weapon

Where’s all the weapon removal?

Kobolds and Catacomb’s Legendary weapons were meant to have a fatal flaw. Many thought this new influx of anti-weapon tech would counter powerful items. Oozes, Harrisons and Bloodsail Corsairs should have crushed their dreams. But despite numerous Legendary weapons being extremely powerful options, weapon removal has not been a big part of the meta. So why hasn’t weapon removal risen to the challenge?

Some weapons are more Legendary than others

weapon

Not every weapon was as strong as Aluneth or Skull of the Manari

One key reason for how weapon removal is still niche is the varying success of the Legendary weapons. Almost all of them showed incredible promise, bar perhaps the Runespear (sorry Shaman). However, for a variety of factors, only a few Legendary weapons are viable. If we consider the top 4 classes of the Kobolds meta to be Priest, Warlock, Paladin and Rogue, we can see that Legendary weapons were only really vital to Warlock. Priest’s Dragon Soul wasn’t worth the effort, Kingsbane Mill Rogue struggled vs Aggro and Valanyr was never vital to a Paladin’s gameplan.

Meanwhile, potentially powerful weapons went underused due to poor synergies or class weakness. Druid had better ramp than Twig of the World Tree, Recruit Warrior never took off, Spell Hunter declined fast and the less said about Shaman the better. The one exception to this was Mage’s Aluneth, but Tempo Mage runs no other weapons and never truly took over the meta.

Where are the other weapons?

weapon

Even Paladins typically only run two Rallying Blades

But the Legendary weapons aren’t the whole story. Weapon removal doesn’t just depend on targeting single powerful weapons. Their most common usage is simply to wrest control of the early game by seizing tempo. But these early or mid-game solid weapons are few and far between.

Sure, Aggro Paladin runs two copies of Rallying Blade, and Hunter has the odd Candleshot. But gone are the days where you’d reliably queue up into decks that ran three or more weapons. A big part of this is the decline of Shaman and Warrior. When Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warriors were at their peak, then players could almost guarantee a large proportion of games would involve Jade Claws, Doomhammers, Arcanite Reapers and War Axes.

With two of the weapon classes almost completely absent, there are simply fewer targets.

Squeezed out

weapon

It’s hard to find room for tech when the power level increases

The overall rise in the quality and synergies behind cards has also contributed to the lack of weapon removal. When the card pool is small, it’s easier to find room for the Oozes and Harrisons. But we currently have more cards in Standard than ever. Weapon tech simply has more competition.

The other impact this has is on the weapons themselves. Now, Paladins don’t even run the incredibly efficient Truesilver Champion due to the sheer volume of good options available. Non-Kingsbane Tempo Rogues don’t need Deadly Poison, and the few Control Warriors that remain are too busy trying to survive the early game to consider Gorehowl. After the standard rotation, there may be more room for both weapons and their counters.

A better tech?

One last factor in the lack of weapon removal is that another tech card has been even more useful; Spellbreaker. In the pre-nerf world of Possessed Lackeys, Voidlords, Edwin Van Cleefs, Bonemares, Cobalt Scalebanes and Blessing of Kings, silence proved extremely useful. Almost every deck had multiple decent silence targets. This is a key difference.

In general, a consistent strong effect is more useful when deckbuilding than a more powerful but less reliable one. This is especially true for tech cards, as when targeting a specific deck, you want to ensure you actually gain that advantage. With weapons so spread out over the meta, the chance of getting a powerful weapon removal effect off was simply too low for any given deck. This compares unfavourably with silence, with many decks having multiple excellent silence targets.

An oozy future?

Things may be looking up for weapons and, by extension, weapon hate. If Warrior and Shaman become more viable, we may not only see old favourites like War Axe or Doomhammer back but also new additions like Woecleaver. Control Paladin may return, leaving room for more Truesilvers and the Paladin Death Knight. However the meta evolves, we’ll probably come to a point where we’re glad we put those Oozes in our deck.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Charge is still a problem

Mike Donais once infamously said that one of the most design-space limiting cards was Stonetusk Boar. The truth of this statement came to the fore in the days of pre-nerf Quest Rogue, where charging 5/5s dominated the ladder. Charge cards faced nerf after nerf; often remaining in the meta. Just take Leeroy Jenkins; the infamous chicken-loving finisher that still terrorizes in Tempo Rogue. Or Cubelock, that dominates with charging Demons. With so many frustrating, powerful and hard to predict interactions, is it time to rethink Charge?

