Diary of a Legend Climb – Part 1: Humble Beginnings
It’s been a while since I had the chance to play Hearthstone often enough that I could mount a proper challenge for the Legend spots: I decided I’d give it a bash again in October. I also thought it would be a good idea to document my efforts in a series of articles on the site: I’m going to partially follow the Arena Play by Play concept while also providing detailed statistics.
I’ve had two major options to consider before I started my climb: do I want to take a fast deck (Zoo or an aggro Mage/Hunter) or do I want to practice the deck I want to play on higher levels: control Paladin? I chose the latter. I haven’t played the game in a week in so so I thought it couldn’t hurt. Here’s my current decklist:
It’s the good old control Pally alright – let me explain a few of my choices though.
First of all, I would not take out the double Shade of Naxxramas for anything. These 3-drops scale incredibly well into the late-game and they are difficult to remove if they stay stealthed. They are admittedly a bit worse against aggressive decks than Harvest Golems would be, but even then they usually act like a 3/3 on turn 4, which can help regain board control when coupled with one of the strong Paladin 4-drops.
One copy of Faceless Manipulator also made its way into the deck, mainly because a) I am greedy as hell b) with a deck full of so many quality cards, it is almost impossible not to find a target for it – not to mention the insane swing potential if I get to copy a strong card of my opponent just before I remove it. The long control-versus-control games, which essentially are an exercise in resource management, this jolly joker can win you games.
The Black Knight is a card I might consider getting rid of – but its usefulness against Druid and Paladin - and the omnipresent Sludge Belchers - made me include it for now.
The lone Sunwalker used to be the replacement for my double Senjin – they are both gone now though. I found that this little extra shielding next to the two Sludge Belchers cause a lot of problems for my opponents – if I get in a position to cast it, that is.
I have swapped out a Senjin for a Spellbreaker and Lay on Hands for Ysera – changes I’ve not tested yet. We’ll see how they go.
But hey, I’m only on rank 18 due to not playing a lot last month either, we’re a week into the season, so the competition shouldn’t be too stiff down here, right?
This is where I would show you how I lost to a Rogue with Sinister Strike and a Murloc Warlock, but technology was really uncooperative that day and Fraps also didn’t feel like saving the recording of these particular games. As such, you’re going to have to take my word for it that I’ve lost three out of the first four games against players on rank 18 – much to the amusement of the viewers of the stream.
However, I did proceed to win 12 out of my next 13 games.
The showpiece game of this article is going to be a match against a Priest that should showcase why I’m really glad I’m running Faceless Manipulator in this deck.
Showpiece game – The Faceless MVP
We join the game shortly after the mulligan phase (thank you again for not being up to the challenge, Fraps) – apologies for the black bars, they should be gone by the next article!
My opponent plays a Zombie Chow. I, as a control Paladin player, obviously pass.
I suspect this is a Deathrattle deck, but I’ve not seen either of the Undertakers played over the course of the whole game. Unfortunate for my opponent.
A very nice draw. I’m not concerned by my opponent’s expanding board as I have the option to fully clear the board by turn 6 if need be – and Priests are not known for their tendency to burst you down. I cast the Shade of Naxxramas and end my turn.
Another Deathrattle minion – so glad my opponent didn’t have an Undertaker! I don’t have too many options at the moment – I opt to play the Farseer and heal myself to slow my opponent down – I can either use Consecration or a sword and the Shade to sort this mess out once time comes.
I was really concerned about a possible Circle of Healing after my opponent played the Injured Blademaster – that would have made the wait until the complete board clear a lot more difficult. However, it didn’t come to pass, so I’ve got the chance to sort things out, if only partially.
I decided to equip the Truesilver Champion to kill the Blademaster, because using the Shade on the Cultist a) lets my minion stay alive b) means that the +3 health bonus goes on a relatively inconsequential unit.
On an unrelated note, I love screenshots like this.
And the extra health goes to…
…Mister Zombie Person over there! He joins our winners from earlier this week: Lady Lich, who was the happy recipient of a brand new car and the Undead Ghoul who received a giant shield on Monday!
It’s a shame he used the extra health to kill my Shade.
