Dreamhack Bucharest 2014 hosted one of the first big Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft tournaments, and quite a few big personalities were present at the competition, including Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk, one of the most active players in the Hearthstone scene.I had a chance to talk to him about the current state of Hearthstone, its viability as an eSport, and how the pay-to-win situation doesn't really apply to the new title from Blizzard.
Check out the full interview below.
Q: Hearthstone has just been launched to the general public. Has this affected the Arena mode and the PvP matches in a good way, by producing more good opponents or did it just result in more cannon fodder?
A: It's a little bit of both. There are definitely more good players than there used to be. There are about 1,200 or 1,400 Legend players in North America, which is about double or triple what it was this time in the season before it was released to the public. I think there's a lot of new talent and it'll just take a few months before they make a name for themselves. It's starting to be more and more tournaments so if you're a good player who spends a lot of time in PvP on the ladder, you have a lot of chances to make a name for yourself.
Q: Do you think that Hearthstone as an eSport needs players with established names, with something in their background?
A: It's early on for Hearthstone so companies that want to organize events look for players with an established fanbase and performances, as they tend to draw in more viewers. As more and more events develop, like Dreamhack, it'll be less important for players to have a following. Players that qualify at events will participate just because they're good players and the tournaments will get viewers. Right now, it's more about famous players, but good ones are getting themselves noticed.
Q: Now that the game is available on iPad, we can practically play Hearthstone wherever we want. Do you need a bit of breathing room, perhaps to play another game or trading card one like Magic, or do you just focus on Hearthstone?
A: My job right now is to play videogames and many times after I'm done with streaming I watch TV. I mostly focus on Hearthstone right now and it's definitely fun to play other things with friends, but I want to be the best at Hearthstone right now.
Q: This is one of the very first Hearthstone tournaments with big prize purses. Do you think this will be a trend for more and more eSports competitions to get Hearthstone alongside the likes of Dota 2, LoL, Starcraft, or CS:GO?
A: Absolutely. The audience is there and the big companies want to get into it. It's a different experience, it's card oriented and not a team-based eSport, so you need a different structure than for Dota 2 or LoL. I think the audience is there, the interest is there for such events. If you compare Hearthstone, which is just a few weeks old, to Dota 2 or LoL in the early days, it's quite ahead of them.
Q: Considering you can buy more card packs with money, can a player just spend a lot of real-world cash to build a great deck and go to competitions? How balanced do you think the game is in order to avoid the dreaded pay-to-win scenario?
A: I think the pay-to-win scenario is non-existent. I was the first player in the world to get a Legendary on a completely free account. I did it in 5 days so it was pretty easy to do. You don't need to spend money to do well. If a bad player spends a lot of cash and buys every card in the game and builds what he wants, he's still going to lose to good players with cheap cards in an efficient deck. I think skill has a lot more to do with it than what cards you have. It's nice to be able to get some reward for playing Arena and unlock cards as you go. I think it's in a good spot.
Q: With the upcoming single-player campaign, do you think more players will be attracted to Hearthstone?
A: Absolutely. It can't hurt, there's not going to be less players. It's great to see that an expansion is coming so soon after the launch. A lot of players have gotten bored with the current cards so they're going to come back in and play a while to see what new things have been added and how the story evolves and the Adventure mode. I'm excited for it.
You can follow Reynad on Twitter and Twitch.