Boost and Inspiration
Boosting means increasing the power of a unit during the game, and Inspiration is a special NR cards tag, which often enables stronger abilities if the unit is boosted above basic power. Northern Realms have one leader ability (Royal Inspiration) directly coupled with this mechanic. The archetype making use of these mechanics is built out of several modules. The first and most important are buffing units. There are buffing engines (Temerian Drummers, Anna Strenger, Botchling), order/deploy buffing units (e.g. Kaedweni Sergeant, Prince Stennis), buff-dependent engines (Nathaniel Pastodi, Tridam Infantry), and buff-dependent swing cards (Vissegerd, Prince Anseis…). In the current meta, most often only some relatively independent elements (Prince Stennis, Vissegerd, Prince Anseis…) are used, and engine parts are omitted due to low tempo and bleeding susceptibility.
Another unique Northern Realms mechanics in Gwent are Charges. Archetypes built on this mechanic are usually composed of four parts: chargers (units giving charges, e.g. Aretuza Adept, Priscilla), charge spenders (Shani, Hubert Rejk…), charge multipliers (Dandelion, Tridam Infantry,…), and finishers (Bloody Baron…). Putting any early play unit out of first three categories is usually a deckbuilding mistake – high consistency is required to have spender and charger on the board at the same time.
Charges are commonly recognized as the most greedy archetype in Gwent (and often most pleasant to watch and play with skillful prophylaxis measures and decisions on single charges) – unfortunately this archetype is inferior to Midrange NR in the current meta.
In the Faction famous for heroic Knights and Soldiers, Shield status finds its own archetype. Shields archetype relies mostly on King Roegner finisher. The common strategy is to put as many shielded units as possible on the board, and then remove all shields with a massive Roegner swing. Another card of finisher type is War Elephant, which used on shields comes in as 16 points for 12 provision. Unfortunately, the archetype is prone to dispersed damage and lacks control cards synergistic with the main mechanic. Still – if you want to meme in Gwent in a stylish way – this is good pick.
Siege and Warfare
Siege and Warfare is a impromptu collective term for archetype making use of resupply mechanic and Siege Engine tag. Resupply is a card mechanic that procs an effect on a unit on the board when a Warfare card is played. Siege Engine is a tag required to trigger Siege scenario chapters. The number of Siege Engines on the board also increases Bombardment value. The archetype is still developing, but decks making use of Siege scenario and high value Bombardment already proved to be competitive. The situation got worse a little bit after Reinforced Trebuchet nerf.
Leaders and Gameplans Overview
|Ability name||Leader name||Provision cap||Rating|
|Inspired Zeal||King Foltest||15||2,5|
|Royal Inspiration||Queen Meve||16||1,5|
|Vicious Slash||Princess Adda||16||2|
|Pincer Maneuver||Queen Calanthe||12||2,5|
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
Inspired Zeal (King Foltest)
Order: Boost an allied Northern Realms unit by 1 and give it Zeal. Charge: 3
Raw power: 3p
With 3p raw power, Inspired Zeal is completely reliant on Northern Realms cards with powerful Order abilities. If such units are not present, then Inspired Zeal becomes weakest leader ability in NR.
Inspired Zeal targets
Let’s enumerate possible Foltest targets and try to evaluate its power:
War Elephant, Roche:Merciless, Prince Anseis, Seltkirk, Blue Stripes Commando
Out of these, War Elephant has 16 points ceiling, so at best adds around 4p to leader ability. Therefore, even for the best scenario, Elephant is out of consideration.
Prince Anseis and Seltkirk are utility cards. Full value Seltkirk and Anseis could roughly be estimated as +2 over common value for the same provision cost. While useful, these cards never justifies playing Inspired Zeal by itself.
Therefore Roche:Merciless is the one and only justification for playing King Foltest. Not a bad justification indeed. With 2 Blue Stripes Commandos in the deck, Roche:Merciless comes in for 18 raw points for 12 provision, which is about 6 points above the common value.
Blue Stripes Commando Foltest
There is only one way to go for Inspired Zeal. As was shown above, the capability of playing Roche:Merciless consistently for full value, gives Inspired Zeal a decent point floor: around 9 effective points. Yet, as these are passive points, and even more importantly – tied to a single card, Roche alone is not enough to make Inspired Zeal competitive. More support is needed.
