Interview: Lionhart

We invite you to read the first interview from our new series with Lionhart, a professional Gwent streamer, and a caster from team Aretuza. The series will consist of 10 interviews, one each week. So check in every Sunday for some Gwent reading!

What is your impression of the Master Mirror expansion? What do you think about the new abilities and card art?

The card art in MM is the best we’ve ever experienced in Gwent (and that’s saying something!!) The game looks more beautiful than ever and with the array of new abilities the game is working from a great foundation moving forward.

The initial season in any expansion can be tough as power balancing is an issue we always seem to struggle with and GS Skellige is the obvious example this time around. With the expected changes coming to Second Wind next season though I am confident this will balance out!

What do you think about the direction of the changes in Gwent that we have seen with the most recent expansion?

This is a mixed bag for me. The new archetypes are fun but some are noticeably weaker than others.

Swarm SY is fun but plays into the strengths of the two powerhouses SK and NG.

The deathblow to Harmony has effectively removed ST from being consistently competitive which is a real shame. I know Harmony was strong for a long time but it was also a great way of ensuring nothing got TOO greedy as Harmony was there to provide the check on it. Without that….. greed reigns.

I like the idea of giving love and support to unloved archetypes and hope we continue to do this.

What is your favorite thing from the new expansion and what is your biggest disappointment? Why?

My favorite thing has been toying around with NR! I’ve always been a huge NR fanboy and spent most of this season championing Belohun in pro rank! It’s been a blast mixing him in to an old school Pincer Maneuver list.

The biggest disappointment for me in terms of what we have is Wild Hunt.

I was really excited to see the card art but the reality of playing them has felt average. I expect to see a new “tag” in the hotfix which will make Red Riders, Ard Gaeth and a few other cards tutorable  with reworks to a few existing Wild Hunt cards, Ge’els, Caranthir and Imlerith, to hopefully make them competitive or at least playable. That aside I miss the Journey. I understand the decision to space the launch of the two main products so that in future they don’t clash but as a daily streamer I really miss the tertiary content it provided!

Have you identified some cards that you think should still be nerfed despite the hotfix?

The hotfix was a Band-Aid at best but I entirely understand why they didn’t make wholesale changes mid-season. It would have been really unfair on competitive players prepping for top 16/64 tournaments as well as hurt players prepping for the TLG invitational too!

The meta has led cards like Ethereal to become particularly strong! When I revealed the card on the Out Of Focus talkshow with TheaBeasty we said we expected it to be strong but most dismissed it as a meme. The difficulty in answering the engine can be game ending! While it’s a neutral card it’s mainly played in monsters and may need looking at, though personally I hope they leave it as it is!  

I expect to see Trygvi get the Matta condition (Rupture can’t trigger if player has passed), Harald en Craite stage 3 not damage through armor or to only be able to revive a 4p soldier.

The expected change to the Second Wind leader ability too (12 provisions (up from 11) but only being able to play cards 8prov or below would really go a long way to bringing some balance to SK without destroying it.

I also think cards like Vissegerd see a change. I think he ends up only gaining charges from boosted units on the row he’s played on. Though I am a little torn on that one!

This time the card pool of the expansion was pretty small at only 70 cards. Do you think this was an optimal number?

I really like the volume of cards revealed this expansion. I feel that more cards than ever before are actually viable to play which hasn’t always been the case. I know plenty of people were disappointed that they didn’t get the opportunity to reveal a card because there was a smaller number but I think it’s for the best!

Do you think removing weather clear was a good idea? Would you also remove artifact answers like Bomb Heaver?

I love removing binary interactions like weather removal from the game. The choice to balance their power with provisions makes perfect sense to me! I think artifacts are a little different though! They’re designed to trade over provisions because they’re either engine or multi turn based by design.

This does NOT mean I like bomb heaver or how artifacts work though and I do have a few suggestions on how to rework them.

