Mechanics Overview


Assimilate is original Nilfgaard mechanic in Gwent. Whenever you play a card that is not from your starting decks, unit with Assimilate tag gets boosted. There are 4 bronze Assimilate engines and 3 golds:

Bronzes: Ard Feiann Heavy Cavalry, Ducal Guard, Slave Hunter, Imperial Diviner

Golds: Glynnis aep Loernach, Van Moorlehem Cupbearer, Artorius Vigo

Let’s compare this to Scoia’tael mechanic Harmony. Harmony has 5 bronzes and 4 golds. There are direct similarities between some Assimilate and Harmony cards:

Ducal Guard <=> Dryad Fledgling

Miner <=> Slave Hunter

Glynnis <=> Percival

Cupbearer <=> Weeping Willow

The lacking element in Assimilate is Water of Brokilon analogous. The same effect of overloading the board with engines could be achieved only with Portal, which is much more expensive card, lacking Nilfgaardian tutor.

Another advantage of Harmony is tempo. In Harmony each next engine could buff earlier played ones, if only possess different tag. On the contrary, Assimilate engines are almost independent (Artorius Vigo is only exception), which makes Assimilate decks very prone to bleeding.

The only possible advantage of assimilate is that it could be proced twice in one turn with Stefan+Bribery or Triss+Diplomacy/Experimental Remedy.  

Also quality of bronze cards is lower in Assimilate than in Harmony, which could be clearly shown by comparing Slave Hunter to Trained Hawk


Lock is a status that disables unit’s abilities. Nilfgaard has 2 locking bronzes and golds:

Bronzes: Van Moorlehem Hunter, Alba Armored Cavalry

Golds: Auckes, Letho(with Auckes)

and some lock dependent units:

Bronzes: Master of Disguise, Slave Driver

Golds: Vanhemar, Vattier de Rideaux

Due to its nature, locks could never be autonomous archetype, unless supported by powerful lock dependent cards. Vanhemar and Vattier is not enough for sure.

Poisons and Statuses

Merchants of Ofir expansion introduced Nilfgaardian Scenario: Masquerade Ball, as well as a bunch of cards with Aristocrat tag, reliant on (giving) units statuses. Especially Poison is a kind of status supported by Aristocrat decks – Masquerade Ball proceeds each time aristocrat is played and launches poisoning unit Fangs of the Empires.

Thirsty Dame is the only engine in Poison and Statuses archetype, but it could also be supported by assimilate units, like Glynnis or Artorius Vigo. The reason is that cards like Rot Tosser or Masquerade Ball are capable of triggering assimilate.


Spies are units played on the opponent side of board. Nilfgaard has access to 3 bronze spying units: Duchess Informant, Emmisary and Rot Tosser (spawns Cow Carcass, which is a spy) and 4 golden spies: Roderick dun Thynne, Prince Villem, Cantarella and Joachim de Wett. There is one bronze (Impera Enforcers) and one gold (Rainfarn of Attre) engine dependent solely on spies. Impera Enforcers are row locked and have low base power, which makes them prone to removal. Spies are probably the worst designed archetype in Gwent. It is not really the matter of power (which is very low), but complete lack of finesse, which should be expected from Imperial diplomatic service.

Leaders and Gameplans Overview

Summary Table

Ability nameLeader nameProvision capRating
Strategic WithdrawalEmhyr var Emreis152
Imperial FormationMorvran Voorhis154
Tactical DecisionJan Calveit162
EnslaveArdal aep Dahy154
Double CrossAnna Henrietta172,5

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

Strategic Withdrawal (Emhyr var Emreis)

Order: Move an allied Nilfgaardian unit to your hand and boost it by 2, then play a card.

Raw power: ?


Strategic Withdrawal is an interesting, combo leader ability, tied to cards in the deck. It resets the unit moved to hand. Let’s start with discussing potential leader targets.

Resetting order units

Possible targets are:

Stefan Skellen – with Bribery could do around 8 points, so that leader ability is worth 10p with high variance. Definitely not worth considering that Stefan will seldom stick.

