JuicyJ: The New Generation

December 03 2018

Jackson "JuicyJ" Wahl is young, but not too young. As a part of a new generation of gamers focused on mobile, JuicyJ is building a budding career in a new genre of esports. Clash Royale, his game of choice, just concluded its first league season, and JuicyJ now has an opportunity to look back on his journey so far.

What made you get into Clash Royale in the first place?

Basically I’ve always been a fan of Supercell, which is the developer of the game. I played Clash of Clans before with all my friends, we had a lot of fun with it, our own clan, doing war attacks together and all of that. When I heard they were making a new game I got right on that and right when it was launched in Canada for soft launch, I made a Canadian apple ID just so I could play it as soon as possible right when it came out. Basically me and two other friends downloaded it for the first time in my friend's basement at a sleepover and we stayed up all night playing it and I instantly fell in love with the strategies and the game in general. I fell in love with the game.

I got into it competitively mostly because of my personality. I’ve always been a really competitive person, I’ve never ever wanted to lose no matter what the stakes are, even if it’s a 5 dollar bet over a game, a board game even, I just have a really competitive personality and I guess that kind of just took me into the competitive scene of Clash Royale. I didn’t really seek it out at first but, someone saw me, how well I was playing, some random clan and they recruited me and that’s how it started.

So you weren’t aware that there was even going to be a competitive aspect then when you started?

No, I had no idea. I was playing as a casual player at the beginning but, because of how well I was playing and because I have a strategic mind, like… I really enjoyed chess before I started playing this game and there are a lot of similarities between the two really, it all has to do with thinking a step ahead of your opponent and outsmarting your opponent in every way possible.

I heard you like to have anything from 8 to 10 decks prepared when the norm is considered to be 3 to 5 why is that?

I think being unpredictable is a really big part of this game. A lot of people will take the option of taking 3 to 5 decks and completely mastering those decks but the other route you can go in competitions is knowing how to play a various amount of decks extremely well, not completely mastering them but you know how to play them pretty well because you’ve been playing with all of them. I like that for two reasons. I like it because it makes you unpredictable, you can’t get scouted too easily and even if they know all 8 decks you play, they can’t really play one deck that can counter you. Another thing it does is when I’m scouting my opponents I look at the decks they like to play, and I choose one of the decks I have in my library and I choose one that does really well against the decks that they play.

What are some of your favourite decks to play?

Well, my favourite deck… that’s a tough question, I really do like quick cycle decks, like Miner cycle or Quick Hog cycle decks. I really enjoy playing those decks casually and competitively because of how many decisions are made. A lot of people say quick cycle decks take a lot more skill than beat down decks like LavaLoon (Lava Hound + Balloon) or Golem but that’s not really true, it’s just a different type of skill.

Because with beat down, you play fewer cards because your cards are all more expensive. And what that means is you have to make really decisive, really important decisions because if you misplay one of those expensive cards it costs you a lot. But with quick cycle decks you can make a few little mistakes because of how fast it cycles and because of how inexpensive the cards are — some of the cards are just like one or two elixir. I really like the quick cycle decks because the kind of skill those use is you're just trying to make all the best decisions that you can really really quickly and you can make really solid defense by playing 8 really cheap cards, and it's just really fun to defend like that, especially when you’re defending against a beat down player. You're cycling to your musketeer, cycling to your cannon, cycling to two of them; you're pressuring the opposite lane with hog rider or miner stuff like that. It’s just really quick and fun, and that's why I enjoy those types of decks.

Do quick cycle decks traditionally do better against decks that have a bunch of high elixir cost cards, or does it come down to the individual play?

I think that it's hard to categorize all quick cycle decks to be good or bad against beat down. Some quick cycle decks are good against beat down but some struggle, like 2.6 Hog cycle for example really struggles against LavaLoon especially because of the fact that you really only have one air counter, that is the Musketeer. I think that in general that there's no “group” of decks that counter another “group” of decks, it's more the individual matchups.

I know that you guys practice in the Alienware Training Facility. How is that different from practicing in your room, or elsewhere?

