With the lack of Masters Tour Qualifiers at this time of the year, there is not a lot of data available to document the Conquest metagame early after the release of the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion. There are still a number of third party Hearthstone tournaments going on, and we chose four of them as a sample.
The OHHC Championship Series was a sponsored event where the best teams from South Korea were invited. The final week of THL Pro Series season 4 opposed 10 players currently at very high Legend ranks, and concluded a season in which 12 organizations played round robin. OSC Playoffs had some of the best players from South East Asia and Central America playing in a best-of-three format. Finally, the Tespa playoffs is where the top collegiate esports teams from North America got to shine.
Breakdown by class
The majority of the top archetypes from last expansion are still strong, though some new decks are making waves. Shaman has climbed to a position of significance, and Warlock is trying to do the same. Regardless of the class or archetype, everyone received new toys to play with.
Demon Hunter remains at the top of the meta for the third expansion in a row, with the Soul Demon Hunter package leading the way. Aggro Demon Hunter, with Acrobatics as a new draw engine, saw play but only minimally. OTK Demon Hunter seems to be a fad, and not a very good one at that. Someone out there (specifically ちぇえん) is trying to prove that Expendable Performers is a card to be scared of. They’ve proven themselves by getting second place in the OSC playoffs, but none of us are convinced.
Warrior is in a bit of an interesting spot. The ETC combo has become popular, and we see a split between the traditional Bomb Warrior and the new ETC Warrior. Enrage and traditional Control lists still come up with some representation, along with Darkmoon’s new Menagerie Warrior. Like Token Demon Hunter, the performance of Menagerie Warrior is moreso due to its low sample size with skillful pilots, and less related to the deck’s overall power level.
Shaman is back, and it’s all because of Cagematch Custodian. Evolve Shaman, utilizing Custodian, Boggspine Knuckles, and a lot of Evolve Shaman classics, outshines almost every other Shaman archetype by a large margin and is the deck to expect if you’re seeing a Shaman. Be warned that, despite the success of the deck, it can prove to be quite reliant on highrolls. To the frustration of our data collector, Custodian has enabled around 7 other archetypes of Shaman to see play in tournaments. It’s a brave new world for Shamans – and it’s not a bad idea to consider adding one to a lineup.
Rogue didn’t gain any new archetypes, instead bolstering its previously established archetypes to great success. New cards like Foxy Fraud can fit into almost any deck, almost always acting as a 0 mana 3/2. Secret Rogue remains the frontrunner of the class, while aggressive variants, relying on either weapon or stealth synergy, and Galakrond lists still popping up now and again.
Paladin is in a similar position as Rogue – new cards benefit the existing strategies, but no new strategies were brought. Some of the new Paladin cards brought by the new expansion have an obvious fit into the existing Pure Paladin archetype, but people are struggling to innovate Libroom to much success. Pure Paladin swaps places with Libroom Paladin from last expansion, but don’t count out Libroom just yet. Refinement for both archetypes should help push both decks further into the meta.
Hunter has an interesting evolution from the last expansion. Face Hunter (and its variants) have almost entirely disappeared in favor of it’s cooler older brother, Highlander Hunter. It’s a pretty consistent core that doesn’t change much between the lists. The most common secret package is now Snake Trap, Open The Cages, Freezing Trap, and Pack Tactics. We often see all four of these in Highlander, with Freezing often cut in Face Hunter. In the OHHC tournament, we saw a few players experiment with Quest Highlander which was interesting, though no one in the west has seemed to adopt it yet, and we’re unsure of how good it is. It definitely has potential, though.
Warlocks either go big with Tickatus or go aggressive with Scrap Imp and/or Free Admission. Tickatus warlock struggles to survive in the fast meta that has come from the first week of the Faire, while Zoo has recently been picking up steam. If we begin to see more warriors and priests represented in these tournaments, Tickatus Warlock may become a safe bring. At this time, Zoo Warlock is likely the better deck for any conquest lineup.
This year, it seems Druid gets a brand new deck each expansion that is reliant on Overgrowth on 4 and doing powerful things soon after. It still works, as Clown Druid was brought by several players this week. It wasn’t a top performer, but it wasn’t a terrible bring either. Some players also dabbled with Malygos Druid, but we don’t expect to see this trend catch on.
Despite getting some new toys, most players steered clear of Mage and Priest. Priest is split between the old Control and Highlander Priest plan and the new and improved Resurrect Priest. None of those decks stood out. Mage is centralized around Cyclone Mage, which did decently. Other archetypes like Secret Mage and Highlander Mage are suboptimal in their current states.
OHHC Championship Series
THL Pro Series Finals
OSC American Playoffs
If you plan to play Conquest Hearthstone in the coming days, we recommend bringing Evolve Shaman and Soul Demon Hunter, along with Secret Rogue and a Warrior deck that includes Risky Skipper. Team HypeHorizen won the THL championship, MegaGilscor won the OSC tournament, and Knox College Prairie Fire made it through Tespa playoffs with perfect examples of this. These 4 decks have the best comeback tools that are needed to thrive in such an aggressive metagame. Regardless, the tournament meta still has a lot of room to grow and shift, and there are a lot of places for players to get edges in their lineups.
The best Hearthstone players from around the world are busy this week preparing for Masters Tour Online : Madrid. After this tournament, the top three prize money earners from each region will be promoted to the Grandmasters league. Needless to say that the stakes are high and that everyone is working full time to discover what the best Conquest lineup will be after the nerfs to Evocation and Solarian Prime.
I have reached out to five of the top competitive players who will not be attending MT Madrid. Faeli, Impact, Tredsred, MaeveDonovan and Pavelingbook share with us the decks that they would use in this format, their predictions on the metagame, and their advice to those trying to bring it home this weekend.
The format will be Best of five Conquest, so the players have to bring four decks, ban one of their opponent’s decks, and win one game with all three of their decks that didn’t get banned.
Faeli has had success in all sorts of tournaments year after year. In 2017 he played at WCA in China. In 2018 he played in the European championship after getting top 2 twice and top 4 twice at Tour Stops. He was in the top 8 of the Wild International Finals and in the top 2 of Twitch Rivals Arena. He is the Czech national champion for 2019. In 2020 he played over 100 Masters Qualifiers and his average win rate is the 11th best on the circuit. His record was 8-4 in MT Las Vegas and 6-3 in MT Arlington.
NPH: What are your predictions about the Bo5 meta? Which decks do you think will be popular? Faeli: I still think that Bomb Warrior and Soul DH are very good, so most people still bring or target these.
NPH: Why do you think that this lineup is good? What is your ban strategy? Are there card choices that you think are particularly impactful? Faeli: I would expect about 70% of opponents to have at least one of DH/Warrior which I can punish. Primary ban is Priest, secondary is Mage. About the card choices – I am very confident about my Warrior list and my Priest list. Paladin as it is should be ok (Bloodsail Corsair is to be often used on turn 1) and Druid is not really refined and I would need to work on it more.
NPH: What advice would you give to a less experienced player who will be playing their first major tournament? Faeli: Try to find a practice group, play at least 2 comfort decks, have a good sleep schedule.
NPH: Who are you rooting for? Faeli: My Entropiq teammates Jobsad and En1gma. Also anyone else from CZE, mainly Jarla.
With $12,350 in Masters Tour earnings in 2020 (the biggest total among Americas non-GM), Impact is very likely to be a Grandmaster in 2021. His resume also include top 2 at HCT Oakland, top 4 at HCT Montreal and top 4 at HCT Los Angeles.
NPH: What are your predictions about the Bo5 meta? Which decks do you think will be popular? Impact: Soul Demon Hunter and Priest will be must brings. Can assume there will be a handful of Rogue, Paladin, Bomb and Enrage Warrior alongside people taking a risk with nerfed Mage.
NPH: Why do you think that this lineup is good? What is your ban strategy? Are there card choices that you think are particularly impactful? Impact: These decks are 4 decks with all around solid matchups and are comfort picks for me personally. They are powerful enough to beat most random things that I’m likely to face and let me ban Bomb Warrior or have an open ban if they don’t have it. It’s also a lineup that’s not likely to get hard targeted which would give you a better chance into a wide field.
