By Kochua, June 25, 2018
The second edition of Wild Hunt, the premier North American Gwent LAN tournament, was held on June 16th-17th. I attended WH2 and – after a long, competitive tournament – was fortunate enough to come away with the championship. In this article, I’ll discuss my preparation for Wild Hunt, the decks I brought, and my experiences during the event. Hopefully, it will help you get ready for your next Gwent LAN!
Tournament Recap - Wild Hunt 2 LAN, Philadelphia
A brief comment before we begin: I recommend the Gwent LAN experience to everyone. In particular, WH2 was an amazing event with great people, high production values, and exciting competition. These types of events represent the best aspects of the Gwent community: Don’t miss the next one near you.
Great crowd, great venue, great casting, great event.
My preparation for this event began in earnest about a week or two in advance. I knew that deck selection would be important for the tournament, and closely watched the results of the Red Dragon LAN tournament in the Czech Republic the weekend before WH2. I had three major conclusions going into my preparation:
- SK Greatswords is a meta-warping deck due to its strength: I decided that my strategy either had to ban it, or target it. After some thought, I decided to ban Greatswords.
- Many of the other strongest decks in the game (NG Handbuff, SK Axemen, MO Consume) were also “tall decks” that were potentially targetable by control (or weather clear).
- I expected the NA scene to bring a wide diversity of decks to WH2. I was confident in my skill level, so I wanted to bring decks that I thought were reasonably consistent against the field, as opposed to “hard-targeting” a single archetype
You can see my decks below.
I made two decisions relatively quickly: I would bring NG Handbuff, and ST Shupe. I had considered these “sleeper picks” that had been played to great success on the Pro Ladder and had good matchups against most decks that weren’t Greatswords. Then at Red Dragon, these decks ended up being incredibly popular and successful: So much for the secret! Still, they seemed like solid inclusions. I felt that NG Handbuff was potentially targetable by the right lineup, but didn’t trust myself enough on NG Soldiers to bring it to a tournament.
Emhyr Handbuff - 6-1 Tournament Record (3 bans)
I included Peter Saar Gwynleve in Handbuff in order to tech against the mirror (and NG decks in general). The Guardian is a fantastic card, always run it in Handbuff - credit to Team Aretuza's Molegion for showing me basically this list after playing it to an incredible Nilfgaard score this season on Pro Ladder.
Ironclad logic to include this in your deck. Stone fists to pummel those who don't.
Brouver Shupe - 8-4 Tournament Record (0 bans)
My Shupe is a bit different from the standard ladder version, as I include cards that thin or cycle more reliably to increase the odds of finding Shupe's Day Off, which I consider crucial. I included Geralt: Igni over Schirrú mostly to improve the mirror, where Schirru can be bricked and achieve very little value.
Good Shupe. Bestestest friend.
Crach Greatswords - 3-0 Tournament Record (6 bans)
Next, I had to decide between SK Greatswords and SK Axemen. This was a difficult decision, as I think both decks are simply fantastic in tournaments. I discussed this a lot with my teammates: In the end, I decided that Greatswords were simply so good that they were almost untargetable. In addition, Greatswords has been by far my strongest Pro Ladder deck over the last two seasons. Sometimes you just keep it simple and don’t overthink things.
I included Wild Boar of the Sea to make me stronger against decks that might target me, such as Alchemy. I believe that the Harald Houndsnout and Djenge Frett combo is always correct to include as a secondary win condition, and have been a vocal proponent of Djenge for months.
Demonstrating the correct placement of your Skellige bronzes to win games (Poggers. Feelsgoodman.)
Dagon Deathwish - 3-1 Tournament Record (0 bans)
Finally, my fourth deck. I decided that I had to bring Monsters. Do I bring Consume, or Dagon Deathwish? Consume is a deck that I consider stronger, but potentially more counterable. I consider Dagon a weaker deck, but less counterable (and also perhaps relatively a bit better on blue coin). I went back on forth on this for a long time: In fact, I literally opened a poll on our Team Aretuza internal discord to solicit opinions! Deathwish won the poll and felt right to me: If I was going to lose on Monsters, at least it wasn’t going to be because I was run out of the tournament by Artefact Compression and other tech cards.
Ironically, it turned out to be the opposite – I won the tournament because of a tech card. That card was Abaya, an inclusion I borrowed directly from Team Aretuza’s Adzikov. I won with Dagon three times in the tournament, and Abaya was crucial in all three games (as you’ll see later).
Thanks for saving my tournament, babe.
Overall, I solicited a lot of help from teammates – Octopuses in particular was a hero, providing me deck advice and spending several evenings in scrims with me practicing matchups. With all of that behind me, I felt ready for Philadelphia.
