Thijs, RDU, Powder and Mitsuhide slam HCT 2017

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Kim Ventura / DreamHack Flickr

The first Hearthstone Championship Tour Major of 2017, the Europe Winter Playoffs, was plagued with controversies ranging from organizational delays to allegations of players intentionally disconnecting from losing games.

It was a less-than-auspicious outing for the tour's new format, which incorporated feedback of the much-criticized 2016 edition of the tour including a move from double-elimination brackets to the Swiss format.

According to pro Hearthstone players Thijs "ThijsNL" Molendijk, Dima "RDU" Radu and Harald "Powder" Gimre, while HCT 2017 has made some incremental improvements over last year, it still presents many issues for pro players.

RELATED: 'Apparently I have to play until I lose': Pros speak out against Hearthstone Winter Playoffs issues

According to Thijs, while the adoption of Swiss and the reduction of players of the regional playoffs from over 200 to 64 (though, 90 took part in the European playoffs due to point-ties) are welcome changes, acquiring HCT points through Ladder Play and Open Cups is still grindy and time-consuming.

"I think when you came with 200 players its a little of a ... it can become a little bit of a lottery ... so I'm happy it goes to 64 now," Thijs said. "And yeah, the points system, I would have liked it if it could be a less rewarding, like the last Ladder day [of a] season is really stressful, so I'm not too big of a fan of that. But yeah, it's probably one of the only ways we can go at the moment."

While Open Cups — locally organized tournaments which award HCT points — provide less points than last year, one major change has proved a double-edged sword. Players can only claim points from their highest Open Cup finish in a month and Open Cups must have at least 64 players to award points.

While this works out well for players who win their first or second Open Cups, anyone who doesn't is compelled to keep competing in them until they win to maximize their points total. This is difficult for streamers whose livelihood depends upon keeping a consistent streaming schedule.

"Open Cups are still shitty and not really worth it to play. But still I feel obligated to play them because you really want the points," RDU said. "Ladder still giving that many points is also not that cool. Forcing players to travel for big Majors to get the bulk of points is also not ideal."

In regards to players travelling to Majors, one issue the Europe Playoffs encountered was that instead of being held in a centralized location, stations were set up in bars and restaurants across the continent. While each venue had official Blizzard admins, incidents erupted from players having to move to internet cafes and living rooms after their venue closed to internet disconnects forcing multiple re-games.

For instance, DreamHack Winter 2016 winner Louis "Mitsuhide" Bremers lost a tied match againt Romanno after having to re-play the tiebreaker game three times because his opponent disconnected from the game twice. Mitsuhide was ahead both times the disconnects occurred. The final game, which he lost, was streamed without casters mentioning the disconnects.

He says that he would like Blizzard to take a more nuanced approach to disconnects, with board state being taken into consideration on whether the game should be re-played or be considered an automatic loss.

"I would appoint a specialist or former pro player (even casters have enough knowledge for this) to look if the person DC'ing is ahead or behind," Mitsuhide said in a text interview. "In every case where it's 50-50 or he's behind, his opponent should get the win. If he's ahead a rematch should be issued."

The decentralized organization also hurt Alliance's Jon "Orange" Westberg, who previously won SeatStory Cup VI and reached the Grand Final of WESG 2016. Orange failed to qualify for the playoffs through points but attended a Tavern Hero qualifier in Sweden in a last ditch effort to enter the tournament.

Orange described his Odyssey in a long Twitlonger, explaining how he was stranded in Stockholm in the middle of the night after the second half of the qualifier was moved to the next morning, just three hours before the playoffs were set to start.

"All I can say is that this [has] been the worst tournament experience I've ever had in my career and I am really [disappointed] in the people [organizing] this event. I hope that Blizzard will never let something like this happen again," he wrote.

While the move to Swiss format has been overall well-received, some members of the community have taken issue with the single-elimination playoff bracket, as it can punish players who performed well in the Swiss. For instance, Mikuláš "Pokrovac" Dio went undefeated with a perfect 7-0 record but was eliminated in the single-elimination quarterfinals by James "GreenSheep" Luo. That one best-of-five match was difference between going home or going to the Global Winter Championship in the Bahamas.

RDU addressed the possibility of such an event arising in a YouTube video he made criticizing the playoffs format in January. According to him, a single-elimination bracket is an artificial way to increase drama and there are better ways to create "hype" that are fairer to players.

"You could still like find other ways to make hype about your tournament than just inflating it through making the current format just single-eliminates one guy and, 'Oh, maybe the guy that won the Swiss and went 7-0 he's just going to go home, how unlucky!'" he said in the video. "It's just very bad way of tournament making."

