Road to BlizzCon details revealed, including expanded pick and ban phase

On the night before Heroes of the Storm officially launched, Blizzard revealed details on the qualification process for its upcoming $500,000 championship

Image via Blizzard

On the night before Heroes of the Storm officially launched, Blizzard revealed details on the qualification process for its upcoming $500,000 championship.

The Road to BlizzCon will feature a qualifying tournament in each of the next three months, with five teams from the region earning spots at an eight-team $100,000 Americas regional that feeds into the World Championship at BlizzCon from Nov. 6 to 7.

Each of three tournaments—one in June, one in July, and one in August—will take place over two separate weekends, with qualifiers set for June 13 to 14, July 11 to 2, and Aug. 8 to 9 followed by an eight-team tournament on June 20 to 21, July 18 to 19 and Aug. 21 to 22.

The June tournament will feature a $15,000 prize pool with the winning team earning a berth at the Americas regional. In July and August, the two finalists from each tournament will earn berths and a chunk of an even bigger prize pool—$25,000 and $35,000 for July and August respectively.

Signups for the June open qualifier are already underway at the ESL website. Blizzard is partnering with both ESL and Twitch to make the event happen.

The tournament itself will feature an updated ruleset, one that promises to shake up the competitive Heroes of the Storm scene.

Currently, matches are played with a single ban, with both teams banning away a champion at the start of the game. When competitive matches were first introduced, that seemed like a prudent solution to limiting overpowered strategies in a game featuring a limited champion pool. But since the additions of heroes like Jaina, Sylvanas, Lost Vikings, and Kael’Thas, the number of powerful options has increased.

Blizzard will institute a two-ban system for the Road to BlizzCon with a Dota-esque ban structure.

Each team will ban one hero to start the game, and then ban one additional hero each after the team that picks first completes their second rotation of hero picks. That adds quite a bit of additional strategy to the pick and ban phase.

The desire to pick powerful champions early will need to be balanced with the ability of the enemy team to throw in a ban that wrecks your composition after you’ve revealed some of it. Teams will have more flexibility to hinder strategies—think of the the popular double or triple promote push teams that cropped up after the recent patch. It’s a change that will certainly reward the smarter and more well prepared squads.

That’s a good thing heading into the Road to BlizzCon. While few can criticize the merits of Heroes of the Storm’s fast paced and fight-heavy gameplay, some believe a lack of strategic depth may hinder its development as an esports title. But changes like this show that the game likely has more to offer than many critics think.

And with over $1 million available on the Road to BlizzCon, with a $500,000 tournament waiting at the end of that road, Heroes of the Storm is here as an esport whether those critics like it or not.