The Alphabet of Factions and Leaders: SYNDICATE

Posted by lerio2 March 19, 2020 in Guides

Mechanics Overview

Due to its uniqueness, Syndicate is by far the richest faction in terms of mechanics in Gwent .

Coins

The most characteristic feature of Syndicate is operating with coins, which gives additional flexibility and carryover possibilities, while usually lowering consistency due to spending issues. 

Coins are a kind of external resource, that may be gained with Profit or Bounty mechanics and spent with Fee, Tribute and some other cards to proc a variety of different effects. A leader may have up to 9 Coins. At the end of a round, the total amount is halved, rounding down. This means that each odd number of coins gives the same carryover as lower by 1 even number.

Profit

The main way of getting coins is Profit mechanics. Playing card with profit X, player gets X coins on deploy. The total number of coins could of course never exceed 9, which efficiently stops Profit mechanic from being overpowered.

Every leader ability in Syndicate gives the opportunity of getting some profit. The worst in this regard is Congregate with 3 coins, the best is Jackpot, immediately filling the bank with 9 coins.

There is plenty of cards with Profit ability. For most of them small Profit is just a side effect. The cards oriented directly on coin gain are:

Sigi Reuven, Caesar Bilzen, Pickpocket, Eavesdrop, Beggar, Swindle

Out of these, Sigi Reuven and Pickpocket see regular play (sometimes Eavesdrop is also used). Both of these cards help to fill the bank (enabling Hoard effects discussed later). There are also Tax Collector and Imke – engines granting respectively 1 and 2 coins at the turn end – which however have no profit keyword.

Fee

Fee is a mechanic associated with units, which procs an effect when a specified number of Coins is spent. It could be used immediately when card enters the game. Unless having Cooldown, Fee mechanic could be used multiple times in one turn. While typically being point inefficient, fee cards are usually necessary for Syndicate decks to ensure that each generated coin gets spent.

Due to highly synergistic character of Syndicate faction, there is still place for new fee cards with interesting effects, especially among gold cards.

Insanity

Card mechanic that damages a unit by the number of Coins required by its Fee effect. The unit could not die due to Insanity – the ability is just blocked instead. Insanity is a kind of backup if not possessing enough coins to trigger desired effect. It is especially useful for Igor the Hook in engine overload decks and Whoreson’s Freak Show for various shenanigans (e.g. using Tactical Advantage with Insanity to instantly kill enemy engine and so on). Insanity has natural synergy with healing units, especially Blindeye Apothecary. The combo is really point efficient however only with Off the Books leader ability.

Hoard

Hoard is a card mechanic that procs an ability when the specified number of Coins have been collected. Cards with Hoard are typically great early plays at the moment when coins are rather accumulated than used. There are following hoard cards available:

Tidecloak Ransackers, Sea Jackal, Sewer Raiders, Passiflora Peaches, Mutant Killer, Saul de Navarette, Hvitr and Aelydia, The Flying Redanian

Out of which The Flying Redanian sees play as a tempo agent, Saul de Navarette and Passiflora Peaches (especially via Passiflora) are great early plays, Sea Jackal is a good bronze spender, and the rest still need to wait for the moment to shine.

Tribute

A card mechanic that might be proceed on the turn a unit is played, with a Coins threshold equal to Coins cost of its usage. While fee resembles order+charges, Tribute is an analogous of conditional deploy. Tribute cards usually has higher point efficiency than fee ones, but are less flexible. There is also dedicated card for paying a single tribute: Madame Luiza. Off the Books leader ability lowers each tribute cost by 1. 

Bounty

Bounty is a Syndicate mechanic, which enables signing an enemy unit with a bounty status. If an unit with bounty status on opponent side of the board is destroyed, then you gain coins in number equal to the unit basic power. Only one opponent unit could have bounty status at the time – if you use second bounty, then the first one is lifted.

Counting 1 coin as 1 point, bronze cards giving bounty: Slander and Witch Hunter, are very efficient. However, they need damage support and are prone to purifying units. Slander is often used as Wild Card leader ability target, and Witch Hunter often finds place in Blood Money builds.

Intimidate and Crimes

Intimidate is a Syndicate analogous of Harmony and Assimilate. Whenever a Crime is played, a card with Intimidate buff by 1. The archetype based on this mechanic shares many weaknesses of Assimilate. Buffing cards and engine cards are independent, there is no real supporting leader at the engine stage, and only one at the buffing stage (Wild Card). Also, no card dedicated for canonical engine overload is present. The archetype needs probably to use Portal into Mutants, which is also a direct analogy of Assimilate with Ard Feainn Heavy Cavalry Portal. Effect of engine overload could be achieved with Whoreson Senior, but never immediately (unless playing Congregate).

