Resident esports Journalist, Roshni Patel, caught up with ESL Premiership Autumn Finalist, Hugo ‘Coldhands’ Kay, to find out how his secrets for Hearthstone Success

Redbrick Gaming Editor, who also occasionally dabbles in the dark arts of other sections. Graduating July 2018
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Images by ESL , Blizzard

HearthstoneHow would you describe Hearthstone?

It is a card game, which is fun and quite fast. It is one of those games which people say is easy to get into, but hard to master, as it is quite clear, and you can generally get a sense of what’s happening in each match. However, once you think about the strategy more, you begin to realise it has that depth, that all esports games have, which is why it is so interesting to me.

How long have you been playing Hearthstone professionally?

I first started 3 ½ years ago, playing casually for the first year or two, gradually climbing up the ranks and playing more as a result. I kind of got to the point where I was thinking “I’m getting quite good at this now”, which encouraged me to begin competing in tournaments just over a year ago, which led me to qualifying for the ESL Autumn Premiership. This was my first ESL Premiership season, where I qualified formally in September, played the season through the Autumn term, and played the Finals in January, just before term began. It is thanks to the NUEL that I really got into the competitive scene so quickly, as the university esports society posted about a Hearthstone tournament quite early on into my first year, and I basically thought, I may as well play, and ended up placing 2nd in both semester’s tournaments.

How do you train for Hearthstone?

On average I try to get around 3 hours practice a day, sometimes a little more, with some days where I’ll just play all day. Practice mostly involves playing, but playing with a purpose, to try and play different things, experiments and gain a larger knowledge base of what strategies are good and what plays are possible. In the down time when I feel I’ve played too much or I’ve started to lose rank, I like to watch Hearthstone, which is very popular on Twitch, so I can take time off, watch someone else play, and still make decisions and think about the strategy required, without it affect my own game. While I don’t have many contact hours, I have a lot of coursework and essays, as a result I have to find a balance, where sometimes I’ll do mostly work days or mostly Hearthstone days.

Have you ever needed to take a break to focus on your studies?

While competing in the ESL Premiership, I had a bunch of deadlines, around 4 or 5 essays due for the end of last term. So I qualified for the finals 3 weeks before and took all that time off to complete my essays, which was perfect, as the week I finished, the new expansion had just been released, so I had all of Christmas holiday to practice. All in all, it actually worked out quite well, and I personally quite like that on off approach from time to time, because sometimes you do need a break from playing and you can get burnt out.

What advice would you give someone considering competitive Hearthstone?

Just have a good attitude towards learning the game. Often people talk about natural talent, especially in the mechanical games, but you have to take the approach of learning as much as you can, putting in the work and keeping a good attitude. As long as you keep these things in mind, I think eventually you will improve and if you generally keep working your game awareness and strategy, you’ve got a pretty good chance

What’s next for you? Next match? Future esports plans?

I’m currently in some downtime, and just casually playing some weekly online tournaments, which are UK based, in which I’m having some success, winning small amounts of prize money as I go along. It’s all about keeping my skills up, as the next season of the ESL Premiership, starts in a few months.

In the future I hope to continue playing in the ESL Premiership, I currently have just over a year left on my degree, so I’d love to keep playing part time, as I think I have a fairly good balance between work and esports right now. Though I’m currently not considering becoming a full time esports player, as it’s currently not a consistent income. I would also love to go to a Dreamhack, where I can immerse myself in the esports scene and gain more recognition, while experiencing the skills of perhaps more professional Hearthstone players.

Finally, is esports a sport?

I don’t think it really matters, at least that’s what most people say. Do I think esports is a sport, well yes and no is my answer. Most people don’t want esports to be involved in the Olympics and related sporting events, which it recently has been with the Winter Olympics hosting a Starcraft 2 tournament. And I sort of agree with this view, despite this sort of association bringing in more mainstream sponsorship and attention, which has really benefited esports recently. But esports is a little like Chess, Snooker or Darts, where its a lot about strategy and accuracy, over physical exertion.

However it is a kind of competition, and as a result, the name esports works well for explaining what it is, though I feel the debate around whether its a sport or not, can get pointless after a while. We should instead, in my opinion, just appreciate esports for what it is.

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