Interview

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!

Bandit of the Month (July) | Exclusive Interview with Superspock9000

It’s our pleasure to award SuperSpock9000 with the BOTM this time! As a veteran of the team by now, he recently qualified for a Top64 spot,  finished Top12 in the TLG Invitational and inspires us with his constant dedication and ability to help his teammates! Congratulations!

Babyjosus: Hey Spock. What does it mean to you to receive your first BOTM?

Superspock9000: Hi BJ! It feels pretty good. After seeing a handful of my peers getting BOTM, I always thought it would be cool to get it myself.

BJ: You are now officially one of the cool kids. How was your experience to qualify and play in the Top16 in The Invitational 2?

SS: It was quite the journey all in all. I started in the community qualifier going 5-2 over the course of 2 days and seven rounds of swiss. For the first weekend of the main event I went 6-1 with a final series that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. 2 Ties, 1 PC crash and then finally 3 games after that to decide a winner. It was easily one of the longest days of Gwent I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, weekend 2 didn’t go as well as I had wished. I lost my first series in the winners bracket and only made it into the 3rd round of losers before getting knocked out. However, I had some really cool matches against some very good opponents and the event showed how much room I have left to improve.

BJ: You also made an appearance on the Zwei Null Podcast, what was that like?

SS: It was actually an awesome experience to be on the TLG podcast. It was a bit surreal to be talking with people like Jaggerous, Spyro, and Ryan all of whom I’ve known as large parts of the Gwent community for quite some time now.

BJ: I am happy to hear that. What can people expect from you next month?

SS: Well next month is the beginning of the Gwent competitive off-season so grinding ladder won’t be a priority for me like it was in previous seasons. However, I’ll keep an eye out for any community tournaments/leagues that come up in the following months.

BJ: I like the commitment. And what message would you give to the supporters of BG?

SS: Thanks for supporting BG! It’s awesome to have an audience of people who encourage us in our competitive and content endeavors!

You can find out more about Superspock9000 here.

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! 

Jhugs’s Last Interview | Goodbye From Bandit Gang | Exclusive

Babyjosus: Last year you became a father and had less time to be active for Bandit Gang. What’s it like to be a father?

Jhugs: Being a father is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. I wouldn’t change any second of it.

BJ: I would like to become a father myself someday. But back to what we are here for. You are leaving Bandit Gang. How did you enjoy your stay in the team?

J: I loved my time with BG. Everyone was respectful, friendly, and always willing to help each other in any way. When the world was amidst a pandemic, BG and Gwent were there to help keep me sane.

BJ: So what was your most memorable moment in BG?

J: My most memorable moment with BG is when I competed in the Duel of Dogs tourney and was able to hang with some of the big names in Gwent. I was really proud of myself and my teammates that day.

BJ: Are there any future plans?

As of now, I’m not sure what the future holds. If I ever get more free time I may return to content creation in some form whether it be YouTube, Twitch, or something else. We’ll just have to wait and see.

BJ: What do you want to say to the fans of BG that have supported you throughout your time here?

J: Keep supporting BG any way you can because these guys are the real deal!

BJ: Thank you for everything and we will miss you!

J: I will miss you guys too…

You can read more about Jhugs on the Honorable Mentions page here.

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! 

Skill beats Luck Ep. 1 – SuperSpock9000 and the TLG Invitational II

Introduction

Skill beats luck“, a quote we are all familiar with, describes the basic idea of competitive Gwent. I guess we would all agree that this might not be the case in every situation…but surely being able to play Gwent at a high level helps on ladder and in tournaments. 

In this series, we want to talk with some of Bandit Gang’s Pro and Academy Players about their experience and thoughts of recent events they took part in. For episode one, I had the chance to talk with SuperSpock9000, who not only played in the last top 64 qualifiers in June, but managed to secure himself a spot in the top 16 playoffs in the TLG Invivational II. So let’s have a look at the player, the event, and what he has to say!

Meet the Player: SuperSpock9000

Name: Nick

Age: 23

Hobbies: Gwent, Yu-Gi-Oh, Running

Section: Pro Team

Favorite Faction: Scoiat’ael

Favorite Card: Cintrian Envoy

About the Event - The TLG Invitational II

The TLG Invitational is one of the biggest community tournaments in Gwent right now. Organised by Team Leviathan Gaming, the best players and competitive teams face each other to fight for a $1,000 price pool. To take part in the event, you either have to be invited, which means being a pro of one of the known Gwent teams, or have a decent reputation in the community. The other way is to make it to the top 16 in one of the qualifier events, which SuperSpock9000 managed to achieve in qualifier #2 in March.

The first part of the tournament will be a two-day-long swiss phase, which was just played last weekend, July 10th-11th. The second part is the top 16 playoff event, which will take place on July 31st – August 1st. If you want to learn more about this event, check out their homepage.

The Interview

Sawyer: What motivated you to take part in this event?

SuperSpock9000: Nothing in particular. I think I just wanted to play in a big Gwent event and see what I can do.

How did you prepare for this event compared to, for example, the top 64 qualifiers last month?

This time, I tried a more chillexd approach to prepare, if you can say it like this. I looked at the current meta, looked at what’s good and efficient right now and just went with it. I saw what Pajabol and the other pros were playing, tried out a couple of games on ladder before and this was it. I didn’t feel the need to come up with some spicy teched stuff like I did for the top 64 qualifier.

So you would say it was a different approach and experience to prepare for a community event and not for an “official” event?

