I think that at this point it won’t be a big spoiler to say that Pavel is the winner of this year’s hearthstone World Championship, taking down DrHippi 4-2 in the Finals. It’s arguably the most important match of the whole year – after all, the winning player will be our reigning hearthstone Champion for the next year. That’s why I thought that it would be fitting to take a closer look at it.
If you still haven’t seen it, you should check it out before reading this analysis. Here is the VoD. Of course, you might skip this part, but I think that you should have a better understanding once you watch it. And hey, it’s the World Championship Final match, so it’s worth watching anyway!
Neither of those players was really expected to get into the Finals after a very shaky performance in the Group Stage. Both qualified from the lower bracket, where Pavel had to make a huge comeback against OmegaZero’s Malygos Druid (in the end he managed to swipe it 4-0).
Start of the Quarterfinals looked really well for the DrHippi, because he got matched against HotMEOWTH’s unorthodox Blood Warrior deck. The series ended up 4-0 for the Ukrainian player. However, another Qurterfinal – Pavel vs Amnesiasc – didn’t look as bright for the Europe. Most of the viewers had flashbacks to the group stage. After winning first 3 games, Amnesiasc had one more deck to win with – Malygos Druid. And once again, Pavel has won 4 times in a row, thus getting into the Semifinals. Two European players have gone through the Semifinals quite easily, with 4-2 score each. There were some misplays on both sides, but that’s a topic for another discussion. What followed is maybe the biggest surprise of the whole tournament – All-European Finals.
I’ll start with the decks that both players have brought. Those are the lineups for the Final Match.
Discard Zoo Warlock
Both players banned Shaman.
When it comes to which deck is a favorite, I’ll base it both on my experience and on the data from vS Data Reaper Report.
Let’s start with the game by game analysis.
Game 1 – C’Thun Warrior vs Dragon Warrior
Note: In the titles, first deck is Pavel’s and second is DrHippi’s.
When it comes to the matchup, it’s pretty even. Maybe slightly favors C’Thun Druid, but the difference is pretty negligible. The general idea in this matchup is that the Dragon Warrior wants to have as much early/mid game tempo as possible, while C’Thun Warrior wants to remove stuff. In the late game, the matchup favors C’Thun Warrior heavily. Dragon Warrior doesn’t have insane staying power. Once it runs out of resources, it’s stuck with one, maybe two cards per turn. And with a pretty mid game curve, it means that once C’Thun Warrior stabilizes, it will both outvalue and outtempo the Dragon Warrior.
Pavel’s C’Thun Warrior is rather normal, without any weird cards. However, DrHippi’s Dragon Warrior isn’t very standard – it has a few interesting tech choices that can be a double-edged sword. The thing about DrHippi’s deck is that he runs no Executes at all. Since he doesn’t run the Executes, he has also dropped some of the activators like N'Zoth's First Mate, Slam or Ravaging Ghoul. Instead, he plays more weapons in a form of Arathi Weaponsmith and Malkorok. He also has Inner Rage as the Grommash Hellscream‘s activator.
So this particular deck showcases how this matchup goes even better. Dragon Warrior tries as best as he can to rush the C’Thun Warrior down. With no Executes in his deck, once C’Thun Warrior starts dropping bigger guys, it’s harder and harder for the Dragon Warrior to comeback. Then, C’Thun is usually game over, unless Dragon Warrior can kill the opponent right away. With no Execute, even something like a 12/12 C’Thun is devastating and puts the Dragons player on a very short clock. DrHippi’s deck is even better at rushing down than the standard Dragon Warrior – with better on-curve plays and less situational, clunky cards that are more useful in the late game, it goes all in on that plan.
And this time around it worked well for DrHippi. He has got a really good starting hand – he curved our nearly perfectly. His curve was so good that he could even skip playing anything on turn 5 to play around Brawl + leaving enemy on 13 health to play around Revenge. On the other hand, Pavel drew really poorly. No Fiery War Axe in the opening hand is already a big hit. But the fact that he drew most of his late game by turn 5 wasn’t really working in his favor. Cards like Justicar Trueheart or Ancient Shieldbearer are amazing in this matchup, but if you get them in the late game, where you don’t face that much pressure anymore.
