Escape Cydonia: "I would like the game to reward skill more"
We sat down with Julien "Cydonia" Perrault, the current North American Spring Champion for 2016. We talked about everything and got to know more about the "robot" of the Hearthstone scene.
So we have a small introduction about you, but could you tell me a bit about yourself?
Cydonia: I really like playing strategy games mostly, and for Hearthstone, I was really being competitive and this is the part I like most about the game; all the competitive mindset and all of that. It’s something I think I apply a lot in different aspects of my life. But I also do a lot of sports besides Hearthstone and I work in healthcare.
That’s awesome. You are also a robot, from what I’ve heard from the community, right?
Cydonia: Yeah, definitely! I notice a lot of people get really emotional when they play Hearthstone and they make faces and really react with the game. I am really used to playing card games, where I am face-to-face with my opponent, like poker, and you can’t really show your emotions too much. Your opponent will probably take advantage of it, so I’m just really used to that.
Even when I played at the HCT Championship, we were face-to-face with our opponents, so it’s good not to show too much when you draw a card or anything. Even when I play on-stream and I know no one’s watching me, I react the same way because I think it helps me focus not being too emotional. Still, I am a robot but people are having fun, calling me that.
So does your BattleTag have any special meaning or significance? How did you come up with it?
Cydonia: Yeah, there’s a song I really like, by Muse, it’s called Knights of Cydonia. A long time ago, I started making characters in games calling them Cydonia and then I just kept it. I really like the name.
So, how did you pick up Hearthstone? What do you like most about it?
Cydonia: I just started playing for fun because some of my friends were playing as well and they thought I would like the game. The reason I kept playing for so long is because it’s a game where when you start it’s pretty easy to play and understand the mechanics but then you start seeing a lot of strategy. That’s why I played it for so long, jumping to some new strategy, then noticing more things about the game. And I think that’s really interesting.
How do you approach each season and what strategies do you use to climb your way to the top of the rankings, get Legend, etc.?
Cydonia: The way I approach it right now, I am not really trying to get Legend. I mostly try to learn all the decks that are good competitively. So if I see some people having success with a deck that I don’t know very well, I will try that deck for a bit, to make sure I learn all the decks that are relevant, because it’s really helpful to play against decks you have some experience with, to have a better idea of the game plan and how to counter it. So, I play many different decks, trying to learn them.
Of course if I start doing well with one deck, I will sit with it for longer. But, since there’s a big focus on tournaments right now and you need to bring four or five decks every time, you really need to know many decks to be successful in Hearthstone. During the last two days of the season, when you want to have a high ranking for points, it becomes worth it to do so if you can get a read on the meta-game and try to counter it. But usually, during the month, I don’t play that much during the whole day, I’ll play for one or two hours and it’s not enough to really figure out what the meta-game is because it changes so quickly. I think the best approach is to try to just get better at the game and learn many decks.
What style of decks do you prefer playing? Do you enjoy the current meta?
Cydonia: I really like tempo decks or like, mid-range decks, like the mid-range Druid we had last season and tempo Mage decks. Decks like that are really fun to play for me. I’m not really sure I enjoy the current meta because I feel it hasn’t changed significantly in a long time. But there are all these cards that are really RNG-based like Yogg and Barnes, even other cards which are not that bad compared to the other two. But there are the games you lose to Barnes because he got the right card. Or to Yogg, it’s a bit disappointing as it feels that whatever you do doesn’t matter.
So I think I really enjoyed the meta better like it was last year, for example. Even though people were saying Druid was too strong with Force of Nature combo, but there were still a lot of decks that would counter Druid really well. And it wasn’t 30% or 50% of the meta. Right now, it’s difficult to counter any deck because they can play some cards that are way too powerful when arranged properly. So I feel like skill matters a bit less.
Do you think this will change when all of the Karazhan cards are released?
Cydonia: It would change, maybe, if they make a big expansion later this year with different types of cards. Then it could change. I’m not too sure if it can change significantly without rotating some cards or changing the classic set, like some people suggested. It was obviously a really big change when Standard came out and that again was really fun when people were trying to learn the decks. But right now, the meta has been really set in stone, and it’s not that interesting. I think it needs a good shake-up soon.
You are in charge of making some changes in Hearthstone. What would you change?
