Thrive is the most basic Monsters mechanic. Units with the Thrive will boost by 1 every time a unit with higher strength is played on the player’s side of the board. While Thrive is perceived as omnipresent in Monsters decks, in fact there are only 6 bronzes (Nekker, Bruxa, Nekker Warrior, Endrega Larva, Drowner and Wyvern) and 6 golds (Alpha Werewolf, Abaya, Penitent, Werecat, Katakan and Kikimore Queen) with thrive keyword. Thrive requires deck to play tall to develop full thrive potential. Another drawback is that thriving units are usually susceptible to low removals, trading down massively, or have too high base power to receive enough thrive boosts. The obvious exception to both of these drawbacks is Endrega Larva.
Dominance effect is triggered if you control the highest (or with power equal to highest) unit on the board. Dominance is assessed after unit is added to the game – unit could assert Dominance by itself. Unit with Dominance is supposed to be slightly better than its non-Dominance counterpart. At the same time, Dominance is relatively easy to satisfy, so the benefits have to be really slight. Dominance could sometimes be a trap when aware opponent plays around this mechanic.
A mechanic that activates special ability when the card is sent to the graveyard from the board. There are numerous cards associated with Deathwish (13+ bronzes and 15+ golds), but most of them are not played. The reason is that profits associated with Deathwish effects are lower than expenses. Each Deathwish unit requires consuming, and when both Deathwish and Consume units are numerous enough to provide consistency, it suddenly appears that the deck completely lacks control and flexibility.
When a unit’s Consume ability proceeds, another unit is destroyed and the consuming unit is boosted by the target’s power. Board consume and hand/graveyard consumes are completely different mechanics. Board consume units are typically below power vs provision curve. Their job is only triggering Deathwish ability. Board consume units commonly go tall, and are susceptible to removal and reset. Graveyard consume is a typical pointslam mechanic, which relies on playing units with power above power vs. provision curve (Ghoul, Ozzrel, Mourntart) thanks to graveyard developed earlier. There are also consume engines (Vrans, She-Troll), getting buffs with every consumed/destroyed unit. These are usually a kind of overkill in already blunt and solitaire Deathwish decks.
Leaders And Gameplans Overview
|Ability name||Leader name||Provision cap||Rating|
|Carapace||Eredin Breacc Glas||16||2|
|Force of Nature||Woodland Spirit||16||2|
|Death’s Shadow||Unseen Elder||16||3|
|Arachas Swarm||Arachas Queen||15||2,5|
|Fruits of Ysgith||Gernichora||11||2|
|Blood Scent||Dettlaff van der Eretein||15||4|
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
Carapace (Eredin Breacc Glas)
Order: Boost an unit by 3 and give it a Shield. Charge: 2
Raw power: 6p
With 6p raw power, Carapace ability needs very specific deckbuilding to extract much higher effective power.
The natural way of achieving this is providing protection to very greedy engines. In order for Carapace deck to be playable, such engines much achieve value higher than around +4p above normal units of the same provision. This natural approach is always susceptible to unconditional (Korathi Heatwave, Yennefer Invocation…) removal, which is game losing in theory, as engine trades for effective -3 instead of +4. Depending on target, Carapace protection could also suffer to tall removal.
Therefore, the first thing which should be done for natural Carapace play is finding greedy, high provision protection targets. Let’s try to do this.
Keltullis, Syanna, Villentretenmerth, Ge’els, Regis:Higher Vampire, Mourntart, She-Troll of Vergen, Nithral, Saer’quan
Keltullis is a safe consideration, requiring specific deckbuilding, which guarantees around 11 for 12 floor. In good circumstances it the ceiling is above 20p, granting a win condition
Syanna and Regis:Higher Vampire are lacking support in Monster cards, and are very conditional.
Villentretenmerth will often reach necessary effective value as Monsters typically lacks good tall removal – the common floor is around 13 (killing 7p unit), and effective ceiling could be like 20p+.