Well, the skill level of the participating players in the Invitationals is still very high, of course. But you don’t have to grind as hard for it to qualify. I think playing a huge amount of games can be pretty exhausting, which I experienced when I went for a top 64 spot. And this kind of exhaustion carried over into the next season and also my preparation for the qualifiers. I prepped almost every day, but for the future I definitely will go with a more chilled preparation again.

Playing in events like this, how do you feel? How do you keep your focus?

To be honest, there is a lot of anxiety. You feel the pressure and try to perform at your best.  For me, it was the first tournament after the top 64 qualifiers in such a competitive environment, so I was a bit nervous. I tried to listen to some music while I played, but I am not sure if this helped me to focus or not. You just have to gain confidence during your preparation, know your lineup well, and believe in your own abilities. 

Can you give us an example? Maybe a certain situation where you can sketch the differences between ladder and tournaments?

On ladder, I sometimes lack the necessary efficiency. Coinflips, matchups, card draws, everything can be against you. But in open decklist tournaments, I spent more time thinking about my plays and proper sequencing. I can reflect on the value of my resources a bit more. In a tournament setting, I try to allocate each card for a certain purpose, while also keeping in mind to be flexible in certain situations. 

How was the overall experience for you with the organisation? Do you like the tournament format or do you prefer leagues?

I don’t have much to complain about. TLG and everyone in general do the best they can to make these events work. It is always a cool opportunity to maybe be seen on stream, get into the spotlight, etc.

Sometimes, I wish the match process would go more smoothly. Because of the deck discussions,  it can often take a while before the next round starts. A long day can be exhausting. 

Personally, I prefer events on the weekends. I also don’t really like a week-by-week thing which you have to adapt your schedule to, but maybe in the future. 

You managed to secure a spot in the top 16 and went 6-1: congratulations! So what is your plan until the playoffs in a few weeks?

Thank you! I kinda want to work on my ladder efficency a bit more and increase my winrate. Also the last time the meta changed at the end of the month, so I will analyse what’s going on and keep my eyes and ears open for last minute changes and eventual meta shifts. 

Do you have any final advice for our readers who might be interested in taking part in such events themselves?

Just do them. Make the experience yourself. In Gwent, you learn by doing, so you have to overcome your competitive anxiety at some point. 
I can also recommend to record your games, to ensure you learn and take something out of it, if you want to improve. Your mistakes shine when you lose but you don’t think about them as much if you win. 

Alright, thanks for taking part in the interview. I wish you good luck and also good fortune in the wars to come!

Thanks, I will try my best. Cya!

Through the Thorns of Top-64 Qualifiers to GWENT Open. Part 3

Written by renova- and Sawyer1888. Edited by Weevil89

Introduction

OPEN#2 comes closer each day and the tention is rising. Who will book the second ticket for the GWENT World Masters Season 3 and join Tailbot? This time, besides kams134, Redrame,  and wangid2021, five people from the CIS community (Commonwealth of Independent States) could qualify for this event: Akela114, BigKukuRUzina35 (iluxa228), Ch.aseNik_r and Sif_Great_Wolf.  Four of them were interviewed in the two previous articles, which you can find in part 1 here and part 2 here

For all who read the previous articles, welcome back dear readers, but also thanks for everyone new who is joining us today! 

After we talked in the interviews before about deckbuilding processes, tournament preparation, and in-game decisions and choices, we want to take a closer look now on how the meta has shifted in recent months. While the first qualifiers of the Season of the Bear took place in April, the qualifiers of the Season of the Elf were played in May. Since then, the first set of new cards from the Price of Power expansion released, many of which made a huge impact on certain decks, while also providing new options for some factions as a whole, such as example Northern Realms. 

In this part, we want to evaluate some statistics from these qualifiers and compare them with this month’s qualifiers, which will represent the tournament meta for the upcoming OPEN#2. 

Shortcut

For people who are not strongly involved in the competitive scene, it is always a bit harder to reflect meta changes and how some cards can shape a whole faction. What we want to do is to analyze some statistics, take a look at some example decks, and try to figure out what key aspects have changed over the recent months. With this in mind, we will write a short note for some factions, and more detailed explanations for others. We will also cover some niche archetypes and strategies, but to remain concise we have not included everything.

Finally, we will only focus on the decks and data from Day 2 of each top 64 qualifier, to provide more targeted and detailed insights. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Bear

As we all know, discussing the meta in any given season can be confusing. Although a player might qualify for an event during the Season of the Bear, the event might not happen until the following season (the Season of the Elf).

To make things easier, we will stick to the simple rule that whenever we refer to a certain meta, it is always named after the qualifier. So the Season of the Bear qualifier, for example, would be the Season of the Bear meta.  

The Season of the Bear qualifiers was clearly shaped by the dominance of Syndicate’s Lined Pockets, which was brought by every single participant on day 2. A variant of the so-called “Chinese Metabreaker” was also chosen for Nilfgaard by almost every player, as well, except by the eventual winner of the losers bracket BigKukuRUzina35.

In the following pictures, you can see what all the participants brought, while here you can remind yourself of what the brackets looked like.

If you compare all these decks, you can find some interesting clues on what kinds of strategies the players tried to employ.

Every player took at least one swarm deck in the form of Monsters’ Arachas Queen or Scoia’tael’s Deadeye Ambush. Many also brought Carapace (Keltullis) to the tournament, but you will never find both of these archetypes in one line-up. The only player who brought neither was Leks72. 

