Interview

Skill beats Luck Ep. 11 – France enters the scene with Kaneki_Yamori

Introduction

Wait…a new Episode? Of course! Skill beats Luck is back and I will work hard to keep it that way. On a personal note, the last few months have been busy, as I finished and passed my Masters Thesis (Geography), got a new job and now have to heal from a torn ligament in my foot after I got hit by a bike. Nevertheless, I am glad to have the time now and provide you with new interviews within the GWENT Community. 

The last Episode came out after the first competitive season has ended, this one after the last competitive season of the year just finished. And this time I have a guest many Pro’s in the scene might have heard about already, others might have seen him only a few weeks ago when he was able to qualify for GWENT Open No. 3. I am talking about Team Elder Bloods Kaneki_Yamori, who’s actually the first player from France taking part in an official GWENT tournament. So let us not waste any more time and find out more about him, his thoughts on GWENT and how gaming shapes our daily lives! 

For our fellow readers from France we prepared a French Version of the Interview as well, which you can find in the Additional Information!

Meet the Player

Name: Dylan

Age: 19

Hobbies: Sports in general, Boxing, Cinema

Favorite Card: Spotter 

Favorite Faction: Nilfgaard

Section: Pro Team (Team Elder Blood)

Team Elder Blood and ShupeTV

As all of you know, there are many different GWENT Teams out there. Some are regional Teams, like GwentDetta in the CIS Community, ESC in the Italian Community or Team Nova and Viper, for the Spanish and Hispanic Communities. Other Teams, like Bandit Gang or TLG are multi-national. 
Our guest this time is a competitive player from Team Elder Blood, which has grown a lot over the last few months. Not only their yearly Community Events play a big role in GWENT, also their players. Recently Gandalf0271 has won GWENT Open No. 1, while others, like Pawloex or Truzky are know faces as well. With Kaneki_Yamori we now have another uprising competitive player, who put France in the spotlight. 

ShupeTV on the other hand is not directly an Esports Team, but more like a French Community. They cast official events in French, while also being part of cross over events or organising their own league and tournaments.  

Many members from STV are active players in TEB, like Kaneki_Yamori, Captain Flixon or ArtNhr for example. 

If you want more information, check out their Twitter, Discord or different Twitch Channels!
(TEB Homepage, STV Twitch)

Additional Information - Informations Complémentaires

In this Google Document you can find a French Version of the Interview! 

Dans ce Google Document vous trouverez la version française de l’interview !

The Interview

Sawyer: Hello Kaneki, first of all congratulations on your recent success! If I am correct, you might be one of the first players from France who qualified for a GWENT Open.
But before we go into more details, why don’t you tell us something about yourself. Who’s the person behind this nickname and how did you end up in playing GWENT?

Kaneki_Yamori: Hey Sawyer and thanks a lot! Indeed, I’m the first french player who qualified for an open since alessio1996 was from Belgium.   
So, my nickname is Kaneki_Yamori, but my real name is Dylan and I’m 19 years old, living in the south of France, next to the sea and mountains. I am a student in the medical field and devote my freetime to 2 main activities: GWENT and sport

I never played any card game before GWENT, I didn’t know this environment at all. At first I loved gwynt in the Witcher 3, did all the quests to get the complete collection of cards, and was sad when I finished them. It’s by pure chance, while I was browsing the Play Station store, that I saw GWENT for the first time. Then Idecided to try the game, and it’s been more than 5 years now that I’m playing it.

S: Interesting, I kinda took the same way, just on PC.
I already had the chance to play against you in our Charity Event with ShupeTV last year, where I met you the first time. Also I remember some tough battles during the TLG Invitational vs my teammate SuperSpock9000.
Since then you’ve come a long way and improved a lot. What’s your secret, how do you explain your high winrates and recent successes?

K_Y: Well, I don’t think there are any secrets that can explain my progress, it’s just the result of hard and very long work, as I don’t have any experience on other games of this type. I started GWENT with an execrable level, but I got hooked, I started to watch more and more streams of good players, who explained their thinking, and it helped me to progress.

