renova-, Sawyer1888

Through the Thorns of Top-64 Qualifiers to GWENT Open. Part 1

Written by renova- and edited by Sawyer1888 & Weevil89

Introduction

With the upcoming Open#2 we wanted to take a closer look on the qualified players, especially on the players coming from the CIS community (Commonwealth of Independet States).

If we look back two seasons and turn to the second qualifiers of the Season of the Bear in April, one may note an interesting tendency of the CIS players to snatch tickets to OPEN#2, because the winners of this particular top 64 qualifications were Russian players Akela114, representing GwentDetta, and BigKukuRUzina35 (also known as iluxa228), a Team Legacy player.

This trend continued in the Season of the Elf, taking place in May, which culminated in Team Phoenix’s Russian player Ch.ase qualifying for the GWENT OPEN#2 as well as Ukrainian Nik_r, the representative of GwentDetta. 
(You may also recognize, that in the most recent top 16 qualifier of the Season of Magic BigKukuRUzina35 could secure himself and again for the CIS community his next ticket for Open#3 already, which underlines their current dominance in the pro scene.)

Have you ever wondered what is behind the success of professional players? What decisions – both during the game session and in the process of preparing decks – allow them to become the best among the best?

In a series of three articles, we will try to explore these two sides of the game in more detail using the example of the top 64 qualifications from the Bear and Elf seasons. In the first two parts, we will talk with the winners to try to better understand how professional players think, how they manage tournament rulesets, as well as some particular in-game decisions. In the final part, we’ll dive into the stats of the top 64 qualifiers to see how much the meta can change in just one season, comparing the most played cards, bans, and favored factions for tournaments to also have an outlook on the upcoming OPEN#2.

Season of the Bear 2nd Qualifiers Winners Interview

Shortcut

In this article, we will go through different sets of questions. The first set deals with general information and some background facts about the players. In the second set, we will discuss deckbuilding strategies and the mentality behind certain in-game decisions. The article will conclude with some final advice from the pro players and their general outlook on the game. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

I began by chatting with Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35 from the Season of the Bear qualifiers. We discussed their approach to choosing and changing decks during the tournament, as well as what kinds of controversial or entertaining moments they observed from specific matches of the tournament.

To refresh your memory, you can watch the VOD of the official cast of the final matches on TheOneChristo’s YouTube channel:
Winners bracket final Akela114 vs. John/Sally and Losers bracket final
BigKukuRuzina (Iluxa) vs. John/Sally

Sadly the video footage of the match between Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35 is no longer available, so you have to rely on your memory and the insights of the players.

If you are interested in what decks they played, you can find everything here from the first day and the second day.

The main task for you today is to turn away from the current meta and go back to the past in order to better imagine the look of the Season of the Bear and prepare for similarly turbulent metas in the future. And even if you’re not interested in diving into the meta matching process, this interview is an opportunity to get to know the stars of Gwent and improve your understanding of the mindset of a professional player.

Meet the Qualified Player: Akela114

Name: Oleg Nikolaev 

Age: 25

City: Novosibirsk

 

Hobbies: Gwent

Favorite Faction: Skellige

Favorite Card: Knickers

Meet the Qualified Player: BigKukuRUzina35

Name: Ilya Lyapin 

Age: 19

City: Vologda

 

Hobbies: Football, LEGO, Computer Games

Favorite Faction: Northern Realms

Favorite Card: Priscilla

Chapter 1: General Questions

The first set of questions is devoted to impressions of the previous meta, the tournament, and Gwent in general.

How long have you been playing Gwent?

Akela114: Since summer 2017.

BigKukuRUzina35: For three years, starting with the Sihil meta in Homecoming.

What’s behind your nickname?

A: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is one of my favorite literary works from my childhood. Akela is one of the main characters.

B: Nickname means big corn in Russian, and 35 is the number of the region where I live.

How do you assess the state of the Season of the Bear meta? 

A: Scoia’tael and Northern Realms were clearly inferior in strength to the other four factions. Monsters, Nilfgaard, Syndicate, and Skellige were at about the same level, but there is no need to talk about the variety of archetypes playable at a competitive level. In short, the meta was rather boring and monotonous.

B: The meta was quite balanced, with the exception of two cards in my opinion: Halfling Safecracker and Eist. As an improvement, I would suggest removing Counter: 2 for Eist, so that he could summon only one squad, and as for Halfling Safecracker, I would reduce its based power by at least 1.

Which faction did you score the most MMR last season? What helped to achieve this?

A: For the last two seasons, Skellige has been my top MMR faction. The Devotion Warriors deck has remained pretty much the same for a large number of seasons, so most matchups are fairly well researched, which affects the quality of the game and brings results.

 

B: Last season before the qualifier, it was an elves scenario deck. A great number of successful matchups and the effect of surprise helped a lot, since no one else played it.

In terms of preparing for the qualifications, Akela admitted that he hardly prepared. He noted that usually he just brings ladder decks to the tournaments with a couple of changes. At the same time, BigKukuRUzina35 always discusses strategies with teammates. In preparation, he came up with an idea to counter both NG and SY.

What are your general impressions of the qualifications, what do you remember the most?

A: Naturally, the most memorable was the decisive final match, which earned me the opportunity to take part in the Gwent Open tournament.

B: I really liked my games, although they is always room for improvement. I also remember the games with TailBot [probably, he meant ToBliat, Kappa], were very nerve-racking.

