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Shadowverse SEAO Contenders Cup 2023 Overview


October 31, 2023

Shadowverse Contenders Cup is an invitational tournament that brings together eight top players from each region who perform consistently throughout the entire year. It is the most prestigious tournament that decides the best player in that region for that year.

For the past eight months, players have competed in the Shadowverse Open to earn points to qualify for the Contenders Cup. The seven players with the most points will attend this year’s event alongside the winner of the September SVO, the latter usually receiving a direct invite to Contenders Cup (granted, that invite clause didn’t matter this time around, since the winners of the September SVO from both regions also qualified from points). All in all, Contenders Cup will feature the eight players with the highest number of SVO points.

These are the eight humans (and one dog) who will compete to decide the best player in the SEAO region.

The SEAO Contenders Cup will be held on November 4 and 5 this year, and it will be a spectacle to watch. Every match will be in the best-of-5 format, which is quite different from the usual SVO format. Each player will bring their three best decks, and they need to win with every single match to win the series.

The Shadowverse action alone might be enough to engage you in this tournament, but the background and the stories of each player makes things even more interesting. With a bit of player knowledge, spectators will be able to root for their favorite players!

I have conducted interviews with every player to learn more about their background and glean some insights as to their strategy and mindset when it comes to Shadowverse. On top of their answers, I will add my own thoughts by observing their previous match results, lineups, and personality. Finally, I will try to predict their lineup for this Contenders Cup. With no further ado, let’s get to know the top eight players in the SEAO region.

*Note: Most of the analysis and prediction come from my own perspective: I would like to apologize in advance to the players if there were some mistakes.

Laif (#1 Seed : 52 Points)

  • He started playing SV at the game’s release, but only played competitively beginning in 2021.
  • 3x SVO Champion, 1x Ratings Cup Winner
  • Usually spend 2–4 hours playing Shadowverse when there is an in-game event. Might play longer in bursts during weekends if pushing for GM.
  • He’s Mr. Worldwide: he is part of the JP team RIV, but also maintains connections and practice partners with other players from different teams. He also has connections with players from KR, TW, WEST, and—of course—the SEAO region.
  • He likes to play “bad” decks at the beginning of each expansion; only when the meta has been settled does he try to learn meta decks.
  • He doesn't like decks that have limited player agency. If that happens to be a meta deck, he tries to find other non-meta counters.
  • He doesn’t think anyone looks exceptionally good this year (including himself)—according to Laif, Sadfeeder would be the strongest competitor if he decided to practice.

Laif is one of the clear favorites coming into the Contenders Cup. He managed to reach top 8 SVO four times this year and managed to collect three SVO Champion titles. Looking at the lineups that he brought previously, Laif is the biggest meta slave among all contenders players: he brought top-three archetypes in four out of his eight attempts. It was a wise decision, as he managed to get into the top cut three times. One thing to note is that sometimes his deck lists varied a bit from what was considered standard at the time: one might call him a bit of a pioneer.

Laif has a high win rate during the top 8 streams, as shown by winning three SVO titles. He doesn’t show much emotion and always looks calm and collected. He usually takes the time for his turn more than average players, as he always thinks ahead for the following turns, even the early ones. He has a lot of interesting matches in the top 8 because he often comes from behind and manages to win the match with 1-2 defense remaining by capitalizing on opponent mistakes. In other words, if you were expecting someone to make an obvious misplay on stream, he is probably the last man to expect.

At the moment, Loot Sword and Buff Dragon are the two most popular decks in the meta. I think it’s probably safe to say that Laif would bring Loot Sword into his lineup since it has a good matchup spread and does have some agency in the way it is being played. However, Buff Dragon might not be his choice due to how the decks operate, as he doesn’t like decks with limited player agency. Buff Dragon power comes from hitting the correct timings, which relies too much on their first three opening turns. On the other hand, he always had a soft spot for Forestcraft, so maybe he will bring Magachiyo Forest and probably Elluvia Haven to complete the lineup.

