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Like a Stuck Pig (The Strategy Of Bleeding)

Wait, What’s that picture of Blood Moon doing up there!?  Not that kind of bleeding!  

One question that I hear time and time again from players new to Gwent is, “when should I ‘dry pass’ and when should I ‘bleed’?”  It can be challenging to give a concise answer to that question because the answer is contingent on various factors ranging from what deck you are playing, what deck your opponent is playing, what happened in round one, and what cards are in your hand.  This guide aims to open a discussion to clarify the different options players have available in round two.

The Terms

Before we can dive in, let us define some terms.  Gwent is a game that is played in a best-of-three format.  When a player wins the first round, there are generally two strategies that they may employ, “dry passing” and “bleeding”.

Dry Pass:  A dry pass simply refers to passing immediately in round 2 without playing any cards.

Bleeding:  Bleeding is generally a catchall term for playing cards in round two, usually with the goal of “bleeding out” essential combos that you don’t want to deal with in round three. 

Card Advantage: Card advantage means having more cards than your opponent at the start of a round.  In Gwent, each card can represent many points, and it can often be difficult for your opponent to make up the points from an extra card.

Last Say: Last say means playing the last card of the round; this is generally coveted because you can deny your opponent the opportunity to counter a potentially game-winning combo.   

Dry Passing

The dry pass is a popular round two strategy because it carries the least risk and can give you a guaranteed advantage.  Card advantage and last say are precious from a tactical standpoint, and dry passing will often guarantee one (or both) of these.  

Most of the time, the player who wins round one will be a card down, simply because the opponent can choose to pass if they don’t think they can win the round or otherwise want to conserve the other cards in their hand.  In this case, a dry pass will fix the card disadvantage (since your opponent will have to play a card to win round 2) and guarantee the last say (since your opponent won the round, they have to play first in round 3.)

In rarer cases, a player may “win on even.”  A player wins on even when they win round one with the same number of cards as their opponent.   In this case, a dry pass will force the opponent to play round three a card down and give double last say (your opponent has to play first because they won round two, and because they are a card down, you will play your final two cards unanswered.)

Dry passing is a popular beginner strategy because it has tangible benefits that you can generally guarantee and, in general, is the safest choice.  

Bleeding

Compared to a dry pass, choosing to play into round two carries genuine risks.   You have to play first, usually a card down, and you might even end up giving your opponent the last say and card advantage over you for the final round of the game.  So why would a player give up the guaranteed benefits of a dry pass?

Well, bleeding allows you to throw a wrench in your opponent’s game plan, so it can be quite useful.  If you think about most games of Gwent, there are cards that you want to hang onto. Cards that you depend on to win the game.  If you are bled, you could be forced to play those cards in round two, whether you want to or not.  The person being bled typically cannot pass until their opponent does. This is because if they lose round one and round two, it’s game over for them. So if you are bleeding someone, and you are behind, you can keep playing, and they have to keep playing cards as well, whether they want to or not

Bleeding is a common tactic against decks like Blaze of Glory Skellige with Eist or Lined Pockets with Tunnel Drill.  These cards represent huge point swings with relatively little opportunity for counterplay.  Bleeding can force the opponent to commit these combos in round two to stay in the game.

Bleeding is also frequently effective against decks that depend on a long round.  Decks like Nilfgaard and Eldain Trap decks thrive in a long round.  Bleeding in round two shortens round three, so if you are playing a deck with a solid short round- you can give yourself an advantage by bleeding your opponent and creating a round length more favorable to your deck.

Finally, bleeding can cause your opponent to make misplays or otherwise play inefficiently.  As we noted above, your opponent will have cards that they will try to avoid playing and conserve for round three.  Those cards will frequently not be played optimally and instead used only as a last resort.   This change of focus can cost your opponent a significant amount of points and may even cause them to lose round two.  A great example of this might be your opponent playing Masquerade Ball when they no longer have enough aristocrats in their hand to trigger the whole scenario.   Sometimes this can result in a 2-0 victory.

To Bleed or Not to Bleed? That is the Question.

Many factors decide whether bleeding your opponent in round two is the best strategy.  Some of these considerations include knowledge of the opponent’s deck, what cards were played so far in round one, and what your hand looks like in round two.

Knowledge of your opponent’s deck is one of the most critical considerations, and so possessing some meta knowledge is essential.   We talked about a few of the decks that bleeding is often a good strategy against above, but there are also decks where bleeding is exceptionally dangerous.  Monster Viy decks and Skellige Lippy decks have devastatingly powerful short rounds.  In general dry passing ensures the longest round three possible and is frequently the best tactic against these decks.

Aside from knowledge about how your deck matches up with other decks, you also need to consider the state of your hand going into round two.  There will be cases where your hand is not in a position to bleed.  You might have essential combo pieces that you want to save for round three, and you might just have a bad hand that you want to mulligan away.  The decision of whether to bleed the opponent thus will often be a game-by-game decision.

My rule of thumb is essentially to look at my hand and ask myself these four questions;

  1. Does my opponent have a win condition I need to bleed out in round two?
  2. Does my opponent prefer a long or a short round three?
  3. Is my hand good enough that my opponent will have to play an extra card to defend the bleed?
  4. Do I have a plan to win a short(er) round three?

These are your primary concerns when deciding to bleed.  Moreover, bleeding is frequently the default strategy for several decks.  Viy, Lippy, and Northern Realms Witchers – strong point slam decks that excel in short rounds –  will generally want to bleed their opponents.  

