After reading Sawyer’s stellar article about the mindset of pro players I decided it was my turn to dive into my psyche regarding my latest climb in Gwent, Season of Mahakam, and why I decided to do it.
I’ve always been a particularly competitive person, whether that’s been sports, video games, school or otherwise. I used to play paper card games at a highly competitive level but lost some of that interest when Collectible Card Games went digital. That was when I picked up Hearthstone. The game was immense, the tournament scene complicated and grinding up the ladder was good enough for me.
To give you a bit more context, I started streaming with Hearthstone and played that for a couple months before my friend Flake convinced me to dust off my closed beta collection of Gwent and give the game a shot again. I relearned the game on stream, chat was amazing in coaching me through my first run to pro and beyond.
Herein lies the problem, what developed in my mind was that I was the “new Gwent streamer/player” and that mindset bled into my gameplay. I acted in a way where I did not have confidence in myself or my ability to play the game. A lot of the time I would start a game, play my way, have chat suggest a different line and take their advice, simply because I wasn’t sure of myself. The problem? I end up playing half the game my way and half the game chats way with disastrous results.
I came up with the excuse that maybe I wouldn’t be competitive. If people wanted to see high level play, they could go somewhere else and I would hit pro rank, meme around (Triple Commandos!?) and just have fun.
"I acted in a way where I did not have confidence in myself
or my ability to play the game"
However, my mindset started to change at the end of Season of the Cat (October 2020), in the most roundabout of ways. I was actually visiting Flake at the time and was trying to collect all the Halloween rewards towards the end of the season. Time was running out and I went to grinding with the deck I had the most success with, Devotion Monsters, and actually ended up running that up to 2500 MMR, something I had never accomplished before. That brought me to a new all-time high MMR, 9868, (ground breaking, I know), with the most games I’d played in any one season, 247, and putting me in the top 900 players.
To give you an idea of where my head was at, other than hitting 2500 with Monsters, I didn’t notice any of that. It was actually the manager of the BG pro team, Ian, who brought it up to me. I thought to myself, if I can accomplish that grinding in the last 3 days of the season, what can I do if I actually work at my score all season long?
Cue into the Season of the Mahakam and I was ready to go with old faithful, PF Warriors (yes, I know, how original), to make my mark on the season. Things went well, minus a co-op with Beefox who tanked my MMR a solid 50 points (thanks buddy) and I cracked 2500 with the deck not too long into the season. I toyed around with a few other decks, some of Avades NG lockdown and a ST Symbiosis deck we built on stream, both of which hit 2450 and then I went back to my Devotion Monsters list to finish my placements, coming in around 2500.
The most important thing was that I was building confidence! I finally felt good about my ability to play, even though it was all just a number and I hadn’t even cracked 10k yet.
Then something interesting happened.
"None of it had to do with my skill level, all of it had to do with the confidence I carried into those games"
I started a stream, loaded up my Devotion Monsters deck hoping to continue to push with it (and to shut people up who kept saying Devo OH isn’t good). To my surprise, almost the entire BG pro team showed up that day, enerGiiX and sonneillon among others. These are two players I look up to and are consistently on top of the leaderboard. My old mindset would have let them run the board via chat. Today, however, I didn’t allow that to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I let them give their 2 cents and I definitely took their advice on more than one occasion, but that is entirely different than staring at chat waiting for them to dictate my next play. I ended up cracking 2565 with Monsters and finally breaking 10k. It was huge and a lot had changed in the days leading up to that stream. The way I looked at the game and the way I played were both completely different. None of it had to do with my skill level, all of it had to do with the confidence I carried into those games, believing in my ability to see the board, make optimal plays and get the results I wanted.
I ended up using Condor’s Devotion PS to push my ST over 2500 as well, and wrapped things up by passing Nilfgaard with Ian’s Northern Realms deck , coming in just shy of 2500 with it. This is where the next change happened.
As I watched time tick down on the season clock I started to panic. I wanted to get NR over 2500, I wanted to catch up with Flake (spoiler: I didn’t, but I love the guy so it’s ok) and I wanted to really blow this season out of the water. You know what that is? A recipe for a tilted disaster. Everything I learned went out the window. I would stop thinking about my plays and started smashing cards trying to rush through games to build my MMR, and I nearly brought it all down. The result? Exhaustion and burnout. I didn’t even pass 400 games, and I took 4 days off from the game. The interesting part about this is that it didn’t just affect my gameplay but actually started to affect my life outside of the game. I was frustrated, I was down on myself, I was angry. It really wasn’t a good look, since it all came down to a number in a video game…the cherry on top, the season doesn’t even matter.
I have an infinite amount of respect for streamers like Spyro who play nearly 1000 games at a very high level and I can totally understand when they have a momentary outburst of frustration with the game.
"The interesting part about this is that it didn't just affect my gameplay but actually started to affect my life outside of the game"
This is how I finished:
I was really hoping to get all 4 factions over 2500 and was hoping to crack top 200 but 227 and 10073 ain’t half bad for somebody whose previous best result was a couple hundred points below that.
For most people who don’t play at a competitive level, the game isn’t only about skill, but also about will. Get in enough reps and you’ll learn the game, the optimal plays, and will win more than you lose. I think anybody can break the 10k barrier, as long as they take the time, have the confidence, and are in the right headspace to do so. Taking a break from the game to get your head on straight can actually be the best tool of all.