The 2016 Hearthstone Championship Tour will conclude with a $1 million World Championship at BlizzCon next year, a culmination of nine $100,000 Season Championships split among three seasons in each of three regions: Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. That’s a big bump up from the $250,000 awarded at BlizzCon’s Hearthstone championship earlier this month, won by Swedish star Sebastian “Ostkaka” Engwall.
Blizzard has upped the ante for Hearthstone in 2016 by adding more prize money, more regional championships, no byes in major tournaments for invited players, more live events, an improved championship point distribution, and a more flexible match structure.
Of major interest to competitive players will be the new tournament format, a twist on the Conquest style used by most tournaments so far in Hearthstone’s lifespan. Instead of bringing three decks to tournaments players will now bring four decks with unique classes, which they will reveal to their opponent before a series. Then each player will ban one of their foe’s choices simultaneously before playing out a best-of-five series with their three remaining decks.
It’s an interesting twist to the normal format, potentially shaking up how the game is played and the viability of seemingly overpowered strategies like the dominance of Grim Patron in events over the past year. But it also has potential to make the metagame even more homogenous. Players will still take a variety of the most popular decks, and those with strong pocket picks will likely see those banned away.
Unlike previous years, though, Blizzard has left open the possibility for change, noting that the default competitive format may be updated between each of their three seasons.
In addition to the competitive format, the restrictions on what makes a tournament eligible to award points could change the entire landscape. Gone are the days when players with points already earned or popular faces are seeded into the late rounds of the tournament, enabling them to accumulate more points more easily. Now, those players may still be given reserved slots in an event, but they have to play starting at the same level as any open entrant. That should enable a much wider variety of up-and-coming players to make a name in the Hearthstone scene.
The Championship Tour begins this weekend at DreamHack Winter 2015, the first points-giving event of the 2016 tour. But if you aren’t heading to Sweden to play this weekend, you can still earn points next month as Ranked Play will kick off the race to the World Championship.
Ready your decks as Hearthstone is in for another exciting 2016 esports year.
Photo by Patrick Strack via Blizzard