Article Schedule:

• 26th May: Introduction and Strongest Cards of the Closed Beta

• 2nd June : Most powerful and meta defining decks in the Closed Beta

• 9th June : Recap and foresight

Author: Ironmonik

Starting off the first part, this article will focus on showcasing some of the most powerful cards in the closed beta, this will be a Top 5 list of the most powerful Bronze, Silver and Goldcards, with an extra section for all spells of all colours. The criterias for making this list, are playrates over the different patches, as well as impact on the meta, and strength. Next week, the series will continue by highlighting some of the most powerful and meta defining decks, their creators, and why they were that impactful in the game. In 2 weeks there will be another article that’s drawing a conclusion of the beta, and gives some foresights on what to expect, where we see Gwent in a year, and more…

Golds:

• Aglais

• Shani / Bloody Baron

• Ciri

• Caretaker

• Geralt:Igni

  1. Aglais: The fact, that Aglais was still an autoinclude card into every single Scoia’tel deck despite her being nerfed in almost every single patch indicates quite well the powerlevel Aglais used to have. At the start of the beta, Aglais was a 7 strength, agile, non relentless (this tag did not exist back then) gold unit, which was able to replay a spell, either out of your own, or out of your opponent’s graveyard, including aeromancy with a weather of your choice, firstlight with either the rally, or the clear skies effect, or even the old decoy, that will be mentioned later in the spells section. For most cards in this toplist it is necessary to highlight a version of them for a very specific patch – that’s not the case for Aglais, as she was one of the best gold cards through every single patch we had so far. In the Open Beta she will be working different, and is pushed more into the direction of being a great tech choice in certain metas, but for the time of the closed beta, she’s definitetly up there. Aglais ability will live on through Eithne´s leaderability though.

  2. Shani / Bloody Baron: Shani and Bloody Baron take the second place in the ranking of the most powerful gold cards. Both of these cards were played in most Northern Realms decks throughout all patches. For the newer players among us: Baron’s Botchling used to work a lot differently and basically had the same effect as Nenneke, so before the “permadeath” tag was introduced to the game, there was a lot of insane medic chaining. People demoted the Bloody Baron with a Kaedweni Seargent to resurrect him later with Shani. But not only the Botchling was powerful, before promoted gold status expired at the start of each round you could buff the Botchling up and promote him, to make up a serious thread for the opponent, that was quite difficult to deal with in the next round.

  3. Ciri: Ciri as a card, with her effect survived pretty much from the start of the beta. The only thing that ever changed was a nerf to her strength (8 -> 6), people never stopped playing her, as card advantage or the possibility to force an opponent out of a round 1 by playing her, have always been extremely powerful tools. This made her one of the most solid gold choices among all factions, and definetly the deserved number 3 in this toplist.

  4. Caretaker: Caretaker was not only an extremely hard bossfight in the first expansion of The Witcher 3, but is in fact a gold card, which despite that he is extremely strong, and it’s hard to imagine a monster deck without him, was never nerfed, except for the passive nerf by making medics permadeath. Stealing cards from your opponent, can open up opportunities and plays a faction never had without them, and deny factions that rely on units in their graveyard (Northern Realms, Skellige) certain plays.

  5. Geralt:Igni: Number 5 on the toplist of goldcards in the closed beta is the neutral golden Geralt:Igni. His impact is gigantic, even when you don’t expect your opponent to play him in his deck you would always rather play around him if you can. If you don’t he’s able to punish this extremely hard. He kind of resembles the first card after the classic scorch you have to learn to play around and weaken his effect as much as possible. Even on the top levels of play, and after his nerfs (Strength 6 -> 4, Minimum Row Strength to trigger the effect 15->20) he still sees play whenever the meta starts becoming greedy, and big units are played.

Silvers:

• King of Beggers

• Nenneke / Sigdrifa

• Morkvark / Olgierd

• Ocvist

• Roach

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King of Beggers: The champion of the silver cards in the closed beta is the King of Beggers. He was not in the game at the start of the beta, but was introduced a bit later with the first wave of new cards, and ever since then his playrates have been insanely high. Every faction excluding Nilfgaard played him in the last patch throughout various archetypes and with different goals playing him.

Nenneke / Sigdrifa: Resurrecting of units, and silver cards especially has always been an extremely strong effect, because you basicially get the effect of card of your choice a second time, and some extra strength attached to it. Both Nenneke for the Northern Realms and Sigdrifa for the Skellige faction, have been autoinclude into every single deck of their actual faction since the start of the beta.

•** Morkvarg / Olgierd**: Being able to carry over strength through rounds is a very strong mechanic was discovered already very on in the beta. Morkvarg and especially Olgierd saw extreme amounts of play and popularity and had whole decks built around making them untouchable through stuff like the old promote mechanic in Northern Realms, which locked buffed strength into base strength, while even staying golden. Later on Olgierd saw play again in the Scoia-tel Ciri Dash deck, which used madroemes to buff his basestrength.

Similarily Morkvarg is used in Skellige using their Shieldsmiths to buff his base-strength as much as possible. Shieldsmith were able to buff 4 early on in the beta.

Ocvist: It took the players some time, to really figure out how much power Ocvist had, but when they did he was absolutely insane. The “old” Octvist was not only able to trigger the effect once as the current version of the card does. He was able to do it multiple times in a game. Before the nerf to him everyone was pretty much forced to have an answer to him (Alzurs Thunder) in his deck, otherwise the player facing Octvist was quickly multiple cards down. To this day he is continuing to be a really good card, but the weakening of having the last play makes him not as important as he used to.

