Blizzcon has long been something of a mecca for the competitive gaming scene. The annual world finals of Starcraft is one of the defining events in pro gaming, and as the biggest MMO in the world, World of Warcraft has a hardcore PVP scene to match. For years, those two games have formed the backbone of Blizzcon’s hardcore content, but recently they’ve added two new competitive games to their roster. Heroes of the Storm’s unique take on the MOBA genre has drawn a lot of attention in recent months, and its tournament premiere at this year’s con is sure to make a splash. But as a diehard TCG fan it’s their other, lower-profile PVP title that’s got my attention. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a breath of fresh air in the card game market; a simple, fast-paced, well-balanced game with a small but deceptively deep card pool. The high-level play in Hearthstone is a sight to behold, with plenty of tense back-and-forth conflict and explosive plays that can swing the tide of a game in an instant.
As Blizzard’s first Free-To-Play game, Hearthstone can be something of a money sink – that’s just the nature of CCGs – but Blizzard is looking to give back to some of its biggest investors at this year’s Blizzcon. The winner of the Hearthstone world championships will walk away with a cool hundred grand, with the runner-up winning $50,000, the semifinalists taking home $15,000, the quarter-finalists getting $7,500 each, and everyone else getting five grand just for making it. That’s a grand total of $250,000 on the line, and hardcore players the world over are vying for top spots on the leaderboards and seat at a world qualifier tournament. Only the four very best from each region will make it to Blizzcon, and of them, only one will be crowned “Grandmaster of the Hearth.” The tournament itself won’t be a set of normal matches, either. It’s a special “all-kill” format tournament, where each player will have to bring three deck to the table each round, and will be unable to use any that has been previously defeated. This multi-battle format will hopefully eliminate as much chance from the proceedings as possible, and make skill the sole deciding factor.
It’s certainly exciting for those who’ve invested time and money, but beyond that, it’s just cool as a fan of the game to see Blizzard putting so much weight behind it. Physical card games like Magic and Yugioh draw huge crowds to their major tournaments, and it seems like Hearthstone has everything it needs to stand on the same ground. It’s going to be really cool to see the best players in the world competing against each other for the first time. There was a Hearthstone invitational tournament at last year’s Blizzcon, but that was more for popular youtube and twitch streamers than top-tier players, and the game was in a pretty imbalanced state back then. Hopefully, this year will make for some more intense competition, especially with such a huge prize on the line.