GosuAwards 2016: Hearthstone winners

 

Welcome, dear GosuGamers readers! We're proud to present you the third annual GosuGamers Awards for Hearthstone. On this day, we acknowledge those players, tournaments, teams, casters and stories which exelled above their peers in 2016.

As usual, each GosuAward category has two winners. The primary award is determined by the GosuAwards committee, a panel of nine experts professionally involved in the Hearthstone scene on a daily basis. These experts voted independently from each other to nominated and later choose the winners of all 17 categories. The second award is the "Community Choice" award, determined by the community polls which were open between December 12-27. You can read our nominations article here if you haven't yet, or jump straight to the awards!

Best western player

Best western player

Xixo

There’s more to greatness than just number of titles. That’s even more true in Hearthstone, where we judge the game’s greats not by how many medals they win, but for how long they can stay relevant and on top of the competition. When talking about the western scene, there’s one player who excels in never letting his level drop.

Although no longer on the superstar Natus Vincere roster, Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert marched as a one-man army through the Hearthstone battlefield. Despite the fact he only won one major this year and has certainly been outclassed by others in that regards, his consistency remained unmatched. For fourteen straight weeks, he remained king of the GosuRankings, an unprecedented achievement. This year alone, he’s won playoff berths or made even deeper runs in eight different majors, maintaining an astounding 68 percent win-rate across the last ten months and a peak of 82 percent in October. It only makes sense that he is this year’s GosuAwards best western player.

Pavel

...for his amazing World Championship run and back-to-back gold at GameGune upon his return.

Best eastern player

Best eastern player

Handsomeguy

On the other side of the world, another Hearthstone gamer was making waves: Il-Mook “Handsomeguy” Kang who, overnight and singlehandedly, brought attention to the APAC region.

Handsomeguy’s feat included three HCT APAC Championships, of which he won two, carving his name in Hearthstone’s history as the first player ever to do that. Despite getting a helping hand from APAC’s seeding system and though his Blizzcon run ended sooner than expected, Handsomeguy’s achievement will rightfully never be forgotten. For this, we award him the Best eastern player prize for 2016.

JasonZhou

...for proudly representing China at the World Championship and being an exemplary competitor year-long.

Player of the year

Player of the year

Xixo

Although China and APAC made great strides in 2016, the west remained the dominant hemisphere in Hearthstone, ending the World Championship with an all-European bout and enjoying the most stable competitive infrastructure to nurture new talent.

As a result, our award-winner for “Best western player” is also the one who will take the overall “Player of the year” award and that is Xixo. The German has had a fantastic year, more or less becoming the player to beat in the second half, even with the rise to power of Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov, the stellar play of Stanislav Cifka and the ever-consistent Jan “SuperJJ” Janssen.

Pavel

...for walking the thorny road through the Last Call Invitational to become the highest winning player in Hearthstone.

Pavel

Break-out player of the year

Break-out player of the year

DrHippi

Never has a player broken out stronger than Artem “DrHippi” Kravets. From nowhere, the “mysterious challenger” came to easily become one of the best Hearthstone players not just in 2016 but in the game’s history.

No one saw DrHippi coming but by the end of the year, the Ukrainian’s power was undeniable. A three-times HCT grand finalist, including the silver medal from the World Championship, DrHippi is the second most titled player of the year behind world champion Pavel. A Freeze Mage god and a nigh perfect player, the Virtus.pro warrior is far and away the best break-out player of this year.

Handsomeguy

...for mimicking DrHippi's achievements on the APAC stage and achieving a historical record in HCT finals.

Pavel

Biggest potential for 2017

Biggest potential for 2017

Crane

Simon “Crane” Raunholst was already a heavy contender for the “Biggest potential” award. In July, the Dane ran away with the GosuAwards Summer prize for “Biggest potential for the second half of 2016” and shortly thereafter placed second at DreamHack Valencia.

Yet for all the peer praise he’s received, Crane is still without a major gold to his name, but one cannot be far away. With 2017 being revamped to favor the better, more consistent players, compLexity’s up-and-comer is someone to watch very closely.

Fr0zen

...for being North America's brightest hope in times when the region is still struggling to untap its full potential.

