The PC Gamer Hearthstone tournament


Match 1: Sam vs. Pip

Sam : Pip's a pal. I can take advantage of her kindness, right? I kick off with a Stonetusk Boar and get the psychological advantage by taking a point off her druid. Pip gains an extra mana crystal. “It feels like it's over already, Pip,” I say glumly. She'll be drawing her best cards before me.

Pip: I have checked my freelance contract. Regardless of which cards I play in Hearthstone, Sam cannot fire me. He could, however, choose to discontinue using my services. I try to keep this in mind as I face off against my commissioning editor.

Sam: We're both hovering in mid-20s health in the first half. She plays Starfire which eliminates my Core Hound, which could've taken me to victory. No minions. Shit! Pip plays a Boulderfist Ogre in round eight, which I desperately Polymorph into a 1/1 Sheep. Sadly, one turn later, she uses this very Sheep to humiliate me, using it to take my last health point as her minions batter Jaina. Pip laughs her head off. I'm livid.

Pip: The second best thing about an opposing mage who plays Polymorph is watching them forget that a sheep still has one attack point. The best thing about an opposing mage who plays Polymorph is being able to use that sheep to land the killing blow as you laugh and laugh and laugh some more. As far as burning professional bridges goes, at least this was a very PC Gamer way to do it.


Sam's final words: Pip showed me what a ruddy amateur I am. My hope that I could outfox her with the game's basic mage cards proved my undoing. Also, while Pip's laughter during the match initially seemed polite, I now realise from the sheep incident that she was using it to blindside me.

Match 2: Tom vs. Andy

Tom: Andy's only played for a couple of days, and I've been helping him learn. If the pupil beat the teacher, that would be most embarrassing. Moments before the match begins I get a message from my girlfriend. “DO NOT BRING SHAME ON OUR HOUSEHOLD.” Now I'm really nervous.

Andy: I begin with a hand of highcost cards, so no early minions for me. Tom starts with two taunts. Not a great start. I chuck a few Fireblasts at him for a measly one damage, unable to play any cards. I eventually luck out with a taunt card of my own, but he makes short work of it. I catch a break when I play Flamestrike and take out most of his minions. He has a 6/6 Stormwind Champion, which I freeze for a turn. We're pretty level health-wise, but then Tom plays his trump cards: two Fireballs. My hero takes 12 damage, and after a few minion attacks, I'm down to just one point of health. I have a turn, but no decent cards. Tom has bested me, and I'm the second to be knocked out of the tournament. Oh well.

Tom: Phew. Andy falls victim to my double-Fireball attack. It's direct damage that can't be blocked, and forms the cornerstone of my mage deck. I drip protective taunt cards onto the board gradually, using Mirror Image to summon a pair of illusions with taunt. They can't attack, but they hold off damage long enough to let me draw some spells and finish the job.


Andy's final words: Tom, who's played Hearthstone loads more than me, wins! I'm not surprised, but I put up a decent fight. I think I could have clawed a victory if my starting deck hadn't been so terrible. I will get my revenge, after I get some better cards.

Match 3: Phil vs. Tim

Phil: Naively, I'm hoping my inexperience will give me an advantage. We're both playing hunter, and my plan is to flood the board with the cheap minions of my basic deck. Let Tim faff about with his high-falutin' rare cards if he wishes. They won't do him much good when a raptor's eating his face. At the start of Tim's third turn, my strategy seems to be working. I've neutralised his beasts and secured my own. Sure, they're not powerful, but as long as I can draw some attack-boosting cards, I can start to dent his health. And then Tim plays a Secret. Every possible move now feels like a potential disaster. I chance an attack with my Razorfen Hunter. Bad choice: I walk into an Explosive Trap. Fuck.

Tim: Despite having sunk probably 100+ hours into this game, for the first few rounds I'm doing my best to blow this. After mulliganing my initial hand aggressively, and still drawing nothing that I need, I start doing the classic workman blames his cards thing. Luckily, having established board control with his own critters, Phil then hopscotches the lot of them into my obviously-placed nuke. To be honest I feel bad about even playing a midrange Huntard, but I'm so petrified of losing in the first round that I decide to go full gorgonzola cheese board. And clearly I don't feel bad enough to not ruthlessly exploit the beast card synergies to ramp up a Starving Hyena and cave in Phil's beautiful face. Circle of life and all that.


Phil's final words: You can strategise around a basic deck, but without knowing the potential range of a hero, that plan is easily countered. My problem was not that I didn't know which secret card Tim played, it was that I didn't know that card even existed.

Match 4: Chris vs. Ben

Chris: I'm actually nervous before we even start. I know that Ben hasn't played this game very much, and I know that I have, but I'm absolutely certain that Ben will never let me forget it if I lose. My shaman deck is built around mindgames and built-in redundancy. Against a hunter, I'm expecting a lot of early aggression. Ideally, I need to make sure that I can prevent Ben from building up a minion lead. I get a Worgen Infiltrator in my initial hand, a onemana card with stealth, so Ben can't clear it right away. It's the start I need. Ben's weakness is that he's playing everything he has, when he has it. He might build up a wall of minions, but I've always got a taunt or a board-clearing Lightning spell ready. Mid-way through the game I know that I'm comfortably ahead, and then I smack him in the face with an Unbound Elemental. He plays a robust Oasis Snapjaw, but it can't stop the onslaught.

Ben: You know that meme of the dog sitting at the keyboard with the caption “I have no idea what I'm doing”? That's me. The basics of Hearthstone are easy enough to understand, but I don't get why Chris always seems to have more cards than I do—better cards at that. It doesn't seem an equal playing field. For every one of my Crocolisks, he's got two Spirit Wolves. I throw all my minions at him because, well, what else can I do with them? They bite the dust of course, taunted and stabbed and whacked with totems. Before the end I petulantly fire my hunter's Steady Shot at Chris's hero and deal two damage. You know, just so I could say I hit him at least once.

Chris: The hunter... has become the hunted.

Samuel: You are fired.


Ben's final words: Chris invites me to watch the replay on his monitor. A veiled attempt to rub my nose in it, but the new perspective is enlightening. Watching him steadily build a powerful hand, I shall no longer impatiently trot out my cards like child actors.


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