Lessons from DreamHack Montreal
Recently, I posted an article about what broke Jade Druid. After that article was posted, I traveled to DreamHack Montreal, where I was curious to see if anyone would have developed a deck to fight the Jade menace. It turns out that the majority – and by majority I mean almost everyone – opted to ban Druid instead of risking facing it.
This ban process inspired today’s write-up, as I thoroughly enjoyed the ban process used in Last Hero Standing (LHS) tournaments and thought it offered a much more interesting play experience than ladder games are capable of providing. Today I am going to touch briefly on some of the interesting deck decisions and choices one might encounter at a Grand Prix, and some of the general testing guidelines one might take with them should they decide to play in one.
First off, entry into a single event is often covered under the entry for the DreamHack event itself, so if you are interested it’s always worth a shot if you’re mostly there to watch another game anyway. But, most importantly, Grand Prix offer players the ability to test and build a deck toward an expected metagame without being forced to play it against irrelevant matchups (those you would ban) in ladder. Last Hero Standing matches are best of 5, and in these matches players select 4 classes to play, one of which is chosen as a ban by an opponent. The winner keeps playing the same class/deck until it is defeated, either sweeping 3-0 or losing and selecting the next deck to play. The one player to not ban Druid in the top 8 was swept by it.
In any case, being able to ban Druid gave a glimpse into the possible metagame going forward. In particular, the Razakus or Highlander Priest builds appear to be extremely favoured across many matchups. Commentators throughout the weekend at DreamHack Montreal joked that without Druid players were equally praying to slog through Priest matchups. Despite this, the games were very interesting and led to an interesting meta. For example, Quest Mage is heavily favoured versus Priest builds, and showed up in impressive numbers as a result. Following the changes this Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an uptick in both Priest and Exodia Mage as a result.
In fact, Mage is in an interesting position right now, as various control, secret, and combo builds appear viable. Recently, I’ve been playing a generic Secret Mage deck with two Bonemares and one Frost Lich Jaina to shore up the lack of late game power the deck occasionally suffers from. Giving a Water Elemental +4/+4 when it has Lifesteal is a good way to catch up in a lot of games and can make it difficult for Paladin to buff one minion or Priest to grind your life down slowly.
Notably, this metagame left a hole for Pirate Warrior to potentially sweep many matches as well. As many players automatically banned Druid, they were simultaneously skewing their decks toward beating the Priest matchup. In doing so, these decks became softer to Pirate Warrior, resulting in a sort of Rock Paper Scissor metagame with Shaman (usually Token, sometimes Elemental) stuck as the uncomfortable fourth and last deck in many matchups. In any case, without having to main cards like Skulking Geist and other Jade hate, players were experimenting with cards such as Cobalt Scalebane in Murloc Paladin. I am actually optimistic about the space that is opening up in the metagame if the Innervate and Spreading Plague nerf knock Druid down enough.
I am, however, curious and a bit skeptical about the alleged rise of Hunter, as this event saw zero copies in the top 8, and at least one deck from each other class. Admittedly, there was only one Rogue deck in the top 8. The deck was piloted by Walaoumpa, who stole most of his game ones throughout the swiss portion of the tournament using the deck. Walaoumpa’s deck is also playing two copies of Cobalt Scalebane, a card that popped up throughout the tournament that hasn’t seen as much ladder play yet.
If anything, the allure of a Hearthstone Grand Prix is specifically the ability to metagame against known decks and ban out your, hopefully, one unwinnable matchup. As a result, recent Grand Prix show a world of experimentation and subtle metagaming that is hopefully on the horizon with the upcoming nerfs. I’m hoping to play some games with Walaoumpa’s Tempo Rogue deck as well as the build of Secret Mage to legend throughout next week, and I’ll report back on their position in the meta following Monday’s card changes!