From underdog to top player: An interview with Maverick
As written a few days before, Michaël “Maverick” Looze is one of GosuGamers' “10 people to watch in 2015”. He had quite a success since the early 2015, managing to finish on the top spots of ranked play each season and getting to the playoffs of two major tournaments.
I caught up with him between two offline tournaments, SeatStory Cup III where he finished top 4 and DreamHack Tours, the first ever DreamHack on the French soil which will be held on May 8-10.
Hello Maverick and first of all congratulations on your top four at SeatStory Cup III! How are you doing since you got home?
Maverick : Hello and thanks! I’m doing really great, I had an amazing time there.
Before we get to the serious stuff, could you introduce yourself? Who is Maverick and what does he do when he is not playing Hearthstone?
M : So my name is Michaël “Maverick” Looze, I’m a young 19-year-old Belgian. Five months ago I was studying Civil Engineering at Liège’s university. I had to pause it because I wasn’t really into it, and because I wanted to devote my time to my new passion, Hearthstone. I’m also a sports enthusiast, I’m practicing at an amateur level (badminton and football with friends), but I enjoy watching professional competitions (essentially football).
You are one of the three top 8 players who didn’t drop a series until the playoffs at Seatstory Cup III. In the quarterfinals you took out Lifecoach who was #1 on GosuGamers' rankings at the time, and you finally lost only to the new champion. How do you feel being among the top players of the world?
M: It was really important for me to show that I was worth my first tournament invitation. To confirm I deserved it and to hope for more in the future. I prepared a lot for this tournament, I am often on the high ranks of ladder so I knew with a little preparation I could compete among the “bigs” at a tournament. It happened and I am really happy!
You spent four days with some big names of the Hearthstone scene like Savjz, Amaz, Firebat… Did you get along with them? Are Reynad and Ekop as salty as some people like to say?
M: My English is very poor (I am French :P), so it was a bit complicated to have actual conversations. But I managed to talk with some of the players. Savjz complimented me on my performance match after match, it was really nice of him. It was encouraging. And no they aren’t as salty as we can see on their streams but I don’t want to break the myth.
"Savjz complimented me on my performance match after match. It was encouraging."
Do you have any regrets regarding your games during the tournament? How did you handle the pressure?
M: I am just starting to re-watch my games. I think it’s important even for the ones I won. Overall I think I played at my best level. There is just one game against Hyped that I may have made some mistakes, especially because I didn’t know if he was playing face or midrange Hunter. And versus Orange in the semi-finals where I made three or four big mistakes, especially with my Warrior against his Druid where I took an unnecessary risk in the late game. Fortunately, it didn’t make me lose the game but it was still a big mistake.
Last year you took your first title by winning GamersOrigin Cup #2 and I remember a moment when I was watching the English stream with Gnimsh and Amaz where they were talking about that they rarely see French players in an international event because they would rather stay “in border”. Why do you think Frenchmen treasure their local scene so much? And speaking of which, what do you think of the French scene compared to other countries?
M: I really don’t know how to explain this separation. The language barrier must have a role in it. But I can assure you that players like me (and others) are waiting for an opportunity to compete internationally. The French scene represents a big number of good players that are not well known because they don’t stream in English. There are regularly more than fifteen French players in top 100 at the end of every season and there is a high level of play during our tournaments.
Speaking of domestic events, the very first French DreamHack will take place in Tours, are you happy about those three intense days?
M: It will of course be a big event, where we all need to be ready. I fear that like before we will not see much of international players, even less than DreamHack Valencia.
But it will definetely be a tournament to watch to see the high level of the French scene.
At first, the Hearthstone tournament was settled to 64 players but then when the ticket selling went online the organizers doubled the number of players due to a lot of demands, do you think expanding this much is a good thing?
M : Yes, there are more and more players in France, and good ones too.It’s important to let everyone have their chance to show their talent.
"There are regularly more than fifteen French players in top 100 each season, and they're waiting for an opportunity to compete abroad."
Who do you think are the players to watch at DreamHack Tours?
M : Obviously we will have all the names known on the French scene like Thefishou, Bestmarmotte, Yogg… but also players who are on the rise like Odemian, D3monSlayer, Maybee, Oliech and other players on less known teams but still showing great plays
How do you prepare for tournaments now that you have signed with Millenium? Were there changes in your methods since you left Punchline?
M: Hardly, I am still in touch with Punchline’s players and I know I can practice with them. Let’s say I now have more people with whom I can chat about decks and train.
