Developer Insights: Battlegrounds Balance

The following is being posted on behalf of John McIntyre, Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer:

Hello tavern-goers, as we wrap up the current Battlegrounds Buddies patch and prepare for the upcoming Rise of the Naga Battlegrounds Season, I want to share some data from this past patch and explain some of our design philosophies when it comes to designing and balancing heroes.

First, let’s look at the overall active* player mmr distribution right now:

  • The top 50% of players have reached 5700 mmr
  • The top 25% of players have reached 6500 mmr
  • The top 10% of players have reached 7000 mmr
  • Congratulations to the top 1% of players who have reached 8300 mmr

I also want to share the top* 10 performing heroes for all players since the last balance patch (in alphabetical order):

  • Cariel Roame
  • Chenvaala
  • Fungalmancer Flurgl
  • George the Fallen
  • Ini Stormcoil
  • Lord Jaraxxus
  • Millificent Manastorm
  • Patches the Pirate
  • Tavish Stormpike
  • Ysera

Now, let’s compare that list to the top 10 heroes for our top 1% of players during the same period (again, in alphabetical order):

  • Aranna Starseeker
  • Fungalmancer Flurgl
  • George the Fallen
  • King Mukla
  • Maiev Shadowsong
  • Sir Finley Mrrgglton
  • Mutanus the Devourer
  • Trade Prince Gallywix
  • Vol’jin
  • Zephrys, the Great

One of the reasons I am sharing this information is to show that there isn’t a universal hero ranking that applies to all players. Heroes perform differently depending on player skill and engagement with the mode. A lot of players find success with minion-type focused heroes because they provide a clear direction, but those same heroes don’t perform as well for our most competitive players. Even two players of the same skill level will find success with different heroes because they push different playstyles. The takeaway here is that players shouldn’t feel obligated to pick only the heroes that work best for the top 1% of players but should instead experiment with different heroes to see what performs best for their skill bracket, level of engagement with the game, and play style.

One of the goals with hero balance is to keep hero diversity high by making sure that heroes are kept in an appropriate band of power. We look at all skill levels when trying to identify which heroes need a nerf or a buff. That’s why we sometimes adjust a hero that is over- or underperforming for newer players, even if those same issues aren’t seen by our most competitive players.

With this in mind, what happens if a hero is too weak for one group of players but can’t be buffed because then it’d be too strong for other players? This was a design challenge we faced with Shudderwock after the launch of Buddies. Shudderwock repeats all the Battlecries you’ve triggered this game. Most players’ strategy with this hero is to buy lots of Battlecry minions and then use their hero power as late as possible to copy a bunch of Battlecry effects. However, top players use a different strategy. They mostly buy Battlecry minions that summon other minions, then they repeat those effects with the hero power for triple rewards. That strategy is harder to execute, but more powerful. Shudderwock needed a buff for the majority of players, but we didn’t want our changes to have a large impact on top players. Our design change was for the Buddy to give +2/+2 to the Battlecry minions it adds to the shop. This helped keep players alive when they were buying many different types of Battlecry minions, but didn’t have as large of an impact for the players looking to buy the one or two specific Battlecry minions.

I hope that example helps show how, even though not all individual balance changes are for every player, we do balance for every player. As a final note, nerfs are a higher priority than buffs because a hero being too strong warps games more than a hero being too weak.

With Rise of the Naga we expect a big meta shake-up and we’re excited to see what you all make of it! As this new meta develops, we’ll be applying the same balance philosophy when it comes to assessing player feedback and looking at data.

I hope this was informative and I’ll see you in the Tavern,

John McIntyre

Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer


Active*: Played at least 5 games in the last 20 days. It is late into the season so mmr is at its highest right now. Since we’re only looking at the last 20 days, this excludes players that play the new content and stop playing after a few weeks, which means this population is more engaged in BGs.

Top*: Simply put, the highest average placements since the most recent balance update.


If heroes are unbalance for low rated player they can alwais get gud at the op hero they don’t know how to play, by just watching streamer and learn the basis. But if a hero is op at good mmr mwell there is no solution for the player.

Good ideas. But the biggest issue that plagues this mode from the beginning and even to this day is how little control players have over the actual combat itself besides the use of very rare cards like Zapp. It can feel very unfun to lose from a 0.1% chance lethal due to unlucky hits. Is there any plan currently from the team to improve this issue?


ur stupid. i need 20 characters

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As someone who goes out of their way to avoid tryharding in this game, refuse to watch streamers and just learn by playing, I appreciate the example of balancing for all players.

Tbh I was pretty surprised to find out I was in the top ~10-20% just by playing a lot and focusing on fun builds over meta builds. The fact that I can do well just by picking heros I like is a sign of good design imo.