Lineup Prediction : Loot Sword, Magachiyo Forest, Elluvia Haven

Jiean/深紅蘭 (#2 Seed: 47 Points)

  • He started playing SV during the Eternal Awakening expansion (early 2022) and immediately joined the competitive scene in the following expansion.
  • Top 4 SVO Celestial Dragonblade cup, 1x JCG Winner, 2x SVO Champion in 2023
  • Usually plays for 2-3 hours a day. Doesn’t really care about daily missions, as he sometimes skips them to play ratings. Some days can go for 6-7 hours if he's going all out for Ratings.
  • Part of team 深紅蘭 (read: Shinkuran), but nowadays he mostly practices with his fellow SEAO peeps for tournament preparations. Occasionally, he joins JCG and often makes it to the top 16.
  • He would rather play lower-tier decks that he can play at 100%, rather than Tier 1 decks that he cannot optimally pilot.
  • He put a lot of trust in notable pro players like Rumoi and data from ratings and other competitive scenes when deciding his lineup.
  • He doesn't particularly dislike any playstyle, but he hopes to never face decks like Bayleon Sword and Control Forest ever again.
  • He thinks Laif is the strongest competitor in this Contenders Cup.

Jiean managed to win two SVOs this year with only two top-8 appearances, which is an impressive achievement. It shows that he had strong confidence in his skills, as he can still perform his best even in front of the viewers. His plays during the stream are usually fast and decisive. Sometimes he did it in a split second, which shows how much he had already prepared for those matchups. He also has the ability to stay focused in a long game, as notably shown during the Chess mirror Grand Finals against Yahiko, which he won during the May SVO.

Jiean rarely goes for three Tier 1 meta lineups. His usual lineup is two Tier 1 decks + one deck that he is very comfortable with. He excels the most when the meta has fully developed, as he knows more about how to play against those meta decks from his experience with Ratings and JCG.

For Contenders Cup, I would expect Jiean to bring Loot Sword, as it is the most proven deck in the meta—and he has experience piloting it since he won the September SVO. While the meta has shifted a bit after the patch, he might still stick with Elluvia Haven. Rumoi recently streamed a couple of Buff Dragon games, so I would expect him to bring that deck in Contenders.

Lineup Prediction : Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Elluvia Haven

Raisen (#3 Seed: 45 Points)

  • He started playing SV in 2018, but only started joining SVO this year and managed to win his very first tournament.
  • Usually plays for two to three hours a day, completing dailies. He might up that to four hours for tournament preparation.
  • Solo competitor, doesn't have dedicated scrim partners. Mostly playing Ranked and watching Youtube videos from pro players like Tatsuno and Rigze to learn about decks and the meta.
  • He likes decks that have a strong early- to midgame board that allow him to snowball.
  • He isn't afraid to bring off-meta decks. In fact, he never goes for a full-meta lineup. The most important thing is his comfort level.
  • He thinks Laif is the strongest competitor in this Contenders Cup.

Raisen managed to win SVO on his first try and almost managed to get his second title in June. What stands out the most about his winning run is his surprise factor, which many players probably didn’t expect to meet. In February, the Armed Dragon and Puppet Portal combination wasn’t a common pick, and his lists were quite different from the standard build of Armed Dragon and Puppet Portal. In June, his Crystallize Haven was an off-meta deck that was not even listed as Tier 3 in most tier lists.

Interestingly, Raisen never goes for a full non-meta lineup during SVO. He still sticks with one to two meta decks that he deems comfortable. He generally does well with it, though you can still see some inefficient ordering in his replay: for example, in his Burial Rite Shadow during June SVO, he played other burial cards before Ceridwen in the same turn.

Predicting the lineup of the most unpredictable man among SEAO contenders is an impossible feat. But given the pattern, I think he might be bringing Buff Dragon as his only meta deck in this contenders cup. He might surprise everyone with the Armed Dragon pick, as he seems to love the archetype: he brought it to four different SVOs. The other two decks might be Tier 2 or 3 lists, or even off-meta decks that he's comfortable with. I’m not so sure which deck he will go for, so I will just throw Aggro Blood and Crystallize Haven as a guess. I say Crystallize because he is the only player that brought it even before it became meta and managed to top with it.