Blue Stripes Commando has natural synergy with 4p card Blue Stripes Scouts. Activated BSC are worth 8 for 6 points, which is good value for provision, but not giving any edge. On the other hand, BSS used on active BSC are worth 8 for 4, which is already +1.5 over common value of 4 provision units.
If BS combo is fully realized (2 Scouts on active BSC), then effective leader value could already be assessed as good. However, BSC is a card of R1 nature by all means. Therefore, this +3p bonus is directly used to take advantage in R1. Moreover, it makes Roche dead in R3… RIP?
Not really, because another card comes into play. Princess Pavetta is capable of tossing multiplied BSC back into the deck from the graveyard. The effective value of this play is at least 14p for 8 provision, which should not be overestimated, as Vernon Roche at the moment of tossing BSC in is worth only 10 for 12 (not 18), so that both cards are worth 24 points for 18 provisions, +4 for each multiplied BSC.
If Pavetta is played for the carryover, then in the final round leader power is approximately equal to 2(leader charges left)+2(surplus value of Anseis/Seltkirk)+6(approximate Roche advantage over normal 12p cards) + 4 x BSC surplus. Decent raw point value, but not enough to stand up in a long round against most decks.
Long round odds could be improved a lot with Draug. Draug has great synergy with BSC cards, which provide rich Human body. It should be easy to achieve at least 5 Revenants with 4 power. Each Revenant is potentially a 4p per turn engine. This way, Draug could easily reach 20+ points of effective value in a long round.
Classical Blue Stripes Foltest deck: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/1d55b834edc6a98b61472e3fc901c526
The leader ability has very low raw power and is tied to cards in hand, but supports one of the most logical and original builds in Gwent, where reaches decent effective power (2.5/5)
Royal Inspiration (Queen Meve)
Order: Boost an allied unit by 1. Cooldown: 2
Raw power: <8p (<5p in a single round)
With 5p raw power, Queen Meve has to rely on protection of very strong engines, or push in R2 going for ability trade and win in a short R3. Both approaches are in contradiction and Northern Realms lack support in cards for each of them.
Unfortunately, we cannot provide competitive enough Meve deck. However we will present deck very similar to classical Royal Inspiration build in Mobilization (King Henselt) section.
The leader has no viable strategy to be competitive. (1.5/5)
Mobilization (King Henselt)
Order: Play a copy of an allied unit from your deck, boost it by 2 and give it Zeal
Raw power: ?
Interesting ability of a combo character. While it is possible to play Henselt as a leader of pointslam type (for example 11p + some synergies with Caravan Vanguard), engine overload is the main temptation. Mobilization could also be used to proc Siege Scenario in one turn – in such case we could arrive at Siege and Warfare archetype.
Playing two bronze engines in one turn could generate loads of effective points if unanswered. What could be possible targets?
Temerian Drummer, Reinforced Ballista, Aretuza Adept, Mantlet, Wagenburg, Redanian Archers
At the first glance it is obvious that Mobilization lacks support in cards for Engine Overload play. Temerian Drummer is a quite expensive bronze, which has some nice synergies with buff dependent units, like Anna Strenger, Vissegerd… At the entrance leader plays for 7 points, while setting up two buffing engines on the board. Not a competitive level, but enabling full-blooded Boost and Inspiration play.
Reinforced Ballista could be used with Siege scenario and Machines archetype. If only Ballista sticks, leader could enter for 8 immediate points, while procing Scenario.
Mobilization could be used on Siege scenario to immediately claim the initiative. Unfortunately, due to Reinforced Trebuchet nerf, the leader used directly on this card comes in for 6 raw points only. Movement support is needed to extract full power from double Reinforced Trebuchet. Adding movement card, like Geralt:Aard, enhances bleeding possibilities for opponent, as there would be no other synergies in the deck. There is no real point in multiplying RT without movement, so Henselt should try to stick other Siege Engine targets on the board, especially Reinforced Trebuchets
The main drawback of Siege is proness to bleeding in R2. Scenario without leader is worth 4 raw points, which makes it very vulnerable target.
If playing thematic full Siege (with double Bombardment and Triss:Telekinesis), then winning R1 is easier, but being bled in R2 usually means autolosing.
