Sep 9 2016 - 3:23 pm

The One Night in Karazhan cards that have surprised us the most

The dust has settled on One Night in Karazhan
Luke Winkie
Dot Esports

The dust has settled on One Night in Karazhan. Pro players have the full set to play with, and implications on the meta are just now coming into view. As is tradition, there are a number of cards that we disparaged before release that turn out to be… better than we imagined. Hearthstone is a consistently humbling game. We thought Yogg-Saron was going to be bad and Troggzor was going to be good.

I’m glad this is the case, because it means that after seven expansions, Blizzard still has the capacity to surprise us. Let’s go take a look at our mistakes.

Onyx Bishop

Blizzard

People were tremendously down on Priest as a whole coming into Karazhan, and that can be entirely blamed on the underwhelming Purify. But the memes may have caused us to overlook Onyx Bishop, which has proven to be a standout in Control Priest. Resurrect is a decent mechanic, but it didn’t see much play in its two-mana spell incarnation back in Blackrock Mountain. But when it’s attached it to a body you can play on curve it gets a lot better. You no longer have to have a Circle of Healing or spare mana for a hero power to get value out of your Injured Blademaster. Just recast it with full health on turn five. Priest is still far from competitive, but the Bishop is a step in the right direction.

Swashburgler

Blizzard

It’s still really early, but I think Swashburgler is finding a home as an early drop for tempo-oriented Rogue decks. People were a little down coming in, because I think they were trying to fit it into an Ethereal Peddler deck that doesn’t quite have all the pieces yet. However, it’s hard to sneeze at a one-mana minion that draws you a potentially useful card. Obviously as Rogue gets more tempo pieces (and moves away from its Oil/Miracle roots) it’ll get better, but right now they’ve basically got a Webspinner. Not bad!

Maelstrom Portal

Blizzard

Maelstrom Portal was the one portal card I didn’t have much hope for. It’s an Arcane Explosion plus a one-drop. If Arcane Explosion doesn’t get play in Tempo Mage, why would an added shot at a 1/2 or 2/1 change anything? Apparently it does, because Maelstrom Portal has shown up in practically every Aggro Shaman deck on ladder. I think that’s mostly to do with the ease in which Shamans can get spell damage from their hero power. Board clears that don’t damage face are generally a no-no in fast archetypes, but Shaman’s tools are priced aggressively enough to make them work.

The Curator

Blizzard

The Curator is a niche card that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to have the utility to be truly useful. It’s found a cozy home in Beast Druid, however. Right now Beast Druids are running Azure Drakes and Sir Finley to complement the Stranglethorn Tigers and Enchanted Ravens, which means they can reliably pull at least two minions when Curator hits the board. A seven mana 4/6 with taunt that draws two cards is absolutely good enough to make the cut—we learned that back when Ancient of Lore was at full power.

Medivh, The Guardian

Blizzard

I was super high on Medivh. I thought he’d serve as a perfect finisher in things like Renolock and a prospective Control Mage, but I probably overvalued him just like I overvalued Varian Wrynn back in The Grand Tournament. I think Medivh will shine someday, but it will happen when the format is a little slower and full of some more good, high-cost spells.
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.