What was supposed to be his breakout performance on the Hearthstone scene turned into a tournament nightmare when he got ddosed by infamous hacker group Lizard Squad and forced to forfeit during Pinnacle 2.
Now, one of Sweden’s upcoming stars talks about the attack – and his goals as a professional gamer.
– I want to be a person that people look up to when they think about Hearthstone and great players, Jon ”Orange” Westberg says.
The Team Darkstar Hearthstone squad is marching forward, and leading them on is 20 year old Jon ”Orange” Westberg from Västerås in the south of Sweden. Lately, he’s made a mark in the professional scene by defeating major players like Dima ”Rdu” Radu, Blizzcon champion James ”Firebat” Kostesich and Jeffrey ”Trump” Shih during tournament play. But only days before this interview, Pinnacle 2 ended abruptly for the young Swede as he got hit by a ddos attack, signed by the infamous hacker group Lizard Squad, mid-game against Dimitris ”Dethelor” Theodoropoulos and had to forfeit his place in the tournament. An ending Westberg is still bitter about.
– When I qualified I knew that ddos would be a problem since it’s been that way during tournaments lately. People have been ddosed right and left which is no fun at all. I started checking guides and talking to people about how to protect myself but I didn’t quite know what I was trying to protect myself against. I did what I could but was unsure about wether or not it would be enough. Sebastian ”Forsen” Fors told me about Lizard Squad and that they had attacked both him and Firebat and that they could break through almost anything and that worried me. But then the first day went great, I won against RDU, lost to Strifecro and won against Trump.
– During the second day I got a 2-0 lead against Dethelor and everything felt great, but as soon as my internet dropped I knew I had been hit, which was the last thing in the world I wanted right then.
What were your feelings at that point?
– I was so incredibly bitter about having to give up the game. I never got a chance to prove myself. The way I feel right now I could’ve won the whole tournament, but now I’ll never know how far I could’ve made it. I was pretty upset right after that.
Besides the attack, what are your thoughts on your performance in the tournament?
– I think I played really well. I made a couple of mistakes but you can never play perfectly. As a whole I’m really pleased with the way I played, since I was pretty nervous too.
One of your moves against Strifecro got pretty hyped during the broadcast. How did you feel about that move when you stole Strifecro’s Antonidas and finished him with a Fireball?
– Everything kinda fell in place in that game. I knew what I did was brave, that some things could backfire but that it would probably end the way it did. I didn’t look at it as such a fantastic play like everyone else seemed to think at the time, but looking back I’ve realized that it was pretty damn cool. Not many people would’ve done what I did. Amaz and Admirable talked about one line of play that I should’ve taken, but when I drew the Swipe I knew I had a spell to make a Fireball if I stole the Antonidas so I just thought ”fuck it”, and it worked. Doing a play like that against who I consider to be the best in the world feels really good.
Why do you consider Strifecro the best in the World?
– I don’t know… He views the game in a really different way. I can’t quite put it in words, but when I look at his streams I just think that there are no other streamers where the only thing I can think is how far away I am from his skill level. If I could put what it is into words I would practice it. He also has one of the sickest basic understanding on how every match up works and what his role is, what’s most important. And he can get really creative in his games. During Pinnacle he made me give up a game where I had 30 health and an Antique Healbot in my hand, because I knew I couldn’t win. Not many people can say they’ve done that.
What did he do?
– I played Handlock against his Druid and he never attacked my face so I couldn’t get my Molten Giants out, but he always kept enough pressure so that I would’ve been dead if I played Jaraxxus. It was insane, eventually I had three cards in hand and no real threats so I had to just give up. He’s crazy when it comes to those things. You always hear ”keep Handlock outside of Molten Giant range” but to take it to such extremes… A lot of people can do it but not as perfect as Strifecro. I have an immense amount of respect for him.
During Pinnacle 2 you also beat RDU, who’s been considered the best player in the world for a long time. What are your thoughts on that game?
– I did what I should. And he made some really weird plays during that game, especially in the end. The thing about that move is that he had a train of thought why he did what he did. He thought that I wouldn’t understand he had lethal on me, but what noone knew at that point was that the class I’ve played most in Hearthstone is Rogue so I know exactly what they’re capable of. I was careful enough and did what I should to avoid being killed that way. Then he completely missed that I had Dr Boom in my hand, so I could taunt up two minions.
When Goblins vs Gnomes was released I thought it was going to be an RNG chaos on the professional scene due to the new cards. But it seems it stabilized without causing anything crazy. Do you notice a lot of difference in the way you play after the expansion?
– Yeah, I thought the pro scene would turn really RNG based because of all those cards, but the more I play the less impact I feel they have. I think it’s more interesting than anything, because the cards that affect games the most are the Piloted cards, and Dr Boom. The Piloted cards are fun and interesting. Sure, you can lose on a Doomsayer draw from a Shredder but that rarely happens. We players must adapt to what we get and it makes for some interesting scenarios. But I don’t really like Dr Boom, he’s very powerful so I absolutely play him, but it’s not fun when the Boom Bots singlehandedly decide games.
I think I know what you’re talking about. Your loss against Savjz in the M-House Cup (a taunted Boom Bot took out a 6 damage minion instead of a 4 damage when Orange had Force of Nature and Savage Roar. Savjz recovered from 1 health and won the game)?
– Yeah, I was gonna mention that one. And I had a teammate who was eliminated in a tournament when he had three minions out and the Boom Bots hit him two times in the face for four damage each, those kind of things…
– I think the most powerful card in the deck, Dr Boom, could be less RNG based, or maybe he should cost 8 mana instead. I would like to see some kind of nerf on him. I don’t mind having a card that powerful but with that much RNG I could live without it.
Imagine something like that happening in the Blizzcon finals?
