September 21, 2019

Blizzard brings big changes to Hearthstone esports

IRVINE, Calif. – After surveying Masters Qualifiers and Masters Tour competitors, Blizzard Entertainment has decided to make multiple changes to the structure of these events. The changes help to improve entry-level tournaments that are one of the first stepping stones for aspiring Hearthstone pro players. Blizzard says they interviewed the competitors in order to understand the current “pain points” of the program.

One of the main “pain points” that competitors pointed out was the Specialist format. It consists of players using three variations of the same deck with only five different cards and all other cards in the deck the same. Now, Hearthstone Masters tournaments return to the Conquest format. Conquest requires that each deck is a different class and a deck is banned after it wins a game. This aligns with the World Championships, which already use the Conquest format.

This change in format also resulted in Blizzard reducing the number of Swiss rounds played from 12 to 9. Furthermore, once the tournament reaches the top eight players in Masters Tour, there will only be single-elimination matches. These changes will make each choice matter even more for competitors. But Blizzard feels that “the additional games per match adequately offset the reduction in total matches played.”

Blizzard is also changing all Masters Qualifiers to single-elimination tournaments. The company hopes that doing this halves the amount of time these tournaments take.

One of the biggest planned changes is the way competitors receive invites to Masters Tour events. Capacity for Masters Qualifier events has been expanded to 512. Additionally, If a player makes it to the top eight at least five times in a qualifying season they earn an invite. Only the first-place competitor in Masters Qualifiers gets an invite to a Masters Tour event. In addition to these changes, Blizzard will be giving invites for Masters Tour events to the “Top 16 not-yet-invited ladder players from each region at the end of every month.”

New invite formatting

Image via Blizzard

With all these changes to the number of players admitted to each event, Blizzard has also changed prizing. There is now a total of 566 packs up for grabs during each Masters Qualifier tournament.

Since Blizzard is making these changes to improve the experience for competitors, pro opinions matter most. It seems necessary to reach out to one of the best Hearthstone players in the world to get their opinion. We reached out to Team Liquid’s Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang via Twitch to find out what the second-best Hearthstone player in the world thinks of the changes. Zhang feels that the changes make the Masters events “what it [sic] should have been in the first place.” He even refers to the changes as “insane.”

Regarding the format changes, Zhang says personally prefers the Specialist format. The changes to Conquest do not make the tournaments “that much worse or that much better.”

Zhang went on to say “I like what Blizzard is doing.” With this in mind, it seems that these changes will go a long way toward improving the Masters Qualifiers and Tour events overall.

Written by Efren Hurtado

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