A Fond Farewell: An Interview with Kaelaris

Kaelaris

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


I had the unique chance to interview Khaldor last week as he finally sorted out his visa issues and prepared for the move overseas to cast the Heroes Global Championship in Southern California. However, just as one door opens, another one closes; Khaldor is coming to finally claim his spot, but Kaelaris is unfortunately on his way out. The lovable Brit brought us plenty of laughs and epic Core rushes for the first five weeks of HGC, but for now he must part ways with HotS fans until at least the Mid-Season Brawl.

Fascinated by this revolving door, I felt compelled to get both sides of the story and reached out to Kaelaris for an interview. There’s lot of emotions involved in such a fond farewell, and it become quite evident during the interview that, despite his upbeat and optimistic attitude, this was goodbye (for now). Luckily, we also had a chance to chat a bit about the art of commentating and leading the analyst desk as well as his deep love for Ragnaros. All in all, Kaelaris a pretty stand-up guy, and he will be missed.

On Casting HGC

Let’s start off with how you ended up casting HGC. Obviously, you were filling in for Khaldor while he got his visa sorted out. Is there more to that story, or did Blizzard just call you up one day and ask, “Hey, can you come to the US for a few weeks and cast HGC?”

Well, initially it was supposed to be just one or two weeks. Overall, it turned out that Khaldor’s visa would take a little more work and time to figure out, so that turned into five weeks. But yeah, to begin with, they just reached out to my boss [at ESL] and the usual discussions happened from there for an external event. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotels over the now seven years doing this job, but never a full five week stint. It stirred up a lot of negative and positive emotions—from being homesick one day, to never wanting to leave the next haha.

Khaldor and I talked a little bit about how the HGC production has far exceeded a lot of expectations. After being there on a day-to-day basis, what were your impressions?

So being ESL, I’ve been involved in a lot of productions now, be it in front or behind the camera. In usual British fashion, I’m always sceptical going in and wait for results to prove themselves. Needless to say, I too was pleasantly surprised at how the first couple of weeks went. Leagues like this with usually have a one or two major technical hiccups to start, and many small ones. HGC, though, only really had a few small ones, skipping the larger ones. I think we did well to produce something that technically sound, that fast. There’s always room for improvement though. I have a million and one ideas about segments, additions, etc. But I’m not there full time so…maybe one day!

Kaelaris at Gamescom 2016

The skeptical Brit in his natural habitat. Photo Credit: ESL

The crew there are a pleasure to work with. Everyone smiling and you get a real sense of family there. I felt so comfortable with them on Sundays after EU broadcast had finished, I would commandeer the conference room with our video editor Nick, and switch the screen to WWE PPVs haha. When the crew were on break, they’d come and enjoy the wrestling even though they had no clue really and were probably mocking it a little, but I don’t mind that! I’ll miss them dearly.

I believe this is your first time casting with Trikslyr? How was that? A lot of people on Reddit and social media commented about the playful synergy between you two compared to the more “serious” attitude of other casters like Khaldor or Dreadnaught.

So in terms of a long time partnership, this is the first time we’ve worked together so closely. However, we actually casted SC2 together five years ago! It was one or two times online for some smaller cups that were set up. So of all the people on that crew, he’s the person I’ve known the longest!

I mentioned this in a tweet at the end of last year, but I’ll say it again for sake of context: I have a lot of faith in Trik’s abilities to blossom. During the interview process, I had brought up his name as one of the better people to work with purely based on his outlook and personality. I’ve worked with a lot of people, and as such, I know what makes a good co-commentator. Attitude and personality make up a lot of that, so knowing Trikslyr has a brilliant perspective and upbeat mentality really confirmed to me that our duo would have great potential before we even stood at the desk for the first time. He may not have the technical brilliance of an international level commentator just yet, but the foundation is certainly there. He’s a fast learner with a splendid ambition to improve.

I’m glad the spectators and fans enjoyed our duo as much as we did. We both loved working together and were very sad when I had to leave. It’s rare you find that kind of chemistry with someone in this business where it all just clicks. Hopefully we get more chance to in the near future.

You also mentioned in a tweet that you and Dreadnaught “complement each other perfectly”. Is that a casting duo we might see in the future?

Ha, Dread and I are very good friends. We share intimate secrets and PIN numbers!—(not a recommended form of security). Unusual really, since we’re both just pretty introverted people in real life, but we meshed well together throughout 2016. I think we understand each other very well, and as such, have a different kind of special chemistry to a conventional casting duo. When looking at it from a critical perspective, I think that our strengths and weaknesses balance out each other perfectly. My hosting and play-by-play are very strong from doing this for years, and his analysis is very strong from being an ex-player/shotcaller. That’s not to say we’re not confident in each others proficiency categories, but we compliment each other greatly.

I don’t know when or where we’ll see this duo in the future, but I think we both would like to.

On HGC Teams

Back to HGC, what’s been your favorite storyline throughout HGC EU so far?

There were definitely tiers that we anticipated going in to the first five weeks of HGC. While it was nice to see “The Big Three” establish themselves convincingly, and while I love my Dignitas boys, one of my most eagerly awaited matches was indeed expert vs Dignitas. Just the idea of “What if?” was really delightful. Admittedly, I’d built it up quite a bit the few weeks before (narrative is our job! imagine that!).

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

So expert was definitely one of them. I’m certain in a few months’ time they’ll start rivaling those top three spots in an even stronger fashion as long as they continue to have good friendship and synergy within the team. I also really enjoyed watching the progression of Playing Ducks and Tricked eSport. They’re another two teams that can only grow stronger with time. Goes to show how deep the quality is in Europe.

Happy to see Sportbilly playing so well on Falstad and Medivh as well. It can be a treat to watch, considering their position in the league.

Do you think that EU is flat out better than NA at the moment, or do you think that the competition at the Western Clash will be close? What about the matchup between EU and KR?

Half the time, I give a troll answer to this, but I’ll be serious for a moment.

NA was in a really odd spot for a long time. I think ever since the era of Tempo Storm and Cloud9 [in 2015], the skill level of the region fell relative to the rest of the world. I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, but watching HGC NA, my fears for them are drafting patterns and also synergy within the game. None of the teams really show the same level of coordination that we see out of “The Big Three” in Europe right now. I’m not saying they’re bad, I just don’t know if they can match up, especially against Misfits and Fnatic, whose power levels are very strong right now. NA can upset at the Western Clash, though. Team 8 showed promise like I would have never imagined, and in a month or two, they could easily be number one in America if they continue down that path. Overall though, I’m expecting an EU first, second and third victory unless some upsets happen, which they could. NA isn’t that far behind, just need to tighten the play.

As for EU vs KR? I think right now there is still a clear number one in the world, and that’s L5 (previously Ballistix). I hear a lot of opinion about MVP Black being number two in the world, but honestly, I think that title is currently up for debate. Fnatic proved that they weren’t invincible at BlizzCon (admittedly, I don’t think Black were playing to true potency in that series). We’ll see how the new MVP Black roster stacks up against EU come the Mid-Season Brawl. If Fnatic could cause that upset in 2016, who is to say Misfits couldn’t also play at that scale?

On the Role of Host and Commentator

I’ve always loved your role on the analyst desk throughout 2016, especially as desk host. How does that differ from casting for you? Do you prefer one role over the other?

The preparation is very different when it comes to either being a commentator or desk host. I’ll give you an example. So as commentator, a lot of my prep will be figuring out what teams want to play, builds they like, maps they prefer, who is playing what heroes, how they will synergise, etc. Desk host prep is figuring out what questions the panel have a good idea about, how I can weave the narrative of the tournament/teams better, what players and plays we can truly highlight, transitions in speech from break / to graphics / to games. As desk host, I take a lot more time to talk to production pre-show, take a look at all the video segments and graphics so that my lead into them is seamless. Nothing rustles me more than a host saying something like “Let’s take a look at this video”, or “Let’s hear from them now”. There are far more powerful ways to lead into content that can reinforce the message or continue a strong sense of immersion.

Analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

Kaelaris hosting the analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

People probably don’t notice it, because I’m paying attention to my preview monitor when I do it, but as a desk host, I’m making a lot of intentional eye contact and hand gestures to the guys at the analysis desk, leading where the conversation is going and checking if others have something to continue a point on.

All too often do I see desk hosts going too deep in to the analysis themselves in an attempt to…I guess “look smart”? I don’t know what the reason is, but that’s not why you’re there! You’re the enabler! I don’t think anyone questions my knowledge of the game when I’m in that role, so I really try to act as the mediator to draw information from the other members of the desk. Gives it a strong structure, and I think people subconsciously appreciate that.

I used to like casting more, but at the moment it’s 50/50. A lot of my casting during StarCraft actually trained me to desk host, but I didn’t realise it until it came time to actually host a desk. Reason being, is most of the time I would just be put alongside either an expert of ex-player, so enabling them in a duo was the same as enabling a desk.

That’s a lot of insight. I think the vast majority of people who watch don’t realize that anything special is going on at the analyst desk at all. It’s so easy from an outsider’s perspective to just think, “Hey, they’re just talking about the game”.

Yeah, it’s actually a fine science that I’ve worked hard at. I won’t say I’m anywhere near perfect, but I suppose my methods stand out more than others because I just have more experience under my belt. That and I live my job—I don’t stop thinking about it 24/7 lol.

You’re also one of the few Heroes of the Storm casters who still covers other esports at the highest levels (StarCraft 2). How do you manage to balance watching, playing, and commentating both games effectively?

