2. The Starter Deck
3. Key Concepts
4. Leader Ability Rundown
5. Frequently Asked Questions
If, unlike me, you have a passion for ruining peoples day then you will fit like a glove in the Nilfgaardian Empire. Does sending out spies, intercepting your opponents deck & hand, stealing their units and beating them with their own strategies sound like fun to you? I hope so, because otherwise you’ve started reading this for nothing and it’d be rude to stop now.
Nilfgaard are a very interesting faction if you’re looking for something a bit different. At a glance you’ll notice they have a lot of control and removal options – more so than some other factions. Just when you thought they couldn’t get enough locks then you will be pleased to hear they can actually lock your opponents leader ability. If you take a deeper look though, there’s a lot more to Nilfgaard than just saying “No” to everything. They have unique interactions with the opponent, and some of the most interesting, when it comes to ruining your opponents strategy. For example, they can place units in your deck and put units (known as spies) on your side of the board to benefit themselves and interact with the enemy deck without anything to stop them. They are very fun if you enjoy a disruptive and manipulative gameplay style.
All of this will be covered in detail but for now all you need to know is that Nilfgaard were designed in a lab where scientists actually used the latest in technology to accurately pinpoint where and how they can extract all the fun from whoever will be playing against them. Seriously though, they can be a lot of fun and you have to think properly when playing both as and against them.
2. The Starter Deck:
As with all starter decks, you’ll notice that you have some leftover provisions. (Each deck has 150 Provisions, with an extra amount depending on which leader ability you use, in the case of Strategic Withdrawal, we have a total of 165). This means that you can instantly take out some worse cards and add better ones without having to sacrifice anything else. If you want to know how to use the leader ability properly, or perhaps want to try a different one, then this is all covered in Section 4 (However Strategic Withdrawal is a good one to stick with).
The first thing you’ll see is that the deck runs a fair few removal tools compared to other factions Starter Decks. Cards like Alzur’s Thunder (which we have 2 of), Treason and Serrit give you some good, although conditional, instant removal options. There’s also a lot of locking cards like Auckes and Alba Armored Cavalry. This alone gives the idea that you will be able to shut down your opponents strategy so the playstyle of the deck is already pretty evident. But how are you going to generate points of your own? Well, cards like Nauzicaa Sergeant will generate value over time. This is a prime example of an Engine card. Nilfgaardian Knights and Slave Infantry also useful for getting pure value – more on these two down below as they are slightly conditional and only get full value under certain circumstances.
-The Leader Ability, Strategic Withdrawal, is a very flexible ability that essentially lets you re-play a card (boosting it by 2 on the way). An imporant thing to note about this ability is that if you return a damaged card back to your hand, then it will also be restored back to its full base power as well as being boosted by 2. Most cards in this deck have a fairly low base power, so it might not be useful, but it’s important to consider. You never want to return a Doomed unit to your hand either, as it will disappear since it’s being removed from the board.
Some of the best targets for this leader are Sweers or Serrit/Auckes as they have decent Deploy abilities. But you also don’t have to re-play the same card, so you could play a powerful card in round 1 and then pick it up to save it for round 3, and play a different card with the leader in return (however, I don’t reccomend using your leader in round 1 unless you have Damien de la Tour).
-Nilfgaardian Knight is a reliable bronze with a couple of uses. In any round that you’re going first, then you don’t have an enemy unit to boost by 2 so it plays for 7 solid points. If you are in a situation where you have to boost an enemy, then it can be strategically used to gain more value on Treason, since that card gets more value from higher enemy units. You can also use it to buff an enemy unit to higher than 9 points, putting it into the range of tall removal cards.
-Auckes and Serrit, as you may have noticed, are designed to work together and they are great control cards and if you have both in hand at the same time then they get more value than their provision cost. The extra damage from Auckes is fairly standard and easy to use – just shut down enemy engines or Order cards. Serrit has more interesting uses, though, as you can lock 2 engines at the same time which can be very powerful against Dryad Fledelings if playing against harmony, or Endrega Larva/Nekkers if playing against Monsters. However, a more niche use for this card is if you’re against a swarm deck (one that fills the board with small identical units and then buff them, such as firesworn or drones) then you can lock every single one. While alone this is pointless, you can then pair it with Slave Driver (which we will add later) to get insane amounts of damage. It’s unlikely this will often happen though – but fun to keep in mind incase the situation arises!
