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).

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