It’s been a while since I did a tournament recap, so here’s a new one for Kinguin for Charity Winter Edition 2015!
I thoroughly loved the first Kinguin for Charity tournament. Fortunately, this second edition continued off in a straight tournament-style bracket format featuring some of the game’s biggest names.
Here are the tournament details/summary:
Kinguin for Charity – Winter Edition 2015
Prize Pool: $5,000
Hot Players: Firebat, Neirea, Massan
Casters: Noxious, Monk
Kinguin for Charity 1 was a unique tournament because a charity drive was attached to it at the hip. Kinguin 2 continued this generous trend, totaling more than $1,300 in donations.
In most traditional tournaments, there is a group stage and a winners/losers bracket. However, Kinguin 2 alternatively chose to run a straight 16 player bracket, reducing some of the unnecessary overhead. However, it struggled with some technical difficulties (and DDoS attacks), causing it to run a bit haphazardly.
Without further ado, here are my main take-away points!
- The Return of Kolento, winning his first tournament of 2015
- Kolento’s Demon-lock sweeps the semi-finals against Massan
- Hunter and Druid tied for most popular Hero class
- Shaman was least popular class
- Warlock dramatically drops in popularity
- Kolento sweeps the king of aggro (Firebat) with Hunter 4-0 despite missing lethal
- Neirea takes on Amaz in a Priest mirror and wins
- Voidcaller makes a splash in Demon-lock
- Stand-out tournament for Massan, making the semi-finals
- Decks trend more towards control with the exception of Aggro Hunter/Mech Mage
- Colorful casting by Noxious and Monk
- Unfortunate DDoS attacks delays the tournament by a whole week
Kinguin for Charity used the Best of 5, one class ban system that has become the standard for competitive Hearthstone. However, they switched to a Best of 7 format in the finals, allowing players to reuse a previously defeated deck.
Best of 5, One Class Ban
This is the default go-to format in competitive HS. Best of 5, 3 decks, 1 ban. It’s pretty standard and is used for tournaments everywhere.
Now for a quick tangent on play-styles and whether players can be defined by them.
Hearthstone is a game that encourages players to build a deck around one particular style in order to execute its game-plan for optimal efficiency. It’s rare to see a deck mix and match styles since it can lead to some awkward turns.
There are currently 3 main styles that competitive players favor.
- Control – Control decks aim to “control” the board and play value minions throughout the game. As a result, these deck favor the late-game. Examples include Hand-lock and Control Warrior.
- Mid-Range – Mid-range decks are more well-rounded with some early game pressure building up into a solid mid-game. Examples include Paladin and Combo Druid.
- Aggro – Aggro decks aim to win by overwhelming their opponents by snowballing early board presence. Examples include Hunter and Mech Mage.
Due to inherent instincts, competitive Hearthstone players naturally tend to favor one particular play-style over the alternatives. It’s common knowledge that Trump prefers playing control decks by in large that focus on value. Meanwhile, Hearthstone World Champion, Firebat, is well known for favoring more aggressive decks like Zoo and Hunter.
What is interesting though, is that I feel players in Hearthstone, as opposed to other CCGs like Magic, tend to be proficient at playing all the different styles rather than making one style their dominant trademark.
Both Trump and Firebat both can play their opposite play-style to a high level and often choose to mix and match even during a tournament.
Maybe it’s because a lot of the top decks are homogenized and defined by their hero power, but I do wish that we could give players monikers like “Priest Master” or “Control King”.
Too often, I find that Hearthstone Pros use a wide variety of decks that don’t have a defining play-style which makes it harder to create lasting legacies.
I miss for example “Dragonmaster” Kibler for instance. The closest I can think of is “Priest Master” Zetalot who streams and plays almost exclusively Priest. He’s terrific, but doesn’t get tournament invites because he only plays Priest.
