This is my Scoia’tael deck that I’ve been using at the top of ladder to great success. It’s gone through hundreds of changes and iterations in the past 17 days since ranked launched, ultimately culminating in this list. Every card choice was meticulously chosen, with specific explanations listed below.
Mulligan priorities in order: FL, Mardroeme, Roach, Decoy, with an above average emphasis on blacklisting (if you haven’t seen it yet check out this article on the subject). It’s important to maintain a good proportion of rally targets (bronze units) to merc targets (spells) such that you don’t run out of either before the other. This is why Francesca is good. If your starting hand has 0-1 gold card, that means you have too many bronze units and can consider dropping something like 1x BMC or 1x vanguard.
Optimal opener is (if going first) turn 1 Milva (grabbing roach), Johnny on roach, Ciri:Dash to bring him out. Try to withhold Merc until you have a good mardro target, normally roach. Use Francesca early in round 2 or 3. Avoid running out of rally targets and merc targets. Use Milva whenever you can get card advantage with roach on an empty board. Later in the game, Johnny on a card that gets pulled from deck (normally roach/decoy/aero), or a gold card. In general, try to take round 1 and stall as long as possible in round 2.
Vs Scoiatael: Subtle rowplay is key in this matchup. You want to stack ~5 small units on a row to buff with healer at some point (normally ranged row since that’s what King of Beggars is), you want to stack 2-3 large units on a different row so that you don’t overcommit against weather (playing into igni here is mostly OK because good Scoiatael lists rarely run Igni), and you generally want to avoid the row that your opponent is stacking so that you can weather it when first lights are all played. It’s key to identify and designate these 3 rows early, so you know what your gameplan is. Avoid playing Yaevinn outside of weather unless Milva has been dropped already, since card advantage is very important. Keep aeromancy in hand if possible and try to Francesca early if it’s not in hand, as calling it before the enemy’s strategy is established is a complete waste, unlike in other matchups.
Vs Northern Realms: Rain as soon as you see a Redanian Elite come out. If clear skies, there’s a consideration for using Aglais to rain again. Play heavy for hawker healers in the ranged row, with a single vanguard to protect vs Igni (put the other vanguard in melee normally). If you get to keep rain, you should have an easy round 1. Against Foltest, mardro on the first reaver scout when it comes out is very strong, more valuable than using it on roach even. Reaver Hunter is also a great target for mardro. Don’t lacerate a reaver scout row on round 1, they will just play field medic and chain thin medics. It’s very rare but if baron gets demoted before either mardro is played, you should attempt to mardro 2x to kill it. If round 1, consider using Aglais to be a 2nd mardro to kill a baron.
Vs Skellige: Play for the melee row until coral is gone. This forces their coral to be less effective (needs to be paired with aard, and sequencing that combo becomes very unfavorable for them). It also allows you to rain without fear of aard, since most top skellige decks have abandoned their melee row and stack siege. You should be able to win round 1 in this matchup, and hopefully get a good enough card advantage to use Milva on a huge longship as a win condition on round 3.
Vs Monsters: In this matchup you need to use your faction ability to choose to go first on the round you lose, to prevent griffin from taking Roach. Apart from that though this matchup should be clean and easy. Play in the ranged row vs value, soft-stack the siege row vs weather (play against weather monsters similar to how you would play mirror).
Individual Card Choices
Francesca is probably more consistent than Brouver, although it’s close. She’s best used early to fix the kind of hand that one mulligan alone can’t fix. She’s very comparable to Brouver in that she provides thinning (by enabling mercs and rally’s) and gives you silver cards, but IMO she does his job better, unless you don’t draw King of Beggars after your 6 mulligans, which is unlikely. You really only need to use her on 1-2 cards that you don’t want in your hand to get very good value out of her.
Elven Mercenary is core to any Scoiatael deck. You basically want to use merc expecting it to hit a mardroeme, even if you don’t. So only use it after roach or if the opponent has a card you want to mardroeme, unless you have no vanguards or ways of summoning roach. When given the choice between playing this or BMC from hand to achieve the same effect, generally try to keep 1x of these in hand and otherwise use BMC.
