Red Bull eSports
Of the 16 players who qualified for the Hearthstone Summer Championship, which of the pack are most likely to emerge victorious?
Over the past month Hearthstone players from around the world have once again been competing for a spot in the seasonal Championship finals. Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and China have all hosted tournaments to decide the four players who will be representing each region at the HCT Summer Championship. On the line is not only national glory and oodles of prize money, but also a spot at the HCT World Championship finals.
Now those 16 players have achieved qualification, it’s time to take a closer look at the standout few who could join players such as Anthony ’Ant’ Trevino, Aleksey ’ShtanUdachi’ Barsukov and Aleksandr ’Kolento’ Malsh at the World Champs or even claim the title.
Ryan ’Purple’ Murphy-Root
Purple hates Pirate Warrior. That’s one thing we’ve definitely learnt about the Canadian player by looking at his deck list for the Americas Summer Playoffs. For most, Golakka Crawler usually just appears in some decks to tech against the seafaring scallywags, but Purple threw in two copies of the card in his Paladin and Warlock lists. It turned out to be a wise tactical decision, though, as he ended up taking home the trophy.
Purple is also no stranger to the HCT. He was the Americas Champion in 2015 and attended that year’s World Championship finals at BlizzCon. He was unable to make it out of the group stage on that occasion, but with bold deck building decisions and such a strong overall performance, that certainly makes him one to watch in Los Angeles.
Pavel ’Pavel’ Beltukov
It feels like we haven’t stopped talking about Pavel. The HCT 2016 world champion not only immediately followed up that win by qualifying for the 2017 Winter Championship, but he’s now added 2017 Summer Championship qualification to that impressive list of results too. Oh wait, that’s not just qualification, he won the Europe Summer Playoffs. And he was undefeated.
The stories of his lucky moments are legendary, but even when some are quick to bemoan the randomness of Hearthstone and its negative impact on competitive play, Pavel’s trophy cabinet displaying all his monumental accomplishments is evidence that the most skillful players can always find an edge. With masterful play that allows him to break down any board situation to find the winning line, combined with a welcome helping of good fortune, you have to expect he’ll make a long run in Los Angeles.
Jon ’Orange’ Westberg
If you’ve been following competitive Hearthstone for some time then you’ve no doubt heard of Jon ’Orange’ Westberg. The Swedish player has found massive success in the wider world of competitive Hearthstone, but has been surprisingly absent from events on the HCT tour. It’s about time that changed.
He approached this season’s Europe Summer Playoffs with the determination of a man intent on victory. Even a rocky start in the Swiss rounds couldn’t dent his confidence and he rallied to qualify for the playoffs in sixth place after awaiting tense tiebreaker results.
The match against Philipp ’Nicslay’ Hehn that would secure his spot in the HCT Summer Championship was equally as nail biting. Going down to the fifth and final game between Orange’s Paladin and Nicslay’s Mage, he was able to survive through all the freeze delays and dodge burst damage draws to secure the win with his overwhelming board presence.
Results in other tournaments are one indicator, but if Orange brings that same level of unbreakable focus to Los Angeles he’ll surely get a good result.
Kim ’Surrender’ Jung-soo
It’s all happening over at Planet Odd. Earlier in 2017, Frederik ’Hoej’ Nielsen delivered on years of potential by winning the Europe Spring Playoffs. He then went one step further to claim first at the HCT Spring Championship in Shanghai. Now it seems that success has rubbed off on his fellow teammate Kim ’Surrender’ Jung-soo, who recently emerged as champion of the Asia-Pacific Summer Playoffs.
It was another close series of Hearthstone in the final, with the match coming down to an intense Priest mirror against ’cocosasa’. Surrender favoured the more popular Highlander Priest over the greedier Big Priest variant and despite facing three Ysera on the board was still able to fight back with the power of Shadowreaper Anduin.
It’s fitting how both Hoej’s and Surrender’s Hearthstone journeys have been eerily similar, with Surrender also finding a lot of early success when he came to the game in 2014 and then falling into a bit of a slump. His resurgence throughout 2017 could easily continue at the Summer Championship.
It was disappointing for China when the Spring Championship made its way to Shanghai and not one player from the region was able to make it out of the group stages. In fact, only one Chinese player was able to win a game at the tournament – Trunks. The good news is he’ll have a second go after qualifying for the Summer Championship too.
With that previous performance and the apparent dominance of European players in Hearthstone, it might seem unwise to pick out a Chinese player as one to watch in the upcoming tournament. It’s worth pointing out, however, that with the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne we’ve entered a new competitive meta that may play into the strengths of certain players.
This could be good news for Trunk, especially as players such as Zheng ‘OmegaZero’ Lin and Jason ‘JasonZhou’ Zhou have been the ones flying the flag for China for some time now. New blood might be about to take over.
Facundo ‘Nalguidan’ Pruzzo
Even though tournaments in the region are usually stacked with players from North America, there are a handful of excellent competitors from South America who are well positioned for tournament success. After storming to the top of the points ladder this season there was hope that Francisco ‘PNC’ Leimontas might be in for a breakout performance. Instead, that opportunity was claimed by Facundo ‘Nalguidan’ Pruzzo.
He made the brave decision to bring a Hunter deck to the Summer Playoffs when many would consider the class unviable in most situations. His run in the tournament surely proved many Rexxar naysayers wrong and even took him all the way to the final against Purple.
With that confidence to bring decks that others aren’t expecting and make them work, Nalguidan could emerge as one of the tournament’s biggest wild cards and give South America their first major HCT triumph.