By Lothari, March 28, 2019
Talk of Gwent’s first expansion has been circulating the community since before release, and after months of speculation, Crimson Curse has finally arrived! Over the coming weeks, experts and new players alike will discover and analyse all there is to know about what the expansion contains and what it means for the future of Gwent, but for now let us provide you with an overview, as we look at what’s new in Crimson Curse.
What's New in Crimson Curse?
101 New Cards
101 might not seem like a lot, especially with the wording of CD Projekt Red’s marketing of the expansion before its release, but as the saying goes, it’s not the number of cards in an expansion that’s important, but how they’re used. We don’t want to go card by card through Crimson Curse in this article - it’s important for players to explore expansions for themselves before the reviews of what’s competitive and exciting come in - but we will take a look at the general themes of the additions with a couple of early observations taken from the new card-pool.
First and foremost, Dettlaff van der Eretein’s long-awaited swarm of vampires of course join the fight, introducing to Gwent some of the bloodthirsty beasts first seen in The Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine expansion in 2016. Garkain, Fleder and Bruxa are just some of the nightmares that will have to be faced with the dawning of this new age for the continent.
Cintra makes its first appearance in Gwent. Led by the Lioness of Cintra, Queen Calanthe, the Cintrians look to protect the North with steel and spell - Cintrian Knight, Cintrian Artificer and Cintrian Spellweaver are among those who have sworn duty to the cause, shielding their allies from old threats and new.
The patron of war, cruelty and sacrifice arises again. Crazed warriors of the Svalblod Cult, like Svalblod Fanatic and Svalblod Ravager, seek blood and find it in ample supply, while the dedicated wielders of magic, Svalblod Priests and Corrupted Flaminicas, weave strange and ancient magic on ally and enemy alike.
In another throw-back to Blood and Wine, Duchess Anna Henrietta brings with her the banner of Toussaint for the Nilfgaardian Empire. Knights and agents of the vassal duchy such as Palmerin de Launfal and the Imperial Diviners look to take foreign lands for themselves, finding ever new ways to use their enemies’ weaknesses against them.
And finally Dana Méadbh, the Eternal One, steps forth to face all threats that might sew disharmony in nature, calling on the aid of dryads like Forest Whisperers and Dryad Matrons, as well as their Treant allies, to protect Brokilon from all outside influence. Together with the rest of the Scoia’tael, they hope that in harmony, they will also find peace.
Though these 101 new cards add a number of new ways to play Gwent, there are some noticeable patterns:
1. Faction-locked 4-provision cost units: The developers have worked on the addition of more faction-locked 4-provision cost units that greatly improve upon the ones already existing in game, particularly in the Neutral category. This power creep has generally been touted as a good thing, as these cards still make for good mulligan targets, but also pack enough value to be played without regret should they remain in hand.
2. Low-cost specials: In the same vein, the expansion sees the addition of a number of low-cost special cards that might be played without the use of a tutor, as their abilities provide good enough value and don’t require a unit to be played on board at the same time. This might mean that special cards see significantly more play going forward, having seen a significant drop in popularity since Homecoming and Gwent’s release.
3. Mechanical Packages: Lastly, it has been regarded that Crimson Curse’s design space has been used not to bolster already existing mechanics and archetypes, but to add new, smaller mechanical packages. It remains to be seen for certain, but this seems to lean away from single-archetype decks that focus on one mechanic or synergy, and towards decks that are put together in a modular fashion; these decks look different from one another depending on which packages the individual deck builder uses and in which way. This should create an interesting puzzle for deck builders and meta analysts alike, as they strive to work out what works best in the weeks to come.
12 New Keywords
And with these new mechanics of course come new keywords; 12 in this expansion to better define already existing mechanics as well as new ones. Let’s take a quick look at what these new keywords are and how they might be used in new and existing decks:
- Assimilate: Boost an Assimilating unit by 1 when you play a card that isn’t from your starting deck - this is a Nilfgaard-locked keyword that encourages Spawning, playing cards from your opponent’s deck and, no doubt controversially, the Create mechanic.
- Berserk: Proc an effect when a unit reaches half or less than half of its base power - this is a Skellige-locked keyword that gives bonuses for building around the self-damaging package.
- Bleeding: A status that damages a unit by 1 at the end of the turn - A slow, long-round mechanic that synergises well with Deathblow and looks to keep your opponent’s points at a controllable level while you set up hard-hitting finishers.
A unit with Bleeding.
- Bonded: Exclusive to the cards Plumard and Cintrian Enchantress, Bonded gives these cards extra value if a copy of them already exists on your side of the board when they are played. This encourages keeping two copies on the mulligan and playing both in the same round.
- Deathblow: A new keyword for an existing mechanic, Deathblow abilities trigger when a unit is destroyed by a damage effect. The keyword encourages targeting low-strength or badly damaged units over fresh threats to get extra value out of your own cards.
- Dominance: Another pre-existing mechanic, Dominance procs when you control the highest-power unit on the board. It is a Monsters-specific keyword and it is important to note that units with Dominance take themselves into account when played.
- Formation: Exclusive to Northern Realms, Formation gives a fantastic tactical choice to the controlling player. Played on Melee, Formation units will gain Zeal, while played on Ranged they are boosted by 1, meaning players must pick between immediacy or survivability.
- Harmony: Scoia’tael’s exclusive keyword, Harmony boosts a unit by one every time you play a unit with a ‘new’ primary Scoia’tael category attached. It’s likely to encourage a range of different ST decks, using a wider variety of their cards to make best use of this new mechanic.
- Poison: Another new status, Poison has no effect the first time it is given to a unit, but will immediately destroy it the second time it is given. This is a form of threatening removal that might deal with early engines so as not to ‘waste’ more immediate choices.
- Purify: A greatly-expanded mechanic that allows you to remove other statuses from a unit. With the introduction of Bleeding and Vitality, this is already a strong counter-play, but that it can also remove a Lock or even Doomed status makes the options considerably more interesting.
- Shield: Familiar to players of Gwent pre-Midwinter, the Shield status blocks the next instance of damage a unit would receive. This provides players with a great new way to protect important engines or combo pieces for at least one turn longer.
- Vitality: Vitality boosts a unit by 1 at the end of a turn and cancels out Bleeding by the number of turns each status lasts for (2 Bleeding + 1 Vitality = 1 Bleeding). Working well with boosting strategies, Vitality could provide an additional way to protect important engines.
A unit with Vitality.
Full definitions for all of these keywords have been be added to the Aretuza Academy Glossary so that you can access them whenever you need.
4 New Card Categories
When building decks, there are now 4 new categories for you to take advantage of. Be sure to keep an eye out for Bomb, Cultist, Nature and Treant cards when thinking about mechanics and synergies.
It’s safe to say that Crimson Curse adds a number of different ways to play Gwent. While this in itself is enough to bring players to the game, old and new, the expansion is already widely seen as a great step in the right direction for a game that has struggled to find its feet over the last year.
We are likely to see a lot of creative deck building and unsuspected interactions between cards while we wait for the competitive meta to settle again. While it might be too early to tell now what from the new expansion, if anything, will knock the current top decks from their slots, we are sure to have a lot of fun finding out, and having fun is what the Crimson Curse is all about. And blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Lothari is a long-time fan of CCGs, building up a wealth of experience in Hearthstone, MTG, TESL, Artifact and of course Gwent, which she has been playing since the end of Closed Beta. She always aspires to improve and learn more about what has come to be one of her favourite pass-times. She has also found a passion in creating content for Gwent, and will continue to do so with a passionate and analytical outlook for Team Aretuza. Lothari has a BA in Computing and German and spent four years working as a game developer.