King Leeroy

Leeroy is problematic, but restricts design space less than other Charge cards

Leeroy is a single card that is the most emblematic of the problems with charge. Ubiquitous in aggro, his 6 damage burst and combo potential both creates a huge neutral power spike and limits design space.

Already nerfed from 4 to 5 mana, Leeroy looks to be in line for a change. Perhaps the best would simply to be a move to wild. But Leeroy’s problems aren’t shared by other charge minions. As the only efficient standalone neutral charge finisher, his problems are more related to power level than design space. Other cards offer more troubling implications outside of mere power level. New mechanics interact with charge in a way that threatens to greatly reduce what can be printed in the future.

The Cubelock warning

Cheating out Doomguard without the downsides can create some incredible combos

The latest Charge card to have scary combo potential is Zoo staple Doomguard, but in Cubelock’s combo/control shell. While this is fun for now, twenty or more charge damage with very little counterplay may grow tiresome; especially since the deck loses almost nothing after the next rotation.

The deck’s combo revolves around cheating out Doomguard with either Skull of the Man’ari or Possessed Lackey and copying multiple times with Carivorous Cube Spiritsinger Umbra and Dark Pact. Then, those Doomguards can be revived with Bloodreaver Gul’dan for even more damage. The deck is powerful, innovative and fun as hell; but it’s also a warning sign. Recruit is an interesting mechanic, but so far its primary use is throwing damage at face in unexpected ways. This can restrict the design space of future interesting recruit or duplication cards.

Charge’s passive problem

The problem Charge faces with recruit is similar to that posed with resurrect effects. Big Priest has an ineffective but interesting aggro variant, that revives Charged Devilsaurs for huge face damage. Despite its poor performance, it provides an interesting parallel to Cubelock. Crucially, Charge minions often have downsides to counteract their combo potential and power. These downsides, such as Doomguard’s Discard or Devilsaur’s inability to go face, tend to be as a battlecry. However, Charge is not a battlecry effect, it is a passive and permanent one. As such, when the downsides are averted by non-standard summon effects, charge remains.

This creates a problem, as interesting summon effects are becoming core to a number of new archetypes. As these strategies increase, the potential for broken interactions goes up exponentially.

Should Charge be a battlecry?

Making certain cards grant Charge as a battlecry would alleviate this issue. Downsides exist for a reason; so if something circumvents them, it makes sense that Charge should be circumvented too. This would severely cut into some fun new decks that are appearing; like Cubelock, Woecleaver Warrior or Dino Priest. But perhaps this is a price worth paying for a greater design space?

Well maybe. But in a world where Priest is dishing out insane OTKs with Shadowreaper, and Mage has a legitimate infinite-damage engine, is a few charging minions really so bad? Any change to charge minions may be necessary long term. But it might make sense to wait until the next rotation to do so.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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KnC Banner

Kobolds and Catacombs Day 1 Deck Theorycrafting

The next Hearthstone expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, has finally been released. In the reveal season, we saw many powerful and fun cards that are coming out with the set. But, which of these cards fit into existing decks? What new decks are coming into the meta?

The Meta

Dragon Priest

KnC Dragon Priest

Dragon Priest Decklist

In past expansions, Dragon Priest has been an archetype that many people have toyed around with and played on ladder. In this expansion, we may see the rise of a Dragon-oriented Priest build similar to the Dragon Priest deck that was viable during the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion last year. The iteration I have theory-crafted includes a much more value-orientated game plan by including cards such as Lyra the Sunshard, Drakonid Operative, and the new Priest weapon, Dragon Soul. The deck can also be built to take on a more minion heavy route by taking out cards like Dragon Soul, Lyra the Sunshard, and Shadow Word: Death and replacing them with Cabal Shadow Priest, which synergises with Twilight Acolyte, and Twilight Drake.

