This past weekend, the Hearthstone Thailand Major took place in sunny Pattaya Beach. 256 players from all corners of the globe – some coming down from as far as USA and Belgium – assembled at the venue for the chance to take home a share of prize pool of US$5,000 and 75 Hearthstone Championship Tour Points.
Many of Southeast Asia’s best and brightest deckslingers were in attendance. After 3 days of rigorous battles, the tournament culminated into an epic showdown between the 2 players with the most tournament experience under their belt: China’s OMXHope and South Korea’s Kranich. Both players were Top 16 finalists at the Hearthstone Spring Championship 2017 global play-offs. But as Kranich is also known as a 2-time BlizzCon finalist, many had seen him as the favourite to take the champion’s trophy here.
Ultimately OMXHope was the one who emerged victorious. And it was all thanks to a Gurubashi Berserker – yes, that Basic Card that every Hearthstone player starts out with 2 copies of – that spiraled out of control.
Here’s our recap of what happened in Grand Finals.
Decklists & Matchups
Kranich: Jade Druid, Evolve Shaman, Dragon Priest, Quest Warrior
OMXHope: Freeze Mage, Dragon Priest, Quest Warrior, N’Zoth Paladin
(Click the deck names above to see the respective card lists)
OMXHope’s Freeze Mage Corners Kranich Into A Birdcage
Looking at the match-up chart, you might think OMXHope would be at a slight disadvantage here, as his line-up technically has more unfavoured matches than favoured ones against Kranich’s decks. But since Hearthstone Thailand Major is played in a Conquest format in which a player has to win with all of his decks once, Kranich is the one in a pinch here.
Kranich’s Evolve Shaman has a severely bad match-up in OMXHope’s Freeze Mage deck. On top of that, it was slightly unfavoured against OMXHope’s remaining 3 decks. Since the Grand Finals at the Thailand Major was played in a best-of-7 format with no bans, as opposed to best-of-5 with 1 deck banned for the earlier rounds of the tournament, in order to secure his victory Kranich would have to sneak his Evolve Shaman past OMXHope’s Freeze Mage.
Knowing Kranich’s predicament, OMXHope queued up his Freeze Mage in the first 2 games of this series. The South Korean player was able to dodge it by sending out his Jade Druid and Dragon Priest, for a fast 2-0 lead. Just 1 more win with his Quest Warrior, and Kranich’s Evolve Shaman would have 4 chances to try and secure a win.
But as the saying goes, “Man proposes, heaven disposes”.
Two-Time BlizzCon Fnalist Doesn’t Play Around Potion of Madness
Game 3 in the series had Kranich’s Quest Warrior go up against OMXHope’s Dragon Priest. Due to poor card draws from Kranich, and a series of strong on-curve plays from OMXHope – Twilight Drake, Drakonid Operator, and a swift Shadow Word: Pain to remove Alley Armorsmith – by Kranich’s Turn 9 his health was down to 1.
Fortunately for Kranich, Priest is a class that usually does not run direct damage spells. As long as Kranich continues to put out taunt minions, he would be fine. The only edge case was if OMXHope draws a Potion of Madness.
It was so unlikely a scenario, that the 2-time BlizzCon finalist chose not to play around Potion of Madness (which he could by throwing down a second Stonehill Defender) — to his demise.
Gurubashi Berserker the real MVP
Kranich finally brings out his Evolve Shaman in Game 4, up against OMXHope’s N’Zoth Paladin. This was a better outcome than running into Freeze Mage, but a series of consistent board clears from N’Zoth Paladin decimates our Shaman player, allowing OMXHope to tie it up to 2-2.
The Chinese player continues his winning streak in the next game – a Quest Warrior mirror match – bringing the series to 3-2, and us to the worst possible scenario for South Korea’s Kranich. Should Kranich’s Quest Warrior manage to take out OMXHope’s Freeze Mage, he would still have an uphill battle ahead of him in Shaman vs. Mage.
For better or worse, the series did not come down to that. OMXHope takes the series 4-2, after his Gurubashi Berserker – which popped out of a Firelands Portal – hits Kranich’s Warrior face for 13 damage over 2 turns, setting up a burn lethal.
The question to ponder here as you watch this next clip is: Did Kranich misplay?
Did Kranich Misplay?
In the match’s final moments (see 7:43:56 on the Twitch VOD above), Kranich equips the Warrior Quest reward weapon Sulphuras. He attacks and removes the minion next to Gurubashi Berserker on the board, to set up a 50/50 chance for Warrior’s Quest Hero power – deal 8 damage to a random enemy – to clear his opponent’s board.
The 8-damage fireball hurls down at Jaina’s face, however. And the rest is as we know it.
But look closely at his hand at that point in time – was there another line of play that could have arguably gave Kranich a better chance of turning this game around?
Kranich could have played Ravaging Ghoul, and went for a Brawl. He’d have a 66% chance of removing Gurubashi Berserker that way, versus just 50% for equipping Sulfuras. He would also have retained Warrior’s Armor Up hero power, which could potentially let him get out of Freeze Mage’s burn reach.
So Why Didn’t He?
Well, the counter-argument could be made that by playing the Ravaging Ghoul, Kranich would inadvertently be buffing Gurubashi Berserker further. If Gurubashi comes out of the Brawl unscathed, that represents a guaranteed 11 damage to the face, putting Warrior’s health down from 26 to 15 – losing the next turn to a potential Fireball, Fireball, Frostbolt combo.
But that’s only if Brawl whiffed, of course. Brawl never whiffs, amirite?
What do you think, folks? Did Kranich make a massive misplay in the Grand Finals, or was he right to stick to his guns? Let us know in the comments below.