An Incredible Journey

We did it! Team Genji just finished 2018 as the #1 Hearthstone Team in the WORLD!

Team Genji is incredibly proud of this achievement. It was an amazing year for our organization, in which we evolved from a pipe dream to a newly minted org, and finally into a dominant force in competitive gaming. In particular, we want to thank our incredible pro players who joined us on this journey: SeikoPNC, Monsanto, Swidz, Kycoo, SintololDeathsie, Viper and Rosty. Their commitment, dedication and globe-trotting competitiveness drove our rise to victory.

If you haven’t already, please give both Team Genji and our pros a follow on Twitter and a like on Facebook. It helps us enormously.

And now it’s time to share the story of our journey from new org into CCG powerhouse. Here goes!

How We Did It

Genji started as a dream. In early 2018, we looked at the pros being selected for top Hearthstone teams. And we realized the market for talent appeared highly inefficient. To our eyes, non-US players were extremely undervalued. And being friends with an existing pro seemed to count for more than being good at Hearthstone.

We saw an opportunity to create a new type of pro team: one based entirely on analytics and merit. If a player was a performer, we committed to invite that pro to join Team Genji regardless of background, country or creed. We wanted people who were good at Hearthstone, wherever they came from. We felt everyone deserved a chance to shine with the backing of a professional organization.

And so, in early February, we secured a little funding and set out to create our new org: Team Genji.

The Early Days

Genji began by installing Faraz Barmpar, a legend in the Greek Hearthstone community, as our Team Manager. We wanted someone who understood competitive gaming intimately, and who instinctively knew the support required to help pros succeed. With the backing of Genji, Faraz set about signing pros in preparation for the launch of Hearthstone’s team standings. We ranked pros using a sophisticated algorithm, completely blind, without any bias towards nationality, gender or other factors. By late March we had identified a roster we felt could compete with the best in the world: Seiko, Rosty, Sintolol, PNC, Viper and Deathsie.

With the launch of the Team Standings in April, our performance started off with a bang. That month, PNC claimed Top 16 in the Copa America tour stop, and Rosty brought home a Top 16 finish in Taipei. In May and June our string of top finishes accelerated, with Genji placing Top 32 or better in the America’s Playoffs, HCT Tours, HCT Seoul, Grandprix Summer and Grandprix Austin. Wow! Not bad for a new org! But it was July that truly capped off our amazing inaugural run in professional gaming. First, Genji’s own Viper claimed a Top 4 in the Summer Championships, earning a spot in Worlds. And the legendary Sintolol followed up this achievement by representing Genji at a show match in front of the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland, showcasing the potential of Hearthstone alongside our friends at Team Liquid. It was an unusual honor for a new org to be selected by the IOC, and a huge compliment to Genji’s potential and early success.

Ultimately, Genji finished the first season of team standings #4 in the world, just behind storied organizations like Tempo Storm. We were proud of this performance, but as an organization, we knew we could do better. We knew we could be the best.

Excellence in August

In early August, we took a hard look at Genji’s roster. While we were confident in all our pros, we also felt a slightly adjusted lineup would best maximize our pros’ potential. Pairing a deck-expert like Seiko with the disciplined execution of Monsanto, for example, looked to us like it would drive a new level of success for our organization. We continued our commitment to blind recruiting, taking detailed statistical dives into pro performance. And soon we extended offers, giving two new pros a chance to join the Genji family.

We announced our updated lineup and crossed our fingers. And we weren’t disappointed.

In August alone Genji took 2nd Place at HCT Taichung and Top 16 at HCT Germany. At the end of the month, we placed three pros in the Top 16 of HCT Buenos Aires, including Monsanto earning an incredible 2nd place finish. We were on fire!

I felt so proud,” explains Faraz, Genji’s Manager. “August was really the month for Genji when I knew we were on the road to becoming #1 in the world. The success in Buenos Aires – it made everyone in the organization, myself included, want to pour our heart and soul into the next team season to claim total victory.

