For the few who don’t know him, Simon “Crane333” Raunholst is a player for Team compLexity and has been hailed for a long time as one of the best in the Hearthstone competitive scene. If you ever go to his channel you will see a lot of pro players discussing the hot topics of the moment, he is a favourite amongst that crowd. Amongst his winning there is the very recent second place finish at DreamHack Valencia, but there are also numerous other high place finishes. As of now he is rated the15th best player in the world by http://www.gosugamers.net/ . Overall it was an honour for me to get the chance to ask him a few questions, he is amongst the players I respect the most in the scene. I will say that when I saw I got this chance to ask him some questions, my reaction was akin to the one a 14 year old would have after being told they can meet their idol.
Before the interview, I want to thank Kyle from Stride PR for giving the Game Haus the chance to cover this piece, as well as Crane333 for taking the time off to answer my questions. Without further ado, I present to you the interview!
When did you start playing Hearthstone?
What attracted you to the game?
First, it was the casual aspect of the game, I just wanted to play for fun. After a while I started playing Combo decks and I got intrigued by the mental aspect of the game, being able to think ahead and solve the puzzles felt really fun. This was in the golden age of Miracle Rogue, a deck which, of course, I played a ton of.
Your favourite deck in the game, my bets are on old Patron Warrior?
Old Miracle Rogue and the Warsong + Death Bite Patron are for sure my two favourite decks of all time. The main reason for this is the amount of thinking needed to play those decks optimally, as well as the fact that they were top tier in their prime.
In general I see myself enjoying any combo deck, I will say I tend to mainly play tier 1 decks as winning is a big part of the enjoyment I get from the game.
Favourite card and best card designed in the game, again my bets are on Patron?
Pre-nerf Gadgetzan Auctioneer (5 mana). I feel like this card was very rewarding if you were a good player and insanely punishing if you were not. Sequencing your spells correctly and knowing when to stop using spells to play minions instead, was essential and very difficult in the short time frame you were given for the turn. It is also incredibly fun to play with because of all the puzzles you need to solve when going off with it. You have to think of all the possible outcomes, and sometimes you can make really miraculous comebacks using it; hence Miracle rogue being called Miracle Rogue.
Pre-nerf Patron was an awesome deck but I don’t think the card alone is very interesting. The current iterations of the deck, in my opinion, lost a lot of the flavour. RIP Warsong.
I tried searching online about your ascension to the competitive scene, couldn’t find much. Could you give me a brief summary about your story?
Before being noticed I just played a lot of open tournaments and grinded ladder. Suddenly, I qualified for the Viagame House Cup. There I started talking with Adrian “LifeCoach” Koy and Dima “Rdu” Radu, both of whom I later started practising with. Eventually my network grew and I was introduced to other pro players, suddenly I was recognized as a top tier player.
My breakthrough performance was probably due to getting really good results in the BlizzCon Qualifier for 2015. I scored a ton of points despite not being invited to any tournaments. Basically, I am a grinder who has worked his way up to becoming a pro player. The final step was being picked up by compLexity, I am really grateful for the chance given to me.
Having a team that sends you to events is all you really need to build your career, not having to sponsor your own trips is a big deal. In the past I had to pay for my own trips, this puts you under more pressure as you have to perform to pay back your expenses. On top of that, it can be really demoralizing if you lose early on in the tournament. Being on a serious team means you can put your entire focus on the gameplay, this helps more than one could ever imagine.
Mandatory question since there has been so much talk about it, what is your opinion on the state of the game?
I think Blizzard messed up big time but I don’t think the solutions are hard to implement. I recently played in a team league (the Deck Gauntlet for anyone interested), I realized the game is still amazing as long as you can remove Shaman and Warrior from the play field. I want to emphasize I am not claiming this makes the game perfect, but boy does it help! Yogg’Saron is obviously really bad for the competitive scene, and I would like to see it removed. On the flipside the card does allows Druid have a competitive archetype. I find that Druid, except from when you have to play Yogg, is quite skill-intensive.
