by David "ImpetuousPanda" Gil Nolskog
The much anticipated Homecoming revamp is soon to arrive, and with it — fundamental changes to the way we all play GWENT. This marks the next GWENT Masters tournament as truly special. Open #7 will be historic, but not only for that reason. For the first time ever in an official GWENT Masters tournament, we will see a female participant competing for the lion’s share of the $25,000 prize pool.
Andrada Radu is going to be in the minority during this historic event, but as a twenty-two-year old computer programmer working in the IT sector, she says she’s already used to this, and it doesn’t bother her one bit. “I am a huge fan of videogames, and they are basically the reason why I pursued a career in Computer Programming. I’ve been playing [video games] since I was around six years old, so I’ve been gaming for a while” she says. Although an extremely competitive person, she had never focused on competitive gaming until GWENT came along, instead enjoying the more physically taxing sport of handball for a little over a decade.
A lot of GWENT’s greatest players started competing and racking up top ladder finishes more than a year ago, but Andrada’s story starts exactly then, in the Open Beta period where many legends had already been established. Three of her rivals-to-be were disputing the spoils of GWENTSlam #1, and Andrada was just then peeking into a world that would gradually start taking more and more of her free time. It wasn’t until March of this year that she finally decided it was time to get serious, and started competing on the Pro Ladder to show she could play among the very best.
The Weekend Warrior
The Open #7 Online Qualifier was an ideal opportunity for Andrada to finally prove her worth on the big stage, and she knew this. As someone who has to balance her desire for competitive GWENT with an 8-hour shift every weekday, it presented an ideal opportunity for one intense weekend of competitive GWENT where everyone would be on a level playing field. Luckily for her, she had the backing of Team Leviathan Gaming, a competitive GWENT team looking for success.
Foltest Put To The Test
“I took the whole week prior to the qualifier off from work and used all of it to prepare. I tried out a Monsters deck for the whole week, played all possible matchups, and when the time came to submit decklists I decided to take Foltest instead. If I’m honest, I just really don’t like Monsters!” she laughs. After observing the events that unfolded during Challenger #4, Andrada’s Day 1 strategy revolved around key tech choices made to counter greedy decklists, for example the inclusion of Margarita and Decoy in her Foltest list. She rounded off her Day 1 line-up with Greatswords and Eithne, and she was ready to go.
“I only ended up losing two series in the swiss portion of the tournament, and that was mostly because I did not find Margarita either time when playing my Foltest list” she says. With both losses also coming on blue coin series and one of them being to Nujwk, who we’d see dominate in Day 2, it was safe to assume the line-up had worked well enough for Andrada. With a 5-2 swiss record and a formidable 10th place finish, she had made it to the Sunday Championship Bracket alongside some of the biggest names in GWENT.
“I made it to Day 2 of the Open #6 online qualifier a few months back, so I kind of expected the same for this qualifier. The night before Day Two was also very important. I had to prepare my line-up for the next day, and I could be facing three other teammates from Team Leviathan, so there was some tension. Two of my teammates, KingChezz and Saber were both eliminated in Day 1, so they helped me prepare, and we noticed that all of my early opponents had one thing in common: Alchemy! I decided to soft target Alchemy, switched Greatsword for Veterans and added Birna to the list. I would bring Soldiers as my fourth deck which would also be favored against Alchemy. Then we spent several hours practicing a tailored Henselt list that would counter Alchemy, but when I woke up I simply decided ‘Screw it, I’ll just take Foltest! I like Foltest!’” she laughs.
Last Minute Decisions
After a long night of preparation, and yet another last minute line-up decision, it was time to rise and shine for an intense day of GWENT. Right as the Championship bracket kicked off, things could not have gone for worse for Team Leviathan. Of the four members representing Team Leviathan, only Andrada made it to the second round of the winner’s bracket, but even she ended up dropping that game and was forced to go through a gruesome loser’s bracket.
After a bittersweet victory against Ultraman1996, one of her very own teammates, she was faced off against veteran player Kolemoen in Round 4. In her own words: “For Game 2 I had to play my Red Coin deck, so I queued up Foltest against his Alchemy and the game started. The mulligan screen came up, I saw three Temerian Infantries and three Commandos. I thought ‘Screw it, I’m just forfeiting!’, pressed Escape and sat in silence just looking at the forfeit prompt. I cooled down, made my mulligans and started playing. The moment I played my second Scout and a Commando didn’t jump out from my deck, I knew Kolemoen would be laughing. He had reverted the coinflip with a Spy so he could have definitely pushed to win on even, but decided to get a favorable pass and let me brick instead” she said. “As soon as Round 2 started, I was thinking ‘I’m going to draw two Temerian Infantries and I’m going to be so screwed’ but thankfully that didn’t happen. I ended up mulliganing one of the bricked Commandos, and then made a pretty crazy decision of going for a 2-0 win. In the end, I had two weathers down most of the round thanks to Vaedermakar and Dethmold and forced him into bad Viper Witcher targets. He was also able to skillfully dodge the Cantarella pull from DJ” she laughs. “With Knight Elects giving me two points every turn as well, it was too much for him to keep up and I ended up taking it. I think he just really didn’t expect for me to go for the 2-0” .