It would be great if future tournaments locked players into a specific Hero class and had a sideboard instead. I think that would make for some really memorable games and would go a long way in helping players establish their HS identity.
This Kinguin tournament was one of the last to feature the old Undertaker. As you probably know, Undertaker has been changed recently to grant +1 attack only for each summoned deathrattle minion. As a result, the strength of Undertaker has been severely hit and it’ll be interesting to see if Hunter continues to be the most popular tournament Hero class post-nerf.
For those who are interested, here are the totals of class selection from all 16 competitors:
Hunter – 13
Druid – 13
Mage – 11
Paladin – 8
Priest – 4
Warlock – 4
Rogue – 4
Warrior – 4
Shaman – 3
Hunter and Druid topping the table makes a lot of sense. The two decks work great independently, have good match-ups across the board, and don’t exhibit any obvious weaknesses.
Both classes generally have stock deck lists that hardly vary between players. Hunter decks play their traditional aggressive style with little to no card draw and Undertaker.
Druids on the other hand have actually gotten slower. Many players decided to drop a copy of the combo or even both in favor of ramp cards like ancient-of-war. This makes sense because Ramp Druid has made a resurgence on the ladder and has been one of the more dominant decks in the format.
Mage and Paladin have secured their position as solid tier two decks that benefited greatly from GvG. Mage had a lot of diversity among the players, with both Freeze Mage and Mech Mage represented.
At the bottom of the ladder, Warlock really suffered a loss in popularity with only 4 players bringing Gul’dan and his legion of undead. Hand-lock was the sole representation and with no player choosing to bring Zoo (not even Firebat).
On the whole, the meta has slowed down a lot and that makes for some longer and often more intriguing games. With regards to innovation, players experimented more with novel Mage lists and a more late-game-oriented Hunter build.
Kolento brought arguably the biggest deck innovation (below).
This tournament’s deck highlight is Kolento’s Demon-lock.
Demon-lock has traditionally been deemed only the 3rd best Warlock archetype to play behind Hand-lock and Zoo. Voidcaller attempted to vault the deck into relevance. However, putting in too many demons came at the cost of potential spots for important control legendaries, hurting the flow of the deck.
Kolento tried to find a middle ground between aggro and control and I’d say he succeeded. At first glance, it looks like a tempo’y combo’y deck that relies on early synergy to take control of the board, but then you look down the list and you see all the staple control cards and realize that’s not the purpose of the deck.
All the early game in the deck is just a means to an end, a distraction almost to keep opponents focused on dealing with the board before the late-game cards takes over and lands the coup de grace.
The surprises are littered all over the deck. But for me, I was most surprised to see floating-watcher make an appearance. The card is superb in arena and is an incredibly snowball card, it did work for Kolento when he needed it.
doomguard as well is an interesting choice because a deck like this usually thrives by having a big hand. When summoned from Voidcaller though, it’s absolutely devastating, and Kolento used this a few times to secure key wins.
All in all, a great and innovative deck. It’s unlikely to be easily ported to ladder because of double BGH but with a few tweaks, I can see this working great at all levels of play.
Match of the Tournament
My favorite game of the tournament was Neirea’s Warrior vs Firebat’s Paladin in the semi-finals.
The game looked to be even early but a surprise dunemaul-shaman turned out to be the game’s MVP. Despite a good comeback attempt by Neirea at 2 health, he eventually succumbed even though Firebat missed lethal damage towards the end of the match.
I consider this tournament one of the final farewells to Undertaker. The card single-handedly made Hunter the most popular ladder and tournament class. Hunter will probably see a decline in popularity, but still potentially has a number of tricks up its sleeve. Who knows, maybe metaltooth-leaper Mech-based Hunters are set to take the meta-game by storm.
Looking back just a few months, it was unthinkable that Mage and Paladin would see widespread tournament play and yet here they are, back in vogue. I’m excited to see what comes up as a result of the Undertaker nerf. Next tournament will be a treat!