The HCT 2019 World Championship is fast approaching, and Hearthstone’s top 16 players will be duking it out for a prize pool of $1,000,000. The event will run from April 24-28, starting at 10 p.m. ET. As part of our exciting coverage, we had a chance to interview Muzahidul “Muzzy” Islam from Tempo Storm, one of the pros going into the World Championship. We discussed the current meta, favorite cards, as well as Muzzy’s own journey into esports.
DES: When you first got into Hearthstone back in the beta, what was it about the game that drew you in and made you continue playing it?
Muzzy: I don’t really remember why Hearthstone was so compelling to me the first time I played it. I did not look at it from a competitive aspect at all when I started playing. I guess to me, at that time, it was a fun free game that I could play a lot in my free time. I did not spend any money at all on the game when I first started playing. I grinded a lot of Arena to get a collection that let me play Ranked.
With the introduction of the Ranked Legend system in Hearthstone, it pushed me to prove to myself that I am good at the game and can get high ranks like the competitive players. I would watch tournaments and think, “Well these players are not making the plays I would make and losing games as a result. Maybe I can try out competitive Hearthstone as well.” Eventually, HCT systems got introduced and improved. As a result, I was able to position myself decently as a pro player.
DES: Which Standard decks are you enjoying the most, and do they always match up with decks that are strong in the current meta?
Muzzy: The decks that I currently enjoy playing the most are Deathrattle Hunter and Zerek’s Cloning Priest. They can create some unreal board states and both decks can generate insane value late game. These decks tend to be anti-control and punish people playing Odd Warrior if I manage to queue into them while playing ladder. Odd Warrior is a deck I do not enjoy playing against at all, so by primarily playing these decks, I can enjoy ladder more if I queue into an Odd Warrior. People consider Midrange Hunter to be the strongest deck in the current meta and although the Deathrattle Hunter and Clone Priest don’t have great matchups against the Midrange Hunter, I think with proper tech decisions, they still do fine. By playing these decks on ladder at least, I find myself getting more variety in games and not constantly playing mirror matches if I were to be playing Midrange Hunter.
DES: With the year of the Year of the Mammoth rotating out, which cards have you found to be the most impactful in the meta and in the decks you enjoy playing? Why those cards?
Muzzy: Carnivorous Cube has made a big impact since its release [by creating] many different archetypes: Cubelock, Deathrattle Hunter, Cube Odd Warrior, Taunt Druid, and Cube Paladin. This card has created lots of viable decks, but it might be too strong. Happy for it to rotate.
Death Knights [like] Deathstalker Rexxar, Shadowreaper Anduin, Bloodreaver Guldan, Malfurion The Pestilent, and Frost Lich Jaina. These cards single-handedly created their own archetypes as well and are too strong, in my opinion. Happy to see them rotate as well.
As for current Hearthstone ladder meta, Midrange Hunter will be losing Candleshot, Crackling Razormaw, Dire Mole, Flanking Strike, and Deathstalker Rexxar. This will mean Hunter will be slightly weaker, but I think it’ll still exist since Master’s Call Hyena Springpaw will remain in the meta.
DES: One of your first Hearthstone achievements is winning first place in The Pinnacle 4 back in 2015. Since then, you’ve played for Luminosity and now Tempo Storm. How would you describe your esports journey so far?
Muzzy: My esports journey would not exist really without the HCT system — its changes, tournaments, ladder finishes, and many other things are the main contributors to my success. I was able to travel to many different countries last year and meet lots of my friends at these events. I don’t see myself differently as a pro player when I’m competing at these events. I just take it like any game of Hearthstone and try my best to win. It’s nice that I’m able to make money while doing what I love: competing.
DES: In April, you will be competing at the HCT 2019 World Championship. What does being able to play Hearthstone at this level mean to you?
Muzzy: So I’ll be at Worlds again this year. I’m the only person from last year’s Worlds who has made it again, so I’m looking to get a better performance. No matter what you do or how you experience it, there is pressure playing on the World stage. Last year, I could have played better and increased my chances at the title, but can’t go back on that now. This year, I am looking to play to the best of my ability and hopefully I can finally claim the title of World Champion.
DES: How are you preparing for the championship? What is your practice schedule like?
Muzzy: My preparation has not started yet. Hearthstone is currently on off-season for me, so I’ve taken the time to relax a bit more. You also do not know yet how the meta and decks will shape out at Worlds so I have to wait to prepare my decks until then. Time spent on decks now is usually wasted. All of last year, I was traveling and playing in many different tournaments. Those experiences will help take more pressure off at the World stage.
DES: What is one of your favorite memories while playing Hearthstone — be it with your friends, teammates, or opponents?
Muzzy: I am bad at picking specific events, and so many have happened and it’s hard to remember. My most positive experiences from Hearthstone has come from the friends I’ve made from playing the game and hanging out with them in person. We’ve visited lots of places and done many things, and that’s where a lot of my enjoyment from Hearthstone has come from.
DES: For the players and fans who support you, what is something you would like to say?
Muzzy: I greatly appreciate all the support [and votes at different events] I’ve received from fans and other players even with some past results. This year, I will focus on bringing the best play I can to Worlds and getting the proper result I can — for them.
The HCT 2019 World Championship will be taking place in downtown Taipei in a best-of-five Conquest format. While group stages will begin on April 25, the finals will take place on Sunday, April 28.
Amy Chen is an esports journalist and enthusiast who specializes in in-depth interviews and breaking news. A recent University of Toronto and Humber College graduate, she is passionate about building up the Canadian esports industry. Her current favourite games are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and she has always had a soft spot for World of Warcraft!