On the 5th, the last expansion of 2018, Rastakhan's Rumble, was released in Hearthstone. Through this expansion, many hoped that the Witchwood meta would fade away - but it didn't. The current Hearthstone meta is still run by infinite value cards and decks that overwhelmingly counter each other. Just as many players began to worry about the new expansion's impact on the game, a large balance patch hit Hearthstone.
With many popular decks nerfed, people begin changing their opinions about Blizzard's passive attitude towards balance changes. That's how big the changes were.
What do the professional Hearthstone players think of the current state of the game? On the 4th, Inven held an interview with Cloud9's Flurry, Dawn, and one of the most popular streamers in the Korean Hearthstone scene, DDaHyoNi, in order to talk about the state of the game and their motivation to join C9.
It's been a while since we met last for an interview. Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Flurry: I'm a player for Cloud9, Cho "Flurry" Hyeon-Su
Dawn: It's nice to meet you. I'm Jang "Dawn" Hyeon-Jae
DDaHyoNi: I'm a big name player for Cloud9, Baek "DDaHyoNi" Sang-Hyeon.
How does it feel joining a North American team?
Flurry: I heard that C9 won the best 2018 esports organization award. I received a lot of congratulatory messages from others. I feel great as a result!
Dawn: It was an honor. I believe being a part of C9 will further motivate me to become a better player in Hearthstone.
How did you come to join Cloud9?
Flurry: I think the fact that a lot of Korean gamers are interested in Hearthstone played an important role. Korea has national Hearthstone leagues such as the HTCK, and we have a lot of viewers on our streams.
Dawn: C9 contacted me and told me that they want to create a Hearthstone team with the current members. I happily accepted.
(To DDaHyoNi) Dawn, Flurry, and LookSam, who are your best friends, joined your team. How does it feel?
DDaHyoNi: It's been nearly 5 years since I first got to know them. I don't even remember when or how we met... it's amazing that fate put us together like this.
What quality do you think Cloud9 saw in you guys for them to have picked you up?
Flurry: I think they thought highly of our streams. However, I'm sure that high viewer count isn't enough to win you a spot in a team. My past experience and accomplishments in the past probably played a big role as well.
Dawn: Our streams were probably the biggest reason. However, during the contract negotiation, C9 told me that they're expecting good results from me in future tourneys. I want to go far. I believe that everyone on the team is capable of doing anything, as long as they put their mind to it.
As a C9 player, what are your future plans?
Flurry: Starting December, a lot of new banners were added to my stream. In order to promote my team and me, I'll do my best to do well in tourneys and offer a better viewing experience for my viewers during streams.
Dawn: I think it's too soon to say since the yearly Hearthstone plan for 2019 hasn't been released yet. I just want the fans to know that I really want to perform well as a professional player.
(To Flurry and Dawn) There must be a lot of pressure to play under the name of Cloud9.
Flurry: Actually, I developed a strong desire to perform well and be helpful to my team; rather than feeling much pressure, that is. In addition, I carry personal goals that I want to fulfill while competing.
Dawn: I want us to become a team that can cheer each other on and perform well, together.
Three weeks have passed since the release of Rastakhan's Rumble. However, the meta didn't see any drastic changes. How are you reading the situation?
Flurry: Looking at it now, it's pretty obvious as to why. With the odd/even and unlimited value meta running rampant, no expansion would've really changed anything. The balance patch on the 20th was more of a shock; Rastakan's Rumble didn't have a large impact.
Dawn: With the introduction of the mid-range hunter and more, new decks are coming into play. Although slow, change is indeed happening. With new competitions on the way, I feel that the meta can change at any moment.
DDaHyoNi: The cards from Rastakan's Rumble expansion aren't bad cards. I predicted the meta to see a large change once the expansion was released, but the existing decks before the expansion were too strong. If Rastakan's Rumble had OP cards to combat the existing OP cards, the meta would've stayed the same for at least another year. For that reason, I think the new cards were weakened before release.
Were you at all disappointed by the new expansion?
Flurry: I'm disappointed with how the spirit cards aren't able to perform well currently. However, not too much time has passed since the release of the new expansion, so I believe it's still possible to find a way to make it work.
Dawn: The new cards from the expansion have potential, but they aren't strong enough to replace the existing cards.
DDaHyoNi: As you can tell with Witchwood's odd/even decks and Frozen Throne's death knights, card power attained from following a certain concept is extremely important. Looking at the current situation, Doctor Boom's concept of having to infuse and Rastakan's concept of having to 'overkill' can be seen as a failure. I feel that the concept of power is a bit weak with the new cards.
