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Heroes of the Storm: How to avoid the grind and get the most gold in the least time

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Blizzard’s entry into the crowded marketplace of free-to-play MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm, recently entered its closed beta test, widely expanding the pool of players who have access to the game.

Beyond the mechanics of winning an individual match, one of the key meta-goals of playing Heroes is to obtain more playable characters, either by purchasing them with real money or with in-game gold. Last year, I wrote an essay about the viability of going free-to-play in Blizzard’s online collectible card game, Hearthstone, and more recently I wrote an explanation of how to get the most in-game rewards out of your time spent in Destiny.

It seems like a good idea to give Heroes a similar treatment, especially since some strategies to maximize gold-gain aren’t immediately obvious to new players.

Daily quests and hourly gold gains

Early every morning, players in Heroes of the Storm get a random daily quest, if they have space for it in their three-slot quest log.

These are the nine possible daily quest objectives in Heroes of the Storm, along with the rewards for completing them:

  1. 200g: Play 2 games as a Diablo hero
  2. 200g: Play 2 games as a Warcraft hero
  3. 200g: Play 2 games as a Starcraft hero
  4. 300g: Play 3 games as a Support
  5. 300g: Play 3 games as a Specialist
  6. 300g: Play 3 games as a Warrior
  7. 300g: Play 3 games as an Assassin
  8. 600g: Win 3 games
  9. 800g: Play 8 games

Activities other than the daily quest are much less lucrative; winning a game in the competitive quick-match mode awards only 30 gold, while losing awards 20 gold.

If you average the reward for the daily quests, you come out to an expected value of 355 gold per quest. A game of Heroes usually takes about 20 minutes, so you only get about 75 gold per hour for games you play that do not count toward your daily quest.

This means that, for most players, the daily quest will be their primary source of gold, and playing for hours a day won’t earn you much more gold than merely completing the daily quest.

How to get the most gold from your dailies

As I mentioned above, the expected value of a daily quest when your quest log is empty is 355 gold, but there’s a trick that can allow you to improve that number a little bit.

If you already have a daily quest in your log, you cannot get that quest assigned to you again until you complete it. That means you can take a low-value quest out of the pool of possible quests by holding it in your quest log.

In the best-case scenario, you already have the quests to play 2 games as a Diablo hero and the quest to play 2 games as a Starcraft hero in your log, so the only possibilities for your next daily quest are:

  • 200g: Play 2 games as a Warcraft hero
  • 300g: Play 3 games as a Support
  • 300g: Play 3 games as a Specialist
  • 300g: Play 3 games as a Warrior
  • 300g: Play 3 games as an Assassin
  • 600g: Win 3 games
  • 800g: Play 8 games

The average value of this set of quests, and therefore, the expected value of your next quest, is 400 gold, as long as you only play with Warcraft heroes, so you don’t complete the Starcraft or Diablo quests. To be clear: If you have a quest that asks you to play two games as a Diablo or Starcraft hero you should not complete them. By keeping them in your log you’re going to increase your chances at high-value quests.

If you do this, you get 45 more gold per day than if you just got a random daily quest every day. This works out to a net expected gain of 315 gold per week. That’s an increase of 13 percent, or a gold gain equivalent to playing nearly 13 extra quick-match games.

It's best to play with Warcraft heroes if you want to do this, because Diablo does not have a Support hero and Starcraft does not have a Warrior, while Warcraft has access to all 4, so you must play with Warcraft heroes if you want to be able to complete every possible quest without ever having to complete the two you're keeping in your log.

The most expensive tier of heroes is 10,000 gold (new heroes are released at a price of 15,000, but are reduced to 10,000 after two weeks), and unlocking one of those guys will require either 28 daily quests, 133 hours of quick-match without including any daily quest rewards, or ten dollars in cash. So, daily quests award heroes at a moderate pace, but grinding does not, since the reward mechanism is skewed heavily toward dailies.

The Warcraft franchise also has heroes of every type in the bottom two pricing tiers: Support heroes Malfurion and Li Li and warrior hero Muradin for 2000 gold each, and specialist hero Gazlowe and assassin hero Illidan for 4000. The game gives new players 6000 gold in their first few hours of play, and each hero will also award you a 500 gold bonus for playing with them for a few games and leveling up, so unlocking your first few heroes is a fairly quick process.

There are several disadvantages to using your quest log this way, however: The first problem is, of course, that you can’t use heroes from the franchises related to the quests you’re avoiding. Since there’s going to be a lot of overlap between highly competitive players and players trying to maximize gold gain, this is a big problem; many of the best heroes come from the Starcraft and Diablo franchises.

The second problem is that you have to be sure to play Heroes of the Storm and complete a quest every single day, because your quest log will always be full when you’re using two of your three quest slots to keep a couple of 200 gold quests out of the daily rotation.

And, if you actually convert the value of the extra gold you earn this way to its real money value, you’re talking about a difference of only a few pennies per day.

However, if you plan your daily quests sort of strategically, but without being quite this rigid, you can generally improve your expected daily gains to around 375 gold per day without restricting yourself too much. All you have to do is avoid completing your 200- and 300-gold quests until your log is full, and make a point of completing the 600- and 800-gold quests immediately, whenever they pop up. The goal is for the high-value quests to frequently have a 2-in-7 chance of appearing, rather than the 2-in-9 chance you get when the log is empty.

A quick note: The 800 gold quest requires you to play a lot of games, which makes it tempting to spread your eight games over several days, but if you do, the rule about not being able to get a quest that is already in your log works against you. With that quest removed from the set of all possible dailies, the expected value of your next quest falls to 300g.

