StanCifka: "To learn Hearthstone, I locked myself in my room for half a year"

Hearthstone “Matthieist”

Once an often seen face in both Magic: The Gathering and Texas Hold’em poker, Stanislav Cifka, or “StanCifka” as the community knows him, is now Luminosity Gaming’s flagship in Hearthstone. He quit school to get into professional poker, and that has worked well for him. Now he lives in a house in Prague during autumn and winter, and during spring and summer he can be found in a his other house, near a lake.

StanCifka’s performances in Hearthstone started to be notable only this year, but he now is a widely recognized and respected player. Prove of his skill was shown during the first three days of the World Cyber Arena Pro qualifiers in Cologne, Germany. After two days already he had managed to qualify for the Grand Finals in China; an impressive result. We spoke to him on the third day of the qualifiers.

Welcome StanCifka, first of all congratulations on securing a ticket to China. How are you doing?

Yeah, pretty good. I finished in the top 2 of the group, which was my goal because then I was guaranteed a ticket to China. But I’m not done yet. I’m still going for the win in the Grand Finals this weekend, because those are important as well.

How have you experienced the WCA Pro Qualifiers so far? Have you enjoyed it?

Well yes it was great because we had the online qualifiers as well, and it is much better to play against the other best European players as well. It is really competitive, and you’re really trying not to lose so I really enjoyed it.

You have already qualified for the main event in China, did you expect to qualify?

We are only four players here, but the first stage was very difficult. In the online qualifiers you had the top 16 of Europe and only four players advanced. Some of my games were very close and I sometimes got really lucky, but in the end I made it. Here, however, there are three spots and four players so it sounds really easy… Although if you see who’s here: Lifecoach, Kolento and Thijs, it’s very difficult. I’m happy that I’m not the one that doesn’t make it, but it’s really a 25% chance.


"HS deckbuilding is really similar to MtG, and from player poker I learned to manage the stress."


You have quite a record when it comes to previous card games played, like Magic: The Gathering and poker. How does that effect you in Hearthstone?

I have a lot of experience, so I already know how to handle the stress during an event and how to make my deck work with synergies and so on. The deckbuilding is really similar to MtG, while from playing poker I learned how to manage the stress.

Do you consider yourself a good deckbuilder?

Well I have 15 more years of deckbuilding experience than most Hearthstone players so....

Then what about Challengestone?

Challengestone was held on the same day I played the WCA qualifiers, so I gave the latter more attention. But I hope I will be in a future Challengestone again though.

In the relatively short amount of time that you’ve played Hearthstone, you managed to gather 110 Hearthstone World Championship points. That is quite a lot and quite impressive. How did you pull that off?

Performing well in tournaments awards you with a good amount of points, so that helps. Last season I also finished top 10 in the ladder so that helped as well. I hope to at least make it to the top 23 Blizzcon qualifier. I would try to do my best and maybe make it to the top 8, but it’s only one month left so that’s going to be too tough.


"I locked myself up in my room for half a year and practiced for most of the day."


You have obviously spent a lot of time practicing Hearthstone before you became known publicly. How much time did you spend on practicing?

To learn the game first is the most important thing. Like why having tempo is important and why your life total is important. Learning all that stuff together takes a lot of time. I’d say that to completely understand a game like poker, MtG or Hearthstone takes about a year. Then you start going to tournaments and you perform well and learn even more. I locked myself up in my room for half a year and practiced for most of the day.

Do you have an indication of how many hours per day that was?

It really depends. Sometimes it would be 15 hours, other days would be easier and I’d practice for only 8 hours. On average I’d say I play about 9 hours per day or so.

Let’s talk a bit about the next Hearthstone expansion that’s coming this month. What do you think of it so far?

I try to look at expansions when they're fully announced, because then you can understand everything within a certain context. What I really like is the mechanic where you both reveal a card and if your one wins you get an advantage [Jousting]. It makes it so you have to take into account what you’re playing, or if you should build a deck with a high curve to win the jousts. Or maybe should you go with a low curve deck and try to outpace their Joust as they have a slower deck? This is going to be really cool for deckbuilding.

Any cards you find worth highlighting?

For example really strong, weak or interesting cards? If you look at the Paladin card, the 5/5 that restores 7 health in case you win the joust [[card]Tuskarr Jouster[/card]] is a great example of a good card.

"Joust is going to be really cool for deckbuilding."


Is there something you’d still like to say? A shout out to anyone maybe, or some advice for the community?

It is incredibly important to work in a team, because you simply can not do it all on your own. I’d like to thank my partners because they’re helping me a lot. Testing the match ups, solve all the problems and so on, so again I’d like to thank them for that. I would really encourage the other players to work in teams as well. Sometimes when you’re trying a new deck on the ladder you don’t have proper data, for your opponents might not be that experienced or they don’t know what to do. Then you could think “wow, this deck is great”, but it could also just be that you were lucky with your opponent. Also tournament formats are really different. There you have to think of your line-up as one body, and it’s just not helping to grind the ladder for that. So play in tournaments as well, because there you get the real experience.

Alright, again congratulations and thank you very much for your time.

Nah, thank you for having me in an interview.