Ostkaka: "I've always been well known in the pro scene"
At SeatStory Cup III. Photo: TakeTV
The young Swede has been around in competitive Hearthstone pretty much forever, yet he was one of the least known pro players for a long time. This changed with his impressive showing at SeatStory Cup 3 where he dominated the group stages and just barely lost to Jon "Orange" Westberg in the finals. Let's shed some light on one of the players who is in a prime position for a run for the Hearthstone World Championships right now.
Hey Ostkaka! For a start: Pretty much everyone who follows competitive Hearthstone sort of "on the surface" probably knows the following of you: that guy wins a qualifier for SSC3, is called a tournament favorite by several pros later, proceeds to get into the finals and just barely loses to Orange there. And that's it. Tell me, who is Ostkaka?
My name is Sebastian Engwall, I'm 18 years old and live in Sweden. I've played Hearthstone since beta and have always considered myself to be one of the better pro players. Due to not streaming or having any breakout performances in the chances I've had before Seatstory my name might be unknown to a lot of people. But as you say, I've always been well known in the pro scene.
What do you do apart from playing Hearthstone?
About a year ago I graduated from high school and my life has actually been mostly Hearthstone since then. I lived with Xixo in the ROOT house in California for three months, travelled to tournaments and of course played a lot of Hearthstone. I do like to follow other games and when I find time for it I'll hang out with friends but, honestly, my life is a lot of Hearthstone.
Alright, you sort of answered my next question already. I was going to ask where you rate Hearthstone on the list of the most important things in your life, so probably fairly high? Also, do you consider the game - or gaming in general - a job or a hobby or something in between?
It used to not be so high since my plan was to study further after just a years break, but slowly it has become more and more important as I realise my opportunities especially after Seatstory. There are big things in the works for me and you will most likely see me streaming soon and hopefully playing in more tournaments.
"There are big things in the works for me"
That sounds really good, I think people would love to see more of you! So, how much time do you spend on Hearthstone per week?
Actually playing the game around 30-40 hours, but doing spreadsheets, strategizing with other people or just watching streams adds up to a lot more.
Is that a lot of time? I mean, if you compare it to the amount of time other pro players invest?
I'm not sure, some pros can go for weeks barely playing the game whereas some dedicated streamers maybe play 50-60 hours every week. I like to spend my time efficiently, if I don't feel like I'm learning anything or if I'm playing suboptimally I usually stop and do something else.
Sounds reasonable. You’ve been fairly high ranked on our Top10 players to watch this year list. What do you expect from yourself this year? Any goals? I mean, you have the third most Hearthstone World Championship points in EU right now …
I hope to continue placing high on ladder and making the top 8 cut for Blizzcon qualifiers, from there actually making it to Blizzcon is the goal. I will continue to try my best in the opportunities I get, but due to the nature of competitive Hearthstone my goal should really be to start streaming consistently to get my name out there even more.
Do you stream at all these days? And by the way, I think you’re laddering on NA? Why? Don’t you have to ladder on your “home turf”, sort of, (in your case EU) to get points?
I don't stream, yet. And yeah, I ladder on NA. Maybe I should keep quiet about this but you can actually ladder on any region if it's on the same battletag. There's less players on NA (at least less legends) so there is less competition and that makes it slightly easier to place high. Theoretically I could be playing on the Asia region and still gain points but I don't have cards there.
Oh wow, really? I always thought NA is considered to be the tougher region to ladder?
That's what NA people will tell you, I guess.
Haha, got it. Okay, back to players to watch this year. Who do you think are the strongest players out there right now? And are there some lesser known ones among them?
Firebat has proven in so many tournaments how strong he is. Lifecoach, I've talked to him a lot personally and his way of figuring out cards/decks/lines of play is really impressive. Also, he does the math on EVERYTHING. Xixo is a good friend of mine, he's smart enough to be the best and he's also up there but I think he should take more time to think. Purpledrank is also extremely smart and one of the most underrated players I think. Also shoutout to Fibonacci the warrior god, but he needs to learn other classes before he can dominate tournaments.
Speaking of Fibonacci, I recently saw you post some aggro Mage decklist on Twitter which was made by him. Is that a real deck? It looks really weird …
Haha, it has Magma Rager in it, can't believe some people thought it was real.
fibonacci doesnt only make good warrior decks! pic.twitter.com/Cm6c4gFZoP— Sebastian Engwall (@ROOTOstkaka) May 6, 2015
But is has Murloc synergy, too! Just kidding, let's move on to your team: You’re on ROOT Gaming. I don't want to sound offensive, but how serious is ROOT about Hearthstone? They did the ROOT Invitational and have quite a big roster, but does the team actually plan on growing into a top team like Nihilum or Cloud 9? It seems like you guys are often losing aspiring players like Xixo or Amaz way before that.
Yes, the recent pickups are good players but were mostly picked up because they stream and give the team publicity. These type of players can be seen in plenty of other teams, too. I can tell you though there are more players being considered who I can personally say are top tier for competitive Hearthstone. ROOT has a history of picking up really good players (as you said Amaz, Xixo and Sjow as well), so expect nothing less.
Oh wow, sounds exciting. Are your teammates actually the people you are practising with? Most pro players seem to have training groups who are not a part of their respective teams.
