Masters Tour Bucharest: SaltOPepper’s Recap

About me

Hello, I’m Thanh Dang Duc alias “SaltOPepper”, 24 years old, living and grew up in Berlin, with Vietnamese roots and currently studying Mathematics at TU Berlin. Currently I am playing under the Team Athaim.
I’ve been playing Hearthstone since the release from time to time. Hearthstone is the first TCG I really played, except childhood TCGs like YuGiOh and Magic, which I just played for fun. Other than that I am playing literally everything, from RTS, MMORPG, Shooter and a lot more. Never have I settled on something and felt really really got at anything, but I was in my opinion above average in everything. Also did I never play anything competitively.
I started playing Hearthstone competitively after Las Vegas Masters Tour 2019, when I found out about this new Hearthstone Masters format. I didn’t like the format before, because I couldn’t get myself to invest that much time, to ladder and travel around the world at my own expense. With a sponsor, I would travel around, but finding one is very difficult. This new format allowed me to show off my skills in online qualifiers and attend these past 2 Master Tours.
My biggest achievement in Hearthstone would be qualifying and attending the Masters Tour. Although I did pretty poorly in the first Masters Tour Seoul (1-4, I didn’t sleep the night before), because of lack of sleep and nervosity, but I still had a great experience and have learnt a lot.
The Masters Tour Bucharest went better, but still not good enough. I went (4-5) and therefore made it to day 2, but I could have easily gotten (6-3).

How I prepared

The most obvious way to prepare is to play ladder and especially the qualifiers. They are giving an idea, what kind of meta will be played probably, which is pretty much aggro and Shaman. I prepared with some of my friends and teammates (e.g. WowMit, Shroominator). To be frank, I didn’tpractice a lot, outside ladder and qualifiers, but training partners help, finding ideas and fixing mistakes, which I really appreciate. Especially after the release of the 23 wild cards I spent a lot of time in ladder and reading other people’s tweets about their decks.

My lineup was almost the same as the Masters Tour Winner Eddie, with some kind of variation. It was also the most common lineup in the Masters Tour, which just shows that I read the meta pretty well.
I finalized my line up on the day 1 of the tournament. I always have a lot of crazy ideas, and would like to integrate them, but sometimes I shouldn’t do that. E.g. should I bring Hakkar into my warrior, maybe Archivist into Rez Priest instead of Séance, should I play Plague of Murlocs in Shaman to counter Combo Priest. A lot of ideas, but I can’t fit them all.
I expected the field to be full of highlander aggro decks and shaman, which also came true. Also did Iexpect people, to counter these aggro decks with similar control decks as mine. That’s why I teched slightly greedier than normal control decks.
The first 3 decks I wanted to bring were Rez Priest, N’zoth Warrior and Druid. I just took the last as Quest Shaman, because it was the strongest and most balanced (vs other decks). In hindsight, would have played 4 Control Decks, so Control Shaman instead. The idea behind this lineup is to be good against slightly slower decks than full-aggro. If the opponent had any slower aggro decks or midrange/control, then I had a good chance to beat them in a series. Also one of the most important factor for me, was to be able to beat OTK Paladin with this lineup. Unfortunetely I met 2 people in my run with full aggro decks, which my Druid couldn’t beat. Just ban the most aggro deck, and win the series, was my game plan.
My game plan in general worked out, but some people didn’t bring any slow decks, and hence I had bad chances to win against them in a series. Most of the time I banned Shaman, because I didn’t want to get high rolled by Evolve, which may have been a mistake. I did respect Shaman way too much, which sometime costed me the game. After banning phase I always looked at their and my remaining line up, and came up with the plan, which deck to bring first. I considered likely picks from them and what deck would perform bad and good against that deck. So basically I wanted my least performing deck (on average), to play against the deck which it has a chance at, but I also wanted to bring my strongest deck early, to get an advantage. Difficult to explain, but just go with your guts.

Round by round recap

In round 1 I played MrYagut
Lineup: Quest Druid, Tempo Rogue, Rez Priest and Evolve Shaman.

Ban: Shaman, especially since this is the non-Quest version. I expected, that he’d ban one of mycontrol decks, either Warrior or Priest, which he did (Warrior ban).
Pick: I decided to start with my Priest, which is especially favourable against all of his decks.

