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

Eithné Mother Gwent Art

The Upgraded Starter Deck

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

The cards in the upgraded starter deck here can be obtained through a Reward Tree that costs only 15 Reward Points, the best value in the game. We highly recommend that new players interested in Scoia’tael complete this Reward Tree as soon as possible. More information on how to upgrade the deck is in the next section.

The upgraded version of the starter deck is a Nature’s Gift list. The strength of 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 not a refined deck, as it uses only cards from the starter deck and the Reward Tree. It also leaves 4 provisions unused. For a more refined list, see later on this same page, where we’ll look at several options for other Scoia’tael decks that you can work toward after upgrading your starter deck.

Using the Reward Tree to Upgrade Your Deck

As of Patch 9.5 (October 2021), Gwent offers Reward Tress to upgrade each faction’s starter deck. Each Reward Tree costs 15 Reward Points (keys) and offers multiple faction-specific Legendary cards. As such, new players should absolutely spend their keys on these trees, as they provide quick and cheap access to viable decks.

To access the tree, select the key resource at the top, then select the blue crown tab along the bottom right. The Scoia’tael tree is on the far right.

When you are in the tree, you will see 15 nodes, each costing 1 key. The trophy nodes provide Quests, which are simple to complete and reward you with Scoia’tael cards to upgrade your starter deck.

In order, the cards are Malena, Call of the Forest, 2 copies of Nature’s Rebuke, Treant Boar, Forest Protector, The Great Oak, and Shaping Nature.

As we will discuss later, Call of the Forest and Forest Protector are both excellent cards to have in almost any Scoia’tael deck.

Both the upgraded and original starter decks leave provisions on the table (never a good idea for an optimized deck). What that means for you, though, is that you can replace low-cost cards with higher-cost ones as you go (e.g., remove a 4-provision card to insert The Great Oak). As you go, though, do not have more than 25 cards in your deck, as that reduces the chances you will draw your best cards.

If you look at the upgraded starter deck, you will note that it includes all the cards you gain from the tree except Malena. This is because Malena is so non-impactful that she is generally worse than even your 4-provision cards.

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 a useful addition to Symbiosis decks. The 2-point Young Dryads she spawns are weak to control, but they can generate a lot of points if left unanswered. She can be run in non-Devotion lists, but she really shines in Devotion.

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 help you win games at lower ranks, it is not currently competitive at the highest ranks. Below is an optimized, competitive version of the same archetype, Symbiosis Nature’s Gift.

We have also included other Scoia’tael decks which are generally off-meta but can be strong when piloted well.

Current Meta Deck: Devotion Symbiosis

This deck is quite similar to the upgraded starter deck, though it is much more optimized.

Devotion Symbiosis is flexible with its gameplan, though you generally want to win Round 1 to gain round control and last say for a big Harald Gord finisher. If possible, open with Dunca to get your handbuff train going. You want Filavandrel aén Fidháil to be your primary handbuff target, as his effect benefits from boosts in hand. Preferably, you want Filavandrel on 8 or 10 power, since playing him on Melee on 8 power generates Isengrim’s Council and on 10 power generates Call of the Forest.

Almost all of your cards are expendable in Round 1, except Harald Gord and Filavandrel. Your typical gameplan is to win Round 1 with some handbuffs for carryover, then push Round 2 (often with second-form Eithné), then win a short Round 3 with Filavandrel, Forest Protector, and Harald Gord.

In some situations, you may want to give up Round 1, focusing on playing low-tempo handbuff cards like Circle of Life. If you can stay competitive longer into Round 1, that is usually preferable. If you go into a 10-card Round 2, you can have the problem of wanting to develop valuable Symbiosis engines, but not wanting to overcommit in case your opponent passes. A 7-card Round 2, then, is often better for the sequencing of this deck, since you can commit to defending the bleed.

Note: You should generally mulligan Eithné Young Queen, as it loses all handbuffs when it Transforms.

Viable Off-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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