This past Saturday on 7/11, I had the chance to attend one of Hearthstone’s many Fireside Gatherings across the nation.
This particular one, however, was a little more special, as it was sponsored by the Amazon Appstore. I first became aware of this event about a week and a half prior when Dan “Frodan” Chou reached out to me to see if I was interested in competing as a player. I responded affirmatively and gave him my e-mail, so shortly afterwards I received an e-mail from a representative at the Amazon Appstore, and I filled out my application with the hope that I would be one of the eventual competitors. I received another e-mail a few days later confirming that a spot would be reserved for me in a tournament bracket.
For some of you who might know me already, you might know that I am primarily a Handlock player. Being able to play one deck can serve you very well on the ladder, as you know the intricacies of every matchup and are better equipped to adjust your decks at the slightest shift in the meta. However, only being able to play one deck effectively can be just as much as disservice to you in tournament play, especially in a format like Conquest, where you are required to win with all of your decks.
Because the format was best of 5 Conquest, I needed to pick three classes. Naturally, I selected my classes on the basis of which ones I was most comfortable with, and obviously Warlock was one of them. As for the other two, I did have some competitive experience at the Legend ranks with classes like Rogue and Warrior, but because I haven’t played the classes all that much recently, it wasn’t current. So, I settled on Warlock, Warrior, and Rogue as the three classes I wanted to bring to the tournament. I then set off to practice some of these classes on the ladder to ensure that I understood how to properly build my decks for the ladder meta, and subsequently hope that this would apply to the tournament meta as well.
After practicing on my own for the entire week, I submitted my three decks (Handlock, Control Warrior, and Oil Rogue) the night before the tournament. They might appear strange and unconventional, but after being a part of two TIY’s, the Tech It Yourself series by cherylchalla, they ended up looking like this:
My decklists for the Amazon Appstore Fireside Gathering
I woke up the following morning, and set off for the Fireside Gathering, where I was fortunate to not just be a player, but a caster and also just your average fan!
I arrived at the facility about 30 minutes before the end-of check-in. Upon parking, I saw Puffin, who arrived shortly before I did.
(Puffin was one of the more accomplished players early in the history of the game, and continues to be competitive, with a Top 100 Legend finish as recently as two months ago. Earlier in the week we were able to do some brief preparation for the event over Skype.)
We both expressed uncertainty about our preparation and braced ourselves for early exits. We knew stiff competition was going to be at this event, with Hyped, Reynad, Eloise, and Frodan competing. We would later find out that other strong players would also be in attendance, well known players such as Tarei, Dart, Domdus, BOXception, and even lesser known players like Vandoom and TerriEN. We stood anxiously in the lobby area, awaiting the go-ahead from security to allow us to board the elevators to where the event was. While we waited, we ran into Dart and Hyp3d, engaging in conversation of a nature I can’t quite remember. We eventually were signaled to enter the elevators, and the crowd boarded in groups of 9-10 or whatever it was the elevators could accommodate.
We were the last group to go up, and as we went in we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was breakfast provided! We (Hyped, Dart, Puffin, and I) took our spots in line to check-in to confirm our spots in the tournament, and as the line slowly progressed I deeply pondered just what it was I was going to eat to ensure what I call “optimal tournament performance” (just kidding!)
Nothing like fruits and veggies to get you ready for a big performance!
The brackets eventually were prepared, with four groups of 16 man brackets. Each of the four Tempo Storm members were intentionally placed in separate brackets, with everyone else randomly placed. Again, there were many notable competitors even outside of Team Tempo Storm, so I felt very anxious about who I could potentially face early on. I ended up in Bracket B with Eloise, but Dart, Domdus, Tarei, Puffin, and BOXception all ended up in other brackets which I was relieved to see.
My first three matches went as smoothly as I could have hoped for, with 3-0 victories in all of them. The final match in Bracket B and Round-of-8 overall, however, would not go without struggle, and fittingly because it was against an opponent who defeated Eloise the round prior.
