Preview: Challenger #5 – The Participants
As we move closer to Gwent Challenger #5, it seems only appropriate to look back at how we arrived at this point. The qualification cycle for Challenger #5 has been by far the longest in the history of Gwent, spanning a total of 377 days from the conclusion of Gwent Challenger #4 on September 2, 2018, to the opening of Challenger #5 on September 14, 2019. During this period, the game has seen a complete overhaul in the form of Project Homecoming, which arrived on the back of a long period of inactivity in terms of Gwent esports (sans the aforementioned Challenger #4). Since then, we have seen the rise of new notable players to the scene as well as the continued domination of some seasoned veterans. The participants of Challenger #5 belong to these two camps in approximately equal distribution and they all have their own story and path that lead them to this point. Let us take this opportunity to bring to mind each of them, starting with the earliest.
Damorquis – Challenger #4
Team Aretuza co-founder Damorquis kicked off qualification with his victory in Gwent Challenger #4, which occurred on September 1-2, 2018. With the backdrop of a Skellige-themed location, Damorquis battled with seven of Gwent’s strongest competitors, all competing for the title of Challenger Champion. Damorquis entered the event on the back of qualifying for the previous three Opens, in which he was eliminated in the quarter finals twice and semi-finals once. This time, though, he outperformed expectations (except maybe his own) and blitzed through the field with an infamously greedy lineup that proved impossible to counter on that day. He defeated Gwent veteran Hanachan (3-0) and friend and future teammate Kolemoen (3-2) to set up a Team Aretuza showdown against AndyWand in the finals. In a close battle of near identical line-ups, Damorquis emerged victorious by a 3-2 scoreline after a thrilling reverse sweep of Andy’s King Foltest deck.
Adzikov and Freddybabes – Open #7
The next qualifying event for Challenger arrived with Gwent Open #7 on October 13-14, 2018. This was the final Gwent Masters event to occur during Gwent’s beta, occurring a mere ten days before the game’s full release on October 23. Here, Adzikov, one of the players with the most participation in Gwent Masters tournaments, secured his qualification to yet another event when he advanced to the finals. With Gwent Challenger #5, Adzikov has qualified for a total of seven Masters events. That impressive level of consistency was on full display in this tournament, as Adzikov was able to rattle off victories over fellow veterans Tailbot (3-2) and GameKing (3-1) to set up a finals showdown with another highly acclaimed opponent in Freddybabes. Adzikov’s approach to heavily targeting Consume Monsters (including the then highly polarizing Imlerith: Sabbath) had served him well to this point. However, Freddybabes’s line-up did not feature this deck, so he would have to battle unfavorable odds. Adzikov's interview in our Aretuza Spotlight series can be found here.
Freddybabes looked to add to his already sterling Gwent résumé, which then included victories in Open #2 and Challenger #2. On the line was the opportunity to become the first competitor to win a two Open titles, after Freddy already stood alone as the only player to win two Gwent Masters events. His path to the finals went through Nujwk and radu.andrada, advancing with a pair of 3-2 victories. Freddy’s line-up featured a “soft” target of Soldier Nilfgaard, but he advanced to the finals despite facing this matchup only once and falling short in it. The two-time champion continued to display this resolve in the finals, defeating Adzikov by a score of 3-1 and becoming a three-time Gwent Masters champion in the process. Thus, Gwent Open #7 concluded, leaving us with three of eight qualifiers for Challenger #5.
Kolemoen and wangid1 – Open #8
Next on our qualification tour is the first and, thus far, only Masters event since Homecoming: Gwent Open #8. The tournament occurred on March 16-17, 2019, approximately five months after the prior Open. Once again, a seasoned Gwent veteran secured his qualification to yet another Challenger when Kolemoen advanced to the finals. He continued to display an incredible level of consistency, advancing to the semi-final round for the fifth time and making his third finals appearance. On the way to the finals, he eliminated newcomer Alessio1996 by a 3-1 scoreline and Gwent legend Tailbot in an epic 3-2 series. The decision to bring a slightly unorthodox line-up featuring the only Queen Meve deck of the tournament worked well for Kolemoen and sent him, along with his uncanny composure and iconic basketball shorts, to a finals showdown against wangid1. Kolemoen's interview in our Aretuza Spotlight series can be found here.
