Six Decks To Watch This Weekend

Six Decks To Watch This Weekend

The most notable difference between the Fall and Summer HCT Championships of 2018 is the number of unique deck archetypes that were brought. With $250,000 and a qualification for the HCT World Championship on the line, we did not expect more than two or three decks outside the norm. However, we’ve seen six unique decks, three of which are in Hatul’s lineup! Comparing this to the Summer Championship, viewers will find more excitement in the remaining days of the tournament. Lets see how these six decks did in the first two days of the Fall Championship.

Hatul’s Spell Hunter

Hatul began his initial match against Trunks’ Zoo with his Spell Hunter, taking advantage of an Explosive Trap and Emerald Spellstone on turn eight to force a response from his opponent. After removing one of these wolves, Trunks was two health away from dying the next turn, but Hatul had Deathstalker Rexxar up at the time and rolled a charging Crackling Razormaw, taking the game 1-0.

Though we can attribute this win to the combination of Spellstone and Death Knight, it’s worth noting that Rhok’delar was another value draw that had the potential to pile on lethal amounts of damage. Having another late-game bomb like Rhok’delar makes Spell Hunter less dependent on Deathstalker Rexxar to win otherwise difficult games.

In his Winner’s Match, Hatul opened with Spell Hunter once again, but lost to BloodTrail’s Even Warlock. With neither a Deathstalker Rexxar or Rhok’delar drawn by the late-game, Hatul eventually ran out of resources and lost to BloodTrail’s wide board and efficient hero power.

Hatul’s Big Druid

Hatul was able to take game two off of Trunks’ Zoo with his Big Druid. Trunks was presented a critical turn, where he could either play around Primordial Drake or Swipe. He opted to respect the drake and not trade more of his fragile board into Hatul’s four remaining Scarab Beatles. This left Hatul with the opportunity to use his one copy of Branching Paths to buff their attack and remove the rest of the board.

Where Malygos Druid doesn’t play Primordial Drake and Taunt Druid being unable to use Spreading Plague, Hatul’s Big Druid forced Trunks to respect both, which arguably won this critical second game for him.

BloodTrail’s Malygos Druid prevented Hatul from taking another game in his Winner’s Match. Hatul took a risky line by leaving BloodTrail’s Dreampetal Florist up for two turns, which reduced the cost of both Malygos and Flobbidinous Floop. Despite the massive board of dragons, BloodTrail swiped the board for 11 damage with two Malygos’ up. Hatul was unable to recover, and fell to his group’s Decider Match.

Secret Hunter

Bloodyface opened his initial match with Secret Hunter against DacRyvius’ Shudderwock Shaman. From Secretkeeper with a trap on turn three, Flanking Strike on turn five, and a fully-buffed Emerald Spellstone on turn six, DacRyvius was forced to use both Volcanos. This opened up Bloodyface to drop Bearshark and Houndmaster on turn seven, which went unanswered and gave the American player a 1-0 lead.

In his Winner’s Match against Sintolol, Bloodyface was down 0-1 when he queued the Secret Hunter list against Sintolol’s Shudderwock Shaman. Deathstalker Rexxar generated a stealthed Vicious Fledgling that Bloodyface was able to push through Sintolol’s defenses, rolling the Windfury buff, then rolling Stealth, leaving Sintolol vulnerable with two health and no taunts. Bloodyface then tied the series 1-1.

It was Bloodyface’s only deck between both matches that did not take a loss on Thursday. We will see how much further the Secret Hunter can go on Sunday’s Quarter Final.

Cube Warlock

RENMEN had just tied the series 1-1 when he queued Cube Warlock into Islandcat’s first attempt to get a win with his Malygos Druid. Without silences in the Druid deck, RENMEN was able to generate large Mountain Giant boards with his Carniverous Cube. In response to Islandcat’s Alexstrasza, RENMEN made a strong read and copied his Ziliax with Prince Taldaram to remove the dragon, heal up to 21, and survive Islandcat’s 20 damage in hand.