-Sweers is a very valuable card that is usually worth a flat 9 points, which is already punching 1 point above its provision cost, however if you steal an Engine, A card with Order or any other card that has more potential value than just its base power, then it can be worth a lot more. Some great targets to seize are units such as Redenian Archer, Redenian Knight and anything with the Thrive keyword, such as a Nekker or Endrega Larva.
-Nauzicaa Sergeants are a key bronze card that gain 1 point every time you play a card with Deploy. Since almost all of the cards in the deck have deploy then it proves itsself to be a very reliable engine and can be a great source of points, aswell as being a proactive play – meaning that if you’re going first then you can open with it since it doesn’t need a target.
-Impera Brigade is a simple and effective way to thin your deck down if you play it in round 1 or 2, making you more likely to draw your higher cost cards in round 3. It’s a great proactive play too, just remember to always re-draw if you have 2 of them in your starting hand. You only ever need 1 in your hand or else it will ‘Brick’ and they will both be useless.
Replacements & Additions:
-Alba Spearman has been replaced with Slave Driver, they both have the same purpose – to damage – however Slave Driver have the potential to get more value and our deck makes the condition easy to achieve due to how many locks we have. Remember that Slave Drivers will also do more damage if one of your own units is locked!
-Alba Armored Cavalry has been replaced with Van Moorlehem Hunter as they both have the option to lock, however our new Hunter also means that if there are no viable lock targets then you can get value from bleeding. They are also cheaper and cost 1 less provision each
-Emissary has been replaced with Master of Disguise. While Emissary is an interesting spying unit, it simply doesn’t have that much value. Boosting your units by alot is often a bad idea – especially at earlier ranks, since all of the starter decks contain Geralt of Rivia so you will often get punished for playing into the range of tall removal. Master of Disguise was picked as it allows you to set up an engine and gain points off of locking units, and if there’s one thing this deck does well it is locking.
-Alba Pikemen have been replaced with Ramon Tyrconnel and Letho of Gulet. This is a case where, since we have so many leftover provisions, we can simply upgrade some bronze cards to gold ones. Alba Pikemen are an ok card however they’re not that useful in this deck. Ramon allows you to create an extra Nauzicaa Sergeant early on , as well as protecting it, for some great instant value and engine setup. You can also use it on a Slave Infantry or Nilfgaardian Knight if you need to in certian situations however you’re better off using it as early as possible while you still have the option to. Letho is similar to Serrit and Auckes, and in fact works with them. You get extra value (3 damage and/or a lock) depending if Serrit and Auckes are in your hand so this completes the three card set and is generally just good value.
-Elder Bears have been replaced with both Royal Decree and Damien de la Tour. Elder bears are useless cards and are basically made to be replaced. Royal Decree lets you pull any unit for your deck which gives alot of flexibility in all kinds of situations depending on what you need. It’s also a tactic which can be helpful in some other decks (again, more on this in Section 3). Damien de la Tour is a high-risk high-reward card that lets you re-use your leader ability! It is a very powerful ability if you can pull it off.
-Geralt of Rivia has been replaced with Leo Bonhart. As you will tell from their card text, Leo Bonhart is simply a better version of Geralt of Rivia as it gives you more target options, making it less likely to brick (become useless). This type of card is common throughout each of the factions – the idea of a card that is similar to a Neutral card but is simply much better due to it being faction specific.
If you have some spare scraps lying around, or already have the cards mentioned, then you can import our suggested improved version of the deck directly into your game here. It’s designed to synergise better overall but still leaves room for improvement (a whopping 11 provisions, in fact) so you can personalise it aswell as learn more about deckbuilding and implement deckbuilding strategies you may have found from other guides.
The cards put into this deck are by no means the best of the best, but are simply valuable upgrades to give an idea of how decks can be improved. Think of it as a halfway point between a starter deck and a competitive deck.
Important: Only craft this deck if you have the scraps to do it. There may be better cards to spend your resources on as you will see in sections 4 and 5. Don’t mill your other cards just to create this deck. Even just reading above and looking at it should give you an understanding of how to improve decks and you can go about it in your own way!
If you want to try and upgrade it more, then a lot of powerful combos are covered in sections 4 and 5, which go more into detail and show what’s best for your chosen leader or preferred playstyle. A lot of bronze cards can simply be replaced with directly better golds due to the leftover provisions but the best thing you can do is experiment with the cards you have. Your first goal from here should be filling up the provision limit to maximise the power of your deck.
