This weekend saw CD Projekt Red host their second Gwent Open. The bronze tier tournament, which is part of their Gwent Masters series, saw eight of the game’s best players compete for a share of the $25,000 prize pool. European players such as SuperJJ and GameKing returned to the battlefield while some Chinese players like OMHannachann and Irohabit set out to prove themselves. And in addition to Merchant, MegaMogwai and Mcbeard, we saw ImpetuousPanda make his casting debut.
The first Gwent Open was held at Gamescom in Germany earlier this year, inviting the top eight ladder players to compete, while the developers streamed the games from their Warsaw headquarters. This time, however, CDPR wanted a more hands on approach with the players and were hosting the entire thing in their Warsaw studios, complete with a Witcher themed tavern filled with cosplayers and the community manager’s infamous leaks.
The coin of destiny
Not afraid to address the elephant in the room, we also saw CDPR introduce their first solution to the coinflip controversy that has haunted their game since release. Players who act second (thus “winning” the flip”) will always be a card up on their opponent and can pile on excessive pressure early on to force them to avoid falling two cards behind. Therefore, to prevent players from winning or losing multiple coinflips, all CDPR licensed tournaments will utilise a predetermined coin, where both players will revolve between first and second as the conquest format progresses.
Commenting on this decision, the community manager Pawel Burza said: “For the tournament environment we wanted to control the turn order within the series of games and players really liked the idea.”
The meme dream
Day One kicked off with Gwentslam #1 champion Freddiebabes taking on the number one ladder player Adzikov for not the first time; the two had faced off twice before with Freddie triumphant on both occasions. For the first couple of games, things were looking good for Adzikov, as Freddiebabes was unable to hit home with his meme-heavy Northern Realms deck, which saw fan favourite Lambert make an appearance.
Fortunately for Freddie, with a little help from an avalanche of BlessRNG’s in the chat, he was able to make a comeback and deny Adzikov his revenge.
JJ’s “4 million IQ” play
Fan favourite SuperJJ took on Gwentslam #2 champion GameKing in what could arguably be described as the spiciest set of games the Gwent community has ever seen. In a tense final round that even Geralt himself would have to utilise his witcher senses for, SuperJJ was able to set up the play of a lifetime, where he GAVE his opponent points with a perfectly timed Keira Metz into a thunderbolt potion to line up a game winning quadruple Scorch. Not only did this bamboozle the casters and chat but it also earned SuperJJ his place in both the day two semi-finals and Gwent history as the man with the 4 Million IQ.
Sadly for SuperJJ, his luck run out against Freddiebabes, who bagged the victory and advanced to the final to face Tailbot, the Polish ladder player who was the only competitor to 3-0 his opponent on day one.
England vs Poland – not satire
Many fans of Team Gwentlemen were rooting for the UK’s Freddiebabes, but Tailbot’s dominant performance against both his Chinese opponents was hard to ignore – he’d scored a 3-0 against Irohabit and a reverse sweep against OMHannachan – so the final was anyone’s game. At least, that was everyone’s initial thoughts.
Throughout the final, Freddie was on top of his game. In one of the most memorable rounds, the young Brit showcased his flawless ability to read his opponent by refusing to play his finisher until Tailbot had played his final card, Coral, which would have transformed Freddie’s 20 point Ghoul into a 2 point jade figurine. The final game of the Open was Freddie’s Nilfgaard list against Tailbot’s Northern Realms, a lore-accurate battle to satisfy the most devoted of Witcher fans.
Tailbot’s Nordling’s were unable to overcome the Empire of Nilfgaard Freddie was piloting and the Polish competitor perished to his own medicine – a 3-0 defeat. But he wouldn’t leave empty handed; both players received a ticket to Challenger. By utilising his meme-heavy list with unorthodox inclusions like Lambert and Assassination, Freddiebabes had reminded viewers of the high skill ceiling Gwent has. Tier 1 decks were so last season, anyway.
Gwent is dead (Kappa)
The event was streamed live to Twitch, with Sunday’s final peaking at an astounding 30,000 viewers – more than the entire IRL category at the time – which secures Gwent’s place as a competitive esport. Not only that, but with the second Gwent Challenger less than a month away, this period of Gwent-mania is far from over.