Hearthstone - Winter 2020 - Team Championship Review

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Jacob
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University of Sussex

1 month ago

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Just over two weeks ago we saw the conclusion of the NSE Hearthstone Team Championship. It’s time to take a look back and see how the action unfolded!

Week 4

Week 4 was the last week of the swiss stage and the last of the Scholomance meta. Going into it we saw two teams sitting comfortably at the top; Sussexecute and Warwick Snowflipper Penguins, with StAG’s following closely behind. Following the end of the final week, the table
looked remarkably different.

Going into round one, Sussex dropped a series to the Watt Wyverns, meaning a second round win was critical for the Brighton based team. The StAGS’ faced off against the Snowflipper Penguins, which ended in a hard fought victory for Warwick. Oxford Brookes Vipers, who needed at least one win to be in contention for top six were denied in the first round by ‘the booliners 2’. Plymouth took a clean 3-1 victory over KCL Lions. Cantabz, who had been sitting in thirteenth place going into week 4, emerged victorious over Exeter Idols, giving them a crucial boost.

Round two saw the Wyverns triumph over the Penguins, leaving them in a clear first place, beating out the top two teams of weeks previous. StAGS’ dropped another game to the Plymouth Leviathans, leaving the former champions dangerously close to the edge of the top six, and allowing Plymouth to take a close second alongside Heriot-Watt. Being in the top two, both these teams earned an automatic promotion to the semi finals.

Whilst Sussex beat out ‘the booliners 2’, the deciding factor of the opponents win percentage meant that they were a few percentages shy of an automatic qualification, and would have to battle it out through the playoffs. The most remarkable result of all was the qualification of Cantabz; beating out KCL in round 2 allowed them to take fifth place, earning them a chance for glory. Their meteoric ascension in the final week goes to show that you should never count a team out, especially one with as many high level finishes as the Cambridge team. Unfortunately for both The Hearthstoners and Warwick Wisp, although they earned the same point total as both fifth and sixth place, their early placement lower down the table meant that they had played against opponents with lower win percentages, meaning earning a top spot, later on, would be even more challenging.

With the top 6 decided, the playoffs could begin.

Playoffs

Round 1 - Sussexecute Vs StAGS

The first bout of action to appear on stream was Sussexecute vs StAGS; two champion teams head to head in a brand new meta. Sussex decided on a lineup of Warrior, Demon Hunter, Priest, and Shaman, whilst StAGS’ settled on Paladin, Rogue, Shaman, and Demon Hunter.
Game one saw Sussex’s highlander Priest queued up into StAGS’ Pure Paladin. StAGS’ put the pressure on early, building a strong board that Sussex couldn’t answer. However, two ‘Soul Mirror’s allowed the Priest to keep their opponent's minions at bay, and as the game dragged
on, Sussex were able to draw into some of their more powerful cards, which allowed some brief respite midway through. The StAGS’ reapplied the pressure, building up yet another threatening board state. The game came down a hail mary ‘Murozond the Infinite’ and a discovered ‘Shadow Word: Death’, with the sixteen attack dragon swinging in for lethal for the side of Sussex.

Game two saw StAGS requeue the Paladin, with Sussexecute deciding to play their Control / ETC Combo Warrior. Yet again StAGS developed early, with a multitude of small minions ramping up the pressure. However, Sussex was yet again capable of stabilizing the game, although it came at the cost of using their combo pieces early. Sussex were able to find an alternative lethal through the use of ‘Rattlegore’, creating multiple copies with ‘Bloodsworn Mercenary’ and simply overwhelming the StAGS’, taking game two. The final game was again an attempt to redeem the Paladin for the StAGS’, with Sussex going down to their final deck, Evolve Shaman. This time around it was Sussex’s turn to take the board, developing minions in an attempt to overwhelm St Andrews. After some back and forth Sussex was able to build up a board that the Paladin simply could not answer, and Sussex took the 3-0, securing them a place in the semi-finals against Plymouth. Unfortunately for Fing and the gang, this was the end of the road; however a top six finish is nothing to be ashamed of, and they will no doubt be back with more high level play next term.

Quarter Finals - Watt Wyverns Vs Cantabz

The second round of the evening to be captured live was the semi-final between Cantabz and the Watt Wyverns, with the Cambridge team having just taken a 3-1 win over Warwick Snowflipper Penguins in the round previous.

Game one was a battle between the Wyvern’s Highlander Hunter and Cantabz’s Evolve Shaman. Whilst Heriot-Watt started out strong with a multitude of their low cost curve played out, Cantabz’s careful board management allowed them to take control as the Hunter’s draws stalled, with few mid game power plays to capitalise on their strong opener. A turn seven ‘Dinotamer Brann’ saw an opportunity for the Wyvern’s to bring it back, but subsequent draws did not provide the needed follow up damage, and Cantabz’s evolved board proved too
powerful.

Next up was Pure Paladin for Cambridge, and Evolve Shaman for Heriot-Watt. An early game brawl on board saw constant trades between the minions of the two teams. Turn eight saw the Wyverns take eventual control with their evolved threats, however Cantabz put down a
challenge of their own the turn after in the form of ‘Murgurgle Prime’, summoning them a board of murlocs. Some potential minion mismanagement on the Shaman’s side meant that the Paladin could get down a ‘Lady Liadrin’, giving their sparse hand a needed boost. With their threats almost completely expended and their board state diminished, the Wyverns ran out of steam, conceding to Cambridge.

