Gwent arena is a mode in which you make a deck by drafting 27 cards (26 cards and a Leader). You choose one of 4 options presented for each card selection, and after completing a deck, you compete against other users in up to 9 rounds of matchmaking. The matchmaking is largely based on your current win-rate, and by the end of your run, you get rewards depending on how many wins you earn by the time you get 3 losses. A maximum of 9 wins has a guaranteed Legendary card. This guide will help you get the strategies you need to consistently farm Gold cards.
I have been playing Arena mode intensively since the mode has been available, with a goal of 70 wins in 10 runs. It’s a hard feat to pull off on stream, potentially even more so than in Hearthstone, because of a higher potential card variance than Hearthstone (such as the number of gold cards you can draft) and the ever-present impact of the coin flip. To date, I still haven’t completed the challenge. That being said, I have continued improving and am now closer than ever. On the last challenge I ended with 68 wins, although some of it was off stream. I rarely break my contracts, and never do so when I am engaged in an arena challenge run. Those who see me play arena can attest to this, and I can safely say my current arena win percentage reaches 70%, and I feel like it can get even better. Flake, another Arena enthusiast, put up an open challenge for 75 wins in 10 runs, so I am going to strive for that on my stream. Needless to say, I have accumulated a lot of experience in Arena, so I would like to share my knowledge with the Gwent community.
I am going to explain general strategies to keep in mind when drafting, including some useful general and specific tips. Afterward, I will talk about the topics of the Round 1 dry-pass and bleeding in Round 2, where my stance drastically differs from the general view shared by public personalities and prominent streamers.
General strategy to drafting
- Double Down
We all know what the perfect arena deck looks like. John Calveit, Shupe, Stefan Skellen, Imlerith: Sabbath, a few high impact bronzes, with a few Stennises, Dijkstras, and all that jazz. In addition, each of us has an affinity for a specific style of arena deck. JoeSnow likes to draft multiple weather spams on bodies (ie Caranthir and Birna Bran). I like to draft efficient removal units, in order to destroy my opponent’s key units. That being said, more often than not a perfect deck will be out of our reach. Sometimes, you won’t be able to draft a deck within your comfort zone.
What I suggest as a general rule is that you pick the cards with the strongest power level for the first 10 cards. Identify the direction of your deck, as well as its strengths, and then try to double down on those strengths for the rest of the draft. For example, if you manage to draft cards like Caranthir and Silver mages in the first 10 cards, pick up the next weather card that pops up, like Birna Bran. The reasoning is that it’s highly unlikely at this point that your opponent’s number of weather clears will match those of your weather effects. To round out the deck, you could opt for good movement units such as Whale Harpooner to maximize the damage that you can do to your opponent’s board.
Depending on the direction of your draft, you can classify 5 deck archetypes in Arena. I will list them here and suggest a particular leader that synergizes well with the chosen deck archetype. Due to Brouver Hoog and John Calveit’s statuses as Arena all-stars that go well with any deck type, they will not be mentioned here. You should generally draft these two leaders whenever possible, with few exceptions.
Check out JoeSn0ws nifty arena guide for more tips: https://bit.ly/2EyFMWk
Core cards: Silver mages, Birna Bran, Caranthir, Woodland Spirit, Renew.
Movement units like Jotunn, Whale Harpooner and Zoltan synergize well with weather effects. Try to pick weather spam units over weather specials as much as possible. If you fail to draft movement units, it’s often better to refrain from choosing global weather. You will not be able to fully utilize it, even if your opponent doesn’t have weather clear.
Good leader: Dagon. The leader presents an obvious counterplay to your opponent to play their clears early, enabling you to punish hasty clears with weather over long rounds.
Core cards: Olgierd, Morkvarg, Barbegazi, Yarpen Zigrin, Wardancer.
