An in depth look at SA's MaD Hatters Hearthstone Tournament Finals

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We’ve always seen ourselves as the Mad hatters tea party from the children book, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, published in 1865.  A bunch of crazy, random and fun players in one team. Soon after the creation of MaD Hatters, our clan name started spreading all over the social media platforms. Mad Hatters

Don't you think that's just the best clan name ever? MaD Hatters is a local eSports organisation with a difference. The first being their Mad Hatter flavour, the second being their remarkable attitude towards the South African competitive gaming community. Mad Hatter member Ryan "Arachne" Norden suggested starting Hearthstone tournaments to grow the community, and where needed, mentor new players. Norden competes in the DGL Premier League.

Before I hand over to Francois Mouton, Hearthstone community representative, I want to extend a big well done to the Mad Hatters. It's organisations like theirs that sustain SA's small competitive community.

MaD Hatters: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Hearthstone March of the Cards Finals by Francois Mouton

"Last week led to the conclusion of the Mad Hatters March of the Cards Hearthstone Tournament. The tournament burst out of it seams as it had 47 registrations! Unfortunately, the tournament could only accommodate 32 players, and thus only the first 32 registrations could participate.

The finals of this tournament saw two of South Africa’s greatest Hearthstone players face off against one another. We have asked each player to write a short piece on the finals from their perspective. These pieces discuss the thought process on which decks to bring and ultimately decided which decks to use in each matchup. This lead to a very tense final with some great well-planned plays!

Thanks to eAe Gaming for casting the finals. You can check it out here.

Allow me to introduce PenguinZA, a member of Redemption Gaming. He only recently started Hearthstone at a competitive level. He started out in the DGL open division at the start of 2015 and have easily progressed through to the DGL first division, by winning all his matches in the playoffs.

Andrew "PenguinZA" Hodgkinson thoughts on the finals:



“Leading up to the final of the MaD Hatters March of the Cards tournament, I had faced some tough competition. Facing Nicolas "strike" Cheng, a well-known Premier Division DGL and ranked player brought me a lot of nerves.

Drawing exactly what I needed to win in those games brought me a sign of relief now knowing that I would be facing Dale "Pand3m0nia" Po1n, a good friend and Hearthstone rival.

During picks and bans, Pand3m0nia chose to play Shaman, Warrior, Warlock and Druid. All of these classes of his have over 500 ranked play wins with (evident by the gold portrait heroes, which is an impressive feat on its own). I had declared to play Warlock, Hunter, Mage, and Paladin, which on paper, have a stronger matchup against those classes.

In the end, I decided that Pand3m0nia’s Shaman would cause me more problems with my line up as the Shaman class has early game minion removal, midgame board control as well as late game burst with all sort of Flametongue Totem shenanigans.

Knowing Pand3m0nia enjoys playing control decks, I had an idea of what to expect from him. Also using the knowledge of him hating aggro (nicknamed “Cancer decks” by the Hearthstone international community) I thought I would play with two aggro decks out of my four class submissions. Pand3m0nia banned my Hunter pick, which was to be anticipated, leaving me to play with Warlock, Paladin, and Mage.

As a surprise, I had decided to play Mech Mage (List) in our first matchup (Mage vs. Druid). Mech Mage can completely snowball if they get the perfect opener of Mechwarper, Mechwarper, Snowchugger and it just continues. It is also a very favoured matchup if the starting hand is as mentioned. My hand was slightly slower, so I used my cards to maintain board pressure against Dale, always ensuring that I had more minions than him and to be ahead in value trades.

In the end, Goblin Blastmage was the saviour in this matchup as it allowed me to clear his board and take the first game.

Switching over to Paladin (List) for the second game meant that this was slightly more favoured for Pand3m0nia, who decided to stick with his Druid. Paladin, however, could also walk away with this matchup as any taunt minions Pand3m0nia played could be met with the Paladin’s weapon, Truesilver Champion, or with the 6-mana combo: Equality + Consecration. Pand3m0nia had maintained board control and had drawn a lot better, and with value from his Swipe, set me back in the game and he was able to take the game with a Force of Nature, Savage Roar combo leaving me on 1 Health, which Druid of the Claw was able to sort out next turn.

The third matchup in the best of five series saw Pand3m0nia play his handlock: a Warlock class deck that focuses on getting cards in hand using the 2-mana hero power to draw a card and lose two life. By using this, he can summon huge eight / eight minions from as little as three mana. After my mulligan, I saw I had a much more aggressive starting hand, and I decided that if I was going to win this matchup, I had to go for the jugular from the start.

Playing on curve, having semi-answers for most things he played meant that I was able to clinch this game and be up 2-1.

This meant that to win, I had to play my favourite class against either Pand3m0nia’s Warrior or Warlock.

Pand3m0nia decided to stick with Warlock, while I got to play my ZooLock, an aggressive Warlock deck using lower costing minions to burst your opponent by buffing up creatures, clearing the board and continuously applying pressure on your opponent by dealing damage to face.

