Among them are some of the most accomplished players in the world. Players like Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy, Thijs “ThijsNL” Molendijk and Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen, who have a number of tournament wins to their name. Consistent performers like Eugene “Neirea” Shumilin and Michaël “Maverick” Looze. Young stars looking to break out like Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov and Sebastian “Ostkaka” Engwall.
Alongside these well known names is one virtually no one had heard of before—”Gera89″.
The player, whose full name is Gerardo Di Pietro, defied the odds to outlast a number of more famous opponents whom many expected qualify, such Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh and Dima “Rdu” Radu. The Italian may look like the odd man out, but he is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Riccardo “Kaor” Giammanco who last year made it all the way to the finals.
We wanted to help Di Pietro shake his identity as an unknown, so we got in touch via email to get to know him a little better ahead of the biggest weekend of his life.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living, where do you live?
I live in Alessandria, a city in the north of Italy, and I’m currently unemployed.
How did you get into gaming? Were you into any other card games or competitive games?
Well I’m a big fan of TCGs. I played Magic: the Gathering and I was a top player in Might and Magic: Duel of Champions before starting Hearthstone, and when Hearthstone came out I got interested in it and i started playing it in beta.
When and why did you start competing in tournaments?
I started competing early. I’ve taken part in some ESL tournaments and some Italian LANs, but this is the first time that I’m competing at international level.
How did you come to sign for your team?
I was contacted by the head of powned.it and he gave me a spot on the team because he wanted to create an Italian team with the best Italian players. I think that its goal has come true, because at least three of our team—Kaor last year, Cloudascris at Gfinity and me this time—have been competing at international level. In a esports scene like Italy is not easy as it seems.
Describe your play style for us. What are your favourite decks and classes?
I’m mostly a reflexive guy, I try to think two or three turns ahead of my opponent. I usually try to create a pattern of plays from the early turns, and try to optimize my plays thinking about what I can draw. I try to adapt myself to the playstyle of the opponents and prevent their plays, considering their mana and what they can do the next turn. My favorite deck is Handlock, but my favorite class is Hunter.
How much did Kaor inspire you with his run at last year’s World Championships?
I think that Kaor brought some newfound attention to the esports scene in Italy. I watched him on his run and I thought “next year I want to be in the same place as him.” That’s what I’m trying to do at Prague.
How are you practising for Prague?
I’m testing a lot with the team. I’m not ready yet, but I will be for sure. I’m playing ladder, but also doing some conquest training with my teammates and I hope to find the right decks to win the tournament.
What do you think you can do to qualify for Blizzcon, and go on and win it?
I think that I can if I hold my nerve, and play the best I can. Also if I bring the best decks for the meta, as that is also an important thing.
Image via powned.it | Remix by Jacob Wolf
Check out our interview with Value Town captain Jeffrey “Trump” Shih.