As a follow up to Part 1 of this series where he covered his preparation for the Gwent Open #8 Qualifier, guest writer JMJWilson once again returns to analyze the results of this tournament, both from his perspective and that of the field at large.

This piece is a follow-up to part 1 of this mini-series covering the recent qualifier tournament for Gwent Open #8. If you have not yet read Part 1, I would recommend that you check it out before continuing with this piece.

 

I would like to open this part exactly the opposite way that I ended the previous part. There, I mentioned that in Part 2 I would analyze how true my predictions were. It is important to bear in mind that the information used to perform this analysis was not available at the time I created my lineup, so this type of review can only provide a partial set of feedback on tournament preparations. Regardless, it is useful to review these decisions after the fact as a sort of affirmation, ensuring that the correct logic was utilized even if the results fell short of what was hoped. On top of analyzing my own results, I will look at the tournament results as a whole to determine the main themes and successes from the weekend. Many of the decks featured here or variations of those decks may be seen in the Team Aretuza Meta Snapshot, which includes additional information about the decks not included in this analysis.

 

My Results

Ultimately, I fell short of qualifying for the second day of the event, ending with a meager 3-4 record in the Swiss stage of the event. My strategy of soft-targeting Queen Meve decks fell flat in the end, as I faced only one opponent playing such a deck, although I faced another opponent with a Princess Adda deck that also was quite weak to my targeting strategy. Both of these series were among my wins, so my targeting strategy proved effective when faced with the desired opponent lineup. The problem in this case was that I missed my target too often to find success.

As for my secondary strategy of avoiding the “Monsters hate” lineups, I was misguided with this plan as well. I deemed that Monsters target lineups would include Morvran Voorhis decks and they did, but those decks played Shupe's Day Off at a much higher rate than I anticipated. This went a long way towards nullifying the advantages I gained over other variants, in particular with my Eredin Bréacc Glas deck that was especially vulnerable to the Movran version playing everyone’s favorite troll.

In the end, I wasn’t able to consistently get victories over the opponent’s third deck (after his or her Skellige and Monsters decks of choice) to achieve success. Looking back, I would have made some modifications to my lineup. I would have instead banned Crach an Craite decks while including tech choices to provide me an advantage against Monsters decks, such as Hanmarvyn's Blue Dream and Geralt: Professional. As a result, my third deck would have been one with Morvran Voorhis as the leader instead of my Brouver Hoog deck, as these decks proved capable of securing victories over the opponent’s third and weakest deck while also providing the opportunity to defeat their Monsters deck. In turn, my own Monsters deck would have switched to one better against other Monsters decks, possibly running Geralt of Rivia as a tech card.

 

Rest of the Field

Although taking a look back at my own lineup is useful for myself and perhaps interesting in its own right, analyzing the decks brought by the whole field is much more enlightening in general. I looked through all the deck lists from the Swiss and knockout stages to analyze which decks were the best and worst performing, as well as to determine the “best” lineup and strategy for this particular event. You can see all these decks for yourself by browsing the shared drive from the event.

Among the strongest performing decks in the Qualifier are many of the usual suspects. Crach an Craite decks with Commander's Horn were the most common in the field, with other Crach decks also being represented at a high rate. In total, 44 of the 53 players brought Crach an Craite to the Swiss stage, including 14 of the 16 qualifiers to the second day. As expected, this deck performed the best on an absolute scale when compared to the rest of the field.

Alongside Crach in the category of expected successes were the various versions of Big Monsters decks, with either Gernichora or Woodland Spirit as the leader. Overall, 20 of the competitors brought one of these leaders with a focus on high base strength units and 6 of the top 16 had one of these decks. Despite the fact that the tournament had a reasonable number of competitors specifically targeting these decks’ strategy, they still showed their power by performing admirably through all of the counter-teching.

 

A breakdown of all of the leaders brought on the first day of the event and how many of each were brought by competitors qualifying for the second day.

 

One archetype that remarkably overperformed was the aforementioned Morvran Voorhis decks running Shupe's Day Off. The split of Morvran decks was about equal; versions without Shupe (18 of the players brought this version) even slightly outweighed the versions with Shupe (14). Despite this, the variant with Shupe seemed to perform better, as 6 of the qualifiers to the second day played this version compared to only 5 with the other version. I attribute much of this to the best of three format and the power of the two decks covered previously. So many series came down to being able to defeat the opponent’s third deck behind the “power two”, and the Morvran deck with the higher power ceiling - the variant with Shupe - fulfilled this role better on average despite lacking some consistency.

A deck that underperformed compared to expectations slightly was the Queen Meve deck with a focus on engine units. This deck was (as predicted in my previous piece) the fourth most popular deck, with 13 of the competitors bringing it in their lineup. Despite this, the deck struggled to pass to the second day, as only three of the top 16 did so while playing the deck. The reason for these struggles is not immediately clear, but likely has to do with a combination of power level and matchup vulnerability. My sense is that this deck overperformed on ladder in the period immediately after the patch, leading to players expecting more than was reasonable out of the deck for its true power level. Also, most versions were the same exact deck seen on ladder which fell victim to tech choices such as locks and movement effects, although some players (notably eventual champion Molegion and Kacper322) brought decks that were more resilient to this type of teching and achieved success as a result.

So what ended up being the best strategy in this particular event? As ever, the answer depends greatly on context and the path that a particular player takes through the Swiss stage and subsequent knockout stage. Prevailing wisdom suggested that the ideal strategy for this tournament was to bring a lineup full of the most powerful decks and simply play better than the opposition. As it turns out, this was exactly what occurred - barring a few exceptions. The format (only including three decks) as well as the prevalence of the two “meta defining” decks mentioned earlier meant that the ideal strategy boiled down to defeating whatever deck was remaining. In most cases, this was the more midrange version of Morvran Voorhis decks, which goes a long way to explain the performance of Morvran Shupe decks since these decks have a slightly higher power ceiling when compared to the variant without Shupe.

In the end, this event served as a spectacular reintroduction to the competitive Gwent scene. Through the help of streamers (Crozyr and trynet123) actually broadcasting their games as well as the community at large helping to promote the tournament, this Qualifier garnered more attention than any of those in the past despite the long layoff between Gwent Masters events. I believe this is an excellent sign that bodes well for future competitive events on the live stage, starting with Gwent Open #8 next month. If the diversified strategies seen in this field are any indication of what we may see when the Open itself rolls around, then spectators certainly are in for a treat, watching the best players in the world clash for tactical and technical superiority.