Every month the Gwentlemen host a community tournament open to anyone who wants to play, which is a great way to get your feet wet if you're looking to join the Gwent competitive scene and get some tournament experience.
That's exactly what Igor "Slovenatz" Viskovic did, who fought through the 7 rounds of Swiss and the top 16 single-elimination bracket to become the winner of August's Gwentlemen's Open!
First of all, could you introduce yourself? We’d love to know more about your background.
My name is Igor, I come from Serbia which might not make much sense considering my name literally means “Slovenian” in their language, it’s just a silly nickname my friends from Serbia know me by. I’m 25, currently living in Germany and I have a background in computer science and economics.
I don’t really have much experience in competitive gaming, mostly jumped around single player games, although I suppose the one exception would be Dota, but I never really took that very seriously, my MMR peak was only around the high 4k's. I actually have no card game experience whatsoever, for the most part I strayed clear of card games. I got into Gwent after some friends convinced me and told me to give it a go, honestly I was afraid of getting into similar games because I had the feeling that quite a few friends were playing Hearthstone so much because they had a sunk cost associated it with it, you invest so much time to get a large card collection and then the game kind of pulls you into a vicious cycle where you need to play more and more. For a long time I felt a lot of my friends weren’t having too much fun, and I was scared that would happen to me in games with a similar card collection model. They ended up convincing me to give it a go and I’m glad they did because I really enjoyed it, so much so that I actually became very interested in the Witcher world and I started reading up on the lore as well. I’m really quite happy playing Gwent and I’ll definitely keep playing for the foreseeable future.
Considering the current meta, how did you decide what decks to bring to the tournament?
I knew what the most popular decks were, the meta has been around for a very long time now so it’s kind of well-known...you have your Dagon variations, your Discard SK, Henselt Reaver Hunters, Dwarves, etc. I assumed everybody would be trying their best to counter the most powerful deck, which I believe is Dagon, so I figured they would be doing that by running the Maggoking variation, which is incredibly powerful in the mirror. I felt my best chance at beating the Maggoking variation was by running Dwarves, and I believe I could pull out ahead regardless, even with a heavily tech’d Dagon deck with cards like Bekker’s Twisted Mirror or Fiend that might put the matchup at 50/50. It was a bit risky because I assumed, correctly after my Day 1 experience, that most players would bring Discard SK as their second deck, and Dwarves really do struggle again Skellige if they manage to draw their key Round 1 units like Coral, Donar or Lugos. I imagined most players would open up with Dagon though, so I was still fairly confident in picking Dwarves and assumed that it would also shock players just a little bit as I really don’t think it’s a deck many players would bring to a tournament setting.
Afterwards, I opted for a Dagon variation deck with cards like Fiend and Bekker’s Twisted Mirror, similar to a list Petrify and Vishra have played a lot in the past. I ended up doing quite well in the Dagon Mirrors, it was especially useful because I knew if I won my first game with Dwarves I could then heavily tech my Dagon tech for certain matchups because it has so many different variations and a ton of flexibility. I think Monsters in particular have a lot of ways to deal with pretty much every popular deck. I didn’t really prepare much more than those two decks because I honestly didn’t have any expectations that I’d make it to day two of the tournament. I saw quite a few players that I was familiar with like Petrify, Freddy, Panda, Maggo, Swim and even winners of previous TGO’s like Vaysh or Vishra and I thought “Well, I have a chance to play against some great players and try out various decks and have some fun, so hey, why not?”.
How did you find the tournament format in general?
I was happy with the format for day one, I like the fact that you could lose with a leader in game one and then use it again to win a potential game three, and I think the fact that we didn’t have to use fixed decklists also allows for a lot of flexibility in making different variations and tech choices. I especially liked the tournament format for day two, I think a strike format changes the tournament meta quite a bit, for example the fact I could ban the Dagon mirror every time was crucial for me in day two. It allowed me to not worry about the Dagon mirror at all and the possible variations or tech choices I would have to run to win a game. I think a lot of players were taking advantage of the format as well, for example I know Petrify and a few others ended up adding a Mardroeme for example in their Dagon decks. In general it was a new experience for me, I haven’t played in any tournaments at all actually so the strike format was obviously new to me, I really enjoyed it though. I’m a bit sad CDPR decided to go with the conquest format for their official tournaments because I really liked strike, but hey, that might be a little biased because I ended up doing so well with the Strike format in day two.
