Hearthstone Grandmasters 2020 Season 1 is here! Featuring some of the best Hearthstone players in the world, we’ll be able to watch every match online and even join the chat as the matches are streamed on YouTube Gaming through the Hearthstone Esports channel.
Starting today, April 17, the matches will be held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday up until the 7th of June. Hearthstone Grandmasters has also undergone some format changes to challenge the players more than ever, following the Swiss Rounds format for the first three weeks, the Round Robin format for the following three, and finally the Playoffs for the final week. Be sure not to miss every week’s matches as we see which players climb to the top for a chance at the championship. With a prize pool worth $500,000, the stakes are high as these players battle it out with their Galakronds, Zephryses, and for the first time in Hearthstone Esports, their Demon Hunters.
Among the 48 Grandmasters is our very own Staz, and we’ve also got WSOE 2 Hearthstone champion Jia as a caster for the Asia-Pacific matches. Hearthstone Grandmasters starts tonight, so let’s show some support to our PH representatives by tuning into the stream!
In anticipation of Hearthstone Grandmasters Season 1, I was also able to interview Staz and Jia regarding their thoughts on the tournament, the new Demon Hunter class, and the new expansion, among other things. You can read the interview below:
Paolo: As a casual Hearthstone player myself, the first thing I want to ask a pro right now is their thoughts on the new Demon Hunter class. What was your first impression of the Demon Hunter class on day one of the new expansion? Did you expect any of the nerfs it received on day two?
Staz: The first time I saw the Demon Hunter cards before the release I knew it was going to be really strong. But I didn’t expect it to be strong enough to receive nerfs on day two. Just like the Galakrond Rogue from the previous expansion, the Demon Hunter curve is very consistent. It is not really difficult to use the Outcast cards especially if you are using the Aggro or Tempo archetype (which uses a lot of cheap cards) so it is easy to take advantage of its strength.
Jia: Even before it was released, when it was just announced, I was very hyped for a new class in Hearthstone. I didn’t think it would be so overpowered on day one and even now, and it wasn’t apparent right away how well the cards in the set worked together. Demon Hunter is good at stacking weapon charges, good at drawing, and good at healing. The win rate on day one for Demon Hunter decks even reached 56%, while the other classes remained at win rate percentages below 50.
I was pleasantly shocked at the nerfs, because the Hearthstone dev team usually takes a week to review the cards and the meta before applying any nerfs. After the Demon Hunter nerfs, the class took a brief dip in winrate, but now Demon Hunter is still a very powerful class as more people are now using the Tempo deck over the OTK deck, but the OTK deck is still good in tournaments.
P: How do you think the Demon Hunter class is going to affect the competitive scene, both in the upcoming Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and in the future?
S: We just finished week 1 of Grandmasters and I can say that Blizzard did a great job balancing Demon Hunter. It got banned most of the time but some players who targeted the Demon Hunter or tech’d against it were very successful. I think Altruis will still be really good after the upcoming nerf.
J: I was able to see that 46 out of the 48 players participating in Hearthstone Grandmasters had Demon Hunter decks in their lineups, but I was surprised because I actually thought it would be 48 out of 48. The OTK deck is good in tournaments, but the Tempo and Aggro decks are good too. Personally, I’m not that confident yet in piloting the OTK deck, so if I were to join a tournament with a Demon Hunter deck, I would choose the Tempo deck. In the coming weeks, I think we’ll see more OTK decks over Tempo.
P: What are your favorite new decks in this expansion, and what are the deck archetypes you’re expecting to see at Hearthstone Grandmasters?
S: I don’t have any favorite right now but the one I play the most is Demon Hunter to get the 1000 wins hero portrait. I like the Tempo archetype because of its consistency and short games.
J: I actually got to see some of the Swiss rounds being played off-stream, and most of the decks were the usual high winrate decks like Galakrond Warlock and Spell Druid, with a fair few playing Resurrect Priest as well. I was surprised that Galakrond Rogue was not as popular in the lineups.
