Though not normally one for sentimentality when it comes to old games, I have to confess to feeling fairly emotional last night as I watched some of the OG Hearthstone streamers playing Classic mode. For those of us who were there at the launch of vanilla Hearthstone to experience the full horror of Leeroy Jenkins at 4-Mana, Classic provides the deepest hit of both nostalgia and traumatic flashbacks. I spent much of the evening enjoying the smooth sounds of 2014 World Champion Firebat playing Miracle Rogue, watching him dole out planet-shattering amounts of damage in a single turn with the fiendishly intricate deck.
The Tempo Storm can be found at twitch.tv/reynad27
At least I was enjoying that until PC Gamer contributor Ben 'Ridiculous Hat' Goodman told me via Twitter that Reynad was streaming and he was already on tilt. So of course I swapped channels and, sure enough, the salt was flowing. But reader, let me tell you, after so long without, it tasted like sugar. Newer Hearthstone players may not be familiar with Andrey 'Reynad' Yanyuk, but during the early era of Hearthstone he was one of the best known players in the game, having popularised the Zoo archetype, and then successfully spun that celebrity into the creation of Tempo Storm, an esports organisation that initially focused on Hearthstone but has since branched out substantially.
In 2018, when we last wrote about Reynad at length, Luke Winkie described him as Hearthstone's saltiest streamer: "The man's signature move was the long, baneful glance he'd give to the chat box after taking a bad beat, itching to hand out a permaban, or better yet a lengthy lecture to those watching, soundtracked by some furious mouse clicking." Anyone who watched Reynad's stream's back then could recognise that pen portrait. Reynad's relationship with his own viewership has always sat somewhere between being antagonistically symbiotic and actual performance art. The behaviour of each egging the other on to more absurd heights. Together, mountain ranges of salt rose and fell.
For those who didn't watch Reynad when he and Hearthstone were in their first flush of youth, last night was the next best thing. Reynad was back streaming Hearthstone, hair flowing like his lockdown barber had been holding an illustration of Aslan the Great Lion, and within a couple of games so were the expletive-laced rants. He was angry about RNG. About stream snipers. About Twitch chat. It was a rapid-fire greatest hits collection delivered by a returning master still at the peak of his powers. Think Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special but with more unlucky Ragnaros shots.
For the sake of the historic record, I've collected a few clips for our collective enjoyment. Let's start with an innocent enough question from the crowd: How does it feel to be playing Hearthstone again?
"It feels fucking terrible," replies Reynad—with a grin, to be fair—as buffed Treants shatter his hero into a hundred pieces. "Just like I remember it!"
Next up is an absolute classic of the genre: Reynad responding to someone (in this case an actual stream sniper) who has paid money just to submit an insulting message. It plays out exactly to type: "You're three dollars poorer and just as stupid as you were five minutes ago. Thanks for your money. Go fuck yourself."
Tragically I failed to clip the subsequent tirade against viewers who attempted to persuade Reynad that he wasn't being sniped, which was deemed an even worse crime.
Lest you think it's all good natured, Reynad's temper visibly starts to fray in the next excerpt, as a variation on his iconic Zoo Warlock gets stonewalled by Taunt Druid. "I swear I'm getting queue sniped," he complains, before going on to threaten to play the Priest class out of spite "They won't even know how to counter it, it wasn't a deck in this meta." Hilariously, he goes on to note that [renowned Priest specialist Amaz and one-time Tempo Storm nemesis] "...is playing some trash list, but I can make a better one."
We wrap up with a clip so beautiful that every frame should be turned into an NFT and sold to a credulous hedge fund manager. Here we find our hero dying to a one-in-three (so not actually that unlucky) shot to the face delivered by another equally quintessential character from early Hearthstone: Ragnaros the Firelord, fiery god of game-ending RNG. "Fucking piece of shit! Fucking Hearthstone classic! Fucking Ragnaros! It never ends. I played perfectly."
For those of us who were there, the sound, the fury, is little short of ASMR perfection.
Now obviously there's an amount of playing to the gallery here. It would be weird if Reynad came back to ye olden Hearthstone and didn't dish out some verbals. But equally, he does seem legitimately annoyed. And really, that was always Reynad's appeal: Here was a man who was both brilliant at leveraging his own personal brand to reel in Twitch viewers, but also simultaneously wasn't joking about how pissed off he was getting at a children's card game.
In any case, I wouldn't expect too many repeat performances. The man is busy working on his own card game, The Bazaar, which you can find more about here. I've also embedded the latest dev update video below, which features a much cheerier Reynad explaining recent changes to the game's core features.
As for Classic Hearthstone, as glad as I am that it exists, I'm not sure it'll have a ton of longevity unless Blizzard intends to start adding expansions down the line (which doesn't seem quite as logical as it did for WoW Classic). The 2014 Hearthstone meta was completely solved, meaning players understand only too well exactly which decks were most powerful, and unless you're going to jam those ad infinitum, you're opening yourself up to quite the whooping.
Even last night it seemed like an absolute festival of Rogue mega combos, brutally efficient Face Hunter SMOrc-age, and a smattering of Freeze Mage for shits 'n' giggles.
Still, if you're trying to deduce who's most happy about Hearthstone Classic being live, the correct answer is former game director Ben Brode, who seems to mistakenly believe players are going to stop bugging him about why Warsong Commander was nerfed so hard.
thank fuck now everyone leave me alone https://t.co/cql6roqIj1March 25, 2021