Proactive, point swing cards help compensate for low points on carryover units. Cynthia, Toad Prince, and Vrihedd officer are key examples that you should prioritize in this archetype. Units that strengthen, such as Peter and An Crait Blacksmith are recommended in order to increase your carryover. Try to pick some Silver locks (Margarita) and Muzzle to counter your opponent’s strategy, especially since both are very prevalent in Arena.
Good leader: Crach an Craite, as he gets you the point swing you need to stay ahead on blue coin.
Core cards: Stefan Skellen, Handbuff-mechanic cards such as Swordmaster and Hawker Support, Imerlith: Sabbath, Ihuarraquax
Your deck is built around a specific two/three card combo, aka the Stefan Skellen deck. The notorious Arena combos are Stefan with Imlerith: Sabbath and/or Ihuarraquax. Stefan also synergizes well with handbuff-mechanic cards, such as Braen and Elven Swordmaster. Duel units such as Seltkirk and Champion of Hov can benefit as well. Hawker Supporters can boost these units, which fits into your strategy.
Good leader: Francesca. The buffing synergy is self-evident, and she allows you to filter your worst card in hand for your combo piece.
Core cards: Archespore, reinforced trebuchet, dragoon, siege supporter, Odrin, Yennefer: Conjurer
Your deck has so many engine pieces that constantly demand answers from your opponent. Bronze units such as Vrihedd Dragoon, Redanian Knight-Elect, and Reinforced Trebuchet, Silver units such as Odrin and Blueboy Lugos and gold units such as Triss: Butterfly and Yennefer: Conjurer are excellent examples of engines. Note that Stennis is much better with this deck since armor placed on the units pulls you out of the range of many direct removal cards such as Alzur’s Thunder. Shani is great as well, due to her ability to revive key engines while protecting them from further removal. Consider adding some healing units, such as An Crait Armorsmith and Peter to foil your opponent’s attempts to take out your units.
Good leader: Foltest. His buff can put units out of the range of many popular direct removal cards.
Core cards: Pretty much all of the duel mechanic cards except Ice Troll.
Fixed-damage removal units: Iorveth, Serrit, Panther, etc.
This is a very straightforward archetype that cares less about building your own board as much as breaking down your opponent’s units. Bronze units like panther, as well as 7-8 Silver removal units like Serrit and Striga are your bread and butter. Single target hard removal golds such as Shirru, Lugos, and Leo Bonhart allow you to take down most tall units, but be sure not to use them all in one round unless you absolutely have to.
Good leader: Harald the Cripple. 10 damage is 10 damage.
- Fleshing out the rest of your deck
It’s highly unlikely that you can get 26 weather spam/removal/engine cards, but even if you can get close to it, you shouldn’t. Too many of the same cards will cause your deck’s efficiency to drop. You can only weather 3 rows, after all. Regardless of your deck’s archetype, you want some efficient deck thinning tools to get better access to your best cards throughout the match. You want some proactive cards as well, such as Cynthia.
Unconditional deck thinning tools that do not require specific tutor-card types are really powerful, such as Dijkstra, Stennis, and Toad Prince. Early in the draft, if I am given choices such as John Natalis, Pavko and Vrygheff that require a specific card type to be effective, I tend to choose them unless strong individual cards are presented, such as Aglais. It’s hard that you’ll go empty-handed for the rest of the draft, since it’s likely you will come across good tactics/bronze machine/item cards in Arena.
Even if you end up empty-handed, all is not lost. There are utility cards to fix your hand. Such cards include Johnny, Ves, Vrihedd Officer and Ermion. I value them highly. Even if you have no dead tutor in your hand, you will always have sub-optimal bronze cards that you want to swap or discard for better cards.
Furthermore, I feel that it’s essential to have some weather clears in your deck. Single-row weather clear units like Nauzicaa Standard Bearer and Kaedwini Sergeant are pretty good, thanks to their decently high stats. Let’s say that your opponent used a Silver mage to cast a weather effect on you. With one weather tick, they probably get 6 points of value. If you jam a 9-10 strength weather clear unit in response, you just gained +3 in that card exchange. I personally believe that three weather clears, including Silver mages and single-row weather clear units hits the sweet spot.
