Flake 1v1: Damorquis

Flake 1v1 is an interview series where Flake catches up with players and personalities in CCG culture.

It was touted as one of the best Gwent tournaments ever. Challenger 4, which took place in an unforgiving village in Skellige, boasted a talent roster that oozed skill and personality alike. The competitors each had their flavorful back-stories. A sharp broadcast team rode this narrative to illustrate the animated and emotional tournament. What was one of the most masterfully delivered shows on Gwent’s schedule was won by Gwent’s Renaissance Man: Damorquis.

As host of the event, I was eager to get to know the competitors personally. Peeling away layers from nerves and apprehension is important when conducting an interview. I like to get to know someone before having an exchange with them on a professional level. It just so happened that the most in-depths conversations I happened to have was with the eventual winner himself.

Damorquis and I had had numerous chats before, but our differing paths in the world of Gwent led us to Warsaw where we were able to meet for the first time in person. Along with Shinmiri, Gwent’s analytical oracle, we strolled through downtown Warsaw, eventually exploring the older part of the city. All the while, Damorquis was a source of entertainment and information, delivered with what can only be described as a true gentleman’s refinement.

The conversations we had that Thursday afternoon will likely be saved for a tell-all exposé book that I may never write. What I can share about what I learned of him is that he is a fiercely intelligent man with a great deal of confidence – elements that certainly factored in to his victory.

I reconnected with Damorquis a few weeks after winning Challenger 4 to pick his brain on the tournament, Team Aretuza, and how he is viewing his career after the milestone victory.

Flake: Again, congratulations on your win! I want to start with asking you about Team Aretuza. They’ve emerged as the pack leaders in competitive Gwent. When did the idea of forming the team enter your mind?

Damorquis: The origin of the team lies in our early members’ desire to become better in Gwent. We came together as a group of players striving to become more competitive or simply gain a deeper understanding of the game’s mechanics. As soon as Gwent Masters was announced, a lot of team members showed willingness to go further and test their skills on ProLadder. Scrimming, co-oping and sharing our knowledge before that certainly helped us on our way to be successful competitively in the long run.

Flake: What were your initial goals with the team? Have your plans changed since?

Damorquis: The main goal was always to be competitive, ProLadder and Gwent Masters tournament series became a platform for us to show what we have learnt together. Along with our initial success in competitive Gwent, we decided to recruit content creators and streamers. We also created a public discord, where the rest of the community can get in touch with us and other players. With that said, our primary goal has not changed, we just decided to share what we know with the rest of the community.

Flake: Having won Challenger 4, a tournament you often stated was your “last tournament appearance”, have your aspirations changed?

Damorquis: Challenger 4 was a memorable experience for me. Earning the Skellige ring and qualifying for World Masters, as well as the upcoming Monster Challenger opened up new opportunities for me to stay as deeply connected to the game as I was before. Homecoming is looking amazing, a new challenge for everyone, which I am looking forward to get on.

Flake: What preparation, outside of practice and deck construction, goes into getting ready for a tournament like Challenger 4?

Damorquis: The challenger was stacked with well known names of the Gwent community, the best of the best. During the preparation, a lot of thought went into the analysis of individual player’s preferences in an attempt to guess the tournament meta and pick accordingly. I wrote an extensive article on how AndyWand and I analyzed the opposition and designed an optimal strategy for the tournament. I highly recommend it if you want to get behind the mindset of a pro player with a foible for quantitative preparation. (Article linked below.)

Flake: With so many names out there who have established themselves as perennial threats on the competitive scene, what name should the Gwent world take note of?

Damorquis: There are some players who haven’t yet been seen in official Gwent events but bring an exceptional game intuition on the board. There are too many players with potential to mention them all, it will be interesting to see who decides to go competitive with the game’s release and who will be most determined from the newcomers. To me, the best players in the world are Tailbot, Kolemoen and Gwent2Town. They have reached the nirvana of game understanding. But with new Gwent comes new rules. Let’s see who emerges the best in the upcoming months!

Flake:  Having played the early iteration of Homecoming in the PTR, will Gwent’s competitive scene open up with the new game?

Damorquis: The PTR revealed a lot about the game, but not about changes to the competitive side of the game. Therefore it is hard to answer this question. I think the release of Gwent will spark the interest of many new and veteran players from other competitive card games and we might see new faces joining the high pro ladder ranks soon. Gwent as a game has been very consistent and enjoyable in its history compared to other card games. Therefore, I am optimistic that the competitive landscape will prosper after the official release of the game, attracting new players with a game that rewards good plays more than any other CCG.

Flake: There are always moments of doubt, times where you may have your confidence shaken or tested. When was that time in your competitive career, and how did you overcome it?

