By lordgort, August 29, 2019
With every new Gwent patch comes excitement, but also a bit of uncertainty. Team Aretuza brings you our Rapid Reaction to Patch 3.2 with insight from lordgort, Lothari, and JMJWilson23 to help navigate the many changes coming to the game.
Rapid Reaction: Patch 3.2
In one of CD Projekt Red's longest Gwent patch update videos ever (over 54 minutes!), there's a lot to absorb!
- iOS development continues.
- CDPR plans to have a Season 2 of Gwent Masters, though its form is currently unknown, with the first details to be released at the upcoming Challenger in a few weeks.
- The next expansion and its themes are getting built up.
I'm all for Gwent finding new markets to tap, and it's heartening to see that plans continue for both expansions and continued support of esports. I will, however, note that the first "season" of Gwent Masters has ended up a weirdly drawn-out affair, with 22 August marking the two-year anniversary of the Gwent Masters announcement and Challenger #1 predating even that. It's taken a long time to disburse that first million-dollar prize pool, which won't be paid out fully until after the World Masters event, and I can only hope that CDPR still sees value in putting on these high-level, high-stakes events.
Leaders, Skins, and Abilities
- In Jason Slama's words, Gwent plans to "completely decouple" leader abilities from leader avatars and their skins, letting players pair any leader and skin in a faction with any leader ability from that faction. This patch will lay the groundwork.
Lothari will cover this one in depth, so I'll keep this one brief and rather personal. To start, I absolutely see the business case here. Decoupling leader abilities from avatars and their skins will reduce strain on Gwent's development teams and increase revenue as players can use their vanities more often and justify spending money on them.
That said, I, like many gamers, am disabled; specifically, I have a processing disorder that makes certain information hard to understand. All through my time playing Gwent, I've leaned on visual cues, particularly card art but also leader models, to help me keep track of all the game information. Splitting leader avatars from leader abilities will leave me reliant on tracking and memorizing a set of 36 small symbols that are already giving me visual confusion. I'm sure that, in time, I'll be able to keep straight Francesca Findabair's "Mystic Echo" and Filavandrel aén Fidháil's "Invigorate," but I'm already running into a problem with two card-shape-based symbols in one faction. How much more complicated will things get with 36 leader abilities?
I want to reiterate that I see the business case. I understand the move, and I think it's a good one for maintaining Gwent as a mature, post-release game. I just don't want to get left behind.
Quality of Life
- Leader abilities appear on the mulligan/redraw screen.
- New in-game pathways to the Deck Builder help save players clicks and frustration.
- Invalid decks show the player why they are invalid.
- Casual matchmaking becomes available at Rank 7, funneling new players into an appropriate experience.
- Additional improvements to the new player experience.
In contrast to my quality-of-life concerns on the leader abilities, I'm happy with all these points. They seem like genuine improvements, and while it feels kind of weird to force new players into Ranked progression early on, ultimately it's for their good. I trust that CDPR will make it very obvious to players why they're going into Ranked ("You can't lose progress, so there's nothing to fear!") and why Casual kicks in where it does. Other than that, smiles all around.
- Players will choose their leaders before drafting cards
Finally! I had enough Arena games where a seemingly good draft was spoiled by a weak choice of leaders that I eventually gave up on Arena altogether. This gives me a reason to try again.
New Twitch Extension
- "Gwent Observer," an official extension for Twitch, will let viewers interact with cards through Twitch and even see what's left in a player's library.
Again, a tool to expand Gwent's reach, and one that'll be useful for my teammates. I can't wait to see the implementation!
Lothari: Leader Ability/Skin Split
Last month, CDPR promised us more than one patch that would have a big impact, and though there’s plenty to say about the balancing changes for Update 3.2, the biggest news is no doubt the decision by the developers to separate Leader skins and Leader abilities.
Last month, CDPR also changed 200 cards, and even that didn’t cause as much controversy. In fact, I don’t remember seeing this kind of uproar since Gwent lost its third row.
Jason Slama has already admitted that they knew this might be a bitter pill for some fans to swallow. It didn’t take long for people to start voicing their concerns that in each leader’s ability no longer being uniquely tied to its leader we are losing a lot of the game’s and those leader’s identities. They felt like real characters before, ones that each of us could get behind, while now they will simply be another avatar that doesn’t mean as much to the way Gwent is played. That feeling of identity and lore has always been one of the games major building blocks for its core fans, so it’s understandable that people are a little upset.
There are also some outstanding questions. CDPR sited wanting to see more of their fantastic leader models and skins in play as one of the reasons for the change, but what of the amazing card art work that’s being replaced? How immersion-breaking is it to see Bran Tuirseach use "Patricidal Fury" to Spawn Arnjolf the Patricide? Or to see Eredin Bréacc Glas Spawn Gernichora's Fruit? This might be something that some people can get used to, but for many it may also be quite jarring.
There are also some upsides to the change. Taking what Burza and Jason Slama said during the video at face value, it will dramatically shorten waiting times for new leader models and abilities, as they no longer depend on the other being ready to be released. It is a shame to see Unseen Elder's armour skin, which came out with Crimson Curse, underutilised because, let’s be honest, the leader ability has never been that great, and for people who love certain characters, being able to play them no matter which deck they’re playing or how the meta currently looks will be a great step in the right direction. Undeniably, this also opens up a new revenue stream. You only need to look at how much money Valve effectively crowdfunded for this year’s The International to realise how much money people can sink into cosmetics, and let’s be honest again, I don’t think any of us would complain if Gwent received that kind of cash injection.
