Zadina

HCT 2017 World Championship Deciders & Quarterfinals Recap

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Saturday's schedule included the Group Stage knockouts and the quarterfinals. Spoilers incoming!

Deciders

These were the matches between the players who had 1 victory and 1 lost during the Group Stage. Three out of the four deciders were sweeps. From Group A, tom60229 quickly removed Orange off the competition with a 3-0 sweep. The same fate awaited Muzzy who lost from the experienced JasonZhou in the Group B decider game. Lastly, another NA champion fell in the Group C decider, as ShtanUdachi made wreck of Purple. It's interesting to compare Shtan's fast and confident pace in this match-up, compared to his quarterfinal performance, which we will talk about later on.

The only contestant, who proved to be more of a challenge for his opponent, was OmegaZero; he fought valiantly but ultimately fell to Fr0zen prowess in the Group D Decider game (3-2). One of the highlights of this series was in the second game, with Fr0zen spotting a nice way to find lethal. The Mage vs Priest game was also interesting to watch, showing how DK Jaina can sometimes outfatigue DK Anduin.

Therefore, tom60229, JasonZhou, ShtanUdachi and Fr0zen proceeded to the quarterfinals, where the winners of the Group Stage were waiting for them.

Quarterfinals

The first quarterfinal was between JasonZhou and DocPwn. The Canadian player took a 2-victory lead, but then Jason proved why he's considered one of the most experienced players in the world and one of China's best representatives. Jason destroyed DocPwn's Rogue, winning against it in a spectacular reverse sweep (2-3) - just as he did with Kolento in the Group Stage. It was also impressive how fast these three victories happened: it tooks Jason something less than 30 minutes to bring DocPwn from an advantageous position to defeat and elimination.

Then it was time for practice partners and contestants from the same region, SamuelTsao and tom60229, to face off against one another. Just like during the first day, Samuel's inexperience was pretty evident. His Priest play was just... slow. Thus, tom didn't have trouble taking him out with a score of 3-1.

And we move on to probably the best match of the day: Sintolol versus Fr0zen, with the latter being the last representative of his region. Before their game, Fr0zen had stated that he had 10% chance of winning, since both players ran control decks and Sinto's Mage was more aggressive, and he needed (sic) a miracle to win. Well, miracles do happen in the World Championship! I recommend that you watch this series!

In the first game, Fr0zen was forced to Psychic Scream Sinto's Dragoncaller Alanna, making it possible for the German player to draw her exactly when needed and secure the victory. Sinto's Mage remained undefeated in this tournament and it shows its power against meta decks like Highlander Priest, although Fr0zen did put up a good fight. Fr0zen won the Jade Druid mirror game, but then his Mage fell to Sintolol's Druid. The last deck remaining for Sintolol was his unique Dragon Combo Priest. Fr0zen, being an exceptional Control player himself, managed to succeed where Sinto's previous opponents seemingly failed: he read completely through the playstyle of that deck, denying Sinto the opportunity to steal his minions even by damaging them on purpose! The American player skillfully piloted his own Priest around Sinto's and evened out the score. The last nail-biting match was between Fr0zen's Mage and Sinto's Priest. Sinto quickly lost his combo pieces, but then he was miraculously saved by a Frost Lich Jaina pick-up. The game started heading into fatigue, with Sinto running out of cards slightly faster. It all culminated into a battle of DK Jainas, with both players trying to find ways to create Water Elementals via her Hero Power and Sinto making some impressive plays again. However, Fr0zen highrolled for a second time for 7 damage with Dragon's Fury (he had already done so earlier in another crucial turn) and that's when Sintolol started cracking under the pressure and made a couple of mistakes. In the end, it was Fr0zen who progressed to the semi-finals as America's last representative (3-2)!

After this amazing match, the last quarterfinal was yet another battle between giants: Surrender versus ShtanUdachi. Surrender is the only representative from Korea, while Shtan was Europe's last hope to progress to the semi-finals. This series wasn't as impressive as the previous one, but the final match between Surrender's Priest and Shtan's Jade Druid is the one to watch out for. It's also probably the longest match of the day. With Surrender ahead at 2-1, Shtan maximised his armor gain and his Jade Golem counter quite fast. On the other hand, Surrender had all the Highlander Priest tools right on curve. Near the end of the game, even though Shtan seemed to have the edge, Surrender noticed what both casters and audience failed to see: he could still win the game. And that he did, thus becoming the last semifinalist!

Final Remarks

It's pretty obvious, after the previous day too, that Big Spells Mage is the deck to look out for in this tournament. It's won some unbelievable games and it's proven that it's a force to be reckoned with in fatigue, even against Highlander Priest. I think Sinto's Big Spells Mage is better, since it's more aggressive. Dragoncaller Alanna has proven wrong everyone who underestimated her in the beginning of Kobolds & Catacombs. In contrast, Fr0zen's Mage is much more conservative, matching his preferred control-oriented playstyle.

Speaking of Fr0zen, his performance was certainly impressive today. He totally read through Sintolol's Dragon Combo Priest. He was better in the "who can find the ping" late game with Frost Lich Jaina. And he kept North America still in the competition, when favourite Purple and DocPwn fell. We should still commend Sintolol: he wasn't that well known in the general public, but he's been a consistent ladder player for a while now, he showed some incredible plays and he definitely made a name for himself in this Championship. Lastly, Surrender himself and his Priest gameplay are just on another level. The Korean player has demonstrated amazing skill and he's one of the favourites to win.

Thus, we have two semifinalists from the APAC region (Surrender and tom60229), one from China (JasonZhou) and one from the North America (Fr0zen). It looks like that Hearthstone will have its first World Champion from the Asia region (and if you want to be pedantic, it will definitely have its first Asian World Champion). Although, as we saw today, you shouldn't underestimate Fr0zen!

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