Sep 2 2016 - 9:42 pm

Hearthstone's best open circuit reaches its climax at PAX West this weekend

After awarding thousands of dollars of prize money and providing a much needed shot in the arm to North American Hearthstone, the One Nation of Gamers circuit will reach its conclusion this weekend
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.

After awarding thousands of dollars of prize money and providing a much needed shot in the arm to North American Hearthstone, the One Nation of Gamers circuit will reach its conclusion this weekend.

Eight of North America's best players will compete at PAX West (formerly PAX Prime) for a $25,000 prize pool after a grueling qualification process.

Crucial to the circuit's success has been a significant partnership with GEICO, allowing them to invest in Hearthstone at the grassroots level. With the number of major Hearthstone tournaments on the decline, and most open tournaments being small online cups with little or no prize pool, One Nation of Gamers set out to try and marry the two.

The series has been hugely popular, attracting praise from players, fans, and other figures in the scene for its commitment to open formats and unprecedented financial support for up-and-coming players.

"ONOG's main goal is bridging the gap between pro and amateur players," ONOG project manager Ryan "Hayl_Storm" Prager tells the Daily Dot. "We try to strike a balance between open qualified players and invited pros so the new guys can prove they can hang."

Players qualified for the event through qualifying for and winning one of the regular $1,000 feature tournaments, or by consistently performing in those tournaments to receive points to qualify. That means that even before the $25,000 finals, ONOG have handed out thousands of dollars to players who normally play for a few hundred at best.

Among those qualified for the finals are David "Dog" Caero, Keaton "Chakki" Gill, and Christopher "PHONETAP" Huynh. They will be joined by newcomers like David "Shoop" Steinberg and Dakota "Duhcodda" Lynch, who have so far outshone the established pros in both the feature tournaments and the previous $10,000 major at PAX East. 

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.