Interview: Year End Review w/ superjj
by Sören 'Fantasy' Vendsahm
Since superjj made his announcement to join the Hearthstone team of compLexity Gaming a lot has changed for the German player. He found success, good teammates, a dedicated practice partner and a new home in Vienna. There are more than enough reasons to catch up with the SeatStory Cup 4 champion to recap 2016 and think ahead at the opportunities and chances that 2017 might bring for his career.
With the end of SeatStory Cup, your competitive year in Hearthstone also ended. Looking back at his event in Krefeld, what are your general thoughts about your play and performance?
JJ: The preparation was almost perfect. I really liked my lineup, but I still made some mistakes while playing the series.
Not to rub salt into the wound, but going back to the series against SjoW at SeatStory Cup. Can you give us a glimpse into your mind before playing Malkorok and what happened afterwards?
I didn’t have especially something in mind when I played the Malkorok, the card had to be played and you simply hope it doesn’t give you the Cursed Blade. After these moments you feel quite bad, but normally I recover from them quite quickly. As a pro you are kind of used to Heavy RNG swings.
Those moments surely are tilting and discouraging - as Hearthstone pro you face them on a quite frequent basis. As a veteran now, looking back at your start of the your competitive career, how do you deal with those moments nowadays, as opposed to back a year or a 18 months ago?
Nowadays it’s of course not as tilting as it would’ve been in the past. If you are an unknown player and you play in the Top 8 of a tournament and you lose because of the three percent chance, it feels super devastating. These kind of moments happened quite frequently before I had the success of winning the fourth Seatstory Cup; they felt quite bad.
SeatStory Cup and esports superstars in Neumünster were the first big offline events for you with the new expansion. What is your early impression of it? What is good, what is bad, what gives you hope?
The new set seems quite interesting. It feels like there are more difficult decision again while playing the game, which is quite refreshing. Overall I think they did a good job with the set, I just dislike the aggressive Pirate mechanic and the card Patches.
We saw a lot of Renolock, Dragon decks, and aggressive variants of Shaman and Warrior at SeatStory Cup. In the current state of the game, what do you think is the best overall deck and why?
I think the aggressive decks are so powerful because Patches exists. It’s a very imbalanced mechanic which makes all kind of aggro decks with Patches powerful - over the top powerful even.
Another big change to the card set will hit in a few weeks with a new season of Standard starting. How do you see the entire game changing? Which class will suffer the most, which will benefit the most?
Reno Decks will suffer since Reno Jackson will rotate out, which is a big factor for Reno decks :D . Also I think the Dragon theme will become a lot weaker with a lot of Dragons rotating out. The Pirate mechanic will still stay very strong and should be one of the most powerful ones in the game.
Overall you can look back at a successful Year 2016, if you go through the memories, how would you best describe the past year?
I feel like 2016 is kind the year where I just got started, it was my big step into the top of the competitive scene. There were a lot of tournaments and all of the memories are great. I am not quite sure which were the best, overall I would describe the last year as one of the most memorable years of my entire life.
You traveled to the States, to China and to various places in Europe. Which tournament stands out in your mind and why?
Every country kind of had its own charm and culture, which makes the tournaments there very interesting. Overall i would say the EU vs China tournament was very outstanding just because the culture there was so different and the way the Chinese fans celebrated esports. That being said, I am also very into the DreamHack Pro Tour tournaments, since I love playing well organized Swiss tournaments.
What is the most memorable moment of 2016 for you personally?
There are quite a lot of them, if i have to pick one that just gets into my mind I would say it was the whole Tour through America. From the Dota House to the DreamHack Austin, I had a lot of fun there.
The trip to the US wasn't just about competing in tournaments, but also about being a brand ambassador at PAX East. You've done two of those appearances this year at GamesCom and at PAX East - how do you like those kind of events?
I enjoy visiting events in general and I also enjoy giving the sponsors something back for the trust they put into me as a player and the team. Normally I would be at the event as a competitor anyways, so I think it just nice putting some time away to support the guys that make it all possible.
You mention the Dota house, how was it for you to be in that team house environment with a very ambitious team? What was the atmosphere like?
It was just as very chill atmosphere. It’s always nice to meet other dedicated gamers which have a similar mindset. At the point I visited them I had a quite stressful month and they had holidays so it was just a very nice to relax and talk with some other esport pros.
Do you think bigger team houses would also work for Hearthstone - for example the coLHS squad in one giant house?
It could work for sure If you gather a group of players with the same dedication and the same approach to the game. Since Hearthstone is a single player game the aspect of working together would for sure look different, but it’s mostly about the people you work with, I guess. Working as a team is not that common in the Hearthstone scene, but I also think something like a team house would be a step forward.
A big change in 2016, the later portion of the year, was the move to Vienna and the constant bootcamping with Lifecoach. Can you give us a peek into a normal average day of you two in Vienna? What exactly are you doing on a daily basis?
In the last month we just got kind of started. Our day doesn’t look very special or something. I spend most of the time from 7:00-14:00 streaming and then I head to Adrian’s place, where we practice for another ten hours. We just go through Decklists, meta analysis, and in-game decisions, which is great.
In terms of improvement, which part of your game has benefited the most from this new intense training regiment?
My preperation got way more analytic and I am also way more calm while playing. I would say I became an overall stronger player, but my analytical part and understanding improved the most by far.
Analytics, stats and hard numbers are the core concept of your approach these days - one month into this big change in approach, how has your game changed?
It´s a completely different approach to the game now. I try to think about my decision more critically and also try to focus more. All in all I would say I’m just trying to squeeze more out of the single games itself which is very cool.
Last but not least, what do you expect from 2017? What are your goals? What are your hopes? What are your fears when you look forward to the next competitive year?
I expect to work even harder and become an even better player, I wanna make 2017 the best year for my Hearthstone career so far.