Ge’els could build up high effective value in Deathwish decks, but there is not so many good deathwish units.
Mourntart requires specific deckbuilding, setting up graveyard full of units. Normal strategy is then winning R1 and bleeding opponent in R2. At the same time, such deck would probably have zero own bleed resilience, and low flexibility.
She-Troll of Vergen is a greedy engine with low initial value, which could be used to multiply points of big finisher, like Glustyworp.
Nithral is a classical carapace target, which works very well with supporting damage (Wild Hunt Warrior)
Ge’els, Mourntart, She-Troll of Vergen, Nithral and Regis:Higher Vampire autolose to movement, unless countermeasures are taken.
Saer’quan is resilient to movement, but could sometimes be removed relatively easy in spite of protection
Above discussion shows that Keltullis, Villentretenmerth and Saer’quan are best protection targets for Carapace – unluckily all of them plays into tall removal. Remember to not play too much protection targets. 2x Golden engines is enough, each next will be unprotected, and possibly weak.
It is also possible to couple greedy engines with Caranthir. Such strategy is very risky, as usually not every engine could be protected with leader. This type of play has to rely even more on R1 outtempo or surprise factor, as Caranthir used on engine is 4p tempo.
Carapace has synergy with two obviously different archetypes: engine overload and no-unit. The reason behind no-unit synergy is that there are often 2-3 units in your R3 hand, and protecting them with shield immediately could bring high effective value, equal to denied damage. Effective value of around 12p could be reached this way.
Examples of decks
Perhaps the most successful and hated option for Carapace was the so-called Carapaccio, mastered at the time by Pajabol and Santtu2x: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/d01fc63e25015ef33823cc699c1b9f51
The leader is weak, especially due to lack of raw points (2/5)
Force of Nature (Woodland Spirit)
Order: Boost an unit in your hand by 8
Raw power: 8p
With 8p raw power, Force of Nature is a weak leader ability now. It used to be great in Big Monsters Thrive builds, but now is obviously inferior, with raw power equal to Pincer Maneuver summoning Adrenaline Rush. The only possibilities to go with Woodland are cancerous no-unit decks or creative but weak reveal builds. Wherever you come across this leader ability – be aware!
Thrive Big Bois
Being strictly inferior to Blood Scent in terms of raw points and unable to play Orianna, there is no point in playing Force of Nature with this archetype
Woodland Spirit is a decent leader for no-unit builds, providing about 18 or 21p finisher with Ozzrel.
Handbuff reveal is the only original option for Woodland Spirit, which could transfer raw leader power into high effective power. The idea is to Handbuff a big unit in R1 or R2, shuffle it back into the deck, and then abuse reveal cards, like Yennefer:Divination or Triss Merigold. Finally, with Alzur Double Cross, Whispess:Incantation, or another tutor, the buffed big unit is played as a finisher. The main, unconditional profit is linked with Yennefer – even consume+Renew could be considered to double this play.
Obviously, such a weird line of play is susceptible to many threats: posed by opponent (bleeding, tall removal) or the deck itself (bad draws not yielding necessary thinning)
Handbuff reveal is extremely skillful to play and challenging for deckbuilders. It was popularized by Redrame, but never reached competitive level.
Examples of decks
With Handbuff Reveal being the only original archetype, we cannot provide characteristic deck. There is no optimized list around – feel free to do your own experiments!
The leader is weak due to lack of raw points and flexibility (2/5)
Death’s Shadow (Unseen Elder)
Order: Destroy an allied Monster unit, then Spawn and play a base copy of it
Raw power: ?
Death’s Shadow is a tricky ability, granting the MO faction with more possible win conditions than any other leader. One great advantage of Death’s Shadow is that it can trigger one chapter of Haunt scenario in a turn. On the other hand, the leader is not flexible, and often susceptible to bleeding if the gameplan is very rigid and leader targets are limited. Unlike other leaders, Death’s Shadow is strictly pinned to cards, usually playing for spectacular combos.
