Deck Guide: JoeSn0w's Dagon Swarm
Hey everyone! JoeSn0w here with a guide on how to play the Dagon Swarm deck. I believe this to be one of the most powerful Tier 1 archetypes in Gwent at the moment. Whether you are looking to hit Grandmaster Rank, climb the Pro Ladder or just have some fun in casual this guide should help you improve your results with the deck.
The basic plan of this deck revolves around using and reusing Woodland Spirit, which is arguably the most powerful gold card in Gwent at the moment. It is often the card you want to lead the game off with, especially if you are going second. The gigantic tempo swing provided by Woodland Spirit and the supporting cast that he brings along is usually enough to push an opponent out of Round 1. You have other tools such as Drowner to help reinforce your early game plan. In many scenarios you are able to win Round 1 on even cards or find a spot to pass to be up 2 cards on your opponent. Either of these situations are very favorable for you. The Woodland Spirit and Celaeno Harpies will combine with your Leader to provide a substantial amount of deck thinning. This will make your draws going forward very consistent. Winning Round 1 is quite important with this deck as it allows you to determine the length of future rounds and be in control of the flow of the game.
Round 2 is usually the trickiest round to play with this deck. Here you will have to know exactly what type of matchup you are in before you decide how to proceed. This deck is very flexible and capable of approaching this round in several ways. For a round where you want to bleed out your opponent and setup a short Round 3, you have tools like Ekimmara to provide value in future rounds at the cost of being generally a low tempo play. Sometimes you will want to bleed out an opponent just to get Harpies out of your hand or other undesirable cards such as Archgriffin when you are not expecting an opponent to play weather or for their graveyard to be very relevant. An important thing to keep in mind during this round is that you will have to win Round 3 in the large majority of scenarios so you will want to be sure to keep enough high value firepower to close out the game. The proper approach to take in this round is largely dependent on what deck you are playing against and if you think a long Round 3 favors you or the opponent.
Round 3 is where you want to basically hit the opponent with everything you have left. This is commonly where you will aim to Renew your Woodland Spirit, play your Ifrit and generate huge value off of Yennefer. This round relies less on tempo and is much more focused around proper sequencing to maximize the value of your cards. Yennefer should constantly be on your mind in this round if you have access to the powerful gold card. Plays which will put multiple units on your board or remove a number of units from your opponents’ board should generally be done before you deploy Yennefer. This is not always the case, as you will need to keep in mind that a well-timed Lacerate can completely blow out your big finisher play. Managing exactly how greedy to be with Yennefer is something that will come with practice and proper matchup knowledge.
This deck contains a reasonable amount of units with the potential to carry over strength between rounds. Getting the most out of your carry over units is not simple and will be addressed in full length in another piece of content. For now I will give some pointers specific to this deck. When playing a unit with the ability to carry over some of its strength into the next round, first ask yourself what your goal is. For example, there is almost no reason to prioritize carrying over a single 6-strength Ekimmara from Round 1 to Round 2 if you plan on immediately passing. Almost any unit your opponent will play should be able to overtake these 6 points and now you have lost a valuable tool going forward to essentially lock your opponent out of playing a unit with 5 or less strength after your pass. Determining how to spend your valuable resilient units depends a lot on if you are planning on winning or losing a round. Carry over is almost universally valuable when going from Round 2 to Round 3 as your opponent will have to overcome all of your points in Round 3. Sometimes you will want to develop a small carry over force of just a point or two from harpy hatchlings to prevent your opponent from immediately passing in Round 2 after you have lost Round 1. There will be other situations when you are uncertain who is going to win Round 1 and you are battling with your opponent for who will have a larger carry over force in Round 2. These situations can become quite complex, but as a simple rule of thumb, if you cannot think of a good reason to use a Resilient unit in Round 1 it is likely better saved for Round 2.
