The most common question I get from new players after opening their precious boosters and getting their first couple of legendaries: “Dust or keep?”.
Some are easy, of course. There are very few reasons for wanting to keep Millhouse Manastorm
But a list can only take you so far. This article’s purpose is to help you develop the mindset of planning how to grow your collection for maximum efficiency, meaning you’ll waste as little dust as possible – ideally, none!
What I’m writing here is the guide I wish I had when I first started playing hearthstone – I’ve made a lot of bad choices over the last couple of years, and lost a LOT of dust. So please, if you are starting out, learn from my mistakes!
And if you’re a pro, well, let me say right now that while you might not agree with everything I say, there are some basics that are worth reviewing!
The first step is to have a bit of an history lesson, so you’ll understand the purpose of the disenchanting / crafting mechanics. (spoiler alert: it’s to incentivise you to give Blizzard more of your cash)
The Rise and Fall of Card Trading
In the beginning, they were called “Trading Card Games” – TCG. People bought their card packs with hard earned cash, opened them up, and hopefully got the cards they wanted. More often than not, they got cards they didn’t want. But since they were only pieces of paper, you could trade them with other players for the ones you wanted and they didn’t! A perfect solution.
Well, not completely. Magic the Gathering was a great hit with this system, but people soon understood that even at the same rarity level, some cards were more desirable than others. And as new sets were printed and old sets got out of print, some cards rose in value considerably. Soon, there was not only a trading market, but a very profitable reselling business, where some cards hit values in the hundreds of dollars. There was a lot of money changing hands.
And crucially, a lot of it wasn’t going back to Magic The Gathering’s creators, Wizards of the Coast, but kept stuck in the aftermarket. A market that remains vibrant to this day.
So the games to follow Magic’s path tried instead to position themselves as “CCGs” or “Collectible Card Games”. While some Magic players fancied themselves collectors, wanting to build full sets of cards, a CCG incentivised people to do so, and as such didn’t put such a great emphasis in trading or the second-hand market. But in the end they were still based on small pieces of paper, and as such people still engaged in trading and buying second hand to complete their collections.
Enter the digital age, where card game creators positively squealed with glee. Digital cards could theoretically be traded, but there was no precedent – it’s a brave, new digital world, after all – so it’s much easier to not offer the option to trade. The average consumer is used to digital goods being tied to an account and untradeable.
A problem arose, though. If a company like Blizzard charges you real money for a pack of random cards, and you end up getting a bunch of cards you don’t want – or worse, already own multiple copies of – chances are you won’t feel very happy with your purchase. You’ll feel like you wasted money, and you won’t buy again. And they very much want you to have a happy experience, because a happy customer is a buying customer.
Of course, if they replicated the physical model, they’d get in the same problem as the original TCGs – a lot of value would start changing hands, and those hands wouldn’t be Blizzard’s.
So they did the next best thing – they’ve allowed you to “trade” cards with the game itself – but Blizzard sets the rates. And just like in the casino, the house always wins.
Disenchanting / Crafting Ratios: The House Always Wins
Disenchanting a card effectively gives you between a quarter to a eighth of what it is effectively worth.
If hearthstone was a real world card game with paper cards, it’s as if you had to give away four Epic cards in order to get the one Epic you needed. Or like visiting a broker that would sell you any card for 4 dollars, but would only buy yours for 1 dollar apiece. Every single time. Unlike free trading where you sometimes come out on top, and often break even, here you are always on the losing end of the bargain.
I may be over laboring the point, but if you take something away from this article, it should be this: every time you disenchant a card, you get much less dust than would be needed to craft it.
Here are the ratios:
So the base rule should be: only ever disenchant cards you are 100% sure you will never need. This means duplicates ( you will never, ever need more than two cards of each, as that is the deck limit) and notoriously bad cards (like our good friend Millhouse Manastorm
And even those should give you pause, because you never know when a new card comes out that will suddenly make a previously unplayable card into a major combo component. Many a player cursed the decision to disenchant their Murloc cards after Everyfin is Awesome
Choose a Goal and Plan Ahead
I can feel your frustration already.
