Howdy folks! Lateralus here and I am bringing you the third edition to my article series: Lat’s Chats! The goal of this series is to feature different members of the community whether they are a content creator, streamer, or just a player. There are a lot of great people in the TESL community and I want to show what different members have to offer for you all whether you have been a part of this community since the beginning, just recently joined, or someone who will soon and is lost with the content we have to offer.
This week’s edition is a little different. As you may know, Ikarus was tagged in the most recent edition. We will be featuring him in the fourth edition due to time constrants. I thought it would be great for you all to get to know some of Team Rankstar better. So, without further ado, I bring you Team Rankstar’s very own, Endozoa!
Lateralus: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Endozoa! This is a little different of an interview being we are now teammates, but I think it’s only fair for the community to get a chance to know you better as well. Tell us a little about yourself.
Endozoa: Happy to share, I’ve really enjoyed your interviews thus far. My name is Alex Blanton and I am based out of Boston, MA (USA). I’m an undergraduate college student at Boston university currently studying Computer Science and Biology but who knows how things will shake out by the time I graduate. I’ve been playing TCGs/CCGs basically my whole life. I think I was 8 or 9 when I was first introduced to mtg. I’ve really enjoyed my time in TESL so far and have felt very fortunate to be able to explore many different areas within it: playing, streaming, coaching, commentating, writing, etc.
My first interview within the US! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the interviews so far. They’ve been a blast to do. Computer Science and Biology! Are you planning to double major or is one a minor?
For right now I’m just declared as a Computer Science major but I am on track for a double major if I wanted to go in that direction. However, I think taking 4 STEM classes a semester has been a little too much so I’m probably going to end up with a Computer Science degree and a Biology minor. I’m open to other directions too. I could also end up going into environmental science or something.
Yeah, that sounds like it could be a lot to take handle! Computer Science is a really good field to get into this day and age. Smart choice. Is Boston your hometown or have you travelled for college?
I went to high school right outside of Boston so I know the area well. My mom moved up to northern Massachusetts after I graduated so home isn’t super close anymore which I think is largely a good thing. My dad and his family are spread across the south east so I’ve spent a lot of time in Tennessee and South Carolina, as well as D.C. where my dad currently lives.
Wow! Family is spread all over. Is that hard or have an impact on you? I sense you maybe be closer to certain parts of your family than others.
I don’t think having extended family spread out is that big of a deal, but my relationship with my parents is pretty abnormal for my demographic I think. I know lots of people with divorced parents, but few that live in different states. I think it forced me to mature a lot earlier than maybe is natural since I was presented with contradictory views of how you should live depending on who I was with/where I was so I had to start having my own opinions and make decisions for myself at a very young age. I also think that games and gaming were probably the big point of continuity in my life no matter where I was growing up. Life was very different in my parents houses, but Friday Night Magic in MA is very similar to Friday Night Magic in SC. So, I think in a lot of ways the gaming community has been my home for most of my life.
I’ve always thought you were mature beyond your age for the time I’ve known you. Guess this gives me a reason why! I am glad you found some continuity growing up though. You started your TCG/CCG experience in Magic: The Gathering like so many. What brought you to TESL though?
I played a whole bunch of digital CCGs briefly the past few years, Shadowera, HS, Duelyst, Shadowverse, Hex… I’m kind of a junky for the genre to be honest. Again, I basically grew up on Channel Fireball articles so it just feels right. I heard TESL mentioned on an MTG stream one time, I think Conley’s maybe? Anyway, I gave it a whirl like all the others but it really stuck with me. I think what hooked me was that even when I played games that were literally just me and my opponent playing vanilla creatures the decision trees were still absurdly complex. I think the gameplay is inherently challenging and rewarding because of the base mechanical system.
I agree that it is more complex than the average CCG. Not on the level of MtG, at least, in my opinion, but more than the others I’ve tried. Did it take you awhile to get involved in the community? When did you start playing?
