After a long wait, the balance patch arrived with 60+ changes. Will it change meta as it was expected? Are the nerfs and buffs enough to change the way we play on a ladder? Team Elder Blood tries to respond to those questions in our day 1 review.
The 3 general ideas behind neutral changes seem simple:
Madoc is not strong enough, so let’s make him stronger – and this is definitely achieved, which will most likely bring more of the non-unit Madoc decks to competitive play.
NG locking the shit out of everyone else is annoying, so let’s give everyone a taste of this pleasure – but we are not sure whether it will change anything in the way we play, as after Viy nerf, the only meta decks requiring serious locking are ST Movement.
Last idea was to make Yen sexy for the journey – which has been achieved to a degree of potentially allowing her versions to appear here and there, not only in swarm or meme decks.
Sadly, what the patch doesn’t do is the rework of the neutrals that are collecting dust on shelves for a long time. Still plenty of neutrals’ only role is to look pretty and have 0 use in any deck, and it’s the highest time to address it.
Aguara: 9 Prov -> 8 Prov – most likely will remain irrelevant, as there are simply better locks out there.
Dancing Star: 5 Prov -> 4 Prov – there are still better bombs available, but Madoc should enjoy this little buff (some of us believe though that even for Madoc it’s not a meaningful change).
Dimeritium Bomb: Damage by 3 -> Damage by 4 – perfect for Madoc decks – like Tourney Joust/Gutting Slash, but better.
Red Haze: 5 Prov -> 4 Prov – Madoc improvement, potential cheap tech card for some other decks, but it’s one of the cards which could potentially disappear as people remember to play around it.
Dorregaray: 5 Power / 7 Prov -> 6 Power / 6 Prov – not a major game-changer; there are better and cheaper locks out there, but may see some use if meta demands it.
Maxii van Dekkar: 6 Prov -> 5 Prov – even this buff won’t make Maxii see the light of day; let’s wait for a complete rework.
Nivellen: 8 Prov -> 6 Prov – becomes a potential for ST Movement decks, and a very expensive counter to those decks. Might be however too awkward to be seriously included.
Regis: 2 Power -> 3 Power – even with 1 more Power Regis will continue to spend his time buried deep inside his tomb. Remains too expensive for his difficult setup.
Scorch: 12 Prov -> 11 Prov – Initiative keeps this card good as dead, even with one fewer provision.
Vaedermakar: 7 Prov -> 6 Prov – would be great for WH Frost decks, if only it didn’t break the Devotion – and that’s why we won’t get to see him at all.
Yennefer of Vengerberg: 11 Prov -> 10 Prov – might as well be exactly the 1 prov that Swarm decks needed to become better, especially for MO searching for their new identity after OH nerf.
Yennefer Conjurer: No Zeal, 10 Prov -> Zeal, 9 Prov – will still prove hard to keep alive, but if it manages, can prove useful in damage control decks. Some of us believe we will actually see her in the more creative decks.
Xavier: 8 Prov, Banish 3 at Deploy -> Zeal, 6 Prov, Banish 1 every turn as order – a game like Gwent should have a card like this. Whether it manages to replace Squirrel will depend largely on the graveyards we’ll see in meta.
Long overdue Viy nerf damages in its fallout the whole OH concept, which in turn makes consumption/Deathwish weaker (not dead yet though!), even with the little bronze boosts. Kelly and Koschey avoided nerfs, so potentially can dominate the MO roster, and we’re pretty sure that the small, yet neat boost to Yen and Crimson Curse, will encourage people to experiment more with MO decks, Arachas Swarm in particular.
Overwhelming Hunger: 3 charges, Ekimmara 2 Power, adds 14 Prov -> 2 charges, Ekimmara 3 Power, Adds 15 Prov – the team is divided between acknowledging it’s a well deserved nerf to Ability which was always tad too strong, even before Viy, and the ones who feel that regulating Viy unfairly killed the whole deathwish OH archetype in the process. Nevertheless, as much it will most likely not be gone completely, Viy will not anymore be taking premium spots in meta snapshots.
Bridge Troll: 5 Prov -> 4 Prov – bittersweet consolation prize for non-Viy consume decks after OH nerf, which may however dangerously play into tall punish, which OH has a problem with.
Harpy token – 5 Power -> 6 Power – Celaeno Harpy, a sneakily good card which was missing a final touch, just got it. If OH survives the nerf, the Eggs and Harpies become a very viable option. Plus plays for a whopping 6 points with Urn of Shadows.
