The 2018-19 Hearthstone Championship Tour season is at an end and so is, by extension, the entire Hearthstone Championship Tour as a whole. With Casper "Hunterace" Notto being crowned the Hearthstone world champion, Blizzard is now looking ahead to what's next for the game's esports future. That future is Hearthstone Masters and Grandmasters, with the latter seeing 48 players, 16 from three different regions, come together and compete across an eight-week season for a chance to move on to become Hearthstone's next world champion.
The Grandmasters field includes a handful of competitors from the Hearthstone World Championship tournament, but there are also a number of top money earners and Hearthstone legends taking part in the Grandmasters season. One of those legends is Thijs Molendijk, a widely-recognized European player out of the Netherlands. While Thijs is largely known for his success on the competitive circuit, he's also gained notoriety as a regular Twitch streamer. On his daily stream he'll try out viewer-submitted decks and dozens of meta and "metabuster" decks on the Ranked ladder, where he consistently hits Legend on a monthly basis.
During Sunday's Top 8, Shacknews was given the opportunity to speak to Thijs about his time in the Hearthstone scene, his addition to the Grandmasters field, and his work as one of the most well-recognized Hearthstone Twitch streamers.
Shacknews: How did you first get started playing Hearthstone competitively?
Thijs Molendijk: I started by playing some online tournaments and from those online tournaments, I got invited to some of the bigger tournaments and when I saw I was quite good at the game, I played more and more. That's basically how I started.
Shacknews: What are your impressions of the Rise of Shadows expansion so far?
Thijs: I like it. It's very refreshing, especially not only the expansion, but also the rotation that happened. It feels like a very new game. The old decks are kinda gone and we have a lot of new decks. We're still in the discover phase, but for now, I'm really enjoying it.
Shacknews: We're in the middle of the final day of competition. Are there any decks you've seen here that have impressed you or you were surprised to see here?
Thijs: All the decks that are being played here are kinda known. The Hunter performance has surprised. I didn't expect it to be that good of a call for here. And of course, the Nomi Priest. I love the deck. I've played it myself. I find it awesome that killinallday [David Acosta] had the balls to bring the Nomi Priest.
Shacknews: You were named one of the first Hearthstone Grandmasters. First off, what's your opinion on Grandmasters as a sort of replacement for HCT?
Thijs: I am very happy with Grandmasters. I think it is great for the game. Now we have a league we can compete in, there's a lot of matches every week. A lot of things going on and yeah, I'm really looking forward to a good challenge against the other known players. It's going to be quite a lot of prestige, so I think that's awesome.
Shacknews: What's your opinion on the Specialist format and how will that change the way you prepare for tournaments?
Thijs: I think it is a way different format to prepare for tournaments. It's very class-based, so you can really mess with classes and see how far you get. It'll be very interesting. I haven't really tried it much yet, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it pans out.
Shacknews: It wasn't that long ago that you competed in the GOLD series China vs. Europe tournament. What was your mindset after you won and at what point did it sink into you that you had just won a car?
Thijs: Well, when you're playing your match and you're playing for high stakes, the same as the other players here, you only want to think of your match. You don't want to be distracted. It only hurts your play. But then when it was 2-2 and it was a moment when he had a 20 percent chance to win the game with Kill Command or Unleash the Hounds, I knew that... as long as he doesn't draw the 20 percent there, I win. So I was just holding my breath a little bit, but when I saw it saw the draw, then I knew that was the moment that I actually won the tournament.
Shacknews: You're a legendary competitor, but you're also widely known as a streamer. I want to ask, what's your routine when you prepare for a daily stream?
Thijs: Well, I start my start everyday at 10 in the morning. I wake up at 9:30, so it's not that much before. I just take a little breakfast and I'm still brushing my teeth and I'll hit the start button. Sometimes if I have a tournament coming up, I'll play a little bit in the evening, as well. Otherwise, I just make sure to take it easy.
Shacknews: Lastly, you're Thijs! Part of being Thijs is knowing how to beat the meta. So what do you look for when putting together a meta-busting deck?
Thijs: Well, when I look for a meta-busting deck... first, you look at the meta. So you have a good feel of it. Then you're like, "Okay, what are concepts are weak against this deck." Every deck has a weakness, so you look at the weakness, and then you just try to find the ultimate plan to destroy the weakness.
Look for Thijs to join the European Hearthstone Grandmasters, as that season begins later this month. Fore more on Grandmasters, Masters, and the future of Hearthstone esports, check out our interview from over the weekend with Blizzard's Sam Braithwaite. And if you're looking for the more casual side of Hearthstone, check out our Worlds interview with Ben Thompson and Dean Ayala.