To many, competitive Hearthstone is flatlining. Thanks to the amount of RNG in Hearthstone, let alone the inherent amount of randomness card games have, in general, it's nearly impossible for players to stay consistent across multiple open tournaments.
Yogg-Saron, Hope's End has become the poster boy for the current situation and many viewers are demanding change faster than Blizzard can react. To be fair, the developer has had the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) schedule locked down (at least beyond the point of changes) for the entirety of 2016. After the latest World Champion is crowned at BlizzCon on November 5 the studio will have its chance to make changes, but given its track record, many aren't very hopeful for that.
Standard was supposed to be the revolution that made competitive Hearthstone great again. Instead, it's become predictable from a deckbuilding standpoint and increasingly affected by RNG. Not to mention the problems many players have with the Conquest and Best of 5 format itself.
It doesn't help that competitive teams have been shuttering left and right. Na'Vi suddenly dropped its entire squad including last year's champion Ostkaka, Team Archon has slowly bled out and face of the organization Amaz has departed for NRG, Hearthlytics released all of its players citing no long-term sustainability in the scene, and just yesterday Team Dignitas did the same.
Archon in particular stings a little bit as they've been one of the biggest innovators in competitive Hearthstone. Back in August of 2015, they hosted the Archon Team League Championship (ATLC) which brought together six organizations and 24 players to compete for $240,000. To this day it's one of the few team based tournaments ever hosted.
Since then it's been relatively quiet. Archon says they'll be an ATLC 2 at some point, but outside of your typical open tournaments and GEICOs One Nation of Gamers (ONOG) circuit, there's not a ton out there to sustain competition.
But Cloud9's Firebat had enough recently and announced his very own BatStone tournament.
In it, fans could vote on five cards they would like banned from the competition. They were of course predictable, voting on what they thought was the most overpowered and not what actually was. So Yogg-Saron, Hope's End, Tuskarr Totemic, Fiery War Axe, Barnes, and Call of the Wild bit the bullet.
But this wasn't really enough to shake up the meta so Firebat had another twist up his sleeve, each of the seven invited players and the one open qualifier would each get to remove one additional card. These were much more targeted and fully eliminated certain archetypes while forcing many others to adapt, truly opening up the realm of possibilities. You can see the full ban list here, we won't go over each of them in depth, but this is where the hype really started to get going.
The best part? There was zero prize pool going into the competition but the amount of support was higher than we've seen all year long in competitive Hearthstone.
Reddit thread after Reddit thread celebrated each series, commenting on how the changes really made those that adapted well shine and even resulted in some very unexpected decklists.
In total 246,000 hours were watched over the course of the nine-hour long stream. On average nearly 27,000 viewers were tuning in, a number rarely seen outside of Hearthstone's most popular streamers let alone during the HCT streams. With a peak of 46,000 right before the stream, unfortunately, crashed during the final match of the final series, BatStone was a resounding success and there weren't even stakes, it was just something different.
Maybe that's what competitive Hearthstone needs, more tournaments with fun and interesting rules. We don't need to force players into silly or weak decks, but it's clear that the Blizzard sanctioned scene isn't changing enough and fans want change. Perhaps Blizzard could bring more variety to its seasonal qualifiers, it's conceivable that the development team opts to rotate the Standard sets as the content releases rather than one big swing at the beginning of each year.
All we know is that the esports scene isn't rewarded enough right now so it comes as no surprise that any large scale organizations are struggling to stick around. And that's unfortunate because it's often those that can pony up the money, sponsors, and organization to run these other large tournaments that are crucial to the health of Hearthstone.