On the 20th, a large-scale balance patch took place. Including Druid and odd Paladins, a couple of decks were heavily nerfed. Are you satisfied with the patches?
Flurry: I felt that the balance patch was a bit sudden, but I'm really happy with it. Many decks that were used before the patch stopped being relevant, and with that, the game became a lot 'cleaner'. However, we'll have to wait and see if the Rastakan cards will see more play.
Dawn: A lot of changes were needed for new decks to appear in the meta. Although I think the direction of the balance patches could've been better, it's something that needed to happen a while back.
DDaHyoNi: I'm satisfied with the direction of the patches, but I don't think it'll significantly affect the meta. Although the previous top tier decks are mostly gone now, the decks that were just a tier below them simply took over.
How do you predict the meta will shape up after the balance patch?
Flurry: Although I still believe OTK decks such as quest mage will remain relevant, with how a lot of control decks are now gone, I believe aggro and midrange decks will become more popular.
Dawn: With the fall of the once most-threatening deck, odd paladins, odd rogues are proving to be very powerful; and spell hunters are keeping those rogues from running crazy. With these changes, odd quest warrior and a number of other decks are being introduced as meta decks. Looking at the current pattern of things, I think the solution of it all was to simply play anti-control decks.
DDaHyoNi: I don't think the meta will see a large change. The top tier hunter deck is still considered top tier, and new OTK decks simply replaced the previous OTK decks.
There are a lot of complaints regarding the 'rock paper scissor' meta (in which certain decks hold an indefinite advantage over another), the lacking card pools, infinite value, and more. What are your opinions on them?
Flurry: I don't mind the rock paper scissor meta. I actually prefer how it is now compared to the past, where ranked was filled with decks with no specific counters.
There are some that say it's hard to form a deck with the small card pool, but I think differently. Even if there are a lot of cards to choose from, people will simply choose and play the few that are considered the best. However, I truly believe that the infinite value cards are problematic. You form a deck with 30 cards, but with the infinite value decks, 29 cards out of that 30 are used to simply delay the game to stay alive. I believe this goes against Hearthstone's general idea of gameplay.
Dawn: Many are complaining about the shortage of cards, and I wonder if Blizzard has plans to add a couple of wild cards to the standard format.
As professional Hearthstone players, what do you think about the renewed Hearthstone esports scene? Specifically, what is your opinion on the 'online tryouts - offline tournament - premier tournament' setup?
Flurry: Not much information was given, so I can't say anything with certainty. However, I believe it'll be better than the previous system in which you had to have a very high rank in order to compete.
Dawn: I believe many changes were made in order to make Hearthstone a proper esport. But even then, many people have trouble understanding the league's format. I truly hope that an effective system will be established to make the leagues long and fun.
DDaHyoNi: I've always said this, but limiting players by their ranks during competitions wasn't right. Of course, players competing at tournaments all have high ranks, but the problem was that your rank was considered the most important at major tournaments. I believe the change to remove that system was good. We still don't have a clear idea as to how effective the new system will be, so we'll have to wait and see.
The conquest format from tournaments will be removed, and a new format will be introduced.
Flurry: I always welcome change. It's boring to see the same thing over and over again. Although the conquest format is great in terms of its fair rules, I'm eager to find out just how great the new format will be. I predict that the new format will be similar to the HGG format.
Dawn: I'm filled with excitement rather than disappointment. I've been wondering about the new format, but it's no easy prediction. I'm really curious to find out.
DDaHyoNi: The conquest format had a great ruleset. It was a format that required players to become familiar with many different types of decks. However, the downside to conquest was that many 'counter' decks were played, making the score often 3:2; drastically slowing down the flow of the game. If the new format is fairer than conquest, and fans accept it, I'll openly welcome it.
Please state your goal for 2019.
Flurry: I want to win another competition. I also want to continue streaming without any drama or issues.
Dawn: More people know me as a streamer than a professional gamer. I want to show them my other side.
DDaHyoNi: I want to play in an international tournament and win. Many people remember my past as a professional player, and I want to continue to experience the thrill and honor of being a professional. I want to reach the peak as a player again.
Any last words for the fans?
Flurry: I want to thank all the fans that congratulated me upon joining C9. I'll do my best to deliver great performance from here on, so please watch over me!
Dawn: I'm really thankful for this opportunity to say hello to my fans as a C9 player. I believe that you guys are the ones that allowed me to join C9. I'll do my best to pay you back with good performance.
DDaHyoNi: Thank you -- always -- for your support. We have more players on C9 now, so we'll do our best to form better synergy and perform well next year.