How can you explain that during the qualifiers, at least twice, the eminent players lost after two wins three times in a row on SY?

A: Syndicate is bad on blue coin (going first). At the same time, for the game against SY on red (going second), the opponent can pick up a good matchup, having three decks in stock. Also, the deck is very dependent on drawing well in each round.

B: I have not seen these games, so it’s hard to talk about them. Personally, I think that Syndicate has at least three bad matchups: Skellige, Arachas and Nilfgaard, so I don’t see anything surprising that such comebacks happened.

What determines the choice of stratagem for the deck? 

A: The choice of a stratagem depends both on the specifics of the deck  and on the expected lineup of the opponent (if you plan to play against SY or BG, for example, Crystal Skull would be a good choice).

B: Personally, my choice was based on matchups with NG and SY, so I mostly chose Crystal Skull to combat the opponent’s poisons.

Have players tried to sharpen decks against specific factions, such as Syndicate, which was very powerful in that meta? All of BigKukuRUzina35’s decks, except for Symbiosis, were geared towards games against both Syndicate and Nilfgaard. Akela took a different approach: he didn’t sharpen the lineups for any specific decks, but at the same time tried to add 1-2 cards to the decks, which gave him an advantage in mirror matches.

What mindset did you build on the blue / red coins in the final matches?

A: Consider the last game against John丶Sally.

For the first match, I took Skellige. My build plays pretty well on blue coin against Syndicate and, as I thought, against Scoia’tael. It is also relatively easy to secure round one and last say, which is crucial in this matchup. 

For the second match, due to my Arachas Swarm deck being banned, Syndicate looked like a good option. But from my opponent, I expected to see Skellige or Nilfgaard (because of its favorable matchup against both MO and SY).

As a result, after two games I was left with Skellige and Syndicate. SY is clearly good for the second match, and Skellige, as I said earlier, for the first one, so the picks for the remaining matches did not cause difficulties

B: When I chose a deck based on the coin, I began by asking myself what deck my opponent was most likely to choose. This would often lead to less predictable decisions, such as taking Symbiosis on red coin, so the matchup was still favored. I think it’s much better to catch a good matchup with the “wrong” coin than a bad matchup with the right one.

Have you realized any mistakes you made during the qualifying games, or anything you could have done better?

A: There were certainly mistakes. For example, in the game against iluxa228 (NG – SK), I did not pay attention to the fact that he removed the Joachim de Wett I had played in the first round, with Hjalmar an Craite. I only realized it when I tried to execute the normal Cantarella combo and it led to several subsequent misplays. 

B: The most glaring mistake was in the first match with lNeverHooD. In the second round, I played Korathi Heatwave into Jacques de Aldersberg, my entire leader ability and Talisman in order to reach the third round on even cards, although if I had played Triss instead, then I would have been able to keep the leader ability and comfortably play Spontaneous Evolution into a leader charge. As a result, the match ended as a draw instead of a victory.

Chapter 2: Personal Questions

In this part of the article, we will learn from the players what was behind their choice of decks for the tournament, as well as analyze in detail with the interviewees several controversial or curious moments from specific matches with various players in the final stage of the qualifiers. 

Perhaps the most amusing thing would be to analyze the answers of Akela and iluxa in their battle against each other and see the opinions for the same match from both sides – so let’s start there.

Deckbuilding: Akela114

You can find Akela’s decks by clicking the factions buttons

What was the basis for choosing a faction ban on the last day of qualification?

A: My lineup was weak against Arachas Swarm and Geralt: Yrden, so the original plan was to ban this particular deck.

Why did you choose the Portal version of the Monsters Deck for the tournament? 

A: I chose the deck for red coin matches. Knickers and Portal create some useful tempo. Portal also makes it possible to gain a large number of points in a short round, which is useful in some matchups.

What are the advantages of MO versions with Location, but without Yrden, which is considered by many to be an autoinclude card for the Arachas Swarm?

A: I expected to see Skellige and Nilfgaard at the tournament, and Geralt: Yrden is bad against these factions. Yrden is good against Syndicate, but this deck can win without it since the main objective is to counter the key engines of the deck. The only bad matchup that I expected to see in the opponents’ lineup was Arachas with Yrden, which I banned.

Skellige decks in the tournament looked mostly the same. The main differences are in the choice of cards for 10 provisions. What can you say about your Morkvarg and Tyrggvi? 

A: Tyrggvi is an example of a card for mirror matches. Morkvarg is not replaceable against Syndicate, Nilfgaard, or Northern Realms.

Why did you add Professor to your deck before he became so popular the following season?

A: Professor is a good value card that allows you to postpone Tunnel Drill placement and significantly increase its value. It is also a nice control option which allows you to take care of some pesky engines. 

Many players made some changes to their decks after the first game day, but you left your MO and SY intact, changing only Slave Hunters to Alba Armored Cavalries in NG. For example, for many players, Whoreson Junior, who almost no one had played before, became a godsend, and by the second day the number of players playing him had grown even more.

A: Whoreson Junior is a great card, but may not do well against Skellige. Players who planned to ban this deck got rid of this problem and built a lineup against other decks. Nonetheless, Whoreson Junior, in this case, is a great inclusion.

Speaking of Alba. What matchups / cards did you add these soldiers to against?

A: Against Skellige. The key task in this matchup is to deal with your opponent’s engines. Whoever does this better wins the game.