In the Winner’s Match, RENMEN was up 2-0 until he struggled to seal his Winner’s Match with Cubelock against Tyler. The series almost looked like a reverse sweep until Tyler’s King Krush and Katrina Winterwisp were unable to punch through RENMEN’s Voidwalkers and Ziliax to remove lethal. The magnetized Spiderbomb was unable to remove enough of the threat on board, winning RENMEN the series and his placement in Sunday’s Quarter Final.

Control Warlock

GoeLionKing lost to Sintolol’s Even Warlock and Taunt Druid before taking a win against Shudderwock Shaman, but lost the series when his Control Priest was unable to beat the Shudderwock combo. From the interview desk, Frodan relayed Sintolol’s comfort against LionKing’s line up, believing it would be a cruising victory.

It may even have seen that 3-0 had it not been for a miraculous Gnomeferatu. Demonic Project and Gnomeferatu will have to put in work tomorrow against a nearly identical line-up, but with DacRyvius playing Malygos Druid instead of Taunt Druid.

With better targets for Demonic Project against two combo-oriented decks, it’s likely we may see the Control Warlock get another win.

Odd Warrior

Hatul’s Warrior was banned in both matches by Trunks and BloodTrail. After his victory against Trunks, Kibler would tell Frodan how he loved seeing unusual deck building decisions being rewarded. This Odd Warrior was forced to be banned by Trunks to have a chance with his aggro-oriented line up, and by BloodTrail for his Even Warlock and Malygos Druid to have a chance.

We’re likely to see it banned again in the Decider Match if LPTrunks eliminates lnguagehackr on Day Three, but hope to see it in action at some point this weekend.

In a game where bringing the right line-up can make or break a tournament run, players are often tempted to bring the most objectively powerful decks. This weekend’s 2018 HCT Fall Championship is no exception, with nine out of the 16 players bringing Malygos Druid, nine bringing Odd Rogue, and five playing both.

This strategy has had it’s successes in the past, especially in last year’s Knights of the Frozen Throne meta. Highlander Priest, Tempo Rogue and Jade Druid saw regular appearances as the unholy trio of Hearthstone for many months, both in tournaments and on the standard ladder. However, in contrast to the results above, bringing two of the most popular decks of the tournament did not provide the strong start nearly half of this weekend’s players were looking for.

Of the five players to bring both Malygos Druid and Odd Rogue, four of them (each from separate groups) lost their initial matches, and are at risk of being eliminated from the championship tomorrow. Only Bloodyface from Group A won his first match, as well as beating Sintolol to qualify for Sunday’s Quarter Final! Of the four players to bring a unique archetype, two of them qualified to Sunday’s Quarter Finals (Bloodyface and RENMEN), one is competing in Group C’s Decider Match (Hatul), and the other is at risk of being eliminated from Group A (GoeLionKing).

These results give the appearance of more creative line-ups being a success factor in tournaments, but a fuller analysis will have to wait for another day. For now, we’ll be watching Day Three to see if GoeLionKing and Hatul will be able to take their unique deck choices to Sunday’s Quarter Final, and if Bloodyface and RENMEN will be rewarded for their line ups on Sunday with a guaranteed spot in the HCT World Championship.

Decklist images courtesy of

TopDeck is a site owned and run by G-Loot, most famously known for GLL – one of the most premiere PUBG leagues in the world. Follow @TopDeckGG for articles, updates and more!

StanCifka Enters The Gauntlet

StanCifka Enters The Gauntlet

The Artifact closed beta saw some of its best players compete in last weekend’s $10,000 limited format tournament. Among these top contenders were Magic: The Gathering’s all-time earner Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, Hearthstone World Championship 2017 finalist Frank Zhang (Fr0zen), and Stanislav Cifka, who entered the tournament following a three-win-streak of Artifact constructed single-elimination tournaments.

While this was not the first limited tournament to be hosted by Valve, Stan told TopDeck there was a greater interest with a higher prize pool. This attracted the mentioned players, as well as other notable personalities who are among the few hundred to test the game as Valve prepares to release the second round of the closed beta.

Two of these players reign supreme in the limited format.

Adrian Koy (Lifecoach) and I are the only players who have over a 50% chance to go 5-0 when we enter the Gauntlet,” Stan told TopDeck. “So it feels like me and Lifecoach are the strongest players.”