Spawn and Firesworn

Not having really dedicated mechanics, Spawning units in or outside of Firesworn archetype is a characteristic Syndicate feature.

(Self)Poison

Syndicate is the third faction (after Scoia’tael and Nilfgaard) making use of Poison mechanic. However, it is supported only in bronze cards. What is unique is the possibility of self-poisoning. There is one self-poison engine: Wretched Addict, which is however a weak card. The whole concept seems a bit too binary at the current stage, but maybe it could be circumvented somehow with creative card abilities. Self-poison mechanic is still at the natal stage in terms of card support.

Leaders and Gameplans Overview

Summary Table

Ability nameLeader nameProvision capRating
Blood MoneyWhoreson Junior153,0
JackpotGudrun Bjornsdottir162,5
Lined PocketsSigismund Dijsktra162,0
Off the BooksKing of Beggars162,5
CongregateCyrus Hemmelfart162,5
Wild CardCleaver133,0

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

Blood Money (Whoreson Junior)

Order: Damage an enemy unit by 8, then gain Coins equal to any excess damage dealt

Raw power: 8p

Discussion

Blood Money is a rock-solid leader ability in Syndicate. It does not offer spectacular point swings, in fact often would trade down by a few raw points to other top leaders. On the other hand, it gives Syndicate initiative and control it often needs. With Whoreson Junior it is possible to eliminate opponent engine while setting up your own.

Bounty synergy

Blood Money could get some benefits if played with bounty. Usually the leader companion is Witch Hunter, because Slander would require a spender already on the board in order to not lose value. The effective value of Witch Hunter is equal to 4+target base power. In the best scenario this gives 12 effective points for 4 provision. The Witch Hunter value will be lower on typical engines, usually 8/9 points. This effective value will be further reduced by ordering issue if having strong engines in hand. Finally it may appear that Witch Hunter is effectively worth less than bronze spender, if the draws were not good enough.

Example decks

Whoreson Midrange Passiflora

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/8936c2abb10b21791b8904675e731f61

Leader rating

The leader is solid in general and clearly best in SY in the engines meta. The leader ability usually would not guarantee any edge – the real work has to be done by cards and outplay (3.0/5.0)

Jackpot (Gudrun Bjornsdottir)

Order: Gain 9 Coins, then boost an allied unit by excess amount gained.

Raw power: 9p

Discussion

Jackpot is in a sense the opposite of Blood Money with +1 extra raw power and +1 provision cap. The ability could not be bad from objective point of view: 9 points of flexible value is just too good. The only question is how well Gudrun is supported by Syndicate cards and possible strategies.

Full pocket

Jackpot is able to immediately fill the bank with 9 coins. Cards like The Flying Redanian and Saul de Navarette are thematic then. Gudrun is also able to instantly boost Bincy Blumerholdt to full, 13 points value. Bincy + Redanian activated with leader ability is 16 points, and 9 coins could be used later. This is one of the most powerful tempo plays available to Syndicate.

Initiative

While Jackpot is very fast when it comes to slamming points on the board, it is not as good if fighting for initiative. In a long R3 Bincy is typically removed anyway, so first say does not create real threats. Bincy is in a sense tied to Jackpot, and slows reaction to any engine play.

Therefore, Gudrun should rather opt for aggressive pointslam (fighting for R1 as much as reasonable and playing actively in R2), as leaders like Wild Card or Blood Money are more suited for engine play.

Example decks

Bincy Pointslam Jackpot

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/40687b0609054465fbb4ba572911026d

Leader rating

Solid leader, lacking some power in engine skirmish and flexibility if played with Bincy (2.5/5.0)

Lined Pockets (Sigismund Dijsktra)

Order: Gain 1 Coin. Charge: 5. Whenever you play a Crime, gain 1 coin

Raw power: >5p

Discussion

The leader ability directly resembles Arachas Swarm in Monsters, however Syndicate faction is less suited for oppressive pointslam play. While there is still some logic for aggressive Dijkstra(DJ) play (Crimes Gord), the main line seen in practice is greedy engine overload (DJ Townsfolk)

Crimes Gord

Gaining one extra coin for each crime effectively translates to playing some OP bronzes and very weak leader ability. Lined Pockets usually could not withstand long round unless being very greedy, so natural use of OP bronzes would be active R1 and R2 play.