Swiss format is always very taxing for tournament players, resulting in a long Day 1? How did that go for you? What seed did you end up with?
I think I was quite well prepared for a long tournament to be honest. I wasn’t under a lot of stress and had slept quite well, obviously had all my basic needs covered like food and water so I was good to go[laughs]. By the time it was over I was quite tired though, I think during my last series I was playing a bit on autopilot, I knew that regardless of the result I’d be qualifying for day two so I made quite a few misplays, I lined up a lot of units for scorch, wasn’t playing enough tempo in some turns to stay ahead, etc. I ended up getting 2-0’d, it was honestly a stomp and I was absolutely exhausted. If I had another game after that one I was sure I’d lose it as well. It’s quite hard to stay focused with such a long day one, instead of relaxing after I finished a match I was always just trying to find out if I knew anything about my next opponent, what decks they might play, any advantage I could get really. I imagine it must have been especially hard for players that were in different timezones, like Australia or Asia even. It’s certainly demanding, I honestly didn’t expect it to be as physically draining or as taxing as it ended up being. I think my most interesting series was against Petrify, we ended up drawing game 3 which was pretty memorable as well. I tried to be a bit cheeky when I played against him and decided to play a hyperthin Scoia’tael variant instead of Dwarves, because I imagined he’d be running an unchanged SK discard deck, and I knew if he drew cards like Lugos or Coral in Round 1 it was basically game over. I ended up losing the series, I think mainly because I wasn’t all that familiar with the hyperthin Scoia’tael variant and I think I made a few misplays that cost me the series in game three.
Going into the single elimination tournament, was there any player you were especially wary of in the top 16?
Honestly, I was especially worried about every player because I just assumed they were all better than me[laughs]. I was unfamiliar with my opponent in round one of the single elimination bracket, but I honestly thought I would be the underdog in every matchup so I just thought to myself “You know, just have fun and see how well you can do”. I wasn’t really worried about one particular player, I was just worried in general. There were still big names in day two like Petrify, Maggo, Swim or Vaysh so I had very tough opposition.
What are your thoughts on the strike format used during the single elimination bracket? How did you go about deciding what decks to bring and how to handle bans and matchups?
It was a very interesting experience for me. I’ve never really played the conquest format so I can’t compare the two, but I really enjoyed how the strike format allows you to deckbuild quite differently thanks to it's unique banning phase. You know the heavy counters to most of your decks so you can kind of play around them. I’m not sure how other players prepared, but I knew for example that my Dwarves were very weak again the Mill variant, but I just assumed players wouldn’t run it given that it just doesn’t do that well against most of the popular decks. Once you discard the bamboozle factor, that deck can be 2-0’d quite easily so I just thought even if I had a really bad matchup it’s just a risk I had to take, because I still felt it was a fairly low risk regardless. When I was choosing my third deck I wasn’t too sure what to bring to day two. I dislike Henselt Reaver Hunters, I’m not a big fan of the fact you can get extremely bad hands in round one and I feel I’m generally very unlucky when playing it so I chose to bring Skellige Discard instead. I think it’s a really strong and consistent deck, but I really had no idea how to play it as I hadn’t tried it out in ladder. I only had a few hours the morning before day two started to practice, but I decided I’d rather watch some streams instead of actually grinding the ladder as I would probably learn it quicker that way. I watched mainly Petrify’s VODs as I knew he was climbing on his smurf at that time with Skellige Discard and I knew he was a strong player so I thought it would be my best chance at learning the deck quickly. It really helped me in understanding the different sequencing to use depending on the matchup. Players always spend a lot of time thinking how to play their decks in a certain matchup but I think it’s also important to get into your opponent’s shoes and understand how they play against your deck and what their gameplay decisions will be. In the end I felt going with two very powerful decks, Dagon and Skellige Discard, and then filling the last slot with my personal favorite deck, Dwarves, would give me my best chance at trying to advance as far as possible during day two.
