Sawyer1888

Deck Guide: Toxic Aristocrats

Overview


Since the Price of Power Expansion, maybe even before, Masquerade Ball disappeared. That might not change with this Guide, but it gives you an impression of how a classic Masquerade Ball deck could look like these days. And while testing, it turned out to be actually stronger than expected. 

One of the biggest weaknesses of playing this deck was always to get bled in Round 2, losing your Scenario or not drawing into it in Round 3. With the introduction of Jan Calveit as a card, we won’t have this problem anymore, as we can secure drawing into the cards we really need.  
To avoid the bleeding, we want to win Round 1 as efficient as possible. To help with that in addition to the tempo of Calveit, we play Ring of Favor, together with the Blightmaker and Mage Assassin combo. Fangs of the Empire with maybe Maraal or Cupbearer can also help to threaten some reach, while if necessary, we can take it with the removal potential of Vincent or grab a good unit with Vigo’s Muzzle

Obviously, you need a playable Round 1 hand to be able to do so, but with so many options to contest, you should be fine. If you feel not being able to secure Round 1, it might be an idea to hold Calveit, so your Scenario won’t get bled in Round 2 or even mulligan it away…but that’s a gamble and your call to take or not. 

The huge potential in this deck lies in its power combo: Masquerade Ball and Philippe Van Moorlehem. Protected behind Ffion var Gaernel, we should be able to gain a lot of points with our Thirsty Dames. Use your aristocrats wisely, you don’t need to instantly poison the unit you want to kill. Poison a unit with the spawned Fangs, then lock it with Philippe. Do the same with the other one and maybe even with Maraal as well. Gain statuses for your Dames and, depending on how long the Round takes, finish it off with Philippe and your remaining removals. 
Vigo’s Muzzle locks first before it grabs the unit, so it boosts your Dames as well as your leader ability Imposter. Keep that in mind to not waste points, but you don’t have to combine them necessarily. 

Pros: 
– A lot more flexibility to win Round 1 than old Ball decks, while also being consistent for your Round 3. 
– Versatile with thinning, points, removal and control. Even Bronze cards like Experimental Remedy, Van Moorlehem Hunter or Imperial Diplomacy can turn out valuable. 
– You can be toxic without being rude and Poison makes cool sound effects. Masquerade Ball is also better than Blue Balls

Cons:
Calveit Round 1 is not guaranteed, as well as your Blightmaker package. It needs a decent understanding of the matchup to know what Gold cards to commit Round 1. 
– Sequencing with Philippe, Dames and Poison is key to get the most points, but it might be weak against wide or no-unit decks. 
– It is not meant to be a 2:0 deck, as it needs some time to develop its power in a longer Round 3. 

The Deck

Core Cards

Ring of Favor helps you to secure Round 1, but be aware of your opponent might have it as well.

Masquerade Ball obviously is your main threat and gives you engines and removal

Philippe Van Moorlehem not only has a cool name, but can be really powerful if used together with your Dames and Poisons.

Ffion var Gaernel protects your important engines. Always play him in the Melee Row, as you want to defend your Maraal as well. 

Vincent Van Moorlehem is a decent removal for defenders, veiled units, Ciri:Nova or anything you gave Poison or Lock to. Together with your leader ability Imposter, it can be even a one turn removal. 

Skill beats Luck Ep. 10 – A talk with Snake about the History of Claymore

Introduction

The first competitive season this year has finished, while the next one already started. This means that also the first Qualifier Tournaments of 2022 are on their way as well. 

While we talked with Ryan Godric last episode in detail about the community in general, this time we have a special guest: Snake from Team Claymore. Mostly known in the CIS community, Claymore also organises a lot of tournaments open for everyone, like the currently running Love Tournament.
But what many non-competitive players might not know is, that Snake is one of the hard workers behind the scenes for the official Qualifier Tournaments. Let’s take a closer look on his work and also find out more about the history of Claymore

Meet the Manager

Name: Erik

Age: 33

Hobbies: Games, Cinema, Music, travelling on my Motorcycle

Favorite Card: Villentretenmerth

Favorite Faction: Northern Realms/Skellige

Section: Management Claymore

Claymore and the CIS Community

Everyone within the GWENT community who followed the recent months in the competitive scene noticed the rise of CIS GWENT teams and players. When renova- and I made our interview series Through the Thorns of Top 64 Qualifiers, we talked with players like Nik_r, iluxa or Ch.ase, while I also had the chance to interview arch1 for a Skill beats Luck episode.
Phoenix and GwentDetta are the top competitive teams of the CIS community, while Claymore can be considered as the headquarters. Translation of articles, organising events, helping out in official tournaments, Claymore is for the CIS community what the Piazza was for the Romans. Supported by the TGGwent team they do a tremendous job and are one of the reasons why GWENT is so popular in the CIS regions.

The Interview

Sawyer: First, thanks for being my guest this time. It’s rather unique to talk to people being involved more in the background of things. Many of our readers might know something about the work you do, but not really much about who you are.    
So maybe give us a short introduction about yourself, who you are in the GWENT community and how you’ve become involved in everything.

Snake: Hey! Thank you for inviting me, it is always a great pleasure to chat inside the GWENT community! 
My name is Erik, I’m from Minsk (Belarus), 33 (oh, God) years old. Currently working in IT. I’ve been a gamer since childhood and am a huge Witcher Universe fan.

My way to GWENT? Well, I read about it, played it in the Witcher 3, and waited for the standalone game to be announced. I started playing GWENT in the very beginning — since KillTheServers, which was even before Closed Beta. Then I somehow got the sacramental key and started playing and streaming on Twitch. That’s how I got to the global Discord server.
CIS players used another big Discord server (which is now integrated with Claymore, btw). Someone there was talking about some closed EU tournaments with quite valuable prizes from CD PROJEKT RED. That’s when I thought, “Why don’t we do the same? Let’s make our own tournament! Open for everyone!”. And they say: “Initiative is punishable” — so I had no way back. 

Now I’m a manager of the biggest CIS GWENT community — Claymore team. Not only do we produce daily content in Russian, we also organize plenty of tournaments: official qualifiers and our own Opens and Fast Cups. 

S: Impressive stuff, I noticed you’ve been involved in a lot of things. 
The Russian or CIS community grew a lot over the recent years. In a chat with arch1 from Team Phoenix, we already talked about the variety of teams etc.
Can you tell us a bit more about the journey of Claymore and also TGGwent?

Sn: Well, as I already said, Claymore or, rather, RuGwent Tournaments were born with the idea of creating our own tournament. And we started doing this when GWENT was in beta. With sheer enthusiasm, we set the seemingly-easy goal to make our own online tournament with livestreams. The first tournament with more than 250 CIS participants took place in early 2017. We were first to make a broadcast with both players’ hands shown. CD PROJEKT RED did the same much later with the help of ESL for some local tournament. And the Spectator mode was introduced years later. 
Tournaments were extremely successful, so we started making them on a monthly basis, constantly improving and rotating casters. To promote tourneys, we created social network accounts, and we started posting news as well. At this point, the second goal appeared — to become one of the best news and content creators in CIS.
I believe we succeeded. At some point, we even recorded some interviews in English with Chinese and German pro-players. Later, those appeared on the official GWENT web page. No one in CIS had ever done anything like that. All in all, trying to do everything qualitatively is one of the main pillars of our success. People can always feel if you are not completely into what you do. And you’ll get bored by such a job quite soon as well.

We started with CIS region — online tournaments took place once or even twice a month (and we’re trying to keep up with the temp now). First LAN took place at St. Petersburg in 2017, the next one was in Minsk in 2018 with the great help of Belarusian eSports Federation. All in all, we hosted 5 LANs and are willing to do more.

Back then in 2017 we grew to the EU and World level. At first, we helped Lifecoach. Later, in the beginning of 2018 we translated our online rules into English and started to make international tournaments with international live casters — we were first at that too!

Twitch online during the Beta was up to 3000 viewers. Our tournament casts (that were usually in Polish, English and Russian) were up to 1900 with 1700 average. The greatest achievement is, of course, the close partnership with CD PROJEKT RED as we organize all the qualifiers for GWENT Opens. 

Not only that, but we also helped them to make tournaments for other official GWENT partners — any kind of recognized content makers from all over the world.  

This is a shortened summary of what Claymore (former RuGwent Tournaments) has been doing. And besides the tournaments, people always want more content. Yet, one of our main platforms — vk.com/ is not available in Ukraine due to politics and guys from Ukraine decided to fill the lack with communication by creating a chat (and the TGGwent team of content creators) in Telegram. Their news channel was created back in the middle of 2020 and appeared to be quite popular in CIS community. Obviously, there’s not much official content in GWENT, and sometimes it is a rush to do something faster and better once there is something, but it is always good to have a healthy competition, and together we deliver news in Russian maybe even faster than they are delivered to most English-Speakers 🙂 Unfortunately, we don’t collaborate much, though. 

S: Wow, what a journey. From pure passion, you really built something big, which is now definitely one important pillar of the GWENT community.    
With multiple events happening over the year, official and community hosted, you’ve seen many different parts of the competitive scene already.
What does it take, and how is it like to organize events, content and communication?

Sn: Oh, it is really exciting and inspiring, though at the same moment you feel that burden of responsibility. Making a high-quality product that all participants would be comfortable with is always the highest priority for me. And this aspiration always makes me involved in the creation process.
We formed a cool organizing team and a lot of things have been repeated so many times. At this point, communicating with casters and participants or monitoring that everyone’s good is the only thing that may bring something unexpected. Once you have solid and detailed regulations and a plan with all little things considered, it becomes way easier for you.

S: True, a structure definitely helps.     
What events or exciting situations would come to your mind when you look into your GWENT past…and where would you say you would’ve done things maybe differently? 

Sn: All LANs and OPENs along with Challenger that I visited are the first to come to mind. Every meeting gave so many positive emotions and motivated me for further work with the community, content, team and development in general. So, yes. Live tournaments and after parties are the things that are unforgettable.

As for the things that I might have changed… I’m not sure if there is one. Looking back at how it all went, I like everything that happened to me and the team in general

S: Sounds like you’ve done everything right so far, and the success proves you right!        
Many competitive players will already know, and you already said it, but you often help out with the official qualifiers for the GWENT Opens. I can only imagine the effort to get everyone prepared and ready for it.
What does a qualifier weekend look like from your perspective?       

Sn: First of all, I have to say that everything begins a long way before the weekend. The more time you spend to get ready — the less unexpected things will occur during the tourney. So, you should always imagine yourself in the participants’ position  so that the questions will arise during preparation and not during the event itself.

A week before the qualifiers we create tournaments on Challonge and Platform, add participants to the Discord server, onboard casters and induct them into the process and nuances of communication. We also communicate with CD PROJEKT RED concerning tournaments, announcements and so on. Of course, checking and screening players’ decks is also on the list.  During the tournament day you should strictly follow the timings, control the information to be delivered to participants and viewers, do troubleshooting…. So, you’ll definitely have your mind blown by the amount of work to be done.