By the way, the Auchenai Soulpriest is an interesting choice for the fifth turn of the game. It is obviously supposed to neuter the negative effects of Zombie Chow’s deathrattle but it floats a mana and doesn’t allow my opponent to use his hero ability either.
Needless to say, the Soulpriest has to go before the Zombie Chow does something wacky.
I cast Consecrate…
…and proceed to take another shiny screenshot as I kill the troublesome minion.
This is where the game takes an interesting twist. Turn 6 for the Priest – what will he cast, I wonder? A Cabal Shadow Priest on an empty board? Something else? We’ll see in a second, he’s definitely taking a lot of time with his decision…
That’s it? You just heal your stupid zombie and pass?!
I have no idea what my opponent had in his mind – or his hand – but if all his cards cost more than 6 mana, we’ll have interesting times ahead of us.
Oh, bless the topdeck gods! I would have had nothing to play otherwise – and this also kills the Zombie Chow for free. With my next two turns giving me 5/6 minions and +12 health, I should be fine on the path to Ysera.
Perhaps he’s going to pass again…?
If only. He proceeds to heal for two.
This is the card that is going to win us the game, people. But for now, I’ll play the first Guardian of Kings.
I’m obviously not going to attack into the Belcher – it would allow my opponent to heal it back and finish off my Kodo.
Uh oh. My opponent has no time for games.
Cairne Bloodhoof is generally a fantastic card against Priests, but not when Sylvanas in on the board. I had to come up with a different solution.
No point to use Equality (or any other board clear shenanigans) just yet: I will be able to do that once my opponent steals something and plays multiple extra minions. As such, I will simply remove the Sludge Belcher from the equation, make a 1/1 and pass.
I don’t think we’ve seen a single non-Deathrattle minion from this guy the whole game. I don’t know where his Undertakers are, but I sure hope they stay there.
Never mind, here is the first non-deathrattle minion! You win a prize! I won’t be killing you next turn!
He wasn’t this kind with my Kodo though.
I don’t need to cast the Consecration: the Equality itself is good enough to solve our problems. It also allows me to play Caine on an almost empty board. If it becomes the victim of Mind Control, I will be sad but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
However, it is imperative that I kill the Dark Cultist before I cast the spell or I could be left with egg on my face.
Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, I kept my promise to the Argus about killing him last.
Again, my opponent fails to make full use of his available mana pool. He also didn’t manage to kill even Cairne: he could only put it down to 1 hit point.
This card makes my greed-sense tingling, but I don’t have the mana to heal Cairne, copy it, then consecrate and kill the Soulpriest. A shame. I decide to just ignore it and play Ysera.
This is where the proverbial car teetering on the edge of the cliff falls. I draw into Ysera Awakens – and my opponent plays an interesting card.
A nice move, essentially allows the Soulpriest to get back to full health once it kills Cairne. However, it is not good enough. I already have enough damage on the board to kill Kel’Thuzad – and more importantly, I can get my own for 5 mana.
Enter Faceless Manipulator.
After hitting good ol’ Kel’ with Ysera and dealing 4 damage to the Priest, it is time to awaken the dragon.
Let the green goo fill the screen!
I also decided to use Holy Light on Ysera. In retrospect, that seems like a pretty big waste.
Not that it mattered. Faceless MVP!
Statistics and future deck choice
For those of you who are interested in statistics, now’s your time! I’ve played 20 games in my first session and won 13 of them – a not particularly great effort all in all, but considering how I bookended a 12-win streak with three losses on both sides, I am still sort of pleased considering how damn rusty I was. Then again, there are definitely improvements to be made!
(click on the image to enlarge)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 40% of the games I played was against Warlocks – and none of them were Handlock. I’ve encountered my fair share of Zoo and even Murloc Warlock alongside some all-out aggressive decks. While I did win five out of eight of these encounters, most of my losses came either from Guldan or Rexxar. This is not that big a surprise considering how top-heavy my deck is though. I will most likely need to either put in a few more anti-aggro cards – or (more likely) see how many of my opponents play aggressive decks and then decide if I want to just accept those games as almost guaranteed losses: I will need more data to make this call.
Needless to say, climbing with Zoo would let me climb at a faster pace – playing 20 games in three hours is not that great a return on investment. We’ll see how it goes: I still consider it good practice!