Aug 25 2016 - 1:28 pm

Should Yogg Saron be banned from competitive Hearthstone?

Last weekend at the HTC Summer Preliminaries, Manny “Dude_7597” Eckert suffered one of the worst losses I’ve ever seen in Hearthstone
Luke Winkie
Dot Esports

Last weekend at the HTC Summer Preliminaries, Manny “Dude_7597” Eckert suffered one of the worst losses I’ve ever seen in Hearthstone. It was Zoolock versus Token Druid, and he had a full board of powerful minions like Darkshire Councilman, Possessed Villager and Imp Gang Boss. All he had to was survive his opponent’s desperate Yogg-Saron, and he would win the game.

Unfortunately, the very last card Yogg casted was a super clutch Maelstrom Portal, destroying all of Eckert’s threats and immediately losing him the game.

This was obviously spectacular, and one of the things that makes watching competitive Hearthstone fun. But we’re due for a serious conversation about Yogg-Saron in the pro scene. Blizzard has always made randomness a part of its design philosophy, but there’s never been anything in the game that combines unregulated chaos and formidable power quite like Yogg. We’ve seen bans on specific things in other esports—Meta Knight was famously blacklisted in Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s heyday. Is it time to remove Yogg from tournament play? We caught up with Eckert to get his perspective.

First things first, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been playing card games?

I was born in Rochester, New York, but my parents and I drove across the country when I was three weeks old to be with family in Seattle, and I've lived my whole life here. I was born in 1997, hence the 97 of my username, so I'm 19 now. I started playing Pokemon in elementary school and progressed to Yu-Gi-Oh, then Magic, but I started to move away from card games when I reached high school until my friend suggested Hearthstone to me midway through my Junior year. I started playing and I was hooked.

Was that the worst Yogg of your life?

Not even close. A couple days after Whispers of the Old Gods came out I was playing Freeze Mage and offensively Alexstrasza's a Hunter. He went all face to put me to four without popping my Block and then Yogged. The first spell was Swipe, and even though I had Alex on board, he hit my face to pop Ice Block. Then he got Bash, and Lay on Hands targeting his own face to heal up to 26. On another occasion, I was playing vs Jan “Ekop” Palys on ladder, Aggro Shaman vs Druid. Ekop was at one health without a single card on board or in hand and I had a full board. He topdecked Yogg and got Twisting Nether and Healing Wave on his own face, winning the joust, of course. Next turn my Feral Spirits got counterspelled from Yogg and then he topdecked Ancient of War. I just got outskilled. Those are probably the two worst Yoggs I can think of, but Druid is so popular nowadays I lose games to Yogg on a daily basis—Flare, Ice Block, healing spells targeting face, etc.

What went through your head when you realized you were losing a game to some truly unfortunate RNG? Looking at your reaction in the moment it seemed like you were devastated.

When I saw that he was innervating Yogg I guessed I was going to lose because that's just the nature of the card. I knew he hadn't played many spells, though, so I was hopeful that my board would remain intact, but Yogg had other plans. I just felt frustrated and helpless. I wouldn't have minded as much if I had misplayed, but looking back on it I was pretty sure I didn't make any mistakes in that particular game.

Do you think Blizzard intended Yogg-Saron to be a good card that would see play in high-level competition?  Do you think the pro scene should consider banning some super swingy cards like Yogg?

No one knows exactly how much testing Blizzard does before they release cards, but I'm guessing they do quite a bit, since they only release a couple sets each year. And even after seeing only a couple games with Yogg in the deck, it's obvious the card is broken, so I can't imagine Blizzard didn't realize it would see competitive play. Especially when they make a point of highlighting Yoggs from tournaments. I think Blizzard wants Yogg to be a popular card, unfortunately, because it's entertaining to watch as a spectator. I would personally love to see a ban list for cards such as Yogg, Tuskarr, and Barnes that decide the game based on RNG, and I believe many other competitive players feel the same way.

Why do you think the community has been hesitant to ban cards? We've seen cards get banned in Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, why not Hearthstone?

Almost everyone I know in the competitive Hearthstone community wants Yogg banned. I think Blizzard is the only thing preventing Yogg from being banned, and I think they're doing it for the same reason I mentioned before: Yogg is an entertaining card to watch for a spectator, and additionally, it's a fun card for casuals to play with. Most people who play Hearthstone don't even pass the rank 15-13ish mark every season so it makes sense that Blizzard would rather cater to casuals than pro players.

In the future how do you think Blizzard should handle RNG in card design? Do you prefer super open-ended cards like Yogg-Saron. or more limited effects like, say. Flame Juggler?

Obviously I want Hearthstone to be more based on skill than randomness. I don't mind most of the minor random effects in the game, but when Tuskarr decides the game on turn three and Yogg completely reverses a game which otherwise was unwinnable, that's when I feel like shutting down my computer for the day. Random effects will always exist in Hearthstone, and to an extent, they make the game more fun, but I hope the Blizzard designers listen to the pleas of competitive Hearthstone players all over the world and print fewer random cards in the future, or somehow combine randomness with skill, like they did with the Discover mechanic.

Jan 19 2017 - 8:01 pm

G2 start Trinity Series with 6-0 Murloc sweep

It was a one-sided start to the hotly-anticipated league.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Blizzard Entertainment

G2 Esports got their ESL Trinity Series campaign off to a flying start yesterday, beating Alliance in assertive fashion.

Hearthstone's number one team dominated the Swedish Alliance lineup en route to a 6-0 sweep in the opening clash of the team league.

Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy and Dima "Rdu" Radu were able to simply sit back and make enthusiastic murloc noises, as two-time European champion Thijs Molendijk piloted his Anyfin Paladin deck to six straight game wins.

Alliance's all-Swedish lineup of 2015 world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall, three-time major winner Jon "Orange" Westberg, and Harald "Powder" Gimre was expected to be a big player in this team league. But the initial loss will be a setback to their title aspirations.

As we know from experience, however, initial losses are no indicator of eventual success. The G2 trio, then known as Nihilum, finished fifth in the regular season of the Archon Team League Championships before going on to win the playoffs.

In the other game of the day, underdogs Tempo Storm emerged victorious against Virtus Pro 6-3. Three game wins with Rogue by David "JustSaiyan" Shan provided an insurmountable advantage for Tempo Storm.

Today's match day will see the other four teams make their debut, as Luminosity Gaming takes on Team Liquid and Cloud9 faces compLexity Gaming.

Jan 17 2017 - 11:07 pm

How to Watch the ESL Hearthstone Trinity Series: Players, Format, Times, and More

It's the biggest team league the game has seen in over a year.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Blizzard Entertainment

It's been well over a year since Hearthstone last had a major team league in the West—something fans have been crying out for. Tomorrow the wait ends, and the ESL Trinity Series begins.

Eight trios, flying the banners of some of the biggest franchises in esports, will compete in best-of-11 matches until Mar. 2. The top teams will advance to a live finals at the ESL studios in California, with $75,000 up for grabs for the winning team.

This is a big moment for Hearthstone esports. After growth slowed in 2016, this league could get 2017 off to a big start as the major players in the scene attempt to stabilize and consolidate their positions.

Here's everything you need to know about the league, the teams involved, and how the matches will play out.

What is the format?

For each match, the teams will submit nine decks—one for each class in the game. Each team will ban out two of their opponent's decks, leaving seven decks from which the teams pick a final lineup of six.

The teams then play a best-of-11 match in the Last Hero Standing format—once a deck loses a game it is locked for the rest of the match, and you lose when you have no decks left. Unlike the Archon Team League Championships where each player was assigned a couple of decks to play, all six players will be playing every game of every series. They will do so with open communication, which viewers will be tuned in to throughout the broadcast.

The format requires a huge amount of strategy, deckbuilding skill, and team work. The teams will have to argue out each individual play, make their move within the short timeframe of a turn, and try not to fall out in the process. Matches will be long, and real-life fatigue will play a part.

How will the league be broadcast?

The broadcasts will be presented from ESL's studios in Burbank, California, with TJ Sanders and Brian Kibler slated to call the action.

The players themselves will be playing from home, adding another level of difficulty to the communication, until the league reaches its final stages.

The matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting tomorrow, with two matches per day. Games will start at 1pm ET (10am PT) for the duration of the seven week season and will be aired on ESL's Hearthstone Twitch channel.

Who are the teams?

The lineup features some of the biggest brands in esports. Two Hearthstone world champions, over a dozen tournament winners, and some wildcards too.

G2 Esports are easily the favorites to win it all. The trio of Dima "Rdu" Radu, Thijs Molendijk, and Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy is the most decorated in the game, with the Archon Team League Championships title also under their belt. The weight of expectation is firmly upon this European trio.

Although the team is relatively new, having just brought on a third member in time for the league, Alliance will be one of the teams to watch. The Swedish organization picked up a trio of players to represent the team and their country in three-time major winner Jon "Orange" Westberg, 2015 world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall, and consistent journeyman Harald "Powder" Gimre.

Virtus Pro will be a force to be reckoned with. After starting out as rivals at the 2016 European Winter Championship, Artem "DrHippi" Kravets, Ole "Naiman" Batyrbekov, and Raphael "BunnyHoppor" Peltzer have formed a formidable unit. The team has been represented in countless major tournaments this year, with DrHippi finishing second in the world championship.

CompLexity will be looking to turn potential and underdog determination into results. Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen was impressively consistent throughout 2016, but did not win a major title. Simon "Crane" Raunholst has long been considered one of the best minds in the game but he has also not borne this out with results, while perennial prospect Tugay "MrYagut" Evsan will be looking to show just why he was so highly touted for so long.

The only all-American lineup in the tournament, Luminosity Gaming will also be hoping to live up to their billing. Branded a U.S. "super team" when they were formed last year, DreamHack Austin winner Keaton "Chakki" Gill and the experienced Paul "Zalae" Nemeth will be partnered by top young talent Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang.

The experienced but somewhat out-of-favor hand of Peter "Gaara" Stevanovic will look to guide Tempo Storm's young prospects David "JustSaiyan" Shan and Victor "Vlps" Lopez to success, while the veteran Team Liquid trio of David "Dog" Caero, Jeffrey "Sjow" Brusi, and Yevhenii "Neirea" Shumilin will aim to prove the value of experience.

Speaking of veterans, 2014 world champion James "Firebat" Kostesich, early leader Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and 2014 World Esports Championship winner Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener will round out the lineup for Cloud9. With Firebat having casted more than competed in 2016, StrifeCro having made just the odd appearance and TidesofTime having spent the past two years struggling with whether or not he loved the game anymore, this lineup will now have to deliver on a big stage.

Though 2017 is only a few weeks old, the ESL Trinity Series promises to be one of the most entertaining and competitive events of the year. The players will be tested to the limits of their skills—and Hearthstone fans will finally have another team league to get invested in.