By Team Aretuza, April 26, 2018
This Meta Snapshot, created by Team Aretuza and Team Nova, attempts to establish the best decks to play in Pro Ladder and Ranked Ladder, given the current state of the metagame, in order to maximize the chances of winning games and climbing.
Every deck is accompanied by a short text explaining a little bit about the archetype, showing the reasons for placing it in its tier alongside the pros and cons and two sample lists: one general and one alternative.
Meta Snapshot #1
This is an old meta snaphost - you can find the latest one on this address: https://teamaretuza.com/meta-snapshot/
Meta Snapshot #1
Tier 1: This archetype has favourable matchups against the majority of lower tier decks and some favourable matchups against other Tier 1 lists (for example, Alchemy vs Greatswords). Another criterion is that this deck should be able to win against lower-tier decks on blue coin most of the time.
Tier 2: Decks that can beat Tier 1 decks if the player can access its full potential, or strong decks with a clear counter (e.g. MO Consume is massive but can be countered with a simple tech), however this deck should win against lower tiers.
Tier 3: Viable decks, probably good for normal ladder and for some cheesy picks at tournaments. These decks can surprise the rival and win matches but without that surprise factor its potential is significantly reduced. A deck at this tier should lose against Tier 1 and Tier 2 decks most of the time.
Tier 1 decks
NG Alchemy is the most popular Nilfgaardian archetype since the Midwinter Update due to the nerf to spies. It has become one of the strongest decks in current meta, if not the strongest.
The deck is built around the synergy of Viper Witchers and Alchemy cards. Vicovaro Novices allow you thin your bronze Alchemy cards like Ointment and Mahakam Ale. Viper Witchers become 14- or 15-point bronzes providing removal value and making the deck very strong against engines.
Due to his ability to play a silver or bronze alchemy card, Vesemir is included in almost all NG Alchemy lists. Other gold cards such as Vilgefortz or Triss provide further deck thinning and strong value plays.
Assire comes into the deck with double utility. She can put Alchemy cards (or Roach) back into your own deck, deny your opponent’s resurrection targets, or shuffle bricked cards into your opponent’s deck.
- High-tempo bronzes.
- Strong removal with Viper Witchers and Mandrake.
- Strongest short R3 in the game.
- Lack of area-of-effect (AOE) removal, which makes it vulnerable to swarm lists.
- Vicovaro Novice shows two random alchemy bronzes and can sometimes offer two bricked Ointments in R1.
- The outcome of Slave Drivers has a high variance.
- Complex mulligan phase due to the great quantity of cards that are being run for tutoring and thinning.
- First list is the non-Cahir version, more stable in mirrors, but with a worse R3.
- Second list is a Cahir list, which uses the Cahir/Calveit combo as a finisher in Round 3, making it very vulnerable to being banished via Mandrake. It is also worse in the Alchemy mirror, however it improves the matchup against Scoia’tael.
You might be surprised to see Axemen this high up in the Meta Snapshot. However, the lack of weather clears in the current meta puts it in a good spot. With the combination of Pirate Captains, Corsairs, and Warships, this deck also offers high-value bronze plays.
Although the deck is built upon the synergy of damaging your opponent’s units and buffing your Axemen, they are not the deck’s only win condition.
A lot of matches can be won by weather ticking every turn, providing huge passive value. An Craite Whalers secure targets for weather effects while the Clan Dimun Warships provide removal and synergise with Axemen and Derran.
In a meta where clears are scarce, multiple hazards are the fear of every player.
- Strong long round.
- Has several win conditions with Axemen, Iris, and Hazard damage.
- Strong finishers.
- Is often able to force the opponent one card down.
- Draw dependant: without access to weather you struggle to keep up with the tempo of other decks.
- Bad matchup against lists with several weather clears, Greatswords, and Consume.
- The first list is a standard list, using Derran and carrying an additional Priestess of Freya.
- The second list swaps Derran for Iris to create an additional win condition. It was used by Damorquis (Team Aretuza) to reach his peak score of 1473 on Skellige. It performs better in a removal-heavy meta.