Using Northern Realms Witchers as an example, long rounds are frequently dangerous because cards like Yrden potentially ruin the matchup. Most dedicated engine decks are often able to outvalue the Witchers throughout a long round three.  On the other hand, a short round has significant advantages for the Witchers.  The deck possesses some very powerful point slams, such as the Witcher Trio (Lambert, Vesemir, and Eskel) playing for 15 points if correctly set up with Erland and Vesemir: Mentor.  Bleeding with this deck can not only force a short round on decks that would beat it in a long round, but it can also potentially draw out counter cards like Yrden in round two.  As a result, Witchers will generally prefer to bleed, and vice versa; they are generally more difficult to bleed.

Viy is another deck that will almost always want to bleed.  Viy has possibly the most potent short round three in the game.  Viy decks will not generally lose any real value by playing cards in round two due to Viy’s unique ability to return to the deck and increase power every time it is killed or consumed.   Playing against Viy, unless you have a hand that is capable of a 2-0 against the centipede, usually you will want to force as long of a round three as possible so that your engines have an opportunity to outvalue Viy.  

Conclusion

I suppose that this is just a way of saying “just go with your gut.”  Bleeding is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, and sometimes pursuing it will lose you the game.   I’ve won games I should have lost because my opponent was too greedy in round two and tried to 2-0 me, and then was defeated in a short round three.  I’ve also had games where I tried to bleed out a win condition, and the opponent was able to successfully defend the bleed and force me to go into round three a card down, sealing my fate. 

The ladder does not punish losing players heavily because Gwent does not have any form of demotion.  The best way to learn how to bleed your opponent and apply pressure is to practice—work on getting a feel for your deck and what your hands can do. Think about the considerations we discussed above, and don’t be afraid to try pressuring your opponent in round two. 

Elisthebirb – What’s In My Deckbuilder?

This is ”Whats In My Deckbuilder?”, a series by Babyjosus where he asks Bandit Gang members and other people from the community to share their insights about what kind of decks they have in their deckbuilder. The decks in one’s deckbuilder often says a lot about the person. This person could be a deckbuilder at heart and plays with his/her own homebrews and even personalizes them by giving them names. But of course you also have the person that looks up a meta snapshot and starts netdecking the best decks from it and might not even bother to give them unique names. Oh well, there is only one way to find out and that is by exposing them through this series!

Elisthebirb 's Deck Picks

Yoink 7
There’s an emote in the fan made and run Thronebreaker server that depicts the regular discord grinning face laughing maniacally with bloodshot eyes that stare into your soul. This “Ardal 7” deck might unironically be one of my most favourite Gwent abominations, and it also feels exactly like that emoticon. With 17 tactics and 29 cards overall, it sure is a monstrosity, but on the other hand it also felt very complete, whole. And I love it for that. Just please ignore the Bribery there… Me and my good friends from Aretuza had a blast making this, and even more fun was actually taking it to ranked. Is it good currently? Absolutely not, it was barely decent when we made it, but I would never delete it. Well, I rarely delete any decks, as you’re about to find out…

Sacrilegious Witchers
It’s NR witchers from several patches ago, but not the usual list. Oh no. This one is better. No Amphibious Assault, no Natalis, no Margarita, I don’t even remember how many other very much not witchers people play in this. I, for one, am a patron of flavor (and enjoying the absolute circus of Oneiromancy, preferably into Yrden), so I just went into the deckbuilder one day, typed ‘witcher’ into the search bar, and clicked everything I saw. The deck drove my teammates crazy, but in the fittingly infamous words of Todd Howard, it just works. Well, worked, anyway.

Elf and Onion Loss
This is another monstrosity (pun intended) I made with Driftbling sometime last year. It was his idea really – if I recall correctly, I was in need of a third deck for a local tournament, and briefly considered Overwhelming Hunger. I don’t fully understand the gymnastics his brain undoubtedly performed to come up with this. After a solid few minutes of laughing, we built it, we tested it… I don’t remember us winning a single game, rendering the deck name rather accurate, but I kept it out of general fondness for piles, and for the memory of Drift roasting his own creation.

Challenger 5
The name is telling, this deck has been chilling in my deckbuilder for a while. It isn’t mine, though; all credit for its creation goes to Mr. Repek. I imported it, because, well, I was there! Between the Archespore cosplay, the Portals and the Angoulemes and the Gwent charades – that you, BJ, probably remember especially well – it was one hell of a weekend, and I love the idea of remembering it in all the style – through a Gwent deck. Thanks to Repek for making this deck, I will never delete it.

Stayin Alive
Misleading title. This deck is very dead. And by our current standards, absolutely abysmal. Though it was already atrocious in its playable days, and by the look of the list, you can kind of tell which days we’re talking about. This, my friend, is a deck dating back to the first months of Homecoming.
Back in ye olde times of fall and winter 2018, fashion on the ranked ladder was wild. The transition from Beta was a bit tougher for someone like me, given that the game and the deckbuilding were suddenly so different, and I was figuring it all out by myself. But I made this obscenity, and it even worked, sometimes at least. It’s my precious vintage deck, maybe one day I can donate it to a museum.

Bushr Toxic Montage
I swear I can explain. 

Firstly, I am a widely known Scoia’tael enthusiast, but much to my own shame and dismay, I’m yet to complete Invigorate Mastery. I rarely played it back when the options were Aglaïs or Scorch (we already know what my preference was in that regard), and then Invigorate was forgotten by virtually everyone. Until Bushy picked it up roughly half a year ago. So, secondly, because his video popped in my recommended, I thought to myself, ‘aha! easy squirrel border’, and imported the list. And thirdly, I named it after the compilation of his twitch moments that became a popular song request in any voice chat I am participating in. Lastly, I should probably say how Invigorate mastery went. Well. Have you ever seen me sporting the squirrel border?

Who Is Elisthebirb?

Elisthebirb or just Elis, is the talented young lady behind the graphics for Team Aretuza. The design for the website, the new team members announcements and the World Cup graphics are a few examples to give.

Aside of that, she has also worked on commissions for emotes on Twitch, so if you are looking for an emote artist, definitely hit her up!

