When it comes to watching competitive Hearthstone, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed TJ Sanders’ antics behind the caster’s desk. Over the last few years, he’s not only become a go-to caster for the HCT; he’s landed a role as Blizzard’s Associate Esports Broadcast and Production Manager. When he’s not hosting Dreamhack from a suit of armor, dryly inserting memes into his interviews with DrHippi, or alluding to a possible love affair with fellow caster ThatsAdmirable, he’s a highly competitive ladder player.
Seven: When I approached you about an interview, you mentioned that you’d “been going ham in standard lately” and had broken into the top 10 in NA. What were some of the decks you used?
TJ: A ton of Priest – both Dragon and Miracle. I did have around 10 Murloc Paladin games as well once I broke into the top 25 because of all the quest rogues.
Seven: Did you tech in anything unique to combat the meta or deviate at all from the standard lists?
TJ: Not necessarily, quest rogue is incredibly popular at high legend at least on NA, so I experimented with Dirty Rat a bit in my Miracle Priest list to try and cheese some wins, but I cut it after a while because I didn’t like it. Quest Rogue is a deck where your tech has to come in the archetype you queue not your card choices.
Top 10, thanks for the list @coL_Sottle pic.twitter.com/mBHXNLrP7p
— TJ Sanders (@Azumoqt) June 14, 2017
Seven: You recently posted a Maly Hunter deck along with your 6th place legend rank, thanking Sottle for the list. Can you discuss this deck a bit, because I’m still not certain if you were trolling everyone or not?
TJ: I just trolled the crap out of everyone. Sottle went along with it just because he’s a big fan of my memery, and wanted to hop along for the ride. I didn’t have the heart to tell people it was fake, so I just let imaginations run wild. I was hoping it would make its way into some DreamHack lists, but alas, I was unsuccessful.
Seven: If you were to pick one of your core ladder decks: what are two pieces of strategy you’d tell players to focus on as they pursue legend.
TJ: With Priest, it’s difficult to climb because the decks are slow and you rarely have the same win condition across matchups. I think in general, my advice would be to try to identify your win condition before every game – and always be constantly reminding yourself how you lost the last time you played a particular matchup. Priest has so many ways to win games – attrition, value, miracle Divine Spirit / Inner Fire 20/20’s, or Lyra. You need to understand your best way to go for a win in every matchup, and that takes time and iteration on your part.
Seven: In you legend screenshot, I noticed a lack of Warlock decks. Have you given up on the class as well?
TJ: I haven’t given up on it yet, but it is in a bad spot. I think Zoo still has some good fringe matchups but Shaman does it better and Druid does it better so why wouldn’t you just play those? I think there may be some Control Warlock decks that shine in hyper control metas – but Quest Rogue keeps hyper control metas from really shining, so I doubt we’ll see Warlock much in the coming months.
Seven: Is there any hope that there might be a “unicorn Warlock” competitive deck out? Have you experimented with the class recently? Any rumors, insight, or tarot readings that might point us in the right direction?
TJ: I’ve experimented quite a bit with Murloc Warlock, but it just feels like a worse Paladin and can’t keep up against other fast decks. I’ve also tested Midrange Demon Warlock, Control Taunt Warlock, Kazakus Warlock…but they all feel too weak against the current field of popular decks. I think they need a huge meta shift, some sweeping changes, or new cards to have any hope of a comeback.
Seven: You’re a numbers guy; looking towards the 2017 HCT Spring Championship in Shanghai this year, do you think we’ll continue to see the control-heavy meta of the playoffs, or will the Americas players revert to their aggressive ways?
TJ: It is very hard to predict metas going into tournaments, and especially now that we’ve moved back to a Bo5 Championship. It’s also difficult to determine if players will go with the same “bring the best decks” strategy as we saw in the Bahamas when it was Bo7. I’m leaning towards a control heavy meta because of the players in the field. If players predict the same as me, they’ll be afraid to bring aggro because of all the proficient control players. So it’s possible we’ll end up seeing a healthy mix of midrange lineups (Quest Rogue, Discover Mage, Shaman, etc.) and control – which makes for a great viewing experience (I HOPE).
Want to know more about TJ? Follow him on Twitter or watch just about any cast on Hearthstone’s Official Twitch Channel.
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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Alluding not eluding.