Idr: 8 Prov -> 7 Prov – As Immunity doesn’t protect it from row effects and Curse/Scorch, he will remain the forgotten cousin of Viy, playing in the meme league.
Katakan: 6 Power, + Ekimmara 2 Power -> 5 Power, + Ekimmara 3 Power – The Ekimmara boost serves it well, but Katakan still remains a card that is not really sure where it belongs – neither good in being vampire, nor having an exciting Deathwish, nor in getting much of thrive.
Phooca: Thrive 1, Armor 1, Veil -> Thrive 2, no armor, no Veil – the change is not going to save it, as it loses armor and Veil, getting in return a nonsensical Thrive 2, achieving its ceiling very fast.
Rotfiend 4 Power -> 5 Power Yes, it’s 9 for 5, but conditional, and as such may not see an increase in play rate. Nevertheless another bronze buff to sweeten the OH nerf deal.
Viy: 8 Power, 12 Prov -> 7 Power, 14 Prov – Viy really needed a nerf, and the hammer has fallen. The reduced power and increased cost really does it, and the leader ability nerf seals its fate. It will still be playable, but nowhere near as strong as it was, thus sending the bug to the lower tiers. You can still play Viy deck drunk, high, half-asleep, whilst watching TV or being on the phone, but at least now it won’t get you anywhere, and you’ll have to work hard for your money.
Wild Hunt Hound: 5 Prov -> 4 Prov – finally joining the 4 provision engines such as Magne Division, Viper Witcher Adept, Master of Disguise, etc., the Hound will find his place in some MO decks.
NG is here to stay and continue locking, assimilating, masquerade’ing and as a result probably frustrating some of us for months to come. Surprisingly not addressing Kolgrim (in range of Renew, as one of tragic examples), making Assimilate better, and making lock even more accessible, CDPR is sending a strong message that NG is good as it is, and its power level and play-rate weren’t enough to warrant reasonable nerfs.
Imprisonment: Adds 15 Prov -> Adds 16 Prov – was trash tier, and now levelled up to very weak tier. Still plenty of much better choices in NG, even if locking is what you’re into.
Alba Pikeman: Melee, no Bonded -> Any row, Bonded: Damage random unit by 1 instead of random Melee unit – the bonded ability does not make it attractive enough to play two of these, so people will continue to play zero of them. Unless you really want a full soldier package.
Auckes: 5 Power, 7 Prov -> 6 Power, 6 Prov – Auckes on his own became very good, but this latest in the series of buffs to the witcher trio will make it just a bit more common.
Experimental Remedy: 6 Prov -> 5 Prov – not only a solid boost to Assimilate decks, but may now even find it’s place in Enslave as a Tactic, with good cost, and a growing pond of really good bronze fish to catch.
Viper Witcher Mentor: Adrenaline 2 -> Adrenaline 3 – a buff not needed, not deserved, unfairly making this card stronger, when in good hands it was already strong enough.
Vypper: 9 Prov -> 8 Prov – 1 more provision to spend in a meme deck that still won’t win you enough games to justify its existence.
The buffs to the Archgriffin deck are not enough to make it playable, but since already very strong NR Witchers have not received any nerfs (even the polarizing Griffin Witcher), they will remain strong contenders for the top part of tier 1 and the only truly visible NR deck in Pro.
Pincer Maneuver: Adds 15 Prov -> Adds 16 Prov – nobody played it before, and it won’t change. Two charges with a smaller boost would have been a much better idea.
ArchGriffin: 5 Base Power, 10 Prov -> 6 Base Power, 9 Prov – still not a Viy NR hoped for, but at least can be now pulled with Amphibious Assault. One tall removal though, and the whole hard work goes down the drain, so small chance to become more than a meme.
Griffin Witcher Ranger: No Formation, Deploy works on opposite Row -> Formation, Deploy: choose a row – Formation gives this card the freedom to play for one more point or progress an Adept swarm immediately; we expect to see this in a lot more Uprising decks now.
Margarita: 5 Power, 7 Prov -> 6 Power / 6 Prov – everyone got their lock, so did NR, not that it really needed it, as none of it’s viable strategies can afford to spend 6 Prov for a lock.
Reinforced Trebuchet: Ranged, damage a random Ranged unit by 1-> Any row, Crew: damage random target by 1 instead – if it was meant to make Siege comparably good to other Scenarios, it failed, too much hassle for a mediocre engine.
The strength of this faction will depend on how strong Novigradian Justice remains. This was a good card not only for how much points it was worth, but also because ST does not have that many other options in terms of consistency. As the Movement concept has not been harmed in any other significant way, don’t expect it to disappear any time soon. Harmony decks could make their way to tier 3 though.