SK Greatswords is one of the strongest decks in the game, and the only engine deck that is Tier 1 in this meta. Thanks to the buff given to the An Craite Greatswords (from 7 to 8 points), they can now be pulled out by Crach an Craite, adding more consistency to the deck.
The Dimun Light Longships are one of the point generators of this deck, especially when used to damage An Craite Greatswords, which reset and strengthen by two every other turn.
The deck sets up its self-wound engines in Round 1 and Round 2, strengthening the An Craite Greatswords over several turns, providing big resurrection targets in the last round. The combination of resurrecting a big An Craite Greatsword followed by Restore is a powerful finisher.
- Strong in long rounds. Dimun Light Longships in combination with An Craite Greatswords generate an average value of 4 + 2 points every two turns (2 points per turn made by Longship and 2-point strengthening every two turns from Greatswords).
- An Craite Greatswords provide good value in a short round, with Priestess of Freya resurrections, and can sometimes surpass Ciri Nova and other finishers.
- Due to its strong short round, it’s one of the best lists for bleeding in Round 2.
- Very vulnerable to early removal and weak against control-oriented lists.
- As with most Skellige decks, it is very weak against graveyard hate, for example from Caretaker, Ozzrel, or Vicovaro Medics.
- Resurrections can be bricked in Round 1, making the deck incapable of pushing beyond a certain point.
- The first list is the standard version used by most players to achieve their Skellige score on Pro Ladder. Crach An Craite is used to pull a 10-point An Craite Greatsword, which is less vulnerable to removal.
- The second list is a variant with no spy, Djenge, and Harald. This is a greedier list, which is better in a control meta, and popular among Chinese players.
ST Coinflip Abuse Nova
Coinflip Abuse Nova is a variant of Mulligan ST which runs the Barclay Els into Cleaver combo for achieving an early tempo play (which can be a 26-point play with Brouver in Round 1) to create a massive point gap on red coin.
This deck is very strong on red coin, can deny drypasses by the use of Wardancer, and can generate tempo swings with Barclay Els into Cleaver; Aelirenn; and Vrihedd Officer in combination with a Vrihedd Vanguard.
With the ‘mulligan elves’ structure, it has one of the strongest long rounds in the game, making it almost impossible to bleed them because of the inclusion of Ciri: Nova and Éibhear Hattori as short R3 finishers, which was one of the weaknesses of the non-Nova version. The list is strong against Control decks as it swarms the board and runs no engines. Aglais is a powerful card in a meta where almost every deck runs high-value specials.
- Very strong long round.
- R3 finishers with Ciri: Nova and Aglais.
- Hard to mulligan, has a lot of bricked cards. Reduced blacklist value in a Nova list worsens this problem.
- Weak in medium-size rounds due to dependency on elf bodies.
- Has several weak cards in short rounds.
- The first list is the standard version by ProNeo3001.
- The second list is run by Damorquis (Team Aretuza) as a list that can be played in a less stabilised meta, using Isengrim: Outlaw and Mandrake as substitutes for Hattori and Geralt: Igni.
Tier 2 decks
MO Consume is one of the classic Gwent archetypes remaining from Closed Beta with some variations.
This archetype is a “high-risk high-reward” option, because you depend so strongly on one card, the Nekker. The gameplan resolves around copying Nekkers with Nekker Warriors and boosting them with every consume effect. If you can execute your strategy without disruption, this deck is able to generate an insane amount of points.
The addition of Phoenix and Brewess: Ritual in the Midwinter Update provided this archetype with some tools for shorter rounds, and added consistency to the archetype.
- This deck doesn’t rely on card advantage and can win two cards down.
- Insane amount of points if you can utilise Vran Warriors from the beginning of the match.
- Great tempo swings at the end of the match.
- Easy to tech against.
- Draw dependent, requiring access to at least one Nekker and one Nekker warrior in R1 hand.
- Low-tempo plays at the start of the match, which leads to winning R1 down by two or more cards.
- No card-advantage spy.
- Very vulnerable to Scorch, Mandrake and Artifact Compression or early removal of Nekkers.