 All in all, every day of qualifiers usually takes at least 10-12 hours. And after that you have to summarize the results with a nice infographic, clear the discord, analyze the feedback if  any. All in all, you have to be really into the process.

S: I’ve never taken part as a player in such an event, but I was involved behind the scenes in smaller ones, so I can totally relate.    
Over the last months we had some chats as well, where you helped translate some articles from Bandit Gang into Russian. It shows how international the community is, from players taking part in events to content creation.                    

What are the differences for you between organizing things mainly for the CIS community and events like qualifiers or the CIS Cup, where also people from all over the world take part?

Sn: We do translate some of your articles and reference your meta and meme snapshots, yet some other articles such as Slavic Lore or some other Skill beats Luck were translated by TGGwent fellows — translating is a thing that takes a lot of effort and sometimes there are just not enough hands, so it is cool that those are still being delivered to people who don’t speak English. Besides, we do have a lot of our own lore content and are always happy to interact on that if needed!

As for organizing different things — all our tournaments are open for anyone of any origin and skill to participate. So, basically, there’s almost no difference at all. Rules for any of our tournaments are duplicated in Russian and in English, we can answer any questions at least in these two languages, and we always announce tourneys not only in our discord, but also on other teams discords and our twitter as well, so follow the news not to miss anything 😉

S: I will make sure of it, and also am glad for your continuous support!         
Recently we could see the road map for 2022 and where GWENT is heading. What are your thoughts on it?              

Sn: As any other player, I always wait for more various content. I’m willing to see what Golden Nekker will bring to us. And as we now know it is not a new GWENT mode, maybe they have an idea for the one that will not grow into a standalone as GWENT really lacks some in game modes. I hope this pause in journeys will help the team to look back on what has been done and improve the game. This includes draft mode, Card abilities rework, and some misconceptions in descriptions of those, etc.

As for the roadmap, I personally like the idea of the month-long breaks in April and July. This will help players to be better concentrated during the competitive seasons and not to burn out because of non-stop play. Yes, that will mean that we’ll have one Open less. Yet, I believe this lack will be more than compensated with the Play-in tournament where not only the best will perform, but the tournament format itself looks promising. And moreover, the rework of the CP system will show itself good enough, imo. Oh, and the gaps will also let different teams like us make their tournaments more popular — as we do a lot, so we are quite interested in promoting those. 

And All in all, unfortunately, CD PROJEKT RED don’t have any platform to test what they do. Chess tournament rules are still sometimes being reworked (previous time it happened last April). But without experimenting, you’ll not be able to come to an optimum, and it is never late to roll the changes back next year. 

S: Interesting, I think we just have to simply wait and see how everything works out this year.
The last couple of years, we must say, have been quite influenced by Corona. I often heard that, for especially that reason, it was “easier” to compete and take part in this virtual community.

But also, many real-life events happened inter in different teams.
You’ve ever meet anyone from the GWENT community in person? How much does GWENT influence your personal life?

Sn: Meeting like-minded people in person is always a great event. Of course, I met many players in person, mostly thanks to official LANs in Warsaw and our own ones in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. During my visits to Warsaw, I got acquainted with a lot of developers as well

Thanks to GWENT LANs, I started to travel more, so yes, they did influence my life a lot. New cities and countries, people and impressions — that is really cool! Because of GWENT, I can go to almost any country in the world and meet someone who I know there. So, once the pandemic is over, I’ll pay a visit to you too — beware! 🙂

And for quite a long time now we have dreamed of a global LAN in Moscow — gathering the best players and content creators, organizing tournaments and casting, chatting during the after-party. Such activities are always fun, cozy and unforgettable, especially when polished with Mahakam Ale 🙂

S: That would be awesome! But Moscow or St. Petersburg were always on my list as well, so maybe it’s me who rings your doorbell first!
The new year started as well as the first competitive season in GWENT is already finished.
What are your goals for 2022, personal as well, and what can we expect from Claymore this year?       

Sn: There is an important goal that I won’t announce now, but I’m sure it will please Claymore team as well as the whole CIS community in general. We’ll tell you once we’re close. We’re planning to make more and more high quality content (unfortunately, mostly in Russian) — Articles, translations, interviews, tests, Glossary (Aretuza Glossary was the one to inspire us), et cetera, et cetera… We’re turning five, so this is also a great opportunity to celebrate with the community with some contest or any other event. 

Sn: As for the tournaments, we always want more and better. If only we had more time for that — official qualis are more critical for players, and therefore most forces are there. We want our FastCups (BO1, SE) to happen more often. First Fastcup already took place on January 30. And we also want to launch our new format — Claymore Special (BO3, SE), where we’re planning to introduce special rules for your decks so that it will be fresh & fun. The first tournament is taking place on February 13s. And as it is really close to St Valentine’s Day, it will be LOVE special — you’ll have to include at least one couple from the list we made. You may not be late for the registration! 

And of course classic competitive Claymore Opens for those who love it harder or for those who want to get ready for the Qualis and understand how it all works.

S: So a lot of stuff in the pipes, looking forward to it!   
Thanks for taking part in the interview, really appreciate it! As always, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.
Any closing words from you for our readers? Maybe a tip on how to draw your golds? 😉

Sn: Thank you for inviting me, it was really great to participate! I wish everyone not to be afraid of interesting and ambitious goals and follow them whatever it takes. Only challenging things can make you delighted and proud of what you’ve done. And this is not only about GWENT — this is a great life rule in general 😉 

And may the red coin be with you, may every keg contain a premium card, and may the odds be ever in your favor. In the name of Burza and Saint Shupe, Ahoy, my hooman friends!

Skill beats Luck Ep. 9 – About the GWENT Community with Ryan Godric

Introduction

Over the last months, we had the chance to talk with people from all over the world. We got insights from Pro Players, talked about what it takes to stream, cast or even manage and already got a first glimpse behind the scenes with MrRepek

After last weeks nostalgic chat with Masters winner Kolemoen, today we have another German guest: CD PROJEKT RED Community Specialst Ryan Godric
Let’s take another look behind the curtain and hear about his work within the GWENT Community. 

For our fellow German readers, you will find a link to the original German interview in the Additional Information!

Meet the Guest

Name: Ryan Schou

Age: 25

Hobbies: Movies, Video Games, Music, People

Section: Community Specialist 

Favorite Card: Ulfhedinn

Favorite Faction: Skellige

The GWENT Community

I maybe want to take this short section as an opportunity to share my thoughts about the community. 
While I was part of different eSport-Teams in the past and obviously are involved in other things outside GWENT, our community really is something special. 
People from all over the world came together to either stay longer in the Witcher universe or just wanted to try out another CCG. But while being so global, for me it always felt like a bigger family, a bunch of friends. If you watch your favorite channel on Twitch, most of the time you see people you know and have some sort of friendly connection. If you face certain opponents on ladder, you have the feeling that you know them, while maybe never even had a chat together. 
And when you have questions, feedback or want to get help, not only a broad landscape of Teams can help you out, but also the official members of CD PROJEKT RED. Through streams, shared tweets or simple conversations over Discord, you always find a helping hand. 
One of the persons who makes this all possible is Community Specialist Ryan Godric, so how about giving him the word and see, what his impressions of our community are.

Additional Information - Zusätzliche Infos

For our German readers and community, we prepared the original German interview as well, which you can find here in a Google Document!
Für unsere deutschsprachigen Leser haben wir das Original Interview zusätzlich aufbereitet, welches ihr in diesem Google Document findet!

The Interview

Sawyer: Hello Ryan, first of all thanks for taking part in our series! I guess many in the scene will already know you through your interviews with player during bigger GWENT Events.
But why don’t you introduce yourself for our readers as well? 

Ryan: Hello everyone, I am Ryan and I work since almost 2 years now for CD PROJECT RED as a Community Specialist for GWENT. I am from Cologne, where I studied Media at the university and moved to Warsaw for work in summer 2020.
Most of all I am interested in movies, video games, music and people. Especially I love to talking with others about media, society and other interesting things, I guess that comes in handy for my job. 

S: Then you were able to turn your hobby into your job, that’s awesome!
First you were in Team Aretuza, if I’m correct, and then work for CD PROJEKT RED.
How did your GWENT-Journey start, and how did you end up in CD PROJEKT RED?

R: My GWENT-Journey started in my hometown at Gamescom 2016, where I came in contact with GWENT the first time. There was a stand where you could play it and a friend of mine already heard of it. So I gave it a shot and entered the closed Beta. Fast-forward one year and I became a fan of The Witcher 3, played GWENT a bit and was again at the Gamescom. This time I spent more time there and met two people which really influenced me.

The first person was AshCosplay, a Cosplayer and Streamer from England. Through a short conversation, I found her Twitch Account and started streaming myself a bit. November 2017 was the time where I had my first GWENT Stream on English.

The second person of course was Pawel Burza, our Community Manager. He was an idol for me for a long time. 2017 I already told him at the Gamescom, that a year later I would be on this GWENT stage myself. Sadly 2018 was no Gamescom, but through regularly streaming and my engagement in the community I joined Team Aretuza. There I got to know the Community even better and tried to implement various projects, to increase the quality of content withing the GWENT scene.
For example, I travelled 2019 two times to Warsaw to produce Bonus Material for official GWENT tournaments. These were published interviews with casters, streamers and also a (sadly) failed documentation for the last challenger.
Start of 2020 there was an open job position in the CD PROJEKT RED GWENT-Team, on which I applied and thankfully got in the end.

S: Your passion definitely paid out in the end, well deserved.
If you are not busy answering questions of GWENT-Partners, players or interviewers, what are your tasks at CD PROJEKT RED

R: My tasks are very versatile, that’s why I love my job so much. On one hand I manage the daily exchange between players and developers, but also the organization of bigger projects, like the reveal-plan for an expansion.
On the other hand, I take care of the GWENT-Partner Program (answering applications or general communication) and of the production of interviews or trivia videos for our GWENT tournaments.
In addition, there are also some exciting sideprojects or smaller things, like the monthly winrate publication.

S: Sounds interesting. I remember my own application in summer 2020.
As a former team member of Team Aretuza you now are involved with everything as the Community Specialist for CD PROJEKT RED.
What changed for you, personally, with this change to the more “official” side? 

R: I hope, of course, that the GWENT Community will be as open and honest with me as before. But I understand, that I might be seen now as an official part of the company. So people might be a bit more careful towards me about what they say.
I definitely miss the daily private and intense conversations on our old TA Team Discord. But therefore I have a new “Team” now, if you want to put it like that, and the insight in the world of game development is really exciting. You get a totally different perspective on things and especially a face behind all these decisions. And personally, the passion in the Team for GWENT and the community drives me.
Sadly, I can’t invest as much time in playing as I used to, because you already spent 8h a day with the game. Nevertheless, I love playing GWENT! 

S: Understandable, but it surely is exciting to now know both sides of the gaming world.
If you look at the big GWENT events, then you quickly figure out how international the Community is. Now and again, people help you with translations, like Hesser or Pawel Burza himself.
How would you describe a  typical “press day” before an event? 

