Oct 14 2013 - 5:21 pm

Blizzard unveils first tournament for its next great eSport

There's a new entry on the eSports horizon
Paul Tassi
Dot Esports

There's a new entry on the eSports horizon. Professional gamers from other major titles are flocking to Blizzard's Hearthstone and have been streaming live matches to thousands of fans for weeks now—despite the fact that the general public can't even play the game yet.

Blizzard recognizes the interest. It's tapped the most popular players to compete in Hearthstone's first-ever professional match later this year, the company announced Oct. 10.

Hearthstone is a virtual battle card game spun-off from Blizzard’s Warcraft universe. Using characters, creatures, and lore from the series, players assemble decks of 30 cards and pit them against each other. Each player attempts to drain their opponent’s hit points to zero while putting up their own defenses. Winning requires both good deck planning and the ability to adapt to changing game conditions on the fly. You can think of it as a simplified, virtual version of Magic: The Gathering, the famed card game that's maintained widespread popularity since launching in 1993.

Why would Blizzard bother running a tournament for a game that the public can't even play yet? To some it seems like a taunt. Beta keys to Hearthstone have sold for hundreds of dollars online, while Blizzard's giveaways have been notoriously unorganized, leaving many fans frustrated.

Reactions to the tournament's announcement have been mixed, however, across Blizzard's community. As forum member Bamm says: "Awesome. A tournament to a game I can't play yet!!!!!"

That said, it’s understandable why Blizzard thinks there's an audience. Hearthstone livestreams have put up big numbers, and a forum on Reddit devoted to the game already has 25,000 subscribers who are, as the tagline says, "waiting for a beta invite."

Called the Hearthstone Innkeeper's Invitational, the tournament will feature some recognizable players: Day[9], Artosis, Husky, Kripparrian, Trump, Noxious, Reckful, and Hafu. Each will bring three decks. When all three decks are defeated, the player is out—possibly hinting at a format for future Hearthstone tournaments as the game attempts to become a fully fledged eSport.

Combining the audience from each of these stars, it’s clear there are some serious spectator numbers for the tournament.

"The idea behind the Invitational is simple," the company wrote in its post. "Take some of Hearthstone’s most passionate players and pit them against each other in a no-holds-barred deathmatch."

But this leads into the second complaint about the Invitational, as fans decry Blizzard's understanding of the term "passionate player." Many of the invited competitors indeed command enormous followings, especially the Starcraft trio of Day[9], Husky, and Artosis. But hardcore Hearthstone fans complain this doesn't represent the "best" players in Hearthstone. Few, if any, are on top of the leaderboards in the game. In other words, the tournament is more about celebrity than about gaming chops.

"Most passionate = famous YouTubers," commenter ThatHC wrote.

That said, it's hard to deny the skill of some of these players. Trump, for example, has recently been adopted by frequent pro-gaming sponsor and computer manufacturer Razer as the world's first professional Hearthstone player. Fans should keep in mind that Blizzard intends for this to be a showmatch. These players were handpicked by Blizzard to try and draw the most viewers. That's it.

No, it's not a balanced field. But it should certainly be entertaining.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.