Well, I kind of summed that up: I live the job. It’s a little easier for me to do multiple games because technically strong play-by-play is easier to accomplish in more titles than just one at the same time. Analysing multiple games full-time would be the hard part, but I can’t say I’m doing that in SC2. Therefore, most of my time is dedicated to Heroes and being good at understanding how and why the teams are playing as they do…as well as using my play-by-play because I’ve done it for 1,000,000 years now.

How do I balance the watching, playing and commentating? Easy, really; I have no personal life currently haha. Almost all my time is dedicated to this craft. So, be it at home or on the road, I’m either playing, watching or commentating Heroes or SC2. Then even during travel, I’m reading and studying things that can improve my job. For example, I’m reading lots of books right now to up my lore game even more—people seem to enjoy my little tid-bits in casts about that stuff!

eSports has definitely hurt my personal life in the past a lot, it makes it very hard to have proper relationships because most people just don’t understand the job and my passion for it, I guess. I’m probably one of the most secretly introverted people ever because people see me on cam and are like, “dude’s chill!” But I don’t like going outside hahaha.

On Future Plans

Well, it’s unfortunate to watch you leave; we’re definitely sad to see you go. It’s been a wonderful five weeks watching you cast HGC. What are your plans from here?

Thank you, truly. For me, the five weeks doing HGC were a fantastic time. I feel like I’m meant to be there, despite negotiations in 2016 not going the way I wanted them to. Business is business. That being said, I want to be back to doing Heroes ASAP, specifically the HGC. I feel like I can contribute and channel all my energy into that project to make it the great thing we want it to be. I hope I get that opportunity one day, because my mind overflows with ideas for Heroes, as I love this game.

Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia 2016

The European casting titans Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia

2017 so far is partially planned out. I know more SC2 stuff for me is on the horizon currently, with who knows what other projects/games that may come along. I’m speaking to a few other devs/publishers about their endeavours into esports with new titles currently. I’m very thankful for my own drive in this space, and especially thankful for how easy it felt to just do any game I wanted to. I think being a gamer who played everything since I was very young left me with a good mindset for adaptation. Thanks Dehaka!

Any parting words?

Thanks for doing the interview with me! Always happy to give my thoughts. Thanks to Blizzard for bringing me out to do HGC, I adored my time there. Shoutout to my mum because I know she reads and watches everything I do haha—love you, mum. And shoutouts to Blizzard again for not giving Ragnaros the Heroic Firelands legs, because that was the worst thing that happened to Ragnaros ever, and I would die a little bit inside if I had to play my bae with legs :D.

TL;DR wanna do all things Heroes, give me Heroes, Ragnaros is Bae. All hail the Firelord. Get off Sulfuras, you dirty insect.


EsportsJohn wishes tri-cast was a thing in the West like it is in the East. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

From Player to Coach: An Interview with Sunshine

sunshine2

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


Now that the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) is settled for next year, the community is looking forward to more stable teams and rosters. However, stable rosters alone may not be the key to raising the overall level of play in regions like NA and EU; for that, we need coaches. Of course, there is a lot of pushback when it comes to the subject of coaches, especially in NA. Players and managers cite lack of experience for many up and coming coaches and often look down on them for their limited knowledge and ability.

Following a series of heated debates in the community about coaching, I reached out to Steven “Sunshine” Morgan. Sunshine was a former player on 2ARC before leaving to coach Gale Force eSports during the summer of 2016. Under his direction, the team had their strongest tournament showing ever at ESL Burbank, where they beat out some of the biggest NA powerhouses like Cloud9, Brain Power, and Naventic to finish with an impressive 9-1 overall score. While they performed rather poorly at the global championship at DreamHack Summer due to unexpected flight delays, many remember summer as Gale Force’s strongest period of dominance last year.

On Career

Tell me about your time on 2ARC. You described them as the “gate keepers of the competitive scene”.

Hahaha yeah. So basically when I was on 2ARC, Blaze was also in the amateur scene, and the two of us completely dominated everyone else. No one even came close to beating us, but Blaze always had the upper hand whenever we played against each other. So it was hard at times for sure, but I learned a lot playing on that team and from all the people who played with me.

What happened to 2ARC?

They are basically just no longer with 2ARC. They go by Nice! Gaming powered by Dark Arts. Same roster.

After 2ARC, you went on to coach GFE. What was it like making the switch from player to coach/analyst?

I’ve always wanted to eventually go into coaching. Was definitely a lot faster than I planned, but I really enjoy coaching. I’m good at identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses, which is critical for coaching, in my opinion.

On Coaching

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what a coach actually does in the HotS community. How would you define a coach in HotS?

Literally everyone has a different definition of what a coach should be. In my opinion, a coach is an unbiased perspective on a game. [As a player], your point of view becomes tainted by playing a certain role, and a coach can remain untainted by not having to focus on mechanics. At the very highest levels of competition, the players don’t need to be babied and told where they made mistakes mechanically or what they need work on, so that shouldn’t be your role; providing a deep knowledge of the game to remind players of the little things during tournaments was an essential role I played in my opinion. The coach is not weighed down by stress like the players, and having a level headed high tier player as a coach presents a lot of value.

So you would say that all coaches have to be very skilled and/or knowledgeable of the game?

Knowledgeable is the most important [aspect]. However, with my past experience, if a coach isn’t super skilled, they miss mechanical things. It can become a problem. I’ve played a lot of games to become knowledgeable about Heroes.

But what about the other side of coaching, which is setting practice schedules and keeping players on task? Do HotS coaches do much of that, or is it primarily just an analyst role?

Setting a schedule was mainly left to the team. GFE had a very good work ethic, so I never had to worry about us not scrimming enough. Had it become a problem, I would have tried to step in. Keeping players on task did happen a lot in scrims and tournaments. Making the team practice certain comps or take scrims seriously, or pointing out something the team missed…all of that is very important for preparation and execution.

Do you see a future where HotS has multiple coaches that have separate roles?

If the scene becomes comparable in size to DotA 2 or LoL, yes. But there isn’t even enough infrastructure for one coach right now. Coaches help, and if there is money, teams will get every advantage they can.

A while back, there was a Tempo Storm article trying to convince more NA teams to invest in a coach, but it was met with a lot of backlash. A lot of people where saying that there are “no good coaches in NA” to start with. Do you agree with that?

No. People say the same thing about no good amateur players, which is just wrong. You have players like Jun, Casanova, and Legend who are all extremely great players. Each one has a different level of success in the scene right now, but if they never get a chance to play on a top tier team, how will you ever know if they are good?

If a coach never gets a chance, how can you know if any are good? I would argue that my results as coach where fantastic, and I haven’t gotten any other chances other than GFE. The first LAN, I wasn’t in comms and the team went 4-4. The second LAN, I was in comms and we went 9-1. Third LAN, I wasn’t in comms and we went 3-5. Obviously, there are other factors that go into these things, but if someone can’t get a second chance with that, I don’t know what someone is realistically supposed to do.

But how do teams know they’re signing on a good coach or a bad one? Especially if they disagree with them or don’t like their coaching style? What’s to prevent the signing of a coach from doing more harm than good?

You have to give coaches a shot. At Dreamhack Austin, GFE and I came to the agreement that I would do all the analytical work and help in between games, but during game and in between games in a set, I wouldn’t say much. Neither side wanted me to throw off the groove that the team had already. We learned a lot, and by the time ESL rolled around, we had a really good mix of player-coach interaction. It falls on the org to keep the balance.

It sounds like you did a lot of GFE.

Yeah I put more time in than the players. I sat in on every scrim, compiled drafts for who we played against, played HL to keep my own skill up, and subbed in when someone was missing.

Not bragging, just saying that it took a lot of time and dedication.

Obviously, you had some issues with Mavnis on GFE. Without getting too personal, what can you say about having a manager that doesn’t support the coach? How do you think the situation could have been improved?

I think the only way a coach can be truly effective is if their “power” or “authority” comes from the organization and not the players. When something happens that the coach needs to overrule the team—which can happen due to things like stress or player conflicts—the coach needs the backing of the org so that the players listen.

This isn’t a problem in Korea because younger players respect older coaches purely based on age, but our culture in NA is much different. A lot of people get up in arms about overruling players, but sometimes it needs to happen. Being a player is extremely stressful and can lead to uncharacteristic mistakes; having a coach to reel someone or even the whole team back in can help avoid disaster. Obviously, if a coach abuses his power/authority, all the players have to do is go to the org and let them deal with it, either through penalty or termination. A good coach would never do anything to harm the team, though, so this should be a very small concern at most, I think.

This is why I brought up the whole Mavnis thing to begin with. When I needed the ability to reel the team back in, a lot of my power/authority was undermined by the manager. Obviously, I have issues with Mavnis, but the only reason I brought it up was because it was very relevant to coaching, in my opinion.

There have been a few successful coaches in EU. Do you think it has to do with orgs backing them up or is it just the general attitudes of the players that allow them to be successful?

I’m not sure. I think EU is quite different from NA, but if I had to guess, I think it would be due to attitudes. EU is much more serious about the game, so I don’t think the orgs need to back the coaches as much for them to be effective.

I could very well be wrong about that though.

On Meta and Game Design

The metagame is kind of confusing right now. How would you describe it?

