Swapxy beat Raiku at BlizzCon 2015. Now he wants to get him his first championship.

In the World of Warcraft arena community, René "Swapxy
" Pinkera is an institution. Of the hundreds of pro players that compete each year, a mere handful -- his current and former teammates, mostly -- can boast histories as impressive as his: one second and two first place finishes in European Championships, two record-breaking back-to-back global Arena World Championships, and four consecutive BlizzCon qualifications.

This year, alongside Method Black teammates Josef “
Chas” Stoianov, Oscar “Whaazz” Wulff, and Andreas “Raiku” Meaney, Swapxy racked up a whopping 1220 AWC points (the most of any team in the competition) from top finishes in various arena cups. At the two cross-regional LAN finals hosted in 2018, Method Black finished third and, later, first.

His team is once again a favorite to claim the lion’s share of the $250,000 up for grabs at BlizzCon 2018, and although he fell short of the championship last year, he has reason to be smug about his chances for a third title this year.

Swapxy, though, is a picture of modesty when he sits down to be interviewed at the Blizzard Arena only a few hours before his first BlizzCon match.

“To be honest, I’m not that motivated for the third,” he says. “[T]hinking about getting the rest of my team their first is more motivating than going for my third [BlizzCon championship]. Someone on my team, Raiku -- I played against him in the final in 2015 and I kind of took it away from him, so now I’m on a team with him so I feel like I really want to win, try my hardest, so he gets it as well.”

Swapxy competes at the European Championship Finals at Gamescom 2017

A few weeks ago, there would have been no question as to whether or not Method Black could take it all,
but in the wake of Battle for Azeroth’s launch, there is room for doubt. Swapxy freely admits the team initially had difficulties adjusting to the new expansion, explaining that they mistakenly stuck with comfort picks like Rogue when they should have introduced different classes like Warrior.

The result of their failure to adapt was two badly lost European Arena World Championship cups, which allowed XRB to the Moon (now Skill Capped) and Method Orange (in its own North American competition) to
almost catch up to them in overall AWC points.

“Losing two cups in a row was really eye-opening that we cannot stay with comfort picks and we have to put in the work and have to practice super hard so that we have the specs ready for BlizzCon, and we feel really comfortable now,” said Swapxy. “We really underperformed the last two cups, but yeah, I’d rather lose two online cups and do bad rather than learn it [at BlizzCon] where it matters.

They certainly
appear to have learned their lesson. Method Black made easy work of Unitas Red in their one and only BlizzCon Opening Week game this Monday and sure enough, they pulled out the Arms Warrior for one map before reverting to a Fire Mage/Assassination Rogue composition for Tol’Viron Arena and Ashamane’s Fall.


"...The Move is similar. They can only play Resto Shaman and
then they are all kind of one-tricks and they build their comps around that,"


Despite his team’s initial failure to adapt, Swapxy says he has thus far enjoyed Battle for Azeroth simply by virtue of its being a new expansion. He isn’t a “big fan” of the Azerite system (but accepts the Azerite Power grind as a fact of MMO-RPG life), and like many pros, he thinks that ability to triple stack Azerite traits is particularly detrimental to PvP.

“I think I like BFA -- it has a lot of potential. [Patch] 8.1 is going to be great. It’s going to have a lot of improvements,” said Swapxy. “I think the main problem with the current patch is the trait system. The game, to be honest, still feels like it’s in a beta stage and I think Patch 8.1 is going to be the patch where the game officially starts in terms of having a nice, smooth game experience in terms of PvP.”

But in the meantime, Swapxy is stuck with the current patch,
and on it, Method Black will face The Gosu Crew at BlizzCon this Friday. If they manage to move onto the Grand Finals and win there, then it will mean the fifth consecutive BlizzCon World Championship title for Europe.

When asked what separates Europe from North America, Swapxy replied immediately: “Attitude.” He elaborated that while European teams have historically practiced “a lot,
a lot more” than American teams, the latter have picked up the pace in recent years. What they now lack is versatility.

“For example, if you look at Method Orange, they only play Resto Shaman and they build their comps around that, and The Move is similar. They can only play Resto Shaman and then they are all kind of one-tricks and they build their comps around that,” he said.

“I think being a one-trick … can be something good if you’re lucky enough and the meta fits the one spec you play, so in that sense, the American teams got a bit lucky, but the European teams, they’re more versatile. They can play almost all healers and they try to be really diverse in the comps they have,” he concluded.

Swapxy (second from the right) qualifies for BlizzCon 2017

That doesn’t mean Swapxy is underestimating his North American competition, though -- he deemed both Method Orange and The Gosu Crew (otherwise known as The Move) formidable opponents with good chances of coming out on top. 
“I think [The Gosu Crew] are a really strong team. As I mentioned earlier, they’re kind of a one-trick team, but they got really lucky,” he said. “All of the classes they play didn’t really get nerfed and their comp is insanely strong.”

Outstanding hard-work and flexibility, then, are what make European arena teams so powerful -- but the secret to Swapxy’s years of continued success in Warcraft arena?
Friendship. The German was quick to cite his history of fun, friendly teammates and positive team atmospheres as the reason he has accomplished so much.

“I think the best performing teams are those teams that actually have fun together, not just inside the game but also outside; that are not just playing for business but also enjoy playing with each other,” he said. “With my old team, I had that for a really long time, and with the current team I have since this year, it feels the same.”

Like most players, Swapxy is looking to relax in the post-BlizzCon off-season. "The year was super busy in comparison to the other years I’ve been playing and … now at the end of the year, I feel exhausted," he said. "There were so many tournaments [and] there was practice going on all year. We could continue with this -- I would like to see the number of tournaments stay like this or maybe even increase."

With any luck, Method Black's 'friendship first' philosophy (and demonstrable skill) will see them through to the Arena World Championship Grand Finals -- then they can spend the off-season resting on their laurels.

. . .

You can catch the conclusion of the 2018 World of Warcraft Arena World Championship this weekend, November 2nd - 3rd, at BlizzCon and on the official Warcraft Twitch channel. See the official BlizzCon schedule for the full timetable of matches.

All photos courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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