The decks these players brought also gave us some insights into the lengthy process of preparing for a tournament and the kinds of questions they asked themselves. Do you want to tech against certain factions? What if your opponent does not bring what you hoped? Do you want to bring certain decks which are stronger on a specific coin, like Uprising Witchers Northern Realms? Maybe you want to bring a deck which you think will be banned all the time, to bait it. Or do you just think outside the box and try a totally different approach? 

All these questions have to be considered while preparing for day 1 and day 2 of a tournament. We talked about what this process could look like in our recent articles, where all of the interviewed players followed different approaches. 

Energiix, for example, decided to bring Geralt: Yrden in all of his decks except for Nilfgaard, while Tailbot was the only player who chose Imprisonment instead of Double Cross as his leader ability for NG. Imprisonment has since become far more popular due to its frequent appearance in the Season of the Elf qualifier, and also in the most recent qualifiers for OPEN#3.

Beyond this, you can also spot once-off tech cards for specific matchups all over the place, like Forktail, Crushing Trap or Whoreson Junior to counter swarm.

If you take a closer look on the infographic below, created by Dream and Mettie, you can see how the idea of teching against a faction (or avoiding it) plays out. Even though Syndicate was so oppressive and used by everyone, it was only banned four times. Instead, people decided to ban the famous Blaze of Glory + Eist Tuirseach combo and Arachas Swarm, which can be tough matchups for every faction. This is rather interesting because most players’ line-ups were prepared to face Arachas Swarm

On the other hand, banning it could be the right decision, as Arachas Swarm had the highest winrate (78.57%), with 14 games played in total. Alongside that, everyone expected their opponents to play Syndicate, so everyone was prepared which resulted in a low banrate and also a low winrate (39.39%).

In conclusion, you could say for the top 64 qualifiers that everyone followed a specific gameplan, while only two could secure their ticket: Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35.  Both of them made interesting deck decisions, which kind of looked like fortune telling, by including cards like Professor or Whoreson Junior in SY, or deciding to bring the unique Portal version of Arachas Swarm (Akela114).


Maybe these small card decisions led them to victory and paid of in the end, giving them an advantage in certain matchups.

Next, let’s now take a look at the second top 64 qualifiers for OPEN#2, the qualifiers of the Season of the Elf. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Elf

While in the Season of the Bear qualifiers everyone brought Lined Pockets for SY, in the Season of the Elf focus shifted towards Pirate’s Cove. With its recent change to two charges and with the buff to the Borsodi Brothers to become more effective spenders, it proved to be one of the strongest and most flexible decks of the season.

Also, you might have noticed that, compared to the previous top 64 qualifiers, this time only eight people decided to bring NG, but twelve people took ST in form of singleton Elves or Nature’s Gift Devotion, which are generally considered as viable NG techs. So here you can see how the dominance of NG during the time before this qualifier shaped the open decklists decisions to tech against it.

As before, you can see all decks in the infographic below and all of the bracket information here.

When giving these decks a more detailed look, you can see how differently certain factions are now represented compared with the previous month. First, not a single person brought Arachas Swarm and only Ryazanov13 trusted in Carapace Keltullis again. Instead, Overwhelming Hunger (Viy) seemed to be the way to go in this qualifiers event for MO. 

It is also interesting to see that, with the leader changes to Reckless Flurry and the buffed discard package, a new Skellige archetype appeared during this qualifier. 

As with the previous qualifier, players included tech cards often to give them an edge in certain matchups. Analyzing the decks of some CIS players like Ch.ase, Nik_r and also Ryazonov13, you might notice some of these unique inclusions.

While everyone relied on Lambert: Swordmaster in their SK list to tech against elves, Nik_r decided to bring two additional tall removal cards in the form of Geralt of Rivia and Prince Anséis in his NR list. He was also playing Artefact Compression in SK and Tavern Brawl in his Syndicate list. All of these cards make the matchup against Viy much easier. On the other hand, Ryazanov13 was the only one who played Carapace and Shieldwall, not sticking with the combination which brought him to the previous losers final.

If you compare this with the analysis of the last top 64 qualifier you can see that small tweaks to adapt to their opponents’ strategies turned out to be very successful.

Comparing the statistics below with the ones from the last qualifier, you can see how much the banrate of SY increased. And, if not banned, it dominated with a 75% winrate over all other factions. A safe pick for blue coin seemed to be SK Reckless Flurry, which had a solid 66,67% winrate on blue coin in nine games, but struggled on red coin, where it only won 36,36% of games.  
Otherwise, all factions seemed to be pretty balanced in their matchups and winrates, while again the teched line-ups against Deadeye Ambush kept it under a 40% winrate in total. 

Reflecting on both top 64 qualifiers so far, you can see that some original thinking can give you the upper hand in certain matchups, but you still need to remember to tech against the most dominant decks. 

In our final analysis, let’s see how the ban procedure plays out and what factions and archetypes were played after the Price of Power expansion hit the circuit. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Viper/Price of Power

With the Price of Power expansion, some leaders like SY Jackpot were changed, buffing the faction even more. With a small influx of new cards, each faction was also provided with some new tools to play with.

NG got some impressive consistency cards like Dead Man’s Tongue, while SY was blessed with the long-awaited bounty package, including Witchfinder. NR got a huge rework, making Siege, Pincer Maneuver, and Patience a powerful archetype. MO got some new strong relicts for pointslam, while ST could make use of some new support for special cards (particularly useful for a Harald Gord deck). Only SK, with its new druids, seemed a bit underwhelming, so it relied more on neutral cards to remain competitive.

