Sinisa Bucan, February 23, 2017

Who to watch at the Asia-Pacific Hearthstone Championship Tour Winter Playoffs

After the European and Americas HCT Winter Playoffs, it’s time to settle things in the Asia-Pacific region. Your Hearthstone betting needs will be sated this weekend (February 24-26) with the Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs.

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 Asia-Pacific 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 on the Bahamas in March.

The 2017 Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs will be taking place at a number of venues across the continent. 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 in 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.

Hearthstone Championship Tour
Hearthstone Championship Tour

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 on 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 long-settled and the situation is very similar as it was during the European and Americas Winter Playoffs. The meta is ruled by aggressive pirate decks, which are countered by Reno Jackson decks. Pirates found their way into a lot of decks, including Shaman and Rogue Jade decks, and even in Miracle Rogue. Blizzard has previously confirmed that they will nerf Small-Time Buccaneer (and Spirit Claws), but we assume that they’re waiting for the Winter Playoffs to conclude. The changes might go live at the beginning of next week.

Judging by the decks that have been submitted so far, we expect to see a lot of Aggro Jade Shaman, Renolock, Reno Mage, and Pirate Warrior. But Asia-Pacific has always been a bit different, so there are some surprises. Kranich is bringing his Krul Renolock deck, which contains Krul the Unshackled, Abyssal Enforcer, and Big Game Hunter. Then there’s Jowen’s Kun C’Thun Druid deck, with cards like Kun the Forgotten King, Aviana, Youthful Brewmaster and two copies of Naturalize. For what it’s worth, we love seeing some variety in player’s decks.

The Favorites

With 72 people in the tournament, it’s not that easy trying to predict the results. Of course, we can always look at the rankings and past achievements. 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. As for the Americas Winter Playoffs, while some of our picks made it to the top 8 (Amnesiac, Tarei), the overall winner was the completely unknown player DrJikininki.

Still, we feel confident in saying that Handsomeguy is THE favorite of this tournament. He had a fantastic 2016. He made it to all three Asia-Pacific finals. He lost the Winter Championship to DDaHyoNi, but won both the Spring and Summer Championship. He didn’t do terribly well at the Hearthstone World Championship, but there’s no doubt that Handsomeguy is the king of the Asia-Pacific region. Then there’s Che0nsu, the guy that made it to the semifinals of the Hearthstone World Championship.

2016 World Champion - Handsomeguy
2016 World Champion - Handsomeguy

The Underdogs

Tom60229 qualified for the World Championship way back in 2014, but hasn’t been active since. He’s recently made a comeback on the pro scene, winning the Malaysia Major and finishing second on the Winter HCT rankings for the Asia-Pacific region. ChonGEr is widely considered the best player in the region who never qualified for a Championship. We’ll see soon enough if these guys have what it takes to create some big upsets at this tournament.

There are so many other players that could make a big splash at the Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs. People like Kranich, Jowen, Yulsic, Pinpingho, and GundamFlame have all shown great form over the years, and this could be their time to shine. 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.