In the preceeding chapter of Gwent Pro Tutorial – Pointslam & Engines: A Gwent Sequencing Study we learned how to assess Engine and Pointslam value with respect to round length. In a natural way, when discussing the evaluation of engines, the topic of Control and Trades has emerged. In this article we would look deeper into these two Gwent: The Witcher Card Game concepts.
Control in Gwent could be defined in various ways. The most general definition would include any possible interaction with opponent, which could interfere with their gameplan. For example, seemingly passive card, like Assire var Anahid, could be viewed as a control tool, because in some circumstances it could deny opponent’s graveyard payoff or hyperthin value.
Control in its general meaning is a fascinating field for study, especially when designing cards. Various subtle kinds of control in card effects could make gameplay more finesse and flexible.
In this article though, we would use control term in a narrow, specific meaning. By control we would simply understand all tools, which disables or remove opponent’s engines.
The main mechanics of disable would be lock (Dorregaray of Vole, Alba Armored Cavalry…), and movement (Hammond, Drowner…). Disable keeps the engine on the board, but denies its value.
In Gwent by a trade we mean the net point balance when a specific control tool is instantly applied on a given card (usually on an engine). The trade value is then defined for a pair of cards.
For complete information, the trade value usually includes not only point, but also provision balance. For example in Gwent 10.9 when War Of Clans into An Craite Warrior is played on Antherion, then we say that the trade in points is +4 and -1 in provision. When Korathi Heatwave is used on Antherion, then 0 pts, -5 prov. In general, the higher both numbers, the better the trade. In the examples shown, War of Clans is a better removal against Antherion, both in terms of points and provision cost.
Impact Of Trades
- Cards which trade even (or worse) never win the game by themselves! That’s a truth often overlooked by beginning players. For example, if you remove both opponent’s Antherions with Alzur’s Thunder (which may look like a perfect tuned card for this purpose), then trade is exactly 0 pts, 0 prov. Thunders might have denied opponent’s engine value, but it is your other cards getting better value than opponent’s which could win the game.
- Cards which trade up in points to opponent cards could become win-conditions. For example Terror of the Seas drawn early is a win-condition for Pirates decks in many matchups; this card trades well in points and provision at later stages to most high profile engines.
- Trade is not everything – while the trade deal balance is very important, sometimes direct negative trades also has to be accepted. For example Korathi Heatwave almost never trades up in value or provision, but shooting down and banishing powerful opponent’s engine instantly may be necessary (remember +3 graph in Engines&Pointslam). Conversely, a strong engine trading down to a control tool played by opponent may still be a correct pick, proven that it leads the way for other greedy cards (e.g. Roland Bleinheim and double Townsfolk in Lined Pockets in Gwent 10.9)
- Imagine a couple of 4pts removal and 4pts engine (for example Dimeritum Bomb and Squire). The trade between these cards is 0, 0. Which one is more useful? The one which has better value when this particular trade doesn’t happen. Almost everytime engines trading even with control are better than control itself. The difference happens only when control is really universal and its targets are present in every meta deck. To visalize it better, imagine now Squire and Bomb contesting a pointslam deck. Squire would never be worse than Bomb in such case, while could reach much higher value.
- As a consequence of previous points, a trade even/down for control is acceptable only against threats, which couldn’t be matched in power with own engines
- Trades between Execution Teams (Into The Deckbuilding Rule Of 16) of two decks determine the long round evaluation. If crucial trades are missing, then usually the greedier deck wins (very general rule with many exceptions). Same general rule obeys for Preparation Team and the objective of winning R1.
- Control cards trading up in points are especially important when defending a R2 push. Otherwise opponent sometimes could play for engine overload at no risk of losing card advantage.
If there is at least one very greedy engine per faction present in the meta, then control for it becomes autoinclude if only it couldn’t be matched in power with own threats / reliably bled out (usually couldn’t, as in Gwent 10.9 there is simply not enough good greedy high-end engines).
Also, whenever there is a control tool playing on pointslam power vs provision curve, it becomes autoinclude in a given archetype. Examples are Terror of the Seas in Pirates, Yaevinn in Elves, Toad Prince in some Monsters decks, Skjordal and War of Clans in Devotion Warriors.
