The Witcher

A short guide to Gwent in The Witcher 3

TheWitcher2 - A short guide to Gwent in The Witcher 3
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Gwent is a fairly simple card game that is all about value. Unlike hearthstone, magic the gathering or other CCG/TCG there is no such thing as Tempo in gwent.

Part 1: The rules

In gwent both players start with a hand of cards that they must use to win a ”best out of three rounds” match. Whoever has the highest score at the end of a round wins, the round ends when both players pass. When a player decides to pass he forfeits the opportunity to play more cards in this round of the game while the other player is free to play whatever he wants before passing and thus ending the round. At the start of the game you will be given the opportunity to redraw two cards.

Part 2: Card evaluation As is true for all CCG/TCG the most important thing is what cards you actually put in your deck. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best player on earth if you’re playing with weak cards. As i stated earlier gwent is all about value: Whoever has the most cards usually win, and if you’re tied for cards then the player with the strongest cards win. The gwent battlefield consists of three zones: Melee, Ranged and Siege. For card evaluation it is largely irrelevant what zone your card ends up in. I will now list the cards types in roughly the order of ”card power”.

  • Spies: In a game that is all about value card draw rules supreme. The strongest deck is the deck with the most spies. The two strongest cards in the game are the Mysterious elf and Thaler.

  • Medics: Medics are quite potent as they effectively count as two cards, themselves and the card they bring back. Spies and scorch units both activate their special abilities when brought back in this manner.

  • Scorch units: These cards destroy the strongest enemy unit(s) if certain conditions are met. This can be a really swingy effect that can win you the round.

  • Decoy: Decoys are quite useful with medics and scorch cards. They can also be used to replay enemy spies. Since spies, medics and scorch units are the most powerful cards in the game, decoys can be quite valuable. Another possibility is to save powerful cards after your opponent has passed the turn. I only keep decoys in hand if i have spies, medics or scorch cards. Otherwise i redraw. In the case of spies my hope is that the opponent will decoy my spy and i can then in turn decoy and play the spy again.

  • Tight bond: This ability doubles unit strength if there are two of the same tight bond card in play. If there are three in play it triples their power and so on. This provides the biggest buff to your score out of all unit cards in the game. The downside is that the cards are rather mediocre if you only draw one of them, fortunately you will have access to spies that allow you to draw into your combos.

  • Heroes: Hero cards provide some of the best single card stat lines in the game with Geralt and Cirri having a score of 15 each. What makes hero cards special is that they cannot be interacted with, they cannot be destroyed, do not suffer from weather effects and cannot be decoy’ed. Warhorn also does not affect them. This is a double edged sword: in terms of raw power they loose to both muster and tight bond cards, but they also serve as a strategic resource.

  • Muster: These cards summon their friends to the battle and over-all provide the best score you can get out of a single card in your hand. The crones in particular summons three cards with score 6 for a total of 18. With war horn this provides enough power to win a round. The main problem with muster cards is that they tend to be easily countered by scorch and weather cards. Another issue is that the lower power muster cards do not provide a better score than playing a strong single card.

  • War horn: War horn doubles the score of all cards in a single row of your choice. This is a ”finisher” type card, that allows you to overwhelm your opponents score. War horn usually provides the value of 2 or more cards. War horn is the reason why Tight bond and Muster cards often beats the hero cards.

  • Scorch: This card destroys the highest score card on the battlefield, friend or foe. If multiple cards are tied then all of those are destroyed. I rate scorch lower than most because it is only a strong card if it destroys multiple enemy cards. If you are trading 1-for-1 then it would often be better to just include a higher score card in your deck.

  • Weather cards: Weather cards are a way of nullfiying an entire zone of cards. It sets the base strength of all cards in the zone to 1. The Clear weather card removes all other weather card effects. I rate them lowly because they are not a safe bet; You don’t know your opponent cards so it is hard to evaluate if the weather cards will be good. The AI uses weather cards heavily so including 2 clear weather is quite useful. In the early gwent games you may also want to include Biting frost as the Monster faction decks can be hard to beat without it.

  • Agile: These cards can be placed in either the ranged or melee zones. This ability is obviously meant to be used with weather cards but i personally do not consider it all that useful.

  • Leader cards: These all have a special ability that you can use once per game. Most of the hero cards are quite good, what you are looking for is something that is worth ”the most cards”. My personal favorite is the northern realm leader that can cast clear weather once per game. The leader cards are low on my list because there is no point in arguing their place on the "power order", they are not competing for space.

