Blizzard introduced the HCT (Hearthstone Championship Tour) last year to help create a system that would bring together the most dedicated Hearthstone players in the world and showcase their ability to compete at the highest levels throughout the year. Standard also debuted with the inaugural Year of the Kraken, which will wrap up when the first new Expansion of 2017 is released, ringing in the next Standard year.
Some of the key changes that Blizzard will be making next year include:
- Global Season Championships: Blizzard has combined the regional Seasonal Championships into global Season Championships. Each of the global Season Championships next year will take place at a select host region and will be held in venues that you can actually attend in-person.
- Season Playoffs: The regional Season Preliminaries have been replaced with regional Season Playoffs, and each of the 4 regions (Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and China) will send 4 representatives to the Season Championships each season. Each Season Playoffs will use the Swiss Tournament format and continue to include local Tavern Heroes, but they’ll be more competitive to qualify for, and include more advanced prizing to reward more participants
- Championships Synced with Standard: They will work towards aligning HCT tournaments with the Standard Year and its associated content releases. This means that next year each of the global Season Championships will take place during its own content cycle. This also means the next World Championship will take place at the end of the upcoming Standard year in early 2018.
- Points and Cups: The points earned from tournaments and Ranked Play to be more evenly distributed and include more players. We’re also making improvements to the Cup system. Hearthstone Competitive Points from Ranked Play begins with the November Standard Ranked Play Season next month.
- Prize Pool: The total HCT prize pool for next year will be over $2 million USD. The World Championship will have a $1 million USD prize pool, each Season Championship will have a prize pool of a quarter million USD, and each Season Playoffs will have at least $20,000 USD in prizing to reward more participants.
In addition, there are also two new eSports programs that Blizzard will introduce for Hearthstone:
- Hearthstone Global Games: Aims to feature teams of players from various countries battling it out weekly in global league. Each team in the HGG will consist of the top Hearthstone Competitive Point earner from their country and three of their fellow community-voted players from their same country.
- Hearthstone Inn-vitationals: This series of exhibitions will showcase a variety of fun Hearthstone formats with some of your favorite Hearthstone personalities. The invitees will include popular streamers, winners of major tournaments, and celebrities. Zany antics and playful banter will ensue for a more light-hearted viewing experience.