LawAndOtter

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Beyond the Starter Deck

Eithné Mother Gwent Art

The Upgraded Starter Deck

Beginning Scoia’tael players can either work towards the upgraded starter or other archetypes.

Note: Upgraded starter decks were accidentally released as the actual starter decks briefly during Patch 8.5. The Gwent team later announced that this was a mistake, and that starter decks will be upgradable through reward trees. This feature has not yet been released and is planned for a future patch.

The upgraded version of the starter deck is a Devotion Nature’s Gift list. The strength of Devotion Nature’s Gift depends on which other decks are common in the metagame. If you face Nilfgaard a lot, the Purify effect of Dryad’s Caress and the Veil effect of Shaping Nature are very valuable.

The upgraded starter deck is close to a refined list: for the golds, only The Great Oak and Freixenet are strong candidates to change, preferably for Gezras of Leyda and Figgis Merluzzo. There are better options in the 5-provision slot than Duén Canell Guardian, and the 4-provision Dryads can be easily swapped for other 4-provision cards like Tempering or Pyrotechnician. Harald Gord is also a strong contender for this deck.

Later, we’ll look at several strong Scoia’tael decks that you can work toward which should continue to be strong for several seasons.

Must-Have Cards

Unlike some factions, even the most powerful Scoia’tael cards aren’t played in every deck. These gold cards, though, are the most useful ones you should work toward as you build your collection. Make sure you know, though, what decks you are interested in building, or you could find yourself crafting cards you can’t use.

Note: The cards at the top of this list are all used in the Scoiatael deck that is currently the most competitive, an Orb of Insight Spella’tael deck. More on that deck later.

Note: If you dont know what these cards do, click on their images to learn more about them.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr Gwent Card Art
One of the best tutors in the game, since it is able to thin 2 bronze cards and get 2 triggers for cards that want you to play Specials.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr is one of the best tutor cards in the entire game, as well as currently the main reason to play Scoia’tael. Simlas thins your deck of 2 bronze cards, provides at least equal to his provision cost in value, adds flexibility in the choice of boosting your units or removing your opponent’s units, and provides 2 immediate triggers for your special-loving cards like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and Harald Gord. The main consideration with Simlas is in the deckbuilder: you should usually run at least 3 pairs of 2x bronze specials. Orb of Insight is a particularly valuable target for Simlas.

Harald Gord Gwent Art
In the right deck, Harald Gord is an absolute beast of a finisher.

Harald Gord is a powerful finisher for some decks that play a lot of Special cards. For only 7 provisions, you can get at least 15 points, and sometimes as much as 20-25 points. Harald is a strong finisher for the Orb of Insight Spella’tael deck, as well as No-Unit variations of Scoia’tael.

Forest Protector Gwent Art
A strong, flexible option, frequently used to replay Nature's Rebuke.

Forest Protector is a very flexible and high-powered card. Most ST decks run at least one Nature’s Rebuke, and often two. Combined with another bronze Nature cards like Tempering, Dryad’s Caress, or Circle of Life, you should basically never brick Forest Protector. Giving access to a second or third Nature’s Rebuke is helpful, and it often plays as 11 or 12 points for 11 provisions.

Feign Death Gwent Art
The Scoia’tael Scenario is quite easy to trigger and provides a lot of points, especially played early in a round.

Feign Death is the Scoia’tael Scenario, and it’s one of the easiest scenarios to trigger, since many of the best Scoia’tael cards are elves. Feign Death can be used in a variety of decks, and it can be used flexibly in different rounds. If possible, try to play Feign Death early in the round you will be playing it, since the engine it spawns can continue to boost itself every turn. Feign Death also benefits from the Scoia’tael strategem, since it can immediately trigger Chapter 1 of Feign Death, making Feign Death more resistant to Korathi Heatwave.

Aelirenn Gwent Art
Run in most decks that include Feign Death, Aelirenn is 5 free points and thinning for only 8 provisions.

Aelirenn is an excellent card if your deck plays enough elves to reliably pull her out. If you run Feign Death, you can almost always pull out Aelirenn the same round you play Feign Death. One of the best things about Aelirenn is that she is controllable, so you can pass with 4 or fewer elves on board if you want to save the tempo for a later round. You can also keep her in hand if you do not want to commit the tempo until later.

Isengrim's Council Gwent Art
A cheap tutor with RNG that can be controlled in the deckbuilder.

Isengrim’s Council is a strong consideration, especially if you can control the outcomes to a certain extent. For instance, running only 1 elf like Ida Emean Aep Sivney or Ele’yas ensures you don’t have less optimal choices from Isengrim’s Council. Another popular option is running only 1 dwarf in Harald Gord (this can give you a cheap tutor to guarantee access to your finisher).

Call of the Forest Gwent Art
A strong tutor option that can get you any Scoia'tael unit and benefits from a Nature tag.

Call of the Forest is a powerful tutor card that is used in both Devotion and non-Devotion decks. Call of the Forest is a Nature card, which means you can tutor it with Fauve. Scoia’tael also has many units that tutor, so you can use Call of the Forest to get you access to a spell through a card like Fauve or Forest Protector. Basically the only important card you can’t find with this is Feign Death.

Fauve Gwent Art
Many Scoia'tael specials are Nature cards, so Fauve can find key bronzes and powerful golds.

Fauve is a strong consideration in a lot of decks, not just Nature’s Gift. She ensures you have access to Nature’s Rebuke, as well as Nature tutors like Call of the Forest and Isengrim’s Council. Most Devotion ST decks will include Fauve and Call of the Forest, including the upgraded starter deck.

Eithné Young Queen Gwent Art
An excellent card if unanswered, though the 2-point Young Dryads are very vulnerable to many decks.

Eithné Young Queen is included in the upgraded starter deck, and she can be useful in Devotion lists. The 2-point Young Dryads she spawns are very weak to control, though, so she is often best behind a Defender. Very few non-Devotion lists run her, since she usually doesn’t generate enough value unless several Symbiosis engines survive.

Gezras of Leyda Gwent Art
A must-answer engine that can generate a ton of points for swarm decks.

