Professional Semi-Professional #1

The amount of effort it takes to grind to Legendary makes the game feel like an all-consuming addiction. So how do you find the balance?


My name is Subzerowins, and I’m a legend ranked Hearthstone player.

If this has the familiar tone of a certain affirmation group, that’s no coincidence. The amount of effort it takes to grind to Legendary makes the game feel like an all-consuming addiction – if the game is more than just a way to unwind, and you want to stream, it takes a concerted amount of time and effort.

Some players have nothing but time. If you’re in high school or college, you can easily make the leap to professional with enough skill and dedication. Some of us, however, are bona-fide professionals living in the real world. We have jobs and responsibilities taking up the time others might use to hone their skills. If that sounds familiar, this article is for you.

Professional Semi-Professional

Want to make a difference in competitive Hearthstone but don’t have much time? This is written as a starting point for those of us firmly entrenched in the real world but who still want to shake up the gaming scene.

As a licensed attorney I have certain demands on my time that can’t be ignored. Grinding ranks must necessarily take a backseat to briefs and memos (a much sadder grind). Not only do I have an obvious responsibility to keep the lights on, I have professional and ethical responsibilities that comes with the privilege of passing the bar.

Many of you face similar obligations. If you’re this far into the article, you’ve probably had to face this particularly tough question at least once: do I play one more game or  get an extra thirty minutes of sleep?

Fear not – although the halcyon days of carefree youth may be behind us, there is still a way for us to make a splash in the Hearthstone scene. With this series I intend to shorten the learning curve between being a simple enthusiast of Hearthstone into what I am calling a full-fledged professional semi-professional.

We may not be able to put in the twelve hours a day it takes to make it to Blizzcon Championships, but if you follow this series, my hope is that you’ll be able to get more out of your gaming experience and be able to make an impact in the gaming scene even with minimal time spent.

This piece tackles the first steps you should take to establish yourself as a Hearthstone player to the community at large.

Being Honest with Yourself

The first step in this process is managing expectations. I don’t need to remind you that the real world comes first: don’t lose important personal or professional relationships because you chose gaming over sleep until you couldn’t function the next day.

If you enter the world of online gaming with the right mindset, you can still go far. I am living proof you can wear Brooks Brothers by day and hit legend by night, but I am also living proof that some months you can’t hit legend because it’s just too hectic to play. That’s okay.

Let’s also acknowledge something that is often overlooked: losing hurts more when you have less time. You’re home from work and your sweet relief is instead a crushing defeat. I get it – it sucks.

Any competitive game, Hearthstone included, is streaky by nature. Sometimes you’re just going to hit a cold streak. Maybe your head isn’t in the game, maybe you were just unlucky. Whatever the cause, when you only get a handful of games a night and they all end in defeat it certainly stings. Just try to remember that tomorrow is another day, and keep your head up.

With these mini-disclaimers out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the article.

The Digital Set Up

If you want to have any sort of presence in the gaming community, you have to carve out your own space. The easiest way to start is to make your own webpage. Look at your Blizzard ID in the game, then go to your favorite web hosting company and see if that name is available. But before you buy it, consider some factors.

legendary name

First, is that name (or similar name) available on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook? If so, buy that domain name and lock down the logins on the aforementioned social media. If it’s not, find a way to harmonize your presence throughout these sites by finding similar or complimentary names. Having consistent branding will minimize the noise your message encounters in a saturated gaming market.

For example, my gaming ID is Subzerowins. I did the relevant research and found that was available, though this particular name was unavailable on all social media. Unwilling to change my ID (or worse yet lose my card collection on a new account), I found a suitable social media handle for streaming under SubzerowinsTV. For me, the name was close enough to consider the branding consistent. I purchased the domain name and created the relevant social media presence.

I am lucky enough to be somewhat literate in HTML5 and PHP, but I still used a WordPress theme as a starting point for my web presence. For the same reason I didn’t make a new account I also didn’t custom design my web page from scratch: I want the best result out of minimal time spent. As professional semi-professionals, that’s our mantra: efficiency.

