Today, I’m looking back on one of the more unique tournaments in the Viagame House Cup. The tournament was notable for a lot of reasons, and there was entertainment and skill in spades to see.
Viagame House Cup
Prize Pool: $20,000
On-Form Players: Amaz, Forsen, TidesofTime
Casters: Ensemble casters from participants
Viagame House Cup was a tournament held entirely in a house in Stockholm where players lived in and competed. The production crew was all setup in the house and they had two streams going and a casters lounge area.
The competitors were split from invited well-known streamers to players who qualified via a separate tournament.
Matches were played on iPads facing each other and this made for some very entertaining exchanges. The pick and ban format of this tournament was also really unique and worthy of an in-depth analysis which we’ll get to later.
Here’s the breakdown of the talking points.
- Mage was a key pick in a lot of the matches because of the deck selection phase and Freeze Mage was the more common variant.
- The tournament format allowed a bunch of unorthodox classes to excel beyond the most common Druid and Warlock.
- eK0p failed lethal in hilarious fashion video here
- RDU vs Forsen had an amazing play in a Mage vs Rogue match
- Invitees really outperformed the qualifiers, with 6 out of 8 invited players making the knockout rounds.
- Kolento’s tournament victory added to his competitive win streak which is now at 11.
- The production was generally good and had a light-hearted atmosphere.
- Long breaks between matches meant it was tough to follow the tournament all the way through from a viewer’s perspective.
This is one of the most interesting things to discuss about the Viagame House Cup. The tournament employed a really unique system of picks and bans which was an intriguing prospect even before the games begun.
In order to decide which decks were being played, each player took turns going through the pick/ban process until each player had a roster of 5 decks to compete with:
1. Ban 1 deck from your opponent
2. Pick 2 decks from among your remaining decks
3. Ban 2 decks from your opponent
4. Pick 2 decks from your remaining ones
5. Ban 1 more deck from your opponent leaving them with an obligatory pick
Series were then played in a bo5, bo7 and bo9 format depending on the stage of the tournament. The general rules for the tournament were as follows:
- The first match will be a blind pick where each player decides a deck that they play.
- The Loser cannot play the same deck again. The Winner will have the option to play their winning deck or choose another deck.
- For match 2 and forward the winning player must choose their deck first and losing player picks after.
So what does this mean in terms of playstyle? Everything! It was intriguing to watch the best players try to get an advantage before the decks had even been chosen.
The pick/ban phase of the grand final match was particularly intriguing. Kolento built his entire pick/ban process to give his Freeze Mage its best chance of sweeping by eliminating Amaz’s Hunter and Warrior deck.
Amaz meanwhile tried to pick decks he was more comfortable playing like Priest, Shaman and Zoo to make sure he was not caught flat-footed playing a deck he was unpracticed with.
At the end of the process, the casters unanimously gave Kolento the advantage who had Mage, Shaman, Warrior, Rogue and Priest vs Amaz’s Priest, Warlock, Shaman, Paladin and Mage.
As you can see, small perceived advantages like that make the tournament that much more interesting, and the series that followed was exceptional. This pick/ban process adds an additional strategy to the game which is what makes competitive Hearthstone so engaging.
So now that the format has been laid out, let’s take a look at what’s good and bad about it.
- All classes are represented.
- Winner switches style gives players more flexibility to play a longer game to win the series rather than just taking games one by one.
- Less popular classes are given a time to shine.
- More well-rounded players that can play all classes are benefited.
- Adds strategic depth to the way players approach series rather than simply match by match.
- The strongest classes in the game are often insta-banned.
- The pick/ban process makes matches take longer to play out.
- Very difficult to implement in online tournaments rather than offline.
In my opinion, this format is really great for an offline tournament like this. It makes the games more interesting to the viewers and adds strategic depth. However, I acknowledge that it is extremely difficult to make this the go-to format simply because of how involved it is.
I would however like for there to be change-up in the rules from time to time, and I consider this a very successful way to play competitive Hearthstone. I do however want to see at some point a tournament where decks can be replayed even after a loss.
Because of the RNG rolls of Hearthstone, some great decks and great players playing them can be beaten with snowball draws that are out of their hands and crucial deck eliminations like that can really decide a series on what feels like an RNG roll.
In what was a curious situation, RDU and Forsen ended up playing the exact same Mage deck in the tournament card for card.
It features duplicate as one of its two secrets instead of ice-barrier in addition to ice-block. The goal of the deck is to duplicate sludge-belchers for extra staying power while retaining the late game burn of Freeze Mage through its spells and alexstrasza
The deck also ran archmage-antonidas to help it get through resilient healing decks by bringing in additional fireballs for reach.
A curious missing element of the deck is blizzard. As a Freeze Mage, it only really runs frost-nova and the Freeze direct damage spells which are often saved for face damage.
Freeze Mage was a popular choice at the tournament because of the ban format which allowed players to eliminate its counters more easily. It is a powerful deck for sure if the draws line up correctly and the opponent has no way to up its health after Alexstrasza gets played.
Match of the Tournament
The standout game of the tournament in terms of high level play was Kolento’s game against Mlasic in the quarterfinals.
Kolento was playing at such a high level of play that he completely outsussed the entire couch of pro players commenting. Reddit’s u/shootthecrow sums it up best:
“Also that mockery he received in the Priest vs Mage game, where he used Cabal Shadow Priest to steal the Doomsayer. It was called a total missplay, but if I remember correctly, he was at 10 cards in his hand and would have overdrawn next turn if he didn’t play a card.
Every other card in his hand was more valuable vs Mage than the Cabal, since it can basically only steal the Mad Scientist.
By playing the Cabal in this scenario he prevented his opponent from playing a minion next turn. If he would have played any other card, he wouldn’t just have lost that card and kept a Cabal that he did not need. He also would have given the opportunity of building a new board to his opponent.
One turn later he received criticism for playing Pyromancer before thoughtstealing on an empty board. Again the casters didn’t catch that he was at 10 cards and would have lost a card by playing Thoughtsteal first.”
Kolento demonstrates why he is GosuGamer’s top ranking Hearthstone player in the world currently. His ability to make some really tough plays while thinking far ahead and anticipating his opponent’s moves is unmatched, and this match demonstrates Kolento’s brilliance better than most.
Viagame House Cup showcased a new tournament format which has gotten a lot of people talking amongst the Hearthstone competitive scene. I personally find the format an improvement over most current formats despite its time-consuming process.
It’s great that tournaments are looking to experiment more with different rules rather than taking the default standard of Best of 5, 1 class ban used at the Blizzcon Qualifiers. I see it as the natural evolution of competitive Hearthstone into a more serious eSport and I’m glad there are people invested enough in its future to want to constantly improve it.