- The first list is the standard version provided by Molegion (Team Aretuza), which carries Dandelion: Poet and Ge’els as third and fourth gold, Ozzrel as a graveyard hate tool, and Summoning Circle to protect against early Mandrakes on Nekkers.
- The second list is the Chinese variant, which is focused on aggressive early plays with Kayran and Roach, in an attempt to deal with the lack of early tempo.
MO Deathwish is an archetype which is very flexible and popular among Monsters players. The deck has been a popular choice in tournaments since it performs well on Blue Coin due to its ability to drypass.
The deck is one of the strongest in long rounds, generating passive points with Archespores and Fog.
The other power cards for this list are D’aos, which enable tempo plays when paired with Griffins (17 points) and Cyclops (19 points), but represent a low-tempo play by themselves. Since most Tier 1 decks have a favourable matchup against this archetype, we consider it as Tier 2.
- Great long round.
- High tempo plays when all the engines are set up.
- Low tempo plays such as D’aos (6 points).
- Reliant on being able to trigger the D’ao deathwish effect.
- First list is the non-Nova version used by Damorquis (Team Aretuza) at Gwent Open. It targets the mirror and Scoia’tael.
- Second list is the Nova version, which is presented by Octopuses (Team Aretuza), used by him for winning several Gwent Arena tournaments.
NR Henselt Machines
NR Henselt Machines is one of the most popular archetypes since Midwinter Update, being the other dominant list on red coin, next to Brouver. During the last Gwent Open, it was the most banned archetype, due to its status of “red coin autowin”.
Despite the fact that the core can be altered, most lists run Dun Banner Cavalry, whose effect is triggered when you are more than 20 points behind at the start of your turn (before weather ticks), allowing the deck to recover from great tempo swings and making Thaler effectively a 1-point spy if played to activate them.
King Henselt usually represents more than 25 points, giving him great potential as a finisher, however he can be bricked by control-oriented decks. For this reason, Villentretenmerth and Bloody Baron are used as the finishers for this deck.
- Very strong on red coin.
- Henselt is one of the strongest leaders since, in combination with Nenneke, he can pull up to five machines from the deck.
- Vulnerable to removal, making Henselt a bricked card or a low-tempo play if we can’t pull more than one machine.
- Hard mulligan, especially with Dun Banners.
- Dun Banners are harder to trigger on blue coin, making them a possible R3 brick.
- The first list is the standard variant, running Battering Rams and Reinforced Ballistas as the bronze machines, and Villentretenmerth as a finisher. This list is better against engine decks and is protected against high-value resurrections.
- The second list is a non-Dun Banner variation, carrying a third type of machine to make Henselt more flexible, but losing a significant part of its red-coin strength. Due to the inlcusion of Ballista, this list poses a greater threat to swarm decks like Scoia’tael Elves.
SK Boats is one of the most popular Skellige archetypes among high-MMR players. The decks relies on the potential of Dimun Light Longships to generate points and damage other units in order to make the Berserker Marauders huge tempo plays in a long round.
While it shines in a long round, it also has solid finishers with Restore and the combination of Sigrdrifa resurrection of Skjall who can then pull a Berserker Marauder. The deck benefits from the power of carryover. In general it aims to lose Round 1 generating card advantage with Wolfsbane and forcing the opponent into a long round and keeping the card advantage over the course of the match.
Mostly known as a tournament list rather than a ladder deck, some of the best scores in the last Pro Ladder season were made using this archetype.
- Very strong in long rounds.
- Utilises the power of carryover.
- Great early tempo R1 due to Wolfsbane.
- Vulnerable to movement effects.
- Vulnerable to removal.
- Depends on access to Dimun Light Longships.
- The first list runs double carryover, Morkvarg plus Olgierd, and several copies of An Craite Whaler rather than Blacksmiths to utilise Birna Bran’s Skellige Storm.
- The second list runs Geralt: Igni over Birna Bran, one An Craite Raider over Morkvarg, and fills the free silver spot with Harald Houndsnout. The deck runs an additional An Craite Blacksmith to strenghthen a unit for carryover or for misaligning Scorch targets.
