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Martin ‘Skunkzy’ Wing – Legendary South African Hearthstone Competitor



Telkom Do Gaming managed to catch up with one of the two players to achieve Legendary rank so far in this season of Hearthstone, Martin “Skunkzy” Wing, to talk about Hearthstone and his approach to the game. Here is what happened:

Telkom Do Gaming (DG): Firstly, congrats on being one of two South African players to obtain Legendary so far this season in Hearthstone. Tell us, how did you manage to get there?

Martin “Skunkzy” Wing: Thanks! Well I got quite early access to the beta, before the current ranking system was implemented. The original ranking system was similar to Starcraft where you had Platinum, Diamond, Master etc. When I first got the game I concentrated on Arena to build up my card collection, and once I had a decent collection I made it to the highest attainable rank at that stage master 2 or 3 stars (can't remember the amount of stars). After I hit that rank I continued with mostly arena. At this time I also participated in a few EU open tournaments, where I did win one of them. It wasn't a massive tournament just a casual one I found on Reddit, but it was an awesome experience that got me hooked into constructed and tournament play.

When the new ranking system was released I was extremely excited, and planned to push it as much as possible. So during season 1 I played quite a lot at the beginning of the season, and I got up to rank 5 and then my interest slipped away, with Christmas and holidays I spent my time doing other things and playing other games, so ended the season at that rank.

With season 2 I took it extremely seriously, put in a lot of time and had decks prepared to make the push to legendary. After about 1-2 weeks into the season I managed to hit legendary, ended the season at rank 83 (http://eu.battle.net/hearthstone/en/blog/12785609/).

Season 3 (current season) I also managed to get legendary again, currently sitting on rank 100 but this changed every day so hard to say where I will end this season .

As to how I got there time spent playing on the ladder is of course very important, it does require a lot of games to climb, but the more you win the less time you need to attain legendary. It took around 300 wins from the beginning of season 3 to reach legend, I'm not sure how many losses that includes as it's hard to calculate with the win streak system. Rank 5 to legend is definitely the longest, as streaks no longer work from that rank onwards and the competition is quite tough, but it's always fun to play against some of the well-known streamers and players such as “Ekop”, “Gnimsh” and other team Dogehouse members. The deck or decks you play must be as consistent as possible, as you want to win at least more than 50 percent of your games so that you can climb the ladder., Knowing the common decks for the current meta is also important, as predicting how your opponent will play and what cards he most likely has in his deck gives you an advantage. I usually play aggro in the early ranks for quick games and then switch to control once I get to rank 7-5.


DG: What are your favourite classes in Hearthstone and why?

Wing:My favourite classes from the get go were definitely Shaman and Paladin. I love having board control and these two classes rely heavily upon that. Unfortunately paladin isn't doing so great in the current meta, sure there are some aggro and slow healing style paladins out there, but I feel you are at a disadvantage as the other classes are much stronger in the current meta. I hope that paladin becomes a great class again as I love playing it, it was my first class to get level 60 followed by Shaman. Shaman is quite a powerhouse at the moment; an extremely stable and reliable control style is featured heavily on the ladder and in the current meta. I actually did rank 5-legend this season with a control Shaman and it was extremely enjoyable and of course it won a lot of games.

DG: Many people say that Legendary can be obtained by just grinding. Do you feel this way, or is it a combination of grinding and skill?

Wing:Personally I feel that time invested and games played is a huge part of it. That does not mean that skill is not important too. Technically anyone can reach legend if they win more than 50 percent of their games, which isn't hard to do but the closer to that 50 percent you are the more you need to play to climb. The better player you are, the more you win and the faster you get to Legend. It is a grind no doubt, but you still need to understand the game at a decent level, the deck you play and the decks others play.

Also it is important to note that the state of your card collection does not determine whether you can get to legendary. I find it extremely annoying when people call Hearthstone a "pay to win" game. Numerous streamers have attained legendary without spending a cent on packs, using extremely cheap decks. Reynad did it with a warrior deck last season, where all he did was 2 arena runs, disenchanted all his unneeded cards and crafted the cards he needed for this particular warrior deck, and achieved legend. Trump is currently doing the same thing with a mage deck, last I checked his deck was worth around 700 dust and he is almost legend, currently rank 1 as far as I know. I personally have only spent 18 Euros on packs (1x15 pack bundle) and have almost a complete collection where I can make any current meta deck I choose. This is achieved by playing a lot of arena I might add (1400 arena wins) which of course is not always possible for people to spend that amount of time on a game, but the point is it is possible.


DG: What do you think about Hearthstone’s current meta-game? Is there anything you would like to see changed?

Wing:Currently I think the game is in a really good state. Even the classes that are considered low tier at the moment, priest being the most notable I think, still see top tier play, and I'm sure they will make a resurgence when the meta shifts and people think of new and interesting decks using those classes.