If playing Siege garnished by strong midrange cards, the deck would easier loss R1 (unless having a chance of outtempo with well-timed gold), but will be less prone to bleed, trading Siege for Card Advantage, or keeping Siege and using gold cards to keep up if drawn well.
After RT nerf, Siege Machines are probably too weak to be played in any of these approaches.
Pointslam Draug NR
Caravan Vanguard could be used as a leader target, giving solid 11 points and body for Draug. There is no real logical justification for going for such play as the main strategy however.
Whiplash Henselt (Boost deck with Temerian Drummers target; meme): https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/3728f70ba5281878725f50052aa9b047
The leader is interesting, especially for building original Northern Realms decks. However, there seems to be no really powerful bronze target for Henselt leader ability at the moment. (2/5)
Vicious Slash (Princess Adda)
Order: Boost an allied Northern Realms unit by 1 and give it Zeal. Charge: 3
Raw power: 8p-15p; ~8p
Vicious Slash is a complex leader ability, which could be compared with Blood Money. If dealing immediately with an engine, Blood Money is superior by the value of excessive coins.
On the other hand, if playing against Pointslam deck crowding the board with ~4p targets, Vicious Slash could reach ~12p value, which is better than raw Blood Money.
Vicious Slash in a Pointslam(bleeding) application could be countered with purifiers.
Getting value from Vicious Slash
Princess Adda does not really have any important synergy with NR cards. She does not support engine play, which means that optimal decks should have midrange character.
Playing against Vicious Slash in R3, opponent would usually try to setup engines immediately in order to prevent bleeding value after instant removal. Adda could circumvent this strategy to some extent by playing 5p removals, which will destroy the threat immediately.
Playing Vernon Roche, is not a good idea for getting leader target value. Adda is not designed for engine play, and Vernon removes space for more valuable golds.
Therefore, setting-up Adda could be reasonably done only by damage units.
Good stuff Adda Shupe: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/9cbd3df4571b2dc01cefd7c3e0949e24
The leader ability is a bit conditional and does explicitly support any Northern Realms archetype (2/5)
Stockpile (King Demavend)
Order: Give 1 charge to an allied unit. Cooldown: 2
Raw power: ?
Demavend (Stockpile) is traditionally assessed as the worst leader by the Gwent community. What is the reason behind such harsh judgement?
The first, but not the most important reason is the weakness of Charges archetype. The weakness is truly painful now, but even in the best times for engines, right after Iron Judgement expansion, the leader was niche.
This leads us to the second, most important reason. Stockpile has no viable gameplay strategy, while being more card, and board state dependent than Royal Inspiration. Long round is very often lost, because of low tempo leader character, while playing three rounds and going for short R3 is not valid for engine decks.
This leader needs rework, as providing better card support will also make leaders like Pincer Maneuver or Mobilization stronger and Demavend will not see play again (1/5)
Pincer Maneuver (Queen Calanthe)
Order: Play a Northern Realms faction card from your hand, then draw any card.
Raw power: ?
If not limited with low provision cap, Pincer Maneuver would be clearly the strongest leader ability in Northern Realms. The possibility of playing two cards in one turn gives great opportunities both for removal and combo play.
The strength of Queen Calanthe depends strictly on the quality of top-end cards as well as combo possibilities between cards.
Efficient removal Calanthe
In the case of meta based on Engine Overload (Mystic Echo Harmony…), Pincer Maneuver could be used to efficiently remove more than one engine per turn. It usually leads to very good point trades, which are basis for point advantage in a deck lacking own points.
Efficient removal Calanthe almost never bleeds, instead just relies on the power of strong gold cards (usually Philippa:Blind Fury, Falibor, Bloody Baron, Prince Anseis…) to deal with any threat
Such build is hard to bleed due to invariant quality of gold cards, and the main concern is the potential lack of points in a long round. Also, if the deck is unable to fight for a win in R1, it practically autoloses to builds with powerful last say. Unfortunately, this is the case for the moment being, as Northern Realms bronzes are probably weakest amongst all factions.
Long round chances could be improved at the expense of weaker resistance to bleeding if playing Calanthe Draug . Calanthe is capable of drawing Draug with leader ability (just in case) and setting up human body immediately by playing two cards in one turn. Especially Caravan Vanguards are used for this purpose.
Playing two cards in one turn could be exploited with Engine Overload, often build around very greedy cards (Vysogota, Dandelion…). Unfortunately, the idea is not viable after nerfs to Aretzua Adepts and other units in Charges archetype.