Veterans is one of the more linear archetypes that you can find in Gwent. The deck revolves around the ability of the Tuirseach Veterans, who strengthen every other Tuirseach unit in your deck, hand and on the board by one which, in combination with Tuirseach Bearmasters and Hunters, gives us access to bronzes worth 14-15 points.
This strategy guarantees a strong round three, especially when Restore is played onto a Heymaey Spearmaiden or a Tuirseach Bearmaster. This archetype seems easy to play, but is difficult to master. The deck doesn’t care at all about removal effects and benefits from strong base strength units.
- High-value bronzes.
- Strong R3 with Restore, Priestesses of Freya, and Triss.
- Lack of early tempo.
- Resurrections often bricked in R1.
- Very vulnerable to Scorch.
- First list is a standard list provided by Shinmiri2 (Team Aretuza) who used it to climb to top 25 in ranked.
- Second list is a control-oriented variant provided by Ashlizzle, who used it to climb in two consecutive seasons to GM.
Shupe’s Day Off is a very unique card, which looked more like a meme when it was announced but has proved its consistency over time.
As one has to run only one copy of each card for Shupe’s effect to trigger, the best faction for using him nowadays is Scoia’tael. Most bronze cards represent 12 points of value on average, guaranteeing a solid power level and versatile tools without relying on synergies.
The silver spy, Yaevinn, shows one unit and one special card, so running Shupe’s Day Off as the only special in the deck guarantees access to him. Brouver as a leader also allows you to pull the spy, therefore the deck always will be able to play Shupe.
- Shupe is one of the best gold cards in terms of value, and provides great flexibility.
- You always draw your win condition.
- Shupe is your only win condition.
- Very linear bronze value.
- Weak long rounds.
- Due to its composition, there is no possibility of blacklisting in mulligan phases.
- The first list utilises Elves, using the coin abuse combo as an early tempo tool, while running standard bronze cards trying to take advantage of the Vrihedd Vanguard.
- The second list was created by two 4th Row members, Chezzy93 and Saber 97, and runs dwarves alongside some Round 3 finishers such as Éibhear Hattori.
Tier 3 decks
MO Moonlight is the first successful boon deck in Gwent. Combining positive weather (Boon) with negative weather (Hazard), this archetype is based on getting a lot of passive points every turn.
It is currently ranked as Tier 3 because it depends on long rounds, and is significantly worse on blue coin.
It has enormous potential in long rounds, while lacking power in short rounds, despite graveyard hate tools. Cards such as Bridge Troll allows you to not carry 3 copies of Impenetrable Fog for pulling out 3 Foglets, which helps to thin the deck.
- Strong passive point generation with the combination of Boons and Hazards.
- Lack of a real finisher.
- Problematic mulligan.
- The first list was piloted by DGThunderer to GM this season, is more classic, and relies more on passive points.
- The second list is a variant which tries to bamboozle your opponents and finish them with Miruna.
Nilfgaard Handbuff is a new archetype which is based on strengthening a unit and returning it to your hand via Emhyr var Emreis to create a target for your Spotters and Wyvern Scale Shields.
The necessity to set up your combo goes hand-in-hand with a very low-tempo start. After that, however, this deck consistently lands 20+ points per turn, making it one of the best decks in terms of power plays.
- High-tempo plays.
- Vulnerable to Scorch.
- Very predictable gameplan.
- The first list is the one used by Jamedi (Team Nova) in some matches of Gwent League with good results. It has more potential in Round 3 with the ointments, but also makes Magne Division riskier to play.
- The second list was provided by Team Aretuza and is more focussed on consistency.
Nilfgaard Soldiers is a really interesting archetype which was introduced after Midwinter Update but never really became popular.
Some Mill lists would run this as its bronze core, due to its ability to generate huge amount of points in long rounds; however, the nerf to Slave Infantry (where it now spawns a doomed copy instead of a base copy) hit it hard.
After some tweaks, Finnish deckbuilder Santtu2x achieved an impressive NG score in Pro Ladder, demonstrating that this archetype has great potential which really shines in long rounds.
- Provides very good value in long rounds.