R: The procedure most starts 2-3 weeks before the event. First, we prepare the questions for each player for day 1 and day 2. Also, we ask our graphic designers to make the overlays with the correct names and a fitting design.
Our Event manager MrRepek helps to coordinate the recording times with the players, so that we can start with them 1-2 weeks before the tournament.
I take over the English once, while the rest most of the time are taken care of from Hesser. The interviews are then recorded online, produced and edited for the broadcast on the weekend. 

S: You not only help with the interviews, but also are our main contact person for the GWENT-Partners. Some people are waiting for the next Partner Tournament, others are not sure who the application systems works for everyone etc.
Can you maybe reveal us some future plans for the program and what we might expect? 

R: Unfortunately, I can’t “leak” anything for the Partner Program in 2022, but I can tell you that we are currently working on some big things for it. For example that we will prepare some sort of materials for the Partners, like graphic assets etc.

S: A pity, but I am looking forward to it anyway!
I guess it’s the same for you, but when I open my Discord, I see a lot of different channels. GWENT Teams, Streamers or specific tournament channels, everything is included, as well as the GWENT DE Channel.
I noticed that, except some examples like Kafunow or NewPieceYT, there’s relatively small amount of content online. We have Russian translations of articles, French streams, Spanish leagues or Polish tournaments, so why do you think there are so little German streams, events or articles? 

R: That’s a good question. I think there is no clear, simple answer for that, but many small things which play their part. On one hand, you have indeed many bigger German streamers (for example Crozyr) or creators who rather produce their content in English. I think the reason might be the audience. The viewer numbers are far smaller for German content than for English one. 

S: I guess so, but nevertheless I will try to publish a German interview as well now and then, maybe others will follow.
You streamed a bit yourself and also were invited as a guest in some events on Twitch.
I always wondered how do you moderate a Community, where most of them you only know with their “Nicknames”? 

R: In the Internet, Nicknames are nothing new. You treat people like these were their real names, in fact, I don’t know the real names of many community members. But it’s their right to keep this information for themselves. You don’t need much more than a Nickname to communicate anyway. And the recognition value for Nicknames are most of the time better than for “real” names.

S: True, sometimes I have the feeling I hear my Nickname more often than my real one.
During GWENT Masters Season 3 you introduced the Road Map for 2022. This time we only have 3 Opens before the Masters and also the droprate for the card expansions changed a bit.
Where would you see GWENT currently, and for what are you working towards? What do you hope for the game to happen in the coming year? 

R: I think 2022 will be a great opportunity for GWENT. First, you have the adjustment of the drop rates and work routine of our graphic designers. I think big changes are not always right for a running game, but smaller, finer alterations can be more effective and contribute to better to the enjoyment. I am already excited like everyone else for the new cards this year.

Speaking of the eSports section, I am very optimistic, that the new rules support a more “healthy” Pro-Scene. Less time spending in the ladder-grind and more targeted work through the introduction of new off seasons for the players. Also, the adaption of the Crownpoint System and the new World Masters Qualifier Tournament (no fixed name yet) are things, which I am really looking forward to.

All in all, I think that GWENT, even with one less Open, will be an amazing year for Pros and Viewers at the same time.

S: Sounds promising indeed.
Normally, my guests give us some advice for our readers.
The question is, how competitive o you play GWENT these days? And what you tell our Community for the upcoming year? 

R: My competitive time is over I guess, but I have always fun taking a week for myself to grind back to Pro-Rank.
Previously, I loved to play in Community Tournaments, which I can really recommend for everyone who have an urge for exciting GWENT matches. Most of the time the atmosphere is awesome, and you can have thrilling exchanges as well. 

S: Totally agree on that one!
Alright, thanks again for being my guest. As always, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come, and I am looking forward to watching many more of your stories and interviews! 

R: Thank you very much for the interview and the support! 

Skill beats Luck Ep. 8 – A relic from the past: Kolemoen, Masters Winner of Season 1

Introduction

This weekend was and will be the first big highlight for the Gwent community. With the CDPR Charity Stream on Friday, the still ongoing Team Battlecup, organized by cantarellka, and the first Bandit Gang Game Night on Sunday we have plenty of opportunities to engange with fellow Gwenters. 

But the most important thing is today is Saturday, which means another episode of Skill beats Luck. Last week we had a first glimpse behind the curtain, while talking to CDPR’s Event Manager MrRepek
This time I talked with a veteran from the past, Kolemoen. Winner of the Gwent Masters Season 1 and Finalist of Season 2, he is Team Aretuzas top player and without a doubt one of the best players of all time. Let’s see what he’s been up to since his victory and what he thinks about the current state of Gwent! 
For our fellow German readers, you will find a link to the original German interview in the Additional Information!

Meet the Player

Name: Benjamin Pfannstiel

Age: 31

Hobbies: Gaming, Biking, Logicpuzzles

Section: Pro Team (Aretuza)

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Amphibious Assault

 

Gwent Masters

While in recent interviews we talked with community tournament champions, the Official Gwent Masters is totally different. Of course, every tournament has its own charms and the potential of providing intense matches. But becoming the eventual winner of a Masters is something else.

Most of our readers might be familiar with the competitive ruleset and structure, but for everyone else, check out the official regulations on the homepage here
Anyhow, it takes a lot of time and effort to become a champion. To qualify you need to be a very consistent player on ladder. This was always the core part over the last seasons. Nevertheless, other aspects changed a bit. From winning Challengers over Qualifiers to now maybe ending up in a new “Qualifier Tournament” in Season 4, your skills are going to be tested in various ways and formats. And in the end of this journey, after thousands of games, the winner can take home a massive amount of price money in addition to the title. 
(If you are interested in what the Pro Players think about what it takes to become a champion, check out Gwent’s Elite episode 1!)

Kolemoen was able to qualify for Masters Season 1 and 2, ending up being the winner of #1 and finalist of #2 while collecting a price money of almost 140.000$ alone in these two events. Now we take a look on what happened since his title win and what his impressions of the competitive changes are.  

Additional Information - Zusätzliche Infos

For our German readers and community, we prepared the original German interview as well, which you can find here in a Google Document!
Für unsere deutschsprachigen Leser haben wir das Original Interview zusätzlich aufbereitet, welches ihr in diesem Google Document findet!

The Interview

Sawyer: Hey Kolemoen, first of all thanks for participating in the interview. I guess you are well known to most of our readers, but maybe you want to introduce yourself anyway.
What is there to know about you and how did you end up playing Gwent? Especially your journey from the first game to the first title, Team Aretuza and the win of the World Masters.

Kolemoen: Before Gwent I played Hearthstone on a semi-competitive level from where I got to know Lifecoach as a streamer. When he switched to Gwent, I also wanted to try the game and liked it more right away, as it seemed less dependent on chance. 
The first big tournament for which I could qualify was Gwent Challenger#2, which took place in the Moschen Castle in Poland and where I placed 2nd. This gave me the confidence to play Gwent as a full-time Pro.
The first tournament I won was the Red Dragon Cup in the Czech Republic, while the first official event, organized by CDPR, was Gwent Open#6. 

S: Interesting, seems like you adapted to the game pretty fast.
In the end of 2020 you were in the finale of Masters Season 2 and you won the postponed Masters 1 tournament last Summer. How have you been since then? 

K: Since the tournament win I didn’t really play Gwent, as I was a bit burned out. I continued my studies in mathematics, which I put on ice for a while because of Gwent.

S: Understandable after such a taxing time.
Some asked themselves “Where is Kolemoen?”, during Season 3.
Do you still play Gwent or keep an eye on the competitive Gwent community

K: I currently don’t play Gwent, but I still follow the patch notes and try to keep myself informed on what’s happening in the scene.

S: The game has changed tremendously since Homecoming. At the same time other CCG’s, like Legends of Runeterra or Storybook Brawl, appeared. What do you think fascinates people about such games? 

K: Legends of Runeterra obviously attracted many people because Riot created one of the biggest gaming franchises with League of Legends. And these customers hoped for them to create a good card game as well. We also have some people in Team Aretuza playing it. But it never appealed to me myself, as its core mechanics are still based on the same principles as Magic or Hearthstone. (Manasystem, Lifepoints, drawing one card per turn etc.)
Storybook Brawl is basically an optimized version of Hearthstone Battlegrounds, which again was inspired by previous auto battlers like Dota Auto Chess for example. It is a very diverting game with much RNG, but even so, a skilled player will have more success in the long run. But I have my doubts about games like these being suitable for tournaments.  
The variance is really high, so that it’s necessary for those tournaments to take part over many rounds to be meaningful. But such long tournaments are hard to market and without enough Twitch Viewers there are no reasons for the organizers to invest a lot of money. 

S: True, there are lots of similarities between these games. We will have to see in what direction Brawl might go.
We already had the chance to chat in German for previous interviews, which is a bit unusual, since most Gwent content is in English.
As a German native speaker, would you prefer more German content as well? Apart from your German team mate Kafunow, almost all German or Austrian players, like CrozyrShaggy, Damorquis or Gravesh stream mostly in English. 

K: I guess that is because you simply reach a broader audience with English content. Moreover most German speaking can speak or at least understand English as well. While on the other hand many people wouldn’t understand German if you are not from that region.

S: That makes sense. Still wondering why there are so many streams in other languages but only a few German ones.

Speaking of German streams, have you ever thought of streaming yourself? We could see you in tournaments or maybe a few podcasts, but how would a Kolemoen stream look like? 

K: I streamed a few times a few years ago but it was to tiring for me focusing on the game and answering questions from the chat the same time. But I could imagine that this could improve with a bit of practice. 

S: It would be pretty cool to see you back!
I think many would agree, when I say that you might be one of the best Gwent players of all time.
During your active seasons, what would you say was your key to success?
Surely it must be a huge motivation for the German speaking community to see that after CyberZ‘ win, two out of three Masters titles went to Germany.

K: It might sound arrogant, but I think in e-sports the most important factor for success is talent for the game. Of course, you need to also invest the required amount of time to improve, which most pro players are doing, you can be sure of that that.
Another important factor for me was my team. It is tremendously helpful for tournament preparation when you have other top players to practice with and with whom you can go through strategies.
For specific tournament wins nevertheless you can’t ignore that luck always plays a small part as well. 

S: Maybe…but in the end: Skill beats Luck.
Anyway, after the last Masters the Road Map or 2022 was announced.
What are your impressions and how would you see the future for (competitive) Gwent? Can we hope for an eventual comeback? 

K: I think the new competitive system is an improvement, because it will demand less time to grind. But I don’t think I will compete in the next season. Also I am not sure if I will ever join the competitive circuit again in the future, hard to say, but I don’t think so.
The monetary prices are sadly not as high as they used to be, so the time you need to invest to qualify for tournaments, which is still substantial, is hard to warrant.

S: Fair point. So after the holiday season and with the start of the new year, what are your goals for 2022, maybe even besides e-sports? 

K: I want to finish my studies this year and also try to do more sports in general. 

