New Blood Rising: The HCT Americas Preliminaries
The Hearthstone Championship Tour Preliminaries for the Americas took place this weekend as the competitive scene seeks the top eight players of the region to send to the main event on June 25 and 26. The players were split into four brackets, each with a winner and losers side; the winners of the winner and losers side from each bracket obtained a ticket to the main stage. Several notable players were in attendance, including Dignitas Chakki, coming off of his recent win at DreamHack Austin and Archon Amnesiac, the winner of the Winter Championship. The tournament was played in a best-of-five conquest format where once a player has won on a deck, it cannot be used anymore for that set. With a prize pool of $20,000 and a chance to compete at one of this year's biggest tournaments, the Americas Spring Preliminaries were sure to be filled with great players all in top form.
While Bracket #1 did not have the star power of other groups, there were still well known names in the running and a lot of amazing Hearthstone. The upper bracket saw an amazing five game final between Canada’s Cydonia and Joster from the United States. After going up 2-0 in the set, Joster struggled to find his final win on his Freeze Mage deck, opening the door for Cydonia to attempt a comeback. Cydonia’s first win came on an Aggro Shaman deck, which left Joster with too few answers towards the end of the game. The second game put Cydonia on his Miracle Rogue deck, which is usually considered to have an unfavorable matchup against Freeze Mage.
Regardless, Cydonia amassed a massive board by turn eight, putting Joster in an awkward spot where he was not able to completely wipe the board. This allowed Cydonia to push for his second win, forcing the match to a deciding game five. This game saw the battle of the control decks where Cydonia was put on Reno Warlock in response to the still winless Freeze Mage from Joster. The game seemed even for a while until Reno Jackson was dropped by Cydonia, resetting his life total and putting him outside of Joster’s damage range, ending the game and Cydonia’s comeback with an impressive 3-2 victory. Joster however, did not experience the feeling of losing for very long as he was bumped to the finals of losers Bracket #4 where he won a 3-1 set against Saturos, leaving Joster and Cydonia as the representatives from Bracket #1.
Bracket #2 saw a couple familiar faces in Cloud 9’s TidesofTime and Archon’s Zalae. Their time in the upper bracket, however, would be short lived, both losing before the third round of the upper bracket took place. In the second round, Zalae fell to Napoleon in a close five game set. Napoleon then continued to head through the bracket, eventually finding himself in the finals of winners side. His opponent, Deerjason, also bested a well known name in Canada’s Fibonacci.
The final was yet another full five game set where Napoleon saw himself quickly jump to a 2-0 lead, finding wins on Midrange Hunter as well as a Miracle Rogue deck. His final deck, seeing a rather uncharacteristic slump, was a Midrange Shaman deck which had performed well for other players throughout the tournament, even drawing bans in most matchups. The first win for Deerjason came when his Zoo Warlock deck simply overpowered the Shaman, ending the game on turn five. The next deck from Deerjason was what many consider to be the best deck in the metagame right now in Tempo Warrior. The game was very close until Napoleon dropped Doomhammer. Unbeknownst to him, Deerjason had the perfect answer to this play in hand with Harrison Jones. This allowed Deerjason to draw six cards, including several of his threats in Ragnaros the Firelord and Grommash Hellscream. Shortly after, Napoleon conceded the game, sending the set to a pivotal game five. Napoleon needed one more win with his Midrange Shaman deck against Deerjasons Freeze Mage. The game began and very quickly it was sure to be a great one. Towards the end of the game, Deerjason dropped an Alexstrasza, putting Napoleon at 15 health. Then, Napoleon’s turn started and with his amazing positioning and sequencing of card effects, he found a way to clear Alexstrasza off the board as well as push enough damage to Deerjason to put him in an awful spot. This then allowed Napoleon to finally find a win on his Midrange Shaman, and obtain a ticket to the main event on the back of an amazing play. Deerjason was then sent to lower Bracket #3 where he had yet another close five game set with APXVoiD, leaving Deerjason the winner and also going to the main event.
