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The Return of the King: An interview with GameKingAT

by Alex “sprackles” Sprackling

Many will remember GameKingAT from the early days of GWENT’s Pro Ladder. A true soldier to the grind, the young Austrian was never far from the top of the leaderboard and was able to attend every GWENT Slam that Lifecoach put together. He came close to winning GWENT Slam #1, where a dominating performance against ImpetuousPanda’s Mill list earned him a cult following. Unfortunately, he fell short and was unable to take down Freddybabes in the final, but that didn’t stop him from returning to win GWENT Slam #2.

His last appearance at an official GWENT event was Open #3 in early 2018 and he has since fallen under the radar. That is until now, where he emerged victorious in the recent Challenger #4 Qualifier. It was a great pleasure to sit down with the returning King, Raffael Iciren, and get his thoughts on GWENT and its future as a whole. 

Alex: First up, congratulations on winning the Challenger Qualifier! That’s a huge achievement. But let’s go back to the beginning. You started your career as a Hearthstone player. What was it about GWENT that drew you in?
GameKing: I played Hearthstone for around two and a half years. When GWENT came into Open Beta, some of my friends played it and I was keen to try it out. Two weeks into playing I reached the top of the rank ladder. Compared to GWENT, Hearthstone has more RNG and myself and others were getting frustrated. Things have become a little stale because of the wait for Homecoming but I’m hoping that when it finally comes round, it will recreate the GWENT boom!

A: Let’s talk about GWENT Slam. You won #2 but just missed out on winning #1 despite a dominant performance against Mill. You said yourself you had done the calculations and believed your decks could beat Mill. Why was you so confident and what are your views on Mill now?
GK: I wasn’t too confident in beating Mill but just thought that if I could cycle out the cards that make you draw cards without drawing any cards, I could beat it. So I made sure to mulligan into a few spells so I could play blank Elven Mercenaries. But now? Sometimes you face meme Mill decks on the ladder but I think it’s probably good that it’s no longer viable. The games took too long. It can be fun once but soon becomes tiring.

A: You attended the RedDragon event, but we haven’t really seen you on the scene since early 2018. Did you take a break after the Midwinter update?
GK: With RedDragon, I got a bit unlucky, ending up with four wins and two losses and my tie breakers weren’t enough to reach the final. But there was a great community vibe and we had a nice time.
As for Midwinter, I didn’t really take a break; I still finished at rank 30 on the pro ladder. I was at GWENT Open #3, which SuperJJ won with his anti-consume line-up. But after that I played a bit less – only around 746 games – so not enough to finish in the top eight.

[We did the maths and worked out that GameKing was playing around 3.5 hours a day, with one day being 8 hours]

A: Let’s talk about the qualifier itself. What was your game plan and did any particular game or opponent stick out?
GK: The Swiss format means I took 4-5 leaders and not everyone would try to counter Nekkers, so I took them. I wouldn’t say my plan was bad but I did manage to win with my Nekkers. There was one game where my opponent didn’t draw their Igni, which was lucky for me. I got to day two and knew that people would likely bring Monsters. Therefore, I decided to counter them but only one person I faced brought Monsters. Kacper never had Nekkers in his line-up and he was running Nekker counters. But a key moment was queuing my own Monsters into his Skellige. Using Sweers helped me a lot throughout the qualifier because it was good against Monsters and Northern Realms.

Swiss is better than double elimination and ideal for a large pool of players. It’s not good for players to depend on tie breakers.

A: Challenger #4 is looking to be the most diverse yet. Is there anyone in particular you feel poses a real threat?
GK: I think the best players are TailBot, Kolemoen, Hanachan and maybe proNEO. Oh, and myself, of course! There’s even some first time appearances from Team Aretuza, so it’s looking to be a showdown between Aretuza and the GWENT veterans! On that note, they should have changed the prize money for people losing 0-3 on day one much sooner. It feels bad to go all that way and get nothing, which wasn’t fair on people at the last Challenger. It’s good that you get 1K for showing up now but I think it should be raised to around 4K, because you get 1K at the Opens which is a smaller prize pool. I just hope I don’t relive Challenger #2 and lose out on day one!

A: Finally, if there’s one thing you could ensure that GWENT: Homecoming has, what would it be and why?
GK: In my opinion, the most important thing has to be a proper coinflip fix. I know there are a lot of ideas out there but I think they should try out the betting system. Let’s say I’m playing against you and you have a deck that doesn’t really care about the coinflip, so you bet only five points. However, I really care about the coinflip so I bet 7 points. The game starts and you have 7 points but I have the red coin. It would need a points cap – this is only for arguments sake – but that could be around 12-15. It’s an idea they should, at least, toy with. Swim has also had some good ideas involving Roach. The biggest problem is the silver spies in their current form. They need to be reworked or deleted, that is something me and Kolemoen agree on.

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