7 Underhanded Tactics for Mastering Gwent (as Northern Kingdoms)

The Witcher 3, for those unaware, shipped with a mighty fun card minigame called Gwent. For evidence of Gwent’s popularity, just look at this mod that imports Gwent cards to the game Tabletop Simulator – people can’t get enough of this damn game, and for a very good reason. Gwent requires all the right elements of strategy, skill, luck, and quality of deck to get nearly anybody hooked.

In quick summary, Gwent is a collectible card game where you face off against another player’s deck for up to three rounds. You have five kinds of playable cards: Infantry, Ranged, Siege, Hero, and ‘special’. The first three are named to correspond with their place on the battlefield. Hero cards are usually untouchable by the special cards and their status effects, while some Hero cards also grant additional benefits. Special cards are usually weather cards, which effect the power of all cards stationed on a given terrain. The special card that will cause you to potentially destroy your console/PC with white hot indignation is the Scorch card – which has the fun effect of instantly destroying one a card of whoever it’s played against (for the duration of the round).

In order to get new cards, you have to beat NPCs or buy them from stores. This guide is designed to give you some sneaky tactics that should com in handy against nearly every foe in the game – provided you play with the fist deck of the game, The Northern Kingdoms.

The game becomes very difficult throughout Witcher 3 – culminating in a grand tourney for Gwent players that you need to be ready for lest you want to have your ass handed to you by a mouthy Elf or Novigradian noble. You need to get to work early on in the game building up your deck if you don’t want a frustrating experience later on. But even if you don’t start playing Gwent until later on in the game, most of these strategies will still pay off.

There are a number of, shall I say, underhanded tactics that can really help you mop the floor with anybody’s Gwent deck. Some of these strategies won’t pay off in specific scenarios: for example, using the ‘Siegemaster Foltest’ leader card, won’t work against Emerys of Nilfgaard’s ‘The White Flame’ leader card. In those cases, I’ve tried to provide a plan B. So enjoy, and good luck on winning every Gwent card in the game!

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1. Win the Siegemaster Foltest card in the palace of Vizima 

This one is somewhat important, though not essential per se, to having an amazing Northern Kingdoms deck. You can win it very early in the game, before ever having a chance at scoring the ‘Commander’s Horn’ card. Both ‘Siegemaster Foltest’ and the ‘Commander’s Horn’ cards accomplish the same basic benefit of doubling the attack power of all your siege cards – but unlike Commander’s Horn, since Siegemaster Foltest is a leader card, it can’t be taken off the field for the turn’s duration. Using this alongside a deck full of siege cards – especially in conjunction with two or three of the ‘Kaedweni Siege Expert’ cards – can boost your trebuchets and ballistas to huge attack power numbers. If you plan to use this strategy, make sure you bring a ‘Clear Weather’ card as a Plan B. And if you’re going against the Nilfgaardian leader card that nullifies all leader card special abilities, you can buy a ‘Commander’s Horn’ card early on from the Innkeep at the Inn at the Crossroads in Velen.

2. Determine your opponent’s main line of attack, and plan for accordingly

This is one of the cheaper tactics, but I find it works on every opponent I struggle to beat the first time around. First, you play a ‘burner’ game with the NPC – in other words, you aren’t trying to win yet. You’re just trying to provoke your enemy with enough cards to see which type of cards he or she favors. Oftentimes, this can be guessed at beforehand based on the Faction the NPC uses. Those who use the Monster faction almost always play with entirely close range cards – so bring along a bunch of ‘Biting Frost’ cards. Those who use the Northern Kingdoms often rely upon the siege cards, and the Nilfgaardian faction uses (from what I can tell) a combo of all three types. But even in their case, playing a test round to see what kind of cards the NPC has can give you the strategic edge to beat them senseless when the real card game starts up.

