The 2018 Hearthstone Championship Tour is in its final moments. No more Tour Stops, just the Winter Playoffs, its subsequent Championship, and the climax of a year filled with intense competition: the World Championship. With twelve of the sixteen players having secured a ticket to the final stage, the pressure is higher than ever for players to do well. It’s now or never. Plenty of reason to take a look at each region’s list of competitors for their respective Winter Playoffs, and highlight some standout names.
Kicking off the Playoff season is China. As we have grown accustomed to, the region does things in its own way. Rather than having its top 64 HCT pointe earners fight for a top 4 position, 16 players (of which 14 were invited) fight for a ticket to the Winter Championships. Instead of highlighting four of the most interesting names playing (which we’ll do the coming weeks for the EU, AM and APAC Playoffs), we’ll therefore look at one player per group.
Wu “XiaoT” Jiwei
Right on top of group A we find the most prolific Chinese player at the moment: XiaoT. After grabbing silver at the Titanar Invitational in May, he made his Western debut at the Summer Championships. He quickly caught the eye of many by going 2-0 in his groups and being the only representative of his region to advance to the top 8. Unfortunately for the Ice Coke player, he didn’t secure his ticket to the World Championship then and there. In the months after, XiaoT bounced back even stronger though, resulting in him being China’s Last Call player.
So, technically, XiaoT is already headed to Taipei for the World Championships. But you’d be wrong to think that will slow him down. While calm of nature, XiaoT has proven to be a competitor hungry for success. He’s one of the few Chinese players to travel outside of China, competing in Tour Stops for more points. His line-up, crafted in cooperation with Muzzy, features one of only three Quest Rogues China’s Playoffs will feature - another reason to keep an eye on XiaoT.
Out of the four players highlighted in this article, Xiao Zhi is probably the least-known one. This is mostly caused by the fact that the West doesn’t see a whole lot from the Chinese scene - especially if there aren’t any Western players invited to the big tournaments. Xiao Zhi’s track record goes back a while though, securing a second place at the Gold Series in 2016. This season he managed to hit the highest target, when he won the Gold Series in Suzhou.
But the primary reason for Xiao Zhi being placed in the spotlight is the bold line-up he’s bringing. Now, Cube Hunter is perhaps an expected pick and even Control Priest might not surprise you. The surprise is in the two other decks, however. First there’s the Big Spell Mage with Jan’alai the Dragonhawk and Daring Fire-Eater. To top it off Xiao Zhi is the only player piloting a Miracle Rogue deck, bringing the modern version without Gadgetzan Auctioneer, but with double Sprint.
He “Trunks” Huan
Finding himself in what’s probably the group of death these Playoffs (XHope and LionKing are also in group C), Trunks is facing a tough road to the Winter Championships. However, if he has shown anything, it’s consistency. In 2017 Trunks made it to two Seasonal Championships, and just last Fall Championships he made an appearance again. The question is no longer if Trunks will make it to the World Championships, but when.
If his HCT track record isn’t quite enough to get you aboard the Trunks hype-train, perhaps a look at his line-up will do the trick. Trying to catch the competition off-guard, he’s not bringing any type of Hunter list, making him one of only two people to do so. Instead, Wukong Gaming’s veteran has opted to bring Big Spell Mage, Odd Warrior, Control Warlock and… Cube Paladin!
Li “YuYi” Daixiong
Hearing YuYi’s name might ring a bell with a very select group of people. Most Hearthstone fans won’t recall him as one of the four Chinese players in this year’s Summer Championships, though. After swiftly leaving the stage 0-2, YuYi didn’t sit around doing nothing. Just last month he won the Gold Series open division - a 512 player tournament. Definitely not a one-hit-wonder, and a serious contender.
As one of only three people to bring Even Shaman - and one of four to not bring Paladin - his line-up seems pretty weak against his opponents’ deck choices, even with a ban. It’ll be a tough road for YuYi to make it to the Winter Championships, but doesn’t that make it all the more interesting to follow his progress?
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