The Quest for Regionals: A Survival Guide to Open Tournaments

My name is rayc591 and I play for team Vicious Syndicate. I am a former pro Pokémon TCG player turned Hearthstone player. I have been playing Hearthstone since beta and have numerous accolades and top 100 finishes under my belt. I’m going to talk about how to do well in the open tournaments that provide WCS points taking place on Recently, I went on a 3-tournament win streak playing a similar lineup throughout each open tournament. Proof: Get Herminated #6 TNH #53 Get Herminated #5. Of course I caught some lucky breaks in order to pull this off but I believe some level of skill and knowledge is needed to do this. I want to help the community better understand how to maximize their chances at winning. This isn’t going to be a tournament report style article. Instead, I will list all the tips I want to share with you all on what has helped me do better. Before I get into that let me share with you the main lineup I used throughout the tournaments.

My Lineup- rayc_lineup

                The format I have been competing in has only been conquest. Conquest is this season’s official format. If you are not familiar with how it works here is a good video with explanation:

This lineup is vanilla, but incredibly strong in the current metagame. Each of these decks are tier 1 or 2 and have solid matchups across the board. If you want to see what each decks matchups are like the Tempo Storm meta snapshot is a good resource.

The majority of the lineup being weak to similar decks has been an asset when you have a ban available to you since bans become clear cut. This lineup is vulnerable against decks like Rogue and Priest which have been uncommon in open tournament play. I feel comfortable against most opposing lineups even in a no ban format. You will never face a lineup that is consisting of 3 bad matchups. Your opponent will generally only bring one deck, or none, that you have no good matchups against. I find it acceptable to have your lineup be poor against one class and solid against the rest in any given match.

In tournaments that don’t require 4 decks and 1 ban and only require 3 decks I will usually bring Shaman, Druid, and Warlock. As the metagame evolves I change the lists from tournament to tournament, but it would be a moot point to show you every variation of each of these decks that I have used. Also, it would be irrelevant since you won’t be playing in the same metagame; these are the base line lists. If you think you have a pulse on the metagame for any given tournament you are playing in adapting your decks can be a winning move.

General Strategy for this Lineup

If the format is best of 5 pick 4 ban 1, the bans for this line up can be intuitive since the bad matchups are similar. Here is a common lineup to use as an example. If my opponent is bringing Rogue (or Priest), Druid, Paladin (or Shaman), and Warlock the ban here is clear. You will want to ban the Rogue (or Priest). The reason why I include the (or Priest) and (or Shaman) is because often times I run into lineups like this interchanging between those decks in the lineups’ slot.

Rogue has good matchups against Paladin and Druid and does decently against Shaman and Warlock. Priest is similar but with a better Shaman matchup and worse Warlock matchup. You won’t want to ban Druid since Paladin and Shaman do well against it while Druid and Warlock are close matchups. You won’t want to ban Paladin or Warlock for similar reasons as druid. Basically, you will have a better chance at beating these decks than you will against Rogue or Priest. You also want to give yourself a higher percentage chance of being able to queue into good matchups, but I will get into that later. (Random thought: has anyone created a ban calculator yet?)

If the format is conquest best of 5 I would bring Shaman (or Paladin) Warlock and Druid. With no bans I prefer to bring Shaman over Paladin but you can interchange between them since they are both strong classes that fill similar roles of being aggressive. In open tournaments I find that people are less prepared for Shaman than Paladin. As for what your pick order that decision is a controversial topic. I have heard many people like to scout with a neutral class like Druid. I have heard some people prefer to choose their class to open with purely based on RNG.

Personally, I like to open up with the class that has the best matchups. If there are two classes that have similar matchups against any given lineup what you should throw first becomes a 50/50. If that happens I pick at random because it doesn’t matter at that point unless you have a read on what your opponent will choose first. Sometimes you are able to win matches based solely on the fact that you are able to hit the 50/50’s and farm good matchups giving your weakest deck 3 chances to win. The key is putting yourself in a position to have a chance at the 50/50’s.

Tips Time!

Tip #1- Play good decks

randombaddeck “Wow Ray I got this far into the article and the best advice you can give me is to play good decks?! This is obvious!” I agree this is the most generic advice anyone can give but you would be surprised how many people don’t do it. There are some people in our community who hate aggressive decks with a passion. So much so that decks like Aggro Shaman, Paladin, etc. are consistently referred to as cancer. Lately, I have been seeing Reno decks referred to as cancer too so at this point I’m thinking people are using the term cancer over the word good.

Anyways, if your goal is to win a tournament you need to get over the bad stigma these decks have correlated with them and learn to play these decks well, and play them. If your logic of bringing an all control lineup is that the decks take more skill to play and you don’t want to stoop to the level of playing “brainless cancer” than you are often hurting yourself. Occasionally the all control or midrange style lineup is a good meta call, and if you have a good reason to bring it that’s fine. The issue is when you are bringing them over other decks just because you don’t want to play the other decks.

Sometimes these decks are too strong to not include in your lineup and not doing so means you don’t want to do everything in your power to win. If you win a tournament playing multiple tier 1 decks in your lineup people won’t respect you any less. If a person judges your playing ability or you as a person based off the decks you play in a Hearthstone tournament you win, then you don’t need to worry about their judgment. I see too many people bring almost good lineups but they refuse to perfect it because they want to be viewed as a more skilled Hearthstone player for not bringing Shaman.

Net-decking has a similarly bad reputation where people try to play bad cards so they are not considered a net-decker, which is dumb move. Net decking is fine, lists are standardized for a reason. That reason is because the refined lists are good. Being the best at a tier 1 deck with a standard list pays off more often than trying to innovate unless you are a pro and know what you are doing.

