Blizzard unveiled their planned expansion for the Hearthstone Masters Tour for 2020 season by doubling the number of events from previous years, each with the minimum US $250,000 prize pool with an added bonus from crowdfunding.
As revealed earlier this week, Blizzard has announced ESL and DreamHack as the operators of the Hearthstone Masters Tour, which will allow the expansion of Masters Tour events from three to six events for the 2020 season. The announcement comes only a couple of days after Blizzard revealed Warcraft III and StarCraft II are both receiving their own ESL Pro Tours as a part of their plan to facilitate non-franchised esports other than World of Warcraft.
Masters Tour 2019 featured three events in Las Vegas, Seoul and Bucharest. For 2020 season, however, Blizzard already unveiled four venues, with the last two yet to be decided. The schedule for 2020 Masters Tour looks as follows:
Arlington, Texas (31.1. - 2.2.)
Bali, Indonesia (20.3. - 22.3.)
Jönköping, Sweden (12.6. - 14.6.)
TBD, Asia-Pacific region (July/August)
Montreal, Canada (11.9. - 13.9.)
TBD, Spain (November/December)
While each event will offer half the prize money of those in 2019, the overall prize pool for 2020 Masters Tour is bound to surpass that of 2019 ($1.5 million) with the announced added prize pools via crowdfunding, the specifics of which have not been disclosed to the public yet.
The 2020 season will also feature two Grandmasters seasons, starting in April and followed by the second season in August. Unlike Masters Tour, which is an invite-only affair, the Grandmasters Tour consists of only 48 of the world's best players based on their lifetime earnings, competitive points and other criteria.
Last year, we saw Xiaomeng “Liooon” Li take home the title of GrandMaster with her incredible performance when she defeated the likes of Asia-Pacific GrandMaster and 2017 world champion Chen "tom60229" Wei Lin, Season 1 EMEA GrandMaster champion Chris "Fenomeno" Tsakopoulos, EMEA Season 2 champion Kevin "Casie" Eberlein and Americas Season 2 GrandMasters champion Brian "bloodyface" Eason to become the first female to win Hearthstone GrandMasters event.
The announcement regarding the changes coming to Hearthstone competitive scene for 2020 also unveiled each season will consist of eight weeks of competitive play and will introduce a completely new structure of the tournament.
Week one through four will rotate 16 players in each of the three regions (Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific) competing and earning points based on their final placements. Those points will then be used to determine the player’s seeding into one of the two eight-team divisions. Week five through seven will consist of round-robin play within the two divisions, which is similar to what was seen in previous GrandMasters seasons.
In the eighth and final week, the GrandMasters season will enter the playoffs, which will qualify one player from each region to the World Championship, set to take place at the end of the year.
Blizzard also announced a change of the format, which will introduce relegations. At the end of Season 3, three players will be relegated and the top three prize money winners from the first three Master Tours 2020 will move up to the Grandmasters.
All in all, some very positive and encouraging changes are coming for the Hearthstone esports scene. The addition of another GrandMasters season and three new events will fill up the Hearthstone's calendar, giving the fans of the game another reason to look forward to 2020.
The addition of ESL and DreamHack as the operators is another massive step forward, yet it does not come as a shock, considering they already took over both StarCraft II and Warcraft III. Nonetheless, it's nice to see Blizzard are taking the right steps towards developing the game's ecosystem and further expanding the competitive scene of their prized card game.