The ESL Legendary Series awarded World Championship points without anyone knowing

The criteria and fairness of Blizzard's new qualification system for the Hearthstone World Championship is facing serious criticism

Photo via Hearthstone/Twitter

The criteria and fairness of Blizzard’s new qualification system for the Hearthstone World Championship is facing serious criticism. 

February’s ESL Legendary Series finals, one of the first major Hearthstone events of the year, awarded qualification points without anyone knowing. And that’s despite the fact the tournament likely didn’t meet Blizzard’s own criteria.

The points determine who advances to the regional qualifier tournaments. They’re awarded for finishing within the top 100 of the legend rankings each month or by tournaments who meet a set of criteria.

To be eligible to award points, a tournament must have at least 50 percent of its top 16 come from open qualifiers—but only eight players competed at the Legendary Series finals. The tournament had no defined top 16, with eight weekly eight-person tournaments deciding the finalists in a complicated mixture of direct qualification, points gained, and playoffs. This mixed format has since been scrapped for season two in favor of a simpler system.

Across the eight weekly match day tournaments, 47 players took part, only 18 of whom directly qualified. However, 17 other spots were for winners of previous weeks to return in the next tournament in order to accrue more points, and Blizzard may have included these in its assessment, even though many of those return spots were won by players who were originally invited.

The prize pool also created confusion, with the Legendary Series finals awarding $20,000 in prize money but participants receiving the amount of points for a $25,000 and above tournament. According to Blizzard community representative Robert Wing, the weekly tournament prize pools and the travel and accommodation support provided meant that the total prize pool was $36,000. Blizzard had not previously stated that travel and accommodation support would be included in the total prize pool for eligibility purposes.

“While the event began prior to the full point structure being announced, we have been working closely with ESL and want to recognize the achievements that players have made in the Legendary Series,” Wing said in a response on Reddit. “We will be more transparent with point-giving events moving forward, including a blog post listing upcoming point giving events that will be going up in the immediate future.”

Wing also said that 50 percent of the overall competitors had come from open qualifiers—though it’s unclear how that conclusion was reached, and Blizzard made no mention of the specific requirement of the top 16. Wing also promised the company would be more transparent in the future, and an incomplete list of upcoming points awarding tournaments has now been published on Blizzard’s website.

Austin “SilentStorm” Li is all but guaranteed qualification after being awarded 100 points for his at the Legendary Series finals. He now has more than double the points of any other player in the North American region.

Both Blizzard and ESL did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.