Last week, TGH talked about the current Hearthstone competitive format and how it could be improved. This week, the Hearthstone Esports teams have announced Masters Qualifiers changes and additional ways to qualify. This is good news to hear that they will continue to make changes, as there is still more work to be done.
Rather than using the Specialist format, Masters Qualifiers will now use a Conquest, best-of-three, three decks with a ban format. This is a realigning to be more consistent with Grandmasters, but with fewer decks and less to do in the pre-game phase.
This is a good change, but best-of-three still can make players feel shorthanded. Queue order takes huge precedence in a series so short. Which often omits the skill in navigating games if you are facing a really bad match up. This instead puts a lot of effort into the rock-paper-scissors style mind game of predicting what your opponent will play first or what your best deck is against anything your opponent could play.
They’ve reduced the number of Top 8s needed to get an invite to five from six. This is good, as it is very difficult to win in a pool of players increased to 512, and in a single elimination format. The second positive of the single elimination format is that overall length of a qualifier is cut in half.
The format of the actual Masters Tour events are also being changed to Conquest. This starts with Masters Tour Bucharest which had a qualification through the Specialist format. The Masters Tours will be best-of-five, four decks with a ban format.
This is very similar to Grandmasters, minus the Shield Phase. With the meta remaining unchanged, this could mean a lot of Combo Priest and Control Warrior simply being banned outright. Combo Priest has dictated a lot of the matches in Grandmasters and could do the same in Bucharest if no balance changes occur before then.
Swiss rounds in Masters Tour Events are also being dropped down to 9 from 12. This is to try to reduce length of days since match times will increase in a best-of-five format. Top 8 will now be a single elimination bracket to also reduce time. This could be a negative, as more games played in Top 8 leads to a more definitive winner that less can doubt played the best.
Drawbacks of the System
Given that there has been a pool of people that made their names in Hearthstone with the Specialist format, they can be unprepared for the challenges that Conquest brings. Conquest requires much more game knowledge, such as knowing how to play a variety of decks and how those match ups work between other decks.
Overall this affects a very small percentage of the players though, and many like the Conquest format. Many competitive players think that the universal game knowledge is what help defines skill in the game of Hearthstone.
One other change coming for invitees to Masters Tour Events is the relevance of ladder. The top 16 players of ladder each month will get an invite to that season’s Masters Tour event. This really isn’t a positive in any way as the amount of effort needed to make the top 16 of ladder is immense compared to the reward.
An invite leaves the player with having to pay for travel expenses to go to a tournament where they have no guarantee of making any money. Essentially paying money to participate after proving they are one of the best players in what is maybe the only system they have a chance to compete in.
Fans and players continue to look forward to further Masters Qualifiers Changes to reward players who do well at the game. Grandmasters is a very limiting system that leaves out a lot of really good talent.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via their official website.