RDU Tells the Nihilum ATLC Finals Story
Hello guys and welcome to part 2 of my ATLC story. As you all know, I didn't manage to get my visa in time for the ATLC LAN which came too soon for my country's scheduling time required in order to get the visa. I managed to still get it for future events so I'll be able to go to all events in the next 10 years at least.
For the LAN phase we prepared more than at any other time, playing a lot of 1v1's and even more ladder by ourselves to test every class and gather info that we can share in a team call once or even twice per day, constantly trying to find the best and the most efficient lists. I personally got top10 or maybe even top5 legend with every deck that I ended up playing in ATLC and, as many of you know, the shaman was not quite what you'd call extraordinary.
We had issues with our 6th pick because no deck was good enough to make the cut in our opinion. We really disliked priest because of the rng required to have dragons in your hand which would make the deck barely viable and we didn't trust Rexxar to hunt them down because we expected people to run aggro decks and less freeze mage. We ended up going for mech shaman because in the meta we expected it was the best performing deck between it, priest and hunter. We also decided to swap handlock for zoo and freeze mage for mech mage because of the same meta expected reason. When we saw our opponents’ classes we were disappointed that we predicted incorrectly, every other team having priest and zoo contrary to our expectations. At the same time we were a bit happy as well because, in our opinion, most of the opponents were playing subpar decks that require quite some luck to get the necessary win with. Also, because people tend to keep decks and not change that much in this kind of tournament, we expected our opponents to keep most of their stuff for day 3 and predicted perfectly what decks they would drop and for what they will drop them!
Day 1 started and I already began feeling that it's very hard to communicate with my boys that were on the other side of the globe. We had to use the Battle.net chat throughout the tournament for them to tell me the results and also to give me the strat and all the other small stuff. I would have loved to be there just to have better communication but at the same time it was nice for me to be in my comfort zone at home and also not have to travel for 10 hours+.
We barely lost against Value Town, mainly because of my mech shaman that had a combination of bad draws and questionable plays on my side. We analysed the games afterwards and we saw some misplays on my side but probably every player made at least one mistake in day one. It's obviously bad to misplay the game at the 5-5 score when all the pressure is on you but I'm usually good under pressure. Even though we knew that we would be able to change decks for day 3, it would have been pretty demoralising to go 0-3. We faced Tempo Storm later on and managed to beat them, mainly because my mech shaman managed to beat Eloise's mech mage, a deck which was probably even worse than my janky mech shaman. We were facing Value Town again afterwards, who had just lost to Cloud9 in the winners’ match. We were still confident against them, even though we lost to them one day earlier. The series started badly for us and it went even worse after a power outage at the Archon house caused by a car destroying the electric system. The series was delayed until the next day and here started the last and most important 24 hours in our Hearthstone history. I could probably write a tv show plot with what happened and we might get nominated for an award but i'll just tell the story here ;).
First of all I want to start by addressing some of the reddit haters (I know that there will always be haters no matter what, but i just want to explain a situation): people have been complaining about the fact that the team that goes 2-0 in the seeding bracket can lose the finals and doesn't have an extra chance. First of all, seeding is not the same as double elimination. Secondly, being directly in the finals guarantees that every player on the team gets at least 20k each which is an enormous amount of money for 2 rounds played in the seeding matches. They also get the advantage to relax and only play the finals on that day (people were even making a case that playing more games is better which just cracked me up) while also being able to scout almost every single card and deck archetype that their opponents are going to use which in my opinion is almost like an unfair advantage, but of course it's very hard to go 2-0 so it's a deserved one. At the same time, from a viewer perspective, even though the seeding format is a bit complicated, we can also say that it's a very good one because it gives the viewers the opportunity to root for their favorite team even if the team loses the seeding games, allowing for some unlikely but story-telling worthy comeback scenarios (which also happened), whereas having the team that goes 2-0 have to win 1 out of 2 games in the finals after already knowing what their opponents played and relaxing all day is not only unfair for the other finalist, but also pretty bad for the viewers who don't want to see a 24 hour broadcast. All in all I liked the format and I would have liked it even if we finished 4th.