S: Decent goals, I wish you good luck with that and, as always, good fortune in the wars to come!
By any chance, you have any closing words or tips for our readers who might want to tackle Gwent Season 4?

K: Sure thing! I can’t give many tips for the current Meta though. But in general I would advise to only engage on a competitive level, if you really enjoy the game and are passionate enough to invest 40 hours a week in Gwent.
And if so, you will notice pretty soon if you are good enough and have what it takes to get to the top.

Skill beats Luck Ep. 7 – Behind the scenes with CDPR Event Manager MrRepek

Introduction

For most of us, the holiday season has come to an end and the new year 2022 began. Surely not the start I hoped for as a Darts and Gerwyn “The Iceman” Price fan, …but in terms of Gwent we have an exciting year to look forward to. Not only did the new competitive season just start, but also some old journeys will come back to the shop and new and exciting cards are already in the making. 
Also you can expect now more frequent episodes of Skill beats Luck in the near future, including amazing guests from all over the world, while I also have some special episodes in mind already. Stay tuned!

Last episode we had a chat with Team Legacy’s Danirai, the winner of the Duel of Dogs No.2, where we talked about his route to victory, his opinion on Gwent in general and how the Gwent community was the foundation of real-life friendships.
While normally our guests are either players, streamers or casters, this time we will get a closer look behind the scenes of Gwent and CDPR with our guest Maciej Reputakowski-Madej or better known as MrRepek. As the Event Manager of CDPR he was involved with many different Gwent Events, like working on official tournaments, conventions, or PR-campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at our community from a different perspective and get some insights from behind the curtain!

Meet the Guest

Name: Maciej Reputakowski-Madej

Age: 41

Hobbies: Streaming, TV Shows, Boardgames & RPG, Comics, Football

Section: Event Manager CDPR

Favorite Faction: Bandits

Favorite Card: Shupe’s Day Off

About CDPR

CD PROJEKT RED is, as most of you already know, a video game development studio and publisher with its origins in Poland. Founded in the 90s by Michał Kiciński and Marcin Iwiński,  the company starting with localization and translating games into Polish. Years later, 2007, the first adaption of Andrzej Sapkowskis novels of Wiedźmin, The Witcher was born.           
After the success, 2011 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings followed as well as The Witcher 3: Wildhunt 2015/2016 with getting a next-gen update 2022.    
As for Gwent, the journey started in 2018 as a spinoff card game featured in Wild Hunt. While also developing and publishing other games like Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, Cyberpunk 2077 or The Witcher: Monster Slayer (for Android and iOS), CDPR is also known for their REDengine used in their games and their game distribution service Good Old Games, GOG for short. 

With over 1000 employees working in their Studios in Warsaw, Cracow, Wrocław and now also Vancouver and Boston, CDPR is growing and keeps creating games, which tell “breathtaking, mature stories to global audiences, without losing the attention to detail”.

For more information check out their homepage or one of the different community forums to get to know the company and people behind it… just continue reading to hear what MrRepek has to say!

The Interview

Sawyer: Welcome Repek, I really appreciate you taking part in our series! 

For many in the community you are a very familiar face, but maybe you can tell our readers a bit more about yourself as well. Especially your way to CDPR and your strong connection to a certain ogroid…    

Repek: Thank you for having me! I am always humbled by such invitations and really appreciate them.

My road to CDPR had started before Witcher 1 was released. I wanted to become a writer and applied back then and once again when REDs were working on Witcher 3. Finally I realized that maybe it is not my way to get into the games development industry. Four years ago CDPR was looking for someone with experience in events and card games… So, it took me only about 13 years, but it seems that third time’s the charm.

And speaking of Shupe … I know that Midwinter Update does not invoke the best memories, but that was the moment when I met our friendly troll. It was love at first sight.

S: Seems like your persistence paid off…luckily for all of us and Shupe!      
Besides sometimes streaming Gwent, you are mainly the Event Manager of CDPR. But what does this actually mean? How can we imagine what your tasks and duties are?

R: I enjoy streaming but I am doing it just for fun and to stay in touch with the game and the community.

As the Events Team we are supporting whoever needs our help. It means taking care of our booths at conventions and presenting the games to the community and the press, but also organizing internal events like Holiday parties and Social Fridays. It is just a tip of the iceberg and it never gets boring. Oh, and we have Gwent tournaments of course…

S: Sounds like a lot of work, but also very exciting.     
When I think back, my journey with the Witcher began when I realized that I bought Witcher 3 at some point but never played it, heard it was good and…the rest is history.

 Since when are you part of the Witcher universe, if you can say it like that, and what got you hooked on it?

R: For me it all started in the early 90s. My older cousin brought me a book titled “Sword of Destiny” and… the rest is history. In Poland, if you were a nerd, it was not possible to miss the phenomenon of the Witcher. Not everyone liked the books or even understood them, but everyone knew that something extraordinary was happening.

I always loved Sapkowski’s style of writing. He is Polish but he never seemed to be afraid to use Arthurian myth or Celtic mythology as a foundation of his works. Over 30 years ago it was not that common in our fantasy literature.

S: I can relate as I actually just finished the first book myself!            
So you’ve kinda experienced the whole journey of Gwent from a different perspective than most of our readers.
Do you have certain milestones you remember fondly or also experienced moments where you’ve thought “why not stick with dice poker?”

R: If you like dice poker, you can always replay Witcher 2 for the fifth time, right?

Seriously though, I have many great memories when it comes to the whole Gwent journey. Tournaments, events, even the challenging moments are important to me. But the event I love the most is the last Challenger of Season 1. (You can rewatch the quarterfinals here and semis & final here)
It was not the biggest in scale (like tournaments in Moszna Castle or in Wieliczka Salt Mine), but we invited community members to our studio in Warsaw and spent a wonderful weekend together. Such memories live forever.

S: I can only imagine, let’s hope these kinds of events will be back in the future.
On Twitch we can see you guys creating streaming events, besides from the official tournaments, like TWIG for example or charity streams.        

What is it like behind the scenes to organize these kinds of events, which, because of Corona, are happening for us only virtual?

R: TWIG is Burza’s thing so you have to ask him. I try to follow it every week and I really like the new format with invited guests. I believe that from the organizational perspective they are much easier to prepare, as you only need a camera, mic and some free time. Oh, and a tub from time to time.

Charity streams require more time to prepare. For example, we need tons of approvals from our legal team. I do not want to spoil too much (the community team would kill me), but something is brewing…

S: I am already excited…and also know the struggles organizing these events, as I worked on a charity event together with ShupeTV myself back in August.       
Obviously, you have been not only involved with Gwent, but also other projects, like Thronebreaker or Cyberpunk.
What would you say are the differences between working on an ongoing CCG like Gwent and an open-world RPG like Cyberpunk?

R: As the E-sports team, we are really experienced when it comes to Gwent events. So far we organized 24 official tournaments. I am not saying we are doing it on an autopilot now, but – after such blows as Covid hitting Masters Finals – hardly anything surprises us. Just like the game, it is an ongoing, exciting experience. And it is free to play!

Cyberpunk 2077 was and is a whole different story. The scope of the pre-launch campaign was so big that I cannot compare it to anything else that happened in my professional career. For me and the Events Team it meant traveling a lot, meeting thousands of people from the community, presenting the demo over and over again. It was an amazing adventure which was unfortunately brutally stopped by Covid.

S: Speaking about Cyberpunk…you were not only working on PR-campaigns but also involved in some technical manners, like the face scanning process.
What was it like and how would you describe your experience? 

R: It is a good example of what people from the Events Team help with. Almost three years ago we cooperated with an external company who came to our studio to make professional scans of our faces. They built a special ring with around 100 connected cameras and we just had to make sure that over 80 RED and GOG employees appear in this science-fiction environement.

It was totally worth the effort. The Characters Team could use the scans as in-game models for many NPCs in Night City. This way the visuals of characters in the open world are much more diversified. For us it is also quite funny to see our colleagues in the game (especially when they punch you to death, haha).

I was lucky to be picked by Characters Team too. You can find me in the Pharmaceutics near Skyline/Salinas. For a Cyberpunk fan like me, it is a big deal to contribute to this game. I hope they won’t remove me in any upcoming patch.

S: Seems like a unique and exciting process, as well as a great memory. Can’t think of any reason why they should remove you in the future.
Also, people are eager to know what future projects CDPR is currently working on. Witcher 4, Cyberpunk DLCs, Golden Nekker.

I am sure your options to reveal some leeks are limited, but I can’t avoid trying anyway. And if not about the games, what events are planned in 2022, especially the Gwent community can look forward to? 

R: They will carve it on my tombstone, but I will keep saying this: “There is only one Master of the Leeks at CDPR and his name is Paweł Burza“. That being said, we already shared some information on what’s going to happen in 2022. A company like CDPR never sleeps so you can expect cool new stuff.

In December we concluded Season 3 of Gwent Masters and the new season already started.  I’m not gonna lie, I am already looking forward to Gwent Opens. I just love the atmosphere of these tournaments.

S: I see. That sounds promising!          
With the holiday season coming to an end and 2022 already in the starting blocks, maybe tell us how Christmas looks like at CDPR.
Also, do you have any resolutions or goals for the new year? 

R: Holidays time was very special for the company and for the Events Team in part-icular.
We just helped the Internal Culture Team in organizing an outdoor party for RED and our friends from GOG. After another demanding year everyone de-served a moment of re-laxation. It was a very challenging project but very rewarding at the same time.

Personally, I am not setting any big goals for 2022. I am just going to expect the un-expected and react accordingly. It worked for me for the past 2 years.

S: Reminds me of the Law of Surprise, which seems to end really well!       
Finally, when can we expect a Gwent face-off between Henry Cavill and Keanu Reeves? What would you think their favorite factions might be if you have to guess?

R: Both of us can only do one thing: dream! Dream big!

I can totally see Keanu playing a refined Bandits themed deck (with Shupe, because why not). Henry would, of course, pick a Witcher deck with special appearances by Ciri and Yennefer (#TeamYen here, sorry). Factions do not matter, they are both playing neutral cards and agree to not use their leader abilities.

I’d love to make such a show match happen.

S: A big hit for all Trissers for sure, but also based on Cavill’s fondness for games my bets are on him.   
 
Jokes aside, I am really grateful for this opportunity of having you here. Thank you and as always, good fortune in the wars to come. Normally the Pro-Players in this series end with some advice for Gwent…what would be your advice for everyone not only interested in playing games, but also trying to become involved as a designer, developer, or any other role behind the scenes of the gaming industry? 

R: I’ve just reached PRO Rank (again!) but all I can say is: have fun. If you are not enjoying what you are doing WHEN PLAYING A GAME, what’s the point in playing it in the first place? Entertainment should not feel like punishment.

It works for me when it comes to my job too. Of course, you need certain skills and stubbornness to get where you want to be. There is no shortcut. You play a lot to become a pro player. You write to become a writer and you organize your own events to prove you can work as an event manager. However, when you are there, in your own Promised Land, it is good to remember you are not doing it only for money.
If you are not enjoying it, you won’t give your best” – Repko Coelho.

