Starting this week on Dec. 8, the VARENA Artifact League (VAL) will feature a 45,000 CNY (or approx. $6,500) prize pool in what’s the first major inter-regional clash in Artifact. Run in association with China’s largest streaming platform Douyu, VAL is pitting established local pros against western opposition.
The player list is an impressive one. The Chinese side features names like Jason “JasonZhou” Zhou, a back to back Hearthstone World Championship semifinalist, and Zheng “OmegaZero” Lin, who recently became Hearthstone Global Games champion with his nation. Esports fans will also recognize the likes of Hearthstone veterans Chen “Breath” Yuxiang, and Zhang “BBC” Hongsheng, one of the faces of Chinese Dota 2 and broadcaster for ImbaTV.
The western corner is just as stacked, however. WePlay’s Artifact champion George “Hyped” Maganzini is leading the charge. With him are the likes of Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy, Jan “SuperJJ” Janssen and Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang. According to another foreigner in the mix, Korean player Sing “dpmlicious” Chi, the event is to pioneer the development of the domestic Artifact scene.
56 invited players to the Varena Artifact League will be joined by 8 from the open qualifers. Surprise non-Chinese players to spice things up it seems 😃:@Lifecoach1981, @Wifecoach1981, @coL_superjj102, @Liquid_Fr0zen, @Liquid_hsdog, and @Hyped_AF. Challenging event. 🏋️♂️ pic.twitter.com/FbHuRY8CgR
— Sing Chi (@dpmlicious) December 3, 2018
What’s curious about VAL is its format. The event will be played in Constructed, but it will differ from WePlay’s rendition. The first phase is seven rounds of Swiss and players will submit two different decks for it: one for the first three rounds and another for the next four.
Where it gets interesting is the playoffs phase. The top 8 that qualify will have to submit a total of three decks for that stage. Each series they play from there on will be in Hearthstone’s Conquest format. That means in any given series, a player has to win with two of its three decks to advance. The format is therefore more open to mind-gaming and will usher a wider selection of archetypes, compared to WePlay’s relatively shallow metagame.
VAL will be streamed exclusively on Douyu TV, with no information yet on whether there will be an English broadcast.