The Alphabet of Factions and Leaders: SKELLIGE

Posted by lerio2 March 17, 2020 in Guides

Mechanics Overview

Bloodthirst

Card with Bloodthirst:N ability gets activated when N number of enemies is damaged (value in red). The mechanic has very good support in damaging units as well as units with power scaled by the number of damaged enemy units.

Discard

Discarding means moving card from hand to graveyard. There are units capable of directly discarding other ones from hand: Heymaey Skald, Birna Bran, Coral, Kambi, and two units destroying cards from deck: Derran, Lippy Gudmund. There are one unit coming directly on the board if discarded: Tuirseach Skirmisher and one unit coming in if moved to graveyard: Morkvarg.

Discard enables deck thinning (removing bad and low provision cards in order to fish for best ones) and tempo plays with Tuirseach Skirmishers and Morkvarg.

Unfortunately, archetype based on Discard mechanic is not playable now on competitive level even with dedicated leader ability Sacrificial Vanguard. Also particular cards from the archetype does not see play in other decks – these are just too weak and expensive due to power creep of other cards.

Berserk

Berserk is a card mechanic which activates itself if unit’s power is equal to the specified value or lower. Units with Berserk are often susceptible to removal at their wounded state, and could trigger bloodthirst in mirrors. This mechanic has obvious synergy with self-wounding in Skellige.

Self-wound

Skellige units are capable of damaging allies in order to gain various benefits. There are basically two types of self-wounding setup played now

  • Armor Self-wound – Armored Drakkar provides body for various self-wounding units. Hitting armor does not lose any points and removing armor grants +1 buff.
  • Heymaey Self-wound – playing Heymaey Protector with Armored Drakkar is impossible. There are however different targets available in Skellige. Good bronze target for wounding may be Tuirseach Veteran, resetting itself after Berserk:2 condition is satisfied.

Self-wound mechanic is a basis for archetype often used with Ursine Ritual leader ability.

Leaders and Gameplans Overview

Summary Table

Ability nameLeader nameProvision capRating
OnslaughtCrach an Craite162
Reckless FlurryHarald the Cripple152,5
Sacrificial VanguardBran Turiseach161,5
Second WindEist Tuirseach144
Patricidal FuryArnjolf the Patricide163,5
Ursine RitualSvalblod172,5

Rating in (1-5) scale, meaning of ranks:

1 = unplayable

2 = playable, but weak or lacking winning strategy

3 = playable

4 = strong leader

5 = top notch leader

Onslaught (Crach an Craite)

Order: Damage an enemy unit by 1; Cooldown: 2

Raw power: <8p (<5p in a single round)

Discussion

Dealing 1 damage per 2 turns, Onslaught is the opposite of Royal Inspiration, and shares similar weaknesses. 5p of damage in a long round is not the end of the world, but requires a bunch of cards coming in casually for 2/3 points above provision value, or powerful swing card set up with leader ability.

Crach an Craite is typically supposed to win R1. Then in R2, bleeding could hardly be viable strategy, as few leader point would not probably be enough to trade leader abilities.

This consideration defines the main type of Crach builds: highly reactive decks with powerful finisher. Last time Onslaught was competitive, it used Summoning Circle to accumulate non-reactive points. Unfortunately, without any support of card of this type, Onslaught will probably never have enough points to be competitive.

Control Crach

One of the most logical archetypes for Onslaught is Control Skellige. The deck should have no problem with winning R1, and then could control long R3 without going tall. Cards like Scorch could justify Onslaught by achieving high point efficiency. Similar effect on low units is provided by Wild Boar of the Sea.

Example decks

Thematic Control Crach

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/c45fd14e5749ad3f450e89feeeee888a

Leader rating

The leader is weak in general. Logical builds, like Control Crach, could find chances in some matchups. (2.0/5.0)

Reckless Flurry (Harald the Cripple)

Order: Split 8 damage randomly between enemy units, ignoring their Armor

Raw power: 8p

Discussion

The leader ability is decent in general and deals with Dryads spawn by Water of Brokilon better than any other leader in Skellige. Reckless Flurry could not only vanish Engine Overload tempo, but support removal and set-up bloodthirst. It has great thematic synergy with Dagur and Greatswords (GS).

As Reckless Flurry invites using leader ability early and probably with a single unit of Greatsword type, playing full Greatswords archetype is the natural way to go. Reckless Flurry should no longer be treated as finisher, because it is strictly inferior to Second Wind combo Wild Boar + Dagur.

