Move Advantage

Why Move Advantage

Move advantage is one of the fundamental concepts of Gwent that every new player must fully understand before being able to properly develop as a skilled player. As such, fledgling players might often underestimate the utilities provided by move advantage and thus focus much more on cards with high raw strength (power), and while power certainly has its applications, it can only at best represent a narrow perspective of the game, as Gwent is primarily a game of interaction and risk taking. There are four major assets that move advantage will bestow upon you if you can master it; you will be able to infer a greater level of information about opponents gameplan, you will be able to stall before deploying both your threats and counters to increase their efficacy, and you will be able to control the round’s tempo to assert dominance in earlier rounds.

Greater Information

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Knowledge is power, and understanding your opponent’s gameplan and intentions is simply invaluable in any competition, whether it be games, sports, or war. Using that information to create a tangible advantage is a delicate art; it all depends on the state of the game. If you can consistently make more informed decisions than your opponent, you will always have the upper hand.

Deploying Threats Later

Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend.

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

The more cards you have, the more you may spread out your plays. What this means is that you not only are less vulnerable to disruption, it also means that opponent will have a much harder time analyzing your hand’s potential.

If you’re up a play, can they really afford to pass when you’re ahead? What if you have a Witcher or Commander’s Horn and take the round back with just one card?

Additionally, your opponent has to be wary of playing the round for too long, because you might actually be just playing for time, waiting for the opportune moment to pass to go into the next round with maybe even more of a move advantage than you currently have.

What’s more, their reactive cards will be much harder to use; their Scorch or Borkh might not hit the optimal targets, as those are still yet to be played, their Aeromancy might hit the wrong row, their Lacerate might hit just two or three targets instead of five.  

Deploying Counters Later

Balk the enemy’s power; force him to reveal himself.

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Just like your opponent could not counter your threats properly when he’s at move disadvantage, when they’re at move disadvantage you can counter theirs more optimally.

Once again, they can’t afford to pass early with a healthy power advantage, because a well-aimed Aeromancy (once again, without fear of their counter to your counter in the form of First Light into Clear Skies) can just take them back to square one.

And again, they can’t afford to go into the round too deep lest they give you even more of a move advantage moving forward.

Additionally, your counters’ effectiveness will increase as you will be able to counter their threats more efficiently by targeting proper rows or units, which are out of the safety of their hand.

Controlling the Round’s Tempo

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

As exemplified by the former two points, there is a conundrum faced by your opponent in that he cannot afford to pass early out of fear that you will overtake him, and he can not afford to pass late lest you simply counter pass and have your move advantage carried over to the next round.

This makes for an extremely unfavorable position for them, in which the only good option they have to retake control of the game is to gain some move advantage themselves, otherwise they will constantly be under pressure of choosing between two unfavorable options.

How to Gain Move Advantage

We’ve established that move advantage is important for a multitude of reasons, all of which crucial to winning the overall game at hand. What I’m yet to touch upon though are the ways to gain move advantage over your opponent: the mechanics and the card effects.

Move Advantage Through Mechanics

The most basic way of obtaining move advantage is the most unique mechanic that Gwent has: passing. The way to get move advantage is to pass early, not in the sense of passing early in the round, but passing earlier than your opponent. There are two ways to achieve this.

Either don’t be the starting player of the round and pass first, that way even if they pass immediately afterwards, they have spent one more card than you did. This is why people consider going first to be ‘half of a move advantage’, it makes it easier for their opponent to get actual move advantage, but only if they capitalize on that opportunity.

The other way is to get a lot of power early on in a round and then passing, forcing your opponent to play cards to overtake you before passing themselves. This only ever works if your opponent is forced to win this round, either by it being round 2 after your own victory in round 1 or by the nature of their deck forcing them to win round 1 for it to function properly.

Move Advantage Through Card Effects

Obtaining move advantage through card effects is much simpler, you just have to play a card that (either immediately or after some time) makes you have just as many cards as you had if you didn’t play it at all.

Currently (patch 0.8.25) there are two main categories of move advantage effects;  cards that return other cards to your hand and ‘spies’, disloyal units that draw cards. The first category includes Ciri, Decoy, Ciaran, Eithne (used on any other card in either list), Milva (when the only non-gold unit(s) on board are yours) and Ocvist (which can do so multiple times, thus yielding more than one move advantage). The second category includes Prince Stennis, Donar an Hindar, Udalryk, Birna Bran, Yaevinn and Avallac’h.

As you can see, there aren’t that many of these move advantage generating cards, and almost every single one of them has some significant drawback, either being generally weaker than appropriate cards in their category and requiring some circumstances to be met in case of the first category or actually giving power to your opponent in case of the second one. The card with the least disadvantages is Decoy, which is why it is so insanely strong and is seeing play in almost every single competitive deck.

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