Savjz and Slysssa: Two Sides of a Different Coin
For some, Hearthstone is a hobby. A fun way to kick back and relax after a long day, or sneak in some play time during a bus ride or school break. For others, it’s a way to interact with friends, duel it out on ladder, or let off some steam in a Battleground room.
For a select few, it’s a career.
Savjz and Slysssa have both used a combination of skill, networking, and sheer determination to carve themselves a permanent niche inside the Hearthstone scene. Both once competitive players, they now spend most of their time on the Battlegrounds ladder grinding away rooms, talking with chat, or recording their latest videos.
In that way, they are the same. Two people interacting with a tight-knit community and playing an online card game for a living. However, there’s so much more beyond the surface.
Both streamers ended up in similar positions in similar careers, but they come at Hearthstone from extremely different perspectives. It is those perspectives, as well as their individual journeys, backgrounds, and mindsets, that pushed them towards success and allowed them to rise in a space where so many others have failed.
They each just did it in their own way.
Savjz - An Eight Year Grind
Go back to the start of 2013 and you’d find Janne Mikkonen, now widely known as Savjz, watching other streamers like Kripp and Trump playing Hearthstone online. The game was new back then, a fresh injection of color and light into the card game world. And Savjz was desperate to get into it.
“I started in 2013. Right when the European Beta opened. I got my hands on a key after seeing the game on Twitch TV.”
Having a background in physical card games like Magic the Gathering, which he played with his older brother even before he could speak English, as well as every big Blizzard title, he couldn’t wait to get started in Hearthstone.
However, back then being a streamer was the furthest thing from his mind. He played a lot of online poker from the ages of 18 to 23, but taking his career to a strategy card game on Twitch wasn’t his first goal. Or his second or his third. It wasn’t until he realized how good he was that he started taking it more seriously.
“There was a King of the HIll event hosted by Artosis. It was a best of 7—or best of 9 I don’t remember—and I messaged him and asked if I could play...He said sure...I then won multiple weeks in a row. That’s when I really started to get a following.”
He’s Gonna Be Rich!
From there, Savjz’s career took off. He quickly went onto high ladder finishes and made a name for himself in the competitive world. He played a range of decks during those early years, with his best finish coming from his favorite card of all time: Reno Jackson.
“I made some really good Reno decks. Literally, like you can go check, the most popular video on my Youtube Channel with 1.7 million views is a game where I’m playing to rank 1 legend...Having 30 different cards allowed for a lot of variety...It was a lot of fun.”
Back then, the game was fresh. Exciting. A completely different take on traditional TCG’s. Before things like widely-scoured data reports or in-depth breakdowns of every meta, Hearthstone was wide open. It was much more Wild West, and that’s something Savz relished.
But, as with all things, that shine tarnished over time. As Hearthstone evolved, Savjz found himself becoming disinterested in the meta. What was once an exciting world to carve out and explore became a puzzle. And, as with all puzzles, it could be solved.
“Standard [today] is not evolving fast enough. You can look up a new deck. It’s too stale. The game gets figured out so fast. It feels like a solved game...It used to be more exciting.”
While he doesn’t blame anyone for turning to stats or meta reports, nor does he blame the people who create them, the overload of information did take something away for Savjz.
“It’s really unlikely I get back to competitive Hearthstone...I don’t have the passion. The passion is on my channel right now...For all the competitive fans out there, I’m sorry to deliver the bad news. My focus is in my channel.”
For Savjz, gone are the days of grinding to (and staying at) rank 1 legend. Gone are the late nights coming up with new decks or figuring out new interactions.
For him? It’s all about Battleground now.
New Becomes Old
As with other streamers, the introduction of Battlegrounds was a breath of fresh air for Savjz. A new way to play a game that for so many had become samey over time. They got new heroes, awesome powers, and a slew of interesting minions.
More importantly, a ton of interesting strategies to try out.
Savjz had a blast during his first year with the mode. He was back to his old ways, blazing new trails, finding unique strategies, and getting the feeling of exploration he loved so much. He found a new home with Battlegrounds and it allowed him to bring a new style to his channel.
That high lasted a while, but you can only put so much energy into something that doesn’t give a lot back.
“Personally I feel like the focus has not been on Battlegrounds...Dean Ayala in his AMA said there will be more of a focus on Battlegrounds. More updates...Up to this point it’s been a little bit disappointing”
Though Battlegrounds has gone through some large changes recently, the neglect from Blizzard did sour Savjz on it as a whole. The problems he saw with his once-beloved competitive meta he’s starting to see again. Cracks are starting to appear in the golden facade, and while he still enjoys playing it, he believes Blizzard could be doing so much more.
