5 Things we’ve learned from the Batstone tournament
If you are living under some rock and you don’t know what Batstone I’m talking about, I’ll introduce it briefly. Batstone was a tournament, which took place this Wednesday and was organized by 2014 World Champion, Firebat. A pretty chill guy, great player and caster at the same time, playing a lot of innovative decks on his stream, just like most of us being sick of the stale meta and RNG we have over and over again.
And so, he decided to act on it. We’ve seen some unique tournaments in the past – Arena tournaments, Challengestone, but they were all, let’s just say more “fun” than really “competitive”. This one, however, is both. Batstone had a ban list – community voted for the 5 cards to ban, then each player got an additional ban, for 13 cards banned in total. It might not seem much, but if you take the 13 commonly played cards away, it results in a meta that’s very different than the one you see in other tournaments.
And so, Batstone turned out to be one of the most fun tournaments in a long while. You didn’t see cards that people don’t like. Pros could strategically ban against the decks they don’t want to play or against other players (if someone is known to play X, ban a card that’s great in that). We’ve seen a lot of decks that aren’t necessarily top tier ones. For example, Dragon Warlock turned out to be very popular and for a good reason.
If you want to see full list of bans, check it out here. I’m not going to discuss bans and their impact on Batstone meta, I’ll focus on other aspects. Most notably – why Batstone was so popular and why we should have more tournaments like that.
1. Ban list is important
I’m not even talking those bans we’ve seen here specifically. I think that some of them weren’t great, some were unnecessary, but that’s not the point. Some cards just clearly don’t belong into the tournament meta. Tournaments should be a show of skill, of how well you can pilot the deck. Not of how lucky you can get. While of course – to get into such tournament in the first place, you need to be a great player. But even players agree that they hate to see games decided by certain cards, not by how they’ve played the match.
This is why ban list in tournaments is a good thing. Yogg-Saron is a fun card and it should stay a fun card, not a competitive one. Something with so huge range of outcomes is not healthy for the competitive play. So why not just ban it from tournaments and let people enjoy it on the ladder? It’s not hard at all. And it’s not only about Yogg-Saron. Blizzard is known for not reacting or reacting very slowly to broken and unhealthy cards being released. They prefer to take a slow approach and see how things shape for a few months. Sure, it might be a solid approach – some cards turn out to not be that broken after all (e.g. Flamewreathed Faceless that the whole community complained about is now cut from most of the Shaman lists) and people just demonize them. But you know what’s great about ban lists? They’re not permanent. You can ban a card and if it somehow turns out that it was a mistake, you can just lift the ban. Just like that. It’s not like nerfing the card or removing it from the game altogether.
I expect to see more ban lists in tournaments in the future. It’s like a band-aid, not the best solution for the problem, but a way to make both participants and viewers more happy. And I really hope that Blizzard will learn and add some kind of ban list to their official tournaments.
2. People don’t like tournaments decided by RNG
We all know that Hearthstone is a very RNG-based game. While every card game is, Hearthstone gets an additional twist with A LOT of cards having random effects. Some RNG are healthy and fun – you can set up for the best outcome, there is no huge scale of outcomes (e.g. “this card can win or lose me the game on the spot”) etc. For example, while being the RNG mechanic, Discover is amazing. It requires strategic thinking, planning ahead or adapting to the given situation. Sure, you sometimes get the perfect answer, but getting “screwed” by Discover doesn’t feel bad and at the same time if you get a great discover, you feel much more like you’ve earned it. Stampeding Kodo is another RNG card that is okay, because you can actually influence the outcome pretty often. Set up the board in a way that you get the highest probability of a good outcome, combo him with other effects like Aldor Peacekeeper and honestly, even a bad outcome will rarely lose you the game.
On the other hand, judging by the bans, people are sick of competitive games being decided solely based on RNG. You can see that with the bans. Three out of five cards banned by community are unhealthy RNG. There is no skill, no decisions involved – you play it and you can just get rewarded for no reason. Tuskarr Totemic rolling a Totem Golem, Barnes rolling a Tirion Fordring, Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End[/card… just being himself. That’s NOT what people want to see. Watching a high level tournament, we want to tune to great plays, outsmarting the enemy, ultimate showcase of player’s skill. Not someone playing Yogg-Saron, getting insane outcome and winning the game that he was losing all the time, which was happening way too often in recent tournaments.
3. Diversity brings viewers
We watch tournaments to have fun. Is it fun to see the same decks being played over and over again? Tournament meta gets stale very quickly. After all, it tends to be more safe and more thought-through with how much there is on a line. Every now and then, some player brings a new deck, fun deck, interesting deck, but that’s still not enough, because we see the same lists in every line up.
