How good is Battlegrounds Season 2?

As we wait for the announcement of the next constructed balance patch, most of the attention in Hearthstone is currently directed towards Battlegrounds.
With the new economic system, the mode has been under a lot of scrutinies. A sizeable part of the community threatened and planned to quit the game if there wasn't anything justifying the now $15 required to purchase Battlegrounds' tavern ticket.

Deployed at the start of season 2, Quests are the big gameplay addition to the mode. After the outcry for removing the Buddies earlier this year, combined with the Runestones drama, the new Quests have some pretty big shoes to fill in order to convince the masses.

And if we look at social media, it looks like the new consensus (even from constructed players) is that Battlegrounds is at a new high:

So what is so good about the new additions to Battlegrounds? Is it the metagame balance, the new quests, or simply the attention that brought constructed players who are waiting for a balance patch to consider the mode once again?

Let's explore everything that happened in Battlegrounds since the start of season 2 and how the mode went from the community calling to abandon it to the hottest thing in the Hearthstone universe.

The Quests add extra layers of complexity

The biggest takeaway from the quests so far is how they help make the game more complex.
Completing a quest is basically like receiving a second power to build your strategy around. Making your quest-picking process have a similar impact to picking your hero for the game.

Actually, it might even be more important to pick the right quest, as there are two layers of decision that come with choosing your quest:

  • Picking the reward: Depending on your hero's ability, the available tribes for this lobby and your personal beliefs in terms of rewards power, not all quests are equal at all times.
  • Picking the challenge: A lot of times, we are simply looking to pick the best reward, but don't miss weighing the likeliness of completing the quest in time for it to matter.

Outside simply figuring out what the best quest rewards added to the game, the big challenge when it comes to the mechanic is being able to mix it with everything already existing in Battlegrounds.

Compared to picking your Hero, the quests feel a bit more demanding when it comes to picking the perfect one.
When picking your hero, you have to handle much less information in order to make an educated guess.

At the start of the game, only the heroes on your screen and the tribes available in the lobby are relevant information to make your pick.

When it comes to your quest though, much more information has become available compared to the hero pick:

  • You know every hero in the lobby. Meaning that you can compare your pick against others and rank yourself amongst the competition. You might already know if you are going for a win or simply trying to lock yourself into a top 4 finish.
  • You have seen 3 turns of play and can assess the quality of your start. This is particularly important to know which quests are looking easy to complete and which ones are pushing you to reconsider your starting strategy.

As a result of this additional data, quests are much trickier to pick than it looks at first sight. Already, I could see a tier list and very different opinions from notorious Battlegrounds players regarding this new feature.
Yet, something that most people seem to agree on, is that the quests made everyone forget about the pay-to-win drama.

Battlegrounds still feels like a Free to Play game so far

With Team Fight Tactics as an immediate comparison, and that game being free to play, a lot of people feared for the Battlegrounds player base upon the Runestones announcement. Especially the part where players would not be able to use in-game currency in order to buy their way into picking from four different heroes at the start of the lobby.

For those of you who don't know me outside this blog, I am an avid constructed player but never passed the casual status for Battlegrounds. I have never spent a dime on the game, but when I wouldn't need the 2,000 gold for buying packs or an upcoming mini-set, I didn't mind spending it to pick from four heroes.

Upon the announcement, I was amongst those who clearly saw a downgrade in Battlegrounds. I was never involved in the game enough to consider paying money for it, but I did play Hearthstone enough to be able to spare 2,000 gold occasionally.

Well, I feel like a winner for now with everything that's happened. And while I'm still in the mindset of not paying a dime for the mode, the quests are giving me more choices compared to when I could use gold to pick from four heroes instead of two. So, for a mode that is supposed to have become pay-to-win now, the casual player in me sees an improvement in the free-to-play experience.

Here is why:

Before, I could pick from two options or spend some gold to upgrade and pick from four options.
After the launch of season 2, I will always pick from two options at the game's start, but I get an extra decision to make, this time from three options a few turns later.

As a result, instead of asking myself if I want to choose from two or four options for the cost of 2,000. I now always pick from two, plus three for the cost of nothing.
Now, I might be oversimplifying it, but I feel like I get six potential routes now (each hero combined which any of the three quests) rather than the maximum of four routes I was offered in the past.

This is a win in my casual, completely free-to-play book.

Closing Words

I initially intended to conclude this piece with a ranking of the current best-performing heroes, and trying to gather the opinion of renowned players about quests.
Yet, on September second, patch 24.2.1 happened, reshuffling most of what we knew about the quests. So instead, I will share the words of a Battlegrounds Game Designer about the changes in said patch.

As for the heroes, it looks like Ysera is off to a hot start so far, being the only Tier 1 hero (i.e. posting an average placement in the top four) if we believe the data.

In terms of popularity, though, Sire Denathrius is dominating the competition as the only pick above the 80% mark. Unfortunately for the hero, he also looks to be a bit disappointing so far, posting an average placement of 4.61.

The most balanced heroes then look to be Heisbaron Togwaggle, with a 74.1% pick rate and a second overall rank in terms of average placement (4.08). Master Nguyen isn't doing too bad either as the other above 70% picked hero while posting a 4.23 average placement.

Of course, we are only at the start of Season 2. Lobby Legends happened this weekend, which could highlight some yet unseen strategies. Who knows what will shake up the early rankings in Battlegrounds in the days ahead!

For more stats and data about Battlegrounds, visit Tier7 on HSReplay. As for myself, you can find me on Twitter, talking about everything card games.

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