Every powerful deck in Gwent has some weakness. The starting hand mulligan may be the single biggest thorn in the side of this monster of a deck. You are playing 3 Harpies, a Foglet and Roach that you do not want in your opening hand. This is further compounded by having gold cards that can be situationally dead such as Renew and Royal Decree. I would almost always start off by blacklisting the first Harpy that is in your hand to ensure that you do not draw anymore. From here Foglet is the next priority to go as you will almost always be using one fog effect or another in Round 1. After that Roach is next on the chopping block. Unless you have a very low power level hand such as one holding no golds, or you are in a matchup where a specific card is incredibly important to have, I usually find it best to stop at this point. The deck has a lot of raw power and just making sure that you don’t end up with any of your dead cards in your hand is often enough to get you the win. After playing the deck for some time you will eventually learn to get a feel for when it is correct to “gamble” and risk drawing a dead card for the chance to greatly improve the power of your hand. In general I do like to play it very safe with this list, particularly in Round 1. You have a lot more room to be flexible with your mulligan decisions in later rounds after you have pulled the Foglet and some amount of harpies out of your deck.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how the deck works and what it is looking to do, we are going to get little more into what to do in specific matchups. Gwent is a very complex game with few hard and fast rules. That being said these general matchup tips should give you an idea of what you are trying to achieve in a particular matchup and what the most important cards are.
Eithne Spells: This deck will usually seek to pass immediately in Round 1 if they are forced to go first. This is because many of their cards work better in a long round. Your plan here is to deny their game plan because if they are able to be in control of the game you are not going to be in great shape. The main priority here is to not let them get to a long Round 3 where they can maximize the potential of their Farseers. This deck has a minimal amount of actual threats and your job is to exhaust them. Using Morvudd to lock down an early Farseer is a very powerful play against this deck. Yennefer is perhaps your best card against this deck because they have so few units to actually play to the board. Scorch is a potentially game winning card against their Dol Blathanna Protectors. You have access to Drowner to try and line up even a well staggered set of Protectors. If you can get great value out of your Yennefer and answer their few threats you should be well on your way to winning this matchup.
Brouver Movement: This deck will try to knock you out of an early round with golden weather and set up a long Round 3 where they can best take advantage of their synergistic movement cards. Once again your job is to stop them from accomplishing this plan. You have much more powerful individual cards so a short Round 3 is what you are aiming for. Use Abaya to clear a gold weather in Round 1 and try to force as many cards from their hand as you can. Your weather will not be great here since they run many ways to clear it so try not to rely on it as heavily as you would in other matchups.
Emhyr Spies: This deck is capable of both a great long round through the power of Impera Enforcers and Impera Brigades as well as great short-burst tempo from Joachim. You will have to be flexible and constantly aware of what your opponent has already played when facing this powerful deck. Their Enforcers and Brigades are both much more powerful in a long round so you should aim to get a few of them out and then pass so they cannot assemble them all to reach their full potential. Carry over can be particularly powerful in this matchup so be careful when you choose to use it. You should always be wary of situations where they can play Cantarella and not fall behind on points due to Enforcers and Brigades. You want to get out of the round before this scenario can play out as it will leave them up a full card. Most lists are not running any bronze weather clears and rely solely on their silver mage so time out your weather carefully and let the value rack up against this leader.
Restore Skellige: This deck can be quite problematic especially if you are forced to play first. Their deck is capable of strong carry over while being good in both short and long rounds. This is another matchup where you will have to pay careful attention to what cards your opponent has already played and what they still have access to. Row stacking to prevent their Harpooners from getting a lot of value can be good, but you are often times playing into their Lacerate. This matchup can be quite difficult. Morvudd is one of your all-star cards here and you usually want to lock down the opposing Cerys. I have found that getting good scorch value, particularly in Round 3 is a path to victory. If you notice them aggressively stacking Ekimmaras in Round 2 after they lost Round 1, sometimes pushing for the unexpected 2-0 victory can catch them off guard enough to get you the win here.
Eredin: Your weather clears are going to be great here. In general they have a slightly better round 3 than you do if you try to go long with them. They are however unable to match the raw power of cards like Woodland Spirit and Yennefer for the most part. Carefully managing your weather clears and having a plan to deal with Iris are the main priorities in this matchup. Aiming for a short to medium Round 3 should be your goal here, preferably when you can start that round with some carry over stats in play.
Dagon: The mirror match can be very skill intensive but the coin flip is going to be important here. If you are forced to play first and your opponent has Woodland Spirit you are going to be in trouble. This is the kind of matchup where you really need to closely monitor who is going to be carrying over more points and always have a plan to get your card back if you have to go down a card to win a round. This is one of the few matchups where you may want to use your Yennefer defensively as well as the Chironex is quite capable of destroying an opponents’ whole plan. Leaving them without a bunch of small units on board can nullify their Commander’s Horn, make their Yennefer much less powerful and completely throwing them off their game.
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