By JMJWilson23, September 9, 2019
We’re back again with another Aretuza Spotlight with the one and only Shinmiri who will form the analyst duo with Green Cricket during Challenger #5! JMJWilson23 conducts a thoughtful interview with one of Gwent’s most analytical streamers who is known for taking an educational approach to each game for his viewers.
Aretuza Spotlight: Shinmiri
Shinmiri has been a gamer all his life, though he really dialed in his competitive nature in his twenties with Dota 1. From 2003 to 2007, he played at a high level and was thoroughly involved with the game’s competitive scene, especially on the North American side. In his early days, he began as the leader of a team of his friends called “Apex” and from that point vaulted to larger teams such as compLexity and Meet Your Makers.
Fans of Shinmiri’s stream will find it no surprise that he found himself spearheading his teams strategies in Dota. He counts such initiators as Sand King, Centaur, and Slardar among his favorite heroes, allowing him to dictate when (and when not) to engage as a team. Shinmiri remains thankful that he was able to become a semi-famous Dota player as this opportunity afforded him the chance to meet his future wife after she approached him to do an interview for an article she was writing. He claims that she was won over by his charm and of course his impressive Dota "skillz"– the rest was history.
Since those days, Shinmiri has made his way to Gwent and we couldn’t be happier to have him. He has steadily climbed from his humble beginnings in streaming (with no camera) to one of the most-viewed Gwent channels, as he brings his educational and analytical style to viewers on most weekdays.
JMJ: First of all, thank you for participating in our Aretuza Spotlight Series. I would like to start from the beginning and ask about your early days in Gwent. When did you realize that you wanted to shift from playing Gwent casually to more competitively? From there, what made you think of transitioning into streaming and content creation?
Shinmiri: I was introduced to Gwent in February 2017 from the Lifecoach video, and I was instantly hooked. I loved the strategic aspect of the three rounds and the smaller influence of RNG due to the lack of a mana system and fewer card draws. The game was also super generous, and I was able to obtain my first competitive deck (Radovid Punisher) in under two weeks. Gwent was such a big step up from its competition that I never opened Hearthstone again after the day I installed Gwent.
One of the things about Gwent that I really love is that, most of the time, you can look back on a game and pinpoint decisions that either player could have made to change the outcome of the match. In contrast, other card games have a lot of matches that are just decided by not drawing lands or not curving out. There is more player agency in Gwent than other card games.
As for when I started playing competitively rather than casually, I would say almost immediately. I am a very competitive person, and I don't even know if 'casual' is in my vocabulary. And because of Gwent's generous business model, it didn't take long at all until I was able to equip myself with competitive decks.
I started streaming Gwent in November 2017 when I hit #1 Skellige fMMR on Pro Ladder with a Veterans deck, an archetype that was underappreciated at the time, and I wanted to share it with others. Fortunately, a lot of people liked my educational and analytical style and I enjoyed it, so I decided to keep it up.
Everyone has their own unique path that lead them to joining Team Aretuza. Could you tell us a bit about the process of joining our team and how your experience has been since then? How has being part of Aretuza shaped or influenced your work as a content creator?
I joined Team Aretuza near the very beginning, maybe only a week or two after it was formed. I saw a post on the Competitive Gwent subreddit about a group of players who were looking for like-minded Gwent enthusiasts to hang out with and help each other improve. Aretuza had very humble beginnings, and I have many fond memories from the past two or more years. Aretuza has always felt more like a family than a team. Being a part of Aretuza has also been a huge boon to me as a streamer and content creator. They have been a great resource for bouncing ideas off of, getting some inspiration, and finding someone to co-op with.
What has kept you streaming after all this time and what motivates you to keep improving? You've held steady viewership during the good and bad times within Gwent's history, so what is the next milestone for your stream? Are you interested in growing your audience further with other titles or staying true to your strong position in the Gwent community by streaming exclusively Gwent?
I’ve continued streaming this whole time simply because I enjoy playing the game and interacting with my viewers. Regarding streaming other games, I’m open to the idea, and in fact, I have streamed other games on the side in the past. However, I think Gwent will still be my main streaming game for a while.
The next big milestone for my stream will be to get one or more sponsors and start earning an actual feasible income from streaming. So far, I’ve been very lucky to have had some savings and a supportive wife to pursue my passion for the last two years.
What has been a highlight for you in the last two years of Gwent?
The highlight of the last two years of Gwent for me has to easily be attending Challenger #4, but a less obvious highlight for me would be getting 3rd place in the April 2018 Challenger Qualifiers. Despite being a high-level Gwent player for the last two-and-a-half years, I've rarely had the chance to participate in tournaments due to my lack of availability on weekends. Getting a chance to participate in this qualifier tournament with so many other great players and then analyzing all the games on stream the next day was really a great experience for me.
Obviously, you are a North American member of a community that is predominantly European. Has this presented any challenges along the way for you?
