by Alex “sprackles” Sprackling
Ashlizzle of the Netherlands was able to secure the most victories in her set, but the Skellige veteran had to sail through some rough waters to claim victory. Nod was the only player to best her and, in their first game, Ash opened up with Eithné against Nod’s Crach An Craite. After a long R3, a well-timed Geralt: Yrden shut down Ash’s Milva and disrupted her own Schirru. She tried again with Eithné against a Big Woodland Spirit list. Despite not drawing into her Xavier Lemmens, she was finally able to find value from her Schirru and secure the win.
Their last game was King Bran vs. Woodland Spirit. An early Wolfsbane saw Ashlizzle commit too hard to R1 and forced her to pass on even. After Nod’s failed push in R2, they were in top deck mode for R3. Unfortunately for Ash, she chose to mulligan away what would have been a game-deciding Kambi and lost out by only one point.
She did, however, redeem herself in a tie-breaker set against Nod. This saw Ashlizzle play a Bran Discard list while Nod used Eredin. We even saw a tie game in this set but it was Ash who would go on to secure a 2-0 victory. Nod came close to taking it to a fourth game, but his Ghoul couldn’t match the strength of two consecutive Bearmaster boosts.
What is there to be said about Brzoza that hasn’t been said already? His dominant performance with a hyper tempo Unseen Elder list was impressive and showcased his ability to play around every matchup. But, to claim victory, he had to defeat some tough opponents. Early on, McBeard looked to be on track to win the set with impressive victories against Crokeyz and MissLadyJay, but he and Brzoza were equally matched. What’s more, McBeard got greedy with his mulligans and bricked his hand with two silver Witchers. This caused him to lose what could have been a winnable game, securing Brzoza the 2-0.
The Polish streamer would go on to defeat Crokeyz in a similar fashion, but MissLadyJay wasn’t going to let him win unscathed. Their match would be the closest we’ve seen yet and would be the first time Brzoza switched leaders to Woodland Spirit while MissLadyJay opened with Crach An Craite. Unfortunately, she was unprepared for the sudden switch to heavy artifacts and lost the first game, but found her footing again in the second. A key moment came when, after using all her mulligans in R1 of the third — and final — game MissLadyJay opted to play her Witcher trio to avoid potentially bricking her draws. Choosing to spend such a powerful resource was an investment in later rounds and it was the key to her victory. Overall, this was an example of all the talent we are lucky to have in the GWENT community.
While the format differed from a typical GWENT Masters event, Skirmish served as the first glimpse into a new era of pro-level GWENT. A balance patch was still on the horizon as the tournament was taking place but it’s been released since, so whilst now might not be the best time to lock in key predictions, there are still some clues to the future tournament meta that we can take away from the first event of this kind.
Overall, there’s no denying the presence of removal. Some games, like the final game between MissLadyJay and Crokeyz, were decided on whether the player would switch to Eithné. We saw Crokeyz enter Deck Builder to fill his own Crach deck with counters like Dagur Two Blades, but despite the ability to hard-counter Wolfsbane and Wild Boar, they are engine units that are vulnerable to removal. If MissLadyJay had switched to Eithné, then Crokeyz might have lost that set.
The December 2018 update saw Eithné’s ability changed to only 4 charges that don’t refresh, but this doesn’t escape how removal-heavy GWENT can be. The vast majority of cards have abilities that can interact with your opponent’s side of the board in some way. Bringing “greedy” decks to a tournament could be even more high-risk than it was in the beta. That said, I’ve crunched the numbers and King Demavend III is easily the leader that can, providing all goes according to plan, achieve the most value. Combined with unanswered Lyrian Arbalests, Vysogota of Corvo and Foltest’s Pride, this is a deck that can snowball out of hand. Time will only tell if the changes to Eithné will bring Demavend’s machines glory in the new meta.