Through the Thorns of Top-64 Qualifiers to GWENT Open. Part 3

Written by renova- and Sawyer1888. Edited by Weevil89

Introduction

OPEN#2 comes closer each day and the tention is rising. Who will book the second ticket for the GWENT World Masters Season 3 and join Tailbot? This time, besides kams134, Redrame,  and wangid2021, five people from the CIS community (Commonwealth of Independent States) could qualify for this event: Akela114, BigKukuRUzina35 (iluxa228), Ch.aseNik_r and Sif_Great_Wolf.  Four of them were interviewed in the two previous articles, which you can find in part 1 here and part 2 here

For all who read the previous articles, welcome back dear readers, but also thanks for everyone new who is joining us today! 

After we talked in the interviews before about deckbuilding processes, tournament preparation, and in-game decisions and choices, we want to take a closer look now on how the meta has shifted in recent months. While the first qualifiers of the Season of the Bear took place in April, the qualifiers of the Season of the Elf were played in May. Since then, the first set of new cards from the Price of Power expansion released, many of which made a huge impact on certain decks, while also providing new options for some factions as a whole, such as example Northern Realms. 

In this part, we want to evaluate some statistics from these qualifiers and compare them with this month’s qualifiers, which will represent the tournament meta for the upcoming OPEN#2. 

Shortcut

For people who are not strongly involved in the competitive scene, it is always a bit harder to reflect meta changes and how some cards can shape a whole faction. What we want to do is to analyze some statistics, take a look at some example decks, and try to figure out what key aspects have changed over the recent months. With this in mind, we will write a short note for some factions, and more detailed explanations for others. We will also cover some niche archetypes and strategies, but to remain concise we have not included everything.

Finally, we will only focus on the decks and data from Day 2 of each top 64 qualifier, to provide more targeted and detailed insights. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Bear

As we all know, discussing the meta in any given season can be confusing. Although a player might qualify for an event during the Season of the Bear, the event might not happen until the following season (the Season of the Elf).

To make things easier, we will stick to the simple rule that whenever we refer to a certain meta, it is always named after the qualifier. So the Season of the Bear qualifier, for example, would be the Season of the Bear meta.  

The Season of the Bear qualifiers was clearly shaped by the dominance of Syndicate’s Lined Pockets, which was brought by every single participant on day 2. A variant of the so-called “Chinese Metabreaker” was also chosen for Nilfgaard by almost every player, as well, except by the eventual winner of the losers bracket BigKukuRUzina35.

In the following pictures, you can see what all the participants brought, while here you can remind yourself of what the brackets looked like.

If you compare all these decks, you can find some interesting clues on what kinds of strategies the players tried to employ.

Every player took at least one swarm deck in the form of Monsters’ Arachas Queen or Scoia’tael’s Deadeye Ambush. Many also brought Carapace (Keltullis) to the tournament, but you will never find both of these archetypes in one line-up. The only player who brought neither was Leks72. 

The decks these players brought also gave us some insights into the lengthy process of preparing for a tournament and the kinds of questions they asked themselves. Do you want to tech against certain factions? What if your opponent does not bring what you hoped? Do you want to bring certain decks which are stronger on a specific coin, like Uprising Witchers Northern Realms? Maybe you want to bring a deck which you think will be banned all the time, to bait it. Or do you just think outside the box and try a totally different approach? 

All these questions have to be considered while preparing for day 1 and day 2 of a tournament. We talked about what this process could look like in our recent articles, where all of the interviewed players followed different approaches. 

Energiix, for example, decided to bring Geralt: Yrden in all of his decks except for Nilfgaard, while Tailbot was the only player who chose Imprisonment instead of Double Cross as his leader ability for NG. Imprisonment has since become far more popular due to its frequent appearance in the Season of the Elf qualifier, and also in the most recent qualifiers for OPEN#3.

Beyond this, you can also spot once-off tech cards for specific matchups all over the place, like Forktail, Crushing Trap or Whoreson Junior to counter swarm.