Gezras of Leyda is one of the most powerful engine cards in the game if left unchecked. Even if he is removed immediately, playing him at the end of a round can often get you 12 or 13 points. Even better, those points are spread around, making you less vulnerable to tall punish. While decks that don’t play many units, such as Traps, can’t make use of Gezras, he’s a strong consideration in many other ST decks, especially Elf Swarm.

Other Archetypes to Build

While the upgraded starter deck will win you games, it is not currently competitive at the highest ranks. The following deck, Orb of Insight Spellatael, is currently competitive in high ranks. There are multiple popular variants of Orb of Insight Spellatael, including a more recent version using Alzur to generate massive point swings. The below version is a bit more beginner friendly than the Alzur version, though the Alzur version is likely the slightly stronger deck.

Below that are some other decks which are generally off-meta but can be strong when piloted well.

Tier 1/2 Meta: Orb of Insight Spella’tael

This deck relies on playing Orb of Insight as many times as possible, both immediately triggering Special-loving engines like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and beefing up Harald Gord for a massive finisher. In best case scenarios, it’s possible to play six Orbs, each of which comes back again for six more Special triggers.

Since Harald Gord is your big finisher, your goal should be to win Round 1, bleed your opponent in Round 2, and beat them in a short Round 3 with last say Gord plus 2 other cards.

You have two big power plays outside of Gord (Feign Death and Simlas), and you will often use one of them to win Round 1 and the other in the Round 2 bleed.

Feign Death is excellent when going second (Red Coin), but may be an overcommitment going first (Blue Coin). Unless you keep her in hand, Feign Death will usually bring out Aelirenn for some tempo and thinning (especially good to keep her from clogging up Isengrim’s Council, which can be taken for an Elf if you aren’t using it for Gord). A nifty trick with Feign Death is that Chapter 2 will play a Special, meaning you can play Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and get an immediate trigger. If you have Orbs in the graveyard ready to go, you can even get a bunch of chained Special triggers without your opponent ever having the opportunity to react.

Your other non-finisher power play is Simlas. The best case is to use him for Orb of Insight, but he can used on Nature’s Rebuke or Tempering in a pinch. Even without Special-lovers on the board like Elven Scribe or Elven Seer, double Orb of Insight (and playing a couple of specials to pull them back from the graveyard) can often get you enough points to either win Round 1 or stay ahead of your opponent in a Round 2 bleed.

Once you’ve executed the above gameplan as best as you can (the deck can be awkward, so don’t worry if it doesn’t quite go according to plan), it’s simple: play big Gord, win game.

Viable Off-Meta: No-Unit Madoc

This deck’s win condition is to continually disrupt your opponent’s gameplan while developing just enough of your own points to win.

In most games, you’ll push to win Round 1. When going first, this usually involves playing Saber-Tooth Tiger (which is much better when going first). When going second, you’ll usually play as uninteractive as possible, using your removal on your opponent’s cards so that they cannot set up their board.

This deck has very few proactive plays (Saber-Tooth Tiger, Maxii Van Dekkar, and Pyrotechnician being the main ones), so try to save these for when you have to go first in a round.

Depending on the deck you’re facing, you may want to go into a short Round 3 with a Harald Gord finisher, or into a long Round 3 where you respond to your opponent’s plays.

This deck is highly meta-dependant, as it eats engine decks alive, but it struggles greatly against pointslam.

Note: For new players, this deck may be prohibitively expensive, since many of the cards are not useful outside of this specific deck.

Low Tier Off-Meta: Elf Swarm

This deck’s strategy is to play a lot of Elf units to swarm the board, then use cards like Gezras of Leyda, Isengrim Faoiltiarna, and Vernossiel to benefit from the swarm.

One of the biggest advantages of the deck is its flexible damage: Elven Swordmaster should get one point of damage almost every turn, while Dol Blathanna Bomber, Dol Blathanna Bowman, Vrihedd Officer, and Waylay let you fill in whatever other damage you need to disrupt your opponent’s gameplan.

The downside of the deck is that while it has an extremely powerful long round, it can be hard to swarm the board in two different rounds. Generally, you’ll be looking to have one medium-power longer round (some elves + Aelirenn + Yaevinn + perhaps Isengrim) and one high-power longer round (Feign Death + Vernossiel + Gezras + Isengrim).

The ace up this deck’s sleeve, though, is the combo of Simlas and Vanadáin. You can use Vanadáin to clean up your hand early (for instance of you draw Aelirenn), then mulligan the Waylays to play 4 Waylays from your deck with Simlas. Alternatively, if you have Simlas in hand and Vanadáin sticks, you can play Simlas for 2 Waylays from the deck to get as many as 18 points from Simlas.

Low Tier Off-Meta: Traps

This deck is an interesting hybrid of the Elf Swarm and No-Unit decks above. The goal of the deck is to get to a long Round 3, play Traps so that your opponent can’t do things, then play Eldain as your penultimate card and Vernossiel on the Melee row as the last card. When it actually gets to play out this plan, the deck is almost unbeatable. Of course, actually getting there is the tricky part.

The typical Round 1 gameplan is to play Feign Death, cheap bronze Elf cards to trigger Feign Death and pull out your Aelirenn, and Yaevinn and/or Isengrim as big tempo swings.

If possible, try to avoid playing any Traps in Round 1. This is not just because your Eldain will benefit from playing more Traps. This is because any good player will recognize the win condition of a Trap deck and do everything they can to prevent you from having a long, uninteractive Round 3. Holding back on your Traps means that players may think you are an Elf Swarm deck.

If you aren’t able to win Round 1 (which will happen relatively often, especially if you miss Feign Death), you can defend the bleed with Traps and Eldain. Try to save Vernossiel and Feign Death, since they’re really the only source of points you have in a short round.

Note: For new players, this deck may be prohibitively expensive, since many of the cards are not useful outside of this specific deck.

Finally, here are a few descriptions of decks that venture into meme territory. They are not particularly competitive, but they can be a lot of fun to play.

