To this point we have looked at the players from China and the Asia-Pacific region in the HCT Winter Championship. Next is an overview of possibly the strongest region in the 2019 HCT Winter Championship Europe analysis. There are two returning World Championship qualifiers from Europe that will be gatekeepers for other players in their groups.
Torben “Viper” Wahl
One of the two German players who have qualified for the World Championship, Viper brings a unique twist everywhere he goes. He proved that skill and play style matters a lot by coming up with a completely new deck type to qualify for the Winter Championship.
Viper started off 2018 with a couple of top eight finishes in Tour Stops. He also qualified for the World Championship in Season One. He went pretty quietly for the rest of the year but still attended quite a few tour stops. Viper didn’t have any amazing performances but held his own against international talent. He saw a resurgence starting in December when he finished top four at HCT Philadelphia.
Viper put up quite the performance in the Winter Playoffs. He started off by bringing the now famous Peanut Shaman which led to some long and interesting games. Viper navigated his games well and finished the group stages with a single loss. He came out in the playoff rounds sweeping his first opponent and then clutched out a final game five in the winners match to qualify.
Viper is already qualified for the World Championship, but the better he finishes in the Winter Championship the more prize money he will earn. If his Winter Playoff performance anything to go by, he’s a likely candidate to hit the top four once again.
Oldřich “Faeli” Mahdal
Coming in from the Czech Republic, Faeli is a player that should be on everyone’s radar. He is without a doubt one of 2018’s top ten players.
He has four top four finishes in 2018 Tour Stops and a multitude of top 16 finishes. In Season One, his run during playoffs for the Summer Championship was stopped short only by Viper. He’s been travelling the globe to play Hearthstone over the past year and he finally has his Championship chance.
His run during the Winter Playoffs was a bit rough in the Swiss rounds where he finished 5-2, but still nabbed the fifth seed. Once in the playoff rounds he kicked it into gear, including earning a victory against HCT Summer Champion Raphael “Bunnyhoppor” Peltzer.
Faeli is probably the strongest player on the HCT that doesn’t have a tournament victory. He is not usually the favorite to win, but it would be a let down for his fans if he didn’t make the top four at the Winter Championship. Should Faeli qualify for the World Championship he would join the growing list of European players in the tournament.
Raphael “Bunnyhoppor” Peltzer
The other German player qualified for the World Championship, Bunnyhoppor, is also 2018’s Summer Champion. He’s an incredible talent and completed a doctorate degree alongside playing Hearthstone competitively.
The Hearthstone veteran didn’t make it out to any of the Tour Stops in 2018, likely due to his studies. He did however make time for ladder to qualify for playoffs and pulled off a dominating run in the Summer Championship.
In the Winter Playoffs, he had a nice 6-1 run through the Swiss rounds. He lost his first playoff round set against Faeli and had to come back and win two sets in a row to qualify. Bunnyhoppor actually was forced into a game five situation against another German player, Kevin “Casie” Eberlein, and the former was able to close out the set.
Bunnyhoppor is mostly playing for prize money in the Winter Championship. After finishing his degree though he has been making the transition to playing Hearthstone as a full time occupation. He will be more than prepared for when he makes his way to the World Championship and is a big threat in this tournament to players trying to join him there.
Fatih “ThunderUP” Akduman
One of the more surprising players to make it to the Winter Championship is ThunderUP. He isn’t a stranger to competitive Hearthstone but took to playing Challenger tournaments for a long time.
ThunderUP has represented Turkey in each of the last two years’ Hearthstone Global Games. He actually made it to playoffs in Season Two, which was his first non-Challenger solo tournament since early 2017. He did decently well there finishing 11th, narrowly missing the top eight.
In the Winter Playoffs he was one of the few to go 6-1 in the Swiss rounds. Once there, he got swept by Dawid “dawido” Florczyk in the initial match, but came back and won two in a row including a revenge win against dawido. There are still some questions surrounding how good ThunderUP will be, but he could be a dark horse in the Winter Championship.
Europe has three players on their way to the World Championship. Two Europeans will have a chance to add to that total in this event. Watch Winter Championship action unfold live starting February 28 on the PlayHearthstone Twitch channel.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via their official website.