Archetype History

40 Card Foltest – Archetype History (EP2)

This article was written by Bomblin and edited by Mercernn. Make sure to check out Bomblin, the self-proclaimed meme ambassador, on his Twitch channel. Furthermore, if you found this article interesting, let us inform you that this is the second episode of Archetype History and we’ve also published one dedicated to the first iteration of the most beloved and cherished archetype in the history of Gwent, NG Mill. Thank you for your attention and we hope you’ll enjoy the article!

Introduction – How Did It Work? 

One of the most fundamental rules of all card games is to make your deck as consistent as possible. Be it 25, 40, or 60 cards,it doesn’t really matter, as there always seems to be a minimal amount of cards in your deck that you usually do not want to go beyond. Why is that so? Well, to make it on average as reliable as possible, and to make sure that you always draw your win conditions. For this reason, you want to put in as few cards as possible. What if I told you, though, that during the Beta Gwent times there was a deck, a deck so unique and unusual, that broke this rule, yet was still more than playable? Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you the story of 40 Card Foltest.

The main premise of the deck was to get the most out of the old Foltest leader ability: “Boost all units in your hand and deck by 1.” To get the best of this ability, you would play a lot of easily tutorable units that could flood your board and overcome your opponent, as the more units you played, the more you got ahead of the balance curve, as each and every unit played was boosted by the extra one point thanks to your leader ability. There was a downside to this strategy, of course, that being bad draws and bricks, especially due to the extensive inclusion of tutors and summon targets such as Temerian Infantry. Due to its draw-dependant nature, the deck was never a tier one material but was considered a solid off meta pick that could compete with anything provided it got the stroke of rng luck for its opening draws. 

With introduction out of the way, now let us take a look at a few specific examples that gave the archetype its identity. 

Deck Building in Beta Gwent.

The provision-based system was introduced in Homecoming, before that players were restricted by the amount of cards of a certain color that they could include in their deck. These restrictions distinguished:

Golds – Most powerful/unique cards in the game, often finishers with limited leader/special card interactivity. Max amount in deck: 4. Max copies of each: 1.

Silvers – Slightly weaker but with a higher degree of interactivity. Often spells (Scorch) or tech choices (Locks or Silver spies – Could provide card advantage). Max amount in deck: 6. Max copies of each: 1.

Bronzes – The backbone of your deck. Often your finishers too, e. g. you could have 3 bronze Harald Gords in ST in the presence of Dol Blathana Sentries (I know, crazy!). Max amount in deck: 30. Max copies of each: 3.

Your deck needed to be between 25 and 40 cards in total so most decks included 4 golds, 6 silvers, and 15 bronzes. 40 Card Foltest Included the standard 4 and 6 set up  but differed in having either 30 or 27 bronzes.

The Leader

All leader abilities in beta Gwent were effectively cards that you deployed on the board similarly to Morvarn or Dana right now. King Foltest wasn’t any different in this regard. While his ability changed over time and he started as a card similar to the current Mobilization (spawning the copy of a friendly bronze unit) he became a staple, unique leader with his all-boosting potential. Interestingly enough, CD Projekt also had to change the ability to not copy spies after the introduction of the Nilfgaardian faction. In any case, the power of 40 Card Foltest emerged in the final version of the ability – Boost all units in hand and deck (and eventually on the board as well) by 1, similarly to the (as of now) very popular Erland of Larvik. The ability rewarded you for playing more units in the deck than you would usually do, but only if you managed to get them out… But how could you get so many boosted cards from the deck?

Broke Peddlers

If you know my stream, you might know this guy very well. He is the original broke-as-shit pedler – not only the author of my favorite voice line in game but also one of the most powerful bronze cards in Beta Gwent that has seen play in almost every NR deck. The all-mighty: Reaver Scout. The cards ability was simple, yet powerful: Choose a different Bronze ally and play a copy of it from your deck. This allowed you to thin your deck and capitalize on the boost from Foltest. Just in this simple combo you got +2 value on playing two units in a single turn and the tutored unit could of course summon/play more units on top of that as well! I hope we will see this guy again in the near future, even if CDPR decided to change the card’s ability. One could ask, though, was Reaver Scout enough to make this humongous deck work?

