Sorry I haven’t been updating this as much as I would like to. A large reason why I have stopped blogging once a month as planned was because I picked up streaming on a consistent basis. As such, I usually ventilate for hours on a nightly basis. This consumes my creative free time and I’m too busy or exhausted to sit down and jot down notes.
Now the reason I broke my blog silence is because I feel particularly moved to talk about a time-sensitive topic.
Too often I find that even me, Frodan, who has fully immersed himself in the world of cardslinging, knee-slapping action of Hearthstone, has too often had to ask basic questions such as:
- What are the important events in the Hearthstone scene?
- When are they happening?
- Who is playing in it?
- Why should I care?
This is the reason I’m making this post to explain why you and everyone who is within earshot distance of Ben Brode’s laugh (read: every human being on the planet) should be watching Dreamhack Austin this weekend from May 6 – 8th.
1. Dreamhack, The One True Premier Esports Event Remaining
Competitive Hearthstone has had an interesting timeline of growth. Yes, HS is competitive and if you seriously fail to realize this then stop reading this post here. There are plenty of other posts that counter your argument and if you still think otherwise then you’re probably the reason why there’s a bellcurve in the game.
The year prior, in 2014, Hearthstone was the new kid on the block catching more hype with each Amaz vs RDU rivalry finishing in Ragnaros fireballs. It was certainly exciting and fun, but more importantly, it was getting viewership.
As such, Hearthstone went through an important year of puberty in 2015. Every tournament organizer, vendor, and team seemed to jump onto the HS hype train. Just look at the number of major tournaments in 2015, let alone the premier events and all the other smaller invitationals. We had the fun online leagues ranging from Kinguin to ATLC to the outrageous Viagame House Cup to the established franchises like ESL and their Legendary Series. Everyone was doing Hearthstone.
The Swedes always had a very peculiar sense of humor 😉
However, somewhere in late 2015, something snapped. Oversaturation, the plague of any popular esports game, started wearing on everyone — the players, the viewers, and the casters. I had a span of 11 straight weeks of casting, 7 of them being a weekly trip across the Atlantic (NA/EU/NA/EU/NA/EU/NA). It was absurd. No wonder players got burned out. No wonder people started growing tired of Patron Warrior. No wonder no one knows whats an important tournament anymore. As such, event series started dying off, sometimes even before finishing their first event as noted by PVPLive’s mysterious closure.
There did remain one tournament that everyone understood to be the most prestigious — winning the World Championship at BlizzCon. But this year’s circuit absorbs the relevance of all other events. Don’t get me wrong…it’s fantastic that the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) is even continuing to evolve on a yearly basis. Blizzard has been listening to the cries of the players and community with each passing season. Production value has been great. Storylines have been engaging. We even have expansion reveals during the tournaments to boost the hype and viewership. Great job, blazzird.
Tars was a Top 8 finalist in HCT EU Winter Champs.
Quite the hilarious character.
This is great. I can’t wait for Spring season to start.
However, there is a gaping hole left by the absence of all the other tournaments. Despite all the cool stuff that Blizzard has done for 2016, a card game like Hearthstone lives and dies by active grassroots communities rising up. We’ve been tossing around the term “major” almost as loosely as the term HS pro itself. From ONOG’s PAX East event to the EGLX tournament this past weekend, it’s becoming harder to decipher what a meaningful tournament outside of Blizzard’s event series.
Dreamhack has created some of the most fond memories I’ve had in Hearthstone. From the earlier referenced Amaz vs RDU matchups to Kolento and Strifecro’s amazing battle of control decks, every Dreamhack tournament had something special about it.
One of my favorite moments in DHW14, players vs the boar
With ESL’s noncommittal attitude towards their Hearthstone events (Legendary Series? IEM?), Viagame collapsing, and Insomnia trying to build up their reputation, there are a lot of moving parts to the Hearthstone tournament scene. But one thing has remained: the legacy of Dreamhack. This is one tournament we as a scene should absolutely care about and celebrate. With all the noise of content here, fun youtube reel there, this is one of the things that can keep us grounded. Awesome decks, cool plays and high stakes.