In order to evaluate this leader power, we have to look at particular possible leader targets:
Ruehin, Dettlaff: Higher Vampire, Plague Maiden, Whispess:Tribute, Arachas Behemoth, Penitent… and bronze deathwish units
In this list the most important card was excluded. It is Caranthir, who could be coupled with loads of units to grant good value. So we have Caranthir+… (neglecting some obvious choices from above)
Kikimore Queen, Phoenix, Living Armor, Noonwraith (in board spam decks)… and many others. Just a short glimpse shows, that there is variety of different gameplans available, and Death’s Shadow always calls for bleeding and probing.
Evaluating main combos
- Ruehin (+Caranthir)
Ruehin is 4p for 11provision unit. Formally it has to be consumed twice to come in for points (12) higher than provision costs. Starting from this, each consume unit could effectively be counted as basic value+4×Number_of_consumes. If Slyzards sticks, their power would be comparable with Kayran in R3.
Ruehin is susceptible to locks or capturing (Philippa, Muzzle). Otherwise it is very good, but low tempo card, which unfortunately has to be supported by provision inefficient consume cards. Ruehin should come in pair with Haunt scenario, which is worth basic value+4×Number_of_consumes = 6+5+7+12 = 30p. Not bad!
- Dettlaff:Higher Vampire (+Caranthir)
Decks relying on Dettlaff as the main leader target should play Haunt scenario. Unlike Ruehin, such decks should mostly rely on winning R1 and pushing in R2, for a massive point outburst in Haunt+Dettlaff combo. Leader used on Dettlaff grants 10p, on Caranthir Dettlaff 14p. These needs to be accompanied with good consume units – only Haunt and Kayran apply.
- Plague Maiden (+Caranthir)
Plague Maiden decks rely on rat swarm. It is usually accompanied with Morvudd, as 7 rats make this unit already 13 for 8. Plague Maiden value (if activated) is raw 14 for 12, which is quite bad. The only reason for going this way is multiplying points by playing cards like Yennefer of Vengerberg, or Bone Talisman.
Plague Maiden needs to be triggered somehow, which is usually a bottleneck for whole archetype – consume units are usually weak and antisynergistic with the rest of the deck, while also playing tall.
Therefore Plague Maiden decks should also play Haunt.
Plague Maiden is convoluted with Caranthir as a leader target – using leader on 1p Plague Maiden yields 13 points, but on 7p only 7.
- Kikimore Queen + Caranthir
Kikimore Queen would be useless for Death’s Shadow decks unless combo with Caranthir existed. Caranthir is used on Kikimore Queen, which thrives automatically to 2. Then leader is used on Caranthir immediately one more time, and both Kikimore Queens thirve once again, also buffing each other. Then third Kikimore Queen is ready to join the row from hand.
It is hard to evaluate leader power in this combo – usually it is effectively higher than raw number, due to engine overload effect. First Caranthir play needs no leader, and is worth 5p + number of insectoids. Row capacity is equal to 9. 3 places are reserved for KQ, 1 for Caranthir, so optimal number of insectoids before launching combo is equal to 5. In optimal circumstances, Caranthir comes immediately as 10 for 8, plus all the value associated with KQ thrives in the future.
Second Caranthir play comes from leader. First KQ grows to 4, and second grows to 3, so this is basically +2+3 points. Just 5 points play neglecting other insectoids. The main points come from them however. For optimal 5 insectoids we have 10 points immediately. So, leader comes in for 15 raw points, setting up +6-per-turn engine with 5 body, accompanied by a 6 body twin.
This is one of the strongest leader plays in the game, requiring only having a bunch of insectoids in the row.
Playing KQ combo one detail is very important. Unit abilities are resolved left-to-right in the row. Let’s compare two situations. We play 6p unit on the board with i) 5-4-3 and ii) 3-4-5 KQ chain
i) 5p KQ thrives, then 5p KQ thrives, then 5p KQ thrives
ii) 3p KQ thrives, then 5p KQ thrives, then 7p KQ doesn’t thrive
Always play KQs rows in descending power order.
