The Hearthstone esports team has announced what it has in store for the competitive card game in 2020. After their Masters system cut back in events and prize money in 2019, and cut off a large part of the community to implement an invite-based Grandmasters league with 16 players per region, Blizzard is expanding and opening up the esports scene again this year.
More Masters Tour events
Part of the expansion of the Masters system includes Blizzard doubling the amount of Masters Tour events from three per year to six, and is partnering with DreamHack and ESL to realize them. Like last year, these events will not only serve as a means for aspiring Hearthstone professionals to meet with veterans of the scene. Overall Masters Tours prize money earnings will determine which players will be promoted to the Grandmasters league.
Chronologically ordered, the Masters Tour events in 2020 will be held at:
- Arlington, Texas. January 31 - February 2. (Qualifying period has ended)
- Bali, Indonesia. March 20 - March 22. (Qualifying period ends January 26th)
- Jönköping, Sweden. June 12 - June 14. (Qualifying period: February 6 - March 29)
- [TBD] Asia Pacific. July/August. (Qualifying period: April 2 - May 24)
- Montréal, Canada. September 11 - September 13. (Qualifying period: June 4 - July 26)
- [TBD] Spain. December. (Qualifying period: August 6 - September 27)
The prize pool for each Masters Tour event still sits at $250,000 USD, increasing the total prize pool for Hearthstone's second tier of competition to 1.5 million dollar. However, that amount can be increased further. Like last year, Blizzard plans to pair an in-game purchase directly to the Masters Tour prize pools. The community crowdfund was wildly successful in 2019, reaching the predetermined limit of an extra $250,000 USD per Masters Tour in mere days.
A more open Grandmasters system
The Grandmasters system of 2019 received a lot of negative attention, as it made it nearly impossible for everyone not invited to it to become a part of it: only two players per year would be relegated. However, Blizzard is making multiple adjustments to make the competition feel more alive and feel like an achievable goal.
The sixteen players currently in Grandmasters play in a rotating format for the first weeks, determining which player gets assigned to which division in their region. Afterwards, they continue in a Round Robin format. However, whereas only two players per region relegated at the end of the year in 2019, the stakes are higher in 2020.
At the end of each season, of which, once again, there are two, three players are relegated and replaced by the three highest-earning players of the three Masters Tour events that count towards that Grandmasters season. Per season, one players per region qualify for the World Championship, held at the end of the competitive year.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment.
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