Bigdaddy843 and Decode789

Deck Guide: Runemage is Nilfgaardian

Runemage Is The New Black


The newest card drop has changed the way how we approach Gwent games, and Runemage is no exception. He allows all your Create/Assimilate cards to have a more precise choice as he increases your options to 5 rather than 3.  Not to mention that it includes even your leader ability Double Cross. He’s just too good to not include in Assimilate lists! 

Apart from Runemage  there are two more new cards in this deck: Ring of Favor and Prophet. Ring of Favor helps to secure a win in round one with its plus two per turn tick, or allows you to draw the top card of your deck when the opponent passes.  Whereas Prophet is a bit more niche card as you need to know what your opponent is going to do next. Fortunately, with the help of Runemage and leader Double Cross you are able to view 5 cards from the opponent’s hand, thereby giving you the exact details you need to completely ruin the opponent’s sequencing. 

The game-plan of this deck is to get Runemage  before your create cards so you have a choice of 5 instead of 3 options. Braathens  is the only card that does not benefit from this (for now). So, he is mostly used in tandem with Ring of Favour to secure round one .  Roderick is used to fetch  the gold cards such as Runemage  or Vigo for earlier rounds. As you can see, this deck does not run the Blightmakers and Mage Assassins as this is more of an old-school approach with the Vigo  + Hunting Pack combo. As a somewhat spicy tech choice, the list runs a poison package for the tall removal, so Yennefer’s Invocation is not the only option you have while playing this deck. 

– Create options become easier/precise.
– High tempo.
– Has some control options.
– Slight Inconsistency.
– Core cards can be bled
– Goes Tall

The Deck

Core Cards

Runemage – The star of the deck! Allows you to see 5 options instead of 3 is a huge game changer!

Ring of Favor – Always starts in your hand in round one and has literally no downsides. Either gives you points to catch up and potentially win round one, or draw your top card.

Artorious Vigo – With the help of Runemage, this crafty spellcaster shows you all 5 bronzes in the starting deck and thus gets rid of the weakness of an inconsistent Vigo  if you run more than 3 bronze units. Pairs superbly well with the Hunting Pack.

Prophet – Strong card that allows you to take control of the opponent’s sequencing, especially with 5 options from Double Cross as you can plan ahead as to when you can drop prophet. He can be played during a bleed to make your opponent stumble with their sequencing.

Artaud Terranova – Still the greatest Assimilate card, as he can create anything that you have applied spying to.

– A great card for the final round point-slam.

Rigged Casino


The Deck

So you’re tired of beating the snot out of people with Assimilate, I mean it’s been AGES since we played anything else. You need a bit of excitement in your life, you have considered playing Shupe and/or RNG decks before, but they only win 10% of the time. Well congrats, now we can double that win rate!!!

This deck adds some substance to the style of winning with whatever RNGesus throws you. Runemage is the evident key to expanding your options, so you can pull good solutions to problems on the board with your create cards. Like any Casino deck, we stuff it full of create cards. The most important of these is Shupe’s Day Off. Shupe’s biggest flaw is the RNG element. You may not get the option you want from him. Runemage guarantees all of these options are possible, maximizing Shupe’s utility.  

You REALLY want to play Runemage ASAP. Cursed Scroll on blue coin can help with that. Otherwise, try to win Round 1 with some tempo from Radeyah and your thinning cards like Roach, Knickers and Blightmaker. If you find this too inconsistent, check out some of the tech options below that you can swap in. 

Mysterious Puzzle Box is an option to be played Round 1 for tempo, though it is ideally played in later rounds when you would gamble your bricks off and have Will o’ the Wisp on hand to delete Thing From The Box should your opponent win the bet. 

Once Runemage has been played, go wild with your create cards and pray you roll high. Artorius Vigo is your sole native (Assimilate) engine, so play him early, ideally in round 3. He is NOT nailed down to guaranteed options, but can be (look at tech section). You want medium to longer length rounds to facilitate your pay-off finisher in the form of Tourney Shaelmaar, so soft bleeds are useful to utilize Squirrel or other “trash” cards. 

