The ESL Legendary Series brought us top-notch Hearthstone action for the last few weeks, but it saved the best until last. Not only did the competitor lineup feature five major champions fighting for the last day – the plays and hilarious moments piled up as well. Whether it was Sneed’s Old Shredder releasing Kel’Thuzad three times in one series or crazy topdecks that swung the momentum entirely, week eight’s memorable star-studded showdown had it all.
The crazy RNG might have taken center stage and monopolized the attention of Reddit and other outlets, but this event’s main story is the star: Liquid’s Savjz, hailing from Finland, did it.
After losing a heartbreaker against Zalae in the semifinals last week, the Finnish superstar regrouped, refined his decks and was hell-bent on getting the last available ticket to the big showdown in Burbank, California.
Week seven’s lineup was already praised as one of the best, although the last chapter of the ESL Legendary Series had even more in store. With PinpingHo already having punched his ticket to the big LAN event, the additional spot was given to none other than the reigning Hearthstone World Champion – Firebat. The Team Archon member was headlining an impressive all-star roster with DreamHack Bucharest winners Gaara and ThijsNL, SeatStory Cup 2 champ Savjz and Intel Extreme Masters Shenzhen hero Amaz. Adding to that list was Warrior standout and long-time community darling/Twitch meme Kitkatz as well as two Challenger league contestants: Goobysenchou and LonelyLink.
It proved to be the expected showcase of high skill by some of the greatest Hearthstone players. Memorable moments included ThijsNL snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Firebat, turning a 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 win, Gaara keeping his head level and the topdecks rolling in to overcome the ultra-aggressive Amaz, who brought three Aggro decks to the party, and the two open bracket veterans putting it all on the line against the established stars to fight to the final sliver of HP in the deciding game five.
Even before the grand finals were on the way, Reddit already blew up with one of the most memorable RNG sequences in the history of recorded Hearthstone. The match between Kitkatz and Nihilum player ThijsNL was tied and even, with both players making great reads, bringing amazing decks and giving their usual stellar performances in tournament play.
That was until one card, the one card to rule them all, decided to take matters into his own hands.
Sneed’s Old Shredder, forged in the fiery depths of the Deadmines, ultimately led to the demise of the young Dutch player. Kitkatz, a known believer in the Warrior class, included the Shredder legendary card in his control Warrior deck, which was lined up to be paired against ThijsNL’s Handlock in the second game of the series.
At that point, Kitkatz was already up one game when the Shredder attracted the attention of a Siphon Soul. Little did Thijs know that it was Kel’Thuzad himself maneuvering the Shredder, leading to the rebirth of the legendary. Out of all the legendary cards he could have summoned, Kitkatz proved to be the 1.61% chance required to completely disrupt Thijs’ turn and the entire game.
What added insult to injury was what happened a turn later, when Thijs took another poke at sending the Shredder to Mech heaven. Big Game Hunter had him in his sights, only to see another Kel’Thuzad pop out. This incredible moment had only a 0.026% chance of happening, prompting Thijs to concede the game on the spot and Frodan to fall off his chair in laughter.
The final nail in the coffin for Thijs’s run came two games later, however, after he had fought himself back into a position to win and reach the grand finals. This time it was the Dutch player’s Paladin against Kitkatz’s Warrior, but once more it was the same old Shredder that did him in. The Shredder died, Kel’Thuzad came out, and the Shredder revived. This vicious cycle ended the Burbank dreams of the Nihilum star, propelled Kitkatz onto the front page of Reddit and made the good old Shredder into one of the most feared legendary cards of all time. Just for the record, the chance of three Kel’Thuzad coming out of the Shredder is 0.00042%.
So what more could the grand final of week eight have in store? Was there any possibility of topping those crazy events? Probably not quite like that, but from the standpoint of high-class Hearthstone, the grand finals event had it all. Every little facet that makes the game great was present, from game-turning topdecks, heads-up plays, gambling and risk-taking all the way down to controlled and composed play – both Kitkatz and Savjz gave it their all.
The last match of the five-game series especially had tension and the potential to end on the spot for several turns with a topdeck. At that point, both players had been through their entire arsenal of classes and matchups already, with Savjz putting his faith in the light for the last two deciding matches. One week after exclusively pulling out his Fatigue Mage in situations like these, the Fin felt more comfortable with his Paladin against Kitkatz’s lineup – mostly because of the looming threat the aggressive Druid presented.
The gamble paid off, and despite explosive starts from the Druid in the fourth and fifth match with Innervate and Wild Growth, Savjz was able to hold off the attacks and strike back. In the fourth game, the swing came with a clean clear against a Dr Boom board, utilizing the power of Consecration and Big Game Hunter to deal with one of the peskiest legendary cards the new Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion unleashed upon the inn. After that turn, the Druid couldn’t get back on the board any more, lacking the final burst of the combo to close out the deal.
This meant things went on to the fifth and final game – a rematch between Uther and Malfurion. Once more it was Kitkatz who took control of the board early, looking like a sure bet to make it to the sunny coast of California. Shutting down each of Savjz’s attempts to stabilize and reigning over the board with two Spectral Knights, everything seemed to be going the way of the Tempo Storm player.
However, a Consecration topdeck for board clear turned the game around entirely as it was paired with Equality.
From the board clear onwards, the game was intense. Both players were sitting on 12 HP, with Savjz having board presence and Kitkatz holding plenty of Mana Crystals and one half of the lethal Druid combo in his hand. Sadly for him, he had to use that just to stay alive a turn later to clear out a Sen’Jin. This allowed Savjz to take a small gamble and push for the board even more instead of making a defensive play – conceding the board but getting out of combo range.
The gamble worked out, however, and while Kitkatz desperately tried to clutch at any straws, he ultimately fell to the Paladin yet again. With that, Team Liquid’s Finnish superstar grabbed the fourth direct spot at the inn in Burbank, completing the lineup for the grand finals.
Four players who earned it through wins and four players with top point totals will travel to the West Coast of the United States in order to take part in the first-ever Legendary Series Championship. Savjz and Darkwonyx will be representing Europe, Magicamy Korea, PinpingHo and Weifu Taiwan and SilentStorm Canada. Only Zalae and Chakki will be representing the red, white and blue on their home turf.
Exciting times are ahead for Hearthstone at ESL, so be sure to keep an eye on the official website for all the latest developments.