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Hearthstone arena tournaments: do they work, and are they interesting?

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On May the 25th, the first Hearthstone Arena tournament was played, featuring famous streamers and players alike including Amaz, Reynad, Hafu, Massan, Tides and Trump. This was the first major arena tournament of its kind and brought with it a different flair than a regular constructed format might.

The typical tournament format involves players bringing in three of their own decks to match against other players. If they lose with one of their decks, they have to use a different deck and keep playing with that deck until they lose. Once they lose with their second deck, they have to use their third deck and continue playing until they win or lose the match. Most matches are typically best of three or best of five depending on how the tournament is structured, so there are matches where a player only uses two decks rather than all three.

This tournament involved players drafting their deck arena-style with a limit of two non-legendaries per deck and one legendary per deck before recreating this deck in constructed. All the matches were best of ones in double knockout fashion apart from the grand final, which was a best of three but gave the undefeated player a one game advantage.

Pros and cons

Pros:
  • Games are harder to predict since it's harder to figure out what the opponent has in hand or in their deck, thereby making it more entertaining since every deck is fresh
  • It's a fun system and a break from the regular competitive format, which can be stale at times
Cons:
  • The shorter format makes luck a bigger factor and the games more random
  • Certain drafted decks will be significantly stronger than other decks based on what cards are offered

Decked by drafts

The tournament itself was held over Twitch on Reynad's channel, commentated by Frodan and Kripp, and eventually won by Reynad when he faced off against Massan, who came over from the loser's bracket. The games themselves were fairly entertaining, but it was clear that certain decks had a huge advantage over others. For example, when Amaz faced off against Hafu the commentators noted that Amaz had two Consecrations in his paladin deck while Hafu had no Lightning Storms in her shaman deck, and so the edge was given over to Amaz. However, because Hafu regularly plays arena on her stream and Amaz regularly plays priest constructed on his stream, Hafu managed to outplay Amaz relatively easily and moved on.

Similarly when Massan and Reynad faced off, both players had drafted mage decks but Reynad had a much better deck due to having one Pyroblast, one Flame Strike, one Fireball and two Polymorphs while Massan only had two Polymorphs as hard removals. Additionally, Massan was offered Four Water Elementals during the draft but could only pick two due to the limitation, and so this eliminated two good options for his deck and made him pick inferior cards.

Measuring success

At its peak, Lord of the Arena was viewed by 70,622 peak concurrent viewers on Twitch, with over 150,000 people tuning in at some point to view the one-day tournament. Additionally, judging from the positive comments on Reddit most people enjoyed the tournament and saw it as a positive step for Hearthstone. Special recognition should be given to the organizing committee as the event was made on a shoestring budget and completed without a significant investment.

This was the first arena tournament of its kind and seemed to be well-liked by most Hearthstone viewers. Some viewers may not have enjoyed the tournament as much, though, as there is even more variance than usual due to the random cards that may find their way into a deck and there is no typical metagame to follow. However, this aspect of the game also brings a fresh new take to Hearthstone in general, providing a nice break from the usual suspects like Miracle Rogue and Zoolock that are prevalent in constructed tournaments. Overall, this tournament was run very well and most viewers would definitely welcome a second arena tournament if it were to happen.

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