When the best players in the world compete, it’s worth paying attention. High-level tournament play is worth watching not only for the drama and spectacle, but also for vital insights in optimising decision making. But while you can gain a lot from the top players, you shouldn’t take everything. ‘Netdecking’ the exact lists used in tournaments is almost always a mistake.
The Power of the Ban
One crucial aspect in tournament play is the typical one-ban conquest format. This massively impacts how decks are constructed. For instance, many tech choices are aimed at specific classes: Void Ripper or Skulking Geist to counter Druid, Silence effects to slow Hunter, or additional AOE effects to thwart Paladin. If you plan to ban a certain archetype, it tends not to be worth including said effects.
Moreover, you may bring decks that are weak to a popular archetype with the understanding you can ban its hard counter. Non-Odd Control Warrior struggles massively against Deathrattle Hunter, but if you ban Hunter, you can play it with impunity.
This means that tournament decks often have gaping ladder weaknesses. You are likely to have at least one matchup that is far more polarized against you than is optimal. What’s more, you won’t have the tech cards you need to even the odds.
Almost all tournaments have open decklists for logistical purposes. This massively changes the dynamics of play. You can mulligan aggressively for the cards you know you’ll need. You can be sure of the opponent’s win condition. And you can perfectly predict their outs and remaining threats.
What’s more, there is more of an incentive to run certain tech cards. Choices like Mind Control Tech or Spellbreaker are easy to cut. But if your opponent knows you do not have them, they are free not to play around them. This can massively punish you in tournaments, where a greedy Cube play that your opponent knows you cannot deal with can mean game over.
On ladder, you are far more free to cut certain tech options. The threat of them can inhibit your opponent even when you do not have them. You also gain more advantages from having unexpected win conditions, or from your opponent’s mulligan uncertainty. This benefits alternative decks for classes with existing, strong archetypes.
Personalisation and Playing to Your Strengths
A final argument against simply copying tournament decks is that they inhibit your personal preferences and creativity. It’s a lot of fun to find a deck that works for you, and to add in quirky idiosyncrasies that complement your playstyle. Personally, I love setting up the perfect Geosculptor Yip or Azalina, whereas others may be better at pursuing different win conditions.
By making decks your own, you can not only express your personal creativity, but also improve your win rate by playing to your strengths rather than someone else’s.
Tournament decks are fascinating, and deserve your attention. But if you want to express yourself and get the best results, it’s better to tweak them or find alternative sources of inspiration. And hey, you never know; maybe you’ll end up taking your own deck to a tournament someday.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com