Sinisa Bucan, February 16, 2017

The favorites and challengers of Americas Hearthstone Championship Tour Winter Playoffs

After last week’s European HCT Winter Playoffs, it’s time to settle things in the Americas region. The Americas Winter Playoffs gather the region's best to sate your Hearthstone betting needs this weekend (February 17-19).

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 top-ranked Hearthstone players of the Americas region 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 Americas Winter Playoffs will be taking place at 21 venues across two continents – from Toronto, Canada to Lima, Peru. 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.

Americas HCT Winter Playoffs 2017 - Venue Locations
Americas HCT Winter Playoffs 2017 - Venue Locations

The format is best of 5 Conquest with a ban. The group stage of the tournament will use the swiss rounds format. The top 8 players will advance to the playoffs, which will feature a single elimination format. The winner of the tournament will get $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 became the Winter Champion and take a cut of the overall $250,000 prize pool.

State of the Meta

The post-Gadgetzan meta has settled at this point. Just as we pointed out a week ago, the meta is currently ruled by aggressive pirate decks, which are countered by Reno Jackson decks. Pirates are pretty much everywhere, including the Shaman and Rogue Jade decks, and the pirate pack is now even in Miracle Rogue. That will change soon because Blizzard has confirmed that they will nerf Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws by the end of the month. But they’ll still be around for this tournament.

Judging by the decks that have been submitted so far, the most popular decks are Aggro Jade Shaman, Renolock, Reno Mage, and Pirate Warrior. No surprises there. Naturally, there are some anomalies. Dog is bringing Midrange Jade Shaman, Dragon Priest, and Jade Druid whereas Fr0zen has delighted everyone with his Water Warrior deck, which is full of pirates and murlocs. Tempo Mage is also well-represented by the likes of Amnesiac and Muzzy. Unsurprisingly, the most popular legendary card is Patches the Pirate, which found its way into 48 out of 92 decks.

The Favorites

With 72 people taking part in the tournament, predicting who will come out on top isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But current rankings and past achievements are certainly a great metric. For the European Playoffs last week, our top pick was the reigning World Champion Pavel, and sure enough, the young Russian went on to win the tournament. But things are a bit more complicated in the Americas. Our top two picks for the region are definitely HotMEOWTH and Amnesiac.

Both are young, consistent players who have placed well in last year’s tournaments. Amnesiac’s biggest moment in 2016 was winning the Americas Winter Championship whereas HotMEOWTH took the Americas Summer Championship. Both players are also at the very top of the Americas HCT rankings – HotMEOWTH is ranked #1 with 38 points and Amnesiac #2 trailing close behind with 35 points.

Americas HCT Winter Champion 2016 - Amnesiac
Americas HCT Winter Champion 2016 - Amnesiac

The Challengers

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. Coglorin is currently the third top-ranked player in the Americas. The Brazilian player has never made a huge splash in the Hearthstone Championship Tour, but he has been achieving solid results at third-party tournaments since 2015. He just won the Copa America 2017 Winter, and if he brings that form into this tournament, he might give the favorites a hard time.

It’s kind of the same story with Zalae, who has been doing really well at third-party tournaments for a couple of years now, but never made it big in the HCT. He is currently the #6 top-ranked player in the Americas, and he’ll definitely be looking to prove he has what it takes at this tournament.

There are so many players that could make a big impact this weekend. Players like Muzzy, Tarei, Monsanto, PNC, Rooftrellen, Purple, Fibonacci, and Dog have shown great form over the past year or so, and this could be their time to shine. Then there are the popular streamers like Trump and Firebat (the latter also being the 2015 World Champion). 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.