Beating the Pro Ladder

The second season of Gwent's Pro Ladder kicked off at the start of this month and the race is upon us once again. In this guide, I will try to explain the Pro Ladder and give some tips based on my experience in Season 1 for newcomers to the Pro Ladder, players who want to improve their previous performance and players that would like to know what Pro Ladder is all about.

Brief Info on Pro Ladder

There are more than 10,000 players that have access to Pro Ladder whereas the number of active players (players with 400+ matches at the end of the season) is much less (around 1000). Every season, the bottom 10% of the Pro Ladder among players who have at least 10 matches loses access to Pro Ladder unless they achieved rank 21 on the normal ladder. Top 200 players are awarded Crown Points and the top 8 is invited to the Gwent Open following the Pro Ladder season. You can check out the official website masters.gwent.com for more detailed information.

The Reason to Play on Pro Ladder

For the players who are not pursuing a truly professional career in Gwent, but have a competitive spirit and want to get better, Pro Ladder is the place to be. The majority of the players are highly skilled and pilot optimized (or close to optimized) lists. Playing against the top players and even getting outplayed by them is highly educational and very important to be able to improve in the game. Therefore, it is an absolutely rewarding competitive experience, even if you don’t aim for the top spots. In addition, the experience you gain by playing against the best is invaluable if you would like to compete in tournaments or earn invitations (for example to Gwent Slam).

In addition, as we have experienced this season, top 200 players are invited to participate in the Gwent Challenger Qualifiers that awards invitations to Gwent Challenger to the finalists. Even though it is not certain that it will continue this way, there would be opportunities in the future to earn invitations to various of tournaments.

The Metagame

Compared to the normal ladder, Pro Ladder has a much more diverse meta-game in terms of factions since players have to play at least 4 different factions to climb on the ladder. This leads to a situation where in 100 matches you play against almost every single faction.

Interestingly enough, the actual deck list diversity is the least that I have experienced in any card game so far. Especially if you are keeping an eye on the meta-game by following GwentDB and/or popular streamers, you can immediately recognize what your opponent is playing almost card by card. The reason for this is, most of the players don’t want to risk losing by playing sub optimized lists on the Pro Ladder as well as the currently still small card pool.

Number of Matches and Time Investment

For the top spots, during the first season the minimum number of matches was around 1200 but in this case these matches are distributed among 5 factions to maximize the total mmr. Especially for the top spots, the more is always the better so keep in mind that it will take a lot of time to run for the top spots over the course of a two month period.

On the other hand, there were many strong finishes in the top 200 of season 1 with under 800 matches so it is possible to compete with less matches than the top players. Playing 10 matches per day over the course of two months is enough to compete for the top 200, so even for the players with time limitations due to work and/or school, it is possible to achieve a solid record on the Pro Ladder.

11 Points to Keep in Mind

  • Don’t try to make it work on the Pro Ladder
    Unless you are certain that the new deck that you built will change the meta, it is a waste of time to test out decks on the Pro Ladder since losses will cause you to lose points and you have to win more later to recover. Keep in mind that, Pro Ladder players are generally better compared to mid-rank normal ladder players so that they can identify your strategy earlier to adapt their plays.

  • Don’t hesitate to “netdeck”
    This is not an encouragement to netdeck or a discouragement to homebrew, but in a similar way to point 1, I advise to play already optimized lists on the Pro Ladder. Letting the community to brew strong decks is a good idea to save some time to focus more on playing better.

  • If a faction is in a weak spot, leave it there
    Especially in the first month of the season, if a faction is seriously weak, it is a good idea to not to touch it until the mid-season patch. In season 1, Skellige was very weak, but after the mid-season patch (Restore change), the faction got a Tier 1 deck which performed very well in the hands of top players (Adzikov, top finisher of the Pro Ladder, had 0 matches with Skellige before the patch).

  • Complete 100 matches with a faction before moving to other factions
    This way you can learn the deck and its match-ups much better and achieve higher fmmr. In addition, this is a good way to manage your collection efficiently as well, by accumulating scraps through daily rewards for the next deck.

  • Complete at least the two strongest factions in the first month
    In the first month of season 1, Armor Northern Realms decks were very powerful, but they got nerfed to the ground with the mid-season patch. Therefore, if there are decks that are obviously in good shape in the meta, they should be played first to avoid losing potential due to mid-season nerfs. (Additional hint: play NG spies this month)

  • If you under performed with a faction leave it to return later
    Even if after you complete 100 matches with a faction with an unsatisfactory fmmr, it is time to move on. In other words, playing a deck for hundreds of matches the same way and expect a different outcome is not a good strategy for a competition with 4 factions.

  • Keep an eye on the meta and the new decks
    Having an idea of what is going on in the meta is beneficial to make necessary adjustments on your deck such as running weather clears. Knowing the general trends in the meta would prevent auto-losses to specific cards/strategies and improve your overall mmr.

  • Quickly respond to new decks, if possible
    Another benefit to complete the factions quickly is to have time to build and play new meta breaker decks. In season 1, it took some time for Scoia’tael to emerge with powerful decks such as Spell ST and after they became public, it took some more time for the players to figure out how to beat these decks. In the period between, the decks would perform better due to the surprise factor and opponents not knowing how to counter it.

  • Return to under performed factions first to tap the potential fmmr quickly
    Since you gain more points for a win when you have a low mmr, it is quicker to improve a faction with 1250 fmmr than one with 1350 fmmr. Improving underperformed factions would boost your morale as well which is very useful for a marathon of two months.

  • Don’t get intimidated by top players. On the contrary, get motivated to beat them
    Keeping yourself focused during matches is an important skill to have in competitive card games. Keep in mind that, if you play perfectly, there is no one that you cannot beat regardless of the name of your opponent. In addition, Pro Ladder gives an excellent opportunity to play against the best players, which occurs very frequently, so use this to your advantage to get motivated to beat the best.

  • Pro Ladder is a commitment, but not your life
    To succeed and improve on the Pro Ladder takes a lot of time and dedication, however, it is totally okay if things are not going your way. Competitive card games are long term games that rewards consistency, therefore it is better to be in a long term mindset, rather than rushing for short term successes. If you are not a top player already, play Pro Ladder to improve not to just to win.

Conclusion

In this article, I tried to give some tips for the players that are new to the Pro Ladder as well as players seeking to improve their performance in Season 1. The points that I have mentioned are not laws, of course, but they are a starting point to give some idea regarding a two months competition.

Aside from the players that seek a professional career in Gwent, Pro Ladder is the perfect place to improve in a competitive manner by playing against the best players piloting a variety of decks. Success may not be immediate but it is a worthy investment of time to enjoy high level playing experience for many players.

Let me know what you think and your experience regarding the Season 1 of the Pro Ladder. Good luck in Season 2!

About the author

Slothland

Slothland started his 15-year adventure of magic the gathering at the age of 12, winning 3 national championship titles along with many Pro Tour appearances. After a brief Hearthstone experience, started to play Gwent in July 2017 and finished in the top 200 in the Season 1 of the Pro Ladder. Follow Slothland on Twitter @slothlandgames.
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