– It could happen, and to me it was almost that big. Since I’m relatively new on the pro scene, every win I get is extremely important. That Boom Bot hitting the way it did was a really big thing for my career.
I’m guessing, looking at the recent results, you feel that you belong up there with the top players in the World?
– Definitely! Now I’ve gotten a taste of it and the big players have opened their eyes to what I can do. Everyone I’ve interacted with have been incredibly impressed with the way I’ve played which is an enormous boost for my confidence. I really feel that I can compete with them and that it’s not just luck that has brought me where I am. Without sounding too full of myself I think I’ve deserved to compete against them and to be performing this well. In the qualifier for Pinnacle 2, 32 of the top players in the World were present and I got to the finals and beat a lot of the big names, including a 3-0 against Firebat.
But, speaking of the top players in the World, isn’t the RNG what decides most of the games nowadays, since you probably know eachother so well by now. Whoever gets the best draws win, or?
– Not really. There are still so many things happening in a game. Even in the elite, playing a perfect game is basically impossible and there’s probably not a single game that goes to round 10 that’s played perfectly. There’s always something you could’ve done differently and there is a surprising amount of mistakes even at the top level. I’ve heard from some players that ”I didn’t deserve that win because I played worse”. Sometimes you just play bad, but certain mistakes are more noticeable than others. No pro player would miss lethal but up to that point there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Every game is so different that there will always be situations where you don’t know what to do. But the top players make less mistakes.
You come from a Magic The Gathering background, did you have an advantage going into Hearthstone because of that?
– An enormous advantage. It’s absurd what kind of an edge I’ve had because I’ve played Magic for so many years, because the games have a lot of similarities. I started playing Hearthstone during the early beta because I got tired of the bad Magic online client. But then I went on a break because the game was too easy. It was just a lot of StarCraft 2- and WoW-players and they had never played a Trading Card Game before, so they had no idea what things like tempo, card advantage, aggro, control or midrange meant and how to play the game. I knew because those things exist in Magic. So I took a break because the game wasn’t that fun. But then a close friend told me that a competitive Hearthstone scene was starting to grow and I’ve been playing ever since.
How active were you in Magic?
– The only thing I did during high school was play Magic. I probably played five or eight hours a day online since it was the only place that I could play that much. It was hard to do IRL with friends. I started in sixth grade when some friends played WoW but my mom wouldn’t let me because of the cost. A friend came to my house and showed me how the older kids played Magic and we started doing it too. We went to a locale with a bunch of Magic players and I made a lot of friends, some of my best friends since I was 12 years old. I got to know Anton ”airbrushed” Bystedt, a really talented Hearthstone player, through Magic and during a party in January or February he told me that a competitive scene in Hearthstone was growing and I got really psyched about that.
Why do you think you’ve gotten as good as you are right now in Hearthstone?
– I spend way too much time on the game, I think that’s the biggest thing, haha! I am incredibly, incredibly competitively minded and I’ve always been that way. I don’t quit until I’m the best and that’s why things like Magic and Hearthstone are so dangerous because you can never be the best. There are always things you could work on or learn. It’s so much fun, so I spent hours and hours every day and am never content with where I am. Even though I’ve played some big tournaments and won against these great players I’ve never stopped to think that: ”Damn, this is good”. Instead I think: ”I have to work on this” or: ”I could’ve done this better”. I always find something I want to improve. From what I’ve heard, a lot of players stop at some point and go: ”I’m good enough” and from there on they start blaming RNG or bad draws. I’ve never done that.
When you hear about chess players, you always hear how they plan ahead. What goes through your head during a game of Hearthstone?
– In the beginning of the game there are a lot of patterns. Most match ups are pretty planned out and there are only a few things you can do differently to make your opponents cards less effective. It’s about giving the opponent as little effectiveness as possible while maximizing your own cards. When I’m in a game I try to think at least one turn ahead. When I’ve done my turn I have to know what the opponent’s best play is and how I can make that worse. If it opens up any new plays for the opponent that might be better. Next round I have to know what happens, otherwise you can never play against the really great players. Then there are scenarios where you have to think ahead more than that, but thinking four rounds in is hard because a lot of things can happen. Three rounds is possible but it’s incredibly hard. You have to be at least one round ahead, what the opponent will do next and then your next move. Sometimes you can think a bit further and make sure nothing crazy is about to happen.
Your team, Darkstar, isn’t exactly big compared to the competition. How would it feel to leave them if you got other offers now when you’re starting to make a name for yourself?
– I’ve had some offers from teams that are better than the one I have now, but none have been big enough to interest me. For me to consider leaving it would have to be an incredible offer since I evolve so much with my teammates and I look up to the owners of the team. It will take a lot for me to leave, but if I get an offer that will make it possible for me to live off of playing Hearthstone, I would very likely take it.
I’m guessing your aim is to make a living out of this game?
– Yeah, it is. It’s definitely what I want to do. I’ve had a hard time deciding things in the past when it comes to what I want to do with my life, but I’ve made this decision. It feels worth it, fighting to become someone on the competitive scene.
But you still haven’t started streaming a whole lot?
– I do it from time to time, but I’m no regular. I have to buy a new computer first. Even though Hearthstone isn’t a very demanding game, my computer is still too bad. It’s absurd what a piece of shit I’m sitting on here.
When 2015 comes to an end, where do you see yourself then?
– I want to be someone people look up to when they think about Hearthstone and good players. I want to be a name on people’s lips. And I wanna play as many tournaments as I can. Hopefully I’ll get some invites to tournaments, and it’s already started since I was invited to Deck Wars. I hope Hearthstone is a very big part of my life at the end of the year and that I can continue playing for a couple of years ahead.
And I’m guessing Blizzcon 2015 is a big goal for you?
– I will do everything in my power to qualify.