Bracket #3 saw the return to the HCT tour by the Winter Championship winner Archon’s Amnesiac. Amnesiac’s run, however, was stopped short by a Canadian player by the name of Duane. Duane was running through the bracket and after defeating Amnesiac, he would face an American player named Rosty in the upper bracket finals. Duane went through the bracket with an interesting choice in decks. He brought N’Zoth Paladin to the event, a slow control style deck focusing around an end game play with N’Zoth the Corruptor. This stood in contrast to the rest of the tournament where most players were bringing extremely fast Shaman and Hunter decks. This did not slow him down as he took game one against Rosty’s Freeze Mage deck, a staple at the event. His happiness would be short lived as Rosty pulled out an interesting version of Tempo Warrior in game two including some dragon synergy to help with the mid to late game. The constant board threats from Rosty proved too much for Duane’s Aggro Shaman list, eventually overpowering through the board and pushing the series to a 1-1 tie. Now that the series was tied, it only seemed fitting that the next match would be an Aggro Shaman deck against another Aggro Shaman deck. Game three saw Rosty getting off to a very fast start and eventually push through Duane’s defenses to end game three, putting him up 2-1. With Rosty on match point, the set drew down to a game four with Duane’s Aggro Shaman facing off against Rosty’s Freeze Mage deck. Here it seemed that Rosty had an answer to everything, leaving Duane without any cards in hand and playing whatever he got off the top of his deck. This extremely awkward spot allowed Rosty to simply stall the game for as long as he wanted, eventually culminating in Duane’s run ending and Rosty heading to the main event. In what seemed to be a recurring theme, Duane dropped to the finals of losers side to play against a well known community member in Nostam. In a close five game set, Duane got the victory he wanted, sending him to the main event with Rosty.
The final bracket of the tournament had community favorites and powerhouse players alike, such as Team Liquid’s Dog, Splyce Gaming’s Th3RaT, PAX East Champion Duhcodda and DreamHack Austin Champion Dignitas’ Chakki. Despite the skill of these players, none made it out of round two, seeing new blood rise to challenge the old guard. The upper bracket finals pitted a well known name in PNC against Gallon213. With both of the players’ Shaman decks banned away, game one fell to PNC’s Midrange Hunter against Gallon213’s Miracle Rogue. Despite PNC’s large amount of board presence, the Miracle Rogue pulled out a win in game one with simply too much damage from Gallon213’s hand. Game two saw PNC sticking to his Midrange Hunter while Gallon213 was put on his Reno Warlock deck. This game saw PNC pushing the Warlock’s health down very quickly and Gallon213 simply did not draw Reno Jackson in time to reset his health total and push himself out of PNC’s damage range. This left the series tied at 1-1 going into game three.
This game was a mirror match of two Warrior decks, both vying for a lead in the series. PNC brought Tempo Warrior to the stage, centered around putting several threats on the board at once and overpowering your opponent. In contrast, Gallon213 brought a Control Warrior deck, which centered around stalling the game until he could finish his opponent with a combo featuring Raging Worgen, Inner Rage, and Faceless Manipulator. Eventually the constant threats proved too much for Gallon213 to deal with and PNC advanced to a 2-1 lead. Game four had PNC playing his Miracle Rogue deck and Gallon213 sticking with his Control Warrior deck. This match saw Gallon213 play two early Armorsmith’s, which allowed him to amass armor and keep him outside of PNC’s damage, eventually culminating in Gallon213 taking the victory and pushing the set to a game five. The final game of the series saw PNC still seeking a victory on his Miracle Rogue deck and Gallon213 on his Reno Warlock deck. In the end, the draw power behind PNC’s Miracle Rogue allowed him to amass a huge combo with Leeroy Jenkins and Edwin VanCleef to end the game, sending Argentina’s PNC to the main event. Gallon213 dropped to the losers bracket, pitting him up against American player Bradforlee. In a five game set, Bradforlee defeated Gallon213 to advance to the main event alongside PNC.
With eight players advancing to the main event in June, the Americas are sure to be well represented on the main stage. This tournament proved that new and unsponsored players have just as much of a shot to win as the old favorites, creating an ever changing dynamic and allowing the scene to develop. The Americas had a heavier focus on Aggro and other fast-paced decks at this tournament, which made for some very action-packed games and, in the end, a great event.
What did you think about the HCT Americas Spring Preliminary? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.