  • Dwarves (Mahakam Forge): This deck plays a bunch of proactive dwarves, taking advantage of the Mahakam Forge armor passive to protect them. Mahakam Guards can easily be 10 or 11 power for 4 provisions, the Resilient dwarves can be a real pain for some decks, and Brouver Hoog is a huge ongoing threat.
  • Harmony (Call of Harmony): This deck sets up a ton of Harmony engines and plays a wide variety of tags to benefit those Harmony engines. Francesca Findabair allows you to play Water of Brokilon twice for a massive amount of threats. Unfortunately, this deck is significantly outclassed by other similar options, such as Monsters Thrive.
  • Aglaïs (Mahakam Forge): This deck is mostly a meme, but at least it’s a fun meme. The goal is to secure last say at all costs, then pump everything you have into a huge Aglaïs. Francesca Findabair allows you to duplicate Tempering from your Leader, and Sorceress of Dol Blathanna allows you to play another buff, such as Tempering or Dryad’s Caress. This deck is easily disrupted, but when it works, it works spectacularly.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – The Starter Deck

Eithné Young Queen Gwent Art

Your Deck’s Foundations

The Scoia’tael (ST) starter deck is a Nature’s Gift list. While more advanced Nature’s Gift lists focus primarily on Symbiosis (cards that benefit from playing Nature specials), the ST starter deck has a variety of packages.

First, let’s look at Symbiosis. This keyword effectively adds 1 extra point to each of your Nature cards for each unit with the Symbiosis keyword you have (your Nature’s Gift leader has Symbiosis, as well). You’ll want to develop your Symbiosis engines (Hamadryad, Duén Canell Guardian, Abandoned Girl, and Freixenet) early in the round before playing Nature cards, so you get the full benefit from Symbiosis.

This deck also includes a Harmony package. The Harmony keyword boosts a unit whenever you play a Scoia’tael unit whose tag or “tribe” isn’t already represented on your side of the board. The tribes you have in this deck include Human, Dryad, Beast, Elf, and Witcher. Like Symbiosis, Harmony engines should be played early in order to maximize their value.

The deck also includes several cards that give Vitality to your units. Since Vitality generates points slowly (and can be removed with Purify), the payoff is it generally plays for more value than boosting a unit. Hamadryad is your primary Vitality target in this deck, since its ability effectively doubles any Vitality on itself.

There are also several cards that boost units in your hand, a mechanic that’s informally called Handbuff. While you will sometimes use boosted cards in your hand in the same round, they’re often most useful brought into future rounds, a concept called Carryover. Carryover is especially powerful, since it allows you to gain an advantage over your opponent in the deciding Round 3.

Your starter Scoia’tael deck is rounded out by several Utility cards: cards that are useful in specific circumstances. Geralt of Rivia allows you to remove one of your opponent’s units with 9 or more power. Surrender allows you to punish an opponent who is swarming their board on a single row. Dorregary of Vole allows you to lock one of your opponent’s cards to disrupt their gameplan. Alzur’s Thunder allows you to remove key engine cards from your opponent’s board.

How to Win with the Scoia'tael Starter Deck

Mulligan Phase

ST Starter Deck Mulligan
Choosing what to mulligan in the Scoia'tael starter deck.

You should use all of your mulligans, since this deck has no possible “bricked” cards (cards that will play for zero or minimal value). General mulligan strategy applies here: keep your gold cards and mulligan bronze cards.

You want to prioritize handbuff cards: Dunca is excellent in Round 1, Circle of Life gives you flexibility (especially going second), and Freixenet can be used for the handbuff if you get him Round 1.

Otherwise, prioritize a mixture of Symbiosis cards and Nature cards, as well as diverse tribes for Harmony if possible.

Round 1

ST Starter Deck Round 1
A typical Round 1 opening with the Scoia'tael starter Deck.

If you go first in Round 1 (Blue Coin), your strategy should be to develop engine cards like Symbiosis and Harmony, then play cards that benefit from those keywords. Dunca (with Tactical Advantage to protect her from the opponent’s removal) is an excellent opening play.

When playing your Symbiosis engines, start with Duén Canell Guardian or Abandoned Girl if possible. This deck has a lot of Vitality, so Hamadryad is one of your highest value cards, and playing it later can ensure your opponent has used up their removal. You can also use an immediate Leader charge on Hamadryad to boost her to 6 power, out of range of most removal.

You only have 2 Harmony engines in Sirssa and Trained Hawk. If you have both, play Sirssa first so she can boost from Trained Hawk’s Beast tag. Abandoned Girl can get you 2 Harmony triggers: you can play her for a Human trigger, then use her Order to transform her and play another Human unit.

Otherwise, weave in Nature cards and utility cards. You should almost always develop your Symbiosis engines before playing your Nature cards. For example, if one of your units has Bleeding, you could Purify that with Dryad’s Caress. If you instead develop a Symbiosis engine, you’ll take 1 damage but gain that back in the extra Symbiosis value if you play Dryad’s Caress next turn.

If you go second in Round 1 (Red Coin), decide immediately based on your hand if you are going to compete for Round 1. If you have Circle of Life, Freixenet, and/or Dunca, you should usually handbuff as much as possible before passing and letting your opponent win Round 1. If you play Dunca, it’s good to play out your weaker cards while Dunca keeps handbuffing every turn. If not, you can play a few handbuff cards and weaker cards, then pass once you have 7 cards in hand.

Round 2

ST Starter Deck Round 2
Going into Round 2 with a number of handbuffed cards gives you flexibility and carryover power.

Your deck is generally best in a long round, though it can be good in a short round if you saved handbuffed cards.

If you win Round 1 and have more than 7 cards, you can play more handbuff cards to prepare for Round 3. If you win Round 1 and have fewer than 7 cards, you should usually pass to go into a long Round 3.

If you lose Round 1, your opponent may choose to push you in Round 2, also called a “bleed.” Hamadryad is an excellent resource for Round 2, since she both adds Symbiosis and gives you a high-value target for your Vitality cards.

Round 3

ST Starter Deck Round 3
Going into a long Round 3 with Surrender for wide punish, Geralt of Rivia for tall punish, and several handbuffed cards gives you a good chance at winning.

Play Round 3 as if you were playing to win on Blue Coin in Round 1. Play out your Symbiosis engines, your Harmony cards (Sirssa first), then play Nature cards and utility cards.

