Tournament Report: Top 8 at America’s Spring Playoffs
Everyone in the America's Spring Playoffs was wrong with their metagame predictions. As a result of this, it was one of the most interesting tournaments I've ever taken part in.
Here’s the context:
- The America’s region is known for bringing a high percentage of aggro decks in tournaments.
- The most popular lineup in Winter Playoffs was quad-aggro.
- Hoej had just won the EU Spring Playoffs with a quad-aggro lineup.
- Aggro ranks extremely highly on all the popular meta reports.
So logically, you would expect a high representation of aggro at America’s Spring Playoffs but the Spring Playoff meta ended up being 70% control lineups. The majority of players attempted to think on the next level. Since aggro should be popular, fewer people should bring Quest Rogue and Jade Druid, and thus you should bring anti-aggro control decks. Players were also weary of bringing Murloc based Paladin lists due to the high representation of Hungry Crab in EU Playoffs.
I brought an anti-aggro quad-aggro lineup and initially felt like I was in bad shape against the field. I had to pray to get paired against the few Jade Druids, Quest Rogues, and other aggro lineups.
I anticipated a high representation of aggro but I also wanted to target Quest Rogue and Jade Druid since I think they are weak in conquest due to their weakness to quad-aggro. Based on these objectives, I opted for an anti-aggro quad-aggro lineup. My primary ban was Taunt Warrior, and my secondary bans were anti-aggro Control Paladin, Medivh Mage with 2x Volcanic Potions, and Evolve Shaman.
Multiple simulations concluded that this was the best quad-aggro lineup. Pirate Warrior was a consideration but is extremely weak, not only to Golakka Crawler, but also weapon hate. It also has a natural weakness to other aggro lineups if they run both Aggro Druid, Evolve Shaman, and a defensive Aggro Paladin.
Aggro Druid - Copied Hoej’s list exactly. The Murloc package is good against other aggro decks. Druid of the Claw is a good defensive anti-aggro card which can also be used aggressively as a charger with immediate buff synergy. While I don’t think Swipe is an amazing card in Aggro Druid, it is good against aggro decks and running a single copy is very good in an open decklist format since your opponent has to think about playing around it. In hindsight, I would have preferred a different list in a control heavy field.
Aggro Paladin - Rallying Blades are bae. They are far more efficient at killing high priority targets in other aggro decks than Truesilver: think Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Vicious Fledgling, Southsea Captain, Murloc Warleader, Flametongue Totem, Primalfin Totem, Mana Tide Totem, and more. Wickerflame is a tech choice against other aggro decks. I don’t like Consecrate in Aggro Paladin but I ran one copy for the same reason I ran a Swipe in Aggro Druid.
Evolve Shaman - This is the staple list. It’s naturally extremely strong against other aggro decks with cards like Devolve, Maelstrom Portal, Jade Claws, and Thing from Below. It’s weak to heavy control decks with a lot of board clear such as Taunt Warrior, any Mage with double Volcanic Potion, and Control Paladin.
Secret Mage - I prefer more secret diversification in an open decklist format. Tar Creeper is a tech against aggro, whereas Pyros would be more effective against control. Running Yogg in the deck is just correct since the power level of the card has had a ninja increase in the last two sets.
Round 1: 3-1 win vs cheesee10
He had triple aggro with Jade Druid. I was a huge lineup favorite.
Round 2: 3-1 win vs Tarei
Tarei was running both Quest Rogue and Jade Druid. I swept his Jade Druid.
Round 3: 1-3 loss vs Kuonet
I was at a huge lineup disadvantage to three anti aggro control decks and Evolve Shaman.
Round 4: 3-2 win vs SwaggyG
He had an aggro lineup. I was unlucky and lost the first two but reverse swept his Aggro Paladin.
Round 5: 3-0 win vs Chakki
Chakki had the lineup advantage with four anti-aggro control decks but Priest was a potential hole in his lineup. I got lucky to win 3-0 but I also played extremely well. I could have easily lost if I didn’t take optimal lines every turn.
Round 6: 3-0 win vs Tempo
Another all aggro lineup were I was extremely favored.
