Sensei Spotlight: Hearthstone Pro Tips with Tsukaime

Hearthstone is a game of options: there are tons of decks to learn and master if you’re aiming for the top. And every game offers a unique set of choices to navigate in order come out with a win… Today’s Spotlight features a motivated young Sensei who knows how to handle a lesson with class! Here’s our discussion with Arend ‘Tsukaime’ Zijdenbos!


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Greetings Tsukaime! Tell us a bit about the person behind the screen name.

Hey everyone! My real name is Arend and I’m 20 years old. I live with my father here in the Netherlands, where I was attending college for Information & Computing Technology but have left to pursue other options like full-time coaching. I’m also focusing on getting more into the tournament scene, playing in both local and online events.


Describe your journey to becoming a Sensei.

I started playing games when I was a kid, and I was always driven to become the best. I’ve been playing Hearthstone for over three years, and started coaching when I first reached Legend in December 2014. That was just a few months after the Open Beta. At that point I started helping out friends improve at the game and build their skills. About a year and a half later I found Gamer Sensei, and I’ve been teaching here ever since!



What are some of your esports achievements, either as a player or a coach?

Although I’ve been fighting for high Legend ranks for a while now, I didn’t initially get into the tournament scene. Over the last year I’ve been making that a priority, winning a few online tournaments and getting some good placements in local events. As a coach, my proudest moment has to be the first time a student told me he’d climbed to Legend with my advice. I was still quite new to coaching at the time, so I was really happy that I’d made such a difference.


Describe your coaching style!

For me, the main goal of coaching is to help the student understand what is going on at a strategic level, rather than just telling them how to win the game at hand. By building that understanding, the student can better help themselves in future play. I focus on teaching the strategies and game plans for each matchup, as well as key cards to look for in mulligans.


Many players new to digital card games struggle to figure out how to improve. What can you tell them?

As much as it might feel unfun, you’ve got to work on your game before trying to build your own decks! I have friends and old students that message me from time to time with their homebrewed decks, wondering why they’re stuck at rank 18. Deckbuilding is one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of Hearthstone, but you need to understand the fundamentals before a custom list becomes an advantage rather than a disadvantage.



What is the single most important virtue for players on the road to Legend?

Patience. You have 90 seconds to play every turn, so use them! Take 20 – 30 seconds each turn to just decide what you want to do before acting. If you’re looking to reach Legend, you need to play a lot of games. Even with a great win rate, it’ll easily take over 200 games to get there! So practice patience, both in the short and the long run.


Nobody likes defeat, yet it’s an integral part of the game. What would you advise players who get stressed about losing?

Losing is OK, and it’s natural to feel stressed at times. In my entire experience playing Hearthstone, I still struggle the most with losing games. It sometimes feels like you lost purely to RNG – and sometimes you do. But there’s nothing to do other than take a break if need be and queue up again. Instead of obsessing over negative feelings, do your best to win the current match. And make sure you’re enjoying the game, as hard as that may be sometimes!


What’s your opinion of the state of the game right now?

Jade Druid is probably going to be the strongest control deck for a long time, and the more aggressive version of Druid is also very powerful on its own. Most of the control possibilities are pushed out by the mere existence of this deck. There are a lot of interesting lists that simply aren’t viable because they auto-lose to Jade Druid regardless of the upcoming nerfs. I’d certainly love to see working combo decks in the next expansion. I’ve always loved to play combo due to the decision-making required… things like Freeze Mage, Combo Druid, and old Miracle Rogue.


Blizzard just announced a round of nerfs to some iconic cards, among them Innervate, Fiery War Axe, and Murloc Warleader. How do you feel about these changes, and what’s your prediction for the post-patch meta?

I like the fact that we’re finally getting some changes to problematic cards. What I can’t agree with is the way the changes are being implemented. I find it hard to believe they’ve done enough actual testing or put enough thought into how and what they should be nerfing. The best way to describe the changes: lazy. Time and time again, Blizzard has shown that they prefer to over-nerf cards in order to keep forced archetypes in the game. Nearly everyone dislikes Jade Druid, and frankly it’s just far too good at out-controlling opponents regardless of how much mana Innervate provides.


File:Fiery War Axe(632) Gold.png


Meanwhile Fiery War Axe, which has been keeping Warrior alive for the past few years, has effectively been removed from the game by its Cost increase. While I can understand Pirate Warrior being problematic to the casual audience there were many other nerf options that would specifically target that deck without hitting the already-feeble Control Warrior archetype as well.


What are your thoughts on the esports coaching industry?

Esports coaching is here to stay, and from what I can see it’ll expand to all types of games in the coming years. Every game has someone who wants to get better and someone who can teach them how. If you’re searching for a coach, make sure you find someone with experience in coaching instead of just impressive in-game results. A good coach is a teacher first, and they will help you improve much faster than a masterful player who can’t give a good explanation!


Thanks for joining us? Any final thoughts or shoutouts?

Although I might disagree with Team 5 on these nerfs, their willingness to address issues needs to be the future of Hearthstone. I don’t think these are the exact right changes, but they are changes and that’s a definite good thing!


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