When Blizzard initially came out with The Wild format, it was criticized as a dumping ground for rotated cards and that it would be impossible to balance. The Wild ladder wasn't popular among the tournament community as all of Blizzards official tournaments were being played in Standard format. With the recent conclusion of the first Wild Open, however, things are starting to look up for Hearthstone's legacy format.
During the qualifier portion of the tournament, many Hearthstone pros and streamers attempted to reach the top of their respective regions Wild ladder by June 12th, as the top 64 would be invited to a regional qualifier. From these qualifiers, eight Wild pros were found to play in the main event. These Wild specialists were hungry for recognition and offer an opportunity for Blizzard to nurture more life into Hearthstones already thriving scene. No familiar tournament winners made it into the grand finals, which hints at the completely unique skill-set Wild tournaments demand.
The Wild Difference
Part of what might set these Wild specialists apart from their Standard counterparts is their understanding of the punishing nature of Wild and the powerful decks that they have to face. For example in this format, Sir Finley is legal and makes Pirate Warrior and Token Druid oppressively powerful. The standard strategies of facing these decks just don't work when they have access to Steady Shot, Life Tap or Fireblast Hero powers. In addition, cards like Jeeves have been long-since rotated out of Standard but are all-stars in the Wild. Jeeves provides card refill options for aggro decks and allows them to fight with ease against board clears decks that managed to stabilize their assault. These are matchup realities Standard players don't have to face.
The result is an incredibly fast meta that Wild specialists inherently understand. This is to be expected from a legacy format and a similar thing happens in other card games. When the most powerful cards are available to play, the power and speed of aggro decks explode. To many fans, the ruthlessness of the format is exciting, but not everyone feels this way. Watching players commonly lose in 3-4 turns because their opponent got an ideal draw isn't a satisfying way to win a tournament, and currently is the biggest threat to Wild tournaments and their popularity.
But when that didn't happen last weekend, viewers were treated to the most powerful synergies Hearthstone has to offer. Alb987's Midrange Recruit Paladin deck looking disgustingly efficient and made use of cards that players rarely get to see in a tournament setting. Seeing it face off against Control's combo Priest deck in the grand finals was one of the highlights of the set and was a good reminder of how Wild tournaments offer unique deck-building and deck selection challenges. Unlike in Standard where deck building is limited, Wild players are burdened with a wealth of choices.
Alb987 expressed how happy he was to be the first Wild champion and how pleased he is seeing Blizzard invest into the format that he says, "deserves it." He had this to say after his grand finals victory:
“The final was a real fight because the lineup was very similar. The only difference was my Paladin and versus his Priest. We obviously both bann[ed] Shaman because it is the best against both Druid and Pirate Warrior. So, it was a real coin flip.”
Saying the grand finals of their tournament was a coin flip likely made some Blizzard PR folk cringe and, to be fair, Alb987 is likely being a bit too humble about what it took to win. That being said, the most brutal version of Pirate Warrior facing off against the most brutal version of Token Druid is essentially just that -- a coin flip on who gets the best draw and overwhelms their opponent first.
$8000 - Alberto “Alb987” Reano - 1st place
$5000 - Jesse “Control” Chrysle - 2nd place
$3000 - Masakazu “masinc” Ishikawa & Albert “MeknugetZz” Bazinet - 3rd/4th place
Grand Finals, Alb987 v. Control: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/156125921
All videos: https://www.twitch.tv/playhearthstone/videos/all
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