The first Blizzard-run Hearthstone tournament in the Wild format has run into a major obstacle. Every player who qualified for the tournament from China has run into problems securing a visa to travel for the finals.
In fact, it looks like the Hearthstone Wild Open finals, set to take place next weekend in California, may well have had to go ahead without one of it representatives from China.
Shenhaiyuyi and SHRoyalBaize won the eight-player qualifier bracket to claim the two places in the $25,000 tournament finals. But the pair were at first denied visas to travel the the offline finals, according to Team Celestial manager Sinn Tann.
As is standard in these sorts of circumstances, Blizzard began going down the list of finishers to invite replacement players. Attempts to invite the players who finished third, forth, fifth, and eventually sixth have all failed due to visa issues.
SHRoyalBaize did eventually receive a visa, and work is ongoing to figure out what to do with the remaining place.
With just a week to go before the players need to travel, only two replacement options remain—ironically the most well-known players in the bracket. HCT Winter Championship quarterfinalist “Lvge”, and 2016 World Championship competitor Chen “Breath” Yuxiang. Efforts are underway to get the pair visas, but obviously hopes are not high.
If only one Chinese player is able to travel, it’s unclear what will happen to the final place in the tournament. It would be highly unusual for Blizzard to allow someone to play remotely—but equally replacing them with extra players from other regions would be less than ideal, too. Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
This is far from the first time visas have been an issue for Chinese esports players and teams. In 2015, eStar Gaming—considered by many to be a favorite for the event—were forced to withdraw from the Heroes of the Storm World Championship. More recently Chinese teams have been forced out of Dota 2 events for similar problems.