Behind the Scenes: What Competing in HCT Playoffs Looks Like

Behind the Scenes: What Competing in HCT Playoffs Looks Like

Quote from Blizzard

The Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) Summer Playoff season has come to an end, and now we wait with bated breath to see who among the regional quartets will advance to the HCT World Championship, and who will be crowned the victor at the HCT Summer Championship.

We’ll start looking at the 16 players who qualified to the Summer Championship and their strategies in more detail as we draw closer to the event—this week, we wanted to reflect on some of the highlights from the Playoffs.

Pre-Game Studying

Ahead of their matches, players spend a tremendous amount of time trying to learn their opponent’s deck lists. Knowing what threats or tech cards you need to play around is crucial for success at this level, and while decks have been public for a couple of days at this point, players are only finding out who they’re playing against once they are on-site for the start of the tournament.

Time between individual rounds of play is more limited—but prior to the first match of the day, everyone is taking advantage of the opportunity to prepare as much as possible. Shown here, Anthony “Ant” Trevino is reviewing the deck lineup of his first-round opponent, Thiago “T4COTASTIC” Santana.

View image on Twitter

The Best Place to Watch the Playoffs Is… the Playoffs

You’d be forgiven that thinking that maybe the best way to watch a weekend of pro Hearthstone is hanging out at home with some friends, or even at a Fireside Gathering with other Hearthstone lovers. Instead, it’s on the couch next to the competitor area at the Playoffs themselves, for the precious few minutes near the end of each match as the players who had finished their own matches gathered to watch the stream.


Having a dozen of the best Hearthstone players in the world gathered together, actively discussing deck lineups, matches, tech cards, and individual lines of play is indescribable. You can see Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang, Jeffrey “Tarei” Liu, and many others gathered here, actively debating the game being played on-stream at the time. Even Legend players could learn a ton by being here!

Up on the Big Stage

While HCT Playoffs are not played in front of a live audience, there’s still the daunting prospect of being asked to play your games on stream. As David “dog” Caero said in his interview after making it to the Summer Championship, “Everyone gets jitters.” That makes more sense when you see what the stage setup looks like: 


Whether up on a stage, as shown here, or just sitting on camera bathed in the heat of spotlights, being put under the additional scrutiny of the online audience (and, as just discussed, the other players all back-seat driving nearby!) is a ton of pressure.

At the Heart of the Swarm

If you don’t remember the GIF of David “killinallday” Acosta from our Americas Playoffs coverage, you should reacquaint yourself with it for context. After he won, killinallday was ecstatic—sadly, the animated image linked here doesn’t convey the joyous sounds he let out. The next-best thing, though, is the barely-captured blur of the emergency group hug he got when he came down from the stage: 


A similar spectacle followed dog’s victory, as a handful of players who couldn’t wait to see how the match ended on the stream gathered offstage to try and peer at dog’s final game from a distance.


Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek at what being a competitor at the HCT Summer Playoffs was like. If seeing this experience has inspired you to compete, stay tuned—we have a guide to how to get started playing in tournaments from the perspective of a current pro player coming soon!

Join us for the last look at the Summer Playoff season later this week, when we dig a little deeper into how pros designed their deck lineups heading into their respective regional Playoffs. Until then, let us know what other behind-the-scenes things you’d like to see in the comments!


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