Breaking out in 2015 in Hearthstone, Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen remains to this day one of the game’s best known strategists. To little surprise, his experience winning HCT LANs in his original game has transferred to his Artifact skills as well. The SK Telecom player has now come to WePlay’s Artifact tournament to show that his understanding of deckbuilding is downright superior.
We sat down with the Dane to discuss his weird, but terribly efficient The Oath aggro deck, his Artifact vs. Hearthstone future, and where can Artifact’s constructed meta go from here.
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First off, thanks for sitting down with me, it’s been a long time since we spoke! How have you been doing?
Hey. Yea, it has been some time! I have been doing great, thanks.
Since the last time, you changed a few pro teams and now you’re on the legendary SK Telecom. How did that deal come to be? It’s quite an unusual venture for them, to be honest.
Yeah, it’s the first time that SKT T1 pick up a non-Korean team. I’m really happy to be a part of such a big and professional esport team and also really happy to play for them together with Xixo and Surrender. It started with them contacting Surrender and then it develop from there.
I imagine you guys are going to compete from your own homes online right? Are there/have there been plans to bring you to Korea?
We spend over a month in South Korea when we signed with the team. We don’t have any plans for going to South Korea right now, but we are definitely going there together again at some point to visit SKT T1 or Surrender.
My main focus will always be Hearthstone and I would prioritize most Hearthstone tournaments over the Artifact ones.
Did they sign you guys with the idea to develop a Hearthstone team or an Artifact team? Where will you be focusing more, since I imagine being on top of your game in two different TCGs is quite the challenge?
They signed us to develop a Hearthstone team. My main focus will always be Hearthstone and I would prioritize most Hearthstone tournaments over the Artifact ones. I have always been a big fan of the Dota universe. I’ve played it ever since DotA 1 and I follow the professional Dota 2 scene very closely.
I have been pretty hyped about Artifact ever since they announced it at TI. I think the game is super great and it also gives you that Dota feeling when you play it. I will try to play both games competitively I and think the draft system in Artifact is great. I have always wished that Hearthstone would have a competitive draft system.
Let’s talk about the WePlay tournament and specifically your list of choice. You went with a BR Aggro deck with The Oath tech, that caught the casters a bit off guard. Talk to me about the reasoning behind that card.
I think it’s super important that you either have Disciple of Nevermore or The Oath in your BR deck, because if you don’t, you can’t threaten the Ancient tower. That means that the opponent can give up on their dead lane and not spend any resources or heroes.
Also, if you saw my games, I often just gave up in one lane since I knew they could never threaten my Ancient tower before I could either get two towers or push their Ancients. This means I would have more heroes to fight for the other lanes. Also, since I have The Oath, they can never give up on their dead lane and have to put resources and heroes into a lane where the tower is already destroyed.
On the desk, the casters discussed — or tried to figure out rather — the correct way to use The Oath. For those trying to learn the deck at home, what’s that correct use?
It depends on the match up. This deck goes pretty fast and often ends on turn 3 or 4. Red/black and red/green can’t really punish you if you do it early since they don’t have any board clears — I would normally play it if I have three or more minions than my opponent in a single lane but sometimes it’s good to play it even earlier.
For example, in one of Xixo’s games, he used it on turn 1 since his Phantom Assassin was facing Bristleback. So, to avoid giving Bristleback 2 armor he used it there. I think that play was correct, because this deck doesn’t run any chip damage like Hip Fire or Pick Off so it would be really hard for Xixo to win that lane again without sacrificing another hero to Bristleback.
Just one of the most important rule with this deck is that you put Sorla on the lane that you are winning that turn.
Any other advice/guidance for the deck?
It depends on the match-up. Against red/black and red/green, you just try to go wide on your lanes and develop a lot of minions and try to effectively kill your opponent’s minions. If your opponent is the first to get behind on board, they can never really come back. Also, if you play against BR, it’s super important that you have initiative on turn 2 with your black hero if you have Tyler Estate Censor in hand. It can deny your opponent’s turn really hard if you can play it before their Oglodi Vandal, Tyler Estate Censor or Legion Standard Bearer.