Once again, thank you for having me. Team Bandit Gang FTW!

Skill beats Luck Ep. 6 – A chat with the new Duke of Dogs: Danirai

Introduction

Long time no see, but we are back again with another episode of Skill beats Luck. After our recent community event Duel of Dogs No.2 – The Big Heist, I thought it was a good timing and decided to have a chat with the champion and newly crowned Duke of Dogs Danirai from Team Legacy.

Right now it is the non-competitive time in Gwent, where especially community tournaments are an interesting opportunity for all the Pro Players to stay in shape. Also there were some recent events happening shaking up the Gwent community a bit. 

With this in mind, how about we listen to what Danirai has to say about his recent success, his experience in the team and his opinion on many other things! 

Meet the Player

Name: Daniel Matthias

Age: 18

Hobbies: Music, Photography and Japanese Culture

Section: Pro Team (Legacy)

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Gellert Bleinheim

Duel of Dogs No.2 - The Big Heist

The Duel of Dogs is one of the special community tournaments in the Gwent scene, hosted by Team Bandit Gang. This year was already the second edition under the motto The Big Heist, with a price pool of 250$. 

The top teams of Gwent were invited, like GwentDetta, Phoenix, Aretuza, Legacy, Leviathan Gaming and many more. In addition, a certain number of players who managed to qualify over a two day qualifier took part as well.

The main event took part on the 13th and 14th November, where after an intense swiss phase on the first day 16 players fought out the champion on day two. 
In the end, Danirai from Team Legacy could seal the deal with an overwhelming 3:0 over Nequiz, from Team Phoenix.

For more detailed information check out the tournament article here or even watch the whole top16 event of day 2 on BanditGangTV here. Also, you might want to have a look at all the decks from the players

(If you want to go straight to the final click here)

The Interview

Sawyer: First of all, congratulations on winning the second edition of Duel of Dogs! What a performance, especially with such a strong line-up.

But before we start, you may want to introduce yourself a bit.
So tell us about yourself, how you ended up playing Gwent and your fascination about it.

Danirai: Thank you! I got introduced to Gwent by my friend who was a Witcher universe enthusiast before I was. My PC at the time couldn’t handle the Witcher 3 and so he said I should try the standalone Gwent. It was around December 2017. I liked the game but eventually got bored and left for months only to come back right before Homecoming.
Since then I have been playing regularly. My fascination with Gwent has a lot to do with my competitive nature and the community. At many points I wanted to leave but where will I find a second community like this?

S: True, our community is very unique. 

You are also part of Team Legacy, together with players like Iluxa or Tailbot.
When and why did you join the team and how is it like to be together with multiple Open Champions?

D: I joined in July 2019, just a couple days after the team was established. So I’m one of the core members of Legacy. I got the offer randomly after playing in a community tournament and finishing 2nd there. My initial reaction was to just decline and wait for better offers but I ended up joining, at first just to trampoline to a better team. But Legacy started making progress so quickly I dropped the idea and just wanted to be a part of the process. 

Of course it’s nice to have your teammates winning tournaments and playing on Masters. We’ll soon have the finals of season 3 and I’ll try to help both of those guys to win it all.

S: I am already looking forward to this event as well!

As you are a tournament champion of your own now, let’s discuss your journey to victory about more. 

D: Day 1 started with me having to face Kams134 in round 1 immediately. I lost the game and had to play under the knife for the next rounds. I eventually made a comeback all the way to 4-1 and secured a spot for day2. Making top16 was the minimum goal for the weekend. 

Day 2 had one problem called bringing a 4th deck. We had to send them before the whole event too. I thought my Deathwish pile was a disaster and  would lose me the tournament. But it actually didn’t lose me a single game and everything went basically perfect. I had an easier side of the bracket, I was queueing the right matchups and I was not making many crucial mistakes. It was a very pleasant tournament for me because of that.

S: It turned out quite well for you in the end for sure.

We have noticed you also changed your nickname to SPIDS_ZBAWICIEL六十九 … what is this all about and how important you think nicknames might be in general thinking about reputation, public etc.?

D: So let’s start with the SPIDS_ part. It’s a meme team on Gwent Pro Polish discord. Consists of Xioniz, TailBot, Lerio, me and basically everyone who wants to just put it before their nicknames. The creator of SPIDS was some mysterious guy who one day just appeared on the server announcing he would make his own team and shake up the Gwent pro scene. What happened instead is he quickly realised it’s not that easy and just quit. But then Xioniz thought it would be funny to just continue his will. I joined as a “loan” for the duration of Polish Championships which are currently happening. We now even have a website https://spids.pl/ and are basically keeping the joke alive.

Zbawiciel means Savior in Polish. Because I was the first person to join the team and it sort of encouraged others to do so too.

And 六十九 just means 69 in Chinese. Not funny I know. 

I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I actually dislike the whole nickname changing fiesta in competitive Gwent. But I do it too, just in the off-season though. Official tournaments are where the line should be drawn imo. We should have only one nickname we can choose for those. To not confuse the audience.

S: Wow, thats quite interesting and also a bit hilarious. Players are known for their creativity even behind the scenes sometimes. 

Going through your decklists, you also brought some interesting stuff. Overwhelming Hunger MO or Imposter NG…which was pretty unique compared to the rest.
What was the thought behind those lists  and how did you prepare for the event?

D: I prepped simultaneously for the Polish Championships and for the BG tournament. Overwhelming Hunger was Truzky’s idea. He said it’s good against Skellige so it should be a viable 4th deck choice. I trusted him and just sent the adjusted decklist without any playtesting.

The idea to play Imposter came when Truzky, 9kjer and I were looking at how we can improve the current meta lists. Imposter has one provision less than Double Cross and doesn’t synergise with Assimilate, but gives you a control option and doesn’t force you to drop your leader early when you’re being bled. I thought it seems better for tournaments if you ban NG cause it improves NR matchup and maybe someone will get baited and won’t ban it because it seems worse on paper. I played about 100 games prior which is not a lot but enough to understand everything quite well.

S: So being in touch with your teammates surely helps.

You managed to place 10# after the swiss-phase but from there you kinda cruised through your games. You think it is important to follow a unique playstyle and deck building process to become successful?

D: Surely. Being a good deck builder definitely helps in competitive Gwent as on the highest level those never-seen-before lists are often confusing and hard to approach for others. Obviously you can overdo it and end up with an unplayable list but in my opinion it’s definitely worth trying different off meta lists if they fit your lineup idea.
As for the playstyle it’s whatever. If roping to the last second helps you – do it. You like jamming cards immediately – do it. There’s not much room for playstyles in Gwent. You’re either good or you aren’t.

S: I see, well Gwent gives you a lot of options how to approach it. 

When it comes to playing, we already had the chance to talk about your taste in music…one side question: did you listen to music during the event? If yes, what was it?

D: One of my favourite artists – Aries dropped an album a day before the tournament so I was just looping it for the whole 2 days.

https://open.spotify.com/album/1eLp5qe0nJkOb3rzqnbme0?si=KZxyuKHRTeWaeYBfaMIvTQ

S: Oh cool, I will give it a try for sure!

What else would you say, as a piece of advice, can players do to stay sharp for such a long tournament day all the time? 

D: See I have a problem with it myself. Usually before the tournaments end I’m pretty tired already. But I’d say go outside/to a balcony between the series. Or just go away from the PC for some time.

S: It was interesting to watch all these players outside just a qualifier or open for sure.
How would you describe the competitive scene in Gwent…and yourself in it right now?

D: Right now? It’s a mess. The whole Wangid situation, players leaving for SBB, the prize pools decreasing, the tournament platform still being broken. But I like our scene regardless of that. I feel like I’m an important component in the pro community during those times. I try to play in almost every tournament there is.

And I think a lot of the casual audience have a wrong perception of me after the terrible Open performance. I’d definitely like to be remembered as a flashy player who one day will be one of the best. Also next year I’m planning on making content and documenting my way all the way to World Masters.

Also just less than a month ago we had a big meetup for a weekend in Warsaw with over 20 gwenty people and it was amazing. Moments like those make you realise Gwent is much more than just jamming ladder by yourself. I’m glad I was a part of it too.

S: That’s awesome to hear! I also already had the chance to meet fellow Bandits in real life.

Sadly, it becomes more difficult these days. Without going into too much detail, but do you think the whole pandemic situation, android release etc. had an impact on the scene?

D: Sure, the first season of Masters 3 had almost everyone who competed for the highest ladder spots playing almost a 1000 games despite the season being very short. 

The mobile release saw a big player base increase in China. But both those things are fading away by now. One bad outcome were the online tournaments. Even when the pandemic ends I don’t think CDPR will want to go back to LAN events.

S: Maybe, we have to see what will happen.

Recently we also had some discussions about certain players, rules, cheating etc. I don’t want to open up this topic too much as you’ve already mentioned it, but rather focus on the person behind nicknames.

You think Gwent, playing in a competitive environment in front of streams, for a team etc. also influences the person behind Danirai/ SPIDS_ZBAWICIEL六十九? If so, in what direction?

D: Gwent makes me more mature. You spend time with a bunch of people who are years older than you. I’m basically learning English by being in an international environment all the time. The rng nature of Gwent also makes me accept things in life easier. I think in Gwent tasks, like: “okay our team is unfavoured so we need to score a goal and park the bus to have the biggest chances”.

I can handle pressure better nowadays. Obviously it would be a shock to perform in front of hundreds of real people instead but I don’t seem to care if people watch my games any more.

S: Interesting, but I can relate to that. 

Last question, what are your goals for the near future? Maybe not only in Gwent but in general. Winning an Open would be another nice achievement for sure I guess.

D: I spent this year thinking whether it’s finally time to quit Gwent. I have spent almost 5000 hours perfecting it. And my mindset was: there are people who are my age and famous worldwide. Compared to them me being a “Gwent Pro” is basically nothing. But that was a flawed mindset, there’s no need to rush and right now Gwent is the best chance for me to do something I enjoy and get some pocket money in the process.

I still have a year and a half until I graduate high school (Polish Educational System for y’all) so my best shot would be to fully commit to Gwent for the whole next year, either win an open or qualify to Masters through crown points. And then become a world champion.

As I also said, I’d like to make some content for YouTube and Twitch next year too. I don’t know for how long Gwent will still live and if the people I met through Gwent will still keep in touch so I want to do it beforehand.

S: I am pretty sure you can and will achieve all of that! But sounds like you are a man on a mission. 

Thank you for the interview and as always, I wish you good fortune in your wars to come!

D: Thanks, you’re welcome! 

Skill beats Luck Ep. 5 – About the Hispanic Community with Team Nova’s Content Manager Miketocome

Introduction

So far we’ve already talked with Pro Players from Team Bandit Gang, a tournament champion from Team Phoenix and in the last episode the casting and streaming expert TheOneChristo.  

But how does it look behind the scenes of a Gwent Team? What does it take to manage a bunch of people and trying to achieve a common goal? For this purpose I talked to Miketocome, the Content Manager and one of the founders of Team Nova. Now we are also heading deep into the Hispanic community, after we had the chance to learn more about the CIS community with Arch1.