If you take a closer look on the infographic below, created by Dream and Mettie, you can see how the idea of teching against a faction (or avoiding it) plays out. Even though Syndicate was so oppressive and used by everyone, it was only banned four times. Instead, people decided to ban the famous Blaze of Glory + Eist Tuirseach combo and Arachas Swarm, which can be tough matchups for every faction. This is rather interesting because most players’ line-ups were prepared to face Arachas Swarm

On the other hand, banning it could be the right decision, as Arachas Swarm had the highest winrate (78.57%), with 14 games played in total. Alongside that, everyone expected their opponents to play Syndicate, so everyone was prepared which resulted in a low banrate and also a low winrate (39.39%).

In conclusion, you could say for the top 64 qualifiers that everyone followed a specific gameplan, while only two could secure their ticket: Akela114 and BigKukuRUzina35.  Both of them made interesting deck decisions, which kind of looked like fortune telling, by including cards like Professor or Whoreson Junior in SY, or deciding to bring the unique Portal version of Arachas Swarm (Akela114).


Maybe these small card decisions led them to victory and paid of in the end, giving them an advantage in certain matchups.

Next, let’s now take a look at the second top 64 qualifiers for OPEN#2, the qualifiers of the Season of the Elf. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Elf

While in the Season of the Bear qualifiers everyone brought Lined Pockets for SY, in the Season of the Elf focus shifted towards Pirate’s Cove. With its recent change to two charges and with the buff to the Borsodi Brothers to become more effective spenders, it proved to be one of the strongest and most flexible decks of the season.

Also, you might have noticed that, compared to the previous top 64 qualifiers, this time only eight people decided to bring NG, but twelve people took ST in form of singleton Elves or Nature’s Gift Devotion, which are generally considered as viable NG techs. So here you can see how the dominance of NG during the time before this qualifier shaped the open decklists decisions to tech against it.

As before, you can see all decks in the infographic below and all of the bracket information here.

When giving these decks a more detailed look, you can see how differently certain factions are now represented compared with the previous month. First, not a single person brought Arachas Swarm and only Ryazanov13 trusted in Carapace Keltullis again. Instead, Overwhelming Hunger (Viy) seemed to be the way to go in this qualifiers event for MO. 

It is also interesting to see that, with the leader changes to Reckless Flurry and the buffed discard package, a new Skellige archetype appeared during this qualifier. 

As with the previous qualifier, players included tech cards often to give them an edge in certain matchups. Analyzing the decks of some CIS players like Ch.ase, Nik_r and also Ryazonov13, you might notice some of these unique inclusions.

While everyone relied on Lambert: Swordmaster in their SK list to tech against elves, Nik_r decided to bring two additional tall removal cards in the form of Geralt of Rivia and Prince Anséis in his NR list. He was also playing Artefact Compression in SK and Tavern Brawl in his Syndicate list. All of these cards make the matchup against Viy much easier. On the other hand, Ryazanov13 was the only one who played Carapace and Shieldwall, not sticking with the combination which brought him to the previous losers final.

If you compare this with the analysis of the last top 64 qualifier you can see that small tweaks to adapt to their opponents’ strategies turned out to be very successful.

Comparing the statistics below with the ones from the last qualifier, you can see how much the banrate of SY increased. And, if not banned, it dominated with a 75% winrate over all other factions. A safe pick for blue coin seemed to be SK Reckless Flurry, which had a solid 66,67% winrate on blue coin in nine games, but struggled on red coin, where it only won 36,36% of games.  
Otherwise, all factions seemed to be pretty balanced in their matchups and winrates, while again the teched line-ups against Deadeye Ambush kept it under a 40% winrate in total. 

Reflecting on both top 64 qualifiers so far, you can see that some original thinking can give you the upper hand in certain matchups, but you still need to remember to tech against the most dominant decks. 

In our final analysis, let’s see how the ban procedure plays out and what factions and archetypes were played after the Price of Power expansion hit the circuit. 

Cards and Decks - Season of the Viper/Price of Power

With the Price of Power expansion, some leaders like SY Jackpot were changed, buffing the faction even more. With a small influx of new cards, each faction was also provided with some new tools to play with.

