I’ve been playing card games for as long as I can remember myself. When I was about 9 years old the kids at my school found out about this amazing game called YuGiOh. I had no idea how to play but the cards seemed awesome to me and I was immediately obsessed with it. I still remember cracking my first booster pack and getting a Tyrant Dragon, a card I was obsessed with for years.
We were playing before school, between classes and even after school hours. I and my friends in that era were addicted. I still remember myself as a little kid trying to outsmart my opponents with new strategies and exciting plays. That said, we did not know all the rules and when we had a debate, the coolest idea prevailed.
A couple of years later, most of my buddies were playing the game casually and had gotten pretty bored. I was still as obsessed as day one, if not even more! But what was I to do? Who was I going to play against? At one of the stores I went to buy cards, the seller told me about the tournaments they were organizing. I had no idea! I was fearful at first but I was intrigued by it. Sometime later, I decided to give the tournaments a try. My parents, after a lot of convincing, took me to the shop, I registered and sat down to play. I remember the chills all over my body during my first game (I still get them from time to time, when playing an important game). That’s it, I was even more obsessed! My competitive personality was finally met by an equally competitive environment!
That is pretty much how my story of card games began. A few years later, about 2003 I would say, my buddies, took up Magic the Gathering. I found the game fresh and exciting but way harder than what I was used to. We played that for quite some time but I was still competing mostly in YuGiOh events.
The years went by and I was switching games very frequently, I tried others as well, the Pokemon card game, WOW card game, but it was mostly YuGiOh and Magic.
As I grew older and approached my adulthood, I realized I did not like YuGiOh anymore and decided to quit it for good. I would play in more MtG events and fulfill my cravings for competing against people that way.
And so I did for a good 6 years, playing multiple events each week (at some point my schedule was: Booster Draft on Mondays, Commander on Tuesdays, Standard on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Legacy on Saturday, and Sunday was either a day off, or I competed in a Grand Prix Trial, Pro Tour Qualifier or a similar kind of event) and never looking back. I traveled to Grand Prix’s and to other places inside Greece just to play magic at a higher level.
But that grind takes a toll on you and the joy you take out of playing and competing. At some point, I realized I wasn’t taking any joy in victories and I became extra sore when I lost. So I did what I knew would work: I took a break by quitting Magic!
Enter 2013, Blizzard announces that they will release a new card game, online-only version. At first, I did not pay much attention because I was still burnt by card games due to competing so much the past years. When Hearthstone was finally out, I did not seek to get a beta key. Until I saw one of my friends playing the game, that is. I sat him up and played a couple of games myself. The next day I applied for a beta key.
Some weeks later Blizzard announced that Hearthstone is coming out to the public shortly! With this announcement, they also accepted my request and gave me access to the Hearthstone closed beta.
And so began my Hearthstone experience. An era of love and hate is what would describe my experience through the years. The first couple of years I had a cocky approach to the game because of my experience in general. But it was when I accepted Hearthstone as my game when it took a place in my heart that I began to grow as a player. Magic was so dear to my heart that I had blocked Hearthstone out of it without even realizing it. After this realization began a great journey that I will always remember through the people I met and the great organizations I was a part of.
The reasons this journey comes to an end for me are various, but mostly because I got a glimpse of the highest level of competition and what I had to do to get there. Grinding the ladder endlessly is not something I’m fond of. It’s fine to test for a tournament and get a non-dumpster legend finish, but needing a finish to qualify to events? That is as stressful as it gets. I tried it and after two short months, it felt awful. If that was the way to get to the top, I had to get off the ship.
I can now safely say that I was better at Hearthstone than I even was at Magic. Not because the game was easier. Far from it. I consider MtG and Hearthstone games of equal difficulty and complexity at the highest level. Watch Guillaume Matignon vs Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the finals of Worlds 2010 and then watch a stream of Purple or Monsanto playing Hearthstone. You will be equally amazed.
I am seeing the changes in competitive Hearthstone and they make me hopeful for what is to come. But I cannot play the game anymore. Not for now at least.
With Magic, it’s totally different. When I sat down to play my first paper game after three whole years, I was happy again. The tournament as a whole took about five hours and I never realized time passing. I remembered my tours of the past, the people I’ve met, the trips, the decks, my good and bad results.
Hearthstone will forever have a place in my heart. But Magic is my true home.
It’s been too long old friend. I’m coming home.