- Board Spam (Noonwraith + Caranthir)
This archetype relies strictly on surprise value and outtempo in R1. Then Noonwraiths are multiplied and triggered in order to completely crowd opponent side of the board. Soon opponent will be unable to play any card, unless having some anti-crowding measures. Then the situation is analogous to having around 5 card last say. Such decks are often played with Glustyworp finisher.
Examples of decks
An example of Caranthir+Kikimore Queen deck, using Plague Maiden as backup or additional tempo: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/6c2a5650453ba52308db0b6317e7bd3c
The leader is capable of creating many win-cons, but lacks flexibility, as the leader ability is tied to particular cards (3/5)
Arachas Swarm (Arachas Queen)
Order: Spawn a Drone on an allied row. Charge: 5. Whenever you play Organic card, spawn Drone on a random allied row
Raw power: 5p
With 5p raw power, Arachas Swarm has to rely on cards highly synergistic with leader ability. Especially making use of passive leader ability is called for. Passive ability is a kind of suggestion that the deck should play actively in R1, aiming at getting advantage by having last say, or, alternatively, bleed in R2. There are 2 main archetypes for Arachas Swarm.
Classical Swarm uses leader ability to quickly fill both rows with Arachas Drones, and then relies on Bone Talismans and Yennefer of Vengerberg to gain points. Bone Talisman ceiling is equal to 18p for 7 provisions. Yennefer ceiling is 36p for 11 provisions. These cards are basically supposed to compensate for very low raw power of the leader.
Glustyworp no-unit AQ
Why to use AQ as a no-unit leader? The answer lies in the synergy with Glustyworp and Frightener, as well as passive ability. Spawning 5 drones gives no real points, even in synergy with Glustyworp – it basically turns 5 raw power into around 6p. The real benefit is the possibility of activating Frightener for non-interactive point swing, while passive leader ability helps a lot in winning R1, which is crucial for Glustyworp finisher.
Examples of decks
An example of Glustyworp AQ, focused rather on organics than no-unit character https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/493d08a8a8887642d467dbcc47078600
The leader lacks raw points, but has some flexibility and interesting gameplans (2.5/5)
Fruits of Ysgith (Gernichora)
Order: Spawn a Gernichora’s fruit on an allied row. At the start of your turn, refresh this ability if you do not control any Fruits.
Raw power: <16p (<10p)
Gernichora as a leader has just one plan: smorc. This leader ability is smeared over three rounds and very often the only viable strategy is to trade it in R2. An alternative, but rather memy way to play Gernichora is to use fruits with consume engines.
This archetype relies on playing heavy pointslam units as much as possible to not lose control completely. These units are supposed to build your advantage in a short R3 with 14p Ozzrel finisher.
Gernichora playing blindfold smorc is supposed to bleed opponent at least up to the moment he throws strongest engines on the board. In the case opponent leader ability is clearly superior in a long round, it should also be bleeded
While the raw power of Fruit could be estimated as 16p, consuming the fruit each turn could multiply this value. Fruit spawn on the board, thrived and consumed is +2p per turn. This way, Slyzard is effectively +1p per turn engine.
There could be a variety of decks using this idea, coupled with Deathwish mechanic more or less. A common flaw of each of them is a lack of clear gameplan and Slyzard bottleneck. Definitely a challenge for deckbuilders!
Examples of decks
An example of Blindfold Smorc deck: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/5d95afbe4fb828adaf1a75a80e4d5d73.
An example of Consume Engines meme deck: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/80c93e9493d428b9951a1616b795f8a8
The leader is linear and hit with very low provision cap. (2/5)
Blood Scent (Dettlaff van der Eretein)
Order: Give an enemy unit Bleeding for 3 turns. Charge: 3. Once all Charges are used up, Spawn an Ekimmara into a random allied row.