So, yeah, playing ladder is the absolute worst because in this format you are forced to play against Warrior and Shaman. To top this off, Blizzard pushed DiscardLock. This is something I feel passionately about and I had already talked about in a set review back when we saw the first Discard cards being printed. I think the mechanic is just bad for the game, it pushes the idea of irrationally vomiting your hand and only play with top decks. Even worse, with a card like Silverware Golem, you can either discard it and gain an immense advantage or miss the discard and probably lose the game. Healthy RNG should be more recoverable than the swing of free 3/3 on board. In my opinion it is sloppy card design.
What can be done to improve it?
Firstly, I think they need to print a weak Totem to make Tuskarr Totemic less of a thing (or make Totem Golem not be a Totem! Or simply not allow Tuskarr to spawn in). Also, they should stop printing improved Mana Wyrms as a means of fixing weak classes. In my opinion, Tunnel Trogg is a bad card for the game, as is Mana Wyrm. Cards which snowball immensely and can be played on turn one are not good for the competitive scene, recall Undertaker! I also think it is possible to simply nerf Doomhammer, off the top of my head I could see making it so that only 1 charge per turn can go face. As for Warrior, I don’t think I mind too much except perhaps a nerf to Dragon Warrior to push some other archetypes. Obviously there is always the Yogg issue, removing or nerfing the card from the game has to be done sooner rather than later.
Off the top of my head that’s what I would test if I was a developer.
How much preparation goes into Hearthstone every day?
It really changes a lot based on time of month and number of tournaments scheduled. I find that whenever I have tournaments I try to charge up mentally and avoid ladder. I mainly prepare by thinking about line-ups and by having focused sessions with top Hearthstone players. At the end of each month, unless I have a tournament to attend in the last few days, I pretty much play ladder the entire day. Obviously this only applies if I am not camping a top rank on both EU and NA.
Other than that, I also spend a lot of time watching other players and trying to backseat the game. I find that this helps a lot as it enables me to see other players’ perspective on the game. Also, I think that analysing the game without playing yourself is very useful, very often I find myself noticing things which I would otherwise miss. Overall I basically think about Hearthstone every waking hour, no question that for me this is a full-time job.
How much does it take to prepare for a tournament?
Depends on the metagame. When I prepared for DreamHack Valencia it didn’t take too long, I pretty much just took the BrokeBack line-up (Dragon Warrior, Aggro Shaman, Yogg Token Druid and Zoolock) because I wanted to see how it would perform. Before that I had been running a lot of combo line-ups with mixed success.
Other times I have prepared multiple hours each day for about a week in advance. One week before the tournament is a good time to start really focusing on your game play since the metagame can change really quickly and this can hinder you if you start preparing too early. Obviously this is different depending on when expansions are coming out, as a general rule though I start play testing about two to three weeks ahead of the tournament. You have to consider preparation also includes analysing the format and trying to map out the best possible line-ups, only once this is set in stone you can start practicing the actual decks.
Do you review your games? How much does it take and how many mistakes do you usually notice?
Most of the time I review my tournament games, I will say that after a disappointing loss sometimes it takes a while before I can watch my own games. I almost always notice something that I missed while playing, this doesn’t always mean I did the wrong play, but that I might have done the right play for the wrong reasons.
Unfortunately, the longer tournaments go the more mentally drained I become and thus I know in the past I have made incredibly bad plays. To improve in this aspect all you can do is train you stamina by enduring longer Hearthstone sessions. Eventually you can arrive to a point that even after long hours of Hearthstone your gameplay level doesn’t drop too much.
I believe the environment in which you play is essential to compete at the best of your capabilities, do you find you perform worst when playing in tournament venues?
I would not say so. Rather, I would say that I play my best when there is something at stake. I am a competitor at heart and I have a surprisingly bad win-rate when playing casually. Obviously, it is easier to play from home since I am in my comfort zone. I will say though I am getting a lot better at competing in LAN events as I have gained quite a bit of experience!
