The New Superstars of Chinese Hearthstone
23-year-old Xiaomeng “VKLiooon” Li made history last week, becoming the first woman to qualify to the Hearthstone Global Finals with her win at the Gold Open Tianjin Master Group Season 1 Playoffs.
“Being qualified for the Hearthstone Global Finals is by far the highest finish I’ve achieved in my Hearthstone career,” VKLiooon said, “This is my first time to be able to get global attention as a representative of China. This is the best way to strike back at those people who doubted me only because I am a girl. It proves that girls can be strong pro players, just as guys do.”
VKLiooon hails from a small town in the Xinjiang Province in Northwestern China. Her parents divorced when she was 9 and she lived with her mom, a high school history teacher, until college. It was there in her Freshman year at Southwest University of Political Science and Law that she fell in love with Hearthstone.
“I’m a grinder,” said VKLiooon, “I’m always chasing higher ladder rank! Before tournaments, I always have huge amount of practice, simulating all kinds of matchup scenarios. I practice most of time with my boyfriend, iG.Syf, who is a top pro player on China’s Gold Team Championship Team Invictus Gaming. He is the best Chinese player in my opinion!”
VKLiooon is excited to meet the other competitors at Masters Tour Seoul, all players whom she’s been following for years now. “I studied Fenomeno’s Mage deck after the EU Grandmaster’s Playoffs,” said VKLiooon, “I even changed my name to FenomenoCN in one of our group chats, hoping I could earn my spot to BlizzCon like he did!”
For other women looking to compete, VKLiooon’s advice is as follows: “First, take cautious consideration. Think through the difficulties you might encounter being a pro player. Trust yourself, and never give up easily once you decide on this path.”
27-year-old Yanru “TG.YrShar” Xia offers a simpler sentiment when it comes to women getting involved in esports; “Forget your gender and do it.”
TG.YrShar is one of the four members that make up the Titanar Gaming Club, a Hearthstone squad currently competing in China’s Gold Team Championship. Currently prepping to compete at Masters Tour Seoul, she dabbled in the HCT system last year, resulting in a Top 16 placement at HCT Taichung.
“I went to some HCT Tour Stops last year and found that I really enjoy competing in Hearthstone, so I started to get some points on the China server before I got my spot on the team,” she said.
TG.YrShar is currently living in Hangzhou Zhejiang, where she was born. She was in boarding school in China from age 7, but when it came time for higher education, she moved to Canada to study Economics at the University of Victoria.
Like VKLiooon, TG.YrShar has not spent much time in the spotlight herself, but you may recognize her teammate and significant other Jiwei “XiaoT” Wu, who played at the HCT 2019 World Championship in April. “I practice with XiaoT the most,” she said. “We have a Hearthstone group where we discuss and test things together.”
TG.YrShar watches Grandmasters regularly, and her favorite players chronologically have been 2014-2016’s StrifeCro, 2015’s Ostkaka, 2018’s Hunterace, bloodyface, bunnyhoppor, Muzzy, and of course, XiaoT.
Soon, both TG.YrShar and VKLiooon will test their mettle against the likes of these well-known Western veterans alongside more than 350 other players who have earned their invite to Masters Tour Seoul. If their success follows them from China, don’t be surprised to see these two make a deep run in the tournament.