 

The inclusion of Duskbreaker in this expansion really helps Dragon Priest’s historically bad matchup versus aggressive decks, which makes the new iteration of Dragon Priest that much scarier. On ladder, this deck seems like a solid choice for climbing at a high pace. In tournaments, players may elect to bring Highlander Priest instead because of its favorable win-rates versus slower decks.

 

 Zoo Warlock

KnC Zoo Warlock

Zoolock Decklist

In the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, we once again saw the rise of an old friend: Zoo Warlock. The early game minion package combined with Prince Keleseth proved to be the kick this deck needed to get back into the meta, and topping off with Bonemare and Bloodreaver Gul’Dan made Zoo Warlock scary in the late-game as well. This time around, Blizzard has given Zoo Warlock even better tools for taking the board early game and keeping it. The addition of Kobold Librarian helps keep your hand full, which is extremely important when having so many low mana cost minions in your deck. The main difference with this Zoo Warlock compared to the previous deck is that it cuts Prince Keleseth for the new 2-drop, Vulgar Homunculus.

 

With this iteration of the deck, I decided to add the Demon synergy package in the form of Demonfire, Bloodfury potion, and Crystalweaver. We have seen quite a lot of play with Bloodfury Potion and Crystalweaver in the past Zoo Warlock decks, but the addition of the Vulgar Homunculus makes these cards coming down on curve extremely threatening. Hooked Reaver also makes an appearance in this deck because of how solid its stats are when the Battlecry goes off, as well as its ability to synergise with the rest of the demon synergy in the deck.

 

The addition of higher-health minions and buff cards will help Zoo Warlock in the next meta mainly because of the predicted prevalence of Duskbreaker on the ranked ladder. In tournament play, this deck will likely be chosen for inclusion in aggressive lineups.

Big Druid

KnC Big Druid

Big Druid Decklist

The ‘Big’ archetype saw large amounts of play during the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion as a whole, especially during the later half of the set’s meta. Kobolds and Catacombs has not given Big Druid many other tools, but the core of the deck is strong enough to still see play. The only change I have made to the current Big Druid list is taking out Innervate and adding Arcane Tyrants. Innervate, once a staple in most Druid decks, took a huge hit from the nerfs that occured in the middle of the last expansion. It was included in Big Druid, but it was arguably one of the weaker cards within the deck. Two different cards were shown from the new expansion that could find a home in Big Druid: Greedy Sprite and Arcane Tyrant. I chose to include Arcane Tyrant instead of the Sprite because it is very similar to Kun the Forgotten King in the way that it makes your power turns even more powerful. A common way Kun has been used during the meta was playing it as a big free body to pair with Ultimate Infestation. Arcane Tyrant acts in a similar way when paired with Nourish, Spreading Plague, and Ultimate Infestation as well. Greedy Sprite could be included instead of the Tyrant, but the ramp effect is rather slow and your opponent can choose to ignore it. Although this is the case, ramp is powerful enough that Greedy Sprite might see play over Arcane Tyrant.

 

Big Druid seems to be the new go-to Druid deck. In the past, Jade Druid has held this spot, but Big Druid is able to make bigger minions faster and still keep aggression at bay, which may see the ‘Big’ archetype overtaking the Jade mechanic this expansion. Because of this, it is a solid choice for both ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Tempo Rogue

KnC Tempo Rogue

Tempo Rogue Decklist

Tempo Rogue swept the meta in dominant fashion when it was first discovered to be a powerhouse of a deck. With Kobolds and Catacombs, this deck gets even stronger with the inclusion of some slower yet highly valuable cards. One of these cards is the Rogue Legendary of the set, Sonya Shadowdancer. Sonya replaces the rather weak card of Shaku, the Collector as a card generation engine. Most of the minions in Tempo Rogue have such good effects or Battlecries that Shadowcaster saw a decent amount of experimentation and success during the expansion. Sonya is much cheaper than Shadowcaster, which makes its effect easier to pull off. The second card I have added to the deck is Fal’dorei Strider. Admittingly, a 4 mana 4/4 is rather weak as a tempo play. But, the potential for that minion to pull one, two, or even three additional 4/4 bodies is so powerful that it is worth the initial tempo loss. Even if only 1 additional body is pulled, paying 4 mana for 8/8 worth of stats is crazy powerful. There is also the potential to high-roll by creating a 4/4 on turn 7 to be able to play Bonemare onto after your opponent cleared your board the previous turn.

