Jun 19 2015 - 4:06 pm

PHONETAP: 'Right now, becoming world champion is my goal'

Before the ESL Legendary Series S2 Finals earlier this month, most fans had never heard of Christopher "PHONETAP" Huynh
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.

Before the ESL Legendary Series S2 Finals earlier this month, most fans had never heard of Christopher "PHONETAP" Huynh. But after a gruelling two days of competition at the tournament, one of the biggest of the year so far, Huynh was sitting opposite one of the most recognizable faces in Hearthstone: Tempo Storm founder Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk.

After overcoming a strong group and some of the top up-and-coming players in the game, Huynh has just one win a away from the championship.

Every other match that weekend had gone to a fifth game. Huynh's mech shaman deck is an aggressive deck that can be unstoppable if it hits curve well but it also proved unreliable, threatening to lose him several matches throughout the weekend. In this match however, the Shaman won the first game. Everything starts to go Huynh's way.

He wins.

In one weekend Huynh has gone from an underground player fighting for recognition to a potential world championship contender, winning one of the biggest tournaments in North America.

"There are some days it still hasn't sunk. It's a little unreal." Huynh said.

Hearthstone is still a young esport. That means that stories like Huynh's are still very common. Jon "Orange" Westberg was a complete unknown six months ago. Now he's one of just two players to win multiple Hearthstone majors and is signed to Jason "Amaz" Chan's Archon team. Magic: the Gathering player Stanislav Cifka secured victory at DreamHack Bucharest, transferring his experience in the classic card game to high level Hearthstone.

Just 19, Huynh is finishing his freshman year studying psychology at St John's College in his hometown: New York City. A longtime gamer, he also has a competitive background in traditional sports.

"I started playing tennis around 10 years old," he said. "I usually competed in statewide tournaments in New York City. I always tried hard to become the best player I could."

But Huynh ultimately got "burned out" from tennis. Not long after, he discovered Hearthstone, and soon quickly ascended to the legend ranks. His competitive nature kicked in as soon as he saw the legend ranking numbers, and he soon pushed himself to get to the top.

From learning about the 2014 Hearthstone World Championships, Huynh discovered a whole new world in the Hearthstone tournament scene that ignited his hunger for competition. Huynh says he has "always enjoyed putting myself into high pressure situations, I feel like it brings out the best in me."

Just before the ESL finals, Huynh took another step in competitive Hearthstone—he joined a team, Hearthlytics. The team prides itself on living up to its name: The organization takes a highly analytical approach to the game, and boasts a number of successful veterans like Justin "JAB" Black and Muzahidul "Muzzy" I.

"They offered me access to JAB and Muzzy," Huynh said. "They've been really useful. It gave me access to more players to practice with and talk strategy with, and to scout the other players and predict the tournament meta."

The team's analytical focus suits Huynh's personality, he said. He obsesses over losses and analyzes mistakes in great detail. His team also push him to succeed, with his teammates also pushing to qualify for the Hearthstone World Championships.

Thanks to his victory last weekend, Huynh already has 100 Hearthstone World Championship points under his belt, Huynh now stands a very good chance of making it to the qualification stage. He's sitting in fourth place in the North American region, and sees no need to beat around the bush—he has his sights firmly set on winning that title.

"I need to be more motivated to maintain my spot in the World Championship standings." Huynh says. "I need to improve as a player and get more results, but right now, becoming world champion is my goal.

"Right now I wouldn't consider myself a favorite, but I've got three months to train and improve. If the cards are aligned, maybe I can do it."

Image via ESLHearthstone/Twitter

Jan 17 2017 - 11:07 pm

How to Watch the ESL Hearthstone Trinity Series: Players, Format, Times, and More

It's the biggest team league the game has seen in over a year.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Blizzard Entertainment

It's been well over a year since Hearthstone last had a major team league in the West—something fans have been crying out for. Tomorrow the wait ends, and the ESL Trinity Series begins.

Eight trios, flying the banners of some of the biggest franchises in esports, will compete in best-of-11 matches until Mar. 2. The top teams will advance to a live finals at the ESL studios in California, with $75,000 up for grabs for the winning team.

This is a big moment for Hearthstone esports. After growth slowed in 2016, this league could get 2017 off to a big start as the major players in the scene attempt to stabilize and consolidate their positions.

Here's everything you need to know about the league, the teams involved, and how the matches will play out.

What is the format?

For each match, the teams will submit nine decks—one for each class in the game. Each team will ban out two of their opponent's decks, leaving seven decks from which the teams pick a final lineup of six.