I don't think the time-zone difference was a huge obstacle for me. It works out a lot better for me to stream during the daytime, which happens to be prime-time in Europe anyways. The only annoyance is that it's such a long flight to and from Warsaw to attend the official tournaments.
What was the process of joining the Gwent Masters team as an analyst like? How have you enjoyed your time there so far?
I applied as a caster and recorded some footage for CDPR. They liked my knowledge of the game and thought my style was better suited for the analyst position, which I totally agree with. Challenger #4 was such a blast to be a part of. The analysis involved a lot of preparation and concentration, but it was a joy to do it. And meeting all the players, cast, and CDPR employees was a huge bonus. We played board games in the evenings and had a ton of fun hanging out. Not to mention some of the best competitive Gwent ever seen!
The viewers only get to see what goes on in front of the screen for big events like Gwent Challenger. What kind of work goes on behind the scenes both before and during the tournament?
Preparing for the previous Challenger was pretty intense. As soon as I received the players decklists, I began taking notes on what decks, tech choices, and overall strategies each player brought. I wrote down interesting things to point out during the decklist analysis section before each match. We also spoke to the players regarding their intended strategy and choices to get a better understanding of their approach. I also played a few games with some of the decklists that I was less familiar with to get a firsthand perspective. After the bracket was determined, I noted down potential interesting interactions specific to the matchups. I also discussed with Swim (the other analyst last year) about how we thought things would play out. During the tournament, Swim and I watched every game while sharing our thoughts on interesting plays and decisions made by the players. We also had to pick a few clips we wanted to show and elaborate on after the match was over. It was a long and exhausting two days, but I enjoyed every moment of it.
This is the first tournament in which you have been involved since the full release of the game. Is there anything you expect to be different compared to the tournaments before Homecoming?
I’m excited to watch and analyze the first Challenger after Homecoming. I think Homecoming opens up more diversity for deck-building because you no longer just want to bring the four best gold and six best silver cards based on value. There is now an additional deck-building cost associated with bringing stronger cards. I think this should result in decklists of the same archetype to have more variety in their tech choices and flex slots, which is great from both a viewer and an analyst perspective!
What are your hopes for Gwent Masters Season 2?
I hope that Gwent Masters Season 2 has more frequent tournaments, a shorter tournament cycle (Season 1 is 30 months and counting), and more ways to qualify. I also hope that Season 2 comes sooner rather than later, because I feel that the lack of any competitive tournament qualification in the past few months have resulted in a lack of motivation and innovation on the ladder, which could harm the game's popularity in general.
Just from watching your streams, I’m sure viewers have an idea as to what you like to do in your life outside of gaming, but could you tell us about some of your interests outside of Gwent and gaming in general?
Outside of Gwent, I’m playing Apex Legends and Clash Royale these days. My wife and I also really enjoy playing board games with friends, and we usually have a game night once a week. Currently, we're halfway through Pandemic Legacy Season 1. Outside of gaming, my wife and I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, especially in the outdoors. This year, we have already been to Mexico, Alaska, and Yosemite!
Before we go, I have to ask you a question I like to use to end every interview: how would you like to be remembered in the Gwent community?
I would like to be remembered as a smart, skilled player who was also great at conveying strategies and tactics to viewers. That and the faction ambassador for the best and strongest faction in the game! WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE! Wait....well, it kinda works, right?
My Thoughts on Shinmiri
I, like many others, knew Shinmiri only through interactions on his stream before I joined Team Aretuza. Since then, I have come to realize he is very much the same person off-stream as on it. The same analytical approach we all see carries over to everything else he does and he is always looking to use this mentality to gain an edge for himself and those around him. Aside from all of that, though, the thing that truly stands out to me about Shinmiri is his genuineness and approachability. Despite being busy with many ventures in life outside Gwent and gaming, he is never too busy to offer up his support whenever it is needed. All of this adds up to someone who I am proud to call a teammate and a friend.
Challenger #5 brings a host of new challenges for everyone involved and the analysts are no exception. For Shinmiri, it will be his first tournament since the full release of the game and he will have some new cast members around him from when he last graced his desk at Challenger. That said, I could not think of a person in the community more suited to adapt to all the changes around him and deliver thoughtful and entertaining commentary than Shinmiri.
JMJWilson made his first forray into the world of CCG's with Gwent and has been hooked ever since. Since July 2018, he has competed in the game's Pro Rank scene and has participated in most online qualifiers since the official release of Gwent. Wilson serves as a content creator for Aretuza, especially focusing on the monthly Meta Snapshot and the Aretuza Academy projects. He seeks to bring the same analytical mindset to content creation as he does to his own gameplay with the goal of improving others' gameplay experience in whatever way is possible. With the implementation of Gwent Masters Season 2, Wilson aspires to continue his trend of being a consistent competitor in Gwent Masters qualifiers while also remaining committed to coverage of the game's highest level of competition.