The challenger lived up to its name. It was challenging to stay awake from 10pm to 9am and to still play at the top of my game (especially without deck tracker, my crutch, my love, my everything). And then make day 2, get 4 hours of sleep and have to do it all again. Welcome to Australia, where you can always catch Swim’s last ‘something went wrong’, if you’re lucky. I’ve pulled all-nighers before though, but have never actually gotten up at 4:30 am in my life (the start of US qualifiers), so this was, somehow, the better choice. Mad props to one of my better friends for staying up until 4am to keep me awake between matches. He’s a filthy Hearthstone player though, played aggro shaman to get legend last expansion. And he only plays Scoia in Gwent. Truly the scum of the earth.
Anyway, my strategy going into the tournament echoed the sentiment of thousands of new players screaming in frustration. I hate monsters. So I decided quite early on that I wouldn’t play the faction and would ban it, every single time. Of course, the boogeyman of the ladder was and still is Scoiatael, and to many (including the vast majority of my opponents), that was the default, no-brainer ban. But after >50% of my ranked games were against that faction in the new patch, I was sporting a pretty decent winrate against them. But more importantly, most scoia decks played in a very similar way (whether they buffed braenn, toruviel or just an archer), and I knew how to play against that, and I could build my decks to combat it. On the other hand, monster decks could be doing literally anything, most of which involves cannibalizing off of my graveyard (and my favourite factions are skellige and NR…). And because of the passive and the never ending nekkers, monsters have by far the best carryover potential out of any faction, which makes playing against them fundamentally different. The constant threat of a dagon, or the possibility of a weather deck also makes it necessary to run first light, which is a very inconsistent card outside of Monsters and Scoiatael.
So Monsters were off the table, I erased them from Gwent completely. I had to play with the remaining four factions though, so let me explain my choices.
After many failed experiments with Skellige control which helped me lose 700mmr over the first two days of the patch, I was frustrated. My plan of Cyprianing roach, cleavering roach, udalryking roach and then doing it all over again with restore, sigrdrifa and decoy was foiled by my opponents refusing to run more than one roach in their deck! Also a very evil person in CDPR decided to castrate bran to a point where he was no longer stupidly overpowered. So I did what any sane person would do at that point and watched Swim, netdecked his Foltest, swapped dandy for decoy and climbed back up to my rightful place as #2 in Australia with an >75% winrate. This deck was set, it was consistent, it could beat scoia.
BUT I STILL LOVED BRAN. The entire community had defected to Hearthstone Harald (did your draw your golds?) and Scorchable Crach (and remember, I wasn’t banning scorchatael) but I remained faithful, as did Garunnah, whose Bran experiments inspired me to make a slightly modified version of his deck. In particular, the bran searchable berserker+archer combo ensured that my round 3 chains could rival that of NR. And despite some prominence of lock in the metagame, Morkvarg was still good in this deck in spite of the aforementioned evil CDPR dev, because of decoy, sigrdrifa and restore. My absolute favourite card though was Udalryk, it singlehandedly helped me contest first round by stealing my opponents’ removal and rallies.
The thing I was most looking forward to this patch was the emissary buff. It was so fun, I had so many cool choices to make! Unfortunately, I loved playing the card too much for my own good, and always resurrected it with my vicovaros. And so I milled myself every game, even using ciri dash didn’t really help. But then I had a brilliant idea! If milling myself was making me lose, what if I could instead mill my opponents! (please pardon my sarcasm) Unfortunately I didn’t really liked any of the netdecks floating around, they all ran >25 cards, a tell-tale sign of something fishy going on. And I wanted my surprise Sweers to drink many Scoiatael tears as they suddenly found that their dragoons had passed away. So I just jammed all the mill together and a bunch of stuff to maybe try to contest round 1 and it ended up great.
For my final trick… I copied ImpetuousPanda’s Scoiatael deck because I didn’t have enough scraps for Morenn, played with it 4 times in ranked and called it a day. This is the one winrate from the tournament that I actually remember. 100%. 1:0. It was a marvellous ban lightning rod though.
I changed my decks a little between matches, but it was all 1 or 2 tech cards, the core remained the same.
