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Many capable card-slingers set out with the goal of making it to the Hearthstone World Championship at BlizzCon. 16 skilled players emerged victorious from those tournaments and traveled to California to duel on the grandest stage in competitive Hearthstone. The king of cards talks about his win, new GvG cards and his plans for a competition house in Texas.
The reaction to Hearthstone before and after Blizzcon has been one of the biggest swings in eSports this year. Then I ended up playing it a ton at work all day and got really good at it and then started trying to play competitive. I try to interact with chat as much as possible, read pretty much every Hearthstone related question and answer all the questions I can. I am one of the only people playing competitive Rogue in Goblins vs Gnomes right now, and I was able to win a showmatch in a tournament on the back of Rogue. There were just already-popular players and the way the tournament scene worked was most of the qualifiers were best of three with no ban, and it's a format that's considered really luck-based.
I’ve moved in with my team-mate Hosty, from Detroit to just outside Toronto, so living conditions have changed.
So, it's been a crazy change of way more activity in gaming, getting involved in the scene and learning more about the other side of gaming. So, we’re renting a house in Texas and setting up a team house to run tournaments out of.
So, we're getting a 4,000 sq ft house so we have enough rooms for all the tournaments to be played and for all the prod crew to sleep in, and the players to sleep in where we fly a bunch of players in from other teams. Some people compare Hearthstone to poker, given the luck and skill combination of gameplay. I think skill is much higher than luck, I think the luck factors in, not with the cards – all the cards with random elements are where you can set up a board state where the randomness is more likely to benefit you. So in the long run, after doing a whole bunch of tournaments, you can see there's evidence that it's definitely skill.
Not at Blizzcon, but if you saw DreamHack, Lifecoach there, he's a pro poker player and he's giving opponents the death stare the whole time!
For example, if you're playing against a Warlock, they don't want to mulligan first [trade out a card] because that gives away information about what kind of Warlock they are. But if they're waiting until the rope, you can also see when they mouse over the cards they're going to mulligan, if you mouse over a card you're usually x'ing it out, and if they mouse over again they're un-x'ing it and just watch that and try to figure out what they're thinking. It's huge right now in the casual scene, it's ridiculous how many people are in the casual scene but the problem is the casual to the competitive scene, there's only one per cent crossover. Especially since all of the first tournaments, the budget was based on 'we hope Hearthstone is really big' and now that it's proved itself, with re-budgets for all these companies to launch their tournaments set up at the beginning of the year, that's being set up in january to decide how much prize money, and how much money they're going to put into Hearthstone. The problem right now is there is no standard form for tournaments and all of the open brackets were in a format that's heavily RNG-based because they didn't incorporate bans into it. No-one’s figured any way to facilitate that besides having someone go around asking what each player's going to play and then telling each other the bans, having a middle man.
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If you can drop an Emperor Thaurissan and you managed to have at least a Mind Blast and Prophet Velen in hand, then you have a good chance of winning.

