Crimson Curse - An In-depth Analysis of the Expansion (Pt. 3: Northern Realms, Monsters and Nilfgaard)
Previously, Jamedi and Miketocome focused their breakdown on all of the new Neutral cards in Part 1 of this series as well as all Crimson Curse Scoia’tael and Skellige cards in Part 2.
This leader’s ability allows for two-card combos involving Northern Realms cards. Despite adding 14 provisions, a relatively low value in comparison with the other Crimson Curse leaders, the possibility of making unanswerable combos, such as using Ves's Zeal on Syanna to make a double Vernon Roche, is very attractive.
This is an upgraded version of Inspirational Ballad, exemplifying once again the philosophy that “faction cards should be better than neutral ones”. In combination with Tridam Infantry, we can generate a 11-point combo in 4 turns and costing 8 provisions. This card will probably be very prominent in Boost Northern Realms decks, as it can also be used to protect engines with its Shield ability; however, it can become problematic in short rounds due to its temporal value.
This card is essentially an inverse Delirium, as it boosts instead of damaging. It supports Boost Northern Realms archetypes and can turn Tridam Infantry into a machine gun. Knighthood should become popular in Boost NR, as every point used on engines like Tridam Infantry or Dethmold can be doubled.
Cintrian Envoy’s main purpose is to support Charge archetypes. It is a less restrictive version of Siege Support, as the new keyword Formation allows us to generate the same value or even an additional point if we want to be greedy. This card should become a staple in Northern Realms Charge builds.
This is one of the cards fulfilling the mantra of faction-locked cards being better than neutral ones; in this case, this is the upgraded version of Oxenfurt Scholar. The Bonded ability rewards us for keeping two copies of this 4-provision card, and its combo with some boost engines can double the amount of points given by Vitality. With its Mage tag, it can also be used in a Mage Northern Realms build.
This card reminds us of the formerly popular Wolf Pack; however, its ability is better which it pays for by being rowlocked. The additional effect for its cost makes this card a good 4-provision filler, having a 1:1 provision-power ratio, and so, we think this card will see play in some new Northern Realms archetypes.
This card’s design can be used as an invitation to create a new archetype for Northern Realms: Mage NR. However, it can also be used in King Demavend III's Charge deck, with the added bonus of this archetypes staples Aretuza Adepts also being Mages. Its major weakness is being easily removable like other Charge receptors; however, its base power is quite high for a bronze card. This might make Cintrian Spellweaver quite popular in the first days of expansion, as it helps to create a fun and interactive archetype.
A Formation card which supports Shield builds. If we feel greedy, we can play this card on Ranged for +1 point or on Melee if we think our rival is using Locks. This card should become one of the staples of Shield NR, so we predict it to have a high popularity.
Cintrian Royal Guard
This card’s design reminds us of a softened version of Beta Reaver Hunters, eliminating the exponential factor but keeping the reward of playing many copies. With the base playset (2 copies), you just get a 5-for-5 on average; however, in combination with other cards like Queen Adalia or Reinforcements we can achieve more value. This surely is an interesting card, which can be used as a win condition, but can also be countered by a multitude of cards, such as Gimpy Gerwin, or tall removal after its third copy.
This is the golden purifier of Northern Realms. An interesting tech card which can be used to counter Locks and to maximize the value of our Vitality cards. The playrate of this card will most likely depend on the amount of negative effects used in the metagame.
Windhalm of Attre
Windhalm is a Shield-based engine which synergizes with other Crimson Curse cards like Cintrian Artificer. It has a similar function to Anna Strenger or old Redanian Knight-Elect. Since its effect is triggered at the end of the turn, the opponent can remove the Shield in their turn, but we can always apply another and get the boost effect. Although being a tall removal target, Windhalm has a lot of potential and should become a staple in this new Shield NR archetype.
This card can be used in two archetypes: as a high-point finisher in Boost NR and, due to its high-power body, as a Charge receptor in Charge builds. It can also be useful in a hybrid Charge/Boost archetype which uses it as the main finisher instead of the typical Dragons. Vissegerd is a well-designed card which should see some play in Northern Realms decks.
The design of this card reminds us of the Beta version of Vincent Meis. Roegner provides a strong finisher play for the new Shield NR archetype, but it also plays into tall removal and requires a lot of setup to become valuable. As we expect to see a lot of Shield-based builds in the expansion’s first days and weeks, this card could be reasonably popular.
This card is one of the better representations of what the Formation mechanic has to offer. Anséis damages an enemy unit by 4; however, when it is boosted, it gains the ability to Duel. Its Formation effect thus allows us to choose between the Duel option with the Formation boost on Ranged or fast damage utility with Zeal on Melee. In combination with a boost from Queen Meve and played on Melee, Anséis is essentially a Zealed Seltkirk of Gulet. We expect this card to be extremely popular in Meve builds.
When this card was revealed, most players thought it to be one of the most powerful in the expansion for Northern Realms; and they were right. The ability of Summoning and playing units allows for a multitude of combos, for example with Cintrian Royal Guard or Blue Stripes Scouts. Due to its high level of power, this card should soon become a favorite among Northern Realms players of all archetypes.