Crimes are special cards, which could fuel Harald Gord finisher. Leader ability usually should be traded in R2 if possible, as it is obviously inferior to anything else in a short round.

DJ Townsfolk

DJ Townsfolk is a name commonly used in community for Engine Overload decks with Igor the Hook and 6p bronze card Townsfolk. Each Dijkstra charge buffs Townsfolk by 1. If Townsfolk are multiplied, then buff coming from leader and subsequent cards with profit is multiplied too.

The main strategy is winning R1, soft push in R2 if possible, just enough to bait crucial removal or leader ability, and then long R3, where opponent might have trouble dealing with each subsequent engine.

Example decks

DJ Townsfolk Engine Overload

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/7f42d5448033ab6f13c1771892ee314e

DJ Crimes Gord

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/d31e41111c3235a6c81caa1f2bdfa6cd

Leader rating

Interesting leader for unconventional SY play. Slightly below competitive level due to lack of raw points, but not necessarily needing direct buffs. (2.0/5.0)

Off the Books (King of Beggars)

Order: Gain 2 Coins. Charge: 3. Each allied tribute costs one coin less.

Raw power: >6p

Discussion

With 6p raw power and no real sights for combo play, Off the Books is an ability designed for active play in all rounds. It lowers Tribute on each card by 1, which is supposed again to effectively mean playing overpowered bronzes and weak leader ability.

Tribute gains

Among gold cards, there are 3 seeing play at the regular basis, for which tribute bonus would matter:

Adriano the Mink, Moreelse, Azar Javed 

Clearly, it is not enough to compete with leaders like Wild Card or Blood Money in a long round. Among bronze cards there are:

Renegade Mage, Blindeye Apothecary, Arena Ghoul, Fence

Out of these, Blindeye Apothecary sees play mostly in thematic decks, because requires much synergy in the deck, which could hardly be achieved in later rounds. Renegade Mage is a good card, which lacks some support in Syndicate however – efficiently killing an engine with two bronzes is often impossible. A side benefit is that Renegade Mage has Blindeye tag and could activate Passiflora scenario. Arena Ghoul is a good value card. Fence is playable in King of Beggars only, as it reaches there 8 point effective value ceiling (instead of 6 points with other leaders). 

Example decks

Thematic King of Beggars

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/e4c1f833aaa6e3d854a8828661539b60

Leader rating

The leader could have some applications due to consistency and possibility of aggressive play, but seems strictly inferior to Blood Money (2.5/5.0)

Congregate (Cyrus Hemmelfart)

Order: Spawn a Firesworn Zealot on an allied row and gain 1 Coin. Charge: 3

Raw power: 9p

Discussion

Congregate is a unique leader ability in Syndicate, having little to do with coins and inviting swarm play. It is the most pointslam leader in Syndicate, virtually unable to react to opponent plays, unless starting the round with big coin carryover or profit card (Pickpocket, Sigi Reuven…).

Portal in Congregate

Congregate is perhaps the only leader in whole game, for which playing Portal is justified now. The Portal target are Eternal Fire Priests, buffing every time you spawn a unit. Using Congregate charges, this engines could be buffed to 7 points immediately when entering the game.

Playing Portal would be simply good, but there are some drawbacks. The main is that Congregate has to refrain from playing 4p units, and lack of 4p spenders is especially unpleasant. Another drawback is that there is usually no other units going tall with buffs in this type of Syndicate. Priests will play into tall removal and resets, like Bloody Baron.

Portal points are passive, which means that whole strategy usually works best in a short round, or used as outtempo utility in R2. Portal could also easily be bleeded, as it is directly tied to leader ability.

The issue of spenders

Congregate has no synergy with most of the commonly used spenders. The only exceptions are Grand Inquisitor Helveed and Igor the Hook. In the case of Swarm decks, the lack of synergy is basically anti-synergy.

Congregate swarm

Unlike Arachas Queen, Hemmelfart is not really able to swarm the board efficiently in R1. Moreover, it is quite slow, and basically tied to one card (Helveed) and leader. Therefore, winning R1 could be troublesome, and Hemmelfart is more prone to bleeding than Arachas Queen. Still, the possibility is open for creative deckbuilders. Especially, providing both bronze spenders and efficient swarm cards (Bone Talismans…) is hard, and you will often end up with awkward hands.

Congregate swarm relies completely on outpointing rival, and has weak means of control.

