HS Journal #4: Road to HSL

A weekly journal chronicling one certain Hearthstone player’s quest to climb the ladder, survive the Arena, and maybe have some fun in the process.

Introduction

Hey, guys! I’m Chriseroi, a relatively new Hearthstone player who started in June of 2015 and has been playing and enjoying it ever since as a high school student! Don’t write me off just yet, though; I love Hearthstone just as much as you guys and have been working my way up ever since I started. Thus, the full title isn’t actually “Hearthstone Journal,” but rather, “High School Journal.” While I heavily enjoy reading a lot of these guides on Hearthstone Players from various parts of the community, each of these guys seem to have some sort of luxury that I can’t afford, unfortunately, whether it be time, money, or both. I wanted to contribute to the community by giving you a peek inside my own little amusing journey, whether it’s climbing up the ladder, getting better at Arena, or even just me building up my collection. I really hope you enjoy reading these little journals every week as much as I enjoyed writing them!

This is part four of a weekly series. Be sure to read the previous entries here!

Interlude: Preparation

Last week, you may remember how I talked about the Secret Paladin matchup rather than writing another journal. Well, for the past two weeks, I’ve been saving up gold and practicing for my first HSL match! I learned that my first match was to take place the first week of February, so I’ve been trying to save up gold in order to buy packs and in general just figure out which decks I’d be playing. While I’ve already got a solid Tempo Mage build, I needed two more decks. My Renolock list from earlier was okay, but I could upgrade it to Kolento’s combo list if I craft a couple cards. As for the end of season rewards last week, I was lucky enough to snag a golden Doomhammer, thanks to me getting to Rank 5! Now, with only a couple more cards, I can create two solid decks, which is perfect for HSL. Fingers crossed, right?

Note: In favor of preparation for HSL matches, I won’t be discussing Arena or Tavern Brawl for the next following weeks. Besides, LordZhark and underdawg2014 are already doing a terrific job discussing Tavern Brawl in their own weekly series (you can find the latest in each of their series here and here respectively), and I don’t have time to do any Arena runs lately, anyway!

I know that I got two ambushes of a Nerubian in a row from Beneath the Grounds, but I assure you, that’s totally not the reason why I’m not playing Arena for a while. It’s definitely the lack-of-time thing.

Busting Open Card Packs!!

With two weeks to try to save up and unpack any cards I might have needed for my Shaman and Warlock decks, I set out to buy as many Classic packs as I could. Here’s what came out of them!

Classic: 8 Packs  |  TGT: 4 Packs |  Total: 12 Packs

28 out of 60 cards were useful. (Any cards that I don’t have two copies of are considered useful.)

[spoiler]

1x Power of the Wild, 1x Bite, 1x Nourish, 1x Mulch

1x Deadly Shot, 1x kings-elekk, 1x King Krush

1x Dalaran Aspirant, 1x Flame Lance

1x Blessing of Wisdom, 1x Seal of Champions, 1x Tuskarr Jouster, 1x Avenging Wrath

1x Thoughtsteal

1x Cold Blood, 1x Cutpurse, 1x perditions-blade, 1x Kidnapper

1x Lightning Bolt, 1x Unbound Elemental

1x Void Terror

1x Lightwarden, 1x Loot Hoarder, 1x Silent Knight, 1x Frigid Snobold, 1x Pit Fighter, 1x Injured Kvaldir, 1x Crazed Alchemist

[/spoiler]

Solid haul! We have some nice cards here such as Power of the Wild, kings-elekk, Thoughtsteal, and Void Terror, among others. Lightning Bolt is a nice addition to my Aggro Shaman deck, and Avenging Wrath is certainly an interesting card to have in my collection; at least one copy is good to have every now and then! King Krush is a bit of a disappointment, considering he’s neither really good to need to use in a Hunter deck, nor really bad to say that I should disenchant him on sight. There’s no harm in keeping him for now, though!

Of course, this still means that I’m missing a lot of cards for my Aggro Shaman and Renolock decks, however. While I would usually wait to unpack these cards because they’re only rares and commons, I really need them for my HSL match coming up soon, so I guess it’s crafting time!

Disenchant: 1x mogors-champion, 1x Brave Archer, 1x Kidnapper

Craft: 2x Totem Golem, 1x Shadowflame, 1x Siphon Soul, 1x Sunfury Protector, 1x Arcane Golem, 1x Defender of Argus

The only regret I made was accidentally crafting a Sunfury Protector instead of a Defender of Argus. I realized too late that I didn’t need Sunfury Protector in the Combo Renolock I wanted to make, so I was left 100 dust short to craft Arcane Golem. As a result, I ended up disenchanting Kidnapper too, which, if we’re being honest, isn’t really much of a loss.

Now that I have all three of my decks crafted and ready, all that’s left is for me to have my HSL match!

Oh, and of course, I’ll post my decklists here for you all to see. Feel free to criticize if need be!

Seriously, criticize away. I’ll listen to any and all ideas to improve my decks!

HSL Match #1: Yuri

Oh, boy. I was definitely nervous, that’s for sure.