So let’s take a look on his experiences as a manager and the growth of the Hispanic community in general!
Also for our Hispanic readers, check out the Additional Information to find the interview in spanish!  

Meet the Player

Name: Miquel Esteban Cortés

Age: 28

Hobbies: Basketball, Music (Guitar), Series and Gaming

Section: Management (Team Nova)

Favorite Faction: Nilfgaard

Favorite Card: Ciri Nova

Team Nova and Liga Foltest

Most of us are aware of the bigger community events, which are cast by different streamers and in which many people participate. Such as the TLG Invitational for example, about which we talked about in episode one and three a bit. 

On the other side, we have a lot more diversity in the tournament scene than you might think. The Liga Foltest, one of the oldest Hispanic leagues and events in Gwent is already taking place in its 7th edition this year. With a crowdfounded pricepool of 800 euros it is certainly something to keep an eye on, but only if you have roots in the Hispanic community. This is one of the criteria to be able to participate. 
The league is organised by Hispanic teams like Viper, Sensual, Manticora and of course Team Nova. They created a huge and continually evolving community, of which you might know the recent Open No.3 finalist Poisound (GranMazorca2021) from Columbia, for example. 
(For more information about the team or Liga Foltest, check out their homepage)

In the following interview we want to talk with Team Novas Content Manager Miketocome about what it takes to manage a team, how he sees the development of the Hispanic community and much more.

Additional Information - Información Adicional

For our readers from the Hispanic  community, we also prepared the interview in spanish, which you can find here in an GoogleDocument
También hemos preparado la entrevista en español para nuestros lectores hispanos. Puede encontrarlo aquí en un GoogleDocument!

The Interview

Sawyer: Before we start with the specific questions, you may want to introduce yourself. 
What drew you to the Gwent Community and what do you like about the game? 

Miketocome: Hi everyone, I’m Mike and I’m in charge of managing everything behind Team Nova. I started playing Gwent in The Witcher 3 and then I made the jump to the standalone version at the beginning of the closed beta. After a few months of playing, I found the Gwent Esp community that had just been created and joined to share my passion for Gwent with more people.

What I like most about the game is the freedom it gives you to manage your resources, from the moment you create a deck to the moment you start playing. In that sense it reminds me a lot of chess. In addition, the RNG is much more controlled than in other card games and that allows you to depend more on your skill than on luck to win.

S: True, the reference towards chess was made before. 

There are many different Gwent teams on the circuit, Team Nova being one of them. Created by your teammate Jamedi in 2018, it became the largest team in the Hispanic community. 
Tell us about your journey in the team and how it has evolved over the last years. 

M: Well, the truth is that it’s been an exciting journey. When Jamedi told me about the idea of making a team at the end of 2017 I didn’t think twice and volunteered to help as one of the founders. After all, we were a group of friends who enjoyed playing Gwent and wanted to take it to the next level. I started as a competitive player, but for work reasons I’ve ended up being in charge of running the organization so that everything runs smoothly.

We started with a clear objective: to put the Hispanic community on the map and make the competitive scene aware of the talent we have in Spain and LATAM, since we were the only active project in our community. Throughout these years we have been growing little by little and consolidating ourselves on an international level, opening the doors to players from all over the world, but without forgetting where we come from.

S: Sounds like you had a clear path in your mind already. 
As a content manager, you are not only responsible for your own content, but also for the whole team. 
What is it like to be a manager? What is necessary, in your opinion, to be a good team leader besides having time for your personal stuff?

M: Being a manager requires empathy towards the people you oversee, because in the end, we are all people with busy lives and Gwent unites us as a hobby, not as a job.
Therefore, you can’t pretend to demand anything beyond their will. But you can get personally involved with each content creator and get to know them better to discover their potential and help them focus on the content that can work best for them.

S: Team Nova is known for some of its best players, such as Poisound. You have also recently joined forces with another Hispanic Gwent team, Manticora. 
How would you describe the Hispanic community in general, perhaps in comparison to the Russian or Polish community? 

M: The Hispanic community is one of the oldest and most active on the international scene. It is true that the language barrier hasn’t perhaps made us generate much impact in the English-speaking world, but there is a lot of life.
Also the four Hispanic teams (Manticora, Sensual and Viper) maintain a good relationship and motivate each other, working together to continue growing.

S: Some may not know it, but there is a big Hispanic league, now in its 7th edition: “La Liga Foltest”. This time, together with other teams like Sensual and Viper, you have raised more than 800 euros in the prize pool.

Can you tell us more about the evolution of the league and maybe the motivation behind it?

M: Well, yes, the Foltest League is one of the oldest tournaments that exist in Gwent. We held the first edition in 2017 and since then more than 500 players have played it and we have been improving the competition in all possible areas.

Our motivation has always been to offer a space for Hispanic players to compete against each other and develop themselves. We have been working to offer an experience that not only motivates the hardcore players, but is also enjoyable for anyone who wants to get started in the competitive world.

S: You often hear about the players in the leagues, the tournaments, and the events, but not from the people in charge.
How would you describe your behind-the-scenes experience in organizing a league?

M: It’s normal, although, as time goes by, people begin to recognize the work behind the competitions they enjoy. In the end, organizing any kind of event is an energy-draining experience.
Coordinating groups of people is exhausting and even if you try to make it easy for the participants, there are always doubts and unforeseen events, so you must learn to be patient.

S: Based on my own experience I can tell how exhausting organising an event can be, so I can relate to that. 

Besides the Qualifiers, Opens and Masters, there are not many official events in Gwent.
What would you also ask for in the future, and how important would you say these community events are for the player base?

M: In my opinion, community events have been what has kept the game active for several years. We are fortunate to have a community full of very committed people and organizations, who have carried out impressive projects in a totally altruistic way and without resources.

I would like to see a little more support from CDPR and thus have real support for this kind of projects that goes beyond a publication on social networks or in-game rewards. I firmly believe that Gwent still has potential to grow thanks to its community, but an effort from the publisher is needed.

S: Definitley. The community has been amazing but a little bit more support wouldn’t hurt for sure. 

And about you, what are your goals for the future in Gwent alongside with Team Nova?

M: It has been two very good years for the team. We continue to be the Hispanic reference within Gwent, and we have managed to grow and have representation in two Gwent Opens (with Poisound). In addition, several of our players have been close, but they continue to fight in the Qualifiers.
So in the future we will work hard to continue developing Hispanic talent to be represented in the Gwent World Masters.

Regarding content, we are working on several interesting proposals to raise awareness of Hispanic content within the international community. Our goals are set on remaining at the forefront, leading the way forward.

S: And I am looking forward to see what you can achieve!
Also, as always, we ask for some advice.
Can you give some insights for people who are thinking about setting up an Esports team? What to look out for and what to expect?

M: Thinking about getting into this world? Tip #1: Don’t do it!
Now seriously, any personal project requires a lot of work and sacrifice to get ahead and although many of us see video games as a hobby, the world of Esports is a very competitive environment.

As a piece of advice, it is vital to have clear objectives for a team and be realistic when it comes to growth. Rushing is not good, and you should always learn to walk before you run. And above all else, it is essential to surround oneself with a group of competent and passionate people. Because you can’t shoulder everything yourself in the long term and colleagues always help to keep things moving forward in difficult times.

S: Having goals and a plan surely helps to achieve things in the long run!

Thank your for participating, I am excited to see the growth of the Hispanic community. Also good luck and I wish you good fortune in the wars to come! 

M: Thank YOU for giving me this opportunity to be here and for your work. It is a pleasure to collaborate with Team Bandit Gang and make the community known in this space.
From Nova we extend our hand to you for any matter in the future!

Skill beats Luck Ep. 4 – A different perspective with TheOneChristo

Introduction

Recently we had the chance to talk to some Pro Players from Bandit Gang. In the last episode, Arch1 from Team Phoenix was our guest…so I thought “why not spice things up a bit?” Let’s try to look at Gwent from a different perspective. 

To do so, I talked to (TheOne) Christo this time. He is not only an experienced Gwent and card game player himself, but also an official Gwent caster. So let me introduce you to our guest first, before we talk a bit about casting, streaming, and his experiences with card games in general. 

Meet the Caster

Name: Christopher

Age: Boomer

Hobbies: Streaming

Section: Content Team

Favourite Faction: Skellige

Favourite Card: Whoreson Junior 

Between Casting and Playing the Game

Playing a game, in this case Gwent, always comes with certain goals. Taking part in community events, reaching a certain position on ladder, or just trying to be creative. But when these events that people qualified for are happening, who are the people guiding us through the tournament? What does it take to be a caster and entertain hundreds or maybe even thousands of viewers? 

Christo worked his way from streaming Gwent to being involved in different games as well, like Mythgard and Kards. While Mythgard is a fantasy cyberpunk oriented card game  with a unique lane and mana system, Kards is a card game based on WWII, using concepts of strategy games as well. You can find more information about Mythgard here and Kards here.

So if you ever get tired of Gwent, make sure to check these out!

Now, let’s see what Christo had to say about being a player, caster, and streamer and where his journey started! 

The Interview

Sawyer: Most of our readers might just know you as a caster, but you also love to play card games.
Can you maybe tell us about your journey into card games in general, and a bit about yourself?

Christo: I have been playing card games, I want to say my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are getting together with my family for Christmas or Thanksgiving and having my grandfather teach me a card game that we’d play and probably wager nickels and dimes on.

Fast forward a few years, (Watch)Flake and another buddy of mine started playing Young Jedi TCG and they introduced me to that. We quickly skipped to the much more complex Star Wars CCG. I spent most of my days during High School at the local card shop playing whatever games were going around. We jumped into Lord of the Rings TCG and a very little bit of Magic (because even 20 years ago it was expensive to get into). I even started playing Raw Deal competitively (based on WWE wrestling) for a bit and ended up being one of the top ranked players in the country.

Then digital CCGs showed up and we all started playing Hearthstone. I continued to dip my toes into new games that came my way like Mythgard, Kards and eventually Gwent.

S: Seems like you’ve been involved in card games almost your entire life. 
When you started streaming, what was your motivation and what were your expectations? Did you always want to cast games? 

C: I started streaming when the pandemic hit because I essentially had extra time. I had the webcam and mic because I was working from home and doing a bunch of video calls. Also my girlfriend was working weird hours, so she was often gone in the evenings. If I was going to sit at home and play games alone, I might as well do it on Twitch and have a bit of social interaction along with it and see where it leads. I don’t even think I expected it to become more than just a hobby, but I was having fun and that’s all that mattered at the time.

I can’t say that I necessarily thought about casting immediately. I’ve always been very competitive at everything I’ve done, whether that be card games, or school or sports growing up. So I thought more about the competitive side of things in Gwent and finished top 500 a few times. I just didn’t feel like I had the time to really improve and compete at the highest level, so I thought about how else I could be involved in the competitive scene.

Initially, before casting, I got involved with 983 Media. There I started to admin tournaments and got a bit of a feel for how things run on the back end. Then I got an opportunity in front of the camera and had a blast. It reminded me of watching sports and hearing the added flavor that amazing commentators can add to a game.

