Dr. Jikininki is one of biggest success stories to come out of the North American region this year. A relative newcomer to the competitive scene, he seemingly came out of nowhere and won the America’s Winter Championship with top notch and consistent play. We caught up to him during the trip to the Bahamas where he competed in the Hearthstone World Championship. After he fell short in the group stage, we talked to him about his preparation for the tournament as well as his approach to the game, and what he would advise other players who want to follow in his footsteps.
Fenom: What was your strategy with this lineup?
DrJ: I was really looking to beat out Dragon Priest, Aggro Rogue, and Mid-Jade Shaman.
Fenom: You thought a lot of people were bringing Aggro Rogue?
DrJ: I did, and if they didn’t, I thought it was a good enough lineup against Miracle Rogue that I didn’t have to worry about it.
Fenom: Shaman is the one weakness against Priest.
DrJ: Yeah, but I thought the particular Shaman build I was playing wasn’t that weak against Priest- the full Jade package on top of double Lightning Storm, double Maelstrom, and double Mana Tide.
Fenom: How did your first game against Neirea go?
DrJ: It went about as I expected. His lineup was just super solid against my lineup. His lineup was Freeze Mage, Miracle Rogue, Renolock, Jade Druid, and Pirate Warrior. I always ban Pirate Warrior. Overall, his lineup was favored over mine, probably 65/35, so I knew it was going to be a struggle to beat his lineup. It was pretty tough because no one in my group had Mid-Jade Shaman which is one of the decks I was trying to beat out. My group also had Freeze Mage which killed my lineup.
Fenom: I thought Freeze Mage was going to be good after seeing it at SXSW.
DrJ: Yeah, the thing was, we submitted decks before SXSW so we submitted them right after PAX East where Freeze Mage didn’t do as well, so I wasn’t expecting much Freeze Mage. I worked a lot with RayC with my lineup, and I agree with it still for the most part. The only thing I would change is to bring Jade Druid instead of Dragon Priest. Other than that I thought the Shaman was great, I thought everything else was great. One tech choice that I would do differently is in the Warlock, I’d add Jaraxxus somehow. I might cut Shadowflame, Felfire, or Mistress for it.
Fenom: When you ban Pirate Warrior all the time, what does Mistress even accomplish?
DrJ: Against specific matchups, it’s decent against Rogue and even Shaman. Not only can it clean up totems, but it can also heal you. Overall, I don’t think the list let me down. On a couple games I could have played a little better. Looking back I may have taken some lines that weren’t optimal, but still hard to say if it would have changed the outcomes.
Fenom: Do you read the Data Reaper Report?
DrJ: I do! I do! I do read the Data Reaper a bit. I don’t know how much the average person reads the Data Reaper, I do obviously check all of my resources. The big thing about Data Reaper is it lets me discern what’s going to be on ladder for the next week, though I don’t think it affected what I brought for this tournament. I prepared mostly with friends and personal experience. But overall, the Data Reaper is a great tool for the community to have.
Fenom: What do you think separates you from other pros? What do you do better than others?
DrJ: I have a really good attitude when it comes to things. I think some pros get too upset/salty. For instance, I went 0-2 and I’m still going around talking with everyone and having a great time, whereas if other pros had gone 0-2 they might go up to their room and drink their sorrows away. Having a good attitude is one of the biggest benefits I have, because I’m always optimistic, even if things aren’t going my way.
Fenom: You have any specific regimen/tactics to help you stay focused throughout tournaments?
DrJ: When I am at home or at open cups when you can be in your own environment I just listen to music or be in a call with friends or joking around having a good time. Other than that I don’t have any specific regimen- I don’t do anything superstitious either. I just go out, play, have fun, enjoy myself. I just love listening to music while I’m playing.
Fenom: I met you because you made Top 4 in TNH, so this was your first breakout?
DrJ: This was the biggest and one of my first tournaments I had ever competed in. I never competed in a major in the past. The most I had done was open cups or the Geico ONOG online tournaments. I wasn’t playing on par yet with the big boys. I also tried playing in a Tavern Hero and didn’t do as well as I wanted.
Fenom: What did you do in last Spring/Summer?
DrJ: In Spring I tried open cups to get a feel for the competitive scene. In Summer, I did a little bit more of that, but I hadn’t started grinding ladder until this past season we competed in. I never got a Top finish until Dec/Jan where I finished Top 50 twice. Those were the big driving points that put me into playoffs. At this point everything came together to let me get really serious about playing competitively. I was really fortunate enough that after I made that decision, the first major tournament I was in was icing on the cake. I do think I played well and I deserve it.
Fenom: So you’re very new to the scene, you can probably answer this the best, do you have any tips for new players breaking into the scene?
DrJ: The biggest tip I have is to just be patient. For improving play, after every single game you play, look back and say IT WAS your fault you lost. The reason why I say that is, even if everything was out of your hands, there’s a lot of factors that can result in a loss. In the game – make a bad play, or take a bad line, or it can extend into the Mulligan. Oh, I should have kept this card, looked for this card. Deckbuilding- why did I put this in my deck? Deck – Why did I even bring this deck? I should have brought a different deck.
For instance, reflecting back on my own play, the reason why I went out was 1) I didn’t take optimal lines, 2) I didn’t tech specific decks well enough, and 3) I should have brought a different deck. Even if I played perfectly, I could have changed those factors. Makes you realize you have more power on the outcomes of your games.
Thanks to Dr. Jikininki for taking the time to sit down with Fenom and talk about his entrance into Competitive Hearthstone among some other things.