Dettlaff van der Eretein
With a point ceiling of 12, Dettlaff is possibly the most powerful leader of the Crimson Curse update when we look at pure numbers. Its ability can be used to align units or entirely remove them from the board, which also procs Dettlaff’s Deathblow effect and Spawns Vampires to fill our battlefield for Crimson Curse. As the leader had a better-than-average winrate and playrate, its damage was reduced by 50% with a compensation of +1 provision in a hotfix on April 4. Dettlaff’s Deathblow effect is still good, but due to this nerf, we expect its presence to become less relevant or meta-defining than before the hotfix.
Feast of Blood
This special card is a better version of Undying Thirst, adding the use of a Purify effect before applying the Bleeding if we control a Vampire. Despite its interesting design, its lack of a body makes it difficult to run in competitively viable decks.
The eponymous card of this expansion can generate great value when we sacrifice Deathwish units, such as Nekurat or Dettlaff: Higher Vampire, to proc the Blood Moon. It also rewards distributing our Vampires equally on both rows, as it then provides us with 4 points per turn multiplied by the number of turns Blood Moon lasts. This card looks like it is going to occupy a prevalent spot within the Vampire archetype.
This little Vampire is the key bronze piece of any Monsters Bleeding build. It is a better version of the neutral card Cutthroat, as its ability includes the Bonded keyword, which rewards keeping two copies of this card in hand. We expect to see this card substituting the Thrive core in some Monsters decks, which will add some variety to the game.
This card was designed as part of the core for the new Vampire archetype which focuses on getting value from Bleeding. The problem we have with Garkain is the anti-synergy between direct damage and Bleeding: The longer the bleeding effect is, the more damage we can do to the unit; however, if we kill it before the Bleeding timer has run out, we lose value. Due to this contradiction, we do not expect this card to be too popular in the meta. Still, it can sometimes be the high-tempo play we need, as Bleeding effects are usually very slow.
Despite being a Vampire, this card can be used as a cheaper version of Drowner in Thrive archetypes at the cost of losing the ability to move enemy units but also gaining 1 additional provision point. Bruxa’s Thrive effect is not guaranteed, so running it is riskier than going with the standards Drowner or Wyvern. However, it can make our deck more efficient if we are able to trigger its Deathblow during the first turns of the match. Bruxa is a good alternative for Thrive builds and we think experimenting with it is worth it.
This Vampire’s design suggest it was made for Deathwish archetypes: It is a cheaper activator for low-body Deathwish units, such as Archespore or Harpy Egg, which frees up provision space. Fleder will surely find its place in some builds.
Similar to Wild Hunt Hound in design, this 5-provision card has a ceiling of 7 points. It works well as a filler in Vampire decks running Crimson Curse.
This card reminds us of Scoia’tael’s Elven Swordmaster. Nekurat, however, is greedier, as it can generate 2 points per turn with its Drain ability. In addition to its rowlock, its initial power is low and it is, thus, easy to remove. Currently, there are more attractive cards to run in new Monsters builds than Nekurat.
This high-risk-high-reward card synergizes with the new Monsters leader Dettlaff van der Eretein. In the worst case, Gael is a 4-point card for 7 provisions; however, if we can pull off its Deathblow, it can be huge. With this card, we are playing into tall removal, but this is a problem inherent to Monsters in general, so we do not consider it a disadvantage. Due to its high risk, we do not expect this card to become especially popular, at least during the first days of the patch.
Queen of the Night
The double utility of this Vampire card supports Bleeding archetypes with its, albeit slow, Melee ability and offers the possibility of Purifying a unit if played on Ranged. Due to its versatility, we expect this card to become a staple in Vampire builds and maybe also in other archetypes.
Due to its high-power body, this card is likely to stay on our board, which makes it a good Vampire to use for Crimson Curse. If Katakan has been damaged, its Deathwish also allows it to be a good target for the obligatory Crimson Curse sacrifice. As this card is very efficient, we predict it to see a lot of play.
Orianna has one of the scariest arts in this expansion– and its effect is no less scary. This card is a powerful rowlocked engine when played on Ranged, which makes it a good first play of the round. If we have used enough Bleeding effects, Orianna also has good finisher potential. This card should become fairly popular within the expansion.
At first sight, this card seems weak. However, its Dominance tag can complement some giant lists and it is less vulnerable to tall removal than most giants. Its Drain point ceiling is decent and we can see it being played as a substitute for some giants in Thrive lists.
Dettlaff: Higher Vampire
Dettlaff is another key card of this expansion and its design reminds us of old Olgierd von Everec. After the hotfix of April 4, it only returns from the graveyard twice with a ceiling of 15 points for its 10 provisions. This renders the card not good enough for the risk we are running playing it. Still, this is a good card in combination with Consume effects or Crimson Curse, but it is definitely worse than before the hotfix.