S: So after streaming for a while, what was your first casting experience? How did it go from there to where you are now? 

C: Is it bad that I can’t remember my first casting experience? I would say that it was one of the first Battle of the Bandits events about a year ago.

I think for me and my path to casting, joining Team Bandit Gang was really important. It gave me the opportunity to cast in events like the Battle of the Bandits, Duel of Dogs, BG vs Kreve Meme Tournament, the recent charity series and more. Secondly, being a part of 983 Media was great, because I had worked with them as a tourney admin. And when they saw me cast some Gwent events and the opportunity came up to cast Mythgard, I was an easy choice.

S: That makes sense. As you already mentioned, apart from Gwent you are also involved in Mythgard and Kards. 
How would you describe the differences in casting and maybe the community around it? 

C: I think every game and their community are all unique. Mythgard had been around for a few years, but they weren’t necessarily seeing as much success as they’d like, so they launched their eSports scene this year to try and attract more attention, putting up a $20k prize pool. They had a small competitive scene but some of the players were such big names because they had been dominating the top of the ladder for years.


Mythgard is also a bit more complex to cast because there are so many different things going on. The battlefield feels a bit bigger than Gwent so you constantly have to observe every little action a player takes and how that impacts the game in 3-5, even 10 turns.

Kards was the opposite of Mythgard, they came out of Beta in 2020 and jumped right into eSports. A big part of that was bringing on 983 and using them to help grow the tournament scene. There are events going on every month for a cash prize, as well as monthly qualifiers (similar to the Gwent Qualifiers/Opens) where players can qualify for the World Championships.


This has been a lot of fun since the community is really starting to gravitate towards these events. There’s been more and more of a demand for tournaments at all levels and it’s interesting watching the eSports scene of Kards take shape over the last year and a half. I don’t actually cast Kards, I host a “pre game” show, where I get to interview players or dissect decks with a panel of experts. It’s a lot of fun and a nice change from casting.

S: With the opportunity to cast Open Qualifiers in Gwent, you made a big step forward. What do you like about casting Gwent and the game in general?

C: I am always impressed by how good the top competitive players are. It’s the same in every game I’ve been a part of, but especially when you watch events like the World Championships and you put the players into these high stakes tournament situations. It is absolutely wild, with open decklists, bans, pre-determined coins etc, seeing how well they see the game and know all the lines. 

That’s the excitement that I really enjoy and love being a part of. 

S: The game but also the community is shifting very often.
Do you have to prepare before a cast? What makes a good caster in your opinion?

C: You always have to prepare for a cast! All the best casters do and in part it involves being familiar with the meta, the matchups, what key cards do, certain combos that may exist etc.

The other thing I think is very important, is understanding the community and the story behind the games. Anybody can do “play by play” when it comes to a card game. Player 1 plays this it has this effect, player 2 plays this, it counters that effect and all that. However, that doesn’t add much to the game. The best casters tell a story and it can last the whole event, it can even carry on from one event to the next. 

What is this player’s history? What events have they been a part of in the past? Have they played this opponent before? What was the result? Then when you get into the game, the same thing. What’s this matchup like? How can they win this matchup? What are the key sequences to look out for? 

If you can incorporate that into your casting and really tell a story you can absolutely captivate an audience. 

S: That’s an interesting thought. Compared to other games, though, Gwent is not small but also not the biggest game. 

What would you say it takes to “improve” or evolve the competitive scene in terms of audience or event character?

C: I am a sucker for good production value. It’s obviously more challenging with Covid and everything done remotely. Seeing some of the older Gwent tournaments that were done in Poland, dressed up with different looks, I find that to be the most interesting to watch. The challenge with doing things remotely is that there is more of a chance of problems and when you do have problems, there are no distractions, so the casters are forced to kill time and it can make the event feel long and sometimes boring.

Having more going on obviously makes this easier. I remember a scene where Flake was killing some time by trying to interview an Owl, so when you’re in person, it’s easier to keep people engaged.

S: You have also been a part of Bandit Gang a long time. Other casters, like Mcbeard, never joined a team. 

What influenced your decision to join the Bandits and how did it shape you?

C: When I joined Bandit Gang, I was still newish to streaming and playing Gwent. It was a huge opportunity for me to learn from more seasoned veterans, whether that was about how to best create content, or to improve my skills at the game. I mentioned earlier the opportunity that it gave me to cast some of the Bandit Gang events. Obviously if you’re a part of a team, you are a higher priority to cast their events and that is what gets your name out there.

It worked out so nicely for me because when BG approached me, I had already become very friendly with members such as BabyJosus and Mercernn. They were two of the first Gwent streamers I watched, based on their time slot and my work schedule. 

I think that it’s really been great being around a group of like-minded individuals and it makes things easier.

S: That’s really nice to hear! 

Normally we always ask about some advice for our players. 

But what advice would you give to people who maybe also want to be a caster?

C: I would give you three simple tips:

Practice. A lot. Great casters make things seem easy and you might think to yourself, just give me a mic and I’ll be fine, but it’s not the case. Start by practice casting over events you’re watching, then look for every opportunity to get reps in during events.

Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities. To play off the end of the previous point, don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to cast. There are all kinds of community events out there, both big and small, and you will never get an opportunity if you don’t ask for it. People have asked me how I got to cast the Qualifiers…I just asked? Don’t get me wrong, I had experience and had documented previous casting to show my work, so it wasn’t just blindly asking. That said, I never would have gotten the opportunity if I didn’t approach CDPR about it.

Ask for feedback. You are not perfect, nobody is. If you can think you’re going to get better simply by practice and not asking others for feedback, it’s not going to happen. I know a lot of casters preach watching back their casts and taking notes, which I think is great, however some events can go on for 4-6 hours and there is no chance I will rewatch the whole thing, so I’ll pick a choose a few games to watch that I’ve made a mental note about and will critique myself, but the best you can ask for is outside help.

S: Interesting, that’s some good advice for sure! 

Last but not least, there are rumors that you accepted the challenge from one of BGs most feared members, Sawyer1888. 

Are you afraid? How do you handle the pressure and will you prepare?

C: I would never have dreamed of declining this challenge from the great Sawyer.
For anybody who has seen my stream, they know that I am cool as a cucumber and that I will not stress or crack under the pressure. When the time comes for the battle, I will be ready. 

S: Tough words…but in the end the cards will decide. 

Thank you for taking part in the interview and I wish you good fortune in the wars to come! 

C: My pleasure, looking forward to see you on the battlefield!

Skill beats Luck Ep. 3 – Special Guest: Arch1 of Team Phoenix

Introduction

While in our recent episodes we talked with some of BG’s Pro Team Players, this time we took the opportunity to invite a special guest: Arch1 of Team Phoenix, who just won the TLG Invitational II tournament in an impressive flawless run. Unbeaten in the swiss phase (7:0) a few weeks ago, he also won every series in the playoffs, defeating Poisound of Team Nova in the final. You can check out the whole battle here on the TLG YouTube Channel! With this victory, he secured himself a decent paycheck of $600 in addition to honor and glory.  

So let’s have a look at the Team Phoenix player himself, likely to be a strong participant in the upcoming charity tournament!
(Special thanks at this point to Gnomberserk for helping out with the translation!)

Meet the Player: Arch1

Name: Artyom

Age: 18

Hobbies: Table Tennis & Basketball

Section: Pro Team (Phoenix)

Favorite Faction: Skellige

Favorite Card: Boris

A special guest and a newly crowned champion

As we already talked about the event in episode 1, let’s keep it simple. The TLG Invitational II is the biggest community tournament in Gwent, where over a 100 players from all Teams participated. (For more information, check out episode 1 or the TLG Homepage).
To win such an event unbeaten in each stage is a tremendous achievement. Arch1 of the rather new Team Phoenix managed to do so and made room to talk with me about his experience, his thoughts on Gwent in general, and his role in Team Phoenix. 

But on top of this, he will also represent his Team in the upcoming charity event, organized by Bandit Gang and ShupeTV on day 2, Sunday the 8th of August. You can find more information about the event here

The Interview

Sawyer1888: First of all, congratulations on your recent triumph! But before we talk about the tournament, many of our readers might not know you.

Do you want to introduce yourself a bit, telling us how you ended up playing Gwent and being part of Team Phoenix?

Arch1: Thank you very much! I started playing Gwent a bit during closed beta thanks to my friend, butthen, who showed it to me. I came back for about 2 months before Homecoming and started playing constantly. But at that time, I didn’t know anything about Esports, so I was playing just for fun. 

In spring 2020, I was invited to GwentDetta Junior and was promoted to the main team (GwentDetta) very fast. I was there for about a year, then moved to Team Phoenix where I currently am.

S: An interesting journey which seemed to pay off so far!

You made it look very easy, going undefeated through the swiss-phase and not losing a single series either in the play-offs. How does it feel to win in such style?

A: It’s nothing special. However, I didn’t expect it from myself, but it turned out quite nice. I just caught convenient opponents with convenient lineups. And after my victory many people congratulated me, even those from whom I did not expect it. 

This was very pleasant for me and I want to thank everyone for the congratulations.

S: Very convenient indeed, I would say. 

When it comes to joining an event like the Invitational, what motivated you in the first place and how did you continue “pushing yourself” through the tournament, to maintain your focus?

A: Initially, I came to the event with the belief that I’d have a 0-2 record and drop out of the tournament. But it turned out, that I guessed the meta with my lineup perfectly which helped me get to the playoffs. I especially remember the games with Gravesh, whom I respect very much. It was nice to beat him.

Also, it was cool to play against Superspock, even if the game was not particularly decisive since we both qualified already. Even so, this game turned out to be very exciting, with two draws, and then to top it all off my computer decided to shut down unexpectedly. 🙁 

Thanks to Spock for allowing me to replay this matchup, which thankfully I managed to win. In the top 16 among my four opponents, there were three former teammates, and I wanted to show them my skills 🙂

The most difficult opponent for me was Poisound. In the final, I was very nervous so I made a lot of mistakes, but eventually I won. And as a final point, for the whole tournament I played with music in the background, mostly rock. It helped me to concentrate.

S: Yeah I remember the games with Spock and also with Poisound. Both intense series. 

Did you prepare for the Invitational? What would you say was the key part for your success in the swiss-phase but also in the playoffs?

A: I was preparing for the swiss stage for a few days with one of my Gwent friends, Sartndf. We came up with our own line-up and played quite a lot of matches. It helped us both to succeed in swiss. 

Before top 16 I played less and analyzed my opponents’ decks instead. A week before the tournament, I already realized what kind of line-up I wanted to take and started testing it with my teammates. For that I thank Yurochichek, who helped me preparing for the playoffs.

It’s hard to say what exactly helped me to get through my opponents so confidently, but most likely it was luck and good preparation for the tournament.

S: I am sure that preparation and luck are important things for Gwent in general.

When you think about the meta right now, what would you wish to change in the upcoming patch this week?