Oh man, this is a tough one. In all honesty, I think this is more what Blizzard had in mind when they made the game. There are so many heroes who work off of each other that so many different playstyles are viable. You can have one hero with a global to make a gank squad incredibly lethal or a team full of globals to abuse rotations. You can run Tassadar carry-the-Valla comps or Tassadar carry-the-Tracer or Tasssadar carry-the-Illidan; it’s hard to deny anything like that without just banning Tassadar, who isn’t particularly strong by himself. Then you have straight up teamfight all-the-time comps. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there are so many options that knowing your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses is more important than ever.

Is there anything you dislike about the meta at the moment?

I don’t like how strong Tassadar is based off of what heroes he is with. I love Tassadar as a hero, but if he gets ahead with certain comps, it’s so hard to come back from. I wish he was more independent as a hero. If that makes sense lol.

Healing and damage numbers have slowly risen over time. Do you think there’s anything to be concerned about here?

No, I don’t think so. If you watch DotA, their hero damage is insane. Players [in DotA] get deleted much faster than in Heroes, so I don’t think that will be a problem. Blizzard has been very good at designing heroes with strengths and weaknesses. Take Medic for instance: insane healing numbers, but very she is very weak to dive comps. I believe in Blizzard hero design.

If you could make any change to the core design of the game, what would you change?

This may sound weird, but masteries from LoL. They are a thing you select before game and are just passive minor buffs you get to tune your hero like you want. I actually really enjoyed that, but it’s not huge. Maybe bring back individual leveling, as it allows for more playmaking opportunities.

Dota is getting talents now. What do you think about that?

Heroes master race confirmed?

Crystal Maiden's talent tree in the newest Dota patch

Talents make the game so much easier to balance, and each hero feels more personalized. It’s a win-win, and I think other games are starting to realize that.

What do you think of the new “multi-class” classification with Varian?

Soooooo awesome! I love it. One of the things that drew me to Heroes was the adaptability you can have through ult choice, and Varian just takes that to the next level, in my opinion.

Who’s the next multi-class Hero you want to see?

Priest seems like the next logical choice, but I would love something more off, like a damage or off support like Medivh. Shadow priest seems really fun though!

Miscellaneous/Wrap-up

Statistics (team comps, picks, win rates, etc.) can sometimes be misleading. As an analyst, how much do you trust stats?

Zero.

Haha I actually hate statistics from tournaments. They are cool to look at but valid information [from them] is usually non-existent. If a lower skilled team gets a better comp but doesn’t know how to use it, that doesn’t make the statistics accurate when they lose. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to analyst work. Stats can lead you in a right direction, but you can never make a highly accurate prediction off of it.

On that note, what do you think of Hots Logs and the community’s heavy reliance on its figures to determine balance?

Hots Logs is infamous for saying Tassadar and Uther were two of the weakest heroes when in reality they were dominating the meta. No competitive player takes that seriously.

Do you think you’ll go back to playing or are you content with coaching?

The scene doesn’t seem ready for coaching. If I could coach a top tier team, I would in a heartbeat, but until then, I’ll probably just play.

So your plan for 2017 is grinding the Open Division?

Maybe, I’m not sure. Need to find a real job to sustain myself, so I may play hardcore or I might not.

Any last words or shoutouts?
I just want to say I wasn’t a perfect coach. I made mistakes and I was still learning how to coach in general. With that being said, I know I brought value to GFE and I enjoyed my time working with them a lot!

I love Heroes, I’ve invested a lot of time into it and made a lot of great friends along the way. My hope is one day Heroes will get the attention it truly deserves.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

EsportsJohn tried to be a coach once; it didn’t work out. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Out of the Ashes: Interview with Arcaner

Australian Heroes of the Storm player Arcaner

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


On October 26th, Australian team Reborn prepared for their first match in the BlizzCon group stages. Having flown across the globe, the boys were settling down and trying to get in the zone after a week of practice and travel. Four members of the team had already gone through this rigorous feat of endurance and disorientation in previous global championships, but for young flex player Liam “Arcaner” Simpson, this was the first time on the global stage.

Their first game was rough and ended in defeat. Stubbornly, Reborn rallied around an all-in Illidan composition for the second game, but were defeated again, this time in draft before the game even began. Subsequent losses caused them fall out of the tournament with a dismal 0-4 record. In retrospect, there were many valuable—albeit harsh—lessons learned that day for the Australian team, but now the future of ANZ rests on how the players move forward from their loss.

A few weeks after BlizzCon, Arcaner reached out to me and asked to do an interview. “I was looking for a platform to voice my large concerns about the future of minor regions, and ANZ in particular,” he told me. As the interview process continued, we began to talk more broadly about his personal performance and plans for 2017. What emerged was not only his concerns for the HGC format and the future of the ANZ region but also a small glimpse into the mind of an improving player. It’s difficult to define what it takes to “make it out” and meet success in a minor region, but one can easily admire the ambition of a player who is only spurred on by defeat. Arcaner is that sort of player.

On BlizzCon

Let’s be honest, your performance at BlizzCon was subpar compared to what you’ve shown in ANZ. Was there any particular reason for the team’s disarray?

Our performance was definitely a shock to the team. Going into the event, we had confidence in making it out of groups [based on] our scrim results at BlizzCon. I think the first mistake we made was that we had expectations which distracted us from being objective about our games, and we didn’t commit enough resources and energy into the drafts and our preparation in general.

During our games, our drafting was terrible—we weren’t building strong or easily executable comps, and we weren’t target banning specific heroes that we should’ve been banning. On Tomb specifically, it showed that we had no prioritisation on wave clear, and even when Denial first-banned Johanna, it didn’t occur to us that we were going to get squeezed out of it.

In-game, the team atmosphere was entirely off, and it felt like there was no energy, belief, or desire to win the games.

Did the Expulsion Zone ban on Zarya affect the team’s drafting strategy?

We understood that Denial weighed priority on Zarya in their drafting, but with the Expulsion Zone ban, we concluded that it was a hero that could be dealt with and wouldn’t be popular during the tournament. Nevertheless, I revise that mindset as a mistake—we should have respected that specific comfort of theirs by banning it in the second phase or adapting our drafts to deal with it, which we didn’t.

How did you personally deal with the loss at BlizzCon? You came to literally the other side of the world and only got to spend a few minutes on stage. Did that bother you?

After the loss, I was extremely depressed and went straight back to our team’s practice room and started queueing Hero League to practice my role swap to support, which is my main role whenever I’m a free agent. I think I played about 100 games in a week and a half, so my response to the loss was one of deep desire to improve and never let a bad performance happen again.

ANZ team Reborn at the HGC Fall Championship at BlizzCon

Photo Credit: Blizzard

Playing Bo3s was pretty sad, as we only got to play four games for the entire tournament. But there was plenty of other stuff to do to make the most out of the trip, so I was still very happy.

What was it like to scrim with the other teams at the Global Championship? Did you learn any valuable lessons from the top Korean or European teams?

It was challenging, efficient, and fun. We got to scrim eStar, Dignitas, PBA, Imperium Pro Team, and Fnatic. We learnt a lot from the scrims, and especially against Dignitas, we began to understand what it takes to be a tier above the Western teams. They played with a lot of control and seemed to play more Korean than they did Western.

You stated pretty explicitly that “NA looks quite weak” during the team intro video. Even though you lost, did you still feel that was the case when you played Denial at BlizzCon?

What I’ve grasped from the event and our result is the importance of context when assessing teams, players, and metas. Retrospectively, the assessment I developed of North American teams was founded upon the analytical comparison of their strength in relation to Europe and Korea. Specifically speaking, Denial’s performance at both of their American regionals when they had an early or mid game lead was precarious. Astral Authority consistently gave me the impression that they understood how to maintain a lead on their American opponents with their engagement and macro decisions—they were always in control. My reasoning for stating NA is weak was due to the comparison of mechanical play of Astral’s players versus the European, Chinese and Koreans—and for Denial it was the more apparent existence of macro and shotcalling mistakes.

Learning from BlizzCon, I’ve altered my previous mindset, and I now look to start comparing the strength of teams to my own—and with that stated, no, NA wasn’t weak. I have a wealth of respect for the region, and what I admire about Astral and Denial is their drive and passion to learn from each international showing and improve. I’m looking forward to watching them during the first split of HGC 2017.

Aside from participating in the tournament, what else did you do at BlizzCon? Did you get a chance to get out and see the city or eat some American food? Disneyland?

We went to Disneyland as a team, but aside from that, we weren’t doing much tourism. I enjoyed the American burgers.

At BlizzCon, we attended the opening ceremony and mostly stayed around the player lounge to watch the HotS games.

Be honest, how bad is the jet lag coming from Australia?

Actually, I didn’t have any jet lag when I arrived in the US. I don’t think my team did either. For me, it was pretty horrendous when I returned to Australia. I remember the first day back at home, I had a 3pm nap and woke up at 3am, and since then my sleep schedule has been ruined with lots of early mornings—I’ve never been so confused haha.

On the HGC Circuit

Minor region issues aside, what do you think was the biggest problem with HGC in 2016? Do you think the 2017 format will fix that issue?

The most substantial complication with HGC in 2016 was the disparity in skill between the East, the West, and Wildcards that developed as a consequence of dissimilar HGC structures. The East received league systems that nurtured teams and reinforced team stability and competitiveness. The West dealt with one-day qualifiers and regional finals that hindered the existence of long term rosters and limited player’s tournament experience. As a result, their mechanics and overall team strength [was hindered].

