Taiwan’s Chen “tom60229” Wei Lin is the 2017 Hearthstone World Champion, after he completed a stunning comeback from 2-0 down in the best-of-five grand final and defeat heavily favoured American Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang.
He’d advanced through the tournament at record pace, not playing in a single five-game series until the very end, but his ability to rebound from a tough opening had the crowd in equal measures of admiration and disbelief.
The first round looked absolutely certain to finish in tom60229’s favour, after a massive amount of armour for Malfurion the Pestilent and an assortment of enormous Jade Golems had Fr0zen throwing up Ice Blocks in utter desperation.
With just 1 HP left, only one card could save Fr0zen and – to pandemonium in the crowd – he drew it. Arcane Artificer combined with Flamestrike allowed him to stock up on much-needed armour and clear two of the Golems, before the Icy Touch hero power took care of the last.
Despite enjoying an enormous HP advantage, tom60229 knew he was out of threats and was begrudgingly forced to concede.
Fr0zen pressed the advantage in the second round, unlocking the majority of his deck’s killer cards after a smart use of Circle of Healing with Northshire Cleric on the board.
The attempts to build a board by tom60229 were constantly derailed by Fr0zen’s Highlander Priest, first by a strong Dragonfire Potion, before the draw of Shadowreaper Anduin at the perfect moment allowed Fr0zen to destroy a Bonemare and its buffed fellow minion.
tom60229 conceded the match immediately afterward in something of a surprise – with some wondering whether he threw too early.
But the most premature action of all came from Blizzard themselves, with confetti raining down from the ceiling despite the series not being decided.
The innocent mishap soon turned into a bad omen for Fr0zen.
Facing the unfamiliar position of needing to come back from 2-0 down, tom60229 showed off some intelligent Priest play of his own in the third round against Fr0zen’s Jade Druid.
With Malfurion the Pestilent out early, tom60229 played around the two summoned Poisonous Spiders very well, using card draw from Northshire Cleric to find a Holy Smite, before then scoring Potion of Madness from Shadow Visions.
From there, he was able to unleash Shadowreaper Anduin and use the classic Lyra, the Sunshard-Voidform combo to put Fr0zen’s hopes of the sweep to bed.
But just seconds after the brooms were put away, the series was tied after a crazy turn of events on turn one allowed tom60229 to take game four in just five turns.
A Swashburglar pinching Innervate of the opposing Druid allowed for madness on turn two, with tom60229 playing Innervate, the Coin, Southsea Deckhand and then Backstab (on his own minion) to put a whopping 10/10 Edwin VanCleef on the board.
Fr0zen simply had no answer, setting up a mouthwatering Jade Druid mirror match to decide the title.
Tom60229 made an enormous gamble choosing to keep Ultimate Infestation in his mulligan, and a very lucky draw of Jade Idol on turn one ensured he could start the Jade Golem race running.
He was once again able to play around a Poisonous Spider after Nourish netted him the Jasper Spellstone, while on the other side Fr0zen’s decision to not keep Ultimate Infestation in his mulligan saw him simply unable to get the card into his hand.
Tom used his to deal with whatever threat Fr0zen could put on the board and with an almost full board of huge Jade Golems – coupled with Mark of the Lotus – Fr0zen took off the headset and graciously accepted defeat.
Confetti descended from the roof once more and tom60229 – the man with the most average Joe username at the tournament – was ceremoniously crowned the Asia Pacific region’s first ever Hearthstone World Champion.
The semi-finals beforehand had their fair share of entertainment too, with Fr0zen taking on China’s Jason “JasonZhou” Zhou in the first match of the day – taking place at the much later time of 4pm (local). The standing room crowd were intrigued by Zhou’s decision to ban Fr0zen’s Control Mage deck, but in the first game it looked to have paid dividends.
His perfect-looking mulligan with the Tempo Rogue was dampened after he drew Patches the Pirate on turn one, but he was still able to put constant pressure on the board and put Fr0zen’s Cube Warlock on the back foot.
Two instances of the Mistress of Mixtures-Dark Pact combo kept it going, but a Leeroy Jenkins-Shadowstep combo from JasonZhou was enough to score the win.
The Highlander Priest mirror match followed, and it was Fr0zen in control early after a Curious Glimmerroot scored him a second Shadowreaper Anduin.
