by Jordan “TheJordude” Hong Tai
Recently Tespa (Blizzard’s competitive collegiate division) partnered up with Red Bull Esports to create qualifiers for the upcoming Red Bull Team Brawl. Red Bull Team Brawl is a popular Hearthstone invitational event that features the “sealed” format, which is where teams draft decks from a limited card pool created by opening packs. In the Spring, this organizer hosted a $10,500 prize pool tournament, with pro teams Luminosity and Tempo Storm competing. Tespa is hosting a total of 4 qualifiers exclusively for collegiate students, where the top 2 players from each will secure a seat at the live event. I won the 1st qualifier and will be flying out to California to participate in this event.
The Tespa qualifiers utilized an interesting new format. Instead of the traditional best of 5 Conquest or Last Hero Standing, each player plays a single class where they have a “primary” deck and two decks that can be up to six total cards different than the primary list. The matches were best of 3 and you can use any deck any number of times despite win or loss. The brackets were eight rounds of swiss with a Top 8 single elimination playoff.
I first want to say that I really did enjoy this format and how this tournament was run despite some of the criticism it received from fellow players. Best of 3’s may not be optimal in the single elimination playoffs (I’d recommend best of 5’s moving forward), but in the eight rounds of Swiss in 1 day, it felt necessary as I was very burnt out by the end of it. Using a single class with a “sideboard” was interesting and reminded me of the good old days playing other TCG’s like Yu-Gi-Oh. With a primary deck, it really forced players to prepare ahead of time on how they wanted their lineup to look like, what matchups they would need to tech for, and how flexible their starting deck would need to be. Having six cards total that could be swapped out of the primary deck felt like JUST the right amount, as any more would allow players to play completely different decks and any less would be impossible to make significant changes. The sideboard also made most decks have a similar archetype to its core, but gave room for a little bit of creativity.
So the part that might be the most interesting: How did I prepare for this tournament and what was my thought processes that resulted in my qualification?
First of all here were my decklists for the event:
I decided to go with Shaman for a few reasons:
1. Since this format pretty much spells out tech cards, Shaman is a class that most classes do not and cannot easily tech against. There isn’t an abundance of Pirates or Murlocs to be crabbed on and there is no totem eater. The best way to tech against Shaman would be AoEs which a lot of classes do not run much of, or use crabs instead to deal with aggro decks.
2. Shaman is a class that is very well-rounded and can win against anything when the cards align. Expecting a broad field of decks, I prefer a deck that has say ~60% to beat everything rather than 70% to beat certain classes and 30% against the rest.
3. Token Shaman is good against aggro. Expecting a lot of players to try to cheese with aggro decks I wanted something that would be consistently good against them, and yet would still have a good shot against control decks. I didn’t want to play a control class as it is easier to be punished by Rogue and Jades, as well as draw RNG just being unreliable a lot of the time where you need specific answers and specific times.
4. Shaman is very flexible. As you can see from my lists above the secondary and tertiary deck are quite different than my primary despite only 6 cards being changed. That is because the primary Shaman list, which is just a cookie cutter list, has a lot of slots that are not core to the deck and can be substituted for tech options.
There is nothing special to say about the primary deck as this is the most commonly used list for Token Shaman. It is very clean, no techs, and has a good percentage against the rest of the classes. Against other primary decks, they would not have any techs targeting Token Shaman. I would also note that Token Shaman is strong against aggro decks with the early board pressure and Devolve/Maelstrom clears as well as having good matchups against midrange/control because of the ability to evolve the Doppelgangsters and have Bloodlust burst. The bad matchups for the deck are Taunt Warrior, Control Mage (which I teched for in the other decks) and Rogue, which I somehow managed to defeat in 2 different rounds by having enough early damage and pressure. Aside from Taunt Warrior and Control Mage, I would queue this deck in against everything else as the win rates would be better than my other 2 decks.
The second deck list I submitted were specifically for Mages, control in particular. This is quite obvious with the double Eater of Secrets for the Ice Blocks, but I also added in additional Jade cards to increase my mid-late game pressure and board spreading for Bloodlust finishes.
The deck worked out quite well and I won all my Mage matchups as intended, even against Tempo Mages as the Eater of Secrets turned out to be good enough, getting on the board with a reasonable body for tempo.
The third deck list I submitted has Taunt Warrior in mind. I chose to go with White Eyes and Cairne Bloodhoof as my additional deathrattles as they generate the most late game value. By adding in Spirit Echos, I am able to get additional deathrattles rather than just the 3 in the deck and N’zoth would be too much for the Warrior to handle if they can even get to that point as they would have likely used up their AoEs.
Making the list more value and late game heavy makes Warrior’s Sleeping with the Fishes and Brawls less effective against my deck. Though I played against 0 Warriors, I still used this deck to win against other control decks like N’zoth Paladin, Control Priest, and even a Jade Druid.
The new expansion, the Frozen Thrones will be released right before this tournament. I think this is super exciting as it will be one of the first streamed events featuring the new cards. What is great is that I don’t have to stress too much about the new cards being available, since the format is a controlling factor on what cards I am able to play so we wouldn’t be trying to play the most optimal meta decks anyway. However I will do my research on the new cards to make sure I can identify what is worth playing and what is not if I pull them into my card pool.
We have yet to be informed of the “pros” that will be participating in the event with us. Regardless, I am looking forward in meeting new and familiar faces and overall having a good time while I am there. 2 other players from my school qualified, so it should be a blast traveling and competing with or against them.
Jordan Hong Tai, known as “TheJordude” is a Hearthstone player and social media associate for compLexity Gaming. For over 2 years he has enriched the coL.HS squad with his presence while becoming a fierce grinder on ladder, online tournaments, and the collegiate scene. Apart from his business studies, and competitive Hearthstone, the youngster from Vancouver, Canada is also a content producer, tournament organizer, and one of the top North American streamers for the Shadowverse scene.
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