Blue Mountain Commando is generally for re-using and sometimes moving mercs. If you’re not afraid of weather, such as against NR or after weather has been applied, this card can be used to double or triple hawker healer’s buff to great effect.
Vrihedd Vanguards provide proactive plays when you don’t have proactive golds, and are useful for blocking Igni from multiple targets (don’t put them on the same row against decks that tend to run igni). They also counter fireball traps, although those are almost nonexistent in the current meta.
Hawker Healer is important as a 1x, as it provides a strong power option against northern realms decks (which have few ways of dealing with it) and it will almost never disrupt the kob + merc combo unlike 2x healer. This 1x will carry an insane amount of games if you let her.
First Light is core to any Scoiatael deck. Against Skellige and mirror, you should avoid if possible using so many mercs as to run out of First Lights left in your deck, particularly if you don’t have Aglais in your hand.
Mardroeme is generally for use on roach, an enemy unit that plans on coming back, or to deny an NR unit from spawning more or being ressed (reaver scouts and hunters). It can also occasionally punish somebody using Ocvist improperly. Note that if you’re constantly getting 4 value out of this card, you probably need to play your mercs later than you’re using them.
Lacerate is a strong power play and can somewhat empower Aglais by opening up more options for her, as it’s sometimes worth ressing over aeromancy. Avoid lacerating a row of reaver scouts as a field medic will enable your opponent to get them all back and thin.
Johnny unbricks hands, and can empower some cards by giving them targets, such as using him on aeromancy or decoy when your merc is otherwise useless. He’s particularly important in the Brouver variant, as the 4th mulligan he offers there is worth even more than the 7th here.
King of Beggars is core to this deck, as he can reliably grab mercs to provide thinning and value. Because of his presence in this deck, it’s generally best to stack the ranged row in the mirror (at least for the healer row, more on this later). Play this card before mercs unless you haven’t drawn healer yet, especially if you don’t have Decoy in your hand.
Roach may seem central do the deck but realistically she’s just a strong silver with unique combo potential, albeit very unreliable by nature. Huge synergy with Milva and Johnny, and additional thinning. She will sometimes carry you through games, otherwise she may have a negative impact in terms of weakening your deck with the 2x mardro.
Yaevinn is for providing card advantage. You should almost never play this card before the opponent has used their decoy. In the mirror beware of playing him outside weather unless opponent has played Milva already.
Aeromancy is to be used as a power play, generally with card advantage. In the mirror it’s very important to have this card in your hand and not to get it randomly from a merc, as it will likely happen too early in the round to have a real effect.
Decoy should be primarily used on spies, or otherwise King of Beggars. If possible avoid using this card in the mirror until NG has been used.
Aglais is core to any Scoiatael deck and should generally be saved until round 2-3 to cast a second aeromancy, in most cases.
Milva can be used for free card advantage by playing her to pull roach on an empty board, or can be used at the end of a game in which you’ve already secured card advantage to provide a lot of power to the board. If you use her on a very buffed roach late into the game for card advantage, you may want to keep the roach in hand to play last to avoid aeromancy etc.
Ciri: Dash might seem extremely dismissable, as it’s unlikely to get her to be used 3 times, but she adds to the deck which is important because it allows thinning tools with no concern for overdrawing, which is the one of the core ideas of the deck.
Triss is IMO better than Iorveth due to key targets almost always having 3-4 health, but even more so with this deck since you need proactive (turn 1-2) golds to bring out roach which Iorveth is worse at. I find myself often playing her early to snipe a merc and bring out roach.
Note: This list is very subject to change, and is tweaked daily. Adjust tech based on the meta you’re experiencing, which may differ both in terms of when you’re playing and in what area of the bracket. The meta changes very fast and different brackets see vastly different proportions of decks.
Triss can be swapped for Iorveth or one of many other solid gold cards. Roach and 2 Mardro can be swapped for 1x lacerate 1x vanguard and NG/Ciarin. Francesca can be swapped for Brouver. Any swaps other than these will weaken this list considerably, though, and are not recommended. If you don’t have some of the silvers you can use NG/Ciarin instead of any of them. Golds can be replaced with Ciri, Igni, Iorveth, or Isengrim, although Aglais is hard to replace and replacing her would change the playstyle of the deck as well as several of the cards in the list.