Intro

Hey everyone, thanks in advance for taking the time to read this guide. The reason I’m making a guide on how to prepare for tournaments is because I feel like it hasn’t been done before. But more importantly I want people to understand what Competitive Hearthstone is all about.

First of all, I’ll tell you guys a bit about myself. I’m Guukboii (@ONE_Guukboii), a Belgian Hearthstone player that has been playing competitively since August 2014. With ‘Competitive’ I mean playing in Online and Offline tournaments, mostly for money or to qualify for a bigger tournament. I’ve been doing this for a very long time and I still enjoy it very much.

The thrill of getting far in a tournament and seeing the prizes come closer is amazing. I’ve also been on stage a few times and the feeling you get when you know thousands of people are watching you play is a very unique and almost indescribable experience. But apart from that, competing against other players and winning matches, proving yourself in a game you love is something that I want everyone to have. And that’s why I’m writing this guide. For anyone who’s interested,

I’ll write my record with my most notable achievements in tournaments below. Free free to check them out. (Secretly the point is that I want to ensure you that I know what I’m talking about and that I have the necessary experience.)

Achievements

International
  • Reaching top4 and therefore qualifing for the Viagame HouseCup #2 through an online qualifier of over 400(!)people.
Local
  • Winning GameForce 2015 and Firstlook 2015 ($500 1st place)
  • 3rd at Frag-o-Matic 2014 (Biggest Belgian LAN
  • 2nd Reality 2015 (Biggest Lan in The Netherlands)
  • 1st Sugarlan 2016

Different Formats

I’m not going to go too deep into this because most tournaments are played with the Conquest format which I believe most people are familiar with. There is another format though, mostly used by Dreamhack: ‘Last Hero Standing’ or ‘King of the Hill’.

I will focus on Conquest in the rest of my guide because otherwise I’ll just be doubling my own work for no reason. But I do want to specify that there is a HUGE difference in preparation between the 2 formats.

However, if there is enough interest I might write a guide on LHS/KOTH later.
(I will not be talking about the other, very uncommon, formats.
E.g. Viagame format (9 classes, 5 bans), Batstone format (Banned cards),.. etc)

Both Conquest and Last Hero Standing use the Best of 5 with ‘4 decks, 1 ban’ so I’ll be keeping that in mind during the whole guide.

A tournament without a ban is never a good idea in my opinion because there is always 1 deck/class that’s a lot stronger than the others in a certain meta and it also gives less possibilities for a strategic approach with your line-up. (More on that later).

Last Hero Standing

how-to-prepare-for-a-tournament-by-guukboii-last-hero-standing

You have 3 decks to play with. You start blind, meaning you don’t know what your opponent is going to play. You can freely choose the class you start with and so can your opponent.

Whenever a player wins with a certain class he has to keep playing this class in the next game. The opposing player’s losing class is eliminated from the whole match (Best of 5). That means that he has 2 decks left and can now freely choose what he wants to play against the other player his winning class.

This goes on until 1 player wins 3 times and therefor having eliminated all of his opponents classes.

For example:
  • Player 1 has: Druid Priest Hunter
  • Player 2 has: Warlock Warrior Rogue
  • Player 1 starts with Druid, Player 2 with Warlock.
  • Player 1 wins. Player 2‘s Warlock is eliminated. He has Warrior and Rogue left.
  • Player 1 plays his Druid again and Player 2 chooses Rogue.
  • Player 2 wins. Player 1‘s Druid is eliminated. He has Priest and Hunter left.
  • Player 2 plays his Rogue again and Player 1 chooses Hunter.
  • Player 1 wins. Player 2 his Rogue is eliminated: He has only Priest left.

And so on… until 1 player wins 3 times.

Conquest

how-to-prepare-for-a-tournament-by-guukboii-conquest

You again have 3 decks to play with. And again you and your opponent can both start with any of these decks, you don’t know what deck your opponent is going to play and he doesn’t know yours either.

The difference with LHS is that this time the winning deck is eliminated. This means that the winning player can pick any of his 2 remaining classes going into the next game.

Another difference with LHS is that the other player is not fixed on playing the same deck each game. He as well can pick any of his remaining classes.

After the first game this means the losing player can still choose out of all 3. The goal is to ‘eliminate’ all your classes by winning a single game with them. Whoever does this first, wins.

For example:
  • Player 1 has: Druid Priest Hunter
  • Player 2 has: Warlock Warrior Rogue
  • Player 1 starts with Druid, Player 2 with Warlock.
  • Player 1 wins. Player 1‘s Druid is eliminated. He has Priest and Hunter left.
  • Player 1 can choose to either play his Priest or Hunter. Player 2 can choose between Warlock, Warrior and Rogue.
  • Player 1 decides to start with Priest and Player 2 starts with Rogue.
  • Player 2 wins. Player 2‘s Rogue is now eliminated. He has Warlock and Warrior left.
  • Player 1 has Priest and Hunter left.

And so on… until 1 player wins 3 times, once with every class.

Choosing your Lineup/Decks

Deciding what decks you’re going to play is hard. On ladder it’s very easy, you just pick a deck that fits the meta well or a deck that you like playing a lot. In a tournament this is entirely different. You have to come up with a lineup that fits together very well.

First of all you have to predict what your opponents are going to bring to the tournament, this is absolutely the hardest part of going to a tournament. And probably the most important one if we talk about winning it.

If you watch a Hearthstone tournament on Twitch all you see is two people playing each other and one of them wins, sometimes you see mistakes, sometimes they play perfectly and it looks like one of them just got luckier than the other one. This is what people think competitive Hearthstone is all about. But this is so much further from the truth than you can possibly imagine. You don’t see the preparation that went into it. If you ask yourself how it’s possible for some people in the HS Pro scene to be so incredibly consistent then this is why. Preparation.

