By Dethelor

Earlier this year, Blizzard announced the format for this year’s World Championship, the Conquest format.

I am pretty sure most of you are familiar with it since it’s the format used in the plethora of tournament after Blizzard first announced it.

In short: Both players pick 3 decks of different classes and the winner is the player that gets exactly one win with each of these 3 decks. The winner of the game has to switch the deck and can’t play it for the remainder of the Bo5, while the losing player can either switch or keep the same deck. Sounds familiar, right?

Conquest is pretty much the exact opposite of the 2014 format Last Hero Standing (LHS) with the exception of the ban, which was the main reason that Blizzard decided to announce a new format. If one deck becomes dominant then players will either have to ban it, or the Meta will revolve around it. The old Miracle Rogue deck is an example of a deck that snowballed out of control and Patron Warrior could be considered another one. In a Last Man Standing scenario without a ban, people would need a deck to counter the strongest deck of the meta and in case of Patron Warrior the choice would most likely be Handlock, because of the deck’s great matchup against Patron Warrior.


Early February – Trying to cope with Conquest


When the Conquest Format was originally announced, after a few Bo5 games I disliked it. I believed it lacked the most interesting element of the LHS; you had to prepare a line-up with answers to multiple decks. In LHS if all your decks were particularly strong against control decks, a well geared aggressive deck could easily sweep you.

However this is not the case in Conquest since it enforces players to pick decks similar to each other. This could lead to heavy deck targeting and removes a lot of the strategic elements of deck building. You don’t want to have decks that perform well against the whole field but rather have decks that do well against the same kind of decks. Right now (3 months into conquest) I am more happy with it than I used to be but I would still like to see tournaments rotating between different formats.

Note: Archon’s Coup Format used in Pinnacle 1-3 has been my favorite until now, and I would like to see it used in future tournaments.


The Conquest Format in leagues

Image: Kinguin Pro League

The biggest problem with the format lately was seen in the Kinguin Invitational. I notably remember the case of Sjow, an avid control warrior player. However he only brought Control Warrior once – in the series against Firebat. Firebat was known for playing a lot of Oil Rogue and Freeze Mage and Control Warrior shines against these decks. Unfortunately for Sjow, Firebat won the mind games and brought Handlock, a very greedy control Paladin list and Shaman to counter his Warrior deck. His plan worked perfectly as he managed to come back from 2-0 and sweep Sjow’s Warrior.

It’s noteworthy that Sjow decided to bring Warrior only once in the Group Stage, probably because he considered the risk higher than the reward. In such cases, if Sjow decides to bring the Warrior deck, the player going for an all-in strategy would be in a very good spot but if he doesn’t then the player puts himself into a big disadvantage. I don’t believe that these kinds of mind games are healthy for Hearthstone, particularly when they are the rule rather than the exception. It also punishes players from playing the decks they love, especially if their preference of a deck is widely known. Maybe Amaz would play Priest more often if the format was Last Hero Standing!

This case is obviously more relevant in “showmatches” since you only have to prepare decks for a single player rather than for the whole tournament. That’s the reason why I believe Hearthstone leagues should not strictly follow the Conquest format, especially if the players know the exact opponent they are going to face beforehand. Blindly guessing and preparing for specific opponents should not be the core of Hearthstone.

The Conquest format has made decks which were considered dominant, to be in a worse spot. Another problem with Conquest is that you have to win with every single of your decks so a surprise / less consistent deck could cost you the series. In LHS if you ran a deck with a lot of unexpected cards, worst case scenario you went 0-1. In Conquest if you simply draw badly in the first game it not only costs you the game, but your opponent also learns most of the cards in your deck.

But there are also some bright things in Conquest – We can all agree that finally people will concede when facing a certain loss whereas back at LHS some players would literally stall the game forever to scout the enemy deck (and I can’t blame them for that). Now if you hang in the game for too long you risk spoiling the secrets of your deck. I myself have conceded games with a blank Harrison being my only play – I believed I had around 1% to win the game at that point but preferred to hide my tech card which ended winning the series for me.


