by Jordan “TheJordude” Hong Tai
With the finale of world championships and Blizzcon at an end, we are all hyped for what is to come with the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Most people thought Hearthstone will have a moment of silence until the the competitive seasons ramps up again, although they may be unaware, or uncaring for the other tournaments that are currently going on as well. The biggest collegiate league with a prize pool of $50,000, hosted by Tespa, is currently on week 5 of their group stage and is showing some fierce competition.
Like any sport in North America, there are two major types of competitive communities. First and the most important is the professional mainstream community. This community is what you would refer to as the “standard” scene as it covers all the major tournaments and leagues as well as the known competitors. Everyone that is competitive will try to break into this community to accomplish their dream to becoming a professional. Those that do break in will be with the best of the best competitors that dedicate everything to the game and make a living off of it. The mainstream scene is what keeps the game competitive and exciting to watch. The second community, and what we will focus on, is the collegiate community. This includes the students that try to play competitively part time while they complete their studies.
Collegiate sports is not a new convention. Traditional sports such as football, hockey, basketball, etc., have had collegiate sports for a long time, the first starting in the late 1800’s. Collegiate esports however, is very new and is starting to pick up progress. Just like traditional sports, esports have very similar characteristics. Both consist of students that love to play the game, both can provide scholarships, and both occasionally foster players that make it to the mainstream scene. While some schools offer esports scholarships, the majority of them come from third parties looking to support collegiate gamers. League of Legends has a fantastic collegiate league hosted by Riot, however since I quit the game for a few years, I can’t provide the most accurate information on it. For now, let’s talk Hearthstone.
The collegiate Hearthstone scene is probably the second largest collegiate esport, next to League of Legends. There are thousands of students that play and enjoy the game, however only a few take it seriously and want to compete and make it to the main scene. Similar to LoL, collegiate Hearthstone is supported by the developers, Blizzard (in the form of Tespa). Tespa sponsors university gaming clubs by providing prizes, support, and scholarships that can be won in their tournaments.
Every year Tespa hosts their collegiate Hearthstone league. This is the only major tournament for all competitive college players, as Blizzard had just recently shut down third party collegiate tournament organizations. The weekly league has a team-of-3 format, where all three team members play together on the same account, and each team plays through a swiss group stage over the semester; those that advance play a single elimination bracket to determine the Top 4, who play at a LAN for the money. The group stage is executed very nicely, and most of the time the best teams advance as you typically need a consistent record (x-2). Unfortunately, the playoff bracket does offer a fair amount of variance since it is single elimination. The most differentiating factor of this league, is that it is a team league, which is not offered often in the mainstream scene.
While the collegiate scene does not get nearly as much spotlight as the mainstream, there are weekly broadcasts of the league on the PlayHearthstone Twitch Channel, usually casted by the classic duo ThatsAdmirable and Azumoqt. As it is on the official Hearthstone channel, the views are decent in comparison to smaller mainstream tournaments hosted by third party organizations. This is the time the students get to shine and feel that they are different than the average player.
Now I mentioned that occasionally collegiate players make it into the mainstream scene, we know that this is true for traditional sports such as JJ Watt and Ben Wallace that became big time players in the NFL and NBA respectively, but is there any for Hearthstone? The answer is YES! Even though the mainstream scene does consist of many players that have finished or are not in school, there is a lot of talented collegiate players that are making a name for themselves, or are already established in the mainstream scene. Here is a list of SOME noteworthy players that play competitively while also taking on school:
The young savage himself. While he is technically not a collegiate competitor because he is still only in highschool, I put him in the same category as he still has to manage playing Hearthstone professionally while completing his studies. Amnesiac is considered to be one of the best NA players, despite being so young (and savage). Some noteworthy accomplishments is that he won the Winter HCT Championship and made it as far as top 4 in the world championships.
Muzzy does not compete in the collegiate tournaments, however he is a ladder god and open tournament grinder. Some of his accomplishments are his win at Pinnacle 4 and competing in the HCT last call.
Silentstorm is highly active in collegiate leagues as well as being a competitive veteran in the mainstream scene. He has won the ESL Legendary Series and made it to the finals in the HCT Last Call.
Similar to Silentstorm, Noblord is active in the collegiate scene and is a heavy grinder. He also managed his school work while grinding enough HCT points to qualify for the HCT Last Call.
Dart somehow manages to do his medical school work and compete in the collegiate leagues. He is not a grinder like Silentstorm or Noblord, but he is a consistent tournament player that had noteworthy performances in the Korean Afreeca TV finals and competed in the last two PAX Prime main events.
A member of the “dude” squad, Dude7597 is a consistent collegiate league and ladder player. Recently he found success in the Summer HCT season and qualified for the Summer Championships. This seems to just be his starting point for breaking in the main competitive scene.
Similarly to Dude7597, HotMEOWth’s major success comes from the summer season, where he won the championships. However he lost in the top 8 to Dr.Hippi in the World Championships when he was unable to find a win with his risky Blood Warrior deck. Before his success in HCT, HotMEOWth was a consistent open tournament player, an analyst for the Vicious Syndicate Data Reaper, and a great competitor in the collegiate leagues.
Even though the collegiate scene does not nearly have as many tournaments, we do still need to pay attention to them. There are thousands of players aspiring to break into the mainstream scene, and many of them come from the collegiate community. While there are not many major tournaments, there are still tons of local events for the community to hone their skills on. The collegiate players prove that they can compete with the best pros even though they have to manage their schoolwork on the side. Next time you see the collegiate league on broadcast, join the stream and give the community some support!
Jordan Hong Tai, also known as “TheJordude”, is a developing player for compLexity Gaming. For over a year he has enriched the coL.HS squad with his presence while becoming a fierce grinder on ladder and a threat in every collegiate competition. Apart from his business studies and the ladder grind, the youngster from Vancouver, Canada is a warrior in Open tournaments, a coach and the organizer and host of local tavern get-togethers. Monthly he delivers though-provoking pieces like for compLexity Gaming and other outlets. Follow him on:
Tespa banner courtesy of Tespa
Amnesiac image courtesy of Polygon
SilentStorm image courtesy of Blizzpro
Hotmeowth image courtesy of TheScore