Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang understands Hearthstone’s official subReddit (/r/Hearthstone) almost better than anyone else on it.
He got his start creating content on the page before anyone knew who he was and years before anyone would ever see his face. Once that began gaining traction, he took his talents to Youtube where he has over one million subscribers across his two channels then began streaming on Twitch where his success has continued.
Last Wednesday, Toast was streaming when it was brought to his attention that there was a thread about him on the subReddit that he should check out. Toast, who has seen hundreds of threads about him over the years, sat perplexed when he saw that shortly after the post had gone live it already had over 4,000 upvotes. Less than a week later, that number currently stands at nearly 13,000, one of the most popular in the past year.
But the thread wasn’t showcasing a play he had made or a funny response from Blizzard on his content, like usual. It was in reference to recent videos he had made with clickbait thumbnails. While lighthearted in nature, hundreds of comments began pouring in calling Toast’s integrity into question and pointing out his clickbaiting ways.
“One of the reasons I stopped watching him was his clickbait and over the top personality.”
“Used to love toast. I would defend him and say he was great, smart, innovative. He is still all those things, but you can add arrogant to the list. I don't care too much for his haughty attitude anymore. He became so big, whether he is just playing up to the masses, his ego got just as big.”
“He was 100% positivity. He was shy and nice. Now he's almost 100% jerk all the time”
But why now? Toast’s content when looking at his Youtube page has featured relatively similar thumbnails for the better part of the last year. According to him, with Hearthstone’s newest expansion releasing two weeks ago, more eyeballs are on him than ever:
“When I started streaming Hearthstone seriously I had a lot of clips of myself being posted on the Hearthstone subreddit for a few months and eventually there was a thread that got like 7,000 upvotes saying, like, ‘We are tired of every Toast clip being on the subreddit.’ I think that was the turning point.”
While Toast acknowledged that the person who made the thread was likely just trying to bright to light that the subReddit was filled with clips of Toast, a trend began.
“Ever since then there is a very dedicated crowd on that subReddit that likes to be negative about me and I see their names a lot whenever I check my threads. It's the same people usually because they got banned for my channel at some point or they just don't like me. They will make 10 comments on the same thread. Even on the clickbait thread, I saw the same dudes posting multiple comments of why I'm just the biggest [explicit] on Twitch kind of deal. They wait for an opportunity because even the maker of that clickbait thread messaged me saying he just wanted to poke fun at my click-baiting and he didn't expect that people would use it as an opportunity to be hateful. I messaged him saying it was totally cool and I thought it was a funny jab that I've had a 100% win rate this entire time. But I wasn't surprised because there aren't too many shady things that I usually do so they have to hit me for click-baiting because that is the worst thing that I do when it comes to my content.”
The art of clickbaiting
The general definition of clickbaiting refers to an individual who intentionally misleads the audience of the content of the video with a fabricated thumbnail or title. For Toast, who acknowledges that he does use clickbait tactics to draw viewers in, prefers to describe himself as something else.
“I think, for me, everyone has their own line and morals. I've always just been a sensationalist but not outright lying. I don't mind if people use red arrows on thumbnails. If people are turned away by that or voice their displeasure I'm not surprised and it is something I do take into account. I do not go off the deep end with clickbait like putting boobs on the thumbnail with arrows pointing at it.”
Although Toast does take responsibility for how his titles and thumbnails may mislead viewers, context needs to be added from time to time.
“When I say, for example, ‘100% win rate,’ for me, the ‘100% win rate’ has always been a running joke. But I can see how newer viewers or viewers who are unaware will see, ‘100% win rate this must be the best deck in Hearthstone!’ and they craft it and they turned out it is 60% win rate. In those scenarios, I do think that it's not cool for me to trick them into building that deck. But I can see how if that happened I would definitely feel bad. Ideally, everyone would just know that there is no deck that is a 100% win rate because if there would be a 100% win rate deck then that is the one that everyone would play,” said Toast.
It didn’t always use to be this way though. Prior to Toast’s streaming career, his Youtube content focused on funny interactions, bugs and meme-worthy content within Hearthstone’s in-game client.
One day, that changed for Toast.
“I think the biggest change for me was before I started streaming and I realized those funny interactions and bug [videos] were running out pretty quick because Blizzard only puts out a couple of interactions per expansion and a few bugs here and there. That is worth about two videos per expansion and it's really tough for me to survive off of two videos every four months.
I didn't want to be one of those Hearthstone compilation channels where I took highlights from other channels and I just edited them and play a soundtrack because I wanted to make my own content. The only way, for me, that I saw was to use my own stream content. When I became a full-time streamer I just started uploading my highlights from my own stream onto my channel which is what all the big Hearthstone streamers do. Once that happened, I think I was more okay with the clickbaiting and the more casual style of content. I know a lot of people initially watched me for the interactions in the bugs and I still try to do that once per expansion but if they only want that kind of content I would only upload once every four months.”
From League of Legends to Toast to Hearthstone’s community
It’s difficult to calculate how much better a video will perform with a clickbait title opposed to that same video with a generic one. Toast doesn’t even know himself as the numbers can vary. What is known is that the way he will be doing things going forward will change for a few reasons:
“To be honest, after this ordeal, I did some self-reflecting on the type of content I've been creating. I actually think ‘sensationalist clickbaiting’ doesn't work too well in Hearthstone. What they like big numbers. So, moving forward, the kind of clickbaiting won’t be like, ‘Oh, this is the best deck in the world’ but to do something eye-catching.
Last expansion my best video was the Ice cream Shaman where I gained 20000 armor and the title was ‘I gained 20000 armor’ which isn't clickbaiting but is very sensationalist and that got 1.4 million views whereas my average video got like 200,000...so seven times larger. That was a very unique situation.”
In the world of being a content creator where every day someone new is joining the scene and gunning for your views, clickbaiting is a good way of standing out, admits Toast.
“I think the biggest indicator that this works is when you look at most of other Hearthstone channels nowadays with streamers as they have all adopted a similar thumbnail-style and title-style that I have. You could see the transition as well if you look through their history. There’s yellow text on the left and an image on the right and the title is like ‘insane’ and ‘broken,’ some words are not capitalized, some words are capitalized, an emoji is sometimes there too. But they don't get caught for clickbaiting because they're not the most visible one. Their fan base might say, ‘Oh, well his kind of clickbait is kind of reasonable.’ I would say that I lean into it the most.”
When you’re garnering the most views, there’s bound to be imitators. Hell, even his style was taken from another individual in an entirely different genre of game.
“For full transparency, I picked up my style from a League of Legends YouTuber named Nightblue3. His videos are so successful, that when you look at the league of Legends scene, a lot of their thumbnails from different channels are similar to his. So, in effect, everyone from Hearthstone is following my lead and I followed the League of Legends scene who follows Nightblue so he is the Godfather of this style of clickbaiting.”
His first video following the “controversy” poked fun at his past videos and, going forward, Toast admits he will try doing things differently.
“I think recently I may have overstepped the line a little bit. I told my editor, ‘Okay, let's not do ‘100% win rate.’ We can at least meme it and go ‘1000% win rate.’ I think there is a balance to be struck and I think, for me, it’s to constantly toe the line between that and see what works."
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.