When it comes to competitive Hearthstone, the baying mob that is Twitch chat loves nothing more than a catastrophic misplay. It’s therefore entirely unsurprising that the most viewed game from last weekend’s Dreamhack Montreal Hearthstone Grand Prix is also the most poorly played one. The swiss stage encounter, between CoachTwisted and Walaoumpa, has generated a storm of activity on social media, with many dubbing it "the worst played professional game of Hearthstone of all time".
If you haven’t seen the trainwreck of a match already, the best way to watch is probably accompanied by pro player’s Amnesiac’s . As well as providing top notch analysis, the famously cocksure NRG player also manages to cover an impressive range of emotions in the video, ranging from mild bemusement to outright anger. This is just that kind of game.
The chaos started, as chaos so frequently does, with a surprise Nozdormu.
A little background: at this point in the game Waloumpa is in what seems like a completely lost position, with CoachTwisted having managed to play both Raza the Chained and Shadowreaper Anduin, granting him a 0 mana, 2-damage hero power that refreshes every time he plays a card. In addition to this, he has an unchallenged Lyra the Sunshard on the board, which will draw him a random priest spell every time he plays a spell. In short CoachTwisted has access to more than enough damage to end the game over the next few turns. Nozdormu’s effect means he only has 15 seconds to execute his turn, but the game absolutely should be over, provided he keeps his cool.
He does not keep his cool. Instead, he enters what can only be described as a fire in a pet shop level of panic. Faced with needing to remove the Nozdormu, CoachTwisted hurriedly tries to ping it down with his hero powers, refreshing each cast with Lyra spells. Except in attempting to do this, he mistakenly plays Circle of Healing, and ends up healing the Nozdormu back to full life, undoing the previous pings.
Meanwhile the rope timer keeps burning. Twisted only realises he healed up the dragon after queueing up the trade he thoughts would take it off the board. When it lives, there isn’t enough time to adjust the plan. He does however find time to wince painfully and throw out an "oops" emote. So well played there.
Despite the shambles, Twisted’s lead in the game is still so commanding that there really should be no way for him to lose. But… well, take a look:
It’s fair to say Twisted loses his mind completely at this point. Even after the Nozdormu turn, the game really should be locked up—all he needs to do is play his cards, hero power his opponent in the face, and he will have lethal over the next few turns, if not immediately. Instead, he incorrectly commits to the strategy of killing off minions before going face, which he executes very clumsily, often missing hero powers between spells. It goes on this way for a few turns, before CoachTwisted runs out of cards and, incredibly, loses the game.
It’s very easy to be critical of a pro player for making so many errors over the course of a high profile game, . And sure—to an extent, those criticisms are justified. But having suffered my own fair share of on stream back when I played Hearthstone professionally, I’m probably more qualified than most to offer an opinion as to what was going on in Twisted’s head.
It’s clear from his glazed expression as he plays those fateful late turns that he is suffering from a bad case of tunnel vision. While the failure to kill Nozdurmu was disastrous, it was disastrous in a technical way more than anything—a mistake like that is quite easy to write off as an isolated moment of panic. The real persistent error was the strategy he then opted for—of clearing minions with his hero power before going face—and refused to abandon, seemingly so desperate for the game to end that he didn’t have the mental bandwidth to even consider other options.
When I reached out to Twisted, he confirmed my theory, saying "I wasn’t thinking at all. I was actually on tilt and was just playing cards."
With the pressure of playing a notoriously tricky deck on stream, combined with fatigue after a long day of play in the grueling swiss portion of the tournament, it’s definitely understandable how Twisted lost his head and allowed tilt to take over.
And while I’m sure it’s not fun to be for no greater crime than misplaying a game of Hearthstone, Twisted seemed pretty cheerful about the whole situation, telling me "If anything, this got me getting seriously back into Hearthstone[...] Going to start streaming and everything." So if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that sometimes the wrong play for the game is the right play for your career.
Looking forward to catching some more of those Priest mirrors, Coach.