Roach: Geralt’s horse was a part of a lot of decks in the closed beta, as she makes every single gold better by 3, or even more if you play Skellige. Roach also thins your deck, which has always been an important tool, and has some actual synergies with cards like Milva (revert coinflip in r1), or Vilgefortz (immediate target for him).

Early on in the beta, It was not unusual to see a 50 +strength golden roach in Northern Realms and potnetially even higher, due to mechanics being much different back then.

Roach will have her ability drastically changed though and will probably see less play then throughout all of the closed beta.

Bronze:

• Elven Mercenary

• Field Medic

• Priestess of Freya

• Nekker

• Mahakam Defender / Hawker Healer

  1. Elven Mercenary: Scoia’tel does not have any muster units, so they always relied on mercenaries and Rally effects, to thin their decks effectively. This bronze card definetely provide a lot more than the average value of a bronze card, which is 8, and whenever you wanted to build a serious Scoia’tel list in the closed beta you could pretty much start by putting 3 Elven Mercenaries into it. Elven Mercenary faced some nerfs during the closed beta, the most memorable one was the addition of the “relentless” tag, which stopped Blue Mountain Commandos from replaying them for another spell.

  2. Priestess of Freya: Probablz the most played unit in the Skellige faction, not onlz due to her remarkable voice/line. Priestess of Freya allows you to resurrect whatever bronze unit in your graveyard. As mentioned multiple times resurrecting stuff is always powerful, but even more in Skellige, as the units got an additional base strength every round. Priestess of Freya also has some great synergy with King of Beggers, because with her being a 1 strength unit he can draw her from your deck, so it was possible to do a medic chains (Sigdrifa -> KoB -> Priestess of Freya), even after the introduction of the Permadeath Tag.

  3. Field Medic: And yet another medic in the toplist. Even though Field Medics, are random, that’s usually not even an issue, because all possible targets are good in usual Northern Realms decks. Resurecting reaver scouts can result into huge chains, even after the addition of the Permadeath tag.

  4. Nekker: Nekker used to be a pretty basic vanilla card at the start of the beta. After some time it got reworked to it’s current state, except for the breedable tag, and single-handedly established an entire archetype, we nowadays call Consume Monsters. Nekkers synergies quite well with a variety of devourers, as well as Nekker warriors, and allow you to get even more carry over value, and additional tempo by consuming them whenever you need it.

  5. Mahakam Defender / Hawker Healer: Even though Mahakam Defender and Hawker Healer, don’t have much in common, and have entirely different effects, it still makes sense to mention them both, because they enabled swim_’s legendary Melee stacking “Dorf” deck, and they have quite some natural synergie. Before the changes of the last closed beta patch Mahakam Defender was a 4 strength unit, who gained resilience after each round. So played in round 1 he had an overall value of 12, which is already fairly good for a bronze card. But given the fact, that you could heavily stack the melee row, and Hawker Healers buff applied to the entire row, this was actually an insanely powerful combo, and is definetly worth being mentioned in this list.

Spells:

• Scorch

• Dimeritium Bomb

• Decoy

• Commanders Horn

• First Light

  1. Scorch: Even though Scorch has never been part of every single meta deck at any point of the Beta, it’s still an extremely important one, because you will always play around it if possible, and, because it was included in the standard set, every new player has we all learn to be aware of its effect really quickly – and scorch ourselves a few times, before we learn how it really works.

  2. Dimeritium Bomb: Dimeritium Bomb comes second in this list, as a card that used to be even more powerful in its first version. It used to reset all units on the board to base strength, and was mainly used in Skellige to make up really high last card swings. In later stages it was a always a good counter to aggressive metas using high green buffs, such as “Dorfs”.

  3. Decoy: While making thoughts about this list, I was 100% certain that Decoy would be the #1 of spells for quite some time. The effect of the old version of decoy was “return a card on your side of the battlefield to your hand”, so it basically worked like a cardadvantage spy, that doesn’t give any strength to your opponent. In fact it was extremely strong, and a must have card for every single deck, and every game had a certain stage where both players were just bouncing spies back and forth.

  4. Commanders Horn: Our #4 is Commanders Horn, with a quite similar reasoning as Scorch. It’s included in the starter cards and viable until the top levels of play. In comparision to Scorch it was actually nerfed a few times, the first change was that it did not double the strength of all units in a row anymore, but only added 4 to all of them. The second came with the positioning update last patch and caused it to only buff up to 5 adjancent targets. Nonetheless it is still played a lot.

  5. First Light: First Light comes in as #5, and is actually one out of few cards in that list that got buffed during the Closed Beta. At the very first build it used to only remove weathers, and did not have the rally effect to choose from. With the addition of the rally effect, it became an extremely versatile card, that basically still is a tech, but with almost no drawback at all.