Deckbuilding: BigKukuRUzina35

You can find iluxa’s decks by clicking the factions buttons

A deck with Jacques, Sir Skewertooth vs an option with Whoreson Junior, Sigi Reuven. The first version is more standard, but Whoreson Junior made an appearance almost everywhere. How do you explain this?

B: Whoreson Junior turned out to be unusually good: he opposes Nilfgaard very well and, together with Dip in the Pontar, is able to destroy any unit with 6 power or less. He also serves as a spare Tunnel Drill against Arachas Swarm and very effectively copes with Cleaver in a mirror match. The only bad matchup for him is obviously Skellige due to the lack of boosted units.

What is the advantage of building a SY deck without the Flying Redanian? Is it (not) needed?

B: I often felt a shortage of coins in the deck, so in the end I decided to remove The Flying Redanian, which made it possible to add both Sigi Reuven and Triss: Telekinesis. In my opinion, The Flying Redanian is not impactful enough for 9 provisions, plus it is not always possible to play it in round 3.

On the first day, you played Arachas without Yrden, but with Curse of Corruption, Wild Hunt Riders, Location. What did the choice of the version of the Monsters deck depend on on both qualifying days?

B: On the first day, I knew that I would only play against Syndicate and Nilfgaard, so I decided to remove Geralt: Yrden, which cannot be left in hand against Nilfgaard because of the Double Cross ability. Instead, I added Curse of Corruption that performed essentially the same function. On the second day, Arachas Swarm was added to NG and SY, so respectively, I was forced to use Yrden in the Arachas Swarm deck so I wouldn’t auto-lose mirror matches.

Skellige decks in the tournament looked almost exactly the same, the main differences being in the choice of 10-provision cards. What can you say about the choice of Morkvarg and Hjalmar?

B: Morkvarg is indispensable in matchups with Syndicate and Nilfgaard, since he counters Cleaver and many important NG engines. The same can be said about Hjalmar an Craite. Given the inability to pull Morkvarg out from the deck, he sometimes saved me in matchups against Syndicate and could counter Cleaver if we didn’t draw Morkvarg. He is also very strong against NG.

Was Symbiosis the cool option? How did Scoia’tael, which most players did not take to the qualifiers, cope with the then dominant NG and SY?

B: Syndicate was definitely the worst matchup for Symbiosis due to the huge number of removal cards. Conversely, Nilfgaard was a very favorable matchup because I could easily counter poisons and double Joachim with Dryad’s Caress. In addition, NG lacked answers to the Symbiosis engines, and Double Cross is weak as a leader ability in this matchup. Crushing Trap was taken exclusively for a matchup with Arachas Swarm.

What was it like to be the only person not to qualify with Nilfgaard on the second day? What was the reason for this?

B: As a true patriot of Temeria, I have no moral right to take Nilfgaard to a tournament and generally play this faction representing nasty decks with a bunch of nasty mechanics and stupid cards.

Map_temeria

Games: Akela114

Akela114 vs BigKukuRUzina35

In the match against iluxa228, you only lost the NG vs ST matchup. Don’t you think that the resources given away in the first round (Braathens, Vigo, Joachim, Roderick, Coupe de Gras, Menno) were a bit excessive? Yes, of course, against Scoia’tael you want to have a round control and get the last say, and yet, perhaps you should have saved more golds for the third round?

Scr4

A: This matchup is very difficult, Nilfgaard is going through the bleed quite hard, so I decided to take the first round and fight my opponent in a long round 3. Despite the obvious overcommitment of resources, in my opinion the decision was correct.

In the same match, having played Gorthur Gvaed in the second round on eight cards before the pass, you gave iluxa one of the poisons, despite the fact that you spent only one optional one (with Artorius Vigo) in the first round. The Location showed your opponent many good cards and given that ST has no problems with purify and has a veil from Shaping Nature, wouldn’t an additional poison be superfluous? And in general, the knowledge that you can have a maximum of two poisons in your hand (one of which is an optional defender cleansing), does it provide more freedom to your opponent in some situations? Or did you just want to make it difficult for your opponent to find use for an essentially useless 4-provision card?

A: In this match, poisons are almost impossible to realize, so giving Fangs to the opponent, in my opinion, was a good decision.

Games: BigKukuRUzina35

Against all the opponents who brought SK, you banned this particular faction. Did you see it as stronger than the same considered tier-1 NG and SY, or were just your specific variations of decks sharpened as much as possible against most popular versions with a pre-planned SK ban? For example, the same Whoreson Junior added by you on the second day is very useless against the Skellige warriors.

B: Exactly, my decks were sharpened for matches against Nilfgaard, Arachas and Syndicate, and against Skellige they had bad matchups.

Akela114 vs BigKukuRUzina35

You can watch this match here.

For what purpose did you keep Defender in the ST game against Akela’s NG for so long? We might think that you wanted to benefit from a poison or Joachim, but in the end you threw a veil on the Hamadryad before Figgis was placed, but did not wait for Joachim. Was this an attempt to protect Gezras the next turn in case the opponent did not find the purify?

Scr1

B: I did not want to spam the back row ahead of time, as Akels could throw spies there.

After a drawn SK against MO match, during a replay, Akela managed to find Portal in the first round, and that time you failed to pass on 7 cards while maintaining the point advantage as it was a game before. In the end, you decided to use Eist + your leader ability. What are your thoughts on this line of play?