(If viewing on mobile, updated and original starter deck images are avalialbe at the bottom of the page)
3. Key Concepts
Nilfgaard have only a few faction-exclusive keywords, however they have a lot of synergy with global keywords and statuses such as Lock, Seize and Poison – so I’ll mention those below aswell despite them not being Nilfgaard exclusive. They are as follows:
-Agent. This is a tag that may belong to a unit, just like soldier or human, however sometimes it can easily be mistaken with spying units so I’m going to clear it up here just in case.
-Assimilate is a keyword that fuels one main archetype of Nilfgaard, and it means that the card will boost its self by the specificed amount whenever you play a card that didn’t originate from your deck. This includes any cards that are played after being spawned or created, such as a card played from a Runestone. Assimilate points are also gained from cards played from your opponents deck or graveyard, accessed via cards like Cantarella and Experimental Remedy.
-Poison is a status, which is an applied effect represented by a small icon in the corner of the card and can be removed with Purify. In this case, Poison will do nothing on its own, but if a card with the poison status then recieves poison a 2nd time, it will be destroyed. This status is not exclusive to Nilfgaard however they are one of the best factions at utilizing it.
-Lock means that a cards ability will no longer work. This blocks keywords like Assimilate or Thrive, aswell as stopping Order abilities from being used. If you’re coming back to the game from beta, then Lock works a little differently than before – a locked unit still keeps their statuses. This means you can’t use a lock to remove Resilience, for example. Lock only blocks the cards written text ability.
-Reveal is a bit of an odd one.. It’s not used much but it is still prevalent in a few NG (and neutral) cards. It means that a random (unless otherwise specified) card is shown from the targets deck and then shuffled back. It’s fairly useless on its own, however cards that reveal will then use that revealed card as part of its own effect in some way, for example Spotter will reveal a card from your opponents deck and then boost its self by the revealed cards power. Despite being an RNG heavy effect, there are some cards that reveal from your own deck – which are usually more reliable since you have more control over your deck and can thin it down enough to give you better odds of revealing certian cards.
-Seize is a very powerful ability, once again not a Nilfgaard exclusive but just very well utilized by them, that lets you move a unit from your opponents side of the board to yours. You’ll notice that most seize abilities have a low power restriction, this is due to how big of a point swing seize can achieve. Not only are you gaining the exact amount of points that they lose, but you’re also able to steal an engine to get even more points in the long run. If you thought removal was good, then consider this removal on steroids. You can shut down an enemy engine whilst at the same time getting one yourself!
-Spying is a status that, if on a card text, simply means you play that card on the opponents side of the board. At first you’ll think “why do I want to give the opponent points?!” but in fact spying cards often have very valuable abilities, so the spying status is an interesting way to balance these. However, Nilfgaard has a few cards that gain points whenever you play a spying unit – so the ‘downside’ of giving your opponent points can be overcome.
-Tactic is simply a tag that belongs to most NG Special cards. Like Syndicate have Crimes, Nilfgaard have Tactics. This allows certian other cards to benefit off of playing tactics and they work very nicely with the Leader Ability ‘Enslave’, as you’ll see in section 4.
4. Leader Ability Rundown
Now the basics are out of the way, it’s time to chose the most important part of any deck. The first option presented when making a deck is what leader ability to use. Let’s go through them one by one:
Double Cross (17 Provisions):
Order: Create and play a card from your opponent’s hand.
If you’re planning to use an all-in assimilate deck then Double Cross is the leader ability for you! It’s not the most reliable however it can be very useful as you can use your opponents finisher and you can usually get some pretty good cards if you’re able to work out if your opponent is holding something good. It’s pretty flexible too as you get presented with, assuming your opponent has more than 3 cards left, at least 3 cards to pick from so chances are you’ll get something useful. The best way to use this ability is to wait until your opponent only has 3 cards left – this means you get to see exactly what cards they have allowing you to play around them which can be very valuable. Using it this late also means that you’ll likely have some Assimilate cards on the board too, and since you’re creating a card with this ability then it will activate all of those Assimilate keywords. However when you get to higher ranks then people will start trying to play around it by using their better cards earlier, so I’d reccomend playing it when your opponent has about 5 cards left so you’ll still be able to use their good cards. This ability also is quite generous in provisions, however the downside is that you can never know what you get and it’s hard for it to work exactly with your strategy. This is why other abilities are picked more often as they are reliable and can more easily play into your own gameplan. It’s definitely a very fun ability though and not to be underestimated – as playing 2 cards in one turn can mean some very powerful combos can go uninterrupted.