The other finalist, wangid1, had achieved several high-ladder finishes, including Season 7 when he finished number 1 of Pro Rank and set the record for the highest single fMMR to date. At the same time, this was his first appearance at an official Gwent Masters event, so expectations were mixed regarding his chances. He certainly proved any doubters wrong on his path through the tournament, defeating the Polish duo kams134 and Molegion by 3-0 and 3-1 scores respectively. In this tournament, wangid1 lived up to his reputation as one of the game’s most creative deck builders by bringing Arachas Queen at a time when this leader was still believed to be too weak for competitive play by many. This decision proved to be fruitful when he defeated Kolemoen 3-1 to wrap up a dominating performance and claim the title of Gwent Open champion. For a breakdown of Open #8, see this article written by Lothari.
Tailbot – Crown Point Accumulation
The conclusion of Open #8 also spelled the end of the cycle between the end of Challenger #4 and Challenger #5. As a result, the player with the most Crown Points gathered between these two events also earned a spot in the final Challenger. This period included Seasons 6, 7, and 8, as well as Open #7 and #8. Fan favorite Tailbot ended up in the lead of the Crown Point race, registering 145 during this time. His total outpaced nearest finishers Adzikov (140) and Kolemoen (130). While these two had already qualified for Challenger #5 by other means as mentioned above, the nearest true competitor to Tailbot was kams134 with 125 Crown Points, a full 20 behind.
Chezzy93 and magpie131 – Gwent Challenger Qualifiers
The final two spots up for grabs were determined by two separate qualifiers that included the top 50 players from the Pro Rank standings. The date of the first of these left no rest for the wicked, as it occurred on March 23-24, 2019, a mere week after Gwent Open #8. Here, Chezzy93, or KingChezz93 as he is known on Twitch, joined Freddybabes as the streaming personalities set to appear on the Challenger stage. Qualifying via this route involves battling through a grueling two-day event against some of the best and brightest Gwent has to offer. Chezzy was able to finish the Swiss Day 1 with a record of 3-1-1, good enough for the sixth best record and advancement to the second day. Here, he defeated TheBastinator (3-0), Alessio1996 (3-0), and Molegion (3-1) to advance to the Grand Finals. After awaiting the conclusion of the lower bracket, a rematch with teammate Alessio1996 awaited Chezzy. In this scenario, Alessio would have been required to defeat Chezzy in two consecutive series to be declared the winner. However, Chezzy had other ideas in mind and won the rematch by a 3-1 score to secure his ticket to Challenger. His infamous Eredin Slyzard deck served a pivotal role in this tournament, as it was either a powerful adversary for opponents or forced them to use their only ban on the deck.
A month later, the second online qualifier for Challenger convened on April 27-28, 2019, following the same format as the previous qualifier. Another newcomer claimed the title here in the form of magpie131. Previously, magpie had achieved solid ladder performances, including two top 10 finishes and many other end results as a top 20 or top 50 player, yet had never broken through to the next level. On that weekend, however, he proved his competitive genius and battled through the Swiss stage with a 3-2 record to claim the seventh seed in the second day. On Day 2, he made a drastic change to his strategy, focusing on a hard target against engine-heavy decks, in particular King Henselt lists. This bold choice paid off, as he powered through gwentsonneillon (3-2), Saber97 (3-2), and Insomnia228 (3-1) to reach the Grand Finals. As it turns out, Insomnia228 was declared the winner of the Lower Bracket Finals, setting up a rematch between the two. A bit of intrigue was added to the mix, as magpie was actually defeated by Insomnia in the first series, when Insomnia was able to sneak in a victory with his Henselt deck. The hope of a come-from-behind sweep were cleared however, when magpie secured the second series with a 3-2 score to earn his place among the elite in attendance at Challenger #5. Lothari's interview with magpie131 after his qualifier win can be found here.
This concludes our history of all Challenger #5 participants and how they reached this tournament. Here, you can find Part 2 of JMJWilson23's Challenger Preview, in which he discusses Challenger #5’s meta in the light of the new faction, Syndicate, the player line-up and his predictions for the final win!
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.