Last week, Blizzard announced several changes to the Hearthstone World Championship tour in terms of qualification and ranked points. In addition to boosting the prize money for the World Championship to $1 million, Blizzard will be hosting more offline events, giving players more opportunities to put their skills to the test and providing fans with more quality matches to watch.
Our Hearthstone talent Dima “Rdu” Radu, who finished top 16 at DreamHack Winter – the first event to award points for the Hearthstone tour -, has written a blog in which he shares his thoughts about the changes to the competitive tour. Read on to find out what Rdu thinks about the new circuit:
“First of all, I really like that Blizzard will make bigger prize pools by reinvesting some of the profit that they accumulated from the game during the year, which will potentially bring more players in for the race to BlizzCon. Having a system with majors is really good for the health of the professional scene because we don’t have to rely on third parties to organize all the big tournaments.
Compared to the chaotic qualifying system that we had last year, this one seems more straightforward and entertaining for the viewers. Having every season champion go directly to BlizzCon makes it so that every player participating has won a major beforehand and makes the competition more fierce while creating interesting stories for the viewers. Now, don’t think that everything is going to be perfect. The biggest issue with qualifying for blizzcon is that, from a player’s point of view, getting top 8 in a 128-man double elimination followed up by getting top two in the group is very unlikely to happen. If you add to that a four-man single-elimination to decide who gets the ticket to BlizzCon and you get yourself a ‘clown fiesta’. However, I very much like the fact that every round of the tournament will be played on LAN, therefore preventing potential cheating and the use of tracking programs while also testing the nerves of the players on a LAN environment.
What I don’t like is that again, from a player perspective, individual players have very little chance to shine in 200-man tournaments.
Talking about the game format, even though 90%+ of the pro scene and a big percentage of the viewers don’t like conquest, Blizzard has decided to keep a modified version of it as the official format at least for the next three months. Since big open cups will be already hard enough to win, adding conquest to it just makes it even harder for better players to beat lower skill level players. Conquest doesn’t provide any outside-the-box strategy and also leaves players with no impact on their matchup selection, which leaves them only with the hope that it eventually evens out. Too bad if you queue two bad match ups in a row in an elimination game of a tournament. The positive aspect of the modified conquest is that the ban works really well in the conquest format since it helps you further solidify your line up and tech it better against what you want to face while not allowing people to just pick their best three ladder decks and jam them in a major.
The last thing that I don’t like about this subject is that combining GSL style groups with conquest is very bad since if you face the same guy twice while also possibly having a stacked group, your chances of advancing are close to 0. We saw that at blizzcon, where even though Lifecoach made a really good meta call and went anti-freeze Mage for BlizzCon, he got a group with 0 freeze mages and lost twice to Kranich.The solution to this is to apply what some other games do: playing opponents from different groups at the score of 1-1 (crossing groups), therefore easily fixing the issues with facing the same guy twice and having stacked groups while still keeping the GSL style groups. I also like the fact that they gave themselves the option of changing the format every three months and I would love to see a new format in three months to bring some fresh air to the scene. Also the fact that Blizzard encourages organizers to make tournaments in diverse formats is really cool for the game and gives better players some more ways to shine.
Talking about majors that give BlizzCon points: I think only a few big tournaments will be fully open and give points since they have to run in (possibly) a Swiss format while still attracting the pro players to come and play for a big prize pool so that they can also achieve their viewership goals. I expect that a lot of tournaments will be full invitational while only companies like ESL and Dreamhack will have the big open cups. I want to make another bold and dark prediction: I think that BlizzCon points will matter less this year since the only major advantage of having a lot of them is that, after nine monthsm you will play an eight-man tournament from where 1 player qualifies and the other 7 are sad and salty because they grinded tons of tournaments for nothing. I think that the best approach is to try hard ladder every season and play all majors while playing zero online cups (this comes from a guy who won a lot of points last year by grinding and playing all the open cups for a minimal advantage).This would guarantee top 128 every 3 months and eventually even a top 8 at the end depending on how well the majors and ladder go.
Seeing the way LoE impacted the game and the design ideas that blizzard is going for, my last bold prediction is that Hearthstone will grow even more this year and it will be the best year to play and watch the game! All in all, the format for 2016 is way superior to the ones used in the past for both players and viewers, and it is definitely a format that I am very excited to be part of.”