Welcome everyone to Touchstone Tavern #2, our Weekly Hearthstone (Free) Column. First of all, I’d like to thank you all for your encouragement in the comments of last week’s “Touchstone Tavern;" it’s good to see that there’s indeed interest in a column like this one and that you liked the way I planned it out. And do let me know if there’s any additional content that you think would fit this column; I’m always open to suggestions. This has been a crazy week mostly because of the many new Tournament announcements and because of the Viagame House Cup #3. So, on we go around the world of Hearthstone then.
Hearthstone Pros Discuss the Blackrock Mountain Adventure (BRM) Meta and the Current State of the Game
IGN did a great job bringing together some of Hearthstone‘s biggest names – among them Reynad, Kibler, Frodan, Trump, and Orange – and asking them all kinds of interesting questions about BRM’s effect on the game and how these pros want Hearthstone‘s future to look like.
Best Cards to Come out of BRM
This question had some predictable answers, with Emperor Thaurissan, Grim Patron, and Imp Gang Boss getting most of the votes. Emperor Thaurissan got the votes because of his ability to allow some single-turn combos that were the stuff of dreams prior to BRM. He enables just enough rule-bending to make deck-building fun without breaking the game. Imp Gang Boss was a favorite because he almost single-handedly helped put Zoo and Demon Warlock back into a competitive spot and his effect is both reliable and powerful. And Grim Patron, of course, got mentioned because he spawned a new deck archetype all by himself (although he did require help from the finally-fixed Warsong Commander).
Biggest Surprise Of The Set
Many of the Pros were surprised that Dragon Paladin failed to live up to its (brief) potential. The pros said that the dominance of Patron Warrior doomed Dragon Paladin since the Patron deck is a bad matchup for Dragon Paladin. A negative surprise was Dark Iron Skulker, who failed to make Rogue decks tick better (I had hopes for that, too).
Most Underrated New Card
I was surprised to hear Nefarian mentioned as an underrated card since many, including me, frowned upon this guy when he was revealed. Apparently, his big body and his trolling ability (stealing other class’s spells) help him stand out. Rend also got a big vote of confidence, but only if Dragon decks become relatively viable. Finally, Revenge and Resurrect also got a vote primarily for their ability to swing matches.
Which Class Benefited Most From BRM
The most popular answer here was, as expected, the Warrior because of Patron’s dominance in the current meta and the help the deck gets from the Emperor. However, Hunter also got some votes because he hasn’t lost any of the cards and matchups that made the deck so dominant in the pre-BRM meta, and he actually gained the ability to switch between Aggro and Midrange (Hybrid Hunter) that have allowed him to continue doing very well in the post-BRM meta.
What Gameplay Mechanic/Card Type Should We See More
Unsurprisingly, most of the pros wanted more dragons but ones with mechanics that would strengthen the deck, like Dragons with heal or taunt, which would help make Dragon decks able to stand well on their own. Others want to see more “graveyard" mechanics, like that of Gang Up, because they are interesting mechanics that don’t have an immediate impact but change the match’s texture in the long-run.
Strongest Card in the Game Right Now
The answer to this question was, of course, almost unanimously Grim Patron both because he created a new archetype but also because he forces deckbuilders to create decks that have Grim Patron in mind; if your deck isn’t a Grim Patron deck or can’t beat a Patron warrior deck, you’ll probably lose a lot.
Which Card Should be Nerfed
This is the kind of question that always gets interesting answers because some players believe strong cards should be nerfed while others believe cards that promote “unfun" tactics should be nerfed. Among the cards nominated for a nerf were Knife Juggler, Animal Companion, and Implosion – because they judge board control from very early in the game and ruin the game’s fun – Warsong Commander, because after his fix, he can create OTK that make the game unfun, and Dr. Boom (of course) because he just has too much variance in the damage he deals.
The Most Crucial Change Blizzard Should Make To Hearthstone
Looking into the future of the game, most pros agreed that Blizzard needs to restructure the Ranking system to give more incentives to players because as it stands now, a huge portion of the player base avoids playing Ranked, which makes no sense. The other major addition pros asked for was in-game support for tournaments, so the tournament scene will cease being a patchwork of third-party websites and organizations of varying quality and ability.
Which Other Player Have You Learnt The Most From?
These were more or less the best parts of the interview. It’s not often that a game’s pros are so much in agreement over where a game is at the moment, where it should go, and what problems it’s facing. I’m also hoping for in-game tournament modes, especially for “beginner" players since that kind of experience is invaluable when trying to understand where your decks stand compared to the rest and how to actually play the game better.
