A Short Guide to Layering CC

LayeringCC Banner

I’ll be honest, nothing in the world triggers me harder than when someone says in chat, “Lost in draft…we don’t have enough damage.” Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it’s the interplay of inexperience and lack of communication in Hero League games that’s the source of the issue, not the Heroes (or the draft) themselves.

There are several examples of professional games with double warrior or triple warrior compositions that can delete people from the game. There are plenty of double Support compositions that can also do quite a lot in terms of bursting down enemy Heroes. Before you comment and say, “yeah, but those are pros,” hear me out.

I’m certain that a simple understanding of how to layer crowd control and damage will greatly improve anyone’s game. I’ve seen it in my own experiences and the experiences of others after I explained. This is not a guide for pro play, it’s for the plebs like you and me—the people from Bronze to Diamond who still have lots of learning to do.

Simply put: you have the damage, you just need to practice your coordination!

Using Stuns/Roots with an Ally

Remember when Tyrande/Diablo was so strong at the beginning of 2016? It’s because Diablo’s combo made it very easy to predict where the person would end up, giving Tyrande an easy follow-up with her Lunar Flare (and also because they did ludicrous amounts of damage). The effect was that these two Heroes could single-handedly drop an enemy Hero during a gank in less than a second.

Muradin and Tyrande layer their CC

Followup stuns can lead to big momentum swings. Had Nova and Rehgar been paying attention, this would have been an easy double kill. Gif credit: Heroesfire

The concept applies toward any two stuns or roots, though. If your team has both a Muradin and an Arthas, you have TONS of lockdown. Figure out which player should take the initiative and just follow up on their CC. If you time it perfectly, you can immobilize someone for a full 2.5 seconds, which is plenty of time to drop damage on them, especially if they’re out of position. Often times the damage from the CC itself is brutal enough to drop someone low; you only really need a little bit of bodyblocking and follow-up to get the most out of your ganks.

You don’t need voice communication to do this. Just watch other players carefully for how and when they use their stun. Hover your mouse cursor constantly on potential targets and prepare to make calculated dives. It’s really that simple.

What If I Don’t Have a Stun?

When you don’t have CC, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to layering. In fact, you should be paying MORE attention to targets that are locked down and using your DPS to eliminate them.

One of the best examples for this is Li-Ming. Her skillshots are very dependent on your opponents taking a predictable path so that you can unload the full combo on them and dish out an ungodly amount of damage. That said, there’s nothing more predictable than a CC combo. Follow around that Muradin on your team and save Arcane Orb for the moment that he lands a good Storm Bolt. More often than not, you’ll reliably delete people and look like a god.

Li-Ming uses her combo on a stunned Hero

Mene looks for the stun onto Arthas before committing to his full combo—an effective way to play Li-Ming.

Again, this isn’t hard. Just keep your eyes peeled for the tanks engaging and prepare to use the stuns and roots to your advantage. The same thing can be said for several other bursty Heroes like Kael’thas, Zeratul, or Chromie.

Use the Map Objective!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll somehow get a team that’s so clueless that they never land any good stun or get any good engagement. Luckily, you don’t have to rely completely on allied Heroes all the time. Several map objectives like the Punisher on Infernal Shrines or the Immortal on Battlefield of Eternity provide some sort of a stun or CC effect. Just like a teammate, you can use these stuns as reliable ways lock down enemy Heroes and burst them down.

For instance, you know that the Punisher will jump on top of someone and stun them every few seconds, so prepare to line up a stun of your own if possible. Get a feel for how often the Punisher jumps and anticipate it so that you can get free kills. If you do it correctly, you can sometimes even get a takedown on an enemy BEHIND their wall—it doesn’t get much better than that.

Kerrigan using her combo with the Punisher on Infernal Shrines

JayPL waits until the Punisher jumps over the wall and stuns someone before following up with the Kerrigan combo.

For less reliable, non-targeted stuns like the Immortal’s AoE stun or the Boss camp slams, use them in the opposite fashion. When you expect a stun to come up, go ahead and lock down your opponent early. If you time it right, you’ll often either get a free kill or weaken the enemy team so much that you can take an objective for free.

In the end, it only comes down to you. This is a team game, but vigilance and awareness on an individual level are paramount to your team’s success. Look for opportunities to layer CC, practice your timing, and try to help others learn too!

Heroes on My Mind: An Interview with darkmok

DreamHack Summer clip of Darkmok

Photo Credit: DreamHack

This week has been full of ups and downs for darkmok and the crew on Misfits. They finished Gamescom with a second place prize, but unfortunately were not able to secure a spot to BlizzCon and the final Heroes of the Storm championship this year—a crushing defeat for any team. In the aftermath of the event, I got a chance to sit down and interview darkmok about how his past, how he ended up on Misfits, and where the team is headed in lieu of BlizzCon.

On Getting Into Heroes

Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up playing Heroes professionally? What drew you specifically to this game? How did you end up playing competitively?

Of course. So while still going to school, I was already playing a lot of computer games such as single player RPGs like Gothic 1-3, but also strategy games like Battle of Middle Earth 1-2 and Warcraft 3. I then discovered League of Legends around 2010, played it so much that I, at some point, wanted to give it my everything. And in 2013, I got very close to qualifying for the LCS with the team AVA Prime, but fell short, left my team due to internal issues with our manager and us five players. I still tried to get into the pro scene, but you know, it was really hard, because teams would pick more known players over me just because I was not that famous, so it’d be a risk for them.

Then, at the end of season 4 [and] the beginning of season 5 of league, my friend Blumbi introduced me to Heroes of the Storm.

He wanted me to play the game, because he knew I was gonna be good at it, so I played more and more with him. He’s also the reason I got into the scene so fast, because he was already known. He basically insisted that teams would have to play with him AND me. 😀

So you’ve actually been doing this progaming thing for a while. Do you think that your experience (mechanical, strategic, mindset, w/e) in LoL has prepared you for Heroes of the Storm?

Yes, for sure. I have played League for ~5 years, and of course there are differences between those games, but Heroes was not hard—I didn’t need to last hit, didn’t need to worry about what to buy. And I was an aggressive AD carry in League, playing a lot of Draven and Lucian, so I started of playing aggressive Heroes like the melee assassins and Valla.

I think I was always too reckless, so that’s maybe one of my weaknesses, but I think by now, I’ve improved a lot at that.

But you know, I did invest all my time and energy into LoL, but I never got anything out of it—apart from then succeeding in Heroes haha.

In Heroes, you’re well known for playing bruisers, particularly Thrall and Sonya. How did you end up in that role?

So in the first team I was in—it was with Blumbi, Devizz, Happythermia and RQSux/Cowtard—I was not supposed to be the melee bruiser/assassin since Devizz played a lot of Illidan, etc., but I think I was just better at it by default, so that’s why we swapped. And at some point, I picked up Thrall because Happy suggested it and kept playing the Hero, because I thought he was fun.

I think he’s super clunky for a melee Assassin, especially when you put him side by side with Illidan or Zeratul.

He was! His Windfury made you cancel like almost all of your autos, but I think I managed to not always [mess] up. And then he got buffed and now he feels smooth to play.

Darkmok at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

I’m a bit salty, because people called Lowell ‘Green Jesus’ even though I was the only one playing him for months.

That’s true. I know you were playing him long before he was “cool”.

And I was also better at playing him!! People always asked me for talent builds because they had no idea about Thrall.

On Practice

What does a typical practice regimen look like for you? What do you think is the most important thing to spend time practicing? Is it different for pro players versus aspiring players on ladder?

For me personally, it changes depending on if there’s a big tournament coming up or not. But usually, I play Hero League in the morning, then we would start scrimming other teams at like 12 or 13, play until 16, have a break, play again at 17-19, another break, and then finish the day with games with a third team from 20-22.

After that I often played more Hero League. That’s the schedule we had for most of our time this year in mYi/Misfits. Nurok and me probably played the most games since we always went for Hero League. Sometimes we would talk about strategies as well and watch replays, but that’s a lot less now.

I am kind of lazy when it comes down to analyzing my own replays and mistakes. But often I know what I did wrong, so I don’t really need to do that.

Mmm hmm, that’s what they all say.

Haha, I mean you’re right, I should probably look at it, but I sometimes just can’t be bothered with it and would prefer playing another Hero League game over it. But the rest of my team does that, especially HasuObs used to watch a lot of replays and see what went wrong—unfortunately, sometimes immediately after frustrating games, so not the way I wanted it to be. 😛

On Joining Misfits

For those that don’t know, the Misfits organization started as the sister team of League of Legends organization Renegades owned 100% by Chris Mykles (MonteCristo). After the main team was banned from LCS, the sister team broke off and formed its own organization under the moniker of Misfits.