Something that I really want to see changed involves two cards that feature heavily in almost every deck at the moment. Those being Tinkmaster Overspark and Nat Pagle. This has been discussed by numerous top tier players at length and most agree they are terrible cards that remove a lot of fun from the game due to their randomness. Look, RNG (random number generation) or luck is part of every card game due to the nature in which the game is played, but the fact that a game can almost be instantly decided whether or not you get a squirrel or a devilsaur when you play Tinkmaster or on how many cards your Nat Pagle draws compared to his sucks a lot of fun out of the game. I have seen people concede a game if a Pagle draws 4 times in a row if it was played on turn 1 with a coin and the sad thing is he was probably right to do so as in a control vs. control match up, 4 draws like that early almost guarantees you a win.

I'm really looking forward to new card additions, as that will change the meta a lot and it's always exciting to come up with new interesting decks and fancy combo moves.

I also think the ladder system needs to be tweaked a bit. At legendary an MMR system is used, where if you win you gain a certain amount of points and if you lose you lose a certain amount, that amount is based on your opponents MMR. This makes it quite frustrating when playing at legendary, as you often are playing against rank 1-5 players not only legendary players, which means if you lose, you drop 20-30 ranks, and if you win you only gain 5-10. There is also no rating decay, so it encourages people to sit on their ranking and not play at all, as the risk of dropping a lot of ranks is high due to what I just described. Hopefully Blizzard will address this and make the ladder a bit more competitive and balanced.

Martin "Skunkzy" Wing.

DG: When you put a deck together, how do you go about the process? Any advice for some of the new players in the Hearthstone DGL Summer Leg?

Wing:The first thing you need to decide when building a deck is the general Archetype of the deck. Is it an aggro deck, mid range control etc. Once you have decided that you need to follow an appropriate mana curve for such a deck. For example an aggro deck you want a lot of strong low mana cost minions, minions with buff effects, the charge ability, direct damage spells etc. So you need a general low mana curve deck, as you are aiming to kill your opponent before 7+ mana is reached so having minions that cost 7 or 8 mana to play is not going to help you achieve your goal. A good starting point for a budget deck is keeping in mind that you want to be able to play a card on every turn. This means that you need to make sure you have cards that fill each mana cost, so that you use your entire mana pool each turn. There are obviously more complex decks that disregard that last sentence, but as a new player it is a good general rule to follow.

Something I can't stress enough is reading up on the “interwebz”. Hearthstone is a hugely successful and popular game, there are tons of deck lists, guides and other such material all over, and its quality material too. If you wish to get better at the game and learn you need to frequent the community websites such as www.hearthpwn.com, http://ihearthu.com/, the hearthstone Reddit, Twitch.TV streams and numerous other websites, podcasts, YouTube videos, the list goes on. There is always something new to learn, I am constantly visiting these sites and consuming content to better myself in all aspects of the game. Most decks I use are based on deck lists I have copied from great deck builders such as Strifecro and Savjz.

For new players in the DGL, don't be intimidated by high ranked or more experienced players. If your deck is well constructed and you don't make mistakes, you can beat anyone. I myself have lost to newer players as I was caught off guard with some interesting deck lists and great play. Take your time with decisions during your games, don't rush it. Think your plays through thoroughly, the most obvious play might not necessarily be the best one.

The Hearthstone Telkom DGL 2014 Summer Leg boasts a whopping 273 participants.

DG: Do you participate in just local events, or do you take part in International events as well? Do you feel it is important to get international exposure like other games?

Wing:So far I have mostly been competing in the local scene, but I do follow the international scene very carefully by analyzing the deck lists of tournament winners and watching as much streamed content as possible. As I said earlier I have competed in some small EU tournaments, one of which I did win. An issue I have with the international tournaments is that it's a large constant time investment which sometimes isn't very convenient. Games are played over 3-5 hours. The tournament I won had 64 players, it was a bo3 with a loser’s bracket - it took 7 hours to complete, needless to say I was quite burned out after it was done.

On the local side the first tournament held as far as I know was the DGL clash cup last year. Unfortunately the registrations opened in the morning, and I only got to register that evening and I was 2 or 3 signups too late for the maximum players so I did not compete there. The next was the SAGP Hearthstone cup which I just narrowly won; the finals against “Fluke” were extremely close. Now it's the Summer Leg and the Valentines cup, where I have already lost games in the group stages and even got knocked out of the Valentines cup by a friend I often play friendly practice games with, “Aurora”. So the competition is tough which is awesome, there are loads of great players in the local scene which is great for the game. There is also a local hearthstone community that was just recently announced, and will be running the first local tournament with a prize. You can check it out at http://hearthbattles.co.za/ and register for the tournament there; there are still a lot of spots open!

A shout out to all the guys who are organizing local events, SAGP, Telkom DGL team and all the others. It's great that you guys are putting in the time to help grow the game locally. It's not easy and takes up a lot of time and I'm sure all the local hearthstone players appreciate it greatly as I do.

P.S. Something that I would really love to happen is some of the big esports teams in the country, Energy eSports and Bravado Gaming for example to form strong hearthstone teams, and then we can have some team-based Hearthstone tournaments similar to Fight Night. A lot of teams are forming in the International scene, even some local esports teams have also picked up Hearthstone players so it's a definite possibility. The game is still young though and I'm sure this will happen in the near future.


DG: Where can people get you?

Wing:I don't really use Twitter but you can find me on the Hearthstone South Africa Facebook page. It's a great little community we've got going and there are always guys who will give friendly advice and feedback on anything hearthstone related.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts!




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