Deck “Aggregation" Is Hurting the Hearthstone Community
In an article for VG247, Dillon Skiffington raised some good points about how “netdecking"
(copying decks off the internet) is hurting Hearthstone. As almost all successful decks can be found in dozens of websites, it’s much easier and faster for players to go online, copy a deck, and then get to playing. Because of the relatively-small card pool (especially when compared to a game like Magic), there’s little variance in the strongest decks at the moment. Hearthstone‘s meta has always settled quickly after an expansion/adventure release, and that settling pace has increased with every release, probably aided by the large number of streamers and, in general, Hearthstone‘s internet coverage that forces the game to unveil its secret very quickly. The problem with netdecking is that it hurts the game’s potential as an e-sport since most of the decks involved in major and minor tournaments are almost identical. So similar are they, that we often celebrate when one player changes one or two cards in a deck. What the answer to this problem is no one is sure, including Skiffington. I think that maybe in-game tournaments with card banning might help since banning just one or two cards can force the whole meta to shift, even if just for that specific tournament.
GosuGamers.net Has Overhauled Hearthstone Rankings
GosuRankings has been the go-to database for anyone interested in finding out who the “best" Hearthstone players are currently, but the website recently admitted that the algorithm it used to track the players’ performance had some weaknesses. However, after some tinkering, they are now confident that those issues are in the past and that GosuRankings will be the best reflection of Hearthstone‘s competitive scene.
Gosugamers tracks 870 Hearthstone players competing in over 500 tournaments. However, the original algorithm was similar to those used for games like Starcraft 2, Dota 2, and League of Legends, where the best players and teams can maintain a winning record for a long time. Hearthstone, though, has too much luck and RNG involved to allow for such constistency, so even players with impressive career-long performances would see a massive drop in the ranking if they had a bad month and lost to up-and-comers.
The new GosuRankings for Hearthstone reward consistency rather than current form, in that way placing players who’ve been generally more successful in their careers in higher ranks. At the same time, newcomers won’t be able to skyrocket to the top simply on the back of beating some top players. Finally, a 15-match placement period has been implemented before a player shows up in the rankings. Even though those players will still be visible in the rankings, they won’t actually have a rank until they play more matches. Perhaps now the Rankings will be more “usable," which is why I’m considering displaying the top #10 in “Touchstone Tavern." However, I hope they aren’t too based on long-term performance to the point where they almost never change. Ranking changes make for good narratives; petrified ones don’t.
June 2015 Ranked Season Has Begun – Nature Rises!
With June upon us, the fifteenth Hearthstone Ranked Play Season is now live, and the new card back, Darnassus, is waiting for you to collect it, if you make it to Rank 20 that is.
The tournament scene was pretty crazy this week, not just because of the tournaments currently taking place, but primarily because of all the announcements about some huge new tournaments coming our way soon.
40 Hearthstone Pros Predict the Viagame House Cup #3 meta (which took place this weekend)
With the Viagame House Cup #3 taking place this weekend (more on that later), Gosugamers’ Radoslav asked a huge number of pros to guess how the tournament’s meta will look like. Specifically, the pros were asked questions about the two most banned classes, the two most picked classes, the highest and lowest win-rate classes, the deck of the tournament, and the cool/non-standard deck they’d like to see. According to the pros, the Warrior will be as banned as Arnie’s Conan would be in a weight-watchers class, and, of course, the reason for that is Grim Patron’s dominance in the meta. As it performs great against many other strong decks, it makes sense that the players won’t want him anywhere near their decks. The most picked class will be Warlock, who’s seen a resurgence of late and is one of the few classes that can beat Patron Warrior. Also, Zoo and Handlock can be tampered with to the point where the opponent can’t guess which deck he/she will be facing.
The class with the highest win-rate will be the Warrior (of course) according to the pros, with Hunter coming in at second. Druid comes a low fourth, which is surprising since he’s been doing relatively well in recent tournaments. The lowest win-rate goes to the Priest, as expected, with the Shaman second to last. Barely any of the participants in the tournament play Priest much, and he’s also not in the best state in the current meta. Deck of the tournament is expected to be Patron Warrior, with Handlock and Midrange Hunter tied for second (these predictions mirror our meta discussion from last week). As of writing this part of the column, the Viagame Housecup #3 is still ongoing, so there’s no hind sight here. I’m curious to see whether these predictions will match the results when the tournament concludes.
Viagame House Cup #3 Has Concluded (Spoilers!)
And the winner is…Lifecoach, with a great 4-3 win over Strifecro. As you can tell from the names, this was probably the dream final for many, and it didn’t disappoint. There were some great matches along the way, and also some technical issues like server lag (that gave Lifecoach all kinds of issues). From the qualified players, only Stancifka and Rewind made it to the playoffs, making this year’s House Cup more of a Pro contest. Roger, last House Cup’s finalist, took his revenge from Hoej, the man who beat him to win House Cup #2. Strifecro didn’t lose a single game up until the semis with Roger, and Lifecoach played some great Hearthstone on the way to the final.
The final was a showcase of Hearthstone‘s RNG, as plenty of Knife Jugglers, Implosions, and Boom Bots pretty much determined the outcome of the series. Is that a good thing? I’m still not sure; RNG is necessary, but some of the unmitigated RNG that some cards bring to the game might be too much (but this is a discussion for another day). I will have more to say about the Tournament in next week’s Touchstone (as it often takes days for these events to be properly analyzed). You can see all the decklists from the Tournament here, and all the VODS here.
