This is a dangerous article for me to write. At the risk of putting myself and all of my colleagues out of a job forever, —and specifically its defining feature of being able to listen in on the teams laughing and bickering as they discuss lines of play—has been a breath of fresh air for competitive Hearthstone. The series between Luminosity and Team Liquid embedded above provides a perfect example of why Trinity is so much fun, for all the reasons I am about to celebrate.
Let’s be clear from the start: Hearthstone is an extremely personality-driven game. A quick perusal of Twitch statistics tells you everything you need to know. Viewer minutes for Hearthstone as a whole are fantastically high, rivalling the biggest competitive games on PC. However, the actual “esports minutes”—meaning time spent watching tournaments—pales in comparison to powerhouses like CS:GO and League of Legends. Viewers crave the interaction that comes from individual streamers, and it is these personalities who really run the game.
Which is why ESL’s Trinity Series format has given the community exactly what we’ve been looking for. It’s a hybrid of the standard esports format but interspersed with sprinklings of player insight, jokes, arguments and real emotion. It allows us to witness not only the thought process of these players directly, rather than relying on plebs like me doing our best to infer it, but it also shows the players as relatable human beings wrestling with the same decisions, frustrations and amusements that we face when playing the game.
Fear the Don Han'Cho? 1 minion from Small-time Recruits? Just #TrinitySeries stuff.https://t.co/SsgTEh86Vq pic.twitter.com/F7W06e9GugJanuary 25, 2017
Highlights so far include Chakki gleefully mocking his opponent’s decks and littering every turn with whatever random meme pops into his mind, Lifecoach and SuperJJ’s trademark enthusiasm and over the top sound effects, and Thijs’ natural childlike charm. Their personality tics provide a healthy dose of the streamer experience that is otherwise lacking from the competitive scene, and that’s a wonderful thing. Hearthstone is a game that doesn’t get all the recognition that it deserves as a competitive endeavour, and many viewers don’t take it seriously. Against that backdrop, the Trinity Series acts as the perfect gateway drug. People come for the personalities, but then suddenly, they’re listening to some of the best experts in the world discussing the game at an incredibly high level and thinking “oh wow, I didn’t consider that.”
The comms get a little exciting from @G2esports while being roped. #TrinitySerieshttps://t.co/28ss4lSsVK pic.twitter.com/4k4jcX3uPdJanuary 26, 2017
The above clip is a perfect example. The three best players on G2’s roster still disagree as to what the best play is as the rope burns, and Lifecoach in the pilot’s role overrules everyone and then starts to argue his point afterwards (despite his obvious misplay). This raises another key point that makes Trinity all the more exciting. The tension between the “three heads are better than one” and “too many cooks spoil the broth” adages means that we get an amazing mix of incredibly insightful play when the synergy comes together, and catastrophically bad mistakes when it doesn’t.
From the viewers’ perspective, the result is that it feels like the players’ decisions, and their chemistry, really matters—and it can’t be overstated how important and enjoyable that is. Hearing the thought process, seeing the mistakes, and appreciating the insightful plays, all of these lead to a feeling that one team is outplaying the other in any given game. This, again, is hugely beneficial to Hearthstone as an esport, because that’s what competition is all about.
Furthermore, Trinity has an excellent format. Let’s call a Shaman a Shaman right now and admit that the current meta on ladder is repetitive at best. Having two bans at each team’s disposal means that the most oppressive power decks get banned out, and that leads to more visibility for decks that have no place on ladder due to how nonchalantly aggro Shaman can send them back to the dumpster tier from which they foolishly tried to emerge. This was brought into sharp focus immediately in the opening series of the event when G2 vanquished Alliance with a crushing 6-0 sweep with Murloc Paladin.
Not only is the meta more varied, it is also unsolved. Unsolved metas lead to creativity and evolution, and that’s exactly what we’re starting to see. Tempo Mage moved to the forefront in the second week, with multiple teams simultaneously choosing to bring it with varying levels of success. On top of this, Rexxar, the usurped dictator of SMOrc, has suddenly made an appearance after being ignored by every team for the first week as a potential counter to the greedier decks that teams are free to play due to the departure from the “Patches wins Matches” ladder meta.
And the viewing experience is only likely to improve as the tournament continues, especially for fans who’ve been following since the first weeks. The dynamic between players will get better, and collaboration will become more natural as players who were unfamiliar with a true team format start to learn how to communicate effectively. The meta will also continue to develop as each team tries to out think the others by bringing more effective counters, more off the wall surprises, and more decks that exploit any habits that they’ve noticed from their opponent’s previous games.
And if none of that interests you in the slightest. Just watch because you can listen to Lifecoach make Murloc noises.
It's a clean sweep from @G2esports, taking Anyfin Paladin to a 6-0 match victory! #TrinitySerieshttps://t.co/SsgTEh86Vq pic.twitter.com/yAxh7JH3J3January 18, 2017