NG got some impressive consistency cards like Dead Man’s Tongue, while SY was blessed with the long-awaited bounty package, including Witchfinder. NR got a huge rework, making Siege, Pincer Maneuver, and Patience a powerful archetype. MO got some new strong relicts for pointslam, while ST could make use of some new support for special cards (particularly useful for a Harald Gord deck). Only SK, with its new druids, seemed a bit underwhelming, so it relied more on neutral cards to remain competitive.

If you are interested in what the players brought to day 2 in the top 64 qualifiers of the Season of the Viper, you can check them out here

Compared to what we saw in the previous two qualifiers, this time the impact of the new expansion was quite noticeable. Almost every faction played included some of the new cards or reworked and buffed versions of other cards. 

As with the last qualifiers, every player brought SY, which was banned almost every time. This once more demonstrates the strength and pure dominance of this faction. Alongside SY, SK Reckless Flurry seemed to be a very strong pick, with everyone but one_two12 bringing it along (he instead brought Devotion Warriors). Cards like Korathi Heatwave, Junod of Belhaven or Hjalmar an Craite were often included, as well as some other unique techs, like Portal, Madoc or even Geralt of Rivia

It is really difficult here to see a pattern, as all the players decided to bring some sort of unique line-ups. Force of Nature with relicts, Pincer Maneuver or even Inspired Zeal Siege, Imprisonment Masquerade Ball. Each deck has its good and bad matchups, but in the end players seemed to favor tall removal, such as Hjalmar an Craite, thinning in form of Blightmaker or simpler value cards like Gerhart of Aelle. 

You might also notice the distinct lack of ST decks, even though Natures Gift and Deadeye Ambush always seemed a decent choice for open decklists. For this event, only Forever_Tabaki brought a non-devotion list, together with CintrianLions Precision Strike.

It is interesting that the eventual winner, Truzky, didn’t bring NG at all and was the only one playing a control heavy Arachas Swarm deck, which proved to be the winning strategy. 

As you can see, the following statistics look a bit different from the previous ones. This time, with some help from Bomblin, I had to design something on the fly myself. Forgive me if certain things are not optimally readable, as I am no expert in this, but if you resize the page it should do the trick. 

So if you take a look you can see again a very strong banrate for SY, which was only allowed to be played three times in total. On the other hand, you can see that except for SY, NR and NG only received one or two bans, while SK, MO and ST were never banned at all. This doesn’t mean that these factions were considered weak or that they always provide decent matchups: it just shows the oppressive and dominant state of SY once again.

6th Quali to Gwent Open 3 Season 3

It is also worth noticing that for SK and NG, only one leader ability was brought for each: Reckless Flurry and Imprisonment. They both ended up with solid winrates over 50%, while MO were able to sneak in a 41% winrate. ST, on the other hand, couldn’t manage to win a single game. 

So, what can we conclude from these data? Well, kind of the same as in the previous qualifiers. Unique deck decisions in this tournament, especially leader abilities, gave some players a decent advantage. Inspired Zeal and Arachas Swarm were only picked by a small amount of players, but those players all ended up in the top 3 (Spyro_ZA and the eventual qualifiers Truzky and Wangid2021).

Bananas, Coins, Dragons, Elves, Spiders and Warriors -
Shapes and Shifts of the Meta

Looking back on the last three top 64 qualifiers and the players’ deck decisions and matchups, it was interesting to bear witness to and analyze all these changes as they happened. The meta shifted not only because certain cards were buffed, nerfed, or changed, but also because new cards were added during the Price of Power expansion.  In the following part, we want to gather some thoughts on each faction and reflect on how they evolved during the last months. Keep in mind that this is only a general overview, and it does not claim to be complete or comprehensive.

The changes to Professor and Whoreson Junior as well as the buffs to Pirate’s Cove and Jackpot placed Syndicate as one of the strongest factions in the game. In addition to that, the Borsodi Brothers now function as spenders, which made the faction way more flexible. The new 12-provision gold card Witchfinder also allows SY to build a deck around bounty, which has proven to be a decent midrange control archetype. 

Over the past three months, SY evolved from a strong Lined Pockets crime list, to a flexible Pirate’s Cove midrange list, towards the new Jackpot bounty deck, which combines all of Syndicate’s greatest strengths. Whether due to the design of its cards or its use of coins, it seems clear that there is no middle ground for Syndicate. It is either too weak, or unreasonably strong.