Calanthe Nenneke Igni/Scorch
The possibility to play two cards in one turn Pincer Maneuver enables setting up of massive points swing cards, like Geralt:Igni or Scorch. These are typically set up with Nenneke in one turn. Vissegerd could act as secondary help. Attention: such play is viewed as cancerous – do not use it if you care for good reputiation!
Good stuff Pincer Maneuver Draug: https://www.playgwent.com/en/decks/70986efa01d2f6deac832b9ac968445e
The leader ability is very strong by itself, but relatively low provision cap disables unleashing all its power. The leader power is pretty balanced at the moment, and could even be a bit underrated (2.5/5)
Comments and Ideas
- Leaders needing rework
Royal Inspiration, Stockpile, (Vicious Slash)
- Leaders needing buffs
- Cards needing rework
Rivian Pikeman, Bloody Flail, Odrin, Nenneke
- Cards needing buffs
Reinforced Trebuchet, Runeword, Aretuza Adept, Dun Banner, Lyrian Cavalry, Temerian Infantry, Lyrian Arbalest, Foltest’s Pride, War Elephant, Vernon Roche
- Card ideas
- Royal Inspiration and Stockpile should gain some side effects for tempo play. Especially Stockpile also requires better support in cards. One possible idea to give both leaders more punch, would be increasing their number charges (let’s say Charge:3) and changing leader ability to: Cooldown 2: Regain one charge. This way total number of charges could never exceed limit.
- Vicious Slash is a playable leader, but lacks synergy with Northern Realms cards. This leader probably just waits for next expansions to become more thematic and original.
- Rivian Pikeman does not see play. The problem with this card is small number of synergistic Warfare cards, but more importantly, the card is just weak by itself. It could be shown by direct comparison with Trained Hawk.
- Bloody Flail – this card also sees no play. The reason is low usefulness. Damage could not kill any engine at early stages, as Soliders have to be developed first. Bleeding could be purified, and Northern Realms play no other effects demanding purify.
- Odrin – as anti-armor did not get into meta, this card is strictly inferior to Trollololo in every aspect. Perhaps Odrin should have completely different ability.
- Nenneke – not really quality rework is needed here, but the possibility of buffing opponent units is cancerous with Scorch and GIgni cards.
- Reinforced Trebuchet became very weak card after the nerf. There is less cards playing into ranged row than into melee row, and the card is just weaker in practice than its NG counterpart Alba Pikeman. Not only Siege decks got hit with that nerf, but also buff archetype focused around Meve.
- Runeword is too low tempo and too passive to find play now. It has some synergy with Tridam Infantry, but whole combo is very conditional. A slight buff to improve tempo and make card less conditional might help.
- Aretuza Adept has Zeal only with Mage on the board, but there is only one Mage unit sometimes played in Engine Overload archetype at early stages. Inclusion of early play Mages from other archetypes is hardly possible, because Engine Overload in NR is heavily synergistic – each turn without charge spender and charger is a loss of value.
- Dun Banner – a card which could be only conveniently used with Royal Inspiration, yet even in this decks is often omitted. We believe this card could cost 4 provision with no harm.
- Lyrian Cavalry – is not the worst NR card, but would not see any play due to passivity now.
- Temerian Infantry – just like Lyrian Scytheman, it is late play bronze with high ceiling, somewhat awkward in R1 play. Still, it is even more rarely played than Scytheman, due to row restriction, being more expensive and more conditional. +1 buff or -1 prov should do no harm.
- Lyrian Arbalest – for a long time basic engine overload bronze card, now used sometimes for coin abuse only.
- Foltest’s Pride – thiscard sees practically no play since rework. 2 adjacent Soldiers requirement could hardly be satisfied, as there is no Soldier chargers. This combined with row restriction etc. makes it seldom worth more than effective 7 for 8 even in Engine Overload decks. Some buffs are needed.
- War Elephant – this card is a thematic finisher in Shields archetype. While the card could seldom be removed at 8 power, changing Order to Deploy could be considered, or another slight buff, which will make this pointslam card a little bit more universal.
While Northern Realms mostly refrain from playing engines and multi-card combos now, it is still home for the most synergistic archetypes in Gwent. These archetypes simply needs further, systematic development.