Now, one of the main reasons why Batstone was so popular – and what other tournaments organizers should learn from – is because we didn’t know what to expect. We’ve seen classes and archetypes we normally don’t. We ended up wondering “what’s still in the deck”, “what kind of Warlock could he be playing” etc. Deck building played a big part and that’s also a huge part of the skill.
Most of the Hearthstone tournaments are very similar to each other. They can have slightly different formats, they may or may not have an open bracket etc. – but those are the things that participants care about, not viewers. Viewers come to watch solid, fun games. Not to get bored by the same stuff over and over again.
Ban list is just one of the ways to make tournaments feel more unique and fun. We can have a Sealed format tournament – if I remember correctly, we had one like 9 months ago? It was really fun and quite popular. We had ChallengeStone, a tournament series with very unique deck building rules. We had “Legend race” tournaments with some of the most known Hearthstone players on new accounts, having a marathon ending with Legend rank. We had one Team League, which didn’t introduce new unique rules, but the format was really well received, as it was something different than the standard tournament stuff. Or even non strictly tournament, but other content and events like the Jeoparino organized by Amaz. Where are they? I’m serious. Where are they? Lately not only we aren’t getting that many tournaments, but the ones we get are… normal. And if all we have is normal tournament after normal tournament, it becomes really boring.
4. A lot of viewers like chill atmosphere/casting
This tournament felt like a bunch of friends playing between each other with two more of them commenting. While keeping a dose of professionalism, it was much more laid-back than let’s say the official Hearthstone Championship Tour. And no, I’m not saying that HCT is bad. I think that both kinds of tournaments are necessary, because they cater for different kind of viewers. If you’re watching tournament strictly for the game play and in-depth, informative commentary – HCT will probably be good for you. But I know a lot of players who like the whole “chill” atmosphere around the tournament and the less strict form of casting. With more jokes, laughing, off-topic etc. While still obviously covering the game.
I think that Firebat and Zalae did a great job casting the Batstone. As the competitive players themselves, they were really informative and explained different lines of play. But at the same time, they’ve sprinkled their commentary a bit with jokes, laughing, memes and everything that casual players like about Hearthstone.
When it comes to the most chill tournament ever, SeatStory cup will probably take number one spot. That’s because besides the high quality gameplay, we also got a lot of humor and Hearthstone personalities talking in a casual manner. While Batstone wasn’t anywhere near that level, it was still less “serious” than a lot of big tournaments. That’s what I’ve liked about it – it was just the right mix of both worlds. So a note to tournament organizers – you don’t have to make everything 100% serious. I think that more laid-back atmosphere fits this game much more and attracts tons of viewers, who also don’t take the game that seriously.
5. Hype is very important
Okay, so, that’s a very important thing and something I can’t get my ahead around. Tournament organizers around the world – HYPE YOUR TOURNAMENTS. Advertise them. Put a thread on the Reddit. Maybe ask some HS site to advertise them (I bet you would find a way). Ask pro players who are participating to tweet about it and talk about it on the stream.
Batstone wasn’t even a big tournament. It was a single elimination, one day tournament with just 8 players. And it got so much attention. It peaked at over 40k viewers, more than most of the big Hearthstone tournaments, even the official Hearthstone Championship Tour… The main reason was the whole HYPE around it. Everyone knew that it was coming. Everyone talked about it.
You see, I like watching tournaments. And my job kinda requires me to watch some Hearthstone too. So I’m following them pretty closely – what’s new, when it is etc. But there are just no info about some tournaments. And if I, who care about tournaments and proactively look for new ones I can watch, can’t find a lot of info about some of them, then don’t expect the average viewer to find it. And how does it end up? Big tournaments with popular players invited end up having sub 10k views. Heck, sometimes even less. I don’t remember the name right now, but there was one tournament I really couldn’t find ANY info about, yet some of the most recognizable names were playing in there. It had 3-4k views on Twitch on average. That’s really nothing.
The more people watch tournaments and the more hype is around them, the better it is for the whole tournament scene. Hyping up a tournament is a great way to attract viewers. Maybe even organize a contest or raffle or something so people would have more incentive to tune in (as in “came for the raffle, stayed for a good content”).
Batstone was definitely one of the most fun Hearthstone tournaments in a while. We used to have a lot of unique, non-meta tournaments, but they’re gone for some reason. I don’t see why, because as this one shows, if marketed properly they would definitely attract a lot of viewers and bring a lot of attention. It even got me thinking about organizing something, but sadly I might not have enough resources to do so.
If you’ve missed the tournament and you care about more unique stuff and less meta stuff, I think you should definitely check it out. Here is the link to the VoD. And if you have seen it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. I’d really like to read what are your opinions about it. Did you enjoy it? Would you like to see more tournaments like that in the future? And if you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!