Lineup Prediction: Buff/Armed Dragon, Aggro Blood, Crystallize Haven

TK Zy (#4 Seed: 43 Points)

  • He started playing SV at the game's release, and has been joining SVO since 2018.
  • This is his official second Contenders, having previously finished third in Contenders 2020. In fact, he also qualified for Contenders 2018 via wildcard but missed it due to a Visa/Passport issue.
  • Usually plays two to three hours a day, completing daily missions. But other than that he regularly watches Pro Tour and scrims with his teammates to prepare for tournaments.
  • Part of team TK (Twilight Knights), very close to fellow Vietnamese players within the team and regularly practice with them.
  • He really likes Runecraft to the point that he always brought it this year, even though it is not the top meta deck.
  • He prefers to go for a counter-meta lineup rather than the mainstream meta in tournaments. Targeting one specific popular deck in the meta is his usual pattern.
  • He thinks Sadfeeder is the strongest competitor in Contenders Cup.

Zy is a veteran in the competitive scene; he knows how to stay calm under pressure, as he always takes his time before making any moves during the game. The year 2023 was a milestone for him, as he finally managed to top SVO again after a silent 2021–22 season. He has three top 8 appearances, and two of them happened during the Academy of Ages expansion, which makes him the most successful competitor during that period. His best result was during the April cup, where he went with a surprising pick of Spellboost Rune, which seemed out of meta. He was unbeatable and won every set until he fell to Laif in Grand Finals.

From what I noticed based on his past lineups this year, he is not too fond of midrange decks that rely on having boards to survive during midgame. He seems to prefer Quest / Combo decks with big finishers or a straight-up Aggro Burn deck rather than winning through midgame board advantage.

With his Runecraft main tendency, he must be playing Runecraft deck in this Contenders Cup. Dirt Rune is in a rather good position following the buffs and should be locked in his lineup. The other two decks are hard to predict because a lot of current top decks rely on strong midgame boards. Given Zy's playstyle, he might go for either a very aggressive burn list with Aggro Blood, or a combo OTK strategy with Magachiyo Forest.

Lineup Prediction: Dirt Rune, Aggro Blood, Magachiyo Forest

Dis Vetu (#5 Seed: 41 Points)

  • He started playing SV in 2017 and joined the competitive scene in the same year.
  • 2017 and 2019 WGP participant; 2020 Contenders Cup participant; 2nd Place in Contenders Cup 2021.
  • Usually plays Shadowverse for 1-3 hours daily, depending on the in-game events. But a week before tournament preparations can see him streaming as long as 7 hours.
  • Part of Team Dis (Disastra), where he usually scrim matches and learns about decks and meta.
  • When choosing a lineup, he doesn’t deviate a lot from the meta. He simply looks for three decks in the meta that he feels comfortable playing that don’t conflict with his ban choice.
  • He tries his best to play anything that feels strong in the meta, but he tends to avoid complex combo decks that he feels uncomfortable playing, especially in tournaments.
  • He thinks whoever is playing the best on the day and KMR decides to bless would be the strongest player in the Contenders Cup.

Vetu is a real veteran of the competitive scene, as he has been around since the very first world circuit and became a North American representative during the very first WGP. His consistency is simply amazing, as he always manages to get himself invited to the Contenders Cup almost every year. If you look at the pattern, he always performs really well in odd years, and that might be a clue to his performance this year.

The way he stays at the top is by sticking with what has been proven strong, as his lineup never strays too far from the meta: it’s almost always two top meta decks + 1. He usually keeps his poker face on during the games on stream; when he changes his facial expression, you know something serious is going on.

Predicting Vetu’s lineup feels like the easiest task here: it will be the top three decks in the meta, with lists that don’t deviate a lot from the standard.

Lineup Prediction: Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Dirt Rune

TK SadFeeder (#5 Seed: 43 Points)

  • He started playing SV in 2017 and joined the competitive scene in 2018.
  • Probably the most decorated person in the SEAO region. Tons of Top 8 finishes, technically qualified for Contenders every single year (missed 2018–2019 due to personal issues). 1st Place in 2020 Contenders, 2nd Place in 2021 Contenders, and 1st Place in 2022 SVO All-Stars
  • He is part of Team TK (Twilight Knights).
  • He doesn’t play SV on a daily basis. He only plays SV whenever a new patch is online and whenever there is a significant meta shift to test out new meta decks.
  • While he’s not playing, he still watches videos on Youtube where he gains vast knowledge of absurd memes and casual decks.
  • He usually picks two decks from the meta but isn't afraid to go for unconventional picks for the last deck if he thinks it is a strong option to fight against the current meta.
  • He hates Spellboost Rune.
  • He doesn't know who is the strongest competitor among the contenders this year.

