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George “Hyped” Maganzini has been around in esports for a long time. Breaking out early in 2014, he became one of Hearthstone’s original best players and Miracle Rogue innovator. In 2016, he switched to Overwatch, joined Immortals and became one of the best D.Va players in his region. Today, the American is back to being a card game expert, finding a new home in Artifact and Team Liquid.

Ahead of his games at the WePlay Artifact tournament, we spoke with Hyped on his career roller coaster, joining Liquid, the Artifact metagame, and drafting.

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After being one of the pioneer pros in Hearthstone, you went to having a pretty successful career in Overwatch. Those who watched you there know you played a mean D.Va until you eventually retired from the game. Why did you make this decision?

I had lost a lot of interest in the game at that point, but making it into the first season of OWL was a goal that kept me motivated.

You’re back to slinging cards now, wearing the colors of Team Liquid. Why Artifact, though, and not Hearthstone, for example? On that matter, why Team Liquid? Was it a matter of them just approaching you first or is there something in the organization itself?

I had tried a bit of Hearthstone after retiring from Overwatch and enjoyed it somewhat, but wasn’t enjoying it nearly as much as I had in the past… possibly just because Rogue was weak and Freeze Mage was gone. [laughs]

In regards to Team Liquid, I have always been a fan, ever since SC:BW days (Starcraft was a huge part in what got me into esports) and even though I was in talks with a few different organizations, I was always leaning heavily towards Liquid — and I even let the other orgs know that.

Artifact’s small scene in the beta has been all about drafting, ever since the mode was introduced. I guess with all the decision making it’s a natural fit for pro players, but why did so few people actually try and solve constructed?

As you mentioned, the player base in the beta was a bit small so there was no real meta to solve. You’d just play against the same few people playing decks of varying competitiveness.

I had tried a bit of Hearthstone after retiring from Overwatch and enjoyed it somewhat, but wasn’t enjoying it nearly as much as I had in the past…

So people flocked to draft, because it wasn’t just the people who you needed to beat, but also the draft pool of cards?

That’s right. Overall, the draft experience is very satisfying because not only are there all the decision points and strategy that go into drafting and building your deck, but also draft games are typically going to go a lot longer than constructed games so there are more opportunities to outplay your opponent within the match as well. Not to mention coming up with on-the-fly strategies for a deck you’ve never played against before is very fun.

Not only are you trying to figure out the most powerful things you can do with the deck you just drafted, but also trying to figure out the weaknesses or holes in your opponent’s deck that you can exploit.

Other card games are much more centered around constructed, but with Artifact, people are talking about draft way more. Do you think this is the mode we should be pushing as the main one for tournaments?

I definitely hope so, and most players seem to agree.

hyped overwatch
Photo by: ELEAGUE

Isn’t there a concern that it might be a difficult format for novice players to comprehend? The decks are always different and you can’t take the experience home and “netdeck” it, like we see it so often in other card games.

Potentially, but it’s also a great way for new players to learn all of the cards, not to mention it’s a way to play without having to buy all the cards.

You’ve now competed in various titles with vastly different scene formats. What does Artifact need to do to grow to a top esport?

That’s a tough one and not exactly my field of expertise. But for for me, a good matchmaking system for practice and support for the tournament scene are all I would ask for.

Speaking of tournaments, as a player, do you like the idea of Valve’s million-dollar tournament? It sounds quite a bit like TI for Dota 2 and every year, that tournament is lavishly celebrated by the fans.

Yea, it sounds amazing, and TI is always a pleasure so if it’s anything like it I’ll be quite pleased.

What I like the most is that the three boards/lanes give the game much more depth and complexity and it feels like every game you lost, you could have won with a different line of play.

At the same time, previous years in Dota showed why having a single tournament like TI isn’t perhaps all that good for the scene. It causes periods of feast and famine and the entire structure is all about TI. Obviously, we don’t know much about Valve’s Artifact esports plans, but would you rather have had multiple LAN events over the year, rather than one lavish million dollar display?