The Secret to Success

The next few months were a whirlwind finish of victories for Genji. In September we claimed a double Top 16 and a Top 32 finish in the America’s playoffs,

followed by a double Top 32 finish at HCT Montreal. In October, we again scored a double Top 32 finish at HCT Oslo, followed by a Top 16 and a Top 32 finish at HCT Singapore. And then again we earned a triple finish at HCT Orange County, with Monsanto claiming Top 8 followed by PNC and Rosty placing in the Top 16. And to cap things off, Sintolol represented Genji in the Summer Championships!

The secret of Genji’s success was clear: consistency. We had achieved our goal of drafting the best players in the world, regardless of where they came from. As a result, at every tournament our pros were consistently performing, making Team Genji a persistent presence on the podium. It wasn’t just one pro on a hot streak. It was our entire organization, and every competitor we invited to join us, playing and winning at a consistently high-level.

It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world,” explains William Collis, one of the co-owners of Team Genji, “to feel that we were succeeding together, as an organization. We weren’t just one great pro. We were – and are – a team of high-level performers, who consistently worked together to find victory.

The Big Finish

As November rolled around, Genji was neck-and-neck with Tempo Storm and Nordavind to clinch the title of best Hearthstone team in the world. But we also knew our success so far had been achieved by consistent and steady high performance, not one lucky finish. We were confident we had the squad to close out the season as #1.

And we weren’t disappointed. Team Genji sealed the title in November, with an impressive triple finish at HCT Atlanta: placing Top 32, Top 16, and 2nd Place. When the tournament closed, we knew we’d collected the points to claim the title of best in the world. Because Genji’s pros not only succeeded at marquee events. Throughout the last eight months, our pros had also quietly dominated Hearthstone’s ladder as well. Every month, almost every one of our pros earned a Top 25 finish or better – with many months a Genji pro claiming the #1 spot. We had performed not only in events but online. And the result was that we easily had the Hearthstone Competitive Points to clinch #1 in the World before the November ladder finishes even came in. Wow!

The Dark Secret

Too often, esports organizations don’t talk about the struggle to succeed. But at Genji, we want to be open and honest with our community about what our journey looked like. And it was a knockdown, drag out fight.

For our pros, the demands of high-level Hearthstone required flying almost every week to a new continent to compete. This constant travel, with its

accompanying exhaustion and sickness was paired with the reality of needing to consistently grind those all important, high ladder finishes.

To put it bluntly, it was pretty brutal,” explains Seiko. “We committed and played so much because we believe Hearthstone is a brilliant game that we truly love. But the journey to become number one was an amazingly taxing physical and mental experience. We spent countless late nights grinding, fighting for ladder finishes immediately after celebrating a tournament win. It was an immense burn for everyone involved.”

It was worth it,” concludes Seiko, “but it was also one of the hardest things I have ever done.”

It took commitment, stamina and incredible persistence,” elaborates Faraz, Team Genji’s manager. “I don’t think I’ve had a weekend in the last eight months. But I can’t say I’m not smiling now.”

The reality is professional esports takes a massive emotional and personal toll on its competitors, both from the pressure of competing and the constant time commitment of practice and training. At Genji, we want to take this time again to thank everyone one of our pros and members. We know how much you struggled this year. And we are so proud of you and your victories.

Nothing is worth earning if it is easy. And we know our #1 finish is even sweeter because of everything we have sacrificed together to reach it.

Going Forward

There is even more success ahead. 2019 is going to be a huge year for Genji. While our organization can’t announcing anything specific yet, we have some incredible plans to continue our growth both competitively and professionally. And we intend to continue to honor our commitment that drove our success: drafting the best, wherever they may come.

But most importantly, Genji wants to issue a heartfelt thanks to our fans. Throughout 2018, we were able to succeed because of the incredible support from thousands of passionate gamers who believed in Genji and our unique approach to competitive success. To everyone who read our weekly articles, ran our decklists, or cheered us on in events – thank you so much for your incredible support.

If you’ve read this far, we hope you will now count yourself among Genji’s growing legion of supporters. As we are still a newer organization, it helps us enormously to give us a like on social media. Please consider following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to help us continue to grow.