At the core of Alchemy Nilfgaard’s power is the Viper Witcher – a card that deals 1 damage for each Alchemy card in the starting deck. With the ability to replay Viper Witchers with Ointments, it means that an Alchemy Nilfgaard player has up to 6 uses of arguably the strongest bronze removal card in game that shuts down any of the opponent’s strategies. Slave Drivers that set-up two bodies at once guarantee that the deck’s main long round tool – Mahakam Ale, preferably pulled out with Vicovaro Novice – won’t be as easily disrupted. The short round win condition is guaranteed by Cahir, that resurrects your Leader into a one card finisher that is hard to match.
Alchemy Nilfgaard as an archetype has existed for a while now, however it has never been able to really make it into the top tiers, mainly because it had to compete for the spot of the best Nilfgaard deck with Spies. With the recent patches, Spies got hit quite hard and were removed out of the meta entirely. The meta opened up and Alchemy became one of the decks that benefited the most from it.
The downside of the deck is that it doesn’t have access to carryover, and most of its plays are reactive, so it performs a little bit worse than average if the Alchemy player has to go first. The deck’s disadvantage on blue coin is what stops it from becoming the most dominant force on the ladder, considering that Henselt Machines exists as direct competition, at the moment. Nonetheless, it is still a powerful deck that has a decent match-up against the majority of the decks on the ladder, which makes it deserving of the Tier 1 spot.
Regardless of the variation of the list, Dun Banner are the staple in the Archetype that makes Henselt a large threat on the red coin. Put out points too fast and you might be at the mercy of the cavalry, too slow and you can get overwhelmed with the machine onslaught. It is a deck that poses a huge threat both in long and short rounds.The combination of Reinforced Ballistas and Battering Rams keep any potential threat down and stops the opponent’s game plan and grows the deck’s short round finisher, Bloody Baron, at the same time. With constant access to their Silver Spy, Henselt guarantees that whether going first or second he rarely finds himself down a card or without his most important tools.
Unsurprisingly for many, the new patch did little to stop the threat which is Henselt and his beloved siege engines. In fact, it has only empowered it, as the addition of Triss: Telekinesis, gives Henselt yet another Winch copy, increasing the probability of pulling out 3+ machines with Henselt’s leader ability. It is a deck that is capable of winning in both short and long rounds, and the one which has enough room to alter the list to suit the meta. The Indisputable King of Gwent.
Greatswords is a deck that’s slow to ramp up but has some of the highest point potential in the game. Should the deck’s main combo of Dimun Light Longship and An Craite Greatsword be left unanswered, the deck spirals out of control. It is certainly a slow-burner, but its passive point generation per turn is unparalleled. If the opponent threatens to overwhelm you with points, the deck has a few high-tempo options that can help it to keep up with the opponent, such as Vesemir: Mentor into Mandrake or Hym. Much like many other decks, Greatswords became empowered by the addition of Triss: Telekinesis that gives you an additional use of Reconnaissance, increasing the consistency of the list.
It would seem that in the Alchemy-filled meta, Greatswords would not be as dominating as they are, but, surprisingly enough, apart from that match up, few decks can perfectly answer Greatswords. Neither Monsters with their graveyard hate, nor Scoia’tael with their affinity for hard removal like Scorch or Artifact Compression are currently prevalent on the ladder, allowing the deck to shine like it never did before.
Deathwish is an archetype that was long in the making, but always lacked something extra to be considered a serious contender in the meta. Now, with several tweaks and new additions, it breathes new life into the Monster faction. The core bronze package of the deck consists of Archespore, D’ao, Griffin, and Cyclops. The last two cards are used as triggers for the first two, giving you the option of putting more points on your side of the board (Griffin), or removing a considerable threat from the opponent’s side (Cyclops). The versatility of the deck is what makes it so great, as it can be teched to fit any situation. Cards like Caretaker, Ozzrel, Cyclops or Monsters’ Nest increase the versatility of Deathwish Dagon by allowing it to react to the opponent’s strategy, making it as “midrange” as a deck can be in Gwent right now. This means that adapting to the opponent is one of the greatest challenges for a Deathwish Dagon player. Last, but not least, Brewess: Ritual, a recent addition to Gwent, is a powerful gold that offers the deck a short-round condition that it didn’t have before, giving it a slight edge that it lacked.
Despite the versatility of Deathwish, there’s one matchup that’s naturally unfavourable for it: Greatswords Skellige, which can take advantage of fog and Archespores’ pings. The fact that Greatswords Skellige are one of the contenders for the highest position in the ecosystem of Gwent’s meta limits Dagon’s potential. It’s still a force to be reckoned with, though, and it’s holding its spot in tier 2 firmly.
What was just a few months ago a nightmare to play against, had been neutered to the point where the thoughts about playing Swap Scoia’tael would be met with laughter. With the addition of several new tools like Elven Scouts and Half-elf Hunters, Swap ST got reborn into a decent, competitive archetype. Swap Scoia’tael is also known as Swarm Scoia’tael and as the latter name might imply the game plan of the list is pretty straightforward – play as many elves as possible, then make huge point swings thanks to Vrihedd Vanguard, which can be replayed several times by Francesca, Saskia, and Vrihedd Officers.
Though in a long round, Swap ST can put out a decent amount of points, its short round win-conditions, represented either by Hattori or Aglais or even Ciri Nova are laughably weak in comparison to those of T1 decks like Alchemy Nilfgaard and Henselt Machines. As for Greatswords Skellige, the deck simply does not have enough reliable answers to stop its passive point generation and, as such, all T1 decks have a sizable advantage over ST Swap, which is why it can’t be considered a T1 deck.