Nowadays I try to play only when I’m fully concentrated. As a rule, I try to start my GWENT session after I finish my workout, that’s when I feel the best and when I’m most able to concentrate.

My routine is the following: at the beginning of the season, I set the goal to achieve, like top 64 or top 16, depending on the time I have, and my desire to play.

Then, I start playing seriously from the 2nd week of the season, because the first week is the one I take to have a break from GWENT. I calculate the number of MMR I need to take each day to reach my goal, trying to reach it, and then I stop there. If I tell myself I need to earn 20 MMR per day, there will be days in which I will do 3 games to reach my goal and other days where I need 20. One of the pitfalls of the brain is that if the goal looks simple, it will not be satisfied once the goal is reached. So it will want to play more, and that’s when you make the mistake of continuing to play. Whatever goal you set, try to stick with it.

If it takes you 30 games to reach your daily goal the next day, your brain will be happier because it will think that the task was harder to achieve, when it wasn’t.

What you need to do is to be satisfied with your goal, even if you have done it in a very simple way. This is the beginning of efficiency.

S: That remembers me of the survey I once did about Pro Players Mentality. Being efficient and reflecting on your playstyle seems key.

While we have a lot of players from Poland, Russia, China or even Germany, the competitive scene in France seems rather small. Not everyone might be aware of the huge community within ShupeTV tho.
What is ShupeTV about for you, what’s your part in it and what are the differences in terms of preparation compared to Team Elder Blood

K_Y: First of all, I would like to say a huge thanks to Team Elder Blood and ShupeTV, these 2 communities have given me a lot.

Team Elder Blood is a community of excellent players, which has grown tremendously in the last few years. The different players are all there for each other, give their lists which they perform with, give their advice for each matchup, etc.

ShupeTV is more like a family. I did my first tournament with them and that’s what made me want to keep improving. It’s a wonderful community, that gave me so much energy. Without them, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to get to this point.   

S: I can only agree with that one. I consider a lot of people from ShupeTV my friends, while I also loved to take part in the community events of Team Elder Blood.

We talked about your journey in GWENT and now how it is within two Teams or Communities. How important would you say are all these Teams and events for GWENT? Would you wish for more “official” events, like leagues or cups as well, from your perspective as a competitive player?

K_Y: These different communities play a crucial role in my opinion, in GWENT’s life. They make players, beginners or not, want to improve, and thus, to stay on the game.

The same goes for big events, official or not. It’s an opportunity to bring the community together and to bring your game together. Of course, it would be nice if there were a few more community events.

S: When we think about the recent evolution of the competitive scene in GWENT, some people were disappointed to only have three Opens this year. Also global events lead to the ban of Russian players, like Akela, iluxa or Ch.ase. What are your thoughts on the current situation of competitive GWETNT in general? 

K_Y: It is of course sad that the Russians can no longer be part of the competitive scene of GWENT. Apart from that, there has recently been the return of former very good GWENT players, like Tailbot, Shaggy, Adzikov or Kolemoen, and it’s really nice to see! I don’t know if they’re going to keep playing, but either way, I’m not too worried about the competition in GWENT.

S: True, also Redrame is showing a comeback lately! 

Over the last months a lot of other card games came up. Besides GWENT, many people went into Marvel Snap, Legends of Runeterra or especially Storybook Brawl. Did you try out some of those games or do you play other games when you are not grinding ladder?

K_Y: I’ve tried to play a little bit of Hearstone and Legend of Runeterra, but I don’t like them. I think what made me like GWENT is the fabulous artwork, the cards and the atmosphere are beautiful. The game is much more free-to-play than most of the other card games I’ve tried.

I don’t play other games besides GWENT, as it takes a lot of time. The time I have left I spent to do activities in my real life.

S: I can relate to that. 
Earlier I mentioned our Charity Event from last year. We already threw the glove to challenge you guys once again, where I would love a rematch. It still grieves me losing despite hitting a 12p Gascon twice in a row…
Anyway, as this example shows, charity events in GWENT but also in Esports on Twitch became a huge thing lately, while there are still some stigmata towards gaming and gamers in general. For you, what does it mean to be a “gamer” and how did gaming maybe influenced your life?