If you missed the seventh edition of ”What’s In My Deckbuilder?” then you can check that out here. Also please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

Deck Guide: A Love Letter to Harmony

Introduction

This article is a love letter to the Harmony archetype, whether you play it with Precision Strike, Guerilla Tactics, and, well, probably Call of Harmony.   Harmony often feels like a catch-all archetype for Scoia’Tael, a misfit collection of dwarves, elves, dryads, treants, and other misfits within the faction.  Somehow, they all come together to form a whole that is greater than its parts, and it is a deck that has a surprising amount of flexibility and can take many players off guard.  Suffice to say; it warms the cockles of my bleeding SJW heart.

How Does Harmony Play?

Harmony is simple in concept. “Boost self by 1 or the specified amount whenever you play a Scoia’Tael unit whose primary category is unique among all your units.”

There are nine primary categories in the faction: Dryad, Elf, Dwarf, Treant, Beast, Human, Witcher, Dragon, and War Machine.  So, if you play an Elf and there are no other Elves on the board currently, any units with Harmony will boost themselves.  A Harmony deck will compound each turn, as long as you can keep playing unique categories.  

Generally speaking, most Harmony decks are going to be somewhat Dryad heavy.  If for no other reason than carrying the Harmony keyword, most decks will include Dryad Fledglings, Dryad Rangers, and Waters of Brokilon.   In addition to boosting, Harmony typically relies on poison for tall removal.  Dryad Rangers and the Weeping Willow come with Poison and Harmony, so it is a natural fit to include a few other poison-oriented cards to make sure you can get the necessary stacks.  

Harmony can be a tricky and rewarding deck to play, as there is a heavy emphasis on unit sequencing. The deck needs to balance playing unique categories to score points and interrupting your opponent’s combos to win. 

The Deck

Why Play Harmony In This Day and Age?

Many players remember a time not that long ago when Harmony was king, and Francesca was the queen of all with her ability to play Waters of Brokilon two times!  Harmony has been power crept significantly since those days, and it remains today a seldom seen Scoia’Tael archetype.  That said, Harmony is still capable of holding its own, and it provides a rewarding experience to pilot; I find the deck to be more enjoyable than Symbiosis, Movement, Traps, or even Dwarfs.  

The first draw of Harmony is that the deck is capable in most situations.   It plays engine heavy and can typically hold its own in a long round, but at the same time, it has a deceptively powerful short round thanks to its leader ability.   Waters of Brokilon combined with the Leader Ability will slam 17 points and put three engines on the board, often taking a short round 3 by storm.   

Overall, the deck plays very much like a jack of all trades, master of none.  You have some removal but need to be careful when to play it.  You have solid engines but nothing that can compete with real engine decks.  Decent enough point slam, but again, not the best.  You get the idea.  Each game with harmony is thus unique to the matchup.   

That said, the deck relies on being competent in a short round quite a bit.  Recent expansions have seen the release of a glut of potent cards and combos that you cannot beat unless you bleed them out.  Lined Pockets with Tunnel Drill, Blaze of Glory with Eist, allowing these combos to play in round 3 will likely result in defeat.  Similarly, decks like Eldain traps thrive on a long final round.  These matchups create s disproportionate pressure to winning round one, with the usual caveats of knowing when to bow out if your opponent has overcommitted.  It can be complicated!

Useful Cards

Unlike other Scoia’Tael decks, which build themselves to a degree based around a keyword, Harmony needs to play a bit faster and looser with what cards it includes.  Cards with the Harmony ability, of course, are necessary, but once you have included those, you want a couple, but not too many, of each different primary category.  That said, there are a few noteworthy cards that have stood out to me as tech pieces.

Gezras:  Witcher is a unique category, and Gezras represents a lot of points.  Not only does he do his usual thing where he buffs the entire back row, but he will also generally trigger every unit with Harmony as well.  

Barnabas: Gnome is a rare category, and he can play for 12 + Harmony Triggers.  He is a solid point slam and benefits exactly the diverse type of deck Harmony is. 

Dennis Cranmer:  Dennis is most useful as a discount Gezras. He plays for a surprising amount of points when considering harmony procs and can be helpful in either the melee or ranged rows, depending on the board state.  

Toruviel:  She is crucial for staying competitive with Arachas Swarm.  Her ability to damage all units on a row by 1, if timed right, can clear out an entire row of tokens before the Swarm has an opportunity to start buffing them.  

Ida Emean aep Sivney:  She recently enjoyed a slight buff, and at 6 provisions, she provides a critical purify, and if you don’t need to purify, she can give a unit 4 vitality instead.   Purify helps combat defenders and can purify Joachim to prevent an opponent from using Coup on him.

Forest Whisperer: This card has grown on me in the deck, she can be helpful to make sure you have enough poison to complete a stack, or she can play into the ranged row to give a shield to help a more vulnerable harmony engine stick.  

Strategy and Tactics

The basic game flow of Harmony is to overpower the opponent in round 1 with multiple harmony engines, then bleeding round two to disrupt any combos that you won’t be able to deal with, and finally point slamming in a short round 3 with your leader ability. 

Generally speaking, Harmony has a tough matchup with most meta decks in a long round 3.  Especially in Devotion Harmony decks where saving Heatwave for a scenario isn’t an option.  There are exceptions to this rule, like against Viy decks where you need to force as long a round 3 as possible, and of course, there will be times when an opponent overcommits themselves in round 1 with their leader ability or additional gold cards.  

