The World Series of Sealed Tournament

Apr 18, 2016

The Format

On April 15 there was an all-day Hearthstone tournament, in which six pro players played in a poker-style sealed tournament. The sealed format is one where each player opens sixty-three virtual packs spread across all of the expansions and adventures, and then they take those cards and make them into three decks. Players can only use each card that they open once per time they opened it (so if they only open one common they can only put it into one of their decks, once, but if they open two legendaries they can put one into two different decks). They also must follow proper deck building rules, so even if they open ten of a specific common, the maximum that they can use is six – two per deck. Players are given thirty minutes to craft their decks once their packs have been opened. The tool for opening packs can be found here.

In this tournament, rather than having a typical bracket, they decided to make use of a poker-style betting system. Each player starts the day with $1000 in chips, and the goal is for one player to have all chips, or for each other player to take their chips and call it a day. Before each match, the players bet an amount, with the ante raising throughout the day. At the end of each game, they were allowed to continue to raise the pool if they saw fit. At the end of the match, the winner takes the entire pool and can then use the chips in their own betting. Later in the day, as players run out of chips, anyone who is unable to meet the ante is forced to all-in, doubling their chips if they win, and getting eliminated if they lose. Players also have the option to fold, which allows them to take a loss for that game, but keep the chips they would have put up on that game, if they feel they have no chance to win the series.

The first rounds were all best of three, while the final round was a best of five. The final round is decided by the last two players with chips remaining, and at that point the chips are no longer taken into account, and the winner takes $4,750 while second place takes $1,250. The final round also has a new sealed draft.

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The Results

The final results were as follows:


After a morning flight to the tournament and twelve hours of playing, Zalae managed to take first prize, and with it $3,750. Going into the finals he had the most chips, and he also caused the only fold all day with an incredible Mage deck. The decks that he built for the final were Hunter, Priest, and Paladin. Zalae only managed to pull six legendary minions: an Acidmaw, a Gahz’rilla, Vol’jin, two Elise Starseekers, and a Sky Captain Kragg. Not the best haul to say the least, but clearly he made up for it elsewhere.

StrifeCro took second place and $1,250. The decks he drafted for the finals were Warrior, Shaman, and Mage. Although he pulled more legendary minions than Zalae, most of them weren’t particularly strong. He pulled seven different legendaries including Old Murk-Eye, Blingtron, and Bolf Ramshield, none particularly strong, even in a format like this.

Obviously luck plays a large role in this format due to what cards you open, but Zalae also piloted his decks excellently. He built a very aggressive Hunter deck with his Gahz’rilla and a Savanah Highmane as finishers, which was extremely effective, even managing to pull off the Desert Camel into Injured Kvaldir combo. He played it against StrifeCro’s Control Warrior full of cards designed to draw out the game into his bombs, Sneeds Old Shredder and Foe Reaper 4000. Unfortunately for StrifeCro, late game never came and Zalae’s Hunter deck easily beat the Warrior, making the series 1-0 in Zale’s favour.

His Priest deck filled a solid control role with cards like two Entombs as well as his Vol’jin. StrifeCro built a Value Mage which had cards such as Ethereal Conjurer and even Grand Crusader, providing the biggest value for their cost. The game was much closer than the first, but Zalae managed to make a 6/12 Mechanical Yeti that StrifeCro simply couldn’t overcome, making the series 2-0 for Zalae.

Zalae’s Paladin deck filled a solid Midrange role, as he managed to have cards like Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle to fill out his curve, even managing to have Keeper of Uldaman to follow up. StrifeCro played his Value Mage deck once again. Although Zalae didn’t draw any of his strong class cards, simple aggression was able to beat StrifeCro’s slow Mage deck, giving Zalae the series 3-0.

StrifeCro surrendering, giving the series to Zalae 3-0.


The poker format was a bit confusing and didn’t end up being particularly well done here, simply because nearly every player all-inned every time, as it seemed the most efficient way to play. With some tweaking perhaps the poker format might make a reappearance, but it would certainly need a better explanation if it did. The sealed format once again provided an amazing tournament experience, and hopefully it will be played more often in tournaments to come, as it is one of the best ways to reward good deck building without putting weird restrictions on the game. Overall a great tournament, congratulations to the winner Zalae!

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Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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