NPH: What advice would you give to a less experienced player who will be playing their first major tournament? Impact: Be confident in your ability. If you managed to qualify it likely isn’t a fluke so just play your best game and don’t be nervous if you end up playing against a pro player.
NPH: Who are you rooting for? Impact: Chemagician, he’s the best Mexican player.
Tredsred is a mainstay of the high legend APAC ladder. He is respected in the Japanese community for his deckbuilding skills. He got the second place of the APAC Spring Championship in 2017 and he went 9-3 in MT Las Vegas.
NPH: What are your predictions about the Bo5 meta? Which decks do you think will be popular? Tredsred: Current meta is well-balanced, so I think all heroes exist. I think the most popular hero is Demon Hunter.
NPH: Why do you think that this lineup is good? What is your ban strategy? Are there card choices that you think are particularly impactful? Tredsred: I think Demon Hunter and Bomb Warrior will be popular, so I will target these decks. If your opponent doesn’t have these decks, my lineup still have win potential. Control Warrior can’t win against Priest, so ban Priest. If your opponent doesn’t have Priest, ban Mage.
NPH: What advice would you give to a less experienced player who will be playing their first major tournament? Tredsred: Adjusting your sleep schedule is the most important thing.
MaeveDonovan went 5-4 in MT Arlington. She won the recent Italian national RedBull tournament.
NPH: What are your predictions about the Bo5 meta? Which decks do you think will be popular? MaeveDonovan: Tempo mage is absolutely the best deck, so I think everyone will play it. Other than that, warrior is a solid choice, enrage or bomb, and it will be together with mage the most played class.
NPH: Why do you think that this lineup is good? What is your ban strategy? Are there card choices that you think are particularly impactful? MaeveDonovan: I have started putting a Tempo Mage and Warrior because as I said they are the best classes at the moment. Then I had to choose what to ban: Mage or Warrior; I think banning Warrior is always a good one. After choosing the ban, the other two decks were between Druid, Rogue, Demon Hunter and Priest. I really don’t like playing Priest, so I thought it would be good to bring a Demon Hunter and a Rogue (they fit good with ban) so I could ban my opponent’s Warrior and play vs almost every other deck. Druid would have been a good deck too, but I felt like it didn’t fit perfectly with other decks.
NPH: What advice would you give to a less experienced player who will be playing their first major tournament? MaeveDonovan: Just have fun with this tournament, it’s a big achievement to partecipate to MTs, so don’t feel pressure and have fun with the experience!
NPH: Who are you rooting for? MaeveDonovan: I’m rooting for my Italian mates, we are going very well and we are so cool!
Pavelingbook is in the top 5 of prize money earners for Americas non-Grandmasters going into MT Madrid, which means that he would be in the race for a promotion if he was attending. He went 7-2 in MT Arlington and 6-3 in MT APAC-online.
NPH: What are your predictions about the Bo5 meta? Which decks do you think will be popular? Pavelingbook: With the nerf to Mage, there should be a noticeable shift in the meta for this MT compared to what you may currently find on ladder. Archetypes that may rise in popularity include priest and paladin, as both these decks are relatively weak against mage. However, Soul DH will likely remain among the most popular brings, followed by Rogue and Warrior as these are the strongest overall decks in my opinion.
NPH: Why do you think that this lineup is good? What is your ban strategy? Are there card choices that you think are particularly impactful? Pavelingbook: I think this lineup is good because there is a lot of flexibility in the pick and ban phase where the player can gain slight advantages. None of the decks are very targetable so a you should have a chance in every series. The primary ban for the lineup is Paladin, as both DH and Warrior struggle to get through their taunts and heals. Otherwise, the ban will come down to what I feel is the weakest deck in the series, and banning its worst matchup. In terms of card choices, most of the lists are pretty standard with the exception of Frozen Shadoweaver in DH, which is quite useful in the mirror.
NPH: What advice would you give to a less experienced player who will be playing their first major tournament? Pavelingbook: My biggest piece of advice for less experienced players is to bring the decks that you are most comfortable playing. You would be surprised how many percentage points you can gain from knowing the ins-and-outs of a deck rather than just the general playstyle. For example, in my last MT, I was one of only 3 players to bring Galakrond Warlock as according to HSReplay most of its matchups were about 45% against the field. However, since I had played the deck so much and knew how to gain the slightest edge in a variety of matchups, I was able to perform well with it anyways. If you trust in yourself and trust in your preparation, anything can happen.
NPH: Who are you rooting for? Pavelingbook: I am rooting for an Americas player to finally take down a 2020 MT and momentarily break EU’s dominance. On the other hand I am also rooting for Orange to make a deep run as he is one of my favorite streamers to watch, has performed very well in this meta, and is due for a strong MT performance.
Hello, we are the Varsity Hearthstone team (Varsity team Red) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Currently our Hearthstone team competes in the Tespa Open and Varsity tournament. Tespa is a tournament provider that works closely with Blizzard to provide quality tournaments and it’s an honor for our school to be allowed to compete. They offer open tournaments each semester where any college student and at least two other friends can join the tournament. Tespa also offers a Varsity Invitational Tournament where schools with developed esports programs can be invited to compete.
Miami Varsity Hearthstone is a nationally ranked Hearthstone program with a nationally ranked Esports program behind us. At Miami we value game knowledge, meta knowledge, team work, and team skills very heavily. As a result of this we have been able to take fringe decks and interesting meta calls into many different tournaments and make them work well. We are here today to discuss our most recent line up that we took to the University of Akron’s Akron Invitational.
How our team was formed:
Miami has had a hearthstone team since the release of the game in 2014 with new players joining each year. Last year, we created a mostly new team after many of the previous year’s players graduated. Our team consists of Josh “Hickit” Hill, Connor “MoneyPockets” Redwine, Griffin “Griff” Arnold. Our first semester competing was definitely rough as we only won two matches our entire season but after a short hiatus we came back the following semester and made playoffs in open and varsity. This school year we have been able to keep the same varsity team as well as add a whole new team of three more players. We are looking forward to more great competitions, especially shorter tournaments outside of Tespa.
The Akron Invitational tournament happened over the course of two days, October 10 – 11. The tournament invited the top 16 Collegiate Hearthstone teams in the Nation to face off against each other in a small double elimination bracket that fed into a larger, single elimination bracket. The tournament deck submission deadline took place directly after the nerfs to Guardian Animals and Turtle Mage. Due to the nerfs being right before the submission deadline, we reached out to Pasca to help with the meta read and confirm that our meta read was correct.
Our Line up: Control Shaman, Control Warrior, Pure Paladin, Resurrect Priest
Our line-up was certainly the slowest line-up brought to the tournament. With the help of Pasca’s analysis of the nerfs, we decided that Demon Hunter would be the most popular bring. This proved to be true when only two other teams didn’t bring Demon Hunter. We designed our line-up to beat Demon Hunter along with other aggressive decks that were popular before the nerfs. We teched extra weapon removal in our control shaman and control warrior to further boost the win rate against DH with the side benefit of countering Bomb warrior, which is a deck we expected to see more of than we did. We turned many heads with our line up, got many compliments on the meta read, as well as one opposing team captain taking time to make a whole theory on how to beat our line up.
Breakdown each deck’s gameplans, techs, and important matchups:
Control Shaman: Our control shaman was certainly the star of our lineup this weekend. This deck is great into any aggro deck with Tidal Wave being an automatic win most of the time. The deck also sees great play against midrange decks with its ability to constantly heal and go into fatigue. The important cards in this list are: Tidal Wave, Witches Brew, and Torrent. Tidal Wave allows for massive healing as well as a clear when you need it, drawing this off of farsight into an aggro match is almost a free win all the time. Witches Brew is just an insane card in this control shaman allowing you to heal for 20 with 10 mana, also it has some interesting synergies with Diligent Notetaker and Fist of Ra-den. Torrent is a massive single target clear that is often reduced to one mana which guarantees a Reliquary of Souls off of Fist of Ra-den (due to the fact that there is currently only one one-mana legendary in standard). However, the most interesting tech in our deck was Wyrmrest Purifier, a card that sees rare play to almost guarantee wins against bomb warriors. In non-bomb warrior matches, this card also only hits our weapon removal so they can be removed if the deck we are facing does not run weapons. However, this tech choice actually ended up hindering our matchup against Control Warrior because we chose to cut Archivist Elysiana for it. We chose to go with Wyrmrest over Elysiana because we valued the consistency into the Demon Hunter and other aggro matchups more than the value we got from Elysiana in the control matchups. As our lineup’s sole purpose was to punish other teams for bringing aggro.
