Yesterday, UK Hearthstone player Greensheep revealed that he would not be bringing his Noggenfogger Zoo deck to the HCT Winter Championships. For those uninformed, Mayor Noggenfogger is a card that weighs heavily on the “fun” side, and has no competitive advantage over other cards. He previously stated that he would bring the deck to the tournament if he had received 5,000 retweets. With the apparent help of viewbots (Twitterbots?) it happened.

I posted my thoughts on a comment on Hearthstone Reddit. Reddit is a pretty useful website because it allows you to run the gamut of emotions. One minute you could be arguing with someone you’ll never know, and the next you’ll be reduced to tears from laughing at something amazing. The site runs through the upvote/downvote system, which could be a form of validation or embarrassment.

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The debate on this matter is quite lively. Basically, my argument is that it was pretty stupid to do renege on a promise, as it marks your brand as being a liar. It probably isn’t worse than other offenses like cheating or viewbotting, but lying is lying. A lot of fellow Hearthstone players laughed it off, and other people online said it was expected. Greensheep himself tweeted about it, giving the following justification:

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Okay, I don’t know what compels someone to do something for the memes, but apparently it was a joke the whole time. Even as someone who enjoys memes from time to time, there is a line when you are outright lying. Not to mention whatever interaction this may have had in influencing what decks other pros bring to the tournament. I guess he values competitive Hearthstone above living up to his word. Fine.

This made me think about the ugly truth in how competitive Hearthstone isn’t really a thing. I forget where I read this before, or who said this before, but people who make money in Hearthstone are streamers, content creators, people with a brand. If you think the people who are quite successful making a living in Hearthstone, you think of guys who have been around a while, but are no longer in the active competitive scene. Your Reynads, Forsens, Amazes. Kripp is super successful as a Hearthstone personality, and is an Arena player. Rising star Disguised Toast is a content creator, and got invited to Blizz HQ today (for something big likely). LifeCoach leaving the competitive Hearthstone scene was another point. And the dagger today just now:

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The first world champ of Hearthstone, Firebat, is heading a different direction than competitive play. Firebat earned a lot of praise among the community for being a very good caster, despite starting it recently.

In the end, the writing was on the wall if you put everything into perspective. Everyone in competitive Hearthstone really has the same win rate, with very small margins differentiating the best player from the 100th player. Throw in a high standard error due to card design randomness, and you’ll have a bit of variation on who vies for the top seeds. There is a lot of turnover for Hearthstone players banking on tournament wins. You’ll probably see someone who competed in the Top 8, and you’ll never see them again. The rewards aren’t there to keep someone competitive for long, and it won’t be long till you are thrown from the competitive scene by factors outside your control. The likelihood is that anyone holding a regular job likely made more money than many top Hearthstone players just vying for tournament fame. You’ll definitely need your views and videos to keep you afloat financially.

The point to win an argument on Reddit has spiraled into a dark realization that competitive Hearthstone isn’t a thing. Yes, I still think Greensheep made a mistake by lying to his followers on Twitter. I just don’t see it being a net positive to his bottom line brand as a player.The best move would’ve been to bring Mayor Noggenfogger to the tournament. I think it would’ve had a bigger bang than rolling the 20-sided dice on 1 outcome, given the nature of variability playing a role in competitive Hearthstone.

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2 thoughts on ““Competitive” Hearthstone

  1. Yea, not a good look to go back on the promise meme or not. I also like your point about the competitive Hearthstone scene as a whole — it reminds me a lot of the American and general foreigner scene of SC2 back when it was doing well. Most of players were personalities and not really focused on consistency (inControl, Destiny, or others for instance). I’m not sure how this gets remedied, but hopefully Blizzard cares enough to at least try something new.

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    1. Randomness appears to be a central design philosophy in Hearthstone, and that will always be a big obstacle. For eSports in general, there isn’t buy-in for players to have minimum salaries or even a stipend to do what they’re doing. I guess the various teams that exist do that, but it likely isn’t enough to keep people going.

      Liked by 1 person

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