The next step is linking your webpage to the social media accounts. Handsome little web icons are your best bet and serve to link all of your accounts together. Once this is accomplished, go to your YouTube page. Start the process for getting your channel monetized now – it takes a few business days to link your bank account to your google+/YouTube account. You might as well get some money for your efforts – after all, you’re a semi-pro.

Once all this is done, make sure your channel name and URL are customized. Here’s where some of that tech literacy came in handy: the easiest way to get a customized URL is by linking your google+ page (and therefore your YouTube ID) to the header code in your personal website. Even if you struggle with this it’s still much faster than getting an initial 1,000 subscribers, which is the other trigger for getting a custom name.

Now that a digital foundation is set, what’s next? You need to make sure you have the hardware components to stream. I use a Logitech Webcam C930e: it has high resolution recording and even higher reviews online. It rests firmly on my monitor, which is lucky because I bought it online and couldn’t test it out prior to my purchase. For streaming programs, I use Open Broadcaster. It has easily searchable instructions and is open-source and free. It syncs well with Twitch, which in turn lets me export 1080p/60fps to YouTube. Make sure your account in Twitch is set to archive your videos so you can do the same.

With the stage set, everything from here on out is just Hearthstone.

Netdeck to Start

There, I said it. I’ll even say it again: I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO NETDECK. (For those unfamiliar, the practice of researching high level players and what decks they use so you can use them yourself is called net-decking.) Several members of the Hearthstone community consider net-decking bad form. I’m telling you that it’s not.

Top level pros track hundreds of games on decks and use that knowledge to make subtle tweaks to their card pool and strategy. We don’t have the luxury of that practice time. It is the height of hubris to think that we can magically reinvent the wheel, especially at the early stages of our semi-professional venture. Look at the results pages of major tournaments. See which names keep popping up and see which deck types keep topping the charts. Chances are, those commonalities are a great place for you to start on your deckbuilding adventure.

Cobble the deck together and take it into ranked play. You may even be compelled to read the numerous free guides on this site to help you out if you’re really struggling to understand your new deck. Be persistent. Each netdeck has been crafted with a certain pro’s play style in mind. You have to acquaint yourself with the strategy and spirit of the deck before you can deem it a success or failure. At this stage of the game, don’t worry about losing ranks, just practice and learn to rely on the strengths that you’ve acquired in your professional life.

Using Your Strengths

As an attorney I have a particular set of skills. Some aren’t transferable to an online card game, but many are. First, I have a good head for research. Netdecking comes easy to me because it’s very similar to looking up case law: researching previously successful precedent and comparing its applicability and strength for a current case is a similar mental exercise to picking a solid deck for the current meta-game in Hearthstone. Picking the right argument (or in this case deck) can make your day much easier.Track and edit all your games.

Many professionals also have a strong head for data collection and comparison. Get a game tracker like “Hearthstone Tracker” and have the program passively collect your win/loss data in the background. Use this data to objectively see your successes and failures. This type of program lets you see what works while forcing yourself to be honest about what doesn’t work.

Furthermore, a common thread among academics is an appreciation for logical thinking. Hearthstone is a game of strategy. Take your choices in the game seriously and reflect on their results. Did you plan a turn ahead? Did you need to use the coin right then? Should you have cleared out their board rather than attacking their face or vice versa? All of these events make ever-branching decision trees than can be analyzed using your real-world-honed logical skills. Take some time to evaluate these choices and improve your play.

Finally, be patient. As an adult, you handle real-world scenarios that are much more important than taking your internet opponent from thirty to zero. Utilize this patience to make good plays. You should also use this skill to weather the inevitable fourteen-year-old internet trolls who spam emotes. This patience will serve you well and help you avoid the burn-out that many aspiring professional players suffer from.


With the right perspective, tips, and skills, there’s no reason those of us with lives outside of Hearthstone can’t achieve meaningful success in the gaming community. I hope this article has served as a good starting point for your journey into being a professional semi-professional. As always, reach out to your community below in the comments. Good luck on your new adventure, and I’ll see you again in our next installment.

Yours truly,


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