My opponent, whose name was Cogito, had a lineup of Warlock, Rogue, and Hunter. I gathered some information off hand when he said he’d beaten Eloise’s Patron twice, and from viewing experience I’ve seen Archon’s very own Zalae destroy the Zoo archetype many times with Patron. So, my initial instinct was that his Warlock was a Handlock. Our first match was Handlock vs. Rogue, and I opened with two Imp Gang Bosses on turns 2 and 3. He did not expect a Molten Giant to be in the deck, which, when paired with Sunfury Protector, helped provide the protection I needed against his final offense. I took a 1-0 series lead, and, not knowing what he would pick next I decided to go with what I considered my weakest class in the lineup, the Control Warrior. This is what I consider the most pivotal game in the series.
The Fateful Game
I was pleased to see that he decided to requeue with the Rogue, since Control Warrior is generally very favored against the Oil Rogue archetype, a deck that relies on a fast-delivering but finite amount of damage. I controlled his minion presence early with a Death’s Bite vs. his first minion, a Piloted Shredder, which yielded him a Lorewalker Cho, one of Rogue’s worst nightmares as they rely on a variety of spells to execute their game plan and don’t necessarily want their opponents having them. To my opponent’s credit, he handled the sticky situation well and used a Preparation and Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil to make his Cho a threat that could not be ignored, and I had to remove it the following turn.
Rogues really don't want their opponents having their Backstabs and Eviscerates
Despite this brilliant Turn 5 by Cogito, he no longer had threats to put on the board on Turn 6. However, he decided to equip an Assassin’s Blade, and in addition, buff it with a Deadly Poison, making it a 5 attack weapon and a two-card combination that would do up to 20 damage. As you can see from my decklist, I did have a Harrison Jones teched in but did not have it in my hand at the time, and eventually ended up taking the full 20-damage. On Turn 9, I finally drew my Harrison Jones but the blade was already almost fully used. There was also an Azure Drake on the board and, even though I had a Death’s Bite equipped and a guaranteed way to remove it, I was unwilling to take any more blowback with only 13 health. I had a Cruel Taskmaster on the Board from the turn before, which was used to draw a card from the Acolyte of Pain. With a Dr. Boom in hand, I felt that it was appropriate to take a 75% chance gamble in order to induce one damage onto the Azure Drake, with 1 additional damage coming from the Death’s Bite deathrattle and using the Cruel Taskmaster to finish off the Drake, with no damage being taken from my face as a result. My heart sunk when both Boom Bot deathrattles went to the face, and I was unable to kill the Azure drake. Left with a 7/6 Dr. Boom and a 2/1 Cruel Taskmaster vs. the 4/3 Azure Drake, Cogito then proceeded to Blade Flurry his weapon for 6 damage to all targets, destroying my whole board. I was spared with 3 health, but despite my best survival efforts, I eventually ended up falling a few turns later. So, instead of having a commanding 2-0 series lead with 3 chances with my Oil Rogue vs. his lineup, I was in a tight 1-1 series, in which I eventually ended up losing the next two games, Control Warrior vs. Hunter, and Rogue vs. Zoo.
I commend Cogito on a very well played series. He took an incredibly aggressive but risky line in the Rogue vs. Control Warrior game, which he probably rightfully considered as his only way to win in his minionless situation, and it paid off. Cogito advanced to the top 4, which guaranteed him winning a prize, but eventually fell to the eventual champion Reynad 0-3, ultimately finishing 3rd in a 3-2 series win over Domdus.
Puffin, the player I briefly prepared with, ended up finishing 2nd, losing to Reynad 0-3. Congratulations to Reynad for winning the Amazon Appstore Fireside Gathering in a very talented 64-man field.
I really enjoyed being in the middle of the heat of competition and was overall pleased with a Top 8 finish. Another part of the LAN, which was my opportunity to cast, was an experience I won’t soon forget.
One of the most memorable parts of this event was my hour or so in the casting chair. I did not come here with the expectation that I would be casting, but hints at this came in bits and pieces throughout the day. Dan Chou, or better known to most of you guys as “Frodan”, was doing a pre-stream on Reynad’s channel, touring the wonderfully accommodated venue that this Fireside was hosted in. He eventually ran into me, introducing me to the viewers watching at the time, and later asked me if I wanted to join him to cast. I enthusiastically agreed, not wanting to miss an opportunity to cast with whom I think we can all unanimously consider “the voice” of Hearthstone.