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3. Use spies, but only at key points

There are a number of different ways you can use Spy cards to gain the upper hand – but, when used incorrectly, the Spy cards can also guarantee certain losses. Here are the best times to use Spy cards, which give the opponent a small boost in power at the expense of granting you two new cards:

a) If you’ve already lost the round. If your opponent is beating your score by 30 points and then skips the rest of the round, don’t waste a ton of cards trying to match his score. Instead, use this opportunity when his hands are tied and you face imminent defeat to plan for the next round. Put down all the spy cards you can at this point, and rack up some new cards. If your deck has been set up well, you’ll likely get a card that has the potential of turning the tide.

b) If the ‘Biting Frost’ card is already active. This reduces the amount of hit power your spy gives your opponent to 1, so at that point there’s little risk in using Spies to build up your deck mid-game.

c) As a last-ditch strategy. This is the riskiest of the three scenarios, since you might be giving your opponent the edge he or she needs to beat you. But if you have no other option, or you face a particularly difficult opponent, hold out on using the Spy cards until the very end. Who knows what cards they will shuffle into your hand?

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4. Set up a strategic deck 

In every round of Gwent, your hand is randomly pulled from whatever cards are in your deck. You need at least 22 cards with hit power to play with the deck in question – but as you build up a deck past the minimum number, don’t be shy about jettisoning cards that give little or no strategic worth. In the Northern Kingdoms deck, you start out with a number of cards that only give 1 attack power and no bonuses. Get rid of these, ASAP! They don’t do much except occupy space that could have gone to a better card, so get rid of them. And if you know your enemy is vulnerable against certain types (see tip 2), stack your deck accordingly.

5. Use Yennifer and the Medic card together as much as possible (but only in round 2 or 3)

The Yennifer card, which is obtained from the Oxfurtian innkeep Stjepan, is extremely useful because it allows you to pick any of your discarded cards and instantly play them. One of the most devastating moves you can pull is to use Yen’s card to bring back the Medic – which doesn’t work the other way around, since Yen’s card is a Hero class card. When done the right way, Yen’s 7 attack power is added to the medic’s 5 – and then you can use the Medic’s ability, right away, to play another card from the discard pile. I’ve used this trick more times than I can count to go from a very low attack power to a huge number, especially by resurrecting Siege cards. Don’t underestimate this technique.

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6. Don’t neglect the ‘Morale Boost’, Decoy, and ‘Tight Bond’ cards

Cards with the Morale Boost ability – like the ‘Kaedweni Siege Expert’ cards – can net you a lot of attack points when stacked together. Though on their own they only provide 1 point, stack three Siege Expert cards together and you have 9 points just on their own. Start dropping some of those 6 and 5 attack point siege weapons, and you’ll find that every card you play is granted an additional 3 points from those Siege Expert cards. You can use this technique to stack your siege deck and build up huge attack power points – just make sure you have a ‘clear weather’ card on standby. Because your opponent can always use ‘Torrid Rain’, which cripples the siege row entirely.

Decoy is an extremely cheap card you should only use if you know you’re going to forfeit a round. It’s great to use in conjunction with Spy cards, at any point where you’ve decided to cut your losses and plan for the final round – because it withdraws any card on the field back into your hand.

As for the ‘tight bond’ cards, the best vanilla deck cards of this sort to play are the set of ‘Blue Stripes commando’ cards you get from the game’s beginning. Together, these rack up 16 points – which, particularly early on, can be devastating for your opponent. Just note that your opponent can and likely will play a Scorch card if he or she has one, which will negate the ‘tight bond’ advantage by destroying both cards in one fell swoop.

7. Throw the first battle to win the war

This is a trickier tactic that requires a few things: you’ll need as many Spy cards as you can find, as well as a few cards in your hand that you definitely don’t want. This is a great tactic for players early in the game, when you don’t have enough cards with attack power to leave out crummy cards that only give 1 point. Play all the cards you don’t want, let your opponent burn as many cards as possible trying to beat you – then, once their score gets high enough, they will pass the round. At that point, play all your spy cards. This should give you the huge advantage of a) giving you 2-4 new cards from your deck and b) giving you a larger number of cards in your hand than your foe. In round 2, the NPC will likely pass right away – because it doesn’t want to burn anymore cards against you, provided your hand’s number of cards is high enough. This just leaves round 3, which you should have no trouble winning unless the Spy cards generated a lousy hand for you. In which case, just see tip No 2 and try again!

There you have it – some underhanded yet effective techniques to win Gwent with the Northern Kingdoms deck. Let us know in the comments if you have any additional tips, or how these tactics payed off for you.