If you are interested in what the players brought to day 2 in the top 64 qualifiers of the Season of the Viper, you can check them out here

Compared to what we saw in the previous two qualifiers, this time the impact of the new expansion was quite noticeable. Almost every faction played included some of the new cards or reworked and buffed versions of other cards. 

As with the last qualifiers, every player brought SY, which was banned almost every time. This once more demonstrates the strength and pure dominance of this faction. Alongside SY, SK Reckless Flurry seemed to be a very strong pick, with everyone but one_two12 bringing it along (he instead brought Devotion Warriors). Cards like Korathi Heatwave, Junod of Belhaven or Hjalmar an Craite were often included, as well as some other unique techs, like Portal, Madoc or even Geralt of Rivia

It is really difficult here to see a pattern, as all the players decided to bring some sort of unique line-ups. Force of Nature with relicts, Pincer Maneuver or even Inspired Zeal Siege, Imprisonment Masquerade Ball. Each deck has its good and bad matchups, but in the end players seemed to favor tall removal, such as Hjalmar an Craite, thinning in form of Blightmaker or simpler value cards like Gerhart of Aelle. 

You might also notice the distinct lack of ST decks, even though Natures Gift and Deadeye Ambush always seemed a decent choice for open decklists. For this event, only Forever_Tabaki brought a non-devotion list, together with CintrianLions Precision Strike.

It is interesting that the eventual winner, Truzky, didn’t bring NG at all and was the only one playing a control heavy Arachas Swarm deck, which proved to be the winning strategy. 

As you can see, the following statistics look a bit different from the previous ones. This time, with some help from Bomblin, I had to design something on the fly myself. Forgive me if certain things are not optimally readable, as I am no expert in this, but if you resize the page it should do the trick. 

So if you take a look you can see again a very strong banrate for SY, which was only allowed to be played three times in total. On the other hand, you can see that except for SY, NR and NG only received one or two bans, while SK, MO and ST were never banned at all. This doesn’t mean that these factions were considered weak or that they always provide decent matchups: it just shows the oppressive and dominant state of SY once again.

6th Quali to Gwent Open 3 Season 3

It is also worth noticing that for SK and NG, only one leader ability was brought for each: Reckless Flurry and Imprisonment. They both ended up with solid winrates over 50%, while MO were able to sneak in a 41% winrate. ST, on the other hand, couldn’t manage to win a single game. 

So, what can we conclude from these data? Well, kind of the same as in the previous qualifiers. Unique deck decisions in this tournament, especially leader abilities, gave some players a decent advantage. Inspired Zeal and Arachas Swarm were only picked by a small amount of players, but those players all ended up in the top 3 (Spyro_ZA and the eventual qualifiers Truzky and Wangid2021).

Bananas, Coins, Dragons, Elves, Spiders and Warriors -
Shapes and Shifts of the Meta

Looking back on the last three top 64 qualifiers and the players’ deck decisions and matchups, it was interesting to bear witness to and analyze all these changes as they happened. The meta shifted not only because certain cards were buffed, nerfed, or changed, but also because new cards were added during the Price of Power expansion.  In the following part, we want to gather some thoughts on each faction and reflect on how they evolved during the last months. Keep in mind that this is only a general overview, and it does not claim to be complete or comprehensive.

The changes to Professor and Whoreson Junior as well as the buffs to Pirate’s Cove and Jackpot placed Syndicate as one of the strongest factions in the game. In addition to that, the Borsodi Brothers now function as spenders, which made the faction way more flexible. The new 12-provision gold card Witchfinder also allows SY to build a deck around bounty, which has proven to be a decent midrange control archetype. 

Over the past three months, SY evolved from a strong Lined Pockets crime list, to a flexible Pirate’s Cove midrange list, towards the new Jackpot bounty deck, which combines all of Syndicate’s greatest strengths. Whether due to the design of its cards or its use of coins, it seems clear that there is no middle ground for Syndicate. It is either too weak, or unreasonably strong.

Scoia’tael seems to function as a kind of “tech faction” these days. Elves were always a solid pick in open decklist events, as it can have many decent matchups, while often enough you pick Nature’s Gift to tech against Nilfgaard. There was also an argument to play control heavy Precision Strike or Trap decks.

  
The power of Nature’s Gift often shines in open decklist tournaments, which was shown in Masters Season#1, but nowadays people are trying non-devotion versions which include the new Elf Sorceress or the buffed Avallac’h. After the recent qualifiers, where ST wasn’t often played, we have to see what impact it will make in OPEN#2.

When it comes to Skellige, most of us think about some sort of warrior archetype. Supported by a solid discard package in form of the newly buffed Coral, it always had a decent amount of control, short round points and an impressive finisher with Eist Tuirseach + Blaze of Glory as a leader. 

Nowadays, we also witness some different approaches, including some witchers together with Reckless Flurry, to abuse Red coin and control their opponent’s board. But even after the addition of some new druids in the last expansion, Gedyneith as a scenario still seems underwhelming. SK also seems a bit weaker lately on ladder, because its bad matchups like NG or NR became even more powerful, while SK stayed mostly the same.

With the Uprising witcher archetype, NR became one of the strongest blue coin decks in the game, making it a solid choice for open decklists. Including Prince Anséis or Geralt of Rivia, it also provided some decent control, while easily being able to outtempo every faction, even when two cards down.

With the Price of Power expansion, we got many changes to charge-based cards, siege engines, and mages. Together with Pincer Maneuver as a leader which could always find their top golds, and supported by strong new cards like Gerhart of Aelle or the reworked Shani, it can be a threat to any faction. It is also able to abuse every coin with a tempo pass, playing the King Foltest + Dun Banner combo, making it (together with NG and SY) one of the strongest factions out there.