Control Warrior: We thought our control Warrior was going to be the most consistent deck in our line up, but it proved to be the least played deck in the line-up due to it being banned three out of the four rounds. Variations of other Control Warrior decks with more Rattlegore copying ability, two Battle Rages and Zephrys, and other high value techs made the deck much worse into the mirror and other control matchups. It is a fairly standard list whose sole job was to beat aggro matches and we had to pretty much take a loss against any other Control Warrior and Control Priest. We found that it was important to draw as much as possible in order to make sure that the deck does not run out of gas, and that we might have been running one too many weapon techs. Draw all the removal that you can and be ready to go to value town. Never tempo Elysiana…
Pure Paladin: We chose Pure Paladin as a deck that is known to beat DH and is pretty consistent against the rest of the field. We specifically chose Pure Paladin over Broom Paladin because Pure Paladin won more against Demon Hunter more often than Broom Paladin. We anticipated this deck to be banned much of the time, Control Warrior ended up being the most common ban, so we played it a lot more than we expected. We played a pretty standard Paladin list because there aren’t many possible tech cards in Paladin. Overall, it performed very well into one of our line-up’s worst matchups, Control Priest which ended up winning us two of our matches. This did and continues to feel like one of the more risky brings, it does poorly into some common matchups and feels pretty bad when you don’t draw a few specific cards. This list and the Resurrect Priest both become weaker into DH if the opponent is running multiple copies of Consume Magic. We usually found that opponents only run one at most.
Resurrect Priest: Going into the tournament, we expected Resurrect Priest to perform the worst out of the four decks we brought. We thought this deck was going to be the reason we would get 0-2’ed because of how linear it was and how easy it is to play around it most of the time. However, it ended up performing very well against the control decks people brought and against the Aggro decks that we were targeting. Cards like Psyche Split can be used in a multitude of ways. For example, we won a game against Control Warrior because we copied their Rattlegore with double Psyche Split and Grave Runes. Overall, it beat expectations and was a key component to our line-up. This list is pretty standard as well, there is not much room for techs. Decks such as Bomb Warrior have a hard time hitting us in the face, and need to rely on the bombs to kill us, but if we draw any fewer than six bombs in one turn, we just end up healing back to full by the end of the turn and drawing the game out to fatigue.
Going into the Tournament, we expected much more aggressive line-ups from our opponents than we saw. We were saved by the fact that almost everyone brought DH like we expected. We were surprised by the popularity of Control Warrior but it ended up performing very well for other teams because of its strength against DH and Rogue.
We ended up performing pretty well, making it to day two and placing 5th. The competition was highly skilled and we look forward to playing many of these teams in future competitions. Congratulations to Rochester Institute of Technology for winning the Zips Invitational.
There are a few things that we are considering as we move forwards with this line up. We would like to look at the Quest Druid deck as it is able to beat Demon Hunter very consistently, and has better match ups into priests. In future tournaments we may switch to more value oriented variations of our control decks. Running two copies of Bloodsworn Mercenary in our warrior for more value was something we considered when looking back. We also may tech in an Elysiana in our Shaman so we are favored against Control Warrior with our Control Shaman. We may find a more consistent replacement for our Pure Paladin, it seemed like that was one of the decks we were not quite happy with. It gets the job done, but is not quite unfair enough when playing into DH and Bomb Warrior.We want every matchup to be completely in our favor, and pure paladin didn’t fit that role as well as we would’ve liked.
We have a few recommendations for people wanting to try out this line up:
Recommendations: Know your match win condition. In matches you may notice that you need to queue in a specific order or queue into a specific match up in order to win the match. Most matchups it is always a safe strategy to queue up into whatever has the better win rate against Demon Hunter. Sometimes in a matchup you may need to take a game off of Priest (or any other class you consistently have trouble beating with the control decks) in order to win. These games need a bit of mind gaming and really asking yourself what you think the opponent is going to queue up. For these reasons you have to know the win rates and game plan for each list depending on certain techs. This may be great in a three deck conquest. While it may be harder to predict what the meta will be like in larger three deck conquest tournaments like the masters tour qualifiers, being able to cut a deck from the four deck line up greatly increases its strength.
Hickit: Control Shaman is absolutely insane and is a Tier 1 tournament deck, this line up builds around Shaman supporting what it is good at. “We didn’t choose this line up to win games, we chose it to win matches”
MoneyPockets: Knowing your opponent is very important with this lineup. In a world where control lists are running rampant, most of these lists run out of value faster than some of the choices out there. These decks were chosen with the knowledge that we’d be able to beat DH and Bomb warrior if they were both brought. These lists could go for more late game value if the correct cards are placed on the top-end.
Griff: Prepping the correct line up is just as important as how you play. We spent many hours tuning and teaching these decks for this tournament. Our real strength as a team at Miami is our ability to plan ahead for our opponent’s line-ups and present solid line-ups. While we are good players, preparation is what sets us apart from our competition.
Big thanks to Pasca and NoProsHere for allowing us to do this breakdown. We really appreciate the opportunity and we hope that someone finds it helpful. We look forward to competing again and hopefully seeing more Control Shaman in the tournament meta.
The Hearthstone metagame is still extremely diverse two weeks after the Secret Passage nerf. All kinds of lineups are viable in open cups, from all aggro to all control. This report features the data from Masters Qualifiers Madrid #61 to #75.
Offcurve has a new feature that allows to visualize card choices inside an archetype. The darkness of the bar represents the card’s popularity while its length represents the win rate. Here are some examples of remarks that can be made regarding some of the most popular decks in the meta. As always, the data set is all games played in Masters Qualifiers over the past weekend.
Click on the players names to get full lists and deck codes from Yaytears.
Meta Defining Lineups: Guardian Druid, Tempo Mage, Secret Rogue (reqvam) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Tempo Mage (CaveFish) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Aggro Rogue (nexok40 / k1ngkong)
Proven Lineups: Soul Demon Hunter, Tempo Mage, Secret Rogue (nadavt) Libram Paladin, Control Shaman, Control Warrior (prestx) Control Priest, Control Shaman, Control Warrior (iscoman) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Bomb Warrior (Klender / DTCYZX / Maverick) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Secret Rogue (mlnhyuk / Cassio) Face Hunter, Aggro Paladin, Aggro Rogue (에렛지디) Soul Demon Hunter, Face Hunter, Tempo Mage (Soda) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Face Hunter (ScreaM) Soul Demon Hunter, Malygos Druid, Aggro Rogue (SithX) Guardian Druid, Aggro Rogue, Bomb Warrior (Magoho)
Pretty Good Lineups: Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Highlander Hunter (Dennis) Soul Demon Hunter, Malygos Druid, Control Warrior (DDoANi) Soul Demon Hunter, Tempo Mage, Bomb Warrior (Csabz) Soul Demon Hunter, Malygos Druid, Enrage Warrior (GamerRvg) Face Hunter, Galakrond Priest, Bomb Warrior (Uoden) Guardian Druid, Tempo Mage, Control Warrior (Jimon) Guardian Druid, Tempo Mage, Highlander Priest (HoudnsHoudn) Face Hunter, Tempo Mage, Secret Rogue (Patsque / ARAI) Guardian Druid, Tempo Mage, Galakrond Priest (とりにく / 신명수) Highlander Hunter, Turtle Mage, Control Priest (Anastacy) Guardian Druid, Face Hunter, Control Priest (soleil) Soul Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Libram Paladin (MrPython / Ghotus) Galakrond Priest, Control Shaman, Control Warrior (LaN)
Yesterday I wrote an article that intended to introduce concepts from game theory that are relevant to understand static games. I used these concepts to describe how to choose a deck (out of three) in the first round of a Bo5 setting. In my mind, the plan was to build up from the first queuing decision (which is the simplest one if you do not take into account future turns) and then build up to the Bo5 case, explaining how each additional layer was going to affect (or not) the decision that was optimal in isolation. That was the plan and, to be clear, I was going to execute the plan as I was writing the articles (that is, I had no idea what the end solution was going to be). That was the plan. Then, several readers criticized the article. First, some complained that the article was not a comprehensive treatment. Well, sure. Second, some complained that it was so basic that it was useless to understand the entire Bo5. Well, to me it is always best to start simple and build up. And a bunch of other criticisms, many of them valid and relevant and so others less so. However, there was one that called my attention: the claim that if your opponent is randomizing decks with equal probability (that is, using the random number generator from random.org) then that strategy cannot be exploited by you, the player. This was interesting because it does not happens in a static game where the mixing probabilities depend on the payoff values (matchup probabilities). It also meant two important things: (1) my idea of building up from Bo1 to Bo5 was flawed and was not going to lead anywhere; (2) conquest Bo5 (and Bo3) is a type of game in which the payoff matrix (matchup probabilities) affect your odds of winning but those odds are identical for any possible queuing order (again, when your opponent uses random.org). Finally, if that’s the case, then both players using random.org is an equilibrium of the game. So, last night I grabbed pen and paper and worked out the algebra for Bo3 and Bo5 and concluded that:
I was wrong in the plan developed by the first article. Understanding the equilibrium when the problem is simply two players queuing a deck is irrelevant for understanding the Bo5 solution. To be clear, if you want to understand how to think about a 3×3 static game, see what a dominated strategy is, etc, the previous article is not wrong and you may find it useful: it simply does not serve the purpose I original intended for the article.
