Dima "RDU" Radu has been outspoken about the issues with Hearthstone's esports scene. A few months ago he made a statement through Hearthhead talking about the problems with the official format of the Hearthstone Championship Tour, Conquest. Now he's written a letter on the Hearthstone subreddit talking about The Last Call tournament which rewards the fourth and final spot at the BlizzCon finals for each region.
Hello, my name is Dima Radu, known as Rdu in the Hearthstone community. I wanted to make a post to talk about all the problems I see with the current way the Last Call tournament for Blizzcon is structured. In the following words, I want to make my point of view clear, and offer thoughts on potential solutions.

First, I appreciate some of the efforts that Blizzard is making to improve the Hearthstone Championship Tour each year, and I firmly believe we’ll see continuous improvement. As you might know, to make it to Blizzcon (the most important Hearthstone tournament of the year with a $1 million prize pool), you have to win either a regional, seasonal championship (ex: Winter/Spring/Summer Championship) or be top 8 in HCT points by the cutoff date, compete against the seven other players in your region who achieved the same, and win that tournament (this excludes players already qualified for Blizzcon).

For the seasonal championships, you qualify for them by getting top 8 in the preliminaries from your region out of a pool of 128+ players. The 8-player Last Call regional tournaments that seed directly into Blizzcon technically include the eight best performers (the highest amount of HCT points accumulated). Thus, making it one of the most important tournaments of the year. Here are the current standings.

To get top 8 in points, you have to play an insane amount of ladder, open cups, and open majors like Dreamhack or Insomnia, and also perform well in those. While you needed at least 6 points to play in the Winter Preliminary, 13 to play in Spring, and 15 in Summer, this year, Last Call requires at least a total of 93 points to play! Compared with a preliminary, which has $100k prize pool for the eight participants, the Last Call qualifier has NO prize pool at all. Of course, winning the Last Call gives you a spot into the $1 million tournament at Blizzcon, but so do the seasonal championships, which are arguably easier to qualify for than the Last Call qualifier.

In my opinion, a perfect format would not only reward the eight players playing in the Last Call, but also award prizes to the players that finished 9-16th in points (perhaps even as far as 32nd). Not everybody that grinds for Last Call will make it, but would still be rewarded for their effort.

Compared to a championship where players are flown out to LA, Last Call is played from two Tavern Hero locations, just like the preliminaries. While I don't think it's a good idea for people from EU to be flown out to LA to play in what basically is an EU tournament, I still think it's super important for all the players+casters to be in the same venue. As it currently stands, the eight players will be distributed in two separate venues while the casters are at the studios in LA.

The current way it's done is going to give these tournaments a cheap look – it’s not going to showcase the players very well. A solution could be renting one venue in a good location in Europe, flying the players and the casters+production there so that fans are able to come by to watch, similar to what they did last year in Prague.

Granted, compared to the 2-day preliminaries, this tournament is only held in one day. That makes finding an ideal broadcast format difficult. Since only the winner goes to Blizzcon, it’s hard to think of a good broadcast format that could be played in one day to determine who, out of those eight players, should advance. This can be something they change for next year if they come up with a practical idea. Still, the current way it's being done gives the impression of a rushed tournament, and reflects poorly, considering the number of hours those players put in to get there.

And not that it’s the biggest deal, but none of the players competing in Last Call are getting the Golden card back. Instead, they’re given the Power Core card back, which is awarded at every major and preliminary. I imagine any player able to obtain as many points as it takes to get to top 8 already has that card back! It might not seem like much, but getting a card back that less than 100 people have worldwide is an exclusive and rewarding feeling for the players that invested as much time as they have, and still come up short of Blizzcon.

To conclude, with the current Last Call structure, the only outcome will be one super happy player that goes to Blizzcon and seven players that will feel like they wasted their time.

This makes me wonder, is trying for Blizzcon even worth it?
Note: Blizzard has since clarified that competitors will indeed get the Golden Celebration card back.

It's easy to see his perspective. The odds of making a seasonal tournament is so much higher than Last Call and not only does it take less time to make it to one of those, they also reward prize money. Compared to an event which requires nearly an entire year of dedication, you'd think there was equal if not more compensation and a bigger celebration for those who've made it to this point the hard way.

The good news is that the HCT format is constantly changing. This year brought with it a much more structured format and while there are still some major flaws with competitive Hearthstone, at the very least Blizzard seems to be actively working on improving their organization. So even if Yogg-Saron, Hope's End sticks around for another year and a half, at least we'll have other improvements to celebrate.

We recently talked with Luminosity Gaming's Fr0zen after his victory at the GEICO 2016 ONOG PAX Finals. He mentions disconnects in competitive Hearthstone and the strength of the ONOG circuit.