Thanks to a good Brawl roll + Fiery War Axe topdeck, Pavel has cleared the whole board on turn 7. But it was already too late – Frothing Berserker staying on the board for a few turns in a row pushed for way too much damage. With cards like Alexstrasza's Champion, Kor'kron Elite and Grommash Hellscream in his hand, DrHippi had way more than enough damage to finish the game off.
Game 2 – Tempo Mage vs Discard Zoo
When it comes to the matchup, it favors Zoo Warlock. While Zoo is not a clear counter to the Tempo Mage, it counters one of the main points of it. Tempo Mage wants to get the early game tempo and snowball the game. If it manages to stick a minion or two on the board, it can then proceed to clear the board and smack the opponent with minions OR gather enough burn to just kill the enemy with spells. However, it’s really hard to stick anything against Zoo. Tempo Mage needs a really great opener vs a pretty weak one from the Zoo to get ahead on the board early. The easiest way for the Tempo Mage to win this matchup was getting a Flamewaker on the board and letting it snowball the game with his pings. However, the job is much harder now, because Discard Zoo runs 2 copies of Soulfire, which can take that threat down. Plus the early Doomguard that kills something often seals the deal. When Zoo Warlock has the board Control, he can outtempo the Mage AND afford to Life Tap without worrying about dying, because Mage has to use the Fireballs and other spells to kill minions.
The decklists of both players are rather normal. The only things worth mentioning is that Pavel runs a single copy of Flamestrike – probably the best late game card against the Zoo. Not every list runs it, but it’s a very common tech card. On the other hand, DrHippi plays Crazed Alchemist. The card isn’t particularly powerful in this matchup, e.g. there are no Totems or Doomsayers to kill, but it can get some value. It can make some minions like Mana Wyrm, Flamewaker or Water Elemental easier to kill, while at the same time it might protect one of the Zoo’s minions from ping.
This match went really well for the Tempo Mage player. The most important thing is that Pavel drew his early minions and removals, so he could control DrHippi’s board very well. On the other hand, DrHippi’s draws weren’t amazing. His early game tempo was really low. He drew Silverware Golem and Doomguard right away, which are the cards you really prefer to get in the late game. After playing t1 Malchezaar's Imp, Pavel countered with Cult Sorcerer. And here is the thing – the game might have went differently if DrHippi had some way to kill it. Let’s say a single Dire Wolf Alpha might have change the whole outcome here. But with no way to kill it, not only Pavel took a free trade, but the 3/1 minion has gained a lot more value during the next few turns. DrHippi was quite unlucky to not get a Mortal Coil or maybe Elven Archer/ after playing two Dark Peddlers back to back. With one of those, he would be able to kill the 3/1 easily.
DrHippi managed to swing the tempo back with a turn 5 Doomguard which discarded Silverware Golem. But yeah… again, not completely. Because the 3/1 was still on the board since turn 1, it got a good trade into 3/3 after already doing so much. DrHippi was nearly out of cards, Azure Drake contested the damaged Doomguard quite well and Pavel already drew his only Flamestrike. That one card won Pavel the whole game. Turn 7, he swept the whole board – 6 minions – with Flamestrike. I don’t really blame DrHippi for going all in. Flamestrike would be devastating at any point in the game, and the later it got, the higher was a chance he would have it. Another reason why Zoo had to finish the game fast is that because he was pretty low on the health. 3/1 Cult Sorcerer hit the face 3 or 4 times, resulting in quite a lot of damage. Cult Sorcerer was definitely the MVP of this game.
After the Flamestrike, the game was simply over.
