From Dust to Dust: The Economy of Hearthstone

One of the most fascinating things about Hearthstone is that despite the usual terminology, it is not actually a “trading card game,” in that you cannot trade. Trading is functionally replaced by a crafting system that allows you to inefficiently transform cards into any other cards whenever you like. There are advantages and disadvantages to this from a player’s perspective. The obvious disadvantage is that you can’t shape your collection without destroying value. The advantage lies primarily in not exposing players to the vagaries of a secondary market as a requirement to managing their collections. This should be a big draw for people who have never played a TCG before, as every acquisition of a new card won’t involve the feeling that as a non-expert you might be getting cheated. Related is the topic of this post: since growing your Hearthstone collection is a solo endeavor, we can compute the rate at which it happens without reference to any market conditions or other exogenous factors.

Left out of the post is a discussion of Arena rewards and the efficiency of playing Arena. I want to add this to a follow-up post as soon as I have data on Arena rewards at each tier, particularly since there are a number of good reasons to spend your gold or money on Arena rather than buying packs.

For today, however, the question we explore is how many packs you must expect to buy or otherwise acquire in order to collect any desired set of cards.

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