Team of the year

Team of the year

G2 Esports

Although teams like Virtus.pro beat them at the World Championship and others like Natus Vincere made strong arguments for being the best team in Hearthstone, one roster remains on top of the scene, solid as a rock, synonymous with success. That’s G2 Esports.

Winners of two “Best team” awards already at the 2015 GosuAwards and 2016 Summer Awards, there was little doubt that G2 would come out on top at this year’s annual ceremony as well. The trio of Thijs “ThijsNL” Molendijk, Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy and Radu “Rdu” Dima won more than $125,000 this year, most of it outside the World Championship. They boast the only two-time European champion and the only two-time DreamHack champion and are up to six first place finishes in 2016.

Virtus.pro

...for rocking the HCT circuit hard and having four HCT grand finals between their players.

G2 Esports

Best transfer coup

Best transfer coup

Virtus.pro signed

It’s not uncommon for organizations to pick up players before major tournaments. In all three years of Hearthstone, the world champion was always signed to a new team shortly before winning the title.

Virtus.pro executed a similar transfer coup, only way earlier in the year, in the wake of the EU Winter Championship. Picking up the two finalists of that tournament in DrHippi and Ole “Naiman” Batyrbekov paid off big time and in their debut year two Blizzcon spots and more than $220,00 were won on VP’s account, making them the second most successful team of this year behind Millenium.

Luminosity Gaming revamped

...for seizing the majority of North America talent and becoming the true super-team for the region.

Rivalry of the year

Rivalry of the year

Europe vs. North America

The best rivalries in Hearthstone are region-wide. In 2015, China diligently competed against the West to win back their pride. This year, another regional bout took prevalence.

Europe vs. North America is a race as old as esports and is observed in multiple disciplines. Hearthstone is no exception. In 2016, the western conflict had a clear-cut leader in Europe and an aspiring chaser in North America, and their rivalry culminated at the World Championship. On the opening days, the rising talent of NA shocked the audience as Europe lay defeated in an upset scenario but as with any great story, this was not the end. Europe vs. Europe decided the world champion, with NA left looking forward to a better 2017 to potentially regain the dominance it had in 2014.

Archon vs. Firebat

...for being born within one of the most successful teams in Hearthstone to become a Drama of the year nominee.

Europe vs. North America

Most memorable tournament

Most memorable tournament

2016 World Championship

Mad comebacks. Touching redemptions. Rises and falls and turns and twist. Drama and excitation. A roaring crowd and 300,000 viewers glued to their seats. $1 million dollars in prize money.

The 2016 World Championship couldn’t have been more exciting if it had been pre-scripted. The third annual clash between the regions stands as one of the most memorable events in the entirety of Hearthstone, only matched by its two predecessors. If the competition in Anaheim is any indication, we have a fantastic 2017 ahead of us with HCT going international each season.

DreamHack Austin

...for successfully bringing Hearthstone's most popular circuit in the west to North America, and the beginning of a new tradition.

2016 World Championship

Best unorthodox tournament

Best unorthodox tournament

Batstone #1

Every year, there’s that one tournament that breaks the standard rules of the game, finds the right recipe and becomes unforgettable. In 2015, that tournament was ATLC, a $250,000 endeavor with massive production behind it. This year, the award goes to an 8-man invitational produced from a player’s bedroom with no prize pool.

Batstone #1 came at the best possible moment for the community, answering the increasingly loud pleas for card ban lists in the wake of Yogg-Saron and Tuskarr Totemic oppression. Organized by James “Firebat” Kostesich, Batstone answered them in timely fashion and gave fans exactly what they’ve been craving for months.

Celestial Invitational

...for pulling off a daring and dynamic format and being the first major Wild tournament with western players.

Batstone #1

Best returning caster

Best returning caster

Frodan

Every esports has its face, the most recognized personality synonymous with the game. For Hearthstone this has always been – and still is – Dan “Frodan” Chou.

To date, it’s impossible to find a more beloved person behind the desk than Frodan. The esports veteran has been with Hearthstone since its earliest days and has since gone on to host and cast the game’s most prestigious tournaments. Although he mixed casting with hosting in 2016, Hearthstone is yet to find a more experienced and polished voice, which is why Frodan rightly receives the second “Best caster” award of his career.

Brian Kibler

...for stepping up his casting game even more this year and being invaluable on any HCT desk.

