Sometimes, in Hearthstone, your entire deck hinges on a single card. Also sometimes, you can overdraw, causing those cards to be burned away. And, once in a while, you burn your key card on stage in a championship decider match, right after the production crew cuts to signs in the crowd predicting that you’ll do exactly that.
Be warned, I’m going to spoil the moment and the match below. Let’s start with the clip:
I’ll talk you through what happened. Thomas “Sintolol” Zimmer is playing Shudderwock Shaman, a deck archetype that is pretty unpopular in the community. It relies on staying alive until you’ve set everything up just right, and then playing the final key: Shudderwock themselves. The card repeats certain effects from previously played cards, and with the correct prior turns under your belt, can become a self-repeating, lethal combo that’s basically impossible to stop once it gets started.
In practice, that often means that the deck becomes a race to actually draw Shudderwock from your deck before your opponent can kill you. The catch is that if you already have ten cards in hand when you draw, you’ll destroy the card instead of picking it up, which is known as milling or burning.
In this case, it’s not strictly Sintolol’s fault. At the beginning of the clip, his opponent, Sim “DacRyvius” Dasol, plays the card Naturalise twice in a row. Each one forces Sintolol to draw two cards, so he ends up picking up four in total and filling his hand.
Realising Sintolol is about to burn something, because players automatically draw at the beginning of their turn, the production crew have the smart foresight to cut to a picture-in-picture that shows off three fellow pro players holding up a warning: “Don’t mill Shudder.” There’s just enough time for caster Simon “Sottle” Welch to laugh and say “bunch of freakin’ trolls,” before – there it goes! The shiny golden Shudderwock burned to a crisp.
On top of the excellent timing, the other players’ signs weren’t just good advice, but were referencing Sintolol’s prior history. As demonstrated in this Reddit thread, he’s had some fairly infamous mills in other events. Back in 2017’s Spring Championships, he burned the crucial Archmage Antonidas in a different deck. It’s his reaction that’s most memorable: Caster James “Firebat” Kostesich says he “looks very frustrated” which is something of an understatement:
Then, a few months ago, David “JustSaiyan” Shan deliberately forced Sintolol to mill four of his cards. Just like in this most recent example, the timing couldn’t be better: the first three cards that go up in flames aren’t key. Then there’s a beat while it switches to Sintolol’s turn, he draws again – and there goes the Shudderwock. He immediately concedes the game.
The good news is: third time lucky. Sintolol looked much less flustered in this match than he was in the previous two, and it turns out he was right not to be – he ended up winning anyway. But his next game sees him facing off against JustSaiyan again and on Twitter he joked: “Might as well catch my plane and not show up tomorrow, don’t need to…[burn] my Shudder for the 20th time.”
Only time will tell if this, like the crowd signs, will end up being a cursed portent.