This year’s Dreamhack Austin was the first stop on the Grand Prix circuit featuring over 230 of Hearthstone’s most talented players battling it out in a Last Hero Standing tournament. Several storylines appeared throughout the event: Dog’s undefeated run through the Swiss rounds, the possibility of an entire team Tempo Storm semifinals, and the emergence of MrLego “The Tempo Storm Slayer”. MrLego and his teammates put Scylla Esports on America’s radar, knocking out some of the scene’s top talent, and taking home a well-deserved second place finish.
Dreamhack Hearthstone Grand Prix Preparation:
Seven: With the tournament having multiple formats – Swiss with player decklists unknown and a single-elimination bracket with published deck information – how did you prep for the Dreamhack Grand Prix?
MrLego: In the upcoming weeks to the event, I tried out a ton of decks. Knowing the format was swiss, I felt it would be an edge to those who had tried out variations as the expansion was new and lists were not optimized which enabled some creativity with lists. I tested various lists and strategies with my teammates back in Australia; we did practice matches in the tournament format to simulate Swiss play switching lineups between matches to see what decks were favorable in our opinions in comparison to others. The two days before the event my organization (Scylla Esports) enabled us to meet and practice together at a computer cafe, allowing me to focus solely on practice. Over the two days, I finalized my strategy and confirmed my decks; changing a few tech choices and refining my play.
Seven: Can you explain the reasoning behind your lineup and ban strategy?
Just got home thank you all so much for the recent support!! Here are my lists for those asking, nice to meet some of you and have a chat! pic.twitter.com/Lzh11jC5dK
— Kelson Barber (@MrLegoHS) May 3, 2017
MrLego: For my lineup, I wanted a balanced approached with two aggro decks and two control decks since it was in a Last Hero Standing format. I decided to go with Jade Druid as my first control deck. I felt Taunt Warrior and Freeze Mage would be popular, but since the addition of Earthen scales your armor gain is significant enough that standard Freeze lists simply don’t have enough damage to kill you. I decided on Taunt Warrior as my second control deck mostly due to Pirate Warrior, Freeze Mage, and Midrange Paladin being in the meta. With the wall of taunts and constant armor, I felt it was a good counter to popular aggro lists and has a good chance still at beating almost any deck with the right draw simply due to the power of the quest. Being able to throw down eight damage for two mana is insane value, and grinding down their minions one by one can often give you the time you need to simply win in the late stages of the game with superior board control.
Quest Rogue was very abundant on ladder which is why I decided to take two aggressive decks. I knew that if they had Rogue and I failed to bring some aggro, I would always need to ban Rogue and I like the flexibility of being able to ban multiple classes depending on their line up. Hunter is a class I feel can simply win or lose any game, it’s a deck I tended to lead with as it can beat just about anything if you curve out well. In saying that it’s also a risky class as if you miss your curve you can often run out of damage and just lose, but it was essential to countering Rogue. If they had Rogue, I would never lead Hunter. I teched it with Leeroy simply to have even more early damage and end games as soon as possible trying to limit the amount of time my opponents had.
My last deck, Aggro Paladin, was the toughest to choose. I wanted an aggressive deck from the start, so I looked for something that was fast off the mark, similar to the Hunter but was able to beat down on control decks. I felt that paladin received some strong cards in the new expansion, Sun Keeper Tarim, Spike Ridged Steed, and Hydrologist are all key components of the deck depending on the time and match up. Tarim is a versatile tool, allowing both defensive and offensive capabilities. Hydrologist very much the same. You can get some secrets for added late game value, such as Getaway Kodo and Redemption on Tirion or Sunkeeper. There’s also Noble Sacrifice to protect a key murloc from a weapon or minion, and Repentance to bust through a Warrior’s taunt. This deck was overall able to deal with the slower and more aggressive lists due to its flexible game plan. It was my most lead deck after Hunter.
Seven: We saw a lot of Paladins in the tournament, many of them very greedy. What made you decide to go with the more aggressive Murloc Paladin?
MrLego: I wanted an aggro list to balance out my lineup. If I took three control decks, I would be vulnerable to lineups that contained Rogue and Druid by not being able to early tempo them down; this way I could safely deal with them. I had a control Paladin in my original lineup, but after testing it just felt like it would struggle with a higher percentage of matchups than the aggressive version.
