We had the chance to talk with the World Electronic Sports Games 2016 Hearthstone Champion Euneil “Staz” Javiñas last Saturday night during PH Alliance’s Victory Party. He just brought home an equivalent of almost P17,000,000. He beat another Hearthstone champion Jon “Orange” Westberg in the WESG Grand Finals last January 15 in Changzhou, China. Among other things, we talked about his training routine, his road to the Grand Finals, his thoughts on the game, and what he plans on doing in the future.
Staz with TNC.Neutral
Favorite Class: No real favorite, but has played a lot successfully with Miracle Rogue.
Favorite non-HS video game: Granado Espada
Favorite Anime: Code Geass
Consoles of Choice: PC and PSP
TNC: Hi, I’m Franz and I write for TNC. Let’s start talking about you first. How old were you when you started playing video games, and what were your favorite video games as you grew up?
Staz: Parang mga ten years old palang ako naglalaro na ako. Usually RTS at RPG yung nilalaro ko noon, parang Warcraft, Starcraft.
(I was around ten years old when I started playing. I usually play RTS and RPG before, like Warcraft and Starcraft.)
TNC: Then how did you shift to playing card games?
Staz: Well, hindi naman talaga ako nag ca-cards. Nung lumabas kasi yung Starcraft II, yun yung nilaro ko. Tapos naglabas din yung Blizzard ng Hearthstone, tapos nakita ko, kaya ko siya triny.
(Well, I don’t really play cards. When Starcraft II came out, that was what I was playing. Then Blizzard released Hearthstone, then I decided to try it out too.)
TNC: Ah, so you don’t really play card games at all before?
Staz: Dati, nung elementary ako, naglaro ako nung Yu-Gi-Oh. Casual casual lang with friends.
(Before when I was in elementary, I used to play Yu-Gi-Oh casually with my friends.)
TNC: I’ve read from a different interview that you said you would practice eight to twelve hours for Hearthstone.
Staz: Hindi naman laging fixed yung ganung time. Atsaka nung mga last three weeks before the tournament lang talaga yun. Pero depende lang din talaga sa mood ko. Minsan, napapagod, nauumay, nagpapahinga muna. Kain muna sa labas, o laro muna ng ibang games.
(That time isn’t really fixed. And really it was only like that in the last three weeks before the tournament. It also depends on the mood. Sometimes I’ll get tired of playing so I would rest first. I’d eat out, or play other games.)
TNC: And you had to quit your work just to sustain that kind of schedule?
Staz: Yeah. Mga seven, eight months na akong walang trabaho ngayon. Busy talaga kasi sa projects ng company, hindi ka papayagan na mag leave ng isang linggo para makasali sa mga overseas tournament, so no choice kung hindi umalis. Pero since may savings naman ako sa work, kinaya naman. Nag-succeed din naman ako, so hindi naman ako nagsisisi.
(Yeah. I’ve been unemployed for seven, eight months now. You really would get busy in your projects with the company, and they wouldn’t allow you to take a leave for a week just to be able to join an overseas tournament, so I had no choice but to quit. But since I still had savings from my work, I survived. I succeeded anyway, so I have no regrets.)
TNC: So how long have you been playing Hearthstone? Then when did you start playing competitively? What pushed you to play competitively?
Staz: Nag-start akong mag Hearthstone noon palang 2013. Yung ginawa ko, puro arena lang, kolekta ng dust. Nung mga bandang 2014 na, ayun, may nakita akong mga tournament online, tapos sumasali-sali ako, pero I think laging second o third lang ako. Tapos nung mga 2014, nagpa-tournament yung Imperium, sumali ako, tapos dun na talaga nag start yung competitive Hearthstone ko. Pero at that time, nagtatrabaho pa rin ako. Nung mga bandang 2015, nag stop muna ako sa competitive, kasi kailangang magtrabaho. Nung 2016, nag-decide ako na maglaro competitively na talaga, so umalis ako sa trabaho ko. Dumalas yung pagsali ko sa tournaments.
(I started playing Hearthstone back in 2013. What I did, I just kept playing Arena, collecting dust. Around 2014, I saw some online tournaments and I joined them, but I would just end up getting second or third place. Also around 2014, Imperium held a tournament, I joined, and that’s where I started playing Hearthstone competitively. But at that time I was still working. Around 2015, I stopped playing competitively, because I have to work. In 2016, I decided to really play competitively, so I quit my job. Then I joined tournaments more frequently.)
TNC: It was also around 2016 when PH Alliance picked you up. What was the biggest difference between playing alone and playing as part of a team?
Staz: Nung nagkaroon ako ng team, mas nakapag-focus talaga ako sa Hearthstone. Hindi ko na kailangang isipin yung financial. May teammate din ako, si Pompi, laging kasama kong nagpa-practice, sharing ideas, ano feeling about the tournament, analyzing decks, ano yung line up sa specific tournaments, ano yung expected meta.
(When I joined a team, I was able to focus better on Hearthstone. I didn’t have to think about my financials. I also have a teammate, Pompi, who I practice with, share ideas with, what our feelings are towards a tournament, analyzing decks together, talking about what line up would appear in specific tournaments, and what the expected meta is.)