I installed the game a couple days before Heroes of Skyrim came out, so early last summer, and played arena for a month and a half or something while I built enough of a collection to build a deck that I was happy playing. I eventually started working on a Rage Archer build and then I hit legend with it the next month (which was August). I then played in the first Go4ESL tournaments in September and somehow managed to qualify for the monthly final. I branched off into the shared colors/cards of rage archer first so I think the 2nd deck I build was Rage Crusader and then Mid Monk? I was severely limited by collection (I couldn’t play blue because I didn’t have Daggerfall Mages), but worked with what I had. It seemed like I had gone almost as high as one could go at the time in the game and there wasn’t much money in it so by November I ended up stopping the game entirely for a bit and played on a school League of Legends team for the rest of the semester. I heard about the TESLCS qualifiers a couple days before they started in March and spent one evening playing through Return to Clockwork City and then the next day testing a few decks. Two days later I played in the first qualifier and placed top 4 after beating Joe in the quarters somehow. I got more deeply involved after that.
Wow. So just about a year now. I can’t imagine being hampered by collection. I’m a filthy pay to win player. It seems your experience in CCGs gives you a good foundation to build from. Beating Traitor-Joe after that long of a hiatus is no easy task. Hands down one of the most dominate players in the game right now. Besides tournament play, what else are you involved in?
I started streaming a lot more at the end of 2nd semester and the beginning of summer, but haven’t in a bit now since I’ve been focusing my in-game time on testing with Team Rankstar (TRS) and have also been traveling visiting family. I do weekly commentary for Warpmeta which has been a lot of fun and a really great learning experience for myself. It’s super rewarding for me to help others see some of the complexities of the game which is a huge part of why I stream, commentate, coach and write.
I remember when you first started streaming. It was small to start, but you hung in there and you’ve grown quite a bit. I always enjoyed your streams. I usually only get to catch the finals of Warpmeta since their new time. You also cast for them as well. How did you land that gig? What inspires you to do it?
The week after Ianbits quit TurquoiseLink tweeted asking if anyone wanted to join him for the cast. I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t missed one since. I think I want to produce the content that I would want to consume. In a sense, I want to provide something for people who find joy in the game in the way I do or help people find that joy for themselves. I also think that there is a real lack of high level analytical/strategy content so I feel that I am trying to fill a bit of a content void.
You and Link do a great job together. Maybe you will get a shot at the big stage one day! Care to share some of your ideas you have for producing content with TRS? What can the community expect exactly?
I’m planning to continue doing WarpMeta recaps and the occasional deck tech for the foreseeable future. My favorite article that I’ve put out so far was my first one, “The Waiting Game”, and I do want to put out more broad theory articles since there’s basically nobody else doing them for TESL specifically, and they are the most rewarding to produce, but they are also much more challenging to write. I am open to many different types of articles and I think shorter theory pieces exploring one specific concept with a couple examples could also be effective.
Awesome! Can’t wait to read. I enjoyed The Waiting Game as well. Something not a lot of people always think about, especially in this day and age. What brought you to Team Rankstar? What do you hope to accomplish with it? You were the first member of the tournament team, right?
I was put in touch with Aphelion (who runs TRS) almost a month before the tournament team was formed and basically told him that I was happy to work on content and believed in front facing teams being important for the game and beneficial for myself, but wanted to wait until he got at least one person that I wanted to work with before joining as a tournament team player. Eventually he had a conversation with Paulo (PDMD) who basically told him the same thing and the two of us ended up joining together. I’m hoping to grow a lot as a player and I think having teammates to test with gives me a massive advantage over grinding ladder games. I’ve talked to other players about the game a lot in the past but doing so in a more official capacity is very exciting for me.
Sorry you guys got stuck with me too. Must be a bummer. What’s your thoughts on the Master Series and the future of TESL?
Haha, it’s been great to have the chance to work with you, as I know I’ve told you, you were the first TESL stream I checked out even before I installed the game. Pretty cool coincidence that we get to work together now. I think single elimination and non-public deck lists are both a little suboptimal as far as nit picking the tournament but in general I’m very glad to see Bethesda putting some real attention and money into the game and I’m excited to see what the future holds!
Now I know who my 7th viewer lurking was LOL! I agree that this series and tournament aren’t completely ideal, but it is pretty exciting nonetheless. It is a good start and I’m sure it will only improve. I want to thank you again for doing this with me on short notice and around our practices. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to say to the community?
Overall the TESL community has been insanely welcoming and supportive thus far and I seriously want to thank everyone who’s ever sent me words of encouragement over pm, in my twitch chat, or in a call. Seriously it means a lot every time I hear someone say that they enjoy any of the work I’m doing. Also thank you to everyone who consumes any of my content, it means a lot that you are interested in what I do and the fact that you are helps drive me to stay involved with content production and the community!
You can find Endozoa here:
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