Hearthstone 2016 World Championship Prize Pool Increased to $1 Million
It’s been about a month since Natus Vincere’s (Na’Vi) Ostkaka won the 2015 Hearthstone World Championship by beating Root Gaming’s Hotform in the final. Blizzard has not waited long to announce quite a lot of changes to the 2016 season. The World Championship is undoubtedly the biggest and most prestigious Hearthstone tournament in the world, but next year it will be even bigger. This is in no small part due to the significant increase of the prize pool. Whereas the entire prize pool for this year was $250,000, next year’s tournament will hand out a whopping $1 million in prize money.
There are other notable changes as well. Basically, the entire Road to BlizzCon has been revamped. In previous World Championship seasons, players had to earn points by performing well at tournaments and/or the ranked ladder. These points seeded players into regional qualifiers and the top four players represented their region at BlizzCon. The new format, dubbed the Hearthstone Championship Tour, brings a lot of changes to regional qualifiers. The year will now be broken into three seasons (Winter, Spring and Summer). Each season will feature its own championship tournament. It should also be noted that each season will have a prize pool of $100,000, which is four times the amount that was previously up for the taking.
Three players who win each season in their region will be invited directly to the World Championship. The next top eight players in each region will participate in their region’s Last Call Invitational. The winner will earn the final, fourth spot. Therefore, each of the four regions (Americas, Europe, China, Asia Pacific) will be represented by four players at the World Championship. The first event of the new Hearthstone Championship Tour has already taken place at Dreamhack Winter 2015 about two weeks ago. In case you have forgotten, GamersOrigin’s Purple won the tournament in the final against Ersee, getting a valuable head start. Naturally, apart from Blizzard-sanctioned tournaments, players can also earn points through Ranked Play beginning with December.
Each Championship Season, 128 players who have earned the most points in each region will be invited to participate in their region’s Season Preliminaries. After the preliminaries, points will decay and begin accumulating once again in order to determine the best players for the next Season Preliminaries. Performance of players throughout the entire year will be taken into account when evaluating the 8 participants of each region’s Last Call Invitational, which will take place just prior to the World Championship.
Overall, it is evident that the point structure has been significantly revamped and re-balanced to provide a more level playing field. Top placing players will earn fewer points than before, whereas lower placing players will earn more. These changes are introduced both for tournaments and the ladder. For example, when it comes to Ranked Play, placing first on the ladder will net you 15 points (previously it was 100 points), whereas if you find yourself somewhere between places 51 and 100, you will be awarded 5 points.
Match and Tournament Formats
Blizzard claims that each Season Championship may have very different rules. This means that Blizzard is no longer limiting sanctioned tournaments to the Conquest format. We have already seen this at Dreamhack Winter 2015, which used the Last Hero Standing format. Blizzard has announced that the Winter Championship will use a modified Conquest format with a ban. This means that each player will have to submit four decks of unique classes for the Season Preliminaries and once again for the Season Championship. Prior to each match, players will have to reveal the classes that they have brought. Then they will inform the officials which of their opponent’s class they wish to ban. After that, the players will compete in a regular Conquest format with their three remaining decks. Blizzard is obviously listening very closely to the feedback provided by professional players as many of them have been calling for the addition of bans for a long time now.
Blizzard says that they have devised these changes based on the feedback from previous years. Here’s a quick run-down of all the major changes:
More events and local champions – three Season Championships (Winter, Spring, Summer), one Last Call Invitational per region
A more even playing field – even though invited players will have reserved spots, they will still have to start in the same round as all open players
Bigger prizes – the World Championship prize pool has been increased to $1 million, with an additional prize pool of $100,000 for each of the nine regional Season Championships in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific
Points are more significant than ever – because points decay after each Championship Season, and with the Last Call Invitational relying on total earned points, collecting points will provide you with more opportunities
Re-balanced point distribution – top placing players will get less points than before and lower placing players will get more
More flexible match and tournament formats – the aim is to improve the format from each Championship Season to the next and encourage fair competition along with creative match and tournament formats
All in all, these seem to be good changes that are pushing the Hearthstone competitive scene in the right direction. Hearthstone is still a relatively young eSport and there is always room for improvement, but it is definitely great to see Blizzard dedicated to revising and advancing the game in all areas.
Siniša is a writer and translator from Croatia, a small European country on the Adriatic coast. Apart from being a passionate Hearthstone player, he enjoys all kinds of video games, including strategy, role-playing, adventure, and action. Other interests include listening to indie rock and travelling. You can follow him @UpInFlames_82.
All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.