TNC: Let’s move on to WESG. You were actually the top placer in your group during the group stages, but it didn’t mean that it would be an easy road for you towards the Grand Finals. Which match-up did you struggle with the most?
Staz: I think you pinaka close talaga was yung Grand Finals. Buong Best of 7, talagang mahirap. Bukod sa malaki yung at stake, hindi rin ako praktisado sa line up niya kasi di ko inexpect na may magdadala ng ganun dun sa tournament.
(I really think the closest one was the Grand Finals. The whole of the Best of 7 was really hard. Aside from the fact that the stakes were high, I also wasn’t trained against his specific lineup. I didn’t expect anyone to bring that into the tournament.)
TNC: I actually watched the matchup and I remember in the first game, you got quite unlucky with your mulligan and in your draw, the curve really wasn’t good. And you lost badly against Orange. So how did you manage that loss and kept yourself from tilting?
Staz: Nasa experience na rin. Tanggap na lang. Alam ko na it’s all part of the game, so talagang tanggapin nalang kapag talo, tapos move on. Kapag ganun yung mindset mo, hindi ka mati-tilt.
(It came with experience. I accepted it. I knew that it’s all part of the game, so I just had to accept the loss and move on. If you have that kind of mindset, you wouldn’t tilt.)
TNC: And there you have it, you got unlucky with your draw. That’s actually one of the biggest criticisms that players have with Hearthstone, that it’s allegedly too reliant on RNG. So what do you think of that? How big a part is luck and skill in the game?
Staz: Kung gagawin kong ratio, siguro 70-30 o 80-20 skill to luck. Oo, part yung luck, pero maraming pwedeng gawin para iimprove yung chances mo. Kagaya nung sinabi ko, meta, counter lineup. Ang mahalaga, every match, magawa mo yung best play. Maraming situation talaga na complicated pero laging merong best play para makuha mo yung best situation for you.
(If I would assign a ratio to it, I’d put it at 70-30 or 80-20 skill to luck. Yes, luck is a part of it, but there are a lot of things you could do to improve your chances. Like what I said, meta, counter lineup. What’s important is that you make the best play in every match. There are a lot of complicated situations but there would always be a best play that you could do to come up with the best situation for you.)
TNC: So deck-building plays a big role in winning?
Staz: Yes, constructing the deck, your lineup choice, yung meta- yun yung mga nagpapataas ng chances mo.
(Yes, your deck construction, your choice of your lineup, the meta- these are the things that increases your chances of winning.)
TNC: So how long before you get to perfect a deck?
Staz: Since okay naman na yung mechanics ko sa Hearthstone, siguro sa paglabas ng isang bagong expansion, 1-2 weeks bago ako maka come up with a new deck, and siguro mga 5-6 games bago ko siya ma-master.
(Since I’m already okay with my Hearthstone mechanics, probably when a new expansion gets released, 1-2 weeks would be enough to come up with a new deck, and then it would take me 5-6 games to master it.)
TNC: And about the way Blizzard handles Hearthstone, in terms of the frequency of their released expansions, and also the way they are phasing out old cards from the meta in favor of new ones, what can you say about that?
Staz: Actually, maganda naman yung hawak ng Blizzard sa Hearthstone eh. Laging nagbabago, hindi nagiging boring yung game, laging narerenew yung interest ng players.
(Actually, Blizzard handles Hearthstone pretty well. It’s dynamic, the game never gets boring, and the players’ interests are always renewed.)
TNC: Most of the community are casual players, although many of them are starting to look into playing competitively. For you, what is the biggest barrier that prevents casuals from playing competitively?
Staz: Malaking barrier talaga yung financial. Siyempre, mauubos yung oras mo sa paglalaro, eh hindi lang naman yun yung ginagawa mo sa real life. May mga pwede kang gawin na mas productive. May trabaho ka, kailangan mong isipin saan ka kukuha ng pagkain. Kaya malaking tulong talaga yung team, kasi natutulungan ka niyang matanggal yung financial barrier na iyon.
(One big barrier really is financial. Of course, you’d spend all your time playing, but there are also other things that you do in real life. There are things that you could do that’s more productive. You have a job, and you have to think about where you’d get your food. That’s why being in a team is really helpful, because it helps remove the financial barrier for you.)
TNC: So when a new expansion comes out, you actually have to buy it? That’s where the financial constraint comes from?
Staz: Actually, sa Hearthstone, wala pa akong ginastos ever. Arena lang talaga, atsaka 2013 palang talaga kasi naglalaro na ako. So maraming ipon na dust, na gold. Atsaka kapag may lumabas naman na bagong expansion, hindi naman lahat nun kelangan mo eh. So yung mga kailangan mo lang talaga, iyon i-cracfat mo. Nung lumabas yung Gadgetzan na expansion, ayun, ginift kami ng PH Alliance ng 50 packs. Pero aside from that, wala pa talaga akong binibili sa Hearthstone.