Monsters are the faction which you always kind of have to tech against or ban. Whether they decided to play Carapace Keltullis, Arachas Swarm or Overwhelming Hunger Viy, they always demanded certain tech considerations to be made. While some factions had a decent chance to win, other matchups, like Blaze of Glory warriors vs. Viy resulted almost in an auto-loss.

With the addition of the new relict cards and the change to Endrega Larva, it highly buffed the pointslam potential of the faction, including Koschey decks, for example. With some non-devotion cards like Korathi Heatwave or Dorregaray of Vole, it has answers to some engines and can be quite strong in an open decklist format.  That doesn’t mean we won’t see swarm or Kelly in the future, because these decks are still solid as well.

Ard Feainn, for the Great Sun! While being bullied on ladder by some Kolgrim piles, right now Nilfgaard seems to be in one of its strongest periods for a long time. Even after they changed Masquerade Ball to not being triggered by disloyal units, it is still the best scenario out there. If we have learned anything it is that, regardless of the changes, if it is possible to create a functional scenario deck, players will find a way.

NG’s ability to control with its Imprisonment leader, its many removal cards and its skillful deck manipulation make it a serious threat to every deck out there.

The expansion included the new thinning mage package consisting of Blightmaker and Mage Assassin, supported by Dead Man’s Tongue. This allows you to contest every round easily, finding your key gold cards, while not losing any control power. A devastating mixture of tools and a blessing for every loyal Nilfgaardian on ladder or in tournaments, to be sure.

Conclusion and Outlook

After three articles, sadly all good things must come to an end. We interviewed some of the best inside the CIS community, talked about decision making and deckbuilding, while always keeping an eye on how to prepare for open decklist events. 

This weekend, July 3rd and 4th, OPEN#2 will take place and we want to wish all the participants good luck! They fought their way through different metas and tournaments to be able to maybe secure a ticket for the World Masters Season 3 at the end of the year. Cards which were dominant vanished, leader abilities changed and define the current meta, while the tournament client problems have remained the same.

We hope that you could gain some insight and experience while reading and that you have enjoyed our attempt to bring you closer to the competitive mindset. We are hugely grateful for everyone who joined us on this journey.

Special thanks again to Weevil89 for helping out with the editing! 

Wishing you all the best of luck in your ladder climbing – until next time! 

renova- and Sawyer1888

Through the Thorns of Top-64 Qualifiers to GWENT Open. Part 2

Written by renova- & Sawyer1888 and edited by Weevil89

Introduction

Welcome, dear readers, to part 2 of our “Through the Thorns of Top 64 Qualifiers to GWENT Open” series, and welcome in particular to our returning readers. In the first part, Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35 offered their thoughts and impressions on their journey to GWENT OPEN#2. If you missed out and would like to read more about it, you can catch up here

This time, we want to take a closer look at Team Phoenix player Ch.ase and GwentDetta representative Nik_r, who both secured their spots in the upcoming Open#2 in the second qualifiers of the Season of the Elf in May.  

Season of the Elf 2nd Qualifiers Winners Interview

A Short Recap

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

During my (renova-) talk with Ch.ase and Nik_r, the winners of the top 64 qualifier of the Season of he Elf, I spotted some similarities but also some differences between this and my first interview series. Before talking to Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35, I wanted to find out how pro players prepared for the qualifiers and how they approached decision making in high-stakes games.

To refresh your memory, you can watch the VOD of the official cast of the finals on LionHart’s YouTube channel below:
Winners bracket final Ch.ase vs. Nik_r and Losers bracket final Nik_r vs. Ryazanov13

You can also find all decklists from Day 1 here and the Decks and bracket from Day 2 here

In light of what we learned in part 1, your task for today is to dive back into the Season of the Elf and its meta in an effort to learn more about the deckbuilding strategies, in-game decision making skills, and personalities of these two stars from the CIS community. 

Meet the Qualified Player: Ch.ase

Name: Vitaliy

Age: 21

City: Smolensk

 

Hobbies: Gwent

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Morkvarg: Heart of Terror

Meet the Qualified Player: Nik_r

Name: Nikita

Age: 33

City: Kerc/Krasnodar

Hobbies: Business, Gwent, and a Comfortable Couch 🙂

Favorite Faction: Nilfgaard

Favorite Card: Ferko the Sculptor

Chapter 1: General Questions

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

How and when did you get to know Gwent?

Ch.ase: With the help of The Witcher 3. Then I accidentally found out that there is a separate Gwent game and started playing it a little.

Nik_rAs with many others, in the The Witcher 3. I really liked this game. I completed all the quests and unlocked all the achievements. And then I was looking for add-ons for the game and came across an independent Gwent game in the recommendations. I downloaded, installed it and started loving it even more 🙂 Since the days of OBT [Open Beta Test], I’ve been here.

How did you end up playing Gwent competitively at a professional level?

C: It happened during Open Beta. Initially, when the first season of Gwent Masters had just begun, I did not have any set goals for myself and played regular Ranked ladder where there was a cosmetics grind (earlier Pro ladder was a separate one). Later, when Midwinter came with a stagnation in Gwent, I thought more about this question and somehow just decided to devote more time to Gwent and progress to the Pro ladder from the regular Ranked.

N: It wasn’t a deliberate decision. Moreover, I still do not consider myself an e-sportsman and do not set specific goals of getting into tournaments. I play in qualifier events more as a streamer than as a professional player, and I usually do it without delay. Both times, when I got to the Open, my streams were called something like “losing 0:3 and going to rest”. But it turned out a little differently 🙂

What approach do you use to practice on ladder and to get to the top?