Cydonia: Maybe make more cards that have synergy together. For example, I thought the mech decks were pretty interesting because you could use a bunch of mech cards which were not that strong individually, but were good in a synergy deck. Right now, it feels like most decks are just using really strong cards. Well, of course, if you have a Yogg deck, you would put more spells, but I’d like to reward deckbuilding a little bit more and have more variety of cards that would be good in different decks.
The only thing I would change is about the tournament format. It would be better if there were, maybe, longer tournaments, like Swiss with ten rounds or something, instead of re-using the elimination format. The HCT is double-elimination, but if you lose in the first round, you need to win twice the amount afterwards. So maybe Swiss would be better. I would like it, and a lot of competitive players as well, if the game rewarded skill more so that you have an incentive to try to practice and get better, because right now it doesn’t really feel like that way.
After winning the 2016 America’s Spring Championship, you instantly became one of the more well-known players in the scene. How did that seem to you? Do you enjoy being a champion? Did you have many team offers? How was the overall experience?
Cydonia: It was really fun. I was really focused on the tournament and on winning it, so I didn’t really think about what happens afterwards. I got a lot of messages from people who watched the tournament and enjoyed it and congratulated me. There were also teams who contacted me with good offers, so it was overall a really positive experience. It made it possible for me to continue investing time in Hearthstone, especially since I am going to BlizzCon, which is a really big tournament. So I really want to make sure I stay good at the game so I can perform well there and afterwards I am going to really see if I want to keep playing as much and see what’s going on. But right now, it’s pretty much fun.
Speaking of that, what are your goals on Hearthstone this year and maybe the first ones of the upcoming year?
Cydonia: This is the last wing that is released this month, or like this week and afterwards, the format will be set for BlizzCon so I am going to really practice those decks as much as possible so I can perform well there. Afterwards, I’m sure Blizzard will announce their plans for next year, like if they’re going to change the format or the ladder. Depending on the changes they make, I’ll make objectives. I think it’s possible they’ll do the same they did this year, like a bunch of seasons, getting points on ladder and tournaments, but I think they might as well change it because there were a lot of complaints about it, even though it was much better than the past.
Are you planning to go to any other tournaments? Maybe DreamHack?
Cydonia: Yeah, I registered for DreamHack Winter and I’m really looking forward to that. I really like travelling and I’ve never been to Sweden, so that would be really fun for me. Also, it’s a pretty big tournament and it’s always fun to compete in those. I’m going to Northern Arena this weekend, which is in Toronto. You start to know in advance sometimes when the tournament starts if that isn’t really last minute but I really look forward to having more opponents to compete with.
Do you have any advice or thoughts you would like to share with your fans or other aspiring competitive players?
Cydonia: I think it’s a bit difficult to give specific advice to a large amount of people. A lot of people just want to reach legend once. So, if that’s your objective, just take a competitive deck you enjoy playing, try to learn it as much as you can and get legend with that deck. But if you want to be a good tournament player and go to BlizzCon, for instance, then it’s really more important to know a lot of different decks and bring your skill level on the game as high as possible. It’s really dependant on what player you are, like if a player is already very good with a few decks but he is not performing in tournaments, then maybe it’s more about the mindset or about tilting or a lot of different factors. There’s the mental game and there’s understanding of the game itself.
Do you believe coaching helps bring your competitive experience to a higher level?
Cydonia: There’s a lot of people, high level players, who are streaming and you can watch them, ask them questions and see what kind of plays they make. Of course, if there’s one specific deck you want to be really good at and you’re already very good, you could get some coaching for that reason. But if you’re not at a very high level, it’s probably better to try to learn from streamers or discuss plays with friends when you play, instead of hiring a coach. I just feel there are more cost-effective ways to do it, like if your time is really limited and you really want someone to take charge and coach you, feel free to do it, but I don’t think it’s necessary or the best way to get good at the game.
I think we can wrap it up. Do you have any final shoutouts?
Cydonia: Yea I want to shoutout all the players I have discussed ideas with and are always available to help me test, so I have a Discord group going on and it’s really good. So I want to shoutout to those guys, to my team as well for supporting me and helping me start streaming. So if anyone wants to come watch, I’m trying to stream once or twice a week, since it’s always nice to have more viewers. Right now, it’s been a pretty small stream and that means I have time to answer questions to people and discuss plays with you guys, so it’s a good time to come watch.
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