Winner of TNH #43, Archimedes, shares with us his experiences with TNH and how he prepares his decks for the tournament each week.
Approaching An Uncertain Meta
The Tuesday Night Hype was looking to be a fairly normal tournament for me. Bring in Druid, Handlock, and Patron, practice for a few hours before the tournament comes, grind it through and hope for the best. While that may have come to pass in many other tournaments over the last month, here it was not the case. Prior to the tournament, a bit of a sledgehammer of an announcement was made; Warsong Commander was getting reworked to the point of Patron Warrior’s effective irrelevance.
I have always stuck to the rule that practicing and preparing for the future is far and above more important than almost anything else, including performances in opens. It is far more important that I be practicing strong decks for a version of the game where Warsong Commander doesn’t see competitive play, even if I don’t live in that world yet. I know a lot of players think similarly, so I went for a line up that could properly function in a meta without Patron.
The main question with patron gone is, what’s strong? Well, Secrets Paladin lost its most natural counter, but still has soft counters in druid, mage, and hunter. Control Warrior and Handlock have lost a great match up, hunter has lost a poor match up. Tempo mage has lost a very poor match up, and was already strong against slow hunters, druids, secret paladins, and Handlocks. The decision to bring mage was clear, and while bringing hunter was tempting, druid was still worth taking even without Patron to prey on.. Bringing Hunter would keep me rather even with paladins, slightly unfavored against druids, and doomed against control warriors, priests, and tempo mages to a thorough extent. Druid would be somewhat even (though vulnerable) to paladin, even with druid, favored to hunter, and favored to warrior and priest, being vulnerable only to expected tempo mages. It was much easier to bring a line up that was a hunter killer than it was to run a druid-killer, so I held to the reliable deck and brought Tempo Mage, Midrange Druid, and Secrets Paladin.
I knew above all I wanted to be most consistent in the midgame with my decks. Cheaper cards would of course help me in aggressive match ups, and expensive cards or draw would help me in the longer match ups, but solid midgame threats are what keep me going throughout the game, and so my lists were formed. My Midrange Druid cuts a Darnassus Aspirant for a Harrison Jones, and otherwise runs the consistent line up we’ve seen so many times in tournaments, relying on very consistent cards like druid of the claws, azure drakes, Sylvanas and shades over anything else. With Paladins and Hunters surely on the rise, Harrison would be a very useful tool without needing to be overwhelming in my list. As a side note, it is very difficult to create a weaponless line up without a Warlock, and warlocks were almost nowhere to be found in my 10 rounds of play, as Zoo is considered sub optimal at the moment and Handlock will likely fade without the natural prey of patron and with a fear of hunters. Even without weapon line ups, Harrison is still a decent threat, as any averaged statted minion is fine in druid since it can get hit by savage roar, and is certainly a stronger draw than Darnassus lategame.
My Paladin was more so tweaked than the Druid. With many secret Paladins running 8, 9, even 10 secrets, I decided to rely on a list that used only 7. This, along with a single divine favor, allowed me to fill my deck with potential bombs, with Tirion, Boom, Double Challenger, Loatheb, Two shredders, a Truesilver, one haunted creeper for the mirror and as a wonderful buff targets, a consecrate, a coghammer, and a set of kings among other staples of Paladin. Most of these cards are strong between turns 3-7, which is when the most game influencing turns happen to be. It was also the deck I was practicing on Ladder, so between its consistency and my experience with it, it was a natural fit.
Finally we come to my Mage. I owe my mage list to Sjow, who’d shown it on stream very recently. It’s a tempo mage that makes some unique cuts and changes to have two sources of incredible midgame power- Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane. The wonder sisters are the highlight of this deck, but the distribution of cards are the core. With only 3 1 mana minions, only 3 committed one mana spells, and no flamestrikes, I have fewer dead draws than a regular tempo mage. I can afford running only a single arcane intellect, and all my cards being in line with my plan to apply pressure with minions and compliment the pressure with spells. The best constructed decks are created with cards that are functional, cheap, and serve multiple purposes while all being in line with the same plan. Patron is a thorough example of this, and tempo mage is no exception. As for Toshley, he’s always been a reliable card in tempo mage and his usefulness is only accented more thoroughly here, definitely the premiere six drop for the deck.
There is some question as to whether or not yetis are worth it in this deck over shredders. The answer is a resounding yes. Along with providing you much needed spare parts at next to no cost (if your opponent wants to spend one mana to make a relatively uninfluencial play, he’s either putting himself behind or its too late to matter), the yeti doesn’t suffer from randomness too much the way shredder does. Piloted Shredder is a card that is at its strongest in a deck that desires minions stick, and that has buffs. Hybrid hunters have abusive and gain lots out of sticky minions due to their hero power. Druids have savage roar, and acceleration to get the card out faster and in larger amounts. Paladins have abusives, avenge, and kings. We see Warriors try to run Shredders, but it never lasts, as the deck lacks buffs or need for sticky threats early on. Most variants of tempo mage have similarly moved on to water elemental, as tempo mage has no buffs and would prefer spell synergy or board manipulation over a sticky, random threat.
Shredder is a good card, but filling a deck with standalone good cards makes a bad deck. Always be thinking about how to optimize your lists to the fullest, for their own functionality and for tournaments.
Now to answer one of the most pressing questions; How well did the wonder twins, and the lists as a whole, perform? The wonder twins themselves were rarely without triggers, and when they were they were still strong plays. One of the strengths of the cards are that they can be played as preemptive threats as well as active ones. In the early game, it can be played as a filler turn before a flamewaker combo, and with flamewaker and either of the sister’s triggering together, its hard to lose once the midgame rolls around. In the midgame, you will usually have a spare part to cycle into one, which can help win the board in some respects. It is very easy to make sunwalker esque minions with Fjola, trading and slowly buffing her up, will Eydis can win games later on with wipes and extra damage to the face. With two mana wyrms, two flamewakers and an antonidas also in the list, you’ll rarely be without a use for your spare parts. (As a small note, the sisters trigger their effects before the spare part activates rather than after, so Eydis is a wonderful stealth target.)
During the tournament, the decks had relatively equal success in all rounds. Few dropped any games, with each deck suffering once or twice during the entire tournament due to bad draws and play that could definitely have been stronger. For the most part, the prediction that Patron would be abandoned was correct. Paladins, Druids, Mages, Hunters, and Priests were abound, with control warriors in decent amounts along with them and no patrons in sight. During the tournament, I found careful drafting was a big key to my success. Against a Druid, Paladin, Hunter line up, Mage is our strongest deck, having the clears to deal with Paladins and Hunters and the board presense to punish Druids. Against a Warlock, Warrior, Priest line up, its almost certain that they’re playing slowly, and our most reliable choice is Druid, with mage and paladin both being able to prey on warrior and priest due to their high density of solid threats. Looking through your opponent’s decks, knowing how favored you are in each match up, and hedging your bets towards your best match ups is a very solid way to earn a few extra wins through drafting, especially when your line up is as focused on a single goal- midrange beatdown- as this one. Keep a cool head, be mentally disconnected from the outcomes of randomness, and make the best decisions both out of game and in game and you should be smooth sailing through all rounds.
Over the course of 10 rounds and 2 days, these three lists held strong, all having a very large chance to win the game in any match up. I’m not sure if these are the kinds of decks you can expect to see topping the meta after the patch hits, but some form of these decks will almost always be somewhat reliable heading into Hearthstone’s future, and I’m happy they were so strong here.