by Alex “sprackles” Sprackling
Since its inception, GWENT has always enjoyed a passionate North American following. There’s no escaping big names like Swim, WatchFlake and JoeSn0w, who’ve each contributed something to the community. And whilst the name Michael Toryk may not mean anything to you, you may recognise his screen name — NoControl.
I first met Michael — a former marine and life-long card game enthusiast — on a small Discord server, back in the early days of the GWENT Masters Pro Ladder. We were both eager to try our hand at qualifying for the major events and each had their own dream. I would often talk about my desires to break into gaming journalism and he would insist that, one day, he would plan a major esports event. A year down the line, it’s humbling to see that we are both living out our dreams in some way. His first NA event, Wild Hunt, was a triumph and the second one is happening this weekend. It was a great pleasure to sit down with the creator to get his thoughts on the game and what to expect from Wild Hunt II.
Alex: Let’s go back a year or so. What was it about GWENT that encouraged you to stick around and get involved in the scene?
NoControl: Yeah, it was just over a year ago. Quite frankly, I was growing tired of Hearthstone because it wasn’t in a great state. I heard a lot of good things about GWENT and knew Lifecoach was switching over, so I thought I’d give it a try. I began playing it, as well as watching streams, and instantly became hooked. When I get my sights set on something, it’s all I want to do!
A: Like myself, you began as a competitive player try-harding on the Pro Ladder. But it was winning GWENT Mania NA when things really took off. Talk me through the inception of Wild Hunt and its evolution as an event.
NC: I won GWENT Mania NA and also competed in the first Challenger qualifiers. I managed to make it to round eight, where I lost to I_aPOROgise. It made me realize how there’s all this stuff going on in Europe and I wanted NA to have that, too. So, Wild Hunt entered its early stages. I actually approached N3rd Street with the idea and they were just like, “What’s GWENT, bruh?” I had to teach them what it was all about. Once I got the green light, I began to assemble everybody, even to some streamers I didn’t know personally. The reception for the event was just incredible. It was so needed. There’s so many people who want to compete but don’t have the time to grind for the top eight.
A: You once said that it was your wife who helped conceive the name Wild Hunt after she asked you about the deck you were playing. If it wasn’t for that fateful event, what do you think it would be called instead?
NC: Probably something to do with Philadelphia, because most of the events N3rd Street were running were based there, but it felt cheesy. I was just sitting there playing and Rachel [my wife] comes over to me and asked what deck I was playing. We had been discussing names earlier on. I was playing the Oceanmud Eredin deck. I was like, “These are Wild Hunt cards.” And there was the name.
A: You’ve gone on to form Mana Burn and have pledged to create events across the CCG scene, not just GWENT. Does this mean you’re cooking up some other projects?
NC: We will always have a loyalty to GWENT, but we want to expand onto the wider scene. Ideally, we would all love to do these events full time. Actually being there and seeing my creation unfold was an unreal feeling that I haven’t felt in a very long time. The 14-hour day almost killed me! I was on 4 cups of coffee and lost my voice. But I was happy, it’s hard to replicate. These things happen beyond your control.
A: GWENT has come a long way and, with Homecoming, is set to change even more over the next year or so. If you had the power, what’s one thing you would insure GWENT: Homecoming has?
NC: Wow, there’s just so much! I guess being on Blue Coin. It’s the single most competitive disadvantage there is. When you’re on Blue Coin and you’re up against something that abuses it, like Henselt, it doesn’t make for a fun gaming experience. Also, I know this is a hot subject but I really don’t want to see 2 lane GWENT. I want 3 lanes to remain. That said, as long as CDPR make a good game, I don’t care how many lanes it has. I’m a sinner because I’ve never played the Witcher games so I don’t have any loyalty to the original GWENT. But I have been playing for a long time, so much so that less than 3 lanes just wouldn’t feel right.
A: Lastly, any predictions for Wild Hunt II?
NC: The possibility for Trynet to repeat is pretty decent. Before WHI, I didn’t know who he was. But after he began streaming I realized he has an incredible mind for card games. I know Lockin also has a lot of potential and has been working hard.
Wild Hunt II is scheduled for this weekend and has a prize pool of $2500. You’ll be able to watch it live here