After two days of online competition, the eight players who will contest next month’s Hearthstone Winter Championship have been decided. And you would be forgiven for not having heard of any of them before.
Eight players will travel to the event, which runs from March 18 to20 in a location yet to be announced, but that lineup will not feature any major names.
Players like world champion Sebastian “Ostkaka” Engwall, Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh, Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert and Thijs Molendijk all missed out in the double elimination bracket, leaving a group of relative unknowns to claim the eight spots.
Among the winners, the one name fans might recognize, although perhaps not for the most positive reasons, is Olzhas “Naiman” Batyrbekov. Batyrbekov was a leading light in the race to qualify for the 2015 Hearthstone World Championship and competed at the Gfinity Spring Masters, before his account was banned for alleged win trading. The ban also led to his release from Team Dignitas.
Despite this, Batyrbekov quietly returned to his previous heights on ladder with a brand new account, and will now appear at his second offline event.
The only other player with previous offline experience is Mikuláš “Pokrovac” Dio, who reached the quarter-finals of Spanish event Gamegune.
The other six to qualify were “DrHippi,” “Nicslay,” “Diggen,” “Tars,” “Cereza,” and “Bunnyhoppor.”
Rather than hold the tournament online as in previous years, this year participants were required to travel to one of 20 offline locations across Europe. This information was disseminated just a week in advance, meaning some players could not afford to travel to the event. Once at the event, players encountered further issues. Fade2Karma players Raffael “Gameking” Iciren and “Senfglas” were disqualified immediately because the name on their accounts did not match their own—but other players reported that they were able to resolve this issue without being eliminated.
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