In our interview, RDU said that if given the chance he would enact major changes to the HCT's qualification system that would restrict competition in Open Cups to Legend players.

"I want to make like Open Cups with a lot of players, like maybe 1,000, and then you award the first 20-56 with points and do them weekly and have the Cups require you to like be in good standing on Ladder when you sign up, or be like Legend on Ladder when you sign up for the cup," he said.

"And then, after three months of these kind of cups, like 12 cups, there'll be — if you give points to like a lot of players, like 256 and upwards, the better players are more likely to qualify, rather than having like a Ladder system where you reward people for getting lucky on the last day of the season."

Powder, on the other hand, says that he's positive about a number of the macro changes made for the 2017 tour, including making the seasonal championships international events with players from all four regions.

"I like most of the things they're trying to do, it's gonna be fun with the way that its gonna be three big championships where all the different regions get to play each other, which is nice, instead of just BlizzCon. So yeah, I think it's gonna be exciting," he said.

However, pros like Mitsuhide say it's difficult to take comfort in what steps Blizzard take forward when they bear the brunt of the steps gone backward. Especially when they commit hundreds of hours just to qualify, only to miss out because of format decisions and technical errors.

"You have to imagine most of us pros do this full time or semi-full time and grinding the open circuit requires three months of full dedication usually grinding ladder and playing open cups for a minimum of five hours every day," Mitsuhide said.

"In my case I earned most of my qualification points by winning DreamHack winter but it's still so many months gone to waste. After I lost the first round I had to go 6-0 to make it and the feeling of being robbed of the win made it impossible to focus well enough to win these rounds. So all in all, very, very frustrating and unrewarding experience."

Blizzard have declined to on the situation.

Sasha Erfanian is in Charrrge now! Follow him on Twitter.

Dev Talk: Ben Brode talks about how Elementals, Adapt mechanic will change Hearthstone

by 18h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard

With Hearthstone's newest expansion, Journey to Un'Goro, set to come out in April, theScore esports spoke with Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode about how Quests are similar to Reno decks, the strengths and weaknesses of Elementals, and just what's making the dinosaurs in Un'Goro Crater Adapt so quickly.

RELATED: Journey to Un'Goro card tracker

Why base an expansion on Un'Goro crater?

Well, we had been pitching several ideas for previous expansions and every time we pitched something, couple of the guys on the team would say "Hey, what about we add dinosaurs to that?" It became kind of a meme on our team even. "Wouldn't that be better with dinosaurs? Come on!" And eventually we felt like, y'know, what if we just lean into that? What if we just do a set all about dinosaurs? Un'Goro Crater, obviously known for this in World of Warcraft, we felt like we could bring a Hearthstone spin to a zone that we loved. And that's where it all started.

How did the Quest mechanic come about?

There were some interesting points in that process. One of the early things we tried was Quests that you could make progress on even when they weren't in play or didn't go into play, they were just in your hand. They were just a card that was in your hand that could you could make progress on this Quest and when you drew the Quest "Oh good, I've done the thing. I play this crazy Amara, Warden of Hope, because I played seven Deathrattle minions this game. And the opponent was like "What the heck is going on! Why is it fair that you can play a 5 mana 8/8 that heals your hero to 40." And so we wanted to make them a lot more visible and we also wanted to make it clear that this is kind of what this game was about for this player. And so we had them enter the battlefield like Secrets, but when we did that, obviously not being able to rely on drawing your Quest was a really big deal, so we said "Look, let's just make them start in your opening hand, you'll always have the option to play a Quest Turn 1 if you want." You may not be able to complete the Quest every game because some of them are a little harder to complete, but at least you'll be able to make sure you're making progress whenever you're doing your strategy.

Were Quests at all inspired by the popularity of Reno decks?

I think in general we're trying to do several different things basically with every set. We want to let players be creative in ways that maybe we didn't expect or certainly don't feel [were] very obvious. We also want to provide with hooks for players who want us to nudge them in a direction. So with the very first set we did that with Murlocs, right? Like, hey, "These Murlocs, if you put them all in a deck together, they're better." It's obvious and for some players that's exactly what they need. Also, it's a fun way to make sure your deck has a lot of cool synergy and plays really fun. So we tried to put up a variety of hooks for deck building in these. Some of the Quests are a little more obvious, right? Play Deathrattle minions and you'll get a reward. Some of them are a little bit less obvious, but I think all of them will end up giving you a cool goal to try and achieve throughout the game in a similar way to Reno.

How did you guys come up with Adapt?

