Jakattack’s take on the Hearthstone Grand Masters

There’s been a massive overhaul of the competitive Hearthstone scene. Breakaway’s own JakAttack gives his opinion on the state of affairs. Spoiler: he’s not a fan.


As some of you might know, Blizzard recently made changes to the Hearthstone competitive format. The Grand Masters are in full swing, and in case you aren’t familiar with the way it works, scope out the details here


Who gets to play in the Grand Masters? Well, there’s one potential way to get involved:
Step 1) Come first in an Open Cup – there are 250 of these 224-player tournaments to compete in
Step 2) Win a Masters Tour event – the next one’s in Vegas on June 14th
Step 3) Have Blizzard deem you worthy to take a Grand Master spot


But the sure-fire way to play, is if Blizzard choose you. They’ve hand-picked players to take part in the Grand Masters because if Blizzard wants you there, then you’re in.


This sucks. Not only do these ‘chosen’ players gain automatic entry to tournaments, but they also play in exclusive competitions and leagues where a lot of prize money is allocated. And, you have to be in the Grand Masters if you want to go to Worlds.


If you’re not in the GM club then you’re pretty much irrelevant.


Sure, Blizzard can do what they like, it’s their game. But it’s such a massive change from the structure of 2018’s tournament. Last year, it didn’t matter who you were. Or how many followers you had. Or how many people subscribe to your channel. If you grinded the ladder and played the qualifiers you could reach the elite parts of competition.


The new system removes all of this. If you aren’t chosen to be a Grand Master then you have almost no avenues to get into international competition. To make things even more difficult, only two Grand Master spots open up for relegation every year. So once the first group of GMs are assembled, there is almost no way to get into that exclusive club.


Now, I can’t be too salty. Last week I got an email from Blizzard acknowledging the grind involved in Open Cup Qualifiers for the Masters Tours events. Thankfully, my consistent results in the Open Cups have been recognised and I’ve been offered a place in Vegas. I’m one of the lucky ones.


But it doesn’t disguise the fact Blizzard has chosen to tone down the competitive nature of the esport in favour of promoting big names. Some of these guys aren’t even proven to be elite players in 2019. The first week of the Grandmasters league had enough rope misplays in it to make a montage.


Blizzard have made a classic business decision. Get popular players to bring in more viewers, which means more hype, more eyeballs, and more sponsorship revenue. My only worry is, are they making short term gains for long term losses? Because once the true nature of competitive Hearthstone is gone, I doubt it’ll come back in a hurry.