At a very high level we can expect everyone to play near perfect. (it is impossible to play completely perfect because you can’t see your opponent’s hand and/or know what card he’s going draw of the top of his deck). If every player plays near perfect in a complete mirror match (using the exact same decks) it often comes down to luck or curve. But this is very seldom the case. If two world class players of the same level play each other it will come down to the lineup most of the time. One of them will always be favoured and will most likely win, considering he doesn’t make any mistakes. But let’s get back to the point because I’m drifting off about what I really want to say: How do you choose your line-up.

Another ‘hidden goal’ in Conquest is that you want to ‘lock’ a class in your opponent’s lineup. Conquest means that he has to win with every single one of his decks. Locking one deck means that you pick a lineup that counters one of his decks so he can’t take a win with it. It doesn’t matter if he’s 2-0 ahead if he loses the next 3 games. So for example if you predict everyone to bring Shaman you could bring a line-up (4 decks) that counter e.g Shaman. Hypothetically. BUT then there’s another problem, not only are there no 4 counter decks to the most popular Shaman decks but even against their counters they still have a fairly good matchup. Locking Shaman is therefore probably out of the question.

This is where it becomes hard. Locking Tier 1 decks is often a risky move because they are Tier 1 for a reason. (Decks are rated Tier 1 most of the time either because 1: There are (almost) no real counter decks in the game against them or 2: they have a very high win rate against the other tier 1 decks. (It looks like it’s contradicting but it’s not, in the second case this often means it’s the ONLY deck that can counter the others.))

So the smartest move is to lock a deck that’s still played by most people but not on a very high power level, or at least lower than the strongest deck(s). BUT the trap here is that not everyone might play those decks so you can’t make a lineup that completely destroys that one deck but loses to the others. You have to find the perfect compromise between locking one or more decks and still being good against the other ones.

CAUTION: Decks that theoretically hardcounter another deck, like priest for example are sometimes so inconsistent that they are dangerous to bring. Priest has a lot of AOE cards (Area of Effect, board clears so to say) which makes it fairly strong against board centric decks. But on the other hand they lack draw. And if you don’t draw these board clears then you might just straight up lose the game.

I will not talk much about the current meta because I want this guide to stay useful throughout time. But I’ll try to give a personal example of how I won my last tournament.

My line-up was: Druid, Rogue, Midrange Shaman, Control Warrior.

All 4 of these decks are in quite a good spot in the meta at the moment, being tier 3 at worst although I do rate them all higher. My plan was to ban Shaman every time so I didn’t have to deal with them. (Shaman is by far the strongest class/deck in the meta) I expected to see a lot of other druids and warriors so I teched my own Druid to win against both, by playing a fairly greedy druid with Ancient of Wars and Ragnaros. I felt confident in the Control Warrior mirror and I personally believe Rogue is (arguably heavily) favoured against Druid and Control Warrior. Therefore I tried to lock Druid and Warrior (mostly druid), which I succeeded in.

Choosing the decklists

how-to-prepare-for-a-tournament-by-guukboii-choosing-the-decklists

Now that we’ve chosen our lineup with a certain plan to lock a deck/class we’ll need to tech or decks against this specific class without hurting the other lineups too much. For example: If you generally play double lightning storm in Shaman but you want to lock Control Warrior and you know you will ban their Shaman then you might consider cutting one. We’ll not go through specifics too much, that’s something entirely else that changes every week, depending on the meta.

What makes someone a good deck builder is knowing when to change what card and what to replace it with. This cannot be learned (easily), it’s a combination of understanding the meta, knowledge of the cards and the game and sometimes a little bit of luck. I can’t help you with that, you’ll need to figure that out on your own or with practice partners/friends. I just want to point out that it is really important to know that a normal ladder deck will not always be good enough to play in a tournament. And it goes the other way around as well, if you copy a deck from someone who just won a tournament, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good on ladder.

Conclusion: If you go with a certain strategy, adjust your decks to the strategy. BUT don’t overdo it, your deck needs to remain consistent. E.g. Don’t play 2 Acidic Swamp Oozes and a Harrison just because it’s good against Control Warrior when it hurts your Druid matchup tremendously.

Practising for a tournament

how-to-prepare-for-a-tournament-by-guukboii-practising-for-a-tournament

Don’t just play ladder. I’ve said before that ladder decks are not always good enough to play in a tournament. Well other people might think like that as well. Which means you will not be playing against those common decks. Try to find a friend or a practice partner to practice certain matchups and adjust those decks as well to what you expect in the tournament. Knowing how to play a matchup is extremely important. You don’t want to be thinking too much during the tournament. Don’t get me wrong, what I mean is that you want certain situations to be known to you. You don’t want to be thinking about every move, it is better to know already beforehand what the better play or playstyle is.

This is especially true for the early turns. E.g. If you’re going to play against a Freeze Mage you’ll have to know what to do best with your deck. Do you have to go as aggressive as possible and hope he doesn’t have all the answers? Do you have to play slow and outheal his damage? The more you practice the higher your chance of making it far in a tournament.

And make sure you practice correctly, always look for your own mistakes, being very critical is important. “Where could I have done something differently that would have changed the outcome of the game?”

I want to thank you all for reading my guide, I hope it helped! If you have any question, please feel free to ask them! And if you want to follow me on twitter: @ONE_Guukboii (Mostly posting decklists me and/or my teammates use(d) on ladder or in tournaments.)

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