After several weeks of silence and confusion, Blizzard has finally taken a stance (of sorts) on competitive bans in Hearthstone. For the first time, four players didn’t just get their accounts banned, they were also added to a list of players banned from the 2015 Hearthstone World Championship.
Simple. Fair. Clear. Right?
While the approach seems simple and straightforward, it’s actually hugely ambiguous. What does “disqualification from the Hearthstone World Championship” actually mean? Does it include the qualifying tournaments, like the Viagame House Cup, DreamHack Summer, and any number of open tournaments? These tournaments all offer points which are necessary for qualification.
What happens if these players create a new account, as Olzhas “Naiman” Batyrbekov has done, and finish at rank one legend on ladder? Are the 50 points for first place awarded to to person in rank two? Are they simply not awarded?
If tournaments like DreamHack Summer and the Viagame House Cup actively exclude banned players from their open qualifiers, which they are required to use to fill 50 percent of their tournament places in order to give out points, do they risk losing their Blizzard license to award the HWC points?
The questions don’t stop there. How long do these bans last? Will they still be banned for the 2016 World Championships? How about 2017? 2020? Two of the listed players are well known, but what about the other two? What is to stop them signing up for a new account with false personal information and qualifying?
Perhaps most crucially, if botting, wintrading and account buying can result in a competitive ban, why are there only four players on this list? Surely there are many more players who have committed offenses who could potentially qualify for the World Championships thanks to its open qualification format.
That’s 13 questions just off the top of my head.
I really sympathize with Blizzard. I have genuinely no idea how it can create a completely fair system when the Hearthstone tournament scene, and the qualification for the World Championships, is almost exclusively out of its control. Awarding World Championship points for tournaments was the first step towards wider tournament sanctioning and in Blizzard taking a more active role in the tournament scene. But as of yet, Blizzard has issued no guidance to tournament organisers on how to deal with banned players.
The major problem is still a lack of transparency. The statement accompanying the list, which as of yet has not actually been promoted or linked to by Blizzard, is so simple that it lacks a lot of information that players, fans, tournament organizers and a host of other interested parties need to know.
I reached out to Blizzard more than a week ago to get some answers to these questions. I was met with silence. Let’s hope that changes in the coming weeks and months.