This weekend at BlizzCon, Hearthstone will crown its second ever World Champion. Players battled for points throughout the year to earn their place in the qualifiers, which whittled each region down to sixteen players for their respective championships, and so on and so forth, until we now have just eight players remaining to contend for the title of 2015 Hearthstone World Champion.
I’ve had the good fortune of being tapped to cast many of the matches leading up to this point, from the Americas Championship last month to Opening Weekend just last week, so I’ve had a front-row seat to watch the drama unfold firsthand. And I will once again be in the booth this weekend to bring you the action from BlizzCon.
How do I expect that action to break down? Why, I’m glad you asked…
(Freeze Mage, Patron Warrior, Dragon Priest)
(Midrange Hunter, Zoo Warlock, Midrange Druid)
Thijs brought a lineup to Worlds that was heavily geared toward beating aggressive decks. He knew that the nature of the group stages meant that he couldn’t face any of his fellow Europeans, who he knew favored control, until the playoffs. The Chinese and APAC qualifier metagames trended heavily toward aggro decks, so Thijs took the calculated risk to bias his lineup against those, and so far it has paid off.
Kranich is the one returning player from BlizzCon 2014, and frankly his lineup looks very much like something that could have been played at that tournament. His Hunter, Warlock, Druid lineup is quite similar to what Firebat won with at last year’s World Championship, obviously minus the fourth deck from the Last Hero Standing format with its one ban.
Thankfully for Thijs, his metagame call looks like it will continue to pay off in this match. His heavy bias against aggressive decks may paint Kranich’s Warlock deck into a corner, as it is likely to struggle to win against any of Thijs’s decks. The Hunter and Druid decks have a better shot, since either of them are strong against Freeze Mage and at least decent against Patron, but I feel like this matchup will really hinge on whether Kranich will be able to find a win with Warlock.
Prediction: Thijs wins 3-2
(Freeze Mage, Patron Warrior, Oil Rogue)
(Midrange Shaman, Midrange Druid, Hybrid Hunter)
Like Thijs, Ostkaka brought a lineup that looks to target aggressive decks like Warlock Zoo and Secret Paladin, featuring the same decks except replacing Dragon Priest with Oil Rogue. That difference likely helps him out against typical midrange decks like Paladin, but gives him a somewhat weaker matchup against decks like Face Hunter.
On the other hand, Pinpingho brought a lineup that is very much midrange, but also very unusual. His Druid deck is fairly typical, but his Hunter deck features a pair of Fel Reavers, and his Shaman deck is, well, a Shaman deck, which is a rare sight in itself. But Pinpingho embraces the Shaman class so heavily that he is known as “The Shaman” amongst other APAC players, and he has shown that he can pilot the deck well with his pair of victories over Purple, who brought a lineup that is quite similar to that of Ostkaka.
The key deck to watch for here will be Ostkaka’s Freeze Mage. It was Purple’s downfall in both his meetings with Pinpingho, failing to win a game across either series. All three of Pinpingho’s decks line up well against it, thanks to all of them having strong answers to Doomsayer as well as significant sources of burst damage.
Prediction: Pinpingho wins 3-2
(Secret Paladin, Face Hunter, Mech Shaman)
(Midrange Paladin, Midrange Druid, Demonzoo Warlock)
This is a difficult matchup to nail down, because neither player has any clear weaknesses in their lineups against the opposition. DieMeng is playing three very aggressive decks, while Kno has more of a midrange lineup. Often in Hearthstone that tends to favor the aggressive player, but the dynamic isn’t universal.
I feel like the weak link of Kno’s lineup is likely to be Druid, since it’s vulnerable to both Secret Paladin and Mech Shaman, but Druid is Druid and can win any matchup given the right draws. On DieMeng’s side, the deck most likely to struggle is Mech Shaman. It has an excellent matchup against Druid, but is weak to decks that can develop a board quickly and prevent it from getting in much damage with minions. That describes both ZooLock and Midrange Paladin, so I could see DieMeng having a hard time.