HGC 2017 bandages the wounds in the West and enables more teams to thrive with financial support and competitive opportunity but does not immediately bridge the gap in team strength. The idea of equal opportunity is what I am passionate about, and I’m sincerely happy for North America and Europe to be rewarded with a league system.

A relatively less significant problem is the international tournament format. We’ve encountered the identical two-phase group stage into single elimination playoffs repeatedly—and it’s getting stale. It’s not ideal to be having Bo3’s in a Swiss format group stage; if it were a round robin, it’d seem warranted. I’d push to witness Bo5’s become baseline in international tournaments and for more experimentation to be done with engaging formats that mix first and second seeds differently. Group stages could become intricate, and playoffs could start at quarterfinals.

Blizzard changed the residency requirements back to six months. Do you think this strict region lock is good or bad for Heroes as a whole?

I think it reinforces the notion that Blizzard wants each region to be explicit in the players that represent it. It’s clear they want to stray away from some form of international player transfer system—or maybe their reason is they don’t want Korean players dominating within any region besides Korea.

The system is understandable. The six month residency lock is strict and does its job of keeping players isolated. I disagree with the idea, but it isn’t like we would see many international transfers occurring if there were no region lock. Players would probably have to fund it themselves, as not many sponsors would want to invest so much money during an early period of Heroes esports.

It seems the people most affected in a bad way would be the minor regions and the teams who don’t make the cut in major regions that have the most competitive relegations (Korea or EU).

Let’s try a thought experiment. If a team like Burning Rage had enough money to move to North America and participate in the league after six months of practice, how well do you think they’d do?

I believe that Burning Rage would make great use of the opportunity to play in NA, and I know that JSchritte and his teammates would be impassioned by the thought of moving. I feel like they are strong and unified in their goals, and I would expect them to place high enough that they’d make it to the Clashes and Brawls.

There will be a distinctive lack of offline events next year (down from 19 in 2016 to just 6 in 2017). Given that it won’t affect the ANZ region much next year, do you have an opinion on that?

I think the more offline events, the better. But with the introduction of salaries and the league systems, there must be some form of compromise from another avenue. Maybe we will see more offline events later down the track once the league settles in and Blizzard makes some better returns for Heroes Esports.

Blizzard mentioned that minor regions can look forward to “local competitions” that feed into international tournaments. Do you think that means there will be more events during the year? Or does that pretty much mean exactly the same thing for minor regions?

To me, it means exactly the same as what 2016 has been—except for the information we received about our prize pool for the year being converted into AUD from USD, which is a loss of about 30% in the prize money.

What is your opinion on the East and West Clashes? Do you like this format better than a full-scale global event?

For ANZ, we are a part of the West, so we will be facing three NA teams, three EU teams, and the LatAm team.

I like the idea of East and West clashes, but I would like to see the second clash be West vs East instead of NA vs EU again. It’s a bit depressing that we will only get to see the Eastern teams twice next year, as we have a great relationship with them. I’m excited to see if the East and West develop their own metas; it’d be cool to see which one is stronger going into the Mid Season Brawl.

On ANZ Region

We’ve talked a bit before about how it’s impossible to make a living as a gamer in Australia because of the lack of money currently available. Do you feel this is mostly the fault of the game developers? Or does the country need to develop esports more?

In regards to the county’s development, a problem is Australia’s culture and stance on gaming. Growing up, kids are told to go outside and play sports and do outdoor activities over other hobbies. There’s an emphasis on physical activity, which creates a pessimistic response to staying indoors and gaming. Because of this, we don’t have as big of a proportion of gamers, and those that are [gamers] refrain from being competitive and stay casual. Another problem is our infrastructure and internet. Not being able to stream because of my internet speed is depressing and a limitation to our potential careers in this industry.

What is the biggest issue plaguing the ANZ region in terms of competitive play? What solutions could you offer to solve this problem?

The biggest issues at the moment are population, sponsor investment, and viewership. The ANZ region is in a chaotic place at the moment, and part of me thinks that a lot of the players in the region do not deserve the amount of investment and rewards Blizzard gives out. When I sit down and try to brainstorm the players who care about the game as much as I do—who care about international results and want to become a great teammate for a great team—I can’t think of more than a few.

Reborn lifts the trophy at the ANZ regional final

It’s depressing to be a part of ANZ. We’ve had multiple organizations and people come to help and organize events, to build the scene back up and inspire us, and it’s met with a lot of disrespect, negativity and trolling.

It would be a refreshing concept to have a clean slate of players come into the competitive scene to replace the current population—or for the current players to have a drastic change in attitude and behaviour. However, I want to emphasise the importance of increasing our region’s [gaming] population as a good solution to all of its issues.

You said yourself that there are very few gamers in ANZ. Perhaps a league system starting with only 4-6 teams and maybe ramping up over time if participation increases?

There are only two other competitive teams in the region, and one of them is pretty unstable right now. I don’t think investing in a league system will be worth it, and it’d be a miracle to get six serious teams signing up for it.

Blizzard has been doing a lot of marketing and advertising in a bid to re-sell this game, so I really hope that we get some new players coming into the scene. One we get a higher number of competitive and serious teams then we can think about implementing a league system and discussing the idea of salaries for players.

Are there any third party weekly/monthly tournaments in ANZ similar to Go4Heroes or ZOTAC?

Not at the moment, but there is a rumour that there will be some next year. Disconcur from ANZ Heroes organizes a lot of the events, and we have another organization called Gamestah who did a lot of work for the scene this year.

Despite some of the other minor regions suffering, Taiwan seems to be doing well. Perhaps it has to do with their ability to play on Chinese or Korean servers?

I attribute PBA’s success to three things. Firstly, I think that keeping a stable roster has been key to their improvement in international results; they really understood how to take advantage their situation. As long as they stay together, regardless of whether or not they had a bad international showing, they can still dominate their region and have a guaranteed place at Sweden and BlizzCon. They can keep their mechanics fresh and begin preparing a specific meta for the international stage and doing research and a lot of observation into NA/EU/CN opponents.

Which leads to the second reason for their success: their own powerful meta. An advantage to being in a minor region is that [major region] teams are less inclined to critique or even pay attention to the meta a minor region team like PBA develops. Call it ego, laziness, or overconfidence—Astral Authority disrespected PBA’s meta. [PBA’s] Auriel and Zeratul comps did well, and a lot of teams butchered their drafts against them.

Lastly, I think PBA’s ability to scrim and play on Korean servers is really beneficial and leads to their players being mechanically superior to other minor regions. I’d go as far to say that ZoLa had the best performance out of all the supports during BlizzCon.

This might be an impossible question to answer. If an ANZ team could reach the level of a Korean team like MVP Black or Ballistix, how would they do it? What would need to change?

It’s clear that there would have to be great mechanical improvement and a drastic change in attitude and mindset in order to beat Koreans. We’d have to move to Korea and play in Super League with a long term goal in mind during scrims and after bad results. It’d begin with a few seasons of low placings in Korean tournaments before eventually climbing to the top; and it’s almost impossible. But if there were a way to do it, it lies in Korea.

If Blizzard still can’t get together an organized schedule and stream next year, where can we go to keep up with events in ANZ?

Next year, I’ll be posting on Twitter regularly about dates of our tournaments so people can tune in and watch my team and me play, if I end up having one in time.

@ANZ_Heroes is a good place to follow events too.

On Future Plans

A few days ago, Benjamin announced that Reborn was breaking up and going their separate ways. What happened? Can you give us any details on the future of the players?

This is very complicated, and I cannot provide the correct answers at this moment regarding the future of the team’s players. When you come out of a tournament with a performance completely opposite to what you expect, it makes you more critical and analytical of every aspect of the team. We have to ask ourselves the difficult questions, and we need to ensure that moving forward into 2017, we have a unified team in regard to friendship, competitive mindset and goals, and performance.

It’s all very uncertain at the moment, but there may be a few players taking a season’s break from competitive HotS.

Not to bring back any bad memories, but how do you stay motivated to keep playing after an 0-4 defeat on the global stage? What makes you want to come back next year?

I think the motivation comes from the same goal that I brought coming into BlizzCon. My personal goal was to prove my skill internationally. It was something that I was very nervous about coming into BlizzCon because ranged flex wasn’t my best suit. But I was confident in my Illidan play and therefore really unhappy and disappointed in myself after the Cursed Hollow game vs Denial.

ANZ player Arcaner

Photo Credit: Blizzard

What makes me want to come back next year is to prove my skill on support and develop myself as a great pro player.

Since you don’t have regular scrims in ANZ, what does a normal practice schedule look like for you?

It’s usually about three hours per day [in total] waiting in queue for Hero League, and another two hours of playing it. And then two to three hours of replay analysis or draft practice. Every other day, I might have a two to three hour scrim block.

Do you have any specific practice goals you want to work on before next season? Any particular performance goals for 2017?

At the moment, I’m working on getting my support mechanics back to normal and putting a large amount of time into practicing drafting, which I do for one to two hours a day outside of scrims. For 2017, my goal is to be regarded as one of the best supports internationally—hopefully I can do it.

Any last words? Any shoutouts?

Shoutout to all of my in-game friends from other regions who have given me advice and helped me grow—you know who you are. I want to thank the team at Blizzard for a great trip to BlizzCon—I will never forget it. Also, a sincere thank you to all the casters and international players who cared about my team and me, whether it be casters putting in the effort to study us and get to know us or the pros who approached and talked with us during BlizzCon. It means a lot when people put in this effort, so thank you.