2014 was the year of the invites, how unsettling was it to be on the outside looking in, not getting invites despite knowing you’re one of the better players in Europe ?
M: Of course it’s a bit frustrating but you find a way to deal with it, it’s only logical that organizers of tournaments wants to have big names in their events to attract the maximum amount of viewers. Yes it can be seen as unfair but there is a reason and you must accept it.
"Seein invites-only tournaments in 2014 was a bit frustrating but you find a way to deal with it. It can be seen as unfair, but there is a reason and you must accept it."
2015 has seen a lot more qualifiers for big events like recently Viagame House Cup II and SeatStory Cup III, and we have seen some new players on the rise like Orange, Ostkaka, Hoej... Do you think it will make organizers reconsider where invitations go and start paying attention to “the underdogs” ?
M: I think the new ruling from Blizzard influenced it a lot and that’s a good thing. There will now be two types of tournaments, those like Viagame House Cup that want to generate BlizzCon points and will open their gates to more qualifiers, and on the other side big tournaments who continue to favour invitations.
You are #3 in the BlizzCon rankings for EU and top 8 overall, on the trails behind Naiman and Orange, you are getting the bulk of your points from ladder and you are ahead of some of the biggest names like Rdu, Kolento, Thijs… Do you see yourself at BlizzCon fighting for the crown of World Champion and maybe winning it?
M: With the start I had I think I can make it as one of the 23 players qualified with this ranking but I can't start slacking. My goal is to be in top 8 because it gives you good options through the regional qualifiers. On the other hand we know only four players will go to BlizzCon and there are a lot of big players in this. It will require a bunch of success to go through. I want to do it of course, but if it doesn’t go well I will not be disappointed.
Let’s talk about GvG without moving to BRM just yet. It has been six months since the expansion was released, what do you think of it overall? From a tournament point of view and/or ladder.
M: I don’t think GvG was a good expansion for tournaments. Though there were some exciting new mechanics for the viewers but when you are playing an important match it’s not very pleasant to lose because of Piloted Shredder had an improbable repop or because the Boom Bots hit four damage twice... again. It brings a new mechanic to the game, it’s not 100% negative but I’m not thrilled when new random cards come out.
"I don't think GvG was a good expansion for tournaments."
Now it’s BRM time. The new adventure is adding 31 cards spread in five wings, one wing per week, a sort of gating that Blizzard introduced in WoW during Wrath of the Lich King. Do you prefer this or a one day release like GvG?
M: As long as I get interesting cards I’m satisfied.
Three wings are already open and the fourth one is coming in a few days, are the cards added already changing something from a pro-player's point of view? And do you think in the end all the cards will fix what was wrong with GvG?
M: I don’t think there are enough interesting cards to solve all the issues, but enough to see some good changes in the meta. I don’t like cards like Emperor Thaurissan because they are toxic to the game, the first one to draw/play it can have a huge advantage, and also once his effect is activated for more than one turn it is no longer possible to anticipate what could happen.
When I heard BRM was coming in April I was pretty scared that they will start on the second or third of April which would have meant that we wouldn’t have all of the cards for DreamHack Tours. In the end they will all be out one week before DH. Is this something that hurts competition still, though?
M: No I think a week is enough to do all the necessary testing. On the other hand we will simply see who are the players that manage to adapt their deck the fastest which is also a good quality in this game.
How much of an extra challenge is it to build a BRM deck on such short notice? Is there any space for deckbuilding ingenuity or you just use the new cards and try to wing it?
M : Yes it’s another dimension in the game and we saw at SSC3 that when a good deckbuiler like Orange who doesn't hesitate to bring the new cards can reap positive results.
What is your favourite card of BRM ? And in general?
M: Majordomo Executus, it will allow me to find replacement for Foe Reaper 4000 in my control Warrior… Okay I stop trolling! One card I’m really looking forward to is Dragon Consort, I think it can be really strong and could bring a new type of paladin that's a little more intersting to play than the zooladin we are seeing these days. In general I like Loatheb a lot: Despite the fact that it’s a strong card there are good and bad Loatheb plays. It’s not like a Thaurissan or a Dr Boom that you play on curve and GG well played. He can be devastating when played at the right time.
Do you have anything else you would like to say?
M: Big thanks to the French community who were a huge support during SSC3. I really felt them cheering back there through social medias and it was a huge pleasure. Also a shoutout to the sponsors Logitech, Winamax, P6Energy and HyperX to avoid Millenium scolding me.
Well thanks a lot for your time today, and I think we will have the pleasure to meet during DreamHack!
M : It will be a pleasure!
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