Welcome to the fifth and last part of our Beginner’s Guide series! We hope you’ll enjoy reading through the rest of the guide!
8) ADVANCED GAMEPLAY ADVICE, RANKED PLAY AND PROGRESSION
Advanced gameplay advice
This section details out more advanced gameplay advice to help teach newcomers the finer aspects of Gwent. This kind of stuff can get complicated so buckle up! Topics include: mulligans, round progression, general player plans, etc.
The importance of mulligans / redraws
A mulligan in card games is basically a ‘do-over’. In other aspects of life it is referred to as a second chance to perform something, like say a second shot or a second action. In card games, it often refers to being able to redraw cards.
In Gwent, mulligans are extremely important. The ability to draw additional cards, as well as play different cards outside of your hand is limited. In addition, you must play a card every turn if you want to progress, otherwise you have to pass up the entire round while your opponent still has free reign to choose when they’re finished.
Each player may redraw twice a round, save the player who goes first in round one, who has the ability to mulligan three times in round one only. In cases where one would draw over their hand limit of ten in between rounds (since players draw three additional cards in both rounds two and three), those extra would-be draws are ignored and instead the player receives extra mulligans for each extra ‘over-draw’. For example if a player passes at eight cards in hand, next round the player will have ten cards in hand, but have three mulligans instead of two.
Max hand limit
There is a maximum hand limit of ten in Gwent. As mentioned before, if you were to draw over your hand limit in between rounds (not due to an in-game action though), you will instead receive an extra mulligan for each would-be ‘over-draw’. This is generally a rare occurrence but provides a reward for those who can get such an advantage.
The value of thinning your deck
Many successful decks have ‘thinner’ cards. These are cards that, when played, summon or use up other cards from your deck. Each faction has a variety of these cards, like Drummond Shieldmaiden for Skellige, and Impera Brigade for Nilfgaard. These bronze thinning cards often have a condition attached to them for the thinning to occur; in our previous examples, Drummond Shieldmaiden needs to be damaged, and Impera Brigade needs to be played in the melee row. Once the condition is met, the bronze thinning card pulls another copy of itself from your deck, but not if they are in your hand or graveyard. Therefore, mulligans can often be well-spent making sure you don’t have both copies in your hand!
If the condition is met, these cards ‘thin’ out your deck, as it essentially means you get rid of two cards at once without causing yourself a disadvantage (since they provide the strength of two cards with only one being played). By ‘thinning’ your deck, you have a better chance of drawing something useful in later rounds (or allows you to better make use of your mulligans).
As previously stated, each faction has the ability to thin cards from the deck if bronze thinning cards are played. Additionally, each faction has a gold unit card that can thin a faction-specific special card from the deck, which can often be quite powerful if played correctly; these are:
- Monsters: Whispess: Tribute which plays an Organic card from your deck
- Nilfgaard: Menno Coohern, which plays a Tactic card from your deck
- Northern Realms: John Natalis, which plays a Warfare card from your deck
- Scoia’tael: Fauve, which plays a Nature card from your deck
- Skellige: Ermion, which plays an Alchemy card from your deck
- Syndicate: Ferko the Sculptor, which plays a Crime card from your deck
Some factions may have additional cards that could provide thinning, such as Nilfgaard’s Artorius Vigo, which creates and plays a one strength copy of a bronze unit from your starting deck. If Artorius is played on the before-mentioned Impera Brigade, you can thin out both of the other Imperas from your deck, gaining two thinning plus the strength of the cards on the board! Finding thinning strategies such as this can give your deck a leg up on the competition!
Lastly, there are neutral special cards such as Royal Decree, Land of a Thousand Fables, and Marching Orders that can provide targeted thinning from your deck at a provision price. Using thinning effectively can often allow you to execute your deck’s game plan more often than not, so always try to fit some thinning into your deck if you can.
General round progression, card advantage, and why losing rounds on purpose can be a good thing
In general, games of Gwent usually go all three rounds. This is not always the case, as players may try to go for a win in the first two rounds, but this is usually rare.
The reason why games often go to three rounds is due to card advantage as well as score potential. Card advantage usually refers to having more cards to play than the opponents, but may also refer to getting such particularly good value out of your own cards that it is worth multiple cards played by the opponent. Card advantage is a huge deal in Gwent and often decides victory. We will talk more about this in a bit.
First, let’s start with the general progression of rounds. Rounds continue until both players pass, which happens either when they decide to do it manually, or when they run out of cards and are forced to pass. When you pass, you can no longer do anything, but your opponent still has free reign to play as many cards as they would like until they pass. This is important in cases where you want to concede a round, or when you have a large point lead and want to conserve card advantage as you hope your opponent has to play more than the amount of cards you played to exceed your score.
