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The 25 numbered ranks in Ranked play.

Ranked (also known as Ranked Play) is the serious side of Play mode, with players able to earn special ranks to reflect their prowess in battle this season. Winning and losing matches can gain or lose players rank, with the player's rank determining matchmaking. There are two separate Ranked ladders, one for each game format: Ranked Standard and Ranked Wild.

Each player's rank is reflected in a special medal, visible during Ranked play and in the Quest Log. 25 numbered ranks exist, with the Legend rank above those. The Legend rank additionally shows the player's precise numerical ranking in their region. The player's current rank is also displayed on their friends list, using whichever is higher of their Standard or Wild ranks.

Ranked play occurs in seasons, each a month long. At the end of each season rewards are handed out, and each player's current rank is reset to a far lower number. Rewards mostly come in the form of Standard format golden cards and arcane dust, and are determined by the player's highest rank that season. Reaching Rank 20 each season will also earn that season's unique card back, while reaching Legend during any season will award the Legend card back.

Ranks[edit | edit source]

Legend rank. The number indicates that the player is ranked 275th in their region.

There are 25 regular ranks, and an extra rank, 'Legend' above that. Each rank has its own medal and title, with ranks 2-25 named after minions from the game. New players start at rank 25: Angry Chicken. Note that ranks are numbered in decreasing order: the smaller the number, the higher the rank.

Winning games will reward players with extra 'stars' above their medal. Each rank has a specific number of slots waiting to be filled with stars, and once all slots have been filled, earning another star will grant the player the next rank with a single star. Above Rank 21, losing games will also cause players to lose stars, and potentially ranks.

There is one exception to this: milestones. Once a player has reached certain milestone ranks, they will be unable to drop below that rank for the rest of the season. The milestone ranks are 20, 15, 10, 5 and Legend. Losing games at any of these ranks will not cause the player to lose rank below that level. For example, a player who has reached Rank 5 will be unable to drop below Rank 5 and 0 stars that season. However, at the end of the season ranks will be reset according to the usual rules (see below), regardless of milestones.

The winning streak feature grants players a bonus star if they also won the previous two ranked matches (below Rank 5). This means that winning three games, followed by losing three games, will result in a net gain of one star; while winning five games, followed by losing five games, will result in a net gain of three stars. Note that games do not need to be played in the same session to qualify as a winning streak.

If the player is in the top 10,000 Legend players in their region, their precise ranking will be displayed inside their medal. For example, if a player's Legend medal shows the number 275, that player is currently ranked the 275th best Ranked player in their region.

Achieving a win streak
Rank Title Stars Rank Title Stars
25 Angry Chicken Mana icon.pngMana icon.png 12 Warsong Commander Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
24 Leper Gnome Mana icon.pngMana icon.png 11 Big Game Hunter Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
23 Argent Squire Mana icon.pngMana icon.png 10 Ogre Magi Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
22 Murloc Raider Mana icon.pngMana icon.png 9 Silver Hand Knight Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
21 Southsea Deckhand Mana icon.pngMana icon.png 8 Frostwolf Warlord Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
20 Shieldbearer Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 7 Sunwalker Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
19 Novice Engineer Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 6 Ancient of War Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
18 Sorcerer's Apprentice Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 5 Sea Giant Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
17 Tauren Warrior Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 4 Mountain Giant Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
16 Questing Adventurer Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 3 Molten Giant Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
15 Silvermoon Guardian Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 2 The Black Knight Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
14 Raid Leader Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 1 Innkeeper Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png
13 Dread Corsair Mana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.pngMana icon.png 0 Legend None

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • Each rank can be attained with no stars, some stars, or all stars collected. Once all stars for a rank have been collected, gaining another will take the player to the next rank, with a single star displayed. However, losing that star will not return the player to the previous rank, but will simply remove the star, leaving them on the new higher rank with no stars. Losing another star from this position will cause the player to drop a rank, but will leave them a single star missing.
    • The consequence of this is that any given rank with full stars is equal in value to the next rank up with no stars. The difference is that full stars in any rank can only be attained through winning the last match played, while no stars can only be gained through losing the previous match, or when first starting at Rank 25: Angry Chicken.
    • If you have full stars for a rank, and win a game, all stars plus bonus stars (if applicable) will be applied straight to the next rank upon attaining the stars. For example, if you are on rank 25 with 2 stars, and you win your next match, one star will be applied straight onto rank 24, making it 1/2. If you were to receive a bonus star due to a streak begun on this match, you would be on 2/2 stars on rank 24.
  • Win streak bonus stars stop being awarded at Rank 5 and higher. However, bonus stars earned at Rank 6 can carry the player one or two stars into Rank 5.
  • The milestone ranks take pressure off players, preventing losing streaks from bringing them below a certain level. They also allow room for experimentation with new decks or modifications, or simply fun with less reliable decks; being unable to lose rank allows the player to then resume their laddering efforts from where they left off.
  • Because stars cannot be lost below Rank 20, it can be considered possible for all players to reach Rank 20, given sufficient time. It can therefore be argued that the ranking system truly begins at Rank 20, with the lower ranks serving as a launch pad into the real competition.