I actually really enjoy it because when I am practicing in my room, I have an office chair obviously but I also will just sit on my bed or something like that. What I enjoy about the training facility is it really separates work and relaxation or casual play. Because when I’m at the house, or at the apartment I know that's my time to work on school, maybe just play the game for fun or watch a TV show. But when I go to the facility that's when we know it's time to work, it’s time to train, it's time to practice, and it’s time to take this extremely seriously. I really enjoy that aspect of the training facility because it really separates the work-life of the game and the fun aspect of the game.

How does your school work affect your ability to practice and the competitive aspect of Clash?

Obviously it's a burden. If given the choice… um...well obviously we all have to complete school, but um, honestly my school has really just been supportive and they've really just been working closely with me and giving me a lot of support to lighten my workload so I don't have to worry about school too much while I'm out here in LA.

How important has that support been from your school, your family, for what you’re doing now?

I think it's extremely important. I know a lot of other players in my same boat and they just have so much work and so much they have to do when they get back. A lot of my teachers are helping me out and giving me the key concepts of what's going on and not having me do so much busy work that isn't too important. I think it's extremely important because a lot of school is just busy work like homework, but I think it's gonna be a lot harder for all the people in my boat to go back and have to do all that. But with the support from my school I think I am really just gonna go back into school very smoothly.

Did moving to LA to play in the CRL take time to adjust?

Not really, I dunno. I felt like I was really meant to do this. I felt like all my life I had just been missing something because I had always been so bored, and I never really enjoyed school too much. I liked science and math and I wanted to be an engineer before coming out here to LA. I was never the kind of kid to really just enjoy homework or anything like that. I feel like all my life I had just been doing the same boring cycle of things over and over again and coming out here didn't take time to adjust at all. I was just so excited and I came out here and I just had a lot of fun, it was just a great experience. I think the transition for me coming here was nothing but the transition going back... it won't be too bad with my school helping out but it's gonna be pretty tough having to back into that same boring cycle.

Now I know that you’ve also said that you play soccer; have you continued doing those extra curricular activities in LA?

Yeah, every Saturday all the teams in Clash Royale get together and compete in what we call Soccer Saturdays and we all just get out on a public field and we bring a soccer ball and we play soccer all together and it has been a lot of fun.

That's a very different environment compared to most esports where the teams are very secluded. Do you all get along together very well then?

Yeah most of us get along pretty well. Obviously there are rivalries and stuff like that, but yeah the Clash Royale professional community, it's just a bunch of friends really.

What about inside Team Liquid? Playing competitively, and joining a team, was that what you expected before coming to LA?

Yeah it really was. I expected us to be practicing, having fun, training hard and looking at analysis and that's exactly what happened when I got here. There was really nothing that surprised me too much.

Speaking of analysis, because Clash is a 1 on 1 game how does your team help when it comes to preparation — what decks are better, which cards are better?

We get together and we talk about what ban would be extremely good against a certain opponent. We look at who is playing the 1v1 set most often and their deck selections. We have an analyst who compiles the decks they’ve used in the past they look at their deck selections and we help find decks and we help whoever’s playing. We help them practice.

For example if we’re playing against another team maybe I will copy the decks that they play and act as if I am from their team and whoever is playing the 1v1 set from our team will play against me and we’ll practice with developer accounts (so we don't get scouted obviously) and we practice one on one to have them get used to playing against what they will see on game day.

So it’s a real team effort the for each match that happens then, eh?

It really is. I know that most esports, you're all on the field at the same time. But in Clash Royale, it is 1v1 but it honestly doesn't take the team effort out of it at all because all of us on the team, we have different skills and we compile our skills together to act as one so we can be a prepared as possible.

I know the first season of CRL is over and it didn’t quite go the way you guys wanted it to. What lessons have you learned from the first season?

For sure this season didn't go the way we wanted it to, but really it was a learning experience for us. The main points that we did learn was for one, I think it would have helped us to get a better analyst sooner because our first analyst was not what we were looking for, so it took us a while to get a good analyst to help us prepare for the matches and that really hurt us early on.

