The Hearthstone Championship Tour is preparing to invade the Bahamas later in March for the Hearthstone Winter Championship. In the meantime, gaming organizations One Nation of Gamers and GEICO Gaming ventured to PAX East to hold a Hearthstone Major with a $10,000 prize pool and up to 15 HCT points.
There wasn’t much buzz for the Major, given that the Hearthstone community had been looking ahead to the seasonal championship weekend (as well as the game’s next expansion and the Standard season rotation.) The meta had been established, so expectations were pretty low.
Then came DisguisedToast.
The mysterious player is an enigma in Hearthstone circles. He’s known mainly as a content creator for Twitch and YouTube, cutting his teeth on Hearthstone analysis, guides, Arena runs, and irreverent humor. He’s known for wearing a paper mustachioed toast mask and never revealing his real name, even in interviews. Outside of attending a few local tournaments (the first of which led to one of the most popular videos to grace his YouTube channel), he wasn’t known as an esports competitor.
So it was quite a surprise to see the recently-unmasked Toast throw his hat into the Hearthstone Major field. Equally surprising were his gimmick-filled “meme” decks, using oddball cards that one normally doesn’t see in a tournament setting.
But a funny thing happened with Toast’s gimmickry. Like that first Fireside Gathering he attended back in 2015, the man was winning.
Toast brought his standard Pirate Warrior and Anyfin Paladin decks, but the real fun was found in his alternate decks.
The most intriguing was his Medivh Warlock build, affectionately dubbed the “Memelock.” It utilizes certain standard Warlock principles, like controlling the board with removal spells and restoring health with minions like Mistress of Mixtures and Refreshment Vendor. However, the big twist involves shelving other Warlock staples like Lord Jaraxxus and Power Overwhelming and instead using Medivh the Guardian, released during the One Night in Karazhan adventure. The idea is to use Medivh’s weapon to summon large minions using the Warlock’s expensive board-clearing spells, like the 8-mana Twisted Nether, 10-mana DOOM!, and 10-mana Kazakus spells.
Toast first attempted using this deck on his Twitch channel and was shocked at how effective it was on the ranked ladder, particularly against Jade Golem decks.
“I don’t know what we’re doing, but apparently, it’s working,” Toast said on-stream, as he reached Top 200 Legend for the first time back in February.
Toast’s opponents at the Hearthstone Major were caught off guard by the oddball strategy, but perhaps none more than Jeffrey “Sjow” Brusi. The two faced off on Saturday in a Warlock mirror, but Sjow (or any other Hearthstone pro) could never have expected anyone to pack a Sacrificial Pact spell on purpose. Toast was there to have some fun, though, and he subbed a Sacrificial Pact into his Memelock deck to replace Elise Starseeker. When Lord Jaraxxus came out, an ecstatic Toast played the spell for the instant win, shocking Sjow and sending Twitch chat into fits of laughter.
Toast also brought a One-Turn Kill Druid deck, uncommon in the pro scene, but one that he had personally grown attached to over the course of the current meta. The main idea with this deck is to play the 9-mana Aviana to reduce all minion costs to 1 and follow it up with Kun the Forgotten King to refresh all mana crystals. Combining this with Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Innervate would cycle through most of the deck until the spell damage-boosting Malygos and enough damage spells were acquired for lethal.
The OTK Druid’s appearances were memorable, its first ending with Toast gambling with Yogg-Saron on the final turn. When Yogg drew the lethal Mind Blast spell, casters James “Firebat” Kostesich and Dan “Frodan” Chou were laughing hysterically, both at Toast’s gamble and knowing that he did it mainly to have some fun. Similar laughs were had the next day when Toast rode Aviana, Kun, and dual Gadgetzan Auctioneers to victory. These were the types of decks seen on the lower ranks and on Toast’s Twitch and YouTube channels, yet here he was, beating genuine pros and doing so with style.
Not all of Toast’s strategies were successful, though. With his opposition often bringing Warrior decks, Toast made sure to ban those out of the gate and challenge his opponents to the longer game. But as much as he tried, Toast couldn’t avoid the aggro matchup forever. When he faced Tianying “Wtybill” Wu, his shortcoming was exposed, with Wtybill powering up his 1/1 Argent Squire to 7/1 by using double Cold Bloods on his second turn. As absurd as it sounds on the surface, it was shockingly effective, as Toast’s Memelock had no answer. Wtybill would defeat him by turn 5.
DisguisedToast gained a massive following in big part because of his bubbly, whimsical personality. That personality was on display throughout the weekend. He was mugging for the camera, he was visibly excited as he waited for his game-winning plays, and when he drew the right card or his win condition was ready, he would lick his lips and rub his hands giddily. When he first saw his Yogg-Saron, he giggled to himself.
There was also a moment during his match with Sjow where Toast was wagging his finger at the camera and making more faces, which some viewers (as well as Firebat) interpreted as unsportsmanlike behavior. Toast addressed this on Twitter late Saturday, making it clear that he wasn’t addressing his opponent. He was addressing Twitch chat.
The Hearthstone pro scene isn’t exactly rife with personality. Whether it’s because of the intense focus required to compete or because there’s a generally serious atmosphere around Hearthstone tournaments, players tend to keep their emotions in check.
Toast bucked this trend with his happy-go-lucky persona, giving fans a look at something they don’t typically see in the tournament scene. And more impressively, it gave the community someone to actively root for. For the first two days, it looked like their faith would be rewarded, as Toast advanced to Top 32 to face Brian “Th3RaT” Courtade.
Sadly, anyone that had followed DisguisedToast was not entirely surprised by his ultimate outcome.
The ending (or “Hey! Lights out!”)
Toast did not make it to his match with Th3RaT. He was absent on Sunday, leading to an unceremonious disqualification. What happened? According to the man himself, Toast had overslept.
While Toast’s fanbase was disappointed, they also got a huge laugh out of the ordeal, led by a thread filled with jokes and memes on r/hearthstone. In fact, one particular post in that thread summed it all up: “Even when Toast gets DQ-ed, it’s through a meme-tastic accident instead of cheating or something horrible happening. What a champ.”
Later that Sunday, Toast spoke of the incident in his own Twitch channel, calling it “the most expensive nap ever” and following that up with, “The good news is, I’m very well-rested for the stream today, so we have that to look forward to.”
It’s hard to know for certain whether Toast would have ultimately come out on top at PAX East. Eventual runner-up Muzahidul “Muzzy” Islam and champion Raymond “RayC” Cipoletti had incredible tournaments and it’s likely one or both could have beaten Toast’s decks. But Toast’s Hearthstone Major performance taught Hearthstone spectators a lesson that he had already taught to his YouTube subscribers just days before the event.
“While there’s definitely nothing wrong with playing the strongest deck in the meta, I wanted to show that, ‘Hey, it is possible to have fun and do well at the same time.’”
Ozzie Mejia was immensely entertained by Toast’s meme decks. Follow him on Twitter @Ozz_Mejia.