Game 3 – Malygos Druid vs Malygos Druid
It’s a mirror matchup, so it’s pretty much 50/50. Of course, the win rate is slightly altered by the tech cards and that’s the thing I want to mention here. The decks were quite similar, with only two cards off. On the top of the standard Malygos Druid shell, Pavel was playing 2x Dark Arakkoa, while DrHippi used Bloodmage Thalnos and Baron Geddon. When it comes to those tech cards only, I’d have to say that Pavel was a slight favorite. Malygos Druid can struggle with a big minion, especially if it’s pretty early in the game. If Pavel ramped up and played an early 5/7 Taunt, it might be hard to answer and get a lot of value. Baron Geddon is pretty weak in this matchup. The card is only good against Mire Keeper (when it summons a 2/2). Sure, there might be some board states where it’s decent, but generally it’s inferior to the Arakkoas, mainly because 5 health is much easier to deal with than 7. Also an interesting note is that both players run Yogg-Saron, Hope's End, which is a huge card in this matchup.. if you’re lucky.
I’d say that this matchup is often very one sided. The player who takes off first can often hold that advantage for the whole game. Ramping up and getting on the board first is important, because that forces enemy to answer your minion. He answers it – you play another one etc. Another important thing in this matchup is the cycle. With cards like Living Roots, Moonfire or Innervate, it’s pretty easy to run out of steam. Nourish is a key card in the late game. And then, the matchup often comes down to who gets an unanswered Malygos first. Since neither of the players run Mulch, the only real way to deal with it is either getting something from Raven Idol (Mulch/Naturalize) or countering Malygos with own Malygos (+Moonfire/Living Roots). And last, but not least, since both players run Yogg, all that I’ve just said might be pointless, because a lot of the games are decided by a simple Yogg RNG.
The early game went in the Pavel’s favor. That’s exactly what I was talking about. Even though he started second, he had turn 2 Wild Growth and turn 3 Mire Keeper, which put him ahead on both the mana and initiative. DrHippi’s hand was very clunky. Double Swipe and Starfire he took from Raven Idol were pretty useless in the early game. He had his own Mire Keeper and Azure Drake, but had to wait until turn 4 to play the 3/3 + ramp. DrHippi’s hand didn’t get better. He kept topdecking spells, on turn 7 he had hand full of spells + Yogg. Pavel was in control the whole time – more mana, more meaningful plays. On top of that, he got Cairne Bloodhoof from the Moonglade Portal (from the Raven Idol). And DrHippi… yeah, DrHippi drew Malygos. Which is great, but not when you can’t play it and when enemy has a huge tempo advantage.
While Pavel kept drawing, developing more minions on the board (including Arcane Giant and Emperor Thaurissan), it was a point of no return for DrHippi. He had to get a miraculous 8 spells Yogg or he was out of this game. Yogg giveth and Yoog taketh, this time it was the latter. 8 spells Yogg did pretty much nothing – it casted two Innervates, it Silenced Emperor Thaurissan, but then popped Ancestral Spirit on it for a good measure. He drew some cards. And that’s it – no minions removed. I probably don’t have to mention that the Ukrainian player didn’t win that game.
Game 4 – C’Thun Warrior vs Malygos Druid
DrHippi decided to stick to his Malygos Druid. Oh, poor DrHippi, he knows that Pavel eats Druids for dinner, but he has no choice but to win one game with the deck anyway. And that’s not even a good matchup. While Malygos Druid is generally favored against slow, Control decks, C’Thun Druid is not one of them. Sure, the win rate is close, but slightly in the Warrior’s favor. Druid’s game plan in those matchup is simple. Ramp -> Cycle -> Put pressure with Giants and such -> Combo. But every points besides the first one can be sometimes countered by the Warrior. 3 of them, rarely, but C’Thun Warrior is known for making small cracks in the Druid’s game plan. In the mid game, you try to cycle. But if Warrior gets his mid game minions like C'Thun's Chosen, it’s hard for you to cycle. You can’t really leave them alone, because he will put pressure on you. But it’s not that easy to kill them – you often have to waste your whole turn, because pinging Shield with Hero Power costs 2 mana (and some health). Then, the pressure plan. C’Thun Warrior, just like Control Warrior, has quite solid single target removals. And playing multiple threats plays into the Brawl. So some games you can’t really pressure him, because he kills everything you play. Not to mention that sometimes it’s the Warrior who puts pressure on YOU – with 6/6’s or 2x 4/6 Taunt. Then, the C'Thun himself is also a big problem. Unless you get Mulch from the Raven Idol, it’s really hard to kill. And then the combo part… With 2x Shield Block, Justicar Trueheart and 2x Ancient Shieldbearer, the “combo” part might also fail if your Giants don’t connect a few times with the Warrior’s face. Standard Malygos combo (2x Moonfire + 2x Living Roots) deals “only” 26 damage, which is often enough in this matchup.
