Another changing of the season, another $250,000 up for grabs for the best Hearthstone players in the world. The Hearthstone Spring Championship featured 16 of the most talented players in the world (four from each major region) all gather by the hearth in Shanghai. Up for grabs, the aforementioned $250,000 prize pool as well as four tickets to the Hearthstone World Championship. The players were very impressive, the crowd was electric, and the plays were as big as they come.
Hoej is King
After winning the European Spring Championship, Frederik "Hoej" Nielsen was faced with the daunting task of being the first ever player to win his region's and global titles. In order to achieve that feat, Hoej switched up his strategy as he turned to the aggressive lineup this tournament. His lineup was made up of Midrange Paladin, Evolve Shaman, Pirate Warrior and Quest Rogue. With Control Decks seeming to be the most powerful, Hoej won the mindgames behind submitting decklists and was rewarded with some favorable matchups. However, in a field the featured the best players in the world, no wins come easily.
Hoej first was matched up against the Hearthstone's only two-time World Championship contestant in Hakjun "Kranich" Baek, needed to defeat him twice in order to make it out of group stages. Hoej won his quarterfinal matchup 3-1 to advance to the semifinals, clinching himself a spot at the World Championship in the process. With the ultimate goal now accomplished, some pressure was off as Hoej blew through the rest of the bracket, defeated the USA representative Anthony "Ant" Trevino and the infamous Aleksandr "Kolento" Malsh each 3-0 to earn the crown. The aggressive decklists that Hoej brought seemed to be the difference, along with his absolutely perfect play throughout his entire run. The hottest played in the world right now can now be respected as such, and rewarded as such as he earned a cool $60,000 with the victory.
The storied battle for best region in the world has become the battle for second-best as Europe has stated their case clearly. The American Hearthstone pros would still like to make the argument, myself included, but we are running out of legs to stand on here. The clearest point made of this tournament, alongside Hoej being one of the World's top players, was that no other region can mess with Europe. Europe was represented by Hoej, Kolento, Dima "Rdu" Radu and Eugene "Neirea" Shumilin.
All four of the European representatives made it out of group stages, with three of the four making it all the way to the semifinals. The lone European not to make it to the semifinals? Rdu, because he was knocked out by fellow european Kolento the preceding series. The championship was a European mirror match, of course, as the region wins the second straight global season championship after Aleksey "ShtanUdachi" Barsukov won the Winter Championship.
China's Disappointing Homefield Advantage
In an effort to help bring global attention as excitement to the seasonal championship, Blizzard has begun to make share the tournaments with the world, choosing a different country for each location. After the Winter Championship took place in the Bahamas, the Spring Championship was hosted by Shanghai and what gracious hosts they were. Almost too gracious at times, as they provided the other contestants with far too many victories.
The crowd was ecstatic to be in attendance and you could tell it was an experienced Hearthstone groups as they cheers and jeers all came at the right time. Still welcoming to all of the 16 contestants, it was clear that the crowd was rooting hard for their four hometown representatives. Unfortunately the fans did not have too much to root for as they saw their hometown stars get knocked around and out in group stages. The four players finished with a combined 1-8 series record, with none of them making it out of groups stages. If we have learned anything from China in terms of esports, it is that the emerging region will not stay suppressed for long.
Four Players Going to the World Championship
Although the champion gets the biggest headline, the true goal of each of the 16 contestants was to clinch themselves a spot at the World Championship. A spot is reserved for each of the top four players, which in this case was Ant from USA and three European representatives in Kolento, Neirea and Hoej. Half of the 16 player field for the World Championship is now decided as they all plan to battle it out in January 2018 for their share of the $1,000,000 prize pool and the title of World Champion. These four players join ShtanUdachi, Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang, Sam "SamuelTsao" Tsao and Julien "DocPwn" Bachand in the field to see who will become Hearthstone's fourth ever World Champion.