Scoia’tael seems to function as a kind of “tech faction” these days. Elves were always a solid pick in open decklist events, as it can have many decent matchups, while often enough you pick Nature’s Gift to tech against Nilfgaard. There was also an argument to play control heavy Precision Strike or Trap decks.

  
The power of Nature’s Gift often shines in open decklist tournaments, which was shown in Masters Season#1, but nowadays people are trying non-devotion versions which include the new Elf Sorceress or the buffed Avallac’h. After the recent qualifiers, where ST wasn’t often played, we have to see what impact it will make in OPEN#2.

When it comes to Skellige, most of us think about some sort of warrior archetype. Supported by a solid discard package in form of the newly buffed Coral, it always had a decent amount of control, short round points and an impressive finisher with Eist Tuirseach + Blaze of Glory as a leader. 

Nowadays, we also witness some different approaches, including some witchers together with Reckless Flurry, to abuse Red coin and control their opponent’s board. But even after the addition of some new druids in the last expansion, Gedyneith as a scenario still seems underwhelming. SK also seems a bit weaker lately on ladder, because its bad matchups like NG or NR became even more powerful, while SK stayed mostly the same.

With the Uprising witcher archetype, NR became one of the strongest blue coin decks in the game, making it a solid choice for open decklists. Including Prince Anséis or Geralt of Rivia, it also provided some decent control, while easily being able to outtempo every faction, even when two cards down.

With the Price of Power expansion, we got many changes to charge-based cards, siege engines, and mages. Together with Pincer Maneuver as a leader which could always find their top golds, and supported by strong new cards like Gerhart of Aelle or the reworked Shani, it can be a threat to any faction. It is also able to abuse every coin with a tempo pass, playing the King Foltest + Dun Banner combo, making it (together with NG and SY) one of the strongest factions out there.

Monsters are the faction which you always kind of have to tech against or ban. Whether they decided to play Carapace Keltullis, Arachas Swarm or Overwhelming Hunger Viy, they always demanded certain tech considerations to be made. While some factions had a decent chance to win, other matchups, like Blaze of Glory warriors vs. Viy resulted almost in an auto-loss.

With the addition of the new relict cards and the change to Endrega Larva, it highly buffed the pointslam potential of the faction, including Koschey decks, for example. With some non-devotion cards like Korathi Heatwave or Dorregaray of Vole, it has answers to some engines and can be quite strong in an open decklist format.  That doesn’t mean we won’t see swarm or Kelly in the future, because these decks are still solid as well.

Ard Feainn, for the Great Sun! While being bullied on ladder by some Kolgrim piles, right now Nilfgaard seems to be in one of its strongest periods for a long time. Even after they changed Masquerade Ball to not being triggered by disloyal units, it is still the best scenario out there. If we have learned anything it is that, regardless of the changes, if it is possible to create a functional scenario deck, players will find a way.

NG’s ability to control with its Imprisonment leader, its many removal cards and its skillful deck manipulation make it a serious threat to every deck out there.

The expansion included the new thinning mage package consisting of Blightmaker and Mage Assassin, supported by Dead Man’s Tongue. This allows you to contest every round easily, finding your key gold cards, while not losing any control power. A devastating mixture of tools and a blessing for every loyal Nilfgaardian on ladder or in tournaments, to be sure.

Conclusion and Outlook

After three articles, sadly all good things must come to an end. We interviewed some of the best inside the CIS community, talked about decision making and deckbuilding, while always keeping an eye on how to prepare for open decklist events. 

This weekend, July 3rd and 4th, OPEN#2 will take place and we want to wish all the participants good luck! They fought their way through different metas and tournaments to be able to maybe secure a ticket for the World Masters Season 3 at the end of the year. Cards which were dominant vanished, leader abilities changed and define the current meta, while the tournament client problems have remained the same.

We hope that you could gain some insight and experience while reading and that you have enjoyed our attempt to bring you closer to the competitive mindset. We are hugely grateful for everyone who joined us on this journey.

Special thanks again to Weevil89 for helping out with the editing! 

Wishing you all the best of luck in your ladder climbing – until next time! 

renova- and Sawyer1888

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