If you thought the Hearthstone competitive scene would be quiet over Christmas you were sorely mistaken. One of the sport’s most popular personalities has announced a tournament for the end of the month featuring some of the world’s best players, a brand new format and a $5000 prize pool.
Archon, the team formed last month by prominent pro player and streamer Jason “Amaz” Chan, will host its inaugural tournament, The Pinnacle, from Dec. 26-28. The tournament will feature a brand new tournament format never before used in high level competition and semi-open qualifiers, as well as one of the largest prize pools for an online tournament to date.
The event will include Archon’s own James “Firebat” Kostesich—recently crowned the best player in the world at the BlizzCon world championships—as well as top pro players Dima “Rdu” Radu, Drew “TidesofTime” Biessener and Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen, and will be casted by Chan and Cloud9’s Cong “StrifeCro” Shu.
The format is a variation on the popular single ban format—instead of players preemptively banning a class before the series starts, each player has one ban they can use before a game in the series, once each player has selected a class. If they don’t like the matchup that has been blind picked, they can ban out the opponent’s class and force them to select a new one before the game starts.
A number of tournaments have recently attempted variations on the popular “Last Hero Standing” format. In October, the Viagame House Cup used a wildly different nine deck, multiple ban format that drew praise from fans, players and the media alike—though some were concerned that requiring players to prepare nine decks for a tournament would be a disadvantage for amateur players. Last month’s DreamHack Winter saw a different version of Last Hero Standing which, in the later stages, allowed players to revive a deck that had been eliminated earlier in a match. This allowed for a best-of-seven match to be played with four decks and a single ban, and was the reason that the tournament final included three Druid mirror matches.
Two of the eight spots in The Pinnacle will be up for grabs in a semi-open qualifier tournament, though rather than a free-for-all like some tournament qualifiers, the entry criteria are strict Players must have achieved top 16 legend rank at least once or have reached the final of “a relevant Hearthstone tournament,” similar to the qualification criteria for the Hearthstone World Championships.
The latter half of this year saw a marked increase in the number of tournaments featuring open qualifiers rather than exclusively being invitationals. Last month’s Hearthstone World Championships featured no invited players, instead giving players several months to qualify through ladder achievements before two gruelling qualification stages. Most tournaments, like the Viagame House Cup, Seat Story Cup II and The Pinnacle, now leave at least a quarter of spots open for qualifiers.
Organizers are continuing to try and find the balance between inviting popular streamers and personalities to attract viewers and including unknown players who earn their places on merit. Clearly, Archon are attempting to find this balance with high profile invites combined with stricter open qualifiers. With the launch of spectator mode last week, we’ll probably will see an explosion of tournaments in 2015—and innovation will be the key to success.
Image via Archon