The Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) hosts its first Championship event of 2017 beginning Thursday, March 23 in the Bahamas. You can catch all the action live over on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel, but we wanted to give you a bit of insight into what you can expect during this weekend’s tournament.
For the Winter Championship, HCT continues to use the Conquest format, now with best-of-seven matches and the ability for each player to ban one of their opponent’s classes — meaning competitors must bring five different classes total.
Sixteen of the world’s best Hearthstone players are in attendance for the two-stage tournament. The group stage breaks the players up into four groups of four. Each group plays out in double elimination format. The top two players from each group then advance to a single elimination playoff bracket stage.
Players are competing for a $250,000 prize pool and a spot in the Hearthstone World Championship. Regardless of their home region, the top four finishers in the tournament will qualify for the 2017 Hearthstone World Championship.
This will also be the only event in this HCT cycle played using the current Standard format as part of the Year of the Kraken, as the Spring season and the remainder of the 2017 Championship Tour will fall within the Year of the Mammoth.
An impressive field of talent will be representing their respective regions at the first championship HCT stop this year. Long time Hearthstone fans will see names they may recognize from previous Hearthstone World Championships: Greensheep, Neirea, OmegaZero, Tarei, Yulsic, and the defending world champion, Pavel. Pavel has been on an unprecedented win streak — between Last Call in 2016, BlizzCon, and the 2017 Winter European Championship, he hasn’t played in an HCT tournament he hasn’t won since last summer.
We also have some extremely talented breakout players from the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions, with surprise underdogs like DocPwn, DrJikininki, b787, and SamuelTsao upsetting established veterans in their respective playoffs.
All eyes are on the European talent in this tournament, as the European region statistically has the most difficult path to qualification (requiring the most HCT points to compete in their playoff tournament). They’ll be up against fiercely competitive players from China — like OmegaZero, who won China’s 2016 Gold Series grand finals.
With all their deck lists locked in and shared, we wanted to have a look at some of the players’ unique lineups and some of the interesting trends that have emerged in the lead up to the tournament. Click on the drop-down next to a player's name to see their five decks!
First, and probably most excitingly, no two players are running the same five deck styles. The only two players who ended up bringing similar rosters are DrJikininki and Lvge, who are both running comparable Priest and Warrior decks, but noticeably distinct Rogue, Shaman, and Warlock decks.
There is an even spread of Mage, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, and Warrior, with only a handful of players opting to bring Druid. Players from the Americas are strong proponents of Druid and its ability to beat late game decks, with three of their four players bringing it (albeit two very different styles of Druid!), but no one from Asia-Pacific is running Druid whatsoever.
Europe is broadly avoiding Priest, with only Pavel bringing a Dragon Priest deck. The other European folks are erring toward winning early with Shaman or late with Druid. By contrast, all the Americas player brought a variant on Reno Warlock, and every Chinese player brought a version of Miracle Rogue featuring Questing Adventurers for the powerful swing turns they can pull off.
Some of the regions also have unique secret weapons: Asia-Pacific players are the only ones bringing the Stealth-heavy Rogue list style that took Dwayna (a.k.a. TheBasedGod) to the top of the ranked leaderboard in February. Two European players are the only ones bringing Aggro Shaman to the tournament, aiming to steal quick wins with big burst damage.
Special attention should be paid to fr0zen, who is both the only player not to bring Warrior to the tournament at all and the only player bringing a Malygos Druid list, as well as b787, whose unconventional lineup features the Winter Championship’s only Reno Priest and Control Warrior lists.
Expect to see a lot of Warrior bans as players focus on strategies involving complex combos in Druid, Mage, or Rogue, or the raw board presence of Dragon Priest or Shaman. Lots of variety exists across every class save Warlock, where all 12 Gul’dan players have brought their unique take on how best to ensure we’re gonna be rich.
For additional information about the Winter Championship, including broadcast times, casters, and more, check out Watch the Winter Championship.
Which player’s decks are you most intrigued by? Is there a regional deck preference you think is clever? Let us know in the comments!