Meta shift: The best decks from the Hearthstone Global Games

Meta shift: The best decks from the Hearthstone Global Games
Earlier this year Blizzard announced the Hearthstone Global Games, a premier tournament taking its cues from last year’s Overwatch World Cup, featuring the world’s best card battlers from Warcraft’s CCQ spin-off.Here teams are formed of the best players in the world, all voted for by the fans of the game, as they seek to take on one another in a global melee as players fight for national pride and a big sum of cash.The tournament itself is a long-term series, having begun in the preliminary group stage just over a month ago but with the finals not rolling around until November.Yet while it’s still very much in the earlier stages of the competition, there is plenty to glean from the matches already played. Which countries are the ones standing out, for example? Or what sorts of decks are turning heads?So grab a cup of tea and settle in: here’s what’s happening at Hearthstone’s Global Games, and what that means for the tournament so far.

The teams on top...

It might not surprise you much to hear North America is already standing pretty at the top of its group (B), currently the only team to have won all four games it has played so far.The group itself has Netherlands in second while the UK - featuring some top Hearthstone players - has only 1-1. There’s time and opportunity for the UK to score a few extra wins, and looking at the lay of the land it’s hard to imagine it won’t at least remain in the safe top three zone.Group A hasn’t been too difficult a set of teams, but the surprise is Bulgaria who - having won three of its four, while Brazil - one of the stronger teams in the group - is still hanging around in mid-table.But the US isn’t the only team with 100% records: Italy, Canada and - unexpectedly - Malaysia are all on top with 3-0 records on the cards. Meanwhile, Group H has both Ukraine and Czech Republic at the top of their tables with comfortable victories that have also put the pair of teams at 3-0. It’s not a tough group, admittedly, but we’re guaranteed to see both in the next group stage - and maybe even see them upset a couple of stronger teams.Elsewhere we can expect to see Argentina and South Korea progress to the next stage, while strong early performances means we could expect to see Hungary, Russia, New Zealand and Mexico in the next round. Time will tell, of course, but there’s already some frontrunners to start cheering for.

The Anti-Quest Rogue Warlock Deck

This was a fresh upset that brought with it quite an interesting means of tackling the Quest Rogue that is proving to be one of the strongest decks in the current Hearthstone meta. First off, Germany - who was anticipated as one of the stronger competitors in the Global Games - found itself crumbling against Belarus in what would become a 0-3 loss. The German side had already been struggling, having won only one game (against Croatia) and crushed by the likes of Czech Republic and the Philippines.Whether it was a case of shot confidence or what, Belarus found itself in charge of the game early on - despite a confident start from Germany and its Shaman deck. Belarus’ had the Quest Rogue on the go, however, and it remained true to the meta, dominating the later part of the the match for the first Belarus victory.After a second round matchup that ultimate fell to the tempo of Belarus’ Midrange Hunter, the match that would become the last was controlled from the start thanks to Belarus’ smart prediction. Knowing it would be facing up against Germany’s own Quest Rogue, the team flooded a deck with 1-3 Mana cards on Warlock, arguably one of the weaker classes in the current meta.And it worked. While the deck offered little finesse, the likes of Fire Fly, King Mukla, Dirty Rat and other technical cards meant that the board could be filled, countering the Quest Rogue at every step of the game. A surprising win, but a thoroughly interesting one.DADHui7XYAA7tgU-1024x628.jpg

The Hungry Crab

A lot of what we've seen coming out of Hearthstone Global Games isn't just the rise of certain metas and decks to prominence courtesy of the still-quite-fresh Journey To Un’Goro expansion pack. No, a lot of the more interesting twists of the tournament has instead been the new strategies and counters that have been utilised.The tournament began not long after the release of the expac, and by coinciding with its release we've seen a lot more of an evolution over the course of the competition. For example, first we saw the rise of murloc decks - which hadn't historically been a strong deck - thanks, in part, to the new popularity of Murloc Paladin builds. And now we're seeing the increasing addition of Hungary Crab, a rather unexciting card that can now freely take out an enemy murloc as early as turn-one to offer up a 3/4 minion.It's a tactic that was utilised well by UK’s J4CKIECHAN in his match against Romania’s Hannibalz2, which saw the former managing an early strong lead thanks to this otherwise humble card.It’s not a huge, game-changing card but it’s cheap enough and valuable enough that slotting it in to counter against Murloc Paladins is a nice little bonus, and if you’re lucky enough to begin early with a buffed up Hungry Crab then it’s enough to put an opponent on the back foot from the start.

A switch to the Quest Hunter

When we wrote our Hearthstone Journey To Un’Goro deck guide after the expansion’s release, we alluded to the fact that Quest Hunter is definitely going to be a staple of the meta for the time being. And what do you know? We were right.But what has been interesting with Hearthstone Global Games is how we’ve seen the comparative strength of Midrange Hunter. It’s a slower pace deck that, typically, struggles against the aggro decks that are were initially so popular at the launch of Un’Goro, but there’s such a great curve to a typical Midrange Hunter now.Beginning with the likes of Jeweled Macaw and Crackling Razormaw, for example, mean strong starts are possible. Elsewhere the Nesting Roc can be bolstered quite easily with the Hunter’s wide (and since Un’Goro, expanded) opportunities for calling in a large number of minions. This 4/7 body is enough to halt a lot of aggro decks, and with a good balance to the build of Midrange Hunter right now, Global Games has proven there’s a place for this class once more in the meta.

The Elemental Shaman

Another build that we said would make headway on the launch of Un’Goro, it’s the Elemental Shaman in particular that has been given the space to rise up and take charge. While we were wrong in believing we’d see it in the meta quite a lot, the popularity of the deck in the Hearthstone Global Games so far has proven that there is still opportunity here. It’s a deck that is reliant on that ever-growing Elemental chain reaction, and while it can be inconsistent - which explains its lack of popularity on the Standard Ladder - if a pro can kickstart the Elemental chain then they’re likely to lead to some strong moments.Which we’ve seen, in fact. In its game against the Philippines, the Czech Republic was able to build into the end-game Elemental Kalimos that ultimately swung the match and ended up winning them the game. It’s a deck that allows so much growth, such as with Fire Elementals bringing in a Blazecaller or Servant Of Kalimos drawing out copies.Since there are so many options available for Elemental Shaman, it’s an interesting deck to watch - especially at this point in the Global Games where even the casters don’t know what cards are coming or why. It could be enough to give non-pro players a keener understanding, and perhaps even see the habitation of Elemental Shaman a little higher up the meta.

And the decks we expected...

Meanwhile there are those decks that a lot of us could have expected to see. Pirate Warrior remains a key threat and by the way it’s appeared so commonly it’s unlikely we’ll see it disappear any time soon, especially since there are few new ways to interpret a counter at this point.Token Druid was one that we pondered at the start of Un’Goro, and it seems it has begun to solidify its place in the meta now as we’re seeing this alongside the most popular decks and builds.Secret Mage has built up a bit of a following too, utilizing core elements of Freeze Mage (or the two blending together) for some regular play, though Quest Mage with the use of Time Warp retains regular appearances.Lastly there’s Midrange Paladin. The class went into Un’Goro strong and was mostly unaffected negatively by many of the changes or losses, so we knew we’d see the class make an appearance. Midrange Paladin is the one we’re seeing more often mostly thanks to its ability to hold out until the end where it can close the game, but it’s not quite as commonly played as many of the others. When there’s a bit more definition for the deck you can be sure we’ll see it standout, but for now pros are sticking with some safer options.