RETAIL
CLASSIC ERA
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RETAIL
CLASSIC ERA
WRATH

Behind the WoW Esports Program: An Exclusive Interview with Adrian Archer-Lock



Official World of Warcraft Esports has a long history… likely longer than many fans realize. 2024 marks 17 years of the WoW Esports Program, as the very first official competition was the BlizzCon 2007 Arena World Championship. Fun fact – did you know Leeroy Jenkins was a member of the broadcast talent team? 🤣

In 2017, after a full decade of Arena-based esports, we saw the very first MDI tournament. This brought a unique, PVE-focused approach to competitive World of Warcraft. Since then, all aspects of the WoW Esports Program have evolved considerably; the formats of the AWC and the MDI have seen multiple improvements, we’ve seen the introduction of the TGP and the Variety Show, as well as one-off events in WoW Classic.

Much of this evolution has been under the stewardship of Adrian Archer-Lock, aka Healingstat. As the current Producer of the WoW Esports Program, Adrian brings an incredible level of passion and dedication to the role. We were lucky to have the opportunity to sit down with Adrian to get a peek at the man behind the curtain and the role he plays in the Esports we all know and love.

Read on to learn more about Adrian and the WoW Esports Program, and be sure to tune into the AWC Gauntlet and Mid-Season Clash this coming weekend on Twitch or YouTube!

Register for all Official Wow Esports here on Raider.IO!



Table of Contents






Q-1: Hello Adrian! Thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions and give the Community a look at some of the inner workings of the WoW Esports Program. To start off, can you please explain your current role within the Warcraft Esports Team and what all that entails?

Adrian: I’m the Producer on the WoW Esports team responsible for our Esports in World of Warcraft, including Arena World Championship, Mythic Dungeon International, The Great Push, Variety Shows and other events throughout the year. This means leading the vision for what we’d like to achieve with the programs, and working closely with many colleagues across internal teams at Blizzard and members of the WoW community in order to make that vision a reality. It’s great because I get to engage with a tonne of talented people both inside Blizzard and in the community, and not only on the programs being run by Blizzard, but also on supporting other great initiatives in the space.



“I had some amazing experiences as a player, the most powerful being playing in front of a live BlizzCon audience, and those experiences competing are what set me down the path where I wanted to get more involved in WoW tournaments.”



Q-2: You’ve taken an interesting path to get to where you are. You were a player first, then a caster, and now you’re the Producer of all of WoW Esports. What has that experience been like?

Adrian: I’ve loved each stage of my journey as a player, broadcast talent, and now working in more of a behind the scenes role. I had some amazing experiences as a player, the most powerful being playing in front of a live BlizzCon audience, and those experiences competing are what set me down the path where I wanted to get more involved in WoW tournaments. I worked with community tournament organizer GCDTV on European WoW tournaments where I debuted in front of camera as a caster, and I think each of these perspectives give me insights that drive my decision making to this day. I met my partner during my first time playing at BlizzCon, so truly this journey has been life changing for me in every sense of the word and I wouldn’t change it for the world.


“Ultimately when thinking back, many of my favorite memories are moments that are reflected in the people I’ve met, friendships I’ve made – many of which can’t be distilled down to a single moment. ”



Q-3: Can you tell us about some of your best memories and highlights from your player and caster days?

Adrian: Some of my very best memories come from competing in tournaments as a player, and the number one that always stands out to me is the first time I played live at BlizzCon. Seeing the convention is an out of this world experience as a long-time WoW fan and player, and playing live is a whole immersive universe with the audience cheering during the matches. My first time experiencing that in 2014 is a memory that will stay with me forever: seeing the hall for the first time, experiencing the crowd…Truly life changing.


2014 AWC Grand Finals, Skill Capped EU (ft. Healingstat) vs. Bleached Bones


One of my more amusing experiences as a caster was talking with Yeonyeon from the Korean team ‘Push Push’ a few years after we’d played against them in the 2014 semi-final, and having a conversation about how close the matches had been – it’s amazing getting to talk with and meet people from all around the world as a result of WoW.

As a caster, I loved the cast of the BlizzCon 2016 Finals and I still get ‘Here comes the incarnation,’ repeated to me every now and then. I also have a great memory of interviewing Cdew after his momentous BlizzCon victory in 2018. Ultimately when thinking back, many of my favorite memories are moments that are reflected in the people I’ve met, friendships I’ve made – many of which can’t be distilled down to a single moment.