You almost always want to save Geralt of Rivia for Round 3, though not necessarily if you are going into a short Round 3. Geralt and Surrender both represent the highest potential point ceilings in your deck, so keeping them, especially for a long Round 3, can help you swing the game.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – FAQs

Scoia’tael Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to questions you may have after reading our guide to Scoia’tael. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, drop them in the comments and we will respond to them when we can! 

Technical and Mechanics Questions

Should I craft the Scoia’tael strategem, Aen Seidhe Sabre?

Probably not. The main utility of Aen Seidhe Sabre is in triggering Chapter 1 of Feign Death immediately, without giving your opponent a chance to play Korathi Heatwave. While Korathi Heatwave on Feign Death can be devastating in an Elf Swarm deck, that deck isn’t currently in the metagame. The much more popular deck using Feign Death is Orb of Insight Spella’tael, which both doesn’t want to commit Feign Death in Round 1 and doesn’t care as much about having it Heatwaved, since it clears the way for Harald Gord.

Why did my Eithné lose its boosts? Eithné (in her 1st and 2nd form) has a unique mechanic called Transform. Cards that Transform will always set to the base power of the new card. So, if you boost Eithné to 8 in Round 1, she will then transform and reset to 6. This is why it’s common to mulligan Eithné if you will be playing Dunca.
Why did Forest Protector not trigger? Forest Protector plays a bronze Nature card from your graveyard. This means that you must have previously played a bronze Nature card, such as Nature’s Rebuke, Circle of Life, Tempering, or Dryad’s Caress. Other Bronze Specials, such as Orb of Insight, cannot be played with Forest Protector. Gold Nature cards, such as Shaping Nature, also cannot be played with Forest Protector.

I have a unit in my hand and Dunca on the board, but nothing is happening. Why?

Dunca and Circle of Life both buff Scoia’tael units in hand, not Neutral units. If you have only Neutral units, these cards will not trigger their effects.

Why isn’t Call of the Forest showing me all the units in my deck?

Like Dunca, Call of the Forest only applies to Scoia’tael units. It will not show you Neutral units from your deck.

Why didn’t Eldain transform my trap? Eldain requires Traps to be face-up, meaning they have triggered either their Ambush or Spring abilities and turned over to the card art side. Any face-down traps will not be converted into Elven Deadeyes.
I’m a Devotion deck and Pavko Gale is only dealing 1 damage. Why? Pavko Gale’s conditional for 2 damage requires only Scoia’tael units on the board. While you may be playing Devotion, it’s possible your opponent put another card on your board, such as a Nilfgaard spy or a bronze unit through Operator.

Overall Faction Questions

What are some good tech cards in Scoia’tael?

If you are facing a lot of decks with Defenders, Vrihedd Sappers can provide a flexible offensive or defensive Purify. If you’re facing lots of Nilfgaard, Dryad’s Caress can be helpful to remove Poison and Locks. Making a Bomb provides 4-damage removal while maintaining Devotion. If you’re facing a lot of row-locked units, Vrihedd Dragoon is a cheap 4-provision option for movement (Paulie Dahlberg also works here and can protect one of your own engines). Ciaran aep Easnillen and Morenn both offer locks, though they are worse in points than Dorregaray of Vole. Ida Emean aep Sivney is another nice Purify, since her floor is generally 8-9 points because of the Vitality option. If you’re facing decks that play a big threat as their first play, Serpent Trap with the Spring option is basically a cheaper Curse of Corruption on the first card your opponent plays.

What’s Scoia’tael’s playstyle like? How will I know if I like Scoia’tael before investing my resources?

Scoia’tael is a flexible faction, as it can successfully play Control, Midrange, Swarm, Engine Overload, and No-Unit. For new players, Elves and Nature’s Gift are both solid Midrange options. Scoia’tael also offers a lot of room for growth, as most ST decks can be fairly tricky to play optimally.

Which Scoia’tael deck should I play?

Currently, Orb of Insight Spella’tael is likely your best option. Nature’s Gift and Deadeye Ambush decks, such as Symbiosis, Elves, Traps, or Movement are also options, though they are not as strong in the current metagame. For more information, see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck.

Should I upgrade the Scoia’tael Starter Deck using the reward trees?

If you intend to play Scoia’tael, yes, absolutely. The upgraded starter deck, while not 100% optimal, is fairly close. A few swapped cards, and you’ll be able to compete with the deck.

What’s the current state of Scoia’tael?

The Price of Power expansions have provided Scoia’tael with some useful cards. In particular, Thanedd Coup introduced Orb of Insight, Elven Seer, and Simlas Finn aep Dabairr. These cards, combined with Once Upon a Pyre cards like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and Sorceress of Dol Blathanna, form the core of the current meta deck, Orb of Insight Spell’atael.

Outside of this deck, only No-Unit Madoc is often played on ladder. Other Scoia’tael decks are much weaker than these decks and are likely to get overrun, especially on higher ranks.

Which Scoia’tael premiums should I craft?

If you like Traps, the music on Eldain is a banger. The third-form of Eithné (Wrath of the Brokilon) is beautiful. The premium for Aglaïs has an ethereal beauty that I could watch on loop many times. If you want a cheap but cool premium, Oakcritters is creepy and cute at the same time.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Concepts, Keywords and Leaders

Eithné Wrath of the Brokilon Gwent Art

Concepts and Keywords

In order to get better at Scoia’tael and build your own decks, you need to understand these concepts and keywords that are a part of the faction’s unique identity.

Symbiosis is a Scoia’tael-only keyword that adds 1 point to each of your Nature cards. Symbiosis makes weaker bronzes like Tempering and Dryad’s Caress much more playable with the Nature’s Gift leader. Eithné Young Queen, when played in a Devotion deck, is your most powerful Symbiosis engine, representing 3 points for every Nature card if the opponent does not have answers. The combination of solid Symbiosis engines in Hamadryad and Eithné with strong Nature cards like Call of the Forest and Nature’s Rebuke makes Symbiosis one of the most powerful sets of cards in Scoia’tael.