A: Now it’s not the best meta I’ve played in, but not the worst either. It’s bad that there are a lot of brainless decks and even Syndicate, which used to be very difficult to play, has now become quite easy to use. I would like CDPR to pay more attention to Scoia’tael in the next patch, because recently they have not added any new strong cards that could compete with those that other factions have now, so the ST boost is what I would like to see the most. 

(Note from the Author: This interview took part before the new Patch went live…Arch1 added later that ST seems at least more playable than last season, but still needs some love!)

S: The first “test” for the new changes will be the charity event organized by Team Bandit Gang in collaboration with ShupeTV. You will represent your team in there, which we really appreciate!

What do you think of such community events in general?

A: Community events are very important for the entire Gwent audience. Many people have a chance to show their more competitive side, because it is not always possible to stay at the top of the ladder to play in qualifiers.

There are no such problems with community events. You can show your skills outside the ladder. Donating to charity is very important too. It’s very cool when playing the game that you can also benefit an important cause.

S: That’s true, it allows more people to perform on a bigger stage.

One specific question many asked themselves before might be about the CIS community. Recently we interviewed different players, including your teammate Ch.ase.
Can you think of any reasons why Gwent is so popular in your community and why you are so successful, especially in Season 3 so far?

A: It seems to me that the main reason for the success of Gwent in our region is its really huge fanbase. I think that the Witcher’s fan base in the CIS is as big as in Poland. So many Witcher players later moved to Gwent and slowly, our community has grown to such a scale.

And the second reason is that in open beta and early Homecoming the CIS region had only one strong team, GwentDetta. Now new CIS teams with strong players have begun to appear, so everyone can choose a team in which they can improve and develop as players. 

Most likely this is the reason for such a success of the CIS in the 3rd season of the Gwent Masters.

S: Interesting, I never thought about this that way before. 

So Team Phoenix is rather new to the scene, while consisting of many known players. What are your goals for the future together with your team and for yourself?

A: Phoenix is indeed a new team, however four of our players have already qualified for Gwent Open tournaments. Our team goals are to be a small but friendly circle of people who achieve results not by grinding, but by pursuing quality through long-term growth.  

We put particular emphasis on the social component of our team, regularly arranging debates, watching movies, participating in quizzes, and so on. The main goal of the team is obviously to prepare its players for the Open and Masters. My goals as a player are always to strive for this, as well as to help teammates and to maintain the morale in the team.

The main strength of Phoenix is unity. We always support each other, we spend a lot of time together, and if someone needs help, for example, in preparing for a tournament or qualifying, there will always be players who will volunteer.

The secret of such good internal workings is that we take into account the mistakes of GloriousGaming, Gwendetta, and other teams – we don’t take anyone just because they showed some good results on ladder. It is also important to us how we interact with a player, whether we will be able to improve their game with the help of the team, and how s/he can help the Team.

S: Wow, you guys sound like a united family. A really good approach to build up a team! 

Last question, do you have any advice for new players trying to get better?

A: Try to play for fun and don’t pay attention to the results. And if you play really well, the results will come by themselves and at some point you will realize that right now you’ve become a top player. 

A team also helps a lot. I have developed much thanks to the people from GwentDetta and Phoenix, who taught me a lot. So when you consistently start getting into the top ranks, it is better to join a team so that your development does not stop, but only accelerates.

And perhaps it is you, the one who is reading this article, who will soon become the new Gwent Star.

S: That’s good advice and also a nice message for our readers. Thanks a lot for taking part in the interview and I wish you good fortune in the wars to come! 

A: Thank you, I will try my best! 

Skill beats Luck Ep. 2 – The current Kreve League Champion JSN991

Introduction

After our talk with SuperSpock9000 in episode one, which you can find here, this time we want to have a chat with Bandit Gang’s Pro Player JSN991. Making it regularly into the top 64 on ladder, he also managed to be crowned Champion of Kreve by winning Kreve League Season 2 in a final vs. Santtu2x last June.
We want to get a deeper insight into what it takes to play a league format compared to a single tournament. We will also talk about his preparation and his overall thoughts on the competitive scene in Gwent. But first, some details about the player and also the event in general.

Meet the Player

Name: Jason

Age: 17

Hobbies: Gaming, Basketball, Football

Section: Pro Team

Favorite Faction:  Scoiat’ael*

Favorite Card: Olaf

About the Event - Kreve League

The Kreve League is a tournament organised by Team Kreve. Based on a league format, everyone is able to participate. For a duration of 6-7 weeks, depending on how many players participate, you play a single best-of-three series every week. This means the standard one-day swiss phase is stretched into a weekly format. 

After that, the top 16 will compete, again on a weekly basis, in the playoffs for the title Champion of Kreve, in addition to some meteorite powder and premium kegs. 

Currently, Kreve League is in its third season already. For more information, check out their homepage!

Also, if you want a detailed summary from the last play-offs where JSN991 could claim his title, make sure to give Aitchkay’s recap a read!

The Interview

Sawyer1888: As the current Champion of Kreve, let’s take a step back and talk about your journey. What kept you motivated through the League phase and why did you participate in the first place?

JSN991: I joined Kreve League just for fun, since I generally find the tournament format more enjoyable than ladder. This is mostly because on ladder you can face a particular very strong deck over and over, whereas in tournaments you can just ban it, making the game more skill dependent. I also used it as a place to test out lineups for qualis and other tournaments, since it provides a different kind of practice than just prepping with teammates.

How would you describe your preparation for this event, given that you are able to change decks weekly?

The way I picked my lineup varied from week to week. Some weeks I would play decks that weren’t necessarily the absolute best but that I found fun and could still win with. Other times I would play a lineup I was considering bringing to qualis, or just bring the best lineup I could think of (especially in playoffs). 

I never really took Kreve League super seriously, so my preparation was generally limited to a couple of ladder games or a quick best-of-three against teammates. Usually with Synergygod or Hawgplex since they were also playing in the League.

Recently you managed to achieve some decent results on ladder as well and regularly take part in top 64 qualifiers. What differences are there in a League where everyone can take part compared to an event you have to qualify for?

The most noticeable difference is that you would play against some fairly bad players in the earlier weeks, but the standard in playoffs is higher than  you might expect. It won’t be as high as qualifiers, but there are still some very good players in it.

Would you be interested in something like an official league as well? What events would you like to see in the future?

Definitely, I’m a big fan of the league format since you have to adapt to small meta shifts from week to week. It takes a different mindset to the standard one-day format. 

For qualis a lot of players struggle to play the entire day or can’t play on that particular Saturday. A league format is more accessible since you can organize when you play and only have to play one series in a week. This means that I would like to see more of the league format, potentially even one run by CDPR.

I would also like to see more community tournaments, since they’re fairly rare. I think a big part of this is how unreliable the tournament client is, making it a nightmare to be an admin. If CDPR were to fix the client, I think we would see more of them, which would be great.

A feature that would be great to see as well would be a tournament mode implemented into the actual game, where you choose Bo3 or Bo5, pick a lineup, and play out a full series against an opponent with open decklists, bans, and pre-determined coin allocations. This is because ladder is quite bad when it comes to preparing for tournaments. You can’t constantly queue into the deck you plan on banning or get the wrong coin whilst playing a coin dependent deck. 

This would be great for everyone but especially players who are new to the competitive/ tournament scene and would like some practice. However, this would take a lot of time and effort for CDPR to make, so I doubt it will ever happen. But I’m pretty sure it would see more play than draft mode.

You also did quite well in our Bandit Gang internal tournaments so far.
Is there anything that feels special for you playing in a competitive environment in general?

As cool as it is to win stuff, internal tournaments aren’t a particularly good measure of who is the best since most of the team plays memes. I was however able to establish dominance over SuperSpock9000 in two finals and made $50 so that was nice. I would also say that in a tournament I’m more focused and try my best to win every game. On ladder I have more of a chilled “zak zak zak” mentality and don’t really care about efficiency. 

Obviously tournaments are special because there is a lot more at stake, but I try not to let that affect how I play. The other key part which decides how well you do in tournaments is your lineup rather than how you play in the game. We saw a prime example of this when Lifecoach beat Tailbot in Season 1 World Masters, despite Tailbot being an undeniably more experienced player.

Currently some might say the meta is in a bad state because of Sunset Wanderers and certain other things. What are your feelings about the competitive state of Gwent right now?

I’ve barely played this patch because I’m not really enjoying it. I actually really like the design of Sunset Wanderers but one card seeing this much play is never a good thing. Although that’s not whats wrong with this meta.

I saw a stat from the most recent top 16 qualifiers that the four most popular leaders made up 84% of decks in the tournament compared to just 55% in May. And as the meta settles this will only get worse for top 64. 

Having such a small amount of decks that are so much stronger than everything else isn’t good from a competitive standpoint. Because besides it just simply being repetitive and boring, it also takes a lot of skill out of the game. This is because at the top level, if players just have to memorize maybe five or six matchups, they can play them perfectly after a bit of preparation. It then just comes down to who drew their best cards.

In more diverse metas, there are much more opportunities to go for a different strategy with a lineup. Whether that’s hard targeting a meta deck or bringing something more off meta and spicy. This variety means that it is about how a player can apply their knowledge of the game to a strange new situation in a way that takes much more skill than “in x matchup do y and just draw your golds“.

Interesting, as I also read the statistics and kinda felt the same.
Reflecting on your progress so far, what are your goals and expectations for Kreve League Season 3 and on ladder in general?

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t take Kreve League too seriously but it would of course be nice to do well. I would like to make the playoffs or even defend my title, maybe whilst clapping some teammates on the way (especially a certain German article writer *wink wink*).
 [Comment by the author: That won’t happen.]

As for ladder, I want to try and make top 64 each month and after missing out by 1 mmr on top 16 in May (yes, I’m still salty about it) I want to actually make a top 16 at some point. This wouldn’t be until we were in a meta where I could happily grind games again, though, so I’m hoping for the next set of new cards to fix the meta a bit.

Understandable, but I wish you luck nonetheless!
At last, do you have any advice for “newcomers” on how to approach something like Kreve League?

My advice for anyone new to competitive Gwent would be to play in as many tournaments as possible in order to improve. 

The ultimate goal for a lot of players is making top16/64 qualis, opens, etc. Also playing in smaller events like Kreve League will make you much better equipped to do well in these bigger events. Some people, however, don’t have the time to grind ladder and make top 64, in which case they should still try to play in these kinds of events. It’ll be a new experience for you and the majority of players will find it more enjoyable than ladder.

The main thing to keep in mind when competing in events like this is just to treat it like any other game of Gwent and stay cool. This gets easier the more tournaments you play in. Something that even the best players struggle with is getting tilted when they throw a game or miss cards. It’s much easier said than done but you should try your best to not let it make you play worse.  Games are often still winnable after misplays or bad RNG, so keep that in mind.

Alright, sounds good. I am sure that many might find this advice helpful…if you want to improve, you have to play, simple.
So thanks for your time again and I wish you good fortune in the wars to come!

Sure thing, glad to be your guest. Thanks, I will try my best!