Prediction: Kno wins 3-2
(Tempo Mage, Midrange Druid, Oil Rogue)
(Midrange Druid, Face Hunter, Secret Paladin)
This is another tough match to call. Like DieMeng, Zoro is playing a hyper-aggressive lineup, though he has Midrange Druid in the place of Mech Shaman. Interestingly, I think he’d be better off with Shaman in this matchup, since it’s likely stronger against both Druid and Tempo Mage, at least given the versions of the decks the two competitors are bringing. Hotform is playing double Mirror Image Tempo Mage, which is quite strong against weapon classes like Warrior, but much weaker against early minion flood from decks like Face Hunter or Mech Shaman.
I feel like this is a matchup that will possibly come down to the players pick orders. Hotform’s Tempo Mage is probably his strongest deck, since it’s quite strong against Druid and Paladin in general, and Arcane Missiles and Flamewaker are excellent against Face Hunter. His Druid is a wash against the mirror match, and likely a small favorite against Face Hunter (a matchup that Darnassus Aspirant has really improved), but an underdog to Secret Paladin. Lastly, the Oil Rogue deck is quite strong against Paladin, but may struggle against Druid and Face Hunter, especially given Hotform’s choice to play a Big Game Hunter rather than additional healing like Ostkaka did.
Prediction: Hotform wins 3-2
Semifinal 1: Thijs vs PinpingHo
This matchup is much like that between PinpingHo and Ostkaka, though I feel Thijs may have a bit of a better chance with his Dragon Priest than Ostkaka did with his Oil Rogue. In the end, though, I feel like PinpingHo’s lineup punishes Freeze Mage quite well, and think we’ll see a similar result.
The real X-factor here is PinpingHo’s play. When I mentioned this prediction to some of my fellow casters, they felt like Thijs has a playskill advantage over PinpingHo, since the latter player has made some rather questionable calls leading up to this point. I’d have to agree that I feel Thijs is a stronger player overall, but even the European Champion faltered a bit under the pressure of the Opening Weekend stage last weekend. This is likely a very contentious choice, but I think The Shaman will take it.
Prediction: PinpingHo wins 3-2
Semifinal 2: Kno vs Hotform
This is another matchup that feels like it’s really heavily weighted toward how the classes line up. I feel like Kno’s Warlock deck is excellent against Hotform’s Mage and Druid, but weak to Rogue. Hotform’s Rogue is strong against Paladin and Warlock, but weak to Druid. Kno’s Paladin is likely an underdog to both Rogue and Mage, especially thanks to the double Mirror Images and Water Elementals in the later, but a favorite against Druid.
The most important win for Hotform here may be his Druid, since it likely has two bad matchups against Paladin and Warlock, and then a mirror match. Similarly, Kno will have to find a win with Paladin, which could be difficult, but at least has one spot where it can find a favorable matchup.
It’s also worth noting the intrinsic instability of Tempo Mage. If Hotform can find a good mix of minions and spells early on, it’ll be smooth sailing. But if he never finds Mana Wyrm in his opening hands, he’ll have a hard climb ahead of him.
Prediction: Kno wins 3-2
Finals: PinpingHo vs Kno
All midrange, all APAC finals? It could be. I think this would be an excellent finals, and would have a lot of interesting back and forth action. It would also interestingly feature only Druid as an overlapping class between the two players, which seems fitting as it was by far the most popular class in the tournament.
In the end, though, I feel like PinpingHo’s Shaman deck would be his downfall. Shaman can struggle to come back when it falls behind, and both Kno’s Paladin and Warlock decks pair strong early minions with powerful mid and late game followup. But a good result from Tuskar Totemic can change anything…
Prediction: Kno wins 3-2 and becomes the 2015 Hearthstone World Champion
What do you think? Who will be the next Hearthstone World Champion?