The addition of Tuirseach Veterans gave birth to a new archetype – Veteran Skellige. The Tuirseach tribal synergy grants permanent buffs to Veterans’ core bronze units, making them reach 15 or more points. This guarantees a strong round three, especially when Restore is played on a Heymaey Spearmaiden or a Tuirseach Bearmaster. While Veteran’s power output is mediocre before the Veterans are developed, they still have access to tools than can make up for it – cards like Coral, Muzzle or Vesemir: Mentor are capable of dealing with threats or providing point swings, while Birna Bran applies very strong pressure if the weather that she applies is left unanswered. This makes Veterans a tiny bit draw-dependent, and that can be mitigated by the inclusion of cards like Alzur’s Double Cross or using Crach an Craite as a leader for a guaranteed Veteran pull.
While Veterans are still one of the most popular choices for ladder climbers, we may observe a reversal of that trend since Greatswords Skellige and Henselt Machines are currently the decks to beat, and both of them make quick work of Veterans, if the latter are incapable of drawing few of their reactive options early in the game. That weakness makes Veterans a little bit unsuited for the inclusion and Tier 1, but they are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Consume archetype is one of the most polarizing ones in the history of Gwent. It is never going to be THE best deck in the game, for the same reason Axemen can’t: if its play rate becomes too high, then the meta adapts to shut it down. However, if there are few answers or they aren’t found quickly enough, Consume is capable of getting out of control and dishing out truly ridiculous amounts of points. The deck utilizes a variety of consume triggers (Vran Warrior, Forktail, Slyzard) to get it’s Nekkers to 20 or more points during the game. While the opening stages of the game are rather slow for Consume the player will usually be able to go two or even three cards down and win from that position just thanks to the amount of raw power that the Nekkers provide in the late game.
In the current meta Mandrake is a fairly powerful card, so Consume players always have to play around that card, by having either a second Nekker or a tutor for a second Nekker in their hand. Consume still performs fairly well in the current meta, as it has favored matchups against Veteran Skellig, Deathwish Dagon, and Alchemy Nilfgaard. Depending on techs it can struggle a lot against the extremely powerful and popular Henselt Machines deck and the combination of Greatswords Skellige’s engines and tools such as Coral or Mandrake can prove to be quite a hurdle to overcome. This is enough to lock Consume out of entering Tier 1 despite the extraordinary potential of this archetype.
Through the use of Wild Hunt Hounds, Drowners and Wild Hunt Riders, this control deck utilizes basic bronze synergies to deal consistent damage per turn to the opponent and shut down their engines while establishing a board presence. Obviously, being a weather centered deck, Eredin Frost shines the most in the long rounds where Biting Frost can work its magic, but it still has a considerable short-round win condition in the form of Iris, or even a double Iris combo provided by Caretaker. Should that combo get denied, either Monster Nest or Toad Prince form Eredin’s backbone in short rounds.
A once dominant archetype, Eredin Frost now resides as a former shadow of itself – particularly because it was left behind as other bronzes rose in power. The once feared Drowner is now outvalued by almost any bronze, and Wild Hunt Hounds are extremely low tempo, making the deck struggle on blue coin. Additional weather clear options from Elven Scouts and Runestones make establishing damage over time more difficult than before. The Imlerith: Sabbath variants of the deck are extremely vulnerable to Mandrake, one of the staple silvers in the current meta. Together with fact that Monsters have better alternatives, this means that Eredin Frost is very likely to stay in Tier 3 until the next update, at the very least.
Scorch decks have always had some presence in Gwent, starting from Gwent in The Witcher 3. With, Villentretenmerth, Schirru, and Eithne it is possible to utilize up to 4 Scorch effects per game, while cards like Dol Blathanna Archers allow the player to maximize the value of their removals, as they can align several units to be scorched with one card. This often forces the Scorch Scoia’tael player to carefully consider every move and plan ahead. As Scorch Scoia’tael has a narrow win condition, it is important for it to be consistent. Thanks to Elven Mercenaries, Reconnaissance and cards like as Marching Orders and Alzur’s Double-Cross, the deck can thin to zero cards very easily, thus making sure that the key golds are drawn in every game.
In last few weeks, it seems that meta has become more favorable for Scorch Scoia’tael, as it proves to be a difficult opponent for Greatswords Skellige and it’s able to stand its ground against Henselt. Unfortunately, the abundance of Alchemy Nilfgaard, which can deal with Villentretenmerth easily, and the raw value decks such as Veteran Skellige, Swap Scoia’tael or Deathwish Dagon makes laddering with Scorch Scoia’tael a difficult task, as these match-ups can easily recuperate from the Scorch effects.
Moonlight Dagon is the first somewhat successful version of a Boon deck in Gwent. With the combination of positive Boons on your side and negative Hazards on the opponent’s side, this deck is a beast in a long round, as the passive point generation that it has can be matched only by a few decks, and cards such as Vesemir: Mentor into Expired Ale offer excellent long round finishers. The addition of cards like Bridge Troll offer some versatility as they allow you to play more Foglets by reapplying Fog on the opponents row, thinning the deck to get a better chance of drawing powerful gold cards. Due to nature of the deck, the short round potential is limited but not non-existent and either Caretaker or Vesemir: Mentor into Black Blood are decent plays in short rounds.
The place of the archetype in the meta is uncertain. It is certain, though, that the deck is too slow to compete with the archetypes at the top of the food chain. It takes several turns to get the engines going and in that time frame, top decks can threaten gaining 2 card advantage, if not more, forcing Moonlight Dagon out of the round, with at least half of its engines being lost. Its passive point generation is nothing in comparison to Greatswords Skellige, which only benefit from the Fog effects being played on their rows. The short rounds of both Henselt Machines and Alchemy Nilfgaard completely overwhelm whatever Moonlight Dagon has to offer.