His decision to pick Mind Blast from Drakonid Operative over a second Lyra, the Sunshard proved to be the winner – with a Prophet Velen combined with two Mind Blasts dealing a whopping 20 damage in one turn to tie the series.
Round three saw Aggro Druid go up against Jade Druid and, while JasonZhou’s Aggro deck was able to get good damage on the board early, the Innervate-Spreading Plague combo on turn five was enough to stop the onslaught.
Zhou threatened to break through the defences with a Living Mana-Savage Roar play, but Ultimate Infestation netted Fr0zen his second Spreading Plague – which was enough to see him survive and take the 2-1 lead.
Two perfect round four mulligans had the crowd in awe, with JasonZhou’s Highlander Priest scoring Kazakus and Raza, the Chained and Fr0zen’s Cube Warlock netting the Carnivorous Cube and Dark Pact.
The classic Cube Warlock strategy was on display on turn six, with the Skull of the Man’ari putting Voidlord on the board for free – with the Cube and Dark Pact following up.
But Fr0zen got greedy, with his decision absorb a Doomguard with the Cube, but then use Prince Taldaram instead of killing it backfiring after JasonZhou used Psychic Scream on the very next turn.
A devasting combo of Lyra, the Sunshard and Voidform netted 18 damage in one turn for Zhou, with Fr0zen forced to concede on the next turn and see the series tied up.
JasonZhou looked to be headed to the finals after a strong start in the decider – whittling Fr0zen down to just 3 HP in a seemingly unlosable position.
But Fr0zen showed off his Hearthstone genius with some crazy healing combos to stay alive. A Mistress of Mixtures-Carnivorous Cube-Dark Pact sequence had his fans on their feet, before an extremely clever Spellbreaker usage on the opposing Fire Fly set up a devastating Defile to clear Zhou’s board an give Fr0zen even more HP.
The Faceless Manipulator copying the Voidlord next turn, followed by a Doomsayer, was enough to see JasonZhou concede defeat and allow Fr0zen to progress.
An all Asia-Pacific affair followed, with tom60229 taking on Korea’s Kim “Surrender” Jung-soo in a mouth-watering clash of mutually respected rivals.
Patches the Pirate made his third unwanted appearance of the day in round one – this time in Surrender’s Tempo Rogue deck – but Surrender was even less happy to see a combination of Spreading Plague, Arcane Tyrant and Wrath shortcircuit his early board advantage.
It looked like we’d be in for a replay of the Frost Lich Jaina insanity of the quarterfinals after Surrender’s Swashburglar netted him Malfurion the Pestilent, but Fandral Staghelm allowed tom60229 to fill both the board and his deck with behemothic Jade Golems, forcing the Korean to concede.
A 2-0 lead for tom60229 looked likely after his opening hand contained to Kobold Librarians, a Mortal Coil, a Defile and the Amethyst Spellstone. But while the early self-harm stacked up for the Warlock, the board presence and damage did not.
He lucked out by Life Tapping into a Hellfire to clear a Living Mana threat, but he wasn’t so lucky later after Dark Pact he Life Tapped into later proved unusable on the Mistress of Mixtures he’d trapped in the Cube.
Fresh off tying the series, Surrender could’ve been forgiven for thinking someone was intentionally messing with him after Patches the Pirate appeared ahead of schedule yet again, but he got off to a good start against tom’s Cube Warlock again with strong Tempo Rogue play.
But tom wasn’t done, with a very intelligent use of Hellfire and Kobold Librarian allowing him to clear an unfavourable board with Defile, before a one-in-three chance for his Possessed Lackey to pull the Voidlord came off.
From that point, it was classic Cube time and with Mt Taunt to climb, Surrender opted to concede.
The fourth match was over almost as soon as it started, with an absolute dream mulligan and early draw for tom60229 setting up his Tempo Rogue nicely.
Prince Keleseth and Shadowstep in the mulligan was the perfect turn two, before the Southsea Deckhand on turn three allowed him to go straight for the face.
Poor options for the Kazakus potion had Surrender well beyond being on the back foot and, although he was able to freeze the Corridor Creeper at one-in-three odds, he was whittled down to just two HP the turn after playing Shadowreaper Anduin.
Surrender threw the hail Mary with a desperate Psychic Scream, but tom60229 drew the SI:7 Agent to inflict the required combo damage and move on.