The teams then play a best-of-11 match in the Last Hero Standing format—once a deck loses a game it is locked for the rest of the match, and you lose when you have no decks left. Unlike the Archon Team League Championships where each player was assigned a couple of decks to play, all six players will be playing every game of every series. They will do so with open communication, which viewers will be tuned in to throughout the broadcast.

The format requires a huge amount of strategy, deckbuilding skill, and team work. The teams will have to argue out each individual play, make their move within the short timeframe of a turn, and try not to fall out in the process. Matches will be long, and real-life fatigue will play a part.

How will the league be broadcast?

The broadcasts will be presented from ESL's studios in Burbank, California, with TJ Sanders and Brian Kibler slated to call the action.

The players themselves will be playing from home, adding another level of difficulty to the communication, until the league reaches its final stages.

The matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting tomorrow, with two matches per day. Games will start at 1pm ET (10am PT) for the duration of the seven week season and will be aired on ESL's Hearthstone Twitch channel.

Who are the teams?

The lineup features some of the biggest brands in esports. Two Hearthstone world champions, over a dozen tournament winners, and some wildcards too.

G2 Esports are easily the favorites to win it all. The trio of Dima "Rdu" Radu, Thijs Molendijk, and Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy is the most decorated in the game, with the Archon Team League Championships title also under their belt. The weight of expectation is firmly upon this European trio.

Although the team is relatively new, having just brought on a third member in time for the league, Alliance will be one of the teams to watch. The Swedish organization picked up a trio of players to represent the team and their country in three-time major winner Jon "Orange" Westberg, 2015 world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall, and consistent journeyman Harald "Powder" Gimre.

Virtus Pro will be a force to be reckoned with. After starting out as rivals at the 2016 European Winter Championship, Artem "DrHippi" Kravets, Ole "Naiman" Batyrbekov, and Raphael "BunnyHoppor" Peltzer have formed a formidable unit. The team has been represented in countless major tournaments this year, with DrHippi finishing second in the world championship.

CompLexity will be looking to turn potential and underdog determination into results. Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen was impressively consistent throughout 2016, but did not win a major title. Simon "Crane" Raunholst has long been considered one of the best minds in the game but he has also not borne this out with results, while perennial prospect Tugay "MrYagut" Evsan will be looking to show just why he was so highly touted for so long.

The only all-American lineup in the tournament, Luminosity Gaming will also be hoping to live up to their billing. Branded a U.S. "super team" when they were formed last year, DreamHack Austin winner Keaton "Chakki" Gill and the experienced Paul "Zalae" Nemeth will be partnered by top young talent Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang.

The experienced but somewhat out-of-favor hand of Peter "Gaara" Stevanovic will look to guide Tempo Storm's young prospects David "JustSaiyan" Shan and Victor "Vlps" Lopez to success, while the veteran Team Liquid trio of David "Dog" Caero, Jeffrey "Sjow" Brusi, and Yevhenii "Neirea" Shumilin will aim to prove the value of experience.

Speaking of veterans, 2014 world champion James "Firebat" Kostesich, early leader Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and 2014 World Esports Championship winner Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener will round out the lineup for Cloud9. With Firebat having casted more than competed in 2016, StrifeCro having made just the odd appearance and TidesofTime having spent the past two years struggling with whether or not he loved the game anymore, this lineup will now have to deliver on a big stage.

Though 2017 is only a few weeks old, the ESL Trinity Series promises to be one of the most entertaining and competitive events of the year. The players will be tested to the limits of their skills—and Hearthstone fans will finally have another team league to get invested in.

Today - 2:51 am

Lunar New Year Overwatch update confirmed by Blizzard

Its scope is still anyone's guess, though a Mei skin is practically inevitable.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Mei has her red envelopes ready. Do you have yours?

This year, Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch will get an update in celebration of the Lunar New Year. "Good luck and great fortune await," a tweet from Overwatch's official Twitter account reads. The short video reveals the event will go live next week on Jan. 24, but otherwise details are sparse.

In December, Blizzard teased that a new Mei skin would be released early in 2017, sparking speculation that a Lunar New Year event was coming. If the outfit in Overwatch's video is any indication, it's certain to make fans very happy—a stark contrast from the response toward Mei's legendary Winter Wonderland skin that disappointed many. An update from Overwatch's Korean Twitter suggests D.Va is getting a skin for the holiday, too.

Given the proximity to the Winter Wonderland event, which ended earlier in January, it's unclear just how big the Year of the Rooster event will be. It could just be a couple of skins, but we're hoping the event rivals Winter Wonderland and Halloween Terror and gets its own special brawl.

A celebration of the start of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, Lunar New Year begins Jan. 28, ushering in the Year of the Rooster.