In the weeks since One Night in Karazhan’s release Keaton “Chakki” Gill has resisted conventional deck choices in favor of a skill-intensive Rogue deck and a new teched-out Hunter build. All to find a competitive edge, as new expansions put a lot of pressure on innovative deck building.
For Chakki One Night in Karazhan, meant balancing risk and reward, breaking Barnes and a resurgence of the Hunter class as he prepared for the HCT Americas Preliminaries and the Insomnia Truesilver Championship.
Chakki says that the first question he asks himself when a new set comes out is, “did anything that was already good get better?” and then he moves on from there. In the case of Karazhan he said that his first step was with Arcane Giant in Druid. He then looks to decipher which weaker decks, might have a chance to make a splash in tournament play with new additions.
“Going into Karazhan, Beast Druid and Tempo Mage weren't really top tier, but Menagerie Warden and Firelands Portal might change that,” Chakki said. “In general, a new card has to be really, really powerful for me to take it to a tournament after a few days of testing versus another deck that I've tested for months and know works well. As an example, at Truesilver I didn't run Barnes in my Rogue. After thinking about it, it's probably going to end up being good, but I didn't have time to make sure of that.”
From a deck building perspective, Chakki said staggering the wings of a new adventure can be a hindrance to competitive play, though he recognizes that it can be more fun for casual players
“Staggering the wings has a negative effect on competitive Hearthstone overall. As a player, you don't really have any time to play with the cards between tournaments; and as a viewer, you might not care to watch a tournament knowing the entire meta will shift the next week,” Chakki said. “Ideally, at least the official HCT preliminaries would have happened after the entire release.”
Chakki has been part of a small group of pro players who’ve decided to ban Shaman and play more unconventional classes and archetypes rather than the standard Druid, Shaman, Zoo and Warrior makeup. At Truesilver Champs he brought Hunter, Druid, Shaman and Questing Rogue — a deck that he has been playing a lot of since Karazhan came out. He was one of the only players in the elimination rounds at Truesilver sporting a Valeera in his classes.
“Rogue's resurgence is kind of interesting, because it didn't really gain anything, it just sort of gained from other decks falling out of the meta. When Standard first came out, Rogue was super popular and players moved to counter it,” Chakki said. “Since the metagame has moved towards classes like Druid and Warrior, Rogue can have a place in a lineup banning Shaman. Specifically in LHS, Rogue has made the finals of almost every Standard tournament, only missing at Dreamhack Valencia.”
He’s been playing the Questing Adventurer version instead of the traditional Violet Teachers. This, Chakki, says is just the correct way to build the deck and has given him a strong advantage in being able to play more aggressively.
“Simply put, the Questing list is just better than Teachers,” he said. “It gives you a very strong alternative win condition and is massively powerful against any class that easily beat the Teacher tokens before. VanCleef used to be a reason you would outright win some games, and now the deck essentially runs three copies.”
Chakki feels as though part of his success being one of the only top players playing Rogue is that he plays his Rogue a little differently, favoring a more aggressive play pattern. He even said that Gadgetzan Auctioneer — often looked at as the deck’s key threat — is not as strong as it once was.
“I think realistically Auctioneer could be cut if the deck could find anything better to fit in,” he said.
In addition to the Rogue at Truesilver, Chakki was one of the only players sporting a Hunter deck, another class that benefits greatly from banning Shaman. An interesting characteristic of his Hunter, was the lengths he went to ensure that his Barnes hits were as good as possible. Most players building these Hunter decks have been playing a Standard midrange build and making their Barnes have about a 50 per cent chance of hitting something good. Chakki’s list looks to optimize the new legend. He also went with a more midrange version, rather than the Cloaked Huntress secret-heavy version many players like.
“I think Barnes is a card where he's powerful enough if you hit it X percent of the time. We're really not sure what that X is yet, but it doesn't have to be 100 percent for it to be powerful,” Chakki said. “I never really thought of Cloaked Huntress as a good card and still don't. It's slightly better than Kirin Tor Mage, a card that Mage never plays, but Hunter secrets are very lacking outside of Freezing Trap. I don't think the new Hunter trap will really change that.”
Looking back at the event, Chakki was happy with his decks and result. He thought his Hunter filled some his lineup’s weaknesses and fit well with his ban strategy and was positive about the rest of his choices. He did add that he’d look to try Barnes in his Rogue as well going forward.
“Besides maybe a card or two I wouldn't have changed anything. At the end of the day, my lineup just failed in a single best-of-five where I got the bad end of the opening matchup and then lost a favorable matchup after,” he said. “Not much to be said about that and I feel like the lineup was pretty powerful and capable of beating the other players that went far in the tournament.”
Keith Capstick is a Toronto journalist and card game elitist. He's also interested in harsh music, root beer and casting the magic card Dark Confidant. You can follow him on Twitter for a below 50 per cent hit-rate when attempting to utilize "wit."