2. Dreamhack Strives For Format Perfection
Prestige, honor, and production value is all well as good, but another aspect of a card game like Hearthstone that also demands further exploration is a diversity of formats. Conquest has lots of benefits in both simplicity and effectiveness, but if we are stuck in Conquest as the only tournament format, competitive HS gets boring quickly.
Thus, it’s even more important for these tournaments to innovate outside the confines of the official rulesets.
This is the format for Dreamhack Austin. Link for anyone who wants to read it in its entirety.
It’s not about Last Hero Standing, Bo5 with 1 ban coming back. Some may even counter that they don’t enjoy watching this format due to sweep possibilities. It’s about the fact that Dreamhack is willing to listen to the players and have found this to be the best format for their competition.
Dreamhack Summer and Winter of 2015 had some ups and downs. The positive takeaways were obvious. We saw cool decks and great players advancing through a swiss format. The downsides? The format wasn’t perfect and broadcast flow wasn’t nailed down. However, one of the coolest things that did happen last Dreamhack Winter was Purple bringing the LoE Malylock that absolutely dominated the field. No one saw that coming and its become iconic to him. When was the last time we saw someone rewarded that greatly for bringing an innovative deck? It’s something that is lost in the current field of Hearthstone. It’s rare for people to be attributed to a specific class and style. There only remains a few stubborn people such as Fibonacci on Warrior and Pinpingho on Shaman. We might see the rebirth of such things this weekend.
No matter who ends up taking the tournament, players agreed that Dreamhack Winter 2015 was probably the hardest tournament of the year outside of winning BlizzCon. The field was ridiculously stacked with top tier players. It’s just so unlikely whoever wins the event is a bad player. That’s what we are looking for in an event. The question remains: who out of 200+ players will become the champion? Who will even be able to land into the top 8? We can have stories of players consistency (Zalae and hyped for example are notable players who always go deep but never take it all) or we can have stories of crazy decks making amazing streaks (like Purple).
Moreover, normally for an organizer landing 70,000+ viewers per event, it’s easy to feel comfortable and just keep rinse-and-repeating. However, Dreamhack took it a step further this time. They developed their own tool to administrate the LHS bans. 200+ people playing matches and banning created an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task for a swiss event. They are exploring even better ways to broadcast swiss rounds as there will be inevitable delays. It’s the small things that go a long way for me.
Like I said, complacency often strikes many organizers especially ones who run an established franchise like Dreamhack. I can’t wait to see their hard work pay off both on and off camera.
3. The Talent Pool
Outside of BlizzCon itself which only features 4 players from the 4 regions, we really don’t have a tournament that centralizes international talent quite like Dreamhack does. Take a look at the player list.
You finally have the first premier tournament on USA soil (seriously, why don’t we have more NA events???) with top European talent like Kolento, Ostkaka, Xixo, and EU champ Naiman looking to secure a victory. Many up-and-coming American players have yet to have a true breakout performance like Muzzy, VLPS, and fr0zen. You have other region’s best such as APAC’s two-time BlizzCon finalist Kranich and Leomane, often touted as Latin America’s strongest player. Even the Chinese are showing up as Tiddler brings his gang of elite ladder players in Payton and NA Winter finalist Skyhigh.
That is just the top international talent traveling with a touch of the NA players. I challenge you to trying picking a top 16. It’s really difficult. Most people would probably simply pick their favorite streamers or content creators (Dog, Reynad, Amaz). Or naturally gravitate to those who have previous results (Chakki, Amnesiac, Zalae). But trust me when I say this field is STACKED.
We don’t get these kind of reunions often from every corner of the world. Every region has their different metas.
Oh, by the way, it’s also the first premier event in standard which recently released and everyone has their own opinion on what is good in the meta. This could very well be one of the most exciting tournament we will have all year.
The tournament will be so much fun and I can’t wait to cast it alongside my buddies Lothar, Gnimsh, Kibler and Noxious.
This is gonna be good.