AYE AYE SIR

Of course not, but here comes a card with one of my favorite abilities in the game! I hope it will return one day, maybe in a modifed form to suit the new direction the game has taken. Before we talk about it, I need to explain one thing. Card advantage was a very important aspect of beta Gwent. You only drew two cards after Round 1 and one additional card after Round 2. This is much less than the current 6 cards one can draw in Homecoming Gwent. You really didn’t want to go first and you really did not want to fall behind as that could translate into game over for you. Well, unless you had Dun banners in your deck, always ready to relieve you in the toughest fights. That’s not where it ends, though, remember that your Foltest boosted everything in your deck by 1. And furthermore, don’t forget that you had 3 copies in the deck. This could change the gap of 20 points to 5 points for „free”? Very nice!

The Temerian Package

Ok, how about we pick up the pace now and talk about 3 different cards at the same time? Yes? Perfect! There are just way too many cards in this giganormous deck, trust me! The staple of many NR decks: Temerian Infantry was a classic thinning card with a simple ability: Summon all copies of this unit to this row. Blue Stripes Scouts let you boost all Temerian infantrymen on the board and deck by 1 and finally Blue Stripes Commando would be summoned from the deck every time you played a Temerian ally with the same power. Do you see it now? Boost, boost, thin, thin! That’s all you need! THIS I LIKE!

The White Frost is coming

To thin your deck even more people didn’t hesitate to add Aretuza Adept to the deck. Her ability? Simple. Play random bronze weather from your deck. Why would you like to play weather in a swarm deck? 3 reasons! 1) Thinning. 2) For a long time weather in Gwent had NO TIMER. That’s a lot of damage for a bronze card. 3) A lot of carryover value for a card that we’ll refer to for now only as „Big Boi.”

The Traitor

To add a bit of control and even more thinning to the deck, Witch Hunter made its way to the deck. The same card that you may know from Syndicate in today’s Gwent. Yes, thats right. The Syndicate card used to be part of the mighty Northern Realms. Its beta ability was to reset the target unit. However, if you targeted a mage, you could play another Witch hunter from the deck. Let’s rimind that you’d canonically run Aretuza Adepts, so you could target your own unit too to thin two extra units units from the deck and then reset an enemy unit on top of that as a cherry on the top as more than often you could find offensive value from them too! Just imagine reseting three boosted enemy mages and pulling out three units from the deck in a single turn! Boom!

The Big Boi(s)

Bloody Baron was one of the main payoff cards of this deck. His ability changed many times in the Beta, but the one that made him work in this deck was: „Whenever an enemy is destroyed during a round, while this unit is in your deck, boost self by 1?” That’s nice Bomblin, I see the synergy with some damage filler cards and Frost ticking now! But Bomblin, I also need to draw this card from this mess of a deck! Well, what if I told you the card would always place itself on top of your deck? I’m not joking, this is what used to be a part of the card’s ability.

Then the midwinter patch came to Gwent. Dark Clouds came to our friend Bloody Baron and he lost the tutoring part of his ability. However, we got one new big boi in his place.. Hubert Rejk, or Hugebert as some called him. His synergy with the deck was perfect, even better than the one of Baron’s. The ability itself was quite simple: „Drain all boosts from units in your deck.” This means, that you no longer needed to draw Baron for a finisher, but also all units boosted by Foltest could still be useful, even if you didn’t manage to thin them from the deck! We could once again draw a comparison with Erland of Larvik here.