Scr2

B: Yes, I made a desperate move and overestimated my capabilities in a long round.

In the same match, did you not consider leaving the opponent’s Arachas Drones on the board so they might fill their board?

B: It would have been the right decision, but I didn’t think of it.

In the  NG vs SK match, you gave life to a swordsman for a very long time, whom the enemy pulled out of your deck with the help of Experimental Remedy, which ultimately absorbed a lot of damage, in fact, devaluating it due to the ability to heal. Wasn’t it worth killing him at the very beginning to exclude such a risk, or in this case there would not be enough control over other engines?

B: Akela didn’t have any warriors in his graveyard, and because of it he couldn’t replay my Harald. That’s why I didn’t kill a Greatsword.

The final SY mirror match, of course, could not help but be remembered for the third round. At the end of the round you, having no other spenders, chose not to spend 8 coins with Tunnel Drill, even though Sigi Reuven was waiting to be played next. To bluff like this, of course, you need to have a will of steel, so I must ask you: in the end, was it worth it?

Scr3

B: As the final score showed, no. But I didn’t think I would lose a game by only 7 points with a whole bank of unspent coins.

 

Final Word

What advice can you give to less experienced players looking to take higher positions in the ladder?

Akela114: To achieve the best result, in my opinion, you need to evenly wager on all the factions that you have chosen (such as the top four decks for a given season), experiment with decks for the first half of the season and, if possible, play the maximum possible number of games in the final days.

BigKukuRUzina35: Thoroughly analyze your games, concentrate on the game as much as possible, do not blame your defeats on bad draws, and always think whether there was a line of play that could have won a game from a seemingly losing position.

Conclusion

Today we were able to lift the veil on how professional Gwenters reason when considering the choice of decks for tournaments and making certain decisions during their games, and get closer to the esports scene more generally. By developing analytical skills, training, and learning from the experiences of the Gwent oldies, we hope you can improve your level of play and climb the ladder more successfully.

Never give up and go for your dream, not forgetting that behind every great victory there is a huge amount of work and perseverance, as well as a sea of practice and mistakes.

Many thanks to both Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35 for participating in the interview, and to Sawyer1888 and Weevil89 for helping out with the edits. Most of all, thank you to you, the readers, for taking the time to read this article. 

In the next one, we will conduct a study in which we will try to establish what changes have occurred in the competitive scene of the Season of the Elf compared to the meta of the Season of the Bear and, if the opportunity arises, talk with the winners of the last top 64 qualifiers.

All the best and every success in Gwent!

renova-

 

Contacts

Is It Possible To Get Into Pro Rank Without Pain And Tilt?

Are the hours spent in the deckbuilder in attempts to make your Magnum Opus with Vivienne, Tesham Mutna Sword and Allgod doomed to fail, as the efforts to beg Slama and Burza for at least a couple of games to pass without opponents abusing shields? Time after time you come across glorious decks from meta reports and can’t progress past Rank 3 with your pathetic attempts to make Royal Inspiration playable?

Well, I can only sympathize with your plight.   

If you were hoping to get an answer to the question of how you can get through the mass of netdecks without having your hair turn gray, unfortunately, I will have to apologize for the flashy headline, because getting into Pro Rank without at least partially losing your sanity seems like an almost impossible deed to accomplish.

It is especially difficult to wade through the ranked swamp of despair when a new patch is saddled on your fragile shoulders, nevermind removing Monsters’ Carapace ability, giving it to the Northern Realms and multiplying its strength. It’s hard to stay calm when your opponent plays three duels in one turn and gains a 65-point advantage, isn’t it?

But anyway, let’s get on with the article.

WHAT IS THE ARTICLE ABOUT?

For those who are unfamiliar with Gwent’s competitive ranked system, I will lay out the conditions of getting into Pro Rank; I will explain what kinds of players you are likely to meet during your play sessions and; I will share some impressions of other players and Gwent streamers on how their journey to Pro Rank has influenced their play style, deckbuilding skills, impressions of matches and their overall attitude to the rating system.

In addition, I will tell you about my final steps on the path of getting to the coveted Pro Rank for the first time. Thus, those of you who have not yet experienced the sensation of getting to Rank 0 on their own skin can imagine the thorny path to the “peak”, and regulars of the Gwent “zero club” can match their feelings with mine and other players’.

HOW DO YOU GET TO THE PRO RANK?

First, let’s discuss what Pro Rank is in general and how it differs from the usual Gwent ranked system. In regular ranked, you need to win five matches on each rank in order to progress further, starting from the twenty-fifth one and aiming for the highest first one, furthermore, each defeat sends the player one step backwards and further away from reaching the new rank.

At the same time, Pro Rank is the end goal of climbing through the initial stages of this ranked system, which represents the maximum achievable rank in Gwent. To join the rows of the Pro Rank players, you need to make five victories one more time after reaching the Rank 1, so the player will get an access to a new system for calculating your worth: faction-based MMR (or Match-Making Rating).

It is worth mentioning that once you reach Pro Rank, there will be no such a thing as an everlasting foothold in your long-desired position: each season, which lasts approximately one calendar month, you will need to prove your competitive abilities. What does that mean? In short, the top 500 Pro Rank players will retain their leading positions, while the rest will need to re-make their way to the top of the Gwent rating system from Rank 3 at the beginning of the new season.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SUCCESS IN PRO RANK?