-Maximum versatility
-Decent point-slam

-Casino STRESS
-Lack of engines, mediocre pay-off
-The house usually wins

Core Cards

Shupe: Shupe is potentially a huge amount of points with 15 different POWERFUL options, now fully available thanks to Runemage. 

Arcane Tome: Many of the create cards are specials. Play this card after Runemage to access all your create cards. Prioritize the expensive ones first, as some opponents don’t want to play their own specials or don’t have specials. Consider it a tutor for your high value specials. 

Tech Cards

Cards you can consider switching out:

Aguara: True Form: This is one of the weakest create cards and very expensive. Its create pool is heavily polluted by specials that are NOT useful and niche use, especially from Syndicate. 

Lydia van Bredevoort: Without assimilate engines to score points from creates, Lydia is substantially weaker than in Assimilate decks. She can, however, provide removal or situational cards that complement other created cards. 

Arcane Tome: This card is definitely risky, as some opponents can benefit heavily from playing their own high value specials. Consider a safer tutor. 

Elf and Onion Soup: You may find yourself without good targets (or even any targets at all) to sacrifice for this card, so it often plays for fewer points than other alternatives. Granted, you can use it as Box gamble fodder. 

Pellar and Squirrel: Very useful but pollutes Vigo’s creation pool, swap out for specials. 

Cards you can consider switching in:

Removal cards: Korathi Heatwave, Yennefer’s Invocation, Vigo’s Muzzle, Leo Bonhart, and Vilgefortz are all good options if you have provisions to spare. 

Create cards: Dazhbog Runestone and Summoning Circle are two alternatives/additions one can consider. Dazhbog Runestone especially as it can provide you assimilate engines (in place of Elf and Onion Soup). 

Consistency: Fisher King, Roderick of Dun Tynne and Maxii Van Dekkar are all good consistency options for ensuring you draw/play the cards you want/need. 

4 Provision Specials: In place of Pellar and Squirrel, in order to guarantee Artorius Vigo only has a pool of 5 bronze units to create from. Options include, Dimeritium Bomb, Mahakam Ale, Obsidian Mirror, Spores. 

Calveit and Ardal Psuedo-Hyperthin : Deck Guide for NG

“Our fates are written in the stars.” – Jan Calveit –

“A general commands his force. He does not rush and thrash about like some rabid hound.” – Ardal aep Dahy –

Credit to: Danamariani for inspiring this deck. 


Jan Calveit and Ardal aep Dahy reinforce Nilfgaard’s Enslave-Tactics archetype in a much needed update. While these brilliant commanders can augment any standard Enslave deck (with an Assimilate package), today we present something suitably intricate for the Great Sun: Psuedo-Hyperthin

Jan Calveit maximizes the use of one’s provisions and facilitates precise draws. This creates “effective” thinning without the use of actual thinning cards to enable Hyperthin cards Triss Merigold and Yennefer: Divination.

Jan also allows us to circumvent the traditional “12 tactics + 13 units” rule of 6 power Enslave and play a non-tactics/unit card by minimizing “wasted” provisions. Typically, 6-power Enslave requires following a “12 tactics + 13 units” rule. Jan allows us to circumvent this by minimizing “wasted provisions” of a 26th card added purely to follow Enslave requirements as we draw only our best cards. Hence this deck is able to field a non-unit/tactic , Portal, unlike other Enslave 6 decks. 

Ardal like Enslave, is at his strongest in 12-tactics decks. 


  • Incredibly satisfying, challenging to pilot, 26 card meme-ing. 
  • Consistent across games thanks to Calveit
  • Strong short Round 3


  • Incredibly frustrating (for opponent and/or  you), challenging to pilot, 26 card meme-ing. 
  • Inconsistent Round 1 and RNG Xarthisius (and mages). 
  • Can struggle to generate points if engines are removed. 


Mulligan: Aggressively dump Triss Merigold and Yennefer: Divination Round 1. The aim is to get Portal, Hefty Helge and plenty of tactics to see through Rounds 1 and maybe 2. Keep the other golds, ensure Fire Scorpions and Imperial Golem are in deck unless you have a plan using “hand improvers” (Snowdrop and Doadrick Leumaerts) to shuffle them back in after Jan so you can draw into more tactics. 