And lastly, thank you to those who support my team and our region, whether you are fans in Australia or around the world. We appreciate everything. I want to apologize to those I let down at BlizzCon. I’m sorry for underwhelming plays, but I will do everything I can to improve and be the best ♥.


EsportsJohn is a freelance journalist on a mission to give minor regions exposure and make esports a worldwide community. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

GCWC Interview with Astral Authority

NetEase and Blizzard host global Heroes of the Storm tournament GCWC

Photo Credit: NetEase

Table of Contents


Foreward

Written by: EsportsJohn

Passion is enough. Back-to-back regional champions Murloc Geniuses proved this with their zero-to-hero story during the Fall season in North America. Reforming with the “rejects” of other teams, Murloc Geniuses was just a group of guys who were passionate about playing Heroes of the Storm no matter what. Headlined by former Murlocs CauthonLuck and Fury, the team assembled a group of underdogs with a lot of potential and worked as hard as possible for their first championship together. When they beat GFE during the first regional in Burbank to win the championship crown, everyone thought it was a fluke. But then it happened again at PAX. And then again during the North American Nexus Games.

After such huge success, the unsponsored team found themselves booming at a high market value for potential orgs. After some deliberation, Astral Authority ended up snagging the Murlocs after dropping their underperforming roster. Now under the moniker of AA, the boys find themselves not only heading to BlizzCon this week but also invited to the Chinese Gold Club World Championship tournament. The GCWC is a global tournament aimed at pitting the best teams from other major regions against China’s best in a Beijing showdown. Though the tournament is more than a month away, NetEase decided to sit down and get the team’s initial thoughts about being invited to GCWC and some their goals moving forward.

Interview

Via NetEase

Welcome to GCWC! Can you describe your team for Chinese HotS fans? As the strongest team in NA pro scene, are there any particular pressures for you guys?

Jun: Thank you! It is pleasure to be invited to GCWC and compete with the Chinese and other international teams. Also awesome to have a chance to visit Beijing.
We are Astral Authority, a professional Heroes of the Storm team representing North America. Our teammates are:

  • cattlepillar – Melee/Ranged Flex & Shotcaller
  • Fury – Tank
  • psalm – Melee Flex
  • CauthonLuck – Ranged Flex
  • Jun – Support
The Astral Authority lineup for GCWC

Photo Credit: NetEase

It is true that we are currently considered the best NA team, but there are still a lot of people who question our ability to compete at a very high level which puts the pressure on our shoulders a bit. During the past two regional qualifiers, we have learned that the best thing to do is not to think about it too much and just play our game.

How does the team work together? How do you train daily? How do you prepare for tournaments?

Jun: Our team works as a ‘team’. Everyone participates in giving their ideas and opinions in order to achieve the best result in whatever we do—although sometimes people get distracted. Everyone is willing to listen to each other, and we trust that all of our individual players are doing the best they can to bring the team to the next level.

We scrim about six hours per day every week and have one off day. Outside of team practices, we’re free to do whatever we want, but usually we just play more games to improve our own individual mechanics.

The day before tournaments, we make a game plan by going through every map and every possible draft situation that might happen. Also, we go through the general mindset and gameplay we should have for each according opponent.

What was the original intention behind forming the team? What’s your biggest advantage?

Jun: I think you could say that most of our team was formed by players that were either ‘kicked’ or ‘not wanted’ from other present teams. One story that lot of people know is about Fury, our tank player: we qualified for the BlizzCon by beating Gale Force Esports—the team who kicked Fury. As for me, I wasn’t a known player before I joined Murloc Geniuses (now Astral Authority). After going through a week of tryouts as a support, they trusted my abilities enough to compete professionally with me even though I was inexperienced. I actually attempted to try out for other teams, but I was not able to, probably because I was not a known player.

I think the biggest strengths/advantages are the team’s environment and work ethic rather than the gameplay itself. The reason I say that is that I’ve learned that having a positive environment and being around players who are willing to improve is just as important as individual gaming skills. If a team has those characteristics, regardless if they are doing good or especially bad, they will always work as team to improve. Everyone makes a mistake—there’s no such thing as a perfect player. A great team wins as a team and loses as a team.

What’s the secret to keeping the top rank on the HotS pro stage?

Fury: Continue to practice as much as possible and during your practice time try hard to make sure whatever composition you’re trying will actually work in a tournament. Make sure to also explore different Heroes on specific maps while keeping up on what you think is meta.

How do you feel about taking part in GCWC in China?

Fury: This feels amazing to represent North America in a different region and, personally for me, I love traveling around the world playing video games professionally. I always enjoy the different cultures and how other regions live day to day compared to how my life is.

Any special or interesting things to share with us about your team or players?

Fury: Within two to three months, our team became the first North American team to win two regionals in a row. Jun, our support player, had never played at a LAN event before until our first championship in Burbank.

Murloc Geniuses after their win at the Heroes of the Storm NA Regional at PAX

Photo Credit: ESL

What’s your opinion toward Asian HotS teams? What’s the difference between NA and EU?

Fury: Asian teams for sure play a much more aggressive, coordinated playstyle where they hide somewhere for a long period of time just to get one kill. The difference between NA and EU is that NA is better haha.

Are there any particular teams you want to defeat or any goals you want to achieve at GCWC?

Fury: I want to stomp the EU teams just because of the long rivalry between the two regions. I want to show that NA is the stronger of those two regions. Playing versus any Asian team will be fun and a challenge, so I cannot wait until our team finally has a chance to face one in GCWC.

What do you think of the current metagame?

CauthonLuck: Tanks and bruisers are getting stronger and stronger in the meta with every patch. While triple ranged used to be standard [in compositions], soon it will be only one.

Which team would you consider your rival?

CauthonLuck: Not a real enemy, but GFE is the most different from our team. GFE was able to buy the most well-known and skilled players to try and create a “super team” for BlizzCon. Our team had to recruit players who were not well known but that we judged to have undervalued talent. Before every tournament, nobody gave us any chance compared to GFE; we always felt like David to GFE’s Goliath.

Cauthon, you’re a 32 year-old pro player. Can you share some interesting stories about yourself?

CauthonLuck: My age has made a career in Heroes of the Storm very difficult to establish. Though I had played three other esports games at a pro level and played in every pro Heroes tournament while working at a full-time job, no major team or org in North America was willing to give me a tryout due to my age when I was a free agent four months ago.

I had to start a new team in order to stay in the pro scene. With the help of people who had played with me before, we were able to recruit new talent and create the first team in North America to win back-to-back Regional Championships.

Any further thoughts to share with Chinese HOTS fans?
All: Thanks for inviting the team to represent NA in another opportunity to play on the global stage!

GCWC Venue - Beijing's Water Cube

Photo Credit: NetEase


This is an interview conducted and translated by NetEase. It is primarily intended for Chinese viewers to get a better sense of Western teams, but NetEase has given the publisher the right to publish for Western audiences as well. The publisher assumes no responsibility for inaccurate information or misrepresentation.


EsportsJohn is hyped for BlizzCon, how about you? You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

I Can Go the Distance: An Interview with Daihuu

Daihuu onstage at ESL Burbank

Photo Credit: ESL

For me, interviews are a chance to meet people and get to know them better. Not everyone can afford to go to events and meet the pros and the casters in person, so—like me—the best they can do is watching streams or following their favorite players on Twitter. We don’t get that face-to-face time that really allows us to meet people as friends, family, equals. There is so much more to people than their onstage persona or the avatar they play as, and I want to share that with others.

With that in mind, Daihuu seemed like a perfect candidate for an interview. Daihuu has been on several all-star teams including Resurgence, Afro Doge, and now Vox Nihili, and has really separated himself from the pack with outstanding tank plays. On top of that, he’s legitimately one of the most chill guys to talk to via Twitter, Skype, etc., and I greatly admire his drive and determination to become the best player he can be.

On Personal

I notice that you’re pretty vocal in old interviews. Do you just have a lot of opinions?

Yeah, when people ask me questions, I just flood them with all the things I’d like to say about the topic. Since I’m so quiet, not a lot of people ask me things, you know? So when they do I’m just like: omg, here—have everything. I also just love talking about games so there’s that.

Hahaha I see. Delving into your past interviews, you’ve mentioned that you’re a very emotional player. Do you think that impacts your play negatively?

I think it definitely used to prior to joining Vox. I started playing competitively when I was 18, and right when I started, I discovered I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. At the start of my career, the stress of playing and the constant mood switches heavily hit me on a mental level. I was super down on myself all the time. I would take it out on my teammates by griefing them with random unprovoked passive aggressive comments, and I had no confidence in my performance. From Lunatik to, I’d say Squirtle Squad, I wasn’t as good of a teammate as I could’ve been.

But then I really started taking the time to learn myself. I would record logs of when I would switch moods, what were the triggers, and how to handle myself when I switched to a specific mood. Bipolar Disorder, if not treated properly, is really hard to play competitively with. Imagine one day you can play to your heart’s content like you know you can: you’re landing every skill shot, you can see everyone on the map, you can predict movements and call all the shots. But then the next day comes and now you’re sluggish, you feel like you’re the worst player in the world, and nothing is going right for you…but then you go back to having an extremely good time [later]. That’s the struggle with playing with this. But now that I’ve grown and have had help from Zoos, I think, emotionally, I don’t get impacted as much as I used to. I’m more focused on the game now and Zoos helps me get through my issues if I ever have them.

