He did it! After two weeks of Zalae ousting his first opponent before falling in the semifinals, the Magic: The Gathering player finally broke through. This time, his journey all the way to the top took place in one of the most stacked events that the Hearthstone Legendary Series has hosted to date. Stars like Amaz, StrifeCro, Hyped and Savjz entered the fray, but in the end it was Zalae and PingpingHo who had the final showdown… which then turned into a one-sided affair without real consequences for either of them.
Obviously both players wanted to win and get that ticket to Burbank on the heels of a title in a weekly event. However, with the way it worked out, both players will now be going to the grand final event, one because of his title and other due to his stacked point totals – a rare win-win situation on the virtual table of the Hearthstone inn.
Rocky road to Burbank
So the third chosen one to complete the weekly challenge of fighting through the mixture of invited players, returning veterans and Challenger players is Zalae, who had one of the longest journeys to the top. Ever since the week five competition he’s been part of the Legendary circuit with success followed immediately by a loss. However, despite the back and forth of highs followed by lows, he kept going.
Frodan mentioned Zalae’s past as one of the ultimate M:tG grinders on ladder, so his hard work and refusal to give up has been well documented in the genre of card games. However, while the Hearthstone inn is not always known as the most forgiving of places or one where good karma builds up to reward you, the Innkeeper seemed to make an exception for Zalae.
Ever since the first edition, the runner up from the Challenger tournament had to face strong opponents. His rivals included not a single player from the open brackets, nor any players without prior experience in a major competition. Until the seventh week’s grand finals and his meeting with PinpingHo, all opponents have been stars of the scene. The first week he competed it was against TidesofTime and Darkwonyx, which was then followed by SjoW and Tempo Storm’s own Hyped. The latter matchup of both weeks led to his demise and early departure from the Legendary Series.
However, the wins in the first game kept Zalae’s dream of going to Burbank, California, alive, as these granted him a ticket to stay in the Legendary Series time and time again. However, he had to watch Magicamy, his week five Challenger Series finals opponent, clinch the spot for Burbank in week six, also having just suffered defeat at the hands of Hyped.
Zalae had the ultimate chance for revenge just a week later, when he and Hyped were set to meet again – this time in round one. The two returning veterans squared off right away on the top side of the bracket with a lot on the line. Hyped was out to become the second Tempo Storm member to make it to Burbank, while Zalae’s quest was for the ticket and the chance to make his charmed third run count.
Besides PinpingHo, who played himself into this week from the Challenger tournament, Zalae was the first player to make it to three Legendary Series weeks. Still, being in the record books for that wouldn’t be as satisfying as making it to the final showdown. After finishing off Hyped 3-1, his next opponent was none other than Finnish star Savjz. The winner of the second edition of SeatStory Cup and original Hearthstone fan favorite swept Colemtg in the first round. The dreaded second game of the tourney started of with a clutch victory for the America. Queueing his Priest into the flavorful Fatigue Mage of the Fin should have been a mismatch, but he remained as cool as the other side of the pillow and played it out nicely.
Savjz got on the scoreboard by his Warrior outlasting Zalae’s Hunter, setting up the interesting matchup between a mid-range Warlock and the fast Druid archetype. It seemed even for quite a while… until Zalae got a huge turn with Black Knight against a Druid of the Claw in taunt form. At that moment, the American had total control of the board and was in no danger of dying to combo, comfortably playing the game from ahead with little problem. Savjz then put all his eggs into the Fatigue Mage deck basket, using it first to take out the Warlock before finally falling with it to the Hunter. This 3-2 send Savjz out of the tournament and brought Zalae out of the semifinals for the first time.
The hype of that accomplishment might have carried through and amplified his performance to new heights – he went through his finals opponent like he was butter. PinpingHo apparently didn’t scout out his opponent in the first matches, which lost him the first bout by an inch. Zalae’s deck revolved around the big burst potential of double Power Overwhelming paired up with Arcane Golem and Faceless Manipulator for the grand total of 24 damage on ten mana. Zalae got his opponent to exactly that health total from the start, but wouldn’t draw into his Faceless for the longest time. As his deck was completely depleted, PinpingHo was still on 24 life, without a taunt, but had the opportunity to live through the burst at least temporarily by using Hex on one of his own minions. He passed on that opportunity and then had to concede to two angry Arcane Golems charging his face. Boo-yah.
The second game between the two had the unlikely hero of a silenced Sylvanas staying on the board for ages, dealing damage and disrupting every single play PinpingHo’s Paladin could make. Before she could finish of the job and deal the lethal blow, PinPingHo succeeded – he had no time for games anymore. The anticlimactic finish to the game and the Legendary Series ended with Hunter against Zoo – in which the Zoo started out with an Abusive Sergeant and two Power Overwhelmings. The Zoo couldn’t establish any board presence of significance, the Eaglehorn Bow shut down every attempt of catching back up and angry hounds were waiting to be unleashed upon Gul’Dan’s sorrowful creatures. Rexxar succeeded, Zalae advanced to Burbank and PinpingHo will be the first player to ever be a part of four Legendary Series in the next week – including two losses in a grand final.
Last call for Burbank
After this intense week seven action with Zalae finally making it past the semifinals with a win, four of the eight finalists have been determined. Darkwonyx, Magicamy and Zalae are in through their titles, while PinpingHo made it to the big showdown with his two grand final appearances and a semifinal outing granting him 85 points in total. With that, he is on top of the chart in that category, making it impossible for anyone to catch up to him.
So now the competition for the remaining four spots is on. Only one player will get a direct invite from a week eight title – the other three will have to make it through the point standings, earning it the hard way. The current threshold to make it to California for some Hearthstone action is 80 points, the exact amount the first four winners of the ESL Legendary Series gathered. Chakki, Max, SilentStorm and Weifu are all tied in second place, followed by Dtwo with 50 points and Sjow, dog, Kibler and Hyped with 35. As it stands, none of these players will be returning to the Legendary Series for week eight.
It would once more be anticlimactic, but deserved, as those players won the ESL Legendary Series weeks before the direct seed to the grand finals was handed out. Getting to the grand finals in Burbank – and thus leveling the playing field – would only be fair. Whoever gets his mojo going best will be on their way to Burbank – whether through points or the win, the place at the virtual table will be real.
For more information about the ESL Legendary Series and what’s to come, be sure to check out the official site – see you at the inn next weekend!