What’s up THL? I was lucky enough to get to pull Slimsch aside this week and go through a bunch of questions with him. I’d like to go ahead and just take a second here to express my gratitude towards all of the members on the board who make this league happen. This blog is meant to be with and for players participating in the league, but it’s cool that I got to interview a player who also happens to be a board member. I mention in the post how Slimsch does an incredible amount of work for THL, and even though what he does is almost entirely public, I don’t feel like he gets the proper amount of gratitude, so I can’t even begin to imagine how much work goes un-thanked by the rest of the board.
So I just want to say thank you guys who make this “free to play” league happen. I never enjoyed Hearthstone as much as I have since I’ve been in the league, and I’ve never been a part of a community as amazing as the one you guys have created.
Alright, on to the interview!
Me: Besides Hearthstone, what kind of games do you enjoy playing casually or competitively? I know I’ve seen you playing Heroes of the Storm, are there any others?
Mark: Heroes of the Storm is right, they don't call me "Jimmy" (James Raynor) for nothing! I have enjoyed picking up HotS quite a bit, playing with the guys of Team Rank 5 mainly as well as Brunson/Jaxox when Hearthstone isn't quite as appealing. I never played a MO BA prior to the game and find it enjoyable on a casual basis, being free to play as well.
I would love to get active in Super Smash Bros. Melee again but there seems to be no local scene where I am. This is a really special game to me. I was a beast relatively speaking in high school. As an avid Link player I won most tournaments hosted by a club I was associated with.
Me: I think I’ve heard you say before you were somewhat late to getting into Hearthstone, at point did you start playing? What got you into it?
Mark: I definitely played Hearthstone relatively early, beginning in June of 2014. So I guess I'm at about 2 years of playing this month! I only say kind of late because I didn't mess with any of that Beta business, although anyone getting in pre-Naxx is early enough I'd say.
I initially found out about Hearthstone through a combination of Totalbiscuit, LAG TV and Day9. It looked like a pretty interesting game despite me having no real experience with CCG's or Warcraft even. I was hooked instantly though, especially after beginning following the Twitch scene.
Me: How long were you playing Hearthstone before you wanted to play it competitively? What led to you finding THL?
Mark: I never really had the drive to play Hearthstone competitively until I first hit legend, which was the season of December 2014. A few months later in March 2015 I heard about THL in a small unseen Reddit post where some random user was looking for a team to be a part of. This was through a comment left by Brunson, who we all know and love. The idea of being part of a competitive team really appealed to me, I love talking about the game and strategy. Having hit legend for a few months consistently definitely had the competitive drive going strong for me as a player.
Me: You have proven yourself to be one of the best (if not the best) player we have in the league, so much so that you’ve been listed in 100% of the hypothetical THL hall of famers I believe. Not only this, you are one of the board members for THL, and you are a captain in this league, which I know is a huge load to take on. On top of that, you co-host Tavern Talk every single week! But that’s still not enough, you also cast our Salty Saturdays every week! That is SO much stuff! How do you manage to get all of that done week in week out? Is this something you think you can sustain for the foreseeable future?
Mark: I am definitely very involved with THL, you have summed it all up pretty well there. Time management definitely isn't one of my stronger suits, but I'm definitely getting better out of desire/necessity lately. I simply make the time for THL, it's something I have come to enjoy quite a bit and I won't be spending any time doing something I don't enjoy in THL. As for whether I can sustain all of these in the foreseeable future, stay tuned is all I can say for now.
Me: Given your experience in Hearthstone, THL, and being on stream. What advice can you give to help avoid tilting in this game, especially while dealing with the nerves that come with being on a stream?
Mark: In regard to THL, one piece of advice is to know that no matter what, you did everything in your power outside of the games themselves through preparation to put yourself in the best position possible before any games queue up. The second comes to when the games begin, nerves are definitely an issue that can cause players to misplay or play sub-optimally. Take it slow and keep track of the larger picture, whatever that may be in each individual game. Trust yourself.