How did you end up finding a new home there? What are some of the perks with being affiliated with a team that has rich roots in MOBAs?

So it was the team’s decision to not sign with mYinsanity again. I personally didn’t need to make a change, since I felt like mYi had done a great job, but at the same time going for something new should never be a bad thing, so we started looking for new sponsors. We did talk with Tempo Storm and Mousesports, but TS picked up the Tempest roster, and then Nurok got in contact with Ben Spoont, the owner of Misfits, who was looking to expand into other games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. So we talked to him and the rest of the org and they were super nice and really—like really—wanted to sign us.

Misfits Heroes of the Storm team with their coach Jowe

Photo Credit: ESL

So that’s what we did, and it’s quite nice because they have a bigger reach than mYi and are growing really fast because they have upcoming teams like the freshly qualified LCS team and the Overwatch team that’s also doing fairly well…and us, of course haha.

With a lot of larger organizations pulling out of Heroes, it’s surprising to see an org like Misfits invest into the scene. Do you agree? Is this something noteworthy?

I mean, I don’t really get why all the organizations are pulling out. Because if you ask me, Heroes has a bigger shot at being a sustainable e-sport than League in the future. And that’s just because LoL has been around for over 6 years and people want changes, the game gets boring. It got boring for me, that’s why I stopped playing in the first place.

I do understand though that the game does not have a large audience, but for teams to pull out of the game, it is not helpful.

So you don’t think the novelty of Heroes will wear off after 3+ years or something like that?

I don’t know, and I don’t have time to think about that if I wanna be the best at what I’m doing. The players that already retired, because they got bored of the game or don’t think it’s worth trying anymore are a bit weak in my eyes. The game is still kind of new and, if Blizzard keeps supporting the game and sells it better, it will continue to run.

I think a big problem is just there are a lot of players who play casually and don’t really care about the pro scene.

Do you think there’s a way to incorporate them into the scene and somehow get them involved in some way?

First of all, Blizzard needed to implement a watch feature right away, and make it visible for everyone that starts the game like they recently started doing. They need to make announcements for tournaments more visible—they need to hype it up more.

On Gamescom

I’m sorry, but we’ve got to talk about Gamescom a little bit. You guys started the year as “underdogs” and become the team to beat. Now everyone expects you to make it to the finals every tournament. What’s it like having been on both ends of the spectrum?

Being the underdog is generally a little easier. You have much less weight on your shoulders because you are not expected to make a big run. You have not as much pressure, and for some, not having pressure is just better for performance. But it was kind of funny because we were still called underdogs when we were winning things, so Blumbi enjoyed that a lot I think.

But in the end, if you are a good team and have the will to win, it should not matter how people see you and how much pressure is on you.

Obviously the end results of the tournament were brutal for you guys, especially after playing so hard and so long that day. Can you walk me through some of your post-tournament thoughts?

Looking back at Gamescom and the games, and then seeing the result that we did not win the tournament feels so bad. I believe we were and currently still are the best European team. I’m not taking anything away from Dignitas and Fnatic, because both of them are super good and worthy opponents, but in my opinion, we lost to ourselves at the last tournament. I watched some of the games we lost and…oh my…did we [mess] up. It was harder to lose those games than to not lose them. Some of the losses are my fault I would say, because in that last game on Cursed Hollow against Fnatic, I called to go for core through mid. My team followed and the call was fine, up until the enemies recalled and I didn’t call my team back. Instead I think I encouraged them to go all in, which is—just looking at the game where not a single kill happened—such a sad ending.

We probably have the best Hero pool out of all the teams, so I think we would also do best against in the international competition—also because we already played the big teams twice in the last two globals.

Misfits advances to the finals

Misfits after their win against Fnatic in the semifinals

Of course you can say we had a long day with almost no breaks and [bad], cold food, but that’s not why we lost.

I mean look at what we did in game 5 against DIG. We decided to go for an all in comp with Butcher on BHB, the map where you can almost always win by just playing the map. And we willingly gave the enemy team Zagara even though we were first pick.

It’s sick that we go crazy in the qualifying game for BlizzCon…like throwing away all the hard work on an impulse.

On The Future

Now that the team isn’t headed for BlizzCon, do you have any off-season plans? Is it just like a short vacation for you guys, or are you using it to train even harder and get an edge going into next year?

We definitely needed to take a vacation after this last tournament. We didn’t have any big breaks this year in between the regionals and the globals, so yeah. Most of us are trying to avoid the game for a bit, so we can start off fresh.

e.g., I spent some time with my girlfriend and funnily enough also played Heroes with her instead of just unplugging from the PC haha—but the rest of my team is not playing at all, I believe.

Do you know if you’ll be participating in the big secret tournament at the end of the year that Blizzard hinted at? If you can’t tell me, just blink twice.

If that tournament turns out to be real and even half as big as they made it sound like, then yes, I believe we will definitely participate. We’re all very competitive players and we don’t want big breaks, we want to keep playing and be the very best!

Wrap-up

I have a totally random question for you. I’m crazy about space right now. What do you think about astrophysics, astronomy, and the future of mankind among the stars?

I think that if I wasn’t playing the game so much and having my brain being focused so much on it, I would worry a lot more about the future of mankind on Earth.

Enigmatic, foreboding. I like it :p. Any last words or shoutouts?

Sorry for being a bit salty about the last tournament. I wish all the best to Fnatic and Dignitas, make Europe proud. And thanks to everyone for cheering for my team and being a fan, because for the first time, I feel like people really, really support me and my team!


EsportsJohn a wood tier scrub who can’t get out of D3. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

The Conquest of LatAm: Interview with Typhex

 

Typhex Headshot

Minor regions, in general, tend to get a reputation for being weak or uninteresting, especially when it’s in a language we don’t understand. We’re quick to write off the teams and players without giving them fair trial or recognizing the talent that’s there. In most cases, we don’t even look at them at all until we get to Globals and there are some guys we don’t recognize.

Part of my ongoing quest with these interviews is to bring the players, their motivation, and their talent to the forefront of the scene. Big Gods piqued my interest during the Spring Global Championship, and, as I’ve watched more and more of their games and interacted with the team on Twitter, I’ve grown more appreciative of their deep knowledge and unrivaled skill in the region.

That said, I was extraordinarily happy to sit down with Typhex for an hour via Twitter DM and talk about Big Gods and the Latin American region. Typhex and the core of the team have won every single championship in Latin America all the way back to BlizzCon 2015 qualifiers, unquestionably staking their ground as the best team in LatAm. Like me, Typhex also shares a passion for giving minor regions more exposure and improving the scene, a passion which he is very vocal about over social media.

On Big Gods

First of all, can you give me a brief introduction to Big Gods—who you are, how long you’ve been together, etc.?

I’m Typhex, Captain/shotcaller for Big Gods. My main role is Tank, but I also play as Melee/bruiser.

Most of the players in the team [have been] together for around 15 months, and we have been winning everything in LatAm since we got together.

Haha, you’ve been winning everything, hmm? Do you think you’re the best team because you have that history together or because you’re just the best individual players?

At first, for sure was because we were better individually because, when we got together—Me(Typhex), Vieira and Murizz—we got results instantly, but after a while we got a really good synergy, and now days, I feel like we are better [in] every sense of the game in our region, which isn’t enough sadly.

Who would you say is the playmaker on the team?

Well, that depends what playmaker means to you. The guy [that] initiates stuff? Or the one that does the most “Highlights”?

Yeah, the guy who gets the most “highlights” :p

It’s really hard to say one name like, since everyone does their part most of the time. Probably Muriz, he’s really good mechanically and has a good understanding of the game, and he also plays Greymane, Li-Ming.

Gotcha. How does the team do Hero picks? Do you have one guy who basically decides what to pick or is a group effort?

We try to do it together, but most of the time I’m the one deciding, and they try to give me tips just in case I miss something and they see it.

In general, Big Gods has a very aggressive playstyle. You guys run dive comps and double/triple tank compositions a lot. Is that a stylistic thing that comes from the players or do you think it’s just the best way to play the metagame at the moment?

Well that depends. If you saw us only in the DreamHack Summer [Championship], you’d surely think we are really crazy. I could say we are, for sure, aggressive, but [at] DHS, we kind of overdid it because we made a role swap before going there. Beto was playing in a another team as tank, and he just came in and we didn’t really have enough time to get the synergy going on for an event of that level. And since I’m the shotcaller and I’m used to playing as a Tank, I was always calling out people [out] of position, but sometimes it backfired because he wasn’t as fast and the team wasn’t following him as they used to do with me.

Typhex onstage

Photo Credit: DreamHack

And as a tank, I think you need to be making those decisions yourself. You can’t be getting calls for pick offs, since the delay [that] communication brings is just too much for HotS.