Round 1: Attempt to put down tactics-engines and delete the opponent’s board. If both “hand improvers” are available, they can net you more/better tactics while serving as a 2-point engine. Ardal can be played if he is in hand for more tactics. If the draw was especially poor and Portal was missed, play Jan to ensure it arrives by Round 2. DO NOT play Jan if there are insufficient tactics in hand to survive a Round 2 bleed. 

Round 2: Optimally, the plan is to bleed the opponent, dumping the majority of tactics, thinning out Fire Scorpions with Portal, if that was not done Round 1, and preparing for a short Round 3. DO NOT play Portal if the opponent dry-passes. We need BOTH Fire Scorpions thinned. Save it for Round 3 if necessary. If Round 1 was lost, ideally we are holding the “hand-improving” duo/engine to help fend of the opponent’s bleed. Xarthisius can come in clutch defending bleeds with a tactic for the engines or high-roll Nilfgaardian Knight/Imperial Golem, which should be the only units left in deck. If one is confident of avoiding bricks, Nilfgaardian Knight is a good proactive play to open a bleed. Remember to play Jan here if you havn’t, feel free to play Ardal, especially if you havn’t played Jan

Round 3: Ideally you have as few cards as possible here, with (only) Imperial Golem in deck. Finish off with Triss and Yenn. Try to have a unit that sticks and a proactive play (like Knight) so they have targets. If Ardal is still in hand, having Nilfgaardian Knight in deck ensures he doesn’t entirely brick the mages if he draws Golem. Remember to play Ardal BEFORE the opponent plays their last card. 

Core Cards

  • Jan Calveit: Lynch pin of this deck. Ideally played just before exiting round 2. Keep track of the card order to ensure optimum mulligans/use of “hand improvers”. More below in “Considerations”.
  • Ardal aep Dahy: With 12 tactics, serves as a powerful reset, playing for roughly 15 points and extending the round with “effective” card advantage (as the card you draw should be better than the card you returned to the opponent’s hand). Ideally played in round 1/2 to enable a tactic to be kept in hand or drawn in complement with tactics-engines. CALCULATE your mulligans after playing Jan.
  • Xarthisius: Ideally played in Round 2 with aforementioned chance to highroll on Golem/Knight or play a tactic in complement with tactics engines.
  • Triss Merigold & Yennefer: Divination: Key finishers for the short round 3, play for 22 points pulling Nilfgaardian Knight with a maximum potential of 30 points pulling Imperial Golem. Triss may be played against a high value target Round 2, with 8 power reach. 
  • Doadrick Leumaerts & Snowdrop: Ideally played together, help move bricks into deck and find tactics in Rounds 1/2. 
  • Portal, Hefty Helge & Fire Scorpions: play these as soon as possible to empower your removal tactics. Portal is essential to thinning Scorpions out to enable Yenn and Triss


  • Blue-coin Crystal Skull on Helge or Fire Scorpion helps kill everything, potentially giving Assassination more value. 
  • Doadrick and Snowdrop combined are hard to remove, creating a 2-point per turn engine. Play Doadrick first so he is ready to boost Snowdrop to 8 points immediately. 
  • Coated Weapons can place a brick on the opponent’s deck for Vilgefortz to pull. 
  • If there is nothing for Vilgefortz to destroy on the opponent’s side, he can be used to pull Imperial Golem/Nilfgaardian Knight for a sizeable amount of points. 
  • Nilfgaardian Knight’s boost is easily negated with Ardal, Vilgefortz and Triss. Play him if you can avoid bricks. 


Be AWARE that once Jan is played, you are  locking yourself out of tactics. This can be problematic if you require them in Round 2 and Jan was played in Round 1. Thus be wary of committing him early. Other than those in hand,  Xarthisius’ RNG and the “hand-improvers” can help in getting the needed tactics. Playing the “hand-improvers” AFTER Jan has huge trade-off if one is forced to shuffle units back into the deck, reducing the points Triss, Yenn and Xarth produce or having to keep those cards in hand rather than drawing into them naturally before Round 3 and having tactics to bleed the opponent. 

