A few weeks ago, local Hearthstone player Dylan ‘Dib’ Brown went all the way to France to play cards with people he didn’t know. Now that sounds like a crazy thing to do, but in the age of esports crazy things are happening every day. And we love it.
The cards Dib went to play were Hearthstone cards and the people he didn’t know were competitors from around Europe and North America hoping to score some points for the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT). The Tour eventually leads to the Hearthstone World Championship, where you can win a share of a $1 million. A million dollars. Like we said, crazy times.
Dib managed to finish in the top 16 at the event, which started with 232 hopeful competitors. That’s a mighty fine achievement if you ask us. But first, let’s take a step back and start our story at the beginning.
“I’ve always wanted to attend a Dreamhack event, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a youngster attending LANs back in Durban.”
That really is the beginning.
“As I got more involved in esports it became a dream to actually compete at one. So when I scheduled a holiday to Europe to go and visit my friends, I decided to extend the holiday for a bit to include Dreamhack Tours. I had to change my flights and take some unpaid leave, but it would be worth it to fulfil a goal of mine.
I’ve competed in a few high level tournaments online, but never attended an event as big as this. It felt strange, I didn’t want to go into it with specific goals so I didn’t feel any pressure, unlike in some local tournaments. I was relaxed and trying to fully absorb the experience, at least that was my plan.
Before the tournament started, I was chatting to some well-known pros and they were very friendly and welcoming. This helped to relax me I suppose. I had played against a couple of the pro players online before, but actually getting to meet so many people from the community was great, especially as they were so chilled.
There were definitely nuances that I learnt about improving my play, but that’s a continual process I think. I know that there is still lots of room to improve, and that excites me. There is always more to learn in Hearthstone.”
That is one of the wonderful things about Hearthstone: Without having to change the fundamentals of the game they can keep it fresh and evolving. One simple new mechanic, like ‘Recruit’ from the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion where cards can summon minions out of your deck, and you’re digging through all your old cards looking for new synergies that will have you climbing the ladder like an incy-wincy spider.
The road to the top
Players from South Africa (GLHF: We’re at the bottom of the map and Europe is at the top. Just in case you didn’t get the wordplay in the subtitle.) competing at events like Dreamhack Tours in Europe isn’t a particularly common occurrence. It must have been fun for Dib to watch the reactions of his competitors when he told them where he came from.
“There were a few people surprised that somebody from South Africa had come so far for the event. In Hearthstone you tend to chat with your opponent after the match, and that is usually when topics like where I’m from would come up. There were a lot of players there that had travelled from across Europe and North America, so it isn’t unusual to play a non-local. Most people were probably not expecting to play against a South African though.”
No, probably not. Most of the North American competitors probably didn’t even know where South Africa is. Hint: It’s in the name. (GLHF: That was a bit mean, we’re sorry. But in our defence, Americans are notoriously bad at geography.)
After taking Shia LeBeouf’s words to heart and not letting his dreams be dreams, you might think Dib is content with his achievements. Not so. The South African cardslinger still has plenty of ambitious goals he wants to achieve.
“I’d like to eventually make it to the World Championships (and of course win if possible). But it’s a long road to get there. My first step is to make the regional playoffs that happen each HCT season. I missed out on one of these last year by a couple points. This means I need to grind harder, and push for higher ladder finishes each month.
Africa is unfortunately included in the Europe region, which is the most competitive region. This means you need more points to qualify, and because I can’t attend many events that means I need to focus on Ladder, and do the best I can there. So really it’s about improving and grinding out the results each month.
I need to make a concerted effort this season to capitalise on the HCT points I earned at Dreamhack and try and get as high a ladder finish as possible. I’d also like to attend more events to in the future, to aid these goals and offer more points earning opportunities.
I’m also trying to grow my Twitch stream, so we [Dib and his fellow local Hearthstone aficionados] try and help people out by talking through the plays and such there, while using that as motivation for me to keep grinding every night.”
If you’re into Hearthstone, watching local streamers, or want to see a picture of Dib dressed as a wizard then you should definitely check out his stream. He runs you through all his thinking as he plays, which is great for learning about the game if you’re new and useful to learn more about the game if you’re not. Because, as a Top 16 finisher at Dreamhack Tours once said, ‘There is always more to learn in Hearthstone’. And we’re sure if you asked he’d tell you why he was dressed like a wizard. (GLHF: We really should have asked.)
The hand we’ve been dealt
Whenever it comes to esports, South Africa always has a massive gap to overcome. That gap being an entire continent and the oceans that separate us from the rest of the esports world. But with Hearthstone, the space between us isn’t as much of an issue as it is with other esports.
“I definitely think that it’s more accessible for a South African player to reach similar levels of skill to international pros through online play than in other games. I think Hearthstone is uniquely positioned in terms of esports in South Africa because of that.
The big disadvantage is that with the change to the HCT point system in 2018, we need to travel to events overseas to have a decent chance of earning points and qualifying for the playoffs. Then, even if you do qualify, you have to travel back to Europe to play at one of the designated playoff venues. So it’s possible to get to that top level, but tough to stay there and compete with the top players without some kind of backing in terms of travel expenses.
You don’t have to be based in another country full time though. Which is an advantage for sure.”
With lag not being an issue in Hearthstone, the only thing preventing South Africans from playing on truly even footing with the rest of the world is the cost of a couple flights to Europe each year. And with the help of a sponsor, those can actually become relatively affordable. Particularly when compared to other esports where you need to pay for an entire team of five or six people. Flights, equipment, accommodation, transportation and food multiplied by six is going to add up.
Dib made it all the way to France, proving there’s hope for South Africans who want to compete on the global Hearthstone stage. So to wrap it up, a toast to Dib: To us, you’ll always be Legend.