I watched a little bit of Copa America where you ran the triple tank with Tyrael/Sonya/E.T.C., I believe.

Oh, we just did it because it was the best comp we could’ve gotten that game, but I guess it does fit as aggressive :D.

On Latin America

Let’s talk about the region as a whole now. For those who aren’t very familiar with Latin America, what is the structure for qualifiers? It looks like you have a North Region, South Region, and Brazil qualifiers?

Well that is basically it. You have open qualifiers separated into three “sub regions”—North, South and Brazil—and only one team goes through the qualifiers from each region, and each season they bring one additional team from one of the regions: Spring was two South teams, Summer two North Teams, and now in Fall we got two Brazilian teams!

I hope that this format changes for next year, because it’s really killing the scene in Brazil and South America.

Why do you say that?

The prize pool is divided in 3 regions, and it is giving the “North” and “South” teams an easy time to qualify for the regional since they don’t have to face the Brazilian teams, who are better overall.

Ah I see. So out of curiosity, what other players or teams are good in LatAm besides the guys on Big Gods?

Infamous Gaming from the North Region is good, INTZ from Brazil and Kaos Latin Gamers. They are all close to the same level, but I feel like they need more experience/knowledge in the game to get close to us .

Kaos Latin Gamers [is] from South Region.

On Improving the Region

You’ve ranted on Twitter about how much you hate the LatAm servers. Do you think the region would be better in skill/experience if they played more often with NA players?

Surely it would help, both for competitive and ranked players, but since the server US10 (hosted in US East) got removed, we can’t really play in NA, since 180 ping.

Ah I see. Is there anything else that might help the region develop talent better?

Fixing the matchmaking, since most of the time it seems to not work properly, making two different games for players of the same rank, putting them in two unbalanced games.

End the qualifiers division [of] South, North, Brazil and make more tournaments.

What can Blizzard do to help promote or advertise the scene? How can the community help?

For the community, all I ask is to watch Tournaments and pro stream. There is a lot to learn in those and, by doing that, you are really helping the scene. [Also?], talk about it with their in-game friends.

Typhex Interview

Typhex is passionate about growing the LatAm region and drawing more exposure to the talent there. Photo Credit: DreamHack

Now from Blizzard…minor regions need the attention and advertisement that major regions get. I feel like a lot of people in South America don’t watch the tournaments because they don’t even know that its happening, like do posts from the minor regions in the HeroesEsports page, in battle.net, and in-game background just like they do for the major regions. It’s the basic stuff that sometimes is just forgotten.

Well said. I’m sure we could talk forever about game, the scene, Blizzard’s plans, etc., but I’m gonna wrap it up in the interest of time. Last question: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any shoutouts for friends, players, or sponsors? 😀

So I guess that is it. Thanks for the intervew, Chris, means alot for me and our scene overall, and make sure to watch the latam regional at: http://www.twitch.tv/copaamerica_pt1.

Dates are: September 3 and September 4

If any English-speaking casters want to cast the games for English-speaking viewers just DM me on Twitter and I can help with that, I guess. [Typhex and I are working together with community casters to make this a possibility; contact me if you’re interested!]

Finally, shoutouts to my teammates Murizz, Vieira, jschritte and betogg.
Thank you again Chris!


At the end of the interview, Typhex also informed me that the team is leaving the Big Gods organization this season. The future is uncertain for the team, but Typhex hinted that they may spend a season in NA next year if they make it to BlizzCon again.

“[A]s far as I can see, we would probably [be] getting into top 3 in NA [at] our current level,” he commented, clearly confident in the team’s abilities. He also believes the team has plenty of room to grow, adding that “…we would get a lot better with frequent scrims in NA.”

Keep an eye out for the Brazilian boys, and never underestimate the minor regions!

Typhex
beto
Vieira
JSchritte
Muriz


EsportsJohn is passionate about global esports becoming a reality, and you can be too. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

How to Go to College

UGA Arch

Photo Credit: athensbusiness.org

Let’s start with the meat of this topic. If you’re a good learner and a self-starter, you don’t need to go to college. In fact, it can be more beneficial for you to avoid college altogether. However, it’s important to recognize the resources that colleges can provide for you and learn how to take advantage of it for your own benefit.

My advice: Pay for one semester at a large college or university, and then reap the benefits of being a student forever.

There are a lot of perks to living next to a university. Learn how to utilize them and jumpstart your own education without having to rely on a strict programme of material or a punitive system of reward/punishment.

How I Failed at College

First of all, I’ll be honest: I never finished college. I originally entered college as a music major (piano primary). I wasn’t bad. I auditioned at a few different schools, was accepted at all of them, but ended up going to the University of Georgia.

Suffice it say that school has never been a strong suit of mine. I strongly dislike being told what to learn, and I get easily frustrated when I’m required to learn material I have no interest for. I went through a plethora of music-related majors trying to find what worked best for me—composition, music therapy, and performance—but in the end, I found myself more and more estranged from the path I was seeking: to imagine and write beautiful music that could change lives.

After that, I took a two year break to recoup some of my financial losses and get a fresh head. When I finally went back to school, I decided on English, which felt like a step in the right direction. That’s when I learned how much I hated writing. Ironic, right?

Park Hall Steps

The steps leading up to Park Hall, where I spent most of my time as an English major. Photo credit: AJC.

The long story short: I decided I didn’t like college. It’s just not for me. It’s been nothing but a money sink that’s caused me nothing but perturbation and stress over the years. I’ve had long bouts of depression linked to my schoolwork, and I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it anymore.

The Perks of Having a Student ID

This is where it gets good. Despite my eventual departure from university courses, the campus is still a big part of my life. I still drive through campus every day; it’s an important place in Athens.

That said, there’s a lot of resources at your disposal once you get a student ID and/or familiarize yourself with campus. Perhaps the biggest perk is that I have access to every single educational resource within UGA’s four campus libraries (plus lent books to other colleges/universities from all over the state) as well as its online system of books, journals, and newspapers. There is literally more information on one floor of the Main Library than any one person could ever read or learn.

Student IDs are rarely discontinued, especially at large universities, so you can often use yours long after you’ve graduated/left the university. If I want to read a book on journalism, I can go check it out with my student ID; even if my student ID is outdated, I can still make daily trips to the library to read and study.

UGA Main Library

The UGA Main Library holds one of the largest collections of books in the country.

There are also unexpected surprises—access to tools and software you wouldn’t be able to use at home. The public computers on campus have Matlab loaded on all of them. The music school has MIDI controllers and all sorts of composition software. Even if you’re not a student anymore, you can still go in and make music. All it requires is a student ID number + password, which can potentially be maintained indefinitely by resetting your password every six months.

The second biggest perk is private study areas, free wi-fi, and access to other people’s opinions and thoughts. There are tons of extracurricular groups to keep your mind sharp and pique your interests, even if you’re not a student.

Sometimes dorms are off-limits without special access, but in any case, it’s easy to find quiet nooks where no one will bother you.

Oh, did I mention the Health Center and world class Athletic Center that are open to the public? (BTW, former UGA students scored 8 Olympic medals in Rio).

An Ideal Education

For me, nothing in the world beats this sort of education. It’s a chance for me to work on my own topics at my own pace with nearly limitless resources. I’m sure I still haven’t even found everything available to me, but it’s already more than I think I could ever use.

UGA Miller Learning Center

Walking alongside others, but on your own path. That’s the dream. Photo credit: onlineathens.com

This is something I wish I had done years ago before I had accrued thousands of dollars in debt and put myself through a grueling gauntlet of success and failure in the scholastic world.

I think the main thing to draw from my story is that a traditional education is not for everyone. Having a Bachelor’s Degree that officially states that you know things is nice for credentials, but often it means very little compared to relevant experience and depth of knowledge, especially in the realm of esports and content creation.

Man on a Mission: An Interview with Khaldor

Khaldor Behind the Scenes

Photo Credit: DreamHack

If you don’t know who Khaldor is, you probably haven’t been in esports very long. The man has a list of esports contributions a mile long ranging across an entire decade, from tournament admin to caster to streamer. He’s primarily known for his StarCraft II debut in the GSL, and now for his involvement in Heroes of the Storm, though he has casted several other games including Warcraft 3, FIFA, and Dota 2.

I was lucky enough to sit down and have a Skype chat with him about his career, his casting, and his current thoughts on Heroes of the Storm. Part 1 will cover some of his history in esports—it’s impossible to cover it all in one interview—and his motivation for doing the work that he does.

On Casting Career

Before you ever became a caster, you were managing a web site and a WC3 team (4k). When was the moment that you knew you wanted to become a caster? Or have you just pretty much always wanted to do it?