Be CAREFUL with using Ardal, especially in Round 3 if “hand-improvers” are not available. Bricking the mages can happen especially if Nilfgaardian Knight has been teched-out. Generally, using him in Round 1/2 is preferable to Round 3 (before Jan) to grab an extra tactic for the engines. 

Tech choices are numerous. Ardal, Vilgefortz, Doadrick, Snowdrop, Nilfgaardian Knight and the tactics mix can all be substituted based on piloting skill and risk appetite. For instance, Vilgefortz can be side-graded to Ffion var Gaernal to protect engines or upgraded to Leo Bonhart, while an Experimental Remedy is downgraded to Ointment. Similarly, an Experimental Remedy can be upgraded to Treason while Doadrick is downgraded to Peter Saar Gwynleve. The permutations are endless as long as one adheres to 12 tactics, 13 units and Portal


Draw all your golds and win. 

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Nilfgaard – Overview

Devious intrigues, aristocratic elegance, ruining everyone else’s day, these are the things that make Nilfgaard great.
Subjugate your opponents in style with the empire’s huge array control tools.

Table of Contents


This guide will equip you with everything you need to know about Nilfgaard on your journey to Pro-rank. Know thyself and thine enemy and you will win a hundred battles. Whether it is cards, plays, concepts or deckbuilding, each part of this guide will progressively advance your skills from beginner to advanced levels. Though we advocate starting from the beginning, feel free to jump around as we made this to cater to a wide-range of skill levels.  Each following section will provide an overview on the topic and its purpose, and link to the guide. 

Part 1: The Starter Deck

Intermediate and advanced players may find subtleties here that aid in piloting other Nilfgaard decks. Certainly an essential read for beginners. Click here or the image below to learn how to pilot your Nilfgaard starter deck.  Particularly, round strategy, its most potent cards, and combinations. 

Up to date with new starter decks introduced in patch 8.5. 

Usurper Officer crop (Katarzyna Bekus)

Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck

For beginners looking to upgrade their decks, read this guide. The list of must-have cards will ensure your scraps are well spent, while an off-meta and full-meta list will give you goals to work towards. Intermediate players may find key components that can help improve their decks, for instance consistency cards that are often underrated. For advanced players, the full-meta deck will serve well as a foundation for a climb to pro-rank.  

P.S. Updated to patch 9.0, click card images in the guide for their full text. 

Part 3: Concepts, Keywords and Leaders

The foundation to proper use of any faction’s cards and deckbuilding is recognition of its core keywords and concepts. This guide can help players of all stripe shortcut their way to combinations and custom decks. 

Part 4: FAQs

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Game Spotlight: Draft of Darkness (Early Access), Bandit Gang’s First Look

Team Bandit Gang is excited to present a first-look into a new early-access game: Draft of Darkness. Bigdaddy843, Dr. Corchit, and Decode discuss their thoughts on their experiences so far and give some helpful tips

Slay the Spire on Newgrounds anyone?

What’s the game about?

843: Slay the Spire is the immediate thought everyone will probably have. I love Slay the Spire and Draft of Darkness (DoD) mimics some key aspects of the game, such as the rogue-like experience, card drafting and turn-based combat with energy management. DoD does add very interesting twists to this formula, particularly in the horror and resource management aspects. 

Decode: I’m not going to lie, I don’t scare easily and this game made me scared! DoD has a neat approach to a card game, but really shines at the atmosphere and spooky effects. DoD successfully captures me with the rogue-like hook, and I keep telling myself “I want to get further”. 

Dr. Corchit: The game reminded me a bit of Throne Breaker, the singleplayer version of Gwent. Exploration and combat were closely intertwined, and it was easy to run into monsters while navigating the game’s atmospherically dark rooms. It reminded me of some of the classic flash games I played back in high school, particularly the Sonny series. I don’t mean that as a bash–many of those games were very well done!

843: Yeah, especially with the pixel-art style, I think the game is heavily reminiscent of games from the 2000s. The atmosphere, turn-based gameplay and slower pace and movement evokes Darkest Dungeon, though that may not be to everyone’s taste. 

