We at Cards Realm are proud to announce that we interviewed “Páscoa”, the newest champion of the Hearthstone Grandmasters Americas, as well as being the first Brazilian to reach the world championship. Check out this interview to learn more about the player's career and history.
The original interview was conducted via video call, being slightly edited for the sole purpose of facilitating reading.
Interview with Páscoa
What is the story of “Páscoa”?
I've always been very competitive, I remember disputing school test scores with my classmates when I was 10 years old. And that gave me a good performance in high school, but not necessarily reflecting directly on the game. I count a lethal quickly, but until then, we know that we have to make several decisions.
“I've always been very competitive, I remember disputing school test scores with my classmates when I was 10 years old.”
I've also liked logic games since I was young; As my father is a Chess teacher, I have always had contact with this style of game, an example is Pokémon TCG, I started at 8 years old and played a national tournament of the game in São Paulo when I was around 12 years old. I've always been connected with this world, since before all that, at age 6, I received my first video game, a Nintendo 64.
Also, I have a lot of experience with online games, I spent hours on titles like Ragnarök and Grand Chase, I also played a bit of League of Legends.
How did you start playing Hearthstone and what made you like the game?
I've had this fondness for card games for a long time, played a lot of Pokémon TCG and Yu-Gi-Oh, in addition to meeting several Magic: The Gathering players. I also love decks in general, I have many with me, including one from Germany that I received from a friend, and I've done some deck magic for a while.
So, back in mid-2014, I was in my 3rd year of high school and a friend recommended Hearthstone to me. One thing that attracted me a lot about the game was its simplicity because Magic: the Gathering, for example, is very complex, especially with lands and a lot of card texts, Hearthstone simplifies this very well.
At first, I didn't have that much money to buy cards in the game, so I was in Arena mode a lot.
How did you get started with tournaments?
In 2015 I started playing my first tournaments, some online like the qualifier for the America Cup, and others in person with some colleagues from college.
Then, in February or March 2016, I had my first result in a Panda Gaming tournament that earned me R$ 200 (around 40 dollars today). I remember beating Legolas in the semifinals, a very famous player since that time, and in addition to experience and money, I gained a lot of confidence with the triumph. In those months, I was going through serious personal problems and other very heavy things, that's when I started playing more Hearthstone, in addition to starting therapy. I was doing livestreams of the game and playing a lot; in a matter of months I had several results, and I felt that Hearthstone helped me a lot in real life and vice versa.
Therapy today for me is an investment because it will definitely bring me (and has already brought me) victories and long-term results within the game. For example, if I get one more win at Grandmasters because of my psyche, I can already afford several months of therapy, and if I win more, I'm already in profit. In addition to generating several benefits for my personal life, I even recommend it to everyone who asks me.
“The therapy today for me is an investment because it will definitely bring me (and has already brought) victories and long-term results within the game. For example, if I win one more victory at Grandmasters because of my mindset, I can already afford several months of therapy, and if I earn more, I'm already in profit.”
With all these experiences, especially with my psychologist, I learned to deal with RNG and other random factors where I have no control. Of course, luck or misfortune can affect a match, but knowing that eventually it won't make much difference makes me feel more relaxed. The RNG has ups and downs, maybe in a specific tournament it can make a difference, but the tendency is that over time it will stay in the 50%.
How does it feel to win a title the size of Grandmasters and still be the first Brazilian to represent the country at the World Championship?
It's bizarre! It's an achievement I've struggled with for 6 years, and while it's surreal, it's also something I was sensing would eventually occur. I wondered “when” it would happen, not “if” it would.
“I wondered “when” it would happen, not “if” it would.”
I already had it all planned out, I haven't thought I would win this Grandmasters, but I already thought about doing a 7/1 (7 wins and 1 loss) on the next Masters Tour and try to qualify for the Masters Seasonal Championship, and then I would have a great chance to go to the worlds. If it didn't work out, Grandmasters: Last Call would start soon after. It may seem like too much confidence, but it's a matter of dedicating yourself and knowing that in the long run a goal will be achieved.
“During the Semifinal and Final, I was thinking about winning for my friends and for the Brazilian community that always supported me, totally forgetting this goal of “being the first”.”
And about being the first Brazilian, I always wanted that before qualifying, but of course, I helped other Brazilians to try this conquest, especially Fled who came close, we are friends. But after it happened, I realized that it is cool, yes, but not as amazing as I imagined because I would be happy with any other Brazilian in my place.
With your title, and with the exciting Brazilian final in week 2 of the tournament, do you feel that Brazil is evolving in Hearthstone and in Card Games as a whole?
If you asked me that a few years ago I would have said yes, I would have said that even before the first Brazilian top 8 on the Masters Tour. Today, we can count many Brazilians who reached top 8 or even top 4 in the tournament.
This comes from several factors. The first is the online tournaments that are helping players in our country a lot. I can also mention the prizes, today it is excellent for us who spend in reais, a good result can sustain you for months, and this allows you to live from the game, being able to dedicate yourself quietly until you reach a great achievement, a “Big Hit”, as they say on Poker.
