After all-Renfri meta in the July Season, some moderate nerfs were applied in the August patch, which made the card less dominant, but still one of the top high-end gold considerations when building a deck. Also the only non-Renfri meta deck – Golden Nekker Self-Poison was nerfed with the introduction of Cooldown on Failed Experiments fee ability. With slight buffs to Scenario cards just introduced in the Black Sun expansion, a meta shift had to be expected.
My goal for the season was Top16 placement on ladder to earn a spot in Qualifiers. Another objective was to defend the position in Top12 Crown Points for the upcoming Play-In tournament.
In the following recap I’d start from presenting scores, then discuss factions one by one. The article will be conculded with season overview and some general thoughts.
Syndicate (2699 MMR / 82 games)
Early in the season some trials to revert to good old Devotion Syndicate with Whoreson Junior were made, but it soon became clear, that only Nekker is the way granting enough power to the orange faction.
Soon in the season Syndicate became a Nekker-only faction, with only real question being: Single or Double (with Alissa)?
I went for the Single option; while having lower pointslam ceiling, Single Nekker is more convenient to operate, doesn’t have to gamble on opponents having graveyard hate or not and less rigid when it comes to sequencing.
For me Syndicate clearly stood out in terms of power, with only well drawing Scoia’tael ever coming close. It is also confirmed in GwentData stats.
With overall winrate of 74.4%, the real secret of high efficiency here is that I started climbing with Syndicate as my last faction, from ~2500 to ~2700 in a few last days.
Scoia'tael (2681 MMR / 138 games)
When testing Elves in the first half of the season I happened to consistently draw the crucial Scenario/Vanadain/Simlas package and climbed to 2600 really fast. I went back to ST late in the season, predicting that it would be dominated by pro players trying to improve SY peaks. It didn’t prove true, but also meta evolved, with Triss:Meteor Shower becoming common and tempo pass from Elves being way less of a threat overall.
Therefore I changed the deck to so-called ‘T0mmy ST‘ with Renfri and Geralt:Igni. Definitely wasn’t satisfied with the way deck operated; Geralt:Igni was preying on unaware opponents only, while the deck was extremely reactive itself. This type of the deck was the most popular ST option last days.
Consequently I decided to homebrew something based on a deck Puzzle.Express made based on my deck from Top16 Qualifiers ;-). Guerilla Harmony proven to be very strong and luckily I managed to avoid Syndicate in queuing for the most part. This way 2600=>2681 climb was made really fast. Also Danirai climbed to 2679 last day when adopting it. Just draw your golds 😉 [you may also like to check out same idea, but OG Harmony list made by Xiwer]
In the early phase of August Season, Cultists decks were the main option for Nilfgaard. The main bronzes of the archetype: Eternal Eclipse Deacons and Initiates, got significant buffs. The infusion effect of the latter became very powerful, which enabled spectacular pointswings.
Cultists deck was uneasy to play and understand and also susceptible to removal, especially Heatwave played on Scenario before first chapter gets triggered. Consquently its popularity deceased and the faction apparently was in a bad state.
The situation changed after Top16 Qualifiers, where Puzzle.Express and Truzky came up with a poinstlam+control version of Nilfgaard. The deck made use of Imprisonment leader, multiple locks and Van Moorlehem Servants to copy those even further. Renfri and Triss:Meteor Shower were the main sources of points, winning the game after all engines have been answered.
The original list had the possiblity of playing Renfri or Triss:Meteor Shower twice with Assire. This option though didn’t prove to be worth it enough on average, and the deck evolved towards midrange even more, with thinning/tutors/Assire removed, and pointslam golds added.
My peak list included Xavier, Braathens and Igni.
Skellige was a big playground for deckbuilders during the season. While at first Endless Voyage Pirate decks witnessed some success, it soon became clear that outside the initial surprise value it lacks real power and good tempo plays for later rounds.
