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Nydra's Minutes: Pavel vs. Amnesiac and the need for a villain

Hearthstone Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev

During the Europe Winter Playoffs, one professional Hearthstone player was not holding back, watching Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov earn his spot in the Winter Championship as this season’s champion of the old continent. William “Amnesiac” Barton—the child prodigy who famously fell in the quarter finals of the 2016 World Championship to a mad comeback by Pavel himself—was displeased with what the reigning king of Hearthstone had to show.

RELATED: Pavel wins EU Winter Playoffs after a drama-tarred weekend

This hasn’t been the first display of Amnesiac’s edgy tongue. The “Young Savage” narrative was put in place during last year’s championship where the youngster would make sassy comments in his interview tidbits all the time. It was a fantastic narrative, to be honest, and it set apart Amnesiac from the rest in a very unique manner. The fact that it ended as it did—the savage defeated by the world champion commanding a goofy 1-mana minion and its untamed RNG, but also coming to Pavel’s defense later on—further contributed to the excitement of the World Championship. At the end of the day, what young Barton gave the Hearthstone community was a major reason to the tournament’s memorable outcome.

Amnesiac’s heavy-punch comments were also heard during his 15-minute-long criticism on the 2017 HCT system and the current balance of the game and part of it (granted, a minor one) was directed at Edwin “HotMEOWTH” Cook, the player who beat Amnesiac to the #1 spot on the HCT rankings due to his transferred points pool from the HCT Summer Championship in 2016.

If the comments about HotMEOWTH slipped by many, it wasn’t the case with Amnesiac’s frustration with Pavel’s play at the EU Winter Playoffs. In a Reddit thread with near 1,300 comments, Amnesiac is called for being “immature”, “spoiled” and “asshole”, among others.

Community’s discontent with Amnesiac’s comments is of course justifiable. For all of his misplays during his career—including the embarrassing moment from the 2015 Europe Championship which cost Pavel his Blizzcon spot—the youngster still held a 71% win-rate even before the EU Winter Playoffs over 158 games. These are RNG-defying numbers. There is no question that, missed lethal or not, Pavel is a world class player. Such an attack on him can easily and understandable be seen as a pure-form unprofessionalism.

But one thing that passed by many as Amnesiac donned the dark cloak of the bad guy is that experience of all competition, online or on the field, is only enhanced by the presence of a great villain. Indeed, everything is enhanced by a great villain.

You don’t have to look far to find proof for that in esports. In the FGC, William “Leffen” Hjelte has become synonymous with controversy, as his verbal slaps to fellow competitors earned him notorious fame and even a year-long ban from local Swedish tournaments, but he remained one of the absolute greatest players in Melee of all time.

In StarCraft 2, fans awaited every match and every interview of Greg “IdrA” Fields as the former Evil Geniuses player built himself a reputation of being outspoken, harsh, rude and criticizing to everything and everyone, be it a competitor, streamer or game balance. His trash-talking rivalry with the equally vocal Min-Chul “MC” Jang became a hallmark of StarCraft 2 competition which drew thousands of viewers to each tournament the two appeared at. The same was true for Johan “Naniwa” Lucchesi, whose cocky, often disrespectful, attitude set him apart from everybody else and his notorious mannerisms, especially against rival player Jae-Duk “NesTea” Lim, were the focal point of discussions for weeks.

RELATED: Nydra's Minutes: The lack of Hearthstone rivalries

Love them or hate them, these players were all important to their respective scenes because of how they split entire communities and how they always gave them something to look forward to. Something that wasn’t just another great match at another great tournament, but a narration that transcended the borders of the battlefield.

Just like that, in a handful of Tweets, Amnesiac gave competitive Hearthstone its biggest gift in a long time: A scenario which will only be beneficial, regardless of how it ends. In a game where nothing is certain and rivalries are scarce to say the least, the “Young Savage” found tension and excitement where it was previously lacking. Like Leffen, Naniwa and Idra, Amnesiac made claims, holding everyone hostage to anticipation.

For all the criticism coming from Reddit, fans need to realize that whatever happens in a week’s time and / or later in the Bahamas, they can only gain from it. Because, just as much as we like seeing villains being provocative, we love seeing villain’s last chapters. We revel at Palpatine’s defeat, Hans Gruber’s fall, Agent Smith’s evaporation, King Geoffrey’s suffocation or Normal Stansfield’s fiery demise but we also love Keyser Söze’s walk-away and Hannibal Lector’s victorious smirk at the end of the Lambs. That’s what the Winter Season is heading for: a win-win scenario.