My Zoolock (List) focuses around Demon synergy, with cards like Voidcaller, which when they die, it summons a random demon from my hand which is a real good way of surprising your opponent with a Doomguard (a 5/7 Demon with Charge) or Mal’Ganis (a 9/7 Demon which makes your hero immune to damage as well as giving your demons an additional +2/+2 while he is on the board).

I had made some questionable plays during this matchup, but I did apply a lot of pressure during the game. However, with Handlock being a late game deck and after him stabilising, I could not get back to take this game. Pand3m0nia took the matchup and drawing the series to a 2-2.

The final game featured a Warrior vs. Warlock matchup which meant one thing: Winner takes all.

From watching Pand3m0nia in previous games, I had seen him play a Grim Patron Warrior deck that is what I thought he was playing. However, this bluff was well played on his half, surprising me with a Control Warrior deck.

A lot of pressure was applied by me during the matchup, especially around the five mana / six mana mark in the game. However, the RNG gods were on his side as turn after turn; he started drawing answers to everything I had played that game. Shield Block to draw into Shield Slam to kill my Doomguard, Revenge to clear my field and Cruel Taskmaster to eventually take the series 3-2.

All in all, the games were incredibly close and incredibly enjoyable.

To MaD Hatters, thank you for holding a tournament like this. Without you guys, tournaments like this would not be able to take place. Thanks to the casters, Fafa and KyubiZA, for providing us with excellent videos for me to refer to in the future. And to Pand3m0nia, congratulations on the win. Just know that I will be gunning for you in the future tournaments and will be meeting you in the Premier Division the DGL 2015 Summer Leg!”

We also have Dale "Pand3m0nia" Pon thoughts on the finals:

Pand3m0nia, a member of eAe Gaming, has played Hearthstone since 2014 and has taken up the game at a competitive level since DGL Winter Leg 2014. He is more well known for his RNG rants on the Hearthstone South Africa Facebook and really strives to educate the community.

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“As soon as it was announced that MaD Hatters would be hosting a Hearthstone tournament with awesome prizes I knew I had to participate. There hadn’t been many tournaments recently, so this was my chance to evaluate my tournament prowess, especially since I was (and am still) rather unfamiliar with the strategy involved in the Conquest format. I was looking forward to the tournament since a lot of strong players had signed up, and it was a chance for me to prove myself.

The road to the final was not easy, facing several tough opponents and needing some good draws and RNG to get to the final, but RNG shone its face upon me for once (I’m known in the community for my rants about RNG).

Andrew “PenguinZA” Hodgkinson and I have become rather good mates through playing Hearthstone always chatting and sharing our latest feats or defeats, so it was awesome to meet finally him in the finals of a tournament.

Throughout the tournament, I used the same four decks/heroes (Druid, Shaman, Warlock, and Warrior) since those are the classes I’m most comfortable with and believe I am most proficient with.
All of my deck lists are quite standard and thus are rather streamlined barring several tech (cards which are very specific in their effective use, e.g. Harrison Jones is only really good against classes with weapons) decisions.

Druid midrange, in my eyes, is one of the most resilient and consistent decks around and has been since the early days of Hearthstone. My list runs the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo like most others, as well as many of the other core cards. However, my main deviations were replacing both Shade of Naxxramas with two Druid of the Flame since I find the Druid of the Flame (specifically the Fire Hawk form) to be more solid against aggressive decks where the 5 Health allows it to trade very efficiently. Due to the popularity of weapon bearing classes I felt that Harrison Jones was a worthy inclusion as the tempo swing he can provide was incredible. Another key difference from most lists is that I prefer using The Black Knight over Sylvanas Windrunner since I always find the tempo swing incredible and a lot of the times I do play Sylvanas I either don’t get value from her or I play her at a suboptimal time and she is simply a 6 mana 5/5. Nearly every deck runs Taunts or minions that give Taunt, which is why I find that The Black Knight never runs out of targets.

My Shaman list takes inspiration from known Shaman specialists such as SilentStorm and Kolento. Since the deck is known to struggle against agro I added in cards such as Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, and a single Harvest Golem to shore up those matchups while the Creepers and Harvest Golem aren’t too bad in other matchups either due to being incredibly sticky (resilient to board clears and removal).

Handlock is a deck that has recently had a resurgence in popularity due to the rise of Grim Patron Warrior because Hellfire is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of dealing with the deck. Once again, my list is very standard, the only real difference being that I still like running a single Siphon Soul to deal with those pesky Legendaries like Ysera that can’t be targeted by Big Game Hunter.

Warrior Control is notorious for being one of the most expensive decks (dust-wise) to build since it runs several Legendaries and Epics and that are exceptionally important to the core of the deck. In my list, I decided to replace the usual Whirlwind with Revenge since Revenge can get extra value against decks such as Zoo and Mech Mage, which usually have several minions with Health above 1. In most of my decks I always like having at least one silence whether it’s to get through a Taunt or stop one of the many minions with annoying Deathrattle effects (such as Sylvanas Windrunner or even Nerubian Egg). The reasons I run Harrison Jones and The Black Knight are the same as mentioned above.