The Lineup was finalised:
- Bran Discard http://www.gwentdb.com/decks/16469-top-16-challenger-eu-discard-is-alive (updated with guide)
- Millfgaard http://www.gwentdb.com/decks/16470-top-16-challenger-eu-millfgaard (updated with guide)
- Foltest, along the lines of Swim’s http://www.gwentdb.com/decks/15358-swims-foltest-swarm-updated
- ImpetuousPanda’s Scoiatael Control, card for card http://www.gwentdb.com/decks/16282-top-10-pandas-st-control-archers
On the day of the tournament I got back home at 9:30pm after a comedy show, just in time. Turns out, this wouldn’t be the only comedy show for the day and round 1 would last 150 minutes. Not quite LoTR extended cut, but still almost a respectable Interstellar. And just like in Interstellar, nothing interesting was going on for the first 40 mins, as we were waiting for admins that did not actually exist. Don’t blame ESL too much though, it was their first Gwent event, they were vocal on discord and everything went
pretty smoothly for me after round 4. I’m sure they tried their best.
So I lost round 1. I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that this was my one and only opponent who didn’t bring monsters so my whole strategy was in ruins. He also killed my Bran instead of my Scoia and then added fuel to the fire by playing a wounding bran deck in round 1. And I started off with mill, and you know how wounding decks win? They draw all their good cards, something mill might somewhat enable. And then I started to tilt, my opponent played Emhyr with very little reveal synergy and I lost due to my own stupidity. Well played Wojtek, you bamboozled me, but you also piloted your seemingly suboptimal decks expertly, and surprised me every step of the way.
But then, something clicked. I typed ‘ban dagon’ in chat. My opponents opened with Scoia. THEY GOT MILLED.
Game 1: I didn’t quite mill his Henselt, but it was close. The key to this matchup is to rot tosser the back row as early as possible, so they can’t promote it for value and simultaneously nullify the cow. And to of course, Sweers their medics.
Game 2: My Bran vs his Brouver. I had my revenge, probably stole something good with udalryk (this was at around 6am, don’t remember everything), and got enough points in round 3.
Game 3: My Foltest vs his Brouver. We draw. At this point we are the final remaining match. We go into game 4 and I win by 6 points in the end. That was a tough match.
In round 7 Australian internet had finally caught up with me. I disconnected, and then misplayed with Scoia in round 3 (forgot to buff my toruviel with a bounced dragoon) and lost by 3 points. My tiredness and lack of Scoia prep was catching up to me. I only had one chance left.
Round 8. My final chance to get day 2. And… I easily 2:0. It’s 9am, it might be time for a little nap.
I didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare for the second day, I was extremely tired and went in with the same decks. In round 1 I got wins with my Bran and Foltest, but Millfguard took 3 tries. BUT IT FINALLY DID IT. I WON BY 3 POINTS!
Those were some awesome games, mad props to my opponent BucioMan!
Round 2. It’s past 12am. I got 4 hours of sleep. I start to make mistakes. I ran out of time and thunder my own unit from a vilg. I get a renew from my vilg that hits nothing. Those were all misplays, but I am starting to hear Swim’s voice in my head. ‘Maybe Vilgefortz is secretly bad’. I lose the first two rounds. I now have to win against my opponent’s unknown John Calveit with all three of my decks, which run barely any card advantage. My foltest scrapes a 3 point victory. Game 4 my opponent draws badly and I decisively pull it out with my bran. Game 5. Mill. This was not a matchup I had practiced, theorycrafted or even considered. I get a Cahir from my vilg before I’ve used my hero power. I maybe shouldve used my hero power. I misplayed and my opponent played extremely well to 2-round me. GG Fion56 and good luck in Poland!
I wasn’t too sad, after all, my opponent went on to beat the man who beat Garunah, so if my math is correct, he’s the negative 1st best player in the world. Congratulations to him. And I exceeded all of my brightest expectations.
Apologies, that was way too longwinded, do hope you enjoyed the read regardless. I will write some guides about how to lose to monsters for my gwentdb decks soon, if people would like that.