It's not for a couple of weeks until Hearthstone Grandmasters' second season kicks off on August 23rd, but the changes to it have been made public already. After Blizzard received an abundance of feedback on the first half of their new competitive format, a couple of important aspects will be altered going forward. The criticized Specialist format—which emulated the ranked play experience well, but did little else—is making way for an lost love in Conquest, but Blizzard has given it an extra spin.
Conquest, with a 'Shield Phase'
Previously, the Conquest format was pretty straightforward. Players brought an X amount of decks (all from a different class), banned one of the decks the opponents brought, and played with their remaining decks; after a deck won a game it was no longer eligible to be picked in the remaining games.
For the second season of Hearthstone Grandmasters, players each bring four decks, all from a unique class. However, whereas the old format started with a ban, players now can 'Shield' one of their own decks first, preventing it from being banned. Then the ban phase takes place, and one of the non-shielded decks is banned from each player. This adds another layer of depth to the format, and drives it more to a pick-and-ban phase other esports titles have embraced over the years.
Following the ban phase players pick one of their three remaining decks at random, and play a Best of Three following Conquest's old rules: if you win with a deck, you can't play with it again in the series. If after two games the score is tied at 1-1, players can choose to play with either their third and final deck, or the deck they've already played but lost with.
Mixing up the groups across all regions
A format change is not the only thing Blizzard is implementing, however. To keep the competition from growing repetititve and stale, the divisions of all regions are being mixed up. Players who finished #1, #3, #5 and #7 are exchanged for the counterparts of their regions' other division, ensuring that exactly half of the matches will be between new opponents.
Moreover, the player who finishes fourth at the end of Season 2 now also qualifies for the Playoffs at the end of the season, and gets a shot at the coveted ticket to Blizzcon's Grandmasters finals. The grand finals for Season 2 increases the format to a Best of 5 instead of a Best of Three, testing the finalists a bit more too.
Possible future changes
As of now, Blizzard is still discussing other changes. In particular, they're looking at changes to Masters Qualifiers and Masters Tours, but no final decisions have been made: "While the current changes are focused on Grandmasters, a survey was distributed to all players who have participated in a Masters Qualifier to help the Esports team gather feedback related to that program including the tournament format, schedule, event types, and the frequency of events. The team will be using those responses to inform changes to the Masters Qualifiers and the Masters Tour after Season 2 of Grandmasters begins."
Furthermore, Hearthstone's esports team is looking at the amount or relegation slots and other much desired adjustments to the system. Again nothing of certainty can be given about the future, but if any changes are made, the team will provide an update in the coming weeks.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.