Against Penguin, I decided to stick to the same decks I had used throughout the tournament, even though I knew he was expecting me to play predominately Control decks. I decided that those were the ones I was most comfortable with even though while we were doing the picks and bans I just counted unfavourable matchup after the unfavourable matchup. He chose Hunter, Mage, Paladin, and Warlock, and after he banned by Shaman I decided to ban Hunter since nearly all my decks struggle against it (and I just hate playing against Hunter as a whole).

In the first game of the series, my Druid faced up to Penguin’s Mech Mage, which can be a very difficult matchup if he gets ridiculous Mechwarper starts. I was lucky enough that he didn’t have an exceptionally fast start, but unfortunately I ran out of resources and couldn’t compete for the board effectively, and his two Goblin Blastmages sealed the game.

In Game 2 I decided to stick with my Druid since I didn’t want it to be the last deck I was left using against his Warlock (which I assumed to be Demon Zoo) and Paladin (which I assumed to be Midrange), both of which I believe to be slightly unfavourable matchups. Andre chose his Paladin, and things were looking to get out of control quite early on until I was lucky enough to top deck the Swipe I needed to clear his board of Silver Hand Recruits and a Shielded Minibot. I managed to maintain board control for most of the game and on Turn 6/7 I used the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo along with the minions I had in play to bring him down to 1 Health, even though he had a Sylvanas Windrunner in play. I decided it best to get him down to 1 Health there and then since I had both a Swipe and Druid of the Claw in hand and the following turn he would only have 7 mana, so a Taunt or even an Antique Healbot wouldn’t have saved him, and the main source of Paladin’s heal, Lay On Hands, can only be played on Turn 8 (and ironically still wouldn’t have been enough to save him).

Game 3 saw me changing to my Handlock while Penguin kept with his Paladin. Penguin had an exceptionally aggressive start comprising of Knife Jugglers, a Shielded Minibot, and a Muster for Battle, which I could not stop and by Turn 9/10 I was on such low Health that not even a Molten Giant with taunt could save me. He took the early risk of getting my Health to a very low amount (enabling potentially very cheap Molten Giants), but his gamble paid off, and I went 1-2 down in the series.

At this point, I knew that Penguin now had to play his Demon Zoo for the final two games since that was his only remaining deck. I decided to stick with my Handlock so as to keep my Warrior deck a surprise (he wasn’t sure whether it was Control or Patron Warrior). Penguin had a reasonably aggressive start with Knife Juggler and Nerubian Eggs, but an early Ancient Watcher combined with Sunfury Protector allowed me to buffer the amount of damage I was taking. He continued applying the pressure, but a Sludge Belcher, as well as Hellfire, managed to clear most of his board. He went for some risky plays that nearly paid off, especially after I made the huge misplay of playing an Antique Healbot and then a Molten Giant, which nearly cost me the game. Luckily a Shadowflame allowed me to recover, followed by Lord Jaraxxus, which was met by a Dr Boom top deck that nearly swung the game in Penguin’s favour. Luckily for me he was unable to top deck the extra three damage for lethal. This brought the score to 2-2 and meant that this series was going to the fifth and final game.

I felt I had a slight advantage in the final game since Penguin still didn’t know what Warrior I was running. I managed to mulligan into a Fiery War Axe, which is exceptionally strong against aggressive decks such as Penguin. I was able to play on curve for the early stages of the game that allowed me to get a decent board presence with an Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain. Turn 5 saw me make the risky play of attacking with a Death’s Bite into a Voidcaller, but luckily for me this saw a Voidwalker drop rather than the Doomguard (which I later discover he had in his hand at that point). Thus, I was able to get maximum value from both my Armorsmith and Acolyte. Subsequently A Sludge Belcher helped to slow him down, and a Shield Block, which drew into a Shield Slam was enough to stop the incoming Doomguard. A later topdeck of the Execute helped to kill the Lord Jaraxxus that had appeared from the Bane of Doom, and at this point the game started swinging, since I was on 15 Health and 11 Armor and Penguin had very few cards in hand.  A last ditch Mal’Ganis wasn’t enough, and I was able to take the win and seal the series 3-2.

I would like just to give a big thank you to MaD Hatters for sponsoring and running this tournament as well as to Francois “Fafa” Mouton, who casted the finals alongside Ashruth “KyubiZA” Bidesi.

A final congratulations to PenguinZA on placing second, the finals were one of the best series I have played in a long time.”

Pand3m0nia walked out victorious in the tournament and PenguinZA came in 2nd. The 3rd and 4th place match has also concluded with Dylan “Dib” Brown taking 3rd and Nicolas "strike" Cheng taking 4th.

In conclusion, I would just like to thank MaD Hatters for hosting an exceptional tournament and for sponsoring the prizes. Overall the community enjoyed the tournament and are hoping that future ones will be sooner rather than later."

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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