Talking to the man behind the mask - An interview with Disguised Toast
The Hearthstone community consists of many different groups. First and foremost is the largest part, the fans of the game, those who follow everything that happens. Most of them follow the adventures of the second group, the streamers, those who share their games with the entire world. Personalities such as Kripp and Amaz have many people watching them on a daily basis. Often going hand in hand with streaming is the professional scene, in which the very best display their skills with the newest techs and decks. ThijsNL, Brian Kibler and Kolento are prime examples of this branch. Then there is pure entertainment, consisting of videos from Trolden, Wronchi and others.
Kind of a lone wolf in the territory is Disguised Toast, whose name comes from the SI:7 Agent's on-play sound mondegreen. Yes, the Canadian meme machine streams, but that's not what's unique about his content. In his YouTube videos he discusses a wide range of topics. Sometime's it's in-game bugs and inconsistencies in wording on cards. Analytical videos are also part of Toast's repertoire, with detailed explanations of how cards with random effects influence the game. Other times he's investigating the hints we've received to a new expansion or adventure, often resulting in a solid prediction for the location/theme. All of his videos are combined with a sometimes razor sharp sense of humor, and have become something nearly everyone looks forward to.
In between watching the Hearthstone World Championship, Blizzcon panels and taking pictures with fans, Disguised Toast found time to sit down with Tom "Matthieist" Matthiesen. They spoke about Toast's YouTube content, the Hearthstone community and what he would do if he was a Hearthstone developer.
How are you doing man?
I'm pretty good. This is my first Blizzcon, it's a lot of fun. I'm very excited about the new Hearthstone expansion, but also about the Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch content. This year I'm here as a fan, but perhaps next year I can be more involved in the events, get invited by Blizzard. Or, you know, become a competitive player and play at the Hearthstone World Championship. You never know.
Nowadays you're primarily known for your YouTube videos. How did you get started in all of this?
In the very beginning I just made these infographics and posted them on Reddit. Basically they were stats, especially from mulligans. Back then Mech Mage was really popular, and I noticed different pros would mulligan different cards. I thought it was interesting to highlight those things, accompanied by numbers, because at that time not many statistics were thrown around. Lately I've been trying to get back into it by putting it in video format. In the Tuskarr Totemic video the win rate difference between all totems was highlighted and recently the focus was on Animal Companion, to see what the difference is between each animal. There is a bit of RNG, but what's interesting is that you can really see the difference in win rate depending on the outcome.
My videos are fun, educational and informative. Not many others do the same.
Has this kind of semi-trivial information always held your interest?
Yeah definitely. Right now, there are so many good streamers out there in terms of pure gameplay content. The people are quite satisfied with what they have. However, there's a huge lack of just non-gameplay content such as lore videos, interaction videos or bug videos. That's where I come in and do these things in which typical streamers don't have much interest. People seem to like it because it's fun, it's educational and it's informative. One of the reasons I'm getting a lot of attention is just because there aren't many others who do it. I'm sure that more and more content creators will pop up as more people play and fall in love with Hearthstone. You don't have to stream or upload gameplay videos, you can also just talk about fun Hearthstone stuff. Discussing which legendary is the best to craft, or the statistical best play to make... There's so much.
I didn't think I would become as popular as I am now. As I said I started with stats, then some lore, and I would say those kind of things were a bit nerdy. When I started to include humor into it more people started to like what I did, so I kept doing it. Then I went to a tournament wearing a Disguised Toast mask, and I was fortunate enough to win it. I don't think people would be impressed if I just showed up and lost, but because I won people wanted to see gameplay from me.
We also saw you being top 1,000,000 legend recently...
I think it's top 10,000,000 legend.
My bad. Did you ever consider becoming a more competitive player?
Actually, yes. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. At the beginning I never considered myself even remotely interested in competitive Hearthstone. It's just more fun to mess around. But lately I feel like being able to play Hearthstone competitively is the one thing missing from my Hearthstone career. I'm hoping that, as time goes on, opportunities will present themselves to me so I can actually compete seriously.
Since I've started to stream and put my face more out there some teams have reached out with opportunities to play on a competitive level. It's something I'm really considering. It's all about competitive chances for me and being able to play on a big stage. I'm not that interested in salary or sponsorships.
Being able to play competitively feels like the only thing missing from my Hearthstone career.
The main thing that's holding me back in going competitive is skill, I guess. I know we like to have fun saying Hearthstone is an RNG fest, which is a bit true. I've played against top players and was generally able to take one game off them, but that would be because of a series of good luck. At the highest level you have to understand the match-ups, which I don't at all. I understand the Midrange Shaman mirror match because I've played it a hundred times now. Facing decks like Control Warrior or Tempo Mage requires you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your deck and your opponent's, which is something I don't. Right now I just play cards when I can play cards, so more practice is definitely what I need.