 

Fal’dorei Strider takes the place of Saronite Chain Gang, mainly because of Chain Gang’s vulnerability to an on-curve Duskbreaker. Overall, Tempo Rogue looks to still be a powerhouse deck next expansion, and I expect to see it played both on the ranked ladder and in tournaments.

 

Highlander Priest

KnC Highlander Priest

Highlander Priest Decklist

Highlander Priest has been at the top of the meta throughout Knights of the Frozen Throne, and it seems to still remain at the top during Kobolds and Catacombs. The Priest list I have selected to showcase only adds one card: Psychic Scream. In order to include the new Priest board clear, I chose to cut Mass Dispel from the deck. Mass Dispel is often times weak, so it made sense to take it out for one of the best cards of the upcoming expansion. This decision shows how good of a deck Highlander Priest already is. Another take on Highlander Priest is to go for a more minion-focused route by including a Dragon package with Duskbreaker. While this seems like a good idea, I feel the current version of the deck is much better. In the past, more value-oriented decks were tested. These decks included cards such as Elise the Trailblazer and Free from Amber. It was ultimately found that the faster and more burst-oriented Priest build was better. Therefore, I feel it is appropriate to stick with the tried-and-true burst style.

 

Once again, Highlander Priest seems to be at the top of the meta. Expect to see a large amount on ladder and as a staple deck in many tournament lineups.

 

The Non-Meta

Combo Hunter

KnC Combo Hunter

Combo Hunter Decklist

For the past few expansions, Hunter has been struggling as a class. Blizzard keeps pushing control tools and weird cards for the Hunter arsenal, which leaves the class in an awkward position in terms of deck building because of how weak each of the archetypes are. With the new Hunter legendary minion, Kathrena Winterwisp, I thought it would be really interesting to build a combo-oriented deck using Kathrena, Charged Devilsaur, and King Krush. It is often not a combo that will instantly kill your opponent, but the amount of stats that the combo provides are truly ridiculous. This deck runs the Secret package to help fend off aggro, the Candleshot and Hunter’s Mark combo to deal with large threats, and Deathstalker Rexxar to create even more value in a late game scenario.

 

While the deck might not be top-tier, it seems extremely fun to play. Personally, I will be testing this deck in tournament play in a lineup that is attempting to target control decks. On ranked ladder, Combo hunter still seems weak to aggro decks and Highlander Priest, which makes it not extremely viable in the upcoming meta.

Conclusion

Overall, Kobolds and Catacombs sees both powerful and fun cards added to the game. While it may not be the best expansion of the year in terms of player attitude and hype, it will likely lead to a diverse and healthy meta both in terms of ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Fnatic stong logo

What’s Wrong With Fnatic Dota 2?

Fnatic is one of the most recognizable names in all of esports. Their Dota 2 side however is currently on a downward spiral that seems to have no end. Having tried and failed to replicate the success at TI6, what’s next for Fnatic?

Fnatic at TI6

Fnatic at TI6

Fnatic team at TI6
Courtesy of Fnatic.com

Lets rewind the clock back to August 2016, the month of The International. Things are looking good for the team, a solid roster and good performances see them going to TI confident they can surprise a few people. Fnatic surprised even themselves when they managed to finish in a very respectable fourth position.

After a disappointing group stage, Fnatic found themselves in the losers bracket from the get go. After winning a best of one against Escape Gaming, they faced off with former winners Alliance, who the defeated them with relative ease 2-0. They then faced up against Team Liquid and MVP Phoenix, defeating both teams 2-0. Fnatic were finally defeated by Digital Chaos who would eventually finish as the runner up.

The team performed above most people’s expectations and took home a whopping $1,453,932. After such a strong performance in the tournament, the future looked bright for the team. However, as is often the case in competitive Dota, roster changes can and will always happen.

August 19th 2016 will be a sad day in the history of Fnatic, as it is announced that Dj has official left the team to go back to the Philippines. Now, whilst one change is manageable, things went from bad to worse when it was announced on August 24th that both MidOne and 343 were leaving the team. From finishing fourth at TI to having a roster with two official players in less than two weeks. Things looked bleak.