The deck in and of itself is quite flexible and with this in mind I didn’t feel the need to take an overly greedy list. The only time it would struggle was when I faced opponents with greedy lists and failed to tempo them down early with an aggressive start, as they simply had more efficient minions by the end of the game. Overall I feel the deck performed extremely well and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
A lot of people asked me why I ran Spell Breaker in Paladin: in the mirror silencing a Spike Ridged Steed or Tirion often could tilt the match in my favor or help push through those final points of damage. The card was my favorite tech choice of the tournament, saving me on multiple occasions and allowing me to snowball my damage. It was insanely flexible despite the stat line being slightly weaker. The silence effect was worth having in other matchups such as Taunt Warrior because silencing a taunt lets you push a lot of damage or prevent them from gaining armor from an Ally Armorsmith. It also works against Freeze Mage; a silenced Doomsayer can save your game. Pirate warrior sometimes could snowball a Frothing Berserker and your 4/3 contests it after bringing it back down to earth. The card just did so much in many matchups, and I feel like it’s quite underrated.
The Best of 16 Match Against Eloise (Click to watch)
Seven: What was your strategy against Eloise’s Jade Shaman, possibly one of the worst matchups with your Quest Warrior?
MrLego: Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to win this match. I attempted to snowball and get my quest done as fast as possible, which is why I even used my Dirty Rat on turn 2, but I still don’t know if it was a good play or not. However, it seemed to pay off allowing me to get my quest done at a decent pace. I knew I needed to be extremely greedy with my board clears, so I held onto my Brawls for some time. If I left it too long, I knew she would Spirit Echo and get a lot of value. If I didn’t use them on a big enough board, she could quickly reload, and I might have no answers. I tried to apply pressure and be efficient with my resources, and I was a little lucky in that the Dirty Rat pulled her Aya; that meant she wasn’t able to Echo it later in the match. In that matchup, Aya is a key minion you always want to play two to three times if possible, especially with multiple copies of Spirit Echo. I was able to keep her jade count low enough that I could manage and clear them almost every time.
Towards the end of the game, I was quite worried. I had multiple chances to take the game if my hero power would just cooperate and hit the enemy hero. Eventually, I just won due to the low Spirit Echo value and lower jade count. That win gave me enough momentum and confidence going into the rest of the series.
Seven: I have to ask, because we never got the chance to see it played out, what was your thought behind choosing the Cornered Sentry?
MrLego: Oh yes, that one! Well, it was the first time I had ever played on stream or stage, and I guess I got jittery. My first thought was that I could play it and brawl the board, increasing the chance of a 1/1 being left alive. Afterward, I realized that it would spawn 5/5s, so I guess it was just a mistake. Luckily I caught it, so I never played the card. An honest mistake from a nervous player in all honesty.
Seven: By banning her Paladin, there was a good chance you’d end up in a Warrior mirror match. With the two of you running different versions of the Quest Warrior, what was your plan to win the game?
MrLego: She was only running a single brawl which meant I could go wide and not have to risk multiple clears. I had a stronger late game since I had teched Deathwing in my list; which can clear the board, absorb a Sulfuras hit, and survive to push damage. I felt I had the advantage in the mirror due to a large amount of board clears and having a lower taunt curve. Dirty Rats are valuable in the mirror for slowing down their quest, and you can make them overextend or catch important minions with Brawls. Eloise only ran a single copy of this as well versus my two.
It also helped that I had one less copy of Sleep with the Fishes, which, due to the high health nature of Warrior minions, is less effective. Both decks ran cycle, but I used double Shield Block to provide me with more armor leading to key Shield Slams. Eloise used double Battle Rage which is a situational card and not as flexible. It’s often a two-card combo, requiring you to use a Whirlwind effect, therefore costing you two cards to draw two.
Quarterfinals Match Versus JustSaiyan (Click to watch)
Seven: Your Murloc Paladin put in a lot of work during the Quarterfinals against JustSaiyan. Several times you took a gamble, possibly overextending, in favor for applying additional pressure. What was your thought process behind making these riskier lines of play?
MrLego: With aggressive decks you need to play with no fear. If you hold back, it costs you valuable tempo, and you often run out of damage. Justsaiyin had less board clears in his Warrior, he only ran a single Brawl, which means the chance of him being able to clear my board is a lot smaller. Against his Freeze Mage, if I let it go late I’d lose regardless, I needed to extend into AOE. With the Spell Breaker, I didn’t have to worry as much about a Frost Nova and Doomsayer turn. I wasn’t favored to win that matchup from the start, so I had to take risks. Mage is very resistant to minion aggro due to all the stall mechanics; they can buy the time they need to wipe my boards. If you don’t take risks, you reduce your chances of winning significantly.
The same goes for my Eye for an Eye at the end of the game. I played it as I thought he might try set up a two turn burst, therefore killing himself, or it would increase my outs to deal two damage the following turn. Looking back, it may not have been necessarily correct, but it got the job done.
