By Lothari, May 7, 2019
With April’s Challenger #5 Qualifier complete, every spot for Gwent Challenger #5, the final major before the Gwent World Masters finale, has now been filled. After two days of grueling games of Gwent between 32 of the world’s top players, it was magpie131 who emerged victorious, and Lothari reached out in the aftermath of the qualifier tournament to interview the last entrant into the last Challenger:
Interview: magpie131 (Gwent Challenger Qualifier Winner)
For those of us who don’t know you very well, magpie, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m just a guy who loves to play Gwent - you’ll find out everything else after I win Gwent Masters.
I imagine you’ve had a bit of a journey getting to a Challenger Qualifier. How did you get into Gwent? What had you played before?
I first played Gwent in The Witcher 3 and it immediately piqued my interest. I’ve never really liked card games, but this one was somehow special to me. When I heard that it was becoming a stand-alone game, I sent an email to the developers and in February 2017 started playing the closed beta. I just played for fun and didn’t really pay attention to my placements or ranks. Gwent is my first CCG; before, I only played single-player games and considered online games a bit of a waste of time, because you play a lot for not a lot of reward. Of course now I think a bit differently.
Can you give us some details on how you got to Pro Rank for the first time? When was it? Do you remember what deck you were using?
I hit Pro Ladder when it launched, when you needed 4250 MMR to get there and 4300 to get to Grand Master - I got to Rank 21 only after a year of playing and was kicked out of Pro Ladder after one season. I never considered myself a competitive player, but after I finished a season in the top 100, then number 1 in the world in the next season, I wanted to try Pro Ladder again.
In Season 6, I started playing it again, but after 50 games I was disappointed in myself because I only had a 37% win rate. All of my dreams of getting into the top 100 for an Open Qualifier had vanished, but day by day I played in Pro Rank to get better and somehow I finished 9th this season. I probably could have finished 6th but didn’t have the experience or skill to quite get there.
How has your experience of Pro Rank been since then? Are you constantly among the top players or have you had a turbulent ride?
Because Season 6 was the last of the open beta, everyone had to wait until the game released to compete again. After Homecoming and the game launch, I didn’t like the game a lot and wasn’t playing enough; so when Season 7 came around, I played very poorly and finished the season 26th, the season after that 25th. I wouldn’t say that this is high ranks because I know I could do better.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get to where you are now?
Play a lot. Learn from your own mistakes. Be reasonable; greed will never win you the game. Anyone can be a pro player and win tournaments - you just need to believe and train.
Did you have a particular strategy specifically for reaching a qualifier?
Not really. I just played Gwent and knew I’d get there because it’s not that hard to be in the top 50.
You had what some might call a rather unusual line-up for Day 2 of the Qualifier - what was the thinking behind that?
Most players brought Skellige, Monsters and Scoia’tael on the first day, but because you have to bring one more deck on the second day, I thought it would most likely be Henselt with the state that Nilfgaard was in, so I teched to target that. Of course Nilfgaard is actually the best way to target Henselt, with all the Locks and damage cards doing their jobs.
I didn’t hesitate to pick Calveit because of its consistency, which is what Nilfgaard needs right now. Shupe Bran and Shupe Eithné are both very good at annihilating your opponent’s board, so without any doubt I picked them. That just left me with Monsters, and while I thought most people would take a Control Dettlaff deck, I had my own version of Control Woodland Spirit that had worked pretty well for me. I knew that would probably be banned 99% of the time to let my other decks through and that plan worked pretty well.
I think it’s fair to say you weren’t one of the favourites going into the second day. When you found out you’d be taking part in the Qualifier, did you think you could win it?
For me, the hardest part of a qualifier is always Day 1, because it’s impossible to counter every strategy. You have to bring good standard decks and outplay your opponents by drawing and rolling better, which for me is impossible. Finally, I made it through and I was pretty happy because that made it much easier to take part in Day 2. The decks were published and I saw only BeardyBog hadn’t brought Northern Realms, so I was pretty confident in myself and hoped I wouldn’t face him, which luckily I didn’t. Unfortunately, I did lose twice to Henselt because of bad draws, but then I managed to get back into it.
What are you most excited about for Challenger #5?
First of all, that I’m taking part. I never would have thought I would be. After that, probably the atmosphere of the event. CDPR always does a great job and every Challenger is different than the others, so I wonder how it will look and feel this time. Of course I am looking forward to facing other pro players live, not just across the world. I’m very excited about everything.
What do you think of your opponents? Who do you want to face? Is there anyone you want to avoid?
All of the players competing are the best in the game at the moment, except for me. I think Chezzy is probably my most favoured opponent because he has no experience in that environment either. Of course least favoured is Kolemoen. I’d rather not face him at all, but knowing my luck, we will probably play in the first round.
Gwent has a strong European footing in terms of its audience - does that translate over to Russia? Are the competitive players really well supported there? Do you have fans rooting for you at the Challenger?
I’m not from Russia [sorry, magpie!], I just lived there for a bit, that’s where I set up my account, which is why PlayGwent shows the Russian flag. I live in Moldova, and there, it’s really just me and Insomnia, I don’t really know any other Moldovan players. I think that the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] has a very large player base, and a lot of the players from all those countries know each other because of Discord servers such as Claymore and others. In tournaments, the CIS community always supports their players; proNEO has always had the necessary support, so I guess they will root for me at the Challenger too.
Is there anything you want to say to your opponents?
It’s better for you to just concede before our matches start so that it’s not as awkward when you win so easily.
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.