“I think it could be more interactive. Every player could have something to show in their profile. Highest perfect wins. Longest streak. Just adding more...I’m just worried it’s gonna take three or five years to get there.”
In that lies the ultimate question for any big streamer: how do you stay excited when you’re doing the same thing everyday? How do you keep smiling through the seemingly endless grind? How do you stop it all from becoming monotonous?
“It’s really tough. I strongly believe the best content comes out of passionate creators who are passionate for the game. I’m not super energized. It’s really difficult at times. The healthy mindset would be to take things in moderation, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
For Savjz, the answer was to sit back and relax. Stop trying to grind ladder or care about leader boards. Focus on his community and find joy in making videos or interacting with fans.
“I’ve been streaming for eight years. Some of the novelty has fallen off, in a way. I really want to have my stream be a special and new experience.”
What the Future Holds
Being a streamer is a dream job for many, but doing it for a long time is no easy task. Savjz knows that first hand and he works hard to bring joy to his followers no matter what he’s playing or how many times he watches the game wheel spin.
There’s always a price that comes with popularity. Savjz doesn’t mind paying it, but he knows he has to meet certain expectations. Sometimes, it’s even like he’s being held hostage by his own popularity.
“I think that’s a fair thing to say. A lot of people have built their audience playing one game, like LoL streamers as well. Shooter players...in a way like, I don’t. It’s like a blessing and a curse. For me, as a card game streamer, the alternatives are not there.”
As rough as it can be sometimes, Savjz will always have a love for card and strategy games. He actively enjoys streaming and, even if his competitive days are behind him, he still gets to wake up and engage with his passion. It may not always be in the way that he wants, but he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. He might even explore new horizons.
“Strategy games are my jam. I’ve always been really into card games...That is where my strength lies. That would probably be for me-that would be the best content I create. Strategy or card games. I’m always on the lookout for new card games and strategy games. I can make some kickass content if anything starts trending in those categories.”
And, he’s not the only one.
Slysssa—From New to Number Two
Where Savjz started his Hearthstone journey from a card game background, Slysssa came into her’s with much less experience. That is to say, none.
“I didn’t know about the video game world. I didn’t know there was a meta. I didn’t know there was netdecking...I was the epitome of a casual player.”
In 2013 when Savjz was busy trying to get a key and grind through weekly tournaments, Hearthstone was one of the furthest things from Slysssa’s mind. She wouldn’t come to the game until years later through a moment of chance.
“My boyfriend, now husband, thought I would like it because I liked Sudoku. I played casually for two years and then he showed me Alliestrasza’s stream and I thought, that’s something I can do.”
From there, she signed to a team in the first three months. That greatly boosted her confidence and showed that she could make it. However, diving blind into a strategy game is never a cakewalk. Especially as a woman.
“I was really bad when I started playing. For the first two years I was super casual. I didn’t hit legend until a few months into my stream. I was so proud at that moment. I didn’t see myself as a competitive player, I saw myself as a content creator.”
Slysssa came to Hearthstone with the deck stacked against her in multiple ways. She wasn’t just trying to learn a brand new game, she was also trying to push herself to the forefront of a largely male dominated space.
“I definitely felt like I had something to prove...There’s a stigma that girls suck at games. Not everyone has to be good at video games. You’re allowed to be a casual player or a pro player. Women are strictly looked at as casual. I wanted to fight that and say, you know what, we can be both.”
And that’s exactly what she did.
Pushing Through the Barrier
In the first month Slysssa averaged about 10 viewers. From there, her numbers only grew. Though those early days in front of a computer were where she began, her real journey started when she went to a Dreamhack event. Her followers gave their own motivation as well.
“A lot of people who checked out my channel told me they would only watch me if I was better at the game.”
Taking that directive, she was determined to improve. She was no longer only a content creator; she was a woman looking to prove something to both herself and the online world.
“After my first six months, I had to get better. I think the reason there aren’t as many prominent women-There’s a stigma about women. If you have in the back of your mind that men are better than women, you will go watch men because [you think] women aren’t that good.”
And she did get better. Way better. In a short amount of time she went from a complete noob to an experienced player. No background? No problem.
That made her followers take her more seriously and gave her much more respect in the community. Better yet, she did it all in her own way.
“I have a huge love for Murloc Shaman, which took me to rank 2 legend...I used that deck to qualify for the Masters tour...A deck that no one plays.”
