Depending on which areas of the Hearthstone-niverse you find yourself wandering in, chances are you’ve seen some pretty harsh criticisms of the way Blizzard has structured their Hearthstone (Free) esports over the years. Pro players often complained about the uncertainty of what it took to make it into different playoff events, rewards were really top-heavy, and a bunch of other super valid issues. When I’ve asked Blizzard about these things in the past, the answer is always some variation of, “Just wait to see what we announce for next year." Well, that announcement was here, and once again Hearthstone esports has been drastically shifted around, seemingly for the better. There’s an entire visual guide to dig through, but here’s the highlights:
Aside from shifting the Hearthstone year into three distinct seasons, they’re also introducing the “Hearthstone Masters" program, which sounds like taking a stab at the way Wizards handles pro Magic players. Basically, you have a rolling total of the points you earn over the previous three seasons and there’s three tiers of point targets which at the bottom include invites to monthly online tournaments with cash prizes and at the top includes appearance fees, invites to seasonal playoffs, and more. The goal seems to be to reward consistent play, which is a great direction to move towards.
I think what will likely have the largest impact on the overall competitive scene is drastically shifting the playoffs prize structure. This year, the way it worked was that if you played in a playoffs event you needed to be in the top 8 to get any kind of meaningful prize payout. Everyone 9th place and beyond got $100, which hardly even covers the cost of getting to an event. Now, everyone who competes in a playoff event will get $1,000 and the prize tiers ramp up quickly with 16th place rewarding $2,500, and every place beyond that rewarding another $250 with 7th, 6th, and 5th rewarding $5,000, $5,500, and $6,000. (And everyone beyond that gets an invite to the championship.)
Additionally, individual teams will also get prize payments depending on where their team is, with 1st place getting $7,500 per player and 10th place getting $750, with rewards scaling in between. I love this change too, as it only further serves to rewards all the top players for participating instead of having huge prize pools for the top players and (effectively) door prizes for everyone else.
Of course, as a dude who just really enjoys watching competitive Hearthstone, what I think of these changes is sort of irrelevant. Now that they’ve been revealed, I’m super curious to follow what some of the more outspoken members of the Hearthstone pro player community think… Which means watching lots of Hearthstone streams. We’ll have those reactions in next Monday’s Hearthstone roundup, unless anything particularly bombastic happens before then in the esports structure reaction scene.