It was more of a coincidence to be honest ^^. Back in the days of WarCraft 3, we did only radio-broadcasts, and even those were very infrequent. Videostreams were more or less unheard of and only used at big offline events. With radio-broadcasts every 2-3 weeks, it was a pretty big deal when a weekly tournament could announce live coverage for one of their cups. I was involved as the webmaster of a WarCraft III website back then and also helped out as an admin during the cups. One day one of the casters got sick, but, as the broadcast was already announced and people were super excited for it, the organizers were looking for a replacement. I offered to do it if someone could help me with the technical side and we were able to fix it just in time for the tournament start. I didn’t even know if people could actually hear me or not when I started :D. Turned out they could and people seemed to enjoy the show quite a lot. From that point on, I broadcasted those tournaments regularly. I really enjoyed myself casting tournaments and, in the years to come, I sacrificed tons of weekends and time growing the esports scene in Europe and casting online and offline tournaments in my free time :).

Awesome. That’s such a cool story. I understand back then you casted in German. Later on you obviously transitioned into English casting. For someone like me who is not multilingual, that sounds insanely difficult to do. What do you think the most difficult part of that transition was?

The most difficult part is that, no matter how good you are at speaking a second language, you will always have a more limited vocabulary as [than?] a native english speaker. Especially when you are trying to make puns or just try to make the commentary a bit more colorful, that can be a problem. There’s a lot of situations where I want to joke about a situation in the game and I know the perfect anecdote or pun in German, but I’m unsure if it translates properly into English. So it can be a bit difficult for sure at times. It’s also a lot harder to commentate in English (especially when you do a solo stream) than to have a normal conversation with a friend. There’s so much stuff happening in a game that you have to be able to speak fast and be on point with what you say. I think it was more of a problem for me when I first made the switch, but now I’m very comfortable commentating in a second language, but it was definitely a challenge at the start.

One of the things I remember clearly from your GSL days were the over-the-shoulder videos you did of players so that viewers could see their hands and the way they moved their mouse. What was the inspiration behind this? Do you think this was a successful set of videos?

Haha yeah, those were quite a bit of fun ^^. There are some pretty funny pictures out there where I recorded a few of the videos and some of the Korean editors photoshopped me into a Lion King Meme :D. I think the series was super interesting for most people that are interested in StarCraft.

I really wanted to show people how fast players are when they are playing the game and especially the Korean players were super impressive. I had the idea during the Qualifiers for Code A because it’s such a great opportunity to record extra content. The players were extremely nice when asked about it and I remember that one of the first players that I recorded was SlayersBoxer, a living legend. I have to admit though that it hurt like crazy standing there for 30-40 minutes at times, holding that camera over their heads haha :D. Totally worth it though, I still go back and occasionally watch some of the videos with Losira or Flash.

Oh god, the Losira hands hahaha!

The King of APM 😉

During the first six months or so of Heroes, we didn’t really see you casting much at live events, just qualifiers and online events. Was this your own choice or were you just not given the opportunities at the time?

I casted actually quite a lot of offline events during that time, but most of them were not official Blizzard events. It was a bit of a rough time for sure, and not being part of the official circuit was definitely disappointing and at first very demotivating. But in the end I decided that all I could do was focus on my own work and keep doing what I do. I’m happy that it all worked out and that I’m now a part of every major event in Europe, and I’ll make sure to continue improving to keep it that way ; ).

Now that you’ve casted all three games—WC3, SC2, and Heroes—which game have you enjoyed casting the most?

I don’t really have a favorite. Every single one of these games is different, not only as a game but also in regards to its community. I have very good memories casting all three games and haven’t regretted the decision to become a full time caster as a result. There’s just epic moments that you will always remember and I have those with all of the games I casted.

Khaldor Casting

Photo Credit: ESL

I have to admit though that it’ll be a special day for me when Blizzard finally hears my prayers and announces WarCraft IV ;). That series is what started it all, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart!

Are there any other games you’ve thought about casting? Or are you just a Blizzard fanboy for life?

Oh, I casted quite a few other games actually. Mostly when commentating at the World Cyber Games. Two examples would be FIFA and Dota 2. But in the end, I’m a person that focuses on one main game, and I’ve always been a fan of Blizzard’s games.

I actually had no clue about that. The list of stuff you’ve done in esports grows longer….

Haha, you’d be surprised. I’m pretty sure you also didn’t know that back in WarCraft III, I was actually the Supervisor of one of the biggest WarCraft III leagues in Europe, the NGL ONE. And also heading “GameSports”, an Esports project where we were training new commentators. I always liked to be involved in the scene and try to grow Esports. It’s always been my passion and it’s how all of this started for me.

On Motivation and Determination

You’re well known for casting insane hours for qualifiers and such, sometimes almost 24 hours straight. What’s motivates you to do this sort of thing?

It’s fun :P. I enjoy casting and I also want to promote the scene, the teams and the players. I have no problem casting two tournaments back to back if I can achieve that, and I simply love casting the games that I care for. As a general rule, I will always try to cast as much as I can. I have no intentions of focusing only on offline events. I think that the online tournaments, especially the qualifiers, are incredibly important, and casting a lot helps me also to get to know the teams and their style. The amount of hours I’ve spent casting online tournaments is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why I know so much about the players and even minor teams.

In Korea, for example, I’d cast European StarCraft tournaments simply because I enjoyed it and because I did not want to lose touch with the European scene while I was living in Korea. That meant casting from 1am to 7am in the morning. It was exhausting but it was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. I don’t think I’d ever give up the online casting part. I enjoy it way too much.

The community jokes a lot about your muscles, but I think physical fitness is actually a tell for industrious people. Would you say your approach to a physical routine reflects your approach to your work? Or are those just two completely separate parts of your life? :p

For me, sport is a way to balance out the time I spend at my computer. I’ve always been doing a lot of sports, ever since I was a child, and it has become a big part of my life. I spend nearly my entire day at my computer playing the game, watching scrims, talking to admins and players or casting tournaments. I need something that allows me a certain balance. For me, working out is relaxing because it’s an opportunity for me to simply shut out everything else, not think about the next tournament or broadcast, and simply focus on something completely different.

Casters often get a lot of dirt thrown at them. In the face of criticism, you often stand your ground when somebody says something stupid. How do you keep your inner compass from interfering with meaningful advice?

Haha, good question actually ;). I think it’s pretty much known that I am very outspoken and not necessarily the most politically correct person :P. I have strong opinions, and I think it’s one of my best qualities since it also motivates me to do a lot of the things I do. At the same time, I have to admit though that it’s also a weakness since I react to too many outside influences and sometimes go overboard. I believe that it got a lot better in the past year and that it’s easier for me now to ignore a lot of the trolls and unfounded criticism, but it has been a problem for sure.

Khaldor and Kaelaris

Photo Credit: DreamHack

At the same time, though, I think it’s important to stand your ground when faced with ignorance or stupidity. One of the problems in our society is that people are afraid to have opinions these days. Everybody wants to be politically correct and nobody wants to take a stand anymore. Finding a balance is difficult, but I feel it’s important as a “figure” within a community to also address problems that need to be fixed. It’s very easy to be the nice guy, but it won’t really help to improve things. It’s a really interesting dynamic and could probably fill an entire interview by itself :D. To come back to your original question though: a lot of advice that one receives on the Internet is well meant but oftentimes useless because people don’t know why someone is doing certain things. If someone has a point, though, I usually talk it through with friends that listen to my casting and ask them about their take on it and if it’s something that I should address or not. It’s very helpful to have friends inside and outside the Esports bubble that can give you their opinion on such things and offer maybe even a new perspective and therefore help you to improve.

Wrapping Up

In a 2011 interview, you said you would have to make a decision between esports or returning to a “normal” job after your time at GSL. Has esports been the right decision for you?

Yes, it was definitely the right choice. Moving back from Korea, I wanted to focus more on my own channels on YouTube and Twitch to make sure that I’m not completely dependent on a company like GomTV / ESL / Dreamhack in the long run. I’d still consider to work for one of the big Esports companies, but I’d always make sure that I can maintain my own channels. I’m quite happy with the way that things are going and didn’t regret going fulltime in Esports at all. It’s a lot of fun and a very exciting job. The pay might not be as good as with a normal job, but I would not want to miss it :). I plan on staying in Esports for as long as people still enjoy my commentary :).


EsportsJohn is obsessed with space and loved watching the NASA Spacewalk yesterday. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

Always on the Rise: aPm Interview

aPm onstage

I recently tried to get in touch with Francis “aPm” Gilbert-Brodeur to get an interview before Denial eSports took to the big stage Burbank. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. But, we’ve caught up to bring you some post-tournament chat.

aPm (formerly known as MATRE) is a talented Support player who has been skirting the edges of top competitive play in Heroes of the Storm for a while. He’s best known for his aggressive playstyle and reliability as a teammate, and has an excellent informative stream.