In Bo3 and Bo5, if your opponent uses random.org (i.e., the opponent randomizes/mixes decks with equal probability), then the ex-ante odds of you winning the round are independent of the order in which you queue your deck so you cannot exploit your opponent’s behavior. It follows from here that if you also use random.org, we have an equilibrium where both players are happy.
If you want an answer to the question: “does the queuing order in Hearthstone matter?”, then that’s your answer and you do not need to keep reading this article. The answer is not original to me however, as a bunch of players commented that this was the case yesterday. However, when I asked ”where can I see the derivations?”, the answers I got were ”we know this”, ”somebody told me”, ”somebody run a simulation”, or a link to a Reddit post that tackled a different question. So, I decided to explain why random.org is an equilibrium in the best way I can in this article and so I hope you find it clear. The good news is that you do not need to know anything about game theory and that the manipulations are elementary (add, subtract, and multiply). However, parts of the algebra involved are not particularly insightful so what I will do is to focus on the Bo3 case and explain the thought process. If you understand the Bo3 case, then you should be able to do the annoying Bo5 case with some patience.
See all the formulas in the following PDF document:
Conclusion 1: We just showed that in Bo3 conquest when you face an opponent that uses random.org, the probability that you win the series does not depend on the order in which you queue your decks (from an ex-ante perspective of course). Player 1 is indifferent between queuing Deck 1 or Deck 2. The result does not depend on the values of the matchup probabilities (ω1, ω2, ω3, ω4). As promised, showing this required elementary manipulations. Conclusion 2: Player 1 is indifferent between decks 1 and 2. However, we just learned that mixing with equal probabilities cannot be exploited, so Player 1 is better off following the same strategy and randomizing/mixing decks 1 and 2 with equal probability. We conclude that both players mixing decks with equal probability is an equilibrium of this game (as nobody has incentives to deviate from their strategies). Whether this is the unique equilibrium of this game or not is not something I looked into. But, in a way it is not that important because the one feature of this equilibrium is that it is easy to implement and does not require the player to do any calculations. The case for Bo5 follows by the same argument except that: (1) there are many more cases to analyze in the 3-1 and 3-2 winning situations and (2) the final algebra to show that the expressions coincide are longer and required adding and subtracting multiple terms. But, conceptually, it is exactly the same and you will find that mixing with probability 1/3 makes your opponent indifferent in what deck to queue. You can believe my word, do the algebra yourself, or do it numerically with a computer as some people have already done. For these manipulations to go through it is important that your opponent uses random.org in all stages. That is, take the case where you win the first game with Deck 1. Your opponent now knows that you will queue Deck 2. If you opponent abandons using random.org and decides to queue his most favorable deck against Deck 1 (because psychologically he/she wants to win now) or, alternatively, he/she decides to queue the unfavorable deck because he/she prefers to get a win with the bad deck first, then the situation and the derivations above change. I did not explore these cases in detail. My job here is done. Pasca approached two days ago asking me to write something on how queuing decisions on conquest mattered or not. We started with the wrong plan, but thanks to the adamant twitter enthusiasts, we managed to provide an answer that I hope many will find useful and others will surely find obvious. In either case, I hope that at least you value the good intentions that players like Pasca are trying to bring to the Hearthstone community.
About the author: MannySkull is a casual Hearthstone player that has experience competing online (playoffs, open tourneys, and leagues like THL) and in LAN events (Dreamhacks). He has been a Legend player since 2016 but never the type of top 100 player. He has been fortunate enough to have several Pro Hearthstone friends (some currently Grandmasters (GMs), some formerly GMs, and some aspiring to be GMs) and had the opportunity to learn from them and also helped them with lineups, ban decisions, and queuing decisions. He is a full professor in Statistic and Economics at a top US university, has published articles in top journals, and teaches graduate level classes on these topics.
Hearthstone players often criticize queuing decisions from competitive players in tournaments; most notably Grandmasters (GM) players. From arguing that there was a better queuing decision to claiming that queuing order does not matter in a conquest format, if you participate in discussion forums you will see it all. Motivated by these debates, my friend Pasca asked me to write an article explaining why queuing order in conquest matters and what are reasonable thought processes you can expect from rational players. These are two different questions, so I decided to start with a description on how players should think about queuing and will leave the “how it affects the odds of winning” for another article. If you are looking for a three line explanation in a TLDR, then stop here and go do something else.
I will illustrate the concepts using a win rate (payoff) matrix for a match (Bo5 setting) between two of my GM friends: Muzzy and Justsaiyan. Here we do not discuss bans so we assume each player starts with three decks in their lineup (after bans already happened) and have to decide what deck to queue first. The first important aspect to note is that we do not question the win rate probabilities (take them as given and assume these are the relevant win rates for the players to make their decision). The second aspect is that margins in Hearthstone (HS) are often small, so we assume that players care about small margins (that is, they would play a deck with a win rate of 51.2 over another one with a win rate of 50.8 without hesitating). The third aspect is that both of these players are smart, they know each other super well, so we will not consider situations in which one takes advantage of the other by being “smarter”. The final aspect is that in the subject of Game Theory there are multiple notions of solutions, optimal behavior, and equilibrium. Here I will use the most basic ones exclusively.
The main concepts you should hopefully understand after reading this article are:
Deciding what to queue requires the player to understand what a best response is, whether there is a pure equilibrium or not, and also make an assumption on the level of rationality of the opponent.
Understand that when there is an equilibrium, players cannot make profitable deviations (that is, they cannot be better off by playing off equilibrium).
Concepts like dominant and dominated strategies may simplify the analysis significantly in some cases.
Finally, in many cases the player will have no choice but to randomize the starting deck to avoid being predictable in repeated iterations of the game (like, for example, the GM circuit).
Case 1: Dominant Strategy
Sometimes, although not often, players may have a dominant strategy. A strategy here is simply a deck to play, and dominant means that the player wants to play that deck regardless of what his opponent could potentially play. This makes the queuing quite simple, as illustrated in the following example (Muzzy is the row player and Saiyan is the column player. The probabilities are from the point of view of the row player (Muzzy)).
Best Responses: I highlighted in green Muzzy’s best responses to Saiyan’s deck. For example, if Saiyan plays Malygos Druid, Muzzy’s best response to that decision is to play Libram Paladin (60.2% win rate). I marked in purple bold Saiyan’s best responses to Muzzy’s deck. For example, if Muzzy plays Libram Paladin, his best response is to play Highlander priest (which is unfavored with a 47.2% win rate from Saiyan’s side but it does better than either Druid or Warrior).
Dominant Strategy: Libram paladin is the best response on Muzzy’s side for all the three decks that Saiyan can possibly play. This means that Muzzy is better off playing Paladin regardless of what Saiyan plays, and so Muzzy should queue paladin first.
