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From Meta Reporter to Fight Night Champion

Leer retells his journey from try-harding Gwent, to fulfilling his dream of being cast by Panda – by winning two back-to-back Fight Nights.

‘sup everyone, back-to-back Fight Night Legends EU winner Leer here!

Not many get the privilege of experiencing a Fight Night, so today I want to give you a glimpse into mine and what it means to me! =)

Prelude

My card slinger journey starts in 2016 with Hearthstone. At the time, I finally accepted that I wouldn't make it as a LoL pro and reached out to other games that I could enjoy competitively.

Fully focused, I was in a hyper-competitive mindset and learned about pretty much anything (e-)sports psychology related out there, especially the content from MindGamesWeldon, a LoL coach.

I was at a crossroads in life when I graduated from high school and 

I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I joined college and quickly realized that I couldn’t do competitive card games and Uni to 100% both at the same time. So I had to make a decision.

After one year of college, I decided to take an unofficial break and dedicated half a year of my time to going all-in on e-sports. I didn't tell my parents and didn’t tell most of my fellow students. The few friends I tried to explain what I was doing didn’t understand how or why.


The Competition Unfolds

That being said, a few months prior, there was a huge shitstorm in the Hearthstone pro scene because the game kept implementing more RNG-based cards and focusing on the casual player base.

At the time, a novel card game entered the market. One that was never meant to become a full-fledged, stand-alone card game, but was rather a minor activity in an RPG. I’m talking about Gwent (Or Gwint, as it was called in The Witcher 3 =).

Since I’m a data-driven, mathematical person myself, I shared the sentiment of the pros and decided to switch to Gwent. This was in no marginal part due to my role model at that time, Lifecoach, making the switch to the game as well.

It turned out that I really enjoyed Gwent and also found quite some success on the ladder, which made my decision to take a semester off of Uni an easy one.

My days looked pretty much either one of these two:

Get up whenever, play Gwent for 5 hours, eat, continue to play Gwent for 5 hours/do VOD review, and sleep.

Or procrastinate and watch YouTube videos all day. =)

Let me explain to you how the Gwent leaderboard worked back then:

Like in LoR, you had a global leaderboard with “ranks” similar to LoR. Once you reached the highest one (i.e. Master in LoR), you qualified to play in a separate “Pro Ranked Ladder” in the following 2 months. Seasons were always two months long.

This Pro Ranked ladder looked a lot different from what you might be used to in LoR. You had to play with several factions (similar to regions in LoR, just that every deck in Gwent had to be one faction only) and over several hundred games. 

After reaching a certain threshold, the system would take your average winrate and calculate your MMR that way. Adding up the MMR of your best regions would then become your ladder ranking.

This meant that every single game you played counted. It also meant that you could, and should, grind to increase your ladder ranking, which came with a whole lot of caveats that we don't wanna discuss here. =)

Fun Fact: There’s an old Tweet by me…

... in which I thanked Lifecoach and SuperJJ for doing educational content that helped me qualify for said Pro Ladder! 🙂


Progress // Falling Short

After my first two months, I managed to reach the top forty of this global Pro Rank Ladder, and in the next two, top thirty. In my final two months, I made it to the front page of the ladder, into the top twenty!

Unfortunately, this was also where I would stagnate. To be invited to the only major tournament of the scene, you had to place in the top eight to get invited.

I never made that.

This is one of the reasons why I appreciate the Seasonal Open Rounds of LoR. Even if you don’t place at the very top of the ladder, or end up qualifying for playoffs, you at least get a chance to play. 

After falling short of qualifying for a major tourney in my six-month break, I had to make the decision if I wanted to stay for another six months or go back to Uni. With no accomplishments to show, or knowing how to continue, I chose the latter.

To be honest, this half of a year that I had to only myself turned out to be more of an introspective journey than anything else. I had a pretty difficult childhood and struggled to fit into Uni as well. Having this solitary phase helped me find myself and grow into an independent human being.

In the end, one major reason I decided to stop was that I realized that I couldn’t proceed on my own. I wasn't comfortable reaching out to improve with others, but I also hit the limit of what I could reach on my own. It would’ve been irrational to continue and waste my time away, all the while diminishing my self-confidence because I felt unable to socialize with other players.

