Team Aretuza caught up with Andrzej “Adzikov” Bal, one of the most prominent competitive players in GWENT’s short history, following up on his appearance at GWENT Challenger #3. We asked Adzikov for his thoughts on Challenger, and he was willing to share insights on his preparation, deck and card choices, and key moments from his matches. Join us as we share the journey of a competitive GWENT player deep into the salt mines of Wieliczka…

Introduction

Hello Adzikov, every Pro Ladder player knows you as one of the most accomplished players in GWENT. You have been a well-known face throughout official GWENT tournaments and most recently, you competed in the semi-finals of the third GWENT Challenger. However, could you give us a short introduction for those who do not know you as well? 

Hello, my name is Andrzej, and I am 27 years old. I think my favorite faction is Scoia'tael… but only when it’s not the most-played faction in the meta. My favorite card is Ciri:Dash, but unfortunately it’s not playable currently. Sometimes even now, I try to build a deck based on her. 

My first contact with GWENT was in Closed Beta, but I didn't have that much time, so I only played 10 hours and left with the thought that I would come back in Open Beta. With the start of Open Beta I started playing again: I enjoyed GWENT and I played a lot. I always finished high on the ranked ladder, but then I decided to make a break before Pro Ladder launch. I didn't really have any expectations about getting anything from Pro Ladder, but it went satisfactorily in the end (interviewer’s note: Adzikov finished first on the Season 1 Pro Ladder). Besides GWENT I also played some Hearthstone, and even faced GameKing once in a Hearthstone tournament. I played some Guild Wars and World of Warcraft too.

 

GWENT Challenger #3 - Preparation

First of all, could you give us some insight into your preparation for the recent Challenger tournament? In previous interviews for GWENT Masters you mentioned that in your first tournaments your preparation was not extensive, has anything changed prior to Challenger #3? 

I didn’t really prepare for previous tournaments. For this tournament, at the beginning I was thinking about targeting Greatswords or Consume, but I eventually came to the conclusion that this wasn’t a good idea. In the end, for this Challenger I played only a few games with friends to prepare. I have a habit that I always overthink something: Sometimes I think that I’ve found something really smart and strong, but then my winrate starts to fall down anyway. I decided just to play some games to not lose touch with my lineup.

 

Did you prepare with a competitive group/team or with any individual players for Challenger #3?

I usually prepare alone, but sometimes I might ask any friend online if we could play a few games because I need to test things. But it’s not something that I would really officially call “preparing” like you have asked.

 

What do you think was the most vital part of your preparation? (For instance, red/blue coin strategizing, soft or hard targeting of certain decks, practicing certain matchups.) 

I think the most important thing in preparing for a tournament is to choose a good lineup. I believe that in GWENT it’s more important to bring a lineup that you are comfortable with than to target any particular deck of the opponent.

 

In general, are you satisfied with your preparation for Challenger #3, or will you try to change it up for the next events?

I think that my Alchemy deck wasn't that good in the end, and I would like to change some cards there. I would also like to consider preparing more for upcoming tournaments.

 

GWENT Challenger #3 – Decklist Insight

One of the outcomes of good preparation is a strong set of decklists. You mentioned Alchemy above, so let’s talk about your deck choices. Your final decks for Challenger #3 were: 

1) MO Dagon Deathwish (with Ciri Nova)

2) NG Calveit Alchemy

2) SK Bran Cursed/Boats

4) ST Brouver “Coin Abuse” Mulligan (with Ciri Nova)

Why did you pick Dagon instead of an increasingly popular choice, Consume? Also, Morvudd is a bit of an unusual card choice – why did you decide to include it in your Dagon list?

I feel comfortable with Dagon more than with Consume. I also didn't want to meet someone who targeted Greatswords or Consume. I chose Morvudd as the last silver because I didn't really have a better idea for that spot. I looked on Octopuses' decks that he played to win several GWENT Arena online tournaments. He played Morvudd in Dagon, and I decided to take his list without any changes and check if it’s strong. Morvudd worked pretty well on the ladder, so I decided to take this to Challenger.