Frodan

Best new caster

Best new caster

Firebat

For all their game knowledge, veteran pro players seldom make for great casters, as they often lack the necessary skills to execute a top notch broadcast. James “Firebat” Kostesich is a most pleasant exception.

With little prior experience, the 2014 world champion shone in the few opportunities he was given, delivering a stellar performance at StarSeries and working in a well-oiled duo alongside Nathan “ThatsAdmirable” Zamora at Blizzcon. Still early in his casting career, Firebat is already enunciating his Hearthstone proficiency and expertise in such an engaging manner, that an even greater career in 2017 must be ahead of him.

Sottle

...for further developing the heavy analytical style he pioneered to Blizzcon-worthy levels.

Firebat

Best production

Best production

Blizzard

For all the game’s simplicity, producing a Hearthstone tournament is a daunting task and few organizers get it just right. Taking matters in their own hands this year for the most part, Blizzard really found a recipe for success.

Though a massive endeavor such as HCT cannot go without a few hiccups, Blizzard production of their championships, Blizzcon included, was as good as you can get. Minimal downtime between matches, clean overlays, introductory videos with the dashing TJ Sanders in the lead and well-paired casting desks contributed to a world-class production from Hearthstone’s own developer.

Gold Series

...for running the most prestigious LAN circuit on Chinese soil and being critical to the HCT campaign in the region.

Blizzard

Story of the year

Story of the year

Pavel's comeback

Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov was dubbed “The Comeback Kid” during his run through the World Championship, and for good reason. The now ex-Millenium star was close to elimination almost too many times before he hoisted the trophy in Anaheim.

Pavel’s comeback story is a multi-layered one, starting with his embarrassing elimination at the 2015 EU Championship and continuing through his reverse-sweeps against Amnesiac and OmegaZero at Worlds. It’s a champion’s narrative richer than all we’ve seen so far and deservedly takes this year’s “Best story” award.

The HCT restructuring

...for defining the competitive landscape as we came to know it in 2016 and being instrumental to the rise of new talents.

Pavel's comeback

Drama of the year

Drama of the year

Amaz vs. Firebat

Even when there are tumultuous events behind the scenes, splits between long-time employers and employees are usually amicable on the face of it. This was not the case when Archon and Firebat confirmed their parting of ways.

Despite politically correct opening statements, things got ugly after reports alleged the player being owed multiple salaries and having his contract amended to alter his salary figure. The escalation led to one of the ugliest PR moves in Hearthstone history, a 11-minute YouTube video by Archon co-owners Amaz and Backspace which couldn’t have been less kind to the team’s undisputed best player.

China's wintrading

...for exposing a malicious tradition, corrupting the scene's integrity and leading to big ban waves following the reports.

The Purify outrage

Meta king of the year

Meta King of the year

Midrange Shaman

For most of Hearthstone, Shaman has been watching tournaments from the bench. And if before 2016 that was due to the class being garbage tier, this time around it was due to its skyrocketed power level, leaving it almost permanently banned.

Both Shaman specs were in heavy contention for the “Meta king” award but since the nerf to Aggro Shaman through Tuskarr Totemic and the continued oppression of Midrange Shaman before and after Gadgetzan, it is the latter getting the prize this year. Powerful cards such as Totem Golem and Thing from Below are strong indicators that the dreaded deck will continue to dominate as no hard counter is currently in sight.

Aggro Shaman

...for making players flip tables after curving perfectly each turn and killing you as early as T6.

Midrange Shaman

Best Tavern Brawl

Best Tavern Brawl

Heroic Brawl

Honestly, there might’ve been funnier or wilder Tavern Brawls this year, but none showed innovation or re-defined the Hearthstone content on Twitch as much as Heroic Brawl.

Mixing Standard, Brawl and Arena rules in a rather expensive concoction to partially satisfy community’s hunter for competitive mode, Heroic Brawl came in with lavish awards and challenged the best players in the game to go the distance. Many succeeded and many more failed and for a whole week this was all Hearthstone fans and netdeckers talked about for a week. No single play mode had ever done that before.

A Friendly Game of Chess

...for pushing Hearthstone's rules into uncharted territory and allowing us to relive one of the most memorable adventure boss fights to date.

Heroic Brawl