Honorable Mentions:

Milva / Cahir

Borkh / Villentretenmerth

Madroeme

Lugos / Insengrim

These are some more cards worth mentioning: Milva and Cahir were exceptionally mean and almost toxic to the opposing player if you are up a card and your opponent already had to pass, which was easy to enable in their archetypes. Lugos, Isengrim were quite similar, but last plays you could do, even when down in cards, and that were extremely swingy. To clarify old Lugos used to gain strength for each discarded unit and the very first Isengrim used to spawn a Neophyte for each spell played in the game. Latter was changed very quickly though. Madroeme basicially enabled the PFI Foltest archetype, and was extremely oppressive for one patch, but was quite mediocre afterwards. Villentrethenmerth always had the same effect, but his strength used to be higher (9 -> 7 -> 4), if your deck can handle him he’s always a decent choice, and can make high swings happen, only issue is that he has a lot of counterplay, and can backfire, which caused him to not be on the toplist. Netherless he saw a lot of play in top Ranks in mostly Northern Realms control or Scoia´tel Eithne control list. A Threat, which especially Skellige had a hard time dealing with, taking them completely out of the meta.

While this is a subjective list, we certainly hope you can agree to our list and some of you might get throwbacks to the last 7 months in closed beta of Gwent. Next part will be dealing with strongest decks in closed beta.

More than any other GWENT faction, Nilfgaard relies on diplomacy and subterfuge to disrupt enemy strategies and enact its own. The empire plants spies behind enemy lines to perform sabotage and reveal cards in the opponent’s hand. Well-aware of the benefits of power, Nilfgaardians target the strongest enemy units, crippling them or eliminating them altogether.
-Official Gwent homepage

The Empire of Nilfgaard

This week we will look into a very strong and domineering faction: Nilfgaard or “the black ones” as some people would call them due to their black, shiny armor.

Nilfgaard is a cunning and dangerous faction. They are not afraid to use controversial methods to get what they want. Order, discipline, dignity,diplomacy and strategy are the themes, which might describe “the black ones” the best.

The Nilfgaardian Empire is the largest and most powerful state located to the south of the Northern Kingdoms. The Nilfgaardians seek to conquer lands and spread their superior culture and civilization. The exact scale of the empire is never shown, but from clues within the Witcher lore it is safe to assume that it is by far the largest of the civilizations. The Nilfgardian are proud of their culture and demonstrate their superiority, power and knowledge whenever they can. To a Nilfgaardian all outsiders are barbarians, especially Skelligers.

Despite thinking very highly of themselves and being cruel in both their decisions and behaviour, Nilfgaardians are not as racist as the kingdoms in the Northern Realms. They acknowledge and even respect elves, dwarves, and witchers for the most part. Because of their domination and most of their power coming from conquered lands they are very commonly compared to the Rome empire from our time. Conquered lands are turned into “provinces”, usually ruled by locals as long as they submit themselves to the Emperor. People from these subjugated lands still see themselves as outsiders; only those born inside the boundaries of the motherland are true Nilfgardians. Nilfgaard is an absolute Monarchy led by an emperor. Emperors are also religious figureheads for Nilfgaard. They represent “the great sun” as high priest, which is where the sun symbol you can see on their armor, clothes and banner comes from. Since Nilfgaard in Gwent is also led by their emperors, we will have a closer look at their emperors and Gwent-Leaders Emhyr, Jan Calveit and Moovran.

Emhyr Van Emreis: 1257 — 1290

Few names in the Continent’s history arouse as much terror and respect as that of Emhyr var Emreis, Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd – the White Flame Dancing on the Graves of his Foes. Emperor of Nilfgaard, lord of Metinna, Ebbing and Gemmera, sovereign of Nazair and Vicovaro, he was ruler of half the civilized world and aspiring conqueror of the other half. He was a personage whose deeds and decisions shaped the fates of whole kingdoms and populations.

What then could he possible want of a simple witcher?
The emperor clearly and succinctly laid out what he wanted. His daughter and Geralt’s ward, Cirilla, was in great danger, for the Wild Hunt was on her trail. Geralt, a superb tracker linked to Emhyr’s daughter by the iron bonds of Destiny, stood a better chance of finding her than anyone else in the world.
-From Witcher 3 Journal Entry

Not only father to our dear Ciri, but also married to her. Well… not really her, just a mere fake Ciri. Emhyr found her in his search for his real daughter Ciri and after first abandoning her, ultimatively decided to marry her for political and unethetical reasons. From what we know of Nilfgaards emperors,Emhyr himself is a smart, ruthless, and brilliant leader. Within his time of ruling two separate wars broke out against the Northern Realms. In Gwent he is now able to take a card back into his hand and command a new card to be played from hand. His new implemented ability stands for him being a strong commander and tactical superiority.

**Morvran Voorhis: 1290-1301 **

Initially Joachim de Wett and others (Steffan Skellen for example) were planning to overthrow Emhyr as leader and place Morvran on the throne. Hint: This is also why Joachim De Wett, despite having been a commander for Emhyr is executed and displayed as disloyal card in Gwent.

Morvran himself is a man who thinks very highly and with dignity of himself. He would call himself a true Nilfgardian. He is also an expert when it comes to horses and is watching horse races regularly; in the Witcher 3 you are even able to ride against him. He has also been the commander of the Alba Division and had high impact on the third Northern War.

Jan Calveit: 1301 –>

Not much is known about Jan Calveit. He is mentioned in the books only in passing.

From Gwent presentation of him, we can speculate that he is a powerful and influencial leader and is more forgiving than Emhyr was in his aera (“I shall not repeat Emhyrs mistakes” ;- “I forgive you this time”)

Themes of Nilfgaard

Much like Skellige, Nilfgaard is a theme-driven faction. As mentioned earlier, order, discipline, dignity,diplomacy, infiltration and strategy are the key identities of Nilfgaard. Nilfgaard has a very efficient and proven way of winning their fights. Sending agents-> infiltrating and gaining information behind the enemy lines ->using gained information to their advantage for the next battle – conquering their foes.