 

Why did you choose to play Calveit Alchemy as your fourth deck and not Emhyr Handbuff or Spies? I also noticed you ran Mardroeme over Swallow, what was your reason for that?

I didn't see any other option, really: I think Handbuff or Spies are too weak in comparison to Alchemy. I actually can't really remember why I decided to take Mardroeme over Swallow, now I think it wasn't the greatest choice.

 

Why Bran Boats instead of the deck that is considered by some the strongest SK deck, Greatswords? And why did you choose to run Muzzle instead of Geralt:Igni?

Again, I was more comfortable playing against Greatswords than with Greatswords. I was still a little bit afraid of Greatswords, so I thought that Muzzle would be way better than Igni if the opponent has no counter-Muzzle. Because of that, I played this deck mostly with Muzzle as the last gold card. In the end I regretted it: I think I should have taken Igni over Muzzle.

 

Brouver Nova turned out to be a pretty popular deck for this tournament. In your list, why did you choose Saskia as the 4th gold card?

I knew that I wouldn't ban Scoia'tael and that Saskia would be the best gold in the Brouver mirror matchup: additionally, I knew I would ban either Greatswords or Consume. Finally, my lineup started to look like a soft target or counter to Alchemy, and I feel that Saskia is better than Schirru or Igni in that match-up.

 

What deck from your lineup did you expect to see banned often and why?

Before the tournament I didn't really think much about that. I thought that my lineup is safe and very hard to counter. On the first day I was expecting kolemoen to ban Bran, and was quite surprised that he banned Alchemy.

 

What deck were you looking to ban and why?

I wanted to ban Consume or Greatswords. Both these decks were strong against my lineup and my card selections (for example, Saskia in Scoia'tael).

 

Are you satisfied with your lineup or would you change anything if you could?

If I had to do it over again, I would like to change some cards in Alchemy and swap Muzzle for Igni in my Bran deck. But despite these changes, I wouldn't change any of the decks in my lineup. I felt that it's strong.

 

GWENT Challenger #3 – Opponents and Matches

Your first opponent in quarterfinals was a member of Team TopDeck, kolemoen. You managed to achieve a very impressive score: you won 3 matches in a row to achieve a decisive 3:0 victory for yourself. In your GWENT Challenger interviews you mentioned that you are not scared of kolemoen’s decks but of his skills. Looking back, how did you feel about your first opponent and the result? 

We were informed on Friday who we would play against on the first day. When I saw that I would be playing against kolemoen, I thought that he's not the easiest possible opponent…but we were also informed about our opponent’s leaders and I thought my lineup looked better than kolemoen's. Because I felt that my lineup was better, I expected that I would be able to win.

 

Why did you think that your lineup was better than kolemoen’s?

I didn't really understand why he chose Emhyr but in the end I didn't even see him playing it.

 

Was there any moment in your first series that you felt was crucial to the final result?

When I played my Skellige versus kolemoen’s Scoia'tael, I think the crucial moment was when Harald's first skull buffed his other skull on my side, so I wasn't able to instantly kill it with Longship. I believe that without this I would be able to go into round 3 on even cards instead of one card down. I felt like it probably would lose me the game: in round 3 I expected him to have Ciri:Nova as a last card… but he had Ida and it wasn't enough. After that moment, I felt that I'll now just simply win the series.

 

Your second opponent in day 2 quarterfinals was previous Challenger champion and member of Complexity Gaming, Freddybabes. Your game vs Freddy was the most watched game of Challenger #3, peaking with 74,850 viewers! In the end, you unfortunately fell short and at the end of the nerve-wrecking series you were defeated 2:3. How did you feel about your second opponent and the result in the end? Would you say that your match versus Freddy was one of the best representations as to what competitive GWENT can offer?