Equilibrium: Saiyan is smart and realizes that Muzzy will queue Paladin, so Saiyan rightfully decides to queue Priest (his best response to Paladin). But this does not affect muzzy’s choice: muzzy wants to queue Paladin when Saiyan queues Priest. This is a notation of “equilibrium”: when no player has incentives to deviate from their strategy if you give them the option to do so ex-post. The outcome of this game is that Muzzy queues Paladin and Saiyan queues Priest and no player can be better off deviating from this strategy.
Most often there are no dominant strategies and so the analysis becomes more intricate. However, before getting into more sophisticated analysis it is good practice to first check whether there are dominant strategies for one or both players.
Case 2: Equilibrium in pure strategies
Even when there are no dominant strategies there could be equilibria in pure strategies, as the following example illustrates. The table shows the win rates where I marked their best responses using the same coloring as before (highlighted green for Muzzy and bold purple for Saiyan).
Best Responses: Paladin is Muzzy’s best response to Druid and Mage is his best response to Warlock and Mage. Saiyan’s best response to Druid and Mage is Zoo Warlock, and his best response to Paladin is Mage. There are no dominant strategies in this situation.
Equilibrium: We can see there is an equilibrium in pure strategies: Muzzy plays Mage and Saiyan plays Warlock. Even after each player finds out what the other one is queuing, they still want to stick with their choices as there are no profitable deviations.
Thought Process: The fact that there is an equilibrium, does not mean that players will play it. However, it’s the only outcome where you can tell a story that is consistent with behavior of two players that are smart. Suppose Saiyan thinks “I’ll queue Mage!”. What does he need to think about Muzzy’s behavior to justify such a choice? Saiyan must be thinking that Muzzy will queue Paladin (Saiyan wants to be able to get that sweet 67.8% win rate). But then, what would Muzzy have to think to queue Paladin? Muzzy has to believe that Saiyan is queuing Druid. Why would Saiyan do that? Well, it turns out Saiyan never queues Druid first (this is called a dominated strategy). He is always better off queuing Zoo or Mage. This means Muzzy never plays Paladin first. Ok, What if Muzzy plays Druid? Well, Muzzy never queues Druid first because he is always better off playing some other deck (Druid is a dominated strategy on Muzzy’s side). Saiyan, understanding that Muzzy will figure out that his Druid is dominated, notices that Muzzy is always better off playing Mage and so Saiyan responds with Warlock. Muzzy, understanding this, realizes that his best response to Warlock is Mage. And we go back to (Mage, Warlock) as the outcome of this game.
Case 3: No equilibria in pure strategies
We get to the last case I want to illustrate (there are other situations that I will not cover here). In this case there are no equilibria in pure strategies (I will not talk about mixed strategies in this article). The table shows the win rates where I marked their best responses using the same coloring as before (highlighted green for Muzzy and bold purple for Saiyan).
Equilibrium: No equilibrium here. If Muzzy plays Demon Hunter, Saiyan wants to queue Rogue. If Saiyan queues Rogue, Muzzy wants to queue Warlock. If Muzzy queues Warlock, then Saiyan wants to queue Warrior, in which case Muzzy wants to queue Demon Hunter.
Thought Process: Saiyan is smart and realizes that Muzzy is never queuing Paladin First (dominated strategy) and Muzzy is smart and realizes that Saiyan is never queuing Warlock first (dominated strategy). So, Muzzy must be playing Demon Hunter or Warlock and Saiyan must be playing Warrior or Rogue. At that point, the only rational choice for them is to randomize which deck they choose (not necessarily by flipping a coin, but I will not get into the right odds of randomization). You may think, “Well, muzzy’s Demon Hunter gives him better odds on average”. True, but if Muzzy plays his best average win rate deck and Saiyan anticipates that, then Saiyan would queue Rogue and get an edge. Same, you could say Saiyan has better average win rate queuing Rogue. But if Muzzy anticipates this, he would queue Warlock and get an edge. And again, although I am not formally considering the repeated aspect here, remember that these players know that they will play each other often and so they care about not being predictable.
HS players when facing situations like this one talk about “mind games”. However, I do not think this is a good terminology because it implicitly assumes that players have different levels of rationality. Let’s call “level 0” the player that plays his highest average win rate without contemplating what the opponent could do. Let’s assume for a second that Saiyan is a level 0 player, so his queues Rogue. If Muzzy is also a level 0 player, he queues Demon Hunter. But, if Muzzy is a “level 1” player (a level 1 player is a player that knows his opponent is a level 0 player) Muzzy would queue Warlock. Sweet. But now, if Saiyan is a “level 2” player (a player that knows his opponent is a level 1 player) then he would queue Warrior to counter Muzzy’s Warlock. And you can keep going. So, taking advantage of your opponent because you think you are smarter than them, only works if you are effectively smarter than them or if you get lucky. Then, call it mind games.
Remember that decisions taken under uncertainty should be judged with the information that the player had at the time of making the decision. Make sure you keep this in mind next time you want to criticize a queuing decision.
About the author: Den is a professional competitive player, coach, caster and content creator from France. Over the past five years, he has worked with Gamers Origin, Judge Hype, Gaming School, Crescent esports, and others. He currently represents Team beGenius. He went 5-4 in Masters Tour Arlington.
As part of my coaching duties, I’ve joined almost every French and English speaking group about Hearthstone on Facebook, which represents a pretty large community of casual players. Outside of deck discussion and legend posts, the thing I see the most is debate about the different methods that people can use to improve the game, with coaching, content consumption, among others being the most common.
That continuous debate was the inspiration for writing this article, where I’ll try to explain the different ways someone can learn the game and what are the benefits and downside of these different possibilities.
As I have been a coach for 5 years and tried streaming and creating content on Youtube at various points during this time, my goal is in no way to try and convince you one thing is better than another.
My goal is to explain and help everyone make his own decision on how they want to approach their progression in the game. At all times, your goals, time available and budget should be the main (if not only) criteria to make your decision on how to improve at Hearthstone. Most importantly, I believe mixing everything is the best way to approach things, and coaches and streamers will tell you to use the various websites available or to check other people’s content.
This article will be divided into three different ways one can learn the different aspects of the game :
– Unformal learning, talking with friends, jamming ladder a lot, using the different websites online, this is the way where the player has to go and find the information on its own, and has to understand it and make it their own.
– Streaming and Youtube is probably the most used way, or at least the most talked about. It has an entertaining thing to it, and it usually makes the learning process much more fun than collecting information alone. Also, videos are much more appreciated than written content nowadays and there is so much content created every day that one can spend all 24 hours of a day watching Hearthstone videos about anything in the game.
– Coaching is probably the least used way, and because it is one that you have to pay for. Here, the idea is to get something tailored to the player’s needs. They will be able to pick a set time for the session, deck to be practiced, game mechanics to focus on, duration of the session, among other factors. it is a way to control many more elements of the learning process while having someone that is dedicated to you.
Now that we know what we are talking about, let’s get started.
Learning through collecting information on your own is very rewarding when it works but can also be very tough and frustrating when it doesn’t.
In today’s internet world, this method of learning is reasonable, and there are millions of tools that you can use to help yourself in your learning process. Analysis websites, podcasts, social media, community discords, with many more I’m not listing here. All these tools are making for an incredible source of information for players to dig in and create their understanding of the game.
If you think about it, most of the players you are watching in big tournaments nowadays learned the game this way, because 5 or 6 years ago, that was about the only way to learn the game.
The biggest benefit of learning on its own, at least when you are a newcomer to the game, is that you will develop your way of playing the game or a “style” that you will grow towards. Since the information is not explained by someone, each person can have their conclusion towards it and use it to create their understanding of the game.
This is a very important phase of the learning process to me, as, at some point, statistics and pure game knowledge usually take over if you want to be competitive, building your style can separate you from others when you will be in a very information dependant phase of your learning process.
Even if coaching and content creators will help you get started much faster in the game and give you tools to be competitive in a matter of weeks. Being mentored or exposed to other accomplished people’s opinion so early in the learning phase usually lead to trying to copy the way the person is playing the game.
The problem there is that card games are played with our mind, so it means that the new player would try to copy the way someone else thinks (already something extremely hard to do) without having neither the background nor the information about the game that person has.
This situation usually leads to quick progress into very long stalling periods because the player didn’t get in the habit of developing their reactions to new situations and every time they take a step forward and has to collect new information, they have no idea what to do with it and get frustrated about the game or have to restart the process to the beginning.