This doesn’t mean that it was an easy decision for me. In fact, it was probably the most painful decision in my entire life, and I still think back from time to time and mourn.

But the most important choices in life aren’t the easy ones, and I believe it was the right one, though I will never be sure.


A New Beginning

After my Gwent career was over, I decided I needed a change of scenery. Since I’m a huge LoL nerd and followed the pro scene for fun, so I immediately jumped on the LoL card game.

After the beta, I especially enjoyed Expeditions and the variety it brought to the game. I was anxious to go for Constructed and didn't want to submit myself to the pressure of performing again.

This changed when Aphelios was released.

Perchance, I browsed Twitch to see how many views LoR as a category gets, and found out that a big tournament was going on– The Cosmic Creation Seasonal.

I watched Pettish play Aphelios Viktor and was immediately in love. Viktor is my favorite LoL champ, and Aphelios my favorite LoR one. I had no longer a good excuse to not play Constructed and jammed Aphelios Viktor. 

A long time passed, with me climbing to Masters and competing in the Seasonal Open Rounds – qualifying for my first big tournament. was actually quite intense. 

I was at 0 LP Masters and needed to reach 120 LP to qualify, and the cut-off was in 8 hours. I decided to play the best meta decks, but struggled to get enough LP. At around 1 hour left, I hit 0 LP again and gave up. 

I decided to waste some time with Lurk, a high RNG deck that I didn't want to play before. The next hour would turn out to be my most epic laddering experience to this day.

I didn’t lose a single game in that hour and went on an eight-game winning streak or so. I remember I was at 105 LP and it was 5 minutes before the cut-off. When my opponent realized they were losing, they roped me every turn to drag out the game as long as possible to not lose LP. The game ended less than 30 seconds before cut-off, with me qualifying!

Unfortunately, in the four to five Seasonal Open Rounds that I competed in, I haven’t been able to make Seasonal Play-Offs ever, almost always going 7-2.

Truth be told, I am not the most talented player. I keep forgetting to play around cards, or stick to some silly lines. I have trained a lot in the past, but could never overcome this lack of sharpness or “talent”. This has been pretty soul-dreading, to hit your limit without being able to advance. TBH, after realizing this, I felt like LoR became a waste of time to play competitively for me.


Sowing Seeds // Growing Life

Everything changed when Jason Fleurant decided to found a new website. He was searching for writers and pretty much gave anyone a shot that wanted to write. I was inspired by Sorry’s Plunder guide and decided to give my own guide a shot. I wrote one about my favorite deck, Lee Sin Zoe, and Jason liked it, so he hired me! =)

While this was amazing news, the next development wasn’t. There were big names in the writer's discord, like WhatAmI or MajinBae. I got imposter syndrome and was too afraid to say I wanted to write about something because they could surely do it better.

Fortunately, I was in my element when I had the idea to combine my Mathematics studies with LoR and dive deeper into game theory and probabilities of events. This was my first article – How to Math in LoR.

My second one was this Akshan Sivir guide, which nobody else wanted to write about. Quite the coincidence, that I won my first Fight Night with the first deck a wrote a guide about! =)

My most deciding LoR career moment was yet to come though. Jason announced that he wanted someone to do a weekly meta report. I struggled to find article topics and liked the idea, but was still too afraid to accept because I felt like I didn't have what it took. After a day went by and nobody wanted it though, I gathered all my courage and wrote that I wanted to do it!

This weekly meta report series is what I’ve been continuing until today, since November. I made wholesome friends along the way, like Herko Kerghans (our editor at MaRu) and bA1ance (another of the MaRu writers), but expanding on that would go beyond the already strained scope! =)

Herko came to me one day and said that he wanted to do independent interviews of passionate community members that haven’t gotten enough attention. After some brainstorming, bA1ance, Herko, and I (really, it was all Herko’s doing =) founded the RIWAN Discord server…. which would soon turn into the poetry server! 

