Archetypes are typically made up of two parts. The first part are “enabler” cards, which by themselves aren’t doing anything special. Additionally, there are “payoff” cards, which scale with the number of enablers you have. An example of this in Scoiatael is the Elves archetype. Elves has all the elf units, particularly Neophyte, as enabler cards. Yaevinn and Isengrim then reward you for each elf you’re able to keep on the board.
Syndicate was released with a few archetypes. Bounty rewards you for killing your opponent’s units. Firesworn goes wide, and swarms the board. Intimidate rewards you for playing the faction’s special cards. Tribute gives you more ways to spend coins, and Hoard breaks the linear conversion between coins and points. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at these archetypes, and talk a little about what people are currently playing on pro ladder.
Enablers: Witch Hunter, Slander, Caleb Menge
Payoffs: Ewald Borsodi, Witch Hunter Executioner, Moreelse, Graden
Even after the nerf to Caleb Menge, Bounty remains a powerful Syndicate archetype. While it no longer has that burst turn where it throws 3 bounties around, using Caleb, Witch Hunter and Slander still play for incredible value on 4 provision cards. Even just marking a 4-power unit makes Witch Hunter play as an 8-for-4 if they can’t remove the status.
The burst potential out of these Bounty decks can be terrifying as well. While most setups can be interacted with on the board through removal, the Bounty deck can setup while not playing any units using Slander, or Witch Hunter. Regardless of how much removal you have, as long as those bounties stay on your units they’re basically dead already. This can be a nightmare for decks like Henselt. Not only are his engines dying, but they don’t have anything to spend their charges on before they’re taken out.
Fortunately, Bounty isn’t without weakness. Opponents might get greedy with their coins and leave a large unit on your side of the board while they’re at nearly maxed out coins. If you’re playing Consume units, you can kill the marked unit for them so they gain fewer coins than they otherwise would. This is especially important for Monsters, as you’ll often have some large base power units like Griffin. Even though consuming a Griffin while your opponent is at 6 coins gives them 3 more, that’s better than letting them play a Witch Hunter Executioner and giving them 8.
Nilfgaard has Slave Infantry to transform marked units, or Imperial Diviner to Purify the status off. Syndicate can play Adalbertus Kalkstein. Northern Realms has Coodcoodak or Draug, and of course, everyone can play Pellar if they really want to. This is the first archetype Gwent has seen where having Purifies is extremely valuable, often denying 5 or more value from the opponent, and keeping your units alive.
Additionally, aside from Morelse and Graden, this archetype can have difficulty dealing with units that are boosted. Since Bounty only rewards you based on the targeted unit’s base power, you have to spend more coins than you’ll get back to kill units with a boost. You definitely need to be careful with this though, because if you make your units too big, the tall removal effects will punish you.
All in all, Bounty is both incredibly efficient and difficult to interact with. Witch Hunter and Slander are probably the best 4 provision cards in the entire game, and the payoffs for the archetype disrupt the opponent’s plan. While the deck certainly can draw clunky hands, and can suffer against opponents not playing units themselves, or boosting their marked units out of removal range, the rewards are huge.
Enablers: Congregation, Sacred Flame, Eternal Fire Disciple, Grand Inquisitor Helveed, Cyrus Hemmelfart
Payoffs: Sacred Flame, Keeper of the Flame, Bone Talisman, Zoltan: Scoundrel, Eternal Fire Priest, Procession of Penance, Firesworn Scribe
Firesworn is the swarm mechanic for Syndicate. They go wide, and hope the opponent has the wrong type of removal (as in, not Lacerate). Overall, this archetype seems pretty confused in what it’s trying to do. You have Congregation, which asks you to not have coins, but you also have Firesworn Scribe or Keeper of the Flame, both of which either want or generate coins. One of the big benefits of going wide is to not play tall units, but you have Procession of Penance and Eternal Fire Priest as payoffs, which go tall.