Generally speaking, you want to play Percival in round 1, where your opponent will be less likely or willing to use premium removal to kill him.  It is usually a good idea to play a few other cards first to get a feel for your opponent’s deck and play Percival as soon as it is safe(ish) to do so.  If you are running Aen Seidhe Sabre, you will likely want to spring it the same turn you play Percival to take him out of 6 point removal range.   Waters of Brokilon is preferable to play in round 3 because it sets up more engines which gives some protection against the potent control cards usually seen there. Waters of Brokilon into Call of Harmony plays for 17 points and puts three engines on the field, which can often jumpstart you into a powerful position.  Of course, sometimes it won’t shake out like that, but the general rule of thumb is to play Percival and Waters in different rounds.  

Let’s look at some of the specific matchups!

The Matchups

Arachas Swarm:
Arachas Swarm is a tough matchup because they can very quickly spiral out of control.  Scoia’Tael, in general, is capable of teching against them effectively.  While the Swarm is one of the most popular decks on the ladder, including several counters is necessary.  Gezras is an auto-include in a harmony deck and will help the matchup, but you will need more than just Gezras.  Toruviel, as discussed above, can clear out a line of bugs before they can get buffed, and Crushing Traps are flexible 6 point tools against the swarm.  Arachas Swarm is far from an unwinnable matchup, but it is going to come down to how well both players draw and how effective you are in timing your Toruviel and Gezras plays.  

Lined Pockets:
On paper, this matchup looks bad… It is simple, right?  Just outscore Safecrackers and Novigradian Justice in round one.  Bleed out Drill AND Cleaver in round 2… and still have enough gas in the tank to beat Phillipa / Jacques / Gord in a short round 3.   In practice, I found Lined Pockets was not a bad matchup for this deck.  Harmony Engines will outpace Lined Pockets in round one, especially with a poison package taking out one of the Halfling Safecrackers.  Generally speaking, Lined Pockets will need to commit the Tunnel Drill to kill your harmony engines to take the round from you.  And if you bleed out the Tunnel Drill and most of their leader charges in round 1, you’ve done what you came to do and can generally bow out safely.  In the short round 3, Waters into Leader is usually enough to outpace Jacques and Gord.  

Conclusion

Overall, Harmony is a refreshing way to play the game, a mismatched band of units all working together into a sum greater than its parts.  Each of your cards is a special snowflake, just like me, and they all have to work together to win.  This type of deck isn’t as powerful or as flexible as other meta decks, but it still has the tools to find a line to victory. I would recommend giving it a try. Who knows, you might fall in love with the power of diverse friendships too!

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

Deck Guide: Movement Elves

Introduction

Deadeye Ambush has been a very popular leader recently due to the Traps buff and the introduction to Eldain. But this encourages more non-interactive gameplay. If you are someone who wants to play an elf deck without any traps, do not worry as this is the right deck guide for you!

Main Strategy

The main strategy of the deck is to make use of the Elven Deadeye tokens to swarm the board for Gezras to get full value on his Adrenaline phase. The deck also has movement packages like Dol Blathana Sentry, Dryad Matrons and Cat Witchers as bronze engine cores. Feign Death plays a huge role in swarming the board for both Gaetan and Gezras. Vernossiel is great for a short round to setup for Gezras or Isengrim finishers. The deck is very straightforward as to what it needs to accomplish.

General Gameplan

The mulligan is very simple, if you draw Aelirenn you mulligan her as she will drop onto the Melee row when you control 5 elves on the board. If you have Sentry and no movement-based cards, you can mulligan it away. More than mulligans, the positioning of the cards play crucial role in this deck. All details regarding rounds and positioning will be explained below:

Round 1:
In round one, we want to try to get Aelirenn out from the deck as quickly as possible, so the more elves we have in hand, the better. We should commit the Swordmasters, Bombers and Bowman in this round to get as many elves on the board as possible.  We can mix this up with Cat Witcher and Dryad Matron to have multiple engines going at once. If a good situation arises for a purify or a lock, Ida or Ciaran can be used.

Round 2:
If you lost round one, we either have to commit Feign Death with Gaetan or Gaetan with Gezras. If we do not have Feign Death, our option is Vernossiel and Gezras, as Vernossiel can only spawn the tokens in the Ranged row.  You also have an option to commit Vernossiel and Isengrim. These are the kinds of commitments you need to be aware of if you are being pushed. We have to plan in such a way that we either save Feign Death or Gezras for round 3.

The Deck

A Page Out Of Decode's Match History

Round 3:
The final round is basically the same as round 2 – we set up the tokens for massive Gaetan value, and then we play Gezras and finish with Isengrim. It all depends on whether you used these cards up in an earlier round. If we give up Gezras in the first two rounds, then we can save Feign Death for round 3 and vice versa. Assuming you have held on to your main combo pieces, it is quite straightforward. Gaetan always played on Melee to setup GezrasVernossiel always plays on Ranged to setup Gezras

Combos

  • Dol Blathana Sentry with Cat Witcher, Dryad Matron and Gaetan is a very good combination.
  • Feign Death on the Melee row with Gaetan
  • Vernossiel on the Ranged row with Gezras
  • Double Matrons on same row so they can move and boost each other each turn.
  • Feign Death swarms easily, which will allow you to pull Aelirenn out of the deck if you have not been able to do this in earlier rounds.
  • Vrihedd Dragoon with Dol Blathanna Sentry is a classic movement combination.
  • Dol Blathanna Bowman to trigger the final Chapter of Feign Death is a great combination to get full value from both cards.

Conclusion

Looks can be deceiving when looking at this deck because at first glance it does not seem that great,  but when you try it for yourself I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The main thing to remember is the positioning and the board space for your Gaetan and Gezras. So far I have been enjoying this deck a lot. If your opponent didn’t draw an answer to your Feign Death, you almost always win that round. Well, I hope you like the deck as much as I do. 

Good luck out there!

Decode

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

Weekly Bandit Gang Content Update #4

Welcome to your weekly Bandit Gang content update.

Hello Strays of Spalla!