One thing I’ve really learned about myself is to just be quiet after a tournament or a scrim and just empty my mind. Because I get really flustered even now when things aren’t going right. I would like to say I’m very meticulous when it comes to things. If we move to A and B and we’re 3 levels up, but we move to C and it goes horribly, I get out of place because C should’ve worked, and then I start losing track of things. By emptying my mind, or meditating after a game, I reset myself and am able to focus on learning or winning.

My mood swings are very very frequent. But luckily I’m still around and I’m finally able to conquer it.

I understand exactly what that’s like, that stuff is difficult. As for your playstyle, you’ve pretty much always been a Warrior player ever since alpha. What was it about the role that drew you to it?

I was actually forced into it when I first joined haha. I was looking to play Support for my very first team but no one wanted to play Warrior so I ended up doing it. Then I started really learning the role and realized it fit me really well. I like taking charge and leading my team through fights. I’m a very observant person, so I can feel [the] cooldowns of the enemy team and my own team (i.e. something like: Medivh has no portal, kill him! Or our healer has Cleanse, still keep going!). I’m a huge huge huge fan of ganking and teamfights. Those two things are the reason why I play this game as much as I do. The fact that Heroes enables me to play to my strengths as well as I do now makes me really happy, haha.

One of the things that always interests me is how progamers balance their progaming career with their daily life (school, work, etc.). Did you go to school while playing? Do you work a day job?

Yeah, so early last year I was working a full time job on top of playing. I actually lacked a lot of sleep due to this haha. But then I started getting more and more issues with my disorder and ended up dropping everything for a few months. I quit my job, I stopped playing competitively, and I just laid in my bed depressed all day for a solid month. Thankfully, my mom, stepdad, and my girlfriend supported me through this, despite just dropping my entire life. After that month, I started showing signs of life again and made an effort to do the things I really wanted to do, so I rejoined the Heroes scene, I went to classes for my GED, and I worked part time when I could. Not all at the same time, of course; I took all these steps very very slowly, but that was the order I started to do those things.

As for present day, let’s see. I currently do not work anymore, as my job relocated. However, I’ve obtained my GED! I currently just play Heroes full time until either this kicks off or a job calls me back. Then I’ll balance work and Heroes once more until I can live my passion of playing professionally full time without worry.

So you plan on staying in esports indefinitely if possible? Do you have a job or profession in mind if you don’t?

Yeah, that’s the dream, right? Haha. If progaming doesn’t end up working, I would love to be a sports psychologist or a motivational speaker. I have a passion for getting people to smile even when they’re down (even while I’m down, for that matter lol), and being able to do that for a job is something I see being very realistic in my future. My life doesn’t end when I stop being a pro, you know? I feel like people have this misconception that taking time away from school or working at a young age—I’m 20—is wasting time away from your life. But life is what you make it, right? You gotta do the things you can while you can.

I had this existential crisis when I dropped everything for that month. It was wondering how life worked and why we got up everyday to go to work, slaving at a 9-5 and either being happy about life or extremely unhappy, right? It got me thinking if I was wasting my life doing nothing. Then I thought about Indian people who immigrated to the U.S. who own convenience stores. Those people are extremely hard working, and I can’t praise them enough for being able to start a store, do what they gotta do to live, and be happy because they’re doing something with their lives.

Daihuu meditating between games at ESL Burbank

Photo Credit: ESL

The reason I’m bringing this up is because they started generally from nothing, and despite all the turmoil they could’ve faced after years and years of stress and wondering if they could survive the next day, they end up [surviving] and becoming successful. That crisis actually made me realize: just put in the time, do what you can do, and at the end of the day, as long as you know you tried your very best—whether it’s practicing as much as you can or studying all night or working as hard as you can—you can be happy with what you’ve accomplished.

Absolutely. What are your personal goals as a progamer?

I think an obvious answer that everyone will say is that they wanna be the best in their region or in the world, which is obviously one of my goals as well. However, my goal is more [about] fame and glory. I want to be recognized as that play making Warrior player in NA. I want people to be like, “Yo Daihuu on (insert random team name)? Yooo, that’s such a good pick up omg. What a great tank!” Sure, money and being called the best is great, but being acknowledged for being world class is truly all I want in being a pro.

On Teams

You’ve been on…A LOT of teams throughout your Heroes career. What would you say are the qualities for good teammates?

I’m really glad you asked that. I think for a game as team-intensive as Heroes, you really need to like everyone on your team. You don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but you do need to be able to tolerate them and be able to put the team’s success over your own quarrels. A good teammate will pick you up in-game when you’re down. If you start feeding your ass off and have that inevitable hatred of self-pity, someone—it doesn’t have to be everyone, but someone—has to be like, “It’s fine, don’t worry about it, we’re still okay/still even/ahead. Don’t worry, we got this.” This actually happened in our Road to BlizzCon match when I was on Panda Global vs Team Blaze. It was 1-1 and I burrowed on Anub past their fort wall and just randomly died. I legit tilted my ass off after that and Zoos was the one to be like “Daihuu, it’s fine. Pick it up, we’re gonna win.” and he brought my morale back up.

I think another good quality to have is the work ethic. This might sound weird, but a team needs to have the same goals in mind, and with that goal comes the work ethic. You can say, “Oh, I wanna be the best in the world” but only play an hour or two a day. If you and your team put in the hours needed to be good, then it’ll show in tournaments. And the final trait that comes to my head at this time is the perseverance. Teams take about a month to fully flesh out, and throughout that time you’ll go through a bunch of trouble. But if you endure that and you like everyone on your team, you’ll go far. Let’s take my team, for example. We formed a month before Burbank qualifiers, we managed to qualify and get top 4, right? PAX comes around, we did a roster swap, and we end up not qualifying at all. Despite all that, we’re still together, and we even added Zoos back to the roster to bring back that top 4 team that showed at Burbank.

On the flip side, you left Panda Global about a year ago because of “toxicity”. Have you experienced an environment that bad since then?

Before I answer that, David and Alan [the owners] from Panda Global did nothing but positive things for the team and me, and I’m truly grateful to have met them and blessed to have my first contract with them. They’re a great group of dudes, and PG has gotten better and better after my time with them. To answer the question though, no, I don’t think so. There are a few times on random teams that got too tense for no reason due to egos or people not seeing eye to eye, but nothing got as bad as PG.

So let me explain more as to why PG was toxic. The team on PG wasn’t like [trash] talking each other every day or anything that negative. We just started getting worse and worse results, and from the result of that, [we] just stopped trusting each other. Lex and I actually didn’t like each other at some point. He and I would bicker so much for no reason—one, due to my immaturity, and two, due to how everything was going wrong with the team. Obviously, now Lex and I have great respect for each other, but back then noooo, haha. We would play a scrim, and mid scrim we would either just passive aggressively make comments at each other or just bicker after the game. Now scrims are two hour blocks generally, and you can fit three to four games in those two hours…so you’d get two hours of us going back and forth every 30 minutes. Nowadays though, it’s really chill. I truly respect Todd (LexUther) as a player and think he’s one of the best Supports in NA—and if we ever bicker, it’s constructive and purely to get better.

Good to hear that things weren’t that bad. I think a lot of young teams suffer from that sort of attitude, especially when you’re gathering a bunch of young guys who haven’t had much experience working together on a team.

Yeah, after leaving PG, I really learned a lot from that experience and, though I regret all the negative things I did, I’m glad I was able to learn from it.

I first started paying close attention to you on Resurgence back in the day, and I thought you had potential to be one of the best tank players in the scene. Unfortunately, RSG didn’t think so at the time…can you run through your thoughts about being kicked from the team?

Being on Resurgence for the first week or two, I was actually really confident in my ability to improve. However, things started dwindling really fast for me. I lost my confidence, and I felt like I kept getting judged on every little thing I did. I actually lost confidence in a game every time I missed a Storm Bolt on Muradin. It was really crippling my performance and it showed in scrims. Now, if you asked me this the week after I got kicked, I hated the hell out of them. But if you ask me now, I don’t blame them. You gotta do what you gotta do to win, you know? If I’m not performing then hell, Fury definitely will.

Nowadays, I don’t really have any negative feelings towards any of the players from RSG. I was blessed to be able to play with Equinox, Kilick, Ryxie, and Shot, and I was able to learn so much from them during my time there.

Oh I’m dumb, it was RES, right? Or was it? I always get it confused with the Singapore team Resurgence.

It was RES. RSG sounds way better though.

Yeah, I remember we had a meltdown on what name we wanted to do, and we were just like, “Eh, let’s hope Singapore’s RSG doesn’t mind.” We didn’t make the name up until like a few hours before a roster lock, if I recall correctly.

Let’s talk a bit about Vox now. Vox Nihili came out of left field for the first NA Fall regional. Why do you think that the team suddenly became so strong?

I think there are two reasons as to why we were so good at Burbank. So the first one is how much time we put into the game. We spent nearly every day during qualifiers and heading into the event just breathing Heroes. Here was a daily schedule for me: I’d wake up, do whatever I needed to do, play Hero League by myself or with Zoos for three to four hours. [Then] take a break and watch replays of any performances I thought I did badly [in]. Then scrims came around for four hours, six if we were feeling frisky that week. Then we’d do team VoD review for an hour or two, and then people would either sleep at this point, chill, or play solo queue at night. We put so much time in, and we were able to luckily reap the rewards at Burbank.