Harmony is another Scoia’tael-only keyword. It boosts Harmony units whenever an ST card with a new “tribe” tag is played on the board. For example, if you do not have an Elf on the board, playing an Elf will boost any cards with Harmony by the specified amount (Percival Schuttenbach is the only card with more than 1 Harmony right now). There are currently 11 different tribe tags in Scoia’tael: Beast, Dragon, Dryad, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Human, Machine, Relict, Treant, and Witcher. Harmony cards are often inefficient for their provision cost, and the keyword can force you into playing cards in a sub-optimal order. As a result, it is currently too weak for competitive play.

Movement is a package of Scoia’tael cards that either move rows or benefit from moving rows. Dol Blathanna Sentry is the core of the movement package, and it’s supported by cards like Dryad Matron, Cat Witcher, Malena, and Gaetan. Movement also helps with dealing with enemy units that are row locked. Vrihedd Dragoon is a very flexible card that also costs 4 provisions, making it easier to fit into decks as a tech choice.

Handbuff is the concept of boosting units in your hand, and it is one of Scoia’tael’s biggest strengths. Cards like Dunca and Circle of Life are frequent inclusions in Scoia’tael decks. Unlike cards that boost units in the deck, the cards that you boost in your hand can be either played in the same round (if you need the tempo) or saved for carryover. This makes them extremely flexible. Unfortunately, there is some anti-synergy between Eithné Young Queen and Handbuff cards: if you are playing Handbuff, try to mulligan Eithné to prevent her from Transforming and losing all boosts.

Traps are Artifact cards that are played face-down, meaning the opponent doesn’t know which Trap you played. They have 2 conditions: an Ambush (which triggers when a certain condition is fulfilled, such as your opponent passing or playing a Special card) and a Spring (which you can manually trigger for a weaker effect). Traps are generally too weak for inclusion in other decks, but combined together can make for a solid archetype. Eldain and melee-row Vernossiel are a powerful finisher for Trap decks.

Poison can be played in Scoia’tael, but it is by far the weakest of the 3 poison factions. Dryad Ranger is a very strange design, since it damages a unit you will ideally be destroying anyway. Forest Whisperer is an overcosted Fangs of the Empire. Treant Mantis: Stalk is random, making it very easy for the opponent to minimize its value. Until ST Poison cards get a buff, do not play them in your deck if you want to win.

Resilience is primarily used in Dwarf decks, with Zoltan Chivay and Gabor Zigrin both representing Carryover points. Both are generally included in all Dwarf decks, since they don’t pay too much of a provision penalty for having Resilience.
Row Swarm is the concept of playing a lot of cards on a single row, then playing cards that benefit from having a lot of cards on the row. Cards that benefit from Row Swarm include bronzes like Cat Witcher Mentor and Cat Witcher Adept, as well as high-end golds like Gezras of Leyda, The Great Oak, Brouver Hoog, Gaetan, and Yaevinn. Just be careful to not fill up your own row so that you can’t play these cards, especially against Nilfgaard and their Spying units.

Specials is one of Scoia’tael’s strengths, harkening all the way back to the early days of Gwent and the “Spella’tael” deck. Cards like Francesca Findabair, Harald Gord, Whisperer of Dol Blathanna, and Elven Scribe all benefit from playing Specials. Sorceress of Dol Blathanna and Forest Protector let you play additional Special cards. If you are playing a Special-heavy deck with Harald Gord as your finisher, try to secure last say so that your Gord isn’t answered by your opponent.

Leader Abilities

Below is an explanation of the 7 Scoiatael leader abilities, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Guerilla Tactics is a weak leader ability at 6 points with the additional utility of buffing one of your key engines or disrupting your opponent’s card placement. Unfortunately, one of the key cards that benefits from Guerilla Tactics, Brehen, has anti-synergy with the leader, since you deal 2 damage to a unit you want to destroy with Brehen. Usually, Guerilla Tactics is best with an all-in movement focused deck including as many movement cards as possible.

Invigorate is another weak leader, though balance changes have at least made it sort of, maybe a bit playable (if you don’t mind losing). For new players, it can be a bit of a trap: 10 points with upside (used on cards like Sheldon Skaggs) for +16 provisions seems good on paper. However, unlike other leaders, it is highly awkward and inflexible. With a leader like Deadeye Ambush, you can always spend a charge or two for tempo, or you can save them for a powerful burst in Round 3. Invigorate’s boosts will likely be spread throughout the entire game, making them neither powerful as a finisher nor immediately impactful as tempo.

Nature’s Gift is one of the mainstays of Scoia’tael: for +15 provisions you get 6 points of Vitality, additional boost and protection for your Hamadryads, and one of the best passives in the game in the form of 1 untouchable Symbiosis. ST has enough decent Nature cards to make the Nature’s Gift leader upward of 20 points spread throughout the game. The 3 leader charges are also flexible, as you can spend one to get ahead or to protect key engine cards from common damage thresholds. For more info about how to play Nature’s Gift, see Part 1: The Starter Deck and Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck guides.

Precision Strike is another powerful leader option. In order to enable the leader, you should always run 2 Brokilon Sentinels, then mulligan them so you can pull them out with the leader’s Deathblow. Precision Strike is generally used as finisher in Round 3, representing 11 total points. It can be used with a variety of decks. Two of the best Scoia’tael decks currently use Precision Strike (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Deadeye Ambush is the third of the “good” Scoia’tael leaders, alongside Nature’s Gift and Precision Strike. It always represents 9 flexible points for +15 provisions. In many cases it can represent more, though, with cards like Vernossiel, Yaevinn, and Isengrim Faoiltiarna benefiting from the additional Elven Deadeyes. Running Aelirenn in a Deadeye Ambush deck gives you the flexibility to push for tempo by playing leader charges until you have 5 elves on the board. Deadeye Ambush can be played with Traps, Elves, or Movement (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Call of Harmony as a leader is currently only useful in Harmony decks. If you are playing Harmony, though, you should usually play this leader, as it represents 10+ points for +16 provisions. The leader ability is a Relict, so you should usually play it after developing other Harmony engines, as it’s one of only 2 Relicts in ST. Unfortunately, the single burst power of the leader makes it fairly inflexible, as you cannot spread its value around strategically.