Later that day, I was asked by Christina, one of ESL’s admins, if I wanted to cast, and that she recommended me to Charles, aka m1lkcast, one of ESL’s lead producers for Hearthstone events. I was told that I would be casting Hyped’s 2nd round match, not with “the voice” of Hearthstone but alongside Domdus, whom you might all recognize as one of the final competitors of the 2nd season of the ESL Legendary Series. I took this opportunity excitedly and also nervously, having done some smaller casting gigs for friends’ projects, but not accustomed to being under the bright lights of a production set, and certainly not accustomed to being in front of tens of thousands of viewers.
I'll remember this experience for a long time. Thanks Domdus!
The series we were slated to cast was Hyped vs. Rocketqueen. The series already came packed with some drama, since the round before Hyped actually beat Rocketqueen’s boyfriend, Rocketman. We talked up the series as an opportunity for Rocketqueen to avenge her boyfriend’s early tournament loss. Rocketqueen fell into an early 0-2 hole, before rallying to win Game 3 and falling just short of winning Game 4 and forcing a series deciding 5th game.
Before the series began, Domdus and I discussed who would be the one to conduct the winners interview, and I volunteered to take the task. Hyped is a player whose accomplishments I’ve greatly admired, so to sit down and interview him 1-on-1 certainly appealed to my inner fan. We talked about his feelings throughout the series, some of the turns he executed under pressure, as well as his thoughts on his just vanquished opponent and his thoughts on the next series. Laughs were had and I thank Hyped for being a great interview.
I also would like to thank Domdus for being a very good casting partner. Duo casting can often be hard because it is in some ways like a dance - partners need to be in sync with each other in order to provide smooth delivery, and talking over one another can be like stepping on each others' toes. While Domdus and I had no experience working with each other, afterwards I felt like we’d casted together several times before. This also gives me a great appreciation of what Frodan does, since the listening experience is very easy when he’s a part of a cast, and he works with multiple casting personalities.
What made me particularly glad about the casting experience was the overall positive reception from the local crowd. For me to know that the people’s viewing experience was enhanced by our commentary is very warming. I know I’m not a refined commentator and I know there is a lot to be improved upon, so the kind words were very much appreciated. I’m so thankful to the producers at ESL, Christina for her recommendation, and for all who put in a good word for me to allow me an experience I won’t soon forget.
Being A Fan
One of the most exciting things about attending these events is the prospect of meeting people whom you’ve always admired, adored, and/or idolized. I also got to meet many players that I’ve played many times on the ladder, and it’s always nice to put a face to these players who were previously just names on the internet. I met some familiar faces like Tarei, one of the most accomplished Hearthstone players, and a top 8 finisher in last year’s Blizzcon. I also got to meet Eloise, which was surprising and unexpected because her attendance was not announced until a day or two before the event. Eloise is every bit as charming as she is during her streams.
I even got to win some Blizzard merch, which was a pleasant surprise since I don’t often find myself on the winning side of raffles. Amazon also was a wonderful host, keeping us well fed not only during breakfast, but throughout the day with pizza and falafel.
You can't possibly have a Hearthstone event without pizza
Anyway, so this ended up being like a really recap-like blog post moreso than strictly strategy, but I hope that my experience at the Amazon Fireside Gathering embodied each of your own aspirations in the e-sports scene in one way or another, whether it be as a budding competitive player, streamer, journalist, caster, or just simply an excited fan. Whatever your goal may be, I encourage you to keep records and portfolios of your achievements. If you’re an aspiring competitive player, sign up for every tournament you can find, big or small. Take it even further - expand your knowledge base by playing with players better than you, bounce ideas off of them in group calls so that you know you are coming to good conclusions about cards and decks. If you seek to one day cast an event viewed by hundreds of thousands, find and accept as many casting opportunities, both online and local. Seek to improve from event to event by talking to people that have made the footsteps you’re making now. Every piece of experience counts, and can even lead to moments like these:
Yes, interviewing Hyp3d was every bit as fun as you'd imagine
Thank you guys for reading. Until next time!