Mark “Petrify” Fittipaldi has been taking the Gwent Community by storm in the past month, firstly proving himself as a top competitor by achieving the #1 position on the Global leaderboards for two weeks in a row, followed by a groundbreaking signing for the Complexity Gaming esports organization.
With esports organizations slowly creeping into Gwent’s competitive scene, many assume Petrify’s signing is a first taste for what is to come in the future, and a very brave step from a leading esports organization like Complexity to invest and support some of the insane raw talent breaking through the Gwent community.
Petrify’s signing is not solely attributed to his talent executing strategy in-game, but also to his considerable success as an entertainer and streamer on Twitch. Although controversial at times, he’s acquired a sizeable following and streams very regularly providing a mix of high level gameplay and quality entertainment for his fans to enjoy.
You’ve become a household name over the past few months in the gwent scene, but for those who don’t know you, could we get a small introduction?
I’ve been playing Gwent for about 6 or 7 months but I only recently started taking it competitively and that’s kind of when I blew up in terms of popularity. I’m from Melbourne, Australia and I’m 24 nearly 25, and I feel very old in the esports scene [laughs]. I played Starcraft competitively in Australia, and although I was never at an international level I was at a very high level nationally. I also moved onto a bit of Counter Strike after that, I never really competed as seriously but I was Global Elite and all that, so still fairly competitive. I really liked card games when I was young, and also played a lot of poker, so I guess the transition to Gwent makes sense for me. But yeah, I’ve been playing videogames competitively since I was about 8 years old, mainly just MMORPGs with my brother back then.
You already have competitive experience with other titles, how do you feel your skill-set transfers over to Gwent?
I think the strategic mindset from Starcraft applies pretty heavily to Gwent. A lot of starcraft is about reading your opponent, and making judgements even before the game, for example in what build they’re going to run in a certain map and how they’re going to adjust to your strategy, and I think Gwent also has a very heavy empathetic approach to the game. For example, you’re constantly thinking “Alright, if I’m in my opponent’s position what’s the best card to play right now, why did I play so and so, etc” . Obviously the mechanics of Starcraft don’t apply to Gwent at all[laughs], I have that sick Mulligan APM![sarcasm]. I think the tournament mindset is also something to get used, I played in many tournament in Starcraft and I don’t really get nerves anymore.
Your first big break in Gwent and subsequent growth period arrived mainly after you managed to conquer the Global ladder for several week during the end of the last patch, how was that experience?
Those two weeks were awesome actually! When I started streaming I was playing mainly Northern Realms, and this was back when they still weren’t a very good faction, and a viewer suggested I would be able to climb into the top spots if I was playing a stronger faction like monsters. I saw an Eredin Hybrid Consume list and thought it would be much better if I used Dagon, so I basically just adjusted the deck to be a Dagon deck and I kind of just shredded everyone on the ladder for the next few weeks. Gameking and me had a period of 5-6 days where we were basically overtaking each other constantly for the #1 spot, and eventually the busted Axemen deck came in, and that was really good against Gameking’s deck so he eventually fell off. My deck still performed fairly well against Axemen and so I was able to break away from everybody else and mantain the #1 slot by myself.
Moving on to more recent news, Complexity has picked you up for their Gwent team where you’ll be joining high calibre players like SuperJJ, I imagine you’re incredibly excited about this opportunity?
Complexity is a team I’ve followed since Starcraft, but since then they’ve eventually grown and are compromised of teams across many different esport titles obviously. There also seems to be a lot of shady stuff in the esport industry in general, and Complexity is a very trustworthy organization with a huge reputation so I was super excited to join them. The process started with a message from Merchant, who is also part of complexity. I had some interaction with him at the time but not too much, he simply stated he really liked the content I was doing and got me in touch with some of the heads of Complexity. I’m also a massive SuperJJ fan, and he’s one of the best Gwent players right now, so being on a team with him is also a huge plus. Our views and goals aligned very well so it was a pretty easy decision for me.
August is going to be a huge month for Gwent, with multiple events all throughout the month culminating in a $25,000 tournament at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Did you expect this much growth so soon?
I’m surprised a tournament like this to be announced so rapidly, it kind of came out of nowhere I feel. I’m not surprised Gwent is growing though, it has basically everything it needs to become a competitive esport. It’s one of those games that’s pretty simple to pick up but it has a lot to master, and I think that really increases the skill ceiling and has a lot of people sticking with the game for a long time. The fact that a huge company like CDPR is backing also guarantees a ton of growth, especially considering they seem to really be pushing for Gwent as an esport as well.
You had an arduous week on the ladder leading up to Gamescon qualifier cut-off but ended up falling just short, how much pressure did you feel throughout that last week?