Season reset[edit | edit source]

Your highest rank each season grants bonus stars toward your rank in the new season

Each month of Ranked play is called a season. At the start of each Ranked play season ranks are reset, with each player's new rank determined by the highest rank attained in the previous season. Players are awarded one bonus star for each rank above 25 they attained, and the player will begin the new season at the rank and star rating resulting from their total bonus stars.

For example, a player whose highest rank during the season was Rank 15 qualifies for 10 bonus stars (25 - 15 = 10). The player will therefore begin the next season as a Rank 21: Southsea Deckhand with 2 stars. Note that higher ranks contain larger numbers of stars. The highest rank attainable in this way is Rank 16: Questing Adventurer, with 3 stars, gained by reaching Legend rank in the previous season. Reaching Legend rank therefore guarantees players to start the following season at this rank.

The first time the player logs in, or enters a match, following the start of the new season, they will be shown a special announcement informing them of their rank at the end of that season, the number of stars they have earned, their rank at the start of the new season, and the ranking percentile they achieved during the last season of play, intended to reflect the position of the player's rank within the total pool of active players in that region.[1] Note that although the season reset process displays the player's rank at the end of the season, all rewards are based on their highest rank that season, with the rank at which a player ends a season having no impact on either rewards or placement.[2][3]

Note that if activated by the start of a match, the season reset window will appear during the mulligan phase, and will prevent the player from selecting cards or taking any other action until it has been removed, including waiting for its animations to complete. If playing during a season reset it is therefore recommended to log out in order to avoid disruption.

Highest rank last season Rank at start of new season Highest rank last season Rank at start of new season
25 Angry Chicken Rank 25: Angry Chicken, no stars 12 Warsong Commander Rank 20: Shieldbearer, 3 stars
24 Leper Gnome Rank 25: Angry Chicken, 1 star 11 Big Game Hunter Rank 19: Novice Engineer, 1 star
23 Argent Squire Rank 25: Angry Chicken, 2 stars 10 Ogre Magi Rank 19: Novice Engineer, 2 stars
22 Murloc Raider Rank 24: Leper Gnome, 1 star 9 Silver Hand Knight Rank 19: Novice Engineer, 3 stars
21 Southsea Deckhand Rank 24: Leper Gnome, 2 stars 8 Frostwolf Warlord Rank 18: Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1 star
20 Shieldbearer Rank 23: Argent Squire, 1 star 7 Sunwalker Rank 18: Sorcerer's Apprentice, 2 stars
19 Novice Engineer Rank 23: Argent Squire, 2 stars 6 Ancient of War Rank 18: Sorcerer's Apprentice, 3 stars
18 Sorcerer's Apprentice Rank 22: Murloc Raider, 1 star 5 Sea Giant Rank 17: Tauren Warrior, 1 star
17 Tauren Warrior Rank 22: Murloc Raider, 2 stars 4 Mountain Giant Rank 17: Tauren Warrior, 2 stars
16 Questing Adventurer Rank 21: Southsea Deckhand, 1 star 3 Molten Giant Rank 17: Tauren Warrior, 3 stars
15 Silvermoon Guardian Rank 21: Southsea Deckhand, 2 stars 2 The Black Knight Rank 16: Questing Adventurer, 1 star
14 Raid Leader Rank 20: Shieldbearer, 1 star 1 Innkeeper Rank 16: Questing Adventurer, 2 stars
13 Dread Corsair Rank 20: Shieldbearer, 2 stars 0 Legend Rank 16: Questing Adventurer, 3 stars

Matchmaking[edit | edit source]

Matchmaking at ranks 1-25 is determined by each player's rank and number of stars, aiming to match players against others of equal or similar rank.[4][5][6]

While the match is usually fairly close, at times players are matched against others of far lower or higher rank. As a rule, matchmaking tends to be most precise at around ranks 20-15, while at higher ranks it is common to see pairings between players with several ranks' difference. This appears to depend on the pool of available players at the time, with the matchmaking system accepting looser matches if necessary in order to ensure players are not left queueing for too long.[4] However, gains and losses from matches are fixed, and do not vary based on the player's relative ranks.

