Esports.gg talked to Abar about the big overhaul Hearthstone Esports are getting in 2022. Check his thoughts about the 2022 competitive scene in this exclusive interview.

Just days before the World Championship and the 2022 announcement, Esports.gg interviewed Abar, Hearthstone Esports Product Manager. With important changes coming to Hearthstone Esports in 2022, we ask Abar about the reasons behind them.

 Alex “Abar” Barhorst Product Lead for Hearthstone Esports
Alex “Abar” Barhorst Product Lead for Hearthstone Esports

Alex “Abar” Barhorst is the current Product Lead for Hearthstone Esports. Abar has over 6 years of experience with Hearthstone Esports. Starting as a professional player and then being the Broadcast Producer for Hearthstone Esports, Abar is by now part of the landmark of Hearthstone Esports.

Abar started as Product Lead for Hearthstone Esports six months ago, and he is already putting his signature in the program. In the interview we asked Abar about his return to the Hearthstone Esports team, his opinion on Grandmasters, the changes to the Tier 2 scene and Worlds, and the new Battlegrounds competitive ecosystem. Join us while we chat by the fire.

Abar’s interview with Esports.gg about Hearthstone Esports

Rane, Esports.gg Hearthstone writer: First of all, thank you for your time. Before we jump into the Hearthstone Esports announcement, I’d like to ask you, how are you doing after six months of hard work with the team?

Abar: I’m doing well. It has been a lot of work the past six months. But, frankly, this is the most exciting time of the year for those of us who work in the Hearthstone Esports team. We get to reveal everything we’ve been working on to the masses. Hopefully, those of you out there are as excited about it as we are.

Rane: The announcement starts talking about “long-term sustainability”. What does sustainability mean in Hearthstone Esports?

Abar: “We are hoping to grow participation in Hearthstone Esports, and that starts at the bottom level. With players that are just now getting engaged or might be returning. We want to design a system in a way that encourages their participation. I think that our 2022 ecosystem is gonna go a long way into accomplishing that. To me, sustainability is when the community is actively engaged and wants to keep playing.”

Abar on Hearthstone Grandmasters sunset

Rane: You are bringing huge changes for 2022, including the sunset of the Grandmasters system. With all the experience you gathered over the years, what is your evaluation of GM, and why do you feel it doesn’t align with HS Esports goals?

Abar: “We had a lot of fun over the years with Grandmasters. I personally have both from a viewer perspective and also been the broadcast producer for Grandmasters over a couple of years period. In many ways is sad to see it go, but at the same time, I’m really excited about what I think our new system has in store.

More opportunities for more players to be able to participate and feel rewarded meaningfully for their participation in Hearthstone Esports. A really big and important direction for me is that people want to play and they want to participate. I think we are going to see that increase with the changes we are making.”

The end of Hearthstone Grandmasters

The new competitive scene

Rane: MTs will grant direct access to the World Championship through the Seasonal Championships. How big of an impact do you feel this crossover with the HCT system will have on the competitive community?

Abar: “I think it will have a really very big impact. I think it is a direct reward for players who are just now getting interested in Hearthstone Esports or returning to Hearthstone Esports.
That direct path to the World Championship throughout the Seasonal Championship events is a big carrot to dangle for players. Historically they felt like they haven’t had that direct path they had been looking for. So we are excited to offer that to players. I think it will be received pretty well.”

Abar's plans for the 2022 Hearthstone World Championship
Abar’s plans for the 2022 Hearthstone World Championship

Rane: One of the first measures we saw after you arrived at HS Esports was the changes on MT Qualification. Now, once again, the system is modified. This time, Ladder and Third-Party events are favored in the invite split. How did you come to this conclusion, and what are your goals with it?

Abar: “Ladder is the most accessible path to participate in Hearthstone Esports. We have all our qualifiers on the weekend and some have folks have to work the weekends. Some folks create a lot of content during the weekends. So they want to share their experience participating in Esports, so they can share that grind by participating in ladder.

So that is the most accessible way for the large majority of players to participate in. As for third-party events, I think that is where we see the passion of local communities demonstrated. We are hoping to see that passion continue to grow and draw even larger audiences, we want to support that. We want that homegrown efforts to be rewarded and be a part of what we are doing.”

Battlegrounds Lobby Legends

Rane: There have been BG Community events in the past, but this is the first time BG is getting into Esports. How do you envision Battlegrounds in HS Esports in the near future?

Abar: “A lot of what we’ve heard from Battlegrounds players is that they want a sort of avenue or space to participate in. The same way constructed players have had that opportunity. They wanna show their passion and their dedication to the game, and they want a reason to strive to be the best.

Battlegrounds Lobby Legends is gonna offer a lot of those opportunities to players. Hopefully, it will inspire more participation and even greater displays of those passionate people.”

Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lobby Legends, Abar's competitive system for BGs
Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lobby Legends competitive system

Rane: Do you expect Lobby Legends to motivate big streamers to grind the ladder, or do you see it more as a chance for top players who haven’t yet developed their content creator career to embrace that exposure and take advantage of it?

Abar: “I hope it attracts both audiences. It will give those top streamers another reason or something to build their content around and get their fans excited about if they are interested themselves in participating in Battlegrounds Lobby Legends.

For those lesser-known players, maybe they see it as an opportunity to capitalize on this new platform to grow their own brand and try to make a name for themselves in the Battlegrounds community as well. I really hope that it inspires and increases participation across the board. I look forward to seeing who decides to take advantage of that opportunities.”

Rane: Do you see any current or former Grandmasters aiming to get into Battlegrounds Lobby Legends?

Abar: “It would be a difficult thing to accomplish. There are a few players out there I can think of that could try and accomplish great things in both ecosystems at the same time. I guess time will tell. I’d love somebody to show me that it is possible.”

Don’t miss any details and be part of the conversation

Don’t forget to check our articles on the important changes Abar and the Hearthstone team have for us for 2022. If you want more details on the end of Grandmasters, the changes for the next World Championship, or the new Battlegrounds Lobby Legends competitive scene, we got you!

If you want to read the full announcement, check the official blog post. Be a part of the conversation tweeting with the hashtag #HSE2022 to ask any questions or leave your comments on the news. Stay tuned to Esports.gg for more Hearthstone news and updates. See you next time, in the tavern.

Manuel

Manuel "Rane" Delgado

Writer of the Month: August | Twitter: @RaneTDF

Manuel “Rane” Delgado is an experienced Hearthstone caster, content creator, and tournament organizer from Argentina. He started his career on Esports casting his own tournaments, now he currently covers Hearthstone Grandmasters’ Americas region for LATAM, among other content creation. Besides esports, he works in a construction company, which made him kind of a "handyman" when fixing everyday house problems.