Known for his razor-sharp wit and decidedly softer beard, Nathan "ThatsAdmirable" Zamora is one of the talented enthusiasts bringing competitive Hearthstone to life from behind the commentating desk. After an incredible year packed with high-level play, Admirable reflects on the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) in 2017, and offers up a few ideas for what to expect at the HCT World Championship in Amsterdam.
We started out talking about the obvious—what the most memorable moments of the year were—and Admirable jumped on a recent memory: Jon "Orange" Westberg and Ryan "Purple" Murphy-Root hugging when they had both qualified for the World Championship. "It was the fact that they had succeeded in this common goal," Admirable says. "They put in the hard work and saw it pay off. You could see their friends celebrating around them." He says he personally follows the competitive scene because of how real those emotions are.
With time to reflect ahead of the World Championship in January, Admirable spoke highly of this year's marquee events. Despite grueling days during the best-of-seven format—"DocPwn actually getting fatigued!"—the Winter Championship in the Bahamas featured prominently in his memories. The incomparable crowd in Shanghai stood out, too, especially their passion for Kolento over homegrown talent: "I knew Kolento was big in China, but I had no idea it was to that degree."
Admirable loved the studio environment of the newly opened Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, where the Summer Championship was held, adding, "It almost foreshadows the way Amsterdam feels—that particular room in Burbank shares some 'historic' similarity." The reverence in his voice conveys a definite appreciation for how significant that milestone was in esports history.
As for the Hearthstone World Championshp, he's quick to note that it's hard for him to single out any one favorite player. "A lot of these guys are close friends of mine, or I became friends with them over the course of HCT 2017," he says. If he has to pick, his heart says Purple, but his head says Muzahidul "Muzzy" Islam.
"[Purple] is the player that stood out to me early on in my Hearthstone career. Every time he's in the scene, he's done magnificent things."
On the flip side, Muzzy's success is undeniably impressive. "Muzzy is the hardest-working guy in the scene," Admirable says, adding, "His performance in terms of points this year speaks for itself. He was number one in points last year, too. That sort of feat is something I don't see being duplicated—it may never happen again."
There are tons of other storylines that Admirable wants Hearthstone esports fans to remember. "If you want to look for technical play," he says, "Hoej and Muzzy are two players you can keep an eye on. For hand-reading, watch Surrender and Purple." He believes every Hearthstone fan will have something to watch for, even if it's just to see a fan favorite like Aleksandr "Kolento" Malsh compete.
Asked if there are any players he thinks could surprise, he reaches back to the Bahamas and a player whose unorthodox pace could make a difference. "You may have forgotten [ShtanUdachi] won Bahamas, but he did it playing at a speed that was actually concerning to me. He's somebody who has a great mind for the game, and somebody you cannot sleep on. Do not underestimate ShtanUdachi."
In terms of the trip to Amsterdam itself, Admirable shares a heartwarming revelation. "This is the first event I'll be working that my fiancée will be able to attend," he says. "We knew about this one far enough in advance that we were able to make plans, and might be able to spend some extra time in Europe. All the travel I do means I have to spend a lot of time away from her, so I'm looking forward to sharing this one with her."
On that note, I ask Admirable about the one thing everyone should keep an eye on at the World Championship. Without missing a beat, he says:
"If you watch one Hearthstone event this year, the World Championship is the one to watch. It's the strongest field we've ever had. There are underdogs, but there are too many people that could be considered a favorite to call someone a favorite. This format is going to test the players; can they handle the pressure of the highest stakes ever?"
Do you agree with Admirable's assessment of the year? Do your predictions for the World Championship match his? Let us know in the comments!