After months of dueling, qualifiers across the Americas, Europe, China, Korea and Taiwan gathered to test their card-slinging mettle.
After four action-packed days of Hearthstone, Firebat has won the Hearthstone World Championship! I need to always be doing something and I did shipping routes at work, so I was always just telling trucks where to go basically. I just recently quit last week to try and stream full-time, so I’m doing that eight hours a day, with 250 subscribers and 10,000 viewers when I stream. If you subscribe to my channel, you can send any of the decklists you have and I write a full report about the decklists and how I think the cards work together and what you can do to try and improve the decklists to push for higher ranks on ladder.
I like how they didn't make the cards as powerful as they made the Naxxramus cards, because a lot of them just became staples in every deck.
I have three different Rogue lists that work in competitive play whereas most people haven’t figured out how to play competitive Rogue yet.
And I use Sprint with Prep as a card draw engine and Prep as a combo with Sharpsword Oil for damage. So, it's really hard for people to qualify for things and consistently make appearances in events, so a lot of people were complaining that the system was fairly flawed for most of the events. A lot of the open tournaments are now starting to switch to best of five and it's really good that they made a huge tournament and set the standard because there needed to be a standard, there was just too much randomness for too long. I quit my day job, so now I just think about Hearthstone all the time, play it eight hours a day, have a stream in the morning then a break in the middle where I work out and do laundry and then come back and stream again. We'll host fireside gatherings, that Blizzard host in a few cities already, where anybody can drop by and play a local Hearthstone tournament. But given the random mechanics at play in the majority of the GvG cards, how do you feel Hearthstone’s luck-to-skill ratio stands?
You can't get lucky all the time and you have to try and just control the random elements to benefit you.
It's creepy how he just doesn't move his face at all, he's a pro poker player so he's definitely trying to make reads. If they mulligan their entire hand, they're likely searching for Twilight Drakes and Mountain Giants, which signals that they're a Handlock.
A lot of people mouse over cards in play when they think they're going to use them, so you can then determine the mana cost of the card and try and figure out what every card in their hand is.
Which is still large enough to be a scene, but just because the game is so easy to watch, streams are so easy to follow, people enjoy watching it and since the viewership numbers keep going up, I don't see any reason why it would get any smaller. Now it's not a gamble anymore, now they’ve seen Hearthstone is already a success so let's put more money into this. And they couldn't do that because they don't have a system in place to moderate them because, obviously if there's a system, and you see one player bans one class, you can use that knowledge to react to how you're going to ban, so that player's at a strict disadvantage. And there should definitely be some system somehow either a web-based system on the tournament site or a system on Blizzard’s end for some sort of tournament format, and it would help the game be so much more easily accessible for casual players to start trying competitive formats and competing.
Maybe one day, there is a card that destroys all opponents armor with one blow… until then, this and freeze mage stage no chance against control warrior. So I could just alt-tab and take my turn at Hearthstone and it was really convenient for that. I’m just trying to build a community and a following so I can make a living that way.

I try to be as helpful and informative as possible, a lot of other streams go for the entertainment value, like reynad's stream is super entertaining and they do all the funny gags and stuff and Amaz's stream, he's got his personality which is super entertaining. Whereas a lot of the GvG cards are more support oriented, so we still haven’t figured out how they all work and all the synergies with them that work the best for different archetypes. So then, early game you hold tempo with your opponent and then after you are ahead you can either drop a bomb to try and finish the game or be able to sprint to draw ahead on cards. Because we aren't popular and we weren't actually able to get in, at the time, to any of the other tournaments to compete against players like Kolento.
And BlizzCon was one of the first ones that had an actual qualifying process that was considered fair by the community.
And then I have tons of tournaments now, before I wasn't in any at all and now I'm in almost every premiere tournament. There's more of this stuff we're doing right now, loads of interviews, team stuff you have to know how to do. We'll host house cups, which have been done in the past before too, where all the players come and live in the house and we'll do the tournament from there with all the production living in-house too. Every tournament we go to right now is hosted by the same people, so we're familiar with them and we hang out with them and we have connections with people so it should all be good. I got third recently in a tournament, but my win rate is still like 74% and some other player who’s played in as many tournaments as me, but got 2nd in that, his win rate is about 60%. I've never played poker at a high level so I don't try any facial expression reads, but I make reads based on how they mouse over their cards and stuff like that. So if they just keep two of their cards, it means they're not searching for those cards so they're probably not a Handlock, so you can determine if they're Zoo or not.
So if Blizzard strives to make a proper competition format and system within the game, it would help it translate so much from casual to competitive scenes. We talk with the world champ to find out how it is at the top, how competitive Hearthstone can be improved and what’s next for Team Archon. And I'm pretty monotone and bland, but everyone says that I'm the most informative streamer out there so that's what I try and bring to the table.
But them just being not as impactful is a lot more friendly to newer players and makes the transition of getting all the cards a lot smoother.
Then, by doing so, dropping a bomb or drawing is obviously going to lead to a loss in tempo and then you can recover it with the flurry you get by having extra cards because you're always going to draw a flurry if you use Sprint. So, we got to see a lot of new players that just showed up randomly that made really solid performances as BlizzCon. I'm part of Team Archon, and we don't have any management experience or anything like that so there's all of this coming up and we're having to figure it all out on the go. You need to be able to control the match-ups you're going into, because if it's just blind pick one of your decks and go, they could have a counter deck to it and you lose, again and again.
We're basically running our own organisation, and setting up a website and getting a team house in Texas and it's just been busy, busy, busy in an entirely different life with an entirely different job.

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