How To Pick the Best Card in the Keg

With the new update to Gwent, many of the games fundamental mechanics have dramatically changed. I recently wrote a guide on The Slightly Better Way to Open Kegs which is now completed outdated, so I thought I’d take a look at writing a new one. Due to playing the beta a fair bit, I had unlocked enough achievements to buy around 100 kegs straight out of the gates, which allowed me to do a fair bit of experimentation so that you don’t have to. If you’ve felt anxious about making the wrong choice when picking that fifth card, read this guide and hopefully it will help you make those decisions a little easier.

Note that if you played the beta and have hundreds of thousands of scraps lying around, this guide doesn’t really apply to you – just buy any cards you want and save your ore for a special event.

 

So first things first: everything’s different. There are no more silver cards, just bronze and gold. You can have as many gold cards as you want in a deck (so long as you have at least 25 cards total and the rest of your cards fit within the capacity limit), and you can only have two bronze duplicates in your starting deck at any one time.
Why does this matter? Because it changes which cards are a priority, and informs how many of each card to get.

Let’s talk about the mechanics of kegs. Here’s an example of one I opened recently:

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game_20181205123558

See the brown and green indicators underneath the cards? Those refer to the number of standard (non-animated) and premium (animated) cards I already possess in my collection respectively. So in this case, including the cards I’ve just received I now have 3 standard Temerian Drummers, 2 premium Brokvar Hunters, 3 standard and 1 animated Trebuchets, and 3 standard Venedal Elites.

Here’s the all important next screen: picking the 5th card.

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game_20181205123603

You can see the same indicators underneath. The green diamond with the “!” indicates it’s a card I don’t yet have in my collection.

So which card do you prioritise? Here’s what I’d recommend.

 

1. Any premium card.

Surprisingly, the answer is not to immediately choose the card you don’t have yet. Premium cards are worth way more when you mill them than standard cards, so if your long term goal is to be able to access extra meteorite powder and scraps to craft your perfect deck I would pick the premium cards first. Note that unlike the beta, you can’t tell if any of the cards are animated until you move the cursor over them, so make sure to manually check each one before making your decision.

2. Cards that belong to the faction that you’re currently focusing on.

The new Gwent is absolutely huge; there are half a dozen viable strategies for any given faction. To minimise brain overload, I recommend picking one faction and focusing on building one working deck at a time. If you’ve only got one copy of a bronze card in your preferred faction (including neutral), go ahead and snatch up that duplicate.

3. Cards that you don’t have yet.

Assuming that one day you might want to have a large enough collection to build several decks from different factions, having every card in the game is not a bad starting point. Even if a card doesn’t seem like anything special on face value, maybe in combination with other cards it might just lead to some mindblowing strategies that no one else has thought of. I like to think that every card is useful in the right situation. And besides, if  ccard really is useless, there’s a good chance the devs will alter it in future updates to make it more viable.

4. The standard version of a premium card.

If you’ve got one premium version of a card, grab its standard counterpart. That way you’ll have one of each, and will be able to add two cards to your deck if you want to use them both as part of your strategy. You can have a maximum of two premium and two standard copies of each bronze card in your collection, or one of each gold.

5. Cards you only have one copy of.

Snap up those bronze duplicates. You can have a maximum of two premium and two standard copies of each bronze card in your collection, or one of each for gold.

6. Any other card.

Anything else is just going to get milled anyway, so don’t worry about what you pick. Rest assured that when you’re being shown three cards, they’re all equally valuable (rare or higher) so you can’t really make a wrong choice.

 

And that’s it! Doubtless they’ll release some major update in a few months that will make all of this outdated, but for the moment these are my best tips for making the smartest selections. May goodest cards you get, ‘uman deserve it!

Homecoming

Welp, it’s the end of an era. In about 24 hours, the Gwent beta as I know it will be ending, and all of the cards will be completely reworked and the gameplay mechanics majorly adjusted. I’ve played Gwent somewhat regularly over the past year or so, often playing every day between 30-60 minutes, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge what this game has meant to me. It’s been both an important coping mechanism, and a source of immense frustration as I’ve yoyo’d between winning and losing. As I’ve often told my wife, “The highs are highs and the lows are low.” I’m feeling bitter sweet about the new update that will change everything that I love about the game currently.

