Interview: SpyroZA

Who is Spyro? Can you give a short intro of yourself to the Novigrad Journal audience?

Hi, I am Spyro (yes, actual name) and I have been streaming Gwent full-time for over 2 years now. I first started playing Gwent back in beta mainly because I really loved The Witcher 3 and Gwent within the game and just had to try it out when I saw there was a standalone version. My competitive spirit quickly drove me for trying to improve and compete at a high level within the game and I eventually started streaming once I had internet that was capable of streaming.

Last Qualifier – you were streaming your own games as a player, with all the limitations it
involves, vs. fully supported official Gwent stream. You gathered double the audience that the official one had.
What’s the trick?

Honestly I didn’t even take much note of viewership during the event as I focused on my games. That being said I don’t really have any special trick, my goal has always been to provide my audience with high level competitive content which is why I have always endeavoured to cast or compete in as many events as possible.

Fighting every season for the highest ranks, preparing, strategizing and analysing games even if you don’t play – it is exhausting for a lot of players, is it for you? What do you do to
minimize the stress impact of being a high performing player?

It is indeed stressful. Especially for me with the added stress of doing it pretty much exclusively live at all times. One thing that I do find helpful is watching others play from time to time. I often watch teammates within TLG streams their ladder games in discord which can be quite fun/relaxing rather than playing myself. I also enjoy having some variety streams from time to time to help take some stress off every now and then.

Do you still have fun when smashing cards all day long? What else do you do for fun in life?

It depends. Gwent is really fun at the start of new seasons/patches when there are new decks/strategies to try out. Obviously when you do something for 6 hours a day every day competitively there will be times when one becomes a little fatigued. But luckily I am used to this environment and I enjoy competitive environments so it helps keeping me motivated.

Professional streaming – what made you want to pursue this path and how did it all start?

Honestly, this was not planned at all. I started playing Gwent while I was still doing my BCom degree. After my degree I was spending a lot of time looking for a job but it was difficult to find one. South Africa has an unemployment rate of 32% so it was quite difficult.  After spending most of my days at home applying to places, I had a lot of free time that I was spending with playing Gwent. So I decided to start streaming while I was searching and eventually I decided to dedicate all my efforts towards streaming.

When streaming live, unpredictable things happen – have you ever experienced such (both
funny and annoying)? What did you do when they happened?

Absolutely, unexpected things happen almost every day. Many can be frustrating such as internet issues which seems to happen so frequently I am not even sure if one can call it unpredictable at this point. Other times funny/unpredictable things happen within Gwent which often leads to some funny moments.

What were the most important things you have learnt and / or changed during your
streaming career, as result of audience feedback?

One of the most important things I have learnt is that you can’t please everyone. At some point you learn that its best to decide what works best for you and stick to it because at the end of the day there will always be some that disagree with you and have different preferences.

Team – what role does it play in your gamer career? Do you think stronger Teams are the
ones made of coldblooded pros talking about game only, or the ones basing on stronger
social interactions?

I think within our team half of what we talk about is just random nonsense and friendly banter the other half is Gwent related stuff. Its honestly quite nice to be able to have conversations with teamates that are unrelated to Gwent from time to time. To be honest most pro’s are just regular people that just play the game a lot and have a good understanding of it. Otherwise they just talk about random stuff like everyone else.

Your “Advanced strategies” videos on YouTube are pure gold. What inspired you to create it
and did you have to do a lot of research, or was it all your findings?

Basically when I moved from console to PC I had to start off from scratch. as I climbed back to Pro Ladder I noticed at the higher ranks some would play quite well except they would make one small but critical error from time to time that they were just not aware of. Then I decided to start a series called common mistakes where I basically just tried to explain in detail what are some things that are very easy to make mistakes on and also easy to fix if you are aware of it.

I then started to expand the series to Advanced Strategies as some of these concepts were a bit more complex and I thought it best to be in a seperate series as to not confuse/intimidate new players at least not until they mastered the basics. In short I believe it is quite easy to learn Gwent to a relitively high level with proper guidence and decided instead of coaching individual people I would try make a youtube series to try reach more people free of charge. I also did not really research any of these topics. I just simply used my own experience to identify what topics were best to cover and my own knowledge with the help of some friends/teammates to build the scenarios for the videos.

These Advanced Strategies help a lot of people get better at Gwent. What does help you

Watching/casting high level tournaments and scrimming before tournaments is pretty much where I get most of my help from.

You’re a seasoned Gwent player and streamer, and dedicate a lot of time to Gwent. What
keeps you coming back to it? Have you ever considered switching to something else fulltime?

I enjoy the core concept of Gwent. From what I have seen, there aren’t really any other CCG’s with the same 3 round turn by turn gameplay that Gwent has. I would like to maybe one day be able to do a bit more variety because I do enjoy a lot of single player games but just don’t get the time to play them much anymore.

If you were to indicate how much time in % you spend on all Gwent related activities on an
average day? Actual playing, deckbuilder, watching & reading education, offline strategising
& plotting?

Well, I pretty much spend 6 hours+ streaming Gwent a day, after that I am either making videos for Youtube, casting events/playing in events, hanging out with teammates watching them play or from time to time play other games. Overall I would say on average about 8-9 hours a day on Gwent related activities.

How many of your top decks each season are self-made / borrowed as-is from other players
or meta reviews / modified meta?