On Teams and Team History

Many people probably don’t recognize you from Goon Squad Inc, one of the dark horses from the HWC qualifiers last year. Can you tell me a little bit about that roster and your success on the team?

Goon Squad was my first team. I found Hosty and GOAT in HL, and they picked me up for their team. We really started from the bottom and grinded to be able to get top 8 in [the] NA Regional last year. Roster was me/Hosty/GOAT/Goku/BOSSFLOSS. Four of those players still play in high competitive, and I’m really happy to see everyone be at the top—especially Hosty and GOAT, who just performed really well at their first LAN event with Vox Nihili.

After that, Team Higher Consciousness/Team Name Change has obviously been where you’ve spent most of your time recently. Did you expect that team to make it as far as they have in the NA scene?

Thr first time we qualified for regionals with that team (DreamHack Austin), me and Prismaticism joined the team one day before the event. Me and prisma were playing with PPST before, and Srey decided to leave the team to play with Blaze the night before. I knew Justing and Buds [from] before and asked them if they had room for me and prisma since we had no team anymore. The day we qualified was really special for me because it was my first LAN, and we had no practice together, so there was no expectation. After that day, I realized that this team had a lot of potential, and I’m not surprised to see them getting better placement in the next LAN.

How did you end up playing with k1pro and KingCaffeine on Crescendo?

They offered me a tryout, and I made the team.

Oh. So you didn’t know them much beforehand? Or…do all top NA pros know each other?

I played with them a little bit in SEL and met them at Texas for the first time—it was a really good time to meet every player.

Obviously, you guys have some exceptional players and great synergy. Did the team expect to smash the first qualifier for Burbank so hard?

We did not do that great in the qualifier :P.

I mean, it’s the most stacked one, and you guys came out on top looking strong, so… :p. At the regional event, Denial ended up doing a lot worse than expected. I hope it’s not too soon, but I’m just curious what you think the issue was.

We obviously didn’t play at our top potential at Burbank. Murlocs was the better team and they played better than us. That was a good wakeup call for everyone and I cannot wait to play at PAX.

Would you say that the Murlocs were the most surprising team at the event?

I dont think so. Vox was, for me, the most impressive team by far, not because of their player quality but because it was the first LAN as a team, and they did pretty good. I respect every player on Murlocs.

Denial watching replay

People that just watch the game and [don’t] play with/against the player cannot see what they really give to a team. Just the fact that they have less attention doesn’t mean that they are weaker player.

On Playstyle

You played a lot of Kharazim during the qualifier for Burbank. How would you gauge his overall power among supports right now? Are there any other supports you prefer?

Kharazim is really situational pick for Support. he can play really aggressive and help the front line because of is Q escape mechanic. He is stronger against poke comps and stronger on certain maps too. My favorite Support to play is Rehgar, but I just like to play the best Support possible in the best situation possible.

Gotcha. I’ve seen you play a bit of Brightwing on stream too. Were you practicing that now that she’s slowly creeping back into the meta or just having some fun?

I was probably practicing Emerald Wind since I feel like it’s good now, and it was never picked before, so I had low [amounts of] practice on it.

Have you had a chance to play Auriel yet? Do you think you’ll get to play her in competitive?

I played her, and she felt really strong in low tier games. I haven’t played her yet in scrim, but I feel like she is gonna be a situational pick because she doesn’t have Cleanse. I still think that she is gonna get picked a lot because [her] numbers/cooldowns are too good right now.

Double tank is back in vogue now (kind of). Do you think it’s easier to play with those sort of compositions as a Support player since everyone’s a little beefier?

Not really, it doesn’t affect Support play. You still need to be vocal and clutch on your big cooldown.

That makes sense. Has it been easy to adjust to the recent minion changes? Do you feel comfortable with drafts in the new metagame?

Ya, we adjusted to minion change really quick, but I don’t like the PvE aspect of the game, so I don’t like it. We had miss[ed?] certain draft at Burbank, and I feel that we understand more the draft now and we are gonna be more prepared for next LAN since we have HandleBars, who is gonna help us a lot with analyst stuff.

On Personal Life

Some professional gamers have continued to attend college while simultaneously competing (like MichaelUdall) and some have skipped college altogether to pursue their dreams. Which camp are you in?

I left university a couple month ago because I had a really good job opportunity. I’m almost done a Master’s in Management/Marketing and working for a Bank company [called] Desjardins. Its a lot of sacrifice to do esports and work, but I can do it without sacrificing my focus on the game. I wouldn’t let something affect my gameplay since I want to be the best myself and as a team.

Excellent. That’s a really hard line to balance. Lot of respect for that.

Ya, working 7h + scrimming 6h ;p.

Yeah nope LOL—but seriously, that’s impressive. You also stream occasionally when you’re not scrimming or competing. What do you enjoy most about streaming?

I just enjoy helping people that want to get better and come to my stream and ask me questions about gameplay. That’s really what I like the most, helping someone that can take criticism and wants to get better.

Anything else (general, playstyle, metagame, future plans, w/e) you want to add?

I’m sorry for our fans for our performance at Burbank. Everyone in the team is super motivated, and we will do everything we can to be the best at PAX….we will be the best at PAX.

Any particular shoutouts?

Shoutout to Denial eSports, who its really great to work with them and make sure everything is ok for us and help us to only focus on the game. Shoutout to my girlfriend Laurie who understands my sacrifice since I’m really busy lately :).


EsportsJohn is like a wild west gunslinger…only much lamer because he uses words and interviews instead of guns. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

Equinox Interview Part III: Playstyle and Future Plans

Equinox Spirit Hood

Jon “Equinox” Peterson is a talented Heroes of the the Storm player who has played at the top of the scene for over a year. He’s well known for his incredible prowess on melee assassins such as Kerrigan and Illidan, and often assumes the role of shotcaller on his teams.

I recently sat down with Equinox to talk about his HotS career and some of the things he’s learned from progaming. Part III is all about his thoughts on the recent NA Regional in Burbank and the direction of the game as well as his future plans as a progamer.

On the NA Regional in Burbank

First of all, let’s talk about the NA Regional last weekend. Your former team Murloc Geniuses won their first tournament ever. How do you feel about that?

Overall happy for them. Nice to see people who have been working hard succeed. Doesn’t really affect me much that I left and they ended up winning, is what it is.

Mostly happy for Jun since it’s his first LAN and he had that level of success.

Yeah, a lot of people are really complimenting him for his outstanding play. After watching the tournament, do you think he’s one of the absolute best Supports in NA too?

I think he is. However, it mostly depends how consistent he ends up being in tourney play and how the rosters do after they settle down.

There were a lot of impressive showings overall by “lesser” teams at Burbank (Vox Nihili and Murloc Geniuses, in particular), but the “bigger” teams struggled. Why do you think that happened? Was there a weird shift in the metagame from qualifiers?

Naventic overall looked very strong up until they went against GFE, who beat them with Tracer. Honestly, if Naventic didn’t lose that series, they would have most likely won the entire tournament just because they wouldn’t have to deal with stuff they aren’t used to. I feel like GFE just tries to be different too hard instead of drafting what’s best and fits to their strengths the most. They have good players who can play standard, so I feel like if they just stick to what they’re good at and use the off-meta picks at the right time, then they’ll be a much better team.

What about Denial eSports? A team with k1pro, KingCaffeine, and Glaurung seems pretty intimidating on paper, but they had a lukewarm performance at best.

You saw in all three of their series that people did the same strat against them: ban/pick away three Heroes that people know Glaurung plays and just abuse that weak point. Also Prismat had a really weird performance—was really good or just really bad. Like, that Tomb game, he was just ripping silences on nothing before the fight even really started, so idk what’s up with that. They need to be comfortable on LAN and also expand their Hero pools because, just judging off draft, people figured them out pretty quickly.

I see. Do you think the overall quality of games in NA is better, worse, or the same as last season? How about last year’s?

Quality of games? Definitely worse. I think that has a lot to do with how new most of the rosters are, to be honest. You aren’t gonna have really good games when a majority of the rosters are brand new—a lot of bad decisions and throws were very common. That will get fixed with time though, as long as people stay together.

Compared to last year’s regional, I think the game is just on another level from that point. The teams were a lot closer than last year, and the top 3 teams don’t have a solidified spot like last year.

So Rosterpocalypse™ is for sure a bad thing.

I think it’s a good thing IF people stay together. The teams seem to have more potential with the new rosters but less immediate results. I think it’ll be a really bad thing if people continue to change rosters.

On Playstyle and the Metagame

For a long time, many argued that you had a “one-trick pony” style of play (AKA Kerrigan or bust :p). How would you describe your playstyle?

