After a long and challenging career in competitive Hearthstone, Taiwan's ever-consistent Chen “tom60229” Wei-Lin hoisted the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) World Championship trophy in Amsterdam on Jan. 21. It was an accomplishment that he had chased for many years, and now, he’s able to look back with pride on the ups and downs of his path to becoming the World Champion.
We got time with tom60229 to ask him a few questions about himself, as well as get a glimpse into the choices he made at the HCT World Championship to secure his victory.
Who was your practice partner MVP?
Pinpingho is the person who played with me the most. If he was online and I had a need, he would practice with me. Pinpingho is also the strongest. I also observed my teammates’ strategies.
What is your role in your practice group?
“Big Brother” was a nickname that they gave me. The players in Taiwan are very familiar with each other. A lot of us started out playing mahjong, for example. We could come together to play games, have meals, and come up with strategies. I’m more like the coach in the practice group.
What was your practice regimen for the World Championship?
I think the previous patch came out on December 11, so I spent almost the entire month at home practicing diligently. It was only during the All-Star Invitational that I left home, and I treated that as a break for myself. My initial goal was to test out the HCT decks at the All-Star Invitational, but then I realized that the meta changed—for example, Jade Druids and other decks appeared after the All-Star Invitational. Most of the preparation was carried out after that. The new deck types that appeared gave me some work to do. All I did was eat, sleep, and play Hearthstone.
There was also a slight difference in my regimen after turning in my lineup for the tournament. I tried to focus more on decks rarely seen on ladder, and I would ask my Skype group to test them out with me.
How did you determine your deck lineup for the HCT World Championship?
With Priest, the Jade Druid, and a Rogue deck in place, I had to decide whether to bring a Cube Warlock or a Control Warlock. Everyone knew before the tournament that Warlocks would always be banned, so I think Cube Warlock is more advantageous than Control Warlock, because Cube Warlock does better against Priest. Control Warlock could have given my opponent a preference to not ban Warlock, which would have put me at a disadvantage. I didn’t want my opponent to not ban Warlock.
Looking back, would you change anything about your deck choices?
I’m rather satisfied with the cards in the individual decks. In terms of the deck types, Rogue was a last choice, and a possible candidate would have been Control Mage. You would bring a Druid, and Priest and Warlock were still a must, so it comes down to Rogue or Mage. I hadn’t tested a Control Mage, so I don’t know if it would have been better than a Rogue.
What was your ban strategy?
If you look at my lineup, two of my decks fare badly against Warlocks. There’s no reason for me not to ban Warlock.
What is your style as a player? Do you prefer certain archetypes or strategies?
In terms of my style, I would say I might lean toward being more conservative. If I have alternatives, I would prefer not to rely on RNG.
When I’m playing a match, you play the cards you get—that’s how matches always are. Some players tend to be always conservative, but I don’t think that’s the right mentality. It’s always determined by what your opponent plays, what’s currently on the board, and what cards you got dealt. It’s an always-changing decision, whether you want to go for defensive or play offensively.
If you ask about my preferred decks, some time ago I would immediately say I prefer midrange or control decks. This year, I think I have been doing well with aggro decks, and I’m starting to get a feel for aggro decks. I wouldn’t leave out certain deck types because of my personal preference nowadays.
How did disappointment with your results at the 2014 Hearthstone World Championship affect you?
I wouldn’t say that it affected me badly—I performed badly, so I lost. That experience made me want to make sure that I’d never repeat this mistake again, and at least allow me to reach my normal performance level. The reason I performed badly might have been due to stage fright, and I actually played a card that I seldom played on ladder—which was a misplay due to being nervous on stage. This experience made me tell myself I would never be set back by stage fright any more.
As the new HCT World Champion, what advice would you give to an aspiring player?
For a new player, I would say: play more Hearthstone. Try to get more experience. For a player trying to move up a level, simply playing more matches is not enough. The player needs to put in more thought. You have to try and think about what your opponent would do.
If your opponent plays a card that is unexpected, then you have to think—was it because you misplayed? Should you have been on guard for that choice? This is the easiest way to improve: always think what your opponent would do. You should be able to envision each turn, starting from the mulligan. As you get better at the game, there should be fewer and fewer surprises.
What do you want to accomplish in 2018?
Preparing for a tournament is very hard work. Perhaps for 2018, I will be focusing more on being a streamer and on the streaming side of my career. Of course, I will still compete in tournaments, but I will not be focusing as much on my ranking as before. If I get to appear at HCT again, I will still go all out.
Congratulations once again to tom60229 on his incredible victory! You can relive the entire tournament by checking out the VODs on YouTube.
What questions would you ask tom60229? Let us know in the comments, or hit us up with them on Facebook or Twitter using #HCT.