Another factor was the growth of networks like Twitch, until the launch of the live game platform it didn't exist, and it was just a utopia, but with the beginning of lives and streams everyone saw that one is possible to make that dream a reality. With that, the people of Brazil are always helping each other and dedicating themselves a lot, in addition to using each other's conquests as a form of inspiration and motivation.
We know that Grandmasters is divided into weeks of different formats, where you get different decks for each week. Meanwhile, new decks are being discovered, or a new update is coming to the game, how do you adapt to these new features? You also mentioned earlier the fact that you are in therapy, does that help you in this adaptation?
Wow, it helps a lot! Before Grandmasters started, I looked a lot at trends from the last Masters Tour that were happening in the same format, and I separated a good line-up for the first week. Even so, I ended up 0-2 and got knocked out early, so I talked to my therapist, and she recommended that I remember some habits I did before any tournament or match.
Over time, I ended up withdrawing a habit of eating chocolate before matches, intending to keep myself healthier. But I remembered how much it helped me, many studies say that sugar in general is good for the brain, and as the tournament was my priority, I decided to go back. In addition, I also remembered a “psychological ritual” that I had based on the book The Mental Game of Poker. Sometimes I made some guides about certain decks that I didn't know how to play so well with, to read before the games and not forget the details.
Getting out of therapy for a bit, and back to the first question. I study Computing at Paraná's Federal University, and with this knowledge I created a Software (program) that helps me define the decks for the tournament. Basically, I take the data of each match that some sites provide and make a prediction of which decks will be used in the championship, then I throw all of that in the program, and it gives me thousands of line-ups, arranging them in order of win rate against my prediction decks. Then I look at the first 50 or 100 line-ups until I find one that I identify with and know how to play, then I clean up the lists and train a lot with them.
“[...] I set up a software (program) that helps me define the decks for the tournament. Basically, I get the data from each match that some sites provide and make a prediction of which decks will be used in the championship[ ...]”
The Software may not shine so much in the Conquest format, as it is a format where everyone already has a great idea. But modes like Last Hero Standing or the new Trio aren't explored as much by the community, in this case I have a much bigger advantage.
When updates come out in the game, I try to know the size of the change. If it's a big balance or even a new expansion, I'd rather focus on my mental health, as I wouldn't be able to easily predict the new meta. In case of a small change, I assume nothing would change.
The Hearthstone Competitive will undergo a major overhaul, from the Masters Tour to the world championship. Have you been following these changes? What is your opinion?
At first, I thought it was terrible, since financially speaking I would be losing a lot. But then I thought it would be good overall for competitive, the fact that this new system is more open attracts new people who want to compete and increases the chances of a Worlds qualification.
For example, last year, FuryHunter was having spectacular results, but he still couldn't play the Worlds, just because he wasn't in Grandmasters. I'm sure he was living his best moment and was probably the best player of the last half of the year, he would be one of the favorites for the title. I imagine that if the competitions continue online, Brazil will have even more space in the scenario.
Along with these changes, a new monthly Battlegrounds tournament was announced, the Lobby Legends, of which the first edition has now ended. Do you intend to dedicate yourself to the mode, aiming for this tournament? Or is it only focused on the Standard format?
In 2019, I played a lot of Auto Chess which was very popular, I stood out a lot and even got a top 16 in a thousand-player competition. My problem with Battlegrounds is that the mode is too good! So good that I literally couldn't stop playing, as I needed to train and focus on Standard, so I forced myself to stop with the mode.
“My problem with Battlegrounds is that the mode is so good! So good that I literally couldn't stop playing!”
These days I'm living off Hearthstone, so I'll follow where the biggest prizes are. If Battlegrounds becomes the main and most profitable competitive mode, I would try to stand out. But I intend to continue only with Standard while it is being the focus of competitions because I imagine it is quite impossible to keep these two games at a high level.
Do you play other Hearthstone modes besides the traditional one?
Not. I tried to play Mercenaries mode, but after about 2 days I got sick.
What can you say to players who are also looking to become Hearthstone pros? What tips would you give?
The most important, of course, is to focus on the long term, and always seek to improve. You also need to know that when you learn a deck, you're not just learning to play with it, you're acquiring skill. For example, if someone learned to play with Garrote Rogue, that someone will already have ease and skill with other similar combo decks. So, you transfer the skill from one deck to another, and you can remember a lot of knowledge from years ago, increasing your results.
“You also need to know that when you learn a deck, you don't just learn to play with it, you are acquiring skill.”
If your results are not increasing, something is wrong. Look to see your own replays, or watch professionals play with that deck you use. Another cool thing is to participate in communities with other players who are also looking to become professional players, where everyone helps each other.
We want to thank Páscoa for accepting the interview, and all the intermediaries who made this possible.
To know even more about “Páscoa”, follow him on his Twitter!