Monday, September 19, 2016

The September Shot at Legend, as the Karazhan meta settles

It's been a little while since we did an article series on Hearthstone, and this month I have decided to take on a new challenge. Instead of an Arena challenge (which ironically went well below expectations, right before the Whispers of the Old Gods arena metagame hit, which turned out to be a boon for my play style with a number of 10-12 win arena runs), this time we will focus on the ladder. After all, one of the few card backs I'd like to have but don't is the legend card back.

While I used to regularly finish seasons at Ranks 4-6, when the climb was admittedly far easier, now I usually clock in somewhere between Ranks 7 and 10. However, I have not taken a serious climb towards legend since Standard format dropped with the WOTOG expansion. Hence the lower results.

Part of this decision was not wanting to grind against a format full of different flavors of Warrior decks. According to the Vicious Syndicate meta reports, Warrior reached amazing levels of 25-30% plus on the ladder during the WOTOG meta, so it seemed like you were always playing against the class.  But now, with the Karazhan expansion having been released in August/September, there are a bunch of new cards people are brewing with and a few new archetypes of decks running wild on the ladder. I may share my thoughts on some of these as we go, but for now, let's keep focused on the climb to legend.

That development of new decks has also led to the de-throning of Warrior as the dominant constructed play class, at least for now. Hunter has taken over, followed by Shaman and Druid and Mage. Hell, even variants of Priest and Rogue are seeing some play with the new Karazhan cards. This makes for an exciting time to play on ladder, as is always the case following an adventure.  Particularly if you are playing a deck like Aggro Shaman (which was really only weak to Warrior) and Zoo Warlock, both of which thrive against the new top tier of classes, the ladder is ripe for climbing.

Add to that the fact that this season does not count for HCT world championship points, and the door should be open to making the climb to legend a bit easier in September. All that being said as the reasoning for making September a challenge month, this series of articles will focus on recapping my deck decisions as I go and how the results are actually playing out. 

Tracking results and making adjustments accordingly has been the most consistent advice I have seen from others like Dils (of the angry Chicken podcast) who have made the climb.  Plus just playing a sufficient number of games, with the target being around 10-15 a day. So let's dive into the first week plus of results:

The primary classes played were an aggressive/midrange (hybrid) Shaman and a Zoo Warlock with the discard package from Karazhan (Darkshire Librarian, Melchazar's Imp, Silverware Golem, etc.).  As you can see, the initial climb from about rank 16-17 went well at first with Shaman but then leveled off around rank 14.  At this point, I audibled to Zoo, and won the first 12 or 13 games in a row as shown on September 7-8.

That was good enough to rocket right up to about rank 8 or rank 7, at which point it's been a slow and arduous back-and-forth grind again. I have gone on some 4-5 game winning streaks with these decks (the Shaman has transformed into more midrange), Yogg Token Druid, and Dragon Warrior. Unfortunately I got lazy and stopped tracking results after the 9th, so I will have to pick it back up for the final climb from rank 5 to legend, to see if that can be done in the final 2 weeks of the month.  While I feel confident with all 4 of these decks, it's a matter of feeling what the opponents are playing and then eventually going with the right counter deck.

For now, I'm back on Midrange Shaman, and the deck has rocketed me back over the weekend from a poor streak (down to Rank 6 with 1 star) back up into Rank 5 with 3-4 stars. We will pick up from here next time and see how it goes.

Am I confident I will hit legend? Not really, but I'm certainly playing the right decks to get there it seems, based on all my competition on the ladder.

Also, there's a new TACO tournament next weekend, so it's probably not a bad thing that I'm getting really good with 4 decks. The only question will be whether to swap one or two of these ladder staples out for more tournament-oriented decks. Stay tuned!