Last week we saw the results from the most recent Hearthstone World Championship (HWC). Now, we officially have the fourth Hearthstone World Champion, Tom60229! The entire series was exceptional, and for me as a viewer, it was some of the most enjoyable Hearthstone I’ve seen. The finals in particular were stressful to say the least, with Tom60229 going head to head with Fr0zen. I think it’s safe to say that after their final game, more viewers will be tuning into future professional games.
Top Four Finalists
The four finalists were Tom60229, Fr0zen, JasonZhou, and Surrender. Interestingly, while all four players have been on teams in the past, both Fr0zen and JasonZhou are currently free agents. I’m guessing that won’t last too long after their stellar performance!
As Fr0zen said before his match with JasonZhou, Jason’s lineup was very standard, with Warlock, Priest, Druid, and Rogue. This lineup was shared by both Surrender and Tom60229. Fr0zen, on the other hand, shook it up a bit and brought Mage instead of Rogue. In the match between JasonZhou and Fr0zen, Fr0zen was able to live up to his braggart comments beforehand, and take the match 3 to 2.
The other semifinal match was Surrender against Tom60229. Both of them are from the Asia region, and had competed many times before. They brought the same classes, with obvious differences between them. Interestingly, Surrender banned Priest while Tom60229 banned Warlock. They shared gracious words before the match, and Tom60229 was able to take it handily, 3 to 1.
The finals between Fr0zen, a free agent, and Tom60229, who plays on team Yoe Flash Wolves, started with considerable respect as both players shared their worries about each other’s lineup. Fr0zen went as far as to say that Tom60229 was the better player. They followed this up by both banning Warlock, and using similar lineups. Both players brought Priest and Druid, while Fr0zen brought Mage against Tom60229’s Rogue.
The games started out with a considerable amount of skill from both players. However, Fr0zen also had quite a bit of luck. The first game really came down to the wire, with Fr0zen’s Control Mage against Tom60229’s Jade Druid. Fr0zen was at one health, staring down a massive board, and had no Ice Blocks left. Tom60229 on the other hand, had no cards in his deck, and no useful cards left in-hand. It looked as if Tom60229 had finally wrapped it up. Suddenly, Fr0zen topdecked an Arcane Artificer, managed to barely clear the board, and put up seven armor. He also managed to create an elemental, providing himself the leech from Jaina. Sitting at one life with seven armour, he forced Tom60229 to concede, having simply run out of cards.
Game two had Tom60229 playing from behind and unwilling to commit to a board for fear of Dragonfire Potion. He finally acknowledged he had to commit, and played all his cards, right as Fr0zen actually drew the potion. Tom60229 was able to rebuild his board on the next turn, which Fr0zen followed up with a topdecked Shadowreaper Anduin, prompting an on-the-spot concede from Tom60229.
During the third and fourth games, Tom60229 knew what he had to do, and performed admirably. Fr0zen got stuck with only his Jade/Token Druid remaining, as Tom60229 beat on him with each class in turn. Priest mopped the floor with the Druid, and then, in game five, Tom60229 made a 10/10 Edwin on turn three, pumping just enough damage through to take a turn five victory.
The fifth and final game came down to Druid versus Druid. It was Fr0zen’s Token variant of Jade against Tom60229’s heavy spell variant. It all came down to two important factors.
First, both players drew Ultimate Infestation in their original hand; Fr0zen threw both away, while Tom60229 kept one. Second, Tom60229 drew better cards: Wild Growth into Jade Blossom.
The game went back and forth until Tom60229 hit ten mana, at which point he went off. Fr0zen had no chance as Tom60229 played Ultimate Infestation into Arcane Tyrants, and used his match-up knowledge and deck variant to his advantage. Tom60229 took the game, match, and series, and became the fourth World Champion!
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Venue and Production
Hearthstone has come a long way in terms of production value. I’ve been watching their competitive scene for years, and I’ve been shocked by the leaps and bounds they’ve made. Even still, I was blown away by how good the production value was in the HWC. The casters were exceptional as always, with Frodan and TJ showing off their knowledge and talent. Kibler in particular has done an excellent job of transitioning from competitor to caster over the last year. None of the casters brought the production down, which was something Hearthstone had struggled with in the past.
The layout impressed me quite a bit, which is funny considering how little it has changed. One main difference is that there is now a small number indicating how many cards are left in each deck. This was incredibly helpful in several of the games, particularly in the finals. It made watching much easier and more enjoyable. They also added player teams to the graphic, as well as regions, and other general aesthetic improvements.
The format was also much easier to understand and follow. Each game saw a simple four deck roster, ban one, play three format. Each player also had to win one game with each deck in order to advance. A best of five is easy, short enough to watch in one sitting, and something everyone can understand.
I haven’t been enjoying Hearthstone that much lately, but watching this game changed everything. Regardless of what Blizzard does in terms of balance, new cards, or pricing models, their esports scene is in an exceptional place. I hope to see more events and competitions like this one in the future.
In all fairness. a lot of my enjoyment stemmed from the fact that the meta is currently built around control, so we saw the player’s skills on stage. Aggro decks have their place, but watching the champions match wits was much more enjoyable. I hope to see many more Hearthstone World Championships where we walk away saying that the champion truly deserved their win. Congratulations to Tom60229 and all the other competitors, as well as Blizzard for an exceptional production.