Greatswords

Greatswords is an archetype built around An Craite Greatswords, often Dagur Two Blades and damaging units. Almost always a weather card is played, directly or via Avallach. The aim is to protect Greatswords right at the time they come on the board, and the Torrential Rain is capable of instantly buffing GS by 2.

Another mean of protecting GS is Dimun Light Longship, which could immediately give +1 buff. Greatsword decks are usually much stronger in long than short round, and could relatively easily be bled, as naked GS is just 4 tempo for 6 provision.

Example decks

Full Greatswords Reckless Flurry (not the best option for sure)

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/1ac45e55d04a945789090a2880e26590

Leader rating

The leader has some potential. While GS builds are quite hazardous, a more midrangy deck could one day find its way to Skellige meta (2.5/5)

Sacrificial Vanguard (Bran Tuirseach)

Order: Discard a card, then draw a card. On round start refresh this ability. Whenever you discard a card, damage a random enemy unit by 1.

Raw power: ?

Discussion

Discarding a card helps to thin the deck and develops graveyard. That being said, due to power creep and some nerfs to discard archetype, Sacrifical Vanguard just loses long round every time against competitive leaders. Therefore, Bran builds have to be sacrificial indeed – closing eyes and pushing in hope of trading leader abilities or getting opponent out of his trumps.

There is of course also another option – throwing in some cancerous cards like Dragon’s Dream, and trying to cheese long round due to R1 tempo – but this could hardly be treated seriously, nor highlighting leader ability.

Bran Beasts

Perhaps the only widely known Sacrificial Vanguard build are Bran Beasts, pioneered on Pro Ladder by Magpie131. The idea is to bleed opponent with high tempo cards, while building carryover for Corrupted Flaminica at the same time.

Example decks

Bran Beasts (as built by Magpie131)

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/dd5c29e684d73e15f472ffd05d7b5105

Leader rating

The leader contest Demavend in Northern Realms in terms of competitiveness – tempo and thinning are not enough in the current meta (1.5/5)

Second Wind (Eist Tuirseach)

Order: Play a Skellige unit from your graveyard

Raw power: ?

Discussion

Skellige decks typically realize one of two plans: R2 push or going for a long R3 with last say. In both cases, SK wants to win R1. Second Wind needs to develop graveyard in R1 (in the case of long R3 strategy), eventually in R2 (in the case of push strategy). Using one gold card is then justified, especially because Skellige has means to gain a lot from game control.

Long round Second Wind

Long round Second Wind decks uses the power of Wild Boar of the Sea for a massive finisher, usually accompanied with Dagur Two Blades played in the same turn. The whole combo often reaches 30+ point value in one turn.

The decks usually differ in the proportion of Midrange cards and Greatswords archetype.

Alchemy Second Wind

Ermion is a great leader target for Second Wind, which also procs the first chapter of Gedyneith. Another thematic card is Crowmother, which offers useful carryover for R2 and R3.

Second Wind decks playing Ermion, Gedyneith and Crowmother usually goes for a short R3, where the combination of this three cards grants enormous number of proactive points.

Example decks

Eist Alchemy Steamroll

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/d1688c2eaacb68a4c351e274579a580c

Leader rating

The leader ability is good and offers point swings hardly accessible by any other Skellige leader (4/5)

Particidal Fury (Arnjolf the Patricide)

Order: Spawn and play Arnjolf the Particide (11 power, doomed, spawns 3 Deafening Sirens on opposite row and damages them by 1)

Raw power: 8

Discussion

While Arnjolf spawns 8 points on the board, he also sets up bloodthirst and potentially activates Greatsword. With cards like Hemdall or Wild Boar of the Sea, Patricidal Fury is just 11 points plus additional benefits coming from board setup. The drawback is of course going tall.

Bloodthirst Arnjolf

There are 4 gold cards with high bloodthirst requirement: Svanrige Tuirseach, Champions Charge, Donar an Hindar and Udalryk an Brokvar. Svanrige, if activated, is worth 11 points for 8 provision, which is good value, but not always worth risk, especially because most bloodthirst builds will not play other self-boosting cards. Champions Charge with Arnjolf ability is a threat of instant removal of arbitrary unit. Donar an Hindar is the most effective 4p removal possible in Skellige, almost autoinclude in a bloodthirst deck. Udalryk an Brokvar could be used as a decent 3p removal, or improve bloodthrist value, setting up other units, like Wild Boar of the Sea.