In Gwent this is translated into mechanics like reveal, which is unique to Nilfgaard. This keyword shows a card in a players hand and is seen on many of the faction specific cards, including the leader ability of Morvran Voorhis. This mechanic synergizes with other cards getting stronger or dealing damage for each revealed card. While certainly a good transition from flavor to game concept, the mechanic is hard to evaluate in terms of how much value you really gain for revealing cards in your opponents hand. Rather unique to Nilfgard is also their way of gaining advantages by playing around their leaders and controlling the battlefield not just by pure damage or strength, but also by knowledge and structured units. The latter is displayed by Jon Calveit as their leader and cards like Skellen, Cantarella and Xarthesius, who are able to manipulate the order of your own and even your opponents deck. Knowledge is also gained by their spies infiltrating within the enemy lines. Nilfgaard has the highest amount of spies among any faction, even including bronze-spies. Another layer of Nilfgaards identity is their dignity and pride, which is displayed in the visuals of many cards. We can see many of their characters posing with their finely polished black armor or charging into battle and holding their banner high, showing their pride. In the visuals of Nilfgaard and especially their troops (bronze-cards) the conquering-theme is also very well represented with vastly different backgrounds for a lot of units, making it clear that they are representing a big area.

  • Schedule…*

Faction-Identity #1: Introduction and explanation~ 02.05

Faction-Identity #2: Skellige ~ 09.05

Faction-Identity #3: Nilfgaard ~ 23.05

Faction-Identity #4:Northern Realms ~ 30.05

Faction-Identity #5: Scoia´tel ~06.05

Faction-Identity #6: Monster ~ 13.06

Skelligers embrace death’s glory, knowing their priestesses and medics can summon departed heroes from the Graveyard to fight another day. A Skellige player sends units to the Graveyard on purpose… only to bring them back later, stronger than ever. Skelligers also turn wounds to their favor by inciting their bloodied warriors to attack with redoubled strength.

- CD Projekt Red on the official Gwent Site

Culture and Structure of Skellige

Do you remember the first time you set foot in Skellige in The Witcher 3?

The song Fields of Ard Skellig sets in and you’re surrounded with a beautiful, wild land. You were shown tough, fearless people with that Irish accent you got used to after some time. Skellige truly had a lot to offer, both in terms of visuals and in terms of culture. Translating the feel of this primal land makes the identity of Skellige in Gwent.

Skellige is an archipelago of six islands. Each of the seven clans are ruled by a Jarl, and a ruler is chosen from among these Jarls that governs the entire kingdom. Skellige itself belongs to the Northern Kingdom, but it sets itself so far apart in culture and pure distance that it stands alone. Skellige culture and structure is largely inspired by the Scandinavian Viking culture; if you didn´t know the voice actors for Skellige were using an Irish Accent it could be confused with a Scandinavian accent. In general Skelligers are very direct people; a good example of that is this scene starring Geralt, Lugos, Yennefer and Donar An Hindar. You have problems with someone? Someone insulted your dear wife? Just let the fists fly and all shall be forgotten. Afterwards you have a drink together, to prove there is no bad blood between you.

Skellige is split into seven clans: The big ones are Tuirseach and An Craite, which rule over the biggest islands in Skellige and represented most Kings in the history of Skellige. The others Clans are: Brokvar, Heymaey, Dimun, Drummond and Tordarroch. You can probably recognize those names from some of the Gwent cards, those names indicate which clan they stand for. Each clan has different colours to represent their clan. Honor and family are very important values for Skelligers and the Clans in particular.

Skellige Leaders:

Harald the Cripple: Not much is known about Harald and he is only mentioned in the Witcher books. He ruled Skellige three centuries before the timeline of the Witcher 3.

In Gwent he has the ability to damage units on the opposing site, which has the highest amount of potential output, boardswings and control amongst any of the 3 Skellige Leaders.

Birna Bran after she got punished for her betrayal

King Bran: Bran was the uncle of Crach an Craite, and Brother of Eist Tuirseach. His wife was Birna Bran and his son Svanrige. In the Witcher 3, he just died then we came to Skellige and the first big Scene we saw in Skellige was his burial at See ,which led to the 5 Clans fighting over who wins the “Konung” and can represent the next King of Skellige. The 3 candidates left at the end of the main-quest were King Brans son Svanrige Tuirseach and Crach An Craite´s son Hjalmar and his daughter Cerys. By the end of the Skellige arc, we find out that Birna Bran, his own wife was the one behind the murder of Bran. Thats why Birna is a disloyal, which lets you draw and discard/sacrifice a card. In her case you can transition that ability to her Sacrificing/Discarding her Husband King Bran to “draw” their Son Svanrige and help him become the new King.

King Bran is represented as Gwent card with the ability to discard (sacrifice) 3 units from your deck, making him having heavy Graveyard Synergy, which refers back to his own death in the Witcher lore.

