Crono: I'm from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, a small town in one of Canada's smaller provinces. I played a lot of NES video games growing up because there weren't many kids in my neighborhood and, as you might have guessed, Swift Current was not the most happening place.
Me: Other than playing Hearthstone, what do you usually do to have some fun or relax?
Crono: I'd say my favorite games are DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), which I used to play competitively, League of Legends and Civilization / other random strategy games.
Outside of video games, I have been pretty involved in the anime community (I ran a convention for 5 years and still enjoy keeping up to date with what's airing) and I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend. I'm her Ingress chauffeur.
Crono: Because you can only go so far on home pads, (especially back in the day before higher quality home metal pads were available) you had to go to the arcade to play and ended up meeting a lot of people, if you got more serious about it like I did, you started going online and meeting more people from other communities in other cities. (This was actually before Facebook was the thing, so there was actually a lot of manual hunting down odd sites to find different communities). I eventually ended up forming an organization that held tournaments for the best players in Western Canada which ran for 8 or 9 years. So interestingly, the more competitive I got, the more people I met and the more friends I made; it was very much its own niche little community.
I'd have to say my favorite memory from competing near my peak (top 10-ish in Canada, maybe top 50 in NA) was when I flew across the country from Calgary to Toronto (think Montana to New York) as a surprise to participate in a big tournament they were having there, virtually nobody knew I was coming, so this was the first time I met a lot of people I'd known online for some time. It turned out that the best player in Toronto was actually quite snobby and unliked at the time, so I ended up having almost everyone cheering for me by the time I made it to the final. I was down 0-2 in a best of 5 and managed to win 3 consecutive songs for a reverse sweep comeback - the last song came down to a single step and the arcade was crammed full of 40 or 50 people chanting along with the song's lyrics.
Another close favorite was after the meta had shifted away from DDR to ITG (In the Groove) which is a much more stamina-oriented game that I did not perform as well in. Long story short, a perfect alignment of the planets saw me make my way to the top 4 of a tournament I had absolutely no business ranking that high in; in this tournament, the top 4 players got to play a special custom chart that was 25 minutes long and about 8000 steps - pretty much the antithesis of the sort of thing I'm good at. I had absolutely 0 (for real 0) chance of beating the other 3 players who were significantly better than me at this sort of thing; it was such a sad mismatch that people were betting on whether I'd fail at 10 or 20% on a song where the top players would be separated by one or two percentage points. So, with absolutely no intention of winning, I decided to just push myself to make it as far as I could, just telling myself only 10% more every bit of the way - partway through the song, a thunderstorm started outside, which further enhanced the atmosphere. In the end, despite wanting to quit many times, and nearly failing just as much, I managed to scrape by and pass - and you would have thought I was the guy who got 98.5% (who played with me) because I had everyone rush me afterwards congratulating me and, more or less, in total shock that I wasn't actually dead for real. (I passed with 80%, comparatively). The guy who played with me ended up having the best score of the 4 players in the final, and afterward told me that part of what motivated him was "Well if this guy is able to stay, I should be able to do this no problem."
I guess for me the moral of the story is that there's something about competition or sport that can be entirely self-focused and about challenging your own limits and improving yourself, and sometimes, if you just try, you'll even surprise yourself with what you can do, even if it doesn't get you the gold medal. (You know, kind of like that Jamaican Bobsled team). I could go on forever about good DDR memories, but let's get back to the regularly scheduled program.
Me: That’s awesome man, definitely not a game most people would think about in a competitive way. Okay, so at what point did you get into Hearthstone? What made you want to try it?
Crono: I can't recall the exact time I got into Hearthstone, but I think it was around September of 2015? I know the first new expansion I saw come out was League of Explorers. I'd heard a lot about the game, and, oddly enough, I liked the idea of seeing how far I could get on the ladder without spending any real money. (I used to like to try to make all common decks back in the days of MTG, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc.)
One thing I also have to add is that this league has significantly forced me to expand my horizons, as previously, as a cheapass, I usually played only one kind of deck, being forced to develop 4 winnable decks was quite a challenge with the resources I had at hand, especially considering I was heavily invested into the previous meta, and having to make 4 standard decks as a ftp in a new meta was very tricky. (I used to exclusively play j4ckiechan's Egg Druid, he's definitely my Hearthstone hero, too bad I'm too poor to play his new token Druid).