But the opposite is also very true and when done in the right way, learning on your own and developing your way of thinking can then lead to any other way of learning and making you much more effective as well. You will be able to compare your understanding of the game to the information and evaluation of the coach, the streamer, or people on social media and add their information to yours to get better at the game.
When learning without an outside look, a lot of the time, we tend to let our rank dictate what we think of our performance. And being locked at a rank becomes the main source of frustration, because we do not advance towards our goal, but we also start questioning ourselves.
Therefore, having the possibility to be able to gather and understand information from different sources while keeping our way of playing the game, we create a much better situation to never stale too much at a certain rank. As whenever we are blocked, we can go back to our unformal learning and collect information that will fit our situation and just add that to our already existing knowledge.
In that way, unformal learning is the most important, and most effective when paired with other ways of learning and something every player should go through when starting the game, even for a small period. And even if it is frustrating to feel like we’re not progressing.
The reason why I separated unformal learning from content consumption is the human aspect. When you are collecting information on a website, studying stats, or checking the various decklists of a tournament to find ideas, there is nobody that tells you what they think about it. And it makes a huge difference to have someone’s opinion on the information or not.
I’ll start with the two biggest benefits of content consumption. The first one is it makes learning more fun, more enjoyable than going through raw data alone. Even in school, most people would rather study with friends than alone, and having fun is still a key part of learning, especially when we’re not playing to be a pro-player.
The second great thing about this is the fact that we feel we’re not alone, we have someone to join, a community to be part of and this is a very strong attachment to the game. How many people have stopped the game but kept on watching their favorite streamer and eventually launched the game again?
Another very good thing about content is the fact that it became developed enough so you can choose who and what to watch, and make your list of people that you learn from for different reasons. This is a way for example to avoid one of the problems I listed in the previous section that is trying to think the same way as someone else.
The content world of Hearthstone is a very good way to get attached to the game and to create a strong link to it, which is very important to be involved in our learning process. And there are so many talented creators nowadays that everyone can find one or several that will fit their liking.
This way of learning also represents a way to get very fast into practical things, which is something that most people have an easier time with. Watching someone else play and talk about what is doing is usually much easier to relate to our own gaming experience than stats on a website or figuring out how does a deck that you only have the list could work. And most people usually need to play with that information in their mind to make the connexions, well, in content creation, the connexions are given to you by the streamer.
Probably the best thing about content, and the reason why I push all my students to watch streams, youtube videos, or just browse social media reading opinions about the game, is the fact that it is constantly content being created. You can watch streams, videos, or read meta-analysis from pro-players 24/7 without ever getting to the end of it.
Unformal learning and coaching will require a lot of brainpower to be effective. Whether it is going through raw data or spending time with a coach that will push you and make you invested in the thinking process. Well, the lighter tone of streaming and youtube videos and the fact that they are always available for you to use make that resource very valuable. Whether you are tired, don’t feel like playing, not in the mood for tryhard but still want to get exposed to the game and gather information, you can just turn on a stream and relax in front of it, and that will still get some results if done consistently.
The downsides of this now are double, the first one is the one I talked about in the unformal learning part, being exposed too early or too often to the same person can lead to copying the way that person approaches the game. But the second part is usually what I’m most careful about and that’s the situation the streamer is in.
First, a streamer or a Youtuber does not have to teach people as a primary goal, even educational streamers (while they do a very good job and several of them inspire me daily) still have one goal above them all if content creation is their job: views. It is very important for the viewer that is trying to learn from them that the person you are watching is trying to grow an audience, build a community and that, even though you will learn a lot while watching them, your learning is not his priority. A streamer has to entertain, control, and offer their creation to a wide variety of people at the same time. And because of that, it’s almost impossible to find a stream that will fill all your learning needs (which is easily compensated by the number of streamers out there, the reason that can also help in absorbing the way someone’s think bias).
Second, most successful streamers are top legend players, and while this is a guarantee that they are good players and that what they say is valuable information, not even 1% of their audience plays at that level. The metagame, the way people approach the game, the general logic and thinking processes are different from what these top players are showing on stream.
There are times where being exposed to the highest level of play while not having sound fundamentals can lead to misconception or trying to copy high legend thing at a lower rank. And just like some decks are only performing at the legend ranks, some game concepts are only relevant if the player mastered the basics first.
The fun and deep connexions that the content creation learning can create makes it probably the best way to learn overall. But it does require some experience and being able to stand back on what we can take from what the entertainer is offering. I feel that average to very good players can use content creation to a great extends as they already developed their opinion, but newcomers or people struggling with basic cardgame concepts can be misleading and would need a more tailored experience.
The main thing about coaching is that it is a resource that you have to pay for with money and time, while the two other methods are only time-consuming. The thing for coaching to be worth the money you’re putting into it, it’s that it has to make you much better in much less time than the two other methods. Otherwise, you’re just paying for nothing since you could invest time in another way to learn the game.
On paper, coaching solves all the problems from the two other ways of learning the game, except taking the thought process of someone, but a good coach should be aware of that bias and help you overcome it.
A coach should be able to direct and help you through the different resources available in unformal coaching, as they know which information is important for you to take the next step, and also how to use it in your approach of the game. Compared to a streamer, a coach should taylor the sessions to your needs and should put you in situations that were created for you to get better at.
So, in theory, a coach should be a mix of unformal learning and content creation that are specifically designed to your needs. And that leads to you ending a session with more information and more targeted practice, you should also get leads to work on your own and a better idea of how to use the other resources available to better your thinking process.
In this definition, coaching is basically what is called a “pay to accelerate”, which means pay to achieve your goal faster (If any coach ever tells you that they are pay to win, ask them if you can get refunded if you loose with their advice, they should change their mind fairly quickly).
Now two big problems come with coaching and make people doubting the interest of getting a coach understandable.
First, a lot of coaches out there are closer to very good players sharing their information against money than building a real learning process for their student. And that leads to sessions where they are not trying to understand the person thought process but more pushing everything they know about the game, leaving the student with the task of picking up as much as possible. The student then has the feeling that they’re getting what they want during the session, as they’re climbing much faster than usual, but once the coach is gone, there isn’t much left, and the rank goes back to what it was before. This can give a fairly bad opinion of coaching, and rightfully so as this makes coaching fall exactly in the category of not gaining much time compared to the money invested, making it a bad investment.
The same criticism can be made for impatient students that ask for coaching because they are stalling in the game, and they do not come to us to get better, but just expect to go up in rank and only judge the session based on the climb, not on the information they got from it. Most of the time, this comes from the frustration of not getting better while using content and informal learning. So what they need would be some guidance as to how to use these resources, but the frustration grew so much that the focus has totally changed when they get to coaching. This usually leads to a biased opinion about coaching and can lead to reading stuff like “I paid XX to only climb 2 ranks, this sucks”. I’m sorry, paying with the sole goal of climbing ranks is called boosting, not coaching.
The second problem, and the one that usually refrains people from trying paid coaching, is the fact that it’s pretty hard to know what you’re getting into. 90% of people asking for coaching are not involved in the competitive communities, they don’t follow social media and such. So when they look at a platform and see the list of coaches, they usually just take the cheapest or the one with the most hours.
Most of the time, the way to get to know someone is to check their work, but in the case of a coach, that means getting in a session and maybe paying to see what they’re worth. And it’s normal for someone to get attracted by a content creator who puts everything they have in his content, so you can have an honest opinion about the person’s work for free and pretty fast. The best and most reliable way, in my opinion, is to reach out and talk with the coach or check their social media or interviews to see if you can connect with the way they talk or their opinions.
To conclude this part, I’ll finish with what is the most important trait of a good coach, and probably what will make your money worth investing in that learning way: psychology.
Since the coach is working with you during the session, they should pick up on things that are not directly Hearthstone related. For example, trust issues, panic attacks when the ropes burn, the speed at which you collect information during a turn, how much information you can store before you can’t remember everything…
There are tons of skills that make you a better player and that a website or a content creator will ever have the chance to see, and therefore, never have the chance to help you work on. And these things are what makes investing in coaching worth your money as getting better on those traits will make you progress much faster.
So to conclude this article, I don’t think there is a particular better way to learn the game, all three ways are valid, and mixing them is probably the best way to become complete players eventually.
