The first week of the 2016 Hearthstone Blizzcon World Championship tournament is over, and only eight players remain.
With a week’s worth of matches under their belts, most players have figured out the strongest decks in the current meta. Well, unless they’re Zhuo “Hamster” Wang. That guy is crazy.
But what makes the most popular decks tick?
Far and away the most popular deck at BlizzCon is Midrange Shaman, with all eight remaining players bringing their versions of the deck. If you’ve been on the ladder at all, you know that the deck has been dominant for the past couple of months, so it’s no surprise that it’s showing up in force.
And for good reason: It has answers for just about anything.
With strong early game cards due to Shaman’s Overload ability, powerful board clearing cards like Lightning Storm, and effective late-game swarming with Thunderbluff Valiant, it’s good from start to finish. It’s got the capability to keep up with the speed of aggro offerings, the removal to take care of ramp decks, and the speed to overwhelm control matchups. Basically, the way the Midrange Shaman player wins is by being flexible against just about anything their opponent can throw at them.
Emerging as the second most popular deck at BlizzCon, Malygos Druid is a slower deck that looks to survive the early game and burst its opponent down once it finds its win conditions. It’s shown itself as a deck that will consistently find the tools it needs to win the game.
Malygos Druid looks to do one thing: Control the board until it can find Malygos (and other Spell Power cards) and use cheap damage spells like Moonfire, Living Roots, or Wrath to burst the opponent down in a single turn. Getting there relies on card draw from Azure Drake, Bloodmage Thalnos, and Nourish, with the ramping power of Innervate, Wild Growth, and Emperor Thaurissan to help it move quickly.
When Malygos Druid struggles, it’s against faster aggro decks that can beat it to lethal. When that happens, it has to waste valuable damage spells on clearing the board. Thankfully, it has a backup plan in a pair of Arcane Giants, which can become a solid late game threat when all else fails.
The unsung hero of the first week of BlizzCon, Tempo Mage is another consistent (if somewhat boring) deck at the top of the most-picked list at the event.
Unlike many decks that are content not playing a card for a turn or two for a big swing later, Tempo Mage’s goal is to play something on every single turn. That means, assuming a solid draw, there will almost always be something that the Tempo Mage player can threaten with, whether it be a high-value minion or a removal spell. There aren’t any slick tricks or combos here, just strong, consistent cards that give the player the tools to take the game at any stage.
Essentially, Tempo Mage is a deck with few weaknesses, but doesn’t dominate in any single facet of the game. It’s a deck that can serve as an anchor for a team, one that will perform exactly as expected when it’s time to pull it out.
Hamster’s two N’Zoth decks (Paladin, Priest)
Zhuo “Hamster” Wang is one weird Hearthstone player. In a tournament where not a single other player brought either a Paladin or a Priest deck, the Chinese player brought both.
Both decks are incredibly slow, looking to get into a war of attrition with their opponents under the assumption that their late-game cards will be enough to overpower whatever gets thrown at them.
His Paladin decklist is particular interesting, mostly because it’s a Murloc deck. The idea works like this: He drops Bluegill Warrior and Murloc Warleader in the early-to-mid game to pressure the board. If he gets an early lead, great. If not and they die, no big deal, they’ll be back soon enough. Now, the goal is to clear the board with any number of board-wiping cards like Equality, Wild Pyromancer, Consecration, or Doomsayer. Once the late game comes around, it’s time to drop Anyfin Can Happen, bringing back all those dead Murlocs to wipe out the other side’s health bar. It just has to survive until then, which isn’t exactly guaranteed. Of course, if everything goes wrong, N’Zoth can turn the game around.
His N’Zoth Priest list is similar, but even more annoying to play against. It’s got ridiculous removal, seemingly infinite healing, and tops it all off with some card theft in the form of Thoughtsteal and Shifting Shade. I’m fairly certain that he brought these two severely off-meta decks to BlizzCon just to see how hard he could tilt anyone he plays against.
Taylor Cocke wants to take N’Zoth Murlocadin onto the ladder, but knows he isn’t Hamster. Follow him on Twitter @taylorcocke.