Players at Legend rank are matched according to a hidden Ranked matchmaking rating (MMR).[7][6] MMR is in fact tracked during all Ranked Play activity, but only affects matchmaking involving at least one Legend rank player.[8][9] MMR also determines the player's initial numbered seeding upon reaching Legend rank.[9]

While the system aims to limit Legend/sub-Legend matchings as much as possible,[10] Legend rank players are sometimes matched against sub-Legend players. When Legend and sub-Legend players are matched, matchmaking is determined by each player's MMR.[9]

Rewards[edit | edit source]

Participating in Ranked play can earn players special rewards, through several means: the Highest Rank Bonus chest, card backs and golden heroes.

Highest Rank Bonus chest[edit | edit source]

The Ranked Chest display, found at the top of the Quest Log

At the end of each season, players who have reached Rank 20 or higher in either game format (Standard or Wild) will be granted a Highest Rank Bonus chest[11] (also known as a Ranked Chest) containing rewards based on their highest rank attained that season, using whichever is higher of their Standard or Wild ranks.

Rewards may be golden cards of common, rare or epic rarity (not legendary) [12], and Arcane Dust, along with that season's card back (see below). As with Arena rewards, only cards available in Standard format card packs will be awarded.[13] Card packs themselves do not feature as rewards.[14] All card rewards are craftable, allowing them to be disenchanted if desired.[15]

The Ranked Chest is partly intended to encourage players who have achieved a high seasonal rank to enjoy Ranked play, without worrying about losing rank in subsequent matches.[16]

Chest rewards[edit | edit source]

Rewards from the Highest Rank Bonus chest are based on last season's performance

Rewards are handed out from the Highest Rank Bonus chest, corresponding to the player's highest rank, each with its own comical title, based on the matching rank. Precise legend numbering does not affect rewards.[17]

A new chest is available every 5 ranks (Legend seemingly awards the same chest as ranks 5-1, but actually features different contents). For example, the Shieldbearer's Footlocker is awarded for ranks between 20 and 16, while the Ogre Magi's Stash is awarded for ranks between 10 and 6. The chest determines the number and rarity of rewards, although individual cards are still selected randomly, with a chance to be from any Standard format set. All chests except that awarded at Legend include Arcane Dust. The amount of arcane dust awarded is determined by how high the player's rank is within that chest's rank range, ranging from 5 to 25 in increments of 5.

Due to the substantial reward increase from rank 6 to rank 5 (280 Dust value), many experienced players will aim for at least rank 5 during a season even if they don't plan on pushing to Legend.

Since Highest Rank Bonus chests are not awarded below Rank 20, all chests include the previous season's Ranked card back (see below).

Rank Title No. [18] Rewards Dust value [19] Dust gain [20]
Legend Sea Giant's Treasure (Legend) 5 3 golden commons, 1 golden epic, card back 550 25
Ranks 5-1: Sea Giant's Treasure
2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 25 dust, card back 525 5
2 2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 20 dust, card back 520 5
3 2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 15 dust, card back 515 5
4 2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 10 dust, card back 510 5
5 2 golden commons, 1 golden epic, 5 dust, card back 505 280
Ranks 10-6: Ogre Magi's Stash
2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 25 dust, card back 225 5
7 2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 20 dust, card back 220 5
8 2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 15 dust, card back 215 5
9 2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 10 dust, card back 210 5
10 2 golden commons, 1 golden rare, 5 dust, card back 205 30
Ranks 15-11: Guardian's Chest
4 1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 25 dust, card back 175 5
12 1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 20 dust, card back 170 5
13 1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 15 dust, card back 165 5
14 1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 10 dust, card back 160 5
15 1 golden common, 1 golden rare, 5 dust, card back 155 80
Ranks 20-16: Shieldbearer's Footlocker
3 1 golden common, 25 dust, card back 75 5
17 1 golden common, 20 dust, card back 70 5
18 1 golden common, 15 dust, card back 65 5
19 1 golden common, 10 dust, card back 60 5
20 1 golden common, 5 dust, card back 55 -

Card backs[edit | edit source]

Each season brings with it a unique card back, acquired through achieving at least Rank 20 in that season. These are awarded at the end of the season, as part of the Ranked Chest. Players must log in at least once during a season in order to earn its card back, even if last season's Rank automatically places them at or above Rank 20.[21]

One of the card backs available as reward for participation in Ranked play

These card backs are designed to be available to all players for participating in that season. As it is impossible to lose stars below Rank 20, earning each season's card back is simply a matter of winning a sufficient number of games, with a maximum of 11 wins needed each season. Subsequent losses cannot reduce the player below Rank 20, and therefore will not prevent qualifying players from receiving that season's card back.