K_Y: I always considered myself a gamer. I started playing Guild Wars with my father around the age of 5, and since then I have never stopped. For me, being a gamer means experiencing adventures, experiencing sensations that we would never have experienced otherwise. I think we can compare video games to reading. When we read a book, we are told a story. When you play a video game, you live that story.

Even games without a story, like GWENT, have brought me a lot. In fact, this past month has been a real roller coaster for me, between the fierce struggle to reach the top 16, the fatigue of preparing the lineup, and then the qualification to the open.

GWENT especially brought me determination in my everyday life.

S: For sure. Gaming gives you the opportunity to enter and explore worlds, while connecting with people from all over the world, which might shape you in person as well. 
What I always loved are meetings with people you only knew from gaming together before. Already had a few of them and if my foot heals fast enough, will travel with a mate to Prague, whom I got to know while playing Chivalry. Did you already meet with people from STV or TEB or other gamers in real life?

K_Y: Unfortunately there are no French people living in my area, so I could not meet any. However, I had the pleasure to see Gregory_Black, a player of the Elder Blood team, and it was very nice, I hope to meet other GWENT players in the future.

S: As we talked about yourself as a player, gamer and community member now, what kind of advice could you give our readers to maybe improve themselves in GWENT and to achieve what you achieved?

K_Y: Probably the best way to improve is to watch streams of very good players. Don’t hesitate to watch the games of streamers who speak another language. Even if you don’t understand why a particular card is played, it makes you wonder, and you’ll find out for yourself. I’m thinking of Nik_R, who streams almost all his games, and watching them has helped me a lot.

Another point, probably the most important, is that if you want to progress, you have to stop lying to yourself. How many times do I hear you say: “I lost because I didn’t draw X card” or “I have bad luck”? It is of course reassuring to say to ourselves that it is not our fault if we lose, but it is very often false. Of course, you will lose games because of the RNG, but you have to look at the game from another angle, “what could I have done better? “. In order to progress, you have to accept that you are not at the top.               

Finally, to be able to progress, you must of course like the game. Who would be the fool who would keep playing a game, hurting himself, raging, and this in a loop? It’s perfectly normal to tilt from time to time. GWENT is a game that requires a lot of mental resources, and if you try to progress, there will be many times, periods of sadness, the most important thing is to get up from that, and keep going. When you see your progress as you go along, you are going to feel a tremendous personal satisfaction that is the fruit of mental labor and it is well worth it.

S: These are some very good points! Learning from others while reflecting on your own plays also helps you to grow as a player and person. 

Thank you for being part of this series! I hope to meet you soon in another STV event and until then, as always, I wish you good fortune in your wars to come!

K_Y: Thanks Sawyer for this interview, I have no doubt that we will have other opportunities to meet again!

Bandit of the Month (February) | Exclusive Interview with GhostArya

Arya has gone above and beyond this month to not only make us all have fun together, when she organised the first BG Game Night, or when she reached semi-finals in the Gwentfinity War tournament, but also when she collected 1K USD during her Charity stream for a good cause! We couldn’t be more proud of you!

Babyjosus: Hey Arya! What does it mean to you to receive your second BOTM?

Arya: It means a lot! Streaming and BG has become a stable thing in my life and although I might not have that much time for the team (and I would love to have more), I know my teammates are always there and I love seeing them on stream or catching up in the discord! But I am a bit surprised to be a bandit of the month!. 🙂

BJ: How do you look back at the game night that you organized with Kalvino?

A: It was a lot of fun, definitely brought back memories of when Kalvino was visiting me in Prague! It gave us a lot of ideas on what (not) to do next time and it felt like a good way to bring the team more together.

BJ: Tell me about your experience in the Gwentifity War Tournament.

A: Gwentfinity was a way for me to play factions and decks I wouldn’t normally play which made it valuable but fun thing to do. I played against Bomblin in the last one and I never want to do that again (because I felt sorry I won!). I am always happy to see more causal tournaments and I think the community enjoys them too.

