See what Ben Brode had to say about a potential tournament mode coming to Hearthstone.

There's been some talk in the Hearthstone scene about an official tournament mode within the game client itself alongside other requests for improvements to the game's ranked system. Game Director Ben Brode recently wrote a lengthy post to share his thoughts on both topics.

We've summarized his points below, but it's certainly worth giving the entire thing a read.

  • Brode thinks there are four major weaknesses to the current ranked system.

    • Too much grind.

    • Low-end players don't experience much progression.

    • New players getting crushed.

    • Doing the same thing every month leads to a grindy feeling.

  • What do players want out of tournaments?

    • Brode likes being face to face with people in a physical location.

    • The ability to compete for glory against other players from home.

  • The team has considered some problems with the two obvious solutions

    • Put everyone into a bracket and let them compete, but this leads to long wait times between rounds.

    • A competitive asynchronous event like Heroic Tavern Brawl, but it's not scratching that itch clearly.

  • The first option is only okay for in-person events and the second isn't being fulfilled currently.


I want to expand a bit on the first answer (I love twitter, but sometimes 140 just don't cut it). 

I think there are 4 major weaknesses to our current ranked system: 

  1. Top end players have to grind too much to get fun matches each month.
  2. Low end players have very little progression: just a few wins and then they get "stuck" at rank 20-17. This is the vast majority of active players.
  3. New players who enter ranked get crushed hard (after a pretty good experience in Casual). 
  4. Doing the same thing over and over again each month feels like a 'grind'.


I think we can do all that (hopefully - this stuff is difficult to predict without live testing). The hardest to hit is number 4, since progression is fun, but the more you have, the more 'grindy' it feels. I actually think that things like a potential Tournament mode could help with that even more than any specific change to ranked. 

So, Tournament: I think there are a couple specific 'fantasies' related to playing in a Hearthstone tournament. Put another way: What is fun about tournaments? I think different players have different things that draw them. For me, for example, one of the things I enjoy is going to a venue, meeting my IRL opponent, and sharing a tense battle with him or her. Then I like to go over and check on my buds, to see how we're doing as a group against the crowd. We have a lot of people attending Fireside Gatherings each month (and running tournaments), it'd be nice if we could make that process better in the client. 

There's also a strong desire to have the ability to compete for glory against other players from the comfort of your home. Hearthstone is by its nature a competitive 1v1 experience, so Tournaments would need to offer something above and beyond what we're already doing. If you want a "packaged" experience, where at the end you are crowned a winner, Heroic Brawl and Arena actually get part of the way there, although they don't feel like they fit the whole fantasy that people are missing. 

There's, I think, two 'obvious' tournament mode implementations that we had considered recently. 

  1. Pump a bunch of players into a bracket. Wait for all players to finish, then start the next round. Repeat until there is a winner. Upside: Clear tournament fantasy. Downside: Long waits between rounds. Need to clear a day to play, but you might be out in the first round (really variable time commitment) 
  2. If you're familiar with the development of Arena (and if you're not, here's a very old video going through it ), it's basically a story of us trying to solve the problem from the first approach in an 8-player bracket. The result is a competitive, asynchronous event. Heroic Brawl is essentially the version of tournaments that can be done asynchronously online. 


Now, I think 1 is only really ok for in-person events, and we already have 2 and for some reason it doesn't feel like it's scratching that "tournament" itch. So we've been exploring some crazier ideas. :) 

We've been reading threads about 'tournament mode' here and other places (and in different languages) that range back years, scouring comments and trying to get a full picture of what we think the community (which isn't a single entity, but lots of individuals with different perspectives) will enjoy. I always enjoy reading and discussing what people want from tournaments in Hearthstone, so please keep it up! 

An aside: When I make comments like this, detailing our philosophy and confirming what is or is not in our plans, I often read responses like "pr talk" or "says nothing". We do have the option of only doing communication in the form of announcements, but we'd be communicating a lot less, and not here on reddit. I love talking with the community. I think it's healthy to vet our ideas and get feedback on them before we commit to any specific implementation. But I think the expectation needs to be that it's a conversation, and we're explaining where we're at and our thoughts, not announcing specific changes. Looking forward to reading your thoughts!