Blizzcon, the annual celebration of all things Blizzard, starts this Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. Over 25,000 World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft II and Diablo fans will descend en masse to hear the latest news about expansions, new products and watch eSports action across multiple titles.
Amongst the festivities, there will be two key events.
Overwatch World Cup
Most interestingly, Blizzcon brings about the first ever Overwatch World Cup, which 16 countries entered to prove they are the best in the world. Unlike the team events in other popular eSports titles, Blizzard chose to mimic the likes of the Soccer and Rugby World Cups and the country vs. country dynamic brings a new dimension to the competition.
The Group stages played over the weekend prior to Blizzcon itself saw South Korea, Spain, Russia and China win through as Group winners while Sweden, the USA, Finland and France qualified as second seeds.
This sets up a fascinating round-of-eight in which two of the favourites, South Korea and the USA, match up sooner than anticipated. Many believe the winner of this clash will become the eventual champions so all eyes will be on this opening day match.
Look for the biggest name of them all, NRG and USA representative Seagull, to be a major factor in the outcome of the quarterfinal. Seagull is widely known for his Twitch stream, but his ability to play at a consistently high level is something the United States will need to rely on if they are to have any hope of defeating South Korea.
It will be interesting to see how Seagull and fellow World Cup team member Gods interact following the latter’s recent removal from NRG. Playing with Gods in a previous team allows the duo to play instinctively off each other, but it could also be a double-edged sword if Gods and Seagull end up not seeing eye-to-eye.
On the flip side, South Korea will look towards Lunatic-Hai members Miro, EscA and Ryujehong as the pillars around which to build their team play. With three members from the same team, South Korea will expect the trio to be sharp on their play and communication in order to lead them to victory.
Hearthstone World Championship
Deck strategy will be at a premium in the Hearthstone World Championship as for the third consecutive year the title will be decided at Blizzcon. The Mid-Range Shaman deck was an ever-present, with all 16 original championship contenders not only bringing a Shaman deck, but the specific Mid-Range Shaman variant. Joining Shaman with 100% participation was Druid, with many looking towards a Malygos/Yogg variant to bring them to victory.
With the Group stage being completed before Blizzcon officially started, the tournament is now down to the final eight players hoping to hoist the trophy. Of those remaining, the only player to have a Paladin or Priest deck is China’s Hamster, who is bringing both to the table.
Following closely in the footsteps of Paladin and Priest are Hunter and Rogue, with only two of each showing up to Blizzcon this weekend. Look for Warrior to become a quiet point of contention, with many different types (such as Dragon and Blood Warriors) that could surprise opponents and give the wielder the edge.
An initial highlight pairing in the quarterfinals is the match-up between HotMEOWTH and DrHippi, with both players performing well in the Group stage. Observers anticipate an incredibly close match, with only one variance in their five decks as HotMEOWTH is bringing Patron Warrior while DrHippi is rolling with Dragon Warrior.
Arguably the most intriguing player in all of Hearthstone is Amnesiac, who enters the competition at the tender age of 15. Known as a prodigy in the community, Amnesiac brings a calculated and calm approach to the game even at such a young age. Amnesiac is the only player not bringing a Warrior deck to the tournament and it will be interesting to see if that gamble pays off as he looks to become an icon by winning the Hearthstone World Championships so young.
With Weird Al Yankovic the closing musical act, Blizzcon 2016 sets up as one of the more entertaining celebrations in recent years and the eSports action should be enthralling.