Hearthstone Guide: Best Warlock Cards

Hearthstone

While the Mage class is the first that Hearthstone players unlock and is one of the easiest to build a reliable deck with, she’s not the best bet that new players have for winning games when they’re just starting out.  That honor goes to the Warlock class, which can build the highly competitive zoo deck with mostly basic and common cards.  Beyond that, the Warlock can also build powerful decks centered around giants and demons with a wider collection of cards.  While the Warlock may look intimidating to new players with his costly hero power and the drawbacks on many of his cards, Hearthstone is ultimately a game of resources and knowing how to get the most value out of your plays is the key to victory.  Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices to pull ahead.

This list will go over ten of the Warlock’s best cards overall from the Classic and Goblins vs Gnomes sets.  I’ll discuss which decks they work best in and how to utilize them.  Honestly, I was hoping to avoid discussing Warlock strategies so that I don’t have worry about running into more of them myself, but I’m doing this series for new players and Warlock is one of the most valuable classes to learn early on.

10. Soulfire

Giving up a random card from your hand just to deal 4 damage may not seem like a good trade, but this card is insanely good in a clutch.  It actually would have placed much higher if this list had been written prior to the card’s nerf.  Previously, this spell didn’t cost any mana to play.  Even with it costing 1 mana now, it’s still an incredibly fast play that can save you from a bad situation or even outright win you the game.

9. Voidwalker

Let’s talk about zoo and why it’s so powerful despite being so cheap to build.  The idea of a zoo deck is to fill it mostly with cheap minions and overwhelm your opponent early on.  The big drawback is that this tactic quickly empties your hand and can leave you without plays if your opponent can wipe the board.  The Warlock is easily the best class for this tactic as his hero power can refresh the hand and he has minions that play greatly to this tactic.  One handy card for this strategy is the Voidwalker, a cheap but durable taunt minion that can protect your building swarm.  It’s not going to do much on its own, but it gives other minions room to take the board and set you on the path to victory.

8. Imp-losion

While this spell has an element of randomness behind it, the effect it has on a game is a little crazy.  As a removal option for enemy minions, it’s actually really bad as it will only do 4 damage in the best case scenario while Shadow Bolt can guarantee that much damage for less mana.  However, the swarm of imps that it summons for you easily make up for all  of the card’s disadvantages.  Even when it performs at its weakest, Imp-losion ultimately adds up in your favor.

7. Flame Imp

There is a saying among Hearthstone players: The only health point on your hero that matters is the one right before you die.  Spending 3 health just to get a small minion out one turn faster than you’d normally be able to might not sound like a wise investment, but you’d be shocked just how much of an advantage it can give you as the ultimate zoo card.  Flame Imp is a bad play if it puts you at risk of losing on the next turn, but having a 3/2 on the board is going to be more valuable some extra health any time before that. If you can’t control the board, you’re just going to lose your health anyway.  Better to spend health on your own resources than to leave an opening for your opponent to knock you around themselves.

6. Floating Watcher

At a glance, Floating Watcher’s ability to grow bigger and stronger whenever your hero takes damage on your own turn might sound incredibly situational, but it can actually prove very reliable.  Not only do you have your hero power to consistently build it up, you can also combo it with cards like Flame Imp or Mad Bomber to quickly create a massive beast before you even know it.  In arena mode, this card is one of the Warlock’s best ways to overwhelm the enemy.  In constructed, Watcher is going to be the most consistent in a demon-themed deck.  Building a strong Watcher is less relevant against certain strategies, so having a versatility of cards that it can work with will keep ensure it stays a threat.

5. Siphon Soul

With all of the drawbacks that Warlock cards have, there is naturally a tendency to burn yourself out.  While you should be willing to use your health as a resource, the fact remains that you lose when you run out of it and you should have cards that restore it.  Mistress of Pain and Antique Healbot are fairly good in certain decks, but Siphon Soul is a card that can serve you well is almost any Warlock deck.  Being a hard removal card that can take out any minion in one shot already makes it incredibly valuable, but the added healing makes for a must-have spell.  The only concern is that its high mana cost can be too slow for most zoo decks, but any other deck can run it without worry.

4. Voidcaller

As I’ve said with Harvest Golem and Piloted Shredder, the most reliable minions are the sticky ones.  The minions that can maintain a presence on the board even after they have died.  Voidcaller instantly summons a random demon from your hand to the battlefield and bringing a free minion to the board is a huge asset.  What makes Voidcaller especially good is that most demons have really strong stat lines and you can influence which demon is likely to be summoned by playing that smaller ones.  Voidcaller also takes away the drawbacks of demons as his deathrattle doesn’t trigger their costly battlecries.  Voidcaller is the card that made demon decks a thing to begin with, so you should definitely pick it up.