Congregate Igor

Igor the Hook is another interesting possibility for Hemmelfart decks. It has point efficient targets in Priests spawned by Portal. It is possible to achieve scary long round power. The bottleneck is the number of coins and low flexibility due to combo ties on cards. It could be also hard to tutor crucial cards efficiently enough. The Igor idea is still unexplored – it just waits for your deck!

Oppressive Congregate

As Congregate is a pointslam ability, it is natural to go for a short R3 with big body cards. The combo and swarm pieces in the deck are reduced to minimum in order to achieve enough consistency for R2 push and R3 topdecks. Oppressive Congregate, in one or another form, is the most popular way to play Hemmelfart.

Example decks

Oppressive Hemmelfart

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/7f7d3436d85bd0a1f01cf4076e1ea5ea

Leader rating

The leader provides enough raw points to be decent, but is still unexplored due to lack of control. (2.5/5.0)

Wild Card (Cleaver)

Order: Play a Syndicate special card from your deck, If its provision cost 10 or less, gain 2 coins.

Raw power: ?

Discussion

Wild Card is the only combo leader in Syndicate. At the same time, the number of reasonable and point efficient targets for it is relatively low:

Collusion, Vivaldi Bank, Pickpocket, Slander

The real power of Wild Card does not come from tutoring expensive cards, but from playing two cards in one turn. Collusion is an expensive crime. Significant benefit could be achieved if this card is played with Whoreson Senior in one turn. But what happens if it got already drawn? Are you going to mulligan 11p card? You need secondary targets, but then the rest of your plan could be awkward.

Vivaldi Bank is an interesting target, which however needs thinning to be consistent. It basically enables to recreate Pincer Maneuver leader ability in Syndicate. The concept is interesting, but too conditional unless Syndicate possess really broken combo.

Pickpocket could be played as a Jackpot analogy, but activating Passiflora scenario in one turn. Played this way, two engines are set up, and third (Saul de Navarette) is ready to come in. Compared with Jackpot, Wild Card Pickpocket is less consistent, but has much more initiative for engine overload battle. Long round would often be won, unless playing Syndicate mirror.

Finally, Slander is a bronze 4p card, which however is really overpowered if unanswered. Played on typical, 4/5 point engines, Leader+Slander gets 9/10 points effective value. It is rather worse than Blood Money, because almost always requires Ewald commitment for activation. On the other hand, played with Graden on a big target (8+ points), both Slander and Graden reach high effective value (11+ and 14+ effective points respectively). Therefore the conclusion is: Wild Card Slander is good in  pointslam meta with units going high. Blood Money is better in an engine meta on the other hand.

Example decks

Wild Card Passiflora Graden

https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/a1e6e94f1bcf11cd71ad29b7f81d6235

Leader rating

The leader has the greatest potential in Syndicate, but due to low provision cap and limited targets, could not reach full power so far. The main combo Graden+Slander could provide decisive swing against decks going tall. (3.0/5.0)

Comments and Ideas

Overview

Leaders needing rework

None

Leaders needing buffs

Lined Pockets

Cards needing rework

Wretched Addict, Salamandra Assasssin, Excommunication

Cards needing buffs

Beggar, Tidecloak Ransackers, Crownsplitter Thug, The Sausage Maker

Card ideas

None

Discussion

Leaders

  • Lined Pockets – the leader is a bit weak in terms of raw points, maybe +1 provision buff is a consideration

Card reworks

  • Wretched Addict – the card never saw play – it is binary, while not really promising extra points for the risk taken. Rework is needed.
  • Salamandra Assassin – this card is also never played. It is very conditional. Could find justification only in decks mixing Crimes and Bounty archetypes; both are rather niche at the moment. Rework is a consideration.
  • Excommunication – too expensive and out of Syndicate gameplans so far.

Card buffs

  • Beggar – due to consistency issues, Syndicate builds are rather rigid. Any low provision card not being spender, poison or reaching high profit, does not see play. Beggar with the current ability, even taking into account bonded effect, is obsolete. Street Urchins are just better as a profit card and have spender possibilities. Beggars need some smart buffs, maybe synergy with King of Beggars (Off the Books) leader ability?
  • Tidecloak Ransackers – similar arguments as in the case of Beggars applies here.
  • Crownsplitter Thug – the card should gain some conditional bonus; compared to Trained Hawk in Scoia’tael, it is just weaker.
  • The Sausage Maker – carryover provided by this card is not really worth the coins so far. Some buffs are called for.

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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