Why did you choose to go for aggro in the tournament, and not some of the other popular archetypes like UG Combo or RG Ramp? Is it because it counters the meta best or is it a playstyle preference?
I think people undervalue minions right now. A lot of people are playing tech cards in their BR (Smash Their Defenses, Routed, Enough Magic) and a lot of high end cards (Spring the Trap, Time of Triumph). I think that’s wrong, because it makes your match-up against RG worse since they can do it faster; worse against UG combo, because they have more time to do the combo; and worse against BR aggro since they can go wider faster than you.
I just wanted to build a consistent deck, where I can play most of my cards all the time and punish creative deckbuilding. Also, At Any Cost, which can punish this deck extremely hard since this deck needs minions on board to work effectively — and Sorla has 6 hp and Tinker has 5 — is not a meta card at the moment.
My next question would be why guys I’ve interviewed like Hyped and Naiman thought we wouldn’t be seeing a lot of black, but I guess that already answers it: players don’t expect black, so they don’t bring the counters, so black ironically becomes strong.
Yea, I built my deck mainly to punish UG Combo decks. I have seen a lot of complains that this tournament is only BR, but it’s easily counterable. We just don’t have a meta right now, so I think a lot of people took a safe deck like BR which can punish bad decks.
I think people undervalue minions right now. A lot of people are playing tech cards in their BR and a lot of high end cards. I think that’s wrong.
What do you think of some of the unorthodox decks in the tournament? Reynad’s and MrYagut’s Payday aggros and MELO’s mono blue control are some of the examples. What do you make of them?
Payday decks have been there since close beta and I also tried that out. I just find the deck too slow, but it has sick high roll potential if you hit Track and Payday early. It’s however hard to get kills with the deck since a lot of people are playing three red heroes.
The deck that surprised me the most in my group was RDU. He played a few green cards, only ramp and Thunderhide Packs over Emmisary. I’m looking forward to see MELO’s mono blue in action, but I don’t really believe in mono colors in constructed. I think tri-color has more potential than mono, but maybe I’m wrong.
What would be a theoretical tri-color deck? What heroes and playstyle?
Well I have an idea at the moment, but I don’t wanna say it since we have to resubmit decklist for the playoffs. [winks]
Speaking of the playoffs, who do you consider to be the favourites for the championship?
I think Lifecoach and StanCifka. I would not be surprised if Ekop does well too. But I hope Xixo and I can go far.
We’ve had two televised Artifact tournaments: one draft and one constructed. Which format do you think is the way to go for the Artifact competitive scene?
Definitely draft, I think, because the format is super skillful and every game is different. You have to adapt to what cards you are given in each pack. I also think draft is normally the best way to play competitively, because it’s also easier for newer players to get into the game. In Hearthstone, you have to build an entire collection to even play a pro qualifier or a Dreamhack. In Artifact, you basically only need three packs. So the distance to play competitive is way shorter compared to Hearthstone.
I also think draft is normally the best way to play competitively, because it’s also easier for newer players to get into the game.
This was also one of the reason I started played Magic. I had never played any GP’s or PT’s but qualified to a Pro Tour from Magic online just playing a draft tournament without having a collection. But I would not mind a mix like they do in Magic — then you also need to have a wider skill range.
Some more general questions as we wrap this up: Blizzard recently announced major changes to Hearthstone esports, including higher prize pools, getting rid of the ladder grind in favor of online cups and so on. At the same time, we have Artifact’s million dollar tournament coming in 2019.
What do you think of HS’ changes? And what path should Artifact go beyond that lavish tournament?
Well, I think removing the ladder system is bad and think all the changes are mostly going to favor established HS pro players and big streamers. I think it will be even harder for new players to break out with this system. However, I still think and hope Blizzard know what they are doing and I still have a good hopes for the future of HS esports.
I think it’s important that Artifact gets some kind of ladder system. I don’t hope it’s similar to MTGO where they don’t have any ladder system but only the amount of trophies you can get. So far, I think Artifact has done a good job listening to their community and optimizing the game, but I don’t know the best way to build their esports scene.