I have to say I don't practice a lot with my current teammates. I'm in a practice group with Xixo, RDU, Impact, players from Dignitas and a few others. It's a Skype group where we joke around a lot but also share decks and talk strategy, I think it has some of the currently best players in the game. But I also like to practice a lot myself, laddering, talking with some lesser known players like Fibonacci and figuring out stuff from scratch on my own.
Speaking of Impact, is he still with IHearthU? They've become really quiet since most of their players left.
No, I think iHearthU has been gone for a while. Impact is teamless as far as I know.
Okay, I think I never read something official. Anyway, you mentioned that you're not invited to a lot of things, are you angry about that? Are you getting more invites after your performance at SSC3 now?
I'm not angry, it's completely understandable even though a lot of people would say I have the skills required. SSC3 wasn't too long ago so there's more to come I guess, I can't share a lot of details but you will most likely see me in the upcoming Archon team league.
So, let’s finally talk decks and gameplay. If you would have to do some kind of meta report right now, what would it look like?
Grim Patron Warrior #1, that deck is broken.
Grim Patron Warrior #1, that deck is broken. Freeze Mage and Oil Rogue are still top tier after the BRM meta settles a bit. Handlock is coming back due to the decrease in Druid and strong matchup against Patron Warrior. I don't really believe in Dragon Paladin, Dragon Consort is undeniably good but I think the cards required to make it work might not be good enough and/or too slow for the current meta.
Okay, you've sort of touched it already: The general verdict of BRM seems to be: Emperor Thaurissan in every control and combo deck, Grim Patron Warrior really strong, Dragons not really good enough to warrant a deck of their own. Plus, cards like Imp Gang Boss or Flamewaker are thrown into existing decks. Would you agree?
Pretty much, I think Imp Gang Boss is quite a bit better than Flamewaker though. Also the decks it fits in are a lot better than Tempo Mage.
Do you think the meta is figured out already? Will we have to wait for the next expansion to see more new decks?
It's hard to say. I think there's a chance a new deck will appear but if not there's still gonna be the usual chain reaction when decks like Handlock come back.
With Xixo (left) and Gaara (right) at SeatStory Cup III. Photo: TakeTV
Which cards of BRM do you like the most? And by which ones are you most disappointed?
Haha, I don’t know if i actually like any of them, the ones that are bad I don’t like and the good ones are too broken. I do like Fireguard Destroyer, may not be enough to make Shaman good, but it’s a step in the right direction. Also Volcanic Drake, I don't think it has found a deck yet but the potential is there. I would say more than half of the cards are disappointing just because they're unplayable. Rend Blackhand and Majordomo Executus? They're fun to laugh at, I guess.
So, if you would have to rate BRM as an expansion from zero to ten, what mark would you give it?
Four, too many boring cards and bad cards that will never see play.
Ouch, pretty harsh. How do you feel about the adventure expansions in general?
I mostly care about the cards, I think the PvE content is really boring and I also have to grind and pay for them on several accounts, so it gets tedious. But if other people like playing them it's fine.
Do you think those expansions are enough to actually develop the metagame? Do 31 new cards matter at all?
If you release 31 Druid of the Flames the meta won't develop.
It just depends on how many cards are good/playable, if you release 31 Druid of the Flames the meta won't develop. But BRM did also bring two really broken cards (Emperor Thaurissan & Grim Patron), so the meta developed enough I think.
What’s your favorite deck these days? And why?
Freeze Mage, it's a deck I've played a LOT even when it hasn't been popular. It's very unique, doesn't require board presence to win and there are a lot of small tricks you can do to optimise your play. It's hard to play in general, there’s lots of counting several turns ahead for both you and your opponent and knowing which outs you have to make the proper line of play. Also a lot of card draw and options makes a deck both harder and more fun to play in my opinion. The other end of the spectrum being Midrange Druid and Hunter, those are boring and fairly easy to play.
You probably play Emperor Thaurissan in your Freeze Mage, because that's just what the kids do these days. What do you think about the Malygos approach?
Yep, it's incredible in Freeze Mage for the regular effect and the combo potential with Archmage Antonidas. I never even tried Malygos, it's not needed to win vs. any deck. You can even cut Pyroblast in current lists and still have enough damage to beat anything. Malygos is a dead card in your hand too often.
Alright, cool. Pretty much every tournament is played in the Conquest format right now. Do you like it?
Yes, I have always been more of a ladder player and Conquest makes it so ladder practice can be more easily translated to tournament strategy. I do think the factor of being able to outpick your opponent and therefore creating another skill element was fun in Last Hero Standing, but having to build decks with counterpicking in mind wasn't good. More tech cards like Harrison Jones, Big Game Hunter, even Kezan Mystic nowadays would not make for a lot of fun games.
Do you think there's ever a chance for a one-deck-format in Hearthstone like there is in all the traditional card games?
I don't really have experience in other card games so I can't imagine exactly what it would be like in Hearthstone but with the current decks I think there are maybe too many matches dictated just by which deck you are up against. I don't think I would be excited to play in a one-deck-format.
Okay, that’s it from my end. Thanks a lot for your time! When do we see you in a tournament again? And of course, you can go for some shout-outs, too.
I’ll play in the ESL Legendary Series Redemption tournament in about a week. Shout-out to ROOT and my practice group, I'll hopefully start streaming soon-ish at twitch.tv/ostkaka and you can follow me on twitter @ROOTOstkaka.
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