Over the past few weeks we've been receiving announcements from Blizzard and the Hearthstone Esports team over the changes to the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) circuit and the massive sweeping changes they've made to the scene. Overall from a pro player's perspective, I can tell you these are changes that reward players who have been in the scene and are already part of the Hearthstone grind. Major changes include the removal of the online open cups which will be replaced with Hearthstone Tour Stops, which are in-person, open major tournaments with a prize pool, a challenger league for aspiring players, a large focus on pro teams and a Master system similar to Pro Points in Magic the Gathering. All of these are very welcome changes to the pro scene in Hearthstone.
Online cup grinds are a thing of the past
The removal of the online open cup grind is very important for two reasons: The first reason is because the open cup grind was very time consuming for pro players and it seemed like more of a chore than it did a rewarding experience or even quality practice. Most top players hated the open cup system, as it only rewarded people with more time on their hands. It was also frustratingly necessary to play open cups every month if you wanted to even compete for the last call race. The second reason it is an important change is that itâ€™s now much better for aspiring Hearthstone players. These players will now get to compete in these challenger cups and have a chance to qualify for the seasonal playoffs through the challenger circuit. without having to get stomped over and over by pro players just doing their taxing open cup grind. It's better for the average player and it's better for the pro player. Overall, this is a very welcome change and all top players appreciate it from Blizzard.
The challenger circuit: a great addition
The challenger circuit is only open to those who haven't participated in a playoff in 3 seasons and it's similar to the tavern hero circuit, except players are also able to compete in online cups instead of having to show up to tavern hero qualifiers in person. This will be great for players who aspire to be competitive, but live in remote areas or are too busy to make it out. The system works to qualify you for playoffs by winning an online cup or a tavern hero qualifier, then making top eight at the Tavern Hero championship. This system is a welcome change for aspiring players and will inspire many new players to give competitive Hearthstone a shot.
Teams will get more recognition
The change to bring the focus to pro teams marks a big change to the Hearthstone community and will result in a big change to the competitive atmosphere. Teams are being incentivised to pick up Hearthstone players for the first time ever. Most teams were dropping powerful Hearthstone squads like Luminosity and CLG because there was simply no incentive to keep them. However with this change, teams are going to want to be involved as Blizzard is paying the players and there are going to be tons of Hearthstone broadcasts with the teams featured on the front page of Twitch. The prize pools have increased for the playoffs for the players who have not managed to make it to the top eight, which is also a welcome change as the system felt super top heavy and unrewarding for those who spent months grinding to qualify only to fall short like two-time 9th place finisher Killinallday. There is a minimum of $1000 USD for each competitor and around $5000 for a top eight finisher. This is great for those who manage to qualify consistently for the preliminaries as it only adds to the potential minimum earnings for the competitive Hearthstone players.
Blizzard to back â€œTour Stopsâ€, huge open tournaments
The addition of Tour Stops to the HCT circuit is going to create a lot of exciting Hearthstone esports entertainment throughout the year. These live open cups for cash prizes and HCT points are going to be very similar to the Dreamhack tournament,ts which many players love to watch on Twitch and participate in person. They will also be more frequent, meaning that there will be so much more Hearthstone to watch and participate in. I wouldn't be surprised if this change alone makes Hearthstone a much more popular game than it already is. Story lines will be created, which teams will do best throughout the year, potential breakout players, who ends up being the top players in 2018, new meta breaking decks, etc. I assume there will be a lot more risk taking and innovating because of the sheer number of events allowing people to experiment and be less risk averse because there's only a few events a year.
The Masters system is reminiscent of MTG â€“ in a very good way
Finally â€“ the Masters system is going to feature a system close to the Pro Point circuit in Magic the Gathering. These points can be earned throughout the year via ladder, Tour Stops and Hearthstone Season Championships. Gathering points through three seasons will allow you to stack up points and reach these targets. The three levels of the point system offer several benefits making it very likely to play competitively for a decent wage. $22,500 USD a year for three seasons of three-star Master without including any prize money, team benefits or team salaries is a decent wage just for competing in Hearthstone. I expect Hearthstone to grow a lot over the next year. And by 2019-2020 World Championships, Hearthstone might even be one of the top esports â€“ thatâ€™s how optimistic about these changes I am. All in all, these are some very welcome changes and it'll make for a much more consistent Hearthstone pro player wage and a healthy esports scene for Hearthstone!