Decode: Helpful tip! If you don’t like the pixel-art style, you can turn it off in graphics options. I very much preferred the game in that way and enjoyed the game’s excellent 2.5D art assets in that form. 

Dr. Corchit: The gameplay isn’t anything you haven’t seen before–you run around a map and fight monsters in turn based combat, in a manner reminiscent of Pokemon. What this game brings to the genre is its atmospherically dark theme and card-based combat mechanics.

Pixelation on.
Pixelation off.

What’s the gameplay experience like? Also any advice?

Decode: The bread and butter of the game is actually resource management. While the game system is a rogue-like dungeon-crawl with deck-building/card game-play, the key to succeeding is Resident Evil-like in that if you can use your consumables correctly, you’ll do well. 

Dr. Corchit:  I liked the survival features implemented, whereby the player has to maintain energy, ammunition, and batteries. This was one of the more well-developed mechanics of the game as it was intuitive to understand and hit a sweet spot of complexity. Despite my best efforts though, I was thrashed by the boss on my first play-through. Looking back, I tried to fight every monster in order to gain XP, a strategy that works in most games. It seems that Draft of Darkness may require a more tactical approach when choosing to engage enemies.

843: I definitely agree one should avoid fights initially, at least until you pick up better gear, maybe a companion, and some resources. Dodging fights to explore before engaging for loot is helpful. One has to take care not to over-explore as ticking down some status effects require new ground to be covered. You also don’t want to accidentally walk into an encounter unprepared or in a bad state. I’ve managed to clear out stages fine with this general strategy. Speaking of status effects, Decode, as our key theory-crafter, what do you think of some of these mechanics?

Decode: Hah, I sort of just sped through it with a mix of exploration and some unavoidable fights. On decks, the best way to play is having one draw/tutor card and a boost card or two in the deck. You only need one tutor card, since, starting deck is 10, so you can achieve consistency quite easily, then it’s about stacking boosts and maintaining defenses before getting your finisher. You should also really bear in mind the game’s “conserve” feature that allows you to use weaker attacks without expending resources. 

Dr. Corchit: Personally, I felt that the game could develop its TCG aspect more thoroughly. I found that I wasn’t paying much attention to the cards added to my deck, and many of them were duplicates anyway. In my opinion, a truly challenging and well-designed card game should feature rare cards and precise strategy. Merely drawing and playing the same attack cards every round of combat doesn’t really scratch that itch.

843: DoD’s game-play is super engaging to me, you have to do the math before you execute a plan in terms of energy and resources, a combination of different moves (conserving or not), the order of moves (e.g. performing attacks before using a move that consumes your offensive boost). I really need to think my moves through. 

Decode: Yeah, bear in mind each character’s equipment/weapon specialties and perks as well. These can hugely impact your strategy in exploration and the deck/equipment builds that you go for. Personally I find dual-wielding and specializing in one particular card type to be the best way to play so far. Also, be persistent. You need to finish the game to unlock things, so even if you keep dying, getting more cards unlocked to improve your starter deck, learning from your experiences and getting to completion is the path to success. 

Cards and Resources for Your Precious Pennies.

What’s the state of the game?

843: Ok guys, bear in mind this is early access, so there’s a lot more all-important fine tuning to be done for a deep detailed game like this. How do you feel things are so far? For me, I like what I see in terms of potential, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. The pace is on the slow side for me. I understand that it’s horror-survival, so it sort of wants to be slower? But in terms of frequency of adding/removing cards, getting new items/relics to play with, and having excessive equipment/loot, it could be faster paced like its counterparts. 

Dr Corchit:  I think the game has decent potential. Games in early access are a mixed bag, and can vary from barely playable to virtually complete. This game has a considerable amount of polish and feels almost ready to be released. At the same time, the core game-play is a bit on the shallow side, though the graphics and vibes are impressive. One suggestion I have for the games developers: when you play cards from your hand, it might be interesting to have the player only redraw the cards they didn’t play from the last round. This would encourage tighter deck-building, and would punish players for having cards they never play in their hand. Additionally, I think that some persistence between hands is required for the game to feel like a card game. Redrawing your hand every round ruins that feeling.

