With over 70 million players worldwide, Hearthstone has become one of the most popular fantasy card games in the word. This lighthearted take on the Warcraft universe is a testament to Blizzard’s ethos of “easy to learn, challenging to master.” So, once you have outmatched your friends and conquered the ladder, what is the next challenge?
Whether you have aspirations to become a pro or just want to meet some fellow tavern dwellers, Hearthstone Fireside Gatherings and online tournaments are the perfect place to perfect and/or flaunt your skills.
Where Can I Find a Fireside Gathering?
The answer to this depends on where you live. Some cities have thriving gaming communities that host multiple events per week, while some regions might only offer tournaments every few months. The bigger the city you live near, the more likely you will be able to find active taverns. The official site provides comprehensive listings of local tournaments and is often the perfect way to get started.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a bustling metropolis of gaming heaven, fear not, there are regular online tournaments that are open to everyone. There are even online tournaments where you can earn points that count towards Blizzcon qualification!
What Do I Need to Know Before I Enter a Tournament?
Understanding the rules is crucial to a successful tournament gambit. Whether you a playing in a best of 3, best of 5 or most other formats, you will generally be unable to use multiple deck archetypes of the same hero. Meaning, you can’t bring a Jade Druid and Token Druid deck; all of your heroes must be unique.
Think Before you Ban
Most match formulas utilize a ban system whereby the players pick one of their opponent’s decks to remove from selection. Try to ban an opponent’s deck that is a bad matchup for your decks. This can be difficult when heroes have more than one viable archetype, so be sure to consider every possibility.
For example, if you know most of your decks are weak to aggro, you should ban the deck that is the most likely to be an aggro archetype. Bans can also be a good way to optimize your tech (more on tech later).
Know Your Match Formulas:
- Last Hero Standing – Generally is a best of 3 or 5 matches. If you win, you must keep using that deck; if you lose, you can no longer use that deck. For example, if you win with an Exodia Mage deck, you have to keep using it until you lose. If you lose with your Highlander Priest deck, you can no longer use it. Keep this in mind when predicting and reacting to matchups and how you choose your bans
- Conquest – Generally best of 3 or 5; if you win, you may no longer use that deck. For example, if you win with Pirate Warrior, you can no longer play that deck for the rest of that series
Know Your Match Formats:
- Single Elimination – Lose one series of matches and you are donezo
- Double Elimination – The more forgiving format. If you lose your match, you will be dropped to the losers’ bracket. If you lose to the other losers than you lose forever
- Swiss – Swiss does not utilize a bracket and you will not necessarily be dumped out if you lose one or two times. Players will be randomly paired, they will then go on to face opponents that have similar score records, example: 1-0 vs 1-0, 2-1 vs 2-1, 2-0 vs 2-0 and so on. Once those games have been played, the lowest scoring players will be cut and the top players will generally battle it out in a single elimination bracket
Each format and formula combination will give you different opportunities to strategize against your opponents, especially when choosing decks for Last Man Standing and Conquest. Being able to predict what your opponent is planning to play and creating a plan to counter them can be the difference between victory and defeat.
For instance, in Last Man Standing, all your opponent needs is one unbeatable deck to win the series. In Conquest, having one weak deck can result in a reverse sweep. Think about every possible match-up when you pick your decks and select your bans.
Know What Third Party Software is Necessary or Banned
- Card Trackers – Many ladder players have come to rely on third party software like Deck Tracker to manage everything from their cards and secrets, to Yogg spells and board damage. Many tournaments do not allow the use of third party programs like this, so be sure to know the rules beforehand. If you know that these programs are not allowed, try practicing without them or using a pencil and paper.
- Tournament Apps and Sites – Unfortunately, Hearthstone does not have a built in tournament system. Because of this, third party tournament software has become a necessity for fireside gatherings and online tournaments. Be sure to download these apps or sign up to the services well beforehand. Being prepared for the tournament means you can focus on the upcoming games, instead of have to set up accounts and install apps at the last minute. It also helps you avoid a worst case scenario of not being able to participate at all.
Know the Meta
There are crucial differences between the normal ladder meta and tournament metas. There are many subtleties that can be the difference between getting dropped to the loser’s bracket and rampaging through your opponents to victory.
- Bans – The utilization of bans has a massive effect on tournament metas. Are you sick of seeing overplayed decks like Jade Druid or Pirate Warrior? Well, in a tournament format, these powerful and annoying decks are often banned, which means that you don’t have to worry as much about countering them or running into decks that counter tier 1 decks. For instance, an opponent might be less inclined to tech in a Golakka Crawler, if they plan to ban out Pirate Warrior decks. This would allow you to better utilize pirates in a Token Druid or Evolve Shaman deck.
- Tech – Which brings us to tech. Because you are only up against 2-4 decks at any one time and many players will likely be bringing similar deck, tech becomes even more important. Try to tech out certain decks with specific match-ups in mind. If you are playing Conquest and you know your decks are weak to Mage, try teching in an Eater of Secrets or Ooze card. The ability to destroy Atiesh or gain a surprise lethal by denying Ice Block, can quickly swing a match in your favor. You will generally want to use more tech than you would on the ladder, however make sure it’s part of a comprehensive plan to protect any weaknesses in your deck lineup and exploit predictable enemy decks
Tournaments can often last for many hours. Building your match stamina is crucial, if you plan to stay focused in the latter stages of the brackets. Make sure to clear out your schedule so you aren’t stuck in a situation where you have to worry about finishing quickly, to be somewhere else.
Bring a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated and some snacks to keep your stomach happy. Playing with a dry throat or grumbling stomach can cause you to lose focus and make misplays.
Don’t Pass the Salt
No one likes to lose, but it’s important to remember that Hearthstone is a game and sportsmanship is still important. If you attend a Fireside Gathering, remember to be kind and courteous to your opponents. Don’t maliciously BM them or sulk because of bad RNG. A “well played” or “good game” is always welcome, whether you won or lost. Local tournaments are a great way to make friends, so you don’t want to alienate yourself in the community.
Good luck, have fun and I’ll see you in the brackets!
Matt Benevento is a content contributor to The Geekiverse, avid PC gamer and always up for a heated geek related debate.
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