Option 1: Lock Chapter 2 of artifacts behind Devotion. If you want a scenario, you can’t have bomb heaver yourself. I would also like to see scenarios need more than a single turn to be completed. I am happy with deploy and a single chapter being triggered but all 3 steps defeats the design of the cards

Option 2: Make all artifact cards 0 base power units with a new feature called “sturdiness” or “strength”. Imagine it as armor but when it is removed, the card destroys itself like Living Armor does. Bleeding would affect the total “strength” as if it were base power so you have the ability to remove them without needing such binary interactions. The reason I wouldn’t simply make it armor is you’d have to rework armor effected cards that way and I still like seeing the Iris/Dracoturtle meme played out every now and again!

How do you feel about the 6-month waiting period in between expansions?

I actually don’t mind this. I think too many expansions can feel very overwhelming for players especially if they’re newer to the game! If we add in the balance patches, Journey launches and other content drops we see regularly (Remember those 6 new leaders?!) then I think it’s a perfect fit.

A lot of games would have considered those expansions because of the volume of content but I think Gwent considers expansions the introduction of new cards but continually adds new mechanics, leaders and more throughout the year to keep us engaged!

I’d rather 2 well built expansions a year than 3 or 4 rushed ones. While this expansion hasn’t been entirely perfect, we didn’t have the trademark day one game breaking bugs we’ve had previously!

Do you share this opinion, that after a few more expansions Gwent will be too difficult for new players?

Not at all. I think CCG’s always evolve. The game is literally unrecognizable from its foundation in Witcher 3 and again from Homecoming yet more new players are joining than ever! With an active Twitch & Youtube community of content creators behind it I have no doubt we’ll continue to see Gwent grow and thrive!

The meta of the game is also hugely different from rank 30-5 than above that so new players will always be able to find their feet and learn from watching others!

What do you think about the introduction of Gwent journey and how would you improve it?

As you may have guessed from my earlier answers, I love the addition of Gwent: Journey. I even recorded myself voicing the story from the first one and put it up on Youtube before it vanished.

The value for money, range of cosmetics and tertiary content made Gwent feel like it had FINALLY left beta. That being said I can think of plenty I would love to add!

I want to see the weekly quests add a little variation while having some additional accessibility for newer players. Several newer Gwent players would often come into my streams and say they couldn’t complete a quest because they didn’t have enough Witcher’s or aristocrats etc.

My solution to this would be perhaps buffing Arena pulls of those cards for the week the quests happen to help newer players. The game is incredibly generous with access to resources in general but Arena could be a nice way to bridge the game for newer players.

I would also love to see Thronebreaker style single player quests come into the Journey! The old puzzle style mechanics were so much fun and I genuinely think this would be a huge hit!

Really liked your Elsa cosplay, can we expect some more cosplays in the future?

I will never live that one down!

I am a man of my word and I promised my community if we ever hit a certain sub goal I would not only sing “Let It Go” but I’d buy an Elsa dress and wig to do it in. Sadly I underestimated the price they’d pay for my embarrassment. 😉

I’d like to tell you that will be the end of my oh so brief foray into Cosplay but…. Never say never.

What would you change about Gwent if you could?

Several things but the top of my list is Arena.

I know they’re working on it and I hope we will see a new version of Arena this year.

If I were working on it’s design I would add all new “neutral”, arena only leader abilities and change Arena to a keg drafting dual faction system.

Pick 2 factions. You get 12 kegs (ratio upto 70/30) from 2 factions which can include neutral cards. Build a deck from what you find inside! You can use all of the cards or create a side deck to change things in and out between kegs!

Regardless of how Arena functions I would really like to see it have a competitive element. Seasonal titles, leader boards and rewards for playing Arena to give some love to a game mode we simply overlook!

If you wanted to promote Gwent to a new player to which card game would you compare Gwent and what key differences would you point out?

As a CCG Gwent is very different from other card games so I don’t compare it to any of them! The instant selling points are usually the art and the links to the Witcher universe! I like that Gwent has 3 rounds and no “face” to attack. The point system helps it feel unique and challenging in a way the other CCG’s I have played haven’t.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to improve as a Gwent player, what would it be?

Practice and always ask questions. Watching other players at any level can really help! Even the pros practice their matchups regularly to see how archetypes and mechanics can be deployed differently.

You often praise the Gwent community, what makes it so special?

The Gwent community is so diverse yet is consistently welcoming and positive. 99% of my interactions in Gwent have been positive and there is a genuine love for the game amongst its player base.

