Whether it’s watching the best of the best or doing my best to compete at a level that pushes me, competitive Hearthstone is a different animal in a lot of ways to the ladder.
My biggest suggestion if you’re interested in it is to jump in. Join Team HearthLeague or find a tournament on Strivewire. You learn from doing more than hearing.
But I thought sharing some things that I’ve learned from my experiences that can be translated to good information when climbing the ladder could be helpful.
1. Deck selection matters.
When preparing for Dreamhack Denver, all I knew was what the strong decks were on the ladder at the time. I also knew about different strategies (playing the strongest decks, picking decks that counter those decks, picking counters that counter the counter…), but I had no clue how to navigate those choices.
I look to the winner of that tournament Ike who brought a spell heavy Mage deck that was very “off meta.” It ended up being his most banned class because it was strong and unexpected. What a choice.
When you’re picking a deck to ladder, the unexpected is not to be underestimated. Because you have less wiggle room to still be meta-relevant, not many people are apt to throw in cards that aren’t “tried and true.” This is where you can take advantage of people’s expectations. A Leeroy in Cubelock will not be seen from a mile away. Nobody will know how to deal with an Ultimate Infestation in an Aggro Druid. A card here or there to fill gaps you see in your deck can take your opponent by surprise and sometimes be worth it. Just don’t go cray. 😉
2. Mindset matters.
I was blown away by the number of competitive Hearthstone players at HCT who seemed to wear their emotions on their sleeves throughout all phases of their play. Appa taught me this very simply when preparing for Dreamhack Denver: “Play every game the same: as best as you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t draw well. Don’t get tilted even if you mess up. Take it in stride, and get better each game no matter what the result is.”
I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one on the ladder more than in tournaments. I think it’s because of the anonymity of it. It’s easy for us to lose our cool when it’s just us. Don’t let that be you. Catch yourself. Slow down. Choose what’s best, not what comes easiest.
3. Practice matters.
When gearing up for my UHL matches, I’ve noticed that however much time I put into thinking about which decks to take and that I put into practice matches makes a huge difference in my confidence level and quality of gameplay. I’ve learned that now I will do whatever it takes to get well-prepared for those matches rather than just going on auto-pilot.
Don’t be afraid to practice to gear yourself up for the ladder either. Play some casual matches. Ask a friend to boot up a challenge with you. When you put the time into playing as well as you can with zero fallbacks if you fail, you learn with a lot more ease.
More than anything, competitive Hearthstone has taught me to be mindful of how I play the game. If you’re looking to climb the ladder or just become a better Hearthstone player, taking hold of an analytical mindset and pushing yourself to think outside the box will always help you.