“Only disenchant duplicates?! You’d have to buy hundreds of boosters until you had enough dust to craft a good deck! It’s impossible unless you have a ton of cash to spend or a lot of time to play!”
I agree. The previous point represents the basis of my Disenchant / Craft philosophy, but for most of us, it’s an unattainable ideal. It surely is for me! I’m presenting it only so you have a gold standard to which you can compare your decisions.
The next best thing is committing to a path early on that will make a good deal of cards theoretically useless.
For example, I decided early on to never play Druid. Yes, this limits my options, and even places me at a slight disadvantage in a meta where the Druid is strong, but on the other hand, it means that Fandral Staghelm
Your first decision, then. Are you going to focus on:
- Playing Standard?
- Playing Wild?
- Collecting all the cards?
By the way, if you’re new to the game and just starting out, I would recommend you stick to Standard for the time being. It’s much easier to become competitive on its more restricted card pool than on Wild where you literally need to consider ALL THE CARDS EVER MADE.
If you picked option number 3, well then, I am sorry to say I have very little advice for you, besides: play a lot and mostly play Arena. This is a bit out of the scope of this article, but Arena overall gives you the best bang for your gold.
Oh, and consider becoming exclusively a Reno Jackson
If you picked option 1 or 2, you next need to decide what heroes you’ll be giving priority. I do this by dividing the nine heroes into three tiers.
The ones I play the most are “Tier 1”. In my case, this is Mage, Paladin and Shaman.
For my “Tier 1” heroes, I don’t disenchant cards that belong to my chosen format. That is, regardless of how bad a card may be, if it’s Standard, I don’t disenchant it. I disenchant all my Wild cards, because I don’t care about Wild. If I played Wild, I would not disenchant any cards for these Heroes, regardless of how useless they would seem.
“Tier 2” is for heroes I like enough that I keep viable decks for daily quests and the odd casual play. In my case, this is Hunter, Warlock and Rogue.
For “Tier 2” heroes, I try to keep up with current popular decks in my chosen format and keep the cards for the two or three more popular, as well as any outstanding set cards. As an example: I currently don’t have any hunter deck that uses Call of the Wild
I disenchant all my Wild cards, because I don’t care about Wild. Etc etc etc. Same as above.
“Tier 3” is for heroes I don’t enjoy playing. I keep no cards for these. All is dusted – no exceptions. I have a deck for each composed entirely of Basic Cards, in case I need to do a daily quest. Yup, that’s Priest, Warrior and Druid.
Please do notice that my decisions are made by my enjoyment of each class / hero, these are not “power tiers” as power changes with each expansion. I advise you to pick the ones you like the best for each of your three tiers. Power levels will change, but the base mechanics of each hero will not, or will do so much less often.
It’s harder to set up personal rules like the Tier system outlined above for Neutral cards, because potentially every deck you craft might benefit from them.
When in doubt, then, don’t disenchant. Remember the Gold Standard we set at the beginning. When you disenchant a card, that’s 75% of the value forever gone – or more.
I’m less strict when it comes to really obvious legendary stinkers like Millhouse Manastorm
What about a really bad Epic? Disenchanting it can buy you 5 rares – that’s potentially five booster’s worth of rares. It’s not too shabby, but please research the web and make sure you won’t miss that Epic card unless some really weird card comes out in the future and combines with it into a powerful combo.
If you are committed to Standard, as I am, be especially wary of disenchanting anything from the Classic Set, as that one will ALWAYS be playable – hence, Classic cards are the most valuable cards for Standard players. On the other hand, mercilessly disenchant all Wild cards. Yes, Dr. Boom
If you decide to commit to Wild instead, no set is inherently more valuable than the other. The power balance will shift with every new expansion regardless, but most quality cards will likely remain quality cards. And there’s a lot of data from past seasons on what cards are great or not, so this is one of the instances where you would do well to research those card lists and learn what the must-keeps are. Protip: Dr. Boom
So now that we’ve learned how to set up rules that will give us a modicum of self-control when disenchanting, it’s time to learn how to put the dust we do get to the best possible use.