 

Overall, I didn’t do too badly on the competitive scene even though I would describe my dedication as “somewhere between casual and passionate”. I was never exceptional, but in those months where I was playing regularly, I ranked as highly as #281 in Oceania and Australia.

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game_20180830231139

 

From the very beginning, I decided that I would only play Scoiatael decks, and for the most part I kept to that – about 95% of my games have been from the one faction. I actively avoided following the META, and I put huge amounts of thought into the composition of decks with unique strategies. More importantly though, I created meaningful names for every deck I ever made, and I remember each of them fondly. There were the Sons of Earth, the River of Gold and Aen Seidhe. During my brief stint playing as Skellige, I called upon The Undying. When I went through my Monster phase, my decks were named Winter Knights, Champion, and Om Nommy Nomface.

In practice though, I only really used three decks.

There was Ambuscade, that focussed almost exclusively on ambush cards, traps and keeping my opponent guessing. I would lay down two or three cards face-down, and they would never know which of them would flip over and put them at a disadvantage.

Then there was the Commando deck, constantly moving units from row to row, never being where the opponent expected and punishing them for both staying where they were or trying to escape.

Among them, my prized deck was called Use the Boost to Get Through. I would layer several rows with Golden Frothed ale, and my Mahakam Marauders would drink it all. Due to some strategic wizardry, I could get up to nine Marauders on the board at once, each worth 40+ points while my Farseers laughed and laughed. I once won a game with a final score of over 400 points in the third round.

GWENT_ The Witcher Card Game_20181202171100.jpg

 

Over the time I’ve played, I’ve gotten almost all of the cards in the game. This was knowledge hard-won, involving much trial and error as I learned the best way to open Kegs. I’d opened hundreds of them over time and was curious to see how many cards I had in total, so I manually counted them all, not distinguishing between premium and standard (animated or still). The final tallies were:
Bronze – 200/200
Silver – 133/150
Gold – 104/131

Even though I was missing more than I’d expected, I’m pretty proud of that effort! I’ve already got about 10000 scraps from previous mills, so when Homecoming launches and all of my current cards are converted to scrap I think I’ll have enough to buy the maximum playable number of every card in the game (thanks to all those duplicates). I wonder what kind of strategies I’ll create next.

 

I’ll miss the old Gwent, but I’m excited for Thronebreaker and the Homecoming rework. I’ve avoided learning anything about Homecoming because I want to experience it fresh, poring over each new card and putting together my ultimate deck without being influenced by other people’s ideas of what works. December 4th has been a long time coming.

My Old Friend

My old friend Fear knocked on my door today. He walked with me all morning, reminding me of all the things that could hurt me.

I took me a while to realise that I had given him my power because I knew on some level that he was trying to protect me, and God knows I needed someone to. I had given him the reins, and in doing so had let him convince me to shrink myself, to avoid danger, and to run from threats.

Then, I remembered to lean into him rather than turn away from him. There was a distinct moment where I said to myself, “I’m not going to live in fear today.”

And so I turned.

And he pushed back.

And I held strong.

Life is scary. It’s full of painful shit that could hurt me. But closing my eyes and bracing is no way to spend the day, and I refused to do it any longer. I decided that if I were to die in battle, I would face the end with courage and dignity.

And then I crested the hill,

And saw that it was deserted;

There was no one to fight.

But I would not let it change my bearing.

Trouble averted

I was once talking to two colleagues at work. We were standing in triangle, taking up part of a corridor between cubicles. As we were chatting, I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone, S, was coming towards us. I saw from her body language that she was distracted and impatient, and I realised that she was a few steps away from crashing into my colleague M, whose back was turned to her. Without interrupting our conversation, I stepped forward and slipped my arm around M’s shoulders and pulled her into a one-armed hug, stepping back to give S enough room to push past. M, this sweet 60-year-old lady, was a little confused but gave me a cuddle, and then we stepped apart and kept talking like nothing had happened.

The only person who saw what happened was someone at a distant cubicle, who came up to me and said “Smooth”. I smiled and said nothing. It was perhaps the best application of Wu Wei that I have ever done.

Some of the Finer Details

My tea ceremony teacher normally lives in Japan, but she returns to Perth several times a year and holds lessons for a few weeks at a time. This morning was the first lesson in two months, and it was such a pleasure to be back in the tea room, especially after the hectic weekend, where we performed otemae at the Fusion Festival. (Tea ceremony just isn’t the same when you’re yelling instructions over people in a conga line blowing whistles as they march past the tent.)

