Let’s start the interview with a little introduction. I know you definitely have experience with Hearthstone, but what’s your general background in competitive gaming?
I don’t really have that much experience outside of Hearthstone, but I’ve been gaming my whole life. I played many different titles throughout the years but none on a truly competitive level, only League of Legends for a bit but that also wasn’t too serious, just a few online tournaments and cups. As for card games, Hearthstone was my first experience with CCGs, unless you want to count the card game I play with my grandma [laughs].
Before we discuss current issues, let’s take a quick step back in time. Although you didn’t attend the challenger finals, you had a hand in Noxious’ wonderful performance. How was that experience for you?
It was an interesting experience for sure. I had already done some coaching in Hearthstone as well so it wasn’t totally new to me. Noxious had some experience playing Gwent but he hadn’t played for quite a while leading up to the tournament, so with the short amount of time we had I couldn’t really teach him intricate card mechanics, it was mostly just general strategy. How to play against certain match-ups, when to pass, etc.
We only really had two or three days of training, and even then we only played together for two hours each day, although we did talk a lot. We both agreed monsters was the hardest match-up, and I helped him finalize his deck lists for the tournament before the deadline as well. His performance really surprised me, I had proNEO as a top tier player, on the level of Garrunah and a few others, but he got a bit nervous and made some misplays, and Noxious’ experience really showed in the tournament.
Coaching Noxious was a very positive experience for you, do you feel legitimate coaching will exist in Gwent in the future?
I think it will depend greatly on the future of Gwent. For coaching to have a legitimate market an esports title needs to have a lot of growth. Gwent still needs to become quite a bit more popular for that market to exist, but I definitely think it will make it there and coaching will always be viable as long as there are players who think the service is worth paying for.
You managed a top 10 finish in the Closed Beta, how did those final hours play out? Do you expect a similar finish this season?
I didn’t really expect for it to end as soon as it did. There were some unofficial statements on the Discord server where the developers stated that the players would have a one month warning before the season ended, and then all of a sudden we were told it would end in five days. I had to grind a lot, the last day I lost a few games due to coin flips and bad luck and rage quit on Stream, but then I thought “You know, Closed Beta will only end once” and I logged back in and managed to climb back into the top 10 with my main account and a top 100 finish with my smurf. It was fairly hard because the players who were already in the top 10 weren’t queuing so you had to beat people much lower than you to make it in, which is always much harder due to the MMR system. I’m not sure what to expect this season, I’ll just try my best and hopefully make it back in again.
There are certainly many new names at the top of the leaderboard. Do you feel Gwent is slowly getting more and more competitive as more players join?
There are definitely a lot more players joining now that Open Beta has hit, but I think the top of the leaderboard still has very similar players. Many new players might eventually become great players, they might have potential, but I don’t think they’re ready yet, there are a lot of very intricate mechanics and concepts to learn in Gwent, and it’ll take a month or two for truly great new players to emerge on the ladder and in tournaments. If gwent continues with this growth then more and more great players will continue to appear, it’ll definitely get more competitive.
Open Beta is now over two weeks old, what are your thoughts on the general meta compared to Closed Beta? Do you feel it’s healthier overall?
In the transition from Closed Beta to Open Beta essentially everything changed, it’s a completely new game. I think it’s still very unbalanced because of this, it’s very shaky. There are certainly positive changes, there is more variety than ever at the top of the ladder and there are many viable decks, but overall I think the game is less balanced, there’s a lower skill ceiling now than in Closed Beta and there’s more RNG. One of the biggest issues for me is the coin flip, and that still wasn’t addressed in the transition, I think that’s one of the first things they should try to fix.
Many changes have been announced by CDPR in the most recent developer stream, do you feel all these changes are warranted?
I personally think they need to work a little harder on balance, particularly with the issue I mentioned earlier, the coin flip. I believe they also went a little overboard with the nerfs, especially with Skellige. Also there were buffs to Monsters, which I already thought was the best deck, so it will be even more dominant after the patch hits. Another developer stream was announced for later tonight, so we’ll have to see if they undo some of the original nerfs.
