Blizzard to commit $3.2 million in player compensation for HotS Pro League

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Every Heroes of the Storm Pro League team competing in the Heroes Global Championship for both phases of the 2017 season, which runs from January to November, will earn a minimum of $100,000, Blizzard revealed Wednesday. In total, Blizzard has committed $3.2 million to funding competitive HotS teams in 2017, not including event prize pools.

The announcement was made as part of BlizzCon's Opening Week coverage, which will handle the initial matches of the 2016 Fall Global Championship. The news was then further confirmed by Blizzard esports franchise lead Sam "Milkfat" Braithwaite on Twitter.

The amount applies for any team that manages to play both phases of the 2017 HGC in their region's Pro League, regardless of standing or ranking. Blizzard will support Pro Leagues for North America, Europe, China and South Korea in 2017.

However, it is possible for teams to be relegated halfway through the year, as the 7th and 8th place teams from the first phase in each region must face up-and-coming challengers from the Open Division in a tournament called the Crucible.

RELATED: Heroes Global Championship to feature leagues with relegation, more international events in 2017

While Blizzard previously revealed a guaranteed minimum income for Pro League teams, it did not disclose a specific amount until this announcement. Some other esports with league structures, like Riot Games' League of Legends, offer a minimum guaranteed income. LoL paid $12,500 per player, per split in 2016, while the HotS amount, when split five ways, would come out to $20,000 per player for all of 2017.

The amount is in addition to possible prizing from tournaments like the two $100,000 regional Clashes, the $250,000 Mid-Season Brawl and the HGC Finals in November.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

Lucio enters the Nexus and Murky receives rework in PTR Patch Notes
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The newest edition to the Heroes of the Storm cast, Overwatch Support Lucio, speed boosted his way into the PTR on Monday.

Blizzard also amped up Valeera, giving her a minor health boost and "a small increase in power to help her overall win rate."

Alongside the addition of the futuristic DJ and Valeera's buffs, Murky's new and improved talents have also been revealed.

He has retained his core abilities, but talents have been overhauled at every tier. An increased health pool makes him less susceptible to burst, while an increased cooldown on respawning from his egg makes it all the more important to place his home strategically.

The PTR patch changes will be available for play testing until Feb. 13 so break them down while you can.

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Heroes of the Dorm returns for 2017, will be streamed exclusively on Facebook Live

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The collegiate-level Heroes of the Dorm tournament will return for a 2017 season, and will be broadcast on Facebook Live.

Like the event's two previous iterations, collegiate teams will compete for the grand prize of paid college tuition. The Blizzard release noted that a total over over $500,000 in prizing and scholarships will be awarded in 2017.

In previous years, the event has broadcast the Heroic Four and grand finals on ESPN2. A spokesperson for Blizzard Entertainment has confirmed to theScore esports that the streaming partnership is exclusive to Facebook Live for 2017.

In addition to the returning Bracket Challenge, 2017's competition features another way for fans to become more invested in the results: a new Pick 'em Challenge. The new contest allows fans to pick a specific team on which to pin their hopes for the whole competition.

Last year, Arizona State University was able to claim the grand prize. The team featured several players with competitive experience including Michael "MichaelUdall" Udall, Stefen "akaface" Anderson and Austin "Shot" Lonsert. For the event's 2017 iteration, players must choose to compete in either Dorm or the newly-established Heroes Global Championship Pro League.

RELATED: Hero, Reloaded: The fall and return of Shot

Signups for the tournament are already open on the event's website. The group stages are set to begin in mid-February, while the round of 64 will begin on Mar. 18 and the Heroic Four and National Championship will be held on Apr. 8.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

Heroes of the Storm Patch 23.0 introduces Valeera, reworks Tassadar and Rexxar
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Happy Lunar Festival! In Patch 23.0, the reworks for both Tassadar and Rexxar are live and with them comes the introduction of the Warcraft Assassin Valeera Sanguinar, the shadowy rogue from the order of the Uncrowned.

Utilizing stealth mechanics and combo points, Valeera strikes at her foes from the shadows and disappears in a cloud of smoke. Her kit is heavily based on the Rogue class from World of Warcraft, with nods to her Hearthstone presence in her talents and voice lines.

Tassadar received major changes to turn him into a Support mage reliant on utility, with the developers feeling he was having "a bit of an identity crisis from the moment he stepped foot into the Nexus." Additionally, Rexxar had talents added and modified to make Rexxar and Misha feel a bit more like the beastly duo the developers envisioned.

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HotS esports lead talks about lessons learned in 2016 and the scene's growth

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Heroes of the Storm's competitive scene has undergone a slew of changes over the last several months, as the Heroes Global Championship new format ushered in a new era for Blizzard's MOBA. Speaking with GamesBeat's Mike "Tolkoto" Minotti, HotS esports lead Sam Braithwaite spoke about the lessons that the esports team learned in 2016 and said that consistency will be a pillar of the competitive scene moving forward.

"Over the course of 2016, we learned quite a few lessons," said Braithwaite. "One big thing that Heroes struggled with was consistency. You could never find Heroes in the same stream or on one website that gives you all the information for what’s happening across the globe. It was very difficult to follow. We decided to step back and readdress what our scene looks like and what we want to accomplish."

One major change made was the implementation of player salaries. According to Braithwaite, teams involved in the HGC are guaranteed to earn at least $100,000 in compensation if they are able to avoid being relegated.

"We felt like, in order for Heroes to grow, we needed to let our players have the peace of mind," he said. "This is a career, a long-term investment. You don't need another job. You can play Heroes full time. We want that for all of our players."

While HotS has seen its share of screen time with ESPN broadcasting Heroes of the Dorm, Braithwaite does not believe the HGC is ready for television audiences.

"We're doing Heroes of the Dorm again this year. We're really excited about it. But for Heroes and HGC, we're not really looking for TV right now," he stated. "We do have our broadcast partners that we'll be pushing toward this year, Facebook and Twitch. I don't see us being on TV for HGC this year, though."

The MOBA industry is saturated with competitive games trying to make it big. Despite the difficult road ahead, Braithwaite believes that by focusing on the community, HotS will find success.

"HGC is built as a foundation to provide stability for the Heroes esports community," said Braithwaite. "Stability and consistency is our main goal for the program, but also, we're going to be trying to dive in this year into creating and building superstars and personalities within the Heroes scene."

HotS suffers from the unique issue of allowing Assassin players to shine while Warrior and Support roles are left behind. Braithwaite hopes that by providing player backgrounds and in-game statistics, the spotlight will be turned toward lesser-known players.

"I'll admit that with Heroes, it's more difficult compared to other MOBAs to really have those standout performances. It's going to be up to us as Blizzard and the HGC and our players to bring these superstars in front of the fans."

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

Heroes of the Storm PTR Patch reworks Rexxar and Tassadar, adds Valeera
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The Heroes of the Storm PTR patch is now live, and it not only gives players a glimpse of the elusive rogue Valeera Sanguinar, but also shows off reworks to both Tassadar and Rexxar.

Valeera will use a combo point mechanic that sees some abilities build points, which are spent by Eviscerate. She also has different abilities when stealthed by her Vanish trait.

For both Tassadar and Rexxar, several talents that were previously available have been made baseline or improved, with many other changes on the way.

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