Gwent Community Patch February 2024 – Review

Introduction

In this article I’d review Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Community Patch February 2024 generated by democratic voting via Balance Council tool. I’d analyze the patch change-by-change (some of the changes made, especially nerfs, were also discussed in my suggestions article).

Check out discussion of balance changes on Reddit.

Balance Council Results

Nerf Brackets

(++) Change I like a lot
(+) Change I like
(/) Okay
(-) Change I dislike
(- -) Change I dislike a lot

-1 Power

Dana Méadbh: Provider (7 -> 6)

(+, suggested)

Kraken (6 -> 5)

This change must come from low ladder experience, way different than mine. On high ladder to say pictorially, 1/3 of opponents was SK Rain Beasts and 1/3 of those opponents did run Kraken, who always played for very good value. This change wouldn’t impact Kraken much in my opinion; perhaps its a slight buff, but his fearsome monster dignity suffered. Just placeholded a nerf slot (-)


Regis: Bloodlust (19 -> 18)

(++, suggested)


Arachas Queen (6 -> 5)

Understandable nerf – Arachas Queen is a very strong card, usually playing above power vs provision curve and rich in opportunities. The intention was likely to nerf Deathwish, because other AQ decks seen little play on high ladder (/)


Ivar Evil-Eye (5 -> 4)

A +1 buff to non-Nekker enemy boost strategy. Okay, although Ivar is not my favorite type of card (/)


Coral (7 -> 6)

(+, suggested)


Frenzied D’ao (6 -> 5)

From ‘distinctive’, Dao got nerfed to ‘good’ control card in the preceeding council, and now to ‘considerable’. At this point running constructs package (where Frenzied Dao rather than Colossal Ifrit was the real, guaranteed payoff) likely becomes not worth it for high-end competitive. Nerfing control is the last thing I’d do – I dislike the change (-)


Prince Villem (2 -> 1)

Okay (/)


Hvitr and Aelydia (6 -> 5)

Controversial, but okay (/)


Giant Toad (4 -> 3)

Giant Toad is a distinctive carryover/consume tool in Deathwish. If we compare this card for example with Orb Of Insight in Scoia’tael, GT costs one provision less, is more convenient and even more utility. In fact Giant Toad is now the backbone of Deathwish decks, which otherwise would have to rely on very inefficient consume cards.

-1 power on GT is effectively -2, because of summon from graveyard. Deathwish netdeck now got butchered by 5 points (AQ included; and Lord Riptide lost a provision). It is too much.

I think I understand where this nerf comes from (Succubus with summoned Toad too much points etc.), but it is too harsh nerf for whole archetype in my opinion. In the context of blue coin netdeck it seems okay, but otherwise DW would struggle way more than before (-)

+1 Provision

👑 Inspired Zeal (14 -> 15)

Reverting technical nerf to IZ (too many Order cards are too high ceiling). Inspired Zeal decks weren’t played much in Gwentfinity 1 January season, but weren’t weak either, with Nik_r reaching 2669 fMMR / 101 games. IZ Golden Nekker in Myamon style was also playable. For these reasons I wouldn’t revert IZ yet – it should be in a state requiring some effort to win games, even with decent Temple of Melitele rolls (-).


👑 Blood Scent (15 -> 16)

Intended to buff Vampires. There is none but technical reasons for Blood Scent to have more provisions than other MO leaders; it is similar power (leader abilities article). Would make Renfri Midrange Vampires more considerable ladder pick (/)


Madam Marquise Serenity (13 -> 14)

(++, suggested as power)

Novigrad (11 -> 12)

(++, suggested)


Lord Riptide (8 -> 9)

(+, suggested)


Conjurer’s Candle (7 -> 8)

Provision nerf to coin operating and engine overload abuse Syndicate decks. Compared with some other SY cards (Novigard, Madam, Yago), Candle didn’t feel so unfair in the preceeding season, so I regard this nerf more of conceptual than balance – trying to shake SY out of safe Candle + King of Beggars approach with guaranteed spenders and make them count coins again. (+)


