The first event of Hearthstone's 2017 Championship Tour wrapped up last Sunday, with reigning world champion Pavel "Pavel" Beltukov of Russia sweeping James "Greensheep" Luo in the final.
For those who haven't been keeping up with the changes in format this year, Blizzard has implemented a unified seasonal champion, differing from last year when the tour had seasonal champions from each of four regions (Americas, Europe, China, Asia/Pacific) after a Swiss round and a final single-elimination tournament. The top four from this weekend's contest, Pavel, Greensheep, Alexey "ShtanUdachi" Barsukov, and Eugene "Neirea" Shumilin all advance to the Winter Championship to be held in the Bahamas at the end of March.
One thing that hasn't always been the case is that all four of the players advancing are well-known in the competitive Hearthstone scene, so no major surprises here. Pavel is, of course, the reigning world champion from BlizzCon in November, but Greensheep is a past winner of DreamHack Valencia in 2015 (and came close in DreamHack Winter). Neirea, like Chakki last year, is just missing the one big finish and is a regular high finisher at majors. ShtanUdachi is known in part due to his Tempo Mage and Malygos Rogue decks that he's developed.
Two months after the expansion, the meta at the tournament mostly revolves around a few highly refined decks with the primary difference being in the tech choices of the individual decks rather than the deck archetypes. Keep note of these; if you're not to following competitive Hearthstone, you'll see more of them in the remaining preliminaries.
All four finalists brought Shaman decks, one of the staple classes in competitive Hearthstone since the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion. The most interesting variants here was Neirea's Shaman, which played Hammer of Twilight and ShtanUdachi's Midrange Shaman that actually eschewed the Pirate package, eliminating Patches and Small-Time Buccaneer entirely to choose cards more seen in slower Shaman decks (Healing Wave, The Curator, Ragnaros) and a full-on Jade package with Jade Chieftain.
ShtanUdachi also chose not to bring any Warrior deck. The other three finalists all brought the Aggro Pirate builds you've seen a billion times on ladder, the ones that play the Pirates, the weapons and direct damage Heroic Strike/Mortal Strike to end the game by turn six or so.
Miracle Rogue continued to be a popular tournament deck. It's a better performer than on ladder since you can choose to ban the aggressive Pirate Warrior, a deck that is simply too fast for a Miracle Rogue to deal with, especially with cards like Antique Healbot rotating out of Standard (and even that probably not enough). Without having to worry about the Pirate Warrior, Miracle Rogue's ability to burst down slower decks makes it a useful utility deck in the format. Plus, targeting Reno decks allows Rogue to tech in cards like Burgly Bully or even Beneath the Grounds, cards that would be practically useless in the Warrior matchup.
Among the four finalists, there were no Druid, Priest, Hunter, or Paladin decks, nor were there any if you look at the final eight instead of just the advancers.
Next up: Next weekend's Americas playoffs.