Everyone has different needs and will react differently to what they get from each way. To me, Hearthstone is an information-based game where we make choices based on the information we have. And all the three ways I talked about in this article will lead to you gathering said information.
The main criteria to judge how you want to learn should be your goals, the time you want to invest in those, and your budget. Someone with not much time but money to invest in the game should direct himself to coach as it will net them the better results. Someone with tons of time but a limited budget should watch a lot of content and read metagame snapshots as much as possible. And there is an endless amount of combinations in between these two possibilities where a coach can help you get more out of you reads and streams, while a streamer might be entertaining you enough so that you enjoy learning with them much more than with a coach.
So if I would have one advice as to how to choose your learning methods, do it the same way you would play Hearthstone: gather information, make a choice, and reevaluate the possibilities and find what fits you.
The Schlomance Academy metagame is one of the most diverse that Hearthstone has ever had. Not a single combination of 3 archetypes was dominant enough to win 2 of the 15 open cups this past weekend (Masters Qualifiers Madrid #31-45), and there are still off-meta decks spiking to the top of the win rate chart.
Off-curve.com/masterstour now has a new feature that lets you compare card choices, see popularity trends for any given tech choice, and much more. It is too rich and interactive to summarize here and everyone should go check it out.
Click on the players names to get full lists and deck codes from Yaytears. The names in bold are qualifier winners who were generous enough to write comments about the strategy behind their lineup. Scroll past the tier list to read them.
Decky on Soul Demon Hunter, Tempo Mage, Bomb Warrior: “I usually banned Warriors. But I think this lineup can beat every deck in this meta. My target was aggro decks like Aggro Rogue. Thanks to 현명한현민이 for making this great lineup.”
Kalàxz on Tempo Mage, Stealth Rogue, Zoo Warlock: “I just picked 3 tier 1 decks (other 2 remaining being Warrior and Druid), banned the most annoying of these for my lineup (obv. Warrior with Skipper package), built the best versions of Mage and Zoo and took what I think was the best Rogue at that time (still unsure about which Rogue is the best, there are so many), and rolled on people with bad lineups, most of them including Priest, which is gonna fall off a lot I think unless someone refines the class with a decently suited version against lineups like mine. Expecting a lot more Warrior/Soul DH/Druid to come to play, and hopefully we get to see Guardian Animals being nerfed (it’s easy, remove rush, hello?), along with Warrior taking a slight nerf, and I honestly think we’d be close to one of the best metagames ever, with 8-9 (even 10?) classes having a shot at competitive play, which would be quite unseen.”
VoidStacker on Galakrond Priest, Aggro Rogue, Enrage Warrior: “They line up was very tempo oriented , Enraged Warrior , super aggro Stealth Rogue and Dragon Galakrond Priest. The main target was to trap Pain Zoo as a free win because all three line up decks have very favourable match up for it. Also I wanted to make sure an aggro deck to trapped in general and have a decent Priest beatdown in case I could not auto ban it. I didn’t ban Bomb Warrior at all. Primary bans were Libram Paladin , Priest or Soul Fragemnt DH control. the choices in the line were. for warrior 2x Ooze and 2x Tolvir to make sure i will beat down early on Bomb Warrior and counter their Bombs , for Rogue Akama came as a good grind tool , other than that it was the MVP of the tournament Self Sharpening Sword single carried vs Warriors and all cheaps aggro spell and minions made the faster Rogue of all lists in the tournament. Lastly but not least dragon priest was as a ban bait. Also more proactive list and tempo with so many minions, Cleric plus Raise Dead was MVP engine drawing all my spells and outvalue even bad match ups like Bomb Warrior that was the full mind set. Druid was my actual auto ban because this line up really struggles vs cheated mana highroll!”
와와 on Soul Demon Hunter, Stealth Rogue, Enrage Warrior: “When I watched GM matches or played ranked matches, I saw a lot of aggro type decks trying to win class like Priest or Druid. So I made a lineup for catching aggro decks. My lineup was Control DH, Enrage Warrior, Aggro Rogue and I usually banned Warrior. Personally, I think with Tempo Mage is better lineup than with Rogue as an anti-aggro lineup. However, I wasn’t confident in the Mage deck, so I chose an rogue archetype that is advantageous in mirror match.”
Beister on Soul Demon Hunter, Secret Rogue, Bomb Warrior: “I noticed that Rogue was the most played class in the qualifier #32. That’s why I played Soul Demon Hunter and Bomb Warrior. As 3rd class I selected Secret Rogue because it’s slightly favored against Wapon Rogue and meanwhile it improves the Lineup against Priest. I teched 1 Ooze and 1 Immolation Aura into Soul Demon Hunter against the Rogue and Aggro matchups. I used Bomb Warrior with the Risky Skipper package against the Aggro matchups. Standard ban was Bomb Warrior. If you have any questions regarding the lineup feel free to contact me on Twitter.”
FanBoy on Guardian Druid, Highlander Priest, Secret Rogue: “Targeting lineups in the current meta is tough. The diversity right now leads to a lot of different decks being brought. I think when you are going into a qualifier you should be thinking much less about how your decks do against particular lineups and much more on the raw power level of your decks. This way of thinking also lends itself to playing decks with non-linear playstyles which is why I prefer Secret Rogue over Weapon Rogue and Highlander Priest over normal Galakrond Priest.”
Hearththstone Masters Qualifiers Madrid week 2 (16-30)
After one full week in the Academy, some Heroes have started to clearly lead the class. But there is a lot of room at the top. Every Class made multiple top 8 appearances this weekend and only Paladin, Shaman and Warlock failed to cross the finish line and take a win. One of those is quite surprising, but we’ll address that later. One significant shift took place in our top 3 classes and the top tier line-up.
Druid remains the top deck with a little over half the players bringing Guardian Druid. Priest takes second place with all flavors of Galakrond Priest taking in about half of the line-ups. Paladin has dropped significantly as other lists have become refined and Paladin has stayed the same. Uther is no longer the meta-breaker he was last week and is too linear and targetable to hang out in the top 3. Paladin still has powerful on curve plays and is one of the premier midrange strategies which keeps it at a healthy population in tier 3. Warrior has returned to its rightful place atop the meta. Recent developments in the Bomb Warrior build have significantly improved its match ups across the board making it one of the highest win-rate decks in Qualifiers! Enrage and Big Warriors still make appearances in some line-ups but are likely tier 3 decks according to winrate.
Rogue stands atop the large tier 2 of classes with roughly a third of players bringing one of the many flavors of Rogue. The aggressive Stealth builds make up the largest portion of players but the Miracle-style Secret Rogue that only 7.3% of players brought was the best performing Rogue. And with an ever lower number of players (3%) bringing it, Galakrond Secret Rogue performed very well this weekend likely coming in to punish some of the greedier strategies like Priest. Demon Hunter was brought by a little less than a fourth of the players and was primarily Tempo strategies which performed very middling. However, Soul Shard Demon Hunters performed much better than their tempo counterparts suggesting there may be a shift coming next week in that direction. Mages round out these next three classes with 11.2% of players bringing Tempo lists and 8.0% bringing Highlander lists. Neither of them performed particularly spectacular with Tempo Mage hauling in just above a 50% win-rate on the weekend and Highlander Mage showing signs of being a tier 3 deck despite its solid match-ups against Priest.
As mentioned earlier, Paladin has dropped significantly and found itself declining in usage all weekend. Its win-rates don’t inspire too much confidence either. It is just not a tournament deck. Warlock is one of the most interesting classes this weekend. It was split primarily between Zoo (8.1%) and Galakrond (7.8%) and was one of 3 classes to not win a qualifier. However, Zoo was the best performing deck of the entire weekend! It’s decent match-up against Druid and strong match-up against Priest make it an excellent choice in a ban Warrior strategy, but we’ll see if it can handle its own success once it is a more expected deck. Galakrond Warlock also had a decent showing with an above 50% win-rate for the weekend. Don’t expect Warlock to be the 8th most popular class next weekend. Hunter was the 9th most popular class with most builds split between Face Hunter and Highlander Hunter. The win-rates of the two decks were both quite unimpressive, but Face Hunter took down 2 Qualifiers while Highlander Hunter took 1! Certainly finding success in aggressive line-ups anyways! Shaman’s population continued to shrink from last week. Control Shaman made a couple top 8s but the class does not look exciting in the current landscape.
