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

Written by renova- & Sawyer1888 and edited by Weevil89

Introduction

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

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

Season of the Elf 2nd Qualifiers Winners Interview

A Short Recap

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Qualified Player: Ch.ase

Name: Vitaliy

Age: 21

City: Smolensk

 

Hobbies: Gwent

Favorite Faction: Syndicate

Favorite Card: Morkvarg: Heart of Terror

Meet the Qualified Player: Nik_r

Name: Nikita

Age: 33

City: Kerc/Krasnodar

Hobbies: Business, Gwent, and a Comfortable Couch 🙂

Favorite Faction: Nilfgaard

Favorite Card: Ferko the Sculptor

Chapter 1: General Questions

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

How and when did you get to know Gwent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you usually prepare for qualifications?

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

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

What role does the team play in your Gwent life?

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

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

How is the deck selection going before any tournament?

C: It all depends on the meta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2: Personal Questions

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

Deckbuilding: Ch.ase

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

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

C: Keltullis and Scoia’tael mirror matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you strengthened the decks in any way for mirrors?

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

Deckbuilding: Nik_r

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games: Ch.ase

Ch.ase vs Nik_r

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Games: Nik_r

Nik_r vs Ch.ase

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

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

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

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

In general what was your strategy in the NG Mirror?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Word

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

We wish you good fortune in the wars to come!

renova- and Sawyer1888

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