Speaking of the Mulligan nightmares, the biggest problem with the deck was of course its inconsistency. The number of units that you wanted to keep in the deck was enormous. There was one feature in Beta Gwent that helped it a bit, though. Blacklisting. How did it work? If you mulliganed away one card, you could NOT draw the same card, or a copy of it, from a Mulligan. This meant that for example: If you had one Dun Banner in hand and you want none in hand, you wanted to Mulligan it away first, so you are sure that you can’t get it and in fact reduce the possible draws by taking away two more cards out of the selection. Blacklisting was removed in Homecoming, but in return we got a flexible mulligan system and the amount of copies you could draw was reduced by limiting bronzes to two copies, so we could argue that the removal of blacklisting made sense.

The Future of 40 Card Foltest

I love concepts that reward you for unusual, original and out of the box deck building. Putting more cards in your deck was something fresh and very rare in card games in general, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunatelly, there is not really a space to do this tn Homecoming Gwent apart from meme decks such as Enslave 7 that requires you to play at least 29 cards. We have , however, been many throwbacks to the Beta Gwent times with cards like Erland, for example, (basically old Foltest + Hubert in one card) or recently added King Foltest that feels like a tiny nod to the old idea of puting more units in your deck. Nonetheless, Homecoming Gwent also heavily reduced the number of tutors in the game, especially bronze/cheap ones. Moreover, provisions keep you in check now, so the dream of a similar deck might be actually impossible.

I personally hope we will some more throwbacks to old days with perhaps returning ability of Dun banners and of course, I am also still waiting for the return of Broke as a shit peddlers.

Final Thoughts

40 Card Foltest was one of my favorite decks ever in Gwent. It had a unique playstyle and made mulliganing feel meaningful. It was also a swarm deck and I adore every single swarm deck. I genuinly hope we will see more support for creative deckbuilding with unique playstyle and win conditions. For now, though, all I can say is AYE AYE SIR and bid you farewell!

Thank you very much for joining me on this historical adventure. Furthermore, thank you Mercernn for giving me this opportunity. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and make sure to comment to share your thoughts about 40 Card Foltest!

NG Mill – Archetype History (EP1)

Mill, Mill, Mill, always go for a two nil,” is something that you might hear from an experienced Gwent player that has been cursed to only speak in rhymes, probably for playing with Viper Witcher Alchemists. While the current state of everyone’s favorite archetype has been that of a usually non-competitive entity that reappears every now and then, but gets crushed by almost anything for as long as the formula that we’ve opened up with is followed, Mill has been a force to be reckoned with in the past. When do you ask? And what made it so strong? Well, let’s go together on a journey through hell then!

Nilfgaard Added to the Game – Closed Beta

The oldest possible point to which we can trace the history of Mill as an archetype is the day Nilgaard was added to the game. It was on February 6th, 2017 – over 4 years ago. Even though pinpointing the starting point is more than easy, covering every single change would be more difficult, as exactly 20 Beta updates came out after the Nilfgaardian faction was added to the game, and thus not every single stage of the cards of interest will be covered, but the basic ideas and overarching themes of what made the very cards important for Mill’s identity will be highlighted. With that out of the way, we can finally draw some conclusions, or cards? Hmm…

 
Tibor Eggebracht

What other card could we start with, but the manliest commander gifted with a voice that would keep Luciano Pavarotti in shame, the one and only Tibor Eggebracht. Tibor had been included in the initial NG card batch and became a staple for his raw power and very thematical ability. The card synergized with Mill, but also Reveal, an archetype lost to time. Notice the lack of tags and provisions. The prior of the two was addressed in due time, when Tibor was given an officer tag that has been abandoned in an attempt to presumably simplify the game with homecoming’s arrival. The latter was only introduced with homecoming, as the Beta deckbuilding was only limited by the amount of Gold (and Silver) cards you could put into your deck, 4 and 6 respectively.