I also got to see a new deck that’s sort of like a Tempo Warrior, pioneered by a player in Europe named NoHandsGamer. It plays kinda like an aggro deck, and it relies on having damaged minions on the board. The deck plays minions like Serpent Egg and Bloodboil Brute, and its card draw is done through Battle Rage, because Town Crier and Acolyte of Pain are now in Wild.
P: Now that tournaments are going digital due to worldwide lockdowns, how do you think the tournaments are going to differ from the usual? Are there any pros or cons that you expect from tournaments being held online?
S: We already had a lot of online tournaments in Hearthstone and most of them were very successful so I don’t think this will be a lot different. Maybe we can just expect some technical issues on the player side. I know most players are introverted and don’t like long flights (I for one) so it is an advantage for us. And it’s cheaper to play these masters tours at home since you don’t have to spend money on plane tickets and hotel accommodation. The best case in my opinion is to have half of these masters tour online and the rest offline. It is still great to have these tournaments on stage once in a while.
J: Last year, Grandmasters’ participants already played the tournament from their homes, but it was the casters who were onsite at the studio. Now, us casters are also casting from our homes. It’s a bit more difficult because of the time difference between participating regions, and there’s equipment from Blizzard that needs to be shipped to the casters. Some of the casters who haven’t received their equipment yet are making do with makeshift setups. In preparation for the tournament, we also have meetings when it’s 11 pm here [to adjust to everyone else’s time zones].
Holding tournaments online also means that the players and casters are subject to internet problems at any time. Aside from that, we also have to deal with communications during matches, as it’s different from casting in a studio where we can speak to the production team through our mics without the output being heard on-stream. The IT team at Blizzard built an emulator for a stream deck for us, and we mainly communicate now using TeamSpeak. I’m not that big of a techie, but I know there’s a lot of other software involved to make sure things run smoothly. I think that the stream this year might look a little less polished due to everyone working from home.
The only pro is that everyone is able to practice social distancing this way, and that’s more important than anything.
P: How has the current pandemic affected your professional life, aside from tournaments going online? Have there been any drastic changes to your gaming and work schedule?
S: I usually just practice at home so there isn’t much difference. The only thing I am missing right now is my full-body massage to unwind and relax before an important tournament. And the steak that I usually reward myself whenever I think I played well in a tournament.
J: I haven’t had any drastic changes to my schedule and gaming hours, because my work schedule is centered on when it’s on-season or off-season. The hours would have been the same even if we were onsite at the studio. The only thing that’s different is that I would normally be in the States right now. I was supposed to get my visa when the lockdown happened, and the US Embassy had to close. The process of getting a visa took a lot of effort on mine and Blizzard’s part, so it was a bummer that I couldn’t get it. But hey, I’m not the only one struggling at this time, so it’s not that big a problem compared to what other people are going through right now.
P: Aside from Hearthstone, are there any other games you’re keeping busy with during the quarantine, that you can recommend to our readers?
S: I am also playing Trails of Cold Steel 3 (but right now it is 95% Hearthstone because of the Grandmasters). It is one of those unpopular JRPGs that I think is as good as the Final Fantasy series. If you like JRPGs it is a must-try.
J: ANIMAL CROSSING! I’ve already played about 200 hours of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and I’ve played the Animal Crossing games since the very first game. I think Animal Crossing is gaining a lot of popularity now due to [how many people are playing it during] the quarantine, and also because internet connectivity has allowed people to trade items in a much easier way. Sobrang saya mag-trade ng items.
P: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share to our readers? It can be anything: you can plug your Twitch channel or the upcoming Grandmasters tournament, share your thoughts, etc.!
J: Watch Hearthstone Grandmasters on Youtube Gaming on the Hearthstone Esports channel. You can follow me on Twitter, and I also occasionally stream on Facebook! Keep safe, be healthy, wash your hands, and kapit lang!
Hearthstone Grandmasters broadcasts in the Asia-Pacific region will start at 5 PM Philippine Standard Time every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Don’t forget to tune in every weekend, and join Jia as she casts each match, and Staz as he takes on some of the world’s best players. You can subscribe to the Hearthstone Esports channel here.
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