This year’s Dreamhack Austin was the first stop on the Grand Prix circuit featuring over 230 of Hearthstone’s most talented player 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, the emergence of MrLego “The Tempo Storm Slayer”, and a long-awaited win for long time player and free agent – Shoop.
On 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?
Shoop: I felt like we had some sort of idea for what decks would be popular just based on the ladder and based on what people would bring in other tournament lineups. I took those as the meta I would prepare for and then did a lot of coding work to determine what lined up well against those.
I don’t want to get into too many details about the coding work, but that was the focus on my prep – very little testing, mostly coding.
Seven: Oh, so you created a program to figure out the best lineup? I don’t think a lot of people do that.
Shoop: Yes, indeed.
Seven: Can you explain the reasoning behind your lineup and ban strategy?
The decks I used to win Dreamhack Austin. Ban priority: jade druid > rogue > gunther mage. pic.twitter.com/dlpiAjnDmf
— Shoop (@shoop_hs) May 2, 2017
Shoop: That’s what I got for output [laughs].
Seven: In the quarterfinals you got a chance for revenge against Dog, who went undefeated in the Swiss rounds, taking your previous encounter 3-2. What was your strategy for going up against his decklist, now that all lists were in the open?
Shoop: I worked on my game plan for Gunther Mage vs. Control Paladin, which I lost in the Swiss matches. I think my Mage can 3-0 his lineup if that plan works out, but Paladin is still the least favored matchup for it; I opened Paladin to try and snipe his Paladin, and clear the way for my Mage. However, since his Priest drew so poorly (with Elise as bottom card), I didn’t even need to bring out my Mage.
Seven: A lot of people took Aggressive or Midrange variants of the Murloc Paladin, even those who did bring a Control, nobody opted for a version as greedy as yours. What made you choose to opt out of the murloc package and go with a N’Zoth build?
Shoop: I like the idea of dodging hungry crab techs, and there were a few aggressive matchups where Paladin could just get run over; Druid in particular. I also noticed it struggling with some Midrange and Control decks; so with this version, you still have a lot of the same late game beatdown tools like Tirion, but now you have Cairne and N’Zoth. You have a lot of these good threats that do well against Midrange matchups and improve some of the bad ones.
Seven: In the matchup against Dog’s Taunt Warrior, you decided to keep Tirion in your starting hand during the mulligan phase. Most people would have thrown the eight drop back, but you held onto it, why?
Shoop: My Paladin build has a lot of value narrowly concentrated in a few cards. Taunt Warrior doesn’t apply much pressure until they’ve finished their quest; the Paladin needs to apply pressure first. It makes sense to keep the strongest card in my deck, even if it’s a late-game card.
Seven: It seems like an odd question to ask, but admins gave players the option to take breaks if needed and many did not. Was taking the allotted break part of your strategy? It seemed like you wanted them to sit and stew on their recent loss.
Shoop: Absolutely not! [laughs] Since I’ve been playing in chess tournaments since long ago, my stomach gets upset on tournament days, and so I don’t eat food at all. So I let people know ahead of the match that I would be taking a break at some point mid-match, just to be as respectful of my opponents as I can. I don’t want to win via psychological tricks.
Seven: It totally would have been some next level strats! [laughs] Ok, well it seemed to work, even inadvertently with some people. I think they managed to get a little further tilted.
Seven: Your Gunther Mage put in quite a lot of work in both the semifinal and grand final matches; sweeping Trump 3-0, and being the deck to bring home the Dreamhack crown against MrLego. Can you talk about some of the modifications you made to the deck because it varies a bit from the more popular or “standard” list?
Shoop: I did grab one of the standard lists at that time, I think there were two builds, one with Babbling Books, one with Gluttonous Ooze and Polymorph. The Ooze version seemed more up to date at that time, and I think it worked incredibly well. A lot of lineups in the tournament were weak to Hunter, and those cards do amazing things for your Hunter matchup.
Seven: One thing I noticed is that you quite often held a Mana Wyrm in hand to protect against an opponent’s Dirty Rat play; do you feel this is a strategy that players less familiar with the deck often overlook?
Shoop: If you have it on turn one you play it, but if you have it later, especially against Taunt Warrior, there’s absolutely no reason to give them a Dirty Rat and/or Brawl that they’re really happy with. So playing useless minions or going wider than two minions or so just doesn’t make sense. I don’t think the Taunt Warrior matchup is that difficult and there are a lot of good ways to take that matchup.
Seven: Do you think there’s any more room for refinement of that deck for tournament/ladder play, or anything you’re tinkering with at this time?
I’ve heard people trying a version with Pyros and a more secret-heavy list, which sometimes bleed into it when you’re running Medivh; Orange’s list from EU vs CN is a good example of this. So yeah, I think it’s an incredibly powerful deck and there’s going to be a lot of refinements to be done, but it’s cool that it’s already such a high tier.
Seven: What was your strategy going into the final match? Did you see anything in MrLego’s lineup that you could exploit?
Shoop: I felt like my Paladin and my Mage were pretty good against his entire lineup, and so I figured he’d ban one of them and I’d attempt to sweep with the other. Then I’d maybe have to pick up a game with Warrior or Rogue, but I wasn’t relying on them too heavily.
Seven: You dropped the first game, with your Taunt Warrior deck against MrLego’s Murloc Paladin which curved out quite nicely. Being that it was the first time you’d dropped a game since the Round of 16, what was going through your mind at that point? What was your plan to fight back?
Shoop: That didn’t make me nervous because I kind of expected to lose that game when I got that matchup. I didn’t think the Warrior had a chance against his Hunter or Paladin, but my Warrior or Rogue had a better chance against his Warrior. So not queuing Mage first was sort of hedging against him possibly going Warrior first and trying to get a win against that deck and reduce the number of decks my Mage has to go through on its own. When I lost, I wasn’t thrilled, but still felt like I was on the right gameplan.
Seven: So you’ve won a large tournament versus some top talent in the Hearthstone scene, what are your next steps?
Shoop: It certainly makes me more likely to go to Dreamhack Atlanta, and I’d like to be working with people on prep for tournaments I’m not going to, like Dreamhack Summer. I’m looking into team options; lots of things still in talking phase, but overall because I have a full-time job I don’t expect too many changes. I’ve always been the sort of player who will target the most appealing competitive events and just show up and compete, and overall I think I’ll continue to do that.
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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