Me: You being on such a tight budget is something I never would have considered, not to mention you being so new to the game itself! So you had about 6 months with game before having it completely change on you, and like you said, doesn't help when you are ftp and had just started finishing deck lists, but other than the challenge of obtaining the cards, what has been the most challenging thing from your first 9 months of playing?
Crono: Well, at first I was super stubborn about refusing to net deck at all, just wanting to figure things out on my own which obviously made the game super challenging, since I was up against not only people with more $$$ but with pro-level deck construction - but with this sort of thing it's important for me to develop my own understanding independently of what everyone else is doing so I can learn to think for myself through trial and error. Of course, I did eventually start looking a bit to outside sources for inspiration, at first talking to friends who played, and then eventually somehow stumbling on j4ckiechan's Egg Druid, I fell in love with it and that's when I net decked for the first time. (I finished rank 7 that month, which my THL seeding was based on, and then Legend the following month, though by no means in any universe do I consider myself a legend-tier player in anything but Egg Druid).
As far as actual gameplay goes, which is I think probably more what you want to hear, I think one of the trickiest things is just knowing how aggressively to play your board and what to hold in your hand while having an understanding of the main threats to expect from each class, and how to play around them (/identify which deck you're up against quickly) - that part, to me, is just really knowledge and experience, kind of just the simple mechanics of the game. What I feel is a little more of a real skill is being able to eyeball and estimate what will put your opponent in an awkward situation, knowing the resources he probably has. For instance, three minions can make a Warrior's Brawl seem awkward, but it might still be his only option, or, might force him to expend more cards to deal with those threats if he wants to hold on to the Brawl. There's also the probability calculation kind of stuff too, where you figure out whether you should take a calculated risk on that Druid having a 2nd Swipe when he has 18 cards left in his deck, for instance, or, more importantly, realizing when you're at the point that you need to take risks to have any chance of winning at all, because sometimes taking no risks is the safest way to guarantee a loss. Just realizing when you're in control and should play it a little slower, how long you have to win, and when you need to start playing desperately or taking bigger chances. Oh, and of course, when to go face and when to trade - there are some good guidelines for these things, but I feel like what separates the good from the best players is being able to see when you need to make an exception to those guidelines and do what might seem counter-intuitive.
Crono: SuperSam lives in the same city as me and we've known each other outside of Hearthstone for quite a few years. We randomly run into each other quite frequently since we have a peripherally similar group of friends, we also used to play together on the same Minecraft server.
Me: Is there anything you think THL could do differently to give new players to the league a better experience when starting out?
Crono: Hmmm, well maybe something that felt a little more like you're formally or more officially becoming part of a group? I've felt people are actually generally pretty welcoming when I say stuff on the Facebook page, but I would imagine if I were a less outgoing person I might feel a little more isolated in that it isn't as though anyone's personally approached me to welcome me or ask me my opinions, etc. Personally it doesn't bother me too much, but I could see those things being possible improvements to keep the good community feel and make newer players feel more invested/INDOCTRINATE THEM INTO THE CULTURE.
Me: Yeah I get where you're coming from. Personally I have to problem speaking publicly and making a fool of myself, but some do. However, if you are unable introduce yourself then you are probably going to have trouble finding a team to be on. Anyway, can you tell me what life’s like for you over on the Super Heroes? How much communication goes on for you guys each week?
Crono: Things are pretty laid back over here, we don't talk too much strategy, but SuperSam does tend to keep an eye out and try to remind people if they haven't selected their classes yet. (He saved me on that one one week).
Me: You are one of the few guys in the league that is a ginormous 4 seed. At least that’s the reaction most give when they see the PR attached to your name and seed, but do you think that is something most THL teams should go for when building a roster? By that I mean do you think the typical roster in THL should be a 450-500 1 seed, 425-475 2 seed, 350-400 3 seed, 275-350 4 seed, and a 100-150 5 seed?