For those players looking to conquer Gwent’s competitive scene and compete in larger events, Pro Rank is an important stepping stone for them and a chance to prove their mettle. At the end of each Ranked Season, the top 200 Pro Rank players are rewarded with Crown Points that are necessary to qualify for the main official tournament of the year, the Gwent Masters. Also, the top 64 players from each competitive season have the opportunity to participate in the qualifiers and possibly get to the Gwent OPEN tournament, while the top 16 participate in the qualifiers twice as the most experienced and active players of the previous season.

HOW DOES THE PRO RANK SYSTEM WORK?

Now, let’s talk about how Pro Rank works in practice. Each match played for a specific faction alters that player’s fMMR (standing for “faction match making ratio”) depending on whether they win or lose. To unlock 100% of faction MMR, you must complete at least 25 “placement” games with this faction, whereupon you will calibrate the faction to ~2400 MMR.

The result displayed on the Pro Rank leaderboard is the sum of the player’s highest scores of the season for their best four factions (of six). So, after playing 100 games in a season (25 for 4 factions) in Pro Rank, you will unlock the starting MMR of ~9600. And, although your current value for both total and faction MMR is directly related to the number of matches played and your latest results, your position in the ranking table depends on the so-called “peak MMR”, or the sum of the highest amount of MMR for the four factions.

The Pro Rank player pool contains all Gwent players playing in all regions (US, EU, Asia, etc.). You can find out your current position in the rating table at any time on the Rankings page on the Gwent website or in a special tab of the game. All information about the MMR parameters can be found in your personal in-game profile.

WHO WILL WE MEET ON THE WAY TO THE PRO RANK?

The more matches you play, the more similarities you’ll see between your opponents, noticing common features in their playstyle, attitudes towards opponents (yes, we all hate BM, but people who spam emotions in matches do not get fewer over the years), win rate and deckbuilding.

In this section of the article, we will discuss the psychology of Gwent players and the peculiarities of their mindset and attitudes towards the game as well as other players. This is to give an opportunity to take a fresh look at their playing style and an idea of ​​what can be found in common between those who play Double Ball and those who forget that playing Witcher trio decks is a flagellant’s dream since they were “fixed” to the ground shortly after the release of Homecoming.

Wizards of the Coast, an American game publisher, has proposed a certain system of psychological and aesthetic profiles for their own card game, Magic: The Gathering. for dividing players. Because of the common mindset shared by competitive card game players, there are many crossover points worth noting.

We will briefly look at three of these psychological profiles, describing why certain players enjoy the game, these being: Johnny, Timmy and Spike. These profiles will allow you to divide players into categories depending on their motivation to play, card preferences and their overall emotional state. The point of this analysis is, as Mark Rowewater, the MTG columnist and Head Designer, explains: to help us understand “the psychological motivation behind why a person enjoys what they enjoy. It’s not about the “what”, but the “why”. Below is a summary of the three profiles:

Timmy represents the category of people who prioritize the enjoyment of the game: this person does not care much whether they won or lost, because the main goal for him is to use the most spectacular elements in the game such as fantastic creatures, impressive spells and interesting combinations. Timmy enjoys the process of the game directly, its mechanics and capabilities, as well as interactions with other players.

Johnny is the most creative type of player. He aims to find new solutions in the abundance of meta decks and overpowered cards based on less optimal or niche cards and trying to make less popular archetypes, cards and combinations more playable. Such people enjoy victories based on their own rules. They can spend a lot of time in the deck builder, perfecting and upgrading decks, trying to get the square wheel bike to work. For Johnny, the opportunity for self-expression and participation in a creative process is important: you will hardly find such a player using other people’s decks and popular archetypes.

Spikes are the embodiment of the desire to win no matter what. This is a competitive type of player. They don’t care if they play with their own decks, or if they copy other people’s work; it is common practice for them to play the same ideal deck setup for an entire season. Spikes take defeat extremely hard, especially if they realize they lost because of their own mistake or an unsuccessful outcome of the RNG (randomization). This type of player needs to constantly show themselves and people around them how good they are and to regularly feed on that victory high.

These three types of “psychological profiles” represent the main types of players’ personalities, based on their priorities in the game: the desire to win at any cost, getting the most out of the game or surprising the community with an extraordinary deck.

It is interesting to note that the closer the player gets to Pro Rank, the less s/he meets Johnny building unique decks and training various setups, and the more he sees Spikes willing to climb the ranked ladder using the most effective meta decks (but not necessarily being able to play them well 😉). And when you reach Pro Rank, you will meet Spikes in almost every game, and every meeting with Johnny will seem like a rare blessing.

PREPARE TO REMOVE THE EVIL EYE

No, I’m not joking.

Until this summer, I didn’t even think about the difference between playing in Pro Rank and other stages of the system, and did not care about my win rate in the season at all. Instead, I preferred to test and build as many new decks as possible, so more often than not I hung on the first rank. It happened more than once that I had 5/5 pieces of the first rank mosaic, but until recently I could not reach zero. However, there was no particular desire to do so in the first place.

Before the start of the last season, I set myself a goal of getting into Pro Rank so that I could experience what it would be like to play among the best players of the Gwent society and to be shaped by the MMR system. From the very first days of the season, I started to play actively (I will say in advance that this season, as a result, I played more games than in the entire previous year: Pro Rank dragged me headlong) and within the first two or three days I got from 5 rank to 1. In the season before that, I almost never played Gwent, so I did not have the luxury of starting from rank 3.