C: I don’t have any particular approach. I just play when I want to and that’s it.

N: It is very difficult, I am an old grump. Many decks I absolutely do not like and even if they are very strong, I will never play them. Viy, Kolgrim, and current versions of Jackpot are the latest examples. Of course, it often interferes with me.

How did you assess the state of the Season of the Elf meta (during which you qualified)?

C: The meta was really bad. First, there was a tier-1 Syndicate deck that simply did not have any bad matchups and completely dominated, and which anyone could use to reach 2600 mmr with minimal effort. Next, there was Skellige, which I liked due to the high-roll nature of its discard mechanics.  Everyone refused to add Blood Eagle to their decks because of its low point output, although for me it was a more reliable build. In the end, the winners were the ones who found all of their discard cards in round 1, since in round 3 it could ruin everything if you didn’t find them right away.

N: Better than now. There were six playable and almost equal factions, as shown by the players who qualified. Now the situation has changed and we are back to the times when there are two way too strong factions, one is very strong and the remaining three are extremely weak (in my personal opinion, of course). This greatly affects my interest in the game, including in watching tournaments, because I know in advance what the majority of players will take to a best of three (BO3).

How do you usually prepare for qualifications?

C: I basically don’t prepare for the first day of top-64 qualifiers and tend to just take strong decks. For top-16, I have already sorted out matchups, and I also play practice sessions with teammates if I need to.

N: It depends on my mood. Usually, I just take what I like and what I can play on, so that both the viewers and I have fun during the stream 🙂

What role does the team play in your Gwent life?

C: I would not say that the team acts for me primarily as a Gwent assistant. For me, many teammates have already become good friends with whom it is simply interesting to communicate on general topics. They are also highly skilled at Gwent and can help if needed.

N: A very large one. I am happy that I ended up in GwentDetta and have the opportunity to communicate with such wonderful guys every day. Without them, of course, nothing would have happened. But there is also a big problem: I worry much more about other people’s results than about my own. When I beat Ryazanov13 in the qualifying finals, I was very upset. I think it was visible on the stream as well. And after Gwent Masters with the participation of magpie131, I did not enter the game for four days. It was the worst moment for me in all my time playing Gwent.

How is the deck selection going before any tournament?

C: It all depends on the meta.

N: As mentioned earlier, I usually take what I like. But often I adapt decks for a certain idea, depending on what my favorable matchups are.

What is the difference between the approach to deck chooding on the first and second days of the top-64 qualifiers?

C: On the first day, I just take the strongest decks. On the second day, I bring decks which counter my opponent’s strategies, if such decks exist. If not, then I just take the decks that are the most fun to play with.

N: As a general rule, on the first day everyone takes the strongest decks. There are very few tactical moments and a lot is decided by chance in BO3. But on the second day, you have to think, since there are many more strategies and there is an opportunity to come up with something interesting in a best of five (BO5).

Do you think you have any weaknesses when it comes to Gwent?

C: Very often I play too quickly because of overconfidence, and it makes me miss or overlook important interactions.

N: Oh, there are a lot of them. I am prone to tilt, I am a very adventurous person myself and at the same time quite stubborn. Even if it is obvious to me that my deck is not working, I will continue to suffer playing it, falling lower and lower. And then, heroically, I will pull myself from the bottom like Baron Munchausen 🙂

Are there any players who inspire you in one way or another?

C: During the 2nd season of Gwent Masters, it was Demarcation. It was always interesting for me to see how he played in tournaments, and in the ladder it was interesting for me to play against him. Now there are probably none.

N: First of all, there are my teammates. I would also highlight Redrame, Pajabol, and Gravesh. It’s a pity that Gravesh began to play much less and streams less often –  as for me, his streams were the best in the entire history of Gwent 🙂

Chapter 2: Personal Questions

In this part of the article, we will learn from the players what was behind their choice of decks for the tournament, as well as analyze in detail with the interviewees several controversial or curious moments from a series where these players faced each other in the final stage of the qualifiers. 

Deckbuilding: Ch.ase

You can find Ch.ase’s decks by clicking the factions buttons

Against which matchups did you use Crushing and Serpent Traps with Hattori in the Scoia’tael deck?

C: Keltullis and Scoia’tael mirror matches.

What do you think of the other build with the Great Oak in this tournament? Is it too expensive for a deck that already has a problem with the number of gold cards?

C: I didn’t like The Great Oak. This card without an idea built around it just plays for points. In my build, there was a greater sense of purpose. The build with Ele’yas and Toruviel was also good.

How did you come up Lined Pockets ability after Pirate’s Cove performed so well in the Top 16 qualifiers?

C: I wasn’t the only one who chose Lined Pockets. This ability did not have any bad matchups, but only became stronger and could calmly win against Pirate’s Cove in a long round. I think people started playing Pirate’s Cove just to try something new.

Nilfgaard’s deck with Menno was pretty popular, but does he justify his provision cost? You included Artorius in this slot, so how was he helpful?

C: To pull out the dogs or roll a spy similar to Braathens. He also made it possible sometimes to play two engines in a single turn.

Have you strengthened the decks in any way for mirrors?

C: As mentioned above about Scoia’tael, I added 2 Crushing Traps.

Deckbuilding: Nik_r

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

On the first day of qualifications, you took elves with Radeyah as one of the three decks, but on the second day you left Scoia’tael behind. What was behind this decision?

