Ever since I gained access to Hearthstone‘s closed beta, I’ve been obsessed with the game (read my review here). In a way, it’s a perfectly casual game that can be played at all times, but it also has a competitive aspect that has paved the way for it to becoming a respected eSport. Up until last month, I had never taken the Hearthstone grind too seriously. I’d pop in every day, complete my dailies, do an Arena run or two and collect some more cards as a result. I’ve been having fun being a casual player of the game, despite playing it frequently, and the highest ranking I had achieved was four during one of the test seasons. But with the announcement of the Legend card back, I decided to take a month of seriously grinding to Legend and seeing if I could make it.
Leading up to the month of May, I decided to dust off some of my more competitive decks and took a look online at discussions, tournament decks and how the overall meta was at the high level. But Hearthstone was in a strange place towards the end of April, with Hunters wrecking havoc throughout the ladder on the strength of the Starving Buzzard plus Unleash the Hounds combo. I messed around with the Hunter deck, but the class was never one that I was fond of and simply didn’t fit my play style. I decided to play Druid quite a bit leading into May, and had a hard time deciding on which deck I was going to use to grind for the season. But when May 1st came, the only thing I knew was that I was going to try my hardest to hit Legend that month.
My first match against a Legend player
Initially, I began Ranked Play using a Warlock Aggro deck that focused around a Leeroy Jenkins and double Power Overwhelming combo rather than using a pair of Doomguards in the deck. As popular and potent as Zoo is, I wasn’t a huge fan of the discarding mechanic and often times with my luck, I’d end up sitting on two Doomguards and having to discard one. The grind in the early levels went by quickly, with win streaks stacking up and getting to Rank 10 within the first few days. My initial goal was to return to Rank 5 by the end of the second full week, giving me two weeks to do the grind from Rank 5 to Legend, which many said would take just as long, if not longer, than the grind from 25 to 5.
Once I got to Rank 7, I decided it was time to toss the Warlock Aggro deck and switch to variations of the Druid. Druid was one of a few classes that I had already reached Level 60 with, so I felt more comfortable playing it in hopes of ranking up. At first, I did an old school Watcher Druid deck that climbed me easily to Rank 5 before checking out a Miracle / Token Druid hybrid. While the deck was really fun and I had good success with some win streaks and climbing to Rank 4, to me it was wildly inconsistent against the meta during the second full week of the season. After almost a full week of playing just Druid, I felt like I couldn’t get out of Rank 4 with the class. I played it so much in fact, that I got myself the Golden Druid after 500 wins. That weekend however, I decided to switch to another class I had reached Level 60 with, the Shaman. With the nerf to Unleash the Hounds, there were less Hunters in the higher rankings, so I decided that Shaman would be my best bet.
If you’re playing against a Token Druid, this isn’t a good sight to see
I played a pretty standard Shaman deck and got to Rank 3 – three stars by the end of the second weekend. I was pumped and felt like I was on track to hit Legend. Once I got into the higher ranks, I started playing the same people over and over. Some added me to their friends list, some I sent requests to. As a result, I started making Hearthstone friends, discussing strategies, the meta and what decks were working and weren’t working. We cheered each other on as we continued through the third week of play, all of us trying to hit Legend.
Heading into the long Memorial Day weekend, I decided that the three-day weekend was the time to finish the grind. I sat down and committed myself the playtime and slowly progressed through Rank 2 and into Rank 1. Next thing I know, I was Rank 1 – three stars and feeling the pressure of how close I was to Legend. “I just have to net three more wins,” I kept telling myself. After about two hours of straight grinding, I began trading wins and felt stuck at Rank 1 and decided to take a break when I fell back to having no stars at Rank 1.
Thanks for the Whelps Miracle Rogue
I talked to other people that had made the journey to Legend for advice. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by how great the community was and how supportive other players were at the higher ranks. One person that I met was one win away from Legend, and the next morning when I logged in, he was Rank 6. I thought to myself, if that ever happened to me, I’m not sure if I’d have it in me to continue the grind.
On Memorial Day, I spent the majority of the day bouncing back and forth between Rank 1 and Rank 2. I started doubting my deck, thinking it wasn’t strong enough to hold up to the finish line. When I fell all the way back to Rank 2 – zero stars, I decided to change things up… and that’s when things got really bad. As one person so kindly put it, I fell from grace. Before I knew what was happening, I was back at Rank 3 and losing faith. I started becoming stubborn, netdecking and trying out other decks in an attempt to reach Legend, including Miracle Rogue. But the lack of experience trying to play such high-level decks proved costly as I continued to tumble down the Ranks. Ultimately once I reached Rank 5, I had all but given up on the dream of hitting Legend.
Sometimes against Handlocks, you just have to get super aggressive
But that’s not to say it wasn’t a huge learning experience for me. Not just the knowledge gained about Hearthstone, but learning more about myself as a person. Getting frustrated, tilting and losing confidence were all emotions I went through during the grind. After a while, I learned that while luck definitely plays a role in Hearthstone, it’s not always at fault when I didn’t have the card I needed to answer a certain play. Instead, I started to develop the skills to figure out an answer based on what was given to me. In addition, during the grind I met some great people, some of which felt genuinely awful to see me fall from being so close. Many tried to cheer me up, saying that I did really well for my first season of trying and I would definitely get it next season. But I’m not so sure I’m going to try again… at least not right away.
The final week, I didn’t even bother playing Ranked. I made friends with a Mage that was trying to finish Top 16 – and he did, at Rank 7 Legend – and he shared his decklist with me. After losing to him twice, I realized he had a very interesting take on Frost Mage, which I had never seen before on the ladder or online. With a few cards missing to complete the deck however, I have decided that I’ll spend some time in Arena to finish up my collection while taking a breather from the Ranked grind. Perhaps when the Curse of Naxxramas is released or I can complete the Mage’s decklist, I’ll make another attempt at hitting Legend.
At least I got myself Golden Druid this past season
As for those still wondering whether or not Hearthstone is a pay-to-win game, I am thoroughly convinced it is not. Naturally, having more cards at your disposal means you have a greater variety of decks that you can build, but if I had decided to spend $100 dollars into Hearthstone, it wouldn’t have gotten me Legend. Last season was also the season that Amaz started a brand new account and reached Legend playing Priest without spending any real money. Playing Hearthstone at a high level requires a great amount of skill and dedication, while being really successful doesn’t automatically get handed to the player that spent the most money.
If you’re looking to become a Hearthstone Legend, here are a few tips that I wish I followed myself. Pick a deck, and stick to it. Use programs such as Hearthstone Tracker to determine what you’re playing against most, and make minor adjustments to your deck to counter it accordingly. In addition, you’ll want to use a card counter to help keep track of what you’ve drawn and what’s left in your deck. I can’t count how many times I forgot whether or not I had a Rockbiter left in my deck. If you lose three games in a row, take a break. As much as you might not realize it yourself, losing games can result in making more aggressive plays, or missing plays altogether. But really the most important aspect to becoming a Legend is to find a class you’re comfortable with and learn to play it as well as you can.
Nothing makes you more nervous than going against a famous Legend player
Through my failed journey of trying to become a Hearthstone Legend, I played against popular streamers, high ranking players and even tournament winners. I made friends, I got frustrated, I won games and I lost games. It was a compelling experience, one that I’ll look back on and perhaps laugh at, but the harsh reality of being so close and not hitting my goal still stings quite a bit. For now though, it’s nice to play Hearthstone casually again, not feeling the pressure of winning or losing, but simply having fun. Best of all… there aren’t any Miracle Rogues in the Arena.