Tips and Tricks for Arena
1. Shoot to kill: You cannot build 100% “point-vomit” decks; units take damage. Naturally, it follows that healing cards like Peter and An Crait Armorsmith are common in arena. This means that if you can afford it, it is often better to use Alzur’s Thunder to take out an 8 strength unit as opposed to hitting a 10 strength unit to get the full value. Of course if you are really behind, and you need the full value out of your removal to get a win, you hit that 10 strength unit.
2. 90% of Francesca decks have Sabbath, if not all of them. Many of them will also have Stefan. If you have Shilard and Xarthisius, then you’re in luck, because you need to keep them handy. Try to save your hard removal or Silver locks to answer the Sabbath play, because it is sure to come.
3. If your opponent damages your Olgierd, especially in Round 1, it’s an ominous sign that they will try to either Muzzle it or kill it, then use Caretaker to steal it. Play around it by buffing Olgierd. If you are up a card and can afford to pass, it might be better to do so to prevent your opponent from having carryover points over you in the next round.
4. In a close game with a 7-9 point win range, expect your opponent to have Dijkstra and/or Shupe. I sometimes played 4 matches in a row where my opponent had Shupe. Multiple Dijkstras are not uncommon, and you may face disgusting chains like Vilgefortz-Dijkstra-Shupe combos. It happens. Get your mind ready, and try to conserve your power plays to match your opponent’s swings.
5. Traditional weather clears are not the only means to combat weather. If you miss out on weather clears completely for most of your draft, try to draft cards like Ale of the Ancestors and Katakan, which can switch a row under a hazard to a boon. Movement units like Zoltan Chivay are also good to move your units to safe rows.
6. If your opponent plays a suboptimal weather on your row, expect them to have more weather. This means that if you only have one silver mage, try to bait out that extra weather by putting a big unit on another row.
Round 1 Drypass
Many streamers have said that if you are on the blue coin, that you should drypass with very few exceptions. The argument is that you don’t know what your opponent has and you cannot play around anything, so there is no point to risk going two cards down to win or lose the round on even cards. While I agree that the drypass is a valid strategy, I feel like there are so many situations where you are better off playing the first round out. I play out the 1st round on the blue coin more often than not.
In Arena, there is a larger overall variance than in a constructed format. It’s hard to fully optimize an Arena deck, so both you and your opponent will have to make sub-optimal plays from time to time. Sometimes you will come up with a dead tutor in your hand, a jammed Geralt: Igni or Scorch, etc. Without Silver spies in Arena, the blue coin sucks less. However, if you give your opponent an easy Round 1, you let them take control of how the game gets played out from then on. This means that your opponent can control the variance in their favor. With the red coin, your opponent has an initial advantage in that department. Your goal is to minimize the length of the round your opponent can control, or even seize that control back if you can.
The decision to drypass will depend heavily on the contents of your deck and hand. First, I will explain the situations where you want to drypass:
1. Your deck and hand are so stacked that playing out round 1 will only diminish your deck’s power level.
2. You have many answers to cards that your opponent will throw at you (removal for engine units, weather clears, etc).
3. There are few or no advantages to playing out the round (ex. Your deck is not built on thinning, there is no carryover to establish, nor graveyard synergy).
4. Your deck excels in long rounds (heavy on AOE spells/units, weather spam, etc).
5. Your hand does not have good proactive plays.
Now let’s look at realistic nightmare scenarios if you drypass when these conditions are not met, as well as some other specific situations:
1. Your deck has few or no weather clears. Your opponent proceeds to demolish you with multiple weathers in a long third round.