The GOAT is back for his yearly Contenders paycheck. I don’t know how someone can be this consistent for so many years. He managed to get four top-eight appearances this season, which was quite unfortunate as he never got past the top four for the entire year. Performing during a stream is becoming a common situation for him at this point, and he is never shown to get tilted by bad results or outcomes.

Sadfeeder is basically able to win with any kind of lineup. He topped in March with a full-meta lineup, topped in August with a 2 meta + 1 lineup, and even topped in May with a very brave lineup, which includes 7 Forces Rune, a deck that was considered niche and too risky to be brought into the tournament.

Due to that flexibility, predicting SadFeeder's lineup is quite difficult, as he can play with everything. Having said that, he has a soft spot for Swordcraft, so Loot Sword would most likely be one of his picks as it is also a prominent deck in the meta. He tends to stick with the meta if that particular deck doesn’t have a clear counter, so Buff Dragon would be another pick. As Sadfeeder mostly plays Shadowverse whenever there is a patch, he might play Dirt Rune more than other decks due to recent buffs and might go with it in the end.

Lineup Prediction: Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Dirt Rune

TK Yahiko (#6 Seed: 43 Points)

  • He started playing SV in 2017 and joined the competitive scene in 2018.
  • 2019 SEAO Region MVP
  • Usually plays Shadowverse for 1-2 hours daily, just enough to finish daily missions. When SVO is approaching, he spends more time watching replays, grinding more ladder matches, and scrimming.
  • Part of Team TK (Twilight Knights), which is the main reason why he has been competing and playing Shadowverse for so long.
  • He’s contributed some modules for Zhiff’s meta update script. Now he sometimes writes his own script in his free time for his personal advantage.
  • He trusts data and meta consensus when deciding a lineup. However, if given an option, he prefers to play with non-meta decks or cheese decks that are able to counter the meta.
  • He thinks Sadfeeder is the strongest competitor among the contenders.

Yahiko is another veteran player who found 2023 to be a redefining year. After a long silence during the 2020–2022 season, he managed to top the event again this year and qualified for the Contenders Cup. He managed to get into the top 8 twice this year and won some games on stream. While he is usually calm and thinks carefully about his moves, he could be seen struggling in unfamiliar situations and making a small mistake that he immediately regretted on the following turn, which cost him the game. His Chess match against Jiean remains one of the best bouts of this entire season.

When it comes to lineups, Yahiko seems to be very conservative about his choices. He very often sticks with the meta, and his build mostly looks data-driven. He does try to play some off-meta decks like Uneriel Haven and Chess Rune, but the results don't look too impressive. His best result in May was during the period when the meta was a bit chaotic, and you might say Yahiko has more advantage when the meta isn’t fully settled yet.

For the Contenders Cup, I would assume that he will stick with the data, which makes Loot Sword and Buff Dragon his two solid main choices. The third deck is more difficult to predict, as he might go for something unexpected. Looking at the past patterns, I can see he has a soft spot for Chess Rune, which got me thinking that he might go for that option even though it is totally an off-meta deck.

Lineup Prediction: Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Chess Rune

S5 THEone (#7 Seed: 43 Points)

  • He started playing SV in late 2021, the most recent of all contenders.
  • 2022 SVO All-Stars participant, qualified by Wildcard tournament.
  • He doesn’t always play daily, but when the tournament is approaching, he spends 2-3 hours daily scrimming with his teammates.
  • Part of team S5 (Sonar 5), which he recently joined at the start of July. Was part of Team GT (Gallant Trickster) until it was disbanded.
  • Other than following tournament results, he likes to watch CN streamers—as some of them are particularly good in specific classes—and learn some unique strategies from there.
  • He usually has a pool of decks that he is confident enough to play and that are good enough for the meta; however, if there are more than three decks, he might leave it to fate and throw a random generator to choose 3 decks from those options.
  • He doesn’t really like the control playstyle, which makes him stay away from control-based Havencraft.
  • He thinks Laif and SadFeeder are the strongest competitors in this tournament.

