Heroic Tavern Brawl: Hearthstone’s Foray Into Tournament Mode

Big news emerged on the Hearthstone front, as Heroic Tavern Brawl was just announced. The initial scan of my Twitter feed upon hearing the news showed a lot of enthusiastic tweets and positive remarks about the upcoming Brawl. Let’s take a look at the Heroic Tavern Brawl, and what implications it has on the game.

What is Heroic Tavern Brawl?

As the name suggests, Heroic Tavern Brawl is going to be a Tavern Brawl that lasts for 1 week. The difference is that it is a tournament. You make a Standard card deck, you lock it in, and you play against other people. Like the Arena, you play until you lose 3 games, or until you reach 12 wins. So Heroic Tavern Brawl is basically a Tavern Brawl, that is Standard Constructed, but has the Arena win-loss system. Oh yeah, and it costs 1000 gold to participate.

Barriers to Entry

Hey, that was an easy transition. 1000 gold is not easy to earn in Hearthstone. Quests that require players to “win x games with class I don’t play” are the worst offenders towards gold-earning. While we are in the “gold-saving phase” before the next expansion, some people just don’t have a lot of gold saved up. Typically, these people are buying packs to try to expand their collections. I personally have an Arena reserve, where I spend on Arena everyday, but am able to replenish my coffers through Arena rewards and daily quests. Thanks to recent subpar play however, I currently do not have 1000 gold.

Blizzard is also making it no secret that Heroic Tavern Brawl will be difficult. I don’t think I have seen Team 5 take this point of view for anything in the game so far. They encourage people to play the game modes, never explicitly saying “avoid this” for any mode. Heroic Tavern Brawl, being a high-risk investment, comes with fair warning. So this could drive away the meek, or those who willingly admit their gameplay shortcomings.

The unpleasant Standard meta game could drive people away. Because the stakes are so high for Heroic Tavern Brawl and participants are confined to one deck, expect to see the ugliest, most draconian style of decks and gameplay. There are some jokes about the entire tournament being Shaman, but other classes are tough in this meta. Recently, I lost against a Mage in 7 turns (3 minutes)! That’s classic Face Hunter territory.
Also, we must consider the people who don’t have the time. The details are unknown, but it appears you can play this Heroic Tavern Brawl through a Wednesday – Sunday timeframe. That’s somewhere between 3 to 15 games. While that may not sound like a lot to many Hearthstone diehards, it is for those who are genuinely pressed for time.

Some Great Rewards

Blizzard’s post included a sample 12-win reward for the Heroic Tavern Brawl.

The sample shows 50 packs, 3 golden legendaries, about 1100 gold and 1100 dust. The total value of this is about 6100 gold and 5900 dust. These spoils reap about 12 times the initial 1000 gold entry fee.
Obviously, the 12-win reward image is a lure to get people to participate. The reality is that almost everyone who participates will fall short of 12, and it can only be accomplished through some combination of broken deck, extraordinary gameplay, and luck. So what would the scaling of rewards be? Ben Brode already stated that a 0-3 run will result in 1 pack. The image below shows the rewards by wins for the Heroic Tavern Brawl. It looks like 5-3 will be the breakeven record for this game mode. This equates to a 62.5% winrate, a similar winrate to those advertised by successful “legend decks.” The difference in rewards from 11 and 12 are seismic, making the 12-win mantle a true victory.

Who Will Play

Everyone who calls themselves a professional constructed Hearthstone player should participate. I mean, this is the ultimate test! Most players will likely be of the competitive-but-relatively-unknown ilk, those who have gotten legend a bunch, or are high on the ladder typically. There will also likely be a smattering of filthy casuals or mid-level scrubs who want to participate in the brawl, but ultimately provide free wins in the shallow end of the tournament. So I expect a wide range of players to participate, but the seasonal Rank 5 – Legend crowd will likely be the majority.

Tactics

With so much on the line, it would not be wise to go into the Heroic Tavern Brawl having done no research on the Standard Constructed meta. The Vicious Syndicate Data Reaper Report, will likely prove invaluable in providing hard data to help shape what deck you will play for the brawl. Decks are likely going to be aggressive, as those decks are still stronger than control decks with the card sets in place. The confusingly-named but somewhat variegated Midrange Shaman deck is the early favorite to dominate this brawl.

If the Heroic Tavern Brawl is replayable during the course of the brawl schedule, it might be prudent to wait for some intel before going in yourself. Getting a feel of the most powerful decks in the Heroic Brawl and bringing the best counter against that deck seems the best move. Tech choices become magnified to a great extent, and need to be justified for inclusion.

Future Heroic Brawls

Tavern Brawl always has been the proving grounds for future Hearthstone content. Obviously, this is testing for a possible in-game tournament mode. The question is how frequent these Heroic Tavern Brawls will appear before the real thing? Better yet, will it be a real thing? The rewards/cost of entry seem too extreme in my opinion for the prospective in-game tournament mode. The great players will “game the system” and earn infinite rewards, while others will be constantly broke. I can see these being a monthly or bi-monthly feature, until the in-game tournament mode is established. What if it all fails? Flaws in the upcoming Heroic Tavern Brawl can push everything back, so the data obtained from it will be extremely useful.

The End Game?

It is important that the Heroic Tavern Brawl either be a success, or exist as a valuable intermediate towards building tournament mode. In a way, there hasn’t been a good way to validate how good a player is in Hearthstone. Getting legend status for seasons has been the measuring tool for this, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A player could just have tons of time (no job/school/commitments) to grind the ladder with a mediocre win rate, and achieve legend. The clientele who play this Heroic Tavern Brawl will be funneled down to the most competitive, making the environment more difficult than regular Ranked. Further, our overall win rates are unknown to us without using deck tracking programs. The future in-game tournament mode is a better gauge for measuring raw skill in Hearthstone than legend status. This extra layer of validation also has value for competitive Hearthstone. Winning these Heroic Tavern Brawls could possibly award BlizzCon points, with more value than getting legend in a season.

Overall, I am excited for the Heroic Tavern Brawl, even though I probably won’t be playing myself. I am more excited about the effect this would have on Hearthstone’s direction moving forward.

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