When I first decided to start playing Gwent I was continually encouraged by those who already play and regardless of the style of the content creator, I feel this is still the case today.

Who are your favorite top 3 Gwent streamers and why?

I don’t get a lot of time to watch Twitch these days, even then narrowing it down to just 3 is a real challenge!

  • TheaBeasty Thea is one of the Gwent streamers I watch a lot, we returned to Gwent around the same time and became close. She is always willing to try something new with her deckbuilding and has absolutely no fear taking an unconventional route when playing. She hugely underestimates her competitive ability and I’d certainly never want to come up against her in a tournament 😉
  • Shinmiri  Shinmiri is one of the best Gwent players around as is well known as a tournament analyst for CDPR. If you’re new to Gwent or a seasoned pro you can still learn a thing or two watching him.

I lurk in his channel a lot as he is great at describing not only his play but his thought process behind the decision. Having joined Team Aretuza I have also had the opportunity to talk to him a little more and he’s a really nice guy.

  • Trynet123 Gwent without Trynet simply wouldn’t feel right. There is a time of day on Twitch we all call the Trynet slot for a reason! He made it his! He’s a player with great tournament pedigree who plays more for fun these days but if he ever chose to jump back into pro rank I would expect him to make appearances in the top 64. He’s a genuinely hilarious streamer and a real joy to watch.

Do you think Gwent can someday become the most popular card game?

Honestly? No. Gwent is an amazing CCG and my personal favorite but it simply doesn’t have the revenue behind it that WOTC put behind MTG:A or Riot but behind LOR. The Journey has marked a significant change in how Gwent is viewed internally at CDPR and I am very hopeful for the future. The game is actually making enough money to not only sustain its development but have a viable competitive scene moving forward. Seasons 2’s prize pool is substantially lower (before community purchased support) than Season 1 but I really expect Season 3 to be bigger given how well this year has gone commercially for not just CDPR but Gwent! A huge shoutout to Jason Slama and everyone working on the game, pushing that vision forward to ensure a future for the game we love.

Ciri’s character does not really get good card representation in Gwent, do you have some ideas for upgrading her cards’ abilities?

I would love to see some changes to Ciri to make her competitive or viable! Though the possibility of a 9 for 9 Ciri Nova next season in MO consume certainly has me excited 😉

I feel that the bigger characters from the Witcher universe are deliberately not too OP so that the Gwent team can expand on their own designs and grow the universe.

What do you think about meme cards?

I have a love/hate relationship with them! I love that they exist and it feels so satisfying when they come off! The only thing that makes me sad is I can play around in unranked with them but it isn’t as satisfying and the alternative is to tank my MMR for the memes in ranked. I tend to stick to seasonal for them but they definitely have a place in Gwent!

What do you think about the new qualifying system for official tournaments?

I don’t mind the new system. I think it helps to balance the potential to reach a tournament. Closed deck list ladder and open deck list tournaments are entirely different environments and some players are notably better in either scenario. The tournament experience is vital though as ultimately if you want to take the crown, you have to win on the big stage!

The Gwent community prize pool has started to decline; do you think it will decline even more for the next Gwent Open?

I think the community portion of the funding was inevitably going to drop. Remember that the Gwent Open #1 bundle was on sale for almost 3 times as long as the Open #2 bundle because of the tournament delays caused by COVID19. Gwent Open #2’s bundle was only on sale for about 25 days yet contributed a huge amount to the prize pool. The bundle for Open #3 will have been on sale for twice as long as that so I am hopeful for a larger prize this time!

During TLG’s Invitational we got to have a closer look at how the Spectator mode worked, and how it might affect tournaments in future. How would you improve the online tournament experience for players and viewers?

Having been lucky enough to get a hands on with the client I have to say, it’s amazing! Casting was made infinitely better using the client! I honestly can’t imagine going back!

It was great to see it used in a community tournament and I hope it is used in all community tournaments moving forward! The setup in the background to make it work is still quite time consuming though and I know the guys at TLG worked really hard to pull everything off so hopefully the ease of setting up tournaments in a swiss format is something we’ll see in the future!

Thank you for your time, and good luck on the ladder!

You can follow Lionhart on Twitch, Discord and Twitter.

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