It’s a wrap! The second LAN finals of the ESL Legendary Series in Burbank, California, are over but Hearthstone history has been made. Not only has the event become a fan favorite, but the games also lived up to the hype that the regular season had been building for the last couple of weeks. In the end, it was a similar storyline as in the tournament series’ debut season, with a lesser-known player fighting his way through stiff competition to become legendary. In the end, last season’s champion SilentStorm was succeeded by PHONETAP from the Hearthlytics squad - a young rising star in an up-and-coming team full of exceptional talent.
Favorites out early
To start off the festivities in sunny Southern California, the packed group stage had some surprises in store. All four groups had already left one of the favorites behind, while some underdogs had managed to claw their way into the bracket stage. Most notably it was Kolento and reigning champion SilentStorm who had their runs ended early, both finishing in their respective groups as third and losing the deciding elimination game. For Kolento, a streak of ‘go big or go home’ tournaments continues, with the Ukrainian Hearthstone star seeming to either win the entire tournament or bust out fairly early.
For SilentStorm, the return to the site of his biggest success yet didn’t live up to the memories. In the deciding match with PHONETAP, it was the young Vietnamese player who barely edged out the Canadian star. For PHONETAP, it was the start of an incredible journey filled with tension and excitement. For SilentStorm, it was the end of the line for his title defense.
Joining Kolento and SilentStorm in the eliminated category were both Illuminati members Koyuki and Th3rat as well as WWLOS, Leadpaint and much-praised Root player Ostkaka. For the Swedish player especially, the ESL Legendary Series was a rough playground this season. In the week he qualified for the main event he couldn’t win a single game, and at the finals in Burbank he couldn’t win a single series out of the groups with a 0-2 scoreline, seeing Roger and TempoStorm captain Reynad advance.
The slightest of margins
In the bracket stage, it was all about PHONETAP and his eventual grand final opponent Reynad - both for very different reasons. For the Vietnamese player, it was the way he advanced round after round, making it as tight and tense as humanly possible. Overall, the Hearthlytics player had five of his six games end 3-2 or 2-3, being a single game away from elimination on several occasions. While he looked nervous, the mental strength of PHONETAP was incredible to see, with him winning the majority of those deciding games - mostly with his struggling Shaman deck.
For Reynad, the journey to the grand final was not as tight, but filled with some hilarious moments. In his game against Lifecoach, he had to “skillfully roll a Kor’Kron Elite” (according to Reynad himself) in order to seal the win of his Tempo Mage against Paladin. That Unstable Portal, as well as Lifecoach seeing his Force of Nature getting destroyed by an unexpected Explosive Trap, were the most memorable moments of a great game between the two. Reynad moved on with 3-1, having to face his former teammate Kitkatz next.
In that game, the Tempo Storm founder found himself down 1-2 with his tournament life hanging in the balance: he needed to win two unfavorable matchups with his Patron Warrior and struggling Tempo Mage against Kitkatz’s Handlock. In the post-game interview, Reynad was specifically proud of his win with the Patron deck over the Handlock. In the final match, though, it came down to his Tempo Mage trying to steal a game from Handlock. Ultimately an Unstable Portal for a Wee Spellstopper disrupted the hard removal of Kitkatz, rendering Darkbomb and Mortal Coil in his opening hand almost useless at first. That snowball was enough to push Kitkatz into critical health, but not enough to push it to zero already - that honor was reserved for an Arcane Intellect fishing for the lethal Fireball one turn before Kitkatz could play the saving Jaraxxus. Kitkatz was out and Reynad advanced, meaning Tempo Storm was up against Hearthlytics in the finals.
A worthy grand final
The grand final of the ESL Legendary Series Season 2 was set, with Reynad to take on PHONETAP for all the honor, glory, World Championship points and of course the lion’s share of the US$20,000 prize pool.
The match started with the battle of the slumping decks, with both lists giving the two finalists headaches. For PHONETAP, it was his aggressive Mech Shaman deck, which had pushed him to so many 2-2s throughout the tournament. For Reynad, it was once more the Tempo Mage. Kripp, Chakki and TJ all joked about it, especially after Shaman edged out a win against the Mage, but Reynad found a way to equalize it with his Mage against the Druid. The struggling decks were now out of play, prompting Kripp to proclaim that the finals were actually starting.
In terms of real decks, it seemed to be PHONETAP’s advantage. His Druid could get off to a very quick and aggressive start against Reynad’s Patron Warrior, leaving the American to play catchup and never really unleash the true potential of the combo deck. The smart tech of PHONETAP with the Acidic Swamp Ooze wasn’t even needed to crush Reynad’s hopes and dreams as the board position of Druid forced the Warrior into expensive clears just to stay alive. With PHONETAP having match point, it was the Hunter left for the Vietnamese player. A timely Loatheb and a very timely Savannah Highmane later, the win became clearer and clearer for PHONETAP. Just like in the game before, Reynad was forced to spend almost all of his resources on simply staying alive while the Hunter dropped one threat after another.
At a certain point the Warrior couldn’t weather the storm any more, with Rexxar unleashing the true power of the Hunter one minion and hero power at a time. With TJ and Chakki hyping Reynad’s inevitable clicking on the concede button, PHONETAP went on to take the ESL Legendary Series Season 2 title.
To relive all of the weekend’s awesome cardslinging action, make sure to check out the VODs, and keep an eye on the official site for all follow-up announcements and news about what’s next in the Hearthstone Legendary Series.