Hearthstone Championship Tour day one recap: Party for the part-timers, catastrophe for Europe

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    Day one of the Hearthstone World Championship is in the books, with, astoundingly, the two biggest winners both people who don’t actually play the game full time.

    Both Julien “DocPwn” Bachand of Canada and Samuel “SamuelTsao” Tsao of Taiwan claimed honours of Group A and Group B winner, respectively, despite DocPwn playing Hearthstone as a hobby outside of his youth social work in Quebec and SamuelTsao studying full time.

    On the flip side of the coin, it was a disastrous day for the European players, with the only win the region enjoying all day coming in an all-Europe elimination match.

    It was an enthralling day of upsets and surprises, with the sheer amount of non-meta results enough to suggest we could be in for an extremely intriguing tournament.

    The day began in Group A, with DocPwn facing off against one of the tournament’s heavy favourites – Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen of Denmark.

    Hoej’s Aggro Druid looked to have the early going in their first match, but a well-timed Spirit Lash from DocPwn Dragon Priest saw him restore a whopping 16 HP and clear the board.

    A Primordial Drake soon laid waste to Hoej’s Living Mana which was enough to see the Canadian take a 1-0 lead in the best of five.

    Hoej brought out the Murloc Paladin next though, which breezed through DocPwn’s Jade Druid to tie the series. DocPwn was able to take a 2-1 lead after a timely Spreading Plague once again hamstrung Hoej’s Living Mana, but the 2017 Spring Champion tied it once more with a comprehensive win over the Tempo Rogue with his Aggro Druid.

    The all-important fifth match saw Hoej unleash his feared Highlander Priest deck, but he was unable to draw Shadowreaper Anduin or Raza, the Chained as DocPwn’s Rogue deck slowly chipped away and secured the unlikeliest of victories.

    The Highlander Priest struggled in the second match-up of the day too, between Sweden’s Jon “Orange” Westberg and Taiwan’s Chen “tom60229” Wei Lin.

    tom60229 scored a great draw, with a swarm of buffed Pirates just overrunning Orange early and claiming a convincing first up win. Orange created headlines in the next match though, with his Aggro Hunter – the only Hunter deck at the tournament – surviving a late Defile into Bittertide Hydra combo to score a win over tom’s Cube Warlock.

    But from there, it was all tom60229. The Carnivorous Cube saw him have three Mountain Giants on the board at one point in a convincing Warlock win over the Priest, before some incredible play saw him squeeze seven uses of Shadowreaper Anduin’s Voidform into one turn as he claimed the series 3-1.

    The focus shifted to Group B’s group matches, with arguably the tournament favourite Muzahidul “muzzy” Islam of the USA and China’s Jason “JasonZhou” Zhou facing off.

    Shadowreaper Anduin proved again to be one of the best cards in the game, turning the match around for muzzy in game one after he looked to be in serious trouble from Zhou’s Tempo Rogue.

    Hearthstone player Jason Zhou looks on in disbelief as his board is cleared by Muzahidul "muzzy" Islam at the Championship Tour in Amsterdam.

    Jason Zhou looks on in disbelief. (Photo: Helena Kristiansson / Blizzard Entertainment)

    Jason was able to knot the series at one apiece, however, in one of the more thrilling games of the day. After JasonZhou’s Dirty Rat unfortunately put muzzy’s Bittertide Hydra on the board for free – just after he’d used Defile – he wrestled back control of the game with a Voidlord and Hellfire making short work of Living Mana.

    The Skulking Geist then tore muzzy’s hand and deck to pieces, forcing the American to concede.

    muzzy was able to shake off the setback, however, recovering well from a poor start to defeat Jason’s Aggro Druid with Tempo Rogue, before a dream draw in the fourth match saw him play Living Mana and Mark of the Lotus in quick succession to claim the win with Druid and the series.

    The group matches concluded with decorated Hearthstone pro Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh of Ukraine taking on Taiwanese student Samuel “SamuelTsao” Tsao.

    Kolento was very unlucky in the first match, copping an awful draw as Jade Druid, as he succumbed to SamuelTsao’s Aggro Druid. But he was able to level the series in the next match with a great effort to overcome a Highlander Priest with Tempo Rogue – something of an upset in the current meta.

    Lyra the Sunshard was the card of the match in the third game, allowing Kolento to take the 2-1 series lead, but he found himself back on level ground after SamuelTsao recovered from a wretched mulligan as Tempo Rogue to claim game four.

