The richest-ever Hearthstone tournament is considering some big changes following serious backlash from fans and players alike.
The World Cyber Arena Hearthstone event, to be held in China in October, is set to be by far the biggest yet in the game’s young history, offering a total prize pool of nearly $200,000.
But last week’s announcement of the opening group draw created a whirlwind of controversy.
The draw would be unseeded, which meant that the world’s best players were equally likely to be draw together in the same group as they were to be spread out among the field. And that’s exactly what happened.
Group G was given the “group of death” title, and with good reason. It alone features arguably the world’s three best players, including Andrew “Tides of Time” Biessener, Dima “Rdu” Radu, and Jason “Amaz” Chan. The group is rounded out by other potential contenders as well: Marcin “Gnimsh” Filipowicz and Cong “StrifeCro” Shu.
The fact that only two of these players would potentially be able to reach the playoff stage did not sit well with fans, especially given that some other groups were made up entirely or almost entirely by players without such track records of success. Some fans even wondered if nationalism played a role in the draw, as two groups were structured such that local Chinese players would be guaranteed to advance.
Concerns have also been raised about the unusual tournament format. Group stage matches were set to be played as best-of-two, making for an unprecedented structure sure to produce a number of draws. The playoff stage would feature more traditional extended matches, but players would have opportunities mid-series to make changes to their decks.
But the negative feedback WCA officials have received has already caused a change in their thinking.
A report from GosuGamers indicates that the organization has changed the group stage format to a traditional best-of-three model and is still considering other changes, up to and including a redraw of the groups using a new seeding model to make for a fairer spread of players.
Whatever tournament officials decide to do, they’ll need to move quickly. The event is set to take place on Oct. 2.
Screengrab via ESGN TV/YouTube