Now 2-0 up, Cantabz needed just one more win to seal a finals appearance. Hoping to take the final win on the Rogue, the Wyverns attempted to stop them with the Paladin. The game started well for the Wyverns; a clean curve of minions allowed them to develop the board quickly and start pushing face damage. Cantabz responded with secrets, but these did little to stem the on board aggression. A mid game 10/10 ‘Edwin Vancleef’ could have been the saving grace for Cambridge, but a singular silver hand recruit, along with a ‘Libram of Justice’, allowed Heriot-Watt to clean up quickly. An on-curve ‘Murgurgle Prime’ allowed the domination to continue, and Cambridge was simply unable to stabilize from here. The Wyverns were now one game closer to the finals.

Game four was a duel between the Cambridge Rogue and the Heriot-Watt Shaman. Yet again the Rogue failed to perform, tying the score up at 2-2. Unfortunately, technical issues meant that coverage for this game was not available.

The final game of the series saw Cambridge desperately trying to find the win on the Rogue, and the Wyverns attempting to complete the reverse sweep on the Highlander Hunter. Fortune favoured the Wyverns from the beginning; four minions were on board for the Scottish side by turn 3. Some back and forth between the two sides saw the Scots emerge victorious on board; whilst Cantabz seemed to play a large amount of cards, little seemed to happen, as the Wyverns had no trouble clearing up and continuing to push damage. Turn seven saw the Hunter deploy ‘Zephyrs the Great’; hoping for a ‘Savage Roar’ to push damage for a next turn lethal, Zephyrs had other plans, forcing a compromise pick of ‘Sea Giant’. The outcome was the same; a top deck of ‘Backstab’ for Cantabz the turn after meant that they could do nothing for the 8/8 minion on board, guaranteeing the next turn lethal through the use of ‘Kill Command’ and ‘Animal Companion’ from hand. With that the Wyverns had secured the reverse sweep, and would be facing off against Sussexecute in the grand finals.

Finals - Sussexecute Vs Watt Wyverns

Everything rested on this final series. Sussex hoping to make a repeat of their former win two years previous, Heriot-Watt aiming to be first time champions.

First up was the Wyvern’s Hunter vs Sussex’s Priest. A good curve for the Hunter and a poor mulligan for the Priest saw a fairly one-sided game one. A turn four ‘Lorekeeper Polkelt’ allowed for a follow up of ‘Dragonbane’ plus ‘Tour Guide’, decimating the little board presence Sussex had been able to develop. Only on turn seven could Sussex even play the cards in their hand, casting a desperation ‘Soul Mirror’ in an attempt to salvage the game. This wouldn’t be enough, as the pressure had been too great and their life total already too severely diminished, with a turn seven ‘Dinotamer Brann’ on its way and Dragonbane still on board, Sussex conceded game one.

Game two was a repeat matchup from round 1; Sussex’s Warrior vs Pure Paladin. Yet again Sussex was mired with bad mulligans, with two copies of ‘Battle Rage’ in hand, with no damaged friendly characters to capitalize with. Like so many games before, the Wyverns developed early, playing an ‘Aldor Attendant’ on turn one, with a follow up of ‘Murgur Murgurlge’ on the next. Sussex’s problems were only exacerbated by the addition of buffs to the Paladin board, with a perhaps missed opportunity to ‘Shield Slam’ meaning they were unable to deal with the board as effectively as possible. Turn eight offered a chance to stabilize for the Warrior, with a ‘Brawl’ becoming available to them. It proved to be too little too late, as the Wyvern’s ‘Murgurgle Prime’ found the Scotts lethal through the combined power of ‘Bluegill Warrior’ and
‘Murloc Warleader’.

Game three was a chance to redeem Warrior for Sussex. Like so many of the games before the Wyverns played early game aggression, but was met with a swift response from Sussex, playing out weapons and taunts to balance out. A turn five ‘Boggspine Knuckles’ followed by ‘Dread Corsair’ saw it transform into ‘Trampling Rhino’, the aggression being reapplied by Heriot-Watt. Each turn saw a weapon swing from the Shaman, and eventually Sussex were on the ropes, with only two points of health keeping them in the series. Determined not to be beaten, Sussex committed with a ‘Risky Skipper’ plus ‘Armoursmith’ play; combined with ‘Bloodsworn Mercenary’, Sussex gained twenty eight armour in one turn, saving themselves from elimination. A followup ‘Rattlegore’ and drawing into more effective board clears meant the Wyverns were unable to build up the board presence they had enjoyed at the beginning, eventually succumbing to the Warriors pressure, and giving Sussex a much needed win.

It was finally time for the mirror match, with Sussex opting to queue their version of Evolve Shaman. Sussex were the first to develop, using their ‘Tour Guide’ and ‘Boggstrok Clacker’ to hold onto the board in any way they could. Whilst Sussex were ahead in life and board, their
hand was nearly empty, and the Wyvern’s still had resources to spend to clear things up. Facing lethal on board, the Scottish team threw out a hail mary ‘Instructor Fireheart’; finding the perfect answer in the form of ‘Lightning Storm’, Heriot-Watt nearly fully cleared their opponents board, stalling the game and allowing them a crucial window of recovery. In a desperate attempt Sussex started swinging for the face, hoping that a top decked answer would give them the tiny amount of damage they needed to close it out. This was not the case, and the Wyverns were able to secure a board for themselves, presenting enough damage to close out the series. When the final card for Sussex failed to provide an answer, the series was settled, Sussex conceded, and the Watt Wyverns became the NSE Hearthstone Team Champions for Winter 2020.

A huge congratulations to the Heriot-Watt team; Ewan, Chris, and Andrei on their victory.

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