After Tibor was added, many minor changes followed to mitigate his sheer power. A very interesting observation can be made by noticing the “Regressing” keyword that was given to him on August 29, 2017, though his ability had been nerfed by it before, but only at that very point it was codified as a new keyword. Back in the Beta times, cards could increase their base value (Strengthen) just as the Veteran keyword or Viy do today, but it was much more common to see such an occurrence, in fact you could actively strengthen almost any card with various tools. Furthermore, the existence of Renew allowed you to resurrect Tibor and not only use him as a finisher, or mill an extra card, but also to get unstoppable + 15 points by strengthening a card that had been already given this treatment. Other nerfs included adding Permadeath (=Doomed) to cards or allowing them to only work when the opponent didn’t pass (=Truce) to make milling a bit harder.

Vilgefortz

Hand in hand with Tibor, Vilgefortz became immediately a fan favorite because of his badass card art, chilling voice lines, and a powerful, flexible ability. On top of that, he was also included in the initial batch, and allowed multiple archetypes to branch out, most notably Mill but to a smaller extend also Reveal. Contrary to Tibor, though, Vilgefortz had a “Truce” condition in a certain form for his offensive ability from the very beginning, presumably to allow opponents a counter-play to such a powerful blow, but also to make milling more difficult. We also have to note that there was no such thing as card limit for your hand, so making your opponent draw a card could never result in them just discarding it. Lastly, “drawing a bronze card” could seem both as a drawback and an advantage, but we’ll elaborate on how this could be further interacted with further down when we’ll talk about the Mill Bronzes. In any case, Vilgefortz was contrary to his current form, possibly one of the best and strongest NG golds and found his place in many decks, regardless of whether they aimed to mill opponents cards and soul, or not.

Avallac’h

The very first Bronze card that we can mention and what a beast it is. Avallac’h’s potential to Mill used to be out of this world. Two cards to get out of your opponent is a very impressive start, but this is where we just begin. First of all, getting 2 cards yourself allows you to potentially hit some of your important deck inclusions, prolong the early rounds and Mill even further. Furthermore, if you manage to mill your opponent, Avallac’h gives you 2 card advantage just like if nothing happened. Well, and beyond that all, you can of course resurrect him with Renew, replay with one of the NG leader abilities with a bit of setup, re-enable the leader ability with Cahir (who’s role was taken over by Damien in Homecoming Gwent), oh and have I mentioned that the re-enabling was done on deploy? Naturally, orders were only introduced with homecoming. As if that wasn’t enough, you could get 3 bronze Snowdrops that would boost self by 1 whenever you draw a card… Are you scared yet?

Sweers

No, your eyes are not misleading you, the border isn’t gold, as Sweers is the very first example of a now abandoned card categorization, the very first Silver card. It is not as important what Silver cards used to do, but for the sake of clarity, we can say that they were basically cheaper golds that you could get more of in your deck and had more interactions with specials, leaders and other cards. Back to Sweers, though. The first thing we need to mention is that there were more than two copies of bronzes available to be placed into your deck in the Beta, the maximum you could get were three. Furthermore, there were many ways to multiply the copies, most notably the infamous Nekkers, who would boost self regardless of where they were by 1 whenever you consumed a card and pulled out another copy of self if you consumed them. Do you know Viy? Well, put every single boost he makes on a bronze unit and allow the unit to be multiplied by a different bronze unit, Blue Stripes style. It was… Broken! But, here comes mister Sweers! In a single turn discard 10 cards, each of them possibly worth over 15 points, EZ! While other match-ups could work very well too, this was the point of completion, absolution, the Nirvana of any NG player. There have been attempts to nerf Sweers by making him weaken self for every card he sends to “the farm”, but ultimately, the card was completely reworked due to its binary nature and the change to the amount of Bronzes you can have in Homecoming.

