Know your format: Best of Five

Hearthstone Gosu “GosuGamers” Gamers

Artwork by: Noodles

The road to Hearthstone tournament success is long and daunting. Apart from playing your cards right and picking the right ones, there are picks and bans to worry about, you need to bring five decks, and your opponent can often pull off a strong counterpick to your decks, whether it´s through specific classes or cards.

Previously, tournaments were mostly played in Bo3, with Bo5 taking place in the final rounds but modern Hearthstone events have unanimously switched to the latter. The options are more varied and there's more space for counterpicking and specializing your decks.

Today, we´ll go over the basics of playing a Best of Five Hearthstone tournament. We´ll cover basics, such as deck selection, card selection and preferences and we'll dip into more complex topics such as pick order, counterpicking and bans.

I´d like to start by talking about deck selection. When entering a Best of Five tournament, you'll typically bring five decks and ban one of each other's decks.

A list of the roles your decks should typically fill:

  • The Hero: A versatile deck with a decisive gameplan that has rather even matchups across the board. Typically a deck strong in the current metagame. This is a deck you should be comfortable starting with. Examples include Aggro Hunter, Ramp Druid, Zoo Warlock and Handlock.
  • The Sidekick: As in superhero movies, the Sidekick backs the Hero up. This should be another deck that has rather even matchups, but should be built with the Hero's weaknesses in mind. Examples include Mech Mage, Midrange Paladin and Control Warrior.
  • The Counterpick: This is a deck you can bring out in specific matchups, and should be aimed at the deck you feel is the hardest for your lineup to deal with. For example, if your lineup is bad against Control Warrior, you could select Shaman Midrange. If your lineup is weak against Handlock, you could bring an aggressive Rogue or Mage deck, and so on.
  • The Outlier: A strong ´surprise´ deck you´re comfortable playing but not comfortable playing against just anything. Examples include Freeze Mage, Control Priest, or Aggro Rogue.
  • The Wild Card: Bring a deck built to counter specific strategies. In the current metagame, you could try bringing a deck with no BGH targets, a deck especially strong against aggressive decks, or another aggressive deck. Make sure this pick helps round out your other decks rather than lead your lineup in a different direction.


Bring only decks you're comfortable with.

Now that we've covered the basics of how your lineup should be built, you may be thinking to yourself 'Now that I know how to pick my decks, which decks should I pick?' Fear not, we'll cover that too. I'm going to list the most important things to consider while selecting decks:

1. Bring only the decks you're comfortable with. This is so important that I almost want to list it twice. When picking decks in a tournament, there is no greater handicap than you having decks that you're not comfortable picking. If you're not sure about your decks, don't bring them. Preferably, you should know your matchups and your mulligans very well, but if you can't practice all of your decks, focus on learning your Hero and your Sidekick and familiarize yourself with the others as well as you can.

2. Bring decks strong in the current metagame. This one should be obvious, but bringing an unproven list that you just happen to like won't do you any favors. 

3. Make sure to know what you're shooting for. Some cards should be relegated to the ladder. For example, if you bring a Priest built to beat Hunter you should probably skip on that Lightbomb and even that Ragnaros. Likewise, if you bring a Warrior deck the choice between cards like Gorehowl and Brawl isn't so obvious.

4. A little surprise goes a long way. A Miracle Warrior deck was successful at the last Blizzcon, mostly because its burst potential surprised a lot of players. If you can come up with a solid deck that uses an offbeat gameplan, it might be worth sacrificing a bit of consistency for that extra little 'oomph'.

 If you can come up with a solid deck that uses an offbeat gameplan, it might be worth sacrificing a bit of consistency for that extra little 'oomph'.

5. Plan your deck order. If your Hero is an aggressive deck, be prepared to back it up with a deck that takes advantage of your opponent's slower playstyle if you lose. For example, if your Hunter loses to a Warrior with multiple Whirlwinds and Unstable Ghouls, you should be prepared with a deck that can outvalue that sort of Warrior.

6. While actually playing the tournament, stay on your toes. If you can stay a step ahead of your opponent, the match will be much easier to navigate. Generally, it's best to lead on your Hero or your Sidekick, especially if you have no knowledge of your opponent's lineup. If you do know your opponent's lineup, the game gets deeper. You'll have to guess what your opponent will lead on, and respond accordingly. This is where you can use the way you built your lineup to guess how he built his. If you can, try to figure out what type of deck he's using. For some classes, there's only one real deck, for example the Warrior, but for some like the Mage, there are multiple different options. Below are examples of decks you might expect to see in today's tournaments.

Druid: Burst Druid, Ramp Druid, Mech Druid
Hunter : Midrange Hunter
Mage : Mech Mage, Fatigue Mage, Midrange Mage, Freeze Mage, Giants Mage
Paladin : Midrange Paladin, Control Paladin
Priest: Control Priest, Undertaker Priest
Shaman : Midrange Shaman
Warlock: Handlock, Zoo Warlock
Warrior : Control Warrior

In a tournament with bans, use that to ban what your lineup is weakest against, or if you see a class you're not sure you'd like to face. A popular strategy is to ban the Warlock, because that's a popular first class with two possible top-tier strategies.

I hope you've enjoyed my first article on GosuGamers! I will be writing more, so stay tuned. I strongly reccommend you build up your own strategies and use this article more as a starting point or helpful advice if you're already playing Best of Five tournaments. 

Kristjan out!