3. Doomguard

This is the biggest minion you’ll ever need for a zoo deck and it works in any other deck as well.  A 5/7 with charge for only 5 mana is insanely powerful and lets you rule over the midgame.  The cost of 2 cards from your hand can be drastic, but you can actually avoid this by emptying your hand onto the board early.  If there are no cards in your hand to be discarded, the Doomguard isn’t going to look for some other toll to take.  Even if you have to discard, it’s a chance worth taking to set up your victory.  Doomguard is definately a must-have.

2. Mal’Ganis

Warlock has some of the craziest legendaries out there and Mal’Ganis is a perfect example.  Having a 9/7 stat line for 9 mana is decently scary.  Having to ability to give your other demons 2 more attack and health so long as he remains on the field makes him even more scary.  His ability to make your hero immune to all damage so long as he lives makes him insanely strong.  If you’re ever facing down a Warlock, save a hard removal card just in case this monster shows his face.  He’s too slow to work in a zoo deck, but a demon deck is absurdly strong with him.

1. Lord Jaraxxus

TRIFLING GAMER!  NOW YOU FACE JARAXXUS, EREDAR LORD OF THE BURNING LEGION AND THE BEST WARLOCK CARD IN ALL OF HEARTHSTONE!  JARAXXUS IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL CARDS IN GENERAL AS HE REPLACES YOUR PUNY HERO AND TAKES THE REIGNS OF BATTLE HIMSELF.  JARAXXUS ONLY HAS 15 MAX HEALTH OPPOSED TO THE USUAL 30, BUT THIS CAN ACT AS A HEAL IN THE LATE GAME.  JARAXXUS ALSO COMES WITH A FREE 3/8 WEAPON TO CRUSH THE ENEMY.  FINALLY, JARAXXUS HAS HIS OWN HERO POWER THAT SUMMONS A 6/6 DEMON FOR ONLY 2 MANA.  ONCE JAXXARUS ENTERS THE FRAY, YOUR PATHETIC ADVERSARY WILL BE LEFT SCRAMBLING TO TRY AND STRIKE HIM DOWN BEFORE HE SHOWS THEM THE TRUE MEANING OF OBLIVION!  JUST TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, JARAXXUS EVEN HAS HIS OWN EMOTES TO MOCK YOUR FOE WITH AND SCREAM YOUR DOMINANCE AT THE TOP OF YOUR MORTAL LUNGS!  IT’S JUST THE JARAXXUS WAY OF DOING THINGS!  HA HA HA HA HA!  JARAXXUS WINS HEARTHSTONE!  THANK YOU FOR READING!

(Man, that was fun.)

Hearthstone Guide: Best Neutral Basic Cards

Hearthstone

I’ve already gone over the quickest ways to earn gold and card packs when starting out in Hearthstone, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the set of Basic cards that the game starts you out with.  Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re weak and some of them will remain staples of your decks even at high levels of play.  These are the ten best cards that you can start working with from the beginning and will get you the best results.

10. Darkscale Healer

How useful the Darkscale Healer is to you will depend on the deck you’re building.  Darkscale isn’t going to have much of an effect in decks built on aggression and focused on taking out the enemy hero as quickly as possible.  If you’re going for a lot of tanky minions with high health, on the other hand, then Darkscale is definitely worth having.  Knock around the enemy minions and then drop Darkscale to recover from the damage.  Combine that with a 4/5 stat line for 5 mana and you have a great minion for decks built around controlling the board.  Darkscale also heals you and can be a lifesaver in a pinch.

9. Boulderfist Ogre

With most decks, you’re going to need some late-game punch to keep up with your opponent.  Boulderfist Ogre is one of your best bets for filling that role when you’re just starting out.  With a 6/7 stat line for only 6 mana, Boulderfist is a very tough minion that can easily take down several smaller enemies and still keep going.  Bring out a bruiser like this and your opponent will have to find an answer to it or quickly fall behind.  It probably won’t be long until you start swapping him out of your decks in favor of rarer, more technical cards, but he is a fine pick for your early days.

