A lot has changed in competitive Hearthstone since Rise of Shadows released on April 9.

The four best collegiate Hearthstone teams are busy scheming up E.V.I.L new decks for the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship sponsored by Republic of Gamers. With many new cards entering standard format and old cards leaving, we wanted to make sure returning veterans and fresh-faced newcomers alike could follow all the action on May 10.

Conquer your enemies

The Collegiate Esports Championships (CEC) will use the Conquest format. Each team of players brings four decks from four different classes to the tournament. When a match begins, each team can ban one of their opponent’s decks before selecting one of their own remaining decks to use for game one.

Whoever is declared the winner of that game cannot use the same deck for the rest of the match and must play with one of their other two decks. The losing team can reuse the same deck or switch to a different one. This process is repeated until a player has won three games, one with each of their decks.

Gone but not forgotten

Many cards from the expansions Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds & Catacombs were central to the decks that defined competitive Hearthstone leading up to the CEC. 

Even and odd style decks are gone, so every class has lost the ability to upgrade their hero power by only playing with even or odd cards in their deck. Paladin in particular will miss this style of play, since it was one of the few classes that could build even or odd decks to keep their opponents guessing.

Quests are also out, which gave classes a game winning reward by completing a certain objective. Death Knights have rotated out, robbing many decks of another late-game finisher that transformed their hero into a more powerful version of themselves.

Finally, many long-time staples are disappearing, too. Cards like Carnivorous Cube, Tar Creeper, Fungalmancer, Saronite Chain Gang and the Lich King will leave large holes in meta for new cards to shine.

New evil on the horizon

In Rise of Shadows notorious ne’er-do-wells from across Hearthstone’s history have heeded the call and banded together under as the League of EV.I.L.! After joining the dark side, players have access to a new set of wicked cards that will have a huge impact on the Collegiate Esports Championship. But since the expansion will barely be a month old after the tournament, what will that impact be?

The addition of lackeys has given players access to extremely cheap and effective minions with useful effects. Cards like Ethereal Lackey can grant extra card advantage by letting players discover a spell while Faceless Lackey summons a random two cost minion. Each of the lackey cards help players improve their board presence, but certain classes definitely benefit from them more than others.

Classes to watch out for

There are a number of new cards that are helping certain decks dominate the meta. Here are a few classes and combos to watch out for.

Rogue was already in a strong place with cards like Captain Hooktusk, Raiding Party and Myra’s Unstable Element, but new toys have made the class even deadlier. Cheap lackeys are great for Rogue’s combo potential, and EVIL Miscreant keeps their hand full of them. Hench-Clan Burglar also fits a classic Rogue playstyle of using spells from other classes, but it also has the all-important Pirate minion type. That means players can pull the minion out of their deck, alongside new weapons like Waggle Pick, when playing Raiding party.

The name of the game for Druids is aggro, with cards like Keeper of Stalladris and Crystalsong Portal making sure players can overwhelm opponents with their sheer number of options. It also got a nice new token generator in the form of The Forest’s Aid, which players can cast twice thanks to the Rise of Shadows’ new Twinspell keyword. Finally, there’s neutral legendary minion Archmage Vargoth, which gives players a free copy of the deck’s many powerful spells.  

Warlock is still popular despite not using many new cards in its most dominant deck. These decks rely on an array of low-cost minions that come with upside, like Abusive Sergeant and Flame Imp. It then utilizes cards that take advantage of having many cheap minions, like Grim Rally and Sea Giant. That being said, a few new cards have made it into the deck. EVIL Genius is used to get more 1-cost minions, and Magic Carpet can give them an extra boost in power. Finally, many decks play Arch-Villain Rafaam to turn all the cheap minions into powerful legendary cards.

Finally, Warrior has an explosive deck that can overwhelm opponents with some of the expansion’s new cards. It uses cards like Clockwork Goblin and Wrenchcalibur to shuffle bombs into an opponent’s deck. Then, when that player draws a bomb, it deals a whopping five damage. Meanwhile, cards like Augmented Elekk double up the number of bombs a player generates and combos with cards like Blastmaster Boom, which get better the more bombs a player has made.

Sneaky schemes

With the CEC taking place just a month after Rise of Shadow’s release, the game’s meta will still be fresh and evolving.  That means teams could surprise us with previously unseen decks that topple archetypes everyone thought were better. Don’t be surprised if a deck we didn’t mention ends up on the biggest stage of the season because teams certainly won’t bother holding back their secret schemes with so much on the line.

To catch all of the action, tune in to www.twitch.tv/blizzard at 4:15 p.m. CDT on May 10.

About the CEC

Tespa and ESPN are excited to team up for the Collegiate Esports Championship! Schools from across the U.S. and Canada will compete live in Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and StarCraft II at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from May 10–12.

Tickets to the event for Tespa Members can be purchased here.

As our exclusive PC and monitor partner for the year, ROG’s Strix GL12CX  and ROG Strix XG258Q will be powering all of the on-stage action at the event. In addition, teams will have access to more ROG products in the official player practice area.