2. You cannot punish your opponent’s low tempo-utility leaders, such as Francesca and Foltest, since they will just play them when you drypass. They will then proceed to beat you with the carryover advantage gained from playing these leaders.
3. Your opponent’s deck is literally built around carryover units and proactive plays. They proceed to jam those units in Round 2, and jump so far ahead that your resources will be exhausted by Round 3.
4. Your deck is built on efficient thinning. There are specific tutoring combos in your deck, and by not playing them out in Round 1, you make your mulligans really awkward. You then end up with dead draws.
5. Your deck has heavy graveyard synergies, with cards such as Renew, Sigdrifa, Blue Dream, and Cahir. Your opponent drypasses on Round 2, and those synergies are blocked in Round 3.
6. Your deck has many carryover plays. The combination of their low strength and not playing out Round 1 causes your deck power to be unable to catch up to that of your opponent’s in a long final round.
In these scenarios, you want to engage in Round 1. However, you will need an exit strategy, so think carefully about how far you can go in Round 1 without losing your leverage. What I usually do is that I try to establish carryover if I have any, and then make proactive plays while thinning my deck in the early turns. If I see that the opponent is catching up while I am running out of power plays, or that I need to conserve those plays for later rounds, I pass. This is because the opponent threatens to beat me on even cards. You may say this as essentially the same situation as a 1st round drypass, but this is much better. This is because the chance of facing one of these nightmare scenarios will be significantly lower. Since your opponent spent significant resources as well, they are discouraged from bleeding you in Round 2. If they play out Round 2, then you will be better equipped to take the round a card up than in a Round 1 drypass scenario.
Round 2 Bleed
If you win Round 1 on even cards, it is almost always correct to bleed your opponent out in Round 2. The only bad scenario would be if the opponent has many carryover units. In that case, you should try to 2-0 them.
The situation gets murkier if you went down a card to take Round 1. A likely scenario is that your opponent drypassed you in Round 1, so you played a Bronze unit to take the round. The same principles from Round 1 apply here for making a decision to play the round. Interestingly, you may find that the situation is not the same as Round 1. First of all, both you and your opponent have more cards to play. However, both of you are likely to have more suboptimal cards due to additional cards being drawn without deck thinning.
This means that you can really take the driver’s seat here. If you can pressure your opponent, they will be forced to spend their resources suboptimally. Hell, sometimes it is even better to go a card down to play out Round 2, if it means that you can get rid of all of your suboptimal cards to trade for your opponent’s powerful cards. I have come across situations where my opponent only played one or two bronze cards throughout the match. Playing out a long second round can, therefore, help to bridge the gap in deck power.
We all know what the best cards are, but I want to discuss some Gold and Silver cards that I feel are underappreciated and possibly overlooked:
Xarthisius: In addition to countering Stefan and putting your opponent’s best Gold at the bottom of their deck, the card’s ability gives you almost complete information about the opponent’s deck. This will inform you of what to play around, and how the opponent will approach the match and if you should pass or bleed your rounds.
Ulfheddin: In a long round, he can be game-winning. Coupled with a board damaging spell like Shrike (from Vanhemar as a bonus) and Rockslide, he can really get you insane value, north of a 30 point swing.
The Guardian: a solid proactive play in Round 1, and even in its nerfed form it is potent because of the prevalence of cards that take advantage of the top card of the library, such as Stennis, Stefan, and Dandelion: Poet. Even if you cannot get the benefit right away in the round, it makes the opponent’s mulligan awkward, more so than in constructed because they are more likely to have sub-par cards that they want to get rid of.
Discard utility cards (Svanrige Tuirsech and Johnny): These get rid of bad cards in your hand for a chance at something better. Johnny gets value if he can be used for bad golds or Morkvarg/ Olgierd.
That’s the end of my guide, and I hope that it will help you excel in Arena games. Thank you for reading, and for more great contents and updates, feel free to check out our links to join in on the conversation and give me your thoughts on the guide.