Again, explaining all of this would go waaaay beyond, and Herko is already eyeballing me going off the road. If you wanna see for yourself what we managed to build, come join us at https://discord.gg/z2tpRVd6br

Through the poetry server, I met wick, and due to bA1ance vouching for me as a great player, he accepted me into his newly founded team – ABG.

That’s also how I got into Fight Night.

I submitted the form Giant Slayer provides but never heard back. When wick said he could get two members of ABG into Fight Night, I was hesitant. Again, I didn't feel deserving and wanted to let my team members, who are better players than me, get the chance to play. As it turned out, most of them couldn't make it and I was asked again.

This time I accepted.


The First Fight Night

My lineup consisted of Akshan Sivir, Miss Fortune Quinn (Scouts), and Pantheon Yuumi. My reasoning behind this lineup was that I am well practiced on those, and they have a similar matchup table. 

Teching my Pantheon deck vs aggro meant that we are favored into Jhin Annie and most other aggro decks. We’re also solid against other Demacia lineups except for Pantheon Yuumi.

We ban Pantheon Yuumi and Ezreal decks, which usually don't appear together in a lineup. This meant that we we’re at least equal against most lineups and played to win.

Something I didn't see coming is that many people would bring Aphelios Zoe Vi. Our lineup turned out to be solid against that archetype, but I didn't have much practice against it!

Match 1 – Sokoï

Sokoï was the runner-up of the previous Fight Night. Thus I was the big underdog and quite anxious. 

They brought Riven Fizz, Pantheon Yuumi, and Annie Jhin. We banned Pantheon Yuumi as planned, while our foe took Scouts out of the race.

Since it’s an open decklist tournament, and my first opponent was revealed early Friday, I scrimmed against Sokoï’s lineup with Hazy

I never managed to win a game as Pantheon Yuumi against Fizz Riven, even though on paper, the matchup favored me. This made me all the more nervous going into my first match.

The first game was Akshan Sivir versus Fizz Riven. I felt confident in this matchup due to my Quicksand tech and Sharpsight to block Fizz.

I think this is the game-deciding moment. I decided that I didn't need to develop here and let my opponent come into me. They always had to keep Sharpsight and Quicksand in mind, even though I didn't have them in hand. 

It’s difficult to talk for my opponent without knowing his hand and thoughts, but in this situation, I think he mistook his role as the control player, even though he was the beatdown.

Giving Akshan Sivir enough time to develop a wide board means trouble, and allowing me to draw more cards is detrimental. I think my opponent was supposed to attack this turn instead of wasting my mana.

Game 2 was Pantheon Yuumi against Jhin Annie. Our Petricite Broadwing worked like a charm and won us the game.

Match 2 – Luna

Their lineup was Riven Fizz, Aphelios Vi Zoe, and Akshan Sivir. Their Akshan Sivir list was favored in the mirror match due to Demacian Tellstones and Shuriman Tellstones. Having a barrier effect to block Sivir is huge.

Since Aphelios Zoe Vi is favored against Pantheon Yuumi and I didn’t know the Akshan Sivir matchup against it, I decided to ban Aphel Zoe. They banned Scouts.

Now, Pantheon Yuumi is favored against Akshan Sivir, and my experience told me that Pantheon Yuumi has a rough time against Riven Fizz. Thus, it was a 50/50 if I got a good matchup or not. Really, it was a coinflip for who was 60% favored to win the whole match. And I lost said coinflip.

Game 1 was the Akshan Sivir mirror which I wanted to avoid. 

One of the game-deciding moments was this. I made their Sivir Vulnerable with Merciless Hunter and challenged it with my own Sivir. They played Shield of Durand, I answered with Shaped Stone

Unfortunately, they had another pump spell in Sharpsight, while I had nothing left. This meant that my opponent was 1-0 in the match and I still had to face the uneasy Pantheon Yuumi vs Riven Fizz matchup.

I quickly swept game 2 with Akshan Sivir versus Riven Fizz this time. But the worst was still ahead.

Now it was do or die. If I win this game, I advance to the winner’s final – if I lose, I fall down into the loser bracket and have to play even more games.

My starting hand was extremely good. I had Saga Seeker into Brightsteel Protector to save me some early life and get on the board. Yuumi was my round-three play.

