Orange: "I thought I was unstoppable. It took me some time to realize I was not."
Nydra: This is Nydra and Aquablad sitting here with Orange on the first day of the Truesilver Championship. You're 1-1 man, are you feeling confident?
Orange: I'm feeling really good. My preparation for this event was great, I prepared a lot with Zalae, Amnesia and then also the crew I always test with like Spo, MartinCreek, Freakeh and Powder. Although I didn't test as much as I usually do for events I still think the testing for this event was more effective than what I've done for other events, so I'm feeling good.
N: The format is Last Hero Standing but no ban, because apparently a ban is not allowed for this format officially. A lot of the players at PGL hated it, how do you feel about it?
I feel like a ban in any format makes it much better. So, I'm a little bit sad that there's no ban and I know that a lot of players feel that way, too, but it's fine. I like Last Hero Standing way more than Conquest, so I'm not going to complain about it.
N: You prefer this over Conquest with one ban?
Yes, I do.
N: So, I want to talk at length about you as a pro player and your career, because you had quite a bit of fluctuations throughout your career. As a journalist, that's one of the interesting stories, it really gets me. You broke out big last year with ESL Katowice and SeatStory Cup and then there was a big dip in your performance during spring and summer. Then it all came back and you were really strong towards the end of the year. So, my first question is, what onset this breakout performance at Katowice, were you doing anything special that you became suddenly so good?
Before Katowice and SeatStory Cup I took Hearthstone very, very seriously. I practiced for ten plus hours a day, I played as much Hearthstone as I possibly could - if not even more. And I think I reached a point after Katowice and SeatStory Cup where I thought like "Hey, I'm the best" pretty much. I thought I was unstoppable and maybe I put less time in it after those wins. It then took me months to realize that I'm not that good and I still needed to take it just as seriously as I did then. And I think I did that. I had months now, from DreamHack Winter to just a couple weeks ago I got top 8 in every event I played in and I feel like I'm coming back very strong. I feel like I'm back in shape and doing well again.
"I thought I was unstoppable."
N: So, you're saying you fell victim to your own arrogance, I guess?
Pretty much. Which is for me ... people that know me know, that I'm not the arrogant type of person, but at some point there I actually felt that I got a little bit too arrogant and thought that I was better than I actually am.
N: I was talking to different people, both in the pro player and the journalist community. I talked with Callum from Daily Dot because I know he's a big fan of yours - as am I - and we were trying to figure out why this big dip in performance happened. Our theory at first was "okay, he moved to the Archon house". We thought it's out of your comfort zone, you're not playing from home so maybe that's a factor. Then I went to PGL and spoke to Freakeh and he said "Well, he stopped practicing with me, so maybe that's it." Did any of those things, apart from the arrogance thing, hold you back?
People have been talking about how moving to the Archon house was a bad thing for my career, but I actually think it was the opposite. Back when I lived in the Archon house I learned a lot more than I've learned ever I think in Hearthstone, largely due to Purple. Purple taught me a lot during those few months in the Archon house. I practiced less with Freakeh then because of time zones, there's eight hours or something difference. So we didn't get as much practice in together as we usually do and we usually have really good testing, because we think about the game in a very similar way.
But I think I learned a lot during that time, it was more about me than the others around me. Now I started to test more with the SK Gaming team again, especially Spo and Powder. Freakeh still helps me just as much as he has always done, but Spo and Powder have become insanely strong players whereas before they were probably a little bit weaker than Freakeh was. I think that now, if they aren't on the same level, they are even better. And practicing with them now, it's great. They aren't in the same spot as me, they are on SK Gaming, which is for some reason not as well respected as other pro teams.
Aquablad: I would consider SK probably the top growing EU team. You got G2 and SK are creeping up there, they're getting there. They're not far behind.
Oh, no, no. From what I know, they have some of the very best players in the world currently. I think, if I had to pick a favorite for this tournament, it would be Spo. And it's not close.
N: Really? Because he's not a name that comes up often when you talk about tournament favorites, but he's been around since 2013, back in the super early days.
I don't know what happened with Spo in the last couple of months, but he is insanely good. If Purple taught me the most about Hearthstone last year, I think Spo is the one that did the most for me this year. He is very, very underrated as a player.
N: I want to go back to Hearthstone and you learning things about the game and yourself. You said you learned about you, how exactly did you grow personality-wise while being there? How did you change during the stay in Texas?
During the stay in Texas? It was an interesting experience actually. Back in Texas, it was all Hearthstone guys. I lived with some of the absolute best Hearthstone players in the world for months, being surrounded by them. It was a lot about self-instinct. We used to jokingly say that when living in the Archon house, everyone just thought they were terrible at the game, even Firebat and Purple. Living with all those good people, you can't possibly feel good about yourself. You're just like "these players are so good" and you just don't feel as good as the others. So, I think I realized how much better I could get and that has really really inspired me. Even now I feel like I can improve a lot due to the fact that I lived in Texas with them for months.