After this key victory against Kolemoen’s Alchemy, Andrada was able to take the series and advance to Round 5 of the loser’s bracket, against the very same player who had eliminated her in the winner’s bracket, 4eu3. This time around, the momentum was very much in favor of Andrada, who was able to flip the previous result entirely, from a 0-3 loss to a 3-1 victory. This put Andrada only a win away from advancing to Open #7, but her opponent Santtu2x was not going to make this loser’s bracket final in any way easy.
“Throughout the whole Day 2 my idea was to ban Foltest, since it would be favored against all of my decks, but my opponent didn’t bring it. I was really tired by this point, so the second I saw that he brought Sabbath, I decided to ban that instead. I had lost to it in the Challenger qualifiers so I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again” she laughs. “In the first game I decided to play my Eithne Shupe list against his Eithne Elves list. I was really tired so I didn’t pay all that much attention and dry passed. Then I realized: ‘Uh oh, he has Vanguards’ and thought it was already over. We went into a very long Round 3 and I decided to wait for him to play Outlaw so I can try playing Shupe for weather. I played my Shupe… and the bastard didn’t give me weather! I ended up winning anyway because I had a Lacerate in my deck so I got insane value with Triss into Lacerate, Elven Merc into Lacerate and then Eithne into Lacerate. The card basically got me 50 points that game” she admits.
In the end, the series came down to Santtu2x’s Eithne list vs. Andrada’s Veterans, but Andrada was confident if she split the rounds to her advantage she would have a very high chance of winning due to her naturally stronger finishers in a short round. An unlucky reconnaissance into what Andrada had to assume were two Vrihedd Sappers which gave her the pass she needed to maintain her card advantage in Round 2. This allowed her to take the game in a short round 3 with her strengthened Veteran units, ending the series 3-2 in her favor and making GWENT history by being the first woman to qualify for a GWENT Masters tournament.
“By the time it was over, I just looked at the clock and thought ‘Awww, I just want to go to sleep’ but everyone was freaking out, especially my teammates. It was very exciting!” she admits.
The Difficulties Ahead
Although she has already made history in GWENT, Andrada knows her story is far from over. A month remains until Open #7, and she has her mind set on scrimming intensively with her Team Leviathan teammates. She joined the competitive team back in March as one of its first players, and admits there’s an extremely friendly vibe to the whole team and she has really enjoyed the experience. “I’m pretty shy, I very rarely say something. Being a part of the team, I had to attend a lot of team meetings, and discussions about strategy and the meta so I had no choice but to start talking and adding my input. It's been very positive — not just as a player improving my GWENT abilities but also for me as a person” she adds.
The lineup for Open #7 is already set in stone, with the four horsemen of old — Freddybabes, TailBot, Adzikov, and Gameking — reuniting once again and facing off against two second-timers Kacper and Nujwk and two absolute rookies — Kams134 and Andrada. It’s hard to say what exactly will end up happening. “If I end up against one of the veterans in the first round I’ll probably be very emotional and nervous at the start, but hopefully I’ll manage to put that aside, focus on the games and do my best. I faced a lot of the lesser known players on the ladder a lot as well and I think they’re all very strong, I don’t think anyone is worse just because they’re new to tournaments” she says.
“When it comes to my gender, I know it will be a big point of discussion going into the tournament but I’m not worried. I’m a very competitive person so my whole life I’ve always brushed away the words and just focused on performing as a player. Within Team Leviathan I’m the only girl and it’s been a fine dynamic regardless. Even in my field as a computer programmer it’s not exactly common for there to be many women. You’re always going to find people that are going to be mean to you because of your gender, but like I said it doesn't bother me much at all” she admits.
Unlike many other competitors in the tournament circuit, Andrada is adamant about keeping GWENT as a hobby, and although she enjoys competing, she also loves her job as a computer programmer. “If it turns out I’m really good and find a lot of success, I might make GWENT the priority in my life but for now I want to try and do both” she says.
We’ll have to wait until the weekend of October 13-14th to find out exactly how Andrada’s story will continue to unfold. Make sure not to miss it by tuning into the CD PROJEKT RED Twitch channel!