Lifecoach on quitting Hearthstone: 'You don’t get rewarded, you get punched in the face'

Lifecoach and SuperJJ streaming from the airport on their way to Dreamhack.

Do you think the fundamental mechanics of Hearthstone, like not being able to interact on your opponent’s turn and the ability to use weapons, mean that the ladder will always be dominated by the decks which curve out best?

Ja, absolutely. But it’s not the fundamental mechanics, it's what they [Blizzard] want to see. It’s about what cards they want to put out. Usually, the answer has to be stronger than the question. Blade Flurry is not good until your opponent floods the board, but once they do you can punish them for overextending. The same with Molten Giants, they were a very strong response to a player rushing your face. You can play a mighty Molten Giant for 1 or 2 Mana, which is pretty cool, but then again that meant your opponent has already hit you in the face for 11 or 12—so that’s perfectly fine in my opinion. 

The real problem is when decks don't have access to AoE damage. When you know your opponent doesn't have access to AoE damage, you can just flood the board brainlessly without the worry of being punished. In my opinion every class should have access to one usable AoE, because it’s the only way to force your opponent to play a little bit of Hearthstone. Nowadays you can flood the board against most of the classes, and that makes it less appealing because it also decreases the skill cap if you don’t have to think “he might have this clear” or “he might have this Molten Giant response”. If pretty much nothing punishes you, then you just put your cards on the board without considering.

You’ve never seemed like someone who plays pure aggro for fun, beyond tournaments. Does the style just bore you?

Actually with aggro decks, I believe you cannot play with much skill for obvious reasons. The games are much shorter. Even if your aggro deck has the same win percentage—usually they have higher percentages than control decks, which also shouldn’t be [the case]—a strong player should not play aggro over control, because it gives you less opportunity to take advantage of your skill. And seeing the world's best players playing Patches these days… I'm quite happy, to be honest, spending my time doing something else.

How have your G2 teammates reacted to you switching to Gwent?

They are of course supportive. There aren't enough team events for it to be a big impact on them. And it's also not a surprise. If any other Hearthstone pros quit at this moment, I would not be a little bit surprised. I didn't have any of the pros approach me and say: “Why are you suddenly quitting?” It's clear as the sky. Any pro, or player from the competitive scene, could quit at any moment—it's only a question of how much they can bear. Seriously, I didn’t have anyone say to me: “Okay, competitive Hearthstone is in such a great state at the moment.”  I usually only hear that from those who aren’t playing in high-level competition themselves. It's quite easy for someone who is streaming for fun, or trolling with meme decks, to point out that everything is fine, but they're not part of it themselves.

Can you see a competitive scene springing up around Gwent when it comes out of beta?

I guess the competitive scene is already there, just because it's a competitive game. The real question is only whether the company behind it will be able to market it in such a way to make it appealing as an esport, or viable for DreamHack, or whoever, to make it appealing as an esport to promote. But as far as the community or competitive scene, that's already there. It's only whether that can be transmitted into a popular esport.

Will Gwent's less RNG-heavy approach see it challenge Hearthstone's CCG dominance?

I first encountered you as a player after hearing that there was this guy who was incredible at Handlock, but always streamed with no shirt on. What was the deal with that, and where you amused to get caught up in Twitch’s clampdown on toplessness? 

Wifecoach on Lifecoach…

"He has a committed and focused nature in everything he does, but the intensity is highest when playing and competing. At the moment the focus is clearly on Gwent, but Lifecoach will also keep playing interesting Hearthstone events in the future. It just will be a lot less than before. Me personally, I will see what comes up!"

When Twitch decided you had to wear something, I was already back in London. The one-year sabbatical I took from poker was spent on the Cayman Islands. It was close to 90 degrees in the house, and if I turned the air conditioner on Twitch couldn't hear what I was saying. So I played with the AC off, and since I didn't want to sweat for 12 hours a day, that's why I didn't wear a shirt. I am also not one for, how do you say, public conventions. For me it was a natural thing. Maybe I could have worn a muscle shirt or something, I don’t know. [Laughs]

You mentioned poker and your sabbatical. My impression from following the Hearthstone community is that you made enough money to never work again. Without going into the specifics of your finances, is that the case?  

Yeah, absolutely. This is not a secret. I made good money in poker. A good seven figures. You can probably just research that on the internet. But I also invested this money into real estate, and the stock market, and also different things. Being lucky, or having a lucky hand, everything just went alright. The real estate stuff went well, the stocks went extremely well. I purchased exactly the right stocks. That was not even an achievement, I diversified my stocks. But also I bought a lot of Tesla stock when they were at $25. I bought them because I thought “Okay, this is a cool electronic company, and I want to support them. So let's diversify part of my portfolio in this direction." But obviously it took off, and that was pretty cool.

I bought a lot of Tesla stock when they were at $25... Obviously it took off, and that was pretty cool.

Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy

Was there a point when you sat down with your wife and said “I want to focus on playing this game competitively full time”?

I guess it was just a transition. During the year of sabbatical, I wanted to do everything that I deliberately hadn’t done during the last seven or eight years of my life, while I was playing poker or with the real estate. So I spent half a year with Hearthstone, and after half a year I actually wanted to quit it again. I felt the game was actually pretty cool, and I just wanted to give my knowledge to the community before I moved on. But people were so encouraged by the knowledge I shared that they wanted me to stay. And so I spent three years in hearthstone.

So you wanted to stream to impart that knowledge you’d built up?

Exactly. I finished consecutively at rank 1 legend, but I couldn’t share it, so it wasn’t such a good feeling. I just climbed the ladder, got a 1 on my screen, and was like: “Yeah, okay cool.” It was just not very appealing. I found it quite sad that I’d approached it in this analytical way, and this knowledge might be quite helpful, especially for other analytical players. It surprised me that there were so many high-level players who wanted this knowledge transfer. It became kind of like a family, and it was a very nice feeling—unlike anything I’d experienced before. Being part of a cool community with the same interests, mindset, and even ethical approach. 

You seem like a very serious guy, and clearly are a deep thinker about the game, but on stream you roleplay the effects with almost childlike glee. Was it hard to restrain that aspect when competing at LAN events?

I didn’t hold myself back that much, unless it's something that's not very friendly to the opponent. If you topdeck something, in the home environment of course you can get excited. People call it roleplay, but I just do it because I love it without even thinking. It's just that I enjoy the effect and I can't contain myself. But being in a tournament, let's say you knock somebody out because you topdeck, you should not go crazy because it's very rude.

Can we expect that same sort roleplaying when it comes to Gwent though?

Oh absolutely, ja. Just watch my stream. My approach is I only play games that I absolutely enjoy. That's why I play games after all.

Answers and questions have been edited for length and clarity.

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.