Tournament Report: Top 16 at Dreamhack Austin
Austin was the first of three Dreamhack events in North America this year. Dreamhacks are known for attracting the strongest players and putting them through an endurance test of nine swiss rounds before cutting to a top 16 single elimination bracket. Looking back, my goal here is to break down my preparation, deck choices, tech choices, and performance in the swiss and playoffs.
Preparation and Deck Choices
My process for tournament preparation is to make a grid of all the common archetype matchups in the meta, inputting win percentage, and weighting them by expected popularity. From this, I can figure out what the best archetypes are from a statistical standpoint. I then run ban simulations to calculate a priority ban and proceed to form a lineup around it. For Dreamhack Austin, I opted to ban Rogue and brought the following decks:
With a Rogue ban, I concluded that Control Paladin and Jade Druid would be the best decks. Quest Warrior was the third choice as an overall solid archetype that can cheese unfavorables, sweep lineups, and bait out bans from aggro lineups. Lastly, Control Jade Shaman is an archetype that is extremely weak to Rogue and Mage but performs well against the field I projected given a Rogue ban. I considered playing Quest Rogue in this slot as an archetype that could bait out a ban but ultimately went with Shaman due to surprise factor.
Quest Warrior - Very standard. I opted for 2x Bloodhoof Brave and 2x Slam as I think they are very good in this particular list. I considered an Armorsmith with Battle Rage list but couldn’t find a list I was happy with during testing. After decks were already submitted, I found that Kolento’s list was probably optimal. After all, he hit Legend #1 on two servers with it.
Here is Kolento’s list for reference:
Control Paladin - I decided to go for a more beat-down approach including Cairne Bloodhoof in the N’Zoth package, a Black Knight, and no Sunkeeper Tarim nor Lay on Hands. During testing, I found there were many ways to approach this archetype. Shoop, the tournament winner, independently also concluded that 2x Acolyte of Pain, 2x Infested Tauren, Cairne Bloodhoof, and no Sunkeeper Tarim was best. What surprised me was that he chose to not include Stonehill Defenders and opted to include Elise the Trailblazer instead. While Stonehill Defender can high-roll Tirion and Sunkeeper, its low rolls can be equally painful. This archetype definitely has a lot of room for optimization.
Here is Shoop’s list for reference:
Jade Druid - I decided not to tech in anti-aggro cards such as Tar Creeper and Gluttonous Ooze. Instead I opted for 2x Burgly Bully with Yogg. I wanted the deck to be better in the Jade Druid mirror and a lock against control.
Control Jade Shaman - This was probably the least tested deck in my lineup. I don’t think the build I submitted was optimal and that I should have specialized it more against aggro and Mage. Cutting out some of the greed for 2x Tidal Surge or running a 1x Spirit Echo-Bloodlust combination may have been better. Spirit Echo doesn’t stack and getting good value out of two is really slow. Bloodlust helps close out games better against Quest Warrior and Control Paladin.
Round 1: 3-2 vs Crane
Round 2: 3-0 vs Tomflr
Round 3: 3-0 vs Rdu
Round 4: 3-1 vs Justsaiyan
Round 5: 3-2 vs Languagehacker
Round 6: 0-3 vs MrLego
Round 7: 3-2 vs Windello
Round 8: 1-3 vs Alan
Round 9: 3-0 vs Rosty
Losing 0-3 in Round Six against MrLego was a bit of a shock as I was swept by Midrange Hunter. In my preparation, I didn’t account for many Hunters since my stats indicated it wasn’t a Tier One or Two class. I shrugged off the series as a statistical outlier and tried to focus on the upcoming rounds.
My Round Eight loss against Alan was the most interesting series in the tournament for me. Our lineups were almost mirrored but he brought Miracle Rogue as opposed to Shaman. He is favored in this type of matchup, since I still have to ban Rogue, while he can ban Druid to protect his control decks. My best shot at winning the series was by sweeping with Control Paladin. Down 1-2, I lost a close game in Paladin vs Jade Druid that cost me the match.
I didn’t have any easy opponents during swiss which led me to finishing with the best 7-2 tiebreaker. This was enough to put me through to the playoffs as the fifth seed. All my decks performed how I thought they would and each pulled its own weight.
My run at playoffs came to a quick halt as I lost 0-3 to Trump’s Quest Warrior in the Round of 16. He brought Quest Warrior, Midrange Hunter, Discover Mage, and Midrange Murloc Paladin. He also banned my Jade Druid. I banned out his Paladin given the absence of a Rogue deck.
Game 1 - Control Jade Shaman vs Quest Warrior: While this matchup is normally favored for me, we both went to fatigue and Trump was able to leverage a superior Hero Power throughout the game. I didn’t see enough of my card draw early on in the form of Mana Tide Totems and Far Sights which resulted in an awkward midgame. I couldn’t get good value out of my first Spirit Echo and my second Spirit Echo was the last card in my deck.
Game 2 - Control Paladin vs Quest Warrior: I didn’t draw Cairne Bloodhoof and low-rolled on my Stonehill Defenders. Trump played patiently and pulled off a really strong double Dirty Rat into Brawl combo. He proceeded to complete his quest and I lost after being forced to tempo out a very sad N’Zoth.
Game 3 - Quest Warrior vs Quest Warrior: Trump Dirty Ratted me on 2 and pulled out Curator. Curator was subsequently dealt with and wasn’t able to apply much pressure. Due to my Curator being pulled, Trump completed the quest much quicker and snowballed from there.
The way the series concluded was a surprise to both of us. Post-game, we both agreed that my lineup was favored and that Quest Warrior was the weakest point of his lineup for this series. After the ban, I still had two favorables against Quest Warrior teched with Black Knight, and the mirror matchup. Trump expected Midrange Hunter to be his best performer against my lineup, but he ended up not having to play it.
I am overall extremely happy with my preparation even though I did identify potential improvements in hindsight. I played technically sound 95% of the tournament with a few small misplays. I think my lineup was favored against the playoff field and I could have made a deeper run if not for the unfortunate loss to Trump.
In terms of out-of-game improvements, living a healthier lifestyle to help with endurance during long tournament days is something I’ll also look to improve on for next time. Thanks for reading and I hope you look forward to my next article after HCT Spring Playoffs.