The meta is still far from settled and the mismatches between the top represented and top win-rates suggest we’ll see another shift next weekend as people try to capitalize on the unexpected and powerful strategies still emerging in Scholomance Academy.
We recommend going to off-curve for even more detailed data, statistics about bans specific to each lineup, and an interactive dashboard where you can click on what’s most interesting to you and dive into the numbers down to every single Hearthstone game played this weekend in open cups.
Click on the players names to get full lists and deck codes from Yaytears. The names in bold are qualifier winners who were generous enough to write comments about the strategy behind their lineup. Scroll past the tier list to read them.
MegaGliscor on Guardian Druid, Galakrond Priest, Bomb Warrior: “Priest and Druid are so powerful, even they can win against unfavorable decks. Third hero, Warrior can fight against Priest or Druid. Ban hero is Priest or Warrior, which is better depends on other heroes. If an opponent’s Priest adopts Ooze or Stickyfinger, please ban Priest. Priest: I took Galakrond Priest, not Highlander for consistency. Druid: I piled up 2 Wild Growth and 2 Survival of the Fittest for mirror. Warrior: I used Skipper and Armorsmith package for aggro decks. Weapon buff cards are for mirror.”
Elefanti on Guardian Druid, Galakrond Priest, Bomb Warrior: “This lineup wasn’t really build to counter anything but rather just pick some of the best/strongest classes/decks in the meta right now. All my games and bans can be seen here, but I tried to ban Warrior most of the time as I feelt that deck performed really well againt both Druid and Priest, and I didn’t really wanna try to play in the mirror. If my opponent didn’t have a Warrior in the lineup I tried to ban classes like buff/aggro Paladin or other aggro deck like aggro Rogue. The list I used are just list thats been performing great over ladder and other people. I would’t change the Druid list, but if you run into a lot of Oozes you can change Zephrys for 1 Hoard Pillager to play around Ooze more. Some people like Zyrios play 1 Shield of Galakrond instead of Murozond but I like the value Murozond gives in some matchups and unless you get another Invoke card you won’t get max Galarkond with the 3 Galakrond cards if you play Shield so I decided to cut it.”
Matteo on Tempo Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Enrage Warrior: “I went with a target aggro strategy because I didn’t have dust for Priest and Bomb Warrior on Asia. In the end, I was happy to not have Priest in my lineup because a lot of people tried to target it, and vs the target Priest decks, my lineup performed really well. Standard ban was Priest.”
Itzvan on Tempo Demon Hunter, Guardian Druid, Enrage Warrior: “I was mainly focused on banning the Priest since my 3 decks loose to it. These decks are easy to create since most cards are free or inexpensive and are the only decks that I can afford on the Asian server. In the case of the Druid, I have Animated Broomstick to use with any of the Beasts, which I found very favorable, mainly against aggros. In the case of the Demon Hunter choose not to run the Skulls since 90% of the deck are low cost cards and for the Rogue it is enough with the Voracius Readers against the Druid choose to carry double Mana Burn and double Cult Neophyte. I hope this lineup helps you qualify or at least reach the top 8.”
山下智久 on Tempo Mage, Galakrond Priest, Bomb Warrior: “My ban strategy is to ban Priest in priority, then Warrior. Priest opponents are not easy for my Warrior and my Mage, and Bomb Warrior is a very hard matchup for my Mage. I chose Spell Mage, Bomb Warrior and Galakrond Priest, no Druid because I thought that many people would try to go anti Druid. I think that my lineup is good against Druid but also against aggro, for example Zoo Warlock or Aggro DH. If my opponent has an all aggro lineup I ban Shaman, then Rogue (for example against Rogue-Hunter-DH I ban Rogue).”
Butterz on Tempo Demon Hunter, Face Hunter, Stealth Rogue: “Ban Warrior, target Druid lineup. You’re also happy to play against Priest and Secret Rogue. 2x Cult in DH is really good against Druids and Tempo Mage, you still play Bonechewer and Augmerchant package because that’s one of the ways you beat Priest, 2 Marrow Slicers is also good burst damage over 2 turns and allows you to Glaivebound on curve more consistently and Voracious Reader is a 1/3 most of the time so I cut it. I got the Stealth Rogue list from Glory’s Grandmaster lineup and Face Hunter is from @Maur1HS on Twitter and I didn’t have Dragonbane in the Face Hunter list because I didn’t have enough dust on EU lol.”
TheTeacher and Reliquary on Guardian Druid, Highlander Hunter, Secret Galakrond Rogue: “Let’s start from the begining, this line up actually started because I had no cards to play the ‘better’ line ups on the American server so I asked Reliquary for help to do a decent line up with the decks I had at the moment. Since I had Highlander Hunter he suggested a play against Priest line up, I also had Druid, which doesn’t counter Priest but it’s a very strong deck so we decided that had to be in the line up. So we were missing one deck, there was some banter on Twitter about Galakrond Rogue vs Priest so we decided to do some testing and Galakrond Rogue was beating Priest pretty easly, I had Galakrond Rogue on NA so this choice closes the line up. In the first cups only I played the line up and did pretty ok, so I decided to also play the same line up on the European server, where I actually won, naturally Reliquary decided to play the line up on Sunday because it looked pretty good after all, we were on vacation and playing at the hotel, so he didn’t play the European cup so we could enjoy some vacation time, but he never thought that he would win the American cup. So for the strategy we thought about playing mostly against Priest since it is very popular at the moment, we also had some other decks that were pretty good to play against like Paladin, our mainly problem was line ups targeting Druid, because of that we decided to play the 5 beasts version with double Thresher since most of them play board based decks. The ban strategy was actually not very staight forward, but at first our ban was always Bomb Warrior. When the enemy line up didn’t have Bomb Warrior we needed to see which was our worst deck (most times Druid or Hunter, Rogue was actually insane all the series), so after checking that we banned to protect our weaker deck, for exemple if the opponent is targeting Druid we let up the two decks that give our Druid more chances of winning, even if it means some worse match ups for our other deck. So we ended up banning a lot of Face decks since it punishes our Hunter and Druid a lot, I think that is all about this line up me and Reliquary created. Shoutout to Pinche, because we had the idea of targeting Priest because he did well with this strategy the week before.”
INER on Tempo Mage, Galakrond Priest, Secret Galakrond Rogue: “I didn’t have Druid and Bomb Warrior on NA so i took the decks I have and I like to play with banned Druid and struggled with Bomb Warrior but dodged them a bit. No certain strategy just improvisation.”
あなる王子 on Tempo Mage, Galakrond Priest, Enrage Warrior: “I thought there would be more tempo decks. I chose decks that could beat them. The ban is Druid. I thought I was weak against the Druids. But I looked at the GM and Priest might be more of a threat.”
Siroco on Guardian Druid, Galakrond Priest, Aggro Rogue: “Here’s the VOD of my tournament. Priority ban is Warrior, then Priest. Target is Druid. I played those 3 decks because they’re the only ones I have.”
NPH: Congratulations on making it into the Grandmasters program! How does it feel? TIZS: It feels excellent. All the hard work is worthy.
NPH: When did you start playing Hearthstone? Where does your game name come from? TIZS: I started playing Hearthstone from beta. My game name is similar to numbers 7, 12, and 5, which are numbers of stroke to write my Chinese name.
NPH: Were you competitive from the beginning? TIZS: It is easy for me to get high legend from the beginning. However, I decided to start participating in tournaments two year ago.
NPH: How would you describe your style as a player? What are your favorite types of decks? What can viewers expect from you in Grandmasters? TIZS: I like all types of decks except aggro. However, I would bring aggro to Grandmasters if it is needed. So, the viewer can see all kinds of strong lineups from me in Grandmasters.
NPH: How do you prepare for the upcoming season? Who do you practice with? TIZS: I prepare with tom60229 and GivePLZ.
NPH: What is the competitive scene like in your region or country? Are there a lot of tournaments? Is the community very engaged? TIZS: There aren’t many tournaments. Most players don’t have teams.
NPH: What advice would you give to players who are just starting to be competitive in Hearthstone? TIZS: If you play well, never give up.
NPH: Good luck with the season! Are you anxious? TIZS: I am so anxious. I will try my best to overcome the anxiety and have good performance.