Golden heroes[edit | edit source]

Main article: Golden heroes

Whenever a player completes 500 wins in Ranked play with a given hero, that hero will be permanently replaced with a golden version. These are similar to golden cards, with golden borders and special animations for the hero and their Hero Power, and will automatically be used instead of the regular version. Players can track their win progress to a golden hero on the Ranked deck selection interface.

Hearthstone World Championship[edit | edit source]

From January 2015 to August 2015, players who were in the top 100 Legendary players at the end of the season received qualifying points for the 2015 Hearthstone World Championship. See that page for details.

Seasons[edit | edit source]

Each month of Ranked play is known as a 'season'. At the start of each season all players' ranks are reset, depending on their previous rank. Each season offers its own reward for participation, in the shape of a special card back for players reaching at least Rank 20. The remaining duration of the current season is displayed for the player upon reaching 10, 5 and 3 days from the end of each season.

Dates for the North America region are given below; precise dates and times may vary by region. Currently, each season ends at 11:59 PM PST in the Americas region, and 11:59 PM CET (Central European Time) in the Europe region.[22][23]

Season Month Card back reward
Season 46: Frostfire January 2018 "Frostfire"
Season 45: Gear Up, Get Down! December 2017 "Catacomber"
Season 44: Hooked on a Reelin' November 2017 "Gone Fishin'"
Season 43: Unholy Horror Knights! October 2017 "Unholy Knight"
Season 42: Furious Frost Knights! September 2017 "Frost Knight"
Season 41: Blood Knight Bash! August 2017 "Blood Knight"
Season 40: HearthS'mores July 2017 "HearthS'mores"
Season 39: The Magic of Dalaran June 2017 "The Magic of Dalaran"
Season 38: Sunwell Unleashed! May 2017 "Sunwell"
Season 37: Un'Goro Bound! April 2017 "Un'Goro Mystery"
Season 36: Let's Get Kraken! March 2017 "Year of the Kraken"
Season 35: Come one, Kabal! February 2017 "Kabal"
Season 34: Grimestreet's Back! January 2017 "Grimy Goons"
Season 33: Paid in Jade December 2016 "Jade Lotus"
Season 32: Over the Halfhill! November 2016 "Halfhill"
Season 31: The Pie is Not a Lie! October 2016 "Pie"
Season 30: The Burning Legion September 2016 "Legion"
Season 29: An Intriguing Invitation August 2016 "Medivh’s Invitation"
Season 28: Tanned Tinyfins July 2016 "Tinyfin Beach"
Season 27: Back in Zul'drak June 2016 "Zul'Drak"
Season 26: Shadowmoon Shenanigans May 2016 "Shadowmoon Valley"
Season 25: Clutches of Evil! April 2016 "Clutch of Yogg-Saron"
Season 24: Riverpaw Ruffian March 2016 "Hogger"
Season 23: We're Not Bluffin' February 2016 "Tauren Thunderbluff"
Season 22: You've Won My ♥-Stone January 2016 "Love Is in the Air"
Season 21: The Slammin' Shaman December 2015 "Shaman Thrall"
Season 20: The League of Explorers! November 2015 "Explorer's Map"
Season 19: Highmaulin' and Brawlin' October 2015 "Highmaul"
Season 18: Exodar’s Exodus September 2015 "Exodar"
Season 17: The Grand Tournament! August 2015 "Tournament Grounds"
Season 16: Darkspear Delight! July 2015 "Darkspear"
Season 15: Nature Rises! June 2015 "Darnassus"
Season 14: Go Ninja, Go! May 2015 "Ninja"
Season 13: Sweet, Sweet Victory! April 2015 "Cupcake"
Season 12: Raging Ragnaros! March 2015 "Ragnaros"
Season 11: Luminous Lunar New Year! February 2015 "Lunar"
Season 10: Marauding Maraad! January 2015 "Maraad"
Season 9: Go Big or Go Gnome! December 2014 "Gnomes"
Season 8: Lobbin' Goblins! November 2014 "Goblins"
Season 7: Hallow’s End! October 2014 "Hallow’s End"
Season 6: Plundering Pirates! September 2014 "Pirates!"
Season 5: The Chill of Icecrown August 2014 "Icecrown"
Season 4: The Dread Necropolis July 2014 "Naxxramas"
Season 3: Colors of the Rainbow! June 2014 "Rainbow!"
Season 2: Brave the Black Temple May 2014 "Black Temple"
Season 1: Pandamonium April 2014 "Pandaria"
Test seasons
Season Start date End date Rewards
Test season 4 1 March 2014 31 March 2014 None
Test season 3 1 February 2014 28 February 2014 None
Test season 2 9 January 2014 31 January 2014 None
Test season 1 10 December 2013 9 January 2014 None

