Gwent Meta Update — February
This post is up to date as of the February 18 patch.
It’s only been a day since the most recent Gwent patch but I can say with some confidence that the meta in Gwent is now the healthiest it’s been in months. All five factions have at least one competitive deck archetype at high rankings, and it seems likely there will only be more deck variety in the future as players explore possibilities post-patch.
The health of the meta is largely down to the balance changes that came with yesterday’s update; most importantly, the overdue nerf to Monsters. The ‘consume’ archetype that was wreaking havoc in ranked play has taken a serious hit, bringing it in line with the rest of the meta. Vran Warrior is no longer a direct upgrade to Ekimmara; with its ability now on a timer its eating sprees are not so voracious.
Another welcome nerf hit the Crone trio. I could smell the OP-ness from a mile off when they were buffed to 7–8–9 strength, and thankfully they have been toned down to a far more reasonable 7–7–8 (which is still 3 points more than the witcher trio, I hasten to add). Before this nerf players could plonk down a crone and pass the round for some instant card advantage (i.e., the opponent would have to play at least two cards to catch up to them) - and last time I checked that’s not what strategy in Gwent was about. Incidentally, I am still encountering consume decks regularly in ranked and they are still a force to be reckoned with, which just goes to show how overpowered they were pre-patch.
Interestingly, Weather Monsters got a major nerf too; namely the dual weather silvers and to a lesser extent Ancient Foglet. While I have never considered Weather Monsters to be overpowered, they have always been a royal pain in the butt and I’m hoping these changes will help keep them in check, at least until the developers find a way to make weather a more fun mechanic for everyone. That appears to be their motivation anyway, judging by this Reddit post, and I am glad that they are pursuing this route to rework weather.
Finally, there’s the nerf to Avallac’h which I don’t think anyone would argue with, and it brings him in line with all the other spies that got nerfed.
Skellige got a number of important changes in this update. The infamous Clan Tuirseach Axeman now only gets buffed when the opponent’s side is damaged, which I feel is a good change. It quickly got out of hand before if there were multiple Axemen on the board and they weren’t immediately dealt with, and in that regard they were reminiscent of the PFI (Poor Fucking Infantry) plus Mardroeme scourge that oppressed the meta for so long.
On a more positive note for Skellige players, King Bran and the discard archetype have returned to relevance, with Ermion and Svanrige being able to draw cards before discarding, making them useful again. This combined with the spies and King Bran’s leader ability, which enables him to discard 3 cards from the deck and add 1 base strength to them, means that the player is effectively working with a 22 card deck — 19 if you include Clan Dimun Pirates — that can be reliably milled through. Now, there is no doubt in my mind the ability to mill through one’s entire deck is the most powerful in Gwent, so I hope CDPR are keeing a close eye on Skellige and its ability to consistently play Kambi with Hjalmar and Madman Lugos, which is basically a guaranteed round 3 win.
There are no notable changes for Scoia’tael or Northern Realms to report, so Swim’s Dorf and Dunkoro’s Punisher decks remain intact and are as strong as ever.
I’d like to mention a new ST deck that’s started popping up a lot since the patch, which is centred on Vrihedd Dragoons that provide 9 value split up with your hand, and set up a powerful round 3 finish. You can expect to see lots of decks revolving around Dragoons over the coming days.
Moving on to Nilfgaard, lots of cards revolving around the reveal mechanic got buffs. We’ll have to wait and see if they are enough to make it a viable deck archetype, because as things stand the biggest problem is with Emhyr’s leader ability, which is underwhelming by nature. Or maybe I’m just missing the point and we’re about to witness Emhyr’s rise to prominence…
As for other miscellaneous buffs to Nilfgaard, I’m personally happy with the Impera Brigade change which applies directly to my Jan Calveit Spy deck I am currently running, as well as Treason, although it is still too situational for a silver spell to justify including, even though my deck appears to be built specifically for it.
Some buffs I feel are a tad unnecessary though are for Xarthisius which is now almost as strong as Geralt but with the bonus of potentially removing an opponent’s gold from the game, and Cynthia which is now practically superior to Albrich.
What I’d really hoped to see was a buff to Letho because I find his ability so intriguing. Ah well, there’s always next time…
With regards to my own laddering experience post-patch, my NG Spy deck is performing reasonably well following a transformation in fortunes against Monsters, and I have a 57% win rate at ~3400 MMR. You can see the decklist below:
In this section I talk about what cards I think need to be balanced and how.
- Saskia — Saskia is broken, guaranteeing above average value whenever she’s played. Reduce her strength.
- Cahir — The player doesn’t even need a full turn of card advantage to abuse his ability, only half, so if both players have no more cards, after the opponent passes the player’s leader ability refreshes just before he passes. Make it so his ability doesn’t trigger if the opponent has passed.
- Rot Tosser — This card can provide a ton of value if the opponent doesn’t have a counter, which is why it’s an auto-include in most NG decks. These days it gets countered more often than not though due to its ubiquity, so maybe it doesn’t need any change or just drop its strength to 3.
- Hawker Smuggler — Similar to Axeman in that if you don’t deal with it it snowballs out of control. At the moment it provides too much value for a bronze so it needs its strength reduced.
- Pavetta/Priscilla/King of Beggars — It’s not so much the cards themselves that are overpowered, but when combined with Shani/Nenneke they are overpowered. Especially when Pavetta is a gold she turns into a double Scorch! Priscilla’s and KoB’s abilities are also too powerful to be used multiple times in a match, so I suggest making them permadeath or fleeting.
- Kambi/Hjalmar/Madman Lugos — We’ll have to see just how broken this combo is after the patch, but I won’t be surprised if they get their strength reduced at some point.
- Letho — This is a personal preference and, as much as I love making clutch plays with him, it happens rarely and it’s hard to get any value from him. I propose giving him a 4–5 base strength boost when played on the owner’s side, which makes him weaker than Kayran because of his flexibility but a lot more consistent nonetheless.
- Ambassador — Another card I find awkward. He’s not weak per se but the randomness is vexing. He should be able to select the buff target, even if it means reducing his buff to say 11.
- Milva — She just plain sucks now. Needs a rework.
- Fringilla — Just give her some kind of ability, pls.