BJ: What can people expect from you in the future?

A: I haven’t made an official announcement yet (so this is top secret, fresh news!), but you can expect more charity streams because I partnered with Softgiving. And you should also stay tuned for the witcher saga streams that are currently ongoing. 

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

A: Thank you for your support and just know that every lurk or hi in chat is appreciated and we LOVE when you guys try decks from our snapshots! Take care and see you around – if you ever miss your bandits you can always find us in the team discord.

You can find out more about Arya here.

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

Introduction

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

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

Meet the Manager

Name: Erik

Age: 33

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

Favorite Card: Villentretenmerth

Favorite Faction: Northern Realms/Skellige

Section: Management Claymore

Claymore and the CIS Community

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Meet the Guest

Name: Ryan Schou

Age: 25

Hobbies: Movies, Video Games, Music, People

Section: Community Specialist 

Favorite Card: Ulfhedinn

Favorite Faction: Skellige

The GWENT Community

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

Additional Information - Zusätzliche Infos

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

Meet the Player

Name: Benjamin Pfannstiel

Age: 31

Hobbies: Gaming, Biking, Logicpuzzles

Section: Pro Team (Aretuza)

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Amphibious Assault

 

Gwent Masters

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

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

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

Additional Information - Zusätzliche Infos

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Meet the Guest

Name: Maciej Reputakowski-Madej

Age: 41

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

Section: Event Manager CDPR

Favorite Faction: Bandits

Favorite Card: Shupe’s Day Off

About CDPR

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Year Interview 2021 SynergyGod3773: ‘2021 Was clearly a rough year for most of the world, myself included’

At Bandit Gang, the end of the year means the end of year interviews. All members are put to the test one by one about the events of the past year that shaped them. Private as well as business. In these interviews in which no mince of words will be stated, no taboos exist, sometimes harsh words are used and where you get a nice insight into the soul life of the interviewee.

Babyjosus: Welcome Synergy, you are the last person in line after Sawyer. How would you reflect on the year 2021?

SynergyGod3773: 2021 Was clearly a rough year for most of the world, myself included. I endured a COVID-19 infection, a heartbreak, and even some family drama. But professionally it was my best year yet. While I was not as competitive in Gwent in 2021 I made additional friends that found a home with Bandit Gang, we setup two awesome tournaments which were the 2nd Annual Duel of Dogs Tournament and the Charity tournament in association with ShupeTV.

BJ: You have been involved as our pro team manager this year. How do you look back at this journey?

SG: Last year’s journey as pro manager was very enriching. I got to know a lot of our competitive players well. I even got to compete against JSN991 in one of the Kreve leagues this year and he kicked the crap out of me which was good moment to see one of our players take 1st place. Additionally, we had monthly internal tournaments and plenty of friendly competition within the bandit ranks.

BJ: What has it been like to stream on Twitch this year?

SG: My stream schedule was very erratic this year mainly due to real life. I moved from Dallas to Houston and then back to Dallas again. During this five month stretch I was barely able to breathe let alone stream. I have been branching out to stream a little more variety rather than Gwent, but Gwent will always be the core game. I will try to be adhering to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday Stream schedule in the future if possible.

BJ: You have been organizing tournaments for Gwent this year with the team, what was that like?

SG: The tournaments we organized this year were fun but also very frustrating due to the tournament client… well… being the tounament client. This goes for the internal tournaments we setup as well as the public tournaments such as the duel of dogs. I look forward to administrating more tournaments in 2022!

BJ: Is there anything  that you would like to do next year?

SG: In 2022 I have a lot of goals, mainly get back in tip top shape again and lay the foundation for my purchasing a house. I have already started on both of these journeys and by the summer time I hope they become a reality.

BJ: Best of luck with that. Do you have any new year’s resolutions?

SG: My only new years resolution is to drop about 15-20 pounds, I know it’s a traditional resolution, but hey… you have to start somewhere.

BJ: Best of luck with that too! Anything you want to say to the reader in anticipation of 2022? 

