Masters Tour Silvermoon has been moving along over this weekend, with numerous known and aspiring players alike battling it out for the top honors, prizes, and those coveted Grandmasters promotions. The average broadcast times have been slightly shortened compared to before - as there is one less Swiss round to worry about, with Top 16 entirely moved to the final day - but we are still looking at minimum 7-8 hours worth of content daily.
Disclaimer: No ongoing results spoilers in here, you are safe! And also free to discuss anyone or anything in the comments.
The timezones for this event were set to be the most appealing to American players (at least the ones who don't stay up entire nights), but most Europeans who aren't early sleepers didn't have many reasons to complain either. Unlike the competitors from Asia-Pacific and China regions, who have to be prepared to play late at night and all the way into the bright morning hours. Which never quite seems to stop them from performing well. The greater concerns for people who don't usually get to play on Americas server were all about the latency. Even in Hearthstone, it tends to matter when you are trying to play 'hundreds' of cards per turn while the rope is mercilessly burning.
All lineups have been available for the public viewing since the start of the competition on Friday, with some of them being featured on the official broadcast. But with over 400 players to pick from, it means we never get to see more than a few dozen of them in action. Which is a shame when believing in the heart of the cards can only work out for so many. At least we always have that opportunity to dive in and highlight some of the more interesting trends as they happened:
If you'd like to find out who brought which decks now or in the future, track their personal results as they move up or down the rankings, or find yourself something new to play with, head to one of these places:
- Official Battlefy brackets, that's the platform everyone uses to check in for their matches (clicking on any name will take you to their lineups and current/past games),
- d0nkey.top, for very convenient listings (you can view specific player lineups, with simple to copy deck codes attached),
- NPH Pasca, diligently retweeting lineups, comments, and statistics as shared by all involved parties,
- Off Curve & @WickedGood for all your relevant spreadsheets and data points.
A few hundred players equals lots of potential options, as everyone's regions, practice groups, and personal experiences or preferences all come together to create what are sometimes very different lines. Some hit dead on, some miss quite badly. Yet it's always creatively entertaining. Especially once we can look back and see just how far all these daring dreams are often removed from the following reality (Twitterverse always becomes full of "in retrospect, that lineup was a poor idea" statements over a Masters Tour weekend).
Too bad the evil friend list and challenge bugs still refuse to go away. The game could use a proper UI overhaul, but that's a topic for another day. Hopefully nobody had to lose their games due to a coin flip.
HSEsports has also been, once again, in character. Fittingly 'cosplaying' as Lady Liadrin, you could say:
Bal'a dash, malanore. Appointed perfectly, sit down, feast and behave yourself. For I am Lady Liadrin, and when I shine the Light's wrath upon you, there will be nowhere to hide.
It's the small touches that count - blood elves would be proud. What's disappointing, however, is the YouTube broadcast seemingly not using any of the Silvermoon music and ambience as we know it from World of Warcraft. That's a big miss for immersion; especially seeing as it has worked so well previously with the chill vibes of Masters Tour Dalaran. At least the video interludes remain on point thematically.
We know some things by now; not everything has necessarily shaped up all according to the expectations:
- "Only" 89% of the field brought a version of The Demon Seed Warlock. We actually saw Control Priest top that during the previous event.
- People still love their Demon Hunters, with or without the weakened Il'gynoth. Just as some of them adore Lady Anacondra.
- So much faith in Command the Elements for Shaman. Elementals have been feeling rather neglected as of late.
- From over 90% a couple months ago to merely ~6% now, such has been the tale of Control Priest. But we do have Darkbishop Benedictus taking over.
- There must always be a solid Face Hunter and Mage representation, apparently. To the surprise of nobody.
- Warriors and Paladins have certainly seen better days. The latter is apparently never safe for long from the nerf hammer, only to have to struggle to come back to relevance.
The current metagame is said to be very polarized (the rock/paper/scissors has been the most common meme on Twitter leading into this Masters Tour), with one deck countering the other rather decisively. Trying to mix and match towards any of that has been a difficult task - and beyond the power of The Demon Seed nothing seemed to be absolutely certain. Tournament players often try to build their '4 decks + 1 ban' strategies with specific things in mind - which is why, for example, we could see a fair amount of Swinetusk Shank in Rogue and even larger amounts of Rustrot Viper being thrown into various decks.
As we often tend to note, it's not all the same as on ladder. You won't need any weapon tech there if you don't queue into decks constantly using them. No banning any Warlocks either, alas. We've already had a chance to showcase a decent selection of strong Standard decks just a few days ago, but there are also some other (more or less viable) choices that not everyone might've heard about. We could take a closer look at the ones these Masters Tour competitors put their faith in:
Going into Silvermoon, this deck trying to match Final Showdown with Irebound Brute and Lion's Frenzy has been the biggest question mark of all. Championed by Feno, advertised by xBlyzes at rank 1 Legend... the surrounding hype was certainly there. A sizeable number of pro players actually believed enough to include it in their lineups. Even the casters were understandably excited, as it has allowed them to keep asking the question - the greatest bait ever or an actual genuine deck that could challenge this meta? We'll leave this answer to the final results.