Mahakam Forge is one of the weaker leaders in raw points, with only 5 points from Tempering. The passive ability of giving armor to your Dwarves makes it the best choice for Dwarf decks, as you can power up cards like Pyrotechnician, Xavier Moran, Yarpen Zigrin, and Brouver Hoog. Mahakam Forge is also used as a 5-point boost for Aglaïs decks, though those decks are not competitive (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Overview

Table of Contents

Introduction

Elves, dwarves, dryads, gnomes, and treants: Scoia’tael is the home for all the “bloody nonhumans” of Gwent. Scoia’tael specializes in guerilla warfare: dealing damage, laying traps, moving units around the board, and swarming the board.

In this section, Gwent beginners can learn how to play and win games with the Scoiatael starter deck. While no starter deck is particularly competitive at higher ranks, the Scoiatael starter deck can win you games with the right strategy at lower ranks. Read this guide to learn how to pilot the starter deck, or continue on to Part 2 if you want to know how to upgrade the deck to compete better at higher ranks.

Click the button or image to continue to Part 1.

In this section, you will learn how to upgrade the starter deck into a more competitive deck. This guide includes must-have cards in Scoiatael, as well as a variety of archetypes you can work to build toward. If you aren’t sure if you like Scoia’tael, we recommend checking out Part 1 of this guide and playing with the starter deck first.

Click the button or image to continue to Part 2.

If you want to get better at playing Scoia’tael, you will need to learn the concepts and keywords essential to the faction. This guide will help you learn all things Scoiatael, as well as build a foundation toward making your own custom decks. 

Click the button or image to continue to Part 3.

If you have questions about Scoia’tael, we’ve got answers! Check out our Frequently Asked Questions in this concluding guide. 

Click the button or image to continue to Part 4.

Deck Archetypes in Gwent

One of the hardest things for new Gwent players to understand about the game is deck archetypes. Deck archetypes are categories of decks that share similarities in how they are structured and how they win games.

If you’ve played other CCGs, you’ll need to change your perspective on deck archetypes for Gwent. The lack of a mana system and player life totals, as well as the one card per turn rule, means Gwent’s archetypes look completely different from other CCGs.

In Gwent, decks and archetypes can be boiled down to the point differential. How do you generate points, and how do you prevent your opponent from generating points?

Most archetypes have a mixture of cards that are intended to generate points and cards that are intended to interact with your opponent and disrupt their gameplan.

You can think of this as a spectrum: on one end, certain decks are almost solely focused on their own side of the board. On the other end, certain decks are almost solely focused on disrupting the opponent’s plays.

Archetype Spectrum in Gwent
Archetype Spectrum: On the left are decks that focus more on their side of the board. On the right are decks that focus more on the opponent's side of the board.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the deck archetypes of Gwent, including:

  1. How they win games
  2. How they match up against other archetypes
  3. An example deck to give you a feel for the archetype in action
  4. How to play the archetype
  5. How to play against the archetype

If you’re just starting out, the next section will give you some guidance on which archetype to choose. Beginners should start by learning how their deck works: what its powerful plays are, how it wins games, and how it is most likely to be disrupted.

From there, becoming great at Gwent means knowing the variety of archetypes and learning to both disrupt them and to anticipate and play around how they will disrupt your deck.

Which archetype should I play?

The best archetype for you likely comes down to personal preference. If you tend to play Gwent while multitasking, you may be well suited to archetypes focused on your side of the board, such as Engine Overload and Pointslam. If you want every matchup to play differently, Control is a great option.

For beginning players looking to learn to get better at the game, Midrange decks are an excellent option. Midrange balances you playing out your own gameplan with disrupting your opponent’s plays. The limited removal tools of Midrange decks means that you’ll learn which units of your opponent’s to prioritize dealing with and which ones you can leave alone.

Swarm can also be an excellent option for beginning players, since it has an extremely clear gameplan. Swarm can also help you learn about the importance of round control and what to do differently when you win Round 1 or lose Round 1.

Control

Control decks win by disrupting the opponent’s plays and reducing the value the opponent can get from their cards.

Control decks have a lot of removal (damage or destroy) and disruption (e.g., Lock, Purify, spies, etc.). They usually have few proactive plays, preferring to react to what the opponent is doing. Control decks also need a few high-point plays, since they cannot win on removal alone.

Matchups

Control thrives against engine-heavy decks, such as Engine Overload. They can struggle against decks that don’t care about removal and locks, such as No-Unit and Pointslam decks.

Example Deck

This Reckless Flurry deck can play a heavy control gameplan, often keeping opponents off the board entirely for the first few cards of each round. The Madoc + bombs package is the core of your control, and the 3 charges of your leader ability can combine well with the various bomb damage for flexible removal. The deck also includes both tall punish (Geralt: Axii and Junod of Belhaven) and wide punish (Lambert: Swordmaster and Gerd). The remainder of the deck is filled out with high-value cards to generate your own points.

Playing as Control

How you play your Control deck will be different every game. You need to know what decks and cards to expect from your opponent, so you can plan how to use your resources accordingly. Spending a 5-point removal card on a low-value target, then allowing a high-value target to stay on the board later, can lose you the game.

Control decks generally prefer red coin. If you are on blue as Control, evaluate how well you think you can disrupt your opponent’s game plan, especially in a long round. If you have the tools to disrupt your opponent’s game plan in a long round, you can pass early and give up round control.

Playing against Control

Against Control, one of the most important strategies is to bait out your opponent’s removal. If you have certain cards that can get lots of value if they stick on the board, try to play lower-value removal targets first.

Know what tools your opponent is likely to have to disrupt your gameplan, then plan around them. For instance, against Skellige you can expect cards that benefit from Bloodthirst like Gutting Slash and Djenge Frett, and you can time your plays to make getting Bloodthirst bonuses awkward. Often, your best bet against Control is to force them into awkward plays that don’t get enough value out of their removal.

Reckless Flurry Decklist
Example Control Deck: Madoc Reckless Flurry

Midrange

Midrange decks have a mixture of cards that disrupt the opponent and cards that put points on your side of the board. Midrange decks look a lot like Control decks, but with less of a focus on winning through disruption and more of a focus on winning through point generation.