At ranks 2-5, I played with my own decks and collected 4/5 mosaics of the first rank, but problems arose with obtaining the remaining pieces. After a solid win streak of about seven to nine games, I decided to share my progress proudly on the stream of one of the BG team members, who was kind enough to wish me not to win any more games as a joke. Believe it or not, I then had a losing streak of 10+ games and fell into the wildest tilt, after which it was extremely difficult to return to the game, and I had to take a day off from Gwent. This is why my advice is to find a way to remove an evil eye in advance in case some kind friend of yours decides to interfere with your passionate desire to get into the Pro Rank!

The first days in ranked ladder feel like complete chaos, when players desperately try to get into Pro Rank as early as possible and to find the most effective, dangerous and vile deck that could annihilate opponents efficiently before the new patch.

On the other hand, the race to get into the Pro ladder becomes an additional opportunity for numerous discussions with friends about tactics, decks and patch changes, as well as for a small competition over who will be the first to reach rank 0 and with which setup.

Another interesting point about laddering in the early days of the season is the increased chance to meet your favorite streamers, competitive players or other Gwent personalities. Most often, I played in the middle to the end of the season and for all the time that I am familiar with the game, I have never met a famous streamer among my opponents. And in the first two days of the new season, I met at least two regulars on Twitch in the ladder (one of whom was a member of BG!). It was an additional burst of positive emotions on the way to Pro Rank for me, because it felt good to know that at the moment you are on the same level as some very good players – and it was especially pleasant to beat them.

So, if you want to try your hand against strong Gwent players, but for some reason don’t get to Pro Rank, you can start a new season with games in the first few days, before people have time to calibrate their rank. And if you get to rank zero in a short time, you can almost surely test your skills against various streamers time and again.

After a tiring series of defeats, I stumbled upon an interesting Overwhelming Hunger deck, which contained some elements of the Devotion meta variant with Auberon (then we had no idea how this deck would negatively affect our nerves for two seasons…). With this deck, I finally got to the mythical land of Pro Rank!

The feelings that arise inside from the understanding that you have reached a new level for the first time – moreover, the final one – for me were surprisingly bright and warm, and I was filled with sincere joy, mixed with the anticipation of testing the new system. I will say without embellishment: it was a feeling of euphoria. And the beginning of a new phase in my Gwent life.

HOW DO PEOPLE CHANGE AFTER THE PRO RANK?

As mentioned in the section about the player types, the closer you get to Pro Rank, the fewer unique play combinations you encounter and the more often you come across the same types of decks from meta reports or top players, especially streamers. From this fact, it is pretty clear that the attitude of players to the game, their opponents and how they treat victories/ defeats partially depends on the rank at which the person plays.

In order to find out how people change (if at all) after they reach the Pro Rank, two categories of players were interviewed: streamers who have spent if not thousands then hundreds of hours playing our favorite game; and benevolent Twitch users, who most often prefer watching the misplays of other, more experienced players on their own.

After talking to the regular inhabitants of the Gwent streams chat rooms, it was clear that a significant portion of these people had never reached Pro Rank. Some of the main reasons they mentioned include the following:

  • lack of interest in reaching the highest rank;
  • an insufficient amount of time / attempts while maintaining the desire to get into the Pro Rank;
  • unwillingness to try-hard every season to achieve / maintain Pro Rank, a lack of patience;
  • a lack of desire to play meta decks, which allow you to more effectively wade along the ladder;
  • unwillingness to play against the same types of popular decks from meta reports, leading to boredom;
  • unwillingness / inability to play decks from several factions in parallel (yes, it is not necessary to do this after reaching the rank 0, however, the introduction of MMR incentivizes you to play with at least four factions)
  • belief that getting into Pro Rank will change the attitude towards the game and make defeats more palpable and painful.
“I wish I could get to Pro, but it requires too much effort and I don't always want to play tier 0/1 decks.”
Chomfucjusz
Twitch Chatter
“I just find there is usually a super powerful oppressive deck at the start of every season, and playing my own stuff against it and losing just makes me lose interest.”

As can be judged from the highlighted reasons collected from the surveyed players, the reasons why people cannot / do not want / do not try to get into the Pro Rank are extremely varied: someone simply does not have enough time or patience to overcome the path from the third rank to zero every season; some are characterized by the rejection of the meta and a refusal to play in conditions of a ladder filled with identical decks, as well as the reluctance to succumb to tilt from defeat even more or play a larger number of factions.

Despite the significant number of drawbacks coming from merely thinking about the thorny path that leads to Pro Rank, an impressive chunk of the Gwent playerbase can still reach it at least once.

But is it worth it? Are the torn nerves and time spent overcoming obstacles on the way to the top something you would be willing to endure? To provide some clarity on this, we asked regular players the experience of getting into Pro Rank and the change thereafter in their attitudes towards deck building, opponents and wins and losses to gain an idea of ​​how the ranking system affects the way players think and act.

Three dominant patterns emerged regarding the impressions of achieving Pro Rank among the questioned chat users.

The attitude towards the game has not changed fundamentally

Those who claimed that reaching Pro Rank did not bring them any emotion and did not particularly affect their playstyle were in the minority. It is worth adding, however, that some of those who chose this option noted among the advantages of getting into rank 0 the opportunity to meet a great variability of decks within it, since at ranks 1-3 – especially at the beginning of the season – people desperately spam the most effective decks in order to break into Pro Rank as soon as possible.