Ending 2022 with a decent result after SVO Allstars, THEone continued to have a good season in 2023 by qualifying for the Contenders Cup. His average results are mostly 4–3 this year, but he does perform when it matters, as he managed to win the June SVO and become runner-up during the September SVO. It’s also quite interesting to note that both grand finals that he participated in were against two players who tried to seal their second SVO title, Raisen and Jiean. He managed to beat Raisen but fell short against Jiean. This will build up some storylines for a revenge match because his first match in the Contenders Cup will be against Jiean.

His lineup, especially on recent expansions, is quite random, which makes me believe that he does indeed leave it to the wheel of fate. Having said that, he is very confident with all his choices, as seen during the streams; he makes decisive decisions even with difficult decks like Artifact Portal. One thing to notice is that he is very expressive during streams, which can be a good thing for viewers and casters—but sometimes he gets too emotionally invested, which causes him to make some careless decisions.

As he decides the lineup with a wheel of fate, it’s literally impossible to guess his lineup. But his deck pool should most likely be selected from meta decks. Currently, we have Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Elluvia Haven, Dirt Rune, Aggro Blood, Machina Portal, Evo Blood, Magachiyo Forest, and Castelle Forest as the main meta archetypes. Thus, according to my random generator, his lineup will be Loot Sword, Dirt Rune, and Aggro Blood.

Lineup Prediction: Loot Sword, Dirt Rune, Aggro Blood

Dis PaperFlare & Daisy (#8 Seed: 42 Points)

  • He started playing SV since the game was released but took a long hiatus and only came back during Omen of Storms (early 2021) when he decided to try joining competitive SVO.
  • He usually plays daily for 2-3 hours and might go longer to 5-6 hours if he likes the meta and is trying to push for GM2 or even GM3.
  • Part of team Disastra, he learns about decks and gets practice in with them. He also sometimes practices with other SEAO competitors.
  • He is a self-proclaimed Sword main who likes to spam Sword decks for his GM climb.
  • Unless it’s Swordcraft, he doesn’t like decks that are too complex to pilot for tournaments, as it would ruin his mental stack. Being comfortable with the decks is more important.
  • He thinks Laif is the strongest player in terms of playing ability, but his luck isn’t there, so there might be a chance.
  • He has a 4-year old /polar bear/ dog named Daisy, who kept him company during his SVO run.

This isn’t a dog, it’s a polar bear

PaperFlare has the fewest top-8 appearances among all players this year, but he has tons of 5-2 results, which shows his consistency throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, he decided to go with a full meta lineup because it happened that all of the decks really suited his playstyle. Realizing the chances he could qualify for contenders, he took a more realistic approach to focus on comfort and ability to play the deck at 100% rather than forcing himself to play meta decks.

He only made one appearance on stream, so it’s a bit difficult to judge his performance in high-stakes matches. But from his July run, he did quite well, managing to get 2nd place. But sometimes you can notice some impatience from him as he sometimes rushes to play his cards, which he should take more time to think about given the situation.

As a proclaimed Swordcraft main, I can’t imagine him not bringing Loot Sword when it is one of the top decks in the meta. The other meta deck, Buff Dragon, might also be his choice, as the deck isn’tp as complex compared to other decks in the meta. Given his previous lineups, he had a tendency to go with aggressive decks when given an option, so Aggro Blood would be a suitable deck for his playstyle.

Lineup Prediction: Loot Sword, Buff Dragon, Aggro Blood

Closing and Summary

Summary of my lineup prediction: I might have overestimated Aggro Blood and underestimated Elluvia Haven

Deck Samples

Loot Sword
Buff Dragon
Elluvia Haven
Dirt Rune
Magachiyo Forest
Aggro Blood
Chess Rune
Crystallize Haven

Hopefully after reading this article, you’ve gotten to know some of the players and have become more excited for the upcoming Contenders Cup. Root for your favorite players and spam some love in the Twitch / YouTube chat during the tournament!