If you are wondering how or why does it even work, the answer is Irebound Brute plus Felosophy occasionally allowing for a small army as early as turn 3 or (more commonly) 4. Even Flesh Giant couldn't quite match that. Few decks have answers to such brutal openings (or Lion's Frenzy as a finisher). While you draw and discount a lot with that Questline, it's not exactly the most consistent strategy in the world. RNG gods won't always come to the rescue.
If you thought heavily nerfed Il'gynoth to be entirely dead and dusted, it's turned out not to be quite the case. Even if it's just tagging along on Jace Darkweaver's adventures. This might be the more genuine deck, capable of packing quite a punch. Especially in the hands of a combo master such as Frozen.
The old Lifesteal OTK potential is more of a bonus (if or when the pieces get discounted by Skull of Gul'dan, of course); it can still hit for 24 or even 36 in one swing if stars align. There is a good deal of healing and removal to make any aggressive decks sad, and anything that takes its time to assemble a win condition is often not much of a threat either.
Look, I'll just humbly note here that I *almost* called it during the theorycraft portion preceding the release of United in Stormwind.
And that's not even all, as there have been players still trying to make it with a 'pure' Questline version of OTK Il'gynoth deck pretty much as it was pre-nerf. Or madmen with a dream like Swidz, coming up with a Deathrattle version that utilizes Crossroads Watch Post in addition to the more regular Far Watch Post. We probably won't be recommending that one.
One of the favorites of pro competitors everywhere, or so it seems. Lady Anacondra and Gadgetzan Auctioneer plus Celestial Alignment = praying while you cast Fungal Fortunes. Best in Shell helps a ton with either cycle or survivability.
It's not fun to face as an Overload Shaman, I can testify as much. Turns out all the deck needed to shine a little more was this kind of weird combo metagame.
The variant that pairs Lady Anacondra with Glowfly Swarm and Arbor Up looks to be far less popular nowadays (J4YOU did go there). We might even notice a rare Gibberling out there. Then there is always Jambre embracing his favorite Umbral Owl (and stuff).
You might be familiar with one take on Aggro Druid by now; it's a good thing that we can always count on people like Leta to explore different directions. Beware the power of Peasant!
It almost feels like early Barrens again, trying to also find a way to slot in Kazakus, Golem Shaper.
If you've been playing any Hearthstone this year, you should pretty much know any and all Face Hunter lists by default (not that we ever get to remember any other working archetypes for the class). There are multiple smaller choices to be made, sure: trusting in Imprisoned Felmaw and Wriggling Horror or not, cutting Kolkar Pack Runner entirely after the recent nerf or just keeping one copy, adding minions like Guardian Augmerchant and Bonechewer Brawler or sticking with more cheap spells. One might even find an odd Ace Hunter Kreen inclusion.
The overall gameplan remains the same as ever - it's in the name after all. Faeli gets a special mention here for the sake of King Mukla. Since combo decks like their cards so much, give them some more... bananas.
Much like Hunter, it's hard to come up with anything new here. The usual list is even more solidified. We have seen various inclusions of Wand Thief or even Spice Bread Baker (courtesy of Grandmasters).
Some, like Zyrios, opted for one Arcanologist instead. You get to draw that Ice Barrier more easily, which presumably helps against the onslaught of aggressive decks (especially with their dangerous weapons unsheathed).
Not seen very often as of late, yet there is still a handful of true believers out there. Tincho conspired with pals such as Fled, Rase, and SuperFake to bring their own take on Librams and Divine Shields. Maybe at least one of them gets rewarded for such stellar devotion. Someday, eventually.
The 'Raw' Divine Shield builds known from the early days have also found their adopters with D0nkey and Kranich, while Languagehacker and Monsanto both went for the same Secret variant. And INER must've just decided to add Crossroads Watch Post everywhere.
The class displays a proper duality of light and shadow nowadays; although it's mostly that darker side which has been enjoying all the spotlight recently.
We covered the more aggressive Disciplinarian Gandling version just a few days ago, and it's been quite common in this ongoing Masters Tour as well. Yet it isn't universally liked by everyone, with certain players sticking to the older reliable builds. Posesi went one step further by putting aside Kazakus, Golem Shaper in favor of the somewhat forgotten Void Shard.
Fled & Co. took their faith in the Light very seriously by not only following the Paladin ways, but also calling back on that once-great power of a dedicated Control Priest. If anything, you've got to appreciate the theme.
The deck definitely loves its Mindrender Illucia against anything that's too reliant on combo pieces to pull off the victory, but that's just one card. The more consistent power lies in repelling anything board-based and sufficiently aggressive. Just like the old days.
Remember Field Contact? It was pretty much everywhere during Forged in the Barrens. And recently these good ol' "tempo" based strategies have started resurfacing once again. Drawing through the deck swiftly while at least partially relying on minions to push through some 'chip' damage.