Crach An Craite: Crach is the father to Hjalmar and Cerys. Hjalmar is the classic Bersker-flavoured warrior, who fights for his honor and family. He represents also the adventurer Viking, who seeks new challenges and lands to conquer. As strong, loyal and charming as he is, he is lacking in the brain department. Cerys, on the other hand, is calmer and tries to find alternative solutions for problems. She has a strong will and is also a very strong woman. She is also very smart, which is shown in her main-quest in the witcher 3, when we have to deal with a complicated curse and she comes up with a brave idea and we ultimatively had to trust her instincts and intelligence, when we got asked to throw the baby into the oven. In Gwent he is able to summon the highest unit in the deck, strengthen it and afterwards dealing 1 damage to it, making him not only having synergie with the warcry archetype, but also with his subordinates, the Cran An Craite warriors.  Fun Fact: *He once had a small affair with Yennefer.

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Themes represented in Gwent

The largest theme within the Skellige faction is death and resurrection.

In The Witcher 3 this topic was very present in the Skellige quests; starting with the death of King Bran and continuing through Skalds death and the topic of Necromancy. Hjalmar and Cerys are also key figures in quests that deal with the questions of life and death.

In Gwent this is represented through the ability to not only resurrect units from the Graveyard, but also synergy with units dying,- transformation in graveyard, getting stronger for every unit which died and last but not least discarding. While the discard mechanic may seem strange for the faction, it fits well within these themes.

Skelliges’ views on life, death, and ressurection are largely based on their belief in the cult and the gods of their forefathers. Freya is the goddess of fertility, love and beauty, also known as the Great Mother. The people of Skellige, particularly the priestesses, are highly devout people. In Gwent this is represented by the Priestess of Freya, Sigrdrifa, and Restoration. Speaking of beliefs, the Skelligers have a multitude of legends and prophecies flying around in their culture. One of these prophecies states that in the final Battle “Ragh Nar Roog” between the forces of good and evil, the magical rooster Kambi will awaken the mythical hero Hemdall to fight against the forces of evil. This is the origin of the Kambi as a card in Gwent, and the legend itself is likely based on “Ragnarök” from Norse Mythology. Hemdall is likely based on a hero from Norse Mythology called Heimdallr.

Another theme heavily represents by Skellige is the force of nature. Druids are unique to Skellige; and they don´t believe in Freya or any of the other religions of the land. Instead, they believe in the power of nature itself and gain their strength through it. This includes calling upon the aid of animals in battles (Savage Bear) or even the weather itself (Skellige Storm). They despise mages like Yennifer and Phillipa for their manipulation and destruction of nature, an opinion that is shared with most denizens of the isles.

Skelligers are a tough and resilient people, having spent centuries living in the most unforgiving and hostile of landscapes . This constant barrage from the elements has instilled the people with a resistance towards these harsh conditions. Some Skelligers have become obsessed with fighting to the point of seeking out opponents, believing they will become stronger the longer a fight goes on and gain strength or even transform when in dire circumstances. This classic berserker theme is shown by cards like Raging Berserker, Berserker Marauder and Warcry. Additionally, the Skelligers are also people of the sea, a natural byproduct of being surrounded by the sea. It’s no surprise a healthy portion of the factions cards reflect this theme (Boats, Pirates) or have some weather-influenced abilities (Coral, Blueboy Lugos).

If we want we can sum the most important themes in Skellige up to:

Death, Resurrection and Sacrifice

Religion

Bears, Nature and Strength

Seapeople

Bloodlust

Future-Design:

In the future it might be an option for CD Projekt Red to further delve into the clan culture of Skellige; for example, giving each tribe a unique tag or generating synergy between the various clan cards. Another idea could be expanding on the religion and the culture of Skellige. Due to the harsh environments that surround the fierce kingdom, I also suspect more weather and nature-based cards are in the factions future.

For Skelligeee!

  • Schedule…

  • Faction-Identity #1: Introduction and explanation~ 02.05

  • Faction-Identity #2: Skellige ~ 09.05

  • Faction-Identity #3: Nilfgaard ~ 23.05

  • Faction-Identity #4:Northern Realms ~ 30.05

  • Faction-Identity #5: Scoia´tel ~06.05

  • Faction-Identity #6: Monster ~ 13.06

Introduction

Magic the Gathering, as most of you know, is the Gaea of Collectable and Trading Card Games. It was created by Richard Garfield, and published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. The game, which has acquired its cult status before some of you were born, was the first to establish the genre we all love and enjoy today.

When talking about CCGs, Magic unavoidably comes up, if nothing else, due to numerous expressions and card related slang that originates from the game. Part of the reason for its success stems from the incredible design that allows each and every player to find something for themselves. While the archetypes of players were unknown at the time of Magic the Gathering’s conception, the developers inadvertently kept the players contented without knowing their profiles. This continued until Mark Rosewater, the current Lead Designer of MTG, defined them and began using them in the card design process.

The archetypes fall into two general profile categories; Psychographic and Aesthetic.

Psychographic profile explores why an individual player enjoys the game ~ the way he likes to play the game. It explores what motivates the individual to play. On the psychographic spectrum, players generally fall into three categories; Johnny, Timmy, and Spike.

Aesthetic profile, on the other hand, describes what about the game it is that the players enjoy. Where is it that they find the beauty in the game? Mark Rosewater defined the two types as Mel and Vrothos.

Before I proceed with the description and explanation of the archetypes, I would like you to answer a short questionnaire to determine your archetypes here: Gwent Player Archetype Test

The Psychographic profile of the player describes his or her main motivation to play the game. The archetypes are not mutually exclusive, but rather complement each other, so while the majority of players have one dominating archetype, they usually hold attributes of at least one other.

