Before baseball, football, or other professional leagues became big business, there was a tradition of barnstorming. That's when a loosely organized team would hit the road and play a similar rag tag bunch of amateurs from nearby towns in front of a crowd of locals and hee haws. These teams were made up of the kind of athlete who would later be scouted, drafted, and handsomely paid, but who at the time were very much day jobbers, say the guy who could throw hardest at the lumber mill, or the strongest kid in the coal mine.
As sports became professionalized, these ad hoc throwdowns evaporated. But in the wild west of eSports, the idea of show matches is alive and well. This Saturday, three THL All-Stars or squaring off against three members of the competitive team from Vicious Syndicate, the home of Tuesday Night Hype tournaments.
Two communities collide. Two gaming cultures rub shoulders in Twitch chat. And an echo from a century ago in sports is heard: Your best, our best. Let's go.
Today, we're talking to Team THL: Igor "Catota" Dos Santos Silva, Nick "ClarkKent" Valasco, and Mark "Slimsch" Schede about how they're preparing for Salty Showdown 1 and their thoughts on Season Inception.
THL: How does it feel to be voted by your peers in THL to represent the league in the first Slaty Showdown?
Catota: It is amazing to represent THL in the first Slaty Showdown against Vicious Syndicate Gaming, I'm playing with great players who I had the honor to play with in the All-Star match last year. I also would like to thank all the players who voted for me and my team, Xnergy.
ClarkKent: I was incredibly honored of course. Coming into the league as a No. 3 seed, having never made legend before I joined, and even with our teams success last season I wasn't sure what everyone thought about me honestly. It's really humbling knowing that other members respect me enough to vote for me, even though I'm not as outgoing and active as I would like.
Slimsch: It's a great honor. I don't know if everyone fully appreciates it yet but these opportunities to interact with organizations outside the league are incredibly important in terms of future growth. In events like this a solid performance is important—it feels amazing to know that the league is confident in my abilities.
THL: How are the THL All-Stars prepping for this show match?
Catota: The preparation for this show match is divided between the usual Hearthstone practicing and studying the format because [knowing] the rules can increase the team's success.
ClarkKent: Luckily, the three of us have played together before in this format, in the All-Stars tourney for THL, so we had an idea in place of how we wanted to go about preparation and strategy for the match. Now with just a few days left all that's left to do is practice deck lists and make last minute tweaks.
Slimsch: Coincidentally, the three of us worked together for the previous all-star event. Our approach last time was to look at all nine classes as well as their various archetypes and formulate a lineup that is not only strong based on its own merit but also has the potential to react in a powerful way.
One way this is done is to categorize the classes into a few categories: must bring, debatable, and no. Only so many classes will likely fall into the "must bring" category, leaving opportunity to fill in the cracks based on what we like in the "debatable" category. Debatable classes/archetypes might not be so debatable when taking a glance at the aforementioned "must brings", they might just click perfectly. The third category will represent classes that we either feel aren't powerful enough or that we do not have enough experience with to play very competitively—this one is pretty slim.
What is most important is ensuring that each player is happy with the classes/decks they are assigned to play and that the team as a whole feels confident in the overall strategy. If there are any doubts they are bound to show in the heat of the moment. The format is still relatively the same (conquest), which we are all quite familiar with at this point. As long as our collective deck selection is firing on all cylinders we are good to go.
THL: Looking back on your Season Inception, how did it go?
Catota: Season Inception was great for me and for Xnergy, even though we couldn't get to the finals. We got more experience and we believe that we can do even better next season with more preparation.
ClarkKent: As defending champs, we definitely had high hopes coming into this season and it obviously didn't plan out as well as we had hoped. I think that has a lot to do with the league getting better and better and continuing to attract incredible talent. It's just going to get more competitive in the future.
Slimsch: It was easily my best season in THL as an individual. The previous season (Kappa) was rather poor for me, I had a 44% winrate, which I was not very pleased with in that season, where we narrowly missed the playoffs.
For Inception I felt I was able to take advantage of the new ban format and formulate some powerful strategies week to week. I can't take all of the credit; my teammates steered me away from bad decisions very often in our group discussions. Sometimes I can get a bit carried away when it comes to planning in a format with so many possibilities.
Outside of league play I got to become a part of Tavern Talk, which is something I look forward to each and every week. The events that are outside of regular season play are quickly becoming some of my favorite parts of THL, but I will always be extremely proud of my performance here in Season 1.
"What is most important is ensuring that each player is happy with the classes/decks they are assigned to play and that the team as a whole feels confident in the overall strategy. If there are any doubts they are bound to show in the heat of the moment." —Slimsch
THL: What players and teams made the biggest impression on you this season?
Catota: I already had a great admiration for Slimsch since Kappa Season and the All-Star match. Furthermore, Noob Central surprised me, doing a great job in the playoffs.
ClarkKent: I'd be crazy not to say Noob Central has impressed me, especially in this playoff run. After beating us in the first round of playoffs, they proceeded to take down last season's other finalist in Xnergy.
As for players, both Slimsch and HertzDonut have had incredible seasons. Slimsch going undefeated in the No. 1 seed is very impressive, and I think Hertz record was around 21-5 in games?! That's jaw dropping stuff.
Slimsch: I've had the pleasure of getting closer with seasoned THL veterans throughout this season, but I'd like to point to the newcomers. Their impact is the most noteworthy.
As far as teams go I'd have to go with Team Soupreme. The Gosu Casuals had to face them in the Turf Wars and it was pretty daunting. I had to go up against MVParker who at the time was sitting cozy in the single digits of legend ranking, while Jingbudda had to go toe to toe with the former Blizzcon qualifier Deerjason. They were loaded heavy at the top and even had solid performances at lower seeds as we would learn throughout the season. Soupreme was knocked out narrowly by THL's own frat boys, but they will be a force to be reckoned with once again in Season 2.
As far as players, Super Sam has made a big impression on me this season. In the early weeks of Tavern Talk we looked over at The Angry Chicken Fan Club with Super Sam as a last minute sign up and called them the dark horse of the season. Having watched Super Sam's streams regularly and speaking with him a bit, I think he is going to be one of the biggest players moving forward in THL.
THL: Finally, we're expecting a decent THL turnout for the Salty Showdown, which dank memes and Twitch emotes can THL use during the match to send you power?
Catota: I would go with the classics: BabyRage, BibleThump, Kappa.
Slimsch: For this one I think we should consult an expert in dank memes such as Brunson. Personally I'm a fan of "THL all-stars, take my energy! \ MingLee /" But that is just me. You could also try to insert the Grinning Man (no space).
The THL blog is curated and edited by Donde. All THL members are welcomed and encouraged to pitch ideas for articles they would like to see on the site. If you have an idea, please reach out to us on Discord at Donde#4239 or via the THL Help email address: firstname.lastname@example.org