A second seasonal championship has arrived, and the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) hosts 16 of the world’s best players—four apiece from each of the four competing regions—at the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles this weekend. In addition to checking out the deck lists, we’ve spent some time with the competitors throughout the week leading up to the tournament to get a better sense of what you can expect from these Hearthstone heavyweights.
It looks like the Fall Championship will be decided in large part by whose Malfurion game is the strongest, with all 16 players having elected to bring a Druid variant of some kind. Warlock and Rogue round out the most popular classes, but the archetype variants tell a subtler story: This will be an environment where each deck’s pilot must make challenging decisions every turn, as midrange decks seek to outvalue the aggro decks brought to target the popular anti-control and combo decks. An incredible 17 unique archetypes are in play—more still than the enormously diverse HCT Summer Championship, despite only eight of the nine classes (justice will, no doubt, demand retribution) appearing.
Most players brought unique lineups, but three of the four players from China brought an identical Malygos Druid, Aggro Mage, Odd Rogue, and Zoo Warlock strategy. Beyond them, both David “justsaiyan” Shan and Tyler “Tyler” Hoang Nguyen elected to run the same Malygos Druid, Deathrattle Hunter, Quest Rogue, and Even Warlock options, and practice partners Thomas “Sintolol” Zimmer and Jan “Moyen” Moy are each playing Taunt Druid, Odd Rogue, Shudderwock Shaman, and Even Warlock.
Notable standout decks this season include Eden “Hatul” Zamir’s Odd Warrior and Spell Hunter, Brian “bloodyface” Eason’s Secret Hunter, and both a Malygos/Togwaggle Druid and a Cube Warlock from Roman “RENMEN” Kudriavtsev.
Practice Makes Perfect
Ahead of the action, we spoke with some of the players about their preparation, practice routine, and mindset heading into the tournament.
America’s bloodyface is the only player who brought Secret Hunter, and he thinks it positions him well as a fourth deck to round out an aggressive strategy complementing what he feels are the three strongest classes of the tournament in Druid, Rogue, and Warlock. He’s looking to take games off of players running Mage, Zoo Warlock, or Odd Rogue with this unique Secret Hunter. “Secret Hunter hasn’t evolved much since it came up,” bloodyface says. “I’m playing Snipe and Rat Trap!” He thinks these unusual techs will help him in his matches. He’s spent a ton of time looking at recent Conquest format results to see where his opponents might be headed and spent a ton of time testing his potential matchups looking for correct bans. “Compared to other players, I feel like I work harder than most of them,” he adds.
Fall champs lineup. Went with what I know best. Also feels solid against anything. pic.twitter.com/Jj0D3aLpVg— Brian Eason (@bloodyfaceHS) October 4, 2018
Out of Europe, Moyen had a similar train of thought—with very different results. His three-deck starting point was Taunt Druid, Shudderwock Shaman, and Even Warlock. “I knew the three core decks very early—it was just about finding a fourth deck that fit. The plan was to bring a lineup that would perform well against aggro, but that should also be favored against lineups that bring Even Warlock and Taunt Druid.” Interestingly, he says that the fourth deck was almost an Even Paladin (featuring Corpsetakers), but that he ran out of time to test it against the field compared to the more well-known Odd Rogue he settled on. “In the last couple of days [before the deck submission deadline], I played 10-20 hours straight just to confirm every card in every deck. I wanted to test more Even Paladin, but I ran out of time. Given the field, if I’d had more time to test, I think I would have [brought it].”
China’s Liu “Islandcat” Chang is better known in his regional scene as a caster, streamer, writer, and coach, but he’s here to prove that he can hang with the best Hearthstone players in the world. He prepared for the Fall Championship with He “LPTrunks” Huan, and they both submitted identical 120-card lineups for both the Gold Series (China’s Playoffs) and this weekend. “In my group, I think my lineup is pretty good,” Islandcat says. “I’m a little worried about my Druid, because there are two Quest Rogue players.” If he wins, he’s also promised to take all of the other Chinese players out for expensive sushi!
Jowen “Akumaker” Chee is another player here to prove his worth. He’s all business this weekend, and cuts straight to the chase: “The current meta revolves heavily around the aggro lineup with Aggro Mage, Odd Rogue, and Zoo, and the previous, anti-control meta, featuring decks like Quest Rogue and Shudderwock Shaman,” he says. He accurately predicted a field with less Warrior, and brought decks like Zoo Warlock that are weak to Warrior, but can beat Quest Rogue. “[My lineup] is still anti-control at its core, but I don’t want to be playing anti-control teched for aggro, because that would have weakened my lineup to decks like Even Warlock.” He expects most players to ban Quest Rogue, or Aggro Mage if they are Quest Rogue players themselves.
One of our venerable casters also had some thoughts on what to expect out of this stacked competition. Alexander “Raven” Baguley thinks that the stories these players have coming into this tournament may make this one of the best Hearthstone championships ever.
“The focus here is on the players—every single player has an incredible story,” Raven says. “It’s hard to ignore justsaiyan because of the streak he’s been on lately.” He’s interested to see if the new blood out of China can help put them on the map on the international stage, or if Wu “BloodTrail” Zong-Chang will redeem himself for a performance that BloodTrail himself admits wasn’t his finest at the HCT Summer Championship. “Another big one that’s going to be very interesting no matter which way it goes is Hatul,” Raven says. “He thinks all of the other pros build decks incorrectly, and just brought what they saw online. Either he gets wrecked, or imagine that he goes to the HCT World Championship—then I think we have to sit back and reanalyze how we look at Hearthstone!”
That’s it! You can join us live right now over on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel to see which four players will earn their place at the upcoming HCT World Championship, and who will be crowned the Fall Champion. Let us know who you’re cheering for using #HCTFall!