We hope you have had a great week, because we sure did, topped by our amazing watch party in the Discord  to watch the first Gwent Open with the BG community. Moving forward, we will make sure to announce any similar events on our socials!

Another thing I would like to touch upon is all the letters we received regarding the interest in joining Bandit Gang for article writing and guest writing. I have talked to a variety of people and decided to take three Article Writers on a one-month trial and three additional Guest Writers to contribute in our writing endeavors. We look forward to seeing what they can bring to the table!

Thank you for 200 subscribers!

Thank you for supporting us by subscribing to our YouTube ! We reached 200 subscribers and we decided to make a video to mark the occasion. In the video, we go through the current successes of BG that led up to this milestone and how excited we are for the future of the team and the channel. We hope you enjoy!

So You Want To Play Sihil!

This Saturday at 4am CEST, Carrost will be unsheathing Sihil, testing out its balance and whetting it to reach its full potential. And knowing that the last two cards Carrost has been talking about are getting attention from CDPR with the next patch, do we foresee another Sihil meta? Oh no, I surely hope we don’t. I believe there are still people out there with PTSD from the last time! Anyways, let’s see what he will write about the card first. You can also read the other two articles he wrote here.

Interested to see the editing progress of the next Lore Blast video?

Enzo is once again planning to stream his editing process of the next Lore Blast episode on Twitch this Saturday starting at 4PM CEST. What this episode is going to be about? Who knows. Tune in here  to find out.

This weeks uploads on the Bandit Gang YouTube

Illustrator: NotKelseyArt

Thank you so much for reading, and for supporting our content at Bandit Gang. Next week I will be back with more content to go through. But for now, I hope you will have a nice rest of your week!

Yours,

BJ
Content Manager
Team Bandit Gang

The Fire That Lasts Forever

In our (mostly) beloved world of Gwent, we have many different religions. They are a very important part of the life of peasants, aristocrats, kings and, well, everyone. There are so many different worships: some count their believers in thousands, others’ you can count on two hands. Different cults have a huge impact on people’s lives. There is only a small number of people who don’t believe in any kind of religion (Geralt for example), but there is normally a long backstory about it. Large numbers of people could die for what they believe in, mostly Skelligers, but not only them. There are mainly 3 groups of religions: Nordling’s* worships, Skelliger’s cults, and Nilfgaardian’s Great Sun religion. And the Firesworn seem to be the most influential Nordling one…

*Nordling is someone from Northern Realms.

Introduction

The national religion in Redania and Novigrad, and one of the biggest in the whole Northern Realms, the Firesworn are led by Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart and it is one of the most racist and unfavorable to magic, religion in the whole Witcher world. Burning witches, non-humans, or just political opponents isn’t something unusual. The Eternal Fire, although it doesn’t have any official army, is a formidable enemy in battle. Temple guards, the Order of the Flaming Rose, or even witch hunters, all do what Hemmelfart commands. Because of its power and intolerance, not everyone who declares themselves as a firesworn believes in it. But those who believe, believe that the flame will protect the city from monsters. As far as we can tell, it doesn’t work at all. It even might have its own monster species, like Zeugl.

Eternal Fire   

 Firesworns burning, well, definitely someone

In TheWitcher: Game of Imagination (polish pen and paper RPG) you can find a nice legend about the origin of Eternal Fire and Novigrad

When the first human colonists left their boats, they saw an amazing elven city. In the few next days, they came closer to the city. And then, elves just simply left it, without a known reason. When colonists were wandering around abandoned buildings, they saw a light from one palace. They came inside and found a human sitting next to the fire burning inside. He gave them food and drinks and said “I protect this – the Eternal Fire. As long as it burns, that city and our civilization will last.” Then he disappeared. A group of people, led by Hieronimus Brunckhorst stayed to protect the fire, and Hieronimus later became the first Hierarch of Novigrad.

Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart

Cyrus is quite an interesting person. The mischievous would describe him as half old man half whale, but there aren’t any who are unkind to him –  they were burned a long time ago. But the most iconic thing about him isn’t his look, it is his voice. Gwent says that “Hemmelfart never utters – he thunders”, and it is probably the best comparison. His voice makes people, even his allies, fear him. Nobody remembers how he became firesworn’s leader. Or nobody wants to remember. Sometimes it is just better to not know about certain things. The ear that has heard too many things, is cut off along with the head. He has everything that you can dream of: tons of money, almost unlimited power, and the best prostitutes at his bed. Everybody in Novigrad knows that, but if you would say it loud you would be… yes, burned, how did you know that? People also hear rumors about his meetings with Novigrad’s gang leaders, as they seem to be in some sort of alliance.

Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart   

Pope John Paul II  Also Hemmelfart

How to blame

Even if the Eternal Fire itself was just religion, it had a bigger impact on the Witcher world than you can imagine. They taught people to blame and to hate. Thousands of lives were brutally ended, to spread the faith. Most of these crimes belong to the Witch Hunters, a highly fanatic organization with sorcerers. Only during the witch hunts between 1272 and 1276 (more or less during the Witcher 3 events) they killed over a dozen mages. The most notable ones were: Assire van Anahid, Síle de Tansarville, Philippa Eilhart, Sabrina Glevissig, Fringilla Vigo, and Adelbertus Kalkstein (even though he wasn’t a mage). The Eternal Fire also heavily supported almost every pogrom, when people were basically trying to kill every non-human in the village. In a single pogrom, people usually kill hundreds of them.