Q-4: You were involved from the early days of both the AWC and the MDI, and now you’re running the show. What are your thoughts on how these Esports have evolved over the years?

Adrian: Firstly, I’d like to say that none of the AWC or MDI shows would be possible without the fantastic team behind them, the players who compete to give the best matches, and the community engagement that drives everything that gets put together. The WoW community is one of a kind and the only reason AWC & MDI continue to thrive is because of all the people who play, compete, watch, and enjoy the shows.

When I started competing 10 years ago, there was 1 short series of Arena Tournaments toward the tail end of the year, and outside of Arena there weren't many other official competitions. Now, competitions run year-round, they range across Arena, Dungeons, Race to World First, Classic, and other formats that are still to come this year…

There’s more events to watch & more ways to compete than ever, and I think on some level that’s a reflection of the evolution of WoW as well. When you look at the exciting rate of content releasing in WoW and the array of game modes available, the number of unique events available for the Esports Program makes a lot of sense.



Q-5: Anything you can tell us about where the Esports programs are going in the future?

Adrian: Not too much more I can share beyond what we released in our 2024 announcement at the end of last year, but I can say we’re planning some very exciting shows to complement the existing AWC, MDI & TGP events already mentioned in that announcement. Stay tuned!



Q-6: You’ve introduced a new event under the Esports Program, the Variety Show, which has been very popular and successful. What were the goals when first creating the Variety Show, and where do you see this event going in the future?

Adrian: The Variety Show was an idea driven by a team member and is a great example of the creativity here at Blizzard. The goal from the outset has been to create an event that was focused on displaying the vastness of different ways to play World of Warcraft, and also create new methods for players to get involved in our events. Basically, we wanted to create something that was as accessible as possible to anyone who plays WoW.



When it comes to the future, I think the great thing about Variety Show is that it can become anything, and it should change every time. With all the new content coming across The War Within & Classic, we’re planning to bring it back in force later in the year.



Q-7: A little birdy told us that you’ve been playing Wrath Classic lately. Did you play the original? How are you enjoying the return to Northrend?

Adrian: I’m a huge Classic fan! I didn’t originally play in Vanilla so playing through it on release was a blast for me. I did play original TBC & Wrath, but playing it with all the knowledge I have now is certainly a new experience and I’ve fallen in love with Arena in these expansions. My favorite moments have been the final day push to get the new Infernal Gladiator title in TBC Classic, and most recently re-defeating The Lich King in ICC which is one of my favorite raids of all time.



“The Classic team has done an amazing job of listening to community feedback in order to develop Official Hardcore servers and most recently Season of Discovery, and I’m very excited to see what future events come as a consequence of that.”



Q-8: A few months ago we saw the epic conclusion of the OTK Hardcore Mak’gora tournament, which took place on the Official Hardcore servers on Classic Era. What were your thoughts on how this event turned out, and do you hope to see more in the future?

Adrian: The event was amazing; when OTK first discussed the event with us, their passion & ambition was obvious, and the turnout as well as commitment from the players involved to grind to 60 for that final moment made it a one of its kind event. The Classic team has done an amazing job of listening to community feedback in order to develop Official Hardcore servers and most recently Season of Discovery, and I’m very excited to see what future events come as a consequence of that.





Q-9: Will we be seeing WoW Esports return to Classic in an official capacity?

Adrian: We have plans to do so! Nothing to announce today, but more coming in the future.



Q-10: WoW Esports have been held remotely since 2020, but they finally came back LIVE with the amazing Guild Clash event, held on the convention floor during Blizzcon 2023 (the first in 4 years!). Can you tell us a little about how this concept came to be, and why this ‘showcase’ type of approach was taken for the return of WoW Esports at Blizzcon?

Adrian: As soon as we knew BlizzCon was returning in-person we were certain we wanted to have a show at the event, and as we were shaping Guild Clash our primary considerations were about what the goals of the event would be. We wanted to put on a fun showcase that the live audience at BlizzCon would be able to enjoy. On the Arena side, this was a great opportunity to have teams from Europe & North America compete head to head in-person. For Dungeons & Raid, with Guardians of the Dream dropping shortly after BlizzCon, it felt like the perfect opportunity to invite teams to come and give a preview of that upcoming content.