A big thing to note is that the winner of the previous round must start the next round first. Going first is generally a disadvantage in Gwent due to the reactionary nature of the game (unlike other games where it can be good to go first), which is why the player who goes first in round one gets the stratagem card Tactical Advantage, plus the extra mulligan we spoke about before to help make the game more balanced.
In general, round one is very important and both players typically want to win round one. There’s a few reasons for this:
- Both players have the most available cards to them, and thus a higher chance of playing out desired combos and effects that work best for them. After all, it is easier to work with ten cards compared to three cards.
- The round one winner can lose round two on purpose, and get ‘last say’ in round three (more info on this below).
- The round one winner has the advantage in determining the duration of later rounds. This can lead to strategies such as ‘bleeding’ out an opponent in round two by forcing them to play cards they’d rather save for round three (more info on this below).
But of course, if everyone wants to win, why would anyone want to lose any round on purpose? And what on earth is the deal with ‘last say’ and other advantages?
Let’s break this down and say player one wins round one in a match of Gwent. In round two, player two must win the round, or else player one wins the entire match. However, in round one, player one spent more cards than their opponent, meaning they are currently at a card disadvantage.This means if player one tries to be greedy to go for two round wins in a row, they are at a disadvantage and could end up spending all their good cards for nothing. Alternatively, player two may have decided to cut their losses early in round one, and so it could be risky for player one to try to beat whatever they might have now, especially if player one used up some good card combos earlier.
Instead of using all of their cards in a disadvantaged fight, player one decides to play only a couple of cards to bait out some opponent cards, then passes. Player two then wins round two.
Alternatively, player one can pass without spending any cards, also known as a ‘dry pass’. By dry passing in round two, player one spends no cards, but player two must spend at least one card to win round two (or else lose the entire match). This can even up the odds by putting both players back at the same number of cards. If the dry pass occurs at eight or more cards remaining in hand, player one will receive those extra mulligans we spoke about earlier for ‘over-draws’ next round.
Remember, the player that won a round must go first in the next round. Since player one purposely lost round two, they now have ‘last say’ in round three, meaning player two must go first and player one gets to play his/her last card after player two does.
Remember that certain cards can influence the number of cards remaining in hand, so sometimes cards like Ciri and Ciri: Dash can allow a player to maintain card advantage even though they have played more cards than their opponent.
The winner of round one often has the advantage in determining the duration of round two and three. This is because they have the option of forcing the enemy to play cards in round two, which could then influence the round three result. Back to our example, player one can dry pass to even the odds. However, player one can also choose to bleed the opponent, which basically means to force the opponent to play valuable cards he/she would rather save for round three. This is great in cases where you are using a deck that favours a short round three – an example of this would be a consume archetype deck, which uses high strength units to finish the game with a high score lead. Due to this style, the deck revolves around instant value – rather than worrying about setting up controlling interactions and engines, it is more concerned with just finishing with a high score lead. The more chances an opponent has to eliminate these high strength units, the harder it is to win. So, if the player forces the opponent to use up valuable combo / removal cards earlier, the opponent will have fewer cards to work with in round three (technically so does the consume player, but this is less of a problem for him/her) and thus has a harder time of winning now. Alternatively, if player one would prefer to have a long round three, they can decide when to end round two earlier instead of being at the mercy of the opponent.
Regardless of a player’s strategy, whoever wins round one has the advantage in influencing how rounds two and three will play out. In general, being able to recognize the opponent’s strategy will help inform what you want to do in each round, but this of course takes a lot of experience and ‘meta knowledge’.
So to recap, in general:
- Ideal pathway: Win round one, lose round two but don’t end up at a card disadvantage, win round three with the perk of going second instead of first, while also getting ‘last say’.
- If you win round one, you have the option of dry passing. By dry passing, you lose round two but spend no cards while the opponent must play a card to continue the match, putting both players back at the same number of cards, while setting you up with ‘last say’ in round three.
- If you know you are going to lose round one early (say, you spot an unbeatable engine coming up), try to pass at seven cards or less remaining in hand.
Otherwise, if it’s deeper into round one, try to bait out their combo pieces without over committing, and then pass, especially if you can nullify card advantage by forcing them to play one more card than you did before passing.
- If you don’t win round one by forcing your opponent to spend an extra card, you will end up starting round two at the same number of cards. Here your opponent has to choose between pushing you further (without having the risk of losing a card, since he won round one on even cards) or dry passing for card advantage, both choices giving him last say in round three. Keep in mind that if he is dry passing round two after he won on even, you will have to start round three with one card down, which means your opponent will actually have double last say.