Damien de la Tour – if sticks, then effectively could add 2 points to leader ability, but the final target has to be different (unless playing for 9 Damiens chain)

Vattier de Rideaux – … no comment …

                The possibility is interesting, but Nilfgaard doesn’t have good unit targets at the moment. Still, replaying Damien could be masterclass play in some other builds.

Double deploy

Let’s collect Nilfgaardian cards with strong deploy ability:

Ramon Tyrconnel, Leo Bonhart, Shilard Fitz Oesterlen, Vivienne de Tabris, Vilgefortz, Vrygheff, Vreemde, Menno Coehoorn, Sweers, Artorius Vigo…

Out of this Ramon Tyrconnel was written in bold, because he is clearly the most stable, unconditional target, granting around 9 points.

Soldiers Engine Overload

Ramon Tyrconnel could be used for soldiers engine overload play. The main target would be Ard Feainn Crossbowman. The first Ramon on Crossbowman play yields 9 points and setups strongly protected engine. The second play (with the leader) yields immediately 2(leader buff)+5(Crossbowman)+2(two first Crossbowman procs) = 9 points, while setting up another engine. It is a solid combo, which should not be underestimated even in competitive play.

Daerlan Swarm

Daerlan Soldiers is a weak card, passive 6 for 6 provision, strictly worse than Caravan Vanguard. The only reason to play this card is synergy with Vrygheff and Vreemde, which could be reliable secondary targets for Strategic Withdrawal. Vrygheff used on Daerlan Soldier is solid 8 points and 12 points including Vreemde. Using leader on Vreemde gives 2p + number of Darelan Soliders. Most often Vrygheff is the better target, but if you have more than 5 Daerlans – go for Vreemde!

Alchemist Shenanigans

Emhyr could be used for various shenaningans with 4p card called Alchemist. Alchemist exchanges power of two allied units. Possible combos are direct use on Living Armor, or Tibor+Bekkers Mirror/Ointment.

Masquerade Ball

Masquerade Ball could be triggered with Emhyr leader ability. While Emhyr lacks good targets amongst aristocrats (at least these are very situational), the leader could also be used on non-aristocrat card after board set-up.


Playing a Mill deck, we try to destroy so many opponent cards, that he could not draw full hand in R3. Strategic Withdrawal is often used in this archetype, as it provides safe additional card destruction. Mill decks need to win R1 in order to realize the strategy. Often the leader ability is used right in R1, because cards like Viper Witcher are of carryover type and hardly could contest R1 by itself.

Examples of decks

Full Soldiers Emhyr (a hybrid of Engine Overload and Daerlan Swarm):

Leader rating

The leader ability is weak and coupled with cards, but interesting nevertheless (2/5)

Imperial Formation (Morvran Voorhis)

Order: Boost an allied unit by 2. Charge: 4. Once all charges have been exhausted, move a Soldier unit from your deck to the top

Raw power: 8p (13p with Affan Hillergrand at the price of effectively lower provision cap)


                Imperial Formation is an universal leader ability, which helps a lot in exploiting top-end Nilfgaard order units. As the leader is versatile, he can support a variety of greedy builds. We unless successful, we will restrict ourselves to the main, midrange build only.

Midrange Nilfgaard

                Imperial Formation is used to protect Damien and Stefan, often surrounded by other good order units, like Maraal, Hefty Helge, sometimes supported with Letho:Kingslayer.

                The set of greedy golds is usually supported with Soldiers package and/or Poison package.

                Having order units with great instant value, Midrange Nilfgaard wants usually to fight for round 1 to avoid soft bleeding, as well as bleed opponent out of long-round measures.

Examples of decks

Midrange list with Soldiers package and Hefty Helge:

Leader rating

                Leader is versatile and flexible, but rather incapable of making big effective points by itself, especially in long rounds (4/5)

Tactical Decision (Jan Calveit)

Order: Look at top 3 cards from your deck and play one

Raw power: ?


