by Nikita “armavel44” Stavitsky from RuGwent Tournaments
Daniel “Damorquis” Morkisch qualified for GWENT Open #5 by finishing Pro Ladder on the 7th place. Just like last time, when he also battled intensely to finally make it into the event, he was able to qualify for the tournament, proving that what happened 2 months ago was not a coincidence.
Armavel44: First of all, congratulations! This is already your second GWENT Open! Last time, you faced Hanachan, who ultimately won the event. Was GWENT Open #4 your first LAN event? What was going through your head before and after the game? Who did you cheer for?
Damorquis: Thanks! It was quite a close run for the top 8. I am happy I made it and have another chance to compete in a GWENT Open LAN event.
The series against Hanachan was really intense. It indeed was my first LAN event but as soon as I sat down at the game table, I forgot about the nerves altogether and focused entirely on the game. After the series, I was quite disappointed. It felt like I could have won. I was happy that I played really well in the games I came victorious, but, on the other hand, I threw the Veteran versus Alchemy series and knew that if there ever was a next time, I would be better prepared.
My training partner for the event was LBdutchboy, so naturally, that’s who I cheered for. Shame that his Veterans suffered a similar fate as mine.
A: This “next time” is coming very soon! Let’s talk a little bit about GWENT Open #5. What are your expectations? This time, we will see established GWENT professionals such as TailBot or Hanachan, but also first timers, like your teammate AndyWand. Are you looking forward to a rematch with Hanachan? What do you think about the possibility of playing versus your teammate?
D: Geez, I really hope I don’t have to face that rookie AndyWand! Who knows what crazy lineup he will bring to the Open?! But seriously, the dream is to start on the opposite sides of the bracket and see each other in the finals. I think this particular Open is really interesting for two reasons. Firstly, we have a lot of new faces like Huanshi7702 and Fanderman. AndyWand has already participated in GWENT Slam #2, so I think he will be fully focused on his second GWENT LAN event. Hanachan is probably the best player in the world right now, along with TailBot, therefore he will be an even tougher opponent this time around. I have improved loads since last time so I am not afraid to face any of these guys. And I would be happy to get my revenge against Hanachan.
The current meta is very interesting for the tournament. There is a high potential for targeting decks like Nekkers or Greatswords, but also to pick greedy decks like Consume with Decoy and Summoning Circle to secure victory against people who, in fear of counters, didn’t bring their strongest decks to the tournament. It is hard to tell who will emerge victorious in the end. A lot will come down to the matchmaking in quarterfinals.
A: Let’s briefly discuss the current meta. Do you like where it stands now? The ladder might seem deceptively stale, but we do see a lot of different factions hitting the top, and various archetypes being played in the tournaments.
D: I think the meta in general has become more stable and it was a good choice not to release patches within the Pro Ladder season anymore. On one hand, it is a lot more balanced and doesn’t force you to play one deck at a particular point of time, as you’re expecting it to get nerfed. But, it is more difficult to achieve high scores from previous Pro Ladder seasons.
I still think there is a lot to improve, but I am happy this is being tackled with the removal of Create cards from competitive mode by the end of May. The high variety of decks in tournaments shows just how many archetypes are viable in a fixed coin setting and with a ban option, but tournament play is a totally different experience from Pro Ladder and ranked play.
A: You used to play GWENT casually, so you can compare it to the competitive scene. Are there many differences? For example, how much do you play GWENT now, compared to when it was just a hobby? Do you analyze your ladder games regularly?
D: The great thing about GWENT is that it allows people to go either of these paths. Going competitive is a totally different experience from casual play, albeit just as enjoyable. There are many ways to become a professional GWENT player. I started with exchanging gameplay ideas, matchup strategies and suggestions with my teammates from Team Aretuza. I quickly realized how deep the understanding of the game can go. I didn’t think players were able to push GWENT to its full potential, although several were really close to perfect play. I decided to analyze the Pro Ladder, find out at what time of the season points are being generated fast and where I can expect phases of stagnation. Next, we analyzed the meta on weekly basis, picking the right decks at the right time to benefit from a higher number of favorable matchups. Whenever we felt like we didn’t play a deck perfectly, we played friendly matches within the team and recorded both players’ hands to analyze the matches. The best time to increase your score is during the last days of Pro Ladder. So I stayed up and played all night to secure my spot in the upcoming tournament.
People often complain that to go pro, you have to play a ton of games. While that is true, one also has to know that you also have to play smart. I learned a lot from my teammates, tried to play slowly, think through even the more obvious turns and kept track of my Pro Ladder performance. In the end, my analytic approach paid off and I hit top 8 two seasons in a row, which proves that someone without a background in pro gaming can still secure a spot at Open.
A: You have mentioned your teammates and Team Aretuza. You are one of the leaders and, I would say, one of the most popular members of the team. In addition, you’re the most successful, being able to qualify for 2 GWENT Opens in a row. Looking back, when you first discussed this idea with your friend Hennotje, what were your goals and expectations? Could you imagine that this will evolve into such big and wonderful community? And how did you come up with the name?
D: At the beginning, we were just a nice group of players who had one common goal — to get better at GWENT. When Henno recruited me, the team had already existed. Henno found me on one of the 4 days in my life when I was actually streaming. One day, I had a long train ride back home so I used that time to write a business plan for the team to become competitive, rather than just a group of good players. Henno liked the idea and, as Team Managers, we started to build what you now know as Team Aretuza. It was tough, but everyone on our team is a hard worker and we’re all really committed to the game. Our team spirit is truly amazing.
We did have a very difficult moment, when our biggest competitor started to poach our players. But that motivated us even more. With the introduction of our website and a public Discord, we were able to get in touch with a lot more players and I am both really proud of the fantastic community we have built and thankful to all of our supporters who made this possible.