Outside of THL I'd say don't get too emotionally invested in games. Try to be objective in judging what is happening in the game, almost as though you weren't playing yourself. Sometimes certain sequences in draws/outcomes in games lead to something you could never win and the first place. That is the nature of the game and you either accept and move forward or waste a lot of frustration. Definitely try to judge what you could have done better of course, as a lot of the time losses are indeed your fault. This is also something you need to accept; you can't improve without doing so. But again, the objectivity is going to be key.
Me: I usually ask people what they think could be done to hearthstone to make it a better game, but what I’d like to hear from you is: if you could wish for one thing to happen to Hearthstone to make THL better, what would it be?
Mark: Hearthstone should have something along the lines of "guilds" or something. I thought it was so cool that Team Hearth League is now an official organization on battlefly, but this should be an option in game. Organization and community are something lacking in Hearthstone and while they try to foster it via Fireside gatherings, I think the online world is left out. THL has something crucial to offer that Hearthstone is lacking in community, but the developers can definitely pursue this option to give more players a better sense of identity in game.
Maybe someday as we grow we can nab a Hearthstone developer on Tavern Talk or elsewhere to brainstorm with, this is worth pursuing without a doubt. It's in their interest, players involved in communities have a more vested interest in the game and are more likely to stick with it.
Me: When I think of you as a player I think of a slower playstyle, usually preferring the slower mid-range decks and control decks. I don’t think anyone would argue that you could play anything, I’m just curious what it is about those slower decks that you like so much?
Mark: The number one aspect of any deck that appeals to me is synergy. I do think that control/combo decks have a higher degree of synergy between cards on average compared to other decks, although my first real competitive deck I found success with had lots of synergy too (Midrange Paladin - post-GvG pre-BRM).
I like playing a larger number of turns on average per game though, I'm actually a big fan of games that go to fatigue especially. So when it comes to slower decks that is another aspect that appeals to me.
Me: So I guess given that you love synergy so much we can assume you've been dabbling in all the Yogg-Saron decks that synergies around spells? I heard that the synergy goes even deeper with throwing Servant of Yogg in there!
Jokes aside, what are your thoughts on some of the hidden mechanics in Hearthstone. Like how discover works in class specific cards, or how Servant of Yogg can't pull spells that cost more than 5? How much of a hindrance do you think these are to new players who are getting into the game and getting into deck building?
Mark: I'll admit I've been warming up ever so slightly to Yogg. When spectating my fellow THL players chucking Yogg onto the board I can't help but cheer and praise Yogg. I even played my first Yogg off a golden monkey the other night, he was awful by the way. Yuck Fogg.
The class specific card aspect with discover is nice, but definitely not obvious. The fact that it was hidden as long as it was while LoE was being teased is really troubling and an ongoing issue in developer communication. Servant of Yogg Saron is spelled out clearly though. Also, how pathetic is that the Servant of Yogg Saron has no benefit for his master? Yogg must be an awful boss to work for, clearly.
I really can't speak for what it's like for new players though. The fact that the discover tid-bit was mainly learned in a Reddit thread and word of mouth is troubling.
Me: The way the league is setup, the teams in the Blue and Orange divisions are, on average, top heavy; while on the flip side the teams in the Red and Green divisions are bottom heavy. I think on average all the one seeds are similar caliber players, when I say top heavy I'm mainly referring to the 2/3 seeds. Do you think this poses for one of the most exciting THL Finals matches at the end of the season? I'm picturing a team like Soupreme with 3 500 players going up against a team like Xnergy with a huge 4 seed and a very respectable 5 seed.
Mark: I hadn't noticed that pattern! It definitely is interesting to see teams with different PR dynamics go head to head. Honestly though I'm not sure what we gain from it all though, there is currently some work being done to see the effect on PR differential and how it affects match outcome odds. I need that kind of information to truly get excited about these sorts of match ups, but I think it goes without saying that Season 3 finals will be the most exciting to date.
Me: Cool, yeah definitely excited for the playoffs as a whole! Alright well again I just want to say thanks for taking part in this, do you have any final words before we end?
Mark: Thanks for giving me the chance to have this interview! It's things like this that keep THL fresh. Being a part of THL in the capacity that I am is really something I'm thankful for and I look forward to what to future holds for us all.
That’s it for this post, see you guys next time!
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