When it first got announced I was super in the dumpster, I was really just expecting a patch to be announced soon and I was mainly focusing on tournaments and practicing tournament decks for new factions on ladder. So I was in a fairly bad position, I was ranked about #800 and had to climb a lot of MMR on a very short span of days. I was pretty vocal on Reddit and other mediums on my views regarding the qualification system, I think using the ladder isn’t really an ideal solution. I climbed fairly quickly at the start and got a feel for the high rank meta really quickly, I was running a monster’s deck made by eiSloth and I think I maintained a 70% winrate or so on my initial climb up to top 50. I spent a lot of time with Vishra on stream, we basically just skyped and climbed together, and ended up getting both accounts to top 20 which was really cool. At the end, the strategy I employed was to take burst of 1-3 games with a very high level of focus and then just take breaks so I wouldn’t get out of focus or tilted. My highest spot was #8 on the ladder on the last day, and I had to make a decision, either camp and hope someone would drop or couldn’t attend due to outside issues like VISA requirements, or risk it and try and get higher on the ladder.
This was when my teammate SuperJJ called me and offered to help me on the final push, and I thought I might as well risk it, especially if I have a great player on my side. There was a certain metastate the last few hours, where every player in the top 20 knew what others were playing and essentially when they were queueing as well, so people would stop queueing at certain times to dodge players who had decks that could counter their decks for example. Gameking was running a very anti-monsters list and many monster players would stop queueing if they knew he was searching for matches. I basically said that no one was really playing decks that punish dwarves, so I switched to that and had the terrible luck of running into Skellige 4 times in a row, and they have a lot of the counters that really answer well to a dwarves deck. I basically dropped 100 MMR down to #23 or so, then I switched back to Monsters and climbed back up again but it was just too little to late and I ended up at about #12 on the Global ladder, ending my Gamescom dreams.
Like many others big Gwent personalities, you’re participating in the first ever league style competition for Gwent, The Gwentlemen Invitational. How did your first round match go? What are your opinions on the format?
So the first round match we were up against CD Projekt Rekt which was really cool of course. It was originally going to be a Complexity team with Merchant, SuperJJ and me but unfortunately SuperJJ didn’t really have the time to play in a lot of the matches, so we picked up Truedawn for our team. It was actually one of the most fun series I’ve played honestly. They banned Dagon so I started off with Northern realms, reasoning behind that was that if I lost and had to play 3 games with NR surely I’d highrolll at least one time. The last game we needed to win was Merchant playing with Queensguard against Reveal Nilfgaard. It came down to a very weird Round 3, we were two cards down but still managed to come back with a really buffed Clan Dimun Pirate, and they had a few dead cards like Dimeritium Bomb. I think the format is definitely really cool, although I’m also a big fan of reverse conquest, where a player continues playing until he loses and he can essentially “kill-off” the whole enemy team by himself, which is a format that was played a lot in Starcraft. Obviously it has it’s downsides and it’s doesn't truly guarantee all team members will be able to play but it also makes games very exciting.
There are many great teams participating in The Gwentlemen Invitational, who would you rate as the best teams or maybe just your favorites?
I really like the PumpkinDownUnder teams, it’s formed by two of my Aussie boys and PumpinSh1t who is also a good friend of mine, so I really want to see them do well. I think the favorite to go on and win the whole thing is probably Club Penguin, formed by MaggoGx, VayshxD and Mysling, they have three very strong tournament players so I think they have very high chances of winning it. There’s also some really good russian teams as well, but I it might be anyone’s game really, you never know with a format like this one.
The current patch will end fairly soon, how would you review it in general? Do you believe it was healthier than the last patch?
I think this patch was pretty healthy in terms of diversity, essentially all factions have at least one really competitive deck to ladder with, except for maybe Nilfgaard. Scoia’tael has dwarves, Northern Realms have both Henselt and Foltest, Monsters has, well, a lot of decks obviously, and Skellige has Discard and also Axemen too. It wasn’t a healthy patch for the game overall I think because it simply dragged on for way too long. I think this will be the longest season we’ll ever have mainly due to scheduling stuff with Gamescon and other events, so hopefully patches cycle through more quickly in the future. You’ll see daily posts on sites like Reddit asking for a new patch and whining about the current “stale” meta, so I can imagine many people have this same sentiment. I think it was definitely the most balanced patch of this season, but still just a tad bit too long.
With big news expected at the end of the month, many players expect a patch that will once again change the meta, especailly with the addition of new cards. What changes do you hope to see?
The main change I hope to see is resilience addressed in some way, and I think that’s sort of a given at this point. We see decks like dwarves, where they essentially force the meta to go down a particular route at the top end where it becomes very rock-paper-scissors, where you either have the tech for dwarves and you win against them but lose against everything else or you simply don’t and lose against them. When I was on the Gwentlemen Talkshow I suggest making it so that resilient units would only ever transfer base strength, but that would really mess with cards like Ekkimara which is only 3 base strength. I’d also like to see the coinflip addressed in some way, especially for the mirror matchups where it has an even bigger impact than in just normal matchups. I also think spies are a bit overpowered at the moment, I think they have to be higher stats, they seem way too forgiving right now, you shouldn’t be able to play a spy in Round 3 and not really be punished for it. I’d also love to see different archtypes become a thing, I really enjoy Mulligan Scoia’tael but I definitely think it needs a few buffs.