843: Yeah I totally agree that this is really good for an early access stage. 

Decode: Same, but there’s some large issues, regarding the procedural room generation. One run, I got an unavoidable boss in the third room.  

843: Hah! I got one in the middle of my first run and died a painful death. So we all agree that pacing and the instance dungeons need work. 

Decode: That said, there are some super cool things that surprised me considering where the game is.


Story-line actions have consequences via a hidden mechanic. Good actions increase the light stat while being evil increases the dark. Also, try staying on a level for a really long time. If you stay still too long, there’s a HORRIFYING surprise waiting for you.


The game is scary. Yeah. I do find the lore somewhat under-developed, the dots don’t connect yet even though I have completed the existing content twice. I am curious to learn more though. 

Dr. Corchit: Yeah, I don’t know, the cut-scenes don’t make sense? I think I accidentally skipped the first cutscene, though I remember reading something about being a hacker with access to a couple hundred servers. I found my character starting in a rather dark area that looked like an abandoned office building, with little explanation as to who I was or what I was doing. To be fair, I didn’t progress much past the first level.

843: Things do pick up at stage 2 when we learn a bit more about the world. Personally I’m just super curious in general so it was alright. Hah, Decode probably ran through stage 1 so fast he got right to the hooks. Alright, so people will have to be aware that the game is still in development and things are improving. 

Stage 2: The Streets. Where things really pick up.

What do we hope to see moving forward?

Decode: Well we know the developers are going in a good direction. Their Discord says they’re working on the UI and that’s something that sorely needs improvement. For instance, the HUD on the upper left is too small to catch. There’s a lot of unused space at the bottom which can be put to good use. Some UI customization options could go a long way. 

Possible HUD options for the future.

843: Yes I think improving the UI would help with many of the game’s teething problems. There are transparency and clarity issues. Card rarity is indicated but not explicitly explained, nor are any number of mechanics such as dual-wielding and many of the status effects. 

Dr. Corchit: I was confused by the massive number of status effects that I found in only the first level. There was even a status effect for being covered in spider webs! I’d prefer if the devs toned it down, introducing only a few per level. Status effects make the game more complicated, but they don’t always make it more fun. At least that’s an easy fix, and the sort of thing to be expected from a game in early access. 

Decode: Yes I saw all of them on level 1 and it was overwhelming. 

Dr. Corchit: I’m still not sure what the meta objective of some statuses is, such as radiation which is especially confusing. The status effects did have an explanation that displayed when you hover over them, but reading them all–especially when there’s so many in just the first level–can be a slog.

843: According to their Discord, radiation may be made positive later in the game with the right items. I guess it’s one of the added layers of complexity in trade-offs that are present in the game or will be developed further. 

Dr. Corchit: Speaking of complexities, I noticed there was an option to use or conserve ammo. Conserving ammo was often a beneficial strategy, and definitely an aspect of gameplay that I’d like to see in the final version. Yet, I noticed that turning on ammo conservation mode costs one energy, which felt counterintuitive. Besides that, default builds on companions can be really silly, like the cop having flashlight cards but no flashlight equipped. Also, it would be nice to use consumables during battle, perhaps for a modest cost in energy.

Decode: That’s some good quality of life stuff which would be nice. I think we could do away with the need to manually save every time you modify the deck. We also desperately need a profile screen. Having the option to start from scratch, save, override, delete multiple profiles is essential to roguelikes. Enhancing left click functionality will also go a long way, like allowing us to use it to examine things on the map or bring up tooltips/details/explanations in menus, inventory, etc. 

843: Well not to worry, I believe the community has noted the developers’ receptiveness to feedback and no doubt we’ll see at least some of these implemented in the future. We look forward to seeing this game in its full fledged form! 


Draft of Darkness by Crawly Games will be available for Early Access on Steam from the 31st of July 2021. Do check the game out here!

Update: The developers Crawly Games have proven immensely responsive, immediately rectifying bugs reported by Decode.