                Tactical Decision has decent provision cap, while the ability itself is a bit hazardous. Tactical Decision is rather out of consideration for a normal, midrange deck, as Imperial Formation is strictly better and more consistent.

                How good drawing one of 3 cards from the top is? Tutoring top cards with Albrich or Fisher King would be rather point inefficient. The only justification would be massive 2 cards combo. The main viable tutor is offensive: Yennefer Invocation, which again is heavily dependent on opponent deck (in other words: current meta). Therefore, unless the deck has rich thinning, the draw will be often random.

                Usual NG deck plays around 12 golds and 13 bronzes. Let’s assume in R3 most decks should have around 10 golds in total in particular matchup. Let’s say 2 golds and 4 bronzes were played in R1. Then assume we were lucky enough to have 9 golds in hand in R3, and only one in the deck. What is the chance of finding this gold? There are 8 bronzes and 1 gold in the deck, and the chances are 1/3 for drawing gold. It is hardly satisfying. Only synergy factors could make the leader worth in such case, but it is almost impossible to find good enough synergy amongst bronzes.

                Therefore, Hyperthin decks are the most natural way to go for Calveit.


                Without thinning, there are 9 cards left in the deck in R3. Hyperthin aims at exploiting extraordinary thinning capabilities of Nilfgaard decks. Leaving 1-2 cards in the deck, it is possible to get amazing value from cards like Vilgefortz, Xarthisius, Triss Merigold and Yennefer:Divination. Used with Tibor, we can estimate ceiling values of this cards as: 17, 18, 16 and 16 points for 9 provision.

                Let’s list all the reliable thinning cards, and denote possible thinning value (the number of cards removed from the deck):

Hunting Pack (1), Impera Brigade(1), Roderick dun Thynne(1), Marching Orders(1), War Council(1), Artorius Vigo (1) (+Hunting Pack=2), Menno Coehorn (1), Matta Hu’uri(1), Knickers(+1?), Roach(1), Ihuarraquax(1), Joachim de Wett(1), Land of Thousand Fables(1), Royal Decree(1), Dandelion(1)

(cards with orders omitted)

                The deck shouldn’t also thin too much – it autoloses then. For Calveit exactly 7 would be enough. Missing thinning card should not be as bad in Calveit as in other hyperthin builds.

                Unfortunately, it is impossible now to provide Calveit Hyperthin builds enough tempo to be competitive.

Masquerade Ball Aristocrats

The ability of playing 2 cards in one turn could be used for immediate activation of the first chapter of Masqerade Ball scenario.

Examples of decks

We cannot provide an example deck which would be both competitive and highlighting correct leader use. Instead, we show model Poison+Statuses build with Masquerade Ball:

Leader rating

The leader ability is weak and random, inviting deckbuilding based on tactical flashes, or Hyperthin (2/5).

Lockdown (Usurper)

Order: On game start, disable the enemy Ability for the duration of the battle

Raw power: ?


Lockdown power is hard to estimate and very meta dependent. It is clear that Usurper is worse than any leader playing the same cards, but just 1 gold more, due to higher provision cap. Therefore, Usurper should always aim at spoiling opponent strategy rather than mimicking meta decks.

The more unbalanced leaders, the better Usurper is. The more leader dependent meta decks are, the better Usurper. Therefore, Lockdown ability could never be assessed objectively – it could be best Nilfgaard option, or worse, depending on the meta.

In the case the meta is dominated by leaders and decks of control type, Usurper could help to keep engines alive.

If the meta is built around leader supported engine overload (which is particularly troublesome for Nilfgaard) then Usurper with efficient control cards could help to deal with threats one-by-one.

In the Scenario meta, one of Usurper advantages is possibility of shutting down opponent scenario right at the prologue.

Examples of decks

There is no one and only correct Usurper deck, so we do not present any example here.

