Last January, Taiwan’s ‘tom60229’ won the 2017 HCT World Championship. Many of the best players of the world gathered, so the competition was full of interesting matches. In this tournament, Kim “Surrender” Jung-soo had surprised the world with his performance during his journey to the semifinals.
However, to many fans, the player that delivered the most memorable performance was Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang. Fr0zen delivered one of the best matches in the history of Hearthstone in the Group D Winners Match. He nearly got his hands on the championship trophy at the finals by taking a 2-0 lead, but he lost three straight games to ‘tom60229’ and ended as runner-up. Although he was just shy of the championship, he didn’t express disappointment and congratulated ‘tom60229’ with a bright smile.
Fr0zen visited Korea for the first time to participate in the HCT Tour Stop Seoul 2018. Luckily enough, we had a chance to interview him. Although he had a tight schedule, he gladly agreed to have an interview with us.
Q. Hi, thank you for the interview. Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Hello, I’m Fr0zen from Team Liquid.
Q. Your game against Surrender in the Group D Winners Match had a lot of impact. Do you remember the match?
My lineups were targeted toward his aggressive decks, but Surrender was well prepared. All the players in the HCT World Championship were very good, but I think Surrender is one of the world’s best three players. So it wasn’t that bad losing to him.
Q. You visited Korea for the first time, what was your first impression of Korea?
Of all the countries that I’ve visited to play Hearthstone, I think Korea is one of the best. When I first walked into the city, I thought I was in the future because of all the lights and with a language I don’t recognize on everything. When I walked through the streets, I thought that there weren’t as many cars [as I had expected], and everyone seemed to tend to use the subway or bus. It’s very different from the other countries I’ve been to. Also, people dress very very nice here. (Laughs)
Q. You’ve traveled far, how was your condition? Have you been experiencing any jet lag?
I actually had an event in China, so I flew in from Shanghai and since I’ve been in a similar time zone for two and a half weeks, I’m quite fine.
Q. You made it to the top 32, but were eliminated. Do you feel sad or sorry about the results?
I think for this field, it’s really hard to expect to do well because all the people here are the best of the best players. It was a good opportunity to compete with them. So I think top 32 isn’t that bad of a result.
Q. You brought four decks; Odd Paladin, Miracle Rogue, Taunt Druid, and Shudderwock Shaman. How did you come to bring those decks?
Actually, these decks turned out to be the four decks with the highest winrate in this meta. In my opinion, there could still be changes with the patches; people are still figuring out the best decks, so lineups are not going to be very targeted. It’s better to bring what you think is the best.
Q. Many different decks are appearing after the most recent patch. How do you feel about the current meta?
I really like the meta. There’s not that many extremely one-sided matchups in which you start the game and feel like you’ve lost already. Tier-wise, Taunt Druid is extremely strong; there’s actually not a clear counter to it. There’s not enough strategies that can counter it effectively. The other decks are rather meta-dependent; what you think works best on an opponents’ other three decks [besides the Taunt Druid] in terms of tournament format.
Q. You said that Taunt Druid is extremely good. But isn’t it weak against decks that include cards like Polymorph?
Right now, I think the best counter out there is Master Oakheart with two Dragon Hatchers, and I think if you have the early ramp into Oakheart, no decks could beat it. But in tournament format, if you’re going to bring lower tier decks to counter Taunt Druid, the power level versus other decks is going to be a lot weaker, so it’s not really worth it.
Q. What are your thoughts about Shudderwock Shaman? Isn’t it really strong against control decks?
For right now, the deck is very good, but I think there’s a lot of counter plays to it. There are a lot of decks that can do very well against it; people just aren’t realizing. I think the deck itself is not consistent enough and the combo is too slow. Unless someone figures out a better version, it will not be that good.
Q. Your Recruit Warrior deck got a lot of attention recently, but you didn’t include that deck in this competition. Why did you decide to leave it out?
I actually have some regrets for not bringing it. I think in the future, that deck could be more solid in the tournaments, but there’s two very bad matchups for it. As for the reason, I hadn’t been playing that much ladder with the deck so I had no idea where the deck was in the meta. I actually made the deck with a very famous American player called Fibonacci and he’s a player that plays only Warrior. I think in future tournaments, I’ll play it a lot.
Q. We’ve heard that there were many inconvenient things for the foreign players during this tournament; like not being provided a super account. How was it?
I play on the Asia server for ladder anyway, so it didn’t really affect me because I already have all the cards. But many players didn’t want to buy all the cards to make a collection; I think many players thought all the time they needed to collect all the cards through adventures and stuff wasn’t worth it.
Q. You said that you play in the Asia server. What’s the reason for that?
I think there are multiple reasons. I think the hardest server is EU because there are many try-hard players. Since NA finishes last, most of the EU players play on the NA server in the end so it’s really hard to get high. Meanwhile, the Asia server finishes first, so I would always finish as high as I can in the Asia server and go to the NA server to finish. Also, there’s less competition since all the EU players play on the NA server.
Q. Is the playstyle or meta different in the Asia server?
Before, the Asia server was slow in catching up with the meta, but now they’re really fast. They also play a lot of tech cards; very swingy cards for specific matchups. That overall hurts their win rates. Most of the players are a lot more casual than the NA or EU servers so that also makes it a bit easier as well.
Q. You’re known for climbing high in the ladder. Do you have any tips?
At the moment, play Taunt Druid. Playing 1 Greedy Sprite is very good. Recently, Hearthstone has been mostly control decks; there aren’t many aggro decks, so you should play heavy decks that can bring big threats as soon as possible.
Q. Today’s the last day of the tournament. Are you going to do any other things in Korea?
I’m just going to hang out with the other players.
Q. Are you planning to come back to Korea for another tournament?
If there is another tournament, I’m willing to.
Q. Is there any change you want from Hearthstone?
I think they should make a better tournament platform for players. I think that in terms of in-game stuff, they should give more incentive for playing ladder. What I would really like is something like a tournament ladder where players play Bo5. As for now, the meta isn’t set yet, but once the meta is set, everyone’s going to be just playing one deck. In the tournament format, there would be room for more decks, and if there’s a ladder for it, it would be really cool.
Otherwise, I think Master Oakheart is extremely OP. Its win rate when played is 70 or 80 percent. It basically brings like 40/40 stats to the field for one 9 mana card.
Q. Do you have any last comments?
Thank you very much for your support. I’d love to visit Korea if I have the chance again.