Tournament Recap: Dreamhack NESCAFE 3in1

Let's Dreamhack Bucharest v2.0. It fell at a strange time flowing right into the Blizzcon World Championships, but there was still high quality decks and matches!

Hey all,

Today, I’m reviewing Dreamhack Bucharest v2.0.

The tournament fell at a strange time flowing right into the Blizzcon World Championships, but was not short of really high quality play, interesting decks and general Hearthstone tournament excitement. Let’s get into it!

Dreamhack NESCAFE 3in1

Location: Bucharest, Romania

Prize Pool: $10,000

Competitors: 16

Winner: ThijsNL

Hot Players: Gaara, eK0p, Stijn

Casters: Gnimsh, Reynad, Guest Casters

This tournament was held offline on the EU server. It is the second Dreamhack Bucharest following on from Gaara’s victory last year.

Last year’s tournament was one of the biggest Hearthstone events at the time, and saw a breakout performance from Gaara and the rise of his famous Ramp Druid deck.

This year, he’s back to try and defend his title, and faces some pretty stiff competition from other EU pros.

Here are the talking points.

Talking Points

  • Warlock dominated amongst a big wave of Hunter bans.
  • Zoo and Handlock equally represented among Warlock builds.
  • Countering Hunter was a lot of players’ priority.
  • Great casting/commentary by Reynad and Gnimsh among others.
  • Breakout performance from Belgian player Stijn.
  • Big return to form for Thijs and Gaara.
  • Solid if somewhat uncontroversial tournament.

Tournament Format

Dreamhack NESCAFE 3in1 used the default Best of 5, one class ban system that has become the standard for competitive Hearthstone.

In the group stage, players played best of 3 to speed up the series.

Best of 5, one class ban

This is the default go-to for competitive HS.  Best of 5, 3 decks, 1 ban. It’s pretty standard and is used for tournaments all over.

Today, I want to explore something a little different related to the tournament format.

Qualifying for Dreamhack

Because Dreamhack is such a prestigious tournament, there are lots of players who want to attend the event.

For this tournament, there was a 64 player open tournament to decide the final 8 slots in the main event.

There were some big names entering the event this way including Lifecoach, Logan, Faramir and last year’s runner-up danielctin14.

The qualifying process was completed in 3 group stages where the top two advance.

The format for the group stages was identical to the one used in the main event, namely, best of 3.

New alternatives

I like that the qualifying process allows players to drop a series and still come back.

Too often in Hearthstone we’ve seen some crazy draws that have allowed one player to sweep an extremely quick series. This is brutally unfair on these players who have invested time and travel to attend the event.

However, two best of 3s is still rather light and can eliminate some very good players in unfortunate circumstances.

In the interest of time, I understand why they choose to do it that way, but having an online Swiss format would be ideal in terms of finding the most worthy player.

Swiss format

For the uninitiated, Swiss format was first popularized by a chess tournament in Zurich where players are paired based on their win record and play until there is only one player with an unblemished record.

I have experience playing Swiss in competitive Pokemon, and I can definitively say it’s a great format for video game tournaments, and rarely does it throw up a situation where a player can get lucky and win say 6 games in a row.

It would be great to see a tournament implement this system for an open bracket, and have the ‘top cut’ enter the main phase of a tournament be it a group stage or straight to the knockout rounds.

Let me know what you think of this suggestion!

Meta Analysis

I seem like a bit of a broken record, but Hunters are still hugely dominate in the tournament scene.

Both Thijs and Gaara banned each others’ Hunter in the final series and that should say everything about how strong the class is right now.

I’m surprised though that more players don’t tailor their decks to beat Hunter and instead ban more fluid classes like Druid or Warlock.

Thijs for example ran both Priest and Warrior, two classes that are considered favorable against Hunter yet he still chose to ban Gaara’s Hunter.

That said, there is still room to experiment within classes like Shaman, Warlock, Druid and Priest

Let’s take a look at a new deck innovation here by Hyped.

Notable Deck

Hyped brought a new variation on Druid to this tournament. He also ran it in the Battle of the Best invitational which I covered here.

He says the deck is tailored to be better against Hunters and Priest but struggles more against Handlock and Warrior.

The key card in the deck is ancient-watcher which can get activated by sunfury-protector and wailing-soul for great stats at just 2 mana.

The rest of the deck has a number of specific tech cards made to beat other archetypes like harrison-jones and sylvanas-windrunner.

Playing it is all about combo’ing value out of the Watchers and winning with value mid-game minions topped off with 1 copy of the force-of-nature] + [card]savage-roar combo.

Match of the Tournament

The standout game for me was the final match of the tournament – an epic warrior mirror between ThijsNL and Gaara.

After a shaky start, Gaara wins a really important Brawl and then gets board control back and card advantage.

But without a way to finish his opponent, is stuck playing one minion at a time and eventually loses in an epic fatigue war.

The math here was astonishing, and what a great way for Thijs to win his first major tournament after making his name as King of the Hill.

Biggest Takeaway

I was most impressed with the production value of this tournament. Dreamhack has always been great about this, and this tournament is a prime showcase of how great competitive Hearthstone can be presented.

Extra shoutouts to Reynad and Gnimsh who cast the game superbly. I think casting and commentary is so often overlooked, and Reynad in particular has a knack of explaining his plays well which added a lot to the experience for me.