With the last of the Winter Playoffs being completed, Blizzard has announced the dates when the 2019 HCT Winter Championship will be held. It will be held at the usual location, the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. The contest will start on February 28 and go through March 3. It will all be streamed on the PlayHearthstone twitch channel.
The 16 players to represent the four regions are as follows:
- Torben “Viper” Wahl
- Oldrich “Faeli” Mahdal
- Raphael “Bunnyhoppor” Peltzer
- Fatih “ThunderUP” Akduman
- Brian “bloodyface” Eason
- Mark “Ike” Eichner
- Matt “noblord” Koutsoutis
- Bobby “bobbyex” Du
- Shuhei “Tansoku” Aomura
- Tyler “Tyler” Hoang Nguyen
- Jiyong “Definition” Yoon
- Sheng Yuan “Roger” Luo
- Zhe “GoeLionKing” Wang
- Zhao “Caimiao” Haixiao
- Xu “LFYueying” Kai
- Guan “SNJing” Zhendong
Many of the players to compete in the 2019 HCT Winter Championship are actually returning competitors from previous Seasonal Championships. There are some new faces, and rivalries that are beginning to take form as players from different regions will face off once more.
Both Bunnyhoppor and Viper have already qualified for the World Championship via the Summer Championship. They are of course still strong candidates to make the top four, but that means that they will leave spots open for those who finish behind them. Faeli has had a great year outside of Seasonal Championships and is the European player likely to put up the most resistance.
Caimiao and GoeLionKing from China were also participants at the Fall Championship. Caimiao missed his seat at the world championship by losing to bloodyface last time around. Bloodyface is at the Winter Championship as well and it will be an interesting battle should we see a rematch.
Tansoku and Tyler are returning Seasonal Championship players from the Asia-Pacific region. Tansoku lost out to Viper, another player he may have to face again on the path to the top four as he will be a major roadblock. Tyler lost out to Wu “BloodTrail” Zong-Chang in Fall, someone who is not at the Winter Championship. A top four finish for Tyler and a ticket to the World Championship would help complete his Cinderella story for the year.
Bloodyface is the only returning Seasonal Championship participant from the Americas region. He has also already qualified for the World Championship. Although none of the other participants are famous names, Ike and noblord are really strong contenders. They could easily put out the play required to make top four.
With the tournament due to begin in about a month’s time, there’s a lot of time to figure out what decks to take. We could see some meta shifts on ladder that could influence what ends up being brought to the tournament. There are no foreseeable nerfs or balance changes in the works that could affect the current meta game before the Winter Championship though.
As it stands, Hunter is all but guaranteed to be brought by every player. It has made up the majority of the competitive meta tournament after tournament and can be adapted to fit many play styles. The real question for the players is what they think the other players will bring in order to counter with their own lineups.
Players have most play style choices available to them, with lineups consisting of aggro, midrange, control, or anti-control archetypes. Should players opt for an aggressive strategy, Odd Rogue, Even Paladin, and Even Warlock have been the usual suspects to fill out that lineup. In the case of control, Priest, OTK Paladin, and Mecha’thun Warlock were all popular choices throughout playoffs. Finally with anti-control, Quest Rogue found its way into lineups alongside Hakkar Druid and Mecha’thun decks.
There isn’t one consistent strategy among this pool of players as all of them got to the Winter Championship via different game plans. Bloodyface had that anti-control lineup, Viper used a control lineup with his infamous Peanut Shaman, and Tyler had a much more straight forward aggressive gameplan. It is unlikely players will bring the same archetypes to the Championship and will invent new tech options altogether.
We will have more in-depth breakdowns of each region’s players as the 2019 HCT Winter Championship approaches.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via their official website.