Vox Nihili onstage at ESL Burbank

Photo Credit: ESL

Secondly, I think a huge part of our success was our trust in each other. We have a really good dynamic where we don’t micro [manage] each other. Let’s say an opportunity arises where we can do a Gust play into a Mosh, right? I won’t tell Hosty. “Gust them into the wall, and I’ll Mosh them.” He’ll tell me he’s about to Gust and I’ll Mosh right after. I see the opportunity for him to Gust, but I don’t have to tell him. I trust him and everyone else on my team to be able to do things like that. If someone says go, even if it’s bad, we will all listen to the call.

Aside from Vox, have there been any other teams you’ve been on that you thought could go the distance and shake up the NA scene?

Yeah, obviously Resurgence with Ryxie, Shot, Kilick, Equinox, and me. Hmm, what else…. Team Banana with Tigerjk, Haeun, Skullkid, Jun and I. We had a super stacked random team called Afro Doge with Khroen, HaoNguyen, Tigerjk, Jun and me. I think that’s about it though.

I notice a lot of Jun in there. A lot of people didn’t know Jun Jang before Murloc Geniuses’ sudden rise to prominence in the last two regionals, but you’ve been playing with him off and on for a long time, haven’t you? Do you think he deserves the “god tier” title people have been giving him? :p

Haha, he’s so good! To answer your question, yes, because he [works] extremely hard and does everything he can do to have that title. People don’t know this, but prior to playing with Tiger for the first time on, I believe Bang Bang?, he never spoke. Tiger actually molded him to talk more and be so active in his communication. And you can see it’s working now with his current team. I’m super happy for him. I always told him he was gonna be one of the best in NA—hell, even the world. And now he has two titles to prove it!

Do you think the long-term dominance of Cloud9 and Tempo Storm had an impact on the amateur/up and coming teams in North America in 2015? Do you think some of those issues have been solved in 2016?

That’s an interesting question, I personally don’t think C9/TS had an impact on rising stars, but I can definitely see the argument behind it. You see C9 randomly form, automatically get #2 in NA, then after a sudden rise in play, become the best team in NA for like what, a year, right? It’s very daunting to see players like iDream be so good, while someone like me has to put hella work to be able to play as well as he can. So I can definitely see how that could be a thing.

Daihuu at ESL Burbank

Photo Credit: ESL

I actually don’t think the scene started getting better until the Rosterpocalypse. During the C9/TS reign and even a little bit now to this day, all the players that were being put on good teams were just recycled from the list of other notable good teams. But due to the Rosterpocalypse, it caused all the talent to split up, for the most part, and form all these amazing teams: Denial, Murloc Geniuses, Naventic, Gale Force eSports. Fun fact: Astal Authority (King of Blades [Alpha] back in the day) is the only team I’ve seen from the C9/TS days that was able to make a splash on the scene from nothing. They were amateur players that ended up mauling other teams to be a top 8 team. So yeah, [in] 2016 it’s been a lot better, and I think NA is stronger than it’s ever been.

Interesting. A lot of people would contend that NA is weaker than it’s ever been, at least on a world scale.

Hmm, maybe I worded it wrong. Before NA only had two good teams: C9 and TS. But now we have MG, Denial, NVT, GFE, Astral. I’d have to agree though I think Korea and China really stepped up with their play and they’re probably the best regions.

[Revised statement:] So yeah, [in] 2016 it’s been a lot better, and I’m glad we have more teams being able to play at a top caliber level in NA.*

On the Game

Right now, a lot of people are saying that first pick (FP) has always had an advantage during drafting. Do you agree with this argument, or do you think it’s largely meta-dependent?

I’m not that involved in drafting, so I feel like my answer isn’t going to be good of good input. However, I do agree that FP has a huge advantage during draft. I recall in Burbank, after we lost a coin flip to determine if we were first or second pick, we would huddle up for a second and be like, “Okay, what maps should we pick for second pick?” Because some maps just have the worst [possible] time being second, and other maps slightly elevate it to a closer chance of SP winning. Even the Korean match that occurred recently (SPOILER) ended up in a 3-2 where first pick won the series.

How do you account for MasterLeague.net’s near 50% win rate over 6 months of data though?

I actually don’t have a good answer to that question, but I will say if both teams are performing well that day, I feel FP has an advantage. FP doesn’t have an advantage if one team is choking extremely hard or not performing (i.e., GFE vs Denial at PAX, us vs MG in top 4 at Burbank).

Blizzard is trying out something new with this Nexus Games tournament before BlizzCon. What are your thoughts on it?

I’m so glad, haha. Prior to the Nexus Games, there was a big period of time in between the last qualifier and Worlds that had nothing for teams that didn’t make it to Worlds. So if you didn’t qualify, you’d sit around for like three months doing nothing and practicing just to kill time. I’m really glad Blizzard is stepping up and giving pros more things to do who didn’t make it.

Do you think the onus is on Blizzard to provide more opportunities, or do you think we should fill these gaps with more community tournaments like SolidJake’s Bloodlust tournament?

I think if Blizzard didn’t step in for the Nexus Games, then it’d be on us, the community, to produce tournaments for the pros to play in. Let’s look at how the two big name MOBAs do it, okay? [The] League of Legends scene is 100% all Riot’s doing. They host the LCS, they host Worlds, everything is on their end of things. Meanwhile [for] Dota 2, outside of The International, [everything] is community-based with Valve outsourcing their casters for the community. The HotS scene is kind of in the middle of the two, with Heroes United and regional qualifier stuff, so I think it’s a shared responsibility on both Blizzard and us to help the pros out.

Do you have any particular criticisms about the state of the game, matchmaking, balance, etc.?

Yeah, I truly wish Hero League wasn’t as annoying as it is right now. I love PPL (shoutout to Panda Pro League), but sometimes I just wanna listen to music and work on my mechanics instead of talking to people all the time. I think there’s a few Heroes that could be reworked to be better: Artanis feels clunky, [and] Dehaka has random delays on his spells and can’t unburrow himself, for whatever reason. But balance is really good other than that. I actually believe Heroes is heading in the right direction finally, and I’m really excited to see what’s in store for the future.

[On Artanis:] I don’t know why he can’t just cancel his Q at any time or why he has to stop in place when he swaps people, but something has to change.

Wrap-up

If you could go back to the beginning of 2015, would you change the course of your progaming career?

No, I don’t think so. All the things that occurred at the start of 2015 really allowed me to mature and be the person that I am today. Let’s hypothetically say I just got on an amazing, great team at the start of my career. right? I think I’ll just end up being an asshole and a bad teammate. I got to understand myself so much from my humble beginning, and I really don’t wanna forget it.

Daihuu and GOAT celebrating their victory over Gale Force eSports at ESL Burbank

Photo Credit: ESL

I went from a no-name to one of the most well known tanks in NA, from zero to Hero—from human Hercules in the Disney movie to being able to climb on Mount Olympus with KingCaff and Fury hahaha.

Any last statements? Do you have any shoutouts for teammates, fans, or supporters?

Yeah. First off, huge shoutouts to my fans and the Heroes community. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for ya’ll. Shoutouts to my team and Zoos especially for shaping me to become the player I am today. Shoutouts to my girlfriend Basheerah for being my rock, my high school sweetheart; she’s shaped me to be the man I am today. Shoutouts to my family—my mom, my sister Ly and my brother Lam for being my “parents” while my dad went to work and the love they’ve shown me unconditionally. Shoutouts to my dad as well, I know he’s up there in the sky proud of me. And thank you for interviewing me!


EsportsJohn remembers like a few years ago when every other guy was named Jason and all the girls were Britney. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

All the World’s a Game: An Interview with Nurok

Nurok playing Infinite Crisis

Photo Credit: ESL

Ever since my trip to IEM Katowice earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of the former mYi team, tracking their progress and writing about their achievements. What has captivated me most has been their outstanding dedication to the game—an unwavering thirst to constantly improve. After my recent interview with Darkmok, I decided to get in touch with more of these Misfits, and Nurok seemed like the next best choice.

Nurok has been playing MOBAs at a high level for a long time. His vast Hero pool and seemingly effortless skill make him one of the best Heroes players in the European scene currently. On top of that, his carefree attitude makes him super easy to approach and talk to. If you’re ever at a LAN and see this guy, hit him up for a fun conversation!

On Experience in MOBAs

Let’s start with your background. A lot of people may not know your roots in the competitive scene, so could you just give a brief history of how you got into progaming?

I’ve always been a very competitive person, and I put most of my energy into gaming [ever] since I was a young child. Obviously things weren’t as serious as they are now, and I probably wasted a lot of chances on my early games like World of Warcraft or even League of Legends.

Anyways, my first real step into esports was when I joined n!faculty in 2013, a German organization, as a League player.

Aside from playing on the nerdiest LoL team ever, have you had any notable
achievements in other games?

I’ve never placed worse than Top 4 at an offline event, except for the Spring Championship in Korea (2016). But to be fair, most MOBA LANs were held by ESL, and those had only four participating teams, so I guess that doesn’t count haha. Apart from that, I was kinda successful in WoW (WotLK and early Cataclysm). I reached World #2 on one of the biggest Realmpools in Season 8 with RLD (Rogue/Warlock/Druid), just behind Reckful. In League, I wasted a lot of time. I also was mostly playing for German teams, which probably hurt my options quite a bit.