Call of Harmony: Adds 15 Prov, Dana 6 Power -> Adds 16 Prov, Dana 7 Power – Harmony, for all its power-creep, has been straddling the line of playability since its big nerf. This may just, albeit barely, put it over the edge.
Barclay Els 7 Prov -> 6 Prov – “Can Dwarves fight, ha? Do fish piss in lakes?” – no, sadly they still cannot, at least not on their own, but this will help them to be a bit better in fighting their way closer to meta decks.
Cat Witcher: Adrenaline 4 -> Adrenaline 3 – Will the loss of 1p damage matter in the card? Not at all, Cat Witcher will continue fighting in style.
Cat Witcher Saboteur: 3 Power -> 4 Power – still a surprise value card, but with this decent buff might see some play in some non-meta decks.
Ciaran: 7 Prov -> 6 Prov – lock, movement and elf, what can go wrong? Quite a lot actually, Still too expensive to be treated seriously.
Iorveth: 3 Power -> 4 Power – traps are weak, bugged and boosting Iorveth by 1 Power is not fixing them. To rehabilitate this archetype some love needs to be shown to traps instead.
Iorveth’s Gambit: 13 Prov -> 12 Prov – thinning and value of traps should on paper well cover the cost of it, but the randomness may cause more damage than benefit, unless in a very well curated and mulliganed deck.
Morenn: 7 Prov -> 6 Prov – better one of the two locks in ST, but unless meta demands locking, ST decks can make a better investment with 6 Prov.
Novigradian Justice: Spawn Cleaver’s Muscle always -> Spawn Cleaver’s Muscle if you control Dwarf already – BOOM! This is by far the biggest change to Scoia’tael. Justice can no longer be a proactive pushing tool, and the general paucity of strong bronze Dwarf cards for movement decks may even mean this card will be cut from them. This change makes mulligans very awkward, and lets opponents deny it a ton of value just by killing any dwarfs in play. Luckily for ST, Pyrotechnicians are hard to remove. 13 unconditional tempo plus two thinning for 10 provisions was obviously a problem, and the developers have finally rectified it.
Vernossiel’s Commando: 5 Prov -> 4 Prov – this is the correct cost for this card’s ability, but it will still only remain playable in pure elf lists.
Skellige remains a fun faction to play, with a variety of archetypes and viable leaders. We expect that the broad effect of the changes to Skellige will be essentially a reversion to its pre-expansion state: Warriors will be the most powerful deck, while Lippy plays second fiddle. The nerf to the Lippy deck is enough to reduce its prevalence but not to expunge it completely. Self-wound may see a lot of creative plays now, but not yet on the meta defining level.
Brokvar Hunter: Any Row -> Ranged Row – literally changes nothing.
Djenge Frett: 6 Power -> 7 Power – since SK prefers destroying targets to locking them, unless meta requires serious locking, Djenge will have to wait in a long line for inclusion.
Giant Boar: 7 Prov, target enemy unit for boost -> 6 Prov, target any unit – this is an interesting buff, as its ranged ability now has internal synergy. If its archetype becomes playable, so will this card.
Haern Caduch: Heal adjacent units by 3 -> Heal by 2 – this nerf turns an OP card into a very good one, and is by no means making it any less playable.
Heymaey Flaminica: 5 Power -> 6 Power – on paper there are some great synergies for this card, like Dimun Longship, Drummond Berserker, and Bear Witcher. Most of the self wound cards profit from her, the only problem is, that even in a self-wound deck it’s still very situational, so unless self wound becomes a thing, we don’t expect to see her very often.
Hym: 8 Prov -> 7 Prov: with a general boost to self wound Ursine deck, Hym can now pull off some serious points, notably with Olaf. Still too conditional to always play above its provisions, may still not make it too mainstream.
Lippy Gudmund: 4 Power, 10 Prov -> 3 Power, 11 Prov – definitely not what the masses wanted. Power nerf is meaningless, as you don’t lose to Lippy decks by one point. Even with Haern Caduch nerfed by further 2 points, and one prov lost, Lippy is going to continue laughing in the face of death (and other players) being one of the most frustrating Gwent experiences for months to come, especially since under a lot of pressure CDPR decided to fully preserve the concept of a Lippy-Cerys love affair.
Olaf: 8 Power -> 10 Power – Olaf’s major problem before now was its low ceiling; this buff goes a long way towards fixing that, and allowing for some crazy combos, as with 10 Power it’s hard to remove. It will be much easier to fit this into a self-wound list now, but may be not enough to crack the meta.