You’ve become one of Gwent’s most popular streamers in the past few months. How do you deal with entertaining your viewers while also playing at an optimal level?
It’s actually quite hard to stream and play a competitive game at the same time. When I started streaming, originally as League of Legends streamer and then Hearthstone, I always made sure to interact with chat as much as possible. There are many streamers who don’t really interact with chat too much, for example Kolento in the Hearthstone scene, and Lifecoach is kind of similar where he only reads chat between games and not during them. I prefer streaming over competition, chat interaction is by far the best part so I always try to pay as much attention as possible to chat, and ideally not make many misplays [laughs].
At the exponential rate at which Gwent is growing, do you plan on becoming a full-time Gwent streamer in the future?
I would certainly love to become a full-time streamer, I really enjoy doing this. It will mostly depend on the growth Gwent has in the coming months and how I grow with it. To become a full-time streamer I’d need to overcome a certain economic threshold, otherwise I don’t believe it would be a viable full time profession for me. I guess only time will tell, although I would definitely love the opportunity.
If you had to choose between the two, would you rather be a full time entertainer, focusing on Twitch, or a full time competitive player, attending tournaments and competing online?
Streaming and being an entertainer is what I enjoy the most, it would be hard to pick one over the other. If I absolutely had to, I would probably go with being an entertainer, although it would be very hard. I love competing and winning on the ladder and in tournaments, I wouldn’t really want to give one up to dedicate myself to the other though.
You recently joined the Fade 2 Karma team, how has that partnership been for you? What are the benefits of joining a professional gaming organization?
Joining a professional gaming organization really only has positives to be honest. I had spoken through twitter a few times with Theude, the F2K Manager, but we weren’t really friends. He had wanted to add me to their teams when I was still streaming Hearthstone, but I was a Czech streamer at the time so it wouldn’t have worked out. Fade 2 Karma was aware of the potential that Gwent had so they decided to sign me to their team, and honestly I feel very comfortable here and there’s a great atmosphere. Esports in general can be very shady business, and at F2K I feel everything is very transparent, I value honesty a lot. I can be known to be somewhat aggresive at times, so I’m kind of the opposite of most members of the F2K team, there’s a very relaxed atmosphere in the team. There are also a lot of positives, a ton of support on Twitch from all of the streamers, we get to travel to an offline event every year, we get some peripherals from our Sponsors as well, it’s great to be honest.
You’re not the only streamer to join Fade 2 Karma, and other influential organizations like Complexity and Evil Geniuses have also started to make their move on Gwent. How long do you think it will take for Gwent to really take off in the esports scene?
I think it will depend mostly on CDPR, but considering the direction they seem to be moving in right now I don’t think it’ll take too long. I’d say Gwent and the competitive scene will really bloom with the end of Open Beta. I expect CDPR to host a league or circuit similar to many other esport titles, and with these changes many more organizations will want to join and invest in the future of Gwent, it’s already becoming very popular and it’ll only really grow with time.
You have a ton of experience playing against some of the best gwent players in the world, who would you consider to be your Gwent top 5 taking into account online tournaments and the closed beta season?
It’s hard to say the absolute best players right now. I think I would definitely have to include Garrunah, he dominated the top of the ladder in Closed beta. I also think Cief, the russian player is very skilled as well. I would also consider including adsf, he has been dominating the Open Beta, and has managed to stay #1 for quite some time, and he’s been changing his deck daily so the high ladder players can’t really tech against him and I think that shows he’s a fairly good player. I’m not too sure on the remaining spots, but those three are definitely up there for me.
Finally, I’m sure many of our curious readers would want to watch your streams and maybe even catch a glimpse of your famous bird, who supplies quite a healthy dose of extra entertainment on your stream. Where can we find you?
I stream very regularly, you can find me at https://www.twitch.tv/jjpasak . I normally start streaming around 12:00, but I’ll be changing my schedule and will stream from 16:00 CET to around 22:00 CET. You can also find me on twitter at https://twitter.com/f2k_jjpasak . You can also find my organization at http://www.fade2karma.com/ , where you’ll receive updates on the major events going on within Fade 2 Karma.