Normally after every lesson I write down every new thing I’ve learned, or want to remember for the next session. I thought it might be interesting that I record them here on my blog rather than on my phone, so that you might have an insight into the myriad of tiny details that make up a masterful performance. Note that I’ve been doing tea ceremony for nearly four years, and I have quite a comprehensive knowledge of several different ceremonies and numerous variations of each of them. And yet, today’s lesson is a typical example of just how much I have yet to learn. I am very lucky to have a teacher who is patient enough to answer my questions as I strive for mastery.

So here is a list of all the things I learned (or clarified) today. It’s easier for me to use the Japanese terminology, so I’ll provide a translation for the first time I use each term. Forgive me that it becomes a little complicated if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology.

  1. When holding a bowl of okashi (sweets), don’t just hold it by the rim. If possible, place your hands on the sides of the bowl to hold it firmly. This is also how you should hold it when rotating the bowl towards the main guest.
  2. After serving a guest, the ohanto (assistant) first withdraws (rather than spreads) their right knee slightly, before moving their left knee to meet it and then swinging the feet as the assistant prepares to stand.
  3. When there is an otana (shelf) and you are returning to the entrance, step back right, left, right (and turn), and step across the threshold with the left foot. (This is reversed when taking the kensui (waste water receptacle) from the room.)
  4. Also, make sure that you are moving back with every step and not just shuffling on the spot (so make a little more room to retreat when you first step on the mat). Also make sure your left foot is pointing straight when you step across the mat.
  5. If there is an ohanto, they enter when the host moves the kensui forwards. They set their empty tea bowl by their left knee, and then bow with all the guests.
  6. When purifying the ochaire (tea container), you do indeed rest the ofukusa (silk cloth) in the palm of the hand for the third wipe across the surface of the lid.
  7. When performing chasen toshi (whisk purification), hold the chasen about 5-6 inches above the ochawan (bowl) rather than eye-height.
  8. After discarding the water from chasen toshi, reach for the chakin (cloth) while the ochawan is still over the kensui.
  9. When wiping the ochawan, hold the chakin so that there’s about a centimetre of space above the rim. This makes it easier to wipe rough bowls.
  10. The guests can eat their okashi when the host picks up the chashaku (tea scoop) to add matcha (tea powder) to the bowl. Although this is the correct timing, you must take your cue from the main guest. If they have not yet eaten their sweet, you must wait for them until they remember.
  11. When scooping the matcha, take care not to gouge a hole in the “mountain”. Cut cleanly from the peak to the base at the same angle to keep the powder presentable, because the guest may ask to admire the utensils.
  12. When removing the lid of the mizuzashi (water container), you don’t have to keep it inside the otana. You can grasp the lid in your right hand, sit up straight and then adjust it before leaning forward and placing it correctly.
  13. As a guest, once you have finished your tea you place the ochawan on the tatami (mat) further away from you. Once you have finished admiring the bowl, you may take it onto your mat and place it next to your left knee with the shomen (front) facing you. If an assistant comes to take it, you rotate the shomen to face them and place it on the farther mat. Remember, the tatami in front of the hanging scroll is only for the main guest, so if you are the second guest place it on the left of the divider.
  14. If you are the second guest receiving tea, you do not need to bow and say “Kekko na ofuku kagende“. If you did, the host would have to stop whatever they were doing and bow back to you. It is politer, then, to let them continue with the ceremony and perform a small bow while holding the bowl in both hands after the first sip.
  15. When moving the hishaku (large bamboo scoop) from the mizuzashi to the okama (kettle), the path of the cup is more like a right-angled triangle than a rectangle. It comes out perpendicular to the otana, then goes straight to the front of the okama. The path is reversed on the way back if you are using more than one scoop of water.
  16. After using the hishaku to add cold water to the okama (or after yugaishi (scooping hot water)), you can wait a little for one drop of water to fall before returning to watching the mirror position and putting the lid back on.
  17. When using the hishaku, the best hand position is to have the index finger straight and all other fingers curled at the first two knuckles (as in the opening movements of the Tiger Crane form). Ideally, the host should strive to keep a straight line between the hishaku and their forearm.
  18. When you are going to kazari (display the tea utensils on the shelf), the cup of the hishaku sits not on the rim of the kensui, but just past it. (When you are not displaying anything and simply returing the chaire to the top shelf, the cup sits on the rim.)
  19. When performing a kazari with the tea bowl, you need to wring and refold the chakin quickly and gracefully. To this end, keep the right hand stable and use the left hand to untwist it (either going forwards or backwards as needed).
  20. When displaying the hishaku, place the cup down with the kiridome (tip) pressed into the palm. When you lay the handle down, turn the hand palm-up and lay it gently on the shelf.
  21. When doing sou kazari (display everything), once you have displayed everything you can on the shelf without leaving, reset the kan (rings). That is to say, reset the kan just before you leave with the kensui.
  22. The word for the iron kettle is yakan.
  23. When resetting the ochaire between performances, as well as resetting the mountain of tea, make sure to wipe any stray tea powder from the inside and outside of the rim.
  24. From what I understand, Edosenke (the style of tea ceremony from Edo/Tokyo that I practice) is probably a little simplified compared to other schools. The 7th generation master of Omotesenke (one of the three major styles of tea ceremony taught by great-grandson of Sen no Rikyuu) asked his top student to leave Kyoto and establish a school in Edo. The version of Omotesenke he taught was a little simpler to better suit the people of Edo.