Ranking percentages[edit | edit source]

Ranked play percentages.jpg

While the ranks provide a handy guide to your progression within the Ranked play system, they do not directly state your success in relation to other players. However, while ranks change rapidly over the course of each season, by the conclusion of any season a certain percentage of players will have attained each rank. With a knowledge of the percentage of players at each rank, it is therefore possible to state a player's overall ranking within their region's Ranked play competitors.

The following data, released by Blizzard in September 2014,[24] shows the average percentage of active players at each rank at the end of any given season, based on combined data from Seasons 1-5.[25][26] By comparing your own rank at the end of each season, this can be used to get a rough idea of your overall standing in Ranked play. (It should be noted that this data was gathered prior to the introduction of "milestone" ranks at 15, 10 and 5; as a result it may be out of date.)

  • 75% of players are between ranks 25 and 15
  • 17.5% of players are between ranks 15 and 10
  • 5.5% of players are between ranks 10 and 5
  • 2% of players are between ranks 5 and Legend
  • 0.5% of players are at Legend

This data allows for further extrapolation of figures:

  • Players at or above rank 15 are in at least the top 25.5% of players
  • Players at or above rank 10 are in at least the top 8%

NB: The above figures appear to include rounding up, since the combined total equals 100.5% of players. However, it is assumed this does not majorly affect the overall proportions represented by the statistics.

You're better than you think[edit | edit source]

One characteristic of this distribution is that players commonly underestimate their true ranking within their region, due to the disproportionately small number of players reaching the higher ranks, as referenced by Blizzard in the title of their report - "You're Better Than You Think!" A player exactly half way up through the ranking system (Rank 13, Legend excluded) may expect to be better than precisely 50% of other players, when they are in fact ranked above at least 80% of their peers.

This uneven distribution across the ranks is magnified even further when the total number of stars is considered, the higher ranks having larger numbers of stars per rank. By this measure the middle rank is Rank 8 and 5 stars - a ranking which is in fact seen by only around the top 5% of players.

When total stars are taken into account, 75% of players can be seen to inhabit roughly the bottom 20% of possible rankings, with the other 80% of rankings populated by the top 25% of players. The true "top half" of rankings is populated by roughly 5% of players, with the other 95% of players occupying the lower "half" of possible ranks.

Perspective[edit | edit source]

One important factor to take into account is that these numbers include players of all levels of participation. Included are those who have played every single day and spent lots of money and/or gold on packs, as well as those who have barely played that season and who are mostly relying on basic cards.

At the least, these percentages should be considered a reflection of performance, not ability or true potential. Players who find less time to climb the ladder will inevitably end the season with lower ranks, and factors such as which cards are owned, and whether the deck is handmade or copied from an expertly-crafted decklist, will continue to affect the player's success.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • A greater variety of classes and deck types tend to be found at lower ranks.[27]
  • Ranked accounts for the majority of games played in Play mode, as of November 2016.[28]

Commentary[edit | edit source]

Every 3 victories in Play mode awards 10 gold

The rank system has certain characteristics which affect the nature and overall pattern of matchmaking in Play mode. Firstly, player ranks are subject to a soft-reset at the start of each season, reducing players to between Rank 25 and Rank 16. Over the course of a season players then slowly progress to higher ranks before their ranks are once again reset. Because players must defeat other players of roughly equal rank in order to gain rank, it is usually a little time after the start of each season before any player reaches Legend rank. Similarly, almost all players can be considered to be below their 'true' rank until well into the season.

One consequence of this is that matchmaking early in a season is a little more random, with players frequently matched against opponents of widely varying ability. As players continue to spread out through the ranks, matchmaking should pair players more accurately with opponents of similar level. This also tends to make competition more fierce early in the season, and easier as the season progresses. A player may only be able to reach Rank 14 a few days after the start of the season, but later ascend to Rank 11 once players have spread out through the ranks. Matchmaking at any level is also affected by the ascendancy of individual players. A player who has fought their way up to Rank 15 may meet a previous Legend rank player, who due to not having played since the season reset, is currently placed at Rank 16, thus providing a surprisingly stiff and rapidly overwhelming challenge from this apparently lower-ranked contender. The consequence of such individual ascent is therefore to reduce the rank of all players encountered during the climb back to their previous rank.