So Adapt actually came from our experiments with crime families in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. One of the original ideas we had was a mech group, a mechanical crime family. And we didn't end up doing that, but we experimented what it might mean to be mechs in a new world like this and one of the things we thought was like hey, what if it's kind of like Spare Parts but you can chose your Spare Part when you play the minion. We liked the gameplay of that, and so we explored it again with Journey to Un'Goro and in this case originally, they had probably even a little bit more like Spare Parts. You could play an Adapt minion and then choose Fiery Breath and it would deal damage to all enemy minions or something. So they had kind of one-shot affects. And eventually we felt like the flavor of the mechanic and the fun of the mechanic were more focused on actually adapting the minion itself, making the minion feel like it had changed somehow throughout the process. And so we ended up narrowing down our options to essentially buffs. And we loved it.

Will players be able to build an Adapt deck or are they more cards that can be integrated into other archetypes?

Yeah, I think the latter, right? Like you don't make a Spare Parts deck with maybe the exception of Gazlowe or something, but they were very interesting mechanics depending on whatever cards were available. So I think we'll see this as a fun mechanic that emphasizes decision making and trying to adapt to what your opponent is doing on the fly. Give you a little flexibility. But I'm not sure that well see "Oh, this is an Adapt deck, this is what I'm doing is adapting my guys."

Which classes will gain the most from Adapt cards?

Well, we're trying to pitch Adapt kind of as the thing that is happening to the dinosaurs in Un'Goro Crater. These aren't just normal dinosaurs already in World of Warcraft. So, we wanted it to be kind of a story of these aren't your normal dinosaurs. Even in Un'Goro Crater, the dinosaurs are not like obviously real world dinosaurs, they're Devilsaurs and Pterrordaxes and some other things and then for Hearthstone we wanted to adapt them even further and now they're kind of bursting with Elemental power and changing a little bit. So in general, the Adapt keyword appears most frequently on dinosaurs and there are some classes that have more dinosaurs than others. So I think Druid and Hunter, for example, have some more dinosaurs and so you might see more Adapt in those types of places, but it's just kind of a flavor thing for the most part.

Why was now the time to add a new tribe, Elementals, to the game?

Well, we actually had Elementals as a tribe in Hearthstone before ship, before we announced. it was a Shaman thing we were messing with way, way back in the day. So it was always something we kind of had considered, we didn't have an idea that we felt like "Oh we've got the perfect Elemental mechanic." I think we have some really cool cards and Elementals play really differently now. So I'm super-excited about the way the Elementals are shaping up, but flavor-wise, Un'Goro Crater being a land of primordial energy, having dinosaurs infused with Elemental power and then also focusing on the Elementals of the crater. We felt like this was flavor-wise just a slam-dunk and we had cool ideas for mechanics.

In the Elementals blog post, Mike Donais listed several discarded concepts for Elementals. Did any of them make it pretty far into development?

Well, we definitely thought they were potential ideas. We tested them a lot. But we have two phases of design: we call it initial design and final design and initial design, the goal there is to come up with the mechanics that we're planning on using, come up with the flavor for the set and the setting and names and VO and flavor and all that. And final design's role is to focus on balance, on fun, on clarity, trying to get it into that polish, that shipping state, and in this case the mechanic was locked down maybe halfway through initial design. So about halfway through the process of coming up with "What are we actually doing for this set, what mechanics are gonna chase." You know, we tried a lot of things that didn't make it. Obviously, we mentioned some of the Elemental ones that didn't make it. But the way this works is actually we try an idea, we try it out, and we think "Okay, is this it? Is this it?" And then as soon as we do enough play-testing where we're like "I don't think this is good, I think we need to try something else" then we move on to the next thing. So we're never really sure "Do we have it yet, do we have it yet" until we try things out. It's kind of that process of iteration until we say "I think this is it, I think we got the right thing here." We change minor things, sometimes massive things till we get to the right spot.

In terms of balancing Elementals, what weaknesses do they have to balance out their powerful effects?

Well, this particular mechanic rewards you for planning very far ahead, right? You might have one-drop Elemental that does something, but that's actually quite a powerful effect when you need to weave in an Elemental later in the game to make sure that you power up your expensive Elemental bonus'd minions later on. So, looking forward multiple turns I think is one of the more traditionally challenging things that Elementals are gonna be focusing on.

This is the first part of a two-part interview. Check in tomorrow for the second half!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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The Story of Reno Jackson: We're Gonna Be Rich

theScore esports Staff 2d ago

He's the savior of control players, the doom of aggro — but, love him or hate him, Reno Jackson is one of the most defining cards in Hearthstone's current meta.

Initially released with the League of Explorers adventure, Reno has had quite the journey from then until his place in the spotlight today.