Esports needs villains. Hearthstone needs villains. Granted, not the domestically violent of Floyd Mayweather persuasion or NHL’s Sean Avery who topped his otherwise innocently cocky and adorably disrespectful push-up celebrations (also an awesome tool for building rivalries) with misogynistic comments.

What’s Amnesiac doing thus far is walking the fine lying between being a villain and being an irrelevant clown with grace, generating that experience enhancement I referred to earlier. It is childish and obnoxious, and uncalled for, and immature, and disrespectful, and cheap and irrelevant to the actual sport. It will likely cause issues for Amnesiac's career down the road, especially since he's yet to prove himself as champion outside his own region.

And yet it’s a viewership generator, one which not only doesn’t destroy the integrity of the competition but actively complements it. Just think about it: Amnesiac is set for a rematch with the world champion this weekend and they won’t even play each other.

How awesome is that?

QUICKPOLL

What do you think about the Amnesiac / Pavel drama?

It's awesome, more of that please
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It's cringe and awful
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Discussion

  • Adam "acosper" Cosper ,
    I think that you're overlooking a fairly likely scenario. Viewership may actually decline due to the nature of Barton's criticisms. After all, he's essentially reinforcing the RNG fiesta meme. I'm fairly sure that you've said that players shouldn't tear down the game that makes them relevant more than once on The Innervated. Why should I watch a tournament if even the participants seem to think it amounts to little more than a series of coin flips? I'm even less likely to watch if one of the coin flippers is an arrogant, off-putting, little brat like Barton.
    • Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev ,
      You have a point there ofc, and as you mentioned, I myself have been on the opinion that players have damaged the game in the past. But this isn't really a bash on RNG, it's one guy bashing another. Yes, it looks like it's damaging the game, but ultimately I think it does more good than bad, at least in the short term.
      • Adam "acosper" Cosper ,
        While you are correct that RNG isn't the focus of Mr. Barton's tirade, the message that I took away was that a player can bring the wrong decks and employ the wrong strategy and still win. That doesn't seem like a message that will bolster the competitive scene in the long term. That being said, your prediction about drama bringing views is probably sound. Just because it makes me want to tune out doesn't mean that others will feel the same way.
  • david "CiX" hess ,
    "It is childish and obnoxious, and uncalled for, and immature, and disrespectful, and cheap and irrelevant to the actual sport. " Who are you to judge, who do you think you are? It sounds like you assume you are in a position to lecture about whats childish, immature and so on. Newsflash: you are not. Amnesiacs approach is different and refreshing to many, its a great contrast to the boring and correct guys who we see usually playing those tournaments. though it has the risk of unsettling sensible minds like yours, apparently. Serious QUestion: Are you an SJW, by any Chance? in the end, hes the guys who goes in the arena and plays, shows his face, and bears the risk of failure. you are just a bystander who comments on him. compared to him, youre nothing.
    • Adam "acosper" Cosper ,
      Oh Jesus... Anyone who dares criticize the ubermensch's twitter tantrum must be an SJW. Yawn. Did it even occur to you that Nydra was actually defending Mr. Barton? Or that compared to Nydra, whose work makes him well known in the Hearthstone community, you're the real nobody here?
    • Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev ,
      You need a chill pill stat, buddy. Or read the article with comprehension. Either of the two.
    • Dylan "TheChiv" Koenigsaecker ,
      So because some one finds what he did to be childish and rather immature, they must be a "SJW". I have known Nydra for a bit now. The one thing you could never accuse him of is being a "SJW". A sheep fucker, sure. Most lonely man on the planet, pretty accurate. Calling him an SJW makes you no different then when an SJW when they call some one a racist for not agreeing with them. Please return to your lord and master St. Anita and have a nice day.
    • david "CiX" hess ,
      well, apparently i didnt read the article intently and wrote something stupdid. have a nice day folks
  • Lauren "zuluparty" Northshire ,
    Just another staged soap opera for viewers amusement. Wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard is actually interfering with the qualify games to arrange this high wanted rematch at the season finals.

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