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! 

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