One of the Witch Hunters       

Pogrom at Wetteron (in Lyria)

Order of the Flaming Rose

The main military power of the Eternal Fire. Even though it is officially independent, they just do what the church says. They declare themselves as “protectors of the weakest and spreaders of the only proper religion”. The whole organization was built on foundations of The Order of the White Rose, which was operating in Temeria for centuries. But it was heavily reformed by Jacques de Aldersberg, the first Grandmaster of the order. It burned heretics, mages, and non-humans from time to time. His connections with a criminal organization – Salamandra, are also known. The result was the rise of “greater brothers” – mutated, giant monks with superhuman strength. The Order doesn’t last long under Jacques de Aldersberg’s reign, as he was killed by Geralt, a witcher, whose deeds could be talked about for hours. With the death of Jacob, the Order lost its strength. Next, Grandmasters made the order less radical, although the Order had its monasteries in various kingdoms, it remained only in Redania. During the third Nilfgaard war, when the front reached the Pontar, they were sent by Radovid V to fight. Most monks got killed, and Radovid sold the property of the Order and dissolved it. Ex-monks joined the witch hunters or followed Ulrich. He then founded the “Fallen Knights”, a criminal organization that specialized in producing Fisstech (drugs), and hating Radovid.

Jaques de Aldersberg   

Ulrich

Someone might say that Gwent firesworns are three completely different religions, and you know what? He would be right in some way.

Worship of the Prophet Lebioda

Lebioda was a prophet (wow, such unexpected news). All of his wisdom, visions, and parables are written all together in “The Good Book of Prophet Lebioda’s Wisdom” (aka Eycyk’s book from Thronebreaker). His worship is professed in the whole of the Northern Realms, and in Toussaint, where it is probably a national religion. 

During his life, he was teaching the people and doing miracles. He died in Kaedwen near Ban Ard, trying to stop a local dragon from harassing villagers. And the dragon… just simply ate him. Later his worshipers dug up his remains from the dragon’s remains. He ended up in a sarcophagus in Novigrad’s Great Temple. It might suggest that he was one of the firesworns, and his religion has good relations with Eternal Fire. Also, some Gwent voice lines suggest that too, but in books, his religion has almost nothing in common with the Eternal Fire.

His worshippers believe that he will come to life again, and live “as the good book says”. They may also kiss his remains on certain days (imagine kissing the remains of a dead guy that was in shit, yuck). It is also a very non-human-friendly religion.

Prophet Lebioda   

His biggest statue in Toussaint

Flagellants

Quite an unknown religion, even among lore keepers. It has its origin somewhere in Toussaint, but you can find them in Novigrad too. We don’t know much about what they believe in, apart from that they whip themselves to atone for all humankind’s wrongs and to appease the gods and gain their favor. Gwent suggests to us that they are one thing, but in The Witcher 3, they are more like an independent religion.

Flagellants in Novigrad   

A tag of the Flagellants

Final Words

After what I wrote about the Eternal Fire, they seem to be so evil, but what if it was like that? Without them, Novigrad would probably stay as a little city, and they also had a huge impact on the economy, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Also sometimes they were actually helping poor people. But overall yeah, they still look like the bad guys.

Well, that seems to be everything. Hope you learned something new, and that you haven’t fallen asleep reading that. Hael Ker’z… I mean, see ya!

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

How To Properly Calculate The Value Of Thinning Cards

There has been some controversy and common misconceptions surrounding the way thinning cards like Roach are evaluated. This article will provide a clear description on how thinning cards reach more value than their initial value and proposes a method of calculating the true value using a mathematical formula. This method also provides further insight for veterans and newcomers alike. It needs to be said that this method still doesn’t paint the full picture but approximates it decently.

Thinning cards, thinning tools, and tutors are cards in Gwent that reduce the size of your deck during gameplay. They serve up to three purposes: (1) provide extra points over one or multiple rounds; (2) allow flexibility and access to key cards of your strategy; (3) improve future draws. A thinning card can serve one or all of these purposes. This article will use examples of thinning cards to explain how these purposes affect their true value. The examples used are Wild Hunt Riders, Royal Decree, Roach, Knickers and Oneiromency. It is useful to be familiar with these cards before reading the rest of this article.

Thinning in practice

Let’s start with Wild Hunt Riders. Wild Hunt Riders plays for 8 points for 5 provisions. It does not allow access to key cards or to be flexible, since it always summons the other copy from your deck, unless it is in your hand. Having the second copy in your hand is a downside, because Rider when played is only 4 points since its ability is blocked when in hand. It also limits your hand by 1 useful card. Besides giving points without playing it from hand, it also reduces your deck by 1 card. If a normal deck has 25 cards with 165 provisions total, the average provision of a card in the deck is 6.6. Since you draw 10 cards at the start of the game, one of which is 5 provisions, the average provisions left in deck is 100.6. Distributed over 15 cards, that makes 6.7 provisions per card in your deck on average. This average is in practice much lower, since you can have up to 2 or 3 mulligans to improve your hand at the beginning of a round. When the Riders enter the battlefield, only 14 cards are left in the deck, consisting of 95.6 provisions.  The new provision average of a card in deck is around 6.8 provisions. Your future draws have improved by 0.1 provision per card. Since you have 3 draws and 2 mulligans per round, and still 2 rounds to go, it is estimated that the extra value gained by thinning your deck is 1 point. 1 point does not seem a lot, but this value is considered carry over and is amplified when combined with other thinning cards. Furthermore, if your deck is polarized in its provisions, which to an extent all decks are, thinning your deck is actually more beneficial.

Let’s consider the worst case scenario: your opening hand contains only 4 provision cards and one 5 provision Rider, and all your good gold cards are left in your deck. 124 of the 165 provisions are unavailable for the first round. However, you do have a Wild Hunt Rider in hand. When Wild Hunt Rider summons its other copy from the deck, only 14 cards remain accumulating 119 provisions. The deck provision average has been increased from 8,3 to 8,5 provisions per card. Applying the same method as earlier, Wild Hunt Riders now estimates 2 points of carry over.

