Finally, Blizzard presents us with the new tournament format for the upcoming season of Hearthstone eSports. This format will most likely have a bigger difference in term of decks present in comparison to the ladder meta, that sounds pretty exciting. Hope we get this built into the client to make practice for these tournaments easier.

Hearthstone Master consists of 3 stages and the first one is Masters Qualifiers. These qualifiers are open to everybody, there will be around 30 online events hosted by Battlefy. Top players on these qualifiers will be awarded some Hearthstone pack and the winner will be invited to a second stage of the tournament called Masters Tour. If you are interested in participating in the event you can see the schedule of tournaments here. First qualifiers are starting on 5th of the March and registration are already open.

Another way to qualify is with a great performance on the Standard Ladder. Top 200 will be invited to a special tournament, Ranked Ladder Qualifier and the top 4 players will have a chance to participate in the Tour stage of the competition.

Depending on the region where you played your qualifiers and got qualified for the Masters Tour there will be a corresponding event (America, Europe, Asia Pacific). The American tour is already revealed to be held in Las Vegas at LINQ hotel from 14th of July to 16th. Other two Masters Tours will be played in the Asia Pacific and then in Europe but the location isn't decided upon, yet.

The prize pool is currently $250,000, is said currently because Blizzard is planning to release some limited eSports bundles and the portion of those sales will be distributed in the prize pools of the three Masters Tours.

Possible ways to qualify for the Masters Tour are:

  • Winning an online Masters Qualifier
  • Placing in the top four of a Ranked Ladder Qualifier
  • Securing an invitation through licensed third-party tournaments
  • Finishing as a *top-performer at a previous Masters Tour event
  • Qualifying through the China Gold Series
  • Finishing out Year of the Raven with at least 120 Hearthstone Competitive Points

Top performers for the Masters Tour aren't clarified, at least I couldn't find it. If anyone sees the information about that, please let me know.

There is no concrete information about the last stage of the tournament, but I can safely say that this will be for the best of the best, top players in the Master Tours. Maybe there will be more ways to earn the spot in the Hearthstone Grandmasters but it is yet unknown.

Before we get to the Specialist format rules I gotta point out the fun fact I didn't know before. The rules on banned cards from the tournaments state one card only. It is one and only Whizbang the Wonderful. This made me laugh but I don't see why anyone would bring this in their tournament line-up other than to meme at the highest level of Hearthstone. This actually makes me really want to see someone try it. Too bad that won't be possible xD
Link to the rules and policies page.

The Format

I will leave a brief description and the rules behind the format, for those that are too lazy to read just watch the video:

The era of Conquest format ends on April 25th. Specialist format is the first one in which the players will be playing only with ONE class. Players need to submit three decks with the chosen class. There are a couple of requirements. The players need to designate one deck as their Primary deck. Other decks (Secondary and Tertiary) need to have at least 25 cards that are in the Primary deck. This can be viewed as an introduction to the side boards in Hearthstone. Swapped cards, even if they are two of the same count as two swaps.

All matches will be BO3 (except finals will be BO5) and both players have to use their Primary deck in the first game and every other round they may choose to change to any other deck in their line-up without announcing it to the opponent or may choose to stay with the deck, no matter if they win or lose with it.

This is pretty much it, for more information visit Blizzard Introduction to the format and tournaments here.

My thoughts and theorycraft of a possible line-up

At first, I thought this will be boring because you can bring only one class, right? Actually, after some time spent theorycrafting of possible line-ups I can see how much a deck can change by swapping just 5 cards.

I will show my thought process on the Zoo Warlock deck and the Primary deck for this example will look like this:


This is basically a version of the deck that is seen on the ladder, it is well balanced. Decent versus aggro with a couple of taunts and with Despicable Dreadlord and has the ability to finish control decks before they can react plus the amount of reach is huge to close out the games.

Our Secondary deck will be targeting aggro to increase our odd in the possible match-up:

Changes made:
- 2 Soulfire, - 2 Spellbreaker and - Leeroy Jenkins
+ 2 Mortal Coil, +2 Doubling Imp and + Doomguard

The reason for the cards removed is that Soulfire and Leeroy are most often used and even best to be used when you are finishing the game with them. This is mostly needed versus control decks to prevent them from stabilizing and Spellbreaker is used to remove taunts so that this finisher can be pulled off most often. In the aggro match-up, there is no need for the finisher and the important thing become taking control of the board, overwhelming the opponent with your minions and slowly but steadily win the game.

Mortal Coil is a nice replacement for the Soulfire since it does what we want to do and since we are targeting aggro then most of the opponent's minions will be small and easily removed with the Coil making card advantage or in some cases even tempo advantage.

Doubling Imps make sense too versus aggro, in this case maybe leaving one Spellbreaker for some niche situation is okay, but in this format, I would like to try and exploit what we are trying to do depending on the match-up so double Doubling Imps (Quadruple? xD) makes sense to me.

Doomguard seems like a better version of Leeroy in this case for two reasons. First is that 5/7 is a pretty large body with charge, especially for the charge minion and second is that we will probably try and play as many cards possible every turn, meaning that there will be less time to life tap and most of the time Doomguards drawback won't be applied, while still give a possible out when trying to finish the game.

For our Tertiary deck even though our deck is really good against slower deck we will try to improve on the control match-ups with a list like this:

Changes made:
- Tar Creeper, - 2 Despicable Dreadlord and - Saronite Chain Gang and
+ Void Ripper, + 2 Cobalt Scalebane and + Rin, The First Disciple

Cards removed are good against aggro and help us maintain board control which won't be necessary versus control decks that will play a low amount of minions and a high count of removal. We need something that will either impact the board really hard or put our opponent on the clock, where our opponent needs to clear our threats as fast as possible.

Tar Creeper is mostly anti-aggro card but can be also used to protect minions and also is a decent body for Fungalmancer but I think one is enough and a replacement for the other one is highly necessary, Void Ripper. This is sooo good against taunts because taunts mostly have high health and low attack which makes them really easy to clear when Void Ripper enters the play, definitely a good pick up.

Despicable Dreadlord is another effective but anti-aggro card, versus control it just feels like a 5 mana Yeti and that's really not what we want. Cobalt Scalebane, on the other hand, is something that needs to be removed as soon as possible or it will generate value constantly. Also, Scalebane is easier to get utilized since we have a higher chance to have a minion on the board in these match-ups.

For the last change, we are removing one Saronite Chain Gang for Rin, The First Disciple! This is why I love this new format, makes me wonder, will this single change make a huge impact on the control match-up. I'm not 100% sure but it seems like something I would like to have versus slow, heavy value decks. If this is not silenced or transformed it starts a clock for the opponent that threatens the rest of their deck! This is awesome to think about and I will definitely try and test this to see the results. Maybe a more safe approach would be to get something like Black Knight for more taunt removal or Mojomaster Zihi but I don't care this is too interesting to pass on as a possibility.

That would be it, can't wait to see a tournament in this format to see what pro players will make with their line-ups, but I'm sure there will be some interesting stuff, especially in the first couple of competitions until everyone figures it out.

Thank you for reading!