As much as we love League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, they're all a bit outdoorsy for this time of year. As the nights draw in and the temperature starts to drop, we'd much rather settle down in a cosy chair by the fire with something a bit warmer and more sedate. Good thing for us, then, that we're mere days away from the 2016 Hearthstone World Championship!
When is the Hearthstone World Championship?
This year's Hearthstone World Championship starts with group stages during Blizzcon Opening Week, October 26-30, after which we head into BlizzCon proper on November 4-5 for the quarterfinals, semis and grand finals. Opening Week games will start at 9am PDT. The Hearthstone World Championship quarterfinals start at 12pm PDT on November 4, and the semifinals and grand finals are from 10.30am PDT onward on November 5.
Who has qualified for the Hearthstone World Championship?
The Hearthstone World Championship will be contested by 16 of the best players in the world - four each from the Americas, Asia-Pacific, China and Europe - who have sealed their places by amassing Championship Tour points, winning Ranked Play seasons, Hearthstone Majors, online Hearthstone Cups and Championships. Following a round of Last Call Invitationals, which concluded October 15, we now have the final line-up of 16 competitors:
What is the format for the Hearthstone World Championship?
Each match will be a best-of-seven using Blizzard's Conquest format. Players will bring five unique champion decks to play for each match and they and their opponent each ban one of the other's decks before starting. Each deck can only be used to achieve victory once, after which the player must choose another, so in order to win, a player will have to beat their opponent with all four of their decks. However, the losing player can keep playing with a defeated deck. It's less complicated than it sounds, as this short video illustrates:
There will be four groups of four players, with every region represented in every group: Americas, APAC, China and Europe. The group stages are double-elimination with two players advancing from each group to take part in the bracket stage at BlizzCon. The brackets will be single-elimination until the Hearthstone World Champion is crowned.
What does the Hearthstone World Champion win?
Apart from becoming only the third Hearthstone World Champion ever, gaining the respect of their peers, that sort of caper, the winner will walk away with $250,000 in prize money - a healthy chunk of a $1m prize pool that breaks down like this:
- World Champion - $250,000
- 2nd place - $125,000
- 3rd/4th - $100,000
- 5th-8th - $50,000
- 9th-16th - $25,000
All of which should certainly be enough to buy the next few expansions.
Go on then, who were the previous Hearthstone World Champions?
I hoped you'd ask! The original world champion, crowned in 2014, was American participant James "Firebat" Hostesich, who dominated the tournament and saw off Wang "Tiddler Celestial" Xieyu 3-0 in the finals. A year later in 2015, Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall defeated Dylan "Hotform" Mullins from Canada, also 3-0, to claim that year's title.
Where can I watch the Hearthstone World Championship?
As you might imagine, the action will be broadcast live on the Hearthstone Twitch channel. Blizzard hasn't announced the casting talent yet, but the likes of Frodan, TJ Sanders and Raven seem like a shoo-in.
Didn't Blizzard nerf some Hearthstone cards recently?
Blizzard did indeed nerf some Hearthstone cards recently, including some old favourites, and the changes definitely could have an impact on the Hearthstone World Championship.
The headline change was a tweak to Yogg-Saron, Hope's End, the 10-mana minion with 7/5 base stats and the absolutely batshit battlecry of "Cast a random spell for each spell you've cast this game (targets chosen randomly)." Yogg-Saron keeps all of that, but the difference now is that his battlecry can be interrupted when spells kill, silence or return him to your hand, meaning there's a much higher level of RNG at play and he's less likely to decimate your opponent every single time he comes out. All of which means we're pretty unlikely to see him in competitive play any more.
Blizzard nerfed six other cards as well:
- Rockbiter Weapon ("Give a friendly character +3 Attack this turn") goes from 1-mana to 2-mana cost
- Tuskarr Totemic is still a 3/2 minion who summons a random totem, but from now on it can only be a basic totem
- Call of the Wild, the frankly hilarious Hunter card that summons all three animal companions, goes from 8-mana to 9-mana cost
- Execute, which has been dropping fools for the Warrior since day one by destroying damaged enemy minions, goes from 1-mana to 2-mana cost
- Charge, which previously gave friendly minions +2 Attack and Charge for 3-mana, now gives a friendly minion Charge for 1-mana, but that minion can't attack heroes on the turn it receives the buff
- Abusive Sergeant, the 1-mana, 2/1 minion that gives another minion +2 Attack for one turn, has lost one of his health points
Anything else I need to know?
Nope, but if you're looking for some tasty competitive Hearthstone to get you in the mood before the end of the month and you miss the Last Call Invitationals, you could do worse than to rewatch last year's semifinal between Ostkaka and Thijs (who has qualified for this year's tournament as well), which was one of the best professional matches ever.