Control In Current Gwent State (10.9)
Given the trades considerations, where is the place of control with the current card pool? Let’s have a look at bronze control vs bronze engine trades.
- vs 4pts engine
There is no instant removal trading up both in provisions and points to 4 power 4 provision normal engine. Dimeritum Bomb with Madoc could make good trade in points, but not in provision. Wild Hunt Warrior could instantly remove a 4p engine proven that Dominance condition is satisifed and 2p engine will be highest unit in its row. Bare Knuckle Brawler could be a even trading removal and engine at the same time, but requires coin supply and special board state. Dwarven Skirmisher could potentially trade-up by 1 to any casual +1/+2 bronze engine, but in 2 turns and proven that barricade requirement is satisfied. Cards like Gutting Slash or Tourney Joust just trade even.
- vs 5pts engine
Controls worth 4p which could deal with 5p are rather niche, Bloody Good Fun and Van Moorlehem Hunter are examples. BGF is a bit conditional and trades down in value, VM Hunter also would always trade down in value, which is especially painful against same provision cost engines (e.g. Dryad Fledgling) Amongst 5p, Alzur’s Thunder, Payday or Assassination break even. Coated Weapons could trade up thanks to clogging effect, but not in direct points. Alba Armored Cavalry is a very universal control tool, trading up in points with weak 4pts engines and trading even with 5pts 5provision ones. Nature’s Rebuke could trade up with 5pts 5prov engine by 2 in points proven that a treant is on the board. Rotfiend could make a +5 trade up on paper, but with some random factor and at the cost of playing a consume card.
Of course I’ve thrown just a bunch of examples – my purpose is not to enumerate all possibilities. Out of all mentioned cards, in Gwent 10.9 meta only Alba Armored Cavalry is regularly played (in Renfri Imprisonment deck). Overall, in the current state of Gwent, trades favor engine play rather than control. Most Preparation Teams (Harmony, Knights, Lined Pockets, Vampires) rely on engines rather than control to fight for the initiative.
The meaningful direct trade ups of control over engines happen almost exclusively thanks to a couple of strong gold cards (some of those were mentioned in ‘Autoinclude Control’ section). Other than this, the control player has to rely on multiple turn removal (if it trades better with pointslam) and leader support (Guerilla Tactics, Imprisonment…). Dealing with engines at the early stage of the game is then hard without commitments, and playing own engines is usually more efficient.
Activating Disabled Engine
Purify may unlock and Movement may return the disabled engine to the correct row. Let’s call this purifying/moving/… card an activator.
For how many points does an activator play? Reenabling an engine is simply equivalent to playing same engine again, but with different tempo; if Strays of Spalla move Keltullis, then “another Keltullis is played with 4 tempo”. If a Pellar is used on a locked Viper Witcher Adept, then “another Adept was played”.
The stronger the disabled engine is, the more effective points is worth the activator, and consequently the weaker disabler is. Disabling is a very risky control tool against strong engines; you need to be absolutely sure activators are not popular enough in the meta.
On the other hand, disablers are pretty decent against weaker engines and overall more flexible than fixed value damage. Even if a weak engine gets activated, player may respond with symmetrical engine and probably disabler and activator traded around even.
Building Control Package
- Are there any particular win-con threats popular in the current meta? Could your deck deal with them/bleed them/ignore them? If not, try to fit sufficient control (e.g. Heatwave + Pellar in a Self-wound + Keltullis meta)
- Is there enough space for ‘autoinclude control’ in the Execution Team? If yes, give those cards priority.
- Are there any other ET candidates trading well with at least one ET card of 60%+ of the ladder meta? Consider adding them if still having space/questionable cards.
- Are opponent engines from PT outvaluing yours? Think of best trading control for them, but try to not exceed the provisions dedicated to PT. Especially Disablers trading up in value (e.g. Dorregaray) may be useful if meta runs no activators.
Thanks for reading! Once again a reminder to not treat literally all the rules presented here, but try to understand them and violate when needed. Due to incoming Play-In tournament, the Gwent Pro Tutorial cycle is in a hiatus until the event finishes. Hope you enjoyed the cycle so far, let me know what general topics would interest you most after the break. See you soon!