Another thing that was really unfortunate was that one of our players couldn't get a work permit because he had to get a social security number (which he did not have). I think if we would have realized that sooner, we could have got him in, because he basically wasn't able to play for the first month and that really hurt us because he was so influential and helpful in the later part of the season in the 2v2 set and the 2v2 set is what we definitely have the most to take away from this season. Because on game day it's only a best of 3 and the first set of the best of 3 is 2v2 and 2v2 was kind of uncharted area until this season of CRL. It's always been a casual game mode until now; now its competitive and a lot of teams didn't really know what to think of it, including our team. I think our team struggled the most in getting acclimated to competitive 2v2, and when it is the first set of the match and you lose the 2v2, that puts SO much pressure on the 1v1 sets. So I think that we have a lot to learn from this season regarding 2v2 because that player that did get his work permit later, Boeufmac, he was able to help and we started winning some 2v2s but at that point we were in such a hole from not figuring it out earlier in the season, we were basically just fighting an uphill battle and catch up to our losses. But yeah for the next season we are so much more prepared for the 2v2 set, and I think that's the main point where we let ourselves down.

How did you deal with the pressure, the stress, the nerves of playing in the CRL? When it started, did you feel that?

Yeah for sure. I think that I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform because I wanted to be the best that I could be. That kinda goes back to my competitive personality and I felt a lot of pressure, put a lot of pressure on myself but as the season went on that kinda started to let off a bit and I started to realize that putting pressure on myself is not really gonna help me out. Rather I just need to have confidence in myself and not let the nerves get to me.

And there's a quote from our CEO Steve that said something like this. Don't let the nerves rattle you. Embrace them and use them as fuel for excitement, be excited and get out there and have fun. In the end it's just a game, you have to have fun doing it and if you don't have fun you’re not going to be playing the best that you can.

What has Team Liquid done to help you get used to your current life?

They’ve definitely been really supportive. Whenever I need anything, like I asked for a desk and they were like of course we’ll get you a desk to work on school. We ask and if they can do it they get us what we need.

After you go back home, what do you think the most difficult part of adjusting back to everyday life is going to be?

The most difficult part… The most difficult part will probably be going to school for 8 hours a day. Like I do miss my family, I miss my friends, and I even do miss school hanging out with my friends, working on projects together and just hanging out at school, like school can be fun but… I think the hardest part, the most difficult part is going to be just sitting through each and every class. Learning about some things that maybe I don't really care about learning. For example history, I really don't like history too much because I don't see much application to my current life. I don't understand why I have to memorize different dates, or when things happened or why they happened in the past. I think that focusing on the future and the now is gonna be a lot more important. Yeah I think going back to school and learning about things that I don't really care about is going to be the most difficult part.

And have they announced Clash Royale League Season 2 yet?

No they don’t have any information on that currently.

But I assume that you are very interested in coming back and doing it all again, right?

I’m definitely interested in that. This game, this life, it really is my passion. I love it so much just being able to play such an amazing strategic game because this game, I don't think there’s another game that really gets to the point of this game in terms of just complete strategy and outsmarting your opponent because there’s just so many micro interactions and just little things in this game. The skill level of players in this game, it just keeps increasing. And I just can't wait to see the future of this game and just how players begin to realize new tactics and begin to just take it to the next level. That part of the game, I’m just so passionate about it. I want to be one of the best Clash Royale players. I want to be one of the players that is able to think of everything. I definitely want to come back next season and I want to keep training and keep practicing and I want to play this game, because I’m really passionate about it and I just love this game.

Now last question, how do the patches affect the way you play and the way you build your decks?

So right now there's a monthly patch. It used to take 2 or 3 months between each balance change, but now they've changed it. Literally every season, every month, there's a new patch. And it affects the game so much, it's crazy how much it affects it. If one win condition gets buffed it just shifts the entire meta and makes certain decks that were popular before just completely nonviable. Another thing that happens in those patches is that certain decks become popular and the meta changes to counter those decks, and then the meta shifts again to counter those. Even three weeks after a balance change, the meta is still shifting because the decks that are really good, they change the meta, and the decks that rise to counter those decks end up being also really powerful, and THAT changes the meta.

So it's an always evolving game then?

Yeah it really is always changing and when the patches hit it's honestly like chaos. No one really knows what deck to play. It's all just up in the air, no one really knows what the best strategy is and everyone is just trying to find it.

And do you think that helps keep the game feeling fresh?

Definitely. It used to get pretty dull when it took 3 months to get a balance change, but I think it's a really good idea to have these monthly balance changes. It feels like a new game every single time.

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