Semifinals Versus Reynad (Click to watch)
Seven: Your match against Reynad was the highest viewed Hearthstone game during the tournament; in fact, you had three of the top four most-watched rounds over the weekend, how do you handle the pressure of both late tournament play and a lot of eyes watching you?
MrLego: Well, I haven’t had much experience on stream or in a large tournament setting. I didn’t play perfectly at times, but I think I dealt alright with it. I wasn’t really thinking about the number of people watching; it was more the importance of the game and my opponent – Reynad – is a huge name and a very credible player. I was nervous throughout the entire playoff run, but I did my best to settle down and kept it together. I learned a lot from the Dreamhack experience. Next time I’ll be a little more used to the atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to getting more tournament experience.
Seven: Reynad’s Quest Rogue made short work of your Murloc Paladin in round one, thanks to his Hungry Crab tech choice. After losing with the deck you 3-0’d JustSaiyan in the previous round, how did that change your strategy for the remaining matchups?
MrLego: Paladin was the deck I felt had the best chance at beating any deck he chose. It’s largely equal in a lot of matchups, so I was going to lead it regardless of the outcome. My strategy was similar to the previous rounds; I just got to execute the rest of the lineup against Reynad as he managed to take down two of my decks. My strategy was to ban Druid and lead Paladin. If he leads with his Rogue, I’d queue Hunter in hopes to out tempo it.
Then we came down to the match which would decide the series. I had Hunter into Warrior which I felt was a flip. If the Hunter gets the early curve, and without removal from Warrior, you win. Otherwise, you lose as they put up a wall you can’t get past. Luckily, I managed to get enough damage through and draw Kill Command to end the game.
Seven: Do you think Tempo Storm’s decision to bring similar lineups to the elimination rounds helped or worked against them?
MrLego: I feel like having similar lineups is fine, a lot of the decks were quite similar. As a team, they decided on a strategy, and it did them very well. They achieved an amazing result getting a large majority of players into the top 16. When the lists were public, it only hurts them if they happen to have one player run into someone else who had played one of their teammates. There were scenarios where no one would play someone from Tempostorm in a previous round then play another in the next round it’s just how the seeding worked out. I feel that as a team they decided on a strategy, they stuck to it, and it helped them get to where they were. Ultimately, it put them in the best possible position to succeed.
The Grand Finals Versus Shoop (Click to watch)
Seven: What was your strategy going into the final match? Did you see any weakness in Shoop’s lineup? Anything you could try and exploit?
MrLego: Well, Shoop had a very greedy lineup, and it was going to be tough to beat with my aggressive decks if they didn’t get rolling. He had decks which could just beat mine; I didn’t have many favored matchups. His line up was quite good, a little too heavy on control considering the LHS format, but it worked out. He got the result he was looking for and congratulations to him.
Seven: Scylla Esports had a solid turnout at the Dreamhack Grand Prix; with you earning Runner Up honors and teammate, Hughesy, falling just one win away from the elimination rounds. For being such a new organization playing in their first major open cup in the US, what has contributed to this early success?
We have been playing and practicing together intensely for a long time. I’d like to honestly say our team’s synergy and ability to get along really shines through. We are a close group, and despite previous issues, we have stuck together. It’s nice knowing that everyone is 110% on board with us back home. A big shout out to our manager ciLmi, he’s always believed in us given us tons of support. He’s always been there to practice with us, or talk to us about anything we ever needed, and he does so much behind the scenes. We are very lucky to have such awesome staff on board.
As for the rest of the organization, huge props to Scylla Esports for sending us. It’s a big commitment to send a few players overseas, and they managed to handle it well. A combination of dedicated staff hard working players and relaxed team environment is our formula that allows us to compete to the best of our ability.
Seven: Are we going to see more of you and Scylla Esports competing in international tournaments?
MrLego: 100%. Definitely. Hopefully, this is the first of many successful tournaments. Now that we have proven to ourselves that we can compete with the best, I have no doubts you will see more from us. I will be doing all I can to keep competing in international tournaments. It’s amazing to see and be a part of events like this. I’m looking forward to the next time to try better myself and continue to practice and improve. I’m excited to see what’s to come in the future.
About The Vicious Inquisition
The VI is a weekly interview column by Seven featuring some of the most notable pro players, casters, and creators in the Hearthstone scene… with the occasional developer interview thrown in. Have a suggestion for our next interview? Leave it in the comments below or tweet to @ViciousHS or @xSeven and we’ll do our best to follow up.
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