“After numerous years, we’ve come to the conclusion that there are three basic types of Magic players. The fancy term for these categories is “psychographic profiles.” A psychographic profile separates players into categories based on their psychological make-up. What motivates that player to play? What kind of cards do they like? What kind of things encourages that player to keep on playing?”
~ Mark Rosewater

Timmy (or Tammy for female players) are the players who are motivated by their inner child. They enjoy playing rather straightforward decks and win with big, flashy plays. They love playing large, powerful creatures and spells with grand effects. With Timmies, winning is fairly low on the list of priorities, instead, they prioritize having fun and socializing above all else.

They are the most social and numerous of the types and as such, any game designer must make sure the game is appealing to them. That, however, does not mean an average Timmy is a bad player. In fact, they can very easily reach the top, especially with well-balanced games, with a large array of viable deck archetypes.

It’s really hard to say exactly what sort of cards and decks would appeal to a Timmy in Gwent, as those same cards might very well appeal to another. Timmy will often take cards at face value. He will take one look at Manticore, recognize its strength, and be more than happy to play it. Witchers and Crones, sets of three silver cards that provide immediate 19 and 21 strength on the board, are right down his alley. In Gwent, Timmy will not be satisfied from consistently winning games by 5 strength difference, but will prefer to win every third game and dominate the opponent with a triple figure Commander’s Horn. He is driven by the journey, not the goal.

Johnny (or Jenny) is the creative gamer. He enjoys playing obscure, complex decks, with convoluted combos and interactions. They often choose ineffectual and suboptimal win conditions in order to satisfy their urge. Johnny will often go above and beyond the contemporary meta game to find a way to break a niche, or even “bad” card into it. While Johnny gains satisfaction from beating their opponents with their complex strategies, that is not his biggest motivation to play the game. It is executing intricate combos that will truly make a Johnny happy.

While Gwent essentially limits Johnny’s interaction potential with the one card rounds, that doesn’t mean it offers nothing to him. Johnny is the sort of player that gets all tingly inside when he sees The Bekker’s Twisted Mirror and all the potential it holds. He is the sort of player who will spend days on end concocting a deck that could break the meta with Kambi, and he is the one that will finally bring the ladder to its knees with Pavetta. Johnnies, while not necessarily the most efficient players on the ladder, usually find their niche in the tournament play. With a much narrower array of decks to build against, their intricate combos have a greater chance to surprise opponents and catch them off-guard.

Spike is the second most common archetype of the three. The archetype was the first known to MTG developers, and the last one to get a name. Before Spike, this type of players was only known as “tournament players”. Spikes are the most competitive of players, driven primarily by the urge to win, to prove they are the best. They will seek and find every advantage they can gain. Even though they often copy other player’s strategies or decks, the best Spikes will often build their own and refine them to perfection. They are motivated by winning, and their high is the thrill of competition. Spikes will prioritize effectiveness and sufficiency above all else.

We’ve seen  Gwent’s competitive develop incredibly during the closed beta, the competition peaking at the Challenger Tournament. What this limited experience has shown, is that Gwent is already popular amongst Spikes. Pages like GwentDB and Gwentify have sprouted up almost immediately, allowing them to share and develop their cutting-edge strategies. We’ve already had the first competitive team and rivals emerge, signaling the dawn of Spikes has begun.

Aesthetic profile

The Aesthetic profile is slightly different than Psychographic. It deals with what makes players tick. In words of Mark Rosewater, the aesthetic profile defines what it is about the game that individuals find beautiful. Players can generally fall into two categories;

Mel is a player who is focused on the mechanical aspect of how the game works. They will appreciate the intricate and delicate interactions between the cards, and will generally find cards with unique mechanics the most appealing. They are intrigued by the way cards function and how they work with each other.

Gwent, even in its infancy, is rather generous to those on the path of the Melvin. With a set of finely designed mechanics, such as those of Geralt: Aard, Arachas Behemoth, Nekkers, etc. CD Projekt Red are obviously well aware of the importance mechanics play in a card game.

Vorthos, on the other hand is the flavor player. Vorthos will generally look at the game from a different perspective. They will take on the game as a whole, the lore, the visual design and the art, and expect it to work together. They appreciate card art and mechanics that are faithful to the lore.

CDPR are really catering to the Vrothos amongst us. Cards like Roach, Grave Hag, Olgierd and numerous others, perfectly combine their lore with their mechanics, while the art truly complements them.

“The aesthetic profiles represent is how players can find beauty in the game. The label of “Vorthos” or “Mel” simply means you are high enough on the scale that you use the term to self-identify where you find beauty. It is possible to be both a Vorthos and a Mel, or to be neither. Also, being a Vorthos and/or a Mel doesn’t necessarily impact your psychographic, because each one can be applied alongside the aesthetic scale.”
~ Mark Rosewater

As Rosewater explained, the aesthetic profile does not represent two opposite extremes but rather works in two dimensions. One axis represents the Melvin and the other the Vrothos. A player can take on any value on each axis, or might not even be interested in either aspect at all.

There are several other player classifications in the game developers’ world. Everyone that has ever dabbled in game design is most likely aware of the Bartle taxonomy of player types, a model based on ’96 paper by Richard Bartle. Originally meant to classify multiplayer gamers, BTPT was set as a 2-dimensional system, with the horizontal axis representing the interaction vs. exploration, and the orthogonal dividing between interaction and unilateral action.