SG: Live life to the fullest, don’t let COVID-19 or any other obstacles hinder your life. Set your own terms and break down those barriers that prohibit you from being the best version of yourself!

BJ: Cheers and happy new year!

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*SynergyGod3773's Top 10 Cards of 2021

*Synergy decided to not include a top 10 this year.

End of Year Interview 2021 Sawyer1888: ‘I am proud on every success I can get’

At Bandit Gang, the end of the year means the end of year interviews. All members are put to the test one by one about the events of the past year that shaped them. Private as well as business. In these interviews in which no mince of words will be stated, no taboos exist, sometimes harsh words are used and where you get a nice insight into the soul life of the interviewee.

Babyjosus: Welcome Sawyer, you are the next in line after Mercernn! How would you reflect on the year 2021?

Sawyer1888: First of all, nice to see your End of the Year Interviews are back and glad to be part of it again. This year was, interesting I would say. It had its ups and downs for me in my personal life, with some unique moments, like being announced to be the best mate of a friend at his wedding, winning some Gwent Tournaments or making some process elsewhere. Corona still has a big influence, so I am proud on every success I can get. 

BJ: Thanks man! Its a lot of time and commitment, but all worth it in the end. And I know you achieved certain goals with the academy team since you became their manager this year. How do you look back at your journey as an academy manager?

S: It was and still is a very exciting experience. One of my highlights was the Charity Event with Shupe TV for sure, as I could feel the team spirit while everyone was helping each other. But it was also stressful from time to time, as you have to organize things through different time zones and when I felt my motivation to play Gwent slacking, I had to still keep in touch with the game to be a good manager. But after all, I am very proud of how the Academy has improved and would call everyone in there a friend.

BJ: That surely was awesome to organize. You also have been working on a variety of projects regarding your writing for the website. What has that been like?

S: Actually I miss the writing from time to time, while I was to busy managing or organizing stuff. So with the introduction of the Skill beats Luck Series I found the perfect format for me I think. Having so many different guests from different communities and countries is amazing, and for 2021 I can promise you guys some exciting new interviews coming as well. Maybe I will even find the time again for a Gwents Elite #3, as the last two parts were pretty successful; I am still listening to some of those songs from the Spotify list I created.

BJ: I love how much that playlist was appreciated by people in the community. Hope to see you do more stuff like this in 2022! How was the year 2021 for darts?

S: Oh, it was very entertaining. Gerwyn “The Iceman” Price started the year with becoming world champion and world #1, won both of the European Tour events and also the Grand Slam in November for a 3rd time already. Kinda sad that he missed the whole Premier League dure to a Covid Infection, but he came back strong.      

Also his fellow Welshman Johnny “The Ferret” Clayton was producing magnificent darts this year…now it’s nice to have the framed picture signed by them both, even before Price won the Worlds and Clayton the Premier League or Grand Prix.        

Currently the World Championships are running again till January 3rd, while many top ten players are in decent form, it can be very interesting to see who goes through in the end. Hopefully Price will defend his title, so I can let everyone know again in our Discord 😊

BJ: Looking forward to watch the match tonight! Is there anything that you would like to do next year?

S: Well I want to finally finish my Master Thesis and end my study time with a success. Maybe trying to find an internship, to get going again in a fitting work environment, as I am currently having a study-job in an office which is cool, but has nothing to do with Geography and Spatial Planning.  The next steps would be to find my physical form again, as I was kinda slacking during the pandemic and joining a Darts Team, which turned out to be very difficult with all the restrictions. But I know from the past, that with a bit of routine, I can throw a decent dart, so I want to keep pushing forward.

BJ: Do you have any new year’s resolutions?

S: Difficult to say, but probably to follow my words and keep fighting. Maybe it is time to stop putting the pandemic in front as an excuse and start finding ways to achieve my goals again.

BJ: Anything you want to say to the reader in anticipation of 2022?

S: Be kind and humble. I experienced life over the recent past from a difficult perspective, so you never know who else currently is as well. Encourage yourself and others to think outside the box, no matter how the box looks like, as fear is the mind-killer.

BJ: Cheers and happy new year!