Its average value varies too much to pin down but you can expect at least 7~ points from the card picked alone, with more points from the assimilate abilities it will activate and being able to see what your opponent has can be very valuable giving an average of about 11 points. If you spot a scorch or igni and play accordingly then it could be the difference between a win and loss, and having crucial information like that can be really nice if you know how to use it. A good card to play with this leader is anything with assimilate. Specifically Glynnis aep Loernach as she gets 2 boosts for each time assimilate is triggered.
Tactical Decision (16 Provisions):
Order: Look at the top 3 cards from your deck and play one.
Tactical Decision is similar to Double Cross in that you’re presented with 3 cards making it flexible, however this one has the downside of not triggering any assimilate abilities or being able to see what your opponent has, but has the upside of selecting cards from your deck which not only means you can thin your deck down to increase your chances of getting better draws later on, but you also have a much better idea of what you’re going to get which makes it much more consistent and allows you to play into your own gameplan much more reliably. It also means you can pull off some 2-card combos without interruption, but they’ll be much better than the ones enabled Double Cross as you will get your own cards to use.
Again, this abilities value can vary making it hard for me to try and get an average, however it’s safe to expect at least 10, from both the card alone plus the unwritten value of thinning (if used in round 1 or 2) and playing 2 cards in 1 turn for a combo. A good card to use with this ability is
Albrich as he can put a card to the top of your deck – meaning you can guarantee what you will get to play – aswell as giving it a 2 point boost if it’s a unit.
Enslave (15 Provisions):
Order: Seize an enemy unit with 3 power or less. This value is raised by 1 for every 4 Tactic cards in your starting deck.
Enslave is among the top Nilfgaard leader abilities as it lets you seize an enemy unit which, as discussed earlier in section 3, is a very valuable ability. The fact this is a leader ability also means that you don’t have to wait a turn to set up a seizeable unit. Lets say that all your opponents units too high power to seize – since you can use this leader the same turn you play a card then you can damage a unit with a card into the range of this ability first and then steal it – meaning you can very often get an Engine or a card with an Order ability, giving you even more points than just the cards power. The big restriction to this leader ability, however, is the way it affects deckbuilding by requiring tactics to get more value. A 3 point seize isn’t great on it’s own so you’ll have to put alot of tactics in your deck to get more value, most often you’ll see people playing 8 tactics to enable a 5 point seize. This is probably the best balance between leader power and deck restriction, however some 6-Seize 12 Tactic decks can work. If you want to get any higher than that then you’ll need to go over 25 cards in your deck which is not reccomended – unless you, like some of us here at Bandit Gang, are a meme deck fanboy.
Its average value is about 10 and 12 points depending on the amount of tactics you’re using. You can seize a 6 for raw points, and if your siezing lower units then you’ll most likely go for an engine which will represent many more points in a long round however there is always the chance you’ll only be able to steal a 3 or 4 that does nothing. Some good cards to use with this ability are, you guessed it, lots of tactics. The best bronze ones are removal options such as Assassination and Tourney Joust or high-point ones such as Battle Preperation. The best gold tactics inculde Bribery, War Council and Royal Decree. Since you’ve already put these tactics in your deck then you’ll want to capitalize on it. The best card to use with this ability with this in mind is Hefty Helge, as it’s a very powerful card if used with lots of tactics.
Imperial Formation (15 Provisions):
Order: Boost an allied unit by 2. Charge: 4. Once all Charges have been exhausted, move a soldier from your deck to the top.
Imperial Formation is an ability that doesn’t have tonnes of synergy but instead focuses on pure points – it can work really well in decks with a lot of engines or order cards that need protecting and being able to move a card to the top of your deck also has it’s uses as we will discuss in just a second. Now I say this with all charge based abilities, but really, having multiple charges means that you can use a few points in earlier rounds just to get an edge if you need to catch up without having to commit one huge ability which can be very useful.
I’d say its average value is 10 points since while you’re getting 8 points through boosts alone, you can use it to keep engines alive which represent even more points, aswell as this you can get value from moving cards to the top of your deck such as, my pick for the best card to use with this ability; Affan Hillergrand. Whenever he is moved to the top of your deck then he summons himself to the board giving you 5 extra points aswell as some thinning.
Strategic Withdrawal (15 Provisions):
Order: Move an allied Nilfgaardian unit to your hand and boost it by 2, then play a card.
As discussed in Section 2, this is a very flexible ability that simply lets you re-play a card to use its ability twice (with a 2 point bonus on the way), or you can pick up a valuable card after playing it in round 1 to use again in round 3, however I’d not reccomend using it in round 1. Any card you pick up, if damaged, will be restored to its base power before being boosted by 2 so you can use this to heal a card if you must. It also purifies the card, allowing you to remove poison or unlock. Just don’t pick up a doomed card – as it will leave the battlefield and disappear.