Those early successes in Slysssa’s streaming career lifted her up, but as with most things it’s what you do with the opportunities you’re given that matters. She had a chance to take off, and she wasn’t going to waste it.
“I was the type of person that studied the Twitch meta. So, for example, near the end of expansions when streamers were burnt out I would grind streaming. When a streamer was taking the day off I would get online. I would hustle.”
But she didn’t stop there.
“I also networked a lot, which was great because I got to make so many friends in the process. Not everyone does that. More people are focused on themselves instead of creating a community amongst streamers. Now that I’m in a position where I can help streamers, I’m trying to help the friends I’ve made that are still growing.”
It’s all about community to her, and that’s something she’s never forgotten. She has the same advice when speaking to other women streamers who are also trying to forge their own path.
“Band together as friends. Find other women who are like you who want to stream, who want to play. Create friendships and help build other people up. If you want to help other people up. Push through the toxicity...I’ll help fight it off too.”
Finding Her Niche
As with Savzj, Slysssa eventually made the transition from the competitive scene to Battlegrounds. However, she sees it in a much different light.
Maybe it’s because she hasn’t had as many years to burn out on the game, maybe it’s because she doesn’t feel as connected to the competitive scene, or maybe it’s simply because it allows her to interact with the internet in a positive way.
“I just find Battlegrounds is so much more inviting and much less toxic. I went back to standard for a little bit when the last set came out. On my Youtube channel...The comments “you suck” or “not as good as so and so” are way more prevalent. It was just like, so obvious, that people are a lot more hateful...I get a lot of respect in Battlegrounds, I’m just happier here.”
However, that isn’t to say she thinks the mode is perfect. She believes there are a few ways to make it more fun, including customized rooms and a weekly tavern brawl. But, for her, that’s just the beginning.
“I think it’s going in a positive direction. It did, for a while, get a lack of improvements...I think what they really missed the ball on was content creation. These one off tournaments they do once a year or maybe twice a year is not enough. They could do multiple a year and lower the prize pool. That would be awesome.”
Keeping It Fresh
As an everyday streamer, Slysssa sees many of the same issues and faces many of the same challenges Savjz does. It’s all just through a different lens. She’s pushed past a lot of negativity to get where she is, but that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows.
After all, the grind is still the grind. Especially when you’ve come as far as, and are as determined, as Slysssa.
“It’s hard to be a variety streamer when you play a strategy game. There’s a learning gap for the content...I don’t love to stream games that I’m not good at because of the toxic background...I think I could stream other things. I think I hold myself hostage. In my own head. I worry too much about my numbers. I worry too much about not being the best at something when I play it.“
As with Savjz, she tries to take everything one day at a time. That’s not always easy, but when you’ve fostered a good community it’s simpler to get out of bed (or move from the table) and sit down in front of your screen.
“I have the best life. There are downsides, especially for your mental health. If you’re having a bad mental health day, you have to be offline. The nice thing is, I’ve cultivated such a community that when I stream they lift me up.”
Being a streamer is always a battle in some way. Whether it’s fighting toxicity, harsh comments, other players, or your own mind, there’s always something to overcome. As Slysssa knows, it’s all about finding positivity and surrounding yourself with people who want to see you succeed.
Her community and friends are a big reason she kept it up and persevered. Even so, you need to know when to walk away every now and then.
“If I'm having a bad mental health day, I have to avoid Youtube, Reddit, and Twitter. With Twitch [there’s less toxicity] because it’s live...Other places in the internet go out of their way to be mean, and you can’t fight back. I can’t have my moderators delete Reddit. Laughs. They don’t have that power.”
A Looking Glass, of Sorts
One went from a childhood love of card games to online poker to Twitch fame. The other, an office job to a teaching career to a full time streamer. They both started in completely different worlds at completely different times, but they each ended at the same place.
Savjz and Slysssa took wildly different roads to reach the heights of Twitch and top the Hearthstone ladder. They went from success in the competitive scene to full time Battlegrounds players. They each still flirt with standard from time to time and take steps each day to find fun in what is now a years old game.
Still, they are wholly different.
Slysssa overcame ample barriers and many of the unfortunate struggles that face women streamers. Savjz pushed himself into the game early and tried to combat the meta in new and exciting ways. Both found success, and they did it without a blueprint or map to guide them.
It may not always be smooth sailing, but calm seas rarely make for good sailors. And both know the power of fighting through the storm. Besides, streaming, as rough as it can be, is a dream come true for both of them. They have a great community, awesome followers, and a fan base that’s always there no matter what they’re playing.
What does it all amount to? In the words of Slysssa:
“It is amazing.”