Andrey ‘Reynad’ Yanyuk popularized the iconic Zoo Warlock deck, founded of one of the first Hearthstone-focused esports organisations in Tempo Storm, and runs one of the game’s most popular Twitch channels. He’s also a polarizing figure, equally renowned for his saltiness on stream and getting into various spats. But I’m a fan (and not just because he writes for us).
He’s always interesting as a caster, and however you feel about him, it’s pretty remarkable he’s built his business to the point it now supports teams for multiple games. The site’s influential Meta Snapshot also remains excellent, providing ladder warriors with an excellent weekly tool to help on the climb. I spoke with him a month ago (so, pre-Warsong Commander nerf) as part of a Blizzard meet-up to get his thoughts on the current state of Hearthstone.
Like many current Hearthstone pros, Reynad started his CCG career in Magic: The Gathering, but left the scene under a cloud following an 18-month ban for a minor infringement involving his decklist during a tournament. These days he’s one of the best known players on the Hearthstone scene, and his organisation also put on its own competitions, like Lord of the Arena. He can be found on Twitter here and on Twitch here. Ever the innovators, Tempo Storm’s Hearthstone team even has its own cartoon.
PC Gamer: What would you say are the most common mistakes you see ladder players making?
Reynad: The most common mistakes that ladder players make are pretty subtle things at the high ranks. Things like playing the cards they want to play and then drawing a card afterwards, rather than just drawing their card first and seeing if they get a different option. A lot of players play more defensively than they should, they play to lose slowly rather than playing to win. If you’re pretty far behind in a game a lot of times you have to take higher risks to try to actually win the game. Other than that it really differs player to player. Some people just disrespect certain cards too often, and some play around too many cards—it’s hard to find a good balance, when and when not to respect certain things.
Players struggle a lot of times with how to mulligan for a certain deck. The mulligan is where a lot of games are decided. If you choose to keep the wrong card it’s like playing with one less card that game basically. Fortunately there are a few resources for players to help with which cards to keep and not keep. Personally, I’ve only ever found Tempostorm.com to have thorough mulligan guides. I can say that, being completely unaffiliated with that site, it has in fact helped me step up my mulligan decisions and my interactions with females. [Laughs]
PC Gamer: If you could delete one card from the game what would it be and why?
Reynad: That’s a decent question. My first inclination is to name a card that I find overtly frustrating, which doesn’t lead to a lot of interesting decisions. It should probably be like Knife Juggler I think, but it might be a better answer where I’d remove a card like Wild Growth or Warsong Commander [which has now been nerfed - Ed], something that skews the game in an unhealthy way. Honestly I would probably remove Big Game Hunter just to see what happens. That would be kind of fun.
PC Gamer: Who do you think—other than your teammates—is the most creative deck builder in the world?
Reynad: I don’t really look at other people’s decks. Most people at this point just kind of tune things, they don’t really create decks from the ground up, from what I’ve seen. Honestly nobody comes to mind. It’s been a long time that I’ve seen a deck that isn’t like “Oh, let me change three cards in Zoo” or “let me change three cards in Druid.” Very few people are making very unique lists right now. I don’t know, it’s kind of a cop out answer but there's nobody that really comes to mind.
PC Gamer: If Twitch let you create a global emote what would it be?
Reynad: Something that’s spammable very, very often. I could go the whole sell-out route and do a TempoStorm logo, I could do something else like… The problem is whatever meme is dankest rotates every single week or two, so I don’t think any emote is eternal. I think Kappa’s pretty close, PogChamp is up there… Kkona. I guess it would be some kind of expression for people to use for a long time to come.
PC Gamer: What was the first legendary card you ever had in Hearthstone?
Reynad: The first legendary card I ever had... I think the first one I crafted was Edwin Van Cleef back when he had Stealth, so I think I correctly identified an imbalance there. Then I opened Lorewalker Cho as my next two legendaries, so that wasn’t great. Yeah, Edwin I think was the first one I crafted.
PC Gamer: How do you avoid tilt (opens in new tab) when you play?
Reynad: You can’t just tell people not to feel emotions, it doesn’t work that way. Just try not to have it affect your play. If you can embrace the tilt that’s fine too. There’s a lot of ways to handle it. I feel like tilt has never really affected my play over the past ten years of playing card games. It’s not that I don’t get tilted it’s that I play the same through the tilt from what I’ve noticed and what other people tell me. You don’t have to avoid tilt altogether, but as long as you don’t let it affect your play it’s fine.
PC Gamer: Do you think the amount of RNG in Hearthstone is holding it back as a competitive game?
Reynad: It’s the whole reason that people are celebrities doing literally nothing for a living like me. [Laughs] The RNG aspect is why the casual players are here. The game designers know what they’re doing. It’s really lazy and ignorant to say, like, RNG is bad or RNG is good. There’s a balance and everything is on a spectrum, and the people in charge of developing the game are much better judges of that than people with narrow perspectives in the community, I think.
PC Gamer: What’s been your happiest Hearthstone moment?
Reynad: I probably liked watching Gaara win Dreamhack Bucharest the first time because I was... I just made my team, I didn’t have a lot of money because my stream wasn’t making much, so I just decided to invest a bunch of money to be the first team to ever salary players. I flew Gaara out from Germany to Bucharest—hotel, flight, everything—met him for the first time and we got along well, he was a player nobody had heard of at the time, he averaged about ten viewers on Twitch.
But I flew him out to a single elimination, best-of-three event with 128 players, as the only other teammate, and he won. That was just crazy to watch that whole process and cheer him on. That was probably a time when I was pretty happy with Hearthstone because I felt validated in a decision I made that a lot of people called stupid at the time.
PC Gamer: Are you not happy with the game now? Sometimes it’s a pain to have to play it?
Reynad: Everything is a pain to me, man. I’m a jaded old man. I don’t feel joy in any aspect of life, it’s not just Hearthstone. Hearthstone’s in a good spot I think.
PC Gamer: I’m sad to hear you say that, but I am actually an old man and that’s probably the kind of nihilistic thing I would have said at your age...
Reynad: Maybe, I don’t know. Most people my age don’t work 16-hour days, working with 19 year-old kids that are always one girlfriend away from disaster, financially. A really stressful lifestyle in a lot of ways. So that's the reason that I’m going to be this way for the next few years until things can happen by themselves.
PC Gamer: There must be parts of running TempoStorm that you really enjoy?
Reynad: Seeing my team members have success. I don’t know, anytime that I have a vision and that vision is realized in a way that satisfies me, it’s a very satisfying feeling. Most people don’t get to the point where they even have a vision, let alone to have it, carry it out the right way and then have it succeed. Which I think, to be fair, most of the time it’s not happened with the things I do but when it does it’s very satisfying.
PC Gamer: If you were [Team 5 senior game designer] Ben Brode for the day what would you do?
Reynad: Fire everybody.
PC Gamer: Do you want that to be the answer?
Reynad: No. I’d say that he does a pretty good job. I would make the Pirate Ship card.
PC Gamer: What would the card text read?
Reynad: 6 mana 1/2, summon a Ship’s Cannon and summon two Southsea Deckhands so you get two cannon fires.
PC Gamer: That’s a strong card.
Reynad: It’s on a par with Piloted Sky Golem.
Edit: In the original version of this article the card Reynad suggested was named as 'Fire Chimp' rather than 'Pirate Ship'. Blame the fact the interview was conducted on an actual boat. It definitely makes a lot more sense as Pirate Ship!
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!