Dog: "Practicing for a tournament feels like a grind. When I stream, I can have fun."
The year 2016 has been a relatively quiet one for David "Dog" Caero in terms of competitive play. The most notable result was a second place finish at the Insomnia Truesilver Championship II, in March. So far this year he has earned $13,000 in tournament winnings, more than three times less than in 2015 (source). However, Dog didn't sit still. He started streaming more regularly, which didn't go unnoticed, and he quickly grew his own fanbase on Twitch. Sometimes peaking far above 10k viewers, the calm American teaches both new and seasoned players, mostly experimenting with his favorite class: Rogue.
On the first day of Blizzcon Dog sat down with Tom "Matthieist" Matthiesen to talk about streaming, competing and the upcoming Hearthstone content.
What's up Dog?
I'm good, just hanging out. It's a nice event so I'm enjoying myself.
We have seen some content of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, which introduces tri-class cards. What's your take on them?
It's good. For the developers it's kind of hard to design cards that will go across different classes, but the cards they have revealed seemed really good. This way they don't have to reprint a bunch of different cards for different classes. It just feels better to release something for three classes than each class getting an individual card. Some classes may have better applications for them, which might be a problem, but we'll have to see how that turns out.
You've streaming a lot, but we haven't seen you in tournaments as much as last year. Why is that?
I competed a lot at the very beginning of the year, up until the Insomnia Truesilver Championship in March. Then I just got into streaming more and the competitive scene became less appealing due to the staleness of the meta. When I'm streaming at least I can interact with the chat, I can have fun. When I'm practicing for tournaments it feels like a grind, so I stayed away from it. Of course I still keep up with it, I'm a competitive player in the end.
Practicing 100 hours only gives you a slight advantage. That's not worth it, to me.
The thing is, people use the excuse that they stream a lot. It's kind of a valid excuse, but on the other hand you just need to practice more. I don't practice as much as I used to, I'm probably not as good as I was. However, it's Hearthstone and I think I'm still a top tier player. Hearthstone is a game in which hours of practice aren't necessarily rewarded. If I practice 10 hours a week I might have a 50% win rate, but if I invest 100 hours of practice it may only go up to 61%. At a certain moment it takes so much time to go up only by a few percent, and I'm not someone who does that. The people playing at the World Championship may do that, but to me it's not worth it.
Do you think the World Championship isn't worth it, then?
It depends on what you want. If you really want to be the very best player in Hearthstone you should put in those hours to get those extra percent. That's what it's all about. If you're just in it to have a fun, have a good time... I'm not going to have fun practicing 100 hours of Hearthstone a week. When I first started and had that passion for competitive Hearthstone I did that. Now it's a mix of streaming and competitive Hearthstone because, as I said, I can't practice as much anymore.
You mentioned that, back in March, you didn't find the meta appealing. Has that changed since?
Since the last new cards I haven't invested any time at all in competitive play. It just didn't catch on. Maybe there weren't as many tournaments for me to compete in. I participated in the Rat Race, the ladder race to legend, a couple of days ago. I thought I would lose terribly, but I was in first place nearly the whole time. I ended up losing, don't get me wrong, but being in the lead still made me feel validated. That even though I didn't invest as much time since One Night in Karazhan, I'm still a good player.
My motivation to be competitive depends a bit on the meta, as I said. However, even if I don't like it I'm not shying away from playing it. I'm not gonna stream 30 hours of a game and be bad at it and still invest that time. I would say this is a low point in my career, competitive wise. It might be a high point in my streaming career, though obviously I hope it will still grow. I'm gonna be competing a lot more, especially this upcoming year. I won't go to Dreamhack Winter because I have so many things planned, but I'm going to SeatStory Cup VI. There's more tournaments coming in December in which I'll play too.
This is a low point in my competitive career
You're on Team Liquid now, a team that currently isn't very competitive. Does that influence you?
No, not really. When I was at compLexity, back in the day, that wasn't even competitive. It was just me until they contracted SuperJJ, and I left shortly after. The team aspect doesn't really have anything to do with competitiveness. If I want to practice I'll message Xixo, or Neirea who's on my team and the one I talk to the most. You message your friends as opposed to your team, generally. Very few teams are secretive with their stuff, but SK Gaming is an example of one. They are very secretive about what they do.
And how is it in general for you to be with Liquid, since you've been there quite a while now?
Well I re-signed with them, so it's going really well. They give me everything I want and hopefully I still give them at least some of the things they want, which is basically streaming sometimes. A while ago a team offered me partnership, but the contract said I'd have to win. That's such a bad contract, because if I don't win I don't get paid. The best way to go about it is just streaming. For example: last year I made around $50,000 from tournament winnings. This year only around $15,000, but my streaming revenue has gone up ridiculous amounts.
Did streaming come to you naturally, or was it something you had to get used to?
When I first started streaming, I did it because I wanted to teach people about the game. The main people streaming when I started were Trump and Kripp, playing Arena. I thought to myself: "No-one will learn from just watching Arena". From there it kind of picked up. It came quite naturally to me, just talking to people and playing the game.
You were still at university last year, what are your plans moving forward?
Yeah I graduated December last year. I applied at medical school and got accepted, but I turned it down to focus more on streaming etc. I will see how this works out, I have some money saved, so I'm good for now.
Moving on, let's talk a bit about card changes. The latest ones, at the end of September, were a surprising move by Blizzard. What is your opinion on them?
Well in my opinion they should change cards all the time. If you've noticed, after an Adventure everything very quickly gets stale again, but after an expansion the meta is far more exciting because there are a lot more cards. In this Adventure meta everyone is pretty bored; expansions are just way better. So I'm ok with them changing cards a lot more to create a different meta. It's a digital card game, so that's the appeal of it right?
Blizzard should change cards all the time
At the moment I feel that Spirit Claws and Thing from Below are problems. We'll have to see what cards will be released in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, but from what I've seen now Midrange Shaman is still gonna be very strong. Other than that I think Arcane Giant is a little bit too strong. It limits them a bit in making more spells. Look at Druid, where you have Raven Idol which gives two spells, and Innervates make it kind of crazy. It's not overpowered or anything, but just a little bit too strong as I said.
If you were a Hearthstone developer for one day, what is the main thing you would do?
There's many things I would do, but the main thing would probably be to make MMR visible and be more transparent about the matchmaking system. Now you can kind of figure it out yourself: if you win a lot you have a high MMR. It's hard to say that the current ranked system is a good system though. For HCT points only the last day matters, so you hope you highroll. I'd prefer to see something that makes you play 100 games and do something with that score. Maybe that should be a start MMR for the season or something. It's better than having "Oh, I got lucky" when you queue the right match up.
Lastly, the HCT plans for 2017 have been announced. Any thoughts?
I haven't studied it too much yet, but from what I read and what other pro players told me it seemed good. Syncing Standard with the World Championship makes them stick with a schedule, something that's strict and open. You won't be having questions about when a card set rotates out. So far the plans seem good.