We knew that the new expansion would shake up the Hearthstone meta, and just 24 hours after the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, the first competitive match since the expansion gave us a glimpse of what we can expect in the coming weeks and months.
Machinima kicked off the third season of Deck Wars on Wednesday with a mouthwatering contest between world champion James “Firebat” Kostesich and reigning Deck Wars champion Dima “Rdu” Radu. Over the next 15 weeks, similar showmatches will take place, with the winners joining Firebat in the season 3 finals.
In the end it was the world champion who emerged victorious with a 4-2 victory, but the match gave some excellent insight into what the pro players are thinking in the early days of the expansion.
Kostesich, a highly-regarded deck builder, showed a lot of innovation so soon after the new cards were released. His Hunter deck was a far cry from the secret-based Hunter that had dominated Hearthstone in recent months. Instead, the deck focused on beast synergy. Including new cards like Call Pet and Gahz’rilla, Kostesich also replaced the Eaglehorn Bow with the new Glaivezooka. He also threw in a Jungle Panther and Tundra Rhino, which have seen limited play in competitive settings to date, as well as the heavily nerfed Starving Buzzard and Unleash the Hounds.
However this Hunter deck was defeated by an unlikely foe, Radu’s Paladin deck. Paladin is generally considered to be the weakest of the nine classes in tournament play, but Radu’s build was a far cry from the top-heavy control Paladin that has occasionally appeared in competitive matches. Making use of new cards like Muster for Battle, Bomb Lobber and Quartermaster the ability to keep a strong board and deal effectively with the threats from Kostesich’s Hunter gave the Paladin an unlikely victory.
Kostesich sealed the final two wins of his 4-2 victory with a new version of the well-established control Warrior deck which removed many of the cards considered staples of that archetype. With no room for cards like Sludge Belcher and Loatheb, the most surprising change was the absence of Armorsmiths. In their place were cards like Explosive Sheep, Bomb Lobber and Shieldmaiden. At the top end of the deck Baron Geddon gave way to Troggzor, a card which is attracting a lot of praise as the best legendary card of the new set.
In addition to these decks, both players also offered variations of popular Druid archetypes.
Players will continue to innovate–that’s a given. And we may not see these decks again as the archetypes evolve. But these early decks do show just how much work goes into being a pro player, and how good in particular these pros at building decks. With such a limited amount of time to prepare, not knowing what innovations the other would make, Radu and Kostesich showed some interesting new tech that could well shape the future of Hearthstone.