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*Sawyer's Top 10 Cards of 2021

*Sawyer’s top 10 doesn’t contain any kind of bias for NG and SK at all.

1.
Fercart: As it had the best reveal so far as well as the artwork and ability.

2. Fucusya: Is its flexibility levels up every Skellige deck.

3. The Mushy Truffle: As it allows a variety of interesting combos.

4. The Witchfinder: As I love bounty archetypes and this card can be very dangerous.

5. Blightmaker/Mage Assassin: As it’s such a strong thinning package, helping Nilfgaard to be more consistent.

6. Artaud Terranova: Because with a decent set-up and timing, it can be devasting.

7. Skjordal: As I loved his ability before and with the new King Bran it’s even better.

8. Gedyneith: because of the provision changes for the druids it becomes much more playable, together with Bride of the Sea for example.

9. Gorthur Gvaed: As it carried me to victory in the Nilfgaard Tournament.

10. Witch Apprentice: Because it’s a flying pig.

End of Year Interview 2021 Mercernn: ‘I’d lie if I said that I wasn’t nervous about such a big change initially’

At Bandit Gang, the end of the year means the end of year interviews. All members are put to the test one by one about the events of the past year that shaped them. Private as well as business. In these interviews in which no mince of words will be stated, no taboos exist, sometimes harsh words are used and where you get a nice insight into the soul life of the interviewee.

Babyjosus: Welcome Mercernn, you are in line after Christo. How would you reflect on the year 2021?

Mercernn: To be fair, 2021 was very similar for me in comparison to 2020, in fact it’s a bit difficult for me to distinguish these two perfectly, as they blend together a bit. The one thing that was different, I’d say year-defining even, was that my grandfather got a stroke in July and moved on with us as he needed someone to take care of him. This changed our everyday lives completely, but I think it actually helped us to work together as a family more and for me to get closer with my granddad, so I see it as a very positive change, actually, though I’d lie if I said that I wasn’t nervous about such a big change initially. A lot more has happened, I re-evaluated my opinions on a lot of things, got to know (better) a lot of people that became an important part of my online life, such as Weissenberg whom I cooperated with on a bunch of his projects, or our Number 1 Meme Customer, Repek, or Bomblin whom I used to get in touch a lot more than before, as he started streaming right before my timeslot. I’d say that overall it was a very cathartic year, full of tension, stress, radical changes, but in the end also relief, satisfaction, acceptance and positive view of the future.

BJ: How the tables have turned in your life. Glad it all resolved in a positive end of the year. You have been quite involved behind the scenes of Bandit Gang. How do you look back at this journey?

M: Right, so once again, things kinda blend for me, but I think we’ve managed to accomplish quite a lot. I’d say the highlight of our team efforts was the second iteration of Duel of Dogs, but there have been other cool projects and a lot of individual achievements that just connect together in a really nice way. Me, personally, I never looked at the team as a way of gaining some benefit for myself, rather than to provide for others and make their experience better. I could paraphrase JFK by saying: „Ask not what your team can do for you, but what you can do for your team.“ 😀 Right, and “working behind the scenes” as you called it is exactly what allows you to do this. You can help other people with their personal projects and just feel good about it even if you don’t necessarily like the task or activity you helped them with. I’d say that would kinda summarize my involvement with the team, I don’t really do much of my own projects, but I provide assistance to other people a lot in a variety of things, a bit of a jack of all trades, and this experience fulfills me a lot.

BJ: And we are forever grateful of your assistance! A somewhat personal project of yours is of course streaming. What has it been like to stream Gwent on Twitch this year?

M: So, streaming Gwent on Twitch has been a little tricky for me this year, since life got a bit busier for me, in particular because of school, so I haven’t been streaming as much as I would have wished, but I still am able to stream quite regularly, so can’t really complain. Outside of that, I attempted to hit top 500 on pro ladder twice and each time failed because of stroke of bad luck. The first time, right after Way of the Witcher I made it to top 300 with a day or two left and then CDPR prolonged the season by a week. 😀 I was so burnt out that I just gave up and naturally didn’t make it. The second time I placed 502nd and I had moved by the 2 places in the last 15 minutes of the season. Had I gotten 1 more mmr I would have stayed in there! So this is something that will definitely stay with me. Also, it’s been a great pleasure for me to help Weissenberg with multiple of his projects on Twitch and I couldn’t leave without mentioning that the one thing that helped me with overcoming all the tilt and burnout coming from the game was Nickelback… no, just kidding, it was the incredibly kind people in my chat, but there was a lot of Nickelback too this year!

