The last competitive Gwent Masters cycle – Masters 5 – got started with January Season. My objective was to claim safe Top16 position. Nevertheless meta proven to be quite enjoyable, and I played over 800 games, starting earlier in the season than usual. I also played all 6 factions for my pleasure and managed to achieve 2600+ scores on each, while running huge variety of decks on the path.
Scores (day before finish)
Factions & Decks
The peak deck is classical White Frost Devotion. Very strong, but hard to master. Using the movement at the right time, balancing between frost carryover and tempo, finally planning rounds ahead is needed. Unlike many Monsters decks, Frost prefers at least mid or longer rounds. In fact one of the worst positions is winning/losing R1 very deeply.
While Caranthir: Golden Child is a very strong card (I had 31 for 8 max value once), for me Tir na Lia and Aen Elle Aristocrat are the heart of the deck. The first one enables Frost carryover, which often is worth about 12 raw points (3x melee + ranged is common; one could also pack frost into one row so that it deceases slower sometimes), but more importantly comes in synergy with payoff cards like Ancient Foglets and Wild Hunt Navigator, bringing them from bronze to gold point range.
The second one – Aen Elle Artistocrat – is very strong preparation engine for Tir na Lia and all payoff cards. Each extra turn of frost is +2 raw points by itself. Moreover, movement order effect could bring another +4 or more effective points.
Out of other Monsters decks I could recommend classical Golden Nekker Relicts, which helped me to recover fMMR from about 2480 to 2550 after a bad streak. The deck is very chill to play, consistent and solid for climbing. The matchups are not amazing though, especially from blue coin.
Scoia’tael was the least picked faction amongst Top 100 players. It has to rely on playing lots of vulnerable, low tempo engines (Harmony/Movement…) and then lacks control. Or could go for control, but then struggles with points and also control itself is not sufficient (Precision Strike decks).
Well, this common view did not apply for me. I’ve run Movement Nekker Guerilla Tactics since the start of the season and done only very short detour to Quax Harmony for about 5 games.
Scoia’tael is my best faction in terms of overall performance and efficiency. Probably I also got pretty lucky on my path, as I shared the list very early in the season and nobody applied it with visible success.
The crucial card for Movement Nekker is Frog Mating Season with multiple synergies with movement cards (Sentries, Gaetan, Milva, Cat Witcher Mentors…). Check out this clip for demo of just Frogs + Mentors & Sentries power.
I find Ciaran as very important control card for the build; no matter how greedy Movement Nekker is, there are still cards deserving immediate answers like Tyr, Draig or Helge. Also because of Golden Nekker, putting in specials as control tools is less convenient; engine overload becomes harder to achieve.
Outside Movement Nekker, Mya-mon had amazing (2680+) score with Guerilla Tactics Schirru Quax Harmony and most (of very few) Scoia’tael players I’ve met on ladder netdecked him.
The list I used on Skellige was the biggest surprise for me this season. I played around with old Truzky/Gandalf SK Witchers deck. The name of ‘Witchers’ is exaggeration – the deck originally started as Witchers build with Vesemir:Mentor and Leo, just to witness all Witcher elements getting gradually cut off during optimization. Only Bear Witcher Mentors remained. Sidenote – Vesemir:Mentor really needs reverse of adrenaline nerf at this point.
The thing which attracted me back to this deck was addition of Feral Bond – a special card which perfectly fits to main idea. Also reworked Axel Three Eyes is excellent fit – the deck struggled with proactivity, while Axel plays on power curve and provides 4 bodies for Offering to the Sea
From around 2550 to 2625 level I climbed only with this deck (and tanked with others, like Blueboy Lugos + Ulula meme). The deck works in different dimension than casual engine/removal (Pirates, Enslave…) or swarm buff (Melitele…). Really recommend to try it out – it is refreshing and better than it looks.
It was Renfri Imprisonment. Let’s move on.
Also tried some Enslave with… Rience. Calveit + low unit makes Rico easily accessible, the question is if value is really worth it. White Frost players were a bit surprised after playing Caranthir: Golden Child, noticing decent variety of meta and creativity of opponent.
The last faction to reach 2600+. The final climb from about 2540 (mostly played Pirate’s Cove) to 2606 level took 17 games and was rather accidental. I just tried Redrame’s Nekker Bounty for the first time. It was pretty good so I decided to make challenge harder and try Devotion Bounty instead. And here surprise. Devo Bounty is much better than its opinion, just don’t get too ambitious when it comes to round control.
Northern Realms (2604)
I keep struggling with Northern Realms almost every season and this was no different. Nevertheless, I’ve made one deck I’m happy about, although it gets easily countered just by removing Mutagenerator, or killing Cintrian Royal Guards in time. Well, the latter is not so easy, when both are above 10 points of power entering the board and that’s the main point of the deck. The deck is really flashy and impressive when undisrupted. Reavers Scout played next to Raffard’s Vengeance in the back row could bring 4 points of damage, 2 times Mutagenerator carryover and 8 tempo engine play when used on Temerian Drummer. When needed, Mutagenerator could also be exploited with front row Scout play, getting +10 to tempo.
Matchups are decent, given that main decks play no counter to Mutagenerator. Even Melitele could be challenged with a bit of luck.
That’s for climbing. For tanking I can recommend Nekker version, which brings guaranteed loses thanks to missing Mutagenerator in Round 1 in some matchups.
Meta & Impressions
- Melitele needs a nerf. Honest midrange decks are unplayable in meta where Melitele is Tier S. Priestess could have been countered with tall removal and last say control to some extent, while Melitele just outpoints them.
- Meta was varied and interesting; I witnessed very few mirrors, but also played untypical stuff. The situation changed for worse after Pajabol found most solid Melitele version and climbed near 2700 mark. Ladder acknowledged Melitele as top deck and Ihuarraquaxes, Traheaerns and Ofiri Merchants became everyday experience as well.
- Each faction is playable and 6x 2600 scores are there to prove it.
- Temple of Melitele first form is too variant and has too high carryover ceiling. Mutagenerator probably also should be mitigated a bit.
- Competition on high-end ladder is a bit sluggish and yet January is probably the most competitive season we would witness in whole Masters 5. Only Top1 slot really matters for final CPs race, which is important for just a few players able to grind every season. There is no motivation to fight for anything more than Top16 for strong players.
- Design of most cards and variety of strategies is good, including changes made in 11.1 patch. Balance would be but for Melitele.
Hope you enjoyed my personal recap of Gwent Masters 5 January Season. It was lot of fun and game is definitely worth interest right now for any strategy lovers.
I don’t plan to grind as much as I did this season anymore and would turn ‘efficient’ mode instead with late season play. It should mean more content on leriohub…