Most of the time at the start of the season I build all my own decks for at least the first week of the season. sometimes these decks are memes sometimes they are competitive and are refined by others. It is difficult to say honestly because a lot of top tier decks often fairly obvious and many players will play them right from the start and over time they will just get slightly more refined as the meta developes.

Consistent win rate of 75% every season with current system of significant changes with
start of each season. Do you think it’s possible and if so, how to achieve it?

I think a 75% win rate is quite difficult to achieve unless you play later into the season. You can’t quite have fun at the start with meme decks if this is your goal and you would need to be playing at full focus to achieve this. Overall not many people are able to finish high on ladder and maintain such a win rate.

What do you think about aggressive RNG cards like Alchemist and Cantarella? Do you
sometimes play them yourself and just fish for RNG treasures?

Honestly I am not a fan of high impact RNG cards. While I understand their purpose and role within the game, I personally prefer it when games are decided by who plays the best. This can be difficult to evaluate sometimes if cards like Alchemist decide a game. Overall it’s usually best to try focus on what is within your control and not what is out of your control. Sometimes it can be difficult to do this when you are frustrated by RNG elements which can make you lose sight of your own mistakes and room for improvement.

What kind of opponents are the most interesting ones to play against, and which annoy the
shit out of you?

I think the ones that rope until the last second every turn can be a little annoying outside of tournament play. I find opponents the most interesting that simply just play very well and make no mistakes.

The most rewarding and most frustrating moment in your Gwent career?

I think the most rewarding and frustrating moment in my Gwent career is both times I made it to the winners finals of a quailfier and both times I ended up losing in the winners and losers final.

You have faced a lot of top players recently, both the “heritage” and fresh blood. Which
ones made the biggest impression on you?

I have always been mostly impressed by players that are able to play well known good decks and just play them close to flawlessly. Players like Kolemoen have usually impressed me the most. Of course there are many other equally impressive players such as Pajabol and too many others to name but I personally find it exciting to watch simply playing a deck to its fullest potential.

Which 3 cards should be reworked as the absolute priority in your opinion?

Viper Witcher Alchemist, King Foltest and Kolgrim.

Which archetype is currently the funniest to play, even if not the strongest? Which one is the
most boring, but people still play it, as it’s so strong?

Well I have always found vampires to be the most fun, unfortunately it is not so great right now and no one really plays it. The most boring to me would probably be either Lippy or control Skellige.

Which concept in Gwent should disappear, either because it’s so underdeveloped, bugged, or outright annoying?

I think deck clogging in its current form is just unhealthy and annoying. I would not be sad to see it go.

Is there any mechanics in game that, when given enough attention, could evolve into
something spectacular? Is Gwent missing any mechanics known from other games?

I think there is a lot of potential in evolving cards and I would really like to see this mechanic explored more. I think there are so many ways that evolving cards could be implemented into the game rather than just the current “get better every round” ones that we have now.

What is your favourite Gwent voiceline?

Books, games, comic books, Netflix series – the Witcher is everywhere. Which one of those
was the best experience for you and why?

I really loved The Witcher 3 because that is where I was introduced into the universe and that is why I am here today streaming Gwent.

ELO system on ladder – do you like it? What are its pros and cons, and do you know any
other valid alternative which could work in Gwent?

This is a complicated question. I do not think it is perfect because it does incentivize people to just play as many games as they can to get better spots. On the other hand I am not really sure how to alleviate this issue so for the most part I can accept it as is.

Adding more content or finally fixing remaining bugs and adding much needed quality of life improvements – what should Gwent team focus on next? What do you think about the
current direction and pace of Gwent development?

I think a good mixture of both should be done. Gwent has always had a lot of unresolved bugs and missing features which I would really like to see get addressed. On the other hand I also really enjoy new content so I would still like to see new features and content.

Does Gwent need different competitive modes with actual rewards, or is keeping the big
tournaments and prizes to a very narrow group of usual suspects good for the competition
level? How could alternative competitive mode look like?

I am not sure if the gwent player-base is big enough for multiple competitive modes. I think that the best/most dedicated players should always be rewarded for their efforts but I am also all for giving as many people as possible a chance to prove themselves. This is why I really like the qualifiers as I believe it allows underated players a chance to show their skill.

Which 5 games have made the biggest impact / impression on you during all your gaming

Call of Duty: As it was the game that introduced me to competitive gaming and esports in general. I spent several years grinding Call of Duty from morning till night and competing in many Call of Duty tournaments.

The Last of Us: I think this game really left a long lasting impact on me with its superb story and characters.

The Witcher 3: As it is one of my favourite game of all time and introduced me to the Witcher universe.

Gwent: As it helped me start my streaming career and allowed me to meet many amazing people.

Red Dead Redemption 2: Just another amazing game that I spent many hours getting lost in its world.

COVID had a devastating impact on a lot of people, not only because of the virus itself, but
all the other things that came with it – loneliness, depression, alienation, etc. Is there any
wellbeing advice you’d like to give to your / our audience to help them get through safely?

Do not take people for granted, appreciate your friends/family and reach out to them when you are feeling depressed/lonely.

What are your future plans games and not games related?

Eventually find somewhere to live outside of South Africa.

Thank you for your time, good luck on ladder!

You can follow Spyro on Twitter, Twitch, Youtube and Discord.

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