Having spent the last two months casting the most recent Hearthstone Grandmasters (which ended in a controversial player ‘ragequit’), Alexander ‘Raven’ Baguley is an experienced UK Hearthstone caster.
Raven has a storied history, having played in the old ESL UK & Ireland Hearthstone Premiership and at various Insomnias, before transitioning into casting. Not only that, but he’s run his own events, was crowned the ‘UK’s Best Gamer’, witnessed UK esports’ first streaker and first met ENUK editor Dom Sacco while playing vanilla World of Warcraft some 15 years ago. The old guildmates catch up in this in-depth video interview.
On xBlyzes’ ‘ragequit’ versus Frenetic while you were casting the finals of Grandmasters – was it frustrating for you?
Personally, it’s frustrating, and especially for a grand final, where the winner – Frenetic – gets a spot at the World Championships later this year.
It’s frustrating because it’s a big moment, you build up to it as a story-teller, and then you have your payoff. The game ends, there’s the victory, fantastic, full-screen cam of the player – great. But that was basically removed from that last game [because of how xBlyzes quit].
In xBlyzes defense, whenever xBlyzes ends a match – and he’s done this all season since he’s been a Grandmaster (GM), he effectively Alt+F4s, and when they go to his camera, it’s frozen, because he’s done. Win or loss – he doesn’t just do this when he loses, so I don’t think it was his intention to upset Frenetic.
So it was unfortunate, it was a stupid thing for xBlyzes to do and it did suck a bit for Frenetic, but he still won of course and got his spot at Worlds. xBlyzes did make a tweet after he lost saying he ‘wanted to die’ and the community gave him a lot of crap for that.
It’s also frustrating because no one was talking about Frenetic. And he didn’t get the payoff moment. In a Hearthstone match, if a player leaves, the game pauses and will not continue until the person is back. So the game hadn’t ended. So until an admin tells Frenetic he’s won and is allowed to leave, he’s just sat there. But we do have an interview with Frenetic coming out.
Why does the community react so strongly to your pronunciation of the word ‘Shaman’?
(Laughs) It’s funny cos I still get people going at me today for this stuff! It’s so weird.
I’ve had people getting really angry and threatening to report me to Blizzard over this!
There are two different ways to say the word – ‘shayman’ (the British way of saying it) and ‘shahman’ (generally spoken by the rest of the world).
All of the people I’ve cast with – even the UK guys – all say ‘shahman’. I think it’s the idea of language where usage decides everything, so if the majority of people say something one way, then that’s now correct. But I just say ‘shayman’ because that’s what I’ve always said and I feel weird saying something that’s not technically wrong.
The way I see it now is it’s funny, it makes me laugh more than anything. If it bothers people that much with how I say Shaman, and that ruins their experience, then I worry for them honestly!
Raven’s early days in esports, his ‘terrible’ first cast (his words!) and transitioning from player to caster
StarCraft 2 was a big deal for me – that was my first foray into the world of esports. I tried to compete but I wasn’t good enough, I got Masters.
Then Hearthstone came out, and as I loved card games and World of Warcraft, it all moulded together. I took part in online cups and that snowballed into UK LANs like Insomnias. I placed pretty well in my second one, only losing to then pro players like GreenSheep at Dignitas.
I ran Barcraft tournament events in Manchester, and one day, I got knocked out of Insomnia and was asked if I wanted to ‘player cast’ – and that was a lot of fun. Two big events really pushed it – Gfinity events in London and DreamHack.
I was terrible in my first cast for Gfinity, it was so bad and cringey! The camera came on and it was just… the pressure [got to me]. I was just sat there like a noob. But it went okay, we didn’t mess up.
Then not long after that, I was playing for a team called Manalight and DreamHack asked if I wanted to cast as well – and get paid for it. I was like, ‘yes, of course’! I cast with Gnimsh, Frodan and others, some of the biggest Hearthstone casters, and I had a great time.
When I’m casting I try to have a good time and just have fun talking about the game.
Being crowned ‘the UK’s best gamer’ and that ESL Prem streaker incident…
You know what’s best about that ‘UK’s best gamer’ win? They never did another one, so I still hold that title!
It was a cool tournament, ran by Virgin Media and it was a Hexathlon, so there was six different games: Smash, FIFA, Hearthstone, SMITE, Destiny and Heroes of the Storm.
There was drama at that event too. When playing SMITE, one of my opponents asked me if the champion I was hovering over was good. I said yes, but then he locked him in! It was a mid-lane mage, so I picked an ADC instead, and I got very fed! Then I got accused of cheating. But they got kicked out, because it turns out they were cheating!
On the streaker incident, I was backstage and not at the audience-facing angle, and it wasn’t captured on camera, thank god! It was strange, because the event was good, as were the audience, it was just so random. This guy just jumped onto the stage naked. For a Hearthstone tournament to have a streaker too, it was all just so odd.
We have some good UK talent in Hearthstone, there’s yourself and your co-caster Sottle, BoarControl, Paradox and more…
Absolutely. There’s also player called DeadDraw who is basically the next BoarControl, he’s done really well in Masters Tours, he’s one of the best players that isn’t a Grandmaster yet.
Talent-wise, there’s Lorinda, a UK talent who casts some of the Americas and Masters Tours and he also does all of the stats for us, he does a great job. Then there’s Darroch Brown who casts the Asia Pacific Grandmasters. He joined the casting life a little after us but we knew he was very good.
It’s getting to the point where Sottle and I are becoming the old-timers, moving into our mid-30s now!
Check out the full interview with Raven on YouTube here. You can also follow Raven on Twitter and Raven on Twitch here.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.