So You Want To Be A Hearthstone Champion?

Ladder getting stale and think you have what it takes to be a Hearthstone champion? Zenaton walks us through the first steps of entering the tournament scene.

Introduction

So you have reached legend a few times now, completed numerous powerful decks, and constantly watch professional Hearthstone tournaments, what next? Have you ever watched a live Hearthstone tournament and thought to yourself: “What a misplay, I could easily beat that guy”, then maybe it’s time to enter the tournament scene yourself. What you may not know is that tournaments are not just for professional players. Online tournaments are happening all the time on every server.  If you are interested in entering the tournament scene but are unsure how exactly to do so then allow me to help you.

Overview

Before you even start looking at tournaments or even building decks, the first thing to do is to get into a tournament mindset. Any competent player will tell you that the ladder meta is different from the tournament meta (usually ladder has more aggro decks). Since you will probably not know your opponent, you must assume that every other player in the tournament is just as good or better than you and every match will be extremely close. Keep this tournament mindset on you at all times and you’re off to a good start.

Craft a reliable and consistent deck that you are familiar with. Familiarity is so important in tournaments, because there will be nerves associated with competing. Even though you might have had a 5-game winning streak with a Shaman deck you crafted earlier in the day, don’t bring it if you don’t have enough experience with it. Be sure of yourself, and play to your strengths. Priest might counter Hunter, but if you don’t know how to play it well, don’t bring it, and instead play with what you know you are good with.

Let’s move onto finding a tournament.

Finding A Tournament

Open tournaments are happening every week and in every region. The problem that newcomers run into is actually finding these tournaments. Below I have listed a few daily/weekly tournaments that are open to anyone.

NESL www.nationalesl.com/us/hearthstone

Hearthkings www.hearthkings.com

Hearthmind www.hearthmind.net

HearthstoneOpen www.hearthstoneopen.com

Also I highly recommend using the website hearthstonecalendar.com to find more open tournaments for future Hearthstone champions.

Tournament Preparation

Congratulations, you have entered a Hearthstone tournament; now comes the difficult part of actually playing the tournament. Something newcomers don’t realize is that a little preparation will go a long way in helping you win your games. If you are completely new to tournaments there are a few things you should do. First off be very familiar with the rules of the tournament. I can not stress how important this is, it might seem like a no-brainer but sometimes there are arbitrary rules which a newcomer might not know of. For example, in some tournaments you are only allowed to play a class once for the whole series. Failure to follow tournaments rules can have a variety of consequences, sometimes you will get lucky and the game will be remade, sometimes you will be forced to take a loss, and at worse you will be completely disqualified.

The second tip I can give is very simple and that is to know how to navigate the tournament’s website. Now what I specifically mean by this is that you will want to know where to find your next opponent, how to report match results, where to find the overall brackets, and crucially, know how to contact tournament admins if a conflict arises. If you do not know how to do so already I highly recommend learning how to use IRC chat rooms since a lot of tournaments use IRC chat rooms as a fast way to contact players.

The next tip is very easy to follow. Most tournaments require you to complete a certain set of actions before the start time. Whether this is submitting deck lists or just checking in make sure to do it or you might not be allowed to participate.

After you have made your decks that you are planning to bring with you make sure they are clearly labeled. I have seen many players think they were using their Handlock deck when in fact they chose their Zoo deck because of poor deck naming.

An example of clear concise deck names for tournaments can be seen in the picture below.

The normal routine for tournaments will be that you must register in advance – through email, the tournament website, or some other tournament specific way. After registration, check-in usually is the next step. Check-in happens about one hour before the start time of the tournament. Be sure you check-in, because if you do not, then you will not be seeded into the brackets and probably will be unable to play in the tournament. The way you check-in depends on the tournament. Sometimes it is as simple as pressing a check-in button, while other times you must message an admin.

After check-in is completed, the brackets will be formed and you will learn who your opponent is. The next step depends on the tournament. Some tournaments will stream every match and will make you wait to play, while others will make you play each other as soon as possible. Below I have included a picture of a completed bracket from a recent Hearthkings tournaments that I, and other HearthstonePlayers contributors, participated in as an example of what a bracket will look like.

When your series is over make sure you report the results through the proper channels depending on the tournament. If a mistake arises, and for some reason you won but didn’t advance, be sure to get in immediate contact with an admin and stay polite and professional while you inform them of their mistake. Since there can be a lot of downtime between matches, you’ll be tempted to go browsing.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing, be sure to keep an eye on the tournament page and your Hearthstone client, because a late start can lead to a disqualification. Another quick but important note is to take a quick screenshot of the victory screen when you win. The reason for this is because if somebody falsely reports that they’ve won against you when they actually lost, you will have proof of what actually happened. While false reports are not common, they happen enough that tournaments themselves will remind you to screenshot your victory screens.

Tournament Formats

In the land of Hearthstone tournaments there is a large variety of tournament formats. Common formats that you will probably encounter are Best of X games and Swiss format.