Dennis Cranmer (7 -> 8)

I don’t think Dennis deserved a double nerf (-1 power in last council); at high ladder Nature’s Gift was the main pick late in the season. In PS Midrange deck with Workshop + Simlas package which I played for a bit Dennis was around 15 for 7 going tall when everything went well and underwhelming when package got bled out. It is constitutional nerf to Dwarves, while midrange Guerilla/PS would just start running different package at some point. (-)


Corrupted Flaminica (7 -> 8)

(+, suggested)

Tuirseach Skirmisher (4 -> 5)

(+, suggested)

Casino Bouncers (4 -> 5)

(+, suggested)

Buff Brackets

+1 Power

Yaga (1 -> 2)

Now Yaga procs Fruits of Ysgith and stomps the meta. Jokes aside, okay change, but to a binary card which rather deserved to be kindly ignored (-)


Cave Troll (6 -> 7)

I think there were more interesting picks than reverting Defender nerf (-)


The Sausage Maker (5 -> 6)

While good potential value on paper and providing Crime support thanks to Intimidate and body for Cleaver, in practice SM seen no play. The reasons are: a) Syndicate decks are stacked for cards obeying particular functions; including SM may mean cutting Philippa Eihart, Whoreson Junior or gold spender b) SM is useless when not found at the right time and Syndicate has no viable tutors for him.

Sausage Maker got +3 value buff potentially; he could be compared with Vandergrift in Syndicate – no shield, additional fee cost and no extra tutor (Vandergrift may be played from AA in NR), but easier Resilience and Intimidate. Buff to interesting card, yet probably still wouldn’t be played (/)


Vincent Meis (2 -> 3)

Okay (/)


Nauzicaa Sergeant (3 -> 4)

Slave Driver (2 -> 3)

The proper Slave Driver and Sergeant power is somewhere between values they oscillate every council. I don’t feel revert was necessary; Dauren got to 2644 with a Madoc Phoenix deck if I’m not mistaken. Now similar, linear decks may become meta definers in February Season (-).


Bear Witcher (8 -> 9)

Good change to a card a bit under the curve; 9 for 5 is good and fair (although maybe do not promote very inspired decks – remember old Reckless Flurry midrange?). Also a buff to Haern Caduch, Megascopes, Quen+BW combo (14 for 10 now) and possibly Triss Meteor Showers. (+).


Drummond Queensguard (4 -> 5)

(++, suggested)

Redanian Archer (2 -> 3)

I don’t feel like buffing pingy NR engines was any priority for variety. I was pinged enough in 2023. Support to engine overload decks, especially 5 Mutagenerator (-)


Mutant (3 -> 4)

Unplayed before; now becomes a powerhorse for self-poison, especially coupled with Gellert (+6 -1 coin per turn combo). Provides Salamandra tags for cards like Stolen Mutagens or… Salamandra. Would we see a Salamandra deck with Renew for Gellert and Necromancy for Mutant?! If proven too abusive, nerf by provision is a consideration (+)

-1 Provsion

Water of Brokilon (11 -> 10)

WoB wasn’t a bad card, but just because of its design doesn’t go so well with Guerilla Tactics Harmony netdeck (Dryads are already available in plenty; doesn’t help to trigger Scenario). Okay change, also because this card is +2 with Harmony specific leader Call of Harmony (+).


Magic Compass (11 -> 10)

Magic Compass in spite of prophylactic nerf in the preceeding council was still played in Dauren’s version of Skellige Beasts. Nevertheless, a good change to this rich effect card (+).