So my first opponent was someone named Yuri. When I see that name, I think of the main protagonist from Tales of Vesperia, which if you don’t know, is a fantastic and highly underrated JRPG for the Xbox 360. I grew up with it when I was younger, so I certainly had some fond memories of the game and the protagonist. Of course, that just made me more anxious to fight someone with the same name.

After he contacted me in order to schedule our match, I noticed his dialogue was very mature-like, almost confident, even. That made me a little uneasy, so I decided to do a little research on him. A quick Google search didn’t turn up anything conclusive, but I was able to find out he played in a League of Legends tournament before on Battlefy, and he did well. In other words, this guy had tournament experience. Not great news for me.

The day of the match, we set up our laptops and contacted each other. I, being the cautious and wary gamer I am, asked if he could send me a picture of his challenge screen as a formality. Hm.

Midrange Druid.

Secret Paladin.

Renolock, with the cursor highlighting it.

I was a little afraid. These were all Tier 1 decks, with certainly a lot of experience piloting each one. What were my chances? I wondered. Still, it wasn’t time for moping. It was time for strategy.

I figured that he would play each deck in opposite order, speculating that he would start with Renolock, move on to Secret Paladin, and then finishing with Midrange Druid. Based on my previous matchups with my own three decks, I decided to play mine in the following order.

Renolock, to counter his own Renolock.

Tempo Mage, to counter Secret Paladin OR Midrange Druid.

Aggro Shaman to make up for whichever I lose to.

I knew I was going to lose at least once, so I treated Aggro Shaman as a back-up plan. That way, I could focus on winning the first two matches with Renolock and Tempo Mage, which were both skill-intensive decks.

Surprisingly, he didn’t want a screenshot of my own challenge screen. What could that have meant? Did he not want it? Or was he just so confident that he didn’t need it?

Well, time to find out.

Wait, what do you mean you didn’t need to see my challenge screen? But I de-ranked and unnamed all my decks just for you!

Round 1: Renolock vs. Renolock

Okay, so looks like it really was a Renolock. As we both battled for early game, he ended up exposing his Feugen on Turn 5, which immediately signaled to me that it was the Feugen and Stalagg version of Renolock.

This meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about surprise burst or anything like that, so as long as I could gain board control, I was good. However, right before I got him to Reno Jackson, he threw out a Molten Giant and taunted it up.

Uh oh.

I didn’t have any of my removal in hand, and my board was too weak to take care of him efficiently. This proved to be my downfall, as he eventually established dominant board control after drawing out my own Reno Jackson. I had an Arch-Thief Rafaam in hand, but it couldn’t save me this time.

0-1.

Round 2: Tempo Mage vs. Secret Paladin

My predictions were basically spot-on, but I didn’t really care about any of that at the moment. I just needed to win this second match, and I had to keep focused on my board and my opponent. He had the coin, which ultimately gave him a definite advantage considering my hand didn’t contain any early game at all. All I could do was watch and make reactive plays.

Turn 1, coin a Shielded Minibot. Turn 2, Knife Juggler. Turn 3, Shielded…Minibot?

Wait a second.

While I wasn’t sure at first, it turned out that Yuri was running a highly aggressive version of Secret Paladin, consisting of heavy early game, only rounded out by high tempo late-game plays such as Mysterious Challenger and Dr. Boom. It was an old spin on Secret Paladin that I haven’t seen since the release of TGT, but before I could figure out what to do next, my laptop shut down.

I turned my laptop over. I completely forgot to plug in the charger.

When my laptop finally turned back on, the game was already over. I messaged Yuri on Battle.net, and thankfully, he agreed to a redo.

With a vague idea of my opponent’s deck, I managed to hard mulligan for a Mana Wyrm and some early spells, along with the coin. My early game, this time, was fantastic; it was uncontested for the first six turns.

Of course, when he put down Mysterious Challenger, things started to go downhill from there.

I got rid of Mysterious Challenger with an efficient Fireball, but the next turn, he placed down a second Shielded Minibot and Knife Juggler, and with an Avenge’d Knife Juggler already on the board, it was proving too much for me to handle as he kept Hero Power-ing every turn, activating both Knife Jugglers and killing off my minions on the board. I never managed to draw my other removal, and once he cleared my board, there wasn’t much of a chance for me to make a comeback.

0-2.

Round 3: Tempo Mage vs. Midrange Druid

Okay, now I’m terrified. I already lost two rounds, so this last one might be game for me. I can do this, so let me try again with Tempo Mage. Midrange Druid is its best matchup, right?

I was so close.

After a lucky Discover of Force of Nature from Raven Idol, both of our boards were decimated, and we both were top decking. He had only 12 health left, and I had 29. I didn’t draw into any of my spells though; only minions, and not even Dr. Boom either. I learned a lot of things that game. sorcerers-apprentice proved to be not as useful without board presence or spells, for example.

Eventually, he was able to draw into his own minions and gradually overwhelmed me with board presence. I gradually got his health down to six through Fireblast, but I never drew into any of my Fireballs or Roaring Torches. Not even an Arcane Intellect. It was a tight match, but it felt a bit disappointing as I always thought Tempo Mage was my best deck.

