The Starladder Hearthstone tournament, paired with I-League finals have now concluded. The tournament boasted some of the top players from all over the world, as the North American, European, and Chinese victors of the earlier tournaments come together for the finals. Six players remain, five from NA/EU and one from China. The format for everything but the final match is Conquest, where each player brings four decks, and then chooses to ban one of their opponent’s decks. They do a best of five with their three remaining decks, and a player cannot use a deck that he has already won with. The finals are single elimination, the players from the lower bracket face each other, and then the winner faces the players from the higher bracket, then the winner of those two matches face off in the final. The tournament has now concluded, and here are the victors:
The first set of games were between the four players from the lower brackets – that is, the ones who came second or third in the group stages. The first match was between Cipher and StanCifka, who both went 1-2 in the group stages. Cipher used Midrange Druid, Reno Warlock, Secret Paladin, and banned Mage, while StanCifka used Control Priest, Reno Warlock, Secret Paladin, and banned Mage. With such close lineups and bans, it was no surprise that it went to game five. However, in the final game Cipher’s Secret Paladin beat StanCifka’s Reno Warlock, taking the match 3-2 and Cipher moved forward.
The second match was between Dog and Surrender. Dog went 1-2 in group stages, while Surrender went 2-1. Dog brought Dragon Priest, Demon Handlock Warlock, Patron Warrior, and banned Rogue, while Surrender brought Secret Paladin, Midrange Druid, Zoo Warlock, and banned Mage. Interestingly Surrender has only played Rogue once throughout the group stages and finals, as every opponent banned it against him. This match was another incredibly close one, going to five games, but in the fifth game Dog was able to use his Patron Warrior to defeat Surrender’s Secret Paladin, Dog winning 3-2 and moving on.
The next set of matches have the winners of the earlier set of games against the players from the upper bracket in group stages. The first match was between Cipher and Kolento. Kolento went 3-0 in group stages, actually defeating Cipher there. Kolento brought Murloc Paladin, Oil Rogue, and Demon Zoo Warlock, and both players banned Druid. Kolento won the first game with his Murloc Paladin, interesting as he is the only player remaining who brought the archetype. However, his next matches didn’t go so well and Cipher handily took the series 3-1. Cipher got his chance at a rematch and he did not squander it, taking the match and moving to the finals.
The second match was between Dog and Lanshengzhe. Lanshengzhe went 2-1 in the group stages, but he has not faced Dog yet. Lanshengzhe brought Aggro Shaman, Secret Paladin, Zoo Warlock, and banned Mage. Dog banned Lanshengzhe’s Druid. Lanshengzhe’s aggressive lineup proved too much for Dog, with Dog only managing to pick up a win with his Reno Warlock. Dog’s Control Priest in particular took the brunt of the losses, simply getting overrun by Lanshengzhe’s fast style of play. In the end Lanshengzhe took the match 3-1, advancing to the finals.
For the final match, they changed the format to a best of seven revival, still using Conquest rules. This means that each player still brings the same four decks, each player still gets a ban, but each player is given the option of ‘reviving’ one of their decks at any point throughout the match, simply choosing a deck that they have already won with, and can unlock and use it again. The final match is between Cipher and Lanshengzhe. Cipher is a player from Great Britain who has been at events fairly consistently, but never really made a splash in the scene, always playing around the fringes. He plays for team Fade 2 Karma. Lanshengzhe is a Chinese player who has not had any major tournaments before this one. He fought his way through the loser’s bracket of the I-League tournament to get here, and now he is trying to make a name for himself. Cipher banned Druid, and Lanshengzhe banned Mage, leaving Cipher with Midrange Druid, Reno Warlock, and Secret Paladin, and Lanshengzhe with Aggro Shaman, Secret Paladin, and Zoo Warlock.
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Their first game was between Cipher’s Reno Warlock and Lanshengzhe’s Secret paladin. It was going in favour of Lanshengzhe, but then Cipher drew his Reno and stabilized. It got to the point where it was very clear that Cipher was going to win, and there was a power outage at the tournament location. Because of the previously agreed upon rules, if both players disconnect and there is no clear lethal for the next turn, the match is replayed. Although Cipher had practically won, the match was replayed in its entirety.
In the replayed match, Cipher once again drew Reno Jackson, but this time it was not enough, and Lanshengzhe’s Secret Paladin stomped over him, putting Lanshengzhe in the lead 1-0. The second game was between Cipher’s Secret Paladin and Lanshengzhe’s Aggro Shaman – a very good matchup for the Shaman. The Shaman did what was expected and killed the Paladin before Mysterious Challenger could make an impact, Lanshengzhe taking game two as well. At this point Lanshengzhe decided to revive his Shaman deck and immediately replayed the matchup, Cipher unknowingly queuing his Secret Paladin into another Aggro Shaman. Unsurprisingly, the Shaman took it once again, and Lanshengzhe took the game, going up 3-0. In the fourth game Cipher switched to his Reno Warlock once again, facing against Lanshengzhe’s Zoo Warlock. Here Lanshengzhe made a major mistake and missed lethal, not playing his Doomguard before he drew and being forced to discard the Power Overwhelming that he drew, and that would have given him the game, giving Cipher his first win, making it 1-3. The fifth game was a rematch, as Cipher decided to use his revive on his Reno Warlock. Lanshengzhe made a big Enhance-o Mechano play on a full board, and was able to take the game the turn after, giving him the match 4-1.
Lanshengzhe fought his way through the loser’s bracket in China to be one of two Chinese players to make it on stage here. He proved himself in the group stages, leading the group, and in the finals he was able to defeat both Dog and Cipher, using his aggressive playstyle, to take home the victory and the $20, 000. Lanshengzhe is the Starladder I-League tournament victor!