We have strong relationships with many of the teams & guilds that take part in WoW events, and Guild Clash felt like the perfect coming together of all of those objectives. It was great to see fans of the teams out in full force around the streaming stations, and getting to meet some of the players for the first time at BlizzCon.



Q-11: Both the MDI and AWC casting teams have been very stable over the years. Are there any plans to bring back guest casters or switch the desk up a little? For aspiring talent out there who dream of making it to an official WoW Esports event, what are you mostly looking for in a caster?

Adrian: We’re always scouting the community for talent that would be great partners for our shows, and across the variety of broadcasts we put on now many of the talent are either community figures, talent whom have come through events in the community, or otherwise just shown their passion for WoW. We do have some plans for guest talent in the upcoming season of AWC & MDI, so watch this space!



“We’ve seen the level of competition in MDI & TGP increasing seemingly every season in recent history, and on paper this 2-Group format could well make each weekend and each match even more competitive.”



Q-12: The MDI and TGP format has not seen a lot of changes in recent years, with the 3-day weekend groups being a fixture of the event. However, many viewers have expressed disappointment with the quality of the matches on Fridays, which almost exclusively end up in a 2-0, while Saturdays tend to be much more drawn out due to playing 6 games instead of 4. Are there any plans to changing things up slightly, i.e. by adding one of the upper bracket finals games to the first day instead?

Adrian: We’re curious to see how the updated format of MDI & TGP in Season 3 & 4 will impact the matches in the 2 Groups for each season to round out Dragonflight. We’ve seen the level of competition in MDI & TGP increasing seemingly every season in recent history, and on paper this 2-Group format could well make each weekend and each match even more competitive. We’re always open to different ideas of how to change up the format, but for now the intent is to keep the 4-6-4 split of matches during MDI Season 3.



Q-13: Similarly, with how tight the competition was in last Season’s TGP global finals, it was tough to watch one of the top teams go out on day 1. Are there plans to further iterate on the TGP format, i.e. by not eliminating teams during the global finals, or having less time spent on playing up keys, or do you consider this an important skillset to have and showcase for this kind of competition?

Adrian: The level of competition in the TGP Finals was so incredible that it became effectively heartbreaking to see any of the teams go home at the end of Day 1, which is a testament to how good all these teams are. This is certainly a takeaway we’ve come away with from the end of last year, and while I have nothing to announce today, we’re looking at potential tweaks that could work for next season.





“I mean it when I say the WoW community is truly special and everything that gets produced is only possible because of how dedicated & unique this community is.”



Q-14: The WoW Esports Team is a group of talented and passionate individuals… is there anybody you’d like to shoutout in particular?

Adrian: The list of individuals to shout out for their work behind the scenes would be a very long one! I’m really proud of the talented teams that work behind the scenes on the events – across broadcast & production, the product team, admins, observers, talent, partner teams who make the shows possible (certainly including the Devs who created the game that we all rally around), and the players and fans that tune in and participate in all the shows. I mean it when I say the WoW community is truly special and everything that gets produced is only possible because of how dedicated & unique this community is.



Q-15: Is there anything else you’d like to add or anything else you want the WoW Community to know about the WoW Esports Program?

Adrian: Firstly, if you got this far, a huge thank you for reading, and thank you to Raider.IO for the opportunity!

The last note I’d say is that I hope you've been enjoying this Season's AWC and MDI competitions so far. We’ve changed up the overall Seasons format for the end of Dragonflight so let us know what you think, and stay tuned over the next months for information on a few other projects we’ve got coming your way.

I wish everyone a great 2024, both in Azeroth and beyond.



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About the Author


Hulahoops is the General Manager of Raider.IO and has been playing WoW since Vanilla. She has recently shelved Retail to go back and re-experience WotLK in all its glory, but will one day make her way back to the Dragon Isles. In her hey-day, Hulahoops could be found raid-leading in Mythic Progression, or competing in the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for 7 years. Judgment isn't just a spell! Hulahoops decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for gaming and esports by joining the team at Raider.IO. In her capacity as General Manager, Hulahoops oversees events, content, and more!