The 2017 Hearthstone Winter Championship saw 16 players are competing for $US250,000 ($327,925) and one of four guaranteed spots at this year's World Championships. One Cinderella story saw a player not only earn a ticket to the ball, but he took out a champ on his way there.
Canadian player Julien "DocPwn" Bachand is a fairly fresh face to the Hearthstone scene. With barely any professional games to speak of before appearing in the America qualifiers, he tore through the tournament 9-0 to make it to the Winter Championship. By comparison, Pavel Beltukov has a litany of wins, including his World Championship title from 2016.
When the two met in the deciding match of their group, it was a David v. Goliath scenario, with Pavel quickly taking the advantage 2-0 in the series. It came down to the wire in many situations, like in game five, where a Holy Nova draw for Bachand came one turn too late, in a match that would end in Pavel's favour and put him on game-point.
Pavel, who's known for reading his opponent's face during matches, instantly identifies the late draw from Bachand's poor poker face and even cracks a little smile.
Still, Hearthstone is a game of both randoms and constants, and Bachand was able to back Pavel up using his one weak point: his Mage deck. Pavel's Mage was 1-2 so far in the tournament, and struggled against decks like Bachand's Dragon-centric Priest and mid-range, tempo-oriented Shaman.
The synergy of these decks often comes together fast and aggressive, ramping up the speed faster than a deck like Pavel's Mage, focused on control, can handle.
Bachand composed the perfect offence to put Pavel on the back foot, and took the series win with a Bloodlust and Jade Claw play, knocking the world champion out of the Winter Championships.
Bachand advanced to the quarterfinals, and continued all the way to the grand finals before just falling short. We'll see him again at BlizzCon 2017.