N: On the first day, it became clear that many people had chosen the elves as their prey. I was afraid of this even before the qualifiers and wanted to take NR witchers, but still decided to take a chance which, sadly, did not pay off. On the second day, I decided to act differently and take decks that had favorable matchups against Monsters and any anti-elf decks. As a result, my first opponent, Freddybabes, took a lineup that simply destroys the elves. If I had brought them, my path to Open would have been very short 🙂

In recent seasons, Imprisonment has gained more and more popularity for Nilfgaard. How has the good old Double Cross performed, especially in factional mirror matches?

N: I like Double Cross, since it forces the opponent to make bad decisions. To play around it, my opponent has to play stronger cards much earlier than he/she wants. But in mirrors, this ability can be problematic as you just don’t have enough space on the board to play all your cards.

 

Why did you decide not to add dog thinning to the Nilfgaard deck?

N: To be honest, I don’t remember anymore 🙂 I like this thinning, but I guess the other cards seemed more important to me.

What did you add Artefact Compression for in the Skellige deck?

N: It seemed to me that Artefact Compression is more interesting than Spores: it can optionally play as another lock, if necessary. Given that I wanted to play against Monsters first, that made sense. And against Nilfgaard as well, if Joachim pulls out some kind of engine, it looks tempting to reset and block it at the same time 🙂

Most often, in Northern Realms witchers’ decks, we can see only one tall removal. Why did you decide to play both Prince Anséis and Geralt of Rivia at the same time? And why did you give up on Keldar?

N: Prince Anséis and Geralt of Rivia make matches against Keltullis much easier, and also increase the chances of winning against Viy. Since I did not plan to ban Nilfgaard, against which Keldar is less useful, the it was an easy decision to cut him.

Games: Ch.ase

Ch.ase vs Nik_r

How did you plan the game for the blue/red coins?

C: Scoia’tael has always been for the Red coin, since on the Blue one they are simply unplayable against any matchups. For the rest of the decks, I was repelled by the opponent’s decks and thought carefully about what he would choose.

What was your game plan for a Nilfgaard mirror match? In general, how should you play such a matchup?

С: Nilfgaard mirrors are a bit silly 🙂 In that meta, having last say was decisive as there was basically only one uninteractive card (Yennefer’s Invocation), sometimes two (Coup de Grace into Emissary). Now Vincent and Dead Man’s Tongue emerged and this is not that important anymore. In general, it is often more profitable to counter an opponent’s engines than to spam the board.

In the elven match against witchers, you played Oneiromancy quite early, abandoning the opportunity to play Feign Death in the second round. Did you take the risk on purpose or didnt you see any chances for yourself in the short round 3 without scenario, even having card advantage?

C: Witchers do not pass even after seeing the scenario in such matchups, so it was more profitable for the opponent to just proceed to the third round with some carryover and bleed cards out of me in round 2. There was a Griffin Witcher Adept for 9 points and I decided to play a trap thereby blocking his Amphibious Assault and not letting him take round control. He also had Vesemir: Mentor in his hand, which he had not yet played, and was a low tempo move.

 

In the replay of this match, conversely, you gave up Feign Death pretty soon. Why? How can a player determine when it is better to give up a scenario to not risk losing 0-2 while managing resources effectively?

C: It depends on the situation. Sometimes you play the scenario so that your bronze cards just become tempo ones, so for the next round you keep gold cards and win with those. In some cases, however, you spend a scenario to force your opponent to pass because, for example, you have too many gold cards in your hand and you do not want him to push you.

 

Why did you decide to play with Oneiromancy for a dryad instead of some bronze elf to activate the scenario and prevent the need to spend an additional leader charge? Could it be possible to hit with the Trap not on a two-power unit, so as not to create a fifth elf to summon Aelirenn?

C: It was my mistake. I was looking for different options, but in the end I didn’t have enough time and played it in a hurry.

 

How do you decide whether to spend Korathi Heatwave on Masquerade Ball during the bleed while playing Reckless Flurry?

C: If the opponent plays the scenario right at the beginning of the second round, thereby trying to force you to go into a long third round, it is worth spending. If this happens on 3-4 cards, you can pass.

 

Were there any moments in this series in which you would have acted differently today?

C: I would like to fix the situations with Aelirenn and Vernossiel, when I could have cut my opponent’s value from a potential Lyrian Scytheman and if I played Nature’s Rebuke as my last card. In general, I played worse on Scoia’tael than on other factions, since I practiced with this deck only a little despite having many opportunities to do otherwise.

Games: Nik_r

Nik_r vs Ch.ase

How did you plan the game for the blue/red coins? 

N: I wanted to play the Nilfgaard mirror match right away, because I thought I had a good chance of winning. For the Blue coin, of course, I always planned to take witchers – this is the best matchup against elves. From there, I hoped that the score would be 2:0 and I would only have to win one out of three Skellige games 🙂

You lost all three times in this series against Nilfgaard. How did that happen?

N: There were a lot of mistakes. I played this series terribly and I am still ashamed 🙂

In general what was your strategy in the NG Mirror?

N: This is the strangest mirror match in Gwent. It is difficult to strategise, so you must always adapt to individual circumstances 🙂 Most importantly, try not to overswarm your side of the board or else you will have no space 🙂

Why did you decide to bleed Ch.ase in the second round?

