Backstabx just won $15,000 and took first place at this year’s Crown Duel, Clash Royale’s biggest tournament of the year. But Rob Corddry probably still doesn’t remember his game, despite chatting with him several times throughout the two-hour event.
The tournament was co-hosted by both Corddry and fellow former Daily Show correspondent, Al Madrigal, two comedians who attempted to bring their collectively wry and what-the-fuck-ever sense of humor to the competitive gaming scene for reasons that remain hidden outside both space and time.
The prize for winning the tournament was $15,000, or only about $3,000 more than what one of the top players in the world spent on Clash Royale in order to climb its ladder into the top tier of competition. It also looks like a pittance compared to what Corddry and Madrigal were paid simply to perform at the event.
Unlike his rival in the grand finals, a player by the name of AwDaSea, Backstabx is a regular in the pro Clash circuit, having picked up wins this year at Hammers Clash Royale in Las Vegas and North America Open’s Coronation #4 events. He also streams regularly on Twitch.
That didn’t stop Corddry from referring to AwDaSea as Backstabx during a sketch prior to the grand finals in which the Ballers co-star was pretending to coach AwDaSea in preparation for the Canadian lumberjack’s final best-of-three series. Corddry seemed similarly confused about who was on stage earlier during the tournament when a player by the name of Topnotch was facing-off against another called Mango during the quarterfinals. Madrigal read from what looked like a teleprompter that Mango had lost to Topnotch before and was looking for revenge.
“Oh, so he beat you,” Corddry said to Topnotch, who proceeded to shake his head and correct the Hot Tub Time Machine 2 star. “I’m feeling super awkward,” said Corddry a few moments later, after which Madrigal asked Mango, “Are you worried about...getting a face full of icy cold mango? Is that what’s going to happen?”
To which Mango simply responded, “Nah, that’s not what’s going to happen...”
In Corddry’s defense, esport names are generally incomprehensible, and neither he nor Madrigal have any particular interest in the competitive Clash Royale scene.
Supercell, the game developer and publisher behind Clash Royale (also of Clash of Clans fame) apparently had so little faith in fans of the game tuning in simply to watch a game enjoyed by millions played at the highest level that they tried to transform the tournament into something resembling a late-90s, early-aughts Comedy Central game show.
From the terrible comedy bits to the over-the-top announcers, the whole event seemed destined to reinforce Clash Royale’s image as a garish, pay-to-win mobile game that’s more interested in soaking its player base than really embracing the genuinely fun blend of tower defense and collectible card game mechanics it initially stumbled upon with the game.
In Clash, two players spend points at regular intervals to summon creatures that march toward their opponent and try to destroy her castle and towers. It’s a simple idea that has lots of interesting variations in practice, but without the obtuse complexity of something like Blizzard’s Hearthstone or Riot’s League of Legends that normally drives people who hear the phrase “esports” to shake their heads with concern for the future of humanity.
It seems that declining revenue from the game is driving Supercell to focus on marketing the game to new players rather than doubling down on the reasons why its existing competitive player-base warmed to it in the first place. Despite regular patches and updates to the game, it’s struggled to outgrow the monetization model, in which players invest lots of money in upgrading their cards in order to stay competitive, which originally limited its appeal.
For all of their indulgent absurdities, one of the refreshing things about the relatively “mature” competitive gaming scenes around games like Dota 2 or Street Fighter is that they’ve stopped being so anxious about getting taken seriously, and instead focused on delving deeper into drama and competition that arises naturally when enough people passionate about a particular game gather around to spectate and analyze it.
If Corddry and Madrigal’s star power were supposed to bring in fresh faces though, neither seemed interested in publicizing his involvement. Both maintained complete radio-silence about hosting the tournament on Twitter or anywhere else, perhaps hoping that the Internet will forget the event before their checks are even cashed.