My Priest vs his Druid ( W )
My Shaman vs his Druid ( L )
My Druid vs his Priest ( W )
My Shaman vs his Rogue ( W )

Notes: Nothing really to say, but you need to know how win with your deck against certain types of decks. E.g. I won with my Priest vs his Druid, while he lost against mine. The idea as a Priest is to get Hakkar out as soon as possible, in order to disrupt Elise & Zephrys, other than that, you can also bruteforce it. Druids don’t have a lot of answers for sticky minions (e.g. playing Nzoth quick, reviving Ragnaros and other stuff…) As Druid you should try to either, tempo them down fast with threats, in order to force them to use their clears & unable to play Hakkar OR you should try to Elise floop & King Pharaoris asap, assuming that you force out at least some AOEs. If you get Hakkar’ed early, you can take it slow. Maybe even try to mill some or all bloods. Another good idea is, to just Zephry’s-> Hex Hakkar. But obviously there is a lot of luck involved.

R2 vs Dizdemon
Lineup: Quest Druid, Highlander Secret Paladin, Combo Priest and Quest Shaman

Ban: Shaman, and he banned my Priest. In hindsight, I should have banned ComboPriest or even Highlander Secret Paladin.
Pick: I wanted to start strong, and picked Warrior, which is decent against any of his decks.

My Warrior vs his Paladin ( L )
My Warrior vs his Druid ( L )
My Warrior vs his Priest ( L )

Notes: After losing I wanted to stick with Warrior. I figured, I’d have to play it anyway. Other than that, I got pretty unlucky. He had good curve, and I basically got locked out of the game, as far as I can remember.

R3 vs MJM
Lineup: Highlander Hunter, Quest Shaman, Rez Priest, Nzoth Warrior.

Ban: Shaman on both sides
Pick: I thought my Priest is pretty strong against his decks, especially since his Warrior & Priest didn’t play Archivist & Hakkar.

My Priest vs his Hunter ( L )
My Priest vs his Warrior ( L )
My Priest vs his Priest ( W )
My Druid vs his Priest ( W )
My Warrior vs his Priest ( W )

Notes: Crazy series. Especially the Priest mirror. At the end we had like 15 bloods each in the deck. Same idea here. Since he didn’t play Hakkar, I only had to deal with his threats and play it out. Eventually he wont be able to play anything anymore (Nzoth, Zerek’s and 2x Mass Resurrections are his only board-refills).

R4 vs soga
Lineup: Highlander Secret Paladin,Mechathun Warrior, Rez Priest, Evolve Shaman

Ban: Both Shamans banned
Pick: Priest is strong against all his decks, go that one first.

My Priest vs hisWarrior ( W )
My Druid vs his Warrior ( W )
My Warrior vs his Warrior ( W )

Notes: I think playing vs Mechathun Warrior is easy. You just need to count, which cards he has left in hand. The best tip I can give here is, if they still have 1 or 2 Brawls in the hand, until the end of the game, just don’t play anything. Most likely they wont be able to play their Brawls, and need to find another way to win, which is unlikely to happen. As Priest, you just need Hakkar and pressure them (so that they can’t mill the bloods). Druid should do fine, with their high tempo plays and threats after Quest completion.

R5 vs habugabu
Lineup: Evolve Shaman, Highlander Warrior, Highlander Secret Paladin, Combo Priest

Bans: Both Priests
Pick: I have bad matchups against hyper aggro decks, and wanted to play my worst deck (Druid) against it, to have multiple attempts.

My Druid vs his Paladin ( W )
My Warrior vs his Paladin ( W )
My Shaman vs his Paladin ( L )
My Shaman vs his Warrior ( L )
My Shaman vs his Shaman ( L )

Notes: First 2 games went smooth, Last 2 games went horrible. The game I should have won is game 3, where he had 9 life, and I had Wasp in hand. I top decked Evil Cable Rat, which gave me Spell Lackey and Taunt Lackey (Kobold Lackey would have won me the game there). So I searched for a spell (Lightning Bolt), but I couldn’t find it and ended up with Rockbiter Weapon, which was 1 mana off lethal. Nothing else to say to this series.

R6 vs Gaby
Lineup: Quest Shaman, Combo Priest, Mech-Paladin,Zoolock

Bans: His Mech Paladin & My Rez Priest
Pick: Wanted to start strong against his aggro decks and started with Shaman

My Shaman vs his Warlock (W)
My Warrior vs his Priest (L)
My Warrior vs his Warlock (L)
My Warrior vs his Shaman (L)

Notes: E.g. vs Priest: He played nothing T1 and T2. T3 he played Injured Blademaster with Circle of Healing. I could have cleared, but figured that he’d Psychopump it and I couldn’t deal with itafterwards. T4 he played Amet, which I cleared. T5 he played not-top-decked Psychopump. Ibrawled, and his Injured Blademaster Survived, with that he double DS & Inner Fire’d me to deal 28+2(Amet) damage, which were my total hp+armor pool. If anything else would have survived, I’d win probably, since I had on T6 Whirlwind+Plague. If that didn’t happen, I’d figured I’d have a chance.

