All Battlegrounds players have been there: scrambling against the timer, furiously buying and selling like the market in frozen concentrated OJ has collapsed, only to end with unspent mana, minions stuck in hand, and a board that looks like it could be overrun by the boy scouts. I tend to just blame my 'boomer APM' and take the L, but other players have turned to more unscrupulous methods to sneak a little extra clicking time.
It’s been known since the middle of last year that you can disconnect the game towards the end of the recruit phase, skip combat entirely, and then reconnect and get extra time in the next recruit phase. The point of doing these DC shenanigans is to enable longer windows in which to pull off particularly explosive buying sprees. That often involves using Khadgar and Brann Bronzebeard to spam token minions into triples (as shown in the video further down the page), or using the right combo of Pirates to generate infinite gold.
Presumably that particular exploit hasn’t been addressed because switching the game off and on again is somewhat risky when it comes to timing it correctly, and the feature is intended to stop players who get legitimately disconnected from being severely disadvantaged. However, more problematic is a new exploit which involves altering the Windows firewall settings on your PC, allowing you to add to the turn timer almost instantly without having to close the client.
I won't explain exactly how the exploit works for obvious reasons, but you can find the method online easily enough. Unsurprisingly, it’s particularly prevalent in high MMR lobbies. I spoke to Slysssa and Kripparrian, two of the best Battlegrounds streamers in the world, about the problem. "It feels like every game that tokens are available at least one person is exploiting in high level lobbies," said Slyssa. "It’s becoming more and more common as people learn how to perform Khadgar transitions and how to install the firewall exploit."
"The good players have figured out most of the concepts and general strategy,” explained Kripp. "This exploit is often the one thing that separates players around 12k MMR from those around 14k MMR. As there are not many players above 10k MMR, when queuing in this range you are often going to experience one or two players with the ability to do this if needed.”
I asked Slyssa how she knows an opponent is potentially exploiting, and she told me that a dead giveaway is when you enter the recruit phase and that player gets 10+ triples immediately. "If you see a ton concurrently [then] chances are they got to the shop before you [and] therefore disconnected." Sylssa says facing exploiters is very frustrating, and has become more so with the addition of spells to the game, one of which offers double Battlecry effects, which enables even nuttier turns. "It puts you in a situation where you are facing a turn 16 quality board on turn eight, which is something you really can’t play around."
Kripp also noted that Pirate builds with absurd stats early in the game is a telling sign. Here the problem stems from that tribe's ability to generate additional gold. "Time is the only thing needed with an infinite gold economy," he explained. “It has certainly made me enjoy higher ranking games much less. Being eliminated by Pirate builds that are impossible with normal game mechanics is very frustrating and seems to only happen north of 10k [MMR]." As a result Kripp has deliberately reduced his MMR to find fairer matches at lower ranks.
Clearly something needs to be done for the health of the mode, which—exploits notwithstanding—has become the most popular part of Hearthstone. I’ve asked Blizzard to confirm that it’s aware of the problem and what plans are in place to address it. I’ll update you when I hear back. [UPDATE] A Blizzard spokesperson responded to say that "The team is aware and looking into it. No further information to share as of now."