The system gained popularity fairly quickly, and although originally based on the multiplayer populace, was quickly applied to single player as well. If you wish to read up more on the subject, the original paper can be found at http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm, and one version of the test to find out your classification can be found at http://matthewbarr.co.uk/bartle/.

The reason I’ve chosen to describe the Rosewater’s categorization instead, is the ease of application on Gwent, as it was defined to help develop another CCG.

Applications

But why does any of this even matter? In truth, to an average player it really doesn’t. He will either enjoy the game or he won’t. On the other hand, some might, as nowadays people do, take issues publicly and write about it on the internet. That is a valid course of action, especially when the issue is legitimate. The problem arises when people tunnel vision and take their own point of view as the only valid one. Within one CCG community, these issues usually arise between the different archetypes of players. A successful Spike will most likely want the game balanced around the highly competitive play, while Timmy for example, would much prefer the game to be as fun as possible at every level.

If you’ve bared with me so far, and if you are to take anything from this article just consider this. Every developer is trying to satisfy their customers the best they can. They are in possession of data that you are not, and are probably making informed and educated decisions you are unable to. Next time, before you call someone on the internet a retard for disagreeing with you, try and consider where he is coming from. What might his motivation as a player be?

Gwentlemen as a group have been behind some of the strongest, most innovative and popular meta decks: Dunkoro’s Knight, Swim’s Roach’Tael, Pyrofox’s/NubSh1t’s PFI and Swim’s “True(er) King Eredin”. All of these played a crucial role in defining their respective metagames, but how does one build such a deck?

Deck building is one of the skills integral to being a good tournament player and while the same applies to the ladder it does so to a lesser extent. While the process of deck building might vary from player to player a good deck has to satisfy some key attributes we will talk about in the article.

Netdecking is okay. Don’t believe people who say it’s not.
~ Rysik

Where to start?

Deck building usually starts with theory crafting and some research. Some of us have our teams, friends, and competitive channels; others do it on their own. Regardless of the approach, a solid theoretical background is very important. Before a deck can function in a meta it has to function in a vacuum.

Building a deck generally starts in one of the two ways: Top down or bottom up.

“Top down” method should only be used by experienced deck builders. It basically means that you target the decks in the meta you wish to counter and then choose the necessary key tech cards and build the core of your deck around them. While this method can work it’s a lot harder to do efficiently than the other approach. This method can be effective in a meta game heavily saturated by one deck type.

“Bottom up” method, on the other hand, starts with the deck’s core. You choose key cards you’d like to build around, a game plan if you will, and add the tech choices later on. This allows for a much greater consistency and synergy within the deck.

It’s also really important to note that net-decking is ok. Before you can build your own deck you need to understand how and why other decks work. You need to understand their core mechanics, their tech choices, and why they work together to form the deck. Once you do you can try changing the tech choices to better benefit you, but be careful – make sure you understand exactly what the changes are targeting and how they will affect your match ups.

I prefer a core that can use the same cards for multiple purposes and thus is pretty hard to disrupt… I mean, Northern Realms Baron is kinda my kid by now.
~Dunkoro

The Five Commandments

These five commandments are given to thee by the Pantheon of Gwentlemen. In all seriousness, these are the five general rules you should consider when building a deck:

Consistency: You should be able to reliably draw key cards of your deck and not simply rely on the luck of the draw. The combos should be simple to execute, powerful, and not easy to disrupt.

_Metagame: _Your deck should have a positive overall win ratio against the meta. Negative matchups (<50%) should only happen when compensated for or when the matchups are very rare. Meta is very rank and time dependent and once you feel comfortable with it you should tech your deck against the meta game you are facing.

_T_*he Balance of Value & Control:* There are different proportions of value versus control that can work in a deck, and it’s on you to find the right balance of the two. Too many value cards will leave you helpless against combo decks and disproportionately greedy decks. Too little value and you will often sit with dead removal cards in hand and little to no power on the board.

_Synergy:_ A common beginner mistake is to only pack your deck full of powerful cards and rely on that raw power to win you the game. A good deck builder ensures all the cards in his deck synergize well. That is especially true with tech cards; an Elven Mercenary pulling a Scorch on an empty board can be devastating to your game plan.

_Multiple win conditions:_ Decks need to have a clear game plan but should that plan be interrupted, be it by a bad draw, opponent removing a key part of a chain, or even your own misplay, it should have a plan B. In other words, build several angles of attack.

Deck size

The standard meta deck is primarily defined by the minimum card limit which is set at 25; a maximum of 4 golden and 6 silver cards coupled with a minimum of 15 bronze cards.

I hate resorting to clichés (no I don’t, I love it) but deck size does matter. The most basic thing to remember at this point is to keep the silver and golden slots maxed-out and to keep the total card count at 25. If you feel like your deck works better with more than 25 cards your feelings betray you. The lower the card count the higher the consistency of the deck. In theory, if the minimum card limit would not exist your optimal deck count would be equal to the number of cards you can draw and thin out of your deck over the course of a three round match.

The only disadvantage of excessive thinning is its ability to backfire. The Mill archetype gains card and value advantage by making the opponentoverdraw.

Core

The core of the deck consists of the cards that are integral to the deck’s functionality. They define your strategy and provide most of your strength value.