I just like playing aggressive Heroes. Tracer, Kerrigan, Sonya, Illidan, Thrall, any of the fight oriented tanks—stuff like that. However, I can also play passive Heroes well if we build our comp around stuff like split-pushing and poke because that’s how you shotcall those comps.

Kerrigan

Art Credit: Blizzard

I wouldn’t want to say calculated aggression is what I do, just mostly whatever I think the right decision is in the current circumstances. Like, if I see a pick on Tracer, I’m gonna go for it even in the middle of 5 people cause I know I can pull it off.

Interesting. I know I tend to be a very safe player, so pairing me with hyper-aggressive players somehow tends to balance things out. What sort of players do you synergize best with?

Ranged who have good comms, know when to make plays, and are strong laners. A front line that’s vocal (tank + support) who know when to listen but also know what they’re doing on their own (AKA good game sense).

When a new Hero or map comes out, how do you approach learning it? Do you just play it a bunch or do you think carefully about it outside of the game?

Both. Whenever a new Hero comes out, even one that I won’t be playing, I spam it when I can. Auriel, for example, I’ve played a lot of her so I know how to play against her when the time comes. A lot of the game is about knowing how to play against certain Heroes and what those Heroes’ win conditions are. Maps are a bit tricky. You have to just play them a lot and think about it to become really good at those maps. What rotations work optimally, what Hero abuses the map mechanics the best, and what Heroes benefit from the landscape of the map.

The Scaling Changes were obviously the biggest change in the history of Heroes. Do you think they’ve impacted the game positively?

They did for sure. They lowered the gap between scaling of early and late game Heroes so you aren’t like forced between late game draft and early game draft. Every comp has their power spikes, but they can do fine in early game if played correctly, which was a huge problem before the scaling changes.

The recent minion changes are arguably the second most important change to the game. What do you think about those?

Good and bad. It punishes low map awareness and not clearing your lanes but also makes keeps that more valuable and push Heroes that [much] more valuable. I think it increases the diversity of the Heroes that are good in the current meta, so overall it’s a good change.

On Future Plans

Excellent. Moving on, let’s talk about your future plans. I know this is the most anticipated part of the interview for both myself and the community. You quit competitive Heroes (again) but…did you really? You’ve been dropping some hints lately that you want back in.

No I didn’t quit completely yet. I plan on competing at PAX and hopefully BlizzCon. We’ll see what happens after PAX though.

I’d like to continue competing because that’s the part of the game I really enjoy doing. I still hate Hero League though. However, I have an idea to make it more enjoyable for the time being.

Oh yeah, what idea is that?

Stream, play on smurfs more and do like X Hero to Grandmaster streams so I’m getting practice on Heroes I want and also having fun at the same time.

I see. So it sounds like you’ll be doing quite a bit of streaming. Have you thought about coaching or casting or anything like that?

I did coach for a little bit before the regionals that just passed. I thought about doing it and I’d still like to do it if I end up not playing again.

Are you planning on joining back up with the Murlocs or just looking for a team wherever?

Have a team in mind already. Not Murlocs though, don’t think they’ll be needing anyone for quite awhile.

Random question, but did you ever consider going into Overwatch at all during your “retirement”?

I did, but I’ve been out of FPS games for so long, it’d take quite awhile to get back into them.

Wrap-up

What would you say is the most important factor to being a really good player?

Learning from your mistakes and being objective about your play. There’s always something you can learn from even if you win everything. Always strive to improve and never get complacent.

To some degree, that “hard work” is difficult to see in professional gaming. What are some of the ways you think we (as fans) can fix the stereotype that gamers are lazy and/or don’t work hard?

I mean, just the fans realizing what hard work in gaming actually is. It’s just an ignorance about what that term means. People who do actually work hard at being a pro gamer scrim/practice 10-12 [hours] or more a day.

Equinox Interview

Photo Credit: ESL

Also, putting in the extra time to study macro play and draft is something that shows someone really works hard.

What’s the best thing that fans can do to support a player or team they love?

Cheer for them regardless of results. Support through thick and thin is a massive motivation.

Any other shoutouts you’d like to make? Anything else you’d like to add?

Shoutouts, hmm. Guess I’ll start with people who have supported me through all the shit that’s gone on and the whole contract thing. Even 1-2 people supporting you does mean a lot. Personal shoutouts probably start with Cauthon/Fury as players—they both made me a better player over the time I had playing with them and definitely wouldn’t be the same without them. Coach wise, Vaalia was probably the biggest impact on me as a player. A different perspective on things made me improve a lot more, not just in personal play, but macro decisions and drafting as well.

Other thing I’d like to add is Blizzard please make a new Kerrigan skin. It’s been well over a year since Kerrigan’s last skin.


EsportsJohn is operation cwal. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

Professionalism. What is it?

So.

The Long and Short of It

The short version is that I got blacklisted from a (presumably) large company and my reputation was ruined among a few big names in esports.

The long version is that I applied for a position at World Wide Gaming. Ever heard of it? Me either. I found the job offering on Esports Career and saw that it was a really ambitious startups. Personally, I always try to look for startups to join because I know it’s much easier to get into a management position in an organization that isn’t already established. So I thought, “Why not apply for this Editor-in-Chief position? It might end up being a good gig.”

About a week later, I was contacted by someone on Twitter (not the person I emailed) regarding the job. I wasn’t even considered for the EiC position, it was automatically assumed that I would be writer. No words at all about the application or how they thought I would be useful somewhere else.

So that was a bit disappointing. Afterwards, I was told grand stories about a huge investor who was looking to get into gaming/esports news. There was a production studio being built in Tennessee that was supposed to produce 24/7 video news! I was told that I’d have the opportunity to go all over the US to different events and record video (interviews, venue tours, etc.), and that all of my work would be well paid. For an esports writer/journalist, that is like the dream come true.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many similar situations happen in esports—promises of big money/opportunity made to kids who literally have no money at all that are never fulfilled. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

So I started doing some digging. I searched the people involved with World Wide Gaming, including the investor, my point of contact, and one other person I was told about. I extensively researched the history of their Twitter and Facebook accounts. I even looked up IP history and Tennessee corporations. Other than the 117K follower Twitter that had only had the handle @WWG for three weeks, I was unable to find any evidence of foul play or real shadiness.

But I also literally could not find any information about the group itself. In an attempt to get a better understanding of the organization, I sent out some feelers. I asked my point of contact about the Twitter, asked the investor about WWG via Twitter, etc.

The result? I was ignored, blocked, and never got any responses. I tried several times over the weekend to contact the organization, but was unable to find anyone available to contact other than the original guy who contacted me. After several days of silence, I finally received an email from the guy I emailed about the EiC job. He told me that, while my writing and editing skills were impressive, they were looking for someone more experienced with “working with people, developing talent, and working with a young company that needs to grow”.

From this comment, I can only surmise that public questions and concerns I raised on Twitter made them think that I was unprofessional.

The Criticism

Part of me is never repentant of my criticism. My intuition is always right, and I’ve learned to trust it. The lack of transparency and communication within World Wide Gaming is straight up terrible. Listing big names doesn’t mean anything, and it appears that their structure of organization is inconsistent at best. I’m still unable to find who is actually in charge of hiring.

The followup response to my questioning by ignoring and blocking me is the lowest, slimiest, thing a “reputable” member of the community can do. My questions were fair and straightforward, and my attempts to contact them were far from harassment. Absolutely ridiculous.

I don’t think World Wide Gaming is a scam. But I’m pretty sure it’s a group of individuals who literally have no idea what they’re doing. Esports history is full of investors who get into stuff they don’t understand and fail miserably. While several high-profile members of the esports community may be (allegedly) involved, I still worry about the likelihood that many of them have never played these roles before.

The Papercut

Nonetheless, every time I face rejection or criticism, it hits deep. I wonder what exactly it was that I did wrong and what I could have done better.

In this case, I have been up for hours wondering if my comments on Twitter were too visceral or too plain. Was it just the simple act of revealing their investor? Is revealing investors a cardinal sin in the business world?

There’s a lot I still need to learn about business, writing, and life. I’ve got a lot of experience and expertise that I’ve built up over the last few years, but I’m still learning. There is always the very real possibility that I’m an idiot.

In any case, decisions like these will continue to haunt me and make me wonder if I threw away a chance at an esports career. Is this the sort of dirt that people uncover 10 years later and call you a hypocrite for? Have I made some very real enemies in the esports world?

I’m scared, but I will try to channel my effort into the what has always been the most important thing to me: my work.

Equinox Interview Part II: Looking Back

Equinox Spirit Hood

Jon “Equinox” Peterson is a talented Heroes of the the Storm player who has played at the top of the scene for over a year. He’s well known for his incredible prowess on melee assassins such as Kerrigan and Illidan, and often assumes the role of shotcaller on his teams.