Leader rating

Lockdown ability is always a consideration if there is anything to spoil in the main meta decks (2.5/5)

Enslave (Ardal aep Dahy)

Order: Seize enemy unit with power 3 or less. The value is raised by 1 for every 4 tactics in your deck

Raw power: 10p (Enslave 5) / 12p (Enslave 6)


Enslave is a powerful leader ability, with high floor, and even higher ceiling if used on opponent’s engine. The necessity to play 8/12 tactics is not really a great drawback, as Hefty Helge is a powerful Nilfgaardian engine fueled with tactics. Also Royal Decree, War Council, Bribery, Tourney Joust and Battle Preparation are commonly used in other Nilfgaard builds.

Examples of decks

Greedy Enslave 6

Leader rating

The leader ability is strong, especially when cards like Hefty Helge or Damien de la Tour require just minimal support to stick (4/5)

Double Cross (Anna Henrietta)

Order: Create and play a card from your opponent’s hand

Raw power: ?


Double Cross is a strongly meta-dependent ability. Would opponent deck need to hoard universal, powerful golds in R3? Would you find 15p Oak, or 6p Luiza/Savolla?

If playing similar decks, Double Cross is in general inferior in terms of power to Enslave, and in terms of consistency to Imperial Formation. The only justification to play Anna would be specific meta, or assimilate synergy.

Double Cross could very often be used for elegant impasse play, especially with Yennefer:Invocation.

Classical Assimilate

Let’s assume 6p raw power is the floor for Double Cross ability. Then having +4p Assimilate on the board would be a justification for playing Double Cross. Unfortunately, Assimilate does not have many good engines. Let’s denote all assimilate cards:

Bronzes: Ard Feiann Heavy Cavalry, Ducal Guard, Slave Hunter, Imperial Diviner

Golds: Glynnis aep Loernach, Van Moorlehem Cupbearer, Artorius Vigo

Out of these, Imperial Diviner and Glynnis sometimes see play, while Van Moorlehem Cupbearer and Artorius Vigo have some kind of anti-synergy: Artorius could not be confidently played with Duchess Informant if Poison Package (Fangs of Empire) is included.

While Masquerade Ball could proc assimilate engines twice and is for sure a consideration for hybrid Assimilate-Poison deck, we will not consider it here. 

As about 4 assimilate procs are needed, Portal is necessary for logical justification in R3. Ard Feiann Heavy Cavalry looks like a decent target, as Assimilate mechanic is very slow, and in the first moves engines just take damage from the opponent (on the contrary, Harmony engines get buffed while subsequent engines are developed).

Examples of decks

An example of Anna Assimilate deck with Ard Feiann Heavy Cavalry Portal (non-competitive)

Leader rating

The leader ability is strongly meta dependent, and non-flexible. Just like Lockdown, it is a kind of leader which could harvest the ladder only in specific meta (2.5/5)

Comments and Ideas



Tactical Decision, Strategic Withdrawal, Lockdown

Combat Engineer, Spy Archetype, Fire Scorpion, Bribery

Nauzicaa Brigade, Slave Driver, Slave Infantry, Slave Hunter, Spotter, Daerlan Soldiers, Hunting Pack, Impera Brigade, Viper Witcher, Ceallach Dyffryn, Vivienne de Tabris

Royal Escort, Renuald aep Matsen



Card reworks

Card buffs

Card ideas

Attention: We do not try to balance this card ideas in terms of provision, power etc.

 Royal Escort

Comment: A missing link in Assimilate<=>Harmony symmetry, providing good tempo and chances for Engine Overload. The justification Double Cross needs, and nice thematic synergy with old Anna Henrietta. The real provision value should be above 10p and Tactics tag should probably be dropped, which breaks symmetry, but also disables weird combos with Stefan Skellen.

Renuald aep Matsen

Comment: Strong, unconditional gold pointslam card, which Nilfgaard obviously lacks. Ranged ability should provide Soldier decks with more bleed resistance, while the card itself is a decent Strategic Withdrawal target. Should probably have -1 power or +1 provision.

Written by: lerio2