Subsequent week, 16 of one of the best Hearthstone gamers on the earth are heading to Taipei for the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) Finals. Working from April 25 – 28 (native time), the event is the fruits of a full 12 months (after which some) of fierce competitors, however it’s going to be a lot greater than that. This 12 months would be the most original competitors Hearthstone has ever seen, and I completely can’t wait.
For an enormous chunk of the participant base, probably the most thrilling a part of this 12 months’s World Championship might be the truth that it’s happening after the Customary rotation. What does that imply? Nicely, when the primary set of playing cards in a brand new calendar 12 months hits the sport, three previous units rotate out. This implies 135 new playing cards are available in and 400+ previous playing cards exit. It’s an enormous shake-up as a result of numerous the prevailing methods rely closely on these 400+ playing cards, so are misplaced altogether or drastically re-worked, whereas a complete lot of recent archetypes emerge. It additionally signifies that the brand new set has a big effect, as a result of it’s a bigger proportion of the general card pool than the expansions later within the 12 months.
This 12 months, the Customary rotation noticed Journey to Un’goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds & Catacombs – three of the strongest units in Hearthstone’s historical past – go away the sport, and a recent set – Rise of Shadows – enter. Various very impactful playing cards, together with Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater, had been additionally despatched to the Corridor of Fame, shaking issues up much more.
This all occurred lower than two weeks in the past on April 9 (April 10 right here in ANZ), so the adjustments are very recent, and persons are enjoying a variety of decks that merely didn’t exist earlier than rotation. It’s an thrilling time to be a participant, however think about what it’s going to be like on the World Championship – the finalists all earned their locations by mastery of methods which have basically modified. The playing cards are completely different, the match-ups are completely different, and every part continues to be in flux.
From the second Rise of Shadows was launched, all 16 gamers had been racing towards the clock to find and hone the strongest methods based mostly on the brand new card pool.
This event goes to be a take a look at of who can adapt the quickest. From the second Rise of Shadows was launched, all 16 gamers had been racing towards the clock to find and hone the strongest methods based mostly on the brand new card pool. However how do you even inform? The meta recreation continually evolves for the primary few weeks of an growth. Decks that appear sturdy initially can fade away, whereas new contenders can all of the sudden rise as much as take the sport by storm. And even as soon as the strongest decks are established, the method of refining them continues for a while.
So the place did this go away our 16 finalists? Have a look at is this fashion. That they had from April 9 to April 17 – which was once they wanted to finalise and submit their decklists to the event organisers – to attempt to work out what’s sturdy and predict what different gamers will do in an effort to construct their lineup. This was a gargantuan activity, testing every part from deck-building ability and recreation data by to time administration and effectivity. (You see the ultimate decklists beneath.)
After all, none of those gamers would have achieved this in isolation. They’d have labored with their group and/or an in depth knit play group to construct spreadsheets, take a look at match-ups and speak technique. You would undoubtedly argue that the gamers with one of the best assist have a bonus, however that’s all the time been part of aggressive Hearthstone.
The underside line is – we’ve by no means seen such an absurdly quick period of time to prep for an occasion of this magnitude. Final 12 months’s World Championship, as an example, kicked off on January 18, virtually two and a half months after the discharge of Kobolds & Catacombs – which was the third set of the Hearthstone 12 months, and thus the final set earlier than rotation. The meta modified much less, in different phrases, and gamers had manner longer to prep. This meant the highest 16 got here into that event with a radical understanding of the minutia of each single match-up. This 12 months that merely isn’t doable – the gamers may have had simply over two weeks to try to grasp the brand new meta earlier than they’re up on stage. That may little doubt harm some, whereas showcasing the expertise and broad expertise of others. Oh, and did I point out that the event has a USD $1 million greenback prize pool?
In order that’s one motive why this event goes to be distinctive – and a complete lot of enjoyable to observe – however there’s one other. The World Championship goes to be the final hurrah for the Conquest event format. Hearthstone esports has already moved on to a complete new system (HCT has been changed by Hearthstone Masters and Hearthstone Grandmasters), and the qualifiers that feed into the primary Masters Tour occasion (happening June 14 – 16 in Las Vegas) are already utilizing the brand new Specialist format.
What’s Specialist? These tournaments see gamers deliver one class, with a main deck, a secondary deck (which might differ from the first deck by 5 playing cards) and a tertiary deck (which might additionally differ from the first deck by 5 playing cards) in better of three battles. It’s a little bit like side-boarding in Magic the Gathering, and a large change from Conquest, wherein gamers deliver 4 decks (all completely different lessons); certainly one of which will likely be banned in every match, after which should win as soon as with every of their three remaining decks. As you’ll be able to think about, there’s an enormous quantity of technique in figuring out a lineup and having a ban technique. And there’s numerous data and ability in studying the best way to pilot 4 separate decks towards the sector.
It’s solely becoming that we are saying goodbye to Conquest on Hearthstone’s largest stage.
It’s solely becoming, then, that we are saying goodbye to Conquest on Hearthstone’s largest stage. And importantly, it’s cool that we’re going to have a direct level of comparability between the previous format and the brand new. We get to see what a Conquest event is like within the new Rise of Shadows meta, after which in June we’ll see the way it performs out utilizing Specialist.
The ultimate piece of the World Championship puzzle is simply how stacked this high 16 is. It is arguably the strongest lineup we have ever had for Worlds; these guys have proven unbelievable consistency and drive during the last 12 months, and it merely wouldn’t be a becoming finale with out the likes of Bunnyhoppor, Justsaiyan, Tyler, Muzzy, Hunterace and so forth. The entire thing will likely be streamed on the PlayHearthstone Twitch channel and runs from April 25 – 28 (April 24 – 27 within the evenings for NA) so test it out – it’s going to be HUGE.
Cam Shea is Editor in Chief for IGN’s Australian content material group and is surprisingly common at Hearthstone given he is been enjoying it for 5 years. He is on Twitter.