In standard, right off the bat, your priority should be to increase your neutral card pool – specifically with cards from the Classic set, because as was mentioned above, Classic never rotates out of Standard, so those will be the cards you will be able to rely on forever. And Neutral first because you can use them across all of your favored heroes, of course – assuming it makes sense within the theme of the deck.
I would also recommend crafting a good amount of rares (and the odd common you might have not opened due to weird luck) over Legendaries. Yes, it feels good dropping a Legendary on the board and indeed, Legendaries can often swing the game or be used as finishers.
But most of the time, it’s the things you do before you drop the Legendary that wins you the game – you need a solid foundation with whatever deck you play. And that foundation is built with commons and rares.
Cards like Knife Juggler
After you have some of the most played neutral cards, remember to follow your hero tier list when crafting, as well. While you don’t want to craft ALL of your favored heroes’ cards – some of them rarely see play, after all – if you decide you want to focus on, for example, Hunter, you’re going to want to have Eaglehorn Bow
Here are some more quick-and-dirty recommendations for the beginner (but as always, don’t turn your brain off! Research the kind of decks you like, decide on what to build, and THEN commit your resources!):
Mage: Sorcerer's Apprentice
Paladin: Divine Favor
Priest: Auchenai Soulpriest
Druid: Keeper of the Grove
Rogue: SI:7 Agent
Shaman: Feral Spirit
Are these the best cards ever? No! In fact, the truly powerful cards usually come with the newest expansions. But I’m advising you to build your card pool for the long game – these are cards that will almost always be useful whenever you play these heroes, cards that are usually part of the most played decks. Hence, they are the best long-term investment for your hard-earned dust.
As you build a solid foundation for good decks with your Tier 1 heroes, you can start branching out into more powerful, but also more “niche” cards.
For example: Dark Peddler
What about the Legendaries?
The same rules apply. You should invest in neutral classics first – cards like Ragnaros the Firelord
Sure, Tirion Fordring
After you’ve gotten a good staple of classic Legendaries, you can start investigating the new cool stuff like N'Zoth, the Corruptor
Yes, crafting the old ones before the shiny new ones isn’t a sexy approach, but it’s the best long-term choice, and I want you to be playing hearthstone many years from now!
As the card pool grows, it will become harder and harder to build (and justify owning) a large, flexible collection for Wild deck-building.
If you’re serious about playing Wild – and I reiterate, that for someone starting up, that’s not an easy choice – I recommend you drill down further within your Tier 1 heroes, and pick a specific deck archetype for each.
For example, you could decide you’re going to focus on Ramp Druid, Secret Paladin, and Freeze Mage. So you research those decks, find out the cards most commonly used in building them, and craft those – prioritizing commons, rares and epics, and only then crafting Legendaries.
Again, Legendaries have a huge impact on the board, but you only have one of each in the deck and they are usually expensive, so they require a good game progression on your end – that solid progression is built around commons and rares. So you need to have your deck’s basics sorted out before you aim for the glorious finishing plays.
Here are the main points every new player should drill into their head:
- When you disenchant, you’re losing value. When you’re disenchanting something you crafted from disenchanting a previous card, you’re losing double. Consider your crafting carefully, and your disenchanting even more so!
- Don’t try to have it all. The more you think ahead and have a specific plan of what Heroes and what kinds of decks you want to play, the easier the crafting / disenchanting decisions will become.
- Legendaries are cool but it’s the rest of your deck that wins you the game. And the crafting cost of a single Legendary can buy you most of the rest of a good deck.
- Don’t turn your brain off and follow a hearthstone guide / crafting list. You need to train yourself to know how to make value judgments depending on your goals and situation, and take decisions based on that judgement. Hopefully this article has given you a good start!
That’s it, folks! Thank you reading all of this mammoth article – please let me know what you think about it in the comments below! Play nice, but feel free to tell me how wrong I am!