Getting into Pro Rank gave them positive emotions, however they disappeared under the influence of various negative factors

What do we mean by negative factors? They vary from person to person.

For example, for some the motivation to play Gwent deteriorated greatly, since “the main goal” had already been achieved and, consequently, the competitive spirit was gone. Gaming sessions began to be more static, with no sense of progression, and the desire to reach Pro Rank every month if possible became reinforced for some only by obtaining additional keys for unlocking reward trees.

“I was happy to reach the Pro Rank, it was my goal when I started playing, and two months ago I reached it for the first time, but after that I only played few matches in Pro… Since I reached my goal of getting there my motivation to play the game greatly decreased and I usually play game at the end of the seasons to push to Pro to get the bonus keys.”

Some players noted that the unpleasant side effect of getting into Pro Rank was the inability to see the opponent’s name during the match, this causing a notion of depersonalization and the subsequent feeling of playing against an inanimate opponent.

Another negative factor the respondents found that has already been briefly mentioned is the fact that to move up the ladder you need to competently play with at least four factions, otherwise your MMR will grow extremely slowly, which already at the mental level demotivates you to dive into the competitive niche of Gwent.

Reaching Pro Rank allows players to breathe out with relief and play more casually.

For some players, getting into Pro Rank does not stimulate them to join the rat race for MMR but, on the contrary, allows them to untie their hands in relation to building decks and perceive defeats less painfully since, after reaching the maximum rank, there is no need to fight the malicious mosaic puzzle pieces anymore.

“I never climbed super hard, so in Pro, I tried out more shenanigans and wild ideas. I was more infuriated about losses in rank 2 or 3, than in Pro. So basically, i felt less stressful playing, deckbuilding and stuff, quite interesting.”

I also invited a few members of the Bandit Gang to recall their stories of getting into the Pro Rank and describe their observations on the issues we’ve discussed above: how reaching Pro Rank affected their attitudes towards the game, opponents, deck building, wins and losses and more. There are definitely some commonalities with the positions and opinions of ordinary players, but in addition to that we can explore the opinions of those who play Gwent on a regular basis and/ or at a competitive level.

We will consider the responses of streamers from a slightly different angle: if we split the opinions of people from chats according to how players feel after reaching Pro Rank, we will distribute the streamers’ positions depending on their attitude to different aspects of the game. This is due to the fact that people who know Gwent like the back of their hand will be able to judge the changes on a more complex level by leaving the general system of mosaic ranks.

So, what are the experiences that Bandit Gang members have with reaching Pro Rank?

  1. Getting into the Pro Rank for the first time
  • Reaching the Pro Rank was a pleasant achievement, which gave them a charge of positive emotions – a feeling of joy or accomplishment was felt if this was done with the help of non-standard decks.
“I'd never taken the game seriously enough to even think about aiming for the top of the mountain. I meme meme meme and memed all the way through the game. But making it to the top when we did felt like this really massive achievement that I was proud to have done on my own terms. I played it with memes, and that was what was important for me.”
kingdenpai
“My first impressions of getting to pro were a rush of ecstasy and a strong feeling of accomplishment as it took me a long time to get there and I also managed to do so with an anti meta deck of my own, Enslave 5 with Palmerin and Milton! Noone else seemed to play with Enslave 5 control, despite it being consistently decent, so that bolstered my confidence in my deckbuilding.”
Mercernn
“Pro Rank for me was something quite elusive and, in many ways, unattainable in Gwent Beta. In this version of Gwent, though, I finally met my waifu, my beloved Gernichora. Together, with our brutally oppressive thrive deck (back when Larry still thrived), we went on a 17 match win-streak and felt the sweet highs of rank zero-ness. In the seasons that followed, though, it just never felt the same, like a cheap wine that had dulled in flavor. I realized that although I enjoyed being up there, I never fought to stay there. Too conformist for me, not my style.”
Weevil
  • Getting into Pro Rank was a pleasant moment, but players couldn’t fully enjoy this experience, since not all of the decks which were used during the climb were made on their own.
“I was happy I managed to hit pro in that season, although it didn't feel like much of an achievement because I was netdecking my way to it. (with a few changes from myself, I remember I used to run Yrden and the pirate with a few other bronzes while everyone was running Maraal, but still, pretty much a netdeck).”
briberyplayer
  • Getting into Pro Rank allowed them to get a charge of positive emotions and at the same time breathe a sigh of relief, since there was no longer any need to worry about reaching a new rank.
“When I first got to pro rank I was beyond excited, it was only my second month of playing the game. Honestly since I was still new to the game I was using netdecks since at that point I wasn't very good at deckbuilding. Once I got to pro rank for the first time I felt relieved and felt like I can relax since if I lost a game I just lost MMR and wasn't knocked out of pro rank.”
JHugs
  • Achievement of the zero rank was easy and natural, without significant efforts and sometimes even without setting a specific goal of getting there.
“So getting to pro rank for me initially was just a bonus-- at least until the home stretch. I was streaming the game anyway, and just through playing quite a lot I ended up securing the win rate necessary to get into pro. Ironically each following season has somehow been more stressful? Getting to pro the first time didn't feel like a big deal, getting there again feels a lot more intense.”
MoriartyUK
  • On the way to the Pro Rank, for some people, there were tragicomic obstacles that made the first hit in Pro even more memorable.
“So...for me it was like an interesting journey and a stressful task and once to reach pro rank. The first time I did it, I forgot to accept the regulations, didn't proceed and was so tilted, that I lost the next 3 games and had to start all over.”
Sawyer1888