These scenarios show that thinning your deck is beneficial. They show that Wild Hunt Riders’ ‘thinning value’ is somewhere between 0 and 2 points. The 0 points is arrived when wild hunt riders are played in the last round, when the thinning value cannot be utilized. To drive the point home, let’s consider Wild hunt Riders one last time, but now with the inclusion of Royal Decree.

In this scenario you play Royal Decree to thin out both Riders in the first round. Royal decree is 10 provisions and riders are both 5, meaning the rest of the cards are worth 6.6 provision on average. Both Riders are in your deck and Royal Decree is in your hand. Therefore, around 96 provisions remain in the deck. After this, you play Royal Decree into the Riders. The provisions have dropped to 86 and the card total to 13. The average provision value per card has increased from 6.4 to 6.6, meaning that the thinning value equals 2 points in this scenario. The real value of this play is not 8 points solely from the riders, but actually 10 points, which is in par with the provision cost of royal decree. This shows that using multiple thinning cards is beneficial (to a certain extent).

Another benefit of Royal Decree, which has been overlooked thus far, is its flexibility described in purpose 2. Holding on to Royal Decree will guarantee access to one of your critical golds if you do not draw them, or enable you to answer a threat of your opponent’s with one of your ‘tech cards’. This benefit cannot be evaluated quantitatively, but is too large to be neglected in this article. Consistency is key to building a competitive deck, which is why these thinning cards score higher than thinning cards that do not share this quality.

How to calculate the thinning value

The calculations in the examples show the thought process of the method, but do not explain step by step how the numbers are derived. In this section, the calculation is dissected into a systemic method and ultimately combined in a single formula.

First, the relevant thinning cards are isolated from the deck, and the sum of their provisions is subtracted from the total provisions of your starting deck. The new value is the total provisions of the rest of the cards, which will be divided by the number of those cards to obtain the average provision value of the remaining cards. Thus:

P stands for provisions and N stands for number of cards.

With the average provisions of the remaining cards, the distribution of provisions between hand and deck can be calculated. In this case, we must distinguish between the ‘thinned card(s)’ and the ‘thinner card’, i.e. the card that is played from hand which thins the thinned card(s), because these cards are not always identical. Some thinned cards have multiple options of thinner cards in a deck. Roach, for example, can be pulled by any gold card. In that case, it is advised to choose the most frequently used thinner card in the calculation. 

There is one card which has no thinner card: Knickers. The calculation of the value of Knickers is disconnected from this method, and needs a different approach. In the example with Royal Decree and Wild Hunt Riders, Royal Decree is the thinner card while the Riders are the thinned cards. With this distinction, the amount of provisions left in your deck before thinning equals the provision of the thinned cards plus the number of other cards times the average provisions of a remaining card. Thus:

The Provisions left in deck after thinning is obtained by subtracting the provisions of the thinned cards from the equation:

Now that the provisions before and after thinning are determined, the next step is to calculate the change in average provisions per card in your deck. Divide the provisions before and after thinning by the number of cards left in deck respectively and subtract the fractions from each other:

The total thinning value is the provision change times the number of new cards drawn during the rest of the game. Which is estimated to be 10 after the first round. It is possible to draw the same card again after the mulligan phase, which decreases the thinning value. This, however, is based on chance. The final step is this:

By adding the thinning value to the thinner card’s initial value, you get a better representation of their combined power. It is possible that the thinning value is negative. In that case thinning your deck takes away value of your future draws. This downside of some cards can be minimized when the number of new cards drawn equals zero. Understanding when thinning is beneficial is a tool gwent players can use to play more optimally and ultimately win more games. 

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, this method still doesn’t describe every interaction: for instance, some thinning cards can be summoned multiple times over multiple rounds. For example, Flying Redanian can be summoned from the graveyard as well as from the deck. This multiple-level carryover can be included in the calculation as just 6 extra points but that is just a simplification of a complex system. Another card that falls outside this approach is Knickers. Knickers thins itself and at a random time. It does not have a so-called thinner card. However, this approach can still be used to calculate its thinning value, since the thinner card’s provision is not used in the formula. There are some other things not which are not taken into account. For instance, the extra value of knickers can take opponents by surprise and its armor can potentially be 1 more point of damage mitigation.

Furthermore, purpose 2 cannot be evaluated because of its qualitative nature. The overall value of cards which serve this purpose must be assumed higher than the approximate value obtained by this method. Likewise, the value of thinning cards is best described as a range of probable values. Within this range not all values are equally likely. The true value depends on the scenario in which the thinning cards are played. This method excels in calculating the value in specific scenarios but is weaker at finding the average thinning value of thinning cards. After all, this is only one method on how to calculate thinning values. Perhaps I will discuss the other method(s) one day.

Bonus: Echo

As a bonus, we look towards the unique ability of Oneiromancy to be played twice thanks to its Echo ability. We once again consider a deck with 165 provisions and 25 cards. This time, Oneiromancy is in the starting hand and there are two 10 provision cards in the deck which we intend to play with Oneiromancy. That leaves 132 provisions among the rest of the 22 cards which is on average 6 provisions per card. Thus the hand contains on average 67 provisions and the deck 98 provisions. The average provision of a card in deck is 98/15 = 6.53 provisions.

After Oneiromancy takes one 10-provision card out of the deck, the deck only has 88 provisions over 14 cards which is 6.29 provisions per card on average. Taking a 10 provision card out of your deck in round 1 has negative thinning value. However, since Oneiromancy is placed on top of the deck after a round ends, it reduces the downside of the negative thinning value substantially.

To understand why, let’s think of it as Oneiromancy is already in hand (it is guaranteed to end there) before you draw cards in round 2, but you only draw 2 cards instead. This shift in perspective allows us to see that the number of new cards drawn has decreased from the rule of thumb of 10 cards to 9 cards. Thus, when calculating the thinning value of Oneiromancy in this example, we take the difference in average provisions which is -0.248 and multiply it by 9. The result is -2.2 points of thinning value on average instead of -2.5 points when Oneiromancy does not end up back in your hand, for example when the opponent plays Squirrel to banish it.

