by Francesca “Jaggerous” Jagger
The players have practised, the decks have been submitted, and the mine is appropriately salty — it’s almost time for GWENT Challenger #3! This $100,000 prize pool tournament takes place April 28th and 29th in the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine in Poland. Eight players are prepared to battle it out and try to take home the win, the oversized cheque and the winner’s ring. But how do they compare? Who are the underdogs and who looks poised for victory?
Nikolay “Cmel” Sakharov was known as the dominant Nilfgaard Spies player. However, LAN events require you to have more than just one deck and with spies out of the current meta, Cmel may struggle. While he typically performs well on the Pro Ladder, his two appearances at GWENT Open have been lacklustre. He lost in the quarter-finals in both Open #3, and Open #4, and only has a single game victory to his name. With that said, Challenger is one of the most competitive forms of GWENT and, although Cmel has a rough track record, he has everything to prove this time around.
Cameron “I_aPOROgise” Cook is a fresh name on the GWENT tournament scene. His name is consistently near the top of the Pro Ladder, but this will be his first LAN event. Qualifying via the gruelling two day online qualifier, I_aPOROgise has shown he can handle the heat of a tournament format. However, he has no experience with live events. With that said, his organisation, Topdeck, and his teammate, Kolemoen — also a Challenger competitor — helped I_aPOROgise prepare for this tournament. To me, this gives him the edge over Cmel, but with a limited track record, he’s hard to predict. Many players within the pro scene are confident in I_aPOROgise’s abilities. The pressure is on, and he is definitely one to watch.
Andrzej “Adzikov” Bal is a staple name in competitive GWENT, both on the Pro Ladder, and at tournaments. His tournament history however, is a bit shaky. Having been knocked out in the first round of three separate tournaments, many would joke that Adzikov was cursed to qualify, but never succeed. In GWENT Open #3 however, Adzikov made it to the finals, placing second overall. It seems that when Adzikov finds his stride, he does very well. With plenty of tournament practice, and a consistent GWENT meta for the last few months, this may be Adzikov’s time to shine.
Jan “Superjj102” Janssen has been competing in GWENT since the first Open. He is known for his consistency, reaching at least the semi-finals in every tournament he has played in, and winning GWENT Open #3, which qualified him for Challenger. So why is he fifth? It seems that recently, SuperJJ may have slightly moved away from GWENT. While other competitors have played hundreds of Pro Ladder games this season, JJ has played only 49 so far. It may be that he’s practicing in private, or keeping fresh through other means. However, the Pro Ladder awards Crown Points, and they are one of the ways players can qualify for tournaments. The fact that SuperJJ doesn’t appear interested in earning points suggests a waning interest in competitive GWENT. With that said, his Complexity Gaming teammate is Freddybabes. Having someone to practice with and the support of an organisation may help JJ shine, despite his lack of Pro Ladder games.
Speaking of Freddy, Frederick “Freddybabes” Bird is the defending Challenger champion. In fact, he has won both the Challenger and Open that he has competed in. What knocks Freddy down to fourth, is that he’s only been in two tournaments. He hasn’t qualified for any other Open or Challenger events. On top of this, his Pro Ladder game count is fairly low this season, with 252. Given the season finishes at the end of the month, this is far lower than his usual game count. Lack of practice and qualifications throws a little doubt on how Freddy will perform at Challenger. With that said, he is known for bringing quirky and creative decks and, given his track record at LAN, he may just go three for three and take first place.
When it comes to the top three, ranking them comes down to splitting hairs. Benjamin “Kolemoen” Pfannstiel is regarded within the pro scene as one of the best, if not the best GWENT player. At the previous Challenger, he took down well-known names, including Adzikov and TailBot, before getting pipped to the post by Freddybabes. His other tournament performances are a mixed bag. He was knocked out in GWENT Open #3 quarter-finals, because his opponent, SuperJJ, had heavily targeted one of Kolemoen’s decks, making his chances slim. At GWENT Open #4, Kolemon did reach semi-finals, but was knocked out by TailBot. In spite of this, many players in the pro scene think that Kolemoen can go all the way. His performance on the Pro Ladder is very consistent and, what is more impressive, he regularly reaches very high rank with comparatively few games. He holds a 68% win rate, tied with Hanachan, and beaten only by TailBot. On top of this, he has been working with Topdeck, and his teammate, I_aPOROgise, to prepare. Yet to cinch the win at LAN, Challenger #4 could be Kolemoen’s for the taking.
Zehua “Hanachan” Zhao is coming in hot off his recent GWENT Open #4 win a month ago. That win is a big deal because the tournament was played on the same patch as Challenger #3. Hanachan has shown that he is competitive in this meta, both at Open #4 and on the Pro Ladder where he holds a 68% win rate. He has competed in all four Opens so far, but this is will be his first Challenger appearance. Hanachan looks strong going into this one, and he very well could take back-to-back wins home to China.
Finally, in first place, we have Damian “TailBot” Kaźmierczak. Infamously known for his smack talk and often referred to as “TailGod” by his fans, TailBot is a firm fan favourite on the GWENT pro scene. He qualified for Challenger via one of the online qualifiers, just because he could. He had enough points to qualify through Crown Points otherwise. TailBot is a regular name in tournament finals, reaching the finals of both GWENT Open #2 and #4. Consistency is his forté. He is known for playing meta decks at a very high skill level, with little room for error. He also holds a 69% win rate on the Pro Ladder, the highest of our eight competitors. Although TailBot has yet to find a win in tournaments, many agree it is only a matter of time. The Polish powerhouse has the confidence and consistency to go all the way, putting the money where his mouth is.
GWENT Challenger #3 is looking to be a fiercely contested tournament. The stable meta over the past few months has provided the competitors with plenty of room to fine tune their decks and improve their match-ups. Will TailBot attain deity status this time around? Can I_aPOROgise cause waves at his first LAN tournament? Does SuperJJ still know how to play GWENT? See who emerges victorious this weekend April 28th and 29th on the CD PROJEKT RED Twitch channel, starting 4pm CEST, live from “Wieliczka” Salt Mine!