Risky Decks

On the topic of bringing good decks I want to point out decks that I believe to be risky to bring. Classes that can be easily hated on such as Freeze Mage, Warrior, and Rogue are risky to bring to these opens. Most opens have a rule which allows players to change their lineup in between rounds and it isn’t considered cheating. Due to this rule players can easily abuse prior knowledge on their next round opponent. This comes up more than you would think thanks to these tournaments frequently being streamed. Disclaimer: Not all opens are run like this! Some require deck lists to be submitted prior to the tournament or say you can’t change lineups. This only applies to opens where you are allowed to change lineups throughout the tournament.

If you bring Freeze Mage and are streamed, and don’t change your lineup, don’t be surprised when your next round opponent has 2 Kezan Mystic in all of their decks. This is a scenario I have seen happen over and over again, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Since changing your lineup is allowed it’s ok to tech that hard against your next round opponent technically, but it creates a cutthroat environment. It also forces people to have to change their lineup once decks like their Freeze Mage are compromised. The same goes for the Warrior and Rogue classes in general. I have had tournaments in the past where I play Warrior on stream and my next round opponent has double Acidic Swamp Ooze and Harrison Jones in their deck.

This sentiment only becomes proliferated when you factor in that your last round opponent could be friends with your next round opponent. Your last round opponent could be telling your next round opponent how to tech for you. This is something you should be aware of and it happens often. If you are streamed playing a vulnerable class like Freeze Mage I strongly recommend changing your lineup for the next round if it is allowed. Always clear a lineup change with admins prior to pulling the trigger.

Tip #2- Don’t pick your classes on Strivewire until you are in the challenge screen

            challenge screenThe reason why you want to wait until you are in the challenge screen to select which decks you are going to use is so that your opponent can’t tech for you. If you both choose classes prior to the challenge screen or accepting friend requests your opponent can add things like weapon hate to their decks without you ever knowing. I am an advocate of doing everything in your power to protect yourself from being at a disadvantage before the games even start.

Tip #3- Always ask for a screenshot once in the challenge screen

            For some reason this is not a common practice for most people, and it should be. Providing screenshots once in the challenge screen should be standard procedure for every tournament grinder. Asking for a screenshot ensures that your opponent does not have multiple decks with the same class built. For example if your opponent declares Warlock as a class and has both Handlock and Zoo built they can choose to play Warlock later in the series and play the version with more favorable matchups. Asking for a screen shot prevents this potential way of cheating.

Nobody should ever get offended when asked for a screenshot, it should be standard procedure. Obviously it can get a tad awkward if you ask someone on your friends list for a screenshot, and if you trust them enough you don’t have to, but if you do ask they shouldn’t be offended. If you are consistent with asking for screen shots it doesn’t become awkward and it should offend no one. This takes 1 minute at most and will give you the peace of mind of playing a fair match. There have been times where friends complain that their opponent magically had the perfect counters in their decks and regretted not asking for a screenshot for their own closure. Don’t ever be left wondering whether you were cheated or not. PROTECT YOURSELF! If your opponent cannot provide screenshots, cancel the challenge once you ask, or provide a screenshot with multiple decks of the same class they will be penalized in some way.

Tip #4- Ban correctly

I already went over examples of this previously when explaining strategy for my lineup so I will make this a brief tip. Basically, you want to ban the class that has the best matchups against your decks. It is pretty simple but if you ban incorrectly it could cost you the match.

Tip #5- Pick correctly

            Another topic I mentioned earlier was picking correctly in order to give yourself the highest percentage chance of getting a good matchup. Always try to give yourself the best matchups possible and try to give your weakest deck three chances to win. Sometimes if you have an inclination that your opponent will throw X first and your weakest deck against their lineup actually has a good matchup against X you can make the risky play of throwing the weakest deck first to “snipe” a good matchup. If I have prior knowledge on my opponents picking pattern I will find myself trying to snipe good matchups even though it is statistically riskier to pick the deck first. This happens far less frequently in opens but in major tournaments this is one of the things I imagine pros study while preparing for matchups against other pros. If anything this is an advocate for letting RNG decide your deck order just like it will predict whether you top deck BGH after Dr. Boom. It’s impossible to predict a person’s opening deck when they themselves don’t even know what they are going to open with since it is being picked randomly.

What to throw after the opener? This is a question I think about quite a bit when I’m playing in open tournaments. If I win the first game I have noticed my opponents often stay on the deck that they just played and I try to counter that with my next pick and get an easy win. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not it is for some reason in my experience. When I play against a higher level player their pick order seems to be less predictable so I find myself choosing more randomly so I’m not predictable.

Basically, I’m saying my pick order game plan does change based on what my opponent’s perceived skill level is, and it has been successful so far. This could come back to bite me in the future since my next “random” opponent might think go to the next level now and counter what I’m going to use to counter their original throw. I feel like the best strategy for post opening deck picks might just be to choose randomly, but I’m not sure. This changes if I know 2 decks have good matchups and one deck has bad matchups since I want to start of 2-0 and give my worst deck 3 chances to win as I said before. But, if both decks have equal matchups it seems to boil down to RNG.


            These are all the tips and advice I have for you today that I have learned throughout my open tournament adventures. Advice such as practicing your decks, playing well, etc. isn’t something that needs to be said since it is obvious. If you made it this far I appreciate your reading my article and any feedback would be awesome! I hope this article improves your tournament performances in the future and you get some WCS points! 😀


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