Meet Eloise, the troll queen of Hearthstone
Tempo Storm's Chinese superstar on alien invasions, twitch culture, and the battle to be taken seriously.
Eloise tells me that everything she’s learned about American culture has come from Twitch chat, like that time when, on June 4th, the U.S. armed forces beat back the alien horde and blew up their mothership thanks to Will Smith’s tactful leadership.
She’s being extremely cordial, but the mistake is obvious. “You’re thinking of Independence Day, the movie, it takes place on July 4th, not June 4th.” She stares back with those big painted eyes and laughs her familiar inscrutable laugh. I have no idea if I’ve actually been lost in translation or if I’m being trolled.
We’re backstage at the Hearthstone Spring Championship in a blacked-out amphitheater a few miles from the sweltering centre of Shanghai. The city’s forests are sickly warm in the summertime, and Eloise is dressed accordingly in a mesh tutu, foil Twitch jersey, and a pair of clean Converse high-tops.
The conversation has stalled, and I have to assume she doesn’t actually believe that Will Smith is a Marine Corps pilot, so I try a different approach. “It’s clear that a lot of your viewers are enchanted with you. Do you ever try to play that up on stream?” I worry that the question will sound even more clumsy, but Eloise understands immediately.
“A lot of people think I’m trolling, but that’s how I really think, that’s my real reaction,” she reaffirms, sensing my doubt. “I really think June 4th is when Americans attacked aliens.”
For the record, Eloise deserves to be taken seriously. The woman born Tang Haiyun has been great at video games her entire life. As a teenager in Beijing she joined the elite World of Warcraft raiding guild Stars—who are probably most famous for their controversial Yogg-Saron world first during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Eloise convinced her parents to let her sacrifice the long hours necessary for ultra-hardcore raid prep after showing off her top-ranked Shadow Priest DPS. “My mom was so impressed, she said I had the talent and I needed to go for it,” she remembers.
After her Warcraft career ended, Eloise quickly found success in Hearthstone when she migrated to the game during the 2013 beta—placing in the top eight at the 2014 Gold Series, and second in the inaugural US vs. CN Championship. Her talent caught the eye of Andrey “Reynad” Yanyuk, another early Hearthstone pioneer who was was breaking ground on his own esports brand called Tempo Storm. Signing her made business sense: there’s value in cultivating an audience in a crucial region, but Eloise’s affable eccentricity plays well worldwide.
If anything, her breeziness makes it easy to forget she’s also a helluva player. Tempo Storm project manager and Hearthstone Global Games caster Dan “Frodan” Chou tells me the company offered her a contract because they knew they were getting one of the most dedicated players in the scene.
“Eloise is a player first, personality second. She pushes herself more than most pro players in general. No one on Tempo Storm practices more Hearthstone than she does—sometimes 12-16 hours a day—and it shows with her results over the years,” he says. “She hasn’t had a defining tournament championship win, but she’s placed high in several events this year and has been the most consistent player alongside [fellow Tempo Storm pro] David ‘JustSaiyan’ Shan. No female has had her kind of results and success in Hearthstone. In fact, she’s one of the most accomplished females in esports history despite playing only a few years. It’s a testament to her work ethic and drive.”
Twitch, of course, can be less charitable. The Hearthstone community, much like that of every other popular video game on the platform, does not always play nice. Eloise has scarcely missed a day streaming since she signed for Tempo Storm in 2015, and those early broadcasts veered between teasing and something rougher. “The first time I streamed I think I understood maybe 10 percent of the chat,” she says. “So generally I have no idea what they’re talking about. I just started telling some stories about myself, but my English wasn’t good.”
The highlights scattered around YouTube are inglorious. As you may expect, they focus on Eloise’s overwhelmed response to the reams of Western jokes filling her feed. “What is Kappa? What is ‘we did it Reddit?'” she asks, staring quizzically at the chat-box, sounding out each consonant as patiently as possible. Another message crosses her feed a few moments later. “You are a Canadian boy. … Yes I am!”
Throwing a young woman who’s still learning English into the maw of Twitch chat is a no-win situation, but Eloise never got discouraged, and eventually her culture shock became an integral part of her online persona. Eloise remains a strong Hearthstone player, capable of hitting high-legend and routinely posting thoughtful, hours-long set reviews to her YouTube channel—but she’s also cultivated her Western audience via her relative cultural naïveté. Or more bluntly, her supposed willingness to believe that Americans defeated the aliens on Independence Day.