Flake 1v1 is an interview series where Flake catches up with players and personalities in CCG culture.
Gwent has undergone an overhaul, and depending on who you ask, it is either the sandy beaches after months adrift at sea, or the toast given towards the end of an eventful party. Regardless of your personal feelings of the game, one aspect that has undoubtedly improved is Gwent’s casting team. Challenger 4 brought on a new wave of talent to their broadcasting roster, highlighted prominently by the virtuoso level of analysis offered by Shinmiri.
Shinmiri is paradoxical in his approach. Like a freshly polished cutlass, he shines with piercing and sharp analysis, yet delivers it in a soft and swift volley. He cuts through the obvious, digging into his craft with vigor and zest. It is obvious that Shinmiri has next-level understanding of the game, but beyond his x-ray vision, he loves what he is so deeply rooted in.
Working with Shinmiri was a joy. Though the entire Gwent Masters team oozes professionalism – yes, even Swim once he is coaxed into wardrobe and out of his bathrobe – Shinmiri inspired me. Having a decade of hosting and microphone work under my belt, I would often rely on my experience to carry myself. I’d prepare and review, but I’d catch myself leaning too heavily on improvisation. Han Solo levels of “don’t worry, I got this“. Shinmiri was indirectly a blinking reminder that skill and talent is worked for, refined, and cultivated through discipline and practice. While the team would be eating breakfast and joking about how Tailbot is likely in his room organizing his hairspray alphabetically, Shinmiri was focused on deck lists. He was peeling back layers the average player wouldn’t see. While we all navigated the tournament with our mere mortal eyes, Shinmiri was seeing in infra-red.
I spent four incredible days with Shinmiri where we got to talk about more than just cards and lines of play. Along with eventual tournament winner Damorquis, we strolled through Warsaw’s historic sites sharing stories and trying to keep up with Damorquis’ blistering pace of tourism. What I learned is that Shinmiri is damn smart. He is the type of guy who presents arguments during discussions that are difficult to dispute; Both because they’re sound and rock-solid, and because he delivers them with such delicate precision and kindness that you are left disarmed. He is the antithesis of your typical big-brain nerd. He’s the opposite of that “Well, actually…” douche that we all want to punch.
I had the joy of sitting ten feet away from Shinmiri as he noticeably evolved from a smart, poignant analyst, to a seasoned, comfortable veteran. All in 48 hours. It is astounding what confidence can do, and when you’re backed up by a wealth of Gwent wisdom, it translates to a budding broadcast star in the genre.
I reached out to Shinmiri to share some of the discussions we had in Poland, while opening up about breaking into broadcasting, the future of Gwent, and meeting his wife.
Flake: I think I should address the most obvious Shinmiri related trait: roping. Why rope so much?
Shinmiri: Roping is not about wasting time, but rather utilizing the time that is given to you. Gwent is a game with a lot of complexity, and there are usually multiple valid lines of play to consider. Despite my roping tendencies, I have found myself on many occasions playing a bit too fast and realizing that there was a better play after I passed. Even during turns that might seem very straightforward, you can use the extra time to your advantage by thinking about your opponent’s strategy and how you can potentially counter it. You can plan ahead for future turns and future rounds, which can help you spot a potential winning strategy before it’s too late to execute it. The turn timer is a resource, so make the most of it!
Flake: You’ve been a big part of Team Aretuza for quite some time. What exactly is your role with the team?
Shinmiri: My main role on Team Aretuza is streaming. I think my analytical and competitive approach to the game is a good representation of the type of people we have in Team Aretuza. I’m also involved with team projects in a lot of other ways such as co-hosting the Aretuza GwenTalk show, casting tournaments organized by the team, producing video guides for the Aretuza Academy, as well as assisting our pro players in tournament preparation.
Flake: How does hosting the talk show compare to your analyst duties with the Gwent Masters Series?
Shinmiri:There are definitely similarities between the two. I think there is a spectrum of skills that are required for both which include being well-spoken and entertaining, thinking quickly on your feet, and knowing your subject matter with great depth. Hosting emphasizes the skills on one end of the spectrum a bit more and analyzing emphasizes the other end a bit more, but there’s a lot of overlap.
Flake: Those analytical skills made a splash alongside Swim at Challenger 4. What was that experience like?
Shinmiri:The entire Challenger 4 experience was unbelievable. It was one of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve ever had. From the venue to the late-night board games to the analysis itself, all of it was great. I had a good time working with Swim. The analyst desk got extra screen-time this Challenger, and Swim and I both put in a lot of effort to make these segments as informative and enjoyable as possible.
Flake: How would you rate your debut?
Shinmiri: Personally, I feel like I shine in the analytical aspect of identifying the strategies and thought process of the pro players, but I could improve more on my delivery by cutting out “ums” and “ahs” and making everything a bit smoother.
Flake: What impressed you most about the event, having had such a unique perspective?
Shinmiri:I was most impressed by the production crew and how much work and how many people are involved in making Challenger such an exceptional show. It’s no wonder Gwent Challengers are considered the cream of the crop when it comes to eSports events.