|Slovenatz TGO August Top 8 Monsters|
|Slovenatz TGO August Top 8 Scoia'tael|
|Slovenatz TGO August Top 8 Skellige|
Once you made it to top 4, do you think your mental state changed at all? Considering your games would be showcased to the community, were you more nervous?
I didn’t have time to be nervous[laughs]. I honestly was in a bit of a rush all throughout day two, as I wasn’t really prepared to record my matches because I didn’t expect to advance to the semifinals, I had no recording software on my PC at all. I had one of the longest series in day two as well, thankfully the admins were great and really helped me in setting up my recording software quickly so I was ready to go for the semifinals in as little time as possible as I had already delayed the tournament quite a bit due to my long series. I really only had time to get some water and start playing, which I think was actually quite good for me[laughs]. Instead of thinking “Oh no, I’m playing against Maggo next he’s going to destroy me”, it was more of a “I just need to get ready and get into the series as quickly as possible” so that ended up working out in my favor as it didn’t give me a chance to be nervous. After I won game one in the semifinals I started feeling much more confident and it ended up working out quite well in the end, so luckily I didn’t get too nervous although I definitely had reason to [laughs].
You had a very clean 3-0 sweep in the final match of the tournament, could you talk us through the match? Was that an expected result for you?
I assumed whoever would be coming in to the final match would be really good, and Asahida definitely deserved his spot in the final since he beat a lot of very strong players to get there. I knew it was going to be close, I had to really take my time if I wanted to win. I knew there would be very little difference in our matchup in terms of skill, so I had to rely on being more focused. I did end up winning 3-0, but I think all the games were very close and the final score could definitely be a little bit misleading. I got quite lucky as well with the RNG Donar pulls, since I stole an Archgriffin in one game and a Reaver Hunter in another, so I guess I also had some luck on my side. It was a really interesting series overall, I think our best game was my Monsters deck against his Northern Realms deck, it was very close, my plan was to bleed him of all his resources so I didn’t end up going into topdeck mode in round three and it worked out in the end. I think we were both playing at 100% and it was a great series overall, I was a bit luckier overall with coinflips too, and I think the series could have finally been a bit closer than it ended up being.
Looking back, what was your mentality going into the tournament? What was your goal finish? Did you consider the chance you’d end up winning it all?
I definitely didn’t consider the chance I’d end up winning, no[laughs]. I just wanted to experience the tournament scene for the first time, see what it was like basically. A lot of my Hearthstone friends constantly told me how fun tournaments were and how different it was to ladder, they told me I had to give it a shot. I essentially expected to run into a few of the top players, play a few great games and bow out sometime in day one, with a very slight hope I’d somehow make it to day two. It was just supposed to be a fun tournament, and even if I would have lost I think that would have been accomplished anyway because it was a really great experience overall, and the fact I managed to go on and win it was just a huge bonus for me.
I’m sure many of our readers would love to follow your future competitive endeavours, where can they find you?
I don’t really have much of a presence online at the moment, I really have never considered streaming Gwent at all to be honest. I do want to thank my girlfriend for her support throughout the very long tournament, it was a great help. Also I want to give a big shoutout to PetrifySC2 and aThingOrTwo, they’re both streamers who helped me prepare my Skellige Discard deck in a hurry for day two thanks to their informative videos on their twitch channels. And of course, a big thanks to the Gwentlemen and the admins that ran such a fantastic tournament, as well as GamerSensei for sponsoring the event.
As the name suggests, The Gwentlemen's Open is open to everyone! If you're interested in participating in next month's tournament, and have a chance at having your games casted by players like Swim, Vishra and McBeard keep an out for the exact date announcement over at @gwentlemen on Twitter!