Abar · @Abar_HS

24th Jan 2021 from TwitLonger

A Fond Farewell to the Hearthstone Esports Community

I’ll post the TLDR right here at the top for the Hearthstone TMZ crowd:

-- ESL is taking over Hearthstone Esports production. I am no longer the producer for Hearthstone Esports or a member of that team (at least in title).
-- In the short term, I still work at Blizzard on non-Hearthstone projects under my boss’s jurisdiction. In the not-so-short term, my future is very unclear.
-- I’m not here to roast anyone. It has been a terribly sad couple of days for me and many others, but if you’re looking for anger and outrage, you’ve come to the wrong place.

With that preamble in place, I’d like to share with you, dear internet friends, a tale from the journey of a man who has spent more hours watching Hearthstone Esports broadcasts than any other human being on this earth -- and a few lessons he learned about life, love, heartbreak and happiness along the way.

I hadn’t truly been humbled in my Hearthstone career until I met Monsanto. We had both qualified for the 2016 Americas Summer Championship and, as we waited our turn to fulfill our media obligations at the TV studio where the event was being held, we did what any bored Hearthstone players sitting outside on a lovely Southern Californian afternoon would do: We crawled under the shade to get the glare off our phone screens and jammed some Hearthstone. I queued up a deck that only Monsanto had brought to the tournament that weekend. It was a Raging Worgen OTK deck that was pretty fringe in the meta at the time. I was the pilot, and he watched and critiqued over my shoulder.

I’m pretty sure I was the first person on this earth who ever got to find out that Monsanto was really damn good. I couldn’t get through a decision without him pointing out something I did wrong. He broke down turns with greater clarity than I had ever thought about a Hearthstone turn before in my life. My whole competitive Hearthstone career -- which was only a few months long at the time -- I had gotten top ladder finishes at will. Qualified for playoffs on my first try. I only lost 3 games through the playoffs to qualify for the championship. And here I was, getting clowned by a guy I had never heard of.

I was just good enough at Hearthstone to realize that I was bad at Hearthstone and that I was about to lose in this tournament. A year later, I told this story to a former coworker and competitive player himself, JBillyB. He told me about an eerily similar experience he had with a guy at a DreamHack that I hadn’t seen play before either. His name was Gallon. You know ‘em when you see ‘em.

I was well aware before that moment that I was an underdog going into the event. I wasn’t some pro player with aspirations willing to sacrifice everything for a world championship birth. I was a guy with a relationship, a dog, and a full-time day job, and I valued all of them. I qualified for the playoffs by shoving power overwhelming in people’s faces for a few hours in the evening after dinner, not attending tournaments or prepping lineups. I copy/pasted my lineup from something I saw Chakki had submitted to a tournament the week before, except I changed a few cards to make it look like I had done my homework and made the decks worse in the process.

What I did want more than anything out of my time at the season championship was to weasel my way into a job in Hearthstone Esports, to be able to be involved in Hearthstone but still build on my career. I hammed it up with anyone and everyone I got to meet during that week before the tournament. I treated my entire player interview with TJ as a makeshift job interview, making sure that I emphasized my professional experiences and what I do outside of Hearthstone in response to his questions. It actually paid off. The right person happened to be eavesdropping on that very conversation with TJ and approached me later to let me know he’d keep in touch. I felt like I won first prize before the competition even started.

I thought it would make the pain of losing hurt less. It didn’t. After my quick exit from the Summer Championship, I was taken into an interview room and asked to give some sound bites about how I’ll be back in case I ever do make it back. “Right now, I don’t feel like I ever will be,” I replied.

I wanted to win more badly than I would admit to myself, but I was too afraid to try. I knew who I was, and I wasn’t a world championship caliber player. To this day, even though everything worked out for me in the end, I regret wasting an incredible opportunity. When the call finally came months later that I had a job offer on the table to work as a production scrub for the Hearthstone Championship Tour, I cried, and I promised myself I would never let fear of failure get in the way of me trying my best again. I felt the weight of all the other people out there who would have given anything to have their shot on the main stage that I had and deserved it just as much if not more than I did. I set out to make some dreams come true. Mine just did.

I kept my promise to myself. I made mistakes and learned some lessons the hard way and definitely failed a few times, but I can honestly say that I tried my best, and I like to think I made a difference. As my journey comes to an unceremonious end, I’m proud of myself, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of all of your journeys from the other side of a camera lens.

As much as I want to make my sendoff to the Hearthstone family less about me and more about everyone who made the last four years of my life the pleasure that it has been, there are genuinely too many people to thank to cover everyone, as cliché as that may sound. But you all know who you are, and I hope you all know how grateful I am for each and every one of you.

Face your fears, work hard, and try your best, everyone. Our lives were meant for so much more than seeking out the path of least resistance.

Less than three,

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