BJ: May you continue to enjoy listening to Nickelback in your streams, even when its often at times forcefully… I know you are a huge fan of total war games since we play those games together. Which total war game got most of your attention this year and how so?

M: Yes, we do! Every Thursday after our meetings, it became a tradition that I am very fond of. We’ve finished Shogun 2 at least once, I believe, played Rome, Napoleon, Thrones of Britannia, yeah, it’s been an amazing experience. Back to the question, so, I’m not a big fan of Warhammer which is what the games have been focusing on for a while, so I’ve been looking more to the past and I think the most fun I’ve had was with you when we played Shogun 2. It was my favourite entry in the series before we started our campaign coops, but playing these together and just talking about nonsense really adds to the experience. In any case, I absolutely love Shogun 2 for it’s simple design, unique setting and superb atmosphere, easily my favourite strategy game.

BJ: May we continue our tradition in 2022! Is there anything (else) that you would like to do next year?

M: I would like to read more. It’s been something I’ve been trying to get back into for some time, but I keep on avoiding it, because I’m lazy. A few days ago I started reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus which I’d like to finish soon and after that, I’d like to just move on to another book and don’t stop for the rest of the year. I hope it will last, because my reading list is almost as bloated as the list of films I’d like to watch, that’s another thing I should get to, actually!

BJ: Do you have any new year’s resolutions?

M: Not really, I don’t really give them much value.

BJ: Fair enough. Anything you want to say to the reader in anticipation of 2022?

M: I wish you and your closed ones happy holidays and I hope you are safe and well. While I don’t think the world will change radically, I hope at least your personal lives will get/stay warm and calm and if you ever found yourself lonely, remember there are dozens of friendly Gwent streamers on Twitch that can help you with that problem. Stay awesome, Gwent community!

BJ: Cheers and happy new year!

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*Mercernn's Top 10 Cards of 2021

*It seems that Mercernn is trying to send a message to the reader with his top 10.

1. Ignatius Hale

2. Ignatius Hale

3). Ignatius Hale

4. Ignatius Hale

5. Ignatius Hale

6. Ignatius Hale

7. Ignatius Hale

8. Ignatius Hale

9. Ignatius Hale

10. Peasant Militia

End of Year Interview 2021 TheOneChristo: ‘For me 2021 felt like 2 distinctly different years to me’

At Bandit Gang, the end of the year means the end of year interviews. All members are put to the test one by one about the events of the past year that shaped them. Private as well as business. In these interviews in which no mince of words will be stated, no taboos exist, sometimes harsh words are used and where you get a nice insight into the soul life of the interviewee.

Babyjosus: Welcome Chris, you are next in line after AcidBunny. How would you reflect on the year 2021? 

TheOneChristo: For me 2021 felt like 2 distinctly different years to me. While the whole year was great and I look back on it fondly with many highlights, the second half of the year started to get a lot busier with things moving towards being “more normal”. That meant that streaming took a back seat to additional social functions and a busier work schedule.  

Nonetheless I still feel like I accomplished a lot.

I was able to participate in the Aretuza World Cup Qualifier representing Canada and while we fell short I felt like I had an amazing tournament, only losing 1 series (gg Santuu), while defeating a few players who had regularly finished in the top 64. 

I was involved with 983’s Gwent Trivia (returning soon) and the ongoing Gwentfinity War.

I was able to cast a whole lot more than the previous year, including many high profile events. 

I also took part in the Beginner’s Series with Arya for Bandit Gang and became more involved with BG, becoming part of the partner group. 