"I got a little bit too arrogant and thought I was better than I actually was."
N: Purple has been getting a lot of hype, even before he won the Americas last year, but one thing I found is nobody could really pin-point and explain why exactly he's good at the game. We always talk about that he's thinking outside the box, that he has a different mind for Hearthstone, but obviously you studied under him, he was a coach, so, in your words, what makes Purple so great? What puts him in a different perspective, a different light compared to other players?
It's pretty hard to put a finger on it. I think he just has a much deeper understanding of any given game. He knows - well, of course most pro players know every match-up inside out and know what to do, but Purple has taken it another step. He can take a game and just break it into such small pieces that he knows exactly what to do so many turns ahead. In the very early turns of a game he can tell exactly how a game is going to play out and who does this and this. What he taught me, the most valuable lesson is that he just goes face way more than any other player in the scene (laughs). But really - we say "go face" and it sounds like such a basic thing, but I think that's a difference between good players and great players: the great player finds every little opportunity to go face and sneek in those extra little points of damage. Sure, it's maybe only in 2% of every situation where they see if they can get in extra damage, but in the long run it really does matter in such a game.
N: Do you think there's also the psychological pressure that you're dying, your life points are dropping?
Yeah. One thing about Purple, that I think is one of my biggest strengths, too, is that he knows when not to be scared anymore and that he thinks "okay, to win the game I need to do this and this". I get called out a lot of the times for doing stupid plays which just put me dead, but it's because I realize that I can't win this game if I continue trading or "sure, if my opponent has this, I'll be dead", but I force them to have it.
Purple not only has that, but knows everything else. He's just perfected most of the things in Hearthstone. And what he had to overcome, why we didn't see more of him until the America's Championship was because he had quite bad anxiety when it came to tournaments. I think actually him leaving Archon and not being on one of the super big teams, that has been an incredible thing for him, because when he was on Archon he felt so much pressure to do well, to live up to the success of the name. I was on fire, Firebat did really well and when Purple was playing tournaments he felt he had to perform as well as we did. But now on Gamers Origin he's the star.
A: I definitely noticed an increase in his confidence. I watch his stream every now and then and if you look at him when he won the America's Championship he seemed a bit timid even after he won it. But if you look at him stream now, he's a lot more confident. He feels a lot more at home with himself and I think I agree, Gamers Origin was definitely a big move for him. So, if Purple did that for you, what has Spo done for you? Is it a different sort of thing or is it kind of the same?
Spo has not coached me in the same way as Purple has, but Spo and I just have some of the best discussions about the game in general, about decks, about playtesting and how to approach the game. I never really talked about that with Purple, about preparation. When I talked with Purple it was more about in-game stuff, how to play a game, how to do this and how to do that, but with Spo and most of the SK Gaming team, with Freakeh too, it's how to prepare. What are we doing to give ourselves the best chance of winning. And we just discuss our daily general day of Hearthstone together and talk about what we did see switch in the meta. So, I think the SK Gaming team helped me more with preparation whereas Purple and Archon taught me more about my technical play and how to approach a game when I'm actually playing.
"I learned more about Hearthstone during my stay at the Archon house than I ever did."
N: Amnesiac is now on Archon and he is being hailed as the next big thing this year. I think he is now in your position as you were in last year. He is this youngster that came out of nowhere, suddenly winning big tournaments, catching everybody's attention and everyone, once again like with Purple, saying he's a freaking genius. Do you see him as that? You practice together, so what do you think of him as a player overall?
On Archon we have huge respect for Amnesia. I remember watching the America's Championship with Zalae. We would watch Amnesia play and discuss how he should play a situation and agree on a play, and then Amnesia would do something completely different. Then we just looked at it again and were like "yeah, we're idiots." Amnesia is a god. That kid has some sick, sick talent. But I think he might start, and I don't blame him for it, getting in the same spot as me, where he just falls to his own arrogance. Because he's very, very self-confident. And he should be, too, because he is amazing. But I'm just afraid that one day he'll go out and not prepare as much because he thinks he's the best and stuff like that.
A: I think you should let him listen to this interview and learn a few things. I mean, you could teach him.
I told him that several times, too. Like "hey, even though you're way better than I am and most other people, too, you still have to take this game seriously." And it's not like he doesn't take it seriously, he prepares a lot and stuff like that. But maybe I'm just seeing it coming.
N: I think this is one of the first lessons a young pro gamer should learn. It's not about how good you are at the game but how good you can stay at the game, right? Esports has a very short memory. Two months of bad performances and you can be gone forever.
