The Hearthstone meta at The Global Games

What were the most powerful decks brought by pro players to the opening rounds of The Global Games?
Journey to Un’Goro art showing creatures about to battle
Hearthstone Global Games is the CCG’s Olympics © Blizzard
By James Pickard

The Hearthstone Global Games marks the first official Blizzard tournament of the new Standard era, the Year of the Mammoth, and the first opportunity to see new decks devised by the pros for the competitive scene. There are a lot of individually powerful cards in the Journey to Un’Goro set, but how have some of the pros put their decks together for this team tournament?

With 48 countries represented, there were definitely a lot of unique ideas on display. And with the added requirement that teams must bring a deck from each of the game’s nine classes, we got to see a whole range of ideas in the competition’s opening rounds.

Decklists were unknown to opposing teams, as well as the poor casters who spent a handful of games questioning every card choice and debating the value of new cards based on their own first few days experimenting with the expansion. After the exciting but relatively conventional matches at the Winter Championships, it made the first week of the Global Games a surprising and diverse tournament.

Let the hunt begin

© Andy Zak

Making a triumphant return after being the butt of many jokes and savage memes during the Trinity Series, Hunter has become one of the most competitively viable classes following the launch of Un’Goro. There’s undeniable strength in the new quest card The Marsh Queen, but it’s the slightly slower mid-range deck that’s come to prominence.

Jeweled Macaw is a great start. Crackling Razormaw, however, has proved to be extremely strong. A 3/2 beast for two mana is fairly standard, yet it also enables you to adapt a beast minion already on the board. It proved invaluable: granting extra attack to trade up against stronger minions, extra health or divine shield for added survivability, or poisonous to eliminate much higher value minions for very little cost.

Hunter has also shown to have room for some fantastic tech choices to counter the faster aggro decks with cards such as Nesting Roc. With the variety of ways to put multiple creatures on the board through Alleycat, Unleash the Hounds and the deathrattle from Infested Wolf, it’s easy to meet the two minion requirement that grants the Roc taunt. The 4/7 body stops those decks dead in their tracks. The deck then continued to maintain pressure by throwing down powerful minions on curve all the way up to that staple of the Hunter class, Savannah Highmane. Not too shabby.

Questing Adventurers

© Andy Zak

In the early days of Un’Goro, the new Rogue and Mage quests quickly became some of the most feared cards to play against on ladder. The power of the former had players dreading usually weak cards such as Stonetusk Boar and Wisp, while the latter came with a sinking sense of inevitable defeat once Time Warp was available. Instead, when you look at the decks brought to Global Games for these classes, they’re much more familiar.

There’s updates to Tempo Mage, while Freeze Mage is still going strong despite the lack of Ice Lance now that has rotated out of play. Rogues have put together a new Miracle variant using some cards from the new set, including the Vilespine Slayer, which can destroy a minion when used in a combo. It feels as if Rogue players are getting the most use out of Gadgetzan Auctioneer as they can, with the sense (and some would say hope) that the card may be leaving Standard at the start of the next cycle.

So surprisingly, despite their inherent power, Mage and Rogue have not been the quest cards to dominate in competitive decks. In fact, while the Pirate Warrior menace is still a scourge to be feared, the taunt-heavy Quest Warrior has made a convincing stand at this early stage of the new meta. The deck has a straightforward enough goal: play taunt minion after taunt minion to build an impenetrable wall.

Once seven have been summoned you’re rewarded with the Sulfuras weapon, which turns the Warrior hero power into its own Ragnaros effect to deal eight damage to a random enemy. The Firelord himself may have rotated out of Standard, but this brings his unique power back in convincing fashion.

Elementary, my dear Thrall

© Andy Zak

Prior to the release of the expansion players were most excited about trying the new Elemental cards, and more specifically, the potential of Elemental Shaman decks. So far, in Standard ladder, the results have been underwhelming despite the strength of individual cards. Where the Global Games requires a deck to be brought from each class, however, the Elemental Shaman was well favoured by a lot of teams.

It still managed some good results in its most favourable matchups and when the Elemental engine kicks into gear it’s a terrifying prospect for whoever is on the receiving end of the chain. Servant of Kalimos pulling copies of itself, Fire Elementals segueing into Blazecaller, the big bad Kalimos himself even swung a seemingly lost game for the Czech Republic against the Philippines back their way. It may have inconsistencies on ladder, but in tournaments it’s looking to be the go-to option for Shaman now Aggro has fallen off.

Elsewhere, the remaining classes do not have a single standout deck from the tournament. There was excitement that Handlock may have been making a return with help from new cards such as Humongous Razorleaf, but with a lack of powerful healing effects the deck has only been considered average.

© Andy Zak

Some Priest decks are sticking with the Dragon archetype, despite the loss of many powerful minions from the Blackrock Mountain set. It seems Dragonfire Potion and Drakonid Operative are still able to carry that deck. Mid-range Paladin and Aggro Druid have gained some traction too, though there’s still room for these decks to be refined and perfected.

It’s good that there’s still a level of uncertainty around classes following the launch of Journey to Un’Goro. The shifts in power haven’t totally settled yet and as the Global Games tournament progresses over the coming weeks we’ll have the chance to see how the professionals respond to popular decks and counter their opponent’s picks. In that sense it’s a tournament that offers a lot of unique potential far from the rigid format of other competitions and a place for the meta to shift on a regular basis.

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