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.

*

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.

** Faction Identity:**

Identity is what makes a certain faction feel unique among the others, and distinguishes it from them. Faction identity in most cases is defined by three key components: recognizability, identification and synergy.

Those things can be achieved by the following elements in card design:

Visuals, which are quickly **recognizable **and in line with the general faction design and lore

–**Identification **through a known element within the Game, or from the cards role within the Witcher Universe

– **Synergy **between abilities, archetypes, and general faction aspects

Visually, the most basic example of faction identity are the faction colors. Players and Spectators alike quickly learn to identify that Northern Realms is blue, Monsters are red, etc. Aside from Skellige, these identifying colors were specifically chosen due to their place in the Witcher lore and universe.

The second visual queue of a faction are its leaders. They play a very important role for the faction identity through both mechanics and lore. Nearly every leader brings a unique archetype or strategy to a faction. King Bran, for example, is a pivotal piece in the Discard archetype within Skellige, and is unique in his ability to support this strategy. From a lore perspective, most leaders are key figures within the Witcher universe. The three Northern Realms options were all kings from various areas of the Northern Realms. Similarly, the Skellige leaders are the heads of clans on Skellige.

The Leaders the very important role in the Witcher lore and represent their specific region.

In most cases they have been Kings or had a similar position. Some of them have played an important role in the Witcher story or at least for their region.

We will go further with the leaders then talking about the factions in specific.

Problem-Child: Neutral Cards?

Neutral cards represent a unique problem when discussing faction identity and archetypes. Due to their ability to be placed in any deck, they are rarely tied to a specific faction or region. They also have to be balanced carefully. If they are too powerful, they become staple cards throughout the entire game, endangering the unique identities of each faction. This is why in many cases faction specific cards are allowed to be stronger than neutral cards. The neutral silver and gold cards contain some of the best cards in the game; Roach, King of Beggars, Geralt: Igni, and Yennefer: the Conjurer are seen through every level of competition. While giving strong cards to every deck evens the odds and can make balancing easier it is a dangerous path to take. High power neutral cards lessen the playability of faction specific cards, which endangers faction identity.

In my opinion, having unique factions and card design fitting to the Witcher lore is important for the game to thrive and expand. It draws in fans of The Witcher through familiarity, while providing a feeling of immersion for players both new and veteran to the franchise.

Creatures & Tribe-Tag´s

In the Witcher universe, most creatures and races can be slotted into one of the five existing Factions. The regions of Redania, Temeria and Kaedwin are combined in the Northern Realms faction, Dwarves and Elves join forces in Scoia´tael, and the Wild Hunt found its way into the Monster faction. Each card has to fit within the design of the faction it is created for, both in terms of lore and mechanics. Monster Cards for example have weaker units like Foglet and Nekker that individually are weak, but in groups are deadly. Stronger Monsters even in the Bronze slot have great base stats while maintaining their beastly flavor and lore.

All of the above mentioned races and region-based units are what we further on will refer to as “tribe“.

Tribe stems from “Tribal”, which is a keyword allowing a unit to synergize with other units of the same kind. Tribes are not to be confused with other directly game-impacting Tags like Resilience,Relentless, Fleeting and Permadeath. Dwarves and Elves are two such tribes that have been powerful throughout their time in Gwent, in large part due to their tribal synergies.

Currently, there are many unused tribal tags that contain huge potential in future card design for Gwent. Dryads, Mages and Vampires are tribes with strong presences in the Witcher lore. These tags are essential to the game because they embody the concept of faction identity. Visually, they are easily recognizable from their art. Fans of the Witcher universe will be able to identify many of them from their story ties and artwork. Mechanically, tribes are one of the strongest ways to create synergy within a faction. Tribal tags allow units and abilities to be above the normal power curve as long as they are used within the tribe. Mahakam Guard is a wonderful example for this situation. It provides above average stats for a bronze unit, but only when played within the Dwarves tribal archetype.

In The upcoming weeks we will cover this topic a bit more in depth for each faction individually and bring their faction-identity closer to you. Each faction has multiple archetypes that are tied together through several themes, with archetypes playing roles both big and small.

Schedule…

Faction-Identity #1: Introduction and explanation~ 02.05

Faction-Identity #2: Skellige ~ 09.05

Faction-Identity #3: Nilfgaard ~ 16.05

Faction-Identity #4:Northern Realms ~ 23.05

Faction-Identity #5: Scoia´tel ~30.05

Faction-Identity #6: Monster ~ 06.06

The concept of Gwent is very simple. You play your cards if your total strength at the end of round surpasses that of your opponent you win, otherwise you lose. That description is as truthful as it gets, but it’s not very accurate. There are a series of intricate details, interactions and mechanics that turn Gwent from a simple game of “War” into the well thought out strategy game that we know and love.

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