This matchup is full of struggles for the Druid. Luckily for him, there is one thing that works in his favor. C’Thun Warrior is known for running a lot of high cost cards, so his hands can get quite clunky. Taking the “long game” is not really advised, because sure, you get closer to the full combo, but Warrior gets closer to all his Armor gain. The best idea is to ramp fast and play minion after minion after minion. It might force Warrior to remove stuff like Azure Drake with Shield Slam and now your big threats should survive longer. The Baron Geddon tech is also bad in this matchup – Ragnaros the Firelord would be a much better option. Geddon is an amazing tech against Shaman or Zoo, but not against Control decks.
But back to the game itself. I’d say that out of the two, DrHippi had better opening hand. Even though he didn’t have Wild Growth or Innervate and had to skip turn 2, he coined out Mire Keeper on t3 and then had either Azure Drake or Nourish to follow-up. What was going in the Pavel’s favor, however, is that he had quite a lot of cycle. 2x Acolyte of Pain and Shield Block. In the mid game, however, the hand quality was flipped around. Pavel started drawing meaningful threats like Sylvanas Windrunner and removals like Gorehowl (it’s great in this matchup if Druid runs no Harrison Jones). While DrHippi… on turn 5, his hand was literally full of spells. He had 8 spells and no minion in his hand. Not to mention that 2 of those spells were combo pieces (you don’t really want to use those) and two were Wild Growths (which are definitely not the best card to see at this stage). This hand might be okay in the matchups where you defend yourself, but NOT in the matchup where you want to be the one putting pressure. Pavel had a nice minion curve, which DrHippi had to deal with.
The only thing favoring DrHippi at this point was a Malygos in his hand. Pavel was still at 29 health, but DrHippi has started to get his combo. Not to mention that with Swipe + Innervate in his hand, a single Emperor Thaurissan tick might turn this hand into 20+ burst damage. Sadly for Malygos Druid player, instead of drawing a strong minion or maybe another combo card – he was getting more cycle. What’s wrong with more cycle, you might ask? Sure, it’s amazing when your hand is empty. But Nourish is a really dead card when you have 10 cards in your hand. For the next few turns, DrHippi hasn’t really put any meaningful threats on the board, while Pavel has dropped Twin Emperor. Only a few turns later, DrHippi has got his Arcane Giants so he could finally tempo out with the big threats. Sadly for him, Brann Bronzebeard + Ancient Shieldbearer landed on the other side of the board, putting Pavel at over 50 life. So at this point, it was getting minion damage or bust. Even the best Malygos turn can’t handle that much health.
DrHippi has gone all in and played both of his Giants at once, which is always a risky play against the Brawl. With one minions on the Pavel’s side and two 8/8’s on the DrHippi’s, Brawl had 1/3 chance to have a great shot at winning this game. And that’s exactly what happened. At this point, I thought that DrHippi is out of the game, but that wasn’t true. Pavel’s hand size was really low, while DrHippi has played Fandral Staghelm into 2x Raven Idol. The minions he got were amazing. Lord of the Arena and Medivh, the Guardian were 2 big bodies, while Medivh in the deck with so much spells gave him even more board presence. With so much value in his hand and with pretty low health total, DrHippi has decided to drop his Malygos combo win condition and played it to clear the board. Surprisingly, the value tempo AND value suddenly shifted in the Druid’s favor. Not to mention the luck – DrHippi has won the 2nd Brawl. With 4 minions on the board – 9/9, 6/5 and two 1/1’s, the 9/9 stayed alive. The problem is that he was running out of cards and Warrior still had some health to work with. He decided to play Yogg, which… didn’t work too well. It killed opponent’s 3/3 and played Cat Trick, but after that it just killed itself. You expect more from the 10 mana card.
