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Hearthstone Grandmasters Updates: New Format and More

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Blizzard have unveiled some changes to the structure of the Hearthstone Grandmasters programme for Season 2, including a replacement for the Specialist format.

 

Blizzard have posted a "Patch Notes" update for Hearthstone's flagship esports programme, Hearthstone Grandmasters. It includes details on a new competitive format for the game, replacing the much-maligned Specialist format.

Hearthstone Grandmasters matches in Season 2 will be played in best-of-three Conquest with a "Shield Phase". This means that as well as banning an opponent's deck, players will be able to protect one of their own to ensure they get to play it. After this phase, players will have to win a game with two of their remaining decks to take the series.

The original format, Specialist, sees players bring one "Primary" deck and two variations on that deck to switch to depending on the matchups they face. It has been widely criticised for reducing the number of viable decks in the metagame. The concluding playoffs of Grandmasters Season 1 were dominated by Cyclone Mage and Shark Rogue; only four of the eighteen players competing chose to bring anything else.

Additional changes to be made include a switch-up of divisions for Season 2. The team have also stated their intent to adjust the Masters Qualifier system in accordance with player feedback, and to increase the number of promotion and relegation spots for Grandmasters in 2020.

Read the full blog post below:

Blizzard LogoA Remixed Format and More for Grandmasters

The inaugural season of Hearthstone Grandmasters ended with a bang as Chris "Fenomeno" Tsakopoulos, Kim "Surrender" Jung-soo, and Francisco "PNC" Leimontas punched their ticket to the Global Finals at BlizzCon. Although it was an exciting season, we have certainly learned some things and will be changing certain aspects of the program moving forward. We continue to listen and gather feedback from players worldwide, and we’re excited to share today some of the changes we’ll be implementing for Season 2.

For starters, we are retiring the Specialist format for Grandmasters Season 2 and will be replacing it with best-of-three Conquest featuring a Shield Phase.

How it Works

  • The two battling players bring four decks, each from a unique class.
  • The match starts with a Shield Phase where both players will choose one of their own decks to “protect” that cannot be banned.
  • Each player will then ban one of their opponents’ decks, removing it from the pool.
  • Each player then selects which of their eligible decks they would like to play first, then begin their first game of the match.
  • After the first game has concluded, the winning deck is removed from the pool before both players pick which of their remaining decks they would like to play next.
  • If after the second game one player is 2-0, then the match is over!
  • If the score is 1-1, then the winning deck from the second game is removed from the pool and both players will choose their third and final deck to decide the series.

For Masters Qualifiers

We sent out a survey to all players who have participated in a Masters Qualifier (you can find a link to the survey in the #player_announcements channel of the Masters Qualifiers Discord) to help us gather feedback related to that program including the tournament format, schedule, event types, and the frequency of events. We will be using those responses to inform changes to the Masters Qualifiers and the Masters Tour after Season 2 of Grandmasters begins. We want to hear your thoughts!

Quality of Life Changes

We’re mixing up the Divisions in each region for Grandmasters Season 2, swapping the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finishers from Season 1 in each region. Beyond that, we’re implementing the following quality of life changes:

  • Including the 4th place player from each division in the end-of-season playoffs.
  • Changing the semifinals of both Grandmasters playoffs and Masters Tour events to best-of-five.
  • Standardizing the deck submission times across all three regions.
  • Setting the match schedule to 16 matches each day (instead of 15 Friday, 15 Saturday, 18 Sunday).

You can find more information about these changes on our Rules & Policies page.

Regarding Mobility

We have heard and appreciate the feedback regarding the desire for increased mobility into Hearthstone Grandmasters. With Grandmasters, we wanted to ensure that players and organizations could commit to the program knowing exactly what their chances of relegation were. We did not have relegation for Season 1 and set the maximum relegation to two players per region for Season 2. For Grandmasters in 2020, we will look to change relegation further to increase the maximum number of relegation/promotion spots per season.

We will have details on changes to relegation/promotion, changes to the tournament structure in 2020, and more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep it tuned right here to PlayHearthstone.com/esports for our coverage of Masters Tour Seoul!

 

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Maybe I'm stupid but I do not understand the new tournament format. You come with 4 decks, 1 gets banned, but you don't actually have to play all of the remaining 3 if you win the tie at 2-0? Plus they say "if the score is 1-1, (...) both players will choose their third and final deck" but there's no guarantee that both players will have played 2 different decks at this point, so how can there be a "third and final deck"? Confusing.

To be honest I don't quite get the points of banning decks in the first place. This is wasting a significant amount of the efforts done by the players and I can't immediately see what problem it solves. For me it's only adding one level of complexity to a system which is crying for straightforwardness.

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18 hours ago, Smorod said:

Maybe I'm stupid but I do not understand the new tournament format. You come with 4 decks, 1 gets banned, but you don't actually have to play all of the remaining 3 if you win the tie at 2-0? Plus they say "if the score is 1-1, (...) both players will choose their third and final deck" but there's no guarantee that both players will have played 2 different decks at this point, so how can there be a "third and final deck"? Confusing.

To be honest I don't quite get the points of banning decks in the first place. This is wasting a significant amount of the efforts done by the players and I can't immediately see what problem it solves. For me it's only adding one level of complexity to a system which is crying for straightforwardness.

I think by "third and final deck" they just mean that whichever deck is chosen by the player, it will be the last game in the series. So yeah the upshot is that players don't have to play all three of their unbanned decks. I think they made this choice to reduce the viability of lineups that target a specific deck.

Bans add a bit of extra strategic depth and give players more freedom to build different lineups. Many decks have decent matchups in general but lose hard to one or two popular decks. A ban option can make decks like that more viable and increase the diversity of decks we see played.

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1 hour ago, Lemon1 said:

A ban option can make decks like that more viable and increase the diversity of decks we see played.

Does it really? I mean, players will ban the best deck, and the second best deck will become the best deck, etc. So we decks 2-4 being played instead of decks 1-3. Not sure how it increases the diversity. The last 2 tournaments I watched online, had really a lot of the same decks coming again and again.

The fact that you must stop using a deck after you win a game with it, is a great idea, and should in my opinion be enough to guarantee diversity. Changing from best-of-5 to best-of-3 is step backward in terms of diversity. If you really want diversity, no ban and best-of-7 is the way to go - you'd be certain to see at least 4 different decks. I understand it might be a scheduling challenge though. Best-of-5 was probably the best compromise.

One concern I have is that by allowing bans in tournaments, Blizzard developers have a biased ideas of which decks are overpowered at a given point in time. You can't really decide that a deck is overpowered just because it gets banned, but if you don't see it played, you can't make an educated opinion on the matter.

Another concern is that this creates a gap between tournaments and playing regular Hearthstone. In Ranked play mode, you don't get to ban decks against which you do not perform well. You must fight against whatever decks the other players are using. And that does effectively makes certain decks almost unplayable in Ranked play mode because they don't perform well against top meta deck. If that's considered a problem in tournaments then it should be considered a problem for the rest of us, a problem that can only be addressed with targeted nerfs.

The gap is already quite visible anyway. For example, Mech Hunter has been the deck with the best win rate for the past 2 or 3 months in Ranked, and we haven't seen any in tournament recently. Our meta and their meta is clearly not the same.

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