The dust is starting to settle after the intensive Grandmasters weekend, during which 24 players booked their place in the Season 2 Playoffs. But there wasn't a happy ending for everyone as 6 unfortunate competitors were left on the bottom of their respective groups, getting them relegated from the Grandmaster system. In this post, we'll recap the relegation battles and take a look at what's ahead.
How Things Unfolded
The relegation fight of Asia-Pacific was over before it even started as BloodTrail was too far behind in match wins before this week's matches and blitzchung winning his first match meant Pathra wasn't able to catch up either. Both players ended up getting relegated by a clear margin to the 7th place (4 and 3 match wins, respectively).
Americas' fight was more wide open, with both ETC and StrifeCro in Group A and Zalae and Rase in Group B separated only by one match win. Group A's conclusion was slightly anticlimactic as both players ended up losing all their matches, which meant StrifeCro was the one facing the cut. Group B was the polar opposite, with Rase getting his much-needed win before going head-to-head with Zalae for the place in Grandmasters. Zalae ended up retaining his place with 2-1 win over the Brazilian.
Europe's players kept things exciting until the very end. With Viper finding the two wins he sorely needed, Group A ended in an astonishing four-way tie between him, Orange, Rdu, and Swidz. As Orange had the worst second tiebreaker, he ended up facing the drop. In the other group, Feno was also able to get a much-needed double win, getting agonizingly close of retaining his place, but as Seiko won one of his matches, Feno got relegated with worse second tiebreaker just like his T1 teammate Orange in Group A.
The relegated players.
The players who faced the drop will have to try and fight their way back into Grandmasters as everyone else: through high placement in Masters Tour events. The top 2 prize money earners of each region will be eligible for an invite to Grandmasters (given that they fulfill the demands of other Blizzard Rules). And as it happens, we're only two weeks away from the next event in Bucharest, so some of the relegated players may make a swift return.
Given the current prize money situation, taking home the title at the last Masters event this year would all but guarantee a spot in the next Season of Grandmasters. In APAC, reaching second place would also be enough, and in the Americas, even top 4 could take you to the highest tier of competitive Hearthstone. The relative ease of some regions is partially because the winner of the first Masters Tour event, Dog, was already a Grandmaster before stepping down after Season 1. He was replaced with the runner-up of the event, Gallon, thus leaving a void in this overall prize money leaderboard.
Not that anyone recently relegated would be complaining.
Is the System Fair?
Beware, some highly opinionated paragraphs ahead!
Some players must feel hard done by as the standings from Season 1 had no impact on the relegation fight this time. The biggest victim of this system was Feno, who not only won his group on Season 1 but also took home the EU title, only to get relegated the very next season. Nevertheless, he'll still be at the Top 8 Finals tournament at BlizzCon, and therefore there's a solid possibility that the "World Champion" of the Grandmasters system won't even be a Grandmaster. Whether Blizzard will include the prize money gained from that tournament to their calculations about the next European Grandmasters invitees is uncertain but unlikely.
The second thing I'd like to raise up is the relative "ease" you could get the Grandmasters spot in the current system. Even though you can’t really win a tournament with the caliber of Masters Tour by accident, the skill difference of top players isn’t big enough to overcome the RNG aspect of the game. Therefore one could argue that the current system supports high-rolling over consistency as winning one event gives you more money than, let's say, getting 3rd three times. In addition, if the Americas prize money situation would stay the same, it would mean that players who didn't even make it to top 8 on any of the Masters Tour events would get the Grandmasters spots. I'd imagine some players who put in a lot of effort and got good results last year but were overlooked in the initial Grandmaster choices to be less than happy about that.
Ending with a happier note, don't forget to follow Season 2 Playoffs later this week as the 24 more fortunate players will battle it out for the three remaining spots at BlizzCon Finals!