- Easy to play.
- Struggles to deal with short- and mid-length rounds.
- Weak against control decks.
- The row limit has to be accounted for as in a long round you might run out of space
- The first list was used by Santtu2x to make his NG score in Pro Ladder.
- The second list is a more control-oriented version created by NocivoShomon and Nocryingok.
At the beginning of the Open beta, a version of NR Armor with Henselt was dominating the meta, but since then, even with the popular Radovid Africa deck, this archetype doesn’t get to overcome the other NR predominant archetype, NR Henselt Machines.
Using Tormented Mages as Thunderbolt potion tutors, you can thin your deck to 0. The latest buffs to Redanian Elites made this archetype a little bit stronger than before.
The deck profits from its consistency to pull your whole deck, however engines like Redanian Knight Elects are underwhelming and the Redanian Elites, despite being a good card in combination with Dun Banner Heavy Cavalry, remain low-tempo plays.
- Strong against weather decks or control decks.
- Redanian Knight Elect can generate a huge amount of points if not stopped.
- Lack of a real finisher.
- Low-tempo plays.
- The first list is a standard version without Ciri: Nova, which saves Shani into Prince Stennis, as well Sigismund Dijkstra, as finishers.
- The second list is a more control-oriented Ciri: Nova version
Princess Adda is one of the least-used leaders since she arrived in the Midwinter Update. This archetype carries huge potential in certain matchups.
The core of this deck are the Kaedweni Revenants, which are a very low tempo play at first but they can become useful in long rounds alongside the spells that the deck uses.
Because of the control-based nature of this archetype, it is pretty good against some predominant decks in the meta such as HenseIt, Greatswords, or Consume, and also provides an interesting tech option in tournaments.
Dun Banner Cavalry are staples, allowing you to take advantage of red coin situations. Many people don’t expect them in this deck, so it is even more likely that their effect will be triggered.
Your finishers in a short Round 3 are Villentretenmerth and Seltkirk.
- Strong long round if the Kaedweni Revenants stick.
- Dynamic control core which can makes Henselt and other engine based decks struggle.
- Kaedweni Revenants can be countered or removed easily.
- Very weak against high-tempo plays. Decks with high-value plays and no removal targets such as Brouver Coin Abuse or SK Veterans just beat you.
- Standard version of the list with a lot of control and tech cards.
- Ciri Nova variant, used by Lockin to reach GM last season.
SK Cerys Cursed
SK Cerys is one of the classic archetypes which have existed in Gwent since Season 1 of Open Beta. It has changed multiple times, but always maintains the core: Cerys, Morkvarg, and Olgierd.
After the most recent updates, the archetype relies on Tuirseach Bearmasters and Berserker Marauders to generate points, which are also the resurrection targets for the Priestess of Freya.
This deck profits from the power of carryover. Berserker Marauders carry it in the long round, whereas Cerys with resurrects can be a strong short round 3 finisher.
- A lot of carryover.
- Good long round and short round.
- Can lose on even or go 2 cards down and still get the card back.
- Can be forced to pass early in Round 1 due to resurrection cards being in hand.
- Vulnerable to graveyard hate since Tuirseach Bearmasters are the core of the deck.
- The first list is provided by Miketocome (Team Nova) which uses Bloodcurdling Roars to populate the graveyard and enable resurrections in Round 1.
- The second list is a more standard list created by Freddybabes.
Handbuff ST was an archetype that appeared first time after Gwent Open 1. Despite that, it has never been too popular due to its lack of early tempo.
With the changes in some golds and the general tempo nerf in February’s balance patch, Handbuff Scoia’tael became a viable deck that can counter lists relying on engines, such as SK Greatswords or NR Henselt Machines.
With a really strong Round 3, Handbuff ST has become one of the most interesting decks in the current meta and very fun to play.
- Strong R3.
- Tons of removal, effectively denying engines.
- Lack of tempo in most plays.
- Vulnerable to bleeding after losing Round 1
- The first list is a standard version, created by Trynet.
- The second list is the redesign that Shinmiri (Team Aretuza) used in Pro Ladder with a good win ratio.