A History of Hearthstone Esports World Champions
With six different conquerors, Blizzard has paved a rich history for its smash-hit digital card game.
With six world champions, Hearthstone has developed the rich history needed for a competitive scene to ascend to something greater than the sum of its parts.
We’re on the verge of the 2020 season, so it’s as good a time as any to take a look back at the past world champions for Blizzard Entertainment's smash-hit digital card game.
Back in 2014, at the first world championship, American competitor Firebat found himself in the finals against the Chinese player Tiddler Celestial. Very few people had expected Firebat to be up by two games over Tiddler, who had completely dominated the tournament until that point. The third match saw Tiddler’s hand-Warlock against Firebat's dominant Druid, a late-game match-up that was proving to be an incredible grind for both players, but Firebat found more options and navigated his lines of play far more optimally, controlling the board and finding the lethal damage he needed to win the match. The win made Firebat the first world champion title and a $100,000 payday to boot.
The 2015 world finals was a match-up between Sweden's Ostkaka and Canadian Hotform. The Swede found himself leading by two games over Hotform and in the third game played his final deck, the high skill ceiling Miracle Rogue. Ostkaka ran away with the game when he managed to stick a Violet Teacher onto the board that Hotform wasn’t able to get rid of until it was too late.
2016 was an all-European showdown, Russia vs Ukraine, in Pavel vs DrHippi. The second game was the defining moment of the match. With his signature Mage deck, Pavel swung the tempo back in his favour with a perfectly timed Flamestrike and from there he went on to win two additional games. DrHippi earned himself a consolation prize, but Pavel closed out the series 4-2 with his Rogue deck. 2016 saw a marked improvement to the tournaments prize pool, awarding Pavel with $250,000 for his efforts.
2017 was the closest grand final match to date, between the American competitor Fr0Zen and Taiwan's Tom60229. With the score was deadlocked at 2-2 both players were down to their final decks - which just so happened to be a Jade Druid mirror match. Tom’s line of play provided far more value, overwhelming Fr0Zen and forcing him to tap out. Tom’s win is historic in that it marked the first year a representative from the Asian region won the Hearthstone World Championship, and he was rewarded handsomely with $250,000 for his achievement.
The 2018-2019 season saw the return to an all-European final, the Norwegian Hunterace - who had dominated the entire season - came up against German juggernaut Viper. The final went all the way down to the wire, as both players traded games to be locked at two wins each. Out of all the grand final matches throughout the game's history, this one was the most evenly matched. Down to their final decks, Hunterace had his Shaman versus Viper’s Warlock. Hunterace capitalised on a mistake Viper made in the midgame which allowed his Shaman deck to take control of the game and run away with the match. Hunterace went home with $250,000 and marked the end of an era for Hearthstone World Championships.
2019 was the start of the new, streamlined Grandmaster competitive format. It was the first time a competitor from China had been in the grand final since 2014 when VKLiooon went up against the American Bloodyface. It was also the first time a female competitor had made it to the grand final of a Hearthstone tournament, and VKLiooon had completely dominated everyone on her journey. By the time she had dispatched with Bloodyface, VKLiooon was on an 11-professional-match win streak. Almost unheard of in a game with such high variance.
Hearthstone has improved year after year, with the latest world championship setting the stage for the new competitive environment moving forward.