BJ: An eventful year it was for you. I know you achieved certain goals as a caster this year. How do you look back at your journey as a caster? 

C: So many highlights! 

First off, I simply wanted to highlight the amount of casting I was able to do this year. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect (well, in my opinion practice makes better, because I don’t know if there’s such a thing as perfect), but I was lucky enough to cast or host events almost every week and definitely felt like I gained a lot of experience and improved in the role. 

Second, was the opportunity to work with so many wonderful casters like Flake, Specimen and Ceely. I am a firm believer that practice helps, but working with people who are better than you also forces you to improve.

Third, there was of course the opportunity to cast 2 of the official Gwent Qualifiers, which was the first time I was able to cast something “official” for CDPR.

And finally, probably the biggest achievement, even though it is non Gwent related, was hosting many events for Kards CCG over the year. This led to me being selected to host their World Championships live in Iceland! 

BJ: An amazing progress you have made! As you mentioned earlier, you also started the beginner series with Arya, what made you decide to work on that? 

C: While there is a lot of content out there for Gwent, I feel as though certain aspects of the community aren’t as well served as they should be. There has been an influx of players over the last year with the pandemic forcing people into lockdown, the Witcher Netflix series, the return of Lifecoach for Masters Season 1 and the release on steam. 

Starting a beginner series just made a whole lot of sense. However, I want to take 0 credit for the idea as it was all Arya’s. I just got involved because I thought it was a great one.

Working with Arya, Enzo and Decode on the project has been amazing as well. 

BJ: Outside of your projects. What has it been like to stream Gwent on Twitch this year? 

C: I mentioned previously that it was an up and down for me, but mostly due to my personal schedule. 

The streaming itself was great. I broke 1000 followers and had my average viewers up over 60, which was a new milestone for me. 

BJ: Is there anything (else) that you would like to do next year? 

C: Two main things come to mind.

Get my streaming schedule back on track. To be clear about this, it doesn’t mean I want to or need to stream a lot, but I would definitely like to do so regularly. Even if it’s only 2 days a week.

Second would be to move on to the next phase of Gwent casting, being able to cast an Open would be a huge goal for me in 2022. 

BJ: Do you have any new year’s resolutions? 

C: I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because if there is something worth doing, it’s worth starting immediately and sticking with it regardless of the time of year.

One thing that I started applying this year was to unapologetic-ally focus on the things you enjoy. If it’s not something that brings me joy, I shouldn’t feel the need to do it just for the sake of doing it. That applies to work, streaming and my personal life.

BJ: Anything you want to say to the reader in anticipation of 2022? 

C: First off I wanted to thank everybody who has stuck with me during my casting, streaming and my absences. Even after not streaming for a while, it’s great to see some of my regulars pop into chat to support me and tell me they miss me! It really means the world to me. 

I want to add that you have absolutely not seen the last of Christo’s Cafe 😉 

BJ: Cheers and happy new year!

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*TheOneChristo's Top 10 Cards of 2021

Christo tried to focus on new cards from this year.

1. King Foltest: Brought Commando decks back…..until he didn’t. 

2. Bride of the Sea: So much versatility, playing 2 Decoctions in a game is fun stuff, or at least I think so?

3. Rioghan the Undying: Sometimes I like cards for ironic reasons. Rioghan was touted as being pretty powerful when revealed, went on to have some highlight reel plays in the first week or two he was released and then completely vanished. 

4. Idarran: Once you’ve seen Crozyr play 5 Cat Witchers in 2 turns, this card has to make the list

5. Toad Prince: Buffing Monsters/Deathwish makes me happy!

6. Mushy Truffle: While this card might be a bit OP – I like that it’s given bonded a bit of a boost and opened up possibilities for a lot of other gameplay options

7. Crach an Craite: Pirates were borderline playable this year and it was tons of fun – especially with the addition of Fucusya meaning you can play Crach twice 

8. Vanadain: Because Vanadain & Simlas = Fun Waylay shenanigans 

9. Torque: Because one day handbuff will be good – just not today 

10. Rience: Such a cool concept for a card – I wish it was better but I have high hopes for the future (I also love the art).