Having recently partnered with Mindfreak, the members of Australia’s leading Heroes of the Storm team are about to head to the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Phase #1 Intercontinental Clash in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Joining the Mindfreak family means more than just an opportunity to don our colours on stages both local and international. It involves a passionate community that follows along every step of the way, anxiously anticipating the euphoria of victory.
With only a single map loss to their name thus far in 2018, it’s only fitting to share the stories of those involved with one of Australia’s most powerful esports rosters.
Today we’re grateful to be joined by Jack Rees, a member of our Heroes of the Storm (HotS) team that you may know as none other than John. A prominent member of the HotS community that has grinded through the ranks to compete at the upper echelons of the scene.
Entrenched atop the Premier Division standings, John and the rest of the Mindfreak roster are currently looking ahead to the Intercontinental Clash in Brazil. In the midst of a busy practice schedule, we sat down with John to discuss his esports journey as well as to gain insight on how the team is preparing for a tough month ahead.
Ok so to start, why the in-game name of John over your actual name?
Hahah I get asked this question so often but don’t really have a good answer for it. When Blizzard introduced battletags I had no idea what to call myself so I just entered a random name and never bothered to change it. At the time it wasn't really used for anything, so it didn't matter.
You’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm since it launched. What was your very first exposure to the competitive scene and did you ever think that it would bloom to what it is today?
I started really getting into HotS at the end of 2015 but at the time, I was still playing a lot of League of Legends. I was asked by different members of the community to join their teams but wasn't really interested in playing competitively so I turned down those offers.
At the start of 2016 I got asked to join a team which had a lot of veterans from the current ANZ scene in the roster, it seemed like a good opportunity so I decided to give it a shot. Since then I’ve played on many different teams but none of them had anywhere near the success that Nomia/Mindfreak has had.
The ANZ competitive scene has come a long way structure wise since then, it used to be one day tournaments that would decide who is the ANZ champion. Now that we have the league format, the amount of effort teams are putting in each week is a lot higher and finding sufficient practice partners is so much easier than it has been in the past.
You mentioned that you originally weren’t interested in the competitive side of HotS. Had you been involved in any other games competitively before though?
Not really competitively but I played League of Legends at a high level for a few years before I moved to Heroes of the Storm. At the time I never had the interest of competing in a team, I mainly just enjoyed playing in high ranked games, improving, and climbing the ladder.
What goes into a typical day of practice for you? Do you try to scrim as much as possible, spend time reviewing vods, or just generally aim strike a balance?
Typically we try to lock in as many scrims as possible each day and spend the remaining time either playing hero league or watching replays. Seeing as it's coming up to our first big tournament of the year we try to spend a lot more time whenever we're available, watching our replays and vods from other regions.
To have only dropped a single map in 2018 throughout the local scene is pretty spectacular, what do you attribute that consistency to?
Yeah we're really happy with how this season has started for us but the most important games are still ahead, so we're focusing hard on those rather than getting complacent from our past results.
I think the main reasons we've been so consistent are that we play the most hero league out of all the other teams, we're all really close friends, and we spend a lot of time together researching other regions/the current meta. From what I can tell the top few teams have a good mindset but outside of that, the other teams put in a lot less effort. It's a lot better than it has been in previous seasons but we still have a long way to go.
Specifically looking at the Intercontinental Clash coming up in Brazil, is there anything in particular that you have been doing to prepare for the competition?
We’ve been spending a lot more time on replays and vod reviews compared to how we normally practice throughout the season. We tend to focus more on communication and how we should be playing as a team rather than individual skills because that will make the biggest difference in our performance in the short term.
You’ve travelled internationally through your accomplishments in the scene, how would you say it differs from local competition? What are the aspects that perhaps the general community doesn’t see?
One thing that's interesting about the international HotS scene is that it's mostly the same players at each event, the top players don't change too much. The players seem to all get along really well and there's lots of friendly banter between the teams.
Who is your overall favourite character to play both in and out of competition?
I really like playing Valla, but she gets destroyed in the current meta so I never get to play her. Whenever she’s picked, the composition usually rvsolves around her so you can play super aggressive then blame your team when you die hahah.
What do you do with yourself outside of practice? Are you currently working or studying alongside competition?
Currently I work full time as a cybersecurity engineer. It's been quite a challenge to juggle a fairly demanding job, practicing as a team and also trying to work on my own individual play, but my managers and teammates are pretty supportive which makes it a lot easier.
The Mindfreak roster just managed to close out their final match of the ANZ Premier season with a win, improving their flawless record to 14-0 with a 28-1 map count. You can look forward to watching them compete on the international stage as all sights are set towards the Intercontinental Clash, beginning on May 12.
Don’t forget to show your support by following John on Twitter and keeping up with all of the latest news from Mindfreak.