Sinisa Bucan, February 9, 2017

European Hearthstone Championship Tour Winter Playoffs – Everything You Need to Know

After a very exciting 2016, the Hearthstone Championship Tour is back. Everything will start this weekend (February 10-12) with the European Winter Playoffs ready to sate your Hearthstone betting needs.

The action begins on Friday when qualified Tavern Heroes will fight it out in the Tavern Hero Tournament. The top 8 Tavern Heroes will then join 64 of Europe’s top-ranked Hearthstone players in the playoffs on Saturday and Sunday. The competition is bound to get very heated as only four players will earn their spot at the Winter Championship taking place in the Bahamas in March.

The 2017 European Winter Playoffs will be taking place at 25 venues across the continent – from Budapest, Hungary to Valencia, Spain. All the venues will be open to the public, so if you’re in the neighborhood, you can drop by, watch the action, play a few games with other fans, and partake is some side events that organizers have lined up for attendees. If you can’t make it in person, you can catch the whole thing on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel.

European HCT Winter Playoffs - Venue Locations
European HCT Winter Playoffs - Venue Locations

The format is best-of-five Conquest with a single ban and the group stage of the tournament will use the swiss rounds format. The top eight players will advance to the playoffs, which will switch to a single elimination format. The winner of the tournament receives $60,000 and 20 HCT points, second place will bring in $40,000 and 15 HCT points, whereas the third and fourth places will net the players $20,000 and 10 HCT points. But we’re sure that all four players that make it to the semifinals will be very pleased as that will mean that they earned their spot at the Winter Championships in the Bahamas where they will have a chance to become the Winter Champion and take a cut of the overall $250,000 prize pool – all while warming up by the pool.

State of the Meta

The Gadgetzan dust has long settled and the meta has become quite predictable. The meta is currently ruled by aggressive pirate decks, which are countered by Reno Jackson decks. That’s pretty much what you can expect to see throughout the tournament. Even Jade decks, such as Shaman and Rogue, will use Small-Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate because they are simply fantastic early-game solutions. Even Miracle Rogue now includes the pirate pack. Blizzard has basically confirmed that pirates will be dealt with in the next patch set to arrive before the end of the month, but we’re stuck with them until then.

The Favorites

It’s not that easy to even try to predict things when there are 72 people in the tournament. Of course, we can always take a look at the rankings and past achievements. The first threat to look out for is definitely Pavel, the reigning World Champion. The young Russian player didn’t make it to any of last year’s regional championships. He made his way through the tough Last Call Invitationals and then proceeded to make a huge splash at the World Championship. He is currently the second top-ranked player in Europe (with 41 points), so there’s no question that he’s one of the top contenders for a spot at the Winter Championships.

2016 Hearthstone World Champion - Pavel
2016 Hearthstone World Champion - Pavel

Even though Thijs didn’t set the world on fire with his performance at the World Championship, he has vowed to learn from his mistakes and come back stronger than ever. We’re used to seeing him in the very top ranks, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see him on rank 12 with 25 points. Still, this is Thijs, one of the best Hearthstone players in the world, winner of two European Championships, and a two time qualifier for the Hearthstone World Championship.

DrHippi is currently the top-ranked player in Europe with 51 points. He’s the guy who lost to Pavel in the 2016 Hearthstone World Championship finals. The calm and collected Ukrainian made a big splash last year at two Europe Championships. He lost to Naiman in the Winter Championship finals, but he came back and won the Summer Championship by beating Georgec in the finals.

The Underdogs

With so many players participating in this tournament, including the 8 completely unknown Tavern Heroes, there will be no shortage of underdogs trying to create big upsets. Bunnyhoppor has proven himself as a great and consistent player throughout 2016, but he always fell short of true greatness. He’s been doing very well lately at third-party tournaments, so his time to shine might be coming soon.

Tyler is a relatively unknown player, but he is currently the third top-ranked player in Europe with 34 points. His ladder rankings have been consistent since June 2016, and he achieved his best result this January by finishing second. This tournament could put Tyler on the map.

There are so many other players that could make it big at this tournament. People like Lifecoach, Hoej, SuperJJ, Neirea, RDU, and Iner have been around for a long time, but they never managed to make a really big mark on the Hearthstone Championship Tour. With the competition just starting to heat up in 2017, they will all be looking to secure their ticket to the Bahamas.

Sinisa Bucan

Siniša is a writer and translator from Croatia, a small European country on the Adriatic coast. Apart from being a passionate Hearthstone player, he enjoys all kinds of video games, including strategy, role-playing, adventure, and action. Other interests include listening to indie rock and travelling. You can follow him @SinisaBucan.