The 2017 Hearthstone Championship Tour concluded in Amsterdam this weekend, sending off the tournament and kicking off the year with a bang. The four-day world championship saw the rise of underdogs, the fall of fan-favorites, and some of the finest matches to ever grace competitive Hearthstone. Naturally, we also saw dozens of incredible singular moments—ungodly openers, surprise board flips, disgusting one-turn kills, absurd RNG and top-decks galore. Here are the best ones.
Kolento vs. SamuelTsao
To the surprise and disappointment of virtually everyone, Kolento, a multi-tournament winner and the top-ranking ladder player worldwide, was among those sent home on the first day. His final game against SamuelTsao in the group stage was particularly brutal. SamuelTsao managed to assemble 44 points of burst damage and eat through Kolento's sizeable armor stack. He used a Kazakus potion in conjunction with the trademark Raza Anduin combo, showing the best and worst of Highlander Priest and pushing Kolento into the elimination bracket.
Hoej vs. Orange
Astoundingly, Hoej, who beat Kolento to win the spring championship, was also eliminated on the first day. Here, he's got Orange on the ropes in game one of their elimination match. He's two damage off lethal but he just can't draw it, despite having multiple outs in his deck. Orange, meanwhile, finds Devour Mind off Lyra the Sunshard, which in turn gives him Spikeridged Steed—the same buff spell that could have won the game for Hoej. Orange also finds some cheap Murlocs to buff, giving him the Taunt he needs to stage a comeback and the momentum to send Hoej home.
Kolento vs. JasonZhou
In another grueling five-game match, Kolento finds himself behind on board against JasonZhou in their Tempo Rogue mirror. He has no good plays in hand, and he draws into a worthless full-price Corridor Creeper. Reluctantly, he throws a Cobalt Scalebane onto the board.
Already ahead, Zhou draws into the uncommon tech card Sonya Shadowdancer and puts his Saronite Chain Gangs to devastating use, building the Great Wall of Sonya to totally shut Kolento down. Kolento is forced to sacrifice tempo he doesn't have and kill Sonya—rather than Zhou's Corridor Creeper—with Vilespine Slayer, and it's not long before he's out of the tournament. Kolento tweeted this shortly after:
Sometimes playing well is not enoughJanuary 18, 2018
DocPwn vs. Tom60229
As I said in my full breakdown, this entire game was a highlight. It was also a spirit breaker from minute one thanks to the most one-sided mulligan of the tournament. DocPwn is living the dream thanks to Prince Keleseth and Shadowstep, with Southsea Captain (plus a buffed Patches the Pirate) and Corridor Creeper to follow it up. Tom60229, meanwhile, could scarcely draw worse. He ambitiously keeps two Wild Growth only to find a Jade Blossom and then draw into another. His opening hand is nothing but ramp spells, and Doc is out for blood. Surprisingly though, it really came down to the wire.
Purple vs. Sintolol
Whereas Highlander Priest kills like a machine gun, Sintolol's Dragon Combo Priest is expressly about building giant minions with Divine Spirit and Inner Fire and taking people out in one shot. Sinto did exactly that in his third game against Purple, despite losing a 4/15 Twilight Drake to Purple's stolen Inner Fire and a nasty Shadow Word: Death follow-up. Just a few turns later, he draws into Shadow Visions, which finds another Divine Spirit for his 3/22 Kabal Talonpriest. Together with the Inner Fire he's been pocketing, this gives Sinto the win, kicking off his reverse sweep and landing the second 44-damage OTK of the tournament.
Ben Brode, amateur caster
Ben Brode was put on this planet to make Hearthstone. No one will argue with that. Ben Brode was not put on this planet to cast competitive Hearthstone. No one will argue with that, either.
Ant vs. Purple
Ant, who brought an all-aggro lineup, absolutely did not want to face Purple's anti-aggro decks. Running into him in an elimination match was the worst-case scenario. It's especially tragic considering Ant's decks likely would have destroyed Sintolol's greedy control decks if Purple had won against him. Their first game was the most painful of the lot, though.
Ant gets off to a good start playing Aggro Druid, with a massive Crypt Lord leading the charge against Purple's Tempo Rogue. By all rights, Ant has it locked up, but Purple's Swashburglar has other plans. It burgles Keeper of the Grove, quite possibly the only card that could've turned things around. With his Crypt Lord silenced, Ant's assault is broken and Purple starts his sweep.
Fr0zen vs. Surrender
Early in the tournament, caster Brian Kibler noted that, when facing Jade Druid, it's important for Highlander Priest to get in chip damage with minions to combat Druid's powerful armor gain. You know, minions like Priest of the Feast, Curious Glimmerroot, Wild Pyromancer, maybe Raza the Chained himself. Or, in Surrender's case, Alextrasza and Deathwing.
