The most watched show on Twitch last night wasn’t a tournament with thousands of dollars on the line. It wasn’t Team SoloMid’s superstar League of Legends player Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, who regularly pulls in 40,000-plus viewers. It was a dude playing a card game.
Jeffery “Trump” Shih is the most popular Hearthstone streamer on the planet. He regularly reaches 20,000 viewers, thanks to his infectious personality and ability to relate the intricacies of the game to fans in a way they can understand. This week, Shih was featured on Blizzard’s official Hearthstone blog.
Last night, he wasn’t just the most popular streamer in Hearthstone. He was the most popular broadcaster on Twitch. More than 50,000 tuned in to watch him make a run for the rank one spot in Legend, the very top of Hearthstone’s competitive ladder. As Shih inched closer and closer to the goal, his viewer numbers went up and up and up, with fans eagerly anticipating the moment he hit one.
Shih started at Legend 31 at around 2pm EST and climbed the rankings using his Priest deck. After two hours, he hit Legend 11. It took another two to reach Legend 2, putting Shih just one slot away from becoming the top-ranked player in the region.
The anticipation on the stream was palpable. The game shows no internal ranking, so there’s no indication of just how close Shih was to reaching the final spot. Every win could boost him to the top, every loss could potentially drop him. For the next two hours, Shih would struggle to reach that final goal. But he just couldn’t do it.
Shih managed to win most of his games, maintaining his No. 2 ranking throughout the night, avoiding the fluctuations that hit him earlier in the day. But no matter how many games he won, it just wasn’t enough to tick the number inside that little orange Legend gem to one.
His most common foe was the popular Miracle Rogue, a combo-based deck that relies on cheap spells to cycle through cards and draw a combo that can win the game in one turn.
Shih’s Priest deck seemed well-equipped to deal with most opponents, but some games didn’t go his way.
One match against a Rank 2 Rogue ended after Shih’s Ragnaros missed two one-in-three chances to win the game with its random attack. Shih couldn’t get the 8 damage he needed onto his foe’s face, and the Rogue drew his game-ending Leeroy Jenkins combination.
His final match of the night was probably the most frustrating. Shih’s foe, UneasyPaster, was a Rank 3 hunter—not even close to Legend. But he took Shih to the brink, getting the Priest down to just two health. It looked like the game would turn in Shih’s favor when the Hunter ran out of cards, and fatigue ticked away at the Hunter while Shih’s hero power enabled him to counter the Hunter’s own damaging power Steady Shot. But Shih needed to play the Auchenia Soulpriest to clear Loatheb from the board to avoid lethal damage.
“I think this guarantees a loss,” said Shih, as he played the card. The Soulpriest turns all healing into damage, meaning Shih was no longer able to heal with his hero power, the only thing keeping the Hunter’s own power Steady Shot from killing him.
The next turn, Shih drew nothing to help his situation. The Hunter, with zero cards in hand, zero on the table, and zero in his deck, hit Steady Shot to win the game.
Shih signed off for dinner after the game, happy he still held the second rank in Legend, and surprised so many people tuned in to watch his run.
“Thanks for watching,” he told the massive crowd. “Over 50,000 people! I’m extremely blessed to have you all. [Rank] two is a lot better than my wildest dreams anyway.”
Shih will likely make another run at the No. 1 spot tonight, after the Video Game Voters Network Naxxramas Release tournament. You can tune in on Twitch.
You can watch Shih’s climb from yesterday below. At least until Twitch deletes the highlight as per their new video-on-demand policy.