At some point, we thought about changing the name, but neither Gwentanamo nor Gwentoxity were good enough choices, so we stuck to the initial one, which origin will forever remain unknown.
A: Team Aretuza is probably one of the most successful teams on the professional GWENT scene. Now, you and AndyWand will be representing it in the upcoming tournament. Speaking of qualification — recently, CD PROJEKT RED has announced that top 100 players will compete for 2 slots in the qualifier for Open #6, and only top 50 will compete for a chance to participate at GWENT Challenger #4. What are your thoughts on these changes? Have you participated in last two qualifiers hoping to get a spot in Challenger?
D: I like where we are now but we are nowhere close to be done and have big goals for the future of GWENT! I really like the changes introduced by CD PROJEKT RED. It’s nice to see that the feedback expressed by the community, and with top players in mind, is listened to. With these changes in place, there is an incentive to compete for Pro Ladder top 100 and more people have a shot at getting to an official GWENT tournament. I am also really happy that the amount of people at the Challenger qualifier was decreased. Although in the past, well-known players like I_aPOROgise, Tailbot and Kolemoen qualified for Challenger in this very way, I didn’t think top 200 was making much sense. Top 50 however, sounds like a good idea, giving enough people a chance to compete and not forcing everyone to play an overly long tournament.
Last time, Team Aretuza’s xYazz and shinmiri2 managed to get quite far in Day Two of qualifiers so I hope they will hit the goal this time around! And I myself will try to seal the deal directly at Open. This season, fight for the top 6 will be harder than ever, but I am looking forward to the excitement. May the best 6 win!
A: A lot of people want to know more about you and, as far as I know, you have a bachelor degree in behavioral economics! Is this something you are interested in pursuing in the future? Or do you want to fully focus on esports? You became quite a successful member of the GWENT competitive scene, with this already being your second Open event!
D: Actually I have been hard at work finishing my master’s degree. Well, almost. Only the master’s thesis is left and that’s what I am working on right now. Although I really enjoy GWENT and the time with my teammates, this year I will tackle new challenges as a Behavioral Economist! I am proud of what I was able to achieve in GWENT and I am still hungry for victories, however behavioral economics, analyzing biased thinking and patterns in consumer behavior is my true passion and a one I would like to pursue. During my research phase for the master’s thesis, I had a lot of free time which I invested in GWENT and building the team. I have made many good friends within the community and enjoyed my time a lot. If I make it to Challenger, I will keep on playing GWENT for a little while longer. Otherwise, the plan is to focus more on the managerial side of GWENT and continue my career goals in consulting.
A: So you also treat behavioral economics as a hobby?
D: Behavioral economics is the discipline that interested me since my second year of studies. I learnt about incentives, information economics, game theory, and even went abroad to cover additional topics after I took all of the available lectures at my university. It’s more than a hobby. It’s a part of science that will always interest me and I am always eager to improve my skills at it. It’s how I imagine my future career.
A: What do you do in your spare time, between playing GWENT and studies? Would you like to recommend any books or movies you recently found interesting?
D: Apart from playing GWENT and working on my master’s thesis, I take part in a lot of different activities. I go to the gym 3-5 times a week to stay fit. I own a lifeguard license and recently also passed the exams for a motorboat license. I love to travel, especially across Europe. I have already visited Scotland, Switzerland, Poland, and been to many different cities all over the continent. I feel like, if there are two things that it is best to spend money on, it’s traveling and food. I am a passionate cook. During my Scotland trip, I discovered my love for Single Malt Whisky, which is also shared by one of my friends — ProNEO — and my teammate Gvuardya. My goals for this year is to visit some of my friends in Germany whom I haven’t seen in a while, get a sailing license and, hopefully soon, rent a boat to sail Croatia with my best friends.
Speaking of movies, my favorite would probably be either The Godfather or The Lord of the Rings. Another one that I really can recommend is Lucky Number Slevin.
As far as books are concerned, I recommend everyone to read Jean Paul Sartres’ Huis Clos which is an excellent piece of art. I read it in French and it immediately became my favorite book ever. Back in my childhood, I spent a lot of time in the library fantasy book section and my favorite hero was Drizzt Do Urden — a character brought to live by the author R.A. Salvatore who is the creator of the Icewind Dale lore. To everyone who enjoys fantasy literature, I deeply recommend The Dark Elf Trilogy.
A: That is quite a solid list, and a one I can certainly admire! As a few closing words, are there any secrets you wish to share with people reading this interview and who are dreaming about becoming a professional GWENT player? Trying to combine studies and playing games seems like a lot of hard work, so what are your tips for people who are still on the fence?
D: Most importantly, decide what you want and stick to it!
When you want to go competitive in GWENT, play your games like a competitive player. Clean your desk, clean your mind. Take your time to play each turn, don’t get too salty. You won’t get anywhere if you blame the game. Push forward and keep improving your skills. Sometimes it’s hard to see the mistakes we make. Ask your friends, teammates, or even shoot us a question in our public Discord!
The other important advice I would give to everyone who wants to compete: don’t let the Pro Ladder grind consume your life. Hit the gym, meet up with friends and actively pursue your other hobbies. Exclusively playing GWENT will only put an unhealthy pressure, because once you go all in, every lost game will just be painful. Sometimes, it’s better to not play — to take breaks, recover and come back with a clear mind when the meta is more favorable.
Trying to study and compete in high level GWENT comes down to your time management. You will need discipline and determination to get the results you want in both. And yes, you’ll need a lot of it. But it is possible and if you feel like you have these qualities — go for it! I wish you the best of luck!
A: And I wish you good luck in GWENT Open #5! Go qualify for Challenger! Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to answer questions and make this interview happen!
D: Thank you a lot!