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.

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