SAU students play online game for a chance to win scholarship money

By Crisilee DeBacker

Don’t try to contact Will Sanders, Andrew Depoy or Canyon Smith on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m., because they will be working hard to win $5,000 in scholarship money. How? A not-so-little online game called “Hearthstone.”

Based on the hit game, “World of Warcraft,” it is an online fantasy card game with minions, spells and heroes.

“You have a hero that has thirty health and your opponent has a hero…and the first one to get their opponent’s [hero] down to zero wins the game,” Sanders said, describing the basic premise of the game. Depoy and Smith were familiar with the game, having played it before, so when Sanders approached them with a proposition of them teaming up for the Hearthstone Championship Tour, they agreed.

A screenshot from the game. Photo provided by

The basic guidelines of the tournament are as follows: there must be three people per team, and teams are randomly matched to play against each other once a week for a span of seven weeks. The teams that accumulate a minimum of five wins and two losses by the end of the seven weeks will move on to the regional playoffs, around 15 teams of the original 300, and the top teams of playoffs in each region (North, South, East, or West) will be given the opportunity to play in the finals, traveling to a yet-to-be-determined location—most likely California, since that is where the finals were held last year.

Now, five weeks in to the seven-week tournament, they have a record of four wins and one loss. They have already played matches against Purdue and Michigan that seven to eight thousand people tuned in to watch over the livestream.

“I had no idea it was this big of a tournament,” Depoy said. Although playing for thousands of people seems like it would put the pressure on, Sanders, Depoy and Smith have not let it get to them yet.

“It feels the same, but we have a webcam shot onto us,” Sanders said. “You’re just thinking about, ‘oh, the whole time they’re just talking about how bad some of our plays are,’” he said regarding the commentators of the streamed matches.

They have two more matches left, and if they win one, they will officially move forward in the tournament. Although this is an online game, there is still a lot of ways to prepare.

“Deck building is super important,” Sanders said. Each team brings four decks and is able to choose what cards are in each deck. Once a team wins with one deck, that deck cannot be used again.

“If you have one bad deck, that holds everything back,” Sanders said. “There’s a lot of…strategizing that goes into that.”

When deck building, the team has to take into account what they think their opponents will bring, so they want to pick cards that are hard to beat. It is more of a strategy game than anything else, so preparation is an important factor.

The grand prize of the tournament is $5,000 in scholarship money per team member, but there are smaller cash prizes for the other finalists, the last being $500 for eighth place.

“Going to California for free and getting five hundred bucks doesn’t sound too bad,” Depoy said.