           2. Deck building

  • To succeed in the Pro Ladder and to not catch long lose streaks, people have to play decks that match the meta and are ready to resist it.
“Deck building is much more different in the way that whenever I try to climb I just play the best leaders and cards in the respective meta. When I wanna have fun and play with the 2 factions I'm not climbing with, I also notice synergies in between cards that I didn't notice before.”
briberyplayer

At the same time, most of the players note that such a system with a limited number of viable decks not only often forces the majority of players to start using meta combinations, but, sadly, also kills the desire to be creative among players. Players feel that no matter how good their creation is, it will still be weaker than most netdecks.

“My mentality changed in the matter of deck building in some ways, cause I know that if I want to stay competitive, I need to play meta decks or I am forced to tech against the meta and hope for my matchups. It's not about how creative my decks can go, but only how strong they are in the meta.”
Sawyer1888
  • The attitude towards deck building has not changed fundamentally: the person continues to play on what he likes or what he finds interesting or fun.
“My deck building ethos hasn't changed; I always played a mix of my own piles and the occasional net deck I mostly just play what's fun.”
MoriartyUK

The position in the leaderboard can also be less disturbing than the desire to enjoy the game in the first place.

“After getting into pro I didn't really care about the placements all that much, so all I did was meme around for a bit since rank didn't mean anything to me. I quickly realized that if people wanted to watch "high level" players play meta decks, there are a ton more qualified players out there for them to watch, which is when I stopped playing meta decks for the most part and just started playing decks that were fun, homebrews chat and I made on stream, or decks my chat sent to me.”
OneChristo

           3. Game in general

  • Being in Pro Rank encourages players to learn to adapt to opponents and resist the strongest decks.
“I see the games differently now. It's not so much about ''doing your thing'' as it it about reacting to what your opponent does and trying to read their plays first before you slam your cards down.”
briberyplayer
  • For some, getting into Pro Rank allowed a fresh look at the ladder system.
“Over time I came to realize that Pro ladder is full of people who got there despite barely understanding how "their" deck works. In general pro Rank used to have this aura of "real gwent" around it for me with original homemade decks or at least meta lists tuned by their pilots - experienced and detailed focused players that managed to get there. The sad realization though, was that reaching Pro is pretty easy for anyone willing to grind an overpowered deck that they download from somewhere. If I take this all into consideration, not much has changed after reaching Pro, the variety of opponents is slightly higher, not as many people tryhard as in the hellish Rank 3-1 area, but it's still the same game with the same problems.”
Mercernn
  • Impressions from the game parties are overshadowed by the fact that in Pro Rank you have to face the same decks over and over again and all intrigue is lost: the games become more automatic and of the same type (this opinion was shared by the overwhelming majority of the team members!). At the same time, the players themselves often have to build their decks around or against meta structures.
“I find the game less fun in pro than I do at other ranks, only because even at ranks 5-1 you mostly see the same net decks; sometimes you are surprised. At pro you're never surprised. You always know card for card what is being played. For many pros this is a plus, it makes the game more like chess and makes the mind games a bigger part of it. Personally, I like to be surprised.”
MoriartyUK

Streamers also report that Pro Rank games are becoming more stressful and less enjoyable.

“After streaming and be a pro-ranked player for over a year my feeling about Gwent had been change a lot. For me playing in pro-ladder is a lot more stressful and there are less variety of decks the you will be able to play and have a positive win rate, so for streamers outside of being good players and have a high MMR it's quite difficult to create a new/interesting content due to losing games in pro-ranked are more detrimental and sometime very difficult to come back. Many people including myself have to rely on the Meta and game balancing to help making new contents or making Gwent appeals more to their viewers. And that might be the reason why some streamer decided not to proceed to pro-ranked so that they can create more interesting decks/contents like Trynet123.”
ZigZak_Guy
  • At the same time, some of the players lose interest in further climbing, as it becomes less exciting and less interesting.
“I immediately lost interest in climbing further as it seemed a bit anxiety inducing (with 'Pro' being in the name) and also as there seemed to be no more clear outlines of realistic goals to reach.”
Mercernn

And, in the end, for some, the game does not change radically after getting into the Pro Rank, and it is not so important where you play, the main thing is what emotions you experience during games.

“Reaching Pro Rank was a really fun experience and I'm happy to have done it. But I'm certainly in no rush to do it again. It's nice when it happens, but in the end you're playing the same games with a different ruleset. MMR Vs Ranking up.”
kingdenpai

Speaking about the impressions of getting into the Pro Rank and changes in attitudes towards various aspects of the game, we can safely say that the situation differs for everyone, and the general pattern is quite difficult to identify. For some, the ranking system means absolutely nothing, but for others, the monthly Pro Rank MMR competition is a must-have ritual and opportunity to practice playing, deck-building and cultivating the imagination.

But it doesn’t matter if you are fighting to get into the top 500 Pro ladders, surprise your opponent with incredible decks at rank 10, play decks of pro players or prefer to watch tactical misplays from the side – the main thing is to get the most out of the game, maintain a friendly attitude towards other people and to ourselves and remember that tilt is never an option.

All the best!

NovaLille