At first, Anna’s design drew many negative comments. Since then, it has become clear that Anna is one of the most powerful leaders of Nilfgaard. It opens a lot of counterplay options for the faction while making your opponent change their playstyle, allowing you to remove some of their finishers. More than a strictly random Create, this leader's ability gains value over time, as hand quality tends to improve when the rounds goes on. An interesting leader, and we predict her leading many Nilfgaardian armies to battle.
This is exactly the type of card that the Tactics tag archetype needed, as it did not have cheap bronze Tactics to fill its deck so far and a lot of its provisions were taken up by gold Tactics. We expect to see this card in every Ardal aep Dahy list, which should give Ardal enough Tactics to make it an 8-point swing with its leader ability.
In the same way Dryad Fledgling is the basic card of the Harmony mechanic, Ducal Guard is the basic card for the Assimilate one. While this mechanic is less powerful than others, it is still interesting in combination with other tools that Spawn cards outside of the initial deck, such as Duchess's Informant or Rot Tosser. Assimilate can become a really powerful mechanic if well-implemented, and we expect this card to be played as one of the basic parts of Nilfgaard Assimilate decks.
This is another one of the those cards that have come to substitute our beloved Wolf Pack. It gives 4 points for 4 provisions and can even become a 6-point card, which shows its good ratio between points and provision cost. As we saw elsewhere, 4-provision cards have improved and they no longer give us the feeling of being only mulligan fodder. Now, they are mostly good cards to fill our decks with, just like Nekkers in the Monsters faction.
Fangs of the Empire
This card suggests the possible direction of a Nilfgaard base set rework, orienting the faction toward subterfuge and control. The lack of other Poison cards in Nilfgaard besides Rot Tosser makes us think that this card will not see much play right now, but it could fit in Assimilate decks as a control tool.
Worth 4 points, or 6 if its conditions is met, this card was designed to support the Tactics archetype which previously lacked properly themed cards. The downside of this card is that its bonus points are given as Bleeding rather than direct damage, which can be countered by Purifying. Despite that, we expect to see this card as part of the core of Tactics decks.
Following the pattern we have seen in other factions, this card functions in two archetypes at the same time: Assimilate and Spies. Its ability is the same as circa-Midwinter Slave Driver, but with the points adjusted to Homecoming Gwent. As the general level of bronze cards has improved, we can expect decent value from this card in addition to its Assimilate trigger. This card should become core to Assimilate builds and maybe it can also awake the enthusiasm of NG Spies fans.
As we know, faction cards are always better than their neutral counterparts. In this case, Imperial Diviner is the upgraded version of Pellar and it supports the Assimilate archetype. This card could become popular if a status metagame is played. However, even if this is not the case, the overlap between Nilfgaard's 5-provision cards is not too strong, so it should still make its way into some decks.
Roderick of Dun Tynne
A competitive option in many Nilfgaard decks due to its flexibility, Roderick also stands as a supporter of the Spies archetype. One may consider this card an upgraded Prince Villem, improving the deck’s consistency. We expect this card to become one of the Empire’s staples.
Palmerin de Launfal
Following the successful design of Serrit and Auckes, we welcome the Toussaint Knight pair Palmerin and Milton to the Empire. Palmerin has a damage effect with a Deathblow reward; however, this card becomes really good when we play it with Milton in hand, which makes its Deathblow part of the Deploy. While Shields are not excessively useful in Nilfgaard, we are sure this card can make its way into Nilfgaardian players' decks.
Milton de Peyrac-Peyran
And here is the second part of the Toussaint pair. Looking at pure point value, Milton is stronger than Palmerin: a possible 10 points of value with a soft Arachas Venom effect. Having Palmerin in hand will trigger its Deathblow immediately; however, Nilfgaard has a few 1-strength Spies at disposal, so it should never be too hard to proc Milton’s Deathblow.
Does anybody doubt that this card has the best art of the expansion? Its effect is great in Assimilate decks and it can easily get value in combos, such as Spawning an Emissary for a 1-to-1 provision/power ratio or Spawning a 1-point Master of Disguise, which then works similarly to Hym. This card will probably shine in a lot of Assimilate Nilfgaard decks.
This card features a double effect. Its Melee Deploy ability is useful for a Nilfgaard soft-targeting strategy in tournaments, while its Ranged ability can be used as a support for Assimilate. Alongside Duchess's Informant, Bribery, or Vigo's Muzzle, it can reach good value.
Vivienne de Tabris
Vivienne, who is the protagonist of one of the most emotional stories in the Witcher 3’s “Blood and Wine” expansion, encourages the use of high provision-low strength cards, to effectively boost its power. It can also be used as a Peter Saar Gwynleve to restore heavily boosted low-provision units. We think its effect is powerful enough to be worth a try.
Damien de la Tour
Damien’s ability is very powerful as it allows pushing Round 1 using our leader’s ability just to play Damien in Round 3 and play our leader once more. It also allows for a combo with Letho: Kingslayer to use our leader a third time. Its 5-power body makes it relatively difficult to stop without a Lock in hand. Damien looks really interesting and could determine the course of the faction.
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