Pavel had a huge health advantage a few turns prior, but he had to swing his Gorehowl a few times into huge minions. DrHippi, however, ran out of cards. He still had a few minions in his hand, but that’s all he had left. Druid had 2-3 turns left to kill the Warrior after getting into the fatigue. He still had a shot, even after Yogg failing really hard. Pavel was almost out of the big threats, but he also didn’t have that many cards left in his deck. There was one card that closed the game right away, the card he was looking for the last half of the game. C'Thun, which he finally topdecked, closed out the game.
That was one really long game…
Game 5 – Malygos Rogue vs Discard Zoo
Miracle Rogue might be the best deck in the game if not for the huge weakness it has. With almost no defensive mechanics (Taunts/heals) or board clears, it struggles hard in very fast matchups. While Zoo is not as bad as let’s say Face Hunter or Aggro Warrior, it’s still not a great matchup for the Rogue. It’s really, really hard for the Rogue to comeback. Usually the best he can do is 2 damage Fan of Knives, but to do that in the mid game, he usually needs not only the Spell Damage minion, but also a Preparation. That’s why the best strategy against Zoo is to try to not fall down on the tempo at all. Rogue’s Hero Power gives a nice tempo boost (compared to the other Hero Powers). Then, Rogue absolutely needs cards like Backstab or SI:7 Agent to get some early game board control.
Pavel had probably the best possible turn 2 move – Coin + SI:7 Agent. Starting on the coin was important, without it he would struggle even more. But the problem is that rest of Pavel’s hand was really, really bad. He drew Malygos and Sinister Strike. The first one is a dead card and the second one is combo activator at best (maybe card with Auctioneer if you manage to survive that long). Besides that, there were 2 copies of Fan of Knives in his hand. Sure, they are great against Zoo, but not so early in the game. Pavel’s turn 3 was pretty much dead – Hero Power + pass, while DrHippi was developing more and more threats on the board.
Things have started to look a little better for Pavel on turn 4, with Tomb Pillager topdeck (with Azure Drake follow-up). It’s probably the best turn 4 play in the Miracle Rogue deck. While not extremely efficient against Zoo (4 health is quite easy to trade), it gives a Coin, which can let Pavel get at least a little tempo swing later. He even drew Bloodmage Thalnos, with FoK already in hand, it means that 2 damage AoE anytime he needs. With most of the minions at 3 health, it wasn’t great that turn, but it might come handy in the future.
But, it turned out that there might not be any “future” for Rogue in this matchup. Warlock drew the perfect card – with 6 mana, Malchezaar's Imp and Silverware Golem he got a Doomguard. A huge turn – 1/3 minion, 5/7 with Charge, 3/3 and drawing 1 card. That alone made it extremely hard for the Pavel to comeback. Rogue can’t clear huge boards. His best shot was getting a Preparation so he could play double FoK for 4 damage AoE. He didn’t get it. He tried to clear some of the board with a single Spell Damage FoK + Shiv, but it didn’t work that well. On top of that, DrHippi drew his second Doomguard right away. The game ended shortly after – Pavel was at 4 health, while DrHippi had full board and a 5/7 that couldn’t even be Saped.
If not for the Doomguard topdeck with a perfect hand to back it up, the game might have went in a different direction. Even a Preparation topdeck from Pavel would mean a full board clear with a huge card advantage. But it didn’t work out and DrHippi took the penultimate game.