To sum it up, the Conquest format is neither a curse nor a blessing for Hearthstone. Few days ago I saw the Vulcun format in which you play Conquest but ban one of your opponents deck and was reminded of Seat Story which used this format a while ago. I generally dislike the concept of bans in Hearthstone and more so in a format like Conquest. I consider it counter intuitive since you are essentially giving a free win to an opponent’s deck.

But since Conquest is the exact opposite of LHS, shouldn’t you "ban" one of your own decks? It may sound weird but it makes a lot of sense. In Conquest players normally avoid bringing specific decks (e.g. Freeze Mage) to dodge line-ups with multiple bad matchups (Warrior, Druid etc.). But if you have the opportunity to give a free win to one of your decks, then you are more confident bringing “higher risk” decks to a tournament.

In most cases players have full information over their decks but limited over their opponents’. However taking a decision on your own decks makes much more sense rather than blindly banning one of your opponent’s. The ban on an opposing deck can cause a lot of confusion to the players and put them to a tough spot:

  • My opponent has a Rogue deck but can he play it well?
  • Which of his decks is his favorite/strongest one?
  • What version of Warlock/Warrior/Mage is he running?
  • Which of my decks will he ban?

There are multiple ways of making the “Revisited Conquest” format happen. Both players could announce their 4 decks to their opponents (via classban, or chat, or a platform) and then the deck selected by both players in Game 1, gets a “free win” for both players.



Image: EU vs CN

Player A brings a traditional aggressive lineup of: Patron Warrior, Zoo, Midrange Paladin and Hunter – all of his decks do well against Druid.

If Player B brings Druid and knows that the Warlock Deck of Player A is Zoo then he will most probably “grab a free win” for his Druid Deck. For the sake of the story let’s say he brings a more combo oriented line-up of Malylock, Patron Warrior, Rogue and Freeze Mage.

Even if Player A has limited information over player B he could assume that his opponent plays at least some combo decks. But if any information is present, Player’s A call to “protect” his Paladin would be a no-brainer since the Paladin Deck is a tough spot against combo decks.

As for Player B – he would most probably decide to play his Rogue and Mage and his third pick would be a close call depending on his read / information on player’s A decks.

This example is very similar to Hawkeye’s recent Dreamhack story. After managing to go 7-0 in the Swiss round by playing Druid, Malylock and Midrange Shaman he had to overcome Dog in the Quarterfinals. Although both Hawkeye and Dog are some of finest Hearthstone players, I told Hawkeye that Dog was the player he would less likely want to face in the round of 8. Dog piloted three combo decks (Malylock, Patron, and Rogue) and Hawkeye’s Shaman would have a hard time grabbing a win.

Had he the opportunity to “protect” one of his classes he would probably still crush the Swiss Stage with his Shaman but keep it safe against a player with some deadly combo decks. For those who didn’t watch the games Hawkeye lost indeed to Dog with a score of 1-3 while his Shaman didn’t manage to grab a win (0-2).



As I am writing the article, plenty of questions arise. Should this idea be implemented in a new tournament? So, let’s add a fourth deck to each player and give them the opportunity to play only 3 of these 4 decks? What would change?


+ More variety in the game in the form of a new format or a change in an old one

+ Interesting new strategies!

+ Hard Counters can be prevented

+ More strategy in deck building and when selecting which 3 decks to play



+ / - Makes decks with multiple viable builds even stronger since your opponent benefits from knowing your exact archetype in order to “protect” a deck accordingly



-More complex for new players


So, that was it for today, I hope you liked my article and I would like to know your opinion on the topic. Let’s try another small variant. Same format – players still have 4 decks to choose from but there is no “free-win” to any decks. The game finishes when a player wins with exactly 3 decks. However you can maneuver between 4 instead of 3 decks this time.

Is this idea better than the one I originally purposed? Thoughts?

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