Day 1: Swiss Rounds
I went 5-1 in the Swiss rounds, and will keep my writeup fairly brief. After an opening loss to Johaggis (my friendly nemesis, he’s beaten me both Wild Hunts!), most of my later rounds were straightforward 2-0s, aided by a lot of red coins. The matches would generally go as follows:
- The opponent would ban either my Greatswords or Handbuff
- Whichever one wasn’t banned between Greatswords or Handbuff would win by something like 30 points (6-0 combined in Swiss)
- I’d play Shupe, the game would be much closer, but I’d still usually find a way to make it out.
There were definitely some moments I could have dropped games. Trynet drew terribly against me on Alchemy; SirPumpkn had his Morenn: Forest Child tech revealed on stream right before I played him; and OrphanTears never found Artefact Compression with his control Eithne against my Greatswords. Every successful tournament includes its share of luck, and this was no exception. I counted my blessings and prepared for Day 2.
Locked in and ready to grimace at the camera for the next three hours
Day 2: Knockout Rounds
Quarterfinal versus SirPumpkn (3-0)
NG Handbuff, ST Shupe, and MO Deathwish (SK Greatswords banned) against NG Soldiers, ST Ambush, and MO Deathwish (NR Armor banned)
I banned his Foltest Armor deck (the AniviaPls version with Vincent Meis, I believe) – an unusual choice, but one I made to protect my Shupe and Deathwish, both of which I considered poor against armor.
Unfortunately, this was probably always an impossible matchup for Pumpkin. Not only was Morenn: Forest Child no longer a surprise, but I had played against him in the Swiss, learned his entire decklist, and had the entire night to gameplan for the rematch. When you combine that with a Dagon mirror where I cleared two weathers with Abaya in a long round 3, the series ended up being pretty straightforward. Credit to Pumpkin, he brought an incredibly creative deck and played well. I think the Forest Child reveal against Lockin on stream was one of the highlights of the tournament.
Speaking of "Forest Child" and "reveal"... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Semifinal versus Argeiphontes (3-2)
NG Handbuff, ST Shupe, and MO Deathwish (SK Greatswords banned) against NG Soldiers, ST Shupe, and MO Deathwish (SK Greatswords banned)
This was basically a mirror match except for the NG decks – the Greatswords bans were obvious from both sides.
Argei was one of the breakout stars of this tournament, and for good reason: Only three months into his Gwent career, he is already playing at a high level and had a great showing this tournament. Without getting four of five red coins, my result against him might very well be different.
Games 1 and 2 were highly competitive but didn’t go the way I wanted, both resulting in losses. I felt that I made several misplays in the Shupe mirror, resulting in me only having Sage as a target for Éibhear Hattori, and having to go for a ridiculous longshot play to try and brick his Schirrú (which he didn’t even have in hand). In Game 2, I took a debatable pass in Round 1, probably didn’t use my Leo Bonhart optimally, and might have been able to sequence my plays in R3 differently to increase my odds. It was the only game I lost on either NG Handbuff or SK Greatswords all tournament.
I finally got my Handbuff win in Game 3 (against Dagon), getting a nice roll on my second Nilfgaardian Knight to reveal the original, buffed one. Game 4 was another long Dagon R3 mirror won by Abaya. And then we got to Game 5 (Shupe vs Dagon).
I got red coin in Game 5, and Argei elected to drypass into me. I opened R2 by playing Yaevinn, and he did not immediately counterspy. After forcing out two weathers (my goal for the round), I found myself in the following situation:
Do I commit to this round? If not, when should I get out?
I had two choices: Pass, or play at least 11 points in order to prevent Argei from being able to drop the free spy on me. I was leaning towards the read that he didn’t actually have spy in hand (as he didn’t play it first), but at that point in the round, my plan was to head to Round 3 relatively quickly, since I had drained two of his weathers and had two of my own still to play.
Knowing that every bronze in my deck except for two (Elven Mercenary and Elven Swordmaster) would get me at least 11 points, I decided to play one more card. Reconnaissance, into...
...dead Elven Mercenary and Elven Swordmaster. On screen, you can see me roll my head from side to side as I reach the following conclusion: By playing only 10 points, I’ve given Argei a spy opportunity to get his card back.
But he doesn’t spy. You can see my confusion – does he not have the spy, meaning I should keep playing? I look at my hand, go into the tank for a while, and decide not to risk it: It’s time to get out. I pass, and am rewarded by seeing the spy immediately thereafter.
Round 3 is close, but I get down two weathers, play out my hand, get two good Mardroeme plays, and manage to pull it out by 16 points. On to the finals!
Final versus Gorflow (3-1)
NG Handbuff, ST Shupe, and MO Deathwish (SK Greatswords banned) against NR Foltest Temerians, SK Axemen, and MO Deathwish (NG Soldiers banned)
I considered banning Axemen, but think Soldiers (particularly with Mardroeme) is also a powerful tournament deck that was a bit better against my lineup.
I knew Gorflow would be a powerful opponent, as he had gone 5-1 in the Swiss and secured two 3-0 victories in the quarters and semis. As a consistent roper myself, I also appreciated the time he takes to plan out and execute his plays. Our series would definitely be slow, but played well.