The faction finally received a bit of love. Hidden Cache could consider the inclusion of Luiza/Savolla combo in their decks. Firesworn decks could remain tier 3, but now that Safecrackers can be tutored by Novigradian Justice, we might see a return of crime decks. Off the books might also see more play now that plenty of tribute cards have been buffed, and self-poison received a couple new perks. The buffs give the faction a strong power-play which can conceivably fit in either self-poison or Passiflora decks that isn’t overpowered like it was before Master Mirror. All that said, we still expect the faction to languish once again in the bottom tiers this season.
Collusion: 11 Prov -> 10 Prov – the problem with Collusion was not its power level, it was its deckbuilding constraint – you have to keep your units alive, and they have to be from different gang categories, which doesn’t synergise well. This buff does not solve that problem at all, even if it does free up a bit of space.
Failed Experiment: 9 Power -> 10 Power – it became a very good bronze finisher, a 9 for 5 even if you don’t have coins. Might be weak against NG decks, but will work with others, and make the self-poison archetype stronger.
Fallen Rayla: Adrenaline 3 -> Adrenaline 5 – poor Rayla was rather underwhelming compared to her counterparts in other factions introduced in WotW. No longer that fallen, she will see play, if Tribute decks see play.
Kurt: 5 Power, 7 Prov, Melee: Lock a unit -> 6 Power, 6 Prov, Melee – place a Bounty on a unit – in a sudden twist of events, when everyone is getting more locks, SY is losing them, which is hardly understandable. With Bounty remaining a rather awkward mechanic, Kurt will continue waiting for better days to come.
Madame Luiza: No Tribute -> Tribute 3: Gain Zeal – this is a really huge buff and should definitely help the tribute archetype. Paying 3 coins (or 2 with off the books) is cheap and might even give more points than not paying tribute and getting a free Frightener. This card will definitely see play in Tribute decks.
Salamandra Abomination: Adrenaline 4 -> Adrenaline 6 – this is a welcome buff to the self-poison archetype. It adds quite a lot of engine value to it and makes it a bit easier to sequence. Though the card still plays into tall removal, it does so in a way that isn’t especially risky and can pay off very nicely, especially since you can play 2 of them.
Salamandra Lackey: end of turn boost -> First time you gain a coin each turn, boost self by 1 – now an okayish engine, that works as intended, if you can keep the coins flowing (e.g. Imke)
Salamandra Mage: Adrenaline 5: Gain 1 coin whenever you pay a tribute -> whenever you pay a Tribute ability, gain 1 coin; Adrenaline 5: Gain 2 coins – the card became insanely good, a spender that becomes an engine, having huge points for only 5p. Perfect candidate for future nerf – why? Short and simple answer – the card has 5 power and deals 6 damage, giving 11 points, however you pay 4 coins, so it starts as 7 points for 5 provisions. But, with off the books leader, you pay one less coin so it in fact gives 8 points for 5 provisions. Furthermore, whenever you pay tribute you gain 1 coin. So if you pay tribute with this card it will play for 9 points. Furthermore, if you hit adrenaline 5 you will gain 2 coins, meaning that this will give 10 points for 5 provisions. This is just the deploy ability. This card also gives 2 coins for all the future tributes you pay.
The changes are a good start, but still far from making Gwent a finished product. This patch is a mixed bag of necessary changes, pleasant surprises, and perplexing omissions.
Starting with the positives, the two most glaring balance issues have been addressed – the long awaited nerf to Viy is finally here, and Lippy has been given a fair treatment, but many will see it as a much lighter sentence compared to the crimes he committed. So was the not so much publicly complained about, yet still rather OP, Novigradian Justice. As you’ve read above, a fair share of cards may now see some play.
On the negative side though, there is a growing collection of cards not seeing the light of day, in a desperate need of rework, that are remaining untouched. Some serious offenders, as Kolgrim, completely escaped (Novigradian) justice, and giving cheaper locks to everyone in a hope that we’ll just lock out all the most flashing examples of not yet balanced cards, seems to be a rather short-sighted view.
We’ll likely see some new cards (and maybe even strategies) in the meta, but somehow both Uprising Witchers and all of Nilfgaard remain essentially untouched. Rife deck polarization will persist, if somewhat diminished, and too many games will still be won and lost in the Deckbuilder. If CDPR wanted above all else for the meta to remain diverse, though, they’ve probably succeeded.
Author: Manekk, Broglas, Gregory_Black, Patsy_1998, darthlothins, TroVNut