Deck thinning

First, we have to ensure the deck has at least some card thinning; this is where things get a little complicated. Based on the archetype of your deck, your faction, and your game plan, you need to choose the correct thinning mechanism. An example of a great deck thinning synergy are the Emissaries, especially when chained. It synergies exceptionally well with the rest of the deck and can provide incredible tempo swings in one turn.

An example of a poorly chosen deck thinning mechanic would be Foglets in a “Wild Hunt” archetype. As the deck utilizes Wild Hunt’s synergy with the frost weather cards, Foglets, while providing free thinning, require you to run additional fog cards.

There are three special categories of deck-thinning cards we need to consider: Spies, Tutors and “digging” cards. These are heavily defined by a variable called tempo.

Tempo is an interesting concept. If value and control are two types of cards, as defined by Swim, then tempo is their key attribute. In Gwent, at any time you and your opponent both have a certain amount of strength on the board. Tempo is the impact of a play relative to strength balance on the board. It’s very important when deciding when to pass or if and when to use Decoy on a spy.

Tutors are cards like Marching Orders, Alzur’s Double Cross, and Brouver Hogg. When you play them you effectively thin your deck by one, gain considerable tempo, and further increase the consistency of the deck. They are incredibly strong in decks that are built to use them to their full potential and will become only more powerful should the amount of deck thinning be reduced.

Spies have the exact opposite effect. Played on the opponent’s board the spy will trade your tempo for card advantage. They are very important in decks that focus on control but find their home in most value decks as well.

Value

Although most “good” deck thinning cards provide a significant amount of value, it’s good to play a few strong units and/or spells to synergize with it. Each faction has several archetypes that each build its value in a different way. It’s important to ensure the value cards will stick (plan ways to stutter unit’s strengths, avoid row stacking, provide weather clearing…)

Another way of adding value to your deck are buffs. They generally separated into base strength buffs (strengthening), which are better for decks running resurrects or units that reappear on the battlefield, and green strength buffs (boosting), which can be strong on weather immune units but are more susceptible to various reset units and Dimeritium Bombs. Commander’s Horn, Mardroeme and Thunderbolt Potions are some of the more popular ones.

Control

Finally, the core of the deck should in most cases involve some form of removal or wounding effects. These, although very meta dependent, should be a part of every deck’s core. Choosing which removal to run can sometimes be fairly difficult, but as a general rule of thumb, units with “Deploy” removal effect are pretty good. That is meta dependent, but a lot of the most valuable golden cards pack a form of control or removal giving you the best of both worlds. Geralt: Igni and Aard, Villentretenmerth, Coral, and Woodland Spirit are only a few of them.

Tech

The second segment of the deck is awkwardly named “Tech”. The term is somewhat inaccurate as every single card in the deck is a tech card so a more appropriate word might be flex. These are the cards that are not integral to the core deck’s synergy and can be replaced based on personal preference or to target a specific deck. In the lower part of the ladder tech choices should be limited to as few as possible as teching is a fairly advanced skill. It takes a lot of finesse, knowledge, and ultimately a lot of trial and error. That is possible at the top as the meta is pretty stable and you know what to expect from your opponents. In the lower ranks the meta game is extremely diverse and volatile so teching towards one specific deck might be unreasonable.

Teching is complex shit.
~ Swim

Once you’ve decided what decks to tech against the first thing you have to establish is who the proactive and who the reactive player is in the match up. That will help you choose the correct form of removal and disruption to deal with your opponent.

So what cards to use? The removal in the tech segment should target key units of your opponent. Myrgtabrakke, Alzur’s Thunder, Triss Merigold, and Mardroeme are only a few of them. Lacerate is incredibly potent at punishing swarm decks that tend to overextend or stack a single row.

Don’t ever put a card into a deck thinking that you’re smarter than everyone else who tells you it’s bad…
~Dunkoro

Testing

The deck is now complete and it’s time to test it in battle. If you’ve built a deck to advance on the ladder you should probably play a game or two in casual first just to see if you’ve missed anything important (it happens to the best of us). If the deck performs well the best thing to do is to pit it against players of your own skill on the ladder. If possible, try to restrain from changing the deck for at least 10 games as it’s really hard to judge your matchups on a low number of games. Generally, ladder tech is all about the contemporary meta build and your matchup against it. You are often better off playing a deck you enjoy and are good at than switching to a favorable deck with which you are not proficient.

When testing a build for a tournament most of the things stay the same. You should play as many games as possible before deciding on a change and you should do it with a variety of other players. The issue with playing in closed groups is something called “inbred meta”. When you tech your decks against the same pool of people you may end up with skewed results, and have a deck which is under-prepared for the actual tournament. It is usually beneficial to use a few “surprise” cards in your deck for the same reason; even though your opponents are familiar with your deck list they might not be able to respond accordingly.

Make sure to keep track of all your matchups during the initial testing of the deck: your opponent’s decks, on the play/on the draw, win ratio… It’s also advisable to keep little notes of what you could have done differently to win a game or what play caught you on the back foot and reflect on it after every few games.

F*** B******, GIT GUD SCRUB!
~ Ruben 

Nikita Volobuev

Conclusion

Deck building is a horribly complex thing. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you are not great at it. The reason competitive players form teams is to complement each other’s skills, build and test their decks together, and ultimately gain an edge over their opponents.

GwentDB, Gwentify, and similar pages open similar experience and knowledge to everyone else and it would be a shame not to use it. Be it as a source of inspiration, information, or simply to try out a deck list you find. You should take every advantage you can get.