Today brought the epic conclusion to Hearthstone’s 2016 World Championship. European players continued the comeback they started in yesterday’s quarterfinals, while their Asian counterparts struggled to maintain their forward momentum. The grand finals came down to a face-off between the top two European players—the first time in professional Hearthstone history that both finalists have hailed from the same region.
The first series of the day pitted Russia’s Pavel against China’s Jasonzhou. Pavel had narrowly escaped defeats in the group stage and quarterfinals, crawling back from 3-0 deficits to pull off spectacular reverse sweeps on both occasions. It wasn’t clear if his incredible combination of good fortune and finesse would carry him through another day. But he secured himself a victory in the first game, guaranteeing that he wouldn’t be in quite as dire a position this time around.
The two players traded back and forth quickly in the first two games. Jasonzhou pulled ahead in game three after he drew Nourish and got himself two gigantic minions alone on the board that Pavel couldn’t respond to. But the Russian player tied things up again in game 4 when he played a Firelands Portal that miraculously summoned none other than the legendary Leeroy Jenkins. Comboing the powerful minion with a fireball, Pavel was able to end the game shortly thereafter.
Pavel went on to outplay his opponent in games 5 and 6. In the Rogue mirror game 5, Jasonzhou—having recently played an Execute—found himself lacking counterplay opportunities when Pavel built his side of the board up. Game 6 came down to a war of attrition. Pavel’s Warrior managed to outlive a very aggressive push by Jasonzhou’s Rogue and subsequently earned a spot in the grand finals courtesy of a well-timed C’Thun draw.
The second semifinal matchup between South Korea’s Che0nsu and Ukraine’s DrHippi was a real nail-biter. Che0nsu started out strong in game 1 when a Malygos draw afforded him a massive power spike that helped him take his opponent down to 6 health. Meanwhile, DrHippi made a dangerous gamble of waiting an extra turn to see if he could get more out of his Flamestrike before clearing the board—a gamble that didn’t pay off. After losing game 2, Che0nsu went on to win game 3, where his Shaman steadily chipped away at DrHippi’s health until he could draw into Bloodlust for a powerful finish.
Che0nsu’s fortunes started to take a turn for the worse in game 4, however. Playing a nominally powerful Dragon Warrior deck, Che0nsu ran into the fundamental problem of not drawing many dragons. DrHippi’s Zoo Warlock deck thrived in comparison. With the score at 2-2, Che0nsu started out strong in game 5, and even managed to get DrHippi down to just 6 health, but at the critical moment when Che0nsu’s Ragnaros needed to hit DrHippi’s face, the legendary elemental shot at a minion instead. DrHippi recovered by drawing his own Ragnaros the next turn. One win away from a spot in the Grand Finals, DrHippi backed Che0nsu into a corner from which only Grom Hellscream could have saved him. Grom was a no-show, and DrHippi set up the first all-Europe Grand Finals in Hearthstone World Championship history.
The Grand Finals began as tensely as could be expected when the top two Hearthstone players in the world go head-to-head. DrHippi and Pavel traded back and forth in the first two games. Game 2 seemed like it was going to go to DrHippi again because the player managed to get his Zoo Warlock to do exactly what it does best—fill up the board with tons of dangerous mid-sized minions. A key Doomguard draw hit Pavel where it hurt, but the resilient Russian player saved himself with a huge Flamestrike that cleared the entire board and regained control of the game.
Pavel kept up his forward momentum in game 3, forcing DrHippi to expend a lot of important resources to kill off Cairne Bloodhoof early in the game. He then drew Nourish, which gave him even more resources with which to use the wealth of tools he already had in hand. DrHippi tried to respond with an 8-spell Yogg-Saron, but the Old God didn’t give him what he needed on this occasion.
Things started to heat up in game 4 when DrHippi’s Druid stuck Pavel between a rock and a hard place by dropping two 8/8 golems onto the board. With only a 6/6 Ancient Shieldbearer of his own and no clear way to counter this massive minion push, Pavel took a huge gamble and played Brawl. It paid off. The two golems were killed off while his Ancient Shieldbearer was left to fight on. DrHippi almost recovered by filling up the board with strong minions again, but ultimately Pavel’s C’Thun gave him strong control of the game once again.
It ultimately came down to game 6, where Pavel’s Rogue was pitted against DrHippi’s Druid. The game didn’t end up being much of a contest, thanks to a combination of good fortune and smart play from Pavel. He managed to draw the legendary Rogue minion Edwin VanCleef early in the game. A relatively cheap 3-cost card, VanCleef’s power stems from the fact that it gains +2/+2 for each card played earlier in the turn in which its cast.
Pavel was able to take advantage of his handful of cheap cards to make the VanCleef absolutely huge. DrHippi wasn’t able to respond quickly enough to mitigate the oncoming wave of damage and, after being brought down to low health, he needed a genuine miracle to save himself and get back into the series. He didn’t find one.Congratulations to Pavel on becoming our 2016 Hearthstone World Champion!