Season of the Bear – decks popularity

Season of the Bear passed a couple of days ago, and what a season it was – through the early days of experimenting with decks after Patch 8.2 release (with 12 new exciting cards), a more mature middle part, when meta finally started becoming more stable, and the last days, when experimenting was again back on the menu, and at least a couple of new variants of the well known decks became popular on the ladder.

Team Elder Blood once again measured the stats of decks popularity, and brings the result to you, fellow Gwent player.

Let’s start with a quick explanation – a lot of summaries give us the data regarding the factions played – this is easy to obtain, as it can be read from the official Gwent sources. CDPR releases their own statistics with Leader popularity stats – this is harder to get, and only available to CDPR on the scale of all games played. What those summaries don’t reveal is what truly decides whether the game and meta feels fresh or stale – archetypes. Those unique combinations of abilities and leaders, which can make decks following the same faction and leader diametrically different from each other, and providing a unique gaming experience.

We have analysed 550 games played by our Pro team on different positions on the ladder, below please find our findings.

Faction popularity

Season of Love was definitely the season of Nilfgaard, not only were they the most played faction (26%), but also created the most tension for many Gwent players, perceiving this faction as the most toxic and frustrating to play against. Those days are over – Nilfgaard is still in the first place, but barely, with 20.8% popularity amongst players this season.

Surprisingly they were followed by Monsters with 20.1% – and not as a result of major buffs Vampires have received. It was Viy, the most hated insect of the past, that has caused it, in a much more balanced manner, enjoying meta relatively free of tall punishment and Lockdown.

On third place, surprise, surprise – after months spent in limbo, Syndicate comes back in style – with 18.5% of games played using this faction. We thoroughly enjoyed this return, after almost having lost hope for their revival, but in our wildest dreams we didn’t expect it to be that popular (well, at least not until the patch notes).

Skellige again shows strong performance, having lost only 2% of popularity from last month, and comfortably reaching 17.7%. Many thought that nerfs to Ursine Ritual and Morkvarg would cause more damage, it was however a single new card, that made them stand out again. Eist, Eist baby!

Scoia’tael suffered a bit more of decline, and this season appeared only in 14% of games. This doesn’t mean that they have become weaker, the new concepts, especially Traps, required some more fine tuning, before reappearing on the ladder – the closer to the end of season, the more often.

Without a doubt the biggest loser of this season was Northern Realms. The newly added cards are, to put it mildly, a bit underwhelming, and the old concepts, albeit not necessarily much weaker, just don’t play that well anymore. Only 9% doesn’t mean yet they have to be put on life support as Syndicate was for months, but if no help comes their way, they may be stuck at the bottom for a while.

Ability / Leader popularity

This news probably came as a breath of fresh air to many, and we can officially confirm – Lockdown is dead! Very heavy nerf, making this ability completely nonsensical, caused it to disappear completely from the ladder. What a fall from grace for ability, that was played in 17% of games last season!

In an equally shocking twist of events, the new king of the ladder is Lined Pockets from Syndicate. From zero, to hero! A whopping 17.4% of all games were played with this leader. And it’s closely followed by another major novelty – in a blaze of glory, the Blaze of Glory has achieved an iconic status, with 12.8% of games played with it. On the third place, in Lockdown’s absence, another Nilfgaardian experience took reign – Double Cross, thanks to flexibility offered by a massive provision allowance, is now visible in 12% of games played.

The podium is followed by two Monster abilities with around 8% popularity – the well known by now Arachas Swarm, and Overwhelming Hunger, returning after a short hiatus from meta. Two more leaders appeared with a strongly visible popularity – Deadeye Ambush, and Uprising, achieving a roughly 5% presence.

And here is where it gets interesting, another 14 leaders appeared with the result between 1-5%, ensuring that Gwent felt refreshing, especially after a very stale end of 2020.

We still believe there’s more to do here, as a lot of leaders continue to play in meme league. What is definitively a success in terms of bringing back an entire SY faction, is overshadowed a bit by the fact that only 1 Leader is viable – when you play Syndicate, you play Lined Pockets. Period. Multiple buffs to SY were not enough to offer players any other alternatives, and unless nothing more happens, we will probably very soon get fed up with the criminal Novigradian crew, where the only difference between decks is whether you play Korathi, Igni or Yrden. No other faction is that polarising, even NR has 3 viable leaders.

Archetypes popularity

And this is where Gwent really shines these days. 22 distinctly different archetypes appeared on ladder in more than 1% of the games. And in total we have observed 45 of them! Gwent feels more fresh than ever, and the Pros are having major headaches trying to memorise how their favourite decks play against such a variety of viable archetypes. And as much the 1st place is boring, and follows a simple rule – if you play Syndicate, you play Lined Pockets, and Crimes archetype, there’s just so much going on the ladder. Multiple options are available within some of the abilities – for example if you enjoy Double Cross, you can play classic Ball, Chinese Ball, Assimilate, Double Madoc Kolgrim bombs and clog combo, pure double Madoc and bombs. If you enjoy Deadeye Ambush, you have at least 3 ways to play it – with Traps, pure Elves, or Movement. As much as undercooked, Vampires appear here and there, and even Lippy, who got two smacks in the face with the two last updates, is still trying to prove a point. This variety does show promise, and here at Team Elder Blood we simply can’t wait for the next patch to see just how successful CDPR will be in reviving old forgotten archetypes and bringing new ones to live.

It’s probably worth mentioning that as much as Madoc was the single most visible card last season, this season another one became very popular in many decks archetypes. Yes, our good friend Geralt: Yrden. Most likely the most oppressive Gwent card these days, that has proven so useful countering current meta, had found its way to many decks, even the ones where seemingly it has no synergies with any other card (looking at you Crimes with Yrden!)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this analysis, and see you next season with a similar overview.

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