You can only Pass if no actions are taken. Don’t forget about leader abilities, but don’t misuse them either!
Passing is an important action in Gwent, but it can only be done if no actions are done on your turn. This means using a leader abilities or a card’s Order ability (including Tactical Advantage) will forfeit your ability to pass, and instead force you to play a card that turn.
Leader abilities are often a huge factor in victories; one mistake that newer players often make is to completely forget about them. Leader abilities are basically free cards to play, so not using them can often be detrimental. Many leader abilities are one-time use, while other abilities are repeatable, whether by limited charges, having a cooldown or by refreshing on every round start. Sometimes that tiny bit of damage, that boost of power, or that card manipulation effect can be all it takes to secure victory by a few points!
That all said, leader abilities can be misused by accident. As mentioned, using a leader abilities will forfeit your ability to pass, so beware of that! If you’re going to use an order or a leader abilities, make sure you’re okay with spending a card that turn too!
Always pay attention to card text
Whether in constructed or arena, always be careful with what a card says. Some cards don’t discriminate allied targets, so cards like Epidemic (destroy the lowest unit(s)) and Scorch (destroy the highest unit(s)) can actually destroy your own units. Some cards can only be played in certain rows to have their effects work, and others have different abilities that trigger based on which row they are thrown in (Melee or Ranged). Don’t rush – you have time each turn to check your cards.
You can discard a card into your graveyard instead of playing it
While this is rare to use, it can come in handy in certain situations. Instead of playing a card, you can actually throw it directly into the graveyard by clicking on the graveyard instead of the board. You usually won’t get any effects compared to playing it normally, but this can be useful to continue turns without playing a card that could create problems for you (ex. giving opponents a target, harmful effects, etc.).
Ranked play and progression
CDPR conveniently laid out their explanation for how progression works on their website.
Profile Progression: Leveling rewards and Prestige
You level up your profile by simply playing the game against human opponents (practice against AI does not count). After each match you will see your progress increase. Every level up grants a Reward Point.
In addition, reaching certain milestones in levels grants permanent benefits in the form of increased rewards from doing what you already do. As seen on their website, the ‘maximum’ level a Profile can reach is 60. After going above 60, you will become level 1 Prestige 1, and can repeat the process over and over until reaching prestige 10.
Prestige permanently grants perks that lead to gaining bonus reward or makes it easier to gain resources. For example, at Prestige 2 you may reroll Daily Quests twice instead of once a day. Prestige 4 grants Reward Points in daily rewards, and Prestige 10 players are guaranteed at least one Premium choice in the card choice part of opened Kegs.
Note that the experience curve resets when you Prestige. So going from level 1 to 2 is just the same as going from “61” to “62”.
Ranked Progression: Rank 30 to 1, Faction MMR, and Pro Rank
Players start at Rank 30 and must progress up the ‘ladder’ to Rank 1. To progress in ranks, you must win a series of matches. Every rank is composed of five mosaic pieces. Each victory grants you a piece of the mosaic, whereas losing will cause you to lose a piece.
Winning three or more matches in a row grants you an additional piece, so you will progress up the ranks faster if you stay on a winning streak… until you reach Rank 7, where winning streak bonuses disappear.
After five pieces are gathered, an avatar picture is formed (which unlocks for you to use if you do not have it!), and then the next rank begins. Repeat to continue climbing up the ranks.
In addition, there is something called Faction Matchmaking Rating, or fMMR. After reaching level 25, your Faction MMR is now available, and all matches start affecting your faction’s Ranked score. Faction MMR is basically a measure of how well you do with particular factions. It is then factored into matchmaking. Each of the playable factions will have a number (the MMR) attached to them, which then affects matchmaking when you play Ranked games.
Having a high MMR for particular factions means a higher likelihood of facing off against similarly highly rated players. The opposite is true if you are playing on your weaker Factions, as the MMR would be lower and thus similarly matched opponents will also have lower MMR.
Pro Rank is what happens once you reach Rank 1 and want to keep going. CDPR has a website page explaining the details.
Basically Pro Rank puts an even greater importance on performing well with all factions, as each Faction requires a minimum of 25 games each to fully ‘unlock’ the contributions of their Faction MMR to the player’s overall MMR score.
The top 200 ranked players are then given ‘‘Crown Points’’ on a monthly basis, which are used in qualifying for various official tournaments.
This marks the end of the beginner’s guide! Thank you for your time and we hope you enjoyed it!
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