At some point our thoughts turn to the eventual legacy we will leave behind. Children for many, a great work of art for some, a career of good deeds for others. Jack “J4CKIECHAN” Hutton doesn’t need to worry about any of that, because his place in history is already secure. He is, after all, the creator of both Egg Druid and Camel Hunter. For those not familiar with either, and presumably wondering if they’re failed pilots for FX shows, both are Hearthstone decks which J4CKIECHAN created and piloted to the very top of EU ladder.
J4CKIECHAN has been playing Hearthstone since the beta, when his brother encouraged him to give it a try. He says he’s only been playing seriously for a year though, with university studies taking precedence beforehand. The 20 year-old from Nottingham, England, recently joined the Fade 2 Karma team and continues to build his audience as a streamer. You can find him on Twitter here or watch him cook up new decks on Twitch here.
Which in itself ought to not be remarkable. Deck building is billed as a key part of the Hearthstone experience, and most of us have fooled around with trying to make homebrew creations work on ladder. But the experience is often disheartening because the existing meta decks are so brutally efficient that they tend to crush anything unrefined.
And hey, why bother innovating when you can paste something that’s guaranteed to be good from anyone one of dozens of netdeck database sites? Even the top pros tend to just tweak existing archetypes with a couple of tech card choices. In fact, it’s notable how few pros are associated with signature decks. But J4CKIECHAN now has two to his credit, both of which have carried him to the peak of competitive play. I spoke with him about his creative process, starting to play competitively, and why Ball of Spiders just might be the future...
PC Gamer: How much of your success with these unusual decks is down to other players not knowing what to expect from them?
Jack “J4CKIECHAN” Hutton: I think a little bit of it. With Egg Druid, people knew that I played that for quite a while. So that’s never had that much of a surprise factor. Whereas I only started playing this Hunter list a couple of weeks ago, so I think quite a bit of [its success] was down to people not knowing what to play around. They didn’t know that I wasn’t running burst damage. They were wondering if I played Kill Command or Quick Shot. When you’re against a Hunter you’re scared of dying based on what might be in their hand.
PCG: What was the logic in cutting the burst damage? Why did you decide “actually, I don’t need that stuff”?
Unlike conventional Face, Hybrid or Midrange Hunter decks, the Camel version uses no damage spells. It wins by spamming the board with creatures, with the signature combo being an Injured Kvaldir getting summoned by the Desert Camel. That's 4/8 of stats for 3 mana. Not bad. (Unless your opponent is an Aggro Shaman and gets a Tunnel Trogg.)
JC: Well, I’ve been trying lots of different things out in Hunter for quite a while. I’ve been trying to make a Control Hunter work, but I found that when I was playing more standard Midrange Hunter lists I’d end up with a lot of secrets, weapons and spells in my hand. Sometimes it’s just awkward and you don’t have anything to play, because they’re very reactive cards. I prefer to have a non-reactive hand so you can just chuck things out. This Hunter deck is more minion-based so you can consistently keep applying pressure.
PCG: You’ve piloted both Egg Druid and Injured Camel Hunter to #1 legend on EU. Which of your creations do you think is most powerful?
JC: Egg Druid definitely. With all the early sticky minions and Innervates and buffs it just has the power to completely overwhelm people. With things like Soul of the Forest there can be no comeback, because usually when you get ahead early you can get punished by AoE spells, but this has so many Deathrattle effects that it completely counters that. I think Egg Druid is actually a deck that has been very much overlooked when it is genuinely strong.
PCG: Are you surprised more people haven’t tried it out in tournaments?
PCG: How do you decide when the time’s right to show a new idea on stream?
JC: I’m usually pretty relaxed when it comes to that sort of thing. In the middle of the season, when your rank doesn’t really matter, I try out loads of different things on stream. Towards the end I’ll play the list that seems to have had the most success. The reason this camel deck has been so good is because Druid has been insanely popular, and it destroys Druid.
PCG: Is that how your process tends to work? Do you look at the meta and try to make something that counters it? Or for Egg Druid did you just look at Aggro Druid and think “I can make this more annoying”?
JC: Not really. I started making it ages ago. I achieved rank #1 Legend with it in December, but I created it five or six months before that. I was constantly tweaking it and consistently hitting Legend. And then in December I just smashed it and got loads of attention.
PCG: Do you think players at all skill levels of Hearthstone are missing out on some of the fun of deckbuilding because the game rewards netdecking so well?
JC: I think so. Loads of people try out different things, but not at the high level. People there are all playing the same decks. One reason I like making new decks is that I really hate the idea that there are only a set few decks that are viable. I really believe that there are other things that can be explored and the meta isn’t set in stone. If you can find a deck that’s strong against those three decks everyone’s playing, it doesn’t matter if it’s weak against other stuff. You can counter the meta.
PCG: Blizzard’s Mike Donais told me that they were surprised by how prevalent netdecking immediately became, even at lower ranks. What do you think holds back Hearthstone players from experimenting?
JC: I guess all some people want to do is win. Or they want to reach the higher ranks. And they think the best way to do that is with the best deck in the game. So they go online, find what the rank #1 Legend deck is, and play it. Since I hit #1 Legend with this Camel Hunter a lot of people have started playing it. I’m not saying it’s the best deck in the game because I don’t think it is.
On the next page: The lack of originality in Hearthstone decks and why Ball of Spiders could be good...