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Previewing GosuAwards 2016: The 5 most memorable tournaments of the year

Hearthstone Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev

Part 1: The 5 best stories of the year

The GosuAwards preview series are in no way a definitive representation of the upcoming official ceremony. They merely express this author's personal thoughts and opinions for each respective category. 

Our GosuAwards previews continue – after somewhat of a lengthy break – with the heart and soul of competitive gaming: The tournaments.

In that regard, it’s been a rough year for Hearthstone. Viewership numbers stagnated or even declined. Tournament brands were discontinued. Long-running leagues disappeared and overall there was far less competition than in Hearthstone’s honeymoon period.

Yet the Hearthstone spirit lived on and 2016 nevertheless saw some of the most exciting events in the game to date. With HCT upping its prize pool to a staggering $1.9 million across the regions and players getting better at the game with each passing month, it’s been one of the best years for Hearthstone esports entertainment.

Below are this author’s personal picks for the five most memorable tournaments of 2016.

 

5. HCT Europe Spring Championship

Of all the regional championships, Europe Spring was by far and away the most stacked of them all. In days where many HCT finals were mainly composed of underdog names who somehow clawed their ways through the preliminaries, EU Spring was a proper powerhouse line-up, worthy of being an actual HCT Championship.

Its stories began even before the day of the championship arrived. From AKAWonder’s C’Thun line-up and his passionate fist in the air after beating the preliminaries, to Complexity’s double success in Crane and Loyan, to ThijsNL’s return to the big stage as a contender for a major trophy, EU Spring held so much narrative in just seven matches it was mind-boggling.

The story of the tournament ended with ThijsNL’s repeated championship, as he became the only player in the history of the game to do so. It was also the single high point for the player in 2016 before his prolonged struggle began, a struggle that is yet to come to an end.

 

4. DreamHack Summer

Speaking of G2 repeating championships, one cannot go on without making a stop in Jonkoping, Sweden and Rdu’s second DreamHack title, once again becoming the first in Hearthstone to do so.

Much like Thijs, Rdu had been chasing a high finish for half a year and missed the top eight of the majors he attended. Just as his results started to wane and drag his power level down, the Romanian youngster returned to make history – winning 100% of the DreamHack Summer events he attended.

Naturally, there were more stories which contributed to DH:S esteem. Denmark was phenomenal in Tessin, Hoej and Slugg, the latter two reaching the semi-finals with Tessin losing to Hoej in the round of eight. This was also the big return of Maverick back from retirement and the break-out of Fr0zen and set up major tournament wins later on for both: Maverick at Hearthstone Festival and Fr0zen at ONOG Finals.

 

3. China vs. Europe Season 3

I’ve been an avid fan of the China vs. the West rivalry since the earliest days of Hearthstone and there isn’t a single storyline in the entire history of the game that tops China’s fervorous crusade against the trend-setters.

Before CN vs. EU Season 3, China had lost every single battle, including two versus Europe and three against North America, and was feeling especially desperate after the poor showing at the 2015 World Finals. Luckily for them, that last challenge set the perfect stage for revenge. In the red trunks was Lovelychook, one of the most experienced players in all of China. In the blue trunks were Ostkaka, the reigning world champion; SuperJJ, the current best player in the world; and Kolento, the last CN vs. EU champion.

There, in the last days of May, Lovelychook won the hardest Bo5 of his career turning it around for China and bringing hope to his countrymen. Maybe, just maybe, that could finally be their year.

 

2. SeatStory Cup V

If the World Championship didn’t turn out to be so much more memorable, SeatStory Cup V would’ve won this category with flying colors. The days of SSC are always special for Hearthstone fans as it boils down to the core values of the game: Homely atmosphere, beer, memes, camaraderie, fun and leisure, memes, salt and being kissed on the forehead by a drunk Ostkaka. And memes.

SeatStory Cup is a not a tournament that can be describe in words without severely underrepresenting it. SeatStory Cup must be experienced live, in the proper atmosphere, in a circle of friends who will laugh, and cheer, and yell and joke together with you as Hearthstone players full of alcohol try to win thousands of dollars, occasionally even playing some Hearthstone games.

 

WINNER: Blizzcon World Championship

Before seeing the full line-up of the World Championship, I had strong doubt as to whether Hearthstone’s crown event could ever top the glamour of SeatStory Cup V. By the end of the Last Call Invitationals, I had no more doubt but I severely underestimated just how astonishing the race for the $1 million could be.

Stories born earlier this year – and even the year before – all came together in Anaheim. Naiman’s redemption. Pavel’s comeback. The unforgettable elimination of Amnesiac, the young savage, defeated by a pair of tiny babbling books. The Europe hype train almost derailing in the group stage before winning it all. The respectable dominance of North America in groups followed by its bitter elimination in the playoffs. Hamster playing Priest and Paladin and reaching top eight with it. Handsomeguy’s triple grand finals being put to the test and then burned to ashes by Cydonia. Cheonsu’s uncanny reads and near flawless play. Ragnaros roulettes and RNG outcomes you wouldn’t believe and the deafening roar of the crowd.

The list goes on and on, ending with the best world finals to date. You couldn’t have it better if staged.

Which was your most memorable tournament of the year? Vote in the poll below or tell us in comments.

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