Among other things, Surrender's Lyra the Sunshard gave him Power Word: Tentacles, Free From Amber and a Forbidden Shaping. The former led to a 10/14 Alexstrasza, and just when Fr0zen finally dealt with it, the latter pulled a good old-fashioned Deathwing. That's one way to punch through armor.
Fr0zen vs. OmegaZero
You'll notice that Fr0zen appears in a lot of these highlights. There are three reasons for that. Firstly, he had the most interesting decks in the wholly homogenous tournament, like his anti-aggro Control Mage and a Jade Druid list with Violet Teachers. Secondly, he not only made it to the finals but also played some of the longest series on average. And thirdly, he excels at thinking outside the box, just as he did in this match with OmegaZero.
OmegaZero's Aggro Druid has Fr0zen backed into a corner. He's at one health. OmegaZero is at 32. How can he survive? How can he clear OmegaZero's Living Mana? Everyone in the venue was trying to answer these questions even after Fr0zen's Raza draw, including myself, the casters and, probably, OmegaZero. But Fr0zen wasn't. He was counting lethal. And he was right.
Fr0zen vs. Sintolol
Fr0zen's series against Sintolol was one of the most intense reverse sweeps of the tournament. And as I said in my full breakdown, it ended with the most ridiculous game of the entire thing, but the first game went exactly as Fr0zen predicted, much to his dismay. Sinto's decks were simply greedier than his, so he went into the match expecting to get out-valued. And at least in the first game, boy, did he ever.
Sinto dropped Dragoncaller Alana fairly early on, flooding the board with 5/5 dragons and forcing a Psychic Scream from Fr0zen. Fr0zen knows Dragoncaller Alana could return, so he's delighted to pull a total board clear from a 10-cost Kazakus potion. The trouble is, he loses the board to Sinto once again and is forced to play the potion he's been pocketing. Now he's on a clock. He has to kill Sinto before Alana is drawn…
...and it wouldn't be Hearthstone if Sinto didn't top-deck Alana the very next turn.
Ben Brode, expert caster
Well, that shows what I know about casting. As it turns out, Ben Brode is actually so good that amateur casters like spunky newcomer Brian are turning to him for advice. And he's a master of riddles to boot!
Frozen vs. JasonZhou
The Highlander Priest mirror match often comes down to who can assemble their combo. There's more to it, naturally, like getting in chip damage and denying card draw, but most games are won by whoever draws Raza and Anduin first.
In his Priest mirror match against JasonZhou, Fr0zen was already well on his way to winning the card draw race when he struck gold courtesy of Curious Glimmerroot, which managed to nab a copy of Jason's Anduin. Suddenly, Fr0zen doesn't have to dig that deep. He just needs to find Raza.
It gets better: Fr0zen's Drakonid Operative then discovers a copy of Jason's Mind Blast. Together with the Prophet Velen he's already drawn and the coin he's been holding the entire game, this gives Fr0zen the 20 burst damage he needs to take Jason out and even the scoreboard. It's only fair, though. After all, Fr0zen was nearly knocked out of the semi-finals after Sintolol copied his Frost Lich Jaina.
It's not easy running a tournament of this size. I was in Amsterdam with Blizzard PR the entire four-day affair, which gave me an appreciation for the resources and organization this kind of shindig requires. There's a terrifying number of things that can go wrong. For example, just to pull something out of the air, prematurely dropping celebratory confetti right in the middle of the final match—more specifically, right after Fr0zen, the favorite to win, puts Tom60229 in check 2-0. Boy, that would be awkward.
Fr0zen vs. Tom60229
The final match of the tournament was altogether excellent, but it's the fourth game between Fr0zen and Tom60229 that most people will remember—or at least point to when they're calling for Edwin VanCleef to be thrown in the Hall of Fame.
With Backstab and the Coin already in hand alongside Edwin VanCleef and not much else, Tom's Swashburglar manages to pull out an Innervate. Tom sees the writing on the wall: sometimes you just need a big Eddy. He goes all in, even Backstabbing his own Southsea Deckhand to buff his Edwin to 10/10—on turn three, I'll remind you. Unsurprisingly, Fr0zen can't handle it. He eventually knocks it down but the (20) damage is done. Tom clinches it with Leeroy Jenkins, which is only fitting given his helter-skelter plan.
We'll have a more detailed analysis of the five-game final match for you soon. In the meantime, tell us your favorite moments from Hearthstone's biggest tournament yet.