Wouldn't going competitive put streaming and making videos on the back burner?
Hm, good question. I'll definitely dedicate a lot of time to becoming better, but at the same time I don't upload videos that often, as most of my videos are idea-based. My YouTube channel is something I most certainly will not let suffer. A lot of competitive players, once they lose a couple of tournaments or don't show up, lose relevance, which is really unfortunate. I'm lucky to have a community that enjoys my content regardless of whether or not I'm successful or not. For me YouTube and streaming will come first, and competition will come second.
In the coming month I won't focus on competitive yet, probably. With the new expansion coming out I'll talk about the new cards, and mess around in my stream. It's all about the new content, right? You can do really well this month but no-one will pay attention. They're focused on the expansion.
In general the Hearthstone community is a warm one, but they can be very hard on the developers. How do you see this?
I definitely understand the community being critical towards the developers. In the past I have been responsible for *ahem* some of the negativity. That has been a learning process for me. At the start I felt like: "Hey, everyone is angry. You know what would be great? If everyone was even more angry." Though ever since League of Explorers I've been trying to keep things very light. For example, when Whispers of the Old Gods came out some people were upset about Flamewreathed Faceless so I made a funny 'leak video'. Or when Purify was revealed and everyone was really angry about it I made a video in which the Adventure boss Rafaam would just concede if he stole a deck with Purify in it. I avoided doing a rant video and saying things like: "How could Blizzard make this card, they're so incompetent."
The developers asked me: "Could you please be a bit nicer to us? We're trying our best."
What made you switch to a more positive approach?
I talked to a lot of Blizzard developers and community members. They said the same thing: "I have a right to be upset, and make these angry videos. But at the end of the day you can be someone who is trying to be positive instead of being negative. The community will disagree with it, but if you do it in a constructive way they will see your reasoning." What I try to do is have fun with it and address the situation with humor.
Talking with the developers, like Ben Brode and Yong Woo, being face to face with them, hearing their side of the story, was the big thing though. They said to me: "We understand why you make those videos, but can you please be a bit nicer to us? We are trying our best." I come from a developer background and it's not easy trying to catch all those bugs, it's not easy trying to balance a game in which you don't really know how the community will react. So that's why ever since League of Explorers came out I try to have fun when everyone else is upset.
Will you keep this positive approach, or does that depend on what happens with the game?
I think I'll stick to the positive approach. I don't see Blizzard messing up too hard. The Tyrande promotion and Heroic Tavern Brawl were kind of iffy, but they're trying new things. It's not great communication, which is something Blizzard really struggles with. From what I've seen they're making efforts by reaching out to community members and revamp their PR approach, which I think is really showing. I have high hopes and, unless they do something crazy evil, I don't see a reason why I would rage out at them.
What would be on the top of your priority list, if you were a developer?
Right now there are two types of viable decks. It's either decks where you play minions on-curve every single time, or decks that kill you from 30 health. Malygos Druid and Malygos Rogue are two really popular decks that kill you in one turn, and then there's obviously Midrange Shaman which plays its stuff on curve. Something like Control Warrior, even though it's a bit of a boring deck, has at least some interaction going on. So that's one thing I would fix.
It's nice being able to play on curve and yes that should be strong, but there should be many other win conditions. There are some decks that have other win conditions, but they aren't popular at the moment. Like Grim Patron Warrior. The best thing about that deck was the ability to make mistakes. I had this series called 'Missed Lethal in Hearthstone', and it was nothing but Grim Patron Warrior. The deck was too powerful, but the nice thing about that deck was being able to point out mistakes. Saying: "That guy could have won the game, but missed lethal and now he lost." Right now we don't see that as often. It's hard to misplay obviously with the current decks. There are subtle decisions, but people don't really see that.
I love Priest, and I'm glad with the Mean Streets cards we've seen so far.
If you could pick any combo deck to become strong, which one would it be?
Right now, from what we've seen from the new expansion, Priest got some interesting cards. There is a 1-mana card that decreases your opponent's minions attack by 3, which has such great synergy with cards we never see such as Confuse. So if you play against Zoo you have a 3 mana board wipe for two cards, really awesome. Crazed Alchemist could also return and see play. I love Priest, it's the first class I hit legend with. I'm glad Blizzard gave them some combo cards and not just a 4 mana 7/7 and say: "Oh look at how strong this is!". They kept the identity, it's all about combo cards.
They didn't show any Shaman cards, which from a PR perspective is really smart. Even if it's a bad Shaman card people would just focus on how it fits in Midrange Shaman. They did the right thing by completely ignoring Shaman for now. They'll probably dump them at the end and go like "Ok here's the Shaman cards, we're done, bye!".