There’s just one day left to go at the Hearthstone World Championship in Taiwan, with today’s schedule packing in the full suite of quarter-finals, semis and the ultimate decider.
Day 3 saw the competition field halved, with elimination and decider matches sending eight players home – including hometown heroes BloodTrail (Wu Zong-Chang) and Roger (Luo Shengyuan).
Instead, it was SNJing (Guan Zhendong), languagehacker (Mihai Dragalin), Hunterace (Casper Notto) and Viper (Torben Wahl) progressing to take on LFYueYing (Xu Kai), bunnyhoppor (Raphael Peltzen), bloodyface (Brian Eason) and justsaiyan (David Shan) (respectively) in today’s finals.
Here are my five takeaways from yesterday’s key matches.
This year’s World Championships being so close to the launch of a new expansion and fresh standard year has been written about to death.
We always knew the situation would give us an excitingly unsettled metagame, but the prospect of a player being left in the cold with a totally unviable deck seemed unlikely.
Unfortunately, popular American Ike (Mark Eichner) lived that nightmare on stage yesterday, with his awkward Token Druid deck ripped to shreds in a 3-0 sweep by Poland’s A83650 (Kacper Kwieciński).
Token Druid’s place in the meta has been something of a hot topic. It’s undoubtedly a Tier 1 deck at most ranks on ladder although this isn’t quite the case at legend, which saw it brought to Taiwan by only two players.
Ike freely admitted he had already spotted big flaws in his build between the submission deadline and the start of the tournament – and his competitors had those weaknesses figured out pretty quickly too.
The awkward hybrid of Druid’s board-building and new healing synergy tools often saw Ike stuck trying to enact two game plans at once and failing at both. He lost all three matches with the deck, dragging its tournament record to 0-4 and eliminating him in the process.
SNJing’s superior run with Token Druid proves the archetype isn’t out of place at Worlds, but Ike would certainly be wishing he had more time to get the decklist right.
No deck grabbed more headlines on submission day than killinallday’s (David Acosta) Miracle Priest featuring Chef Nomi.
The crazy combo deck utilises a bevy of zero-cost spells in combination with Gadgetzan Auctioneer to cycle through the deck, absorb enemy threats with free Grave Horrors and, ultimately, use Chef Nomi and Seance with an empty deck to win the game.
Nobody saw such a bizarre combination of cards before the event, with muzzy (Muzahidul Islam) admitting in our interview that he wished he’d thought to bring it.
But, despite a strong first showing against langaugehacker’s Midrange Hunter, Miracle Priest got dunked on in every game after that.
LFYueYing was able to dish out quick wins with Tempo Rogue and Summoner Mage in Day 1’s winners’ match, while languagehacker was able to exact his revenge in yesterday’s decider with a quick and decisive win with Miracle Rogue.
killinallday went 6-4 with the rest of his decks at this tournament as opposed to 1-3 with the Priest as he exited in disappointingly early fashion.
In the end, while the deck had insane draw potential, the complete lack of generated pressure put KAD on the back foot. Opponents were able get very clear reads into his hand situation too thanks to the very one-dimensional nature of the deck, while a horrible decision to waste Mass Hysteria with only a Zilliax and Mana Tide Totem on board proved costly too.
While the other off-meta men in Roger and A83650 were eliminated on Day 3 as well, their left-field picks actually kept them in series they would have otherwise struggled in.
Roger’s Control Paladin and Mech Hunter did the number on Control Warrior they were supposed to, with his eventual demise very much due to the fact he came up against one of two people in the entire field who didn’t bring Warrior at all in Viper.
A83650, on the other hand, will take some solace in knowing his Midrange Shaman was the only undefeated deck at HCT Taiwan.
Speaking of that class…
The inclusion of five Control Shaman decks was one of the surprises that flew somewhat under the radar in light of the publicised outliers elsewhere.
It’d be easy to look at the deck’s 7-9 record across three days of competition and claim other decks would have been a smarter choice – but that’s not an entirely fair assessment.