This lack of cohesion generally leads to Firesworn being a splash package rather than a hard buildaround. Decks like Adzikov’s crime deck, which plays Helveed, Sacred Flame, and Congregation as a package to support an Intimidate core, tend to be more common than decks that are going all-in on Firesworn and playing stuff like Zoltan, Keeper of the Flame, or Bone Talisman as payoffs.
One of the more interesting uses for the Firesworn package involves using Igor the Hook with Firesworn Scribes. Since Scribe makes a coin every time you spawn a unit, and Igor spawns units, you can keep using Igor to make more Scribes. Eventually, you can fill your back row up with Firesworn Scribes, making every unit you spawn generate 8 coins. Leader charges generate 8 coins, and Helveed activations make a token and generate 6 coins. You can then use these coins to machine gun down units with Ewald, and boost stuff up with Coerced Blacksmith, or Sea Jackal. Definitely a lot of moving parts, but the combo is strong and, with Summoning Circle, not that difficult to assemble.
As far as the all-in swarm deck goes, the power ceiling on a long round is pretty high. If you let the deck go off and fill its rows, all of a sudden Sacred Flame turns their Helveed into a 2:3 coin converter, Congregations become worth 9 points each, and Bone Talismans start playing for 15+ value easily. Row punish like Lacerate can be devastating though, and if you’re all-in on the Swarm, getting bled in round 2 can be a nightmare. Row limit can also be a concern, as Helveed alone can easily fill an entire row.
Payoffs: Halfling Safecracker, Whoreson Senior, Cutup Lackey, Intimidate Units
Not much of this running around on ladder. I haven’t really seen it at all since Adzikov’s deck fell out of favor. While most archetypes function off of just their setups and payoffs, Intimidate is incredibly awkward because the crimes themselves are mostly setups for other things. Coins, by themselves, aren’t points yet, and none of the intimidate units really take advantage of these coins. Instead of assembling a 2 part combo, the Intimidate deck needs a 3 part combo: Intimidate units, Crimes, and something to spend the coins on. When you consider you probably want multiple intimidate units in play, and multiple crimes to play, everything starts to look really clunky.
The only version of this deck I’ve seen do well was Adzikov’s Swarm Crime hybrid. It played Portal, Novigradian Justice, and Whoreson Senior to quickly setup the intimidate units in one card. The deck was taking advantage of the at the time very overtuned Borsodi brothers and Whoreson’s Freakshow to be able to spend coins. The rest of the deck was filled with Crimes and Swarm cards. Congregation doubled as a card that worked with both packages, both being a crime and working well with Sacred Flame or Procession of Penance.
Aside from that, I suspect there might be a low unit deck around which is lighter on the intimidate units. Probably only playing Skewertooth and maybe Brawlers, you’d to win round 1 with Safecrackers, or Justice into double Brawler. In round 3, Play an immune Skewertooth and brick the opponent’s removal. Spend coins with Freakshow and Ewald, and maybe finish with Tinboy, or potentially a Gudrun combo with Summoning Circle. The intimidate units themselves feel like the worst part of the crime decks. You’re giving your opponent targets for their removal in your otherwise special heavy deck.
Enablers: Moreelse, Graden, Tinboy, Renegade Mage, Fence, Whoreson Senior, Adriano the Mink, Madame Luiza, Blindeye Apothecary
Payoffs: King of Beggars
Another archetype that sees a lot less play since the hotfix. Apothecary, the strongest bronze in the deck, got double nerfed. Not only did her tribute cost get increased, but the card she comboed best with, Whoreson’s Freakshow, got hit hard. That said, the other 4 provision cards here are both exceptional. Fence double dips on King of Beggar’s cost reduction. Since her tribute only spends 2 coins, she also gets buffed by an additional point as well. When at 9 coins, instead of spending 3 to get a 9, you spend 2 to get a 10, making Fence a pretty easy 8 for 4. Renegade Mage is also incredible, essentially being a conditionless Pirate Captain.