I recently sat down with Equinox to talk about his HotS career and some of the things he’s learned from progaming. Part II features Equinox looking back on his HotS career and the people he’s met along the way.

On Murloc Geniuses

MG was obviously the highlight of your career. The Murlocs were together longer than any other team without any huge roster changes (mYi may have overtaken that title as of now). Do you think that the synergy you guys built up was strong and healthy?

The synergy we built up was healthy. We all had a lot of trust in each other for the majority of the time we spent together, just kind of got shaky near the end of our time together. Around the December-January timeline, it wasn’t going over too well; scrims weren’t that productive, and people lost faith in a couple of players on the team. So the trust didn’t stay forever, but we kept it until after Heroes Rising, then the team ended up disbanding and Cauthon/Faye went to COG.

Zeveron? Or do we not speak of that?

Zeveron was a pretty interesting situation. We were doing well going into it initially, and after we lost to Tempo Storm in WCA semis, the trust that initially was had in us from the owner was thrown out the window. Got worse and worse as time went on. He’d constantly shit talk us to managers/coaches of other teams as well as tell us personally that he didn’t believe we were a good team.

Equinox Spirit Hood

 

We ended up going through a slump from the end of June all the way through July and decided as a team we didn’t want to be apart of the org anymore. Also because a Reddit thread of all the shady shit that the dude has done in the past popped up, which further cemented our decision. Not exactly the luckiest with orgs, so I lost a lot of faith in ones going into the future.

Some of the friendships you forged on MG were obviously tested during the team split at the very end. Did you ever reform those bonds?

I believe I’m still friends with everyone on the team—maybe not nearly as close but don’t think there’s any bad blood anywhere. As far as everyone else, idk if everyone’s still friends with each other.

The basic formula of MG drafts was: 1) get Fury a good tank, 2) grab some strong, well-rounded Heroes, and 3) put Equinox on a hyper carry. Do you think this formula was exploited by other teams? Did you ever discuss changing drafting strategies much?

That was our basic draft strat. A lot of our success actually came from some of the different things we tried—stuff like Vikings/Sylv split push, no tank Illidan and no tank Kerrigan w/ Vikings. A lot of crazy strats that we practiced and perfected but never ended up getting a chance to run due to Kerrigan being permabanned.

Murloc Geniuses Interviews

The Murlocs answer questions at the Americas Championship.

I think our biggest issue was just not being able to close out games vs the top 3 teams. We’d always get so close then throw once or twice and lose. Overall, our draft wasn’t exploited too much unless we just fucked it up ourselves.

Why do you think it was so difficult for MG to close out games against the top teams?

The biggest thing was just not realizing the gravity of late game. We’d always take a bad teamfight, get caught, or make a bad core decision. After making a lot of bad core decisions, I ended up just…not making them anymore after messing up so much.

MG was the king of stun train deletion comps. What’s the secret behind the perfect execution of these comps?

Playing together and building up that synergy in Hero League, scrims, and tourney games. Knowing who your tank/melee are most likely to go for and being able to follow that up. Also trusting your teammates. Something a lot of people don’t understand is you need to trust your teammates regardless of whether you think it’s the right or wrong thing to do, because if you aren’t on the same page, then it’s gonna fail anyway.

If you could go back and do anything different with MG, what would you do?

Watch a lot more replays. That’s something we never were strict about, and it messed with us so much. We watched replays at Vegas and improved so quickly in a short amount of time but never did it afterwards, so we didn’t improve as much as we should have.

On Teams After The Murlocs

After the breakup of MG, you were looking for a new team to play with. Did you ever plan on joining a big team like Tempo Storm or Cloud9? Or was the appeal of forming your own team more exciting?

After MG broke up, I thought about if that would be possible but figured it’d be easier finding a team/forming one more than joining an established/high placing team. Resurgence was one of the first teams I tried out for after leaving MG and it ended up being the team I stuck with because I liked the way their comms were and I didn’t have to shotcall on that team.

Did you consider a role switch during this time?

No, not during the Resurgence era. I did later on down the road though.

So Resurgence was your first attempt after MG, and it was…a pretty disastrous failure. I still maintain that the team was great, but the community pressure and the DDoS attacks were probably some of the worst experiences of your career. What lessons did you learn from that?

The DDoS thing was an easy lesson to learn from: get a VPN, have a backup plan ready if anything happens, and try not to make people hate you that much. Regarding the community things with our matches that made us look really bad, it was mostly just miscommunication between teams and admins that got blown up to a something big and annoying. Basically, the lesson learned is just let admins do their thing and play the game like you’re supposed to.

That must have been really devastating considering the way the community treated you and the rest of the team. How did you process and recover from that experience?

It sucked not being able to qualify but after a day or two, I didn’t really care—just worked on moving forward and prepping for the next round of qualifiers. The way the community treated us, I never really cared—never will, because at the end of the day, I’m gonna learn from my mistakes or whatever happens and do my own thing, so no reason to be bothered by what people say.

After Resurgence, you joined Astral Authority (formerly Gust or Bust/King of Blades Alpha). I remember you saying that the best part was that you finally got to do shotcalling again. What made you want to start shotcalling again?

I just enjoy having control of the game and a bigger control of the outcome of the game. On Resurgence, KilicK was our shotcaller, and I did enjoy having someone else shotcall at the time because they were really good at it, so I could just focus on playing. However, being the shotcaller also puts that pressure and responsibility on you that feels really rewarding and also very devastating, which is something I love about the role.

Astral Authority Draft

Equinox captains the draft from his phone.

You also have to be very objective and critical of yourself to become a really good shotcaller. Which also translates into you improving as a player. I was never a very good MOBA player, but I’m very self-critical as a person, so it doesn’t take long for me to figure out what I’m doing wrong and fix it.

That’s great! I have to admit that shotcalling is really hard in Heroes of the Storm, especially while playing carry Heroes. How do you make huge plays while still staying focused on what the team needs to do macro-wise?

Trial and error from scrims mostly, I try to do a lot of crazy things in scrims and end up dying/throwing, but it’s for the reason that, if I do those things, I’ll always know my limits when it’s in a serious game. So since I already know my limits on the Hero I’m playing, I can then focus on the macro decisions going into the game instead of worrying about how I’m going to play.

Were there any odd picks you held in reserve (like a secret Chromie strat or a deep, hidden love for Gazlowe) during your time on AA?

We practiced Chromie a couple times in scrims and had success with it. Also our Butcher pick we played against Tempo once was one of our most successful strats. Never got to pull them out though.

Haha, that was actually a complete troll question.

I love Chromie lol. Made us play her a few times cause she’s really fun to play.

What was the best part about playing with the guys on Astral Authority?

They’re all very genuine in their opinions and don’t hide their feelings about things. It allowed us to improve on things pretty quickly instead of wondering what the issue was. If you know everyone’s true feelings and outlooks on the game, then it’s not that hard to improve. They’re still the team I felt the most comfortable being on to this day—everyone from the players to our manager/coach, was just an enjoyable experience overall.

Why did you end up leaving Astral Authority? Was it just a difference of opinions?

Our scrims were pretty unproductive for awhile and, as a person who really hates losing, it was wearing me down over time. It didn’t feel like we were improving for a few weeks because it’d be like the same thing most nights. However, it was most likely just a slump after the event, something I’ve also been through with old MG. Just didn’t feel like it was the right decision to stay at the time.

You sounded like you were dead set on competing with the reformed Murloc Geniuses. Why did you retire at the last moment?

I really didn’t enjoy playing the game outside of competitive—still don’t unless I’m just in the mood. If I’m not enjoying what I’m doing and it gets to the point where it’s just a constant frustration, it’s not worth it to continue playing. So I retired. Don’t know how long I’ll stay retired from competitive but wouldn’t mind coming back eventually because I do really enjoy competitive. It’s just very unenjoyable outside of it.

The positive, optimistic side of Reddit disagrees with you :p.

About the game?

About the game being fun. Lots of posts about how people love playing this game over LoL or Dota because it’s stress free and super casual.

If you’re a casual player and you’re playing it casually, it’s a really fun game. However, if you’re really competitive or a pro player and you’re playing solo queue, it’s not that fun because the quality of practice is insanely low.

Career Summary and Fun Stuff

Looking back on your career so far, what was the best moment of all time? Best tournament?

I have two favorite moments. First one is qualifying for Vegas back in 2015 with MG. It was my first LAN and I also got to travel to one of the places I’ve always wanted to go within the US.

Murloc Geniuses in Vegas

 

My second favorite moment was getting top 4 at Summer Regionals 2 [in Burbank] with AA—finally was able to reach that goal which avoided me for the longest time. Was a great feeling, especially because we won off of a five man Leap and our crazy Greymane, Abathur, solo heal Tass comp.

