Today I’m recapping the biggest Hearthstone tournament to date – the Blizzcon World Championships!
Watched by over 100,000 viewers, the tension was high and the stakes were huge. The tournament received huge hype and I’m glad to say that it delivered with some outstanding Hearthstone action.
Let’s dig in and see what went down!
Blizzcon World Championships – The Finals
Location: Anaheim, California
Prize Pool: $250,000
Hot Players: TiddlerCelestial, Kranich, DTwo
Casters: Frodan, Artosis, Realz, Amaz
This was it – the big stage, the big tournament and there was a ton of Hearthstone excitement in general from the announced release of the new Goblins vs Gnomes expansion.
Let’s dig right into the biggest moments from the weekend.
- Firebat pilots Druid to a 3-0 in the final.
- Warlock again the most dominant class – picked by and banned by the most players.
- Hunter banned almost half the time it was brought.
- Loatheb in 59 out of 64 deck lists.
- Kranich completes the biggest upset of the tournament by beating Kolento.
- The biggest missed Loatheb play in competitive memory.
- Tarei’s insane Shaman burst.
- Tiddler Celestial and Firebat both played exceptionally well to reach final.
The Blizzcon World Championships used the default Best of 5, one class ban system that has become the standard for competitive Hearthstone.
Unlike other tournaments though, this system is enforced for the group stage matches as well.
Best of 5, one class ban
This is the default go-to for competitive HS. Best of 5, 3 decks, 1 ban. It’s pretty standard and is used for tournaments all over.
My tangent for this article is on the state of competitive Hearthstone.
Is Hearthstone the next big eSport?
You know, when I first started playing Hearthstone, I had no idea how big it really could become.
I thought of it just as a fun pastime type of game where you sit down, play a few games and move on. However, the more I’ve played it, the more I’ve come to appreciate the strategic depth and skill that underpins its mechanics.
It seems I’m not the only one either. The metagame and the way it changes and shifts as well as the increasing skill required to learn combinations and predict your opponent is endlessly fascinating.
Hearthstone is a card game not a video game.
What makes me most interested in Hearthstone as an eSport though is that it isn’t like other games it’s supposedly taking after.
Other Blizzard games like Starcraft or even WoW arena require mechanical skill of some sort – that is the ability to click quickly, accurately and fast. Hearthstone isn’t like that.
Hearthstone is a game where 99% of the game takes place in your head and the actual execution is incredibly simple.
In this way, I compare Hearthstone to poker as a card game rather than as a video game even though the infrastructure and the personalities it attracts are the more traditional gamer variety.
As far as I can see, Hearthstone is just going to keep growing and become an even bigger and better community.
Next year, there will be even more interest, and hopefully bigger and more lucrative prize pools, and of course a brand new metagame with new cards. I can’t wait!
This tournament is the benchmark for the metagame so let’s take a look at what the players brought.
The biggest statistic here is up on the main talking points. Loatheb was picked in 59 out of the 64 decklists which is just incredible.
We all know the power of Loatheb to shut down any potential game ending combos but to see it used by this many players is quite remarkable.
This tournament meta seems to revolve primarily around Hunter and Warlock. Every player has tailored their decks to either counter Hunter or plans to straight up ban it.
You can see in the decklists, that players take extra caution to put anti-aggro cards in and that big game hunters are actually not that common except in heavy control decks like Warrior.
On the whole, the metagame seems to have reached a sort of aggressive mid-range stance which is quite a bit different to the control heavy EU qualifiers and the more aggressive NA ones.
Head turning decks were actually not that common and a lot of the decks differed very slightly on the sort of tech cards or late game threats that each player favored.
Some of the more interesting ones were Kranich’s Warrior deck that eliminated Kolento which ran inner-rage and raging-worgen among other bursty combos.
Kolento himself ran a reincarnate Shaman that is much more controlling and loses the burst of doomhammer.
Lastly, Firebat’s Miracle Rogue used the finisher of southsea-deckhand + faceless-manipulator.
Overall, decks seem to trend towards mid-range types with solid win percentages overall rather than trying to setup with matchup dependent decks like Freeze Mage (Tarei aside).
This tournament finals’ deck highlight is Firebat’s Hunter.
I used to think that Hunter decks are all the same, and yes, a lot of the card like kill-command, animal-companion and freezing-trap are in 99% of decks. However, there are still subtle differences which actually impact the style of Hunter you play.
Let’s look at Firebat’s variant which is one of the most solid around. It contains early Deathrattle minions which combo with undertaker, it has tech cards like dire-wolf-alpha and unleash-the-hounds and it also has a solid mid-late game with savannah-highmane.
Note that it runs no card draw, only cycles, but it’s built for one purpose and that is to snowball a lead in the beginning and hit face for huge damage.
No hunters-mark is a brave decision in this tournament meta which contains both Warrior and Handlocks, but it is in line with the gameplan of this deck which is to hit hard and fast, and use ironbeak-owl to get past the last few barriers for lethal.
I’m not sure how good the deck would be on ladder considering there are more aggro decks hovering about, but it’s really effective at beating mid-range decks, and it did its job marvelously.
Match of the Tournament
This was really tough for me. Unfortunately, the finals were a bit of a steamroll from Firebat’s Combo Druid and I don’t think any of those matches were particularly interesting or engaging.
I’d have to go back then to the final match of Kolento vs Kranich which was such an intriguing game.
Not only did Kranich play an unconventional Warrior deck, he managed to squeeze out a win. It was a moment of crazy excitement and heartbreak and encapsulates the brilliance of competitive Hearthstone and how the tiniest mistakes can cost you tournaments.
Blizzcon delivered in every way for me. It was exciting, it was well cast, well played, and featured some amazing Hearthstone.
I’m really glad to be a part of the community and even though this tournament was amazing, I did end up getting more excited for the new cards announced from Gnomes vs Goblins.
Shaking up the metagame is going to be such a great thing, and even though there was great variety and all classes were represented, a new twist is so welcome and I can’t wait to cover a tournament in the near future which features the new cards.