I feel like 5 games is barely any. I think at least 50 games in the past 120 days would make for more interesting numbers

Hi looking forward to spells with naga in bg just a question will buddies possibly come back one day i really liked them alot :slight_smile:

I’ll be honest I couldn’t care less how well heros perform I pick heros that I think are fun to play with and can do interesting things. If I wanted to focus on winning I’d just play midrange without hero preference.

Why would you expect a huge meta shakeup when buddies were a meta shakeup? Why would you not expect the logical thing that would be the meta would just revert to what it is prior to the introduction of buddies? You even lowered the 5 tavern back, so you’re literally just reverting the game to a state back to before buddies then introducing/removing some cards that’s not a huge meta shakeup.

Let’s be honest the shakeup is removing amalag coupled with the spore and the early maexena removal it’s obvious you’re moving away from poison. Poison is generally the equalizer so guess we’ll keep playing midrange, like we’ve always done the last 3 major patches since that consistently doesn’t get nerfed. What a change!

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the fact that you added a minion that can have poison/divine shield/+ health on top of all the other buffs ingame tells me you guys have no care to balance the format. Until you remove the poison mechanic from the format, tribes like demons will never have a chance. Give more ways to scale instead of giving people a way to offset hard work. Add some more +attack minions. But, take away the stupid poison that makes all the work of pumping up minions in vain. Also, either remove the guys that gives all dragons divine shield, or the guy that let’s attacking dragons ping. Having both mechanics makes them OP in endgame.

But, in regards to your post, what really surprises me is that only 1% have reached 8300mmr? Shoot, I’ve reached 8300mmr. And, according to many in the forums I don’t know what I’m doing. What’s the highest mmr players are hitting? Is there a game mechanic to hurt higher mmr players? Or, have the best players hit 20-30kmmr?

Naga needs a bit of balancing.
It’s quite similar to murloc, very easy to scale.
in fact, it’s way easier, so they need a nerf.

I also feel like without buddies and with naga, several tribes need a buff.
Mechs ,Beasts and pirates need SO MUCH setup before it becomes good.
Menagerie is extremely reliant on level 5 minions that you’ll barely see
Quilboars scale but doesn’t scale as well as other tribes till level 6
Demons only have wraith weaver at the start, which carries a bit. but after that it only really scales with fellbat, which is very hard to get.

Dragons only need tarecgosa and proto drake to scale infinitely.
Naga also only need 2 types, and they all work together as well.
Murlocs scale eachother without effort.
Elemental scaling also is a joke with nomi and dazzling lightspawnm yet naga outscale them easily!

I just can’t get over how after all the people that complain about poison… you add Leeroy. A poison equivilient that can even kill a divine shield biggie. People wanted a nerf and you added a stronger version.

Naga is ridiculously OP. I’ve won with crazy Naga boards and lost to the same.

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I don’t EVER use forums, but I’ve been playing Hearthstone since the Beta and this new Naga shenanigans in Battlegrounds is just broken. EVERY round at least half of the people are chasing Naga because they are so over powered. And on the contrary, the Naga Hero is just sh*t unless Bob is on your side and feeding you nagas. The top 4 in every game I’ve played since the update is Naga dominated. Seriously, I dont mind losing, it’s purely a fun strategy game, but when it’s this unbalanced it becomes more of a game of fast luck. Y’all need to fix this before you lose a chunk of your more casual gamers.
The Naga hero doesn’t gain it’s potential until way too late (especially since everyone is stealing their main cards), so if it came faster: 20 Total Attack in the War Band, but raise the cost of the to 2 gold, that would likely be more fair.
As for the excess use of the Naga, yes it’s new, and people want to play it, but good god make it less frequent.

Also, the lack of Buddy cards has made a lot of the heros useless, while others work perfectly fine without it.

Please, please work on this.

How about you guys balance the main game not the side mode we use to escape. The streamers stream Battlegrounds because the “meta” has been garbage.

Rogue is a class too… omg.

Well it’s quite simple, Leeroy is nowhere nearly as strong as poisonous minions.
It can literally only kill one minion, whereas a poisonous minion can get divine shield then HP buffs and can literally trade a whole board.

No, most of us play BGs because we like it much better, and it’s f2p. I had stopped playing standard HS for years before starting playings BGs, it just feels different and refreshing

You’ve been playing since the beta but you don’t remember that every tribe has an OP week when they release it ? It was the case with Pirates, Boars, Elems, and they already announced a nerf this thursday for nagas.

Also if you had been playing from start, you would know that buddies lead to literally the most unbalanced meta ever in BGs, with heroes avg placement spread from 2.5 to 6+ whereas they’d always been 3 to 5ish before. Buddies actually broke the game and it was not a lot of fun at high MMR.

Hopefully someone from Blizz can see that OP nagas… and do some actions.
There not so much fun now when u now there is an overpowered class and plus nagas always there for 2 weeks :)))
Definitely wont play for two weeks as before.