Don’t want to stir up drama and you can choose not to answer, but I was curious about a tweet you tweeted a while back. You said: “you know who I’m going to be rooting for in America’s championship? all the players who aren’t Pascoa”. What did Pascoa do which irritated you, was it his insistence on the Greetings in the first match against Rosty?
It was the BM emotes. I can’t remember exactly when, but I think he spammed at the end of his last game. You have to consider that whilst the winner is qualified for the BlizzCon qualifier the loser just potentially missed on his big chance, it is a really big deal for players trying to break in the scene. I think that showing just a little bit of respect for your opponent goes a long way and should be the least anyone could do in a high stakes setting. I know how heartbroken I would be if I just missed my chance for Top 8 in the BlizzCon qualifier.
Other than that, if stakes are a lot lower I don’t I care as much about BM. Although I will say I never do it myself (in tournaments) out of principle.
Your tips for up and coming players?
If you want to make it in Hearthstone, you better buckle up.
Unless you plan on getting lucky, you are going to have a lot of work cut out for you. In general: build relationships with top players and improve yourself by finding inspiration from players who have a different approach to the game than you, obviously select ones which are good at the game. Most important of all try to become the best player YOU can be. Instead of buying into how others play the game, always question their logic and try to evaluate it yourself if there is reasons to agree to what they are saying. Don’t take what big figures in the scene say at face value!
Do you think competitive Hearthstone is a niche that will always be overshadowed by the big streamer names like Amaz and Kripp?
Sure, there are a couple of big streamers but I don´t see what that has to do with competitive Hearthstone. Most of those guys could be playing any game and they would have viewers, they are entertainers, we are competitors. When there is a big tournament it gets more viewers than Kripp and Amaz joined together, so I don´t feel like the competitive scene is being overshadowed at all. I also think they cater to different people, even though being based around the same game obviously means there will be some overlap in viewership.
Looked at your tweets, how did it feel when you realized you had Weblord instead of Knife Juggler in your deck at the WCA qualifier? (For those who don’t know the tweet being mentioned is here: https://twitter.com/coL_Crane333/status/767315483922161664 )
Well, I felt pretty startled to be honest. When I was looking through my lists I didn’t spot it, this was probably due to being tired after having competed all day. I was also feeling pretty nervous about the next stage of the qualifier and this must have played some role in my mistake.
The card was in the deck because prior to submitting the deck lists I randomly decided to troll on ladder with Weblords instead of Jugglers, later on I forgot all about it. I often play troll decks when I want to unwind after tournament matches, it really helps after a stressful day. All you can do is forgive yourself and look forward, it’s useless to cry over your mistake. I always knew that I was good enough at the game, so if I kept doing my thing I would get more chances and eventually succeed.
Best Hearthstone related story?
I guess the story is the one which I just recounted, this is the one I would tell my friends to entertain them. When I told a few of my close acquaintances they replied by saying: “that is so typically you.” I am the sort of guy who sometimes forgets about the world around him and for a while, takes off and lives in his own head. Weird things like this tend to happen to me more than I am proud to admit!
Do you think Blizzard should push more content? (Content can come in different forms, like a card a month given to everybody)
Even if obviously it is always enjoyable to have new cards to play with, I think that the release frequency that Blizzard currently promised is reasonable.
Nobody knows what the future reserves for them, do you have any general idea?
My general idea is to continue to pursue new goals in Hearthstone, I dream to do so for many years to come.
Thank you for your answers and your patience!
This concludes the interview, but before you close the page please consider following me (the writer) on Twitter: https://twitter.com/matteo_ghisoni this does go a long way when trying to gain some recognition.
Additionally, if you want to know when Crane streams you can follow him on twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/crane333/profile as well as Twitter: https://twitter.com/coL_Crane333 .
I hope you enjoyed the interview and that I can bring you further content for you to read in the future!
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