All clouds have a silver lining

In the weeks following the departure of more than half the team, fans were worried as the future looked bleak. However, on September 6th, Fnatic announced their new roster for the Boston Major.

Fnatic at the Major

Courtesy of twitter.com

It was announced that Raven, eyyou, and DeMoN would be leaving TNC Pro Team and joining Fnatic. This was a big statement from Fnatic, and the future started to look bright.

The team seemed to be gelling well and the results were started to come, and with Boston on the horizon things were looking up for the team.

True Sight revealed the cracks

Fnatic on True Sight

courtesy of gosugamers.net

Valve True Sight documentary series gave fans an insight into the struggle teams face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the series showed the struggles that the Fnatic team were having. New additions Raven and eyyou were struggling with standing up to the legend that is Mushi.

The documentary showed that the team was struggling and qualification to the Major looked increasingly unlikely. Fnatic eventually crashed out in the qualifiers and never made it to Boston, spelling the end for the team. On November 28th, Fnatic announced they had parted ways with Raven, eyyou, and DeMoN, leaving Mushi and Ohaiyo looking for three again.

We have a tournament in three days, better announce a team

Fast forward to January 2017, it has been two months since Fnatic has been on a world stage, and ESL One Genting is around the corner. Fnatic had been invited to the event, and with only a few days until the tournament, no roster had been announced.

Fans clamored to find out information regarding the new roster in the lead up to the tournament. Finally, on January 4th, a mere three days before the tournament starts, Fnatic announce their roster.

Fnatic logo

courtesy of twitter.com

Dota2: Roster Update

READ » https://t.co/OjZ1NEju0F pic.twitter.com/KBteT4PWlu

— FNATIC (@FNATIC) January 4, 2017

 

 

 

Full Roster

Yee Fung “Mushi” Chai – Mid/Carry

Muhammad Rizky “Inyourdream” Anugrah – Mid/Carry

Chong Xin “Ohaiyo” Khoo – Offlaner

Yong-min “Febby” Kim – Roaming Support

Ng “YamateH” Wei Poong – Hard Support (Stand in)

[Taken from Fnatic.com]

Announcing a roster three days before a major tournament has panic written all over it. Needless to say things did not end well for Fnatic as they crashed out on day one, and the experiment was a failure. They say when it rains it pours, and this seems to be the case for Fnatic at present. Just five days after announcing the new roster, they had to make more changes.

It was announced that Inyourdream would have to leave the team for family issues. Combine this with YamateH only being a stand-in and Fnatic were left with half a squad once again.

So what’s the plan now?

Fnatic entered the StarLadder qualifiers with practically a pick-up team, and as expected failed to qualify. Having been invited to the SEA regional qualifiers for the upcoming DAC qualifiers, it was announced that they would not be participating and taking the time to identify the correct roster. This was definitely the correct decision as they are yet to find a solid roster and are currently plummeting into uncharted territory.

Things are not all bad though. Throughout all of the issues, they have managed to hang-on to both Mushi and Ohaiyo, and with the recent addition of Febby they have a core roster that has potential. The focus needs to be on taking a break from the international scene to rebuild themselves in the regional scene first. With the amount of talent currently in SEA, it will be difficult for Fnatic to rise back to the top of the pile.

Can Fnatic be reborn?

Fnatic still posses the ability to be a formidable team on the world stage, and it is important that the current players do not lose sight of this. The main problem they will face is that a lot of the teams in SEA have solidified rosters and are unlikely to release players for Fnatic to pick up. Roster changes currently look unlikely as the Kiev Major is scheduled to take place in April.

Courtesy of imgur.com

Fnatic will most likely have to pick up two relatively unknown players in the hope of rounding out their squad ahead of the qualifiers for Kiev. All things considered, it may be better for Fnatic to wait until the inevitable roster shuffle that will follow Kiev as they may have the option to get more recognized players.

Whilst they may be down, Fnatic are by no means out. The next couple of months will be a real testing time for both the players and the organisation. But should they make it through the trials and tribulations, they will grow as a team.

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