Best of X

Let’s discuss the best of X style first because it is a very common format in both real life sports and other e-sports such as DotA 2 and League of Legends. The number of matches played in a best of X series can vary from as little as one game to as many as seven possible games. To help explain this format, I will be using a best of 3 as an example.

In a best of 3, your initial deck choice can win or lose you the game alone. A good strategy is to start with a strong all-around deck that doesn’t have too many weaknesses and has a good chance of winning against anything. Examples of these kind of decks are Druid, Zoo and Mech Mage decks. Depending on the tournament, sometimes the winner is forced to play the same deck while the loser can change decks. Other times, both players are forced to change decks. Let’s assume the hypothetical tournament we are playing in forces the winner to play the same deck. Also assume we lost our first match. For the second match, we will want to pick a deck that has a high win-rate against whatever beat us while not having too many weak match-ups. A good example is if we lost to a Midrange Paladin, Oil Rogue would be a great deck archetype to defeat our Paladin enemy and Oil Rogue has the benefit of being strong against a number of other decks. The third deck that you decide to bring can be a lot of different archetypes. It all depends on what you favor. Perhaps you want a greedy late game control deck, or maybe a fast aggro deck, or even another safe deck.

Depending on the tournament, sometimes you are only allowed to bring three decks and can only play those three decks. Below I have listed a few examples of decks that I would bring to tournaments similar to this hypothetical best of 3 tournament we created for this explanation.

Swiss Format

In my opinion Swiss format is the best format for players who are newcomers to tournaments. In Swiss format there is a no initial elimination stage. Each player is awarded a number of points after each round depending on whether they win, lose, or draw. After a certain number of rounds the points are tallied up and a set number of players who have the highest scores will move forward in the tournament. The next round of the tournament can change formats to almost anything but typically, the tournament will shift into a best of X style with the loser being either eliminated or sent to a lower bracket.

Since you will be playing against a large variety of players and therefore a large variety of decks you will want to create a strong balanced deck that you think has a chance to beat any other deck (similar to how the ladder works). If you do well enough and are able to move on, and if the tournament allows it, you can use the information obtained to fine tune your deck for the next round. Perhaps you’re running into lot of aggro, more AOE or a Zombie Chow would help. Maybe The Black Knight or a Mind Control Tech will increase your win rate? Use the information you obtained in order to finely tune your deck to lead you to victory. Beware though since some of your opponents might use different decks as well in the next round.

While there are more tournament formats out there, such as conquest, ultimately it falls onto you to read and comprehend the tournament’s format and prepare in the best way possible.

Tournament Etiquette

A big part of the enjoyment from a tournament comes from how the players treat each other. No one wants to play against bad-mannered players. So the best way to have a good time in the tournament is to have a positive mindset yourself during the tournament. For example, if you win, do not antagonize your opponent by saying how bad they played or how good you are. Instead just give a simple ‘ggwp’ and wait for your next match. On the reverse side if you lose don’t be a sore loser. Don’t whine about how your opponent got a lucky Ragnaros the Firelord snipe or how you had bad draws. Honestly it does nothing, annoys your opponent, and just makes you seem childish and immature. Just say a simple ‘ggwp’ and wish your opponent luck in his next match. The next piece of advice I have to give is a lot more important and should be followed no matter what you do. Do not create fake results or cheat in any way! No matter what your reasoning is for faking results or cheating, don’t do it. You will be caught and you will be banned from the tournament. In addition, your name will be ruined and you will always be thought of as a cheater (remember the Rdu ‘hi mom’ scandal?) Seriously, just play to the best of your ability. What fun is there to winning if you don’t do it honorably?

Post Tournament

Congratulations you have just finished competing in a Hearthstone tournament. Even though it is highly unlikely that you won the tournament if it is the first one you have played in, you can still look back at the tournament and learn from the experience to further improve your play. Perhaps you played your decks almost perfectly but your inexperience caused you to lose when selecting exactly which decks to play. Maybe you decided to play a Freeze Mage against a Control Warrior and it didn’t turn out so well. Look back on all your matches, whether you won or lost them, and you’ll find that you can improve and hopefully do better next time. If you get really interested in competing in tournaments, a great way to improve is to find a group of players who are close in skill level to you. Doing this will give you access to skilled partners who you can practice with and have friendly Best of X series to practice for your upcoming tournaments. Most of all I hope you had fun in your tournament. Even if you got knocked out in the first round, just remember that it happens to everyone even your favorite Hearthstone professionals like Amaz, Kolento, and more.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve motivated you to go and enter some open tournaments. Who knows, maybe you will be the next big Hearthstone champion? With so many cards in Hearthstone and more being added by Blizzard, the creativity in decks is endless and by playing tournaments you can find and play even more decks that you might not see on the ladder. So get on out there and become a champion today!

Thank you all for reading my article introducing Hearthstone tournaments. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and are motivated to play in a Hearthstone tournament soon. If you wish to keep up with what I am doing then follow me on twitter or watch my stream on twitch.tv.

Zenaton