Competitive Hearthstone is bigger than ever, and many players are looking to enter the scene. With that in mind, I’ve put together this list of Pro Tips to help out! Let’s say the time has arrived: you’re finally ready to compete in your first Hearthstone Major. All that Fireside and Online Cup experience will make things easy, right? Well, I can assure you that YOU ARE NOT PREPARED!
Major LAN tournaments, especially Dreamhack, can be very tiresome – even for the most experienced players. The sheer amount of rounds, near-constant noise, and quick transitions between games can all affect your play and mindset. Not to mention the white noise when playing on stream! However there are some factors that will help you excel in the competition. Let’s go ahead and review them!
Pro Tip #1: Start early!
Begin developing your lineup at least one week before the tournament. It’s true that the metagame evolved rapidly in Hearthstone but as a rule of thumb you should try to bring as many decks you are very comfortable with in a major tournament. You are going to play a lot of matches and being inexperienced with your lists is a huge liability. Honestly, it’s better to bring a weaker deck you play very well than a stronger deck that you haven’t practiced enough.
Pro Tip #2: Get used to the format!
Conquest and Last Hero Standing (LHS) are very different, and lineups in each format will vary significantly! Learn the picking order, because Hearthstone tournaments punish queuing mistakes severely. Pick the wrong class and you might get an automatic loss! LHS has a complex deck selection metagame: being good at Conquest doesn’t translate. Finding the right deck to open with in Last Hero Standing can be challenging, with a lot of mind-games between the players. For more on this subject, check out my article on these two formats here. Practice with friendly challenges and Open Cups using the same format as the Major. Most online cup websites offer Conquest events while you can find LHS on Good-Gaming!
Pro Tip #3: Be wary of deadlines!
In a major tournament like Dreamhack, the deadline for deck submission is usually 3 – 5 days before the actual event. That means that you can’t leave preparation to the last minute! The most important part of preparation is decklist selection itself. You should also avoid last-minute changes to your lineup! Being a pretty undecided person myself, I have often regretted the changes I made. After submitting decklists, use the remaining time to practice the right format for the tournament. If possible, try to play with other players attending the event (or similar events with the same format). They will typically try much harder! And if you play in an event with non-public decklists, keep your decks private except for close friends!
Pro Tip #4: Recreate your comfort zone!
Wear comfortable clothes and try to mimic the environment you have at home. If you like listening to music, then do so! Since most venues are loud, I recommend you play with either music or in-game sound. I personally always play with sound, but I played poker while listening to music back in the day. Whenever I had a tough decision, I paused the music. Training your mind to do several things simultaneously is an asset that will make you more flexible even in the toughest environments. Last but not least, wear good shoes!
Pro Tip #5: Eat well and stay hydrated!
StanCifka, one of the world’s greatest Hearthstone players, is famous for his diet habits. Bananas, apples, juice, water… He eats or drinks something almost every playing minute in his tournament games! Aside from hours of practice, this is a major reason for Stan’s success. Eating small meals and keeping yourself hydrated is very important. You need nutrition so that your mind can work on the highest level in these grueling events. Dreamhack Majors usually have 7 rounds of Swiss in the first day, which could last over 10 hours. It’s impossible not to be fatigued after playing Hearthstone for that long. At Dreamhack Valencia, I drank a small bottle of water during every one of my matches – a total of 3.5 litres of water in those 10 hours! I guess it helped, since I finished the Swiss portion of the event with a 9-0 score.
Pro Tip #6: Keep focused on what matters!
It’s common to get carried away after mistakes. Don’t focus on what you did wrong – keep your mind on how you can win the game. And don’t rush decisions because you want to “look good” to your opponent or to stream viewers. Some players, like ShtanUdachi and Xixo, can play both very quickly and very well. This is only because they have tens of thousands of games under their belts! If you lack that level of experience, then don’t be afraid to burn the rope!
Pro Tip #7: It’s not over until it’s over!
Almost every game can be won! In the recent Dreamhack Summer event, I managed to qualify in the top 16 with a 7-2 score in the Swiss. In the final Swiss round, I was paired on stream against Bunnyhoppor of Virtus.Pro. After falling behind to 0-2, I managed to come back and tie the series. The last game came down to a Paladin mirror, where I was playing an aggressive variant versus his Control N’Zoth list. He stabilized the game and my aggression was being slowed by the threat of his Pyromancer + Equality. There were several cards that would seal my fate: Equality, Primordial Drake, N’Zoth and more!
My chances were extremely grim, so I had to assume my opponent didn’t and wouldn’t have any of those cards. I just went for it! My chances to win the game were maybe 2%… but my opponent got unlucky! I got some decent draws and scored the biggest comeback I’ve ever had in a Major.
Pro Tip #8: Find small edges.
Good Hearthstone players come prepared, know the game’s mechanics, and try to outplay their opponent. But great Hearthstone players aim to accumulate every single advantage possible! Some of these edges can be:
- Scouting your opponents to find out what they’re likely playing.
- Making important reads about specific cards in your opponent’s hand or their remaining decks.
- Trying to predict their picking order (in Last Hero Standing) based on opponent tendencies, what makes sense from their perspective, or overall mind games.
Pro Tip #9: Book and buy tickets early! Take care of your hardware.
Back in 2015, I missed out on the Dreamhack Cluj Spring Tavern Tales because I didn’t buy tickets in time. I waited for just one or two days, but the tickets had sold out! Remember that some major tournaments, especially EU Dreamhacks, can fill very quickly. Make sure to claim your spot as quickly as possible! Airplane ticket prices can also rise dramatically and unexpectedly, so don’t leave it for the last moment!
If an event requires you bring your own device, then test it to ensure it won’t cause any issues. At Dreamhack Winter 2016, I made the mistake of not purchasing a new laptop before the event, even though it had several issues due to past liquid spills. The graphics card wasn’t working properly and the battery was in pretty bad shape. Nevertheless, I was picky about going to the store and decided to postpone my decision. That was costly: my laptop started having serious issues on the first day of the event. I desperately tried to make it work, but it just wasn’t stable enough. I had to borrow devices from other people (thank you Samir!) and couldn’t record my series!
All that stress definitely affected my mindset in the tournament. I played my first series versus Chakki poorly, losing to my mistakes and starting the event 0-1.
Pro Tip #10: Learn from the past… Record your games!
This is easily done if you’re playing on your own laptop, assuming it’s not too old. This is something I first heard about from StanCifka. Last year I took his advice and recorded all of my Dreamhack games using OBS. The upsides are immense:
- You can always review your games so you won’t obsess over small decisions – you will always have the time to do figure out if that play was correct later!
- Reviewing alone or in groups is a great way to identify mistakes like bad counting, not taking enough risks, or incorrect mulligans.
- It helps you adopt a growth and constant learning mindset. If you’re very unlucky, then you’ll be able to convince yourself and everyone else if you recorded the games. But usually there are play mistakes to fix! I make at least 5 – 10 in every Dreamhack. Most of them are small, but they add up and sometimes one mistake costs you an entire series!
I’ll discuss reviewing your games in depth in a future article!
Bonus Tip #11: Don’t get drunk the day before the Major… but don’t forget to have fun!
If you’re still playing in the second day of the tournament, then it’s ok to indulge as long as it won’t affect your play tomorrow. On the other hand, if your priority is to do well in the event then focus on your games!
I hope you enjoyed this article! Best of luck in your first Hearthstone Major, and if you think you can add more tips then let me know! Until next week!