As a competitive player how do you think the ladder vs. tournament experience matters in forming a truely well-rounded player?
In my opinion ladder play shouldn’t matter that much. To me, ladder only really shows how good a player is at playing a single deck, and you won’t ever win a tournament playing only one deck so I think it’s a bit irrelevant. I feel like to be a well-rounded player you need to compete in both. I’ve been only a ladder only player for a fairly long time but I’ve been starting to branch out the past month and a half. The players I really respect are guys like Maggo and Vaysh who win a lot of tournaments they enter and also do well on the ladder. That’s the type of player I want to be in the future as well.
You’ve recently started offering coaching lessons for Gwent, could you explain how that process works? How much do you feel a player can improve by receiving coaching lessons?
Like I said earlier, Gwent is a thing that’s really easy to pick up but very difficult to master, and there are probably very subtle or intricate details between a 4k player’s gameplay and a 4.5k player’s gameplay that really set them apart. Right now I’m coaching anyone from any skill level, if they’re new to the game I go over to the basic concepts of Gwent(Tempo, blacklisting, passing, etc) that they might not be familiar with. I then have them play a ranked game and and I view them through Skype screenshare, I have them talk through their decision making process and that helps me understand the level they are at. I think Gwent is very flowchart related in how a player should think about the game. For example, “Do I need Card Advantage” -> “Yes”. Then I should pass. “If I’m not ahead in Card Advantage, how do I get that Card Advantage”, etc. I like to see how people think through all these different concepts, for example the point differential in Round 1, will I go two cards down if I play this, etc. A lot of the focus from my students seems to be just trying to learn the game and rank up quickly before the season ends, but ultimately the goals I’m trying to instill is not so much the ranking but the thought process. I feel the coaching not only helps my students learn but it also helps me learn by examining my thought process in the same way.
We’ve talked about some great player all throughout the interview, but do you think you could give us your definitive top 10? Players you think will be picked up by esport organizations or might do very well in tournaments in the future?
I think there are a lot of very good players, and it’s maybe a bit too early to say for sure, but off the top of my head I’d consider the following in no particular order:
You’re one of the more controversial streamers and really don’t seem to mind being just a tad bit politically incorrect, what are your views on this and your streaming process in general?
It’s kind of interesting, because when I started streaming I was very small and I had the informational approach of just taking my viewers through my thought process kind of like I do when I’m coaching, and I think that was how I built up most of my viewerbase. But mostly for me streaming is about entertaining and the person I am on stream is not really comparable to the person I am offstream. Quite often I’ll overexaggerate something that happens in game, if I’m really unlucky I’ll overplay my reaction and pretend I get really tilted for example, and I think that’s ok, it’s a lot of what streaming is, entertainment. A lot of people watch my stream to learn as well, so nowadays I try to separate my streams, I’ll do a few very tryhard streams going over my plays and decision making process, and a lot of people really enjoy that, but others will find that boring as well. So I’ll try and have other days where I’ll be playing on my smurf, I might be calling chat names, I might be provoking them to meme, and people might think I’m a little politically incorrect but I don’t mind too much, it’s a card game and in the end I’m just here to have fun. I don’t want streaming to become a 9-5 job where I’m just analyzing my plays constantly, it’s about having fun and having a fun enviroment. The only issue with that is that people don’t know when to take me seriously or not, I just want my viewers to know that they shouldn’t take anything I say on stream personally, and that anything they say to me I won’t really take personally either. Of course there are things that will annoy me, like viewers that are blatantly rude or people that practice some hardcore backseat gaming, but that’s a thing that kind of comes with streaming. Off stream, my goal is to be the number one player in the world and that will never change, even if it means not streaming anymore I would sacrifice that if I needed to, I value competing much more than entertaining, absolutely. For instance in the lead up to Gamescom I wasn’t really streaming, and that’s because I was focused on ladder 100%.
You’ve been signed by a huge esport organization, you’re doing well on the ladder and have a huge amount of brand growth in the past month. What’s your view of the future? Not just only with Gwent’s growth but with your own growth?
It’s an interesting time in my life because I just finished my Masters degree in Business Information Systems and I have a graduate job in a big company lined up in February, so Gwent is taking off in the time that I have in-between that. If it comes to the point that I can “survive” off of Gwent comfortably, then I’ll have a very hard decision to make. I do think Gwent will grow to that point, where I have to make the decision if I want to quit my full time job to continue seriously streaming and playing Gwent competitively, and I don’t know what I’ll do in that situation because I’ll have to think about my really long-term future and not just the short term. I’m looking forward to that moment arriving, but I’m also really not looking forward to having to make that decision [laughs].
I know you’re very active on social media, for those few viewers who don’t already actively keep up with you and your streams, where can they find you?
My social media is pretty straightforward, you guys can find me on Twitter @PetrifySC2 where I’ll update on everything that’s going on, and my streams can be found at www.twitch.tv/petrifysc2. I’m also available for coaching as I mentioned earlier in the interview, that information can be found at GamerSensei.