Axe, a rare Red hero of Artifact

Some of the challenges players faced in the Gauntlet are familiar to Magic players; For each of the five rounds, you select two out of 12 cards, then the pack “rotates,” presenting 10 cards, then eight, and so on. Each round will allow you to select a hero, items, creeps and improvements. After a selection of two cards, the algorithm removes the two best cards you did not select from appearing again. Stan says the dwindling quality of remaining cards in each pack is very realistic. You’re ultimately left with 60 cards (not including hero signature cards) to build your 40-card deck.

What makes Artifact unique among other games with limited formats are heroes. Though each round of selection only comes with one hero, you’ll always be offered a random basic hero among the last two cards if the one you did not select was removed by the algorithm. Each deck will only ever have five heroes, and their deployment mechanic guarantees that heroes will see play regularly in one of the board’s three lanes.

“Let’s say you draft an amazing card in another game,” Stan said. “You can draw it or not. But if you have an amazing hero, it always hits the board and always gives you a benefit.”

In fact, 15 of the 40 cards in your limited deck will be the three signature cards that are accompanied by each of the five heroes you select, taking up more than a third of your cards. This effectively leaves you with 25 spaces from your 60-card draft to build your 40-card deck. Having good heroes can make or break a draft.

Eclipse, Luna’s signature card

For example, one of the losses Stan took during the limited tournament was against compLexity’s Tugay Evsan (Mryagut), who drafted two Luna’s in his deck. “I felt like such an underdog in that match, thinking it would be impossible to beat,” Stan said. The addition of two Luna’s provided six copies of Eclipse, a spell that deals three piercing damage to a random enemy, and repeats with each action phase that’s passed while a Luna is on the board. Remember the consistent board presence heroes have in Artifact due to the deployment mechanic. Each of the six Eclipses can receive many stacks late enough into the game, providing inevitable bursts of damage and board clears.

The potential for large differences in deck quality leads Stan to prefer constructed over limited, but he says it’s still possible to maintain a strong winrate. Stan was able to take a game off Mryagut before losing the match 1-2. At this phase of the tournament, he was still in contention for a top 8 finish.

The emphasis on heroes leads players to making the most of their remaining drafting decisions based on what heroes they’re offered, and the signature cards they come with. Knowing how to build decks around each combination of colors you draft (two most of the time), and knowing how to complement your hero’s aggressive or control emphasis, will make the most of your draft.

Practice sessions by Stan revealed the importance of adding support cards to a limited deck. If you need more attack on a hero, you can add Short Sword, and if you need more defense, you add armor. At the next level, if you have a certain strategy and you need to win with specific, expensive items, then you can attempt to draft certain cards like Payday to better guarantee having a strong enough economy for the card to see play. Stan reveals that most of the support that items offer can be achieved with basic items, so remain focused on finding good heroes.

Payday, a black common spell

With three constructed wins, these practice sessions, and a high win rate in the limited format, Stan drafted his deck and faced the competition in last weekend’s tournament. Despite his loss to Tugay, he reached the final Swiss round before falling to Lifecoach. “I had a way weaker deck than Lifecoach. I had good heroes, but had extremely bad cards.” Bad cards can be a result of not drafting playables of certain colors, resulting in cards with weaker power levels needing to be added in the deck-building phase.

“I felt like Lifecoach played super good that last game,” Stan said. “I also felt like I played fine, but in the end, I was missing creep to chump block a hero to save a lane… he pushed the lane I turned over, he was up one tower, and I was unable to defend the second lane.”

TopDeck asked if this third game loss was a direct result of the RNG nature of the creep deployment mechanic.

“The RNG mattered, but I was lacking the creep because I didn’t have enough creeps as cards in my drafted deck. I had too many bad situational cards and I would simply play these types of cards but I was lacking these type of effects, so I wouldn’t consider my deck that great because I was missing chump blockers for these kinds of situations.”

