by Francesca "Jaggerous" Jagger
Last weekend saw the final online qualifier for GWENT Challenger #3. Day one saw 177 contenders whittled down to just 16 in the Swiss portion of the qualifier. At the end of day two, after a grueling double elimination bracket, Cameron “I_aPOROgise” Cook emerged as the victor. The 30 year old Australian, who is an accountant by day, went undefeated in the bracket stage, never dropping down into the losers bracket. Although new to the tournament scene, I_aPOROgise is a regular name near the top of GWENT’s Pro Ladder. He finished season three 14th, with a total 5,745 MMR across 1,191 games. Having just qualified for the $100,000 tournament in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, we sat down to chat with the new kid on the tournament block.
Jaggerous: So, first and foremost congratulations! How are you feeling coming out of this weekend’s qualifier, and how does that compare to how you felt during the whole process?
I_aPOROgise: Completely burnt out. By the time I got to finish the finals, I had not slept for over 24 hours! But I am excited to play at Challenger. It will be a great experience and I have never been to Poland.
J: You went undefeated during the bracket stage of the qualifier. What was your secret to success, any particular deck strategies or ban targets?
I: My main target for banning was Henselt. I wanted to lead off with Brouver as it was my most confident deck coming into the tournament and Henselt was its worst matchup. What actually happened though, was it ended up being my most inconsistent deck throughout the tournament. My Bran deck (which was basically Kolemoen’s bran list he took to the open) was actually my most consistent deck, I only lost once with it. In addition, I didn’t want to bring Greatswords as I felt that some people might try to target the deck.
J: Were there any moments along the way when you felt like you would lose, or any close calls?
I: My hardest opponent was XYazz. He beat me in the group stage and we played against each other again in the second round of the bracket. He was actually 2-1 up and had beaten my Scoia’tael Brouver deck three times in a row over the two days. I managed to come back and win it 3-2, but every single game we had was very close and could have gone either way.
J: How did you prepare for the qualifiers and do you have the same prep strategy for Challenger next month?
I: Preparing for the qualifiers was mostly done from a day one perspective. The three decks I chose for day one were decks that are strong on the Pro Ladder and hard to target specifically. I also made a couple of variations for each deck with minor tech choices, such as running Expired Ale or Black Blood in Alchemy Nilfgaard, that would depend on which leaders my opponent was using. For day two, I needed a 4th deck and wasn’t satisfied with bringing Dagon or Crach Greatswords. In the end, I just grabbed a deck suggested by Kolemoen and had a couple of practice games with it to refresh myself on how to play it.
Preparation for next month’s Challenger will probably be slightly more focused on predicting what my opponents will bring and whether I can tech my decks to soft counter something I expect the other players to bring. Alternatively, I could maybe try and bring something unexpected myself. I do have an exam a week before Challenger so that will eat up some of the time I have to practice. Both myself and Kolemoen play for Topdeck, so I plan on practicing with him and the help of my team.
J: A lot of people talk about LAN experience and how nerves can affect tournament play. Is this your first time competing at an esports event or do you have prior experience within other games?
I: Yes, this will be my first time competing in such an environment. We don’t really have esports events in Western Australia.
J: Do you think this will affect your performance during Challenger versus playing from the comfort and familiarity of your own computer?
I: Hopefully not, but I could easily see myself tilting if I lose my first game or two. I think as long as I go into Challenger with the mentality of not expecting anything then I should be fine.
J: This is the first time we’ll see both yourself and Australia represented at a GWENT Masters event. How do you think you’ll measure up versus the competition? Is there anyone you hope to dodge round one?
I: I feel I measure up fine versus the competition as we get plenty of chances to play each other over a Pro Ladder season. In terms of dodging anyone, I guess I would probably choose SuperJJ as he has the best record against me on the Pro Ladder out of the top 8.
J: Lastly, CDPR distributes the winner’s favourite silver card to the audience during Challenger. The people need to know. What’s your favourite silver card, and why?
I: Assire. I like the flexibility she brings to a deck. You can play her to recycle your own cards or use her aggressively against your opponent’s graveyard.
GWENT Challenger #3 takes place on April 28th and 29th in the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland. Tune in to the CD Projekt Red Twitch channel to watch I_aPOROgise and seven others battle for a slice of the $100,000 prize pool, and the coveted winner’s ring.
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