This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to commentate the Press Start Gaming Hearthstone Open from my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, alongside Tannon Grace. Over the course of the day, we watched the competitors battle their way through the newly minted Conquest format, the tournament format that Blizzard and Hearthstone have decided to use for their recent events.
Conquest format is a best-of-5 format where once a player wins with a deck, that player may no longer use that deck. This is different than the previously used format for Hearthstone events Last Hero Standing, where once a player lost they could no longer use that deck. Players would be required to keep playing with decks they won with, as opposed to being forced to change. This means that players must become expert in more than one or two classes, having a much more well-rounded game, and those decks must be more well-rounded to beat everything rather than be focused on a few match-ups.
In this article, I want to review two of the matches we covered, and try to glean some information about the tournament format based on how the games played out. I’ve also included links to the VODs, in case you want to check out the coverage for yourself.
Match 1: AuTo vs. staxwell (winner automatically advances playoff rounds)
G1: AuTo’s Warrior defeats staxwell’s Druid
G2: staxwell’s Druid defeat’s AuTo’s Priest
G3: staxwell’s Paladin defeats AuTo’s Priest
G4: AuTo’s Warlock defeats staxwell’s Warlock
G5: AuTo’s Priest defeats staxwell’s Warlock
This match was our most exciting of the day, in my opinion. A number of interesting plays happened, and I learned quite a bit.
The first thing that I learned happened in game 1, when AuTo’s Control Warrior helped him get out to the 1-0 advantage in what I consider to be a relatively poor match-up, Druid. I think that Druid is the class that suffers the most in the switch from Last Hero Standing to Conquest. Druid has decent match-ups all the way around in LHS format because players are focused more on corner case scenarios, and Druid is able to shift its game to fit the scenario. But in Conquest, Druid’s hand is forced into taking a proactive role in most match-ups, as evidenced by staxwell’s much more combo-centric version of Druid. In addition to two copies of Savage Roar and Force of Nature, he also has Azure Drake over more popular 5-drops to make sure he finds the combo quickly.
Games 2 and 3 played out fairly predictably, with Druid emerging victorious over Priest in a coin flip match-up and Paladin defeating Priest in a match-up that I find highly favored for Paladin.
Game 4 was awesome. Just awesome. Seriously, if you don’t watch any other game from this tournament, go watch Game 4 between AuTo and staxwell. AuTo played traditional Handlock against staxwell’s Demonlock. Well, traditional except for one thing: a singleton copy of Sacrificial Pact. There’s only one Demon in AuTo’s deck, and he’s certainly not planning to Sacrificial Pact his own Jaraxxus. But he certainly came prepared for the Demonlock match-up! The one copy of Sacrificial Pact shows that Handlock is incredibly potent in Conquest; he has a card that is literally unusable in most match-ups, but because he can lean on his hero power to dig his way out of the inherent disadvantage he can afford to have a trump card for that one single match-up.
Game 5 started out at Priest versus Warlock, but ended up with Jaraxxus on Jaraxxus, which is always fun. Thoughtsteal is one of the strongest cards in the Demonlock match-up to begin with, and when it snags the Eredar Lord of the Burning Legion it’s just that much better. In the end, the Jaraxxus backed up with Mind Control defeated the Jaraxxus backed up with normal Warlock cards, and AuTo claimed victory in a hardfought five game set.
Match 2: TheZero vs. Tophington (loser gets fourth place)
G1: TheZero’s Hunter defeats Tophington’s Druid
G2: Tophington’s Warlock defeats TheZero’s Paladin
G3: Tophington’s Paladin defeat’s TheZero’s Paladin
G4: TheZero’s Paladin defeats Tophington’s Druid
G5: TheZero’s Warlock defeat’s Tophington’s Druid
Game 1 featured one of the few players playing Face Hunter in the Press Start Open. This tournament was extremely control-heavy, moreso than usual. There were very few Mech Mages, Face Hunters, Zoos, and the like, and a much higher percentage of Control Paladins and various types of Warlock control than I’m used to seeing. This is a reflection of this tournament being right at the end of a metagame; in just a few days, Blackrock Mountain will be released and that will shake up the best decks. But we’ve had Goblins vs. Gnomes for a while, so players are used to what they have to beat. The control decks have a target, and they can build their decks easier if they have consistent opponents.
But in recent weeks, the control decks have had to target other control decks, becoming progessively slower and slower. And that means fewer answers to aggressive decks. TheZero took full advantage of that, and decided to take the usual Wolfrider and Leeroy Jenkins variety of the most aggressive deck in the format. Why was he successful? Well, Face Hunter has needed to adapt too; both copies of Ironbeak
Owl are a must to deal with Sludge Belchers that are close to being the most played card in the format, plus Druid of the Claw, Tirion, and what have you other random taunters you find along the way.
Anyway, TheZero quickly took down the first game as a result of how the metagame shifted towards control-on-control match-ups. I love aggro (I am all about that face, after all), and this game gave me hope.
Game 3 showcased TheZero’s Control Paladin against Tophington’s Midrange Paladin. Typically, I favor Control Anything against Midrange Anything, but this match-up shifts that a little. There are two main reasons: One is Quartermaster. Consecration is the main way Paladin has to clear cluttered boards, and Quartermaster making your Silver Hand Recruits 3/3s trumps that plan. The second is Knife Juggler. Of all of the classes, Paladin has the least ways to deal with early minions. There’s no Shadow Word: Pain, no Fiery War Axe, no Rockbiter Weapon, no nothing. So unless you’re one of the few running Coghammer or Seal of Light, a 3/2 for two can be a toughie.
Lastly, we once more saw the new weakness of Druid. In the last two games, Tophington was forced to try to win the last two games with his Druid and couldn’t pull it off. In fact, Druid only went 2-4 in matches we covered. Not only is that a poor record, but it’s also significantly fewer Druids than in Last Hero Standing events. I love Druid for ladder, and I think Midrange Druid is the best choice for trying to get to Legend. But in a tournament, I wouldn’t consider it my top choice for all of the reasons mentioned before. You just get trumped by all of the control decks.
I hope that this article has clued you in to a few hints to help you achieve success in your next tournament!
In the end, staxwell and AuTo had a rematch in the finals and staxwell emerged victorious, getting his revenge for his earlier loss. He didn’t get Sacrificial Pacted that time around.
But there’s always next tournament…