So, continuing the interesting part, I waited for Thijs and Lifecoach to go back to the hotel so that we can start a skype call and see what we were going to bring. As I said earlier, we managed to predict with great accuracy what the other teams would change and also that C9 was more likely to keep all their decks, since they went 2-0 and it would be weird for them to change a winning strategy, even though that would give them an edge (it's very hard to have two 6-deck strategies that have the same power and that can also be played as well as the other one by the players in the team). We decided to cut the mech shaman (what a surprise Kappa) for hunter since hunter was very fitting in the meta that we expected and to also go back to the origins by playing freeze mage over mech mage and demon-handlock over zoo, also predicting that most of the teams were going to drop druid which makes freeze mage a top tier deck having to face decks like priest which people preferred over druid (I have no ideea why). We knew that the following day we were going to play a hard to win+not so important game vs Value Town. I mean, the game was important but very hard to win from 1-2 considering what decks they used to win the two games so we preferred to focus more on the most important 3 games and just make the best strategy that either loses us the tournament in 4th spot or wins 1st place (basically we went full yolo)!
I played poorly in the game vs. Value Town and then I went to the window to chill, and while I had my eyes closed, some wind in my face I was thinking of what all the haters and reporters were saying about me and I just wanted to shut them up by playing as flawlessly as I possibly could at that time. I brewed 2 coffees (which I usually don't like to drink unless it's in a frappe) and just put them down my throat, I was ready to play some Hearthstone. We lost against Value Town but then, while being super motivated by the hate people were throwing at me on twitter and reddit, I played two pretty good games and got a clean start for my team. Thijs also didn't have that many problems in his games and even though Lifecoach struggled a bit against the insane Eloise back to back draws, we managed to take the series vs. Tempo Storm pretty convincingly with 6-3!
Next up was Value Town again again and all I could see in front of my eyes was revenge for the things that happened in the past days (competitive revenge, not hatred for the players or the paladin secret. P.S. Kibler, Trump and Dog are some of the most cool personalities in HS and i respect all 3 a lot). I just went into the series and got 2-0 once again, this time winning some unfavored matchups by playing arguably flawlessly, getting some morale boost for my team and also redeeming myself for all the previous performances in the ATLC and other tournaments (at least I hope so). It was a tough 10 games, but we managed to take it 6-4, making it our hardest series in the elimination rounds.
We were already happy that we got to the finals but we obviously wanted to win the whole thing so we started the series against Cloud9 pumped from the victories before and confident in our team synergy. Thijs started it up for us with a fast 2-0 and some really well played games, followed by Lifecoach and me going 1-0 each. Then we decided to trick them and get some favorable matchups so I stayed twice and unfortunately lost 2 of my games. At 4-2 I was a bit scared but I knew that if I just don't focus on the money or anything other than the game itself, I was going to pull this off. Lifecoach won his game really fast while I was benched and put me in a spot where we were 5-2 and the only 2 losses were mine, so that the only way we could lose is by me going 1-6, which was something mathematically possible but I didn't want to happen - that being the final nail in my coffin made by online journalists and fans. I ended up taking my time and taking the hunter vs. priest matchup which was arguably the hardest one for my deck, securing 150k for my team and putting all the bad stuff from before finally behind me.
Speaking of my individual performance, it wasn’t that great in the seeding games but I did really well when I swapped out the mech shaman, that we had all agreed would be good in the meta we expected, for a consistent hybrid hunter which helped me achieve a 6-2 score which translates into a 75% win rate in ''the games that mattered''. I am okay with my all around performance in the ATLC and even though I had to play ''filler'' classes which were not always very good, I think I could have played better in some situations and I definitely have a lot of space to improve until ATLC season 2. I continuously try to improve and find new ways of playing some matchups so that I give myself some extra percentages even in the worst possible ones.
I can say that the ATLC is the best thing that happened to Hearthstone and to me, making me hope that people are going to organise tournaments at least half as good as this one and it’s also made me wait eagerly for season 2 where we need to defend our title! :)