How to run a Hearthstone Fireside Gathering tournament
Updated May 4th: Revised the blank decklist form below to include 4 lists.
The recent announcement of Blizzard’s Fireside Gathering Championships gave me a unique opportunity to try my hand at running and organizing a tournament in person. I’ve been to several Fireside Gatherings before in Vancouver but those amounted to lower turnouts between 4 – 9 players. There had to be more Hearthstone players around and this was one way to see if I could coax them out.
Have you wanted to step up your involvement with the game? Maybe you’ve hosted a Fireside Gathering or two in the past. While organizing a tournament seems daunting enough, if pulled off successfully, it can be a wonderful experience for everyone! You may have seen a previous post I wrote on competing in tournaments. Today, I’ll walk you through the steps all the way from preparation to execution of your own Fireside tournament.
Step 1: Preparation
This is the logistics and planning stage of the event. There are important questions that need to be asked:
- Where can I host my tournament?
- What is the best time to run the event?
- What tournament platform and style will I use?
Gatherings can be held in places such as comic shops, community centers, or college recreation rooms. In my case, I used a local hobby and gaming store called Players Wanted. They have a great setup in the back of the store with multiple tables and chairs. They frequently host board game nights, Friday Night Magic, and D&D groups. Look for a store that’s easily accessible via public transportation. Ensure there are enough power outlets. A working wi-fi is a major plus. Have a rough approximation of how many players can comfortably play in the environment. Talk to the store manager and see if they’re receptive to the idea. Ideally, there will be some food or drinks nearby (and of course, washrooms).
The next thing that needs to be done is to establish a date. Tournaments can be run in a day. Be mindful of holidays and exam schedules. Check that the store doesn’t have another event happening on that same day like a Magic pre-release or a different tournament of their own.
Lastly is the tournament format itself. Blizzard stipulates that you can use Single Elimination, Round Robin, Double Elimination, or Swiss. Matches must be played out in the best-of-5 Conquest format where winners must change decks but the loser can use the same deck or switch. In addition, events must have a minimum of 8 players or else they won’t count. There is no limit to the amount of players who can compete but organizers will have to separate them into multiple groups if it exceeds 16.
With my Vancouver Hearthstone event, I made the call to use the Swiss format. There were some players who were travelling to play and I didn’t want them come here to play one match only to get knocked out. Swiss would at least guarantee 3 matches. I expected a turnout of 10 or so players but was pleasantly surprised when 30 showed up. I split them into a group of 16 and a group of 14. No one in group A would play anyone from group B. With 16 players, 4 rounds of Swiss was adequate. Total time from start to finish was around 7 hours.
- Check venue internet and power capabilities
- Check for tables and chairs
- Check for nearby refreshments and washroom use
- Check for event conflicts on the scheduled day
- Choose a tournament style and platform
Step 2: Promotion
Have a centralized page which includes all the details needed for the event. The Battlefy page has clearly marked areas where you include a tournament overview, event prizes, and official Fireside rules. It should cover most of the questions players will have. Leave a way for potential attendees to get in touch with you if they have other questions. Set aside around 6 to 7 hours for the event and post an expected schedule of how long rounds will take and if there will be any breaks throughout the day. Hearthstone does have built in time limits for turns and most games shouldn’t run that long. I allocated 45 minutes for each round but have a buffer. There were a few matches that ended up being pure control decks.
Email the Fireside Gathering team with the venue information and their IP address (Battle.net will allow a limited number of devices per IP address and the address needs to get whitelisted). This will get you listed on Blizzard’s Fireside Gathering page. Consider submitting your event to Liquid Hearth’s event page, as well.
- Email Blizzard’s Fireside Gatherings team and submit to Liquid Hearth
- Post it to any local Facebook groups and other social media
- Reach out to any eSports organizations from local schools
- Create and print out flyers and post them to bulletin boards in hobby stores (with permission)
Step 3: Execution
During the week leading up to the event, you can open up player registration. The tournament platforms allow players to signup and register on their own. You’ll want them to include (at minimum) their battle tag, first name, and last name.
Here is a blank decklist form you can share and use.
It might sound weird to call people out by their battle tag, but trust me, you’ll get used to it. Liam Neeson openly called out Big Buffet Boy 85 on Clash of Clans. You’ll be fine.
Try to show up as early as possible to get properly organized. If you have volunteers with you, meet up with them and make sure everyone introduces themselves. Designate a table in a centralized location for judges where you can set up your laptop. Put up photo and filming notices so that everyone is aware that their pictures could be taken.