Ending day1 at 5-1 win and in for top8 tomorrow let's gooooooo— Astrogation (@AstrogationHS) May 28, 2017
Round 7: 1-3 loss vs Muzzy
Muzzy's lineup was the same as Chakki’s except for Miracle Rogue over Dragon Priest. I was at a lineup disadvantage and couldn’t sweep Miracle Rogue.
Getting paired against Muzzy was the best thing that could have happened to me in Round 7. I was 5-1 and I was paired up against the only 6-0. That meant I was freerolling a top 8 spot even if I lost the series. When I lost, my tiebreaks shot up seven points and I made it into the top 8 as the 7th seed.
Overall, I was fortunate with pairings but I can also say with confidence that this was the best tournament I’ve ever played. I’ve been playing extremely well in LAN tournaments and the only clear misplay I made was against Muzzy where I missed a potential two turn lethal setup and took a line that lost almost every time.
I was extremely stoked to make top 8. 5k in prize money and the Golden Celebration cardback were now mine! I just needed 1 more win to qualify for the Spring Championships in Shanghai, China. I was paired against Ant, the #2 seed from swiss. I was happy to get this pairing since he brought quad-aggro but he wasn’t teched for other aggro lineups. The main difference in our lineups is that he is playing Pirate Warrior instead of Evolve Shaman. I came into the series with a slight lineup advantage. We both banned each other’s Aggro Druid.
Game 1 - Evolve Shaman vs Pirate Warrior
This matchup is extremely favored for me. I drew Patches in my opening hand but he also drew poorly. I played defensively and ground him out. Interestingly enough, I used both Bloodlusts to clear board this game.
Game 2 - Aggro Paladin vs Pirate Warrior
Normally slightly favored for the Pirate Warrior but I evened out the matchup with my techs. Aggro Paladin typically wins if it gets off a Spikeridged Steed and it doesn’t get Spellbreakered. Rallying Blade was the MVP in the early game. I was in good shape up until the end and I thought Tirion was good enough to stabilize. My legendary was silenced, however, and I took an Arcanite Reaper-Heroic Strike to the face which left me at one. I held a Blessing of Kings in hand and unfortunately couldn’t draw a Stonehill Defender, Wickerflame Burnbristle, or Spikeridged Steed.
Game 3 - Aggro Paladin vs Secret Mage
Should have been pretty favored for me. Rallying Blade was again the MVP in the early game. He also had a strong early game, however, and landed an early Counterspell which tied up my Blessing of Kings and Spikeridged Steed. I had to play extremely awkwardly mid-game and waited for a Hydrologist secret to nullify the Counterspell. Things could have been fine but he played Firelands Portal on seven into Babbling Book, Firelands Portal created from Babbling Book on turn 8. He also rolled a Bittertide Hydra from the Firelands Portal. People have asked me why I played Spikeridged Steed-hero power on eight instead of Curator on eight into Wickerflame-Spikeridged on nine. This was because Steed was tremendously higher immediate tempo and getting it out sooner meant I didn’t have to worry about not being able to play it later against another Counterspell, which he happened to have in hand.
Game 4 - Aggro Paladin vs Aggro Paladin
He curved out perfectly after I missed my one drop.
This was quite possibly the most frustrating series of Hearthstone I’ve ever played. The stakes were high and things went completely against me the moment my Tirion was silenced by Spellbreaker in game two. There were no decisions that I could have made differently that could have changed the outcome of these games. This is also the second major tournament in a row where I just got unreasonably unlucky right after making it out of swiss. This time, being unlucky cost me a trip to Shanghai to play for a chance at Worlds.
That said, Ant is a great guy and a good friend and I’m very happy for him.
Bad luck aside, I’m playing the best Hearthstone of my life right now. As of this month, I’ve passed both Amnesiac and Zalae in Last Call points for the America’s region and am in second behind Muzzy. Although Muzzy is still ahead of all of us by an ever increasing margin, I will be one of the primary contenders for Last Call if Muzzy qualifies to Worlds through Spring Championships. I just have to move past these obstacles, continue playing at the highest level that I can, and do my best in upcoming tournaments. My next stop is Dreamhack Summer in Sweden.