Game 6 – Malygos Rogue vs Malygos Druid
This matchup favors the Malygos Druid slightly, so it seemed like a best opportunity for DrHippi to make a comeback. Even though the matchup often lasts until the late, late game – I’d say that most of the time it’s decided in the early/mid game. First important thing is the Ramp. Druid wants to Ramp up and get ahead of the Rogue. On the other hand, Rogue wants a solid minion curve. He wants to put pressure and make Druid answer his stuff. It’s pretty much a fight for the tempo throughout the whole game. However, there is one thing that favors Druid heavily in such a tempo war – Arcane Giants. Rogue’s best way to deal with big threats is to Sap them. But the Sap doesn’t wok to well on the Giants. They keep their discounts after getting back to the hand. So if you Sap a 4 mana Giant, it will again cost 3 mana (probably even cheaper after casting more spells). 0 mana 8/8’s work really well against the Rogue. Another thing that works in Druid’s favor is that Rogue has no way to kill Malygos. Sure, it works the other way around too, but usually Druid can get out Malygos before Rogue. It’s often a good play to just drop Malygos on the board, especially after you’ve seen a Sap (Malygos is probably the best Sap target). Then you can usually just win the game in 2-3 turns, maybe even next turn.
I’d say that Pavel drew a terrible hand this game. Turn 1 Swashburglar was nice, but then he had Edwin VanCleef (with no Coin to combo it with), Sap, 2x Sinister Strike and Backstab. It’s a very low value hand and Sap is pretty useless a this stage of the game. DrHippi had a quite good starting hand. Even though he didn’t get t2 Wild Growth, he had quite a lot of of other ramp – Innervate, Mire Keeper, Nourish. What is probably the most questionable play of this game is playing a t2 Coin + Innervate + Nourish for the Mana with no follow-up. Sure, I’ve just said that ramp is important, but with only Mire Keeper to follow, I would personally do it the other way around. Innervate out the Mire Keeper for the mana and then play Nourish for the cards. In case you get a second Nourish or even Azure Drake, you can still always use that Nourish to Ramp, without a risk of not drawing any more cycle.
DrHippi got punished for this play quite heavily. His topdecks were Feral Rage and Moonfire with nothing to target. Pavel, on the other hand, drew the Tomb Pillager, which was great in that scenario. He needed some minions to pressure and the Coin would work nicely with VanCleef. And that’s exactly what happened the turn after. Backstab + Shiv + Coin + Sinister Strike + Edwin VanCleef resulted in a big 10/10 body on the board. The play might have been risky in some matchup. E.g. in Rogue mirror, that could get Sapped. Warrior could Execute that. But not Druid. With no Mulch in his list, Druid really has no way to answer such an early 10/10. His only chance was a Raven Idol into something, but he didn’t even had that.
At this point, Pavel put DrHippi on a 2 turn clock. He had to act fast. He got VanCleef down to 8 health and played his own Arcane Giant. Luckily for the Russian player, he had Sap ready in his hand. Not to mention that getting Druid down to ~10 health with Bite (from Swashburglar), Sinister Strike and agent in the hand was a death sentence anyway. Even after DrHippi miraculously dealt with a big guy, there was almost no chance to come back from that game even from his perspective. And from the viewer’s perspective, the game was already over.
And so, Pavel has taken down another Malygos Druid (his win rate against this deck has to be impressive), won the series 4-2 and won the whole hearthstone World Championship.
I feel like both players played this series really well. While there were no huge plays, no outplays, no impressive mindgames, it was a solid show of skill and decision making. There were maybe only a few decisions that were even remotely questionable. And I want to say that the series was incredibly close. Even though Pavel won 4 games to 2, some games were really, really close.
For example – if Pavel didn’t win that Brawl in C’Thun vs Malygos Druid matchup and 8/8 survived instead of his own 6/6 (which was a more likely outcome – 2/3 to 1/3), DrHippi would most likely take that game. And with Malygos Druid out, he wouldn’t struggle to get a win with that deck and might have even taken the whole series. Of course, it’s just “what if” scenario, but I just wanted to say that both players have deserved to be in the Finals. They made a few misplays here and there, but they have had great games when it really counted. Congratulations to both of them!
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!