(Actually, I’ve never spent a cent in Hearthstone ever. I really would just play Arena, and I’ve been playing since 2013, so I was able to collect lots of dust and gold. And you don’t really have to have all the cards that comes with the expansion. The ones you need, you craft. When the Gadgetzan expansion came out, PH Alliance gifted us 50 packs. But aside from that, I’ve never really spent anything for Hearthstone.)
TNC: But a lot of players complain that the game is actually pay-to-win, since you’ll have to buy the cards to be able to create a decent deck. What do you think about this?
Staz: Well kung ngayon ka palang magsisimula, talagang kailangan mong mag invest kung gusto mong makahabol. Kung gusto mong mag competitive, kailangan mong mag invest either ng pera para mabili mo yung card packs, o ng time para makapag-grind ka ng gold at dust. So kailangan mo talagang mag-invest, either ng money o ng time.
(Well if you’re just starting out now, it’s true that you’ll have to invest if you want to catch up. If you want to play competitive, it’s either you invest money to buy the card packs, or you invest your time to grind the necessary gold and dust. You really need to invest, either money or time.)
TNC: Outside Hearthstone, are there any other games that you play or follow?
Staz: Ah yes. Hindi pwedeng puro Hearthstone lang. Magsasawa ka. Kailangan talaga may ibang ginagawa, tinatry ko pa ring maglaro ng ibang games. Parang ngayon, bumili ako ng Diablo III. Siyempre, mas focus ko pa rin yung Hearthstone, pero nagtatry pa rin ako ng maraming games kapag kelangang mag break.
(Ah yes. You can’t just play Hearthstone alone. You’ll get tired of it. You really need to do something else, so I also play other games. Like right now, I just bought Diablo III. Of course, Hearthstone would still be my focus, but when I need a break, I would try many other games.)
TNC: What are the other things that you do if you’re not playing Hearthstone? Do you have any hobbies?
Staz: Matulog at kumain sa labas. (laughs) Joke lang. Mahilig din akong manood ng anime, for example, Code Geass, FMA, Steins;Gate, Naruto. Pero right now talaga, naglalaro lang akong ibang games, parang yung Diablo III. Siguro hanggang next week, laro-laro muna ng ibang PC games. Pero as much as possible focus pa rin sa Hearthstone.
(Sleeping and eating out. Just kidding. I also like watching anime, for example, Code Geass, FMA, Steins;Gate and Naruto. But right now, I really just want to play other games, just like Diable III. Maybe up until next week, I’d just play other PC games. But as much as possible, the focus would still be on Hearthstone.)
TNC: But even after you’ve already won 17 million pesos, your long-term plan is still playing Hearthstone professionally?
Staz: Yes, I think. Parang dati, as much as possible, laging ma retain yung ladder. Pero siguro mag brebreak muna ako ng 1-2 weeks.
(Yes, I think. Just like before, as much as possible, I’d retain my ladder rank. But I might take a break for 1-2 weeks first.)
TNC: And since you won such a big tournament, I bet you’re also now a celebrity in the local Hearthstone community. How are you handling the popularity?
Staz: Wala lang, ganun pa rin. Medyo nakakapanibago. Di rin kasi ako sanay na makipag-usap sa tao pero tinatry ko yung best ko.
(All the same. I’m acclimatizing. I’m not really good at talking with people, but I try my best.)
TNC: Aren’t you getting a lot of interview requests now? Getting swarmed with friend requests from other Hearthstone players? Getting a lot of spectators for the Hearthstone Quest?
Staz: Tanggap ko siya as part of my life. Tinatry kong mag-entertain ng mga requests. Actually, lately di pa ako ulit naglalaro ng Hearthstone so hindi ko alam kung marami ngang nag se-send bigla ng friend requests. Pero hindi talaga kasi ako nagpapanood. Naka off yung spectator mode ko hanggang ngayon since last month.
(I accept it as part of my life. I try to entertain requests. I actually haven’t opened Hearthstone in a while so I’m not sure about the friend requests. But I really don’t allow spectators. I turned spectator off and it’s been off since last month.)
TNC: Have you ever considered streaming?
Staz: Streaming? Hindi ko talaga masyadong feel, eh. Mas comfortable ako sa tahimik.
(Streaming? I really don’t feel like it. I’m more comfortable playing in silence.)
Congratulations again to Staz for bringing pride to the country and to the local Hearthstone community! We wish him the best of luck (although, as he said, luck only constitutes 20% in the game) in his future tournaments.
(Editor’s Note: The interview was done in a mix of both English and Filipino. We’ve retained Staz’s original answers and provided English translations to keep Staz’s answers as accurately portrayed as possible, while also providing a transcript for non-Filipinos. TNC’s questions were translated straight to English to reduce the clutter.)
Neutral has been playing video games since he was a little kid. He started being competitive when he and his brother would bet favors for each other depending on who wins at the PS2 game Naruto Shippuuden. Recently he has been playing Dota2 and Animal Crossing on his revived 3DS. It is his dream to be part of the formation of the eSports version of UAAP through UP Gaming Guild’s Impetus 2017.
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