0-3.

Opening hands like these are what made me fall in love with Tempo Mage in the first place.

Next Week’s Match

After that incredibly close match, I ended up friending Yuri for real, and I cheered him on, wishing him good luck on next week’s match. Of course, I had to prepare for my next match as well, Yuri told me.

Wait, is there a loser’s bracket or something? I had to ask.

It turns out that the preliminaries for HSL worked a little differently than I thought it did. For the first eight rounds, everyone plays eight matches, one per week, in order to accumulate points. One point is rewarded to the winner of a match, and the top 64 players that gathers the most points move on to the playoffs. In other words, I still had a chance.

Thanking Yuri for this new information, I set off to change a crucial component of my Renolock deck. Taking some cues from Yuri, I removed Arch-Thief Rafaam from my deck and instead substituted in a Molten Giant, as the Molten Giant into Reno Jackson was too much of a tempo swing to pass up. My other two decks were fine, however, although I may consider teching out a Mind Control Tech from my Tempo Mage in favor of another minion, although I’m not too sure yet.

I guess all I can really do now is just practice some more with each deck, right? But for now, a break. I think I earned it.

Plans for the Future

Oh, remember the formats that were introduced earlier this month? You didn’t think I would end this article without mentioning them at least once, did you?

So, as a recap for those that might not know about Blizzard’s relatively recent announcement, when the expansion hits later this spring, Blizzard will simultaneously implement formats as well. These “formats” will affect Play mode and will consist of “Standard” and “Wild,” both of which Blizzard will try to keep as fun as possible. Here’s the breakdown.

  • “Standard” mode features cards released in the past two years only, which means that during the launch of formats, Goblins vs. Gnomes and Naxxramas cards will not be able to be used in decks
  • every time the first new expansion of a year releases, the last two card sets released in the last two years cycle out
  • when a card set cycles out of “Standard,” they will not be able to be purchased in the shop anymore, although they can all be crafted for use in “Wild” mode
  • “Wild” mode is the same old Hearthstone you all know and love
  • “Standard” mode will be the primary tournament and Play mode from the moment it hits, the developers hope to keep the metagame balanced and dynamic this way
  • as the “Standard” mode hits, Classic and Basic cards will always be available to use, although a good amount will undergo chances in order to balance out the new metagame
  • you rank up on separate ladders for both “Standard” and “Wild,” although there is only one season rewards chest for players to receive
  • there will now be 18 deck slots available for use

If I may, I predict that the next expansion will hit sometime around the end of March: given Blizzard’s usual expansion philosophy, it is likely that they’ll announce the expansion about two or three weeks before it launches, and with the announcement of formats already riling the community up so much, Blizzard is probably waiting until things settle down before they announce it, maybe two or three weeks. In essence, it’s highly likely that the next expansion will be announced and launched in March. So where does that leave me?

I’m going to be so disappointed if this screen doesn’t have 30 new expansion card packs when that launch day comes!

Well, as I have now gathered all the cards I could possibly need for the near future, I decided that I’m no longer going to be spending any gold! Well, for now. I currently have 600 gold, and I can earn about 400 gold a week, provided I reroll every quest and only complete 60g quests (as provided by Sheng’s crafty guide to spending gold, which can be found here), I can probably amass a total of 3000 gold somewhere in the middle of next month, if I restrain myself from purchasing anything. If all works well, by the time the next expansion hits, I’ll have enough to pick up 30 hard-earned packs, which will net me maybe 30% of the cards in the next expansion; that’s a good baseline to have for experimenting with new decks and archetypes that are sure to come out of Standard in the future.

Tip of the Day

My build of Aggro Shaman may focus a little bit more on board control with cards like Flametongue Totem and Tuskarr Totemic, but it’s definitely a lot more fun than your typical aggro deck.

When you’re behind on the board, don’t play it safe. Once, while I was playing Aggro Shaman, I lost by two points of HP because the only card I had in my hand was abusive-sergeant, and while I could have used it to buff up my Tunnel Trogg, I decided against it because I didn’t want to lay out my whole hand on the field. The next couple turns passed, and my opponent pulled out a Sludge Belcher while he was only at 2 HP. Cue a Fireball from my opponent the next turn, and it took me a minute to realize that my abusive-sergeant would have won me the game.

So yeah. As a wise man once told me, “PLAY TO WIN. when you’re behind, don’t play it safe. play it crazy!! omg”

Closing

It’s a pretty bad start for my debut in the HSL, but that’s okay! If you guys even read this far, thank you so much for reading! I really hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings, and I’ll try my best to write a new one every week! (Note: because HSL has matches scheduled for different days each week, I’ll try my best to write my posts right after my match ends, so these might become published at irregular intervals for the next couple weeks. Apologies!) If you guys want to ask questions, give constructive criticism, or even yell at me for the stuff I said here, feel free to comment below! If you want to add me, my Battletag is Chriseroi#1902, and I hope to see you all in a game of Hearthstone sometime soon!