Here we go, fellow Murloc fanciers. The 2014 Hearthstone Championship: America’s Qualifier Tournament will start livestreaming from New York City in about an hour. We've embedded the player above. The event takes place at the Hammerstein Ballroom, and you can attend for free if you're fortunate enough to live nearby. For those us watching from home, spamming Twitch chat with copy pasterinos, here's a crash course of the format and some of the key players to keep an eye out for.
This tournament is actually phase two of the America’s Qualifier—phase one took place early last month and cut the list of competitors from 130 down to 16. All matches will be a best-of-five format, with each competitor submitting four decks and then banning one of their opponent’s four classes. The 16 competitors are split into four groups of four and compete in a double-elimination bracket. The top two of each group advance to the quarterfinals, and from that point on the tournament becomes single-elimination. Confused? Blizzard has created the graphic below to alleviate just this kind of headache.
Okay, I still have a headache, but the important thing to take away here is that the top four competitors, meaning anyone who makes it to the semifinals, will qualify for the World Championships at BlizzCon. That means if you win three best-of-five matches you are going to the big show, with a $250,000 prize pool on the line. Here are some of the favorites…
Hyped first qualified for the America’s Regional all the way back in April by ending the first ranked ladder season in the top 16 players. In fact, he held both the #2 and #3 spots in Season one. His consistently high ranking in the ladder since then has scored him the number one seed in the qualifiers and allowed him to skip the phase one tournament last month altogether.
Hyped is on team Tempo Storm, the only team to have two players still in the tournament, and is probably best known for a deck he and his teammates created, the giants Mage. We sat down and had Hyped teach our own Tim Clark how to play that deck, so definitely keep an eye open for when he plays some variation of it today. He's also renowned as a fearsome Miracle Rogue player, and has recently been experimenting with a Leeroy-free version.
Like Hyped, Firebat qualified for the America’s Regional Tournament from his ladder placement in the first season, ranking #15. Always staying close to the top of the ladder, and ending #3 in season three, Firebat was seeded number two overall for the qualifiers and is the only other player besides Hyped to have skipped phase one. Playing for Copenhagen Wolves, Firebat doesn’t have a major tournament win under his belt, but has proven time and time again that he's one of the top ladder warriors around.
ThatsAdmirable, sometimes simply known as Admirable, also qualified from his ladder ranking in season one, ending at #4. After the first season and his qualification however, he hasn’t ended a season in the top 100 since, though this may be due to his increased time spent as a coach for hire and now a streamer. We spent some time learning from Admirable and picked his brain about Hearthstone in general.
Admirable went 5-0 to qualify in phase one, the best score possible in the Swiss format tournament, and placed second in Deck Wars season one but has otherwise had no large tournament successes. It’s clear from his frequent casting and the commentary during his livestreams that he is a player with an immense amount of knowledge and a deep understanding of the game, but it might take a few huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge draws for him to see success in phase two.
The Druid master qualified at the end of May by placing first in the second Tavern Takeover tournament, defeating Gnimsh 4-2 in the finals. He made a name for himself back when Hearthstone was still in beta, placing first in the SeatStory Cup, and has since proven how strong of a competitor he is. Also going 5-0 during phase one, StrifeCro took down notable player Dart along with DeathstarV3, who went on to qualify for phase two as well.
Playing for Cloud 9, which also includes the mighty Kolento, StrifeCro was knocked out of the Deck Wars season 2 finals in the round of eight by the eventual winner of the tournament, RDU, but not before taking him all the way to the end of a best-of-seven series and showing that he can match toe to toe with Hearthstone’s top players. StrifeCro is one of the most renowned deck builders around, so expect him to bring some interesting new builds.
TidesofTime didn’t officially qualify until he ended rank #5 on the ladder in season 5, but he has one of the most impressive tournament records of the 16 competitors in phase two. He went 5-0 in phase one, and placed first in Deck Wars season 1, defeating ThatsAdmirable in the finals. He also defeated another player on our list, Firebat, in a showmatch early last month.
His most notable tournament win was at the World E-Sports Championship, an international tournament hosted in China with a $60,000 prize pool, giving him valuable experience other players might lack. Tides is also on team Tempo Storm, and known for being a master of control. He's also an ex Dota 2 pro who knows how to cope with tournaments while keeping his head... even if he most definitely does not have a head for Hearthstone trivia.
Last but very much not least is Chakki from Team Coast—another player better known for tearing up ladder rather then tournaments. He's also one of the finest exponents of the aggro play style. If in doubt, Chakki always goes for the face. And he's never in doubt.
Prior to the competition he hinted at having prepared some "crazy" decks. Expect him to catch a few players running greedy slow control decks off guard, and some lightning fast games. (Unless of course he's trolled everyone and is actually opening with the none-more-slow control Paladin.)