Who is the most underrated player you’ve ever played with (or against)?

Probably Nightmare or Cauthon. Nightmare is someone we tried out on MG, and he’s a good player with a strong work ethic, but no one’s really given him a shot yet. Was easily one of our best tryouts. Cauthon is a player that doesn’t usually get a lot of praise or is underrated due to his age or whatever it may be, but he’s easily the most consistently high performing ranged player I’ve played with in HotS. He’ll always do his job and he has solid comms, which makes it easy to play with him right off the bat.

Are there any exceptional people you’ve met along the way that you want to give a shoutout to?

TalkingTrees. Never really had much experience with him until AA, so it was nice to see how good he was at playing carry Heroes like Li-Ming. Faye is still one of the best players to me, regardless of what people think of her Hero pool. She’s a very consistent player who also is able to make plays at the same time.

Zuna because he’s probably the most aggressive player in NA when it comes to shotcalls and just individual play. You can learn a lot from just watching him play. Last, but not least, Mcintyre is someone who I respect a lot. He has a very large Hero pool and a strong passion for the game which makes him one of the best players in NA. He’s someone I learned a lot about melees from watching him play, especially on Heroes I wasn’t very comfortable on.

Awesome. Well, I don’t want this to sound like a funeral for your career. There’s still a huge future ahead of you, so we’ll end things on a lighter note. What are some of your interests outside of gaming? Gardening? Wine tasting? :^)

Outside of gaming, probably traveling and anything to do with astronomy. That’s a big reason I got into gaming in the first place was to travel. I plan on making this my career as long as possible so I get to enjoy traveling and gaming.

I actually did not know that about you. We should talk about astronomy sometime, I’m crazy about stellar masses ^^. Next, an important question. Worst roommate: Chen, Murky, or Nazeebo?

Murky, can never understand what he’s saying and smells like fish.

Marry, boff, kill: Chromie, Li-Ming, Sonya?

What does boff mean rofl. And marry Chromie, kill Sonya, boff Li-Ming. Gotta marry the timelord, can do some crazy stuff with that…and Sonya might kill me if she’s any of the other two so rip.


In the final part of the Q&A with Equinox, we’ll be talking about his future goals and whether or not he plans on continuing in Heroes of the Storm as well as a brief breakdown of his playstyle and advice to new aspiring players. Stick around!


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Refocusing. Planning a new goal.

So, to be straightforward: I was fired from Esports Edition this week.

A large part of the reasoning for this decision was my chronic failure to produce articles on time and communicate properly with the management. This isn’t the first time. In many ways, it reminds me of my schoolwork in high school and college; I’ve never been much of a prolific writer, and I often miss deadlines.

I have the worst form of writer’s block. The inability to put two sentences together if I’m not sincerely interested in the topic. Then, when I’m late, I tend to quiet myself because I know that I have no real excuse (and I hate making excuses for my failures). The only thing I can say is, “I just didn’t do it.”

The more overdue my material becomes and the more impatient those waiting on me for it become, the more difficult it becomes for me to write at all. I let the weight of all that pressure push down on me, unable to lift it away piece by piece. The only real release is dropping all of it, quitting, and starting over.

This is something I’ve lived with and tried to understand for many years. It’s possible I just have a fundamental “laziness” that I’ve yet to overcome. Maybe I don’t understand the value of “hard work”. I’m not really sure. I haven’t discovered why I do the things that I do yet.

Whatever the case, I’m moving forward and trying to figure out what works best for me.

What Was Wrong With Esports Edition

The first and most important goal that I have is writing about the things I want to write about. When I am excited about a topic, I put everything I have into it, and thoughts and ideas flow out without effort. Part of the reason why it was so difficult for me to write pieces at Esports Edition was because I was continually being forced into a smaller box.

First of all, you should understand what Esports Edition is, and what it’s goals are. Esports Edition is a subsidiary of a larger corporation called Perk.com. Perk.com makes its money through advertising on apps that reward viewers for watching videos, reading articles, and using the app. Like all companies that make most of their money from ad revenue, their goal is to create lots of short, engaging content that will keep the viewer interested and looking at the screen.

I was told early on when I joined them as a startup that they were looking to foster a gaming community and create a sort of “grassroots” news movement. I’m not one to put all of my eggs into the “community” startup basket, but I’m also not a huge fan of large corporate identities (as can be seen from my constant criticism of ESL). It seemed like a good goal, and very much in line with the sort of community I was trying to foster at TeamLiquid.net before I was expelled quite unfairly. In hindsight, it’s ironic that I placed so much faith in the Esports Edition group.

The first few articles I wrote for them were supposed to be “general, evergreen” content. They wanted me to write pieces that anyone could read, whether they were new to the game or seasoned veterans, could read and learn from. They also wanted it to be “evergreen”, or “timeless”, meaning that it had to be general enough to not attach itself to a single patch, event, team, or player’s success. I wrote about using the Dragon Knight and the perks of Talents vs Items.

It was boring, tedious work trying to fit myself into this box, but I was promised more freedom in the future once they had built up a base of articles for the site.

Needless to say, this never really happened. They kept pushing for very general content and disliked my pieces that went over 1200 words. When the 500 word cap rule came into effect this month, I was already done. Not only would that cut my pay in half (1000 words/article on average previously), but it was fitting me once again into a very small box which I didn’t care for.

The best analogy I can give is a BuzzFeed article. And I swore I would never write BuzzFeed articles when I first started my freelance writing career. Never ever.

When that rule was implemented, I was already considering new jobs, including the writing position at ESL. Being fired is no loss in terms of where I was headed anyway, though it still stings to know that I failed. It has put me in a situation where I need to figure out my priorities and the direction I want to head very quickly. I don’t have time to sit around and think about what I would like to do in the future; the future is NOW.

What I’m Refocusing On

About eight months ago, I decided that I was going to make a living in esports. My ultimate aim was always to be an Editor-in-Chief. I loved the work that I did at Team Liquid managing writers, scheduling content, and filling in whenever a writer was sick or unable to write. It was everything that I could ever want to do in life. But you don’t get to a position like that without lots and lots of writing first.

Luckily, there are still things I definitely want to write about. I’ve never been interested in straight up news or interest pieces. I’m not a flowery writer. I parse through a situation or incident, find what’s right and what’s wrong, and I try to convey that. It’s very similar to editing in a way.

To that end, I love writing editorials providing criticism. I’m honestly not that opinionated, but when I see something that is particularly worrisome like AA’s behavior during ESL’s recent rulings, I am compelled to speak out. We don’t have a lot of criticism in the community anymore aside from Reddit mobs, and I don’t think that does the scene any favors. Criticism is a guideline for discussion, understanding, and improvement.

I also really love doing interviews. To be honest, I haven’t really done many, but the ones that I have done felt truly amazing, and I think I have a knack for it. My goal is to expose people as they truly are so that people don’t have to sort through the multitudes of opinions of them based on hearsay and speculation.

There are actually so many incredible people in the Heroes scene like Equinox, Khaldor, and some of the guys from Big Gods. At the same time, there’s a lot of connotation with their names and “arrogance” or “attitude”. You really don’t know until you talk to them and treat them like human beings instead of celebrities.

The last and final piece of the puzzle is guide writing. I have always loved writing guides, dating all the way back to my time on TL Strategy. I love it. They are time consuming and can be a nightmare to update, but I love them so much. More guides to come.

The Great SQL Project

It’s no secret that I’ve been working on statistics for Heroes of the Storm. Up until MasterLeague.net launched only a few months ago, there was literally no definitive source for finding the drafts of every game in the order that they happened.

This was a problem when I first started trying to think about collecting drafts and studying them, so I began to build spreadsheets to collect the data. Despite rather lukewarm responses, I think the spreadsheets were a resounding success in terms of what they were intended to do.

But they had some limitations. I managed to find some SQL-like query functions in Google Sheets that slimmed them down substantially, but it still wasn’t what I ultimately wanted. I wanted tools that viewers, casters, and analysts could use to quickly gain information, study, and use to predict the game.

So I started creating a fully fledged database. I literally know nothing about this field of programming and I’m learning on the fly, but I feel confident that I can create an in-depth collection of games, drafts, and even player picks that can be used as a powerful tool for searches.

I’ve planned out the entire database and gone over it with a friend of mine who is a DBM (database manager). The MySQL server is being set up this week, and Dthehunter and I are going to be working tirelessly over the next month or two to populate the database with the appropriate data.

The ultimate goal is an app that will have several tools that help users dynamically view and predict games. I can’t reveal too much about the tools at this time, but I am eagerly anticipating the finished product that I envisioned almost four months ago finally come to fruition. Stay tuned for updates.