Crimson Curse - An In-depth Analysis of the Expansion (Pt. 1: Neutrals)
March 30, 2019 by Jamedi
Jamedi and Miketocome from Team Nova, competitive players with a long experience playing Gwent and two of the authors of Team Aretuza and Team Nova's Meta Snapshot, analyze the game's new expansion Crimson Curse card by card. In the first part of this series, they focus on all the new Neutral cards.
This new special card is a neutral, downgraded version of the Monsters-locked card Feast of Blood. We can see in this type of card a common line of design: faction cards should be stronger than their neutral counterparts. 6 turns of Bleeding for 4 provisions is decent value, but it will probably not see much play as it is just a standardized version of the cards which are meant to be used, the faction-locked ones.
This card provides an interesting effect (to Purify a whole row), which can include removing several statuses, such as Locks, Vitality, Bleeding or Doomed. On the other hand, this card provides no direct points, making it hard to be played outside of Skellige in combination with Coral. Despite that, we can classify this as an interesting tech card which can see play if a status-reliant meta develops.
This card also qualifies as a downgraded neutral version of a faction-locked card, Dryad's Caress (for Scoia'tael). While its Bleeding counterpart will likely not see play, this card in combination with a Tridam Infantry could represent a 15-point combo which is distributed across 2 cards, 6 turns, and 8 provisions. At best, this is still a really slow card, which can be denied by any Purify effect or by simply killing its target.
This card fills an interesting design space, as it gives you either a clear or a boost. As Scout exists, this one is just a worse version of it, unless you are playing against multiple row effects (e.g., Francesca Double RNR). In the case of clearing a single row, you are basically losing points to the version of the card with a 4-point body. Perhaps Thaw can still see some play in tournaments, but it seems like a weak card.
If you remember the old, pre-Homecoming version of Crushing Trap, then this design might seem familiar to you. As it stands, this is a 6-provision card with a 6-point ceiling that is also relatively conditional, which makes us think that this card probably will not see much play outside of possible Spell builds.
This excellent Touissant wine also represents an intriguing card design. While the boost of 6 is not necessarily too powerful on its own, resulting in a similar power to the 6-provision Parasite, the addition of Shield to the effect makes this card desirable for play in a Northern Realm Shield-oriented archetype. We can use Shields either to renew our engines such as Windhalm of Attre, get additional points on King Roegner, or protect an engine (although the engine would already have to survive for one turn before Sangreal could be played). On the other hand, a 6-point boost typically puts the targeted unit directly into tall removal range.
This card was revealed by the leak master himself, Burza. It provides an interesting alternative to Arachas Venom, making positioning and the distribution of positive status effects matter a lot. This is a great design which adds complexity to the Purify effect. However, since Purify might be a meta-dependent inclusion, we expect this card to also depend on the metagame.
Curse of Corruption
This is a cheap version of Scorch with lowered provisions and which only removes one “tallest” unit instead of all of the “tallest” units. As a result, this can lead to undesirable, RNG-decided situations in the case of ties between two tall cards. Perhaps it might see some play as a way to punish the opener of Tactical Advantage + card, but even in that case, it most likely will not fulfill its provision cost on average. This is probably a card for Arena in the best of cases.
This is the only 4-provision option among one of the new tags added in this expansion: Bomb. The 3-damage effect is not too appealing from a point perspective, but the Deathblow effect can be useful for interacting with Immune units, especially if they have abilities that are rowlocked (e.g., it has been seen interrupting the Vysogota of Corvo and Avallac'h combo). Due to its low ceiling, this could be another card that is hard to include in decks outside the Coral Discard variations of Skellige archetypes.
The artifact-removal version of a Bomb, which includes a 3-damage effect in the case that there are no artifacts to remove. Besides this double utility, it seems probable that this card will not see play outside of Coral Discard decks. In most cases, this card will simply be outclassed by Bomb Heavers unless you want to play a Spell-heavy deck.