Flake: Many of the Gwent masters casting team have shifted focus, playing Magic or Artifact more prominently. A mild panic could even be felt through the community in some circles. What are your thoughts on this exodus?
Shinmiri:I think people should play what they enjoy. I’m enjoying Gwent more than any other card game, so that’s what I’m playing and streaming.
Flake: Amen. Play what you love. For you, however, it wasn’t always Gwent you loved. You played a lot of Dota in your day, which is where you met your wife. Talk about RNG, eh?
Shinmiri: The year was 2006 and I was the leader of the #1 North American Dota team at the time. We were introduced through a mutual friend when her team was looking for a ringer for a scrim. Turns out she was a fan of mine, and we really hit it off and starting dating long-distance. Good thing I was a good Dota player because she’s probably a bit out of my league!
Flake: Dating smurf confirmed! Do you still play Dota? What are your guilty pleasures outside of Gwent?
Shinmiri:Outside of Gwent, I’ve been playing some Slay the Spire and also starting Divinity: Original Sin 2. I don’t really classify any of these games as guilty pleasures, though. My actual guilty pleasure is watching the reality TV show Survivor. Yes, it’s still on, and yes it’s freaking amazing!
Flake: It only seems fitting that you’d like a show that has its own strategies and bluffs. With that analytical mind of yours, I’m sure you have some gripes about Gwent’s current design, and certainly some praise. Where did CDPR miss the mark, and where did they hit the bullseye?
Shinmiri:Oh man, you could write an entire article just on this, so I’ll try to keep it brief. I think CDPR hit the bullseye with the provisions system as a secondary way to balance cards. The reward book progression system is great and the card art is in a league of its own. Gameplay-wise, I really like the Orders mechanic adding extra layers of complexity to decision-making, and I think the coin-flip fix and hand-size limit ended up working out very well. On the flip-side, I think CDPR missed the mark on some balancing issues, especially regarding the strength of control cards and archetypes, as well as the binary nature of artifacts. Also, in my opinion, balancing leaders through mulligans rather than provisions was a mistake and would work a lot better the other way around. The pace of the game feels a bit slow due to long drawn-out animations. The good news is that these issues shouldn’t be too difficult to fix in the near future and the foundation of the game is stronger than ever.
Flake: So you think artifacts still need some work. Are they too powerful and need a complete rework?
Shinmiri: Powerful is not the right word to describe artifacts. They are still too binary – the only way to interact with them is to “destroy an artifact” and most artifact-hate cards are terrible if the opponent doesn’t play an artifact. Artifacts should be reworked in a way such that many more cards can interact with them without simply negating them completely. I would suggest mechanics such as moving artifacts, or changing their cool-down, range, or number of charges. Or connect artifact usage to units on their side of the board in some way so you can indirectly interact with artifacts through their units. There are many potential options to explore.
Flake: You’re both a top-tier player, and a reputable deck-builder. Would you rather be known for your competitive chops, or your theory-crafting?
Shinmiri:I’d prefer to be known as both! But if I had to pick one, I think relative to other people, I am a better pilot than I am a deck-builder. There are some super creative people out there that excel at coming up with deck ideas from scratch. As a deck-builder, I feel my specialty lies a bit more with optimizing existing deck ideas.
Flake: You seem to be tilt-proof, which is a rare attribute these days. What makes you so impervious to flashes of frustration?
Shinmiri: I wouldn’t say I’m completely tilt-proof, but I am generally able to get over it pretty quickly. I think it helps to realize that there’s no point in being tilted. Being tilted isn’t going to make you feel better or more likely to win the next game, so just forget about it and move on. Bad RNG can happen, but Gwent already has the least amount of RNG out of any digital card game. I am actually more likely to get tilted from my own misplay rather than an unlucky roll. When that happens, I try to note it down and make sure I avoid the same mistake in the future.
Flake: I am my own harshest critic. What haunts you from a self-evaluation perspective?
Shinmiri: I‘ve been thinking about making YouTube videos for a while, but I have no video editing experience, and I’ve found it difficult to get started with that. Another thing is that I’ve been bad about is starting my stream at the same time every day.
Flake: So in that case, what do you do when you shut down the stream?
Shinmiri: Usually after a long stream, I’ll eat some food, maybe lurk in someone’s Twitch channel. After a short break, I usually find myself playing more games. I’m kind of a nerd.
Flake: Being a Gwent Masters analyst, and hosting Gwentalk, you have met and spoken to many personalities in the game. Any memorable moments? Give us some ‘behind-the-scenes’ dirt.
Shinmiri:They’re all memorable, but I will go with Mogwai for his tendency to use chokeholds on people. I let him try it on me and in half a second, I went from “this isn’t that bad” to “my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of their sockets!” Luckily, Mogwai has years of wrestling experience and knows just how much pressure is safe.
Flake: Who is the greatest card player you’ve ever seen?
Shinmiri: There are a lot of great players, but if I had to pick one, probably Tailbot.
Flake: What is the most misunderstood thing about Shinmiri?
Shinmiri: I don’t have any anti-aging secrets, just Asian genes.