by Alex Sprackling
For a deck to earn tier one status, it must meet a couple of requirements. Firstly, it must be consistent and able to be thinned down to its important cards, like a Ciri: Nova or Restore. Secondly, it’s either not vulnerable to the coinflip — such as King Bran, who can establish carry over to prevent the dry pass — or can exploit it like Red Coin Henselt. But insane tempo and huge power resurrections aren’t new to GWENT and have existed long before Open Beta began. In fact, most archetypes we see in GWENT today are the result of months of in-game evolution and various reworks. Prepare for some nostalgia as we look back at five cards and abilities that previously defined the face of GWENT.
Roach — In Closed Beta, she would also play herself from the graveyard.
While there is still an elite group of players like SuperJJ who put Roach in most decks, everyone’s favourite horse used to be an auto-include. As of now, Roach is a 4-strength Silver that plays from the deck after you’ve played a Gold unit from hand. But she no longer comes out with Royal Decree or Gold Weather.
Back in Closed Beta, Roach was only a 3-strength Silver. However, she would play herself from the deck whenever you played a Gold card and would even play from the graveyard. Needless to say, Roach was a boomerang. And, combined with a long-forgotten Scoia’tael archetype that utilised excessive Elven Mercenary spam and the old Mardroeme, it wasn’t uncommon to see her repeatedly strengthened to create an insane round three finisher no matter what Gold you had left.
Knight-Elect, formerly Promote — a long-forgotten Special card.
Many new players wipe off Knight-Elect — the Northern Realms Bronze that, when armoured, boosts adjacent units by 1 — as a mediocre Armour card. Previously, the card art was used for a Bronze Special in the Henselt Promotion archetype of Closed Beta. Titled “Promote”, it would convert 3 adjacent units to Gold status. This may not sound like insane tempo, but when combined with old Siege Towers — that would boost by two whenever a Gold unit appeared — the points would soon stack up. And that’s not forgetting that Gold units were immune to targeting. If you didn’t shut down the Siege Towers early, you were in trouble.
Yaevinn, Spy — before Weather Immunity existed, it was possible to consistently play 1 point spies.
Back in Closed Beta, hazards worked completely different to how we see them now. Biting Frost, Impenetrable Fog and Torrential Rain were all locked to separate rows and, when played, would spawn on both sides of the board, setting everything on both rows to 1 strength.
This often led to messy mirror matches between Wild Hunt decks and Control Scoia’tael. But, worst of all, it was possible to spawn weather and dump your spy into it, allowing you to regain card advantage by going down only one point. Because of this, Weather Immunity tag was launched for spies and some row-locked units like Wild Hunt Warriors.
Clan Warcrier — like Promote, it was formerly a Special card that defined its faction.
Damaging your opponent’s units is good, right? GWENT is about adding points to your side of the board and removing them from your opponent’s, you say? Yes, absolutely. But not all the time. We know Clan Warcrier is a 5-strength Bronze that boosts a unit by half its power. Previously, however, it worked similar to the old “Promote” we’ve already discussed.
Titled “Warcry”, it used to be a Bronze Special that would double the power of all damaged units. Since many of Skellige’s units self-damage on deploy or can be combined with Bronze cards like Clan Archer to damage them yourself, it wasn’t difficult to set up disgusting point swings. We saw Noxious use this deck to success in the first GWENT Challenger
, and came nail-bitingly close to overcoming Lifecoach in the final.
Reaver Hunters — gone are the days when these were targetable by Henselt, and the most powerful burst of tempo in GWENT.
We can’t end this list without talking about an ability that once defined the Northern Realms faction. Trio abilities would trigger whenever three copies of the same unit appeared on the same row. Blue Stripes Commandos, one of NR’s key muster units, used to have a Trio ability that added an additional copy to the bottom of your deck.
It was Reaver Hunters, however, that had one of the most powerful abilities Open Beta has ever seen. Once they were a Trio, they would damage the highest enemy unit by half its power. MegaMogwai famously triggered this twice to win Gwentogether
, where he let GameKing Igni his biggest Reaver Hunter so he could play a fourth copy of the card to repeat the ability. Combined with old Ves, who used to play from the deck whenever a Trio was formed, Henselt and Reaver Hunters were a force to be reckoned with.