Due to the overall shape of player distribution through the ranks, matchmaking also tends to be most precise at roughly Ranks 20-15 (although this will shift over the course of a season). Matchmaking at these ranks usually succeeds in finding a player of almost equal stars, presumably due to the large pool of players at these ranks. In contrast, at higher ranks it is common to see pairings between players with several ranks' difference, while Ranks 25-21 often feature pairings separated by 2 or more ranks. In both cases this is likely due to a far sparser selection of players from which to find suitable opponents.

Another feature of Ranked play is the win-streak feature. This allows players winning more than two games in a row to gain an extra star each time they win a game, below Rank 5. This is useful for higher-ranked players when they begin playing each season, accelerating their ascent to an appropriate rank, but also acts to drive all players toward higher ranks, in turn further causing the average player rank to improve over the course of a season. The lack of a complementary lose-streak feature also makes uneven play rewarding - win-streaks followed by lose-streaks offer more bonus stars than the overall win:loss ratio, and can cause players to gain in rank even when they lose more matches than they win.

In theory, the win-streak feature may mean that given enough time and the right matches, almost all players would reach Rank 5. Most players at higher ranks would therefore likely end up Legends. Consider that if two Rank 25 players were to face each other continuously in Ranked play, taking turns to win a streak of games before then losing an equal streak of games, each player would in fact slowly gain in rank due to the stars awarded from their win-streaks. Given enough time, these two players would eventually reach Rank 5, without requiring any progression in their decks or abilities. If this type of progression were to occur with a large enough group of players, one would only need to be moderately superior in ability to the worst of these players in order to reach Legend rank. If this model is indeed also applicable to the larger and more random pairings found in actual Ranked matchmaking, it can be considered that there is no 'correct' rank, only the rank which players are able to reach before the end of the season, with longer seasons offering proportionately greater ranking opportunities.

In development[edit | edit source]

In October 2016 Ben Brode explained that the developers are "not 100% happy" with the current Ranked ladder system, and mentioned a number of areas that were currently under discussion:[29]

  • Better expressing the ranking percentiles
  • Improving the "last-minute jostling for high Legend ranks" at the end of a season
  • Countering the feeling of the ladder "grind"
  • Adding win-streaks for the top 5 ranks[30]
  • Reanalysing and possibly changing the number of stars awarded for each rank at the end of a season
  • Developing simulation tools to explore various possible changes: "With better simulation tools, we are planning on trying a lot of crazy things."

In January 2017 Brode and Dean Ayala streamed a Designer Insights live Q&A session discussing a number of possible improvements to the Ranked ladder systems. The full session can be found here.

February 2017 saw the introduction of Ranked Play floors, to be implemented "near the end of February". However, the developers state that this is not the only change planned.[31]

History[edit | edit source]

The medals used in the game's beta phase, prior to Patch Novice, Journeyman, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grand Master
In the old system, players would be awarded a medal at the end of each week, based upon their current rank.
Queuing for a Ranked game in the early beta. The medal indicates the player's rank, while the small icon in the top-right corner serves to toggle Ranked and Unranked play. The bar at the top indicated queue progress, prior to the addition of the Finding Opponent screen. Also of note are the old hero portraits.

During the game's beta test, and prior to December 2013's Patch, a notably different ranked system was used in Hearthstone.

Like the current system, there were several available ranks, each of which could have 0-3 stars, and the player's current rank was displayed on the Play mode deck selection screen. However, winning or losing a match did not usually result in the player gaining or losing stars. Players would often have to achieve a reasonable win-streak to earn an additional star, and could stand to lose several games without losing stars. Matchmaking was also less transparent, as player rank was not displayed during battles, and some posters on the official forums contended that the matchmaking pool for both Ranked and Unranked play (the original name for 'Casual' play) was in fact the same.

Rank was reset at the end of each week, which raised some complaint from less active players. Once the ranks reset, upon logging in each player would be awarded a medal equal to their previous rank. The intention was to have players collect these medals, either for vanity or for some other more useful purpose. However, this was never implemented before the system was changed.

Unlike the 26 detailed and iconic named ranks of the current system, the original 9 ranks were named more traditionally: Novice, Journeyman, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grand Master. The term "Three-Star Master" was commonly used to refer to the highest level below Grand Master, and was often used as a standard for high-level play. These medals are still used for Arena keys, although some of them have been given different names, or adapted slightly.

