It was a beautiful weekend in Austin – especially for a gaming showdown! The open One Nation of Gamers tournament offered an impressive $10,000 prize pool as well as the all-important currency of Hearthstone pros, HCT points! A number of our Sensei were in attendance, but one walked away a bit taller than the rest: Ray ‘Astrogation’ Zhou took home the second place prize after an intense Grand Finals vs. Esteban ‘AKAWonder’ Serrano! We sat down with this rising star to hear his experiences and thoughts after the fact.
How did you prepare for the event? What decklists did you submit?
I started by studying some of the lineups that did well at PAX East, as I wanted to counter the popular successful decks from that tournament. I brought Reno Warlock, Pirate Warrior, Miracle Rogue, and Jade Druid lists, as I felt they covered most of the possible matchups.
What were you expecting to see in the meta? How did your predictions hold up?
I expected a lot of Dragon Priest and Jade Shaman. Those two decks are overrated in my opinion, and I tried to counter them heavily. I teched Arcane Giants and Yogg-Saron into my Druid list, to present more threats and have comeback potential. I think my meta read was good! Obviously things worked out pretty well anyway, laughs.
Any noteworthy moments in your run to the finals? Specific plays that you think could have gone better?
The craziest series was the one I played against Sebastian ‘Xixo’ Bentert. My Yogg in the Druid mirror to win that series was the definite highlight! As far as misplays, in that same series I really messed up the Miracle Rogue vs. Tempo Mage matchup. I was still feeling kinda sick from PAX East, so that might have made things tougher, laughs.
How did you feel going into the finals?
I was confident! I felt my lineup was favored, and I had already 3-0’d AKAWonder in the winner’s bracket final. Still, I knew the games against him wouldn’t be easy!
What, in your opinion, was the critical moment of the finals?
I’m not sure there was an exact critical moment in the Grand Finals. In the first set, the three games I lost were complete nut draws for AKAWonder. The second set went to game five, and there may have been a few plays there that I could have made differently. I’ll have to review the VODs at some point and look for mistakes! That’s always a great way to learn and improve your game.
Any changes you would make to your decks with the benefit of hindsight?
I’m happy with my decklists. Perhaps just playing Dragon Priest instead of Druid would have been better, but I really liked the other three decks!
Where can we next see you battling in 2017?
As far as upcoming events, I’ll be competing at Dreamhack Austin and in the HCT Spring Playoffs. I have two big second places now, and I’m more motivated than ever to win – win! – a Major!
Any final shoutouts you’d like to make?
I want to shoutout Casie for the Rogue preparation help, and Impact for testing Arcane Giants in Jade Druid with Yogg! And of course, a shoutout to Gamer Sensei for the interview! I love coaching and hearing from you guys, so go check out my Profile Page! And thanks for all the love!