Pictures from Nurok's past as a progamer

[In WoW], we made top 5 in 3v3 bracket a few weeks into the season (was around ~2.9k MMR) and camped that spot until the end of that season because we didn’t feel like playing anymore (pictured above to the left). I left the team close to the season ending since I wanted to play, got [screwed] and didn’t manage to play up [to that level] again. On the other side, my two mates got their Gladiator titles (best 0.5%).

I was bored and didn’t want to camp. I wanted to play 3v3…was a mistake since I didn’t find proper teammates again. But [forget] that one Gladiator title, I got enough :).

The n!faculty lineup was pretty strong for a German team though, and we managed to win an EPS (Summer 2013) (pictured above to the right). Sadly, I got kinda burned out by LoL very fast and I never tried to reach the LCS sadly. I think I could have made it with the right contacts/mates. Eventually I stopped playing and switched over to Infinite Crisis. I won the Gamescom promotion tournament and the first season of it as well. We were pretty dominant in EU back then, I was playing for Team Dignitas [Team Liquid’s Cris was also part of this team]. Finally, with the end of Season 2, we swapped over to Heroes of the Storm.

You’ve played a bunch of different MOBAs (LoL, HoN, and Infinite Crisis) on a very high level now. What made you stick with Heroes? Do you think you’ll find another MOBA you enjoy more than Heroes?

I like the unique aspect of Heroes, which is its fast pace connected with a lot of brawls. The only thing I miss a bit is the famous 1v1 lane matchups (which are partly a thing in Heroes, but not as much as in other MOBAs).

What do you think of Battlerite? That seems to be the newest MOBA trend right now.

It’s pretty fun, and I will definitely play it from time to time in future. Pure skill-based games are my favourite.

How has your previous experience in other MOBAs translated into Heroes? Are there any other games or genres that you’ve pulled ideas from in order to succeed in Heroes?

Basically everything I’ve learnt in any game over the years can be applied to Heroes. Short version: Be smart, be fast, and be better than your opponents in those regards.

Are there any mechanics from other MOBAs that you miss or wish could be ported over to Heroes in some way?

There should be a stronger backdoor protection in the game, e.g. let the structures be nearly invincible before the minions clash [with] each other. Also missing the deny feature from Dota, but that probably doesn’t fit into Heroes. Lastly, they should remove some RNG factors from certain maps (e.g. Chest spawn from Blackheart’s/Immortal spawn points from Battlefield of Eternity).

On Playstyle and Practice

You’ve obviously always been a very flexible player. Have you felt that you had a lot of freedom in Heroes of the Storm compared to other games that have very meta top/mid/bot lane Heroes/Champs?

For sure, yes. In League, I played every role except Jungle competitively, mostly because I decided so for myself, but I got “forced” once. In Heroes, I can pretty much play anything—with Support being my worst role, most likely—on a very high level, and I love the freedom I have.

What’s the most difficult part about the Flex role, other than just having to learn lots of Heroes?

You need to have good mechanics and you also need to know how to use them. The shift between melee and ranged Heroes is not easy, because your positioning is different from role to role and Hero to Hero.

Nurok celebrates after a close victory at IEM Katowice

Photo Credit: ESL

You always need to know what to do with your given Hero if you want to be efficient, and that is the hardest part about it, since you have so many different Heroes you must be able to play.

Speaking of lots of Heroes, we’re reaching a point in the metagame where there are a lot of compositions out there and drafting is very complex. Do you feel comfortable in that type of environment or do you prefer environments where you can just perfect a small handful of Heroes?

The wider the Hero pool, the harder it gets, obviously. But as I already mentioned, I love the freedom and, if needed, I would even add Supports to my Hero pool. I see it as a challenge and I just want to win—as long as I don’t have to play Tassadar, it’s fine for me!

In my opinion, Tassadar is very boring to play. Your “playmaking” abilities are very limited, and I don’t like it. I feel like a useless shield bot when playing him.

How do you think the game will evolve as we add more and more Heroes? Do you think we’ll reach a point where we need to add another ban?

At some point there will be an additional ban slot, I am pretty sure about that. But not in the near future, in my opinion. I didn’t do the math, but as far as I know there should be 80+ Heroes for an additional slot. Otherwise, the options might become limited, e.g. people banning support Heroes and thus forcing an early pick.

What do you think about the map pool at the moment? Do we have too many maps? Are there any particularly bad maps?

With the addition of the two new StarCraft maps, there could be a discussion for lowering the pool for competitive play. But I think it’s important [that] not too many maps will be cut, otherwise we might have to play a single map twice in a Bo5 or Bo7 series, which is not that we want for this game, in my opinion. There could be a system similar to CS:GO. At the moment, we have one map ban only at the recent tournaments, but I think it could be improved.

For example, we could play a Bo5, and there are eleven maps in the pool. Each team gets to ban three maps, gets to pick two, and the last remaining map will be played as 5th if needed. Regarding your second question, I hate RNG-based maps, and Blackheart’s and Battlefield are the worst in that regard. I also hate Garden of Terror, but just because it’s Garden and I can’t see [anything] during nighttime.

“[Favorite map is] Definitely the ‘Haunted Mines’, though my team hates this map.” You made this bold statement in a Dignitas interview about a year ago. Do you still believe in the Mines?

I do and I’m looking forward to its comeback! I miss you my beloved map 😦

Gross. Moving on, tell me a little bit about the way you practice. Darkmok mentioned that he just likes to play—a lot. Do you just play constantly too? Or do you sit back and think about the game, analyze replays, etc. more?

It highly depends on my mood and my available free time I have for certain activities. Sometimes I just play constantly like Darkmok and try to get as many games in as possible. On the other side, I watch replays from scrims or tournaments, but not as much as Splendour, for example.

On Heroes Production and Misfits

Do you think the 2016 Heroes circuit was a success? If you could make any changes to it for next year, what would they be?

In terms of competitive fairness and tournament activity it was [a success], but the viewership is really lackluster, in my opinion. I hope Blizzard decides to go for another wave of advertisement/marketing for Heroes in 2017—the game is just a lot more polished now. If I were the Director of Esports for Blizzard, I would think about additional slots for the big regions (NA, EU, KR, CN) and, if that comes through, I’d also discuss a point-system for 2017, which is similar to the WCS Circuit from Starcraft 2. But let’s see what Blizzard’s plans are for the next year.

I agree with you totally. I know missing out on BlizzCon has hit you guys really hard, especially for how hard you worked all year. How supportive has your new organization Misfits been during this period?

Very supportive actually. The staff cheered us up a lot. Also, the Overwatch roster was watching our games and supporting us, but sadly, in the end, it wasn’t meant to be.

Nurok helping his team during draft at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the next year. If my wrist issues will be fixed permanently, I will be even stronger in 2017.

How have you been spending your time off the last week or so? Been visiting with friends and family? Relaxing?

I’m in full sloth-mode: watching movies, relaxing at home, and doing sports regularly—I am a very active sloth—belong to my daily life at the moment.

The Summer season was very one-sided in EU with mYi and Dignitas basically dominating every tournament, but the Fall season has been much rockier. Do you think that’s because the scene is stabilizing and finally settling down after the great Rosterpocalypse™ during the Spring season?

For sure, yes. For example, Fnatic worked very hard to claim that BlizzCon spot in the end. They played very well. Also, some other upcoming teams in the European scene like Mopsio’s team ExcelenteEleccion or The Jabronis looked pretty solid. They just have to get comfortable on stage and then they will do even better.

On the other side, I think it was also our fault that we dropped off a bit. We had a very awful tournament in Spain because we wanted to adjust our playstyle, but we didn’t have enough time to make [progress?]. At Gamescom, we played pretty well overall, but eventually we did very stupid mistakes and got punished for those.

As much as I would hate for the any sort of roster changes to occur, it’s statistically very, very unlikely for the (Misfits) team to stick together forever. Do you see any roster changes on the horizon or is the team still content with its members?

As long as all five of us are motivated and we have the same aims, we will be fine, I think. There are a couple of teams from other games which have been together for a very long time—like Virtus Pro [in] CS:GO—and I do not see a breakup in near future, unless some of them retires.

On Personal Life and The Future

What are some of your interests outside of gaming?

I like to chill and watch movies, do some sports, or have a nice night out with friends. To my own doom, I [dug] out my old Warhammer figures, so I might start collecting again. <.<

Do you see yourself continuing as a progamer for the next few years? Have you ever thought about a future outside of esports?

Yes and yes, but to be honest, I’m not a human being who would want to live with a normal day job. I love esports, I love visiting places around the world, and I love participating (as a player or whatever) at tournaments. So if I’d retire at some point, I would try hard to remain in the scene.

Nurok at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

Do you have any shoutouts or words for your fans?

I would like to thank our organization Misfits and its sponsors for their support. It has been great so far, and I will be happy representing your brand in 2017! Also, I would like to do a shoutout to all our supporters throughout this year, we will try to do our best in the next year, keep cheering for us :).

Wrap-up

Fun time. What’s the worst Hero that Blizzard could introduce into Heroes of the Storm and why? (Literally any reason you’d like)

Any RNG-based Hero (e.g. Ogre Magi from Dota 2) is bad for the health of a game, seriously [screw] RNG.

If you’re stranded on a deserted island with no food and one BlizzHeroes character, who would you pick and why?

I’d pick Medivh as my mate, so he could place a portal and teleport us out!

Good answer. Final question: Alliance or Horde? Mystic or Valor?

Horde and Team Instinct 😉

You’re the worst.


EsportsJohn is on Team Valor, which, as everyone knows, is the superior team. Are you on Valor? You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

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.

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.