While this spelled good odds for me winning the game, he could still one-turn kill me with Fizz and Papercraft Dragon. This is exactly what happened in my prep – if Fizz Riven draws Fizz, there’s no way for Pantheon Yuumi to remove him.

Fortunately, Luna didn't end up drawing Fizz

This is the final nail in the coffin. My opponent went (in my opinion correctly) for a last attempt to push damage with Riven + Papercraft Dragon. Thus, my Concerted Strike ended the game.


This meant that I was now in the winner's finals! I never imagined getting this far and was prepared to go out not winning a single game.

This also meant that I was getting increasingly excited. I had to take a longer break where I calmed myself down through breathing exercises. I also did some physical exercises to keep my blood flowing after sitting for so long. These are some tricks I’ve learned while participating in the Seasonal Open Rounds!


Winner’s Final – piorro

piorro’s lineup: Draven Sion, Aphelios Zoe Vi, Annie TF Conservatory

Since all my decks (except Scouts) were heavily unfavoured against Draven Sion, I had an easy ban choice. They banned Scouts.

The first game was Pantheon Yuumi versus Aphelios Zoe. The data said I was unfavoured in this one, and I had no experience navigating this matchup.

Even worse, I made a huge misplay turn one. I played Saga Seeker, thinking I had the attack token. My idea was that I could Single Combat Zoe on turn two and prevent her from creating a Supercool Starchart while activating my Fated unit. 

In reality, I didn't have the attack token. I played Petricite Broadwing turn two to challenge Zoe, and in turn my Saga Seeker got Mystic Shot. The correct play would have been to wait for turn three to develop Saga Seeker alongside Pale Cascade.

I told myself not to tilt and stayed focused. My odds were extremely slim after this misplay, but I couldn’t let my mind slip.

This is the final turn. My opponent had a big The Winding Light turn and almost lethal’d me. For some reason, they didn’t play their Gems in hand, so they were one damage (!!) short. 

I thought they had a Mystic Shot in hand to close out the game  for sure, but cast Golden Aegis on my chunky Wounded Whiteflame anyways. It turned out he didn’t have Mystic Shot in hand. I was now up 1-0 in the winner’s final.

Game 2, Akshan Sivir versus Aphelios Zoe Vi, piorro had the upper hand, with a bad Mulligan from my side.

It was 1-1 in the series now, the winner of the next game would advance to the grand finals, while the loser had to battle it out with Jinden’s aggro lineup!

Game 3 was my cleanest game of the tourney. I piloted Akshan Sivir against piorro’s Annie TF Conservatory. 

What’s the play here? 

I decided to play around Twisted Fate’s Red Card by not developing Sivir straight away. Instead, I cast Waking Sands to put pressure on my opponent and force out an answer. Either, he plays TF to sweep the 2|1 Treasure Seekers, or tap out of mana for TF. The other option would have been for him to take a billion damage.

My opponent in fact had a Twisted Fate in hand and played him. I developed Sivir without her Spellshield getting popped and continued the pressure.

In the end, I killed my opponent with a Golden Aegis turn when they developed Tybaulk and tapped out of mana. This meant that I was now in the Grand Finals, without dropping a single series!


During the loser’s final match, I decided to go for a long walk. My mind was going crazy and I couldn’t believe what I had managed to achieve. I had a hard time focussing in the last match and needed to cool off for my final challenge.


Grand Final – piorro 

Piorro managed to beat Jinden in the loser’s final and came for a rematch. Same lineups, same bans.

Game 1 was Akshan Sivir versus Aphelios Zoe, which made me happy. If I managed to win this game, I had two shots at getting Pantheon Yuumi out, which was huge.

As mentioned before, I was pretty excited and could hardly concentrate. I made some sloppy plays here and there, but luckily nothing that would cost me the game.

This was the game-deciding moment. My opponent went for a desperation play to burn my Sivir down, but my Sharpsight didn’t agree.

The final nail in the coffin was me having Concerted Strike to answer his Vi + The Winding Light combo.


Game 2 was Pantheon Yuumi against Aphelios Zoe. If you have been reading this far, you know we aren’t favored in this one.