N: I filled my board too easily, so the long round was very unpleasant for me. In general, bleeding looked like a good idea, because the opponent would always face a serious dilemma – to keep Masquerade Ball in hand and potentially give me the opportunity to play it with my leader, or play it early and go to the third round without it while I still have mine. Both of these scenarios were less than ideal for Ch.ase. But I did not find Masquerade Ball with my leader. Taking into account the fact that before that I made a bunch of mistakes – exposing Braathens to Coup de Grace, for example, – the game ended there.

And how did you decide whether to throw Coup de Grace at Braathens or at Joachim, thus losing points from the poison?

N: At that moment, I was already tilting quite hard and just wanted the game to end 🙂 So do not try to find logic in my moves – there wasn’t any 🙂

In the next match with your Northern Realms witchers, you went to bleed the elves realizing that, most likely, you would not recover your card advantage. Did you intend to shorten the third round here? What was the best outcome for you in this game?

N: Yes, I needed to make him get rid of Feign Death or Vernossiel, and also pull out Aelirenn. In general, this is a very convenient matchup for the witchers, even without Keldar and with Geralt, who plays for a measly 3 points. The fact that the first game ended in a draw is primarily due to Ch.ase, who played very well.

In the second round in the match against Skellige, how did you decide that giving up your leader would be better than staying a card down?

N: Oh, this is another match that I played terribly. Sorry, guys 🙂 I could have kept my leader and not lost my card if I had played Fergus into Tyrggvi earlier and replayed him. A very, very bad match from me. Against players like Ch.ase, you can’t afford to play this way.

Were there any moments in this episode in which you would have acted differently today?

N: Yes, there are a lot of them. But this series pissed me off a lot: I saw my mistakes and I was really ashamed by my performance. It’s a pity that I had to take out all my anger on my teammate, but I honestly tried with all my might to dissuade him from taking Keltullis to these qualifiers 🙂

Final Word

What advice do you have for beginners and those looking to develop their Gwent skills?

Ch.ase:  Try to think more. Thinking + luck = you can manage everything in Gwent. 

Nik_r:  Find enjoyment in it. If you like what you are doing, the result will definitely come. 

Conclusion

Part 2 of this article series helped us to take an even deeper look into the mindset of competitive players. Based on their experience and insight, we hope you have come to better understand how they make decisions, in particular while preparing for open decklist events.

Grinding ladder is the bread and butter for every top player. But only the finetuning and preparation for open decklist events, thinking about certain matchups, evaluating the coinflips, and taking advantage of the full knowledge of your opponents’ decks will allow you to eventually walk with the pros. 

Special thanks to both Ch.ase and Nik_r for taking their time to answer these questions. Also thanks again to Weevil89 for helping out with the editing but thank you especially to our dear readers for sticking with us through this series!

The upcoming OPEN#2 will provide a different meta, but the preparation will stay the same. In the next and final article of this series, we want to compare the shifts and changes between the metas from the qualifiers and the current meta, in which the tournament will take place. 

We wish you good fortune in the wars to come!

renova- and Sawyer1888

Contacts

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

Written by renova- and edited by Sawyer1888 & Weevil89

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Season of the Bear 2nd Qualifiers Winners Interview

Shortcut

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Qualified Player: Akela114

Name: Oleg Nikolaev 

Age: 25

City: Novosibirsk

 

Hobbies: Gwent

Favorite Faction: Skellige

Favorite Card: Knickers

Meet the Qualified Player: BigKukuRUzina35

Name: Ilya Lyapin 

Age: 19

City: Vologda

 

Hobbies: Football, LEGO, Computer Games

Favorite Faction: Northern Realms

Favorite Card: Priscilla

Chapter 1: General Questions

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

How long have you been playing Gwent?

Akela114: Since summer 2017.

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

What’s behind your nickname?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What determines the choice of stratagem for the deck? 

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

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

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

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

A: Consider the last game against John丶Sally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2: Personal Questions

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

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

Deckbuilding: Akela114

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deckbuilding: BigKukuRUzina35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Map_temeria

Games: Akela114

Akela114 vs BigKukuRUzina35

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

Scr4

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

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

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

Games: BigKukuRUzina35

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

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

Akela114 vs BigKukuRUzina35

You can watch this match here.

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

Scr1

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

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

Scr2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scr3

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

 

Final Word

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

All the best and every success in Gwent!

renova-

 

Contacts

Decode789’s First Interview | Welcome To Bandit Gang | Exclusive

Babyjosus: What does it mean to you now you are officially part of BG?

Decode789: First, joining TBG is the best decision I ever made, because now I can show my creativity without any hindrance. Second, I have known most of the members since TBG was created so they are family. Third, It makes me happy to be part of a great team who knows when to goof around and when to be serious. Love y’all.

BJ: What made you join team BG?

D: Earlier when TBG was founded by BanditPig, I decided then and there to be part of it. The reason I wasn’t able to join earlier was due to IRL reasons. I decided to join because I wanted to showcase creative decks and do some guide on a specific faction.

BJ: What can people expect from you now you are on BG?

D: People can expect off-meta decks, articles, and videos either about certain characters in Gwent or a decklist. I can also do a little bit of logo designs if needed.

BJ: How well suited do you think you are to the life of an (assistant) video editor for BG? 

D: Before I was all into games, I made music back in the day. This eventually led me to video editing my musical creations and posting them on YT back in 2009-2010. I love to be creative. All I need to do now is brush up my skills again and let my creativity flow through. So in conclusion, I feel that I am very well suited to be the assistant video editor for BG. In fact, it’s an honor.

BJ: What message would you give to the supporters of BG?

D: Thank you everyone for the love and support you have given! You are the reason we are encouraged to do more!

You can find out more about Decode789 here.