Update: Blizzard has responded to my queries about what this game might mean for competitive play. A spokesperson confirmed how the current rules for games which threaten to go infinite work:
"Our existing turn limit for HCT matches is 90, split between the two players, at which point the game ends in a double defeat, or a Draw. Within the HCT ruleset, a Draw results in a rematch, which for most decks rarely results in another Draw. For the Dead Man’s Hand mirror match, however, it is possible that the deck can create a game state where neither player wins across multiple rematches. Because of this, we examined a number of available options and determined a win condition that we thought to be most fair for players competing in the HCT Americas Summer Playoffs. We communicated this change to the players in advance of the tournament, and ran into no issues during tournament play."
As for whether this incident could lead to any sort of deck being banned from tournament play, that sounds unlikely:
"We don't have plans to, besides nerfing or changing cards when the need comes up. We generally like ladder play and tournaments to reflect the same format. It's not totally off the table, but it wouldn't be our first choice."
Finally, in terms of whether more cards that counter fatigue strategies will be designed, Blizzard also sounds cautious:
"We like when Hearthstone decks have a variety of different strategies. If a deck like this exists once in a while then there are more ways to build decks and play. However, designing cards around avoiding fatigue isn't something we have in mind as a general design goal when creating cards."
Original story: Hearthstone is generally a fast-paced game, especially compared to trading card games like Magic: The Gathering. But sometimes the planets align, two control-oriented decks face off, and the game runs loooooong. That's rare but still normal, unlike the ridiculous hour-long game that happened during a recent Taiwanese Hearthstone tournament. The final seconds are embedded above, or you can submit yourself to the full experience here.
Not only did the game drag on for more than an hour, but the winning player finished with more than 500 armor stacked up. How? Both players were playing the Fatigue Warrior deck spawned by the recent Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion—or, as it's better known, Dead Man's Hand Warrior.
Dead Man's Hand is an epic spell with a simple-sounding effect: shuffle a copy of your hand into your deck. So, if you had Dead Man's Hand and seven other cards in your hand when you cast it, you'd shuffle copies of those seven cards into your deck. It's incredible value, albeit delivered very slowly.
Things get really interesting when you have another copy of Dead Man's Hand in your hand. If you do, casting one will shuffle a copy of the other into your deck, once again leaving you with one Dead Man's Hand in your hand and one in your deck. From there, it's a simple matter of drawing the copied Dead Man's Hand before casting another one. And another one. And another one.
Dead Man's Hand
This is the Warrior card that enables you to theoretically 'go infinite'. Just keep playing Dead Man's Hand while holding the other copy, then repeat the proceszzzzzzzz.
By including cards which draw more cards like Acolyte of Pain, Shield Block and Coldlight Oracle, players can use this interaction to infinitely refill their deck and, critically, avoid 'fatigue', which deals escalating damage to players who have no more cards in their deck. And by filling their decks with powerful removal spells like Execute and Shield Block, board clears like Brawl and Sleep With The Fishes, and armor gain in the form of Bring It On and Armorsmith, players can kill virtually every minion in their opponent's deck and outpace all direct damage.
We've seen this style of Fatigue Warrior post impressive numbers on Hearthstone's competitive ladder, but it's never made such a big impact at a major tournament until now. However, as it turns out, two Warriors stacking armor and grunting at each other for an hour doesn't make for exciting Twitch viewing. This proverbial clown fiesta of a game elicited a storm of ResidentSleeper emotes from chat and was undoubtedly a headache for the tournament's organizers.
When it finally ended, both players and casters breathed a sigh of relief.
The match was such a wet blanket, in fact, that some are calling for changes to Hearthstone's existing fatigue rules to avoid these situations in tournament matches. As it stands, games automatically end in a draw at turn 90, and the victor is determined by who has the most health (or armor). Of course, until now, actually reaching turn 90 wasn't realistic, but with Fatigue Warrior making a comeback, it's frighteningly plausible, and a legitimate logistical threat to already time-stretched tournaments.
We've reached out to Blizzard for comment and will update this story if we receive a reply. In the meantime, let's all take comfort in the fact that this game was still far, far shorter than the longest turn in Hearthstone history.