Multiple LAN events is probably better, but I’m optimistic about most things and am down to try whatever

Back to the game itself, pros like Savjz and StanCifka have been extremely vocal about their love of Artifact. Stan even went as far as to say it’s the best card game he’s played. Are you in the same boat with them? How do you rate Artifact overall and what do you like about the game?

It’s pretty great, I’d give it a 9/10. What I like the most is that the three boards/lanes give the game much more depth and complexity and it feels like every game that you lost you could have won with a different line of play. Very similar to playing Patron Warrior back in the day.

Apart from competing, you’re also creating content, writing for Team Liquid’s DrawTwo and one of the things you do is the draft tier lists. Do you expect the heroes to remain in these tiers for a long time, or at least a new patch or a new expansion hits?We’ve been making adjustments and plan to continue to do so every week or so, but I would say things are mostly solidified, though heroes moving up or down a tier will certainly happen.

Photo by: ESL

Are there heroes on that list that you’d rank lower or higher in terms of constructed compared to what you have for draft now?

Definitely, but probably only by a single tier in most cases.

Can you give me some of the prime examples?

Exception would probably be Tinker, who gets a lot weaker in constructed.

In Draft, putting three Conflagrations is very strong, and it’s almost impossible to draft three Conflags anyways seeing as it’s rare. In constructed, you can just put the three Conflags in your deck if you want them there but what’s interesting is Conflag/March of the Machines also get a bit weaker in constructed. So Tinker gets doubly hit, and would probably move down 2 tiers in a constructed tier list.

Cards like Zeus/Skywrath Mage get a lot better with support and combos but may be a bit weak without them as they are likely to be in draft.

Drow feels really strong, there should be more of a downside to playing her so that maybe she’s not an auto-include in every green deck.

What heroes are in dire need of a change, either a nerf/buff?

Blue can be a bit weak in Draft on average, so I wouldn’t mind seeing some slight buffs to the weaker heroes. Outworld Devourer has the lowest win rate, I believe, so that could be a good place to start. Astral Imprisonment feels really weak to cast most of the time and his passive is super awkward as well.

On the flip side, Drow feels really strong, there should be more of a downside to playing her so that maybe she’s not an auto-include in every green deck.

This week, you’re playing in the WePlay Artifact tournament in a group with SilverName, Lothar and MissQingQing? Hardest opponent in the group?

Probably MissQingQing, I’ve seen her the most in-game and she’s quite good.

Photo by: ESL

It’s Artifact’s first constructed event. We’ve already seen some of the decks, as Group A is ongoing but what do you expect to see from the meta there in general?

I expect Red/Green Ramp and Blue/Green Combo to be the most popular and strong decks, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of meta-call deck that can beat both of those take it all.

I spoke to Naiman earlier and he predicted that few to no players will bring black, because other colors have a variety of ways to deal with it. At the same time, Gaara previously told me that he considers the colors to be very balanced. Where do you stand?

I agree with Naiman, I think Black be will the least represented, but I don’t think it’s too far behind as there are some pretty cool things that only black can do (namely gold generation). [The interview was conducted before day 1 of WePlay — Ed.]

What’s the way to play black to success in the current meta then? What do you combine it with?

Black/Green is nonexistent at the moment and Black/Blue is quite inconsistent. Typically it’s paired with Red to have a strong early game and capitalize on Track and Payday. In the past, the gold generation was used to acquire Horn of the Alpha as soon as possible to close out the game. However, this strategy faded out as players learned how to beat it. In the future, I see more Black/Red gold ramping into Vesture of the Tyrant instead.

Finally, your top pick to win the tournament?

StanCifka dominated the early beta constructed tournaments and I know he’s prepping hard to win this one as well, so I expect big things out of him.

Related articles:

Naiman on Artifact: “Draft is so awesome. I think right now the power balance is way better there.”

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