This seems like it is still a downside to the card, but in this example a 10 provision card was played with it and also it was played in round 1 where there are still 10 approximately future draws left. Understandably, players tend to play the first Oneiromancy in round 2 for optimally a low provision card. This removes the downside completely. And, last but not least, don’t forget the flexibility of the card described by purpose 2 in the introduction. Having 2 flexible cards to play is a major upside which cannot be calculated here. So it is safe to say that Oneiromancy is a banger card when played optimally. 

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

Column Babyjosus – The Archetype of the Seductive Female Spy

While being the Content Manager for Team Bandit Gang most of the time, Babyjosus also regularly writes articles. This time, he offers his thoughts on the Gwent card art of Matta Hu’uri, illustrated by Sandra Chlewinska.

As seen on the card art, an exotic dancer and courtesan, performing a dance for an audience that you can assume have been entranced by the rhythmic and undulating movements. This exotic dancers and courtesan’s name is Matta Hu’uri, who became a sensation in the world of The Witcher because she personified all the poetry of Ofir, its mysticism, its voluptuousness, its languor and its hypnotizing charm.

The olive-skinned beauty spent several years traveling from city to city, telling the story of how she was born in a temple from an exotic land and was taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Matta Hu’uri, meaning “eye of the day”. In reality, Matta Hu’uri was born in a small town and her real name was in fact not Matta Hu’uri. But she did acquire her superficial knowledge of Ofiri dances when she lived for several years in Ofir where she got her fame and lived with her former husband, who was a high ranked soldier for Ofir. Throughout the years that she lived there, she also took an interest in Ofir clothes and jewelry, both of which are illustrated on the card art. Regardless of her authenticity, she packed dance halls and opera houses from Redania to Toussaint, mostly because her show consisted of her slowly stripping nude.

In time, she became a famous courtesan, and with the outbreak of the war between Redania and Nilfgaard, her catalog of lovers grew to include high-ranking military officers of various realms, all of whom showered her with gifts and crowns. The gifts that she received mostly consisted of jewels and expensive clothing. You could say that she made a living out of being the most desirable woman in the world of the Witcher.

With her dalliances with military officers and wealthy aristocrats becoming a matter of financial survival for her, they also became her downfall. As depicted in the card art, Matta Hu’uri pulls a piece of paper, most likely with intel, from underneath her bracelet. Here, it is made clear by the illustrator that she was in fact a spy and was later found guilty and executed by the Royal Redanian Army outside of Novigrad. Rumors go that the Redanian authorities had hardly any evidence, but the country’s wartime losses had been so devastating that, for the sake of national morale, somebody had to take the blame. Rumors also say that there was no evidence against her and that the death penalty was not justified. We can conclude that her craving for fame and attention, which resulted in an extraordinarily adventurous life, was sadly the reason for her story to end. Luckily we can still look at the mesmerizing card art that continuously tell her story to the generations that will follow.

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!

Weekly Bandit Gang Content Update #3

Welcome to your weekly Bandit Gang content update.

Hello Strays of Spalla!

Another splendid week we had last week, and another splendid week ahead of us. Last weekend we had the Season of the Bear Top 64 Qualifier and it was casted by one of our Content Creators and it was so cool to see that we had BG representation for the very first time on an official tournament cast!  I am speaking of TheOneChristo  who casted the final two games alongside his longtime friend WatchFlake. You can find the matches on his YouTube channel. This is just another example that not only we are growing as a team, but also that our members are getting more recognition in the community. We are immensely proud of him getting this opportunity and nailing it!

Listen to the Tunes of Gwents Elite, a soundtrack for Climbing and Grinding the ladder

Ever wondered what your favorite streamers listen to? Academy Manager and Article Writer Sawyer1888 , talked with over 60 people from the Gwent community about their favorite music to create this unique playlist: The Tunes of Gwents Elite. You can read more about it here , but make sure to give it a listen too!

The man put in a lot of time and effort into this specific project, he said so himself that over 50 hours were spend reaching out to all the people and talking to them. This is just another example of how we at Bandit Gang prefer quality over quantity.

Do you have a passion for Graphic Design or Article Writing? Then I want you for Bandit Gang!

If you have passion for Graphic Design or Article Writing and you would like to join an amazing group of people then please contact me. For more information on how to contact me you can click here.

This weeks uploads on the Bandit Gang YouTube

Illustrator: NotKelseyArt

Thank you so much for reading, and for supporting our content at Bandit Gang. Next week I will be back with more content to go through. But for now, I hope you will have a nice rest of your week!

Yours,

BJ
Content Manager
Team Bandit Gang

Wickedsyam’s First Interview | Welcome To Bandit Gang | Exclusive

Babyjosus: Welcome to BG Wickedsyam. What does it mean to you now that you are officially part of BG?

Wickedsyam: Thank you! It means a lot for me to be part of a team which has great pro players who I look up to and great content creators I enjoy watching.

BJ: Happy to hear that. What made you join team BG in the end?

WS: It was a no brainer for me when I got invited to join BG. The chance to be a part of one of the most competitive Gwent Esports team was too good to give up.

BJ: What can people expect from you now you are on BG?

WS: You can expect a consistent pro player, a supportive team member and more importantly a huge cheerleader for BG.

BJ: And how well suited do you think you are to the life of a competitive player for BG?

WS: My work and family commitments limits my ability to play a lot of games, but my aim is to improve my efficiency to secure a top 16/64 spot.

BJ: What message would you give to the supporters of BG?

WS: Keep cheering and supporting us.

You can find out more about Wickedsyam here.