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Meet the Hearthstone wonderkid who the pros come to for help

Shadowflame

PC Gamer: How much time do you spend playing the game on a typical week? Say it’s not summer vacation.

Amnesiac: Probably roughly an hour to two hours a day, so like ten and a half hours per week on average.

PC Gamer: When I watch you stream, you seem like a bundle of energy. You’re bouncing up and down on an exercise ball and pacing around the room. How would you describe your mindset when you’re playing on ladder?

I can focus and adapt my mind much better when I am exercising, even if it’s just walking around the room.

Amnesiac: It really depends. So in the Legend climb and when I’m not high ranked, I’m not paying a ton of attention to the game. I’m probably committing like half of my brain power to it, and then I’m focusing on other things—I might be listening to music, or I might be watching my chat, or whatever—but when I need to focus, I find that I need to start moving more because I can focus and adapt my mind much better when I am exercising, even if it’s just walking around the room. But, as a person, I really struggle sitting still.

PC Gamer: Do you ever find yourself getting tilted if you go on a losing streak? If so, how do you deal with it?

Amnesiac: I just stop playing if I find myself getting upset. I go do something else. I usually have something else I can be doing like homework, or I could go for a run, or I could go play tennis or basketball or something. When I start to lose and get upset, that’s kind of when I just pull the plug on Hearthstone for a little while.

PC Gamer: What are the most common mistakes that you see players making on ladder?

Amnesiac: I’d say it’s probably not mechanical errors, because you’re never really going to fix those. I make mechanical errors occasionally. I think it’s probably more mindsets about pretty popular match-ups. A mistake I see a lot of ladder Handlock players make is they keep Hellfire off the mulligan against Warrior which, even if you know it’s Patron, is a very big mistake because the amount of times where they actually make Patrons without charging them early enough for the Hellfire to be necessary is probably in the single percentiles, whereas if you don’t have your 4-drop threat you’re going to lose that game most of the time. That’s the much more relevant thing, so you should be aggressively mulliganing for your threats rather than trying to play defensively, because you can’t ever beat their entire deck. You’re the aggressor in that match-up, so you need to try and end the game fast.

amnesiac's demon handlock deck

500px-Doomguard full


Notable card choices in Amnesiac’s demon-flavoured Handlock list include the fact that he only runs a single copy of Hellfire and Shadowflame, the main Warlock AoE spells. He also includes a single copy of Doomguard, which represents incredible value if you manage to pull it from a Voidcaller. The Warlock legendaries Jaraxxus and Mal'Ganis also represent potentially huge walls for your opponent to get through if you can get them on board cheaply and taunt them up.

PC Gamer: Do you think being young gives you any advantage in terms of handling nerves because you just don’t fear anyone?

Amnesiac: I don’t know about being young, but I’ve been competing since I was four. I’ve had a lot of competitive experiences in a lot of different fields. In tennis, I’ve been in high-stakes situations where I’m ahead, I’ve been in high-stakes situations where I’m behind, and I’ve been in high-stakes situations where I’m dead even. Same thing with basketball, except I’ve had teammates relying on me or I’ve been relying on them. I guess I’ve been in every kind of competitive situation that comes up in Hearthstone, so I never feel really uncomfortable or unsure of how it’s going to play out. I feel pretty good about every situation I’m getting into in a competition.

PC Gamer: You also contribute to Tempo Storm’s weekly meta-snapshot as the resident Druid expert, how does that process work?

Amnesiac: I really like working with Tempo Storm. One of our experts is now traveling around Europe, so I’m actually taking over for him and I’m going to be doing the Warlock and Druid sections now. We have a collaborative Google Hangout every week where we discuss what we’ve been seeing in the meta, what’s most popular, what’s most powerful, and then we rank the decks. Then we’re given a 24 hour deadline to update all of our comments on each deck, and the lists, and the tech choices, and the match-up table. But yeah, it’s a great group of people, we’re really productive. It’s a lot of fun working with those guys, I like it.

PC Gamer: I saw you running Chillwind Yetis in a recent Fast Druid list, post-TGT. Do you think people overlook the power of some vanilla cards?

Amnesiac: Well I’ll be the first to admit that I think Savage Combatant is better, but in my mind Chillwind Yeti made more sense. I think people underrate just how important having things to play on curve is in this game. Because obviously piloted Shredder is a stronger card than Chillwind Yeti, but you can’t run two Piloted Shredders and expect to have it on a fairly consistent basis, so my solution was just to put in basically more Piloted Shredders. Even if [the Yetis are] slightly weaker, I’m pretty happy about having something to do. But I think Savage Combatant is better now that I’ve played with it more. Firebat kind of sold me on it. As he puts it, you can just run away with the game with Savage Combatant, whereas Chillwind Yeti doesn’t really do that. Even though I think it’s slightly weaker against Paladin, Savage Combatant can shine more in some other match-ups, like more grindy midrange match-ups.

On the next page: What decks are strongest now and who he thinks are the best builders.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.