Again, I felt that my lineup was better than my opponent's. About the result: 2:3 is a really close one, so I felt deficiency but also satisfaction. But it wasn't that I was discontent, especially because we have a good relationship. It's easier to lose against a friend, so it didn't feel that bad. But of course hunger remained.

I wouldn't say that our games are the best representation of what competitive GWENT can offer … I actually think we misplayed a lot. It was probably fun to watch, but I think there were better series when it comes to an exhibition of skills.

 

In terms of lineup, why did you feel like yours was better than Freddy‘s?

Yes, I felt really comfortable: He didn't bring a greedy Consume deck (interviewer’s note: Freddybabes brought a tempo-focused Consume with Harpies and Arachas Drones), so I wasn't forced with banning any certain leader.

 

Was there any moment in your series against Freddy that you felt was crucial to the final result?

I think losing against Freddy's Consume was really significant. I also made a mistake by not pushing Freddy out of round 1 in the very last game with my Alchemy against his Henselt, even if I'd lose a card there.

 

How did you feel about the lineups of other Challenger participants? Was there one you really liked or disliked?

To be honest, I liked my lineup the most. I know it might sound weird, but I was really content about my lineup. It's also hard to say anything about kolemoen's or Cameron's (I_aPOROgise’s) lineup because we didn't see their Nilfgaard decks. 

I don't really understand SuperJJ's lineup: I can't understand targeting Greatswords with Consume, even though he does play Caretaker. I think that’s not good enough because Greatswords will always go for a 2:0 and make the Caretaker useless.

 

GWENT Challenger #3 – Mental Preparation and Emotions

When it comes to talks about competitive GWENT, people usually focus on the decks and game results, and the psychological aspect of professional gaming can tend to be overlooked. How did you, as a veteran GWENT player and seasoned tournament player, feel about the venue, and playing dozens of feet below ground at such an important event?

I am from Krakow, so the Wieliczka salt mine is really close to my town. I was there a few times in the past so it wasn't really a big deal for me. Of course it was great to play in the mine, but for me it didn't really matter that I was playing underground.

 

In previous tournaments you have shown that LAN events put a good amount of pressure on you, however, lately you seem more comfortable in your games. How would you describe your mental state before and during your games in Challenger #3?

My first tournaments in GWENT were a real tragedy. In the middle of the games I had thoughts that I would lose, and then I couldn't focus on the game. It remained like this until after Challenger #2 when I lost 0:3 to kolemoen. Then I realized that this is a big problem: I had known before that it's not good, but I had just ignored it. After Challenger #2 everything changed. Now I focus on every game during events. I just sit and there's only GWENT that matters. I think that's experience I got by playing that many tournaments.

 

Do you have any sort of special ritual/mental preparation before these events and last one in particular? 

No, I don't really do anything special.

 

Was it easier for you to compete in an event that was so close to your home?

It's always nice when it's this close to your home. But again, when I play tournaments all that matters now is GWENT.

 

GWENT Challenger #3 – Venue and the Previous Challenger

You also attended the previous GWENT Challenger #2 in Moszna Castle, under the protective wings of Emperor Emhyr. How would you compare the location of the previous Challenger to the most recent one?

In Moszna we had the whole castle to ourselves: it was really huge and it was all ours. Wieliczka had a lot of other tourists, so it felt less impressive from the player's perspective: but I think from viewer's perspective it was probably quite the same. The quality of tournaments organized by CDPR is really high. It feels like they really care about players.

 

Is there anything specific that you really enjoyed about the venue this time?

Not really. It was like all other events. I already knew most of the players, so for me it felt like a meeting with friends.

 

Was there anything that you think could be improved about your experience in the most recent Challenger?

Well, I could win, that's for sure. But other than the result I think everything else was perfect. Overall I am really happy about the result, but there's always hunger when you don't win.

 

Thank you very much for the interview Adzikov! We hope you will continue to be a staple on Pro Ladder and in official GWENT tournaments. For any readers hoping to connect with Adzikov, you can find him on Twitter (@Adzikov91), or on the Team Aretuza Discord server, where he is an active member.