Case in point, the following version as piloted by Orange. It's not quite what you might expect - not even poor Mankrik in sight! No Jandice Barov either, let alone any Alexstrasza the Life-Binder with Tenwu of the Red Smoke shenanigans. But there is Garrote and Kazakus, Golem Shaper with a merry band.
There were others who had opted for similar lists, yet still relying on their Mankriks and Jandices regardless. Or even going back in time all the way, like Tredsred. LambySeries deserves a separate mention for actually using Grand Empress Shek'zara. What about the Questline? There was at least one believer. And separate Loan Shark enforcer as well.
Besides that, all the Poison/Weapon Rogue decks tend to be pretty much the same. Which is kind of boring.
Here is another class with little to no new developments, largely relying on everything that's been established during the past few weeks. Except we have moved from Elementals towards this Overload Shaman craziness. If you try to compare various decklists, you'll quickly notice how closely they all resemble one another. It's often a personal choice when it comes to including Entrapped Sorceress, Primal Dungeoneer, or Marshspawn; with a copy of Overdraft becoming rather common and occasionally Earth Elemental making it in. Some people even bravely ditch one Novice Zapper.
This sudden huge popularity of Command the Elements can be rather hard to explain. It has its fair share of counters and current struggles, after all (admittedly, it also works fairly well against heavy minion-based strategies).
Since a number of competitors in this Masters Tour seem to have formed a secret 'Watch Post Society', here is a relevant take from trahison.
Only a few people decided to rely on plain Elemental builds instead - Eddie and Nightning among them. Others like Norwis took a slightly different route, combining the powers of Far Watch Post and Doomhammer within a similar shell.
The eternal narrative of The Demon Seed. Mainly split between the Demon and Handlock variants. We know them both all too well, as they know of our collective pain (and so do the developers, with a couple extra nerfs awaiting once Silvermoon concludes).
While the combo version is usually dubbed as D6 due to utilizing 6 demons (doubling up on Darkglare, Stealer of Souls, and Nightshade Matron), there have been a lot of actual 'D7' variants in this tournament instead (adding in one Man'ari Mosher). The rest remains largely unchanged. The deck might seem less fearsome and dominant than during the early weeks (Darkglare did suffer a mana cost increase, after all), yet still potent in the capable hands. So the likes of Gaby going for it again came as no surprise.
The other - and these days far more popular - Questline version has a far simpler gameplan that doesn't require such mad reflexes. It's down to Flesh Giant and friends, while drawing and/or burning cards from the deck for the sake of greater payoffs. That's the most expected opponent to beat (or ban).
Most decklists remain the exact same - with Rustrot Viper and/or Spice Bread Baker as 'tech' inclusions, but here is one slightly different variation from IdanProK: replacing the usual Mortal Coil with Manafeeder Panthara.
Rush Warrior has had a bit of a resurgence as of late, doing alright for itself on ladder. It's nowhere close to being as dominant as it was throughout the Barrens meta, but having extra choices within less popular classes is always welcome.
The decklists are often similar to the one we have featured a few days back: remembering once again about the annoyances that Far Watch Post can pose, and adopting Encumbered Pack Mule as the main new addition from Stormwind. One might add a Harbor Scamp, or (of course) that other watch post card.
But what's this, Control Warrior somehow trying to be relevant? Players such as Bankyugi and the creative four guys mentioned before thought it just might work out.
We will fully know all other important results and statistics by this time on Monday, although that alone doesn't always mean particular lineups or players have totally missed the mark. Sometimes it's also about having that little bit of extra luck on your side when it comes to the games themselves or the cards drawn - or even more so being paired against someone whose decks don't just happen to efficiently counter yours. Fled had some very true words to share about the quirks of the Masters Tour system as it stands, and the world of competitive Hearthstone as a whole.
Even once the tournament concludes, the YouTube broadcast allows us to keep coming back to it and following at your own pace from the very start. I often make good use of that. Just follow our links, and try to avoid looking at other video recommendations and Twitter if you don't want everything to be spoiled for you (this bit gets rather tricky). Probably put a hold on reading recaps and comments as well.
I actually recommend watching such events as a very solid way to become better at the game as a whole (it's not all about those free packs!). If you'd like to learn how your decks of choice fare against specific matchups, it's as simple as rewinding or fast forwarding towards the right points of interest. The insightful caster commentary (or occasionally even reading through the live chat - I know, I know) can bring you up to speed as well: be it mulligan basics or otherwise. It's also nice to be able to recognize certain players and catch a glance of their online 'personalities'.
May the Brutes always watch over you as you take to ladder climbing afterwards.
Admit it, have you already hit the top ranks with the utter force of reckoning that is Brute Demon Hunter? Or maybe you believe we should all be looking towards something else, as shocking as it might be. Should we be expecting a different metagame following this creatively polarized Masters Tour and with Warlock due another hit soon?