Midrange decks thrive on their flexibility. They may not be able to deal with all of their opponent’s cards, but they can prioritize removing high-value targets while developing their own gameplan.

Midrange decks are very common, and they’re generally a strong candidate for beginners looking to improve their game. Playing a lot of a Midrange deck will help you learn what targets to prioritize, when to focus on disruption vs. point generation, and how to best use your resources.

Matchups

While Midrange can do well against most decks, decks that can output a ton of points like Engine Overload are often difficult to win against.

Example Deck

This Midrange Pirate’s Cove deck has a mix of control tools, pointslam, and powerful engines. Like most Midrange decks, it plays very flexibly. Removal like Professor and Whoreson Junior can be used whenever, even in Round 1 if necessary to secure round control. The deck’s engines are also flexible, as you can often afford to drop Saul de Navarette or the Bleinheim Brothers in early rounds.

Playing as Midrange

Playing Midrange effectively requires understanding both your own gameplan and your opponent’s gameplan. Midrange decks generally have several removal tools, and using those tools most effectively is extremely important. For instance, as Scoia’tael, knowing when to use your Nature’s Rebukes and when to save them will help you increase your win percentage.

Gaining round control is always helpful, but it is particularly important against high-powered point generation decks like Engine Overload and Pointslam. You generally won’t be able to disrupt your opponent’s entire gameplan, so breaking up their combos by controlling the pass is very valuable.

Playing against Midrange

If baiting out the opponent’s removal is helpful against Control, it’s even more helpful against Midrange. Midrange decks usually have several removal and disruption tools, but they won’t have enough to control your entire gameplan.

Many Midrange decks prefer either long rounds (because of key engine cards) or short rounds (because of high-value pointslam). Forcing a Midrange deck into medium round lengths, especially if your deck thrives in those rounds, can overpower them. If you’re bleeding your opponent in Round 2, you can also force them into an awkward position where they either have to commit powerful engines against a possible pass or hold them back and risk losing a card.

Pirate's Cove Decklist
Example Midrange Deck: Pirate's Cove

Swarm

Swarm decks win by adding a large number of units to the board (known as swarming), then playing cards that benefit from having a lot of units (known as swarm pay-off).

Swarm decks generally have a healthy balance of swarm cards and swarm pay-off, and they often have flexible space for utility cards to help improve certain match-ups.

Matchups

Swarm has good matchups against a lot of archetypes, though any deck can improve their matchups against Swarm by adding row punish cards. Swarm can struggle against some Control decks, especially ones that can efficiently eliminate smaller units. Swarm tends to not go tall on its units, so it does well against Control decks that primarily include tall punish.

Example Deck

Arachas Swarm mixes cheap and efficient swarm cards (Arachas Nest and Spontaneous Evolution) with powerful swarm pay-off cards (Yennefer of Vengerberg and Triss: Telekinesis). The deck tends to use Crimson Curse and cheaper swarm pay-off like Bone Talisman to win Round 1, then finish off the game with its ability to quickly swarm and drop a very high-value Yennefer. Control tools like Korathi Heatwave and Parasite can be flexibly played to disrupt your opponent’s gameplan or kill damage engines that can control your swarm.

Playing as Swarm

An ideal starting hand for a Swarm player is a mixture of swarm cards and swarm pay-off. If you have a lot of swarm pay-off, it’s best to keep your weaker swarm pay-off cards, since you want to save your most powerful swarm pay-off for a Round 2 push or Round 3.

As a Swarm deck, you should usually push to win Round 1. Round control is crucial, since you can control when to swarm heavily and when to play your most powerful pay-off cards. Without round control, you may find your opponent breaking up your most powerful combos by passing after you have swarmed and before you have been able to take advantage of that swarm.

Know what length of rounds your deck prefers. While some Swarm decks love long rounds, others have too many units and can run out of board spaces in a 10-card round. In either case, round control will help you play to your deck’s strengths.

Pay attention to sequencing and understand how you can get the most value of each card in your swarm deck. Swarm decks tend to produce a lot of points, but they do so via synergy more than raw point output. Poor sequencing or inefficient use of your cards can lead to you struggling to catch up to your opponents.

Finally, be aware of common cards that can punish your swarm (known as row punish), and time your swarm pay-off appropriately. If you spend resources filling an entire row just to have your opponent Crushing Trap or Gerd it all away, you’re in a world of hurt.

Arachas Swarm Decklist
Example Swarm Deck: Arachas Swarm

Playing against Swarm

Since round control is particularly important to Swarm decks, it can be a huge advantage to win Round 1 against Swarm. A strategically timed Round 2 push, in which you disrupt your opponent’s ability to both swarm and pay off that swarm in Round 3, can win you the game.

On red coin, it’s generally good to play a long Round 1, even if you end up losing, because you will reduce the swarm deck’s ability to go into an ideal Round 3.

On blue coin, if your deck has the tempo to keep up and not lose on even, you can also push for a long Round 1. If your deck is likely to lose on even in a long Round 1, then you should play as long as you can without losing on even and retain your most powerful plays for a possible long Round 2 push.

If you win Round 1, you should usually push Round 2. You can push until your opponent has swarmed but not played swarm pay-off, then pass to a Round 3 where they may not have the swarm tools to win.

Don’t be afraid to go a card down in an all-in Round 2 push, especially if you have a strong short Round 3. A swarm deck with 4 cards in Round 3 is unlikely to be able to outpoint a strong 3-card Round 3 from most decks.

Engine Overload

Engine Overload decks play a large number of units that generate more points over time (known as engines). These decks rely on the fact that all except for the most control-focused decks won’t be able to remove these engines.

Matchups

Engine Overload decks fare poorly against Control decks, since engines are generally weaker than other units if they are dealt with. Against decks with few or minimal control tools, such as Pointslam, key engines surviving can win you the game.

Example Deck

This Devotion Passiflora list has enough engines that most decks will struggle to remove them all. Passiflora Peaches provide cheap engines that can bait out removal, allowing more powerful engines like Lieutenant Von Herst and Saul de Navarette to stick. This version is more versatile to respond to other decks, though some versions of Passiflora decks lean even more engine-heavy, including cards like Dire Mutated Hound and Imke.

