Edwin "HotMEOWTH" Cook became a sensation during the Americas Summer Championship and the accompanying preliminaries for his animated expressions, bizarre username and interesting deck selections.
Three days before he'll take the biggest stage of his Hearthstone career and a mere 30 minutes after the lock-in deadline for Top 8 decklists, HotMEOWTH took a moment to talk with theScore esports about where his username came from, offers he's received from esports organizations, and why he rolled the dice with his new lineup.
Why did you choose HotMEOWTH as your username?
I just wanted a funny, trolly name that just caught people's eyes by being weird. Meowth is a Pokemon's name, and you don't see him as being that attractive. It's kind of oxymoronic and kind of funny. I have it in my Twitch channel too. It's basically just a troll name.
I didn't take this game seriously until early this year, but I didn't change my name then. People liked my name, so I didn't change it.
The fans wanted HotMEOWTH, and you had to give it to them.
Are you weak to Fighting-type?
Yeah, I'm Normal-type. Pretty weak to that.
During the preliminaries you were very animated on stream...
Well, I was kind of trolling. You know like, you face each other in a different location so you can't see other people face-to-face.
So I could be animated because people can't read you. In a championship, I try to let less emotion through. I just want to focus on the game and back then, I didn't really take it seriously. That's why I was doing that.
So you won't be dropping any huge eye-rolls at BlizzCon?
No. Maybe at the next preliminaries.
It's kind of like poker, where you want to have a poker face so people can't read you. But it doesn't matter in the prelims, because you don't get to see each other.
But I just kind of trolled in the prelims, because I didn't think I would make it, there was like 100 people. But i actually did it, and actually made it this far. Now I'm just being a bit more serious about it, because I may or may not win the next World Championship, there's a decent chance.
But you're keeping the name.
It's too late to change the name.
Your Zoo deck at the Summer Championship looked bizarre at first glance...
It targets Druid. I expect the people I face to bring more Control decks, so I don't want to bring a more standard Zoo deck with the [Forbidden Rituals] ... but I agree that Lance Carrier was really questionable. It worked out in that championship [...] I don't know, it doesn't work well on ladder sometimes but it worked at that particular time.
That's something I wanted to ask you about. You weren't previously known as a competitive player but you've had some strong ladder finishes. So how did that change from laddering to tournament meta go for you?
I played in a lot of open tournaments too, which grant you HCT points to qualify for an event. I played at a lot of them, and qualified for the Winter and Spring prelims through open tournaments.
On ladder you can be good with only one deck and still do well. But [at a tournament] you have to be good at all five decks you could play in a best-of-seven.
You've got this reputation as a Hunter expert, and you brought Secret Hunter to Opening Week. Where do you think this deck stacks up in the current meta?
It's really situational. I think the Face Hunter deck is really good in certain matchups. It's really good against Shaman, so I decided to bring it. it's just like the fifth-best deck, and I couldn't think of any better decks to bring.
So it just kind of fell into that fifth slot?
Yeah and the Secret list beats Shaman. Shaman is really minion-centric, so with Explosive Trap and [Unleash the Hounds] you'll get a lot of value. You just go aggressive in earlier turns. Most of the time it works out. But it's very different from the old Face Hunter where it's minion-heavy. It's more spell-heavy.
At Opening Week a lot of people misplayed with Secret Hunter, I know I misplayed with Secret Face Hunter too, so it's really questionable.
You had Yogg-Saron in your Opening Week Tempo Mage list, and a lot of pros have cut the card. Do you think, in it's current state, it's still worthy of inclusion?
I think it's really bad against Control matchups now, because it usually draws you cards. But you kind of need to know when to play it. If you play Yogg by itself, it'll just kill itself. But if your opponent has minions, then Yogg can target their minions too, so it's more of a board-clear swing turn, more like Doom! than anything else.
It's tech against Aggro cards as Druid, because sometimes if you're really behind you can win the game. It's a card you only play behind now, and it's really only good against aggro. I guess you can play it in the Druid mirror and the Tempo Mage mirror. It's like an inconsistent Flamestrike.
You guys have to resubmit your lineups...
Yeah, we just locked in the lineups like a half-hour ago.
Editor's note: The competitors' decklists became available roughly an hour after this interview.
What are your thoughts on Hamster's success with Priest and Paladin at Opening Week? We saw Naiman play around Thoughtsteal by keeping valuable cards in his opening hand. It's possible if both you and Hamster go all the way that you'll meet in the grand finals.
That's possible, but it's unlikely, I'd say. I'm kind of biased on having good decks, and I don't think that Hamster has the stronger decks.
I brought two risky decks to the Top 8 as well.
So you aren't afraid against the Priest and Paladin?
My lineup is bad against Control, but I don't expect to face him in the finals. I just did research on my first opponent Dr Hippi, and I did some research about what he might bring. When I prep tournaments, I don't look deep into the tournament, I just focus on the first match.
You said that you weren't taking the game too seriously until earlier this year. Do you want esports to be a full-time thing?
It's definitely a thing, if I ever win the Championship I think I have a chance to go semi-professional or professional.
Have you been approached by organizations?
Yeah, definitely. I've had a couple offers, and I have auditions. But right now I'm just representing Tespa, as part of collegiate Hearthstone.
So you're setting that aside for now as you prepare for the World Championship?
Yeah, I'm just focusing on this right now.
When you get on that stage, what keeps you focused on your play? Obviously the atmosphere will be a lot different than an Open Cup.
I think it's different. I think on stage, it's different from just playing online at home. At the start, everything is focused on the game. You just take your time, and I just focus on not misplaying most of the time.
Do you have any preparation rituals?
I mostly just get feedback from my practice partners.
Who are you practicing with?
Right now I practice with a bunch of people. I practice with demigod, Dart, some names you guys don't know, mostly ladder guys like Gallant13. It's just a bunch of names. It's just like high Legend players.
How do you view your portrayal so far in this tournament? A lot of people seemingly put their money on Thijs, who is now out of the tournament. We have OmegaZero, around whom there was a lot of excitement...
I think OmegaZero just got unlucky, because he had me and Pavel in his group. I feel like if he's in another group he might pull through. It was really close, too. I won a really close series against him 4-3, and then Pavel was down 3-0 and he somehow got back. So I feel like he got robbed ... he was on the same level as me and Pavel, we just won two really close series against him.
With the Top 8, we've got you, Cydonia and Amnesiac from NA, and it feels like most of the conversation is around Amnesiac. Do you view yourself as an underdog?
Not really. I just think I have less exposure and popularity, but that doesn't really [faze me]. I'm not that popular and I haven't achieved anything like a Championship, but I think I'm on the same level. We're on the same ladder, we play against each other a lot.
I can't wait to see these new decks.
I'm bringing a really risky lineup. I might straight up lose Top 8 because of it ... it's just a deck that like, no one would bring. It's a Warrior deck that no one would bring ... it's like a Hamster lineup. I mean, I've got to take risks if I want to win. Every other lineup feels like 50-50, because everyone's on the same level.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.