Both the USC Varsity Hearthstone teams “Fight On!” and “Cardinal and Gold” won their matches against UCLA and Cal State Fullerton on Monday putting both of their records at 4-2, officially securing their spots in the regional playoff tournament.

But the match didn’t begin as planned for “Fight On!”.

“We prepared for their previous lineup but they instead brought warrior this week, forcing us to ban that deck and putting us on the back foot at the start,” said USC senior and varsity team captain Hongze (Eric) Yu, 19.

“Fortunately we took game 1 off of a lucky draw against their best remaining deck then the matches proceeded somewhat normally regarding deck matchups.”

UCLA took the second and fourth games using the Shaman and Priest classes, but their brief victories were not enough to win the ensuing battle of wills.

The last game went down to the wire, both teams having deck compositions that differed by only one card. It didn’t look so good for “Fight On!” at the start of the game, with the first few turns going the way of UCLA. But strong team play helped “Fight On!” push past the grueling first few rounds.

“...we still played like we do, talked and made decisions together, and didn’t make mistakes at all,” said Yu.

The tide shifted in favor of the Trojans later in the game with a strong use of Zephys the Great. After that, the steamroller was engaged, and “Fight On!” crushed our eternal enemies with their stronger array of minions. The match ended with UCLA’s tails between their legs, and a playoff spot for the men in red and gold.

Yu remains content with purpose regarding the rest of the season.

“We will try out best for a win for better seeding but main goal is to experiment with what we could play in playoffs to throw other teams off.”

“Cardinal and Gold” had an easier time with the match, sweeping through “Tusks Up” from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) with a match score of 3-1.

Bringing out the heroes Aggro Rogue, Combo Priest, Aggro Evolve Shaman, and Aggro Warrior, they were well prepared against the “Tusks Up” roster of Zoo Warlock, Combo Priest, Quest Shaman, and Mecha’thun Warrior.

“Cardinal and Gold” banned the Warrior while “Tusks Up” banned the Shaman.

“We swept their Zoo Warlock, a deck we expected them to bring based on their previous weeks' lineups,” said USC junior Julian Kida, 20, captain of the “Cardinal and Gold” team.

“I personally think that Zoo is not scary to play against because it doesn't have much burst. It also doesn't swing the board too hard without Magic Carpet, especially since our opponents didn't run Sea Giant.”

Kida was confident in his team’s preparation, and saw their deck selection as a key contributor to their win.

“...We were comfortable setting ourselves at single-digit health because Zoo [Warlock] was forced to expend their second Soul Fire dealing with our Dread Corsair.”

The Varsity teams compete in the Tespa league, an online ladder separated by region that hosts college teams from around the country. After 8 weeks of matches, the top 32 teams from each regional division enter a double elimination regional tournament split into two groups of teams from the North/East and South/West divisions.

The four best teams from this tournament will go on to play in the Championship bracket.

Teams will play in a double elimination bracket in the first round, needing two wins to advance to the second, which will see teams play best two out of three rounds. Those with 2 wins will advance to the finals. At this stage all matches are streamed on Blizzard’s official Hearthstone stream.

Hopes are high for the USC Varsity teams, and playoffs are only a couple weeks away. Kida is focused on what’s to come.

“Now, all that’s left is to win next week’s match for a good seed and to collaborate to find a good lineup for playoffs.”