Most bombs are utility-focused cards, and in this case we see an offensive version of a Bomb that can be useful against Vitality, and in some cases, Shield archetypes. Its damage effect, while good to punish the opponent, could make the card less prevalent, as we cannot use it to Purify our own units unless we can afford to take a lot of damage (a -4-point play).
Among the Bombs, Devil's Puffball promotes a deck with Poison synergy. While the 2-damage effect with Poison is rather underwhelming to start, the Deathblow effect that triggers Poisoning of the adjacent units has some potential if Poison finds a place in the meta. At the moment, we see Poison effects principally in Scoia'tael Dryads (and a minor source of Poison in Nilfgaard from Fangs of the Empire). Thus, it is possible that this card might see some play in heavy Dryad control decks, as a way to counter and remove tall units.
Northern Wind is probably the most interesting Bomb card that has been presented to date. A 4-point damage effect with a Banish on its Deathblow represents a powerful utility tool, which may see play in certain metagames (for example, if Skellige starts playing more resurrections or to deny graveyard consumption from Monsters). However, like other Bombs, this card suffers from not having a body, which makes it an awful proactive play.
The last one of the Bombs has the most interesting effect on paper, but if we take a closer look at it, it simply represents a cheaper version of Treason, with additional restrictions and for 1 provision less. It can be used as a tech against tall units, but probably will not see much play, judging by the fact that Treason is not played outside of Tactics-focused archetypes (despite being more powerful) due to its conditional value.
Scepter of Storms
This card is a weather generator on a stick, literally. The old Beta players will remember this effect associated with Dagon, the Vodyanoi Fish God. On this version, we are trading 1 provision up from the base row effect for the versatility of being able to play the one we need. While the flexibility is welcome, this card probably can not find its place in the current metagame, as row effects have not recently been played outside of Ragh Nar Roog (in Francesca Findabair decks) and Dragon's Dream in combination with Nivellen.
Tesham Mutna Sword
This card has a highly binary design, with high reward but a significant downside if it does not find full value. It might be good in tournament lineups or against Shield archetypes in general, but otherwise we do not expect it to find significant play.
Hen Gaidth Sword
This sword is also high risk and high reward, but with a more intriguing second effect. The ability to be able to Spawn and play a copy of the card you have destroyed with the Sword makes its inclusion in decks where the leader is able to do enough damage to align the power of the potential target quite possible (Scoia'tael is a good example).
Land of a Thousand Fables
This card’s potential role is clear, as a direct tutor for Specials, similar to what Royal Decree can do with units. It remains to be seen, however, whether any decks in the new meta will rely on a particular special so heavily that we find running this card useful. Its effect is the direct continuation of pre-Homecoming Gwent's Nature's Gift; also worth noting is that because it is an artifact, it provides a target for cards such as Vivienne: Oriole.
Portal is one of the new tutors to come with this expansion. Since thinning has generally been nerfed in Crimson Curse (most notably through nerfing the Witchers trio), it will not be a surprise if certain decks turn to cards like this as a source of thinning. It is worth noting that the math behind Portal is similar to the math of the old Witchers trio: Across Portal and the two cards it plays, you have 21 provisions which include two cards thinned from the deck and around 9 points played. The biggest downside of this card is its high provision cost, which can make Vivienne: Oriole a huge card, and the necessity of drawing it in early stages of the game to maximize the value of its thinning. As it provides a simple Summon effect, deckbuilding should gravitate to 4-provision cards with continuous or Order effects (such as Elven Swordmaster or Harmony cards).
As shown in some of the other neutral cards, Oxenfurt Scholar follows a basic design principal that neutral cards should be slightly weaker versions of otherwise identical faction-locked cards. In this case, Oxenfurt Scholar is the neutral version of Cintrian Enchantress, so it probably will not see play, as Northern Realms, the main beneficiary of Vitality, has a better version of a Vitality card for 4 provisions.
Similar to the above, this is a downgraded version of the faction-specific Plumard from Monsters. We do not expect to see many decks using this card, unless Monsters strategies focusing on Bleeding have such a high need for Bleeding effects that they would run weaker versions of Plumard in addition to the standard copies.
