The ultimate hail mary

Hello entire Gwent Community, I’ve come to you today to talk about something that I think affects players across the skill spectrum, from rank 30 to 0: playing to your outs. It’s something everyone should be doing, but I often see someone making a play that’s too cautious when they need to play risky. So let’s discuss.

What do you mean by “playing to my outs?”

I’m glad you asked, as this seems like a good place to start. You want to win, so you should play in such a way to make that likely. Seems intuitive enough, right? But the “outs” part of it is what’s important. Oftentimes, there are multiple paths you can take for varying amounts of points, and some paths ultimately leave you victorious, and some don’t. So you’re “playing to your outs” if you’re following a path that keeps open the possibility of victory.

So why wouldn’t I already be doing this?

Ideally, you would, but people can often fail to realize what this looks like. If you’re reading this article, you likely already know the following card, but just in case:

Geralt: Igni, henceforth referred to as ‘Igni’, is a historically common card for people to play around, but it’s not always right to. The following examples should help demonstrate what I’m talking about.

Example 1: Another Brick in the Wall

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”

In this scenario, we’re playing in an imaginary meta where Hemmelfart often runs Igni. If they’ve got Igni and you play Milaen on the ranged row, he clears out your board. But if you play Milaen on the melee row, Igni won’t be able to burn anything. The trade-off is that you’ll have 2 fewer points.

So, should you play Milaen on the melee row or the ranged row?

If you’re playing to your out, you play Milaen in the ranged row. Why? Because in the case his last card IS Igni, you’ll still lose if you play around it. Your Milaen will be worth 6 points, and he’ll pass you by 1 with his 2-point Igni. However, if you play it ranged, you’ll tie something like Dip in the Pontar and potentially beat a card like Devil’s Puffball by 1. Playing to your outs is about playing in a way that means you can win, rather than avoiding a bigger loss.

Now let’s take an example that’s a bit more complex and a lot more common.

Example 2: Everyone Plays The Great Oak These Days

In this case, the round has played out long and bloody, and only a few units remain. The only cards in their deck that can overcome your lead are Igni and The Great Oak, henceforth referred to as ‘Oak’, both of which are common in Eithne decks. So the question is, where do you place your Oak?

If you’re playing to your out, the ONLY correct place to play Oak is all the way to the right side of your melee row, to deal 3 damage to the weakened Dwarven Mercenary. But quite often you’ll see a streamer try and avoid giving the opponent a potential 24-point Igni. They might place the Oak two spaces left, to leave it at 10 and damage a unit by 1 instead of 3. But let’s do the math: your opponent currently has 22 points on their board, with 1 lingering damage from the mercenary. You have 20 points on your board, with a 13-point finisher, which will give you a lead of 11 points, or 10 if you don’t kill the Dwarven Mercenary. Let’s say you play Oak as a 10, which prevents the enormous 24-point Igni. If your opponent has Igni, they can still play it for 12, which overcomes your lead by 2. So playing around Igni actually doesn’t change whether or not you lose to it. But importantly, if their last card is Oak, killing the mercenary stops the 1 damage charge it had AND reduces the strength of Oak by 1, which means their last play will be worth 10 points. In short, you’ll win by 1 point.

Your path to victory here necessitates them having drawn Oak and not Igni. To play to your out is to assume they have a card you can beat and playing to beat it. To try and avoid playing harder into Igni is not just a waste of effort; it closes a path to victory for you. As a note, it’s possible that they drew neither card. However, as those are the only cards that beat you, there are no other paths to be considered. Your only relevant choice is whether you play harder into Igni or you play less hard into it, but only one of those gives you an out.

Ta-da, a possible win.

As a final example case, I’d like the bring up an actual example I witnessed the other day. This example isn’t as obvious as the hypotheticals above, but should illustrate how you can come across these paths.

Example 3: Even Team Rankstar Can Make Mistakes

I was watching my teammate BabyJosus’ stream, and he was playing against a Calanthe Shupe deck at rank 0.

Clip from BabyJosus’ stream: https://clips.twitch.tv/ClearLongSoymilkUncleNox

In case you can’t watch the clip above, here’s a summary of the situation: he was playing Eithne, and he had tried to bleed Calanthe round 2. However, things didn’t work out so well, and he went into round 3 with 3 leader charges, while his opponent had his leader, as well as a resilient Shupe and Vandergrift. He entered round 3 down 13 points, and each player only had 4 cards after drawing. He drew into Igni, which is notably terrible in a short round, and decided to mulligan it for something less risky. His hand consisted of Ciaran and 3 fairly low-power cards, like Vrihedd Officer. His opponent opens with Cintrian Enchantress to give Vandergrift vitality. Upon seeing this, BabyJosus threw in the towel, as it was unfeasible to overcome the point gap.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this: he shouldn’t have mulliganed the Igni. It’s true that he would’ve had a very high chance of bricking Igni and likely would’ve lost anyways. But Igni could’ve been a way back into the game. Say his opponent boosted his Cintrian Enchantress to an 8 with Prince Stennis or something. Suddenly, you can use Ciaran to move Vandergrift and get a 23-point Igni using leader pings. That kind of insane blowout play was the only way to come back from such a huge disadvantage. By mulliganing the Igni, he confirmed the loss rather than taking a slim chance for a win. Even excellent players like BabyJosus err from time to time.

It’s important to note that this isn’t some kind of “hindsight is 20/20” discussion. This is the opposite. You want to set yourself up to be able to win, even if it doesn’t end up working out in the end. It’s better than guaranteeing your own loss. If you get accused of sniping, just remember that it means you did well.

Now, of course this rule doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play around anything. If there’s no cost to you, but one line of play wins against an otherwise blowout Igni, and nothing else can make up the point gap, you play around the Igni. However, as I believe most people already do this, I don’t think it’s important to delve into it.

In Conclusion

Always play toward the paths that win you the game. Who cares if they scorched you for 28 instead of 35, you were losing that anyways. Who cares that Peter Saar reset your ghoul and not your Ozzrel, ghoul was enough to beat you anyways. Don’t worry about how hard someone beat you, sometimes they have the game regardless. Sometimes though, you’ll get a win from taking the risks. Play to your outs, and remember that even if you lost the game, you might’ve still made the right decision.

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