Tavern Talks: Edelweiss
Gather ‘round and listen in, it’s time for Tavern Talks, a new series that highlights some of the many amazing members of our fine tavern!
You may know Edelweiss from her appearances in the Hearthstone Championship Tour, premier third-party events, or the long-running podcast, Coin Concede, of which she is now a co-host. But that’s not all there is to her story! Here, Edelweiss talks about leveling up her skills as a competitor, building a Hearthstone community as a podcaster and Innkeeper, and her experience as a transgender woman in gaming. So, pull up a chair, it’s time for Tavern Talks!
The following interview has been edited for readability.
Q: How did you get into Hearthstone?
A: Gaming started for me when I was very young. My sister played soccer in this indoor arena during the winter, and my brother and I would play in an arcade they had there. Later on, my brother got me into Blizzard games, like Warcraft II and Diablo II, that I also got very into myself, even if Diablo II was sometimes scary for an 11-year-old. After that, Warcraft III exploded for me, especially with the custom games.
Finally, along came Hearthstone. I had always played card games, and when I went to college, I made a bunch of friends who played Hearthstone. At first, I mostly played Arena because I didn’t really have a collection, but eventually I started getting competitive with it and now it’s a huge part of my life, woven into everything.
Q: What has your competitive engagement with the game looked like?
A: I feel like my competitive engagement has been just shy of “making it” a lot of times. My first performance that kind of put me on the map was the HCT Copa America in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2018. While I was there, I met all these great players—Muzzy, Rase, Nalguidan, Hoej—just lots of really strong players.
Qualifying for that event was what really kicked everything off. I started getting more and more competitive, playing in qualifiers and invitational tournaments. I played in HCT Oakland and ended up just outside the Top 16. I played in the women’s WESG and the WSOE II. The WSOE II was a little over the top in terms of production value, but it was a lot of fun. During that, I got to meet Slysssa, Cora, Jia, and all these other amazing women that I looked up to.
There are a lot of mixed opinions when it comes to women-only events, but having some of these events gives people fewer reasons to not compete. I think many people underestimate how the little things can stack up to prevent someone from doing something. If we just make it as easy as possible, get rid of as many of those obstacles as possible, so that women can go and feel comfortable competing, that will get more people into the space and, eventually, we won’t need women-only events any more.
Currently, I’m captain of the Swagoi Gaming Hearthstone team, which is kind of a small passion project of the team owner. I started out as just a member—they approached me after that Rio de Janeiro appearance—but eventually the prior team captain moved on to other things and I was tapped to take over the role. I’ve been captain for a little over a year now.
Unfortunately, I can’t play in the current system of Masters Tour Qualifiers because my family obligations mean that I don’t really have the time to grind those out every weekend, but some of my teammates play in them regularly.
Q: What about your involvement in podcasting?
A: I joined Coin Concede shortly after the pandemic started, after one of the other hosts had to take a step back to take care of some personal things. I had been a guest several times at that point, and meshed with the other co-hosts, so after RidiculousHat and Botticus went on their own for a time, they brought me on as a permanent addition to the show. It’s been really great!
We all love talking about the game, so it’s not exactly the shortest podcast, but I feel like we all bring these very different perspectives. I try to approach things from a competitive standpoint, even though I personally like to experiment with some pretty out-there decks, but I also like to put myself in the shoes of the designers to think about things like, “how do we nerf these cards?” or “what kinds of cards can we add to the meta to shift things?” Some arm-chair designing, if you will. We each technically have a segment that we lead, but it’s always a group effort for all the sections. My section is “decksplanations,” where I do deep dives on things like how to plan out your turns with a specific decklist and, sometimes, the general state of the meta.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: I’m a big Mage fan. That’s no surprise because Jaina’s awesome, and Hearthstone starts you off with her, so I have lots of memories playing Mage going all the way back to original Freeze Mage. The first deck I ever hit Legend with was Mech Mage. [[Aegwynn, the Guardian]] is my favorite card right now. I love how she passes on her abilities, which is totally in keeping with Warcraft lore; it’s a really powerful effect, too! Whenever you’re playing Aegwynn and [[Ras Frostwhisper]] in a deck, and the Deathrattle hits Ras, that just feels like cheating.