There are 2 gold units with power dependent on the number of wounded enemies: Madman Lugos and Giant Boar. Madman Lugos is practically autoinclude, Giant Boar could reach decent value, but is quite conditional and easily punishable.

The typical plan for Bloodthirst Arnjolf is winning R1 and going for a long R3 with last say, where every threat could be answered efficiently, leader provides points and Wild Boar and Hemdall are powerful finishers.

Example decks

Arnjolf Shupe Bloodthirst

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/de1558ae292fe76dbeb5aa5294dac959

Leader rating

The leader ability is good, but making full use of typical builds without winning R1 could often be troublesome (3.5/5)

Ursine Ritual (Svalblod)

Order: Damage an allied unit by 1. Charge: 5. Once all charges have been exhausted, Spawn a Bear Abomination on a random allied row.

Raw power: 0

Discussion

Is a leader with 0p raw power worth playing? Luckily Skellige cards offer massive support for self-wounding. The most thematic card associated with Svalblod is Vildkaarl. Vildkaarl transforms into Champion of Svalblod if activated with 3 damage. The raw power of Champion is 12 for 8. It could be said approximately, that each Svalblod charge is equal to one point then.

There is also great synergy with bronze 4p card Heymaey Protector. If it survives somehow, each leader ping on neighbouring unit boosts it by 1. This way for example just 3 charges used on Vildkaarl make Ursine Ritual already 11p ability.

With 5 charges, Ursine Ritual is the best Skellige ability when it comes to bleeding. Leader flexibility often allows to gain a few points needed to win on even or bleed crucial enemy card.

While flexible, Ursine Ritual is purely oriented on pointslam. Dealing with engine decks could be troublesome, and Ursine Ritual general strategy is being aggressive and going for short R3.

Example decks

Pointslam Svalblod

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/24210a636b004e1c19b007c118f03c59

Leader rating

It is easy to underestimate this pointslam leader. We believe that the main Svalblod strategy is viable enough to rate it at the boundary of competitiveness. (2.5/5)

Comments and Ideas

Overview

Leaders needing rework

None

Leaders needing buffs

Sacrificial Vanguard, Onslaught

Cards needing rework

None

Cards needing buffs

Discard Package!, Trophy Catch, An Craite Warrior, Holger Blackhand, Mask of Uroboros

Card ideas

Boarding, Heroic Saga

Discussion

Leaders

  • Sacrificial Vanguard – the Discard archetype requires buffs and probably new cards as a whole. One of the main ideas of Discard is thinning the deck, therefore Bran should gain +2/+3 provision buff for the time being in our opinion.
  • Onslaught – we believe this leader should at least get the same buff as Reckless Flurry – damage ignores armor. +1 provision buff is also a consideration.

Card buffs

  • Discard Archetype with Sacrificial Vanguard – improving of this archetype has highest priority in Skellige in our view.
  • Trophy Catch – this card was once perfectly justified in Sacrificial Vanguard. You could have discarded it with no regret (sic!). As almost every late play bronze, it sees no play due to low usefulness in R1. If not reworked and kept as a late play, it should get some buff, for example: buff each allied Pirate on the board by 1.
  • An Craite Warrior – with 4 damage 5 provision => 3 damage 4 provision change, this card was absolutely killed. There is no point in playing 6 provision Freya’s Blessing just to resurrect 4p card with average power. This unit requires buffs, even if going higher in provision costs.
  • Holger Blackhand – this card seems to be strictly worse than Isengrim in Scoia’tael. As Pirates archetype lacks much love compared to Elves, this card especially should be at least equal in power. In other words – it should work on already played cards.
  • Mask of Uroboros – sees no play as a Stratagem due to low tempo. Some buffs, like split N points of damage between enemy cards, could make it more playable in practice.

Card ideas

Discard and Ships/Pirates archetypes deserve new cards. Discard needs some love in general, not only new cards. Ships/Pirates archetype is still in construction. We think that following cards might be a thematic addition.

Attention: we do not try to balance card ideas in terms of provision and power

  • Boarding

Comment: If Pirates archetype grows in number enough, it could start to do Pirate stuff.

  • Heroic Saga

Comment: Scenario fueled with Sacrificial Vanguard leader ability, supporting Warriors archetype.

Patreon

Writing in-depth Gwent articles is fun, but time consuming. If you like ‘Alphabet’ cycle and other articles, and fancy to support my efforts – here is the way to go: https://www.patreon.com/lerio2

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