Ranked mode was originally known as "Weekly Tournament".[32]

Patch[edit | edit source]

With Patch, the system was overhauled, replacing the previous rank system with 26 brand new ranks and rebranding Unranked as 'Casual' play. The new ranks featured icons and names derived from minion cards, and the number of stars for the higher ranks was expanded to 4 or 5. The new system was far more transparent than the previous design; player rank was displayed during battle for each player. While the match was not always precise, it allowed players to understand the occasionally notable disparity between opponents, and helped to make the matchmaking process more transparent. Separate MMRs for Ranked and Casual were confirmed.

In comparison to the hidden and lethargic rank-changes of the previous system, the new system simply granted one star for each win, and removed one for each loss. A specific win-streak feature was also added, awarding bonus stars upon winning more than 2 games in a row - until Rank 5, at least. Finally, the weekly reset was changed to take place at the end of each new 'season' of play, allowing players more time to climb the ladder, and fitting plans for future rewards.

Patch[edit | edit source]

Immediately preceding the release of Hearthstone, Patch saw further adjustments to Ranked Play mode. Most significant was the change of the season reset from a complete reset to a soft reset, with each player's rank increased by one star for each rank they previously held. Prior to this, at the start of each season all players would be reset to Rank 25: Angry Chicken, throwing the previous season's Legend rank players in with the newest and least experienced. One result of this was an extremely unpredictable and often challenging experience at the start of each season, with newer players often unable to gain any stars due to repeatedly being matched against high-level players, and Legend rank players sometimes battling each other simply in order to rise above Rank 25. The new system allowed higher-rank players to start each season at a higher rank, preventing the mayhem of Legend rank Angry Chickens, and allowing lower ranked players to pick up roughly where they left off at the end of the last season, without a protracted period of lose-streaks.

With the end of the beta test seasons, this patch also finally saw the implementation of the planned rewards for Ranked play, in the form of golden heroes and the introduction of card backs. The new seasons began to take shape as strictly monthly terms determined by the calendar, complete with names and unique rewards, with the remaining duration of the current season displayed to players in-game.

Patch[edit | edit source]

The next change to the system would not come until Patch, with the addition of the Highest Rank Bonus Chest. For the first time, this added tangible rewards for improving your rank, aside from the seasonal card back at Rank 20 and the Legend card back at Legend rank.

Patch[edit | edit source]

In Feburary 2017 Zeriyah announced the introduction of Ranked Play floors, to be implemented with Patch

We’re continuously looking for ways to refine the Ranked Play experience. One thing we can do immediately to help the Ranked Play experience is to make the overall climb from rank to rank feel like more an accomplishment once you hit a certain milestone. In order to promote deck experimentation and reduce some of the feelings of ladder anxiety some players may face, we’re introducing additional Ranked Play floors.
Once a player hits Rank 15, 10, or 5, they will no longer be able to de-rank past that rank once it is achieved within a season, similar to the existing floors at Rank 20 and Legend. For example, when a player achieves Rank 15, regardless of how many losses a player accumulates within the season, that player will not de-rank back to 16. We hope this promotes additional deck experimentation between ranks, and that any losses that may occur feel less punishing.

Game formats[edit | edit source]

The advent of game formats in April 2016 brought substantial changes throughout Hearthstone, but perhaps most significantly in its effects on Ranked play. This marked the first time previously released cards had been barred from use in any game mode (aside from the odd Tavern Brawl), and the arrival of Standard format provoked a strong reaction among many players, for the first time facing losing the option to play with a sizeable portion of their hard-won cards.

Where previously there had only been a single Ranked ladder, there were now two separate ladders for Ranked Standard and Ranked Wild, with players able to choose between two different paths for pursuing their laddering ambitions. Players rank's were initially set based on the player's current rank at the point game formats are added to the game, with the two ladders independent from then on.[33]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The system of minion cards used to represent the ranks does not strictly adhere to any single rule. The main pattern is an increase in mana cost at higher ranks, although this is not entirely consistent; Silvermoon Guardian, Dread Corsair and The Black Knight break the order, the latter quite notably. There is also an increase in rarity at the higher ranks, with Ranks 6, 5, 4 and 3 being epic, and Rank 2 being legendary (Rank 1's Innkeeper presumably trumping even legendary status), but below this the rarity is fairly random, with even Rank 25 being rare, while Rank 8 is a common Basic card. In addition, there is clearly an intention to have less valuable or effective minions at the lower ranks, with the quality, value and power of the minions growing as the rank increases. This fits quite well with the increase in rarity, and is best depicted by Angry Chicken at Rank 25, as well as the innkeeper himself at Rank 1.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

