I had a chance to sit down with other international journalists and pick the brain of renowned South Korean Hearthstone player, Kim "Surrender" Jung-soo. Surrender seemed happy to be there and noted how much he is enjoying Amsterdam and the competitive Hearthstone environment all around him.
Surrender rose to prominence after his somewhat controversial BM win against Orange in the grand finals of the Hearthstone Summer Championship but now finds himself as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, with community statisticians ranking him just one percentage point lower than Orange.
This was my first question and, to my surprise, Surrender had no idea the community ranked him so highly. Afterwards, the rest of the journalists, including my self, took turns asking questions for around 30 minutes:
How does it feel to be considered the 2nd most likely person to win the entire tournament?
Wow, I didn’t know that information. But, I think I saw during the Summer Championships that people did the same thing and ranked players statistically. Then, I wasn’t very high on the top of the list, but I also won the championship! I don’t really believe 100 percent in those stats, but I will try very hard to win this tournament.
Now that you are away the community thinks highly of you, is there added pressure to perform?
It definitely is some added pressure and, on top of that, I guess a lot of Korean viewers and followers tell me that they chose me as their champion. It’s very encouraging but, on the other hand, there is that added pressure to do my best.
It’s no secret that fans of Korea are very supportive of you, but have you heard anything from the international fans? If so what do you think about it?
I’m quite active on my Twitter account and I have seen a lot of direct messages from people I don’t even know! They message me talking about previous games and saying I am talented. It is very encouraging to get this global encouragement.
What do you recommend to players in Latin America who want to become pro players?
What I really want to recommend for the pro players and prospective pro players, if they are serious about wanting to become a pro player, is that it is important to ladder grind: getting the points so that they have opportunities to participate in playoffs and championships.
Once you start ladder grinding more and more, the people who are doing the same thing start recognizing you. You start to build that community. You have to be very patient and take it step by step. When you have an opportunity, you grab it!
"The greatest difficulty is players who are aggressive."
What has been the hardest adjustment getting used to Kobolds and Catacombs.
Preparing myself for the World Championships, because Kobolds and Catacombs launched and I only had about a month to prepare my decks. As you know Priest and warlocks are given decks and the majority of players choose this, me as well.
Personally, I’m very confident with Rogue and I've won with it a lot as well. It’s my third choice. The
hardest part has been choosing my last deck.
When you streamed before the tournament, was any of it public preparation for the tournament, or did you have to hide your strategies?
I noticed that there were a lot of pro players visiting my stream to see my broadcast, so actually, because of that, I could not show my decks. I took a week or two to not stream during the deck submission period. I did limited broadcasting then.
What is your favorite mechanic from Kobolds and Catacombs
I don’t know if we can call this a mechanic, but what I really enjoyed doing this expansion is Warlock and Cubelock. Carnivorous Cube is a really interesting card because you can use it to be defensive with a taunt minion, or use the cube with Doomguard and be very aggressive. I have had a lot of fun playing this deck.
What is your hardest type of opponent?
For me, ever since a long time ago, I have been participating in different type of tournaments. The greatest difficulty is players who are aggressive. They bring an aggro deck and even their playstyle is very aggressive. When this happens I tend to start playing more defensive and not play my type of game. That is when I don’t show my full potential.
Prime example of these players is my teammate Xixo and Orange from last championship.
What is “your game” or your style like?
I am pretty much confident in what decks are available and I can play well with them. But my style is very similar to aggressive players. Getting them play defensively because I am very aggressive. That is the playstyle I am most comfortable with.
"What I normally do is listen to music. When I practice a lot, I actually eat a lot of sugar!
How do you keep from shifting into this defensive play and losing your style when you meet an aggressive player
Basically, when I meet an aggressive opponent and I play very defensive, I actually focus on killing the minions-- I guess it’s when I start feeling like i’m losing. I get into this defensive mode by trying to survive, not by attacking, but by leveling the minion playing field.
How do you keep calm when playing in such a high stakes environment against professional players?
For this tournament in Amsterdam, I love the city and also my friends are here. There is very limited stress and I am actually enjoying myself a lot.
But the last tournament, the summer Championships in California, that was so different. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my deck submission and during that tournament, I would be in the player area the entire day and just grind the non-favorable matches again and again just to be sure and pysche myself up for it.
Other than that, what I normally do is listen to music and when I practice a lot, I actually eat a lot of sugar!
Considering aggressive play is your favorite style, what is your favorite class? Has it always been the traditionally aggressive classes, or have you tied play defensive classes like priest aggressively?
Honestly, before highlander priest, I did not consider priest to ever be an aggressive deck. Before highlander, I would not play a lot of priests, but recently, I’ve played it a lot. Hunter has always been my favorite class and I always love playing with him. I have a lot of wins with Hunter!
What are your thoughts on to why South Korean hasn’t seen a major win on the world stage?
I guess Hearthstone is a little different when compared to other esports. South Korea is a very big place for esports, but for other games apart from HS, the majority of a players income is through tournaments and prize pool.
But with Hearthstone it’s a little different. Once you become popular you actually make a very stable income just by streaming. A lot of good pro players tend to side with being a pro streamer instead of relying on little tournament prize pools, which for Hearthstone it is less stable than streaming.
Also, With Hearthstone in Korea, there are not yet a lot of opportunities for pro teams to excel.
Is there any player that brought a deck that you completely disagree with and don’t understand?
So, I think only two key players did not submit a highlander priest and Cube warlock. These two players are Ant and SamuelTsao. I guess, I see their other deck submission and it’s good, but I don’t really understand their full strategy as to why they did not bring the Highlander priest and Cubelock deck.
I was actually wishing I could meet them during my preliminaries but, we will see!
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