8. Gurubashi Berserker

In the right deck, this card can be terrifying.  The Gurubashi Berserker continuously grows more powerful the more damage it takes.  Mages and Warriors have ways to carefully damage the Berserker themselves and ensure its growth when it’s most critical.  Priests and Shamans can be even scarier with their abilities to heal it and keep it in the game longer.  If played tactfully, this Basic card can be as devastating as a legendary.

7. Gnomish Inventor

Any deck you build is going to need some method of card draw in it.  If you can’t refresh your hand, you’ll quickly find yourself starving for resources and unable to deal with your opponent’s plays.  Gnomish Inventor is a decent 2/4 minion that also adds a new card to your hand.  At 4 mana, she can be a bit of slow way to play, but she is tough enough to do some work on the battlefield while also keeping your supply of cards strong.

6. Wolfrider

Charge minions like the Wolfrider are very quick plays that serve you well when you need to make a move immediately.  In control decks, he can act like a living spell that will instantly bring down an enemy minion with 3 health or less.  In aggressive decks, he can help break through tough taunt minions or just smack the enemy hero around.  Just remember that, with only 1 health point, your opponent won’t have a hard time getting rid of him and you need to think of how to get the most out of him.

5. Sen’jin Shieldmasta

Poor Shieldmasta.  He used to be one of the most popular cards in the game back in the vanilla days.  There wasn’t a single deck that went without his reliable protection in the mid-game.  Then the Plague Quarter introduced Sludge Belcher into the game and everyone starting running that instead.  Still, Shieldmasta is the best taunt you could ask for prior to picking up the Naxxramas expansion and can fit comfortably into any deck you want to build.  While Booty Bay Bodyguard and Lord of the Arena may look tougher, they’re actually much easier to deal with at the points in the game that they come out.  Check out the Shieldmasta and he’ll keep you and your minions secure.  Just… Tell him I said ‘hello’… I miss him.

4. Shattered Sun Cleric

The Shatttered Sun Cleric can quickly turn the early game in your favor.  Once summoned, a different minion of your choice will gain 1 attack and 1 health.  A friendly minion that would have only matched what your opponent played or wasn’t tough enough to bring it down in one shot can suddenly grow more powerful and give you control of the board.  The Cleric also scales fairly well into the late game with how versatile her buff can be.  The only downside is that a 3/2 for 3 mana is a little weak on its own, but her buff easily makes up for it.

3. Acidic Swamp Ooze

Ooze is good simply on the basis of being a 3/2 minion for 2 mana.  Having around four to six of these  is a general rule of thumb as they can trade evenly with any other 2 drop and can even take out most 3 drops.  It’s ability to destroy your opponent’s weapon is just the icing on the cake.  This battlecry is fairly situational given that some classes, like Mage and Druid, don’t even have weapons available and the battlecry may as well not exist when the Ooze is played against them.  Classes that do rely on weapons, like Warrior and Rouge, require you to time the use of your Ooze in order to take away the most threatening weapon you can.  Getting the most out of the Ooze can be tricky, but its solid stat line means that you have nothing to lose by throwing one or two in your deck.

2. Stormwind Champion

This will often be your big finisher for your early decks.  Stormwind Champion turns a mildly threatening board into a powerhouse and can lead you to victory.  His boardwide buff requires you to have a line of minions ready to strike, but the effects can be devastating.  Keep in mind that the buff is tied to the Champion and your minions will return to their normal stat lines if he is killed.  That said, if a buffed minion’s health is at its natural maximum or less when the Champion dies, its health will not be reduced.  With a 6/6 stat line, the Champion isn’t too easy to take down, either.

1. Chillwind Yeti

Chillwind Yeti is the single most balanced card in all of Hearthstone.  Whenever you’re trying to determine how useful a minion is, this is the card you compare it to.  Turn 4 is actually considered to be one of the most crucial points in the game simply because it’s the turn that the Yetis come out on.  With a 4/5 stat line, the Yeti can easily sweep up early minions and still keep going for more.  Most spells can’t even kill it in one hit and odds are good that you’ll take away at least two of your opponents cards with this one.  It may seem simple, but that level of power and survivability demonstrates the importance of favorably trading blows and holding control of the board.

There are plenty of other cards to discuss, but this should give you plenty to work with for building your first few decks.  Stayed tuned for more Hearthstone guides in the future.  Happy dealings.