2. The Starter Deck
3. Key Concepts
4. Leader Ability Rundown
5. Frequently Asked Questions
Northern realms. The Greedy Faction. The land of a thousand wars. “My crown’s bigger than yours”. Name it what you want, but this is a faction that has seen many ups and downs in the past yet is definitely a solid choice right now. It has some very high-value cards making for reliable (albeit not perfect) short rounds, arguably one of the best ‘Scenario’ cards in the game (A special artifact card designed to support an archetype, in this case, siege engines) and has the cheapest engines that require little to no setup and can get going quickly, for a very strong long round.
It’s also home to some ‘fan-favourite’ characters such as Dandelion, Priscilla and Shani, aswell as some of the most recognisable from The Witcher 3, such as The Bloody Baron, his wife (aswell as their cute botchling), Keira Metz and King Radovid (as a leader model atleast). So if you’re coming to the game with interest from a lore & flavour perspective then Northern Realms certianly isn’t lacking.
If you’re not a lore enthusiast and are simply looking to try and find a faction that is strong aswell as fun then Northern Realms is a perfect choice. Typical game plans rely on having lots of engines slowly generate points over time eventually overwhelming your opponent, setting up siege engines to have precise control over the board or – if you want to be experimental – tossing charges between units and maximising their value. There’s also some fairly reliable cards within the Mages and Soldiers packages too, if you’re looking for a midrange style deck that covers all bases. More specific details on these archetypes & keywords will be covered in Section 3.
Before I start, to save alot of confusion, I’m going to clarify that when I say “Engine” I mean a card that generates value over time, which is different to a “Siege Engine” – simply a tag belonging to some unit cards.
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 Inspired Zeal, 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.
You’ll notice that alot (15 out of 25 to be specific) cards have the word “boost” somewhere in their description. This is because the deck works around using engines to generate points over time, and loves to use cards that react to being boosted, such as Tridam Infantry, or any card with the Inspiration keyword. Your main gameplan is to set up these engines early on in long rounds since they generate alot of value overtime, however the deck is significantly weaker in short rounds. Below I have listed some cards (aswell as the leader ability) that you can replace to have a stronger short round, whilst keeping the long round power aswell.
-The Leader Ability, Inspired Zeal, can be replaced with Royal Inspiration for two reasons. Firstly, it has alot more points throughout the game since you can use it often, instead of being limited to three uses. This allows you to use it to protect your engines the turn you play them, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting the zeal if only using Inspired Zeal for the boost effect. Secondly, the starter deck doesn’t run many order cards that are worthwhile for this ability, so it’s not worth having 1 less provision and less boosts.
-Tridam Infantry is a very powerful bronze as they not only output value for every single boost that goes onto them, but also outputs that value in the form of damage which has the value of possibly killing a valuable enemy card. The only thing to watch out is boosting it to 9 points or more – as all starter decks contain Geralt of Rivia by default, so playing into tall removal is likely to be punished. For this reason it’s better so stop boosting the Tridam Infantry (or any other card) at 8 points.
-Anna Strenger & Temerian Drummer are fantastic engine cards that can create very high value in a long round. If you have a drummer on the board, then playing Anna Strenger directly to the right of her will instantly enable her “Inspired” ability the first turn she is played, making her boost on both sides instead of just one. This is because abilities of cards go in order from Melee to Ranged, Left to Right (sometimes referred to as Order of Operations). This set up is very powerful as the two engines boost each other simultaneously making them hard to kill. Once Anna is at 8 points (to play around Geralt of Rivia), then you can put a Tridam Infantry between the drummer and anna to get 2 extra points per turn.
–Prince Stennis, Nenneke These are 2 cards that have very decent value alone. They are useful in a short round as they don’t need multiple turns to get good value. Nenneke is best used on Tridam Infantry since she boosts 4 seperate times, and prince stennis can be use to protect an engine or to help a unit to reach its Inspired ability.
-Field Medics are ok, but they require setup and is only 1 point alone if you can’t a good setup. They can be replaced with 1 Lacerate as it is much better value and also synergises well with your Reinforced Trebuchets. Since you opponent will likely play more of their units on the melee row, so they don’t get hit by your Trebuchets, then it means that lacerate can capitalize off of this since it is more effective the more units are on a row. However lacerate is still not great in a short round.