By my count, a whopping six of those nine losses have featured either a clear and crucial blunder by the Control Shaman player or an extreme high-roll by their opponent. I’d even go so far as to say the result in half of those would have absolutely been reversed if things had gone the other way.
I already touched on Hunterace undoubtedly dropping two winnable clashes after he elected to double Far Sight instead of coining out a Giggling Inventor in one loss, before passing on an opportunity to wipe the board against Zoolock and succumbing to a Sea Giant-led comeback in another.
On that same day, Justsaiyan had A83650 on three health and close to fatigue in their Control versus Midrange Shaman clash, only for A8 to miraculously pluck a copy of The Storm Bringer from an Ethereal Lackey and turn his useless board of totems and frogs into a match-winning one.
Elsewhere, Tyler wasted two turns across two separate matches with extremely premature Shudderwocks, with the latter match also seeing him go far too trigger-happy on both copies of Hex.
Hex was also wasted badly by muzzy on a Hecklebot in his marathon loss to languagehacker’s Control Warrior.
The latter trio of matches were, admittedly, an iffy proposition at best without the errors, but the point still stands about the questionable utilisation of the class.
Control Shaman has held its own against Tempo Rogue (2-2), farmed Zoolock (4-1) and even matched it with Warrior (1-1) despite having an array of builds within the archetype present.
There’s clearly something right with that deck, so definitely don’t let its iffy record put you off.
On the topic of builds, HCT Taiwan has been something of a referendum on the right build of Tempo Rogue – especially given it’s the most popular deck at the tournament.
Twelve competitors brought the archetype to Worlds (with an additional three bringing Miracle Rogue instead), but what’s interesting is the split down the middle between the thief package and the aggressive weapon synergy package.
The consensus amongst casters appeared to be that the burst offered by the more aggressive weapon package wins out. Through cards like Deadly Poison, Hench-Clan Thug, Captain Greenskin and Myra’s Unstable Element, you’re able to put your opponent on the clock very quickly before incredible burst damage from Waggle Pick starts to come through.
But I wouldn’t sleep on the thief package just yet. The aggro version can definitely have matches sewn up quicker, but I like the flexibility Hench-Clan Burglar, Vendetta and Underbelly Fence offer against a wider variety of decks.
Tempo Rogue is 16-14 overall at Worlds so far, with both variants sitting at 8-7. It’s still too early to definitively separate the two subtypes yet, but it’s worth noting aggro has the 3-1 advantage in matches against thief, while thief’s record of 7-4 against other classes is superior to aggro’s 4-5.
(Aggro’s other two results come from a mirror match within the subtype.)
It’s not hard to see why this is the case, with the mirror match status robbing Thief Rogue of most of their activators for the powerful Vendetta and Underbelly Fence.
While I’ll concede that, for this expansion, it may be better to go with the aggro variant if the meta continues to be this Rogue-heavy – but definitely switch if you start running into other fast classes more often.
With all future thief cards for Rogue said to now specify ‘another’ class instead of your opponent’s, I’d put good money on that variant of Tempo Rogue eventually winning out towards the end of the Year of the Dragon.
Bomb Warrior might be a divisive archetype within the ladder community, but there’s no denying it creates some of the most suspenseful competitive Hearthstone you can ask for.
The Group C decider match between killinallday and languagehacker was one for the ages anyway, but the conclusion of their Bomb Warrior-Miracle Rogue clash was one to behold.
Staring down the barrel of lethal, killinallday pulled the trigger on Blasmaster Boom, knowing full well he needed the Rush-imbued Boombots to work some magic with their Deathrattles. One by one, the tokens traded into hacker’s minions but with only one Deathrattle going face.
Nobody – not the players, not the crowd – could believe what they were seeing as the Canadian looked to have escaped with the unlikely win, only for a bomb to be drawn at the start of his turn – ending the match.
While that result proved to eventually be of little consequence, it’ll take something special to unseat that turn as being the most exciting of the tournament – and it’s mostly thanks to the suspenseful moments only Bomb Warrior can create.
Stirling Coates was flown to Taiwan to cover this event by Blizzard Entertainment.