Albrich

Is there even anything to be said? Albrich is, or used to be, a pretty decent card. Consistency, milling, Reveal support. Alongside with Stregobor, whose ability used to be almost the exact same to the current one of his (Both players draw a one-powered unit from the top of their deck.) but it procs on deploy akin to Albrich, you had a relatively reliable way of pushing your opponent to their limits. Bear in mind that the usual number of cards hasn’t changed with homecoming and tended to be 25, just like it is now, though exceptions existed, such as the 40-card Foltest. Albrich was eventually given the Truce treatment, so that he couldn’t keep on milling after an opponent passes.

Alba Spearman

Imagine Snowdrop’s passive, times three, in an archetype that draws everything, everywhere, and in every possible way. Sounds great! Alba Spearmen became one of the many bronze engines that were scratched in the minimalist vision of the early Homecoming and their ability was later reintroduced, at least partially, on a gold card. Beta NG Soldiers weren’t as much of an established archetype as Alchemy, Reveal or Spies (Think of cards such as Ramon or Ard Feainn Crossbowman that were only added in the Iron Judgment expansion.) and therefore, it would be rather difficult to find more use for Alba Spearmen outside of Mill. Nonetheless, there used to be a combo that you could theoretically pull off in any deck, as it was the game itself and its most basic mechanics what became your partner in crime, the enabler to the Spearmen’s point potential… What could that be, you’re asking?

Combat Engineer

Resilience? Would you guess that? You’re missing the final piece of the puzzle, my dear Watson. When Resilience is given to Alba Spearmen not only is the engine sent to the next round, but the process of drawing and shuffling away cards at the beginning of your next round actually boosts the Spearmen for every card touched!  And this affected both players! To be frank, this was more of a funny combo, but still, resilience itself is scary enough. Have I also mentioned that for a decent chunk of the Beta’s cycle, the resilient cards would not reset at the start of next round? Beta Dwarves PTSD still makes some of us wake up in cold sweat to this very day.

Magne Division

The best, or the worst, depending on how you look at it, for the last. Magne Division is, well was, essentially a conditional, Bronze card advantage provider. If you managed to make your opponent waste his bronze cards, this lovely bunch of chaps would draw you a card and not give anything else to your opponent, easy! Do you find Ciri Dash problematic and too powerful? Here’s her cousin that works out 24/7, no in fact there’s at least three cousins, so get ready for a beating! Of course, if even a single crafty Bronze card decided to stay in the deck of your opponent’s, it would be if not much more difficult, then almost impossible to achieve this effect, nonetheless that card still shines even outside of that. Drawing synergies and consistency the card offers allowed it to function on its own, nonetheless it was its borderline broken potential that made it a lurking threat. The card was changed to become a special cards tutor, and finally reworked in early Homecoming to become an engine.

 

The Conclusion

It would be difficult to point out exactly what the status of Mill was, as it is over a year of a game’s cycle with many balance changes that we’re a bit awkwardly cramping together, nonetheless if we were to look at what made Mill so much more viable in the Beta than in its current form, and keep the most general point of view, we could possibly mention among the main reasons:

  • Powerful cards that provide both milling and tempo.
  • Possibility to replay cards many more times and exploit their potential.
  • More thinning in general. For instance, Bronze tutors existed in the Beta.
  • Bronze card support for Mill + Three cards of each.
  • Binary Match-ups – such as Nekkers.
  • General level of “brokenness.” Beta balance was not as neat as the one of Homecoming.

And what came next, you might ask? Homecoming Gwent threw the idea of Mill as an archetype overboard and while a lot of cards actually kept their abilities, or were given very similar ones, the absence of tutors that had been either reworked or did not find enough play, limitations of bronze support cards (With the exception of the so expensive then Viper Witchers, now Kingslayers.) and further changes to the game’s environment pushed Mill to the sidelines. Most recently, Kolgrim has brought the archetype back to the public eye, but we can presume that it won’t be enough to push it into the fully competitive circles in a long run. Only time will tell, though. With that we must part our ways. Thank you very much for reading our article and if you’ve enjoyed it, make sure to comment about what archetype would you like to see next time.