    The decider was one of the games of the day, and was also notable for SamuelTsao actually running out of time to make a move on one of his turns – one of the first instances of APM counting in Hearthstone.

    Kolento – playing as Jade Druid – unleashed Malfurion the Pestilent and, combined with Branching Paths, looked intent on just racking up an insurmountable amount of armour.

    But it was Shadowreaper Anduin to the rescue again for the Highlander Priest, with SamuelTsao unbelievably doing 44 damage in one turn to secure the series win.

    The competition then moved onto the elimination matches, with the losers of each group match fighting to stay alive.

    The first elimination match proved to be a huge surprise, pitting the previously-fancied Hoej and Orange against one another. Orange took the early lead over his close friend after a big play backfired for Hoej’s Murloc Paladin deck.

    With Sunkeeper Tarim already buffing his Murlocs to 3/3, a kill with Finja, the Flying Star brought the Warleader out the deck to bring their attack up to five each. Unfortunately, Orange had Shadowreaper ready to go with saw the board wiped and a victory to the Swede.

    Hearthstone player Jon "Orange" Westberg ponders his next move at the Championship Tour in Amsterdam.

    Orange ponders his next move. (Photo: Helena Kristiansson / Blizzard Entertainment)

    Orange went on to claim the 3-0 sweep, after poor early draws doomed Hoej’s Murloc Paladin twice – first against Orange’s Tempo Rogue and then against his Aggro Hunter.

    The second elimination match was also a surprise, but in this instance more so for its result.

    Kolento looked to be cruising against JasonZhou early on, after Zhou twice in a row went too aggressive with his Rogue and Druid – simply running out of options and getting run down.

    But Zhou was able to flip the script from there. His aggressiveness paid off in the third game, with his Aggro Druid knocking off the Tempo Rogue by turn five, before he tied the series at 2-2 after a miraculous Dragonfire Potion draw on turn six allowed him to turn the tables in a big way.

    The decider pitted Rogue against Rogue, but the lethal combination of Sonya Shadowdancer with a Saronite Chain Gang created an insurmountable wall of taunt.

    In the end, Leeroy Jenkins put the finishing touches on a stunning comeback for Zhou.

    The day then concluded with the winner’s matches, with the victors going straight through to the quarterfinals and the losers facing off against the winners from the elimination matches in deciders to be played on Sunday (AEST).

    DocPwn and tom60229 got things underway with an entertaining first match-up. A timely Spreading Plague and an excellent Fandral Staghelm/Wrath combo saw DocPwn take the first game, before he took the commanding 2-0 lead after his Dragon Priest dominated tom60229’s Tempo Rogue.

    The third match proved to be the match of the day however, with seesaws aplenty and outrageous clutch draws.

    DocPwn looked to have one foot in the finals from the very start, with his dream mulligan for Tempo Rogue netting him Prince Keleseth, Shadowstep, Southsea Captain and Corridor Creeper in his initial hand.

    tom60229 was able to turn the tables later on, however, after the last card he drew from Nourish and absolutely deadly Swipe.

    The Druid looked to have the upper hand, before Army of the Dead gifted DocPwn five minions perfect for the situation. A Wrath from tom scored him Spreading Plague to put the crowd in even more disbelief, but in the end DocPwn had just enough firepower to take the win and the series 3-0.

    Julien "DocPwn" Bachand, of Canada, salutes the crowd at the Hearthstone Championship Tour in Amsterdam.

    DocPwn salutes the crowd at the HCT in Amsterdam. (Photo: Helena Kristiansson / Blizzard Entertainment)

    The day’s final match put muzzy against SamuelTsao, and muzzy looked to be well on his way early after his Aggro Druid made light work of Tsao’s heavily-questioned Zoo Warlock deck.

    The Aggro Druid proved to be the tonic in the second match, although this time for Tsao, before the Taiwanese part-timer took a 2-1 lead after winning a Tempo Rogue duel in round three.

    Round four saw muzzy put the Zoolock to the sword once more – this time with the Rogue – but it was third-time lucky for SamuelTsao in the decider, with his Warlock deck defying the odds and knocking off muzzy’s Dragon Priest to secure an unlikely 3-2 series win.

    Group C and Group D get put through their paces tomorrow, with some more deck variety on offer too with some more Murloc Paladin and the only two Control Mages of the tournament too.

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