I made a pretty bizarre play on turn two. I decided to Single Combat the opponent’s Flame Chompers! with my Saga Seeker.

My reasoning was the following: This is a pretty bad matchup. If I want to win, I will have to get a leveled Pantheon as early as possible. If I don’t use Single Combat here, I will level Pantheon one turn later. Since I wanted to have a target for Zenith Blade next turn to keep progressing Pantheon’s level-up condition, I Single Combatted their 0 attack unit to play around Mystic Shot or Get Excited! the following turn.

The problem with this line: we never drew Pantheon. In hindsight, it’s easy to say I should’ve used my Wounded Whiteflames in hand instead of playing around Pantheon, who was MIA. Still, I’m not so sure that would’ve worked out, but my intuition told me to go for this play. Thus I lost and the match was tied again.

Game 3 was Pantheon Yuumi vs Annie TF Conservatory. My opponent was pretty favored in this one, due to their access to Disintegrate and Scorched Earth.

The game started pretty well for me – I had Saga Seeker on turn one, Mountain Goat on turn two, and Yuumi on turn three. Finding Yuumi in this matchup is huge. Our foe will kill the units Yuumi is attached to, but Yuumi will keep returning to hand, thus posing as an important value engine.

On turn two, I decided to block Legion Saboteur with Mountain Goat. This might have been a crucial misplay on my part. I don't have many units besides Yuumi in hand, and know that my opponent will be able to remove most of them with Disintegrate or Ravenous Flock.

Mountain Goat could’ve become an important target for Yuumi. As it’ll turn out, I lacked the mounts for Yuumi later in the game.

On the other hand, letting my opponent deal free damage with Legion Saboteur to me, and more importantly, progress Ravenbloom Conservatory for free isn’t a good idea either. The damage might not matter that much since Annie TF is not an aggro deck; I’m still not sure if my block was the right decision!

My Saga Seeker ended up getting removed with Ravenous Flock. My opponent jams Twisted Fate on turn four for Blue Card. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to slam my own champion in Pantheon and attach Yuumi to him in the coming turn. Instead, I was too nervous and forgot to play him, ending my turn instead. 

Piorro finds a turn to kill my Pantheon with Disintegrate, and I’m out of meaningful units. This turn, I should’ve cast my Pale Cascades to cycle for more units – I misplayed once again. 

I struggle to find units to play, but my opponent also seems to have a bricked hand – it’s now a matter of who can topdeck their win condition first.

For some reason, piorro decides to not full swing on this turn. I had to use one of my Yuumis as a 2|2 chump blocker to prevent some damage. If they had full swung, they would’ve put me under more pressure and brought me into lethal range of Riptide Rex.

This is the last game-deciding moment. My foe casts Blade's Edge prior to making my jacked-up Brightsteel Protector damaged to kill it with Scorched Earth. My Guiding Touch in hand prevents this; piorro didn’t have another damage spell to follow up.

My Brightsteel Protector would go on to murder them with several Overwhelm attacks paired with Yuumi’s Spellshield, winning me the final game of the tournament.


Full Circle

In 2018, I fell short of being cast by ImpetousPanda and MegaMogwai in Gwent and had to bury a childhood dream.

Four years later, I was blessed enough to get invited into Fight Night and as chance wanted it, Panda moved to the same new card game, and cast just the same tournament I was playing in.

Thus, my competitive card game dream still came true, in a very unexpected but nonetheless meaningful way.

Oh, and by the way – as I was finishing this article, I just won my second Fight Night in a row! =)))

Not sure how this is real, I still can’t believe any of this happened. I’m so grateful for getting invited to these tournaments and having the fortune of winning them!!


Closing

As I said in my second winner’s interview at Fight Night, this is a journey I could’ve never taken alone. From wick who accepted me into ABG and got me into Fight Night; to the RIWAN Discord server; to Herko and bA1ance befriending and believing in me; to Jason giving me a chance as a writer; to Sorry inspiring me to write my very first guide. 

Without them, nothing of this would’ve ever happened. I will be eternally grateful for all of these beautiful people who stepped into my life, and all the experiences I made thanks to them. 



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