R7 vs Oliech
Lineup: Nzoth Priest, Secret Paladin, Zoolock, Murloc Shaman
Ban: My Warrior & his Zoolock (I should have banned his Shaman
Pick: Started with Druid, not sure why.

My Druid vs his Shaman ( L )
My Druid vs his Paladin ( L )
My Priest vs his Priest ( L )

Notes: I’m not sure if these matches are correct (probably not), but I was expecting to win out against his Priest. In the Priest Mirror it’s almost only about who dies to Hakkar’s blood first, which happened to be me. Tip: Decide if you want to be the aggressor or to play passive. This is decided by who has more clears/threats left and how many cards in hand one has. If that wouldn’t have happened, I would have a good chance to win out the series, since he didn’t play Hakkar.

R8 vs Fujitora
Lineup: Rez Priest, OTK Paladin, Mechathun Warrior, Maly Druid

Ban: Maly Druid, because it can win against my Rez Priest. He banned my Shaman
Pick: Start with Priest, because it is strong against all of his decks.

Matches: My Priest vs his Paladin ( W )
My Druid vs his Paladin ( W )
My Warrior vs his Paladin ( L )
My Warrior vs his Priest ( W )

Notes: As expected to win most of the time against his Paladin. As Priest Hakkar is the win condition, and Druid a lot of armor through Kun. In the Warrior match, I just didn’t have enough draw power to draw all my armor cards & Dr Boom. As Warrior against Priest, you can play it slow. If they don’t want to do anything, you don’t have to do anything. The Priest is on the clock, because you can play Archivist to remove the blood and win in fatigue.

R9 vs Rase
Lineup: Same as mine

Ban: I banned his Warrior, because he played Hakkar & Archivist. He banned my Priest.
Pick: Warrior is strong against all his decks.

My Warrior vs his Shaman ( W )
My Druid vs his Priest ( L )
My Druid vs his Shaman ( L )
My Druid vs his Druid ( W )
My Shaman vs his Druid ( L )

Notes: Really really crazy series. We both were tired and did a lot of mistakes. I tried to tempo out his Priest, but he had all the answers, and I lost. I remember drawing the blood the turn I wanted to play Elise or Zephrys as Druid. In the Druid mirror, I tried to tempo him out yet again, especially since he used all his starfalls. But he had Zephrys already active and punished me by playing Twisting Nether, while I played my Floop (King Phaoris). He also made the mistake and wanted to end the game early (play Phaoris withoutElise/Floop) and got punished. At the end he forgot to banker his Elise, which made it impossible for him to win the game, since my game plan was to play Elise-> Banker-> Loti (10 Mana rotation), while I always Elise’d my Zephrys too. My Shaman vs his Druid was crazy. I drew very good and evolve’d early, which resulted in me having a 5/6, 5/5 and Spirit of the shark on the field. The turn after I double evolved my mogu through the Shark, which gave me the 9/6 Anubis (inbetween the evolves, it went to ragnaros, which I would have preferred). Turn after I Barista’d my evolve Lackey and evolved my newly drawn Mogu, which was a mistake. It gave me 7/7 Archivist. Insteadof evolving my mogu only, I should have evolved my whole board with my Evolve spell. Now comes his crazy turn: He had 9 mana, and through my minion he got some coins. His turn was as following: Coin->Kun-> Starfall my Archivist-> Floop (Kun)-> 3/5 Defender for 0 Mana-> Cenarius. He almost cleared my board, gained 20 armor and had 3 taunts, which locked me out of the game, since I had no real cards in hand. Evolving my whole board would have probably increased the average stats of my board, especially with Shark on field, which does nothing. But other than that, I was too sure, to win this game, which was my demise.

All in all, I had a lot of fun at the Masters Tour, and I learnt a lot, and met great people. This is what I will remember for next time:
1. Take your time and spend your whole turn, thinking about everything.
2. There’s always a way to win/lose a game. Play out the game, and never be cocky.
3. Don’t get upset about games. The game smellsyour negativity and will give you even worsedraws.
4. Have fun. Being there is a privilege. Being one of the 300 qualified played is an achievement itself.

I didn’t have RDU as tour guide, but Bucharest is just alright. There wasn’t much to do, or at least Ididn’t know what to do. I was there with friends, and we just chilled and relaxed, and went aroundthe city. I met a lot of people, and played against good players I see on stream and on twitter, whichI am grateful for, to meet them and play againstthem. Most notably are Mryagut, Oliech, Rase, Jia & BabyBear.Most of the pictures I made are on my Twitter. My next plan is to qualify for Arlington. I want to take Hearthstone serious and I hope I will berewarded eventually. I will keep improving and will do better next time.

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