In summary, Lifecoach flooded the board while preventing his opponent from doing the same, setting himself up for the lethal turn. “I had very strong heroes and good ways to buff them,” Stan said, “or make dangerous threats by buffing the attack and having a lot of combat tricks, but I was lacking a way to set up a big board with a lot of creeps… If you’re lacking creeps, it’s difficult to fight back if your opponent goes wide with their own creeps, and that’s what Lifecoach, did so that’s why he was doing well.”

Axe impressively buffed by items

While Stan went over the details of his final match against Lifecoach, a stream clip by Octavian Morosan (Kripparrian) was trending on the Artifact subreddit where Octavian expressed concern for newcomers when the game launches, and how they would be able to compete against beta-testers with seven months of experience under them. As of this article’s publication, the video has over 27,000 views and is among the top three posts of the week. TopDeck asked Stan how he would respond to the issue.

“I feel like there’s so much space for improving that I guess in a couple weeks or months after release, the mass (of players) will be way better than we are now.” Stan believes that the millions of hours that will be invested by the gaming community when the game is public, will reveal more of what’s possible in Artifact than the hundreds to thousands of hours under the belts of other beta-testers.

The winner of last weekend was Lukáš Blohon. He had only played Artifact for four days before entering the limited tournament.

After practicing a bit together (discussing what heroes were good for the limited format and more), Lukáš attributed his success in the tournament on twitter to Stan’s mentorship. It’s worth mentioning that Lukáš is ranked 44th among the all-time earners of Magic, and is no stranger to competitive card games. However, against a field as stacked as the $10k Artifact Gauntlet tournament, and considering the amount of time Lukáš had to play the game compared to other contenders, his victory was an impressive feat.

“Lukáš had to practice very hard for the tournament,” Stan said, “but it paid off for him. So I think when the game’s released, everyone will have this opportunity.”

Luna, a common Blue hero of Artifact

The complexity of Artifact leaves most wondering about the game’s future as an esport, and whether it will also enjoy the same level of competitive diversity as Magic, with both constructed and limited opportunities to break out in the scene. In response, Stan felt that it was because of the game’s greater complexity in limited that the Gauntlet is even more competitive than drafting in Magic. “I can see there would be the highest level of competition in the limited format very easily.”

Proficient players will naturally gravitate towards tournaments with large enough prize pools, regardless of the format, but the dependence on heroes in the limited format may have most players default to constructed. “It will be about your ability to predict the meta game and queueing the right match ups,” Stan said. “There’s no luck aspect in terms of what cards you get because all pro players will have access to all cards.”

That being said, the Czech card slinger’s time in the Gauntlet left a strong impression on his Artifact experience. “In the beginning, I felt it wouldn’t be great, but every game was different… it was a great feeling to discover new cards and new mechanics, so I really like Gauntlet for this.”

In the next constructed tournaments, Stan said he’ll bring new ideas from the Gauntlet, which showed some hidden gems that are going to do well in Artifact.

TopDeck is a site owned and run by G-Loot, most famously known for GLL – one of the most premiere PUBG leagues in the world. Follow @TopDeckGG for articles, updates and more!

From the Editor: What is TopDeck?

From the Editor: What is TopDeck?

We are a group of card gamers who have collectively been involved in the industry for many years; as players, content creators, tournament organizers, and more.

What we have in common is our belief in the positive influence content can make on a gamer. From personal experience, we know reading a well-written guide can be their first step towards winning a game night. Or a local qualifier. Or a championship.

Our goal for TopDeck is to provide deck guides and strategic updates from our team of knowledgeable and passionate card gamers to you, the reader. We plan for TopDeck to grow as a platform for players to cultivate skills, share knowledge, and grow their card gaming communities. Follow @TopDeckGG to stay tuned for these updates.

Check out our first Artifact article, an interview with StanCifka where he shares his impressions of the Gauntlet, and its potential for competitive play. We will also release Hearthstone content covering the HCT Fall Championship over the weekend.

As a casual gamer or future champion, we thank you for reading TopDeck!

Glen Tokola, Editor in Chief

TopDeck is a site owned and run by G-Loot, most famously known for GLL – one of the most premiere PUBG leagues in the world. Follow @TopDeckGG for articles, updates and more!