the meta, a deck made in arena cannot be changed, and once built must be played as is for better or worse. This can allow players to simply enjoy doing their best under less than ideal circumstances, without excessive focus on where they could have improved the deck, especially considering the great variety between the cards offered in each arena run.
Arena also gives players a chance to experience many interesting and hard to obtain cards which they may not have the opportunity to play with in the rest of the game. While higher rarity cards are relatively uncommon picks, arena is the only mode besides the limited realm of adventures' Class Challenges in which players can play with cards that they do not actually own. This can provide great insight into which cards to craft, or simply highlight the fun of playing with cards the player has never chosen to experiment with. The variety of classes found in arena can also give players an opportunity to experience playing with classes they do not often choose, as well as sampling those classes' higher rarity cards and higher basic cards, which the player may not yet have earned.
It is possible for a player to be matched twice against the same player over the course of a single arena run. For example, if player A defeats player B, but then loses their next game, while player B is defeated by player A but then wins their next game, the two players will be a viable match-up for their third games. However, given the large player pools this is very rarely seen.
The Arena - originally titled 'The Forge' - was first conceived as a way to incorporate 'draft mode' style play into the game. Drafting with a physical CCG involved players passing round packs of cards, drawing individual cards until they had each built a deck - something many of the developers enjoyed, but which would be difficult to implement within Hearthstone. To solve this problem, the developers implemented asynchronous drafting, allowing each player to separately - yet randomly - build, or 'forge' a unique deck.
Early versions of the Forge had players keeping all the cards they drew for their deck. Admission cost several card packs, and would win packs in exchange for achieving wins. One snapshot of the development process shows the player earning a pack for each win above 4, with 10, 15 and 20 wins granting 5, 15, and 30 additional packs.
For more screenshots of the Arena during development, see Design and development of Hearthstone.
The symbols used for keys 4-10 are the same as the original Ranked play medals, in use for most of the game's closed beta. The first 3 keys are slight variations on the first 2 Ranked medals, although some of the keys have been given different names.
|Anduin||I won't let you down.|
|Garrosh||None are stronger than I!|
|Gul'dan||Embrace the shadow.|
|Jaina||My magic will prevail!|
|Malfurion||You were right to awaken me!|
|Rexxar||Only beasts are above deceit.|
|Thrall||Storm, earth, and fire, heed my call!|
|Uther||I will serve!|
|Valeera||They'll never see it coming.|
- Patch 188.8.131.5234 (2014-12-04):
- Some heroes have new unique emotes when selected at the start of an arena run.
- All card packs arena rewards are now Goblins vs Gnomes card packs.
- Patch 184.108.40.20644 (2014-03-11): Arena rewards at 10, 11, and 12 wins no longer reward common non-golden cards.
- Patch 220.127.116.1117 (2013-12-10):
- The number of matches you can win in Arena has increased to 12 (up from 9).
- Arena rewards have been restructured.
- Early alpha patches:
- 'The Forge' has been renamed 'Arena'.
- Players no longer keep the cards they select in the Arena.
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-07-22).
- Zeriyah on Twitter. - "Arena matches you against someone with as close of a win/loss record as you have."
- http://www.arenamastery.com/sitewide.php shows nonexistent dust rewards at 12 wins when counting all 12-win arena prizes after Hearthstone's official release.
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-05-22).
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-06-29).
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-11-20).