Lydia van Bredevoort (9 -> 8)

Buff to Assimilate and Midrange Nilfgaard. Lydia was already a good, ~13 points card, just outshined by some other golds in the same provision range. Promotes uninspired, non-synergistic deckbuilding. Similar to Artorius/Braathens power buffs from 1st council (–)


Protofleder (9 -> 8)

Okay (/)


Sorceress of Dol Blathanna (6 -> 5)

Balancewise questionable (little cost, high opportunity), but was too expensive to play at 6-cost. Would support Spella’tael with Musicians of Blaviken, which was already very close to meta (Shinimiri’s Alzur list). (/)


Thirsty Dame (6 -> 5)

I wasn’t a fan of nerf to 6 provision back in the day, but last season Aristocrats proven to be pretty competitive even at high fMMRs (Nik_r had 2639 peak). Unnecessary change, doesn’t bring anything new but for making Aristocrat players life easier (–).


Wild Hunt Rider (5 -> 4)
Hunting Pack (5 -> 4)
Mahakam Volunteers (5 -> 4)

Buffing thinners to 4 cost is controversial. They were mostly underpowered at 5 cost. The pair played as 8 for 6 with 1 thinning (~+1 effective point). Also note that while thinning you were already forced to spend 2 provisions from your deck rather than save them for later; yet these provisions didn’t contribute to win R1 – the value was comparable with meta 4p bronzes.

-1 provision buff is obviously -2 provision to the pair, which turns the tables. Now thinning pairs are the best 4-cost pointslam cards and provide thinning carryover. Because thinning value scales in a non-linear way (article) it incentivizes building decks thinning to 2 or less, which is good for skill rewarding meta.

The downside is 4p thinners become almost autoinclude for every deck capable of filling their conditions, which may reduce the variety amongst bronzes by a bit.

Also thinning pair are perfect targets for Assimilate with Torres (now +2 value on him).

Personally I like these changes from gameplay/deckbuilding aspect, although NG mirrors with Hunting Pack would be disgusting (+)


Bear Witcher Quartermaster (5 -> 4)

It may seem weird after thinning pairs discussion, but I don’t think 8+ points cards belong to 4 cost. That being said, BWQ would do no harm nor feel like the most broken 4 bronze (Priestess, Revenants, now also Mutant…). Balancewise questionable, let’s see if will bring some fresh air to SK Witchers gameplay (/)

Conclusions

To sum up:

(++) 4
(+) 14
(/) 10
(-) 10
(–) 2

Overall I rate the balance patch well. We could see Nik_r and MetallicDanny impact on community alignment, with ALL changes suggested by them going through. 

Slave Driver, Nauzicaa Sergeant and Thirsty Dame reverts come from NG players sentiment, just as I predicted. Number of haters do not matter for buff bracket votes. These reverts are arguably the weakest part of January 2024 Balance Council – improving well known and playable decks.

Nilfgaard maybe wasn’t very strong in January 2024, but when squeezed still brought good results. Example is an amazing T_Imagawa Hospitality Machines deck, which he played up to 2627 in just 75 games. Now we would go to the old ways of Enslave, Aristocrats and Renfri Soldiers etc. – all of those I’ve also met last season at 2600. 

Monsters got Riptide/AQ/Giant Toad nerfs. With GT nerf Deathwish lost too many points in my opinion. This nerf is especially sad because combo with Necromancer’s Tome and Deathwish units was an opportunity to build fresh decks, like Fruits Deathwish Nekker I brought to 2669 fMMR. Now my main hope for fresh stuff lies in Arachas Swarm Hive Mind consume decks.

Northern Realms got considerable buffs to Inspired Zeal decks with Mutagenerator; especially Golden Nekker Engine Overload would likely benefit from Redanian Archer power buff.

Skellige got Witchers archetype buffs. Drummond Queensguard +1 power which I advocated wouldn’t probably impact competitive meta at all, but is worth checking out. The idea is to give ‘red’ Self-Wound without Svalblod a tool to play with. Finally, Compass revert combined with Witcher buffs invite Portal play.

Scoia’tael could check out Spella’tael with Sorceress buffed to 5 provision. After the buff, Spella’tael would be one of the best Musicians of Blaviken host archetypes.

Syndicate got very strong bronze engine to support Self-poison archetype – Mutant. 

I’m excited by the new opportunities in SK/ST/SY, but at the same scared of facing old NG and NR mates. See you on ladder!