Read:  Sapkowski on manga, anime, Dungeons and Dragons, adaptations, origins of the Witcher, Elder Speech

Part 3: The four factions

  • Northern realm: This is in my opinion the strongest faction. They have three spies and one medic. Their spies and medic are the strongest of any faction. Furthermore i really like having the clear weather leader card as it allows me remove all weather cards from my deck. Their tight bond cards are really strong too. Northern realms draw an extra card after their first victory. Great ability.

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  • Nilfgaardian: Nilfgaardians have up to five medics available and up to three spies. These are of worse quality than the northern realms variants of these cards, but the quantity of them makes up for it. Nilfgaardians have the special ability to win draws which is mostly useless. I consider the Nilfgaardian faction roughly on-par with the northern realm faction.

  • Monster: There are neither spies nor medics in this faction. Their cards have high scores but it does not make up for them being unable to draw extra cards. Their special ability is that they maintain one random unit card in play after each round. That is sort-of like drawing an extra card, although not as potent.

  • Scoia’tael: There are no spies in this faction and the amount of medics does not really make up for it. They also have the disadvantage of going first in the first round.

Part 4: Constructing your deck. As is true in all deck building games (That i know of) you want your deck to be as small as possible so you have a better chance of drawing your strongest cards. The first part is picking a leader card, if you pick one that can cast war horn once per game then including more war horns may not be necessary. If you can cast clear weather then you can remove those from your deck and so on. After you’ve done this include all the spies you can. After this i go for medics and then scorch unit cards. It gets really simple after this: Put your highest score cards in the deck, favoring tight bond>heroes>Muster>”Vanilla”. The last step is deciding on war horn, scorch, decoy and weather cards. For most decks i include all the war horns i have, i include all the decoys i have if my deck contains multiple spies/scorch/medics. For weather cards i use 2 biting frost and 2 clear weather, once i’ve collected many strong cards then i cut the biting frost and if i have access to clear weather from my hero then i cut those.

Part 5: How to play the game.

  • Redrawing/"mulliganing" You will want to maximize the amount of spies and medics in your hand. You will usually want all the decoys you can get too. Failing this you will want to maximize the score of your hand.

  • The first round is all about netting the most cards. What you should be looking for is entering round 2 with more cards in hand then your opponent. You want to play as many spies as you can, including using decoy on the spies your opponent plays. After all spies are spent it’s time to evaluate how many cards you will need to spend to win this round, if the amount leaves you with less cards in hand than your opponent then you should forfeit the first round. The northern faction has the special ability to draw an extra card the round after they win but this is not a concern for the first round, you will win a round eventually if you are to win the match. The winner of the first round goes first in the next round, this is actually a disadvantage unlike in most turn-based games. Remember there is no tempo in this game, in other words: It doesn’t matter who’s ahead on board right now. It only matters who is ahead at the end of the round. More on this in the round two segment.

  • Round 2: Hopefully you entered the 2nd round with more cards in hand than your opponent. If you lost the first round then your goal is to win the 2nd round, otherwise the goal is to enter round 3 with more cards in hand than your opponent. If you can win the round then you’ve won the match, but winning the 2nd round is a secondary concern; You are trying to win the match, not the round. Try to bait out as many cards as possible, i tend to pass if my opponent uses two war horns as this is a huge boost to his score that will cost me many cards to overcome. Use decoys to save your best cards for round 3 if possible.

  • Round 3: This is the round where you will use every resource available to finish the game. Start out by playing cards that can’t be interacted with, these are hero cards first (excluding yenefer who you’ve either used to replay a spy or should save for later) then war horn the zones you will use later. Once you are out of war horns and heroes play all your scorch cards to obliterate the cards your opponent played. Then start playing your own unit cards, leave weather cards in play until you’ve assembled your board: often the opponent will run out of cards to play and be stuck with scorch cards in hand and forced to pass rather than destroying his own cards. If i have any medics left then i will use those before casting Clear weather.

Part 6: Addendum about spies. I said earlier that you should always play all your spies in the first round. This is not always true, when you are facing a Scoia’tael deck you may want to save them for the last round so that their medics cannot replay them in the 2nd/3rd round. It may also be an advantage to play your spies after your opponent has used his decoys, but on the other hand if you have decoys of your own you may want your opponent to play your spies against you. So why do i suggest playing your spies in the first round? Because you will have complete information about your options. In short: You will either want to play them in the first or in the last round of the game. Spies are the most complicated and important part of Gwent and you must learn to use them appropriately.

You can see my finished Northern Realms deck here.

Note: This post is a work in progress, i will correct errors when and if i spot them and perhaps expand sections that are scrutinized or commented about.

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