Playing as Engine Overload

By their nature, Engine Overload decks generally prefer long rounds so that their engines can gain power over time. As such, you should generally shoot for a long Round 1 win, followed by a dry pass into a longer Round 3.

In the mulligan, keep bronze engines and lower-provision gold engines. Your goal is to win Round 1 as cheaply as possible. Ideally, you also want to draw out some of your opponent’s removal to clear the way for your more powerful cards in Round 3.

Before playing Engine Overload, look at your deck and evaluate which engines are best if they stay on the board and which engines are weaker. Combined with the knowledge of what removal tools your opponent’s faction has, this will allow you to sequence properly.

Against most decks, you should play out your weaker engines first, since they will often be removed. Try to time your stronger engines so that they make it awkward for your opponent to remove, such as playing them when a Syndicate player has an empty bank.

If possible, play your engines as early as possible in the round. Most Engine Overload decks have some Special cards and non-engine units, and those should be saved to the end of the round unless you have to respond to an opponent’s threat.

Passiflora Decklist
Example Engine Overload Deck: Passiflora

Playing against Engine Overload

Round control is key against Engine Overload decks. While they will always get one long round in the game, if you win Round 1, you can control when that long round happens. Even if you cannot win Round 1, you should generally push as far into it as possible, since every card after 4 in hand shortens the length of Round 3.

If you win Round 1, you should almost always bleed against Engine Overload. You can often play a medium length Round 2, keeping a few key cards in your hand for Round 3 and getting some powerful engines out of your opponent. Don’t be afraid to lose a card with a long Round 2 bleed. Most Engine Overload decks will struggle to beat a good short Round 3, even up a card.

If you are facing an Engine Overload deck, decide in advance which engines you will prioritize removing. If you use your removal tools too quickly, it’s quite likely that your opponent will stick powerful engines and win the game.

Pointslam

Pointslam decks focus on powerful high-point plays, often with minimal or no cards that interact with the opponent’s board. Unlike Engine Overload decks, they tend to put out a lot of points in relatively few turns, though they can need time to set up the right conditions.

Matchups

Poinstlam decks often perform well against Control, since they lose little value from having their cards removed. Pointslam can struggle against decks with strong long rounds, such as Swarm and Engine Overload.

Example Deck

Ever since its introduction in Way of the Witcher, Viy has been the Pointslam deck to beat. Viy decks care little about what their opponent is doing, including only a Spores and perhaps a Natural Selection. This deck’s cheap Thrive engines mean that it can get a lot of points out of its low-provision slots. The deck can be slow to build up tempo, but it can also play long into Round 1, then take advantage of round control to manipulate a short, high-powered Round 3.

Playing as Pointslam

Most Pointslam decks are flexible on round length, so they can be open and adjust to matchups. As a Poinstlam player, you’ll often have the tools to win one long round, but not two long rounds. Try to anticipate which round your opponent will want to play long, and save your engines and other long-round cards for that round.

Usually, your goal is to overwhelm your opponent with a few high-powered plays in a short Round 3. Pointslam decks will beat almost any other deck in a short Round 3, often having 40+ points on 3 cards.

It’s important to hold on to your short Round 3 power plays, but you may need to use them strategically in earlier rounds. Some “finishers” can be helpful to hold on to to close a large gap quickly in a Round 2 bleed, or to force an extra card from your opponent when you are the one bleeding.

Playing against Pointslam

If you’re playing against Pointslam, you should almost always try to position for a longer Round 3.

While you want to win Round 1 to secure a long Round 3, be very careful about playing too far into Round 1 if you cannot guarantee a win. Pointslam decks have very powerful short rounds and can often quite easily 2-0 you if you play a long Round 1 and lose.

If you don’t have the tools to win Round 1, it can often be better to pass early in the round, especially if you can play long enough to get a few solid cards from your opponent. If you pass after playing 3 cards and go into a 10-card Round 2, your opponent will often have to either not get their card back in a long Round 2 bleed, or keep even cards and go into a medium Round 3.

Many Midrange decks prefer either long rounds (because of key engine cards) or short rounds (because of high-value pointslam). Forcing a Midrange deck into medium round lengths, especially if your deck thrives in those rounds, can overpower them. If you’re bleeding your opponent in Round 2, you can also force them into an awkward position where they either have to commit powerful engines against a possible pass or hold them back and risk losing a card.

Viy Decklist
Example Pointslam Deck: Viy

Niche Archetypes

No-unit decks are a type of Control deck that tries to play as few targetable units as possible in Round 3. These decks play Immune units, artifacts, and Special cards in Round 3 in order to make your removal cards worthless. Your biggest strategy against No-unit is to secure last say, since then you can deny a strong finisher like Harald Gord.

The remaining 3 niche archetypes are almost exclusively Nilfgaard, the faction of the niche archetype.

Mill decks attempt to win via card advantage by reducing your deck size to nothing, known as “milling” your cards. Mill decks prey on inexperienced players. Their low tempo means they are fairly easy to beat if you always push to win 2-0.

Hyperthin decks try to thin out their deck so that hyperthin pay-off cards like Yennefer: Divination and Triss Merigold can consistently get value. Hyperthin’s provisions are usually invested in thinning cards, so pushing tempo can make their plays very awkward.

Clog decks win by filling their opponent’s deck with worthless cards, such as copies of low-strength tokens. They generally finish the game out with Kolgrim. When facing Clog, keep your high-powered gold cards in hand (since your later draws will be less consistent). Make sure to save an answer for Kolgrim if possible.

Conclusion

If you’re learning Gwent, my suggestion is to start with one archetype and learn its ins and outs. If you continually switch decks and archetypes, you’ll likely slow down your learning significantly.

Once you find an archetype you like, try out a few decks of that archetype. Different decks in each archetype play somewhat differently, though they will have a lot of their gameplan in common. In most metagames, each archetype will have a one or two top-tier decks. Learning archetypes well enough to know their matchups can help you counter the current meta.

Happy Gwenting!

~LawAndOtter