The Final starts around the 11 hour mark
ESL Legendary Series Season 2 Finals Sixteen Qualified Players Announced
After a long series that included a regular season, a redemption tournament, and a last chance open, ESL announced the sixteen qualified players who will battle it out for a $25,000 prize pool and the title of Legendary Series Season 2 Champion. There are quite a few familiar names in the final 16, including Lifecoach, Kolento, Reynad, Trump, Ostkaka, and plenty others, so that’s going to be a fun tournament to watch for sure. The players will compete throughout three days of matches, battling through groups and playoffs to get their hands on the money and on World Championship points. The tournament will start on June 5th at 11 PST and will be broadcasted on Twitch.
Hearthstone Getting a $60,000 League in June
The new Hearthstone Pro League (HPL) has been announced, and it will be a “premiere professional Hearthstone League," featuring 16 top pros from Fnatic, Complexity, Dignitas, Cloud 9, Archon, Liquid, Root, and Hearthlytics. This tournament claims to be the “purest competitive experience" in Hearthstone with no bans, deck locks, or restrictions. The tournament will play out as an all-play-all bracket, with the Top 8 ranked players advancing to the HPL Championships live in Frisco, Texas. The champion will be $20,000 richer and will win the Inaugural HPL Trophy.
HPL will commence on June 8th, streaming every Monday to Thursday at 17:00 CST, and will end on August 14th. The top 8 will play in the LAN finals on August 27-30.
GoseCup SEA (Southeast Asian Hearthstone) Graphed
GosuCup SEA is currently past its half point, so gosugamers.net decided to publish some interesting data that shows what’s going on in the tournament. There have been more than 2,600 games played so far, so there are plenty of numbers to crunch and digest. The main take away from this tournament is that Hunter, Mage, and Warlock are the top three most-played classes so far. The absence of Warrior is surprising, although it might be because players didn’t want to experiment in the middle of a tournament with a technical deck such as Patron Warrior, which can be built easily but can be hard to pilot well. The graph below compares the SouthEast tournament with the European one to give you an idea of the differences between the two regions.
Vulcun’s Hearthstone League Revealed, Coming June And Offerring $100,000 Over Two Seasons
Vulcun, the website that loves throwing a lot of money at e-sports players, has just announced that its new league, “Vulcun Deckmasters," will have a line-up of 20 players, with 8 being invited and the rest coming through from qualifiers. The league will cover two seasons and award $50,000 for each one. The league will also be eligible for World Championship points, with the winner taking 100 of them. The open qualifiers will begin June 8th with the main event coming June 22nd. The invited players are some unknown up-and-comers (joking): Trump, Kolento, TidesofTime, Kibler, Forsen, Faara, StrifeCro, and Sjow.
ChallengeStone #2 Announced
Challengestone, the incredibly-fun new tournament, is returning June 27-28 to test the deck building skills of top players. As I talked about last week, Challengestone sets a deck building challenge for its players who then have to build three decks of different classes in a short, timed period. Then, they take those decks into Best of Five matches, single elimination. The Finals are Best of Seven with one revived deck, and only the finalists are allowed to modify their decks. So far we only know two invited players, reigning champion, Kibler, and Trump. I can’t wait to watch this one; the last one was a lot of fun.
TempoStorm Meta Report
Finally, according to TempoStorm’s meta snapshot, Patron Warrior continues to reign over all other decks, further solidifying the deck’s position as the King of the World (Titanic bow scene included). The other strong decks are also not a surprise: Hybrid Hunter, Oil Rogue, Handlock, and ZooLock. Now, from what I’ve been hearing from pro chatter in various tournaments, Hybrid Hunter is still a great solution because it’s easier to play than Patron Warrior. I don’t foresee any change coming in the near future for the top decks unless we get a new expansion soon. The Patron Warrior deck is very dominant, and people aren’t even perfect at playing it right now, so imagine the potential. Still, don’t discount the power of Midrange Hunter; he was down for a bit, but he’s definitely not out. If you aren’t sure which way to go with your decks, I think going Midrange Hunter might end up being more successful for you in the long run because you can be more successful with less effort.
And now, enjoy some crazy, fun, and crazy-fun Hearthstone Videos.
Kripp Breaks Hearthstone
Orange got attacked by a bird/bat while playing in the Viagame House Cup
The intros for the top 8 players in Viagame House Cup were…interesting
We have some good resources on the site for you, so if you are new in the game or want to get better at playing, check them out.
That’s all I have for today, so thank you for visiting and reading the “Touchstone Tavern" Column. As you can tell, the world of Hearthstone is really exploding at the moment, so there’s no better time to start getting deeper into the game; I hope this column gives you incentive to do so. Till next week, then.