Before we bid farewell (or good riddance) to him with the arrival of Journey to Un'Goro, let's explore the history, lore and impact of Reno Jackson.

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Heroic Tavern Brawl deck tracker: Pro and streamer decks that made it to 12 wins

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard

With the return of the Heroic Tavern Brawl, theScore esports will once again be keeping track of some of the best and most notable runs from top pros and streamers, not to mention what decks they used to complete the feat.

RELATED: Decks you should try in the Heroic Tavern Brawl

James "Firebat" Kostesich : 12- 2 with Jade Druid

Firebat, the 2014 world champion, proved how he got his title with a 12-2 Jade Druid run . Though not the behemoth it was feared to be before the launch of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, the fall of the Pirate Package has slowed the game down enough for Jade Druid to start to live up to its potential. While Pirate Warrior is still a powerful force in the meta, Firebat specifically teched the deck against the archetype. Clearly, it was worth it.

Jeffrey "Trump" Shih: 12-0 with Dragon Priest

Say what you will about his healthcare policy, Trump definitely made Dragon Priest great again with a perfect 12-0 run. With a wall of tough Dragon minions to control the board and a strong suite of removal options, there was little his nasty opponents could do to stop his advance. Sad!

David "Dog" Caero: 12-1 with Miracle Rogue

Miracles do happen, as evidenced by Dog's 12-1 Miracle Rogue run. While the Questing Adventurer variant of Miracle Rogue had a recent hey-day, thanks in no small part to Small-Time Buccaneer, the card's nerf has seen it drop steeply in Tempo Storm's meta snapshot.

However, with Southsea Deckhands replacing Small-Time Buccaneers, Dog was still able to get strong starts with Patches the Pirate while also developing his Questing Adventurers. Interestingly, Dog didn't include Leeroy Jenkins as a win condition should his opponents neutralize his Adventurers.

Aleksei "INER" Bakumenko: 12-0 with Midrange Jade Shaman

Though hit hard by the nerfs to Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws, Russian streamer INER proved that Midrange Jade Shaman is still a force to be reckoned with a 12-0 run. This was actually INER's second run with the deck, coming off a disappointing 11-3 that saw him fall to a Zoolock who was able to topdeck Doomguard after Soulfire triggered Malchezar's Imp's draw effect.

Janne "Savjz" Mikkonen: 12-2 with RenoLock

Team Liquid's Savjz got off a close 12-2 run with an interesting RenoLock variant which includes both Patches and Bloodsail Corsair to fight a bit of fire with fire.

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Is Heroic Tavern Brawl worth it?

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard

Hearthstone's Heroic Tavern Brawl is back for another round, but is worth it?

At $9.99 USD a pop (or 1,000 in-game gold), Heroic Tavern Brawl is five times as expensive as buying an Arena run with real money, and much, much riskier.

RELATED: 4 decks you should try in Heroic Tavern Brawl

While Arena tests your drafting skill, this Tavern Brawl asks if you can build a deck that can go the distance and pick up 12 wins, with up to three losses, in Standard constructed format.

The rewards for going all the way are incredible, but if you don't get 12 wins, is it really worth it? theScore esports set out to answer the question, and potentially save you some cash.

Wins Cost per game Cost per turn Rewards How much are you paying per pack? How many Legendaries is it worth?
0 $3.33 $0.35 1 Pack $9.99 0.03
1 $2.50 $0.26 2 Packs $5.00 0.05
2 $2.00 $0.21 3 Packs $3.33 0.08
3 $1.67 $0.18 4 Packs ~120 Dust ~120 Gold $1.22 0.21
4 $1.43 $0.15 5 Packs ~190 Dust ~190 Gold $0.86 0.29
5 $1.25 $0.13 6 Packs ~220 Dust ~220 Gold $0.73 0.34
6 $1.11 $0.12 7 Packs ~250 Dust ~250 Gold $0.63 0.39
7 $1.00 $0.11 8 Packs ~280 Dust ~280 Gold $0.56 0.45
8 $0.91 $0.10 9 Packs ~310 Dust ~310 Gold $0.50 0.5
9 $0.83 $0.09 16 Packs ~400 Dust ~400 Gold $0.33 0.75
10 $0.77 $0.08 16 Packs ~400 Dust ~400 Gold & 1 Golden Legendary $0.14 1.75
11 $0.71 $0.08 16 Packs ~480 Dust ~480 Gold & 2 Golden Legendaries $0.09 2.82
12 $0.71 $0.08 50 Packs ~1100 Dust ~1100 Gold & 3 Golden Legendaries $0.05 5.21

Notes:

  • All figures are rounded up.
  • All runs are assumed to end with the maximum number of losses. As a a result, both 12 and 11-win runs will end at 14 games (12-2 and 11-3).
  • Cost per turn is calculated based on Vicious Syndicate's April 2016 article stating that the average Hearthstone game lasts 9.5 turns.
  • For the "How much are you paying per pack?" column, we assumed that 100 gold is equivalent to one pack, and that 40 dust is equivalent to one pack, since that's the amount you'll get for a worst-case scenario 4 Commons, 1 Rare pack.
  • Similarly, for the "How many Legendaries is it worth?" column, we assumed one pack is equal to 40 dust, and every 100 gold is equivalent to 40 dust as well, then divided the total dust value of all rewards by 1,600.

