People play video games for a lot of reasons. It can be for escape, a way to spend a few hours with friends, or because some folks are just really fond of roleplaying malicious waterfowl. For Hearthstone players, some of the appeal lies in strategy. Like with any other card game, it’s their job to assemble the combinations of cards that’ll be better than their opponents. They have to outthink, outplay, and out damage opponents to win. (Or they can play a mindless aggro deck and overwhelm opponents on turn two because they hate fun.)
Another draw of the game is its novelty. Players get all the flavor of the world of World of Warcraft without long queue times, insufferable guildmates, or the PvP player that seems to have a blood oath against them. But for Hearthstone pro, Slysssa, she wasn’t in it for the thrill of victory and imparting upon her enemies the agony of defeat. Her draw to the game was much, much simpler: a love of math.
What do you like to play in Hearthstone?
What I’m most known for is being a murloc player and a Malygos player. Actually those are not classes but the kinds of cards: murloc shaman and Malygos druid. Those are sort of my main classes people know me for. Murloc shaman was a bit of a joke deck. No one played it. It was laughable. I was in the very lowest ranks of legend, and I thought, “Well, I’m not going get to high legend this month so let’s just play a joke deck.” And I took it from joke to ranked to legend in two days.
It was unheard of that a deck like this could get to legend. [It was] the highest rank I had ever gotten to at that point — big love in my heart for that deck. And as for Malygos druid, it’s a combo deck with a bunch of “one turn kill” or “OTK” abilities so it can do a bunch of burst damage at once. I used to be a math teacher, so I love counting out damage and all the “burstiness” you can do in one turn. I’ve always been drawn to that deck for that reason.
What’s your favorite strategy?
For shaman, you got what I call “infinite underbelly angler.” So Underbelly Angler is a card that gives you a random murloc creature. Murloc decks are very aggressive decks and in order for this kind of deck to be a control deck you kind of have to “become the control deck” by getting as many Underbelly Anglers as possible. I call it, “going infinite Underbelly” because you just keep getting Underbellies from your Underbellies and overwhelm your opponent. And with Malygos Druid, it’s about getting as much burst damage as possible. With the new style, you can pump out crazy numbers. The amount of damage is insane. Seeing how much I can do in one turn is pretty fun.
In your Hearthstone career, what’s a moment that has impacted you the most?
Probably when I qualified for the Masters Tour in Seoul – on my very first try, too. It’ll take a lot of pros 20-30 tries to make it and I did it on my very first go which was just incredible to me. It’s a very exhausting experience but it was very cool to get in in one go.
In your professional career, who did you enjoy beating the most? Who was the one opponent that made you go, ‘Yeah, I got you’?
There was one player, Seiko. I went 2-3 with him, so I didn’t quite beat him but almost. He’s one of the best in Europe and the fact that I went 2-3 against him was shocking to me. The third round came to a bad card draw for me so I really thought I should have won that one. That was a couple of years ago now but I’d like a redo.
What or who first inspired you to become an esports athlete?
So first, when I became a streamer, my streamer inspiration was definitely Alliestrasza. I looked up to her; I wanted to be like her. For becoming an esports athlete, and this is actually kind of weird story, I got some negative feedback from some people who said they’d watch me more if I was better. And… that kind of hurt. Then I went and did a tournament and started beating pro players which ignited something in me. It gave me such a confidence boost. I like this competitive feeling.
Did you have any players that you were a fan of before becoming a pro player yourself? Who did you look up to?
Like I said, I really looked up to Alliestrasza because I knew she was another woman in the community and I always wanted to be like her. So I watched her stream and I learned from her how to play better and learned how to construct decks from her. And when I became a streamer, I became friends with her and now she’s one of my best friends. So it’s kind of cool how that all worked out. We text every day.
Wow! Representation really matters and I love that community aspect. So what do you love the most about the gaming community?
A common love – a common interest – I think is really important with anything like that in mind. Just having something in common, something you can share and be excited for and even complain about at times is very enjoyable.
Talk about the moment when you realized Hearthstone would be your game. Beyond any other game, that this was yours and you were going to make it yours.
I actually didn’t play a lot of video games growing up. I wasn’t allowed to. I wanted to but my parents wouldn’t buy me anything. But if my brother wanted video games he got it.
Aww, this really is why representation matters.
I used to play a lot of Sudoku. And that was how the game was introduced to me by my husband.
He said, “You might like this game because you’re so into Sudoku.” And oh my gosh! The math and the puzzle aspect of it, it all clicked with me right away. Didn’t know there were professionals in the game, didn’t know you could get deck ideas online, didn’t know anything about streamers. I was like the biggest casual player you could have imagined. But I really enjoyed it. And once I started learning about all that, it pushed me to get better.
You’re like the perfect player. That kind of story is what the people who make video games want to hear. If you could sum up a moment that encapsulates why you love the world so much, what would it be? Something Hearthstone-y
So when I stream and a good moment happens – like I’ll win a game or something – I’ll have a lot of positive comments and excitement in chat. That makes me happy because I like positivity and I like happiness. That’s what makes the world go round right?
Do you have any superstitions or rituals? A lucky rabbit’s foot or a special food you might eat before going into a match?
Well, I usually wear a hoodie because I get so nervous that I get cold and shaky. For rituals… I have a ritual of not sleeping but not by choice.
I actually had a tournament where I didn’t sleep for three nights or something. It was my first big tournament that was filmed, there was like 16 of us. I couldn’t sleep at all the night or two before. The night of when our decks were due, I tried to go to bed early. I slept for about an hour when I woke up to a million text messages.
‘Somethings going on.’
Turned out they nerfed five of the deck types at midnight and it was going to affect at 6 a.m. The next day, which was the morning before the tournament. Five of my decks were pretty much unusable so I had to stay up all night designing new decks.
But I ended up taking fourth in that tournament, so…
You mentioned wearing hoodies. Do you have a favorite hoodie?
I have a pink F2K hoodie– Fade 2 Karma is the team I play for. It’s pink, has an American flag on it. That’s one of my faves. And I have a purple Twitch hoodie and a Discord hoodie. Those are my go-tos.
I know asking about any pieces of tech might be better suited if you were an FPS player, but since you’re a streamer, do you have anything in your setup that makes you feel comfy? Like a favorite chair or something like that?
I have deck tracker software I use so I can see what cards I’ve played and what cards my opponents played. Can’t use it in tournaments, obviously, but it allows me to remain engaged with my chat and not worry about missing anything. It also counts how much damage I and my opponent have on the board. So I don’t have to do a ton of math. I still have to do the math, but just for what’s in my hand, nothing crazy.
What have you given back to fans who’ve supported you? You have a community around you, regulars in your chat and things like that. What are the ways you engage with them and how have you given back to them for their support?
I like to do Subdeck Sundays where on Sundays I play decks my subscribers recommend. I’ll buy random people subscriptions to my channel. And during Christmas, I make ornaments with all my subscribers’ names on them and put them on my Christmas tree.
That’s so cute I love that idea! Though as you get more popular, I can imagine that can get out of hand.
That one gets hard to keep track of. This will be my third Christmas so we’ll see how that goes.
Slysssa is one of the many women in Hearthstone blazing a new trail for young girls to follow. Just this year, one of her fellow players, VKLiooon, became the first woman ever to win a major tournament at BlizzCon.