Skill beats Luck

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Meet the Player

Name: Daniel Matthias

Age: 18

Hobbies: Music, Photography and Japanese Culture

Section: Pro Team (Legacy)

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Gellert Bleinheim

Duel of Dogs No.2 - The Big Heist

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

S: True, our community is very unique. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S: Interesting, but I can relate to that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

D: Thanks, you’re welcome! 

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Meet the Player

Name: Miquel Esteban Cortés

Age: 28

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

Section: Management (Team Nova)

Favorite Faction: Nilfgaard

Favorite Card: Ciri Nova

Team Nova and Liga Foltest

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

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

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

Additional Information - Información Adicional

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

Meet the Caster

Name: Christopher

Age: Boomer

Hobbies: Streaming

Section: Content Team

Favourite Faction: Skellige

Favourite Card: Whoreson Junior 

Between Casting and Playing the Game

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S: That’s really nice to hear! 

Normally we always ask about some advice for our players. 

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

C: I would give you three simple tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

Meet the Player: Arch1

Name: Artyom

Age: 18

Hobbies: Table Tennis & Basketball

Section: Pro Team (Phoenix)

Favorite Faction: Skellige

Favorite Card: Boris

A special guest and a newly crowned champion

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S: Very convenient indeed, I would say. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think of such community events in general?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Thank you, I will try my best! 

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

Introduction

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

Meet the Player

Name: Jason

Age: 17

Hobbies: Gaming, Basketball, Football

Section: Pro Team

Favorite Faction:  Scoiat’ael*

Favorite Card: Olaf

About the Event - Kreve League

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!