End of season rewards
The start of a new season sees the old rank...
…unlocking a Highest Rank Bonus chest...
…containing various rewards...
...including last season's card back.
The old rank is then converted into bonus stars...
…and made into a new rank for the new season.
Ranked Chest
Each time a player reaches a new highest rank for the season, their chest is upgraded

Patch changes[edit | edit source]

  • Mean Streets of Gadgetzan logo.png Patch (2017-02-28):
    • Upon achieving certain milestones in Ranked Play, it will no longer be possible to lose ranks beyond those milestones for that season. The milestones are Rank 20, 15, 10, 5, and Legend.
  • Whispers of the Old Gods logo.png Patch (2016-04-24):
    • With the arrival of game formats, Ranked has been split into Ranked Standard and Ranked Wild. Rewards are now based on whichever rank is highest.
  • The Grand Tournament logo.png Patch (2015-08-18):
    • A bonus chest will be granted at the end of each season based on the highest rank reached in Ranked Play mode.
    • The gaining rank animation has been updated and lengthened.
  • Blackrock Mountain logo.png Patch (2015-03-31): The end of season rank announcement now includes a percentile for the player's success on that month's Ranked play ladder: "That puts you in the top _% of our ranked play players!"
  • March 21st 2014: The remaining duration of the current Ranked season is now displayed upon logging into the game, or entering Play mode. This system was added with Patch, but not activated until March 21st.
  • Patch (2014-03-11):
    • During each Ranked Season change, players may now start the new season at a rank higher than the default Angry Chicken rank, depending on the rank that was obtained at the end of the previous season. You’ll receive one bonus star for every rank you achieved in the previous season.
    • The Angry Chicken rank now starts with 0 stars, instead of 1. Bawk!?
    • Rewards for ranked play have been implemented.
      • A special card back will be available each season, gained by reaching Rank 20
      • Golden heroes are now available, gained by achieving 500 wins on that hero in Ranked play
  • Unknown patch: Sound effects have been added when gaining or losing stars
  • Patch (2013-12-10):
    • The Ranked play system has been completely redone
      • There are now month long seasons that reset at the end of each month
      • There are new ranks and minion portraits for all levels of play
      • You earn a star for each win and lose one for each loss and your stars determine your rank
      • Players who get to top rank of legend and are in the top 10,000 players have their exact region-wide ranking displayed
      • There will be rewards for playing ranked mode in the future, but they were not implemented with this patch, and will be added at a future date
      • Unranked is now known as Casual
    • User interface:
      • The toggle between Casual and Ranked Play modes is now more explicit.
      • Your player rank (icon and number) is now visible in the friends list, the versus screen and your BattleTag in-game.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-04-01). 
  2. Tested by User:Taohinton, end of August 2016 season. Highest rank of 19, ended at rank 20. The display stated my rank as 20, but awarded me 6 bonus stars, resulting in a rank of Argent Squire, 2 stars.
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vlk56HeqIys
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hearthhead - Breaking Down Hearthstone's Competitive Matchmaking Process. (2017-01-23). 
  5. Patch - In Ranked Play, you’ll be pitted against opponents equal to or as close to your rank as possible.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ben Brode on reddit. (2017-01-11). 
  7. Beta Forums: Ranks reset, ELO/MMR stays the same - is this working?
  8. Casual mode is brutal. (2015-01-30). 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-03-27). 
  10. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-03-27). 
  11. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-19). 
  12. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  13. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  14. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  15. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  16. The Grand Tournament at gamescom. (2015-08-05). 
  17. Whirthun on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  18. No. indicates the number of distinct awards given.
  19. Dust value indicates the amount of Arcane Dust earned by disenchanting the reward cards plus any additional rewarded dust. This shows how much each rank is "worth", which may help with setting ranking goals.
  20. Dust gain indicates the change in dust value from the previous rank.
  21. Blizzard Entertainment (2014-06-01). Hearthstone™ Ranked Play Season 3 – Colors of the Rainbow!
  22. Official Forums: Hearthstone Test Season 4 End Reminder (2014-03-24)
  23. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2015-08-31). 
  24. Hearthside Chat - You're Better Than You Think!. (2014-09-18). 
  25. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2014-09-18). 
  26. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2014-09-18). 
  27. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-11-12). 
  28. Hearthpwn.com - Dean Ayala (IksarHS) Discusses Arena and Rogues. (2016-11-25). 
  29. Ben Brode. (2016-10-20). 
  30. Ben Brode on reddit. (2016-10-20). 
  31. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2017-02-14). 
  32. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2015-06-08). 
  33. A New Way to Play. (2016-02-02).