The conclusion of Hearthstone's first year of the Masters system draws closer, but Blizzard isn't done improving the system quite yet. Earlier this year Hearthstone Grandmasters, the highest rank of competition, exchanged Specialist for Shielded Conquest as its competitive format. This time around the Hearthstone Esports team is targeting the two lower layers, Masters Tours and Masters Qualifiers, with a bunch of adjustments effective October 1st.
Specialist is 100% gone now
Competitive Hearthstone players will be bidding farewell to the Best of 3 Specialist format for good. After its introduction the format, which replaced the standardized Best of 5 Conquest format, was quickly subject to criticism. Six months later, Blizzard is showing it the door. While at Masters Qualifiers level matches will still be decided in a Best of 3, those matches will be played in the Conquest-with-a-ban format.
Conquest is going to be the go-to format for Masters Tour events as well, and there it will be back at full force: a 4-deck, Best of 5 with 1 ban format. About this change, Blizzard says: "Given that this format change increases the average time it takes to complete a round, we are scaling back the number of Swiss rounds each Masters Tour has from the current 12 down to 9. To further reduce the length of days, we will be going to a straight single-elimination bracket for the Top 8 of the tournament."
Hearthstone's Ladder will matter once again
There are additional changes to the Masters Qualifiers format, which are listed below:
- "Masters Qualifiers will be expanded to a maximum capacity of 512 players.
- To reduce tournament lengths, we will be changing all Masters Qualifiers to single elimination.
- If a player makes Top 8 at least six times in a qualifying season currently, they will earn an invite. To make this qualification path easier, we’re reducing this number down to five.
- We will be going back to only awarding the first-place competitor in Masters Qualifiers with an invite to its corresponding Masters Tour event.
- We are adding more pack prizing to Masters Qualifiers."
The new pack distribution for Masters Qualifiers will look as follows:
To top off Blizzard's step towards competitive players' feedback, Hearthstone's Ladder mode will be of increased importance again. As it stands the top 200 players per region at the end of the month receive an invite to participate in a separate Masters Qualifier. Going forward from October 1st, the top 16 players per region will receive a direct invite to the next Masters Tour event.
All the tinkering with invite slots does create a shift, but Blizzard has provided a clear overview with the distribution of invites to Masters Tour events:
At the moment, there is only one Masters Tour event still planned: the one in Bucharest starting on October 18th. Given the extend of the changes and the timing of them, however, it's likely that Blizzard wants to continue their Masters system next year, in which case the community has plenty of time to adapt to the adjustments.