As you can see, if you can't put together at least a 3-3 record, you aren't breaking even. Since it costs $1.50 for a pack at minimum ($2.99 for two), any run ending below three wins will result in you effectively paying more money per pack than they're actually worth. After that, the extra packs, dust and gold raise the pack equivalency above what you usually pay for a pack.

However, assuming the worst case scenario — that you spend all your gold on packs and that all your packs are 40 dust clunkers — you aren't actually guaranteed enough dust to craft a legendary of your choice until you hit 10 wins. At 10-3, you get a Golden Legendary that can be disenchanted for 1,600 dust, enough to craft any Legendary card you want.

If you're looking for decks might be able to help you the distance and get you the packs, dust and Legendaries you desire, check out theScore esports' recommended Heroic Tavern Brawl decklists.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He failed Grade 11 math and hasn't taken a math class since. You can follow him on Twitter.

5 decks you should try in the Heroic Tavern Brawl, featuring AKAWonder, tylerootd, Thijs, Orange

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard

Are you tempted to try your hand at this week's installment of the Heroic Tavern Brawl, but afraid of going 0-3 after putting up a cool 1,000 gold?

theScore esports spoke to Hearthstone pro Esteban "AKAWonder" Serrano, Thijs "ThijsNL" Molendijk and streamer Tyler "tylerootd" Hoang Nguyen for a look the decks they think will get you your money's worth as you step into the brawl. Because, as Don Hon'cho would say, you don't want to bring a knife to a Piranha Gun fight.

Thijs "ThijsNL" Molendijk

Why you should try it: "That's the Warlock I would advise. Finished with it at Top 25 last season, had above 70 percent win rate and also great versus the aggressive meta decks."

Esteban 'AKAWonder' Serrano: Jade Druid

Why you should try it: "It's really easy to play and very effective against control, it's quite decent against aggro and you can improve the aggro match-ups by adding a Druid of the Claw instead of Brann.

"It doesn't have a really bad match-up but you can struggle sometimes against Pirate Warrior. And finally, try to mulligan always for the ramp, if you get ramp you will be ahead."

Tyler 'tylerootd' Hoang Nguyen: Pirate Warrior

Why you should try it: "Pirate Warrior is the deck that, I think, is consistently beating every other deck in the current meta.

"It got even better with the Face Shaman nerf through Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws, so I am expecting plenty of Pirate Warrior mirrors in this week's Heroic Tavern Brawl.

"To account for that, I teched two Bloodhoof Brave and two Bash into my list, both cards that help in that specific match-up tremendously, as well as provide useful flexibility in other match-ups."

Jon "Orange" Westberg: Jade Shaman

Why you should try it: "I think that aggro shaman is a cheap deck that is definitely capable of getting 12 wins in the Heroic Brawl.

"The most popular decks in the competitive scene, and the decks I assume are gonna be very popular a couple of wins into the Heroic Brawl are Pirate Warrior and Reno-decks. Both are really good matchups for aggro shaman as you are running a lot of cheap interaction versus the aggressive decks and a lot of under-costed minion and burst versus the slower ones.

"This is the Shaman I've been having most success with after several days of testing different Shamans for a tournament I have coming up and I'll also put my money where my mouth is and play it myself in the Heroic Brawl. Best of luck to everyone that tries it out."

theScore esports' Sasha Erfanian recommends: RenoLock

Why you should try it: Even with Small-time Buccaneer nerfed, aggro decks are still ruling the meta. RenoLock is a great counter to aggro decks because of its ability to heal you back to full as well as powerful AOE options like Twisting Nether and Abyssal Enforcer.

RELATED: We're gonna be rich: A guide to RenoLock

It also has great tools to deal with control match-ups, such as teching in Lord Jaraxxus as well as the Leeroy Jenkins into Power Overwhelming into Faceless Manipulator combo. Plus, if those fail, you can also combo Kazakus with Brann for two powerful combination potions for the price of one.

Sasha Erfanian is an Elemental for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter.

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