As players start streaming in, start checking them in once their deck lists are submitted (and are physically present). Have extra blank sheets handy. I strongly recommend suggesting that players have their deck lists filled out in advance before they arrive.
Go over the player list one last time and cross reference it with the submitted deck lists. Once they all line up, you are ready to initiate your bracket. Get everyone’s attention and introduce yourself and the team. Start by going over the schedule, then explaining the rules and tournament format. Point out where restrooms and refreshments can be found. Your platform might have a way to export the bracket into a printable format which you can then post to a wall for players to check. Alternatively, you can load up the bracket on your laptop and rotate it so that it faces outward for everyone to see or provide the URL for everyone to examine it on their own device. Do not let players start playing yet. Get them seated first near their opponents and when everyone is situated with brackets confirmed one last time, go ahead and let them play. Remind them to take screenshots of their victory or defeat screens after every game.
Optional: If you have enough players for multiple groups, designate areas of the room for different groups. From a logistics standpoint, it confines the players within those areas otherwise they’ll have to move around and look for their opponents all over the place.
Players should report their matches to you after every match. I didn’t have any results disputes but that’s what screenshots are for. I can’t imagine anyone would try to falsely report results, but there’s your insurance.
After the group stage wraps up, you’ll now enter the playoff round. You can cut to top 4 if there aren’t enough players for a top 8. The best players will be seeded according to their record (meaning that 1st plays 4th and 2nd plays 3rd) in a top 4 environment. Players will be entering the home stretch. It’s okay to give them a short break between the group round and the playoff round. Single elimination continues on through to the end until clear winners are determined. Don’t forget to collect the winner’s information!
- Check player registration and collect deck lists
- Set aside designated seating areas for multiple groups if needed
- Identify yourself and any volunteers with you
- Go over the tournament schedule and rules
- Double check the bracket
- Seat players but don’t begin matches until you’re absolutely sure the brackets look good
- Seriously, go over player registration and the bracket one more time
Step 4: Post Mortem
Once the tournament wraps up, help clean up whatever’s left behind and remind others to do the same. Something I like doing is chatting up with players who stick around toward the end to gather feedback on what would improve the overall tournament experience for next time. Thank all of the staff that helped you out.
Now for the boring administrative part. Tournament organizers will need to compile all of this information and package it neatly for Blizzard.
My favorite part after this is just sinking into the couch after a long and exhausting (but satisfying) day.
During our semi-finals, one of the games actually resulted in a tie. The rogue played Flurry which was enough to deal lethal to his opponent. However, his opponent had a Dr. Boom on the board with a pair of Boom Bots which went off and landed on the rogue resulting in defeat screens for both!
- Help clean up
- Solicit feedback
- Submit winner’s information including email, battle tag, and deck list to Blizzard
- Relax and pat yourself on the back for a job well done
If you’re curious about the Vancouver event, here’s a few quick links below with all of our event information and an infographic displaying the class composition, decks used, and deck lists of the finalists.
What happens if disconnects occur?
If a player randomly disconnects in-between games, I allowed them to reconnect and play out. If it starts happening more frequently with one specific player, it’s time to get suspicious. With all the hardware variations between players, sometimes disconnects are bound to happen. Luckily, Hearthstone’s reconnect feature worked out forfortunate players that were disconnected in the middle of their games.
Can players intentionally draw?
You can find more information about this in the rules under section 6a. Players are restricted from colluding or match fixing which means intentionally drawing.
I suspect a player is using an illegal deck, what can I do?
I recommend doing periodic deck checks throughout the tournament (something I didn’t do enough of). During rounds, call on a player at random and ask to see one of their decks. Cross reference it with their submitted list. Just the idea and threat of it should be enough to keep players honest (and not randomly sneaking in a Kezan Mystic). If you happen to catch someone with a faulty decklist, hit them with a game loss and let them play out. Give them the benefit of the doubt that a mistake was made. If a player firmly believes that a player used an illegal deck, you can pull them aside and do a quick scan of their active decks. Cheating does mean an automatic disqualification from the event.
How do I handle lates and no-shows?
I’ll admit, I was a lenient in the first event. I wanted to initiate the bracket at 1:30 PM but didn’t get going until 1:45 PM. One of our participants was having laptop issues and was struggling to fill in his deck list by trying to get into the game. Encourage players to fill them out in advance. If necessary, they can screenshot their deck list and email it to tournament organizers to fill out. It’s up to you if you want digital or paper copies (I prefer hard copies because navigating through almost 100 screenshots can be mind numbing).
Good luck with your event! If you run into any potential problems, do comment below and I’ll answer them as best I can (and include it here, even).
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