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A Guide to Deckbuilding in Gwent

A Guide to Deckbuilding in Gwent
Shifu is a Gwent shoutcaster with over 25 years of CCG experience to his name. He is considered the father of the Gwent deck archetype “Monster Weather”, and boasts a top 100 finish on the global Gwent ladder.

In this article, I’m going to teach you how to build a deck and be competitive at Gwent. When it comes to deckbuilding, Gwent differs from other card games. In most CCGs, the focus is on getting your opponent’s life total to zero, whereas in Gwent it’s about scoring more than your opponent. Also, in Gwent every game is best 2 of 3, which has an enormous impact on deck construction. So, how do you build a deck? The answer is not easy, but like anything complicated you must break it down into smaller parts. You need three things in a good, viable deck: theme, structure, and a win condition.

THEME

This is where you start in the process of building a deck. Let’s look at it from a Gwent perspective. First, you must choose a faction. For now, let’s go with Monsters as the faction of choice. Once you have the faction, take a look at the cards in totality: do they have keywords that show up frequently, like”Deathwish” or weather conditions in Monsters? If so, then start grouping them together and seeing how they interact. The most common Monster build since before Day One was a Weather Monster Deck. This was accomplished because most Monster cards either bring in weather, or get buffed by weather on the board. This is the easiest deck to build in Gwent, and I highly suggest it for new players. Here is an example of synergy in Monsters: Wild Hunt Hounds bring in Frost from the deck, and Frost Giants get +6 when frost is on the board. So, you take a core idea of weather, and just put all the cards with weather into the deck builder. Now, like a great sculptor from the Renaissance, you meld and cut away until perfection is achieved (or until that inevitable first loss, upon which you howl in frustration and go back to the drawing board). The theme is the easiest part of the journey, the next step is more difficult.

STRUCTURE

So now you have cards that focus around weather from our previous example, but how do you take that idea and build a winning deck? Remember, Gwent is a marathon and not a sprint: you have to win 2 of 3 rounds, not EVERY round. So you must go into each round with an agenda, or plan of action. These are the questions you must ask yourself before you put the necessary pieces in place: How do I plan on starting matches? Am I building a counterattack deck or an aggressive point explosion deck? Am I trying to overwhelm or control my opponent? Once you figure out the game plan, you can build your deck accordingly. For our example, we are focusing on “Weather Control”. This means we will try to smother our opponent with weather, and Control the flow of the round. The Monster Weather deck we are using, generally you want to put your opponent into weather and let them sit in it for a long time. The more time their units are in weather the more points they lose, so your deck is a attrition based deck. Long rounds are favorable to this style of deck. Your opponent will be aware and will try to counter and either clear the weather or end the round early. You have to then reevaluate your position going into Round 2. Remember, you can lose Round 2 and win Round 3. The art of deckbuilding We must look at maintaining control over all three rounds while setting up the win condition. Let’s take a look at what this means round by round. Round 1 is an important round, and the coin flip is unfortunately a HUGE factor in winning and losing. If you win the coin toss, you are down one card to your opponent and are in an unfavorable position. You want to try to win the round only going down one card, anything better than that and you are in firm control of the game. So, in Round 1 as a Weather Monster player, you want to bring in Frost early and let the attrition do the work for you. If you win Round 1, then Round 2 is simply passing (if down a card) or going for the jugular. Generally you want to pass as the more cards in hand for round 3 the more time the opponent sits in the weather, This is dependent on what cards you have in hand and deck. So, to bring it back to the structure of the deck, you need to maximize weather damage and card advantage. Card count is VERY important. You always want to strive to play the last card of every game. This means that you make the last play and your opponent CANNOT react to your card. This brings us to the final phase: THE WIN CONDITION.

THE WIN CONDITION

For every deck you make, you must visualize the way you win. For example, the Crones were an amazing win condition in Monsters. Your plan should go something like this. Round 1: Punish with weather, win by one card or even cards. Round 2: Drain opponents resources to one or no card in hand. Round 3: Play Crones – that's a 20 point card as she calls in her sisters from your deck. Win! Again, this is a perfect world, perfect draw scenario, but it’s very important to have a goal and a vision for victory. With a Weather Monster deck you have controlled the tempo, and your opponent has (theoretically) been drained of all his resources when the Crones hit the field. It’s a good idea to have backup win conditions, but those are usually forged as the game takes shape. Gwent is a fluid, challenging game that requires creativity and flexibility. Every faction has its own set of win conditions. Building a deck is fun, exciting, and challenging. You have to take the theme, the structure, the win condition and tweak and adapt to the ladder. Always be fluid and look to make changes as you see fit. Decks are never finalized – they are forever evolving. Start with a solid theme, plan how to play each round, and play those win conditions!