By Lothari, August 23, 2019
When Molegion qualified for Gwent Open #8, we began our Aretuza Spotlight series, to give you more insight into who the people behind one of Gwent’s biggest competitive teams really are. With Challenger #5 fast approaching, we saw a great opportunity to expand the series!
First, the Spotlight turns on Adzikov; one of Team Aretuza’s competitive Gwent players and one of the competitors at Challenger #5.
Aretuza Spotlight: Adzikov
Adzikov has a long history of competitive gaming, starting as a high-schooler playing Guild Wars in one of the best Polish PvP guilds around. After a brief foray into League of Legends during its beta, Adzikov was back in the guild-based competitive scene with Error Code, Poland’s best PvE World of Warcraft guild.
Being a part of that world introduced him to Hearthstone, where he even competed at BlizzCon LAN qualifiers in Sweden (coming up against none other than GameKing), before eventually making the switch to Gwent. Competitive by his very nature, it wasn’t long before Adzikov was topping the leader boards, and with the introduction of the Pro Ladder, he was almost immediately among the best players. Since then, Adzikov has gone on to be one of the game’s most consistently high-performing players both on ladder and in tournaments.
Lothari: Firstly, I have a couple of questions from the Facebook community, Gwent Masters Worldwide: When you talk to your family about playing games professionally, how do they react? Do you have support or are they opposed to the idea?
Adzikov: My parents keep track of the Gwent scene, so they know what’s going on. They support me, but I am 28, so it’s probably easier for them to understand, particularly because Gwent is not the first game I’ve played at a high level.
When you decided to start competing in Gwent, was there something special about being a high-level Polish player for a Polish game, or was Gwent just another project for you?
I already knew I was good enough to compete in Gwent when I decided I would, right after Season 1 started. I almost never play games “just for fun”, so it was natural for me to try. It wasn’t that it was planned; it’s just the way I play games. I like Gwent as a game, not as a Polish game – there’s nothing special about that, apart from maybe only needing three hours to get to Warsaw. I hate travelling, so that’s great for me.
When I reached out to you for information to help inform this interview, you said, and I quote, “About the Gwent times, it’s nothing really interesting :P I’m just playing Gwent and doing other things I like to do…” You can’t possibly undervalue your competitive feats like that, can you?
I know it sounds strange, but that is how it is. I don’t feel like a superstar or anything like that. In the first few tournaments, I was too focused on winning. After Challenger #2, something changed and I started just to play my best Gwent, and that is how I see all competition. I don’t think I value my competitive feats; it’s more like I don’t see anything special. I’m just good at computer games, so it’s nothing new to me.
I did some counting – by the time World Masters comes around, you’ll be tied for participation in the third highest number of Gwent majors – 8 with Hanachan, behind Tailbot’s 10 and kolemoen's 9. As someone with so much experience, do you think the competitive bar has been rising over time or is it the same as it was in Gwent Slam #1 and Gwent Open #2?
It’s hard to compare. If you ask specifically about players’ skill levels, it’s definitely higher right now, but the number of tier-1 players is still the same. Everyone has learned a lot about the game since. Then, Gwent was still a new game and everyone was still learning.
Tailbot, kolemoen and Hanachan have all gone on to win a major tournament. Is it frustrating, in any way, to have come so close so many times and not quite got there yet?
Not really. It’s nice to win tournaments, but I see my Gwent career as a whole, not in individual tournaments. I don’t really see any reason to be frustrated.
Is Challenger #5 your time to shine?
Tournaments are always kind of random. During Open #7 (during Gwent’s open beta), I highrolled into two Consume players in a row when I was targeting Consume. Small things like that can change everything. For Challenger #5, I know I’m one of the best 3 or 4 players, so all I can do is prepare in the best way and try to win on the day. I’m pretty sure there’s no one with a higher chance than me, some with the same chance and some with lower chances.
What are you expecting from Challenger #5? Do you already have an idea of what you might come up against or is it still a little too early to tell?
We will be playing it on the new expansion, with the new faction Syndicate, after a patch that changed over 200 cards (and who knows what else is to come), so there’s nothing to say about expectations. The meta is still shaping. I guess Damorquis would write his plans two months before, but I’m not that type of guy [laughs]. I’m doing most stuff last second. This time, I plan to prep better, but still, as I said, it’s too early to say anything about “prep ideas”.
Win or lose, after a tournament I imagine you might want some downtime from Gwent. What do you do to take your break away from it, and how long does it take to clear your head?
There is no one answer. Sometimes I need a week to clear my head, sometimes I play Gwent the next day after coming home from the tournament. I think I usually take a longer break after a good result, but honestly I am not sure.
Obviously, Gwent has been through a lot of changes, already, throughout the course of your time playing it. Because of Homecoming, because of the long stretches where there has been less competitive play, was there ever any temptation to go and do something else?
I was qualified for this Challenger before Homecoming and almost qualified for World Masters, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to wait. Sure, I’d like to see Season 2 earlier and I know it’s hard for people who want to compete but have been left with no goals, but for me it’s much easier.
Now that the competitive season is coming to an end, there’s some talk about what happens next. As someone who is already part of the system, what do you think would be the healthiest way to grow Gwent’s competitive scene?
I have no idea. I like the current system because it’s fairer to the best players, but I know it’s definitely not the healthiest. Some kind of league system sounds interesting, but I’m not convinced by the idea yet.
My thoughts on Adzikov
In my time at Team Aretuza, I have not seen the same level of activity from Adzikov as some other team members, but this doesn’t come from any shyness and definitely not from any laziness on his part.
What strikes me from this interview and the interactions we have had is that Adzikov is under no illusions about how good he is, and what for many of us is a dream or opportunity of a lifetime is simply normal for him. It’d be easy for anyone in this position to be out of touch or even callous towards the rest of the community, but Adzikov is, if reserved, laid back, friendly and ready to share both a joke and his wide range of competitive knowledge.
As a competitor who is yet to win a Gwent major, it would be easy to underrate Adzikov in Challenger #5, but it would also be a mistake. Talented, level-headed and with a promise to be better prepared than ever before, Adzikov will no doubt be one of the favourites for the coveted Challenger ring.
Lothari is a long-time fan of CCGs, building up a wealth of experience in Hearthstone, MTG, TESL, Artifact and of course Gwent, which she has been playing since the end of Closed Beta. She always aspires to improve and learn more about what has come to be one of her favourite pass-times. She has also found a passion in creating content for Gwent, and will continue to do so with a passionate and analytical outlook for Team Aretuza. Lothari has a BA in Computing and German and spent four years working as a game developer.