Absolutely. I think that Amnesia is so well respected now, so he's not going to do that ... I mean, he has BlizzCon to look forward to. I think whatever happens, Amnesia will still be a huge favourite going into BlizzCon, although we just know two people who are going so far. He's incredibly good, but he's very young, he has a lot to learn when it comes to outside the game. But in the game he's just a monster.
N: Naiman is also going, and we had a lot of discussion about should he be allowed to be back or should he be perma-banned. What's your take on this?
I've always been on the mindset that if someone once cheats, you will never be sure if he's going do that again. I felt very strongly about Naiman for a very long time, but seeing how more and more players are practising with Naiman, they talk with Naiman ... I don't talk with him much myself at all, but seeing what other players say about Naiman I recently changed my mind. I think he's an alright dude. He definitely deserves the win because he has been putting in a ton of hard work. You see, when he got banned, the first thing he did was to get a new account and still be top of the standings last year to just be denied on the day of the 128-man qualifier. He really tries hard. It really shows that the game means a lot to him. So I think that that guy might have learned from his mistakes. I don't think we'll see anything like that again, because as he has proven now he's definitely good enough to do it without doing any win-trading and anything like that. I think it's past that.
"Amnesiac is a god."
A: Yeah, I agree with you on Naiman. I think he's learned from his mistakes, right? And you've seen how much it affected him. He even tried so hard to get back in. Normally if you're caught cheating and lost you're like "Well, I'm done then, I'll just move on to something else", but he didn't. He was very comitted to it. Speaking of the game itself, we have Standard and the Old Gods coming up, have you got any thoughts on the Old Gods cards that have been released at the moment?
I have to say that the cards that have been revealed so far have been kind of underwhelming. I'm not too excited about most of the cards. Actually, in the past few days, we've seen ... there's a new Rogue card that has been revealed today and ...
A: Undercity Huckster? The 2/2 with Deathrattle: Get a random class card from your opponent?
Yeah! That's definitely the card that has me the most excited. I'm a Rogue player myself, I love the class and that's a very very powerful card. It reminds me of [card]Mad Scientist[/card], although a fixed Mad Scientist.
N: (laughs) That's not hard to do.
Yeah, exactly (laughs). I really like that card, I think it's very powerful. I hope we can see some more support for N'Zoth, who brings all the Deathrattle minions back. I think that could be a very strong one, too. Other than that, I'm not a big fan of the whole [card]C'Thun[/card]-theme, because it feels like a lot of the time you're going to play a bunch of bad minions to power up C'Thun. And then the the support cards we've seen so far for C'Thun are insanely powerful when they work. So the gameplay goes you have to play a bunch of bad minions and then you can play like two or three insanely powerful ones. But if that doesn't all come together, you're going be stuck just playing a bunch of bad minions for the rest of the game or you're just going to draw your big support cards. Either way, if you have the curve of bad minions into the good support ones, your opponent is going to feel bad because you drew very well. But instead, if you're the one who fails to come up with the C'Thun combos, playing the deck is going to feel incredibly bad. Because well, you built your deck but it isn't doing what it's supposed to do. So, unless we see more cards which make it easier for all of this to come together ... I don't know, until we see that I don't really like the C'Thun theme. But everything else looks fine so far.
N: I think SuperJJ said it looks like lazy deckbuilding, the C'Thun theme I mean. Here's the C'Thun, here are the Cultists, use those and the best cards in the class and you have a deck. I think they did it on purpose just to make the newbies feel that even they are constructing something out of nothing and making them feel part of the deckbuilding community.
Yeah. What we have to realize is that even though for us pros yeah, that's super boring, to just see a deck come together like that, but we're one percent - if even that - of the Hearthstone community. The rest of the community is just going to love this. I know so many people who come up to me like "hey, I don't know how to build a good deck" and it's just so complicated to explain. And here they can just go "hey I take this card and this card because this card works with that card and I have a deck that works and I can ladder with that."
A: I think Blizzard has taken over responsibility now by having the pre-built decks you can choose, so I think they're trying to ease the deck-building process for new players. They're giving C'Thun out for free, aren't they? It's just a legend you get with the expansion. It seems almost like C'thun is there to help ease new players into a deck-building process and I like that. Because, like you said, we're a small population of the player base. I'm hoping we'll see some more kind of crazier effects coming from the Old Gods, like really crazy stuff, but that's just me.
I want to mention that I love the theme of the set. I love the darker theme they're bringing in with the Old Gods. Ben Brode said this is probably the darkest they'll over gonna go with Hearthstone and I'm a little bit sad about that, but, I mean I'm a pro player, I don't really care about the theme of the sets (laughs). But still, I think the theme is fun and there's a lot of cool stuff to do with it. And I'm sure they will do all this cool stuff I'm expecting them to do.
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