Q: And you’re an Innkeeper, too?
A: Yeah, I came back from abroad a while back and I realized that the local Hearthstone scene had kind of dissipated while I was gone, so I became an Innkeeper myself. Even if I couldn’t compete, I could bring people together and try to get that community built up again, because that’s part of what makes the game fun! Unfortunately, I was just hitting my stride with that when the pandemic hit. By the time the pandemic ends I’ll be in a new city, but I have plans to make an effort to start things up again as an Innkeeper in that new city, once it’s safe.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to do any of the things you do in the community?
A: I think that a great way to hone your competitive skills is to get involved with Team Hearth Legends, which is a series that goes on each expansion season. It is a team series, but you still play your games individually, and there are always people looking to add to their team. We don’t play for anything, except for pride, but it’s free to enter and it’s good for people who need more flexible schedules.
Besides that, I think trying to build up a local community can be really nice, just to have other people to spend time with and bounce ideas off of. If you want to be an Innkeeper, make sure that you work with a venue that is going to be a good meeting place. That means making sure there is enough space for people to bring their devices, it has good enough internet to manage all those people playing at once, and I think it’s nice to have food at the venue, though that’s secondary.
Q: What has it been like for you to open up on being a transgender member of the community?
A: It is definitely something that I used to keep under wraps, which was kind of weird. I would tell some close friends, but there was always this self-consciousness that I would get where I’d just assume that people would already know because I wasn’t “passing” well enough. And for the longest time, I operated under this kind of cynical assumption that as soon as someone knows something like that about you, they judge you and treat you differently, even if only on a subconscious level. It’s information that you can’t take back, and that people have feelings about, like, “oh, that’s why this thing…” as if things were “clicking” for them with that new information. I didn’t like the idea of people running through that thought process in their heads.
But recently I’ve been trying to be more open because it’s an extra burden to feel like you’re lying to everyone all the time. Any time I was asked a question about my past, I would have to speak in these half-truths, and I just got tired of doing that.
In one sense, I’ve been fortunate that I entered the Hearthstone community as a woman. I came out in college, and, actually, my college fraternity was the hardest group for me to come out to—fortunately, they were all quite understanding, and ready to work with me, and it was a great group of people. I went through hormone replacement therapy and then, a few years ago, had reconstructive surgery. So by the time I was really “in” Hearthstone, there wasn’t really anything for people to realize, and I didn’t need to “come out” to the Hearthstone community as a woman. Even now, it doesn’t exactly feel like coming out, because nothing’s changed—I’m not going to start looking different or anything—I’ve been this way for a while, I’m just not hiding anything anymore.
I think I had the confidence to be open about it after Luna [the Americas Grandmaster] was willing to come out, because for her it was a much bigger transition, as far as the scene is concerned, with a huge noticeable difference. And she’s on stream every week, so there’s no hiding for her. Seeing the reception to her transition, and from what I’ve seen, it has all been very positive, that was encouraging.
I think that the more people who are willing to put themselves out there, and exist in these visible positions, the more normalized these things will be. And with that, the more people will realize that there are a lot more people like this than they might have thought, including people that they know, like, and look up to. That visibility helps people come around on things that they might otherwise be more opposed to.
So in terms of representation, and stuff I would like to see, I think that people won’t talk as negatively about women competing in esports if they just see more women competing in esports, and doing well. When you have just one or two women in an event, it is really tough if that one person doesn’t perform well, because then there is an excuse for certain people to say, “See? This is why women can’t compete.” I think if we start seeing more women, and other minorities, in these events, those trolls won’t really have a leg to stand on.
Q: Any closing words or shout-outs?
A: Yeah, shoutout to my Coin Concede cohosts, Botticus and RidiculousHat, for taking a chance in bringing me in. It’s been a blast and was the brightest highlight of my 2020, and I hope that we can continue working together for quite a while longer. And also, shoutout to my teammates over on Swagoi Gaming! We’re a small esports team, not necessarily the best of the best, but it’s got a nice family feel—many of us actually do have husbands, wives, families, etc. It’s a really nice community, and I’m proud to be their captain.