Hearthstone - Heroes of Warcraft news » What to Watch for at the HCT Summer Playoffs
Playoff season is upon us! The 2018 Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) has its first premier events in May, with the Europe, Americas, and Asia-Pacific Summer Playoffs taking place over the first three weekends of the month. For more information about how Playoffs work this year, check out our previous blog.
Armed with our knowledge of the European players’ decks, here are some considerations for the upcoming Playoff season…
The New Witchwood
So many new decks have emerged in the wake of The Witchwood’s release, and it’s no shock that many of them will see play during Playoffs. The Even and Odd decks made possible by Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater were the source of a ton of innovative ideas, and the pros have responded by refining powerful new lists using these archetypes. In the Europe Playoffs alone, you’ll see at least both Even and Odd Paladin, Even Shaman, Odd Hunter, Odd Rogue, and Odd Warrior!
Not all the new hotness fell into the Even or Odd categories, however. Another new idea that will be plentiful in Playoffs is Taunt Druid—an exciting archetype that utilizes the new Witching Hour card in Druid to resummon Hadronox, who in turn resummons all your dead Taunt minions. While this combo can be difficult to pull off, and frequently hinges on specific cards not being played by your opponent (especially anything that can pollute the Beast pool for Witching Hour, like Hex or Polymorph), it may shine in a targeted tournament environment.
There are also revised takes on old favorites. Quest decks have made an impressive comeback with both Quest Warrior (sometimes Odd, sometimes not) and Quest Rogue back on the menu. Quest Rogue is particularly interesting, given that it can challenge the wide variety of control decks so efficiently, and it has some new tricks up its sleeve to replace the ones that are no longer playable in Standard. Vicious Scalehide breathed a lot of new life into this archetype!
Less distant in our memory, the powerful Warlock variants—Control and Cube—are featured with some regularity in the Europe players’ lineups. The ever-present threat of Voidlords heaped upon Voidlords is a big part of why you’ll also see decks like Control Priest, Tempo Mage, and Murloc Paladin being reprised in slightly updated forms. Infrequent but notable inclusions are ideas like Miracle Rogue, Aggro Paladin, Control Mage, and even Dead Man’s Hand Warrior.
A New Strategic Point of View
The field in the HCT Europe Summer Playoffs tells us a fair bit about how the remaining regions will shake out. With such a wide range of archetypes in play, some players have eschewed the control stylings of Warlock and Druid for more aggressive lineups that lean on either heavy board presence, like Paladin, or try to reach past defensive boards with spells, like Control Priest or Tempo Mage.
On the speediest end of the spectrum, players known for their aggressive styles have gone all-in on beating their opponents before the fancy combos or swing turns come into play. Control-heavy lineups have the tools to survive the aggression, but the delicate balancing act of navigating those early turns without compromising their own win conditions will be interesting to watch. Notably, since there are so few decks—almost none other than Quest Rogue—that can reliably take out decks that survive reach potential with Armor, it seems highly likely that players with strong control choices are poised to succeed.
Someone Might Tell You No
Diverse ban strategies will be in play in this still-developing tournament meta. Even for players who brought the tools to target Warlock, like Odd Hunter, taking Gul’dan out of the equation altogether is often still the right choice. Control players will be forced to ban Quest Rogue to protect their win conditions, looking for long games where their full toolkit comes into play. Aggro players have a difficult decision ahead of them, as they’re up against Taunt Druid, Control Priest, and Warlock—all designed to repeatedly hold or clear the board.
Priest bans may also be a good choice, particularly against players who don’t have Rogue on their roster. Denying Combo Priests or Control Priests their setup is hugely valuable, and Priest gets to that critical juncture more reliably than even Quest Rogue at times.
Druid is unlikely to end up being banned, simply because both Taunt and Spiteful Druid tread an interesting midrange ground where they don’t go off quite as aggressively as Rogues or Paladins can, but also don’t set up the big dunk that Priests or Warlocks do. As a safe third or fourth deck, Druid may end up being one of the more significant picks for many players.
We’re enormously excited to follow all the action as the HCT Summer Playoffs kick off this weekend with Europe! You can catch all three broadcasts on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel, and you’ll also be able to find complete brackets and every deck list on the Hearthstone Esports Battlefy page.
Who are you cheering for to make it to the 2018 HCT Summer Championship? Which new decks are you most excited to see played during the Playoffs? Tweet us @HSEsports, or let us know in the comments!