Crono: Good question. When I entered the league and saw my rating relative to the rest of my team's and looked at how I stacked up against other fourth seeds, I saw it that basically part of the foundation of my team's strategy was for me to win, if possible, every BO5, because I would always be the most heavily favored player. (I've lost one so far, though I think I was against an opponent who was a lot better than his rating currently reflects). Anyway, I think that the ideal spread is entirely dependent on what other teams are doing. Theoretically, one of the best possible strategies could be to have very lowrated #1 and #2 seeds, giving up those matches 80%+ of the time, and then having very heavily invested #3#5 seeds, winning those matches 80%+ of the time. In our case, we have a little lower / average(ish) costed 13 positions, very low cost 5 and a high cost 4. I think it's actually worked out reasonably well for us considering we've had I think at least 3 if not more dropped bo5s from missed games and are still in the middle of the table. (I know at least two of us on the team are totally new to the league too). I'd also like to mention that, even though our 5th seed is only a 100 pointer, he actually manages to win a pretty fair share of matches, given his disadvantage, and being a new player, I think he's doing a great job and I'm conscious of the fact that he's got it harder because of me, mostly.
Me: Yep, regardless of how the rest of the team looks, I think everyone can agree getting a 100 PR player who consistently wins is a good strategy. This week you guys have the Damage Ones coming up, how do you think your team stacks up against them specifically?
Crono: If we go by THL rating alone, this looks like a favored week for us. While we are higher overall in team points, I would more specifically point to how the ratings stack up. While our 5th seed is in for a tough match this week, the rankings favor our 3rd seed and myself, the 4th seed, while our first and second seed will be in what will likely be close matches. If we were to go by "average expected outcome" for our team, then 5th seed would lose, 3rd and 4th would win, and 1st and 2nd - let's say one would win and one would lose, so that would put us at 3-2. Of course, things rarely work out that predictably or nicely, since sometimes you come up against someone who counters you really hard, and there's always the luck factor, but I think our seeds' ratings stack up favorably, so we have a reasonably good chance of winning overall: I would be very surprised to see a 5-0 sweep for either team.
Me: You guys are in a prime position to get one of the wild card spots, or even the number 2 spot in orange. Going into the playoff season, how confident are you guys that you can not only keep everyone on the team getting their matches played, but that you guys can compete with the other playoff teams and make a run through the playoffs?
Crono: I'm not as certain of the quality of the opponents my teammates have been facing, but I feel as though I'm personally in a strong position against most other 4 I've had a series loss and just last week a very close series where I was down 12 and
another series I won on an disconnect that I probably would have lost, so I'm certainly not feeling like this is a cake walk, I'm putting in the full effort to fulfill my role. As I mentioned above, I feel that we're a little underrated due to several 0 point bo5s where we had players miss weeks, so I think we're a little better than our points currently show. I think if we can make it to the playoffs we have a reasonable chance to go at least a couple of rounds in.
Me: Well cool, thanks again for doing this with me, do you have any finals thoughts or shoutouts you’d like to give?
Crono: I'd say my final thought is regarding improvement - I think that it's important to have a compromise between having your own unique style and independent thinking, but, at the same time, recognizing that people winning more than you are doing it for a reason that is probably not solely them having a better deck, and you should probably look at what they're doing and try to learn from it too. Also, a win doesn't mean you did everything right, and a loss doesn't mean you did everything wrong - there's a lot of luck in the game, and your only real job on the ladder is to get your win rate to be consistently above 50%. If you do that for long enough, you hit legend.
Shoutout to J4ckiechan - he runs some really unique decks and pretty high up the EU legend ladder and I respect him for being creative and thinking outside of the meta, he's definitely my favorite streamer. And of course, shoutout to Supersam for getting me involved with the league and for some valuable pointers he's given me that really helped me improve. Oh and my (current and past) pizza coworkers Dave and Jace for humoring me and always chatting with me about Hearthstone. Also shoutout to my girlfriend, Caitlan, who is very tolerant of my excited chattering about Hearthstone!
That’s it for the interview guys, but if you got really interested (like I did) about DDR and the competitive scene Crono was in you check out this clip of him participating!
See ya next time!