Pellar represents a particular case where a neutral card with a better faction-locked equivalent could be played frequently, due to the potential utility of the Purify effect. Pellar's utility makes him playable as a simple copy if a status-heavy metagame becomes too prevalent.
This is a downgraded version of a card from the base set, Vicovaro Novice. While the effect seems interesting at first sight, the order of the process (shuffling the card in the deck and only then getting a card), can be problematic, as there is a risk of re-drawing the same card you shuffled back.
This is a neutral card which could be used almost as a faction-specific one, as it directly supports the new Northern Realms Shield archetypes, as well as generalized engine archetypes (which are also often found in Northern Realms). Its power makes it difficult to be removed by cheap damage engines, often requiring more premium removal. The real downside to this card is the Order feature, needing to stay in the field for 1 turn to be able to protect an engine. On the other hand, setting up an Order card is often exactly what is needed to give an engine protection as soon as it enters the battlefield the following turn. In addition, if this card becomes a target for removal, the engine will have a better chance to survive as the opponent will have less removal remaining in their hand.
Musicians of Blaviken
Its random effects suggests that designers had in mind to make a fun, but noncompetitive card with these beloved characters. If we look a little bit deeper, we can see that the selection of four random effects might not actually be so random at all, as perhaps each effect represents a different one of the four animals. In any case, this should be a noncompetitive card which will not see play outside of Arena.
Fisher King is a neutral version of the Nilfgaard card Albrich. While it is strictly worse in the whole sum of points (assuming that Albrich hits a unit), the immediate tempo is slightly better (4 points vs 3 points). It might see some play in the meta if 2-card combos become powerful. At first sight, this ability is perfect in combination with Queen Calanthe’s ability, so it might not be a surprise if this card appears in Northern Realms decks.
Lady of the Lake
This is another neutral card which can see play in a possible Northern Realms archetype, as it gives a Shield. Despite having Order, Lady of the Lake is likely to be able to trigger its Order unless it is Locked or Seized, as it also has its own Shield and is quite difficult to remove. Overall, it provides a (somewhat expensive) way to consistently protect engines outside of the own Northern Realms Shield archetype, where this card might be an auto-include due to its synergy with King Roegner.
Gregoire de Gorgon
Another high-variance card with an interesting Deathblow effect, which plays for multiple points beyond its provision cost if that effect is fulfilled. As 1 is a really small quantity of damage, it should be expected in two types of decks: decks that have damage, or decks which can combo Gregoire with another card. The best example of possible use of this card is utilizing it with Sabrina Glevissig in the same turn using Queen Calanthe as leader.
A likely stronger version of Enraged Ifrit that includes a Banish effect in its Deathblow but loses the unlimited range. As Reach 2 is usually not a relevant restriction, there is no real reasons to not play this card instead of the Enraged Ifrit, even though the Reach can force us to row stack in Melee if our rival plays their units in the Ranged row.
Vivienne is a card whose reveal was turbulent and hotly debated among the community, as it was shown before the most expensive artifacts in the set. The idea behind this card is understood by reviewing some of the 10+ provision artifacts that arrived with Crimson Curse. Since most of these cards have immediate effects, your benefit from using Vivienne is not denying the artifact effect, but instead getting a huge unit from the provision cost of the artifact. The obvious problem is this unit is not only high variance, but it also plays directly into tall unit removal even if successful. Nonetheless, if Portal becomes a prevalent card in the meta or in tournaments, Vivienne: Oriole might appear as a semi-counter.
At first sight, the effect of this card is incredibly powerful in combination with the correct complementary combo pieces, similar to Vivienne de Tabris. The biggest con of Syanna’s design is the low power combined with the Order tag, which makes it vulnerable to removal unless significant resources are devoted to protecting it. This tends to greatly limit the possible uses of this card, but this type of card allows for potentially game-breaking impacts under the right circumstances, provided that your deck can prepare the field and protect it in the same turn it is played (e.g. by using Shields).