Is Best-of-Three Still A Valid Format for Hearthstone?



The decline of Bo3 in modern Hearthstone premier events.

Professional Hearthstone has been through many tournament formats, searching for the best one to run in major events where coin flips just won’t cut it. In the early days, one of the most common was best of three (Bo3). In recent months, however, tournaments have shifted to a best of five (Bo5) format, due in part to the randomness inherent to Hearthstone. Join me, as we look at some of the reasons why Bo3 has been phased out over the past year.

In general, the Bo3 rule set keeps things simple, because of the limited amount of games played. Each participant starts out with three decks, often each from a different class. In some instances, a ban system is in place, which cuts the available decks down to two. Players choose a deck at the beginning of the match, and the winner continues on with the same deck. The losing player switches decks until they win, or are eliminated. Often a tie will result in a Bo1 match to determine who advances to the next round. Semi finals and finals for events that utilize a Bo3 group format are generally a Bo5, or even a Bo7 in some cases.

Tournaments with a lucrative prize pool, such as the recent DreamHack Grand Prix, and the Archon Team League Championships have begun to move away from Bo3 in favor of a Bo5, or even a Bo11 format. Likewise, the finals in any given event since the inception of Hearthstone have used more games as a way to mitigate the RNG (random number generator) aspect of Hearthstone. The reason for this is that the more games opponents play, the less likely one is to win the series based on a Ragnaros coin flip, or Knife Juggler hits. The ability to minimize misplays, and to always make the best out of a bad situation is what separates the professional players from someone that is simply above average. This skill set is shared with other card games, such as Magic the Gathering, or Poker. Professional players often migrate from one game to another, as seen with MTG Hall of Fame legend Brian Kibler, and retired Poker high roller Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy. Both of these players, in addition to many others, have gone on to enormous popularity in the Hearthstone scene, and rank among the world’s finest.

Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy – Migrated From Poker

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Current Team





Despite its decline in popularity for use in premier events, Bo3 does have a place in small tournaments, and show matches. Oftentimes, the format can be used when time constraints are a concern, or when organizers want every player to receive stream time. Fun tournaments among friends, or community open events also tend to use Bo3 because it cuts down on admin time, somewhat. Quite often, when a popular streamer goes head to head against a peer, they will use this format as well for the same reason. Perhaps eventually, we will see it phased out in the aforementioned types of events in favor of the more skill oriented formats that require more games to reduce variance. For now, though, it will be relegated to minor events where having fun outweighs the concern of a winning due to hard work, dedication, and practice. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!



Dave Eaton

An avid Hearthstone player after the game released. When he isn't writing, he can be found sipping on coffee, enjoying some EDM, and gaming with his girlfriend. Don't let him fool you, she's better than he is.

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