As Heatwave was quite common inclusion (especially in NR Knights, which were perceived as very strong in the first half of the season) and Kalkstein became SY Nekker card, classical Self-wound also wasn’t appealing.
Then SK players had to raise their greedy hands for Golden Nekker decks. I had initially good scores with a GN Rain deck which I took for Top16 Qualifiers, but it proven to be too awkward in the long run. Nevertheless, here is the most funny picture I captured during the season, where proprtion of Crows and Fucusyas remained constant, but number changed.
So the main SK options became Golden Nekker, but definitely not Rain. The main approach adopted on top ladder was Golden Nekker Pirates (originating from lNeverHood) and the secondary – Self-wound Golden Nekker (Redrame), with which Redrame and Kerpeten got very high scores early.
Hard to say how much of the variety is due to various playable packages in Skellige and how much due to desperation. Another curious SK GN deck was built by Truzky in the second half of the season. Patricidal Fury Witchers shown some potential and brought entertainment, but weren’t strong enough to achieve top scores.
So which one of those did I choose for peak climbing? Obviously, none. I used homebrew Devotion Pirates with double War of Clans, which gives additional support damage value with Onslaught leader. In spite of being perfectly crafted against Syndicate Nekker with loads of well trading removal, this matchup still was convincingly lost proven that opponent played correctly.
I’ve done lots of test on this faction (Vampires Sabbath, Triple Gernie, Keltullis, Relicts Nekker and Meteor Shower…) but none proven to be successful. The season started with a raise of Koshchey – Kerpeten achieved impressive 2600+ result very early, Kaneki_Yamori and Kams qualified for Gwent Open #3 with Koshchey in lineups. The list didn’t work for me though, it felt too linear and draw dependent, also very combo heavy and easy to bleed out when R1 is lost (proven opponent knows the secrets of soft push). And whenever trying Koshchey – you really need to add this ugly Fisher King in!
I enjoyed the staple Renfri Vampires list with Igni most. I didn’t try Devotion Frost, but think some of those lists may also be a good pick for pleasant laddering.
I played mostly NR Knights, but also tried various stuff. Especially interesting idea for me was Mutagenerator Knights with Dwimveandras and Mushy Truffle, but I never managed to make it work well enough.
Conclusions And Thoughts
- August was distinguished by meta variance. Still, last days high end meta revolved mostly around Guerilla Renfri, Double Cross/Imprisonment Renfri (oftentimes with Warrit + Spotters hellworth package), Nekker Pirates and sometimes Self-poison Nekker. The latter one was underplayed in spite of clearly top performance.
- Syndicate GN is skill capped as every SY, yet still it dominated winrate stats. Perhaps something is intrinsically wrong with Conjurers Candle design being able to protect too many game decisive engines. Stolen Mutagens were also gold level bronzes from my gameplay experience, but I won’t complain on them as I like bronzes bridging the provision gap. Amongst engines, Roland is decisive for SY peak power.
- I could have tried to push further overnight for Top3 spots, but there was no real reason for me and I’m afraid it was the same for the most of pro players. While the new Masters Finals qualification system aims at dealing with wintrading issues and reducing ladder grind, at the same time I feel like best players have no reason to strive for highscores and winning seasons. Maybe there should be some out-of-the-box rewards for ladder scores, prestigous gifts, so that no direct $ (and possible wintrading) is on the line? Or maybe at least one spot should be awarded for CPs back since next Masters?
- While Gwent is definitely a skillful game, I didn’t usually have an impression of being the better player even when winning. What really mattered was playing a better deck than opponent (wholesome Harmony is massively underrated in the community in my opinion) and drawing correct cards in correct order (an example of this is Ciri:Nova + purifier interaction, Geralt:Igni from red-coin in Vampires vs Knights matchup, finding Nova+Candle early in Single Nekker SY and so on…). I believe right now Gwent is a game where it is easy to lose by big misplays, but hard to win with good plays only.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully August Faction Highscore Charts will be coming soon!