Waiting for a match that would feature a lot of waiting. Also expecting Klean Kanteen to contact me for a sponsorship deal, any day now.
In Game 1 I found myself in a dilemma – with Handbuff on blue coin, he had the tools to deny my first combo target (the Nilfgaardian Knight). I thought about using Reconnaissance to try and find the second one, but that was risky. I also thought about immediately passing, but that was also quite risky since I knew his deck ran two silver mages for weather. So instead I tried to bait one of those mages out by playing Alchemist. After he used Dethmold to kill it, I felt perfectly fine losing on even: One mage was out, he had not thinned any of his Blue Stripe Commando, and he wouldn’t be able to pass on me R2 until he had completed his own thinning. I found The Guardian R2, executed the combo, and was helped significantly by the fact that he didn’t find his Sigismund Dijkstra.
In Game 2, it was a pretty standard Shupe drypass that I won comfortably. It would have been much less comfortable if he would have drawn Sigismund Dijkstra, or if I wouldn’t have drawn Swappy Horse (....ok, it's Vrihedd Officer ) to kick my spy for a huge tempo play. In this case, the draws mattered much more than the coin.
Game 3 was a bit of a mess from my end. Gorflow opted to drypass into my Dagon with Axemen. I spied him back to even, and then pushed. And pushed. And pushed some more. I found all my good cards (including Abaya), and had some idea that I could push him into a bind if I just kept pushing until he hit his resurrection units. This was not only wrong: It was pretty convincingly so. Gorflow found all three Tuirseach Axeman as well as his Derran, and had all of the answers. I allowed my Frightener to brick my Whispess: Tribute in Round 2, and then just got outpowered in Round 3. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but Axemen is an incredibly tough opponent and we were on to the next game.
Game 4 was – once again – a Dagon Deathwish mirror. I was feeling pretty good about this matchup, because my Dagon had won the mirror easily in both of the prior two rounds thanks to Abaya. There was only one problem: I didn’t find my Abaya.
I drypassed into Gorflow, and he drypassed back Round 2. I opted to take the round with Ge'els . I had calculated that there were six combinations of units I could see from Ge'els , and I was happy to see them all except for the combination of Brewess: Ritual and Mandrake, which would make my hand incredibly awkward.
Naturally, Ge'els shows me Brewess: Ritual and Mandrake. I roll my eyes, and Swim picks up on it immediately. With ten seconds left, I have to make a choice: Do I confirm choice and place the two cards at the top of my deck, or pitch the Brewess: Ritual by playing it in Round 2?
Under pressure, I make the conclusion that Brewess: Ritual would be a terrible card to have for Round 3 with no graveyard developed, and make the utterly hilarious play of using two golds for two points to take Round 2. With a terrible Mandrake draw in Round 3 that I have to mulligan, Frightener in hand, and no Abaya, I’m feeling pretty bad about my position. To make it worse, Gorflow actually held a backup D'ao to replace the one I would soon Mandrake with Whispess: Tribute, and I don’t have the backup D'ao.
But it worked, by about 12 points. How? Three reasons, I think:
- The Abaya Bluff: Gorflow holds his second weather in hand for most of Round 3. Once again, Abaya proves to be a huge card – even just the threat has an impact of saving me points as Gorflow is afraid of getting double-cleared. Gorflow had actually just seen me hold Abaya incredibly greedily in my semifinal...perhaps this played into his thinking?
- No Whispess for Gorflow: If my first D'ao gets targeted by Mandrake, I’m in a world of trouble – but Gorflow doesn’t draw it.
- Graveyard Awkwardness: With no units in graveyard at the beginning of the round, Gorflow struggles to get value on his Brewess: Ritual. I try to make things even worse by using Ozzrel to deny the first Archespore in his graveyard. It works out pretty well in the end, and he only manages to ressurect one D'ao with his Brewess.
Overall, it was quite a weekend. The experience and production from Mana Burn are just incredible, and it was a blast to get to play on stream and see the team’s preparation pay off. Here’s to Wild Hunt 3!
Well, it might fit me someday.
An actuary by day, unrepentant roper by night, and the Gwent Wild Hunt #2 LAN Champion, Kochua brings a highly quantitative and analytical approach to competitive games. He discovered Gwent in October 2017 and was an instant convert, won over by the game's complexity and depth of strategy. During 2018, he compiled several top-50 Pro Ladder finishes in addition to winning Wild Hunt #2. In 2019, Kochua took a brief detour into Magic the Gathering: Arena, earning a bid in a Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend before finally making the move to Dota Underlords. Kochua provides the team with editorial support, with a goal of making Aretuza the leading source of competitive Gwent and Underlords content. He also helps the team in its constant search for an analytical edge, and in the meantime tries some of his crazier theories out on the Underlords ladder as a Lord of White Spire.
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