Image credit us.battle.net

Image credit us.battle.net

HS: Tavern Hero Review

15th February 2017

Whilst many of us are quickly forgetting our New Year resolutions, ignoring gym memberships and indulging in one-too-many nights down the local bar, others are striving to make sure that 2017 is a year to remember. Without wasting any time, Nick ‘HelloLeeroy’ Waugh and Alex 'Osha' Polyviou have their sights set on the 2017 Hearthstone Winter Championship. Who can blame them, especially as the ‘Winter’ Championship finals will be held in the Bahamas!

To be in with a chance of seeing those sandy shores and basking in a beating warmth too distant from our own climate, players have to either be one of the 64 best-ranked Hearthstone players in Europe or one of the top eight Tavern Heroes, and it is the latter route that Leeroy and Osha are embarking upon. Around Europe there are many Fireside Winter Tavern Hero Qualifiers taking place and it was at one of these events, at Meltdown in London, that both exceL Hearthstone Heroes set their sights on the first rung of the ladder.

The Tavern Hero Qualifiers fed into the Tavern Hero Tournament held on February 10th where all qualifiers battled it out until only eight were left standing. These fortunate and gifted winners then continued their fight against 64 of Europe’s best on February 11th and 12th, until only four remained. It is these 4 who travel to the Bahamas in March to fight it out one last time to be crowned the Winter Champion.

Signing up to the Tavern Hero Qualifier on January 14th, Leeroy and Osha had to wade through five rounds to take the final spot, and the competition was stiff and fierce from the outset. Unfortunately for the boys from exceL, their opponents in the very first round were the toughest the tournament had to offer - each other! There could literally not be a worse first-round pairing for the boys, but they had no choice - one would continue whilst the other would falter at the first hurdle.

With a sense of inevitability both players accepted their fate and faced one another. Neither would make it easy for the other and both wanted to progress, but in the end, it was Leeroy who endured and headed to the next stage, with a 3-1 win. No one felt too jubilant over the loss of Osha at such an early stage. There was no other way but to get behind Leeroy and give him the support he deserved.

Over the next few hours Leeroy faced Nilemra, Metalgsonic and Epiphany in the second, third and fourth rounds respectively. In what was quickly becoming a habit, Leeroy took down all of his opponents with 3-1 scorelines! Despite the bad feeling of sending Osha to an early exit, qualification success for himself was the aim and he was now into the final against a familiar opponent, Jambre.

Both Leeroy and Jambre have met before – late last year, in the ESL UK Hearthstone Premiership group stages. That time it was Leeroy who emerged triumphant, and he was hoping to repeat that feat again now. Unlike his previous 3-1 victories, Jambre would prove to be a bigger challenge. In a little under two hours and with a number of games that would have one of exceL’s best pulling out every trick he knew, we had our qualifier. With a scoreline of 3-2, Leeroy had taken his well-earned spot in the Tavern Hero Tournament!

“Jambre is a strong opponent and I actually lost the first game. I don't know if it's bad practice but at 2-2, just before the deciding game, I leant over and asked him who was favoured and he replied himself. The pressure was definitely on then.”

Having put up a great series of victories to earn his place, Leeroy was under no illusion as to what would come next. Only the top eight Tavern Heroes had a chance to go up against Europe's best and seize one of the four places heading to the Bahamas.

Putting his decks through rigorous scrutinisation, Leeroy prepared for the next test and the day wasn’t long in coming. February 10th rolled round and 96 players logged on simultaneously in the hopes of advancing that one step closer to Hearthstone glory and a decent tan!

Leeroy was placed in bracket one and the competition looked to be tough from top to bottom. His first opponent was The1m2o who is a stalwart amongst the Hearthstone community having a list of online tournament wins that could pave the courtyard at Buckingham Palace. Despite this it was no time for Leeroy to be daunted, he knew the matches would be tougher from here on in and he had prepared as best as he could. Before too long he had continued his almost trademark scoreline of 3-1 to advance onto the next rung of the ladder.

His next opponent would be PhoenixMarco, another man who has been making a name for himself on his own shores in Greece. Like his namesake from the One Piece anime, PhoenixMarco had an uncanny ability to sense Leeroy’s abilities, his strengths and weaknesses. Over the course of four games the all too familiar score of 3-1 presented itself, sadly it wouldn’t be in Leeroy’s favour. All four games were extremely close, some coming down to the luck of the draw that turned almost certain defeats into miraculous victories for PhoenixMarco but that can only be testament to his skill at deck crafting and timely plays.

It would actually be PhoenixMarco who would go on to win the bracket but it was the end of the road for Leeroy. There was no doubt in anybodys mind that he had the skill and tenacity to go all the way but it simply wasn’t to be.

Yet remember, this is only February and there are still many chances to claim glorious victory for both of our Hearthstone battle champions. The ESL UK Hearthstone Premiership is just around the corner and will feature some very familiar names and faces. Both Leeroy and Osha have a lot of preparation to do to but confidence is high and we know that this is going to be a great year for both of them.