Damorquis: Being on the big stage, at the Open and Challenger, is an exciting and demanding experience at the same time. As far as the pro ladder is concerned, I think I was always very optimistic regarding my chances when I decided to push for it. It was really close at times, but I believed that my effort will pay off as long as I play my best. My experience in official Gwent tournaments was very diverse. At my first Open, I played way under my abilities, and in the second, I felt like I did the right calls but lost with very bad luck. In hindsight I analyzed both series and realized that despite being unlucky, there was a way in which the games could have been won. That only fueled my motivation to prepare harder. A close series of games in the last Open granted me the win and ticket to Challenger #4. I saw it as my big chance to perform, it was my goal to qualify and show that I can play along the best players in the world.

Flake: Any notable highlights or moments that resound in your memory?

Damorquis: The most memorable moment in my Gwent Masters career was my 3-2 victory in the semifinal of the Challenger against my friend Kolemoen. Next to Tailbot, I regard him as the best player in the world with an exceptional mindset and perception of the game. Being 0-2 down against him and still turning the series around victoriously made me grow as a player. I proved to myself that even under the biggest pressure I am able to perform, pursue my strategy and emerge victorious. The final against AndyWand was a great feeling, but it was the series against Kolemoen which made me a true Veteran of Gwent.

Flake: You’re the leader of Team Aretuza, and there is an obvious unity amongst your members. A pride. To what degree is your win at Challenger 4 a personal accolade and to what degree is this a team achievement?

Damorquis: I think it is a healthy mixture of both. Aretuza not only helped me to prepare for the tournament but also to develop my skills as a player on the pro ladder over time. In my first Gwent Masters Appearance versus Hanachan, I was playing under my potential. With every following appearance I stepped up both my gameplay and my mentality, which helped me gain confidence in my skill. I already had a good idea of what strategy I wanted to use early on in my preparation, and the team really helped me with figuring out the exact decklists, finding the confidence to bring a risky deck like Consume, and with the truly extensive amount of practice. I think the biggest achievement for our team was the meeting of AndyWand and myself in the final. We both worked hard analytically and it  paid off. I was really happy that we could represent our team in such an impressive way.

Flake: As Homecoming nears, what are Team Aretuza’s plans for the future?

Damorquis: For the release of Homecoming we have the biggest project in production that has hit the Gwent scene so far. The Aretuza Gwent Academy will be a brand new platform that allows players from beginner and intermediate levels to learn the mechanics of Gwent step by step. We all remember how complicated Gwent was when we started and if you have ever tried to explain to your friends and family what is going on, you probably realized that Gwent is pretty deep! With the Aretuza Academy we will provide guides, video material, quizzes and more for everyone who wants to get into Gwent and understand the game better.

Flake: What kind of skills will beginners or intermediates pick up from the Academy?

Damorquis: From the right moment to pass, to deckbuilding, crafting the right cards at the start, and many many others, we will cover the complexity of Gwent on our webpage and break it down for you. We have been working hard on the project and it should air shortly after Homecoming, so definitely stay tuned for this one and check us out!

Flake: To the victor go the spoils, and a hefty sum at that. Inquiring minds want to know, Damo… What did you do with the prize money?

Damorquis: My dad has always been a great person in my life so I thought it was about time I give something back to him as well. Family is really important to me. This October, my dad, my brother and I will travel 2 weeks through Italy and visit beautiful cities like Venice, Florence and Torino to explore the culture and history of one of my favorite countries. And of course the cuisine! With the challenger money I will make sure to get a taste of all local specialties even if it means I will have to order the new Aretuza kit one size larger! Wherever you go, it is important to remember where you come from. I want to return something to some other people who are important to me: my friends and teammates. So we have a short holiday planned in November to meet up with some longtime Aretuza members and our good friends from Team Nova in Sevilla and explore the culture of this city and Granada. After the first meetup during the last Gwent Open, it will be amazing to see my friends and hardworking teammates again. Lastly I am a passionate watersports enthusiast, despite being the most afraid kid of water ever during my youth. I already own a lifeguard and a motorboat driver’s license and now would like to finish my sailing license. Hopefully next year I can spend some of my money on sailing the Greek islands with some of my good friends. On official Gwent Masters events you may see my occasional efforts to hire a crew. I already have some of Gwent’s best in my deck!

Flake: Damorquis, as always, it has been a pleasure. Congratulations on your success.

Damorquis: Thank you, Flake!

You can find Damorquis’ article on tournament preparation here.

Follow Flake on Twitter @WatchFlake and on Twitch at Twitch.tv/WatchFlake

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