Meet the Hearthstone Europe Winter Championship Finalists (Part 1)

Meet the Hearthstone Europe Winter Championship Finalists (Part 1)

With Hearthstone's Europe Winter Championship kicking off in two days, we wanted to take a moment to find out more about our top eight players. After dueling against more than 150 card-slingers who qualified for the Winter Preliminary last month, these finalists have emerged victorious to secure their coveted slots.

Today we'll be looking at four of our finalists, following up tomorrow with the remaining four players. Without further ado, let's meet Naiman, Nicslay, Diggen, and Cereza!


Naiman

Olzhas “Ole” Batyrbekov, better known as Naiman, has persevered through wins and defeats to reach the top eight.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started playing Hearthstone.

I'm 28, I live in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and I started playing Hearthstone in September, 2014. I used to play World of Warcraft, which is the main reason I decided to stick with the hunter class in Hearthstone. I’ve always loved the hero power and how aggressive hunter decks can be.

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Hearthstone card?

Gladiator's Longbow—this was the first Epic card that I got in the game. I don’t use it anymore, but who knows, maybe I’ll get the chance in the future.

When ranking up on ladder, do you have any specific strategies?

On ladder I mostly try to counter the currently popular archetypes. Another strategy of mine is to follow the meta and to use the classes and decks that are considered to be the most unbalanced at the moment.

What are you most proud of regarding your Hearthstone career so far, and what does the future hold?

My biggest achievement in Hearthstone is probably the fact that I didn't give up when I hit hard times. After being disqualified last year, I was planning on retiring until my fiancée said that she wouldn't let me retire like this. Now that I’m back in the game, I want to become the Hearthstone World Champion!


Nicslay

For Philipp Hehn, better known as Nicslay, the Winter Preliminary also happened to be his first big tournament.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started playing Hearthstone.

I’m 20 years old and from Germany, but I lived in the USA for two years during my youth. I started playing Hearthstone in December 2013 when I finally got my beta key after participating in a lot of giveaways. The streams on Twitch got me really excited for the game.

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Hearthstone card?

My favorite card is Dark Peddler. It's always a good draw, and picking the correct card is very important and often not as easy as it seems. Comboing Dark Peddler with Brann Bronzebeard is also very rewarding. A close second for my favorite card is Gormok the Impaler—getting value from his battlecry is very hard, but it can swing games by itself.

When ranking up on ladder, do you have any specific strategies?

Warlock is probably my favorite class, and it’s also the class I play most on ladder. It has the best hero power in the game and has historically always had competitive decks. Your opponent can never be sure if you’re playing an aggressive zoo, a handlock, or a renolock, which can give you an edge right from the start. But the deck I play is dependent on the decks I face. It’s important to track your stats and adjust. I always want to be a step ahead of the other players.

What are you most proud of regarding your Hearthstone career so far, and what does the future hold?

I don’t have any big achievements in Hearthstone just yet, but my future will largely depend on how I do at the Europe Winter Championship. If I perform well and finish in a good spot, I’ll keep on playing competitively!


Diggen

Eirik "Diggen" Aarvig is currently playing for GamersLeague, but is also considered to be a newcomer on the competitive scene.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started playing Hearthstone.

I’m 21 years old and I’m from Norway. My teacher was telling about me this awesome game coming out called Hearthstone. I had never played a card game before, but my teacher convinced me to check it out. So I started playing at release, and I keep challenging myself and getting better.

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Hearthstone card?

Leeroy Jenkins—the coolest card with the coolest story, in my opinion!

When ranking up on ladder, do you have any specific strategies?

I play pretty much everything on ladder, but I very rarely play aggro decks. I like to try out different decks early in the season before I find out what’s good and start going for ranks. My favorite type of decks are combo decks—I like to play decks with high skill caps that are difficult to master.

What are you most proud of regarding your Hearthstone career so far, and what does the future hold?

Qualifying for the Winter Championship is my biggest achievement so far. I hope to continue performing well and keep competing, hopefully for many years to come. Also, finishing rank one at least once would be a lot of fun!


Cereza

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started playing Hearthstone.

I'm 23 years old and I’m from Portugal. I currently study at the University of Coimbra, mastering in Biomedical Engineering. I’m also a PRO division athlete in the For The Win eSports Club. I found out about Hearthstone through a friend I used to play Magic: The Gathering with. I played the game for a little while, and then decided to give it another try in September 2014. I got to legendary for the first time two months later, and I’ve been playing ever since!

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Hearthstone card?

That's an easy one. The essence of magic, Malygos, for sure! First of all, Malygos is a dragon. Everyone loves dragons! Malygos is really awesome as a card, even with its simple design when it comes to mechanics. The blue dragon still enables amazing game finishes, and the best part is that you get a pretty stylish win! There's no better feeling than that. It's a shame, in my opinion, that this card doesn't see that much competitive play.

When ranking up on ladder, do you have any specific strategies?

I can't point out specific decks I use on ladder, because those change along with the meta. Early in the season, I just experiment with a few decks and have some fun with them. Closer to the end of the month, I try to see what the most played decks are at that time, and pick one that has good match-ups overall with some adjustments to support my play style. I also always spend a day or two playing freeze mage and control warrior while trying to rank up, because they suit my control play style really well.

What are you most proud of regarding your Hearthstone career so far, and what does the future hold?

I never considered playing in any international tournaments up until two or three months ago, so qualifying for the Winter Championship is my biggest accomplishment so far. I’m 100% focused, and I want to give my best and try to secure my spot at the World Championship at BlizzCon 2016!


We hope you enjoyed this glimpse at our Europe Winter Championship finalists. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, where we’ll meet up with our four remaining players!

*All decklists above were used at the Europe Winter Preliminary.


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