Now that I’ve written it all down, it sure looks like a lot! It humbly reminds me of how much I know already, to be refining these tiny details in my pursuit of excellence. It’s easy to see how chanoyu is a lifetime journey!

Reflections On Our Welfare System

When I try and think of the place where I have felt least respected in my life, the strongest image that comes to my mind is on the other side of the reception desk at Centrelink, or by extension, the job network providers.

 

I get it. There are lots of angry, unpleasant clients to work with who treat staff disrespectfully. Day in and day out, I totally understand how hard it would be to keep treating people kindly, respectfully, trustingly, only to have them (sometimes literally) spit in your face.

I would become guarded too, no doubt about it. I would become calloused and inured, and assume the worst while doing my best to remain courteous on the surface.

 

But it still sucks to be on the receiving end of that barely concealed disdain. Disdain that yet another person has walked through the door in need of something, and they’ll probably ask for it none-too-politely.

It makes me feel small. It makes me feel worthless. And I don’t like it.

 

I see an gentleman in his 50’s wearing a smart business suit approach the reception. He’s a client, and he asks for someone’s email address. He tells a joke and the receptionist laughs, playfully calling out after him as he walks away. When she turns to see the next client her face falls, and she snaps at the young man with dark skin, telling him with a passive-aggressive mutter and increasing bluntness to go sit down and wait.

 

I try and distinguish myself from the other clientele. I lay it on thick, being charming and polite, using big words to give the impression of intelligence and casually mentioning my qualifications so that the staff will treat me like something closer to an equal. I see the moment when they go “Oh, but you’re more qualified than I am. You could be doing my job, or my manager’s job.” I work so hard to give the impression “I’m not like the others”.

And I’m ashamed. Because it means that I’m willing to push other human beings down in order to stand on top of the pile, and be treated slightly better than them.

 

It’s a shitty system we’re part of, that de-humanises people who are looking for work. And I know that when people treat me like I’m worthless, not only do I feel worthless, I want to act accordingly. Because it’s exhausting trying to convince them that I am nice, that I am intelligent, that I am worthy of respect. And honestly, even when I try really, really hard, it doesn’t often change the way I’m treated. I guess a few polite exchanges can’t undo years of being treated badly, and so no matter how hard I try I’m still likely to elicit a care-less response from someone who’s deep in the pits of compassion fatigue.

 

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m the educated, qualified, not-quite-white-but-certainly-not-black one. I’m the one with a family wealthy enough and supportive enough to have bought me a car when I needed one, so I didn’t have to ride a bike to my appointment. I’m the one with a smart phone with internet connection, so that I can find what I’m looking for instantly. I’m the one with a USB dangling off my car keys so I can take the files easily. I’m the one with a folder to keep my documents from being creased, and access to a shower so I don’t have strong body odour. I’m the one that grew up in a safe family where I was never exposed to drugs, and who found themselves in a stable and healthy relationship. I’m the one that grew up speaking English, as a male, currently in the prime of my adult years.

I have privilege coming out the wazoo.

And I still found it hard.

 

It breaks my heart to think of all the people I passed today who will not have such an easy time as I did.

And I don’t have any answers.