Raw power: 11p
Dettlaff is a typical pointslam leader. While the leader ability itself would be probably enough to make it the strongest Monsters leader, the synergy with Orianna card makes it absolutely superior. Dettlaff decks are very similar to each other – they rely on Vampires archetype, Thrive and Big Units. The differences are only in pointslam/control proportion.
Vampire package offers strongest, engine based bronze play available to Monsters. Orianna is a great card, which could be used as a powerful R3 play, as well as bleeding agent in R2, usually enforcing at least leader ability trade. Orianna is a win condition if unanswered. She is worth 15 points for 9 provision with leader only if unanswered – each Vampire on the board increases this ceiling by 2 points, and each bleeding among opponent units by 1 point. The floor is equal to 8 for 9.
Examples of decks
An example of Pointslam Vampires oriented towards control: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/2969173c4246dd07fafcf4c476605c3e
The leader is strong in terms of raw points and enables Orianna (4/5)
Comments and Ideas
- Leaders needing rework
- Leaders needing buffs
Force of Nature, Fruits of Ysgith
- Cards needing rework
Cockatrice, Werewolf, Fiend, Siren, Maerolorn, Crimson Curse
- Cards needing buffs
Archespore, Celaeno Harpy, Cyclops, Wild Hunt Rider, Alpha Werwolf, Brewess, Mourntart, Old Speratip:Asleep, Ge’els, Old Speartip
- New card ideas
Arachnomorph, Nekkers Assault (Scenario)
- Carapace should be reworked because of cancerous nature of decks supported by this ability. An idea: Carapace => White Frost: Spawn and play Biting Frost. If at least 4 Wild Hunt units are under your control, spawn Wild Hunt Hound.
- Force of Nature might become cancerous if raw power is buffed too much. We believe that supporting Beast archetype is a great consideration for this ability – for example playing Wolf Pack with 2 charges.
- Fruits of Ysgith requires just slight provision buff.
- Cockatrice is directly inferior to similar Nilfgaard card: Alba Spearman, as 3p damage is strictly better than 1p more power. Card needs rework, or buff and playable Beasts archetype.
- Werewolf could be reworked to support beast archetype: -1 power, buff by 1 each time a beast is played, immunity changed into 1 or 2 armor.
- Fiend sees no play, and it is probably not due to lack of raw power, but flaws of Deathwish archetype in general. It should be reworked to support Beast archetype instead.
- Siren – the same
- Maerolorn – the same, but maybe a sneaky card of general use?
- Crimson Curse – the problem of this card is strong anti-synergy with aggresive character of Monsters faction. It is impossible to use this card while bleeding due to zero tempo. Only long round is an option, but Vampire package is not really suitable for long round play in most matchups.
- Archespore – with 4p raw power, Archespore will never see play anywhere, except for no-unit decks. For the moment being, it should at least have bonded ability: repeat deploy effect.
- Celaeno Harpy, Cyclops, Brewess , Old Speratip:Asleep, Old Speartip – these cards have simply too low raw power, or too high provision cost. Celaeno Harpy could also be reworked, as single consume is not very useful in Deathwish decks.
- Alpha Werewolf – is just too slow, timid and expensive at the moment. Could be reworked in pair with Werewolf: -1 power, boost self by number of beasts in the row.
- Mourntart – a niche card. We believe it should have a way to gain Zeal, if X necrophages are on the board, and Melee row lock is absolutely unnecessary.
- Ge’els – this card has very low floor for high provision and good ceiling – we believe the floor should be raised to see if this card really could be broken anyhow.
Attention: We do not try to balance this card ideas in terms of provision, power etc.
The idea is to provide efficient purifier for big units as well as big consuming body for Deathwish units. It is not stated in card text, but by ‘spawn’ we mean spawn to this row.
- Nekkers Assault
A thematic scenario coupled with Gernichora leader ability.
Written by lerio2