On the topic of 4 provision cards. While it isn’t really a Tribute card, Sea Jackal also works great with King of Beggar’s leader ability. If you’re at 7+ coins, you can use Sea Jackal to turn the 2 coins your leader gives you into 3 points each by cycling through Jackal and King activations.
While King of Beggars is the only thing that scales off of tribute effects, since he is a leader, you always have access to him as long as your opponent isn’t playing Usurper. This makes Tribute much more reliable than the other archetypes we’ve covered so far. Even the 3 part combos, like Graden, Bounty, and Tribute payoff, or Fence, 9 coins, Tribute payoff, only require 2 specific cards.
The biggest downside here is, after the Apothecary nerf, there isn’t really a big payoff for playing King of Beggars. While Renegade Mage is great, a 6 for 4 isn’t really anything to write home about in Syndicate. Fence being an 8 for 4 is a little more exciting, but hardly worth building your whole deck around. As far as the gold tributes are concerned, most of them you don’t plan on using the Tribute ability. You don’t pay for Gradens and Morelses all that often, so the cost reduction there isn’t that important. While King of Beggars gets to play some incredible 4 provision cards, 4 provision cards generally aren’t what you want to maximize value on. You only get to play 16 cards in a game. You’d rather play all your expensive golds than all your cheap bronzes.
Enablers: Sigi Reuven, Gudrun Bjornsdottir, Really anything that generates coins.
Payoffs: The Flying Redanian, Sewer Raiders, Sea Jackal, Fence, Tidecloak Ransackers, Hvitr and Aelydia
Hoard is a really cool mechanic. Most of the time you generate coins, you’re just generating points you plan to trade in later. Hoard breaks that linearity. The Flying Redanian comes out of your deck or graveyard when you hit 9 coins, without needing to spend anything. Sea Jackal allows you to trade in coins at an increased rate when you have 7 or more.
Unfortunately, aside from those two, the rest of the Hoard payoffs aren’t very exciting. Fence is only a 6 for 4 after paying Tribute outside of King of Beggars. Tidecloak Ransackers is cool, but there aren’t very many 2s running around to kill, and needing to have hoard 5 to enable your 6-for-4 is a little clunky. Sewer Raiders is a great thinning card, but Syndicate cards are so good the thinning isn’t that valuable. Generally better to just play more good cards so you have stronger tempo in round 1, then spend a turn playing a measly 6 points that thins for 1.
You can’t really talk about Gudrun and Hoard without also talking about Bincy. While not a Hoard unit herself, she can play for some pretty insane value in these decks. Bincy and leader, assuming you have a way to spend the coins in play, plays as a 22 point finisher. However, much like Harald Dagur, if you’re not scared of tall removal, you can do some pretty insane things playing Bincy earlier in the round. Sigi gives 9 coins and 9 points on your Bincy. Every time you cash in on a Bounty, Bincy gets a boost. Most of the cards in your deck generate coins when you play them, which translates to boosts on the Bincy. While the ceiling on an early Dagur was usually in the 20s, when Bincy doesn’t get answered, she will easily grow to 30 points in a round, often 40 or 50. If you were wondering why there’s so much more tall removal on ladder now than before the Novigrad expansion, Bincy is a big reason for that.
As far as weaknesses go, if you’re able to force out the Gudrun ability in round 2, the deck can be clunky in a short round. All in all though, it’s tough to beat. The deck has carryover in Flying Redanian, big burst plays from Sigi and Leader, and a good long round removal package from the Bounty cards.
Well, that’s pretty much it for Syndicate archetypes. There are some other packages, like the self-poison stuff cards, that I didn’t touch on mostly due to a lack of support. Overall, Syndicate has a lot going on, the archetypes feel a little more fleshed out here than they do in some of the other factions. I’ve been having a lot of fun tinkering around with the new faction – let me know in the comments below what your favorite archetype from Syndicate is.
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