It’s average value is about 10, considering you re-play a card with an ability worth 8 points. The value can be much more, though, depending on what card you use it with. Some of the best cards to use with this ability are ones with high ability value, including (but not limited to) Vilgefortz, Sweers and Ramon Tyrconnel.
Imposter (14 Provisions):
Order: Lock an enemy unit, then Spawn its base copy in the opposite row and boost it by 2.
Imposter is useful for many reasons, and fills a lot more roles than you may imagine. Firstly, it can lock an enemy unit which lets you shut down an engine. Not great on it’s own, but works well with cards that gain boosts/advantages off of having locked enemy cards. A lock is also a status, which works will with Nilfgaard cards such as a Thirsty Dame. Then you get your own copy of the card, however it is Spawned not Played, so it won’t activate any Assimilate effects. It can be fairly situational but if used correctly it can be very powerful. There are creative ways to use it, such as combining it with Vattier (who Siezes a locked enemy card) to use it as a type of tall removal. Or you could use Operator to give yourself a specific target you actually want, although none of these are 100% reliable.
It’s average value is too hard to calculate since it can be very low or very high depending on what card you target, and it can be tricky to use since it’s very situational. I feel as though it has its true potential undiscovered and at some point a powerful combo may come around in the future. For now I cannot list any good cards to combo it with since it relies on what your opponent plays, and I would advise agaisnt this for now if you are a beginner but it can definitely be very fun once you know what you’re doing and how to target effectively.
Lockdown (10 Provisions):
On game start, disable the enemy Leader for the duration of the battle.
And finally we have the leader ability that sums up Nilfgaard. With only 10 provisions and no synergy then I don’t reccomend using this ability competitively however it can be fun in some seasonal modes or Arena, where the provision limit isn’t in effect. You’ll most likely see this leader creep out at times when another leader is very overpowered, or in the early days of new expansions and patches. It is definitely the most easy ability to use though, so if you just want to test and don’t have time to put thought into a deck then go ahead and suck the fun out of your opponent! It might see use at some point however it’s just too overcosted to be useful right now – but denying your opponents ability can be very good against other leader abilities with similarly low provision bonuses.
It’s average value is ~12 (the average value of all other leaders average values) and can be higher depending on how much your opponent relies on their leader ability. For example against a deck with a 2-Card combo that requires a leader it can be super valuable. There aren’t really any cards I’d reccomend to use in this deck since it doesn’t synergise with any.
Overall I would consider Strategic Withdrawal and Tactical Decision the best ones for beginners since they’re reliable and powerful – Enslave is a contender among the best too however the deckbuilding restriction makes it slightly harder to optimize. Double Cross is definitely the most fun, in my opinion, as it presents mind games and gives you a lot of provisions when deckbuilding.
5. Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best Cards/Combos?
Some of the best single cards are ones such as Damien de la Tour – who allows you to replay your leader ability, and high-removal (and removal-esque) cards such as Leo Bonhart, Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen and Vincent Van Moorlehem.
As for 2-Card combos then Vilgefortz can be used with Tibor Eggebracht, if he’s at the top of your deck, to destroy a 1-Power allied unit and pull out this 13 point lad. Steffan Skellen can replay powerful tactics such as Bribery, and then Letho: Kingslayer can transform into a copy of that card to replay it again. Letho: Kingslayer also works well with many other cards such as Cahir Dyffryn or Damien de la Tour. (Remember that Kingslayer will not repeat a deploy ability, only passive/order abilities. Another small but effective combo is using Assire to put roach back into your deck, making it come out again instantly (although Assire has much better uses, like using it to re-draw your Scenario or other important cards)
If you want to play an assimilate deck rather than a control-focused one then Artorius Vigo can be used to create a Duchess’s Informant. This will trigger the assimilate abilities of your cards twice in one turn. Artorius can also be useful to create other cards that are already 1 power, such as a Doppler or Emissary – another spying unit.
What are the best Meta Decks?
I hear people using the term ‘Mill’ – What does it mean?
I have no more questions for now, but I’ll update this section when I recieve more. Have a question you want to see here? Let us know!
That completes the Nilfgaard for Dummies Guide. If you have any more questions then comments are open and I’ll be happy to continue updating this & responding as frequently as possible.
The last update of this guide was: 16/05/2020 for Patch 6.2.1
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