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

Introduction

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

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

Meet the Manager

Name: Erik

Age: 33

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

Favorite Card: Villentretenmerth

Favorite Faction: Northern Realms/Skellige

Section: Management Claymore

Claymore and the CIS Community

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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