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The Hearthstone Singapore Major: RNG and Fun

There’s nothing quite like watching high skill players still fall prey to the most insidious of card gaming mechanics: top decking. Though we pitied the Krannich who was knocked out of the Round of 16 with a Wild Pyromancer draw into Equality board clear, we took solace in the fact that no one is safe from the clutches of RNGesus.

The Hearthstone Singapore Major took place over 8 to 10 April, starting with a Round Of 256 before it was swiftly chopped down to the Round of 16 then the finals itself of the region’s best players. many who flew to the venue with their own passions (and cash). Many players staked their bid to compete at the Hearthstone World Championship with the best of their abilities and alas, quite a lot were disappointed. But they still had loads of fun playing, learning and interacting with other top players.

Here’s a little list of our favourite things from the Hearthstone Major and our hopes for future events for the incredibly fun (and addictive) card game.

1. High End Competitive Play

IMG_2412Well, we had to go for an easy cop-out for number 1 right. We’re not all at Legend rank though we all dearly aspire to as we grind out our ranks to the best of our abilities.

It’s always beneficial to watch better players go at it against each other to learn from their moves. In a game like Hearthstone where your deck is limited and your situation always precarious, good decision making trumps all. Seeing high-skilled competitors ponder and plan out all possible scenarios gave us insight into what the best moves are for similar situations we might come across. Even as the crowd bays for blood to let RNGeuss decide if a game is to be won, the players would figure out the safest and most effective play despite the seemingly “easy” play.

Despite the high pressure of being in a competitive setting, players were somehow serene and silent, almost unnervingly so. We’re used to cursing and spewing expletives as we play so watching a quiet duel between 2 players was almost surreal. As Joshua Jonathan Low of Team M8 Gaming puts it, “you got to put on your headphones and drown out all the other noise so basically,  you can focus a 100% on your game. And try not to get salty from it” (Good to know high-end players get super salty too).

“Salt is inevitable but you just think: ‘this is something out of my control’ as you’ve done everything in your ability to reduce the power of RNG, topdeck. How to deal with pressure is just to realise the amount of things you can control and accept the things that you can’t.”

IMG_2382Though the whole “draft out all possible outcomes” does backfire often when the slowly burning timer ticks down with your best move still unclear. It happened a few times during the finals as players were unable to complete their moves as they had spent too much time thinking.  All in all, it was plenty to take in and appreciate. It’s a style of play we’re not usually used to: we normally just drag all our minions to the other character’s face until they die.

2. The Meta and Tournaments

Any player of Ranked Hearthstone knows that the current meta for our favourite train-commute distraction is a highly aggressive meta. Ever since the lost of Patron Warrior and the decline of Hand-Lock by proxy, Aggression based decks have flooded into the scene. Aggressive decks make for fast matches and the faster the match ends, the more matches you can play between Joo Koon and Tampines. Not to mention that Aggressive decks apply so much pressure that the win-condition of a match can be secured by turn 4 or 5.

From the classic Face Hunter to Secret Paladins and the newest frustration on the block, Face Shaman, we’ve been doomed to watch minions slam into our character portraits as we inch our way towards the single digit ranks.

IMG_2398Thus watching a tournament and the more controlled-oriented meta is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Until you get to high ranks where incredible consistency trumps fast games, you won’t see too much of control decks like Control Warrior, Priest or Freeze-Mage. It shows a different side of Hearthstone that as mentioned above, revolves around calculations, risks, forward planning and impeccable reactions.

Joshua adds his own 2 cents: “Meta does depend on the time of the month. Usually the first few weeks of a Season, it’s full of Aggro decks because everyone wants to climb. That’s why I don’t play at the start, avoid the salt and cancer. The Tournament meta is more towards Controlling and I realize that most Asian players they go for Aggro, say in Malaysia and the surrounding SEA. When it comes to the Koreans and Japanese, they are focused more on control.”

We also did ask the all important question about any meta question: Do you like playing in the current meta and his reply is pretty clear. “Everyone’s been asking and waiting for Standard (the new Hearthstone play mode) but judging from the cards they’ve revealed from the Whispers of the Old Gods Expansion, they might be replacing the old Aggro cards (from Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins Versus Gnomes) with those who might be a bit stronger? But there is a focus on heals and making the game longer.”

3. The Fans and Their Energy

IMG_2429Though the Singapore Majors were more or less a closed doors event with limited access to the public, the energy in the viewing was no less high despite the small numbers. It was a room full of very passionate players who love the game and it showed whenever the yelling began. Twitch memes were thrown around and general explosions of disagreement or agreement burst out whenever a tense moment arrived in a game.

Though the energy waxed and waned (come on, at the end of the day, you can’t stay high octane throughout a tactical card game), the highs were indelible. It sounds exactly like our friends when they see our terrible decisions or our own yelling when we’re watching someone else play. It was a great display of the passions Hearthstone can stir for what is at heart, a relatively simple game.

Plus it was straight up funny when the spectators all yell in unison for a player to do the risky play in the small hope that RNGesus delivers an amazing moment of pure Hearthstone shenanigans.

4. Production Value and Streaming

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E-sports recently had one of the most disastrous events with the DOTA2 Shanghai Major and everyone wishes for such a travesty to never occur in the realm of professional gaming ever again. And the Singapore Major doesn’t disappoint. Despite the small size and cramped nature of the venue, integrity and efficiency was ensured so that everyone could have fun. In fact, the small size of the Bunc Hostel might have lent to an easier time too.

Twitch came down to help support the event (Hearthstone is after all one of the most streamed games on the platform) and it showed with an excellent stream. It’s a shame we couldn’t see the twitch chat on the viewing screen though. And we would have liked a bit of background music. But there was still plenty to enjoy and appreciate.

The casting room and its mics were clear, the cameras working, the overlays for the stream were crisp and polished. The viewing area was as comfortable as it could have been in Singapore’s current hellstorm of heat but we all kind of tolerate that.

5. The Future of Hearthstone (and E-sports)

IMG_2405Lastly, we’ve got to mention the hope for the future right? From the Hearthstone Singapore Major, it does show that there is plenty of player dedication in the region for competitive tournaments. The Major isn’t the only Hearthstone event Singapore has had but it’s about the biggest and it’s also on the global scene as part of the road to Worlds. We definitely believe there is a future for more Hearthstone in Singapore.

It’s a game with low barrier to entry (it is FREE after all) and we see plenty of teens and young adults looking down at their phones on trains and buses swiping Warcraft characters at each other to trust that plenty of people will know and be interested in anything Hearthstone.

By proxy as well, there is also hope for more E-sports in Singapore. It’s no secret that the competitive gaming scene in Singapore isn’t exactly booming though we have had a few controversies. Perhaps MOBAs might have a hard time establishing a competitive scene  here but more “casual” and generally shorter-duration popular games like Hearthstone and Counter-Strike might be able to cement themselves down with community events and tournaments.


To see the results of the Hearthstone Singapore Major, click here

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Manfred Tham

Metal is my jam and anything about video games, alcohol or films is a good conversation starter with me. Also a massive nerd.

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