Day 1 of Comic Con and I caught up with ESL's Joe Fenny. Joe is handling the casting with a few other people over at the ESL ESports stage where the Hearthstone UK Spring Season Playoffs are taking place. We chatted about the current in-game meta and the proverbial Old Gods.
How do you think the Old Gods cards have changed the current META?
I think the biggest cards that have dramatically changed the META are N'Zoth & C'Thun because they are both very, very late game cards which lends themselves towards control style decks. I think N'Zoth has had more of an impact but it's just a better card to be honest, it's more reliable in a deck. C'Thun is a bit more of a dice roll. I definitely think they have opened a lot of doors in terms of what you can achieve with decks. There are still some of the staples with Zoo decks and Hunter decks still knocking around even though people expected them to be played less and less. Then you have things like Pirate Warrior coming out of nowhere and getting tonnes of play
On the preliminaries for Blizzcon, Europe & America have been playing completely different decks. It's interesting to see what the players taking part view as valuable rather than just what's being played in every day games.
With the cards that have come out, is there anything you want to play but you just can't fit it in to work?
Obviously the main one is "Yogg-Saron, Hopes End" which is just a field day.
However the one that comes to mind is the new Shaman Legendary (Hallazeal the Ascended) which heals for any spell damage you do. It seems like an incredible card and can do so much to dominate and heal up. However, I didn't think about cards getting removed like "Crackle" which suddenly means the card is less effective. There's a lot less spell damage in general. I spent all of my dust crafting that card and I have nothing but regret now. I think it could work if a better player than me crafter a deck around it but I just can't manage it.
I was looking at the same card and the dream is that you drop that card down and then play Elemental Destruction. It's got such a specific set of rules that you barely get to play it.
But when you do manage to pull that off it's just like slamming down a Shaman version of Reno Jackson!
The dream combo of Hallazeal & Elemental Destruction! Turn 8 super heal!
In terms of this tournament, what do you think we're going to see from the players at the playoffs?
I think one deck we'll see at least one or two players will bring is Control/N'Zoth Paladin. It's a very rounded control deck. What I would like to see are a couple of aggressive decks but the issue at the moment is that if you run into a control deck, as I've mentioned, means you're playing into their hands a little bit. It's not a fun game and hard to counter back to it.
However, HelloLeeroy (the seasons first seed) loves to play counter decks so his attitude is making decks which specifically counter other decks. Instead of playing META, he just plays whatever will work in the tournament. The play style is very different but it means the games are going to be much harder to predict.
I think we'll be leaning towards control matches.
We'll be here for a while then, those games last a lot longer!
With those decks in mind, how to you as a caster, prepare for these events?
Talking to the players is always a massive coup because you start to understand what they like and what they are enjoying. Even if they don't tell you what they are doing, you can usually extrapolate some kind of information in advance of a game. You have to keep up with the META and keep up with what's popular.
One of the things we need to do as casters is bringing a bit of story to the tournament. A lot of people don't get that with E-Sports a lot of the events are based around the players and the teams; they are the ones that people follow. If we can give a bit of insight into where they have come from and what they have done to get here. I like to bring them to the forefront because they are the focus. The root for something and the more the fans care, the better.
With Standard coming in to Hearthstone, what advice would you give to brand new players?
I'm going to go Old Gods specific with this answer because building a classic card collection is important but that has to be your long term goal. I would say that if you're going to buy 50 packs of Old Gods, your priority should be working on C'Thun decks because you know you will get that legendary with your packs (guaranteed by Blizzard). N'Zoth Paladin is incredible but it's so hard and expensive to build if you're brand new.
What decks are you enjoying at the moment?
I'm a big fan of Malygos Rogue but i don't actually have the dragon to play it! I'm really enjoying Beast Druid with Fandral Staghelm. You know if you've lost early on because if you haven't been able to pull that card into play then you probably need to try again. Also, Pirate Warrior is such a fun deck to play and it's been something I've been trying to play since the early days. Arcanite Repeater & Greenskin is a disgusting combo with 6 damage right away and a good minion on board.
If things don't quite work out, I will always fall back onto Tempo Warrior!
You can follow Joe on Twitter here @ESL_Munchables