How to do your dailies with as little effort as possible

If you’re more concerned with doing your daily quests with the minimal possible effort, rather than extracting the maximum possible yield in gold, you can try to get multiple daily quests in your log that have overlapping conditions, so you can complete several quests with a very low total number of games.

For example, if you have a quest to play two games as a Diablo hero, a quest to play three games as an Assassin, and a quest to win three games, you can complete all three quests in a total of three games if you play as Valla and win all your games.

In addition to the player-versus-player hero league and quick-match modes, Heroes of the Storm has a cooperative mode in which a team of players match up against a team of computer-controlled "bot" players. Wins in this mode award only 10 gold, but the bots always lose and don’t even really put up much of a fight, so the games are 10-15 minutes long, rather than the 20-25 minutes quick-match games usually take.

Playing co-op can clear your quest log very quickly. This is especially important to keep in mind when you have the "win three games" quest; that quest can take two hours to finish in quick-match, but it will never take more than 45 minutes in cooperative.

So, even if you’re only playing a few times a week for about an hour at a time, you can keep up with daily quests in Heroes very easily. This is one of the best selling points of the game: It’s a MOBA for people with little time for MOBAs.

Is Heroes of the Storm stingier than other free-to-play games?

A vocal contingent of Heroes of the Storm players have been complaining since early in the alpha test that the game’s heroes are too expensive and that gold gain is too slow.

Their argument isn’t entirely invalid. The reward system tilts heavily toward the daily quest system and gold tapers off to a trickle after the quest is complete. This means that, while it’s easy for a casual player to keep up with the daily quests in Heroes of the Storm, it’s pretty difficult for a dedicated player to grind out currency.

By contrast, the most popular MOBA, League of Legends, prices its highest tier of heroes at 6,300 Influence Points (IP), its in-game currency. League uses a complicated equation to determine how much currency you earn for each game, but, if you win half the time, it works out to about 120 IP per hour.

You also get a 150 IP bonus for your first win of the day. This bonus is analogous to Heroes of the Storm’s daily quest.

If you ignore first-win bonuses and daily quests, League has a much higher per-hour payout; you can unlock a League champion from the highest price-tier in less than half the number of hours you would need to play to buy a high-priced character in Heroes.

However, the first-win bonus only rewards value equal to about an hour and fifteen minutes of regular play, while a Heroes of the Storm daily quest is worth the same amount of currency as about five hours of playing quick-match.

To put it another way, while the hourly gold gain in Heroes is much lower than the hourly IP gain in League, the Heroes daily quest is much more valuable than League’s first-win bonus.

It’s also much easier for casual players to complete Heroes daily quests than it is for a League player to earn all his first-wins. First of all, you lose a chance for a first-win bonus in League each day you don’t win a game, while Heroes allows you to save your quests. Second, getting a League win can take much longer than completing a Heroes daily quest, since League games routinely take 45 minutes or longer to finish.

This is a selling points of the game: It’s a MOBA for people with little time for MOBAs

What all the math boils down to is: If you play several hours of League of Legends every day, you’ll accrue rewards at a faster clip than you would if you spent a similar amount of time in Heroes of the Storm. But Heroes is much friendlier if you don’t play every day and your play sessions are shorter.

Of course, that won’t settle any arguments with players who prefer League’s system, or those who simply feel like the rewards for Heroes games are too low. And maybe it shouldn’t.

Here’s another way of looking at gold gain in Heroes of the Storm: A daily Hearthstone quest yields an expected value of about 50 gold per day, and you get an additional 10 gold for every three games you win. 40 Hearthstone packs sell for $50, or about $1.25 per pack. A single pack also sells for 100 gold, so a daily Hearthstone quest is worth about sixty cents, while the 10 gold you get for winning 3 games is worth about 12 cents.

By contrast, relative to the cost of a $10 hero, the 355-400 gold per day you can earn from the Heroes daily quest is only worth 35-40 cents, and the 75 gold you earn per hour of playing quick match is only worth 7.5 cents.

That means Heroes of the Storm rewards you with currency worth only about two-thirds of the real-money value you get from spending the same amount of time playing Hearthstone. If you’re comparing Blizzard games, you’re right in pointing out the lost value.

Can you play Heroes of the Storm for free?

Stripping away comparisons to other games, and assessing Heroes on it’s own terms, playing for free seems pretty viable, if you’re willing to stick to cooperative and unranked quick-match games for a while before stepping into the ranked Hero League mode, which requires you to unlock at least 10 heroes.

I made a list of what I think are the 10 best heroes to have for the ranked mode, and added up their gold costs.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Valla: 2,000G
  • Tychus: 4,000G
  • Stitches: 7,000G
  • Arthas: 7,000G
  • Tassadar: 4,000G
  • Brightwing: 10,000G
  • Kerrigan: 7,000G
  • Uther: 7,000G
  • Nazeebo: 10,000G
  • Zeratul: 10,000G

The total cost for all of these heroes is 68,000 gold, which you could reasonably earn in about six months of casual play. You would be competitive in the unranked mode as soon as you unlock Valla, who is one of the cheapest heroes, and also one of the best.

So, if you’re not tempted by fancy, expensive franchise-faces like Jaina and Thrall, and you stick to collecting only the most effective heroes, it’s very possible to maintain a roster of all the top-tier characters without ever spending any money. I hope this guide gets you to that goal a bit faster.