On balance, I think this was a very sensible compromise. It could have been very easy for CDPR to throw the game’s identity and lore away completely and just let any ability be used in any faction for the sake of making money off cosmetics, but as it is, I think the focus has simply been shifted. Since Homecoming, Gwent has had a faction identity problem, almost chronic at times, and this actually goes some way to resolving that. The leaders themselves might not have abilities now, but each faction has a distinct set of unique moves that it can choose from, that help us realise how that faction can be played. As time goes on and The Witcher III fades into memory, that identity will become far more important to drawing people to the game than any individual character. Those characters can still be awesome, and people can still stay in the game and the universe to learn more about them, but no longer is it tied to whatever state the meta happens to be in. I think this move opens up a lot of very good and very necessary avenues, without losing quite as much as some people think.
JMJWilson23: Patch Notes Analysis
The balance changes in Patch 3.2 served as a continuation of the philosophy displayed in the large Patch 3.1. Most changes came in the form of buffs with only strategic nerfs to problematic elements of the metagame seen in the previous patch. The power level of weaker factions, and the game as a whole, continue to rise with the eventual goal of reaching a point of relative equality. Whether or not this patch is able to take another step closer to that goal remains to be seen, but it certainly makes an attempt. The complete patch notes can be found here.
In terms of nerfs, these were targeted primarily at the major players of the previous meta in King Foltest (Order: Boost an allied Northern Realms unit by 1 and give it Zeal. Charge: 3) and Sigismund Dijkstra (Order: Gain 1 Coin. Charge: 5. Gain 1 Coin whenever you play a Crime). These nerfs were targeted toward a few key cards more than nerfs we have seen to top meta decks in the past. Between the two, the nerfs to King Foltest appear to be much less detrimental. Reducing the boost provided by Foltest and increasing the provision cost of Princess Pavetta and Roche: Merciless netted the Blue Stripes Commando deck a loss of 4 points and 2 provisions. The Draug change (limiting the transformation of Humans to a single row) also caps the long round potential of the deck, especially against decks well equipped to deny Humans in the opposite row to Blue Stripes Commandos. Despite these changes, the prevailing opinion is that the Foltest Commandos is here to stay, albeit it at a lower power level.
Sigismund Dijkstra, however, likely does not share the same fate. The change to its leader ability removes the most powerful element of the card, which was backloading more Coins into Round 3 while offering flexibility in earlier rounds. Due to this, Syndicate decks will most likely look to shift to other leaders as they did in the the patch immediately following the faction's introduction. Perhaps the biggest change to Syndicate in this patch aside from Dijkstra is the rework of the Bounty mechanic. No longer can the player stack multiple Bounties at the same time only to pay them all off at once. As a result, it is likely that dedicated Bounty decks will cease to exist at high levels and instead will trim the Bounty package down to only the most efficient elements.
Moving to buffs, the biggest benefactors were Scoia’tael and Skellige. Both appear to be real winners of the patch, while Monsters received some much needed support for the Vampire archetype. These buffs were less numerous across the board so it is difficult to see how much they will help the deck, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Francesca Waters and, by extension, Francesca Dwarves archetypes became much more powerful first and foremost due to the provision buff to Francesca Findabair (from 13 to 15 provisions) which allows them to run an extra gold card potentially. These decks also received a powerful new tool in Call of the Forest (Play Scoia'tael unit from your deck and boost it by 2) which increases consistency without sacrificing power while also serving as a way to search for Sheldon Skaggs in games where the card is stuck in deck. One of the real weaknesses of these Francesca decks last patch was losing games 2-0 to missing key cards and Call of the Forest should help to alleviate this. The subtle, but important, buff to Water of Brokilon (Spawn 2 Dryad Fledglings on the row) is also a boon as the card is no longer tied to Fauve and no longer requires us to play a weak Dryad in Round 3 if we wish to replay it from Francesca’s leader ability.
Skellige, on the other hand, finds itself in a position to perhaps rebound from a one month period of having a low share of the metagame, the first for the faction since the release of Homecoming. While the faction had relatively little activity in terms of provision cost changes, some more subtle changes enable powerful combinations. The buffed Sigrdrifa's Rite (Summon a Skellige unit from your graveyard to an allied row) gains an obviously powerful target in Champion of Svalblod, making it a 12-point play for only 9 provisions when used on Champion or on Jutta an Dimun. The change to Tuirseach Veteran (Deploy: Damage self by 3. Berserk 2: Heal self) is also significant, as it can now play as a potential 11-point play for 5 provisions when the Berserk condition is met. Additionally, it offers an occasional back up target for Knut the Callous in a pinch, combining for 17 points for only 13 provisions. Factoring all these changes together, Svalblod appears to very much be an appealing option once again, particularly if Francesca is prevalent in the metagame.
PR: Callonetta; Website: SwanDive.
"Professional hobbyist" lordgort makes his money helping others enjoy their leisure, whether as an auction catalog writer, copy editor for a Magic: The Gathering strategy site, or game show contestant (lifetime winnings: $5000). A Magic columnist for seven years, in 2018 he turned to Gwent, swiftly reaching the Pro ranks. Off the clock, he relaxes by writing and editing Gwent articles and contributing to Aretuza Academy. A longtime game show fanatic, he appeared on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2018.
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