Over the past three weeks, I have spent a lengthy amount of time reading and learning as much about Duelyst as possible. I explored how the game had grown from the humble beginnings of a table top board game, into a continually expanding digital competitive tactical turn-based collectable card game – say that five times fast – and about the growth of its dedicated community, which you can read about here.
For the third and final installment of my analysis, I was granted the opportunity to speak with the Duelyst competitor and Grandmaster hopeful ‘Humans’, who regularly contributes to the community forums and narrowly missed out on the top spot of the best fifty players during the August Season Qualifier for the Duelyst World Championships.
We discussed many topics including how players can get involved, what it takes to participate in Duelyst World Championships, and what he sees in the future for the franchise.
So, without further ado, here is what I discovered…
Firstly, thank you for lending us some of your time to have a chat about the game.
‘Thanks for your interest in Duelyst!’
So, what got you into professional gaming? What other games do you play, or used to play at a professional level, and how long have you been gaming competitively?
‘I’ve always enjoyed being competitive in the games I play. In high school, I entered many game tournaments. Magic: The Gathering, Counterstrike, and Warcraft 3 just to name a few. When League of Legends came out I found myself being one of the world’s top 100 players, but being Australian makes it hard to play esports internationally. Last year, I went for the Hearthstone World Championships, but sadly fell short. This time I’m more prepared to do it with Duelyst!’
How do you learn/evaluate new games to play? What characteristics of games make you want to play them professionally vs. casually?
‘Well, the first thing I do is make sure I enjoy playing the game! To be competitive at a high level you have to play A LOT, so you need to enjoy it as much as possible. The next most important thing is that there are some rewards for being one of the best, and finally there needs to be a lot of depth in the gameplay. Of course, all of that is also pointless if you find you don’t have any natural talent in the game.’
What about Duelyst drew your interest in the game?
‘When the Kickstarter first began, I was interested because I like tactics games and pixel art. Months later I found the game had blossomed into a full online collectable card game. I was playing a bunch of Hearthstone, which is a similar game, and thought I might as well see if Duelyst was better. It was and still is!’
How often do you spend your time playing/training – full-time or part-time?
‘Well currently I’m focussed on my University studies… so I only play about 10-15 hours a week. But during my ‘hardcore’ training, when I’m on holidays, I generally play at least 25 hours a week and often spend another 5-10 hours studying replays, designing new decks, etc. I think the most I ever do in a week is about 40 hours, but it’s usually still part time.’
How do you divide up your time between competing, training, other commitments, etc.?
‘Well competing IS a form of training. A lot of people seem scared to enter tournaments unless they feel ‘prepared’ beforehand. But the best preparation for future tournaments IS current tournaments. Worst case scenario you lose quickly and have a little extra material to study, best case scenario you win the tournament anyway and can refine your strategy even more! I generally try to find an even balance between work, study, Duelyst, and my wife. I generally don’t spend more than 15-20 hours on a single thing, unless there is a reason to focus extra hard on it. I think balance is really important in keeping a level head.’
What drives you and keeps you motivated to play?
‘I like to succeed in everything I do. It is easier said than done, and certainly, sometimes I have to accept that you can’t always be great at everything. Whenever I feel like I’m not good enough and I should just give up, I try to remind myself that’s a negative mindset and a slippery slope to depression. I think a positive mindset is super important not just in gaming, but in life in general!’
I definitely agree with that. So, what are your short term/long term goals moving forward? What are you hoping to achieve?
‘Well, I would definitely like to qualify for the Duelyst World Championships, I would also like to make ‘Player of the Year’ by achieving the most DWC points. In the long term, I’m also focussed on providing content and support to the community, especially competitive players.’
Can you give us an idea on tactics or your favourite cards or decks to use? Or is that secretive?
‘Well, I have a play to win attitude. Many players adhere strongly to one deck or style of play, but sometimes the game will make that a bad decision if you want to win. I think my favourite though is knowing how to counter your opponent. Just recently, I enjoyed a match where my opponent expected me to play an aggro Reva deck, so he chose a counter which was a slow Argeon deck. But instead, I played a faster Argeon deck with 3x Hollow Grovekeeper to use on his Ironclife Guardians. After winning that game, I expected him to make some adjustments to better fight that deck, so I switched to the much stronger Reva deck and won again.’
What kind of benefits or rewards are there for placing high in the World Championship rankings?
The biggest rewards are the extra opportunities to qualify. Assuming you just get SOME points every month, you only have 12 of 16 chances. The top point holder will get the ‘Player of the Year’ award, which comes with some cool rewards, including direct entry into the DWC. If that player has already qualified some other way then the next highest player gets an instant entry. The next top 4 players who haven’t qualified then play off vertically against each other and the winner will get entry into the DWC. Then there is also two spots for the top 128 players to qualify in a tournament.
Is there anything you would want to improve about leagues/tournaments?
‘I wish there were more new and intermediate players. Because Duelyst is highly skill based, a lot of players don’t bother entering tournaments because they feel they have no chance to win. The thing is, you learn a lot by playing against people who are much better than you, and most of the tournament veterans are happy to help players improve. I wish there was more rewards for newer players entering.’
What do you want to see more or less of within the game or community?
I would like to see the ‘meta’ slow down. Currently, a lot of the strongest decks frequently kill you in the third, fourth, or fifth turns. It’s not much of a fun game when you just get quickly crushed like this, even against a close opponent. In the community, I would like to see more people interested in the competitive scene. It’s still only the 3rd month of the DWC circuit, so hopefully in a couple months, the excitement will build.
What do you see, or hope to see for in the future for Duelyst?
‘I hope to see Duelyst flourish into a well-known competitive game. Right now, I think the player base is very slowly growing. The makers of the game, Counterplay Games, don’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising, so the major influx of players is from articles like yours and word of mouth. I really hope everyone who hears about the game tries it out and then recommend it to their friends too!’
Do you have any advice for those interested in it playing Duelyst or taking part in the World Championships?
‘My advice would be to focus on enjoying the game primarily and then also on gradually improving. If you slowly improve and have fun while doing it, the time flies by, and before you know it you might just be amongst the best players in the game! Also, you should follow the competitive scene, it’s really quite exciting and you can learn a lot!’
Thanks very much for your time, and good luck on future competitions and endeavours.
It’s been a long process of reading various news articles, checking forums, and event pages, to compile an interesting and informative series of articles about this relatively new game to the market. Hopefully, you have learned something new or have found inspiration to look further into the world of Duelyst or competitive gaming in general.
‘Humans’ has promised to keep us informed about further updates to the game, as well as his progress during the Duelyst World Championships, and I look forward to covering more events in the future.
Tim Pearce is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi over on MeatBaitMedia!