By JMJWilson23, February 12, 2019
The online qualifiers for Gwent Open #8 represented a prelude to the first Gwent Masters event of the Homecoming era: Many in the community followed the event closely, keen to get a first look at how the competitive scene may develop. To provide an inside perspective on the tournament, guest writer and event participant JMJWilson returns with a two-part piece covering the qualifier. In this first part, he discusses his preparation for the event.
Gwent Open #8 Qualifier Analysis - Pt 1: Preparation
Before I dive into how I prepared for this particular event, I would like to point out that there is no one correct method, and everyone should prepare in the way that works best for them. This article uses my own method of preparation as an example, hopefully to inspire others to find the process that works for them. For more information on this topic, I point you to Green Cricket’s “3 Steps to prepare for Conquest Tournament” article, which provides a slight alternative to my approach.
Analyze the Meta
The first thing I did in preparation was to sit down and analyze the meta to determine two things:
- What decks I felt were the strongest in the current meta; and
- What decks I expected to be the most popular at the event.
Usually, I try to collect as much data as possible from my own experience on Pro Rank and that of others. However, this event came at a unique time, with a balance patch released about a week before, leaving the ladder in flux as the strongest decks are discovered. As a result, much of my evaluation ended up being subjective and based on my own intuition.
The first step in this stage of the process was to select which decks I considered to be “meta” and likely to appear in a lineup on a tournament of this magnitude. I ended up erring on the side of caution and evaluating 16 decks, even though I expected that the actual number could be less than this. For each, I assigned a value for the power level of the deck (on a scale of 1-10) and a value for popularity (between 0 and 100). There wasn’t a statistical basis for these values, rather they were simply based on my best judgment. For example, a deck that I assessed to be quite powerful, Big Monsters, received a “power rating” of a 9, while a more middling deck such as Brouver Midrange received a power rating of 6. These values will become important shortly.
From here, I created a matchup table, where I assigned a value between 1 and 5 to describe how favorable the head-to-head matchup between any two decks is, with 1 being a highly unfavorable matchup and 5 being a highly favorable one. For example, I considered Morvran Voorhis decks to be moderately favored versus Crach an Craite decks, so I assigned a 3 to that matchup in favor of Morvran Voorhis. From the perspective of the Crach an Craite deck, this would appear as a 2, or a fairly unfavorable matchup.
A subset of the matchup table I utilised in my preparation, highlighting several key decks.
This stage of the process was probably the shortest, as it coincided with playing games for a week on ladder which I was doing regardless of the pending qualifier. With these two parts in place (the power level/popularity of decks and matchup ratings), I was able to move onto the next stage of my preparation process.
Select a Strategy
At this point, I was ready to select my overall strategy for the event. This can involve any number of different options, but three of the most popular standard approaches are:
- Bringing a “good stuff” lineup of vanilla meta decks seen on ladder;
- Targeting a specific opposing deck with every deck in your lineup, and
- Attempting to avoid your own decks being targeted by the rest of the field.
For this tournament, I realized that I was likely in the lower half of the field with regards to skill level based on my ladder results, so bringing a vanilla lineup would likely ensure that I would have little chance of placing high enough to advance. Instead, I had to supplement my own ability with a strategy that was more binary and made some common matchups favorable for me.
To select a targeting strategy, I referred back to the resources I created in the first stage. My first goal was to select a key deck to target. I started with the deck that I expected to be most popular (Crach an Craite decks with Commander's Horn) and viewed the appropriate column on the matchup table to see which three decks could perform best against this deck. I deemed that Crach didn’t have enough unfavorable matchups to warrant targeting, so I moved on to the next most popular deck from the list, which was Big Monsters with either Gernichora or Woodland Spirit as leader. This deck had enough unfavorable matchups to warrant targeting it, yet I decided against it because it would involve bringing decks that I felt uncomfortable playing (notably Morvran Voorhis decks, especially with Shupe's Day Off) and/or decks that I believed to be on a low power level (essentially any deck from Northern Realms). Thus, I continued following the lists that I expected to be the most popular in order until I found an appropriate targeting strategy.
The strategy that I ended up selecting was a hybrid between multiple of the lineup construction options I listed above. I soft-targeted Queen Meve decks centered around engine cards, as I expected this to be the fourth most popular deck and it had several unfavorable matchups. At the same time, I selected decks that were capable of defeating Morvran Voorhis or Crach an Craite decks so that I had a chance against opponents that did not bring Queen Meve, although these matchups were highly dependent on the result of the coin flip. As a result, I planned on banning Monsters decks in every series, since all of my decks had very unfavorable matchups against the most common Monsters decks, mainly the aforementioned Big Monsters.
At the same time, I attempted to make my lineup stronger against those targeting Big Monsters themselves by bringing no units with high power in my lineup. These choices and some discussion with other players led to me arriving at the following initial lineup:
With a general plan in place, it was time to move to the last step in the process: practicing with the decks.
Practice with the Lineup
Once I had my initial lineup in place, I sought out players with which to scrimmage in the matchups that I wanted to see. It is really up to the player to decide who they are comfortable working with; I simply played with friends of mine who could play at a similar level to those in the event. It was important not simply to queue against random decks like on the ladder, but instead make the environment very controlled - facing the exact matchups for which you wish to prepare and even ensuring that both sides of the coin flip are addressed in these matchups. A special thank you goes out to my scrimmage partners for this event - Jamedi and Pajabol. As I scrimmaged, I kept these guidelines in mind:
- Control the matchups to make optimal use of time
- Evaluate card choices and try out various options
- Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and start again
After playing the matchups against Queen Meve and Morvran Voorhis a number of times, I was not comfortable with my lineup choice, deeming the Gernichora deck to be lacking power and the Morvran Voorhis deck to be too foreign to me to justify bringing it in my lineup. So I revised my deck lists and continued scrimmaging throughout. In total, I played against each of these decks approximately a dozen times. This was when I sorted out many of my tech choices to help in these matchups. After several iterations, I settled on this lineup:
Once the lineup is in place and preparation is finished, all that’s left to do is to hope for the most favorable path possible and play as best as you can. Even the best preparation can only help so much. A bit of bad luck in matchups (deck lists are not known prior to the event, and are only revealed after the first round) and within the games themselves can make all the work done ahead of time seemingly unravel, but this is something outside of our control when preparing for the tournament.
Going into the event, I felt that I had put in the prep work to put myself in a position to succeed. That said, there are many other methods that are equally valid and probably even better, so it is important to modify this approach to suit you personally. Nonetheless, here is a quick recap of my approach:
- Analyze the meta, identifying the decks that are most popular and most powerful
- Choose a strategy to make the best use of your own skills and your opinion about the field
- Practice, practice, practice with a small scrimmage group
So there you have it; the way I prepared for the Gwent Open #8 Qualifier. Stay tuned for the next part of this series where I take a look back at the tournament and determine just how true to form my predictions were as well as perform a brief overall analysis of the event.
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.