Hearthstone is getting its biggest ladder changes since launch

Given that grinding to Legend each month in Hearthstone is likely to take more than 500 games, and potentially even more the closer your win rate drops to 50%, it's little wonder few players bother putting the time in. Especially as even if you make it, the monthly reset will set you all the way back to rank 16. Blizzard has long promised to address the system in order to make it more player friendly, and today we found out how.

In a developer update, game director Ben Brode explained the upcoming change to the ranked play ladder. Starting with the March 2018 season, players will only be reset four ranks at the end of each month. This replaces the current system, where players gain a number of bonus stars based upon how highly they climbed in the previous season.

This seems like a simple but positive solution. (So much so that you might wonder what's taken so long.) The problem with the old system wasn't just that the best players fell all the way to Rank 16. It also meant that a player at say, Rank 10, would drop to Rank 19. This jammed up the ladder at the start of every season, with ranks 15 through 20 mashing together Hearthstone's best and most dedicated with less skilled and more casual players—much to everyone's frustration.

Top-ranked players then faced a long grind to get back to where they were, while newer and less-skilled players were frequently tossed into mismatched games with these better opponents.

Under the new system, Legend players will only fall back to Rank 4. This also means that if players can reliably climb more than four ranks in a season, they will start the next season at a higher point than the last, making it more possible for players to climb to Legend over a long period of time. The old system meant any sort of Legend push required grinding out a massive number of games to climb the 15+ ranks within the month-long season. 

In addition to the rank reset change, Blizzard is also making it so every rank requires five stars to advance, whereas previously ranks 25 through 21 took two stars, 20 through 16 took three stars, 15 through 11 took four stars, and 10 through one took five stars. While this will make it slightly more difficult to climb through the early ranks, it also means that we should see more differentiation between, say, 22 and 18. Previously these ranks were only seven stars apart. Now they have a star differential of 15. 

Another beneficial side-effect of the change is that with high-ranked players not falling so far, there will be less need to play fast, aggressive decks while climbing. When an old rank reset would happen at the end of a month, many players would employ brutal aggro decks for the start of the climb back to their previous rank. Win or lose, the games would end quick, making for a more efficient climb, even with a less optimal win ratio.

The new system will continue to be tweaked over time, a sentiment that Brode reiterated on Twitter:

Brode went on to note that players' ranks will fall back four places from the rank at which they finish the season, while the highest rank they achieve will continue to be used to determine end-of-season rewards. In other words, a player who climbs to Rank 1 but then finishes the season at Rank 3 will receive the Rank 1 reward chest, but will start the next season at Rank 7.