Throughout two weekends in June and July, hundreds of North American college students battled for the right to compete alongside Hearthstone professionals in the Red Bull Team Brawl: Hearthstone College Clash.

Eight students qualified for the live finals and will compete with Hafu, Reynad, Amnesiac, and Firebat in Red Bull’s signature sealed deck format. You can tune in to the broadcast live on Twitch at twitch.tv/RedBullEsports at 12PM PDT on August 12th.

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Players brought three decks, all from the same class, in a unique format called “class challenge.” Unlike popular “conquest” or “last hero standing” formats, competitors had to lead best of three matches with a single primary deck. The other two decks could only vary from the first by up to six cards. Players often used this flex space to target opposing strategies with tech cards like Eater of Secrets and Burgly Bully. Class challenge rewarded innovative strategies and flexible lineups, forcing deck builders to think outside the box.

The four qualifiers challenged competitors to fight through a gauntlet of up to eight swiss rounds. This format played out four times throughout the summer, and hundreds of Hearthstone players faced the chopping block. Two finalists from each qualifier stood above the rest, earning invitations to the finals in Santa Monica, California.

June Finalists

Jordan ‘TheJordude’ Hong Tai - Simon Fraser University

Class: Shaman
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

TheJordude’s creative lineup helped define what it meant to play Shaman in the class challenge format. TheJordude used a standard Token Shaman as his primary, backed up by two unconventional secondaries. His first alternative deck was Jade Shaman, complete with Eater of Secrets to target Mage. Spirit Echo Shaman focused on reusing high value minions like Cairne Bloodhoof and White Eyes to grind out control decks. TheJordude’s win in the very first qualifier proved to be inspiring. Players flocked to Shaman in the following weeks, often building off of TheJordude’s groundbreaking lineup.

Francis ‘Fwan’ Wan - Simon Fraser University

Class: Mage
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

Although Mage was the most played class across all four qualifiers, a single Mage player stood out from the pack. Fwan managed to pull through to the finals with a unique Mage lineup, completing Simon Fraser’s sweep over the first qualifier. Fwan relied on a tried and true Burn Mage as a primary deck while one secondary served to counter other Mages as well as control decks. Burgly Bully’s synergy with Archmage Antonidas gave him an edge against popular spell casting classes like Druid and Priest. Secret Mage rounded out the lineup. The synergy between Kabal Crystal Runner and Kirin Tor Mage gave Fwan’s lineup a bit more muscle, pushing him through to the Hearthstone College Clash.

Peter ‘Egstirmenate’ Nguyen - UT Arlington

Class: Rogue
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

Egstirmenate’s lineup focused on tried and true Quest Rogue tactics, using the class challenge ruleset only to play Hungry Crabs and Golakka Crawlers in secondary decks, targeting Murloc Paladin and Pirate Warrior respectively. Egstirmenate’s lineup represented the best Rogue had to offer during June qualifiers and had a hand in driving Rogue’s winrate up to a colossal 58%, the highest of any class throughout the summer qualifiers.

Quest Rogue’s impressive winrate at high levels of play was duly noted by the Hearthstone balance team. The Caverns Below was altered to be less powerful in competitive play shortly after the June qualifiers. By July, it became apparent that Quest Rogue’s viability had all but dried up. No doubt Egstirmenate’s triumph was a fitting end for the controversial archetype.

Shawn ‘Triton’ Footitt - UCLA

Class: Rogue
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

Triton wasn’t satisfied with a top 8 finish in the first June qualifier. He returned to the battlefield the following day with a similar Token Shaman lineup and saw even more success. Triton’s second deck remained devoted to countering aggressive strategies, packing options like Lightning Storm to clear small minions and Golakka Crawler to swallow Pirates. Triton learned from his loss to Fwan’s lineup in the previous qualifiers quarterfinals, adding Jade Chieftains to improve his chances against Mage. Triton proved himself to be the star performer of the first weekend, winning more games of collegiate Hearthstone than any other competitor.

July Finalists

Richard ‘ReubEXcube’ Reube - Pennsylvania State University

Class: Rogue
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

With The Caverns Below nerfed, Rogue was the dark horse going into the second weekend of qualifiers. ReubEXcube’s winning Miracle Rogue lineup surely silenced any naysayers. This lineup’s secondaries only had slight variations between lists. Cards like Tar Creeper and Eater of Secrets gave him a slight edge against aggro and Mage. Despite being the only Rogue in top 16, ReubEXcube outplayed his opponents and beat the odds, earning himself an invitation to show off his skills in the College Clash.

Kevin ‘KGo’ Gomez - Simon Fraser University

Class: Druid
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

Simon Fraser’s dominance continued into the second weekend. KGo opted to start with an anti-aggro Jade Druid as a primary deck. Two secondaries served to narrow the focus after the first game. One was equipped with two copies of Tar Creeper to hamper aggression and the other ran Burgly Bully to combat control. KGo’s burgled coins synergized with Gadgetzan Auctioneer to draw bonus cards while generating additional mana. Finally, Yogg-Saron functioned as a weapon of last resort, rounding out KGo’s spell-heavy lineup. With three of its players earning trips to Santa Monica, Simon Fraser clearly has talent to watch.

Ziwei ‘Marathonist’ Chen - Academy of Art University

Class: Shaman
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

Marathonist brought a very consistent Token Shaman lineup to the fourth qualifier, showcasing the class’ evolution between first set of qualifiers and the last. Shaman’s abysmal 47% overall win rate in June qualifiers ballooned to nearly 52% a month later, affirming its identity as a highly adaptable class.

Like many others, Marathonist identified Token Shaman as a strong primary deck. In addition to Eater of Secrets, Token Shaman players’ secondaries often flexed out Pirates for Jade Chieftains, making for some Jade-heavy midrange decks. Marathonist went with Jinyu Waterspeakers instead, using healing to combat Mage. Marathonist’s victory capped off a series of Shaman dominance throughout qualifiers, earning him a place in the Hearthstone College Clash.

Mitch ‘Moonbear’ Mazzei - Miami University of Ohio

Class: Rogue
Primary Deck Secondary Deck 1 Secondary Deck 2

After making top 16 with his team during the 2017 Hearthstone Collegiate Series, it’s no surprise to see Moonbear having success during the summer off-season. The MU varsity player had faith in the light, bringing Paladin two days in a row before picking up a win. Like most players, Moonbear brought a targeted strategy. One secondary deck was designed to counter aggro matchups while the other took advantage of Forbidden Healing to pick up wins against Mage’s burn-heavy playstyle. Keep an eye out for Moonbear and his team, the Miami Redhawks, in future collegiate events!

Please join us in congratulating all eight of our finalists! Watch them showcase their skills and strategies on August 12th in Santa Monica, California for the Red Bull Team Brawl: Hearthstone College Clash, broadcast live on Twitch at twitch.tv/RedBullEsports at 12:00 PM PDT.