-Siege Support can be replaced with Kaedweni Sergeant. You won’t often use the Charge ability from Siege Support, so it’s better to have 2 boosts instead. The zeal is also fairly useless as you can get zeal from your leader ability.
-Ballista can be replaced with Carroballista. It doesn’t do any damage on deploy, but instead has 2 more base power making it much more reliable as a normal ballista can easily die, and the 1 point of damage isn’t usually worth much.
-Blue Stripes Commando while a very good card isn’t worth running if you’re switching leader ability to Royal Inspiration. Instead, I reccomend putting Dun Banner in place of these. They both thin the deck, however without zeal then BS Commando is likely to die, leaving a bricked (now useless) card in your deck. Dun Banner is simply a card that does the same thing, but more suited to our new leader ability. Make sure to only ever have 1 in your starting hand, and try to play it round 1 so it won’t brick in future rounds.
-Siege Tower can be replaced with Battering Ram. They are worth the same points overall, except Battering Ram outputs damage which is helpful, especially early on, when it comes to destroying enemy engines. Furthermore, if played on the back row in between Soldier Cards (specifically Dun Banner) then the Crew effect is achived, allowing it to activate the same turn it is played. The Order ability also means it will give a charge to your Lyrian Arbalests. This replacement isn’t a huge priority as you still get the same value from Siege Towers, so it’s up to you.
-Thunderbolt can be replaced with Keira Metz. Thunderbolt is usually only 6 points and therefore not worth running in this deck for 8 provisions. Keira Metz, while requiring a small bit of setup, is extremley valuable and almost always plays for more than her provision cost in the long run. She’s also much better in a short round (at least compared to Thunderbolt) due to having a 5 power body. Her vitality effect is great for activating damage from your Tridam Infantry or just keeping your other engines alive. You’ll want to make sure to play her on the earlier side of the round, though, since vitality will be almost meaningless if there aren’t enough turns left to process it.
–Dorregaray of Vole is fairly important in a beginner deck since it’s one of your few control cards and this deck doesn’t have many cards that can instantly shut down another. However, Margarita of Aretuza does the same thing except her ability is on an order, thus giving your Lyrian Arbalests an extra charge each.
-Ronvid the Incessant has his place in some decks, but this is not one of them. His ability doesn’t really do anything for our gameplan so I reccomend replacing him with Reinforcements. This card lets you get a copy of a bronze card on the board, which is really useful if you need more boosting engines or more Tridam Infantries.
–Geralt of Rivia is definitely a reliable card, however due to having left over provisions then there are much better cards to use. If he doesn’t have a high enough target then you end up stuck with a 3 point card that does nothing. A perfect replacement is Falibor. He is always worth 10 points minimum, but can be worth more if you line targets up correctly with Arbalests. The damage he deals is enough to shut down an engine with a bit of support. Furthermore, his 7 point body means that not only is he valuable in a short round but he also provides a good target for Keira Metz.
Update as of 04/03/2020: Trebuchets have been slightly nerfed, if you want to replace them then Redenian Archer is a cheap yet effective engine that deals damage in 1 point pings. However, trebuchets are still fine and definitely useful if still playing Lacerate.
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 14 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, 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 are 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 alot 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.
3. Key Concepts
Northern Realms has some very interesting keywords aswell as being the best at synergising with global keywords such as Order and Charge. They are as follows:
-Charge: A charge is a keyword that belongs to cards with Order abilities. It means that the order can be done multiple times, as specified by the card text, and any card with ‘Charge: X’ can also recieve more charges from other cards. (Another way to tell this is if the Order Icon has a small lightning icon around the circle). These effects are generally weak individually but can be generated multiple times, and can be stored up to use them the same turn as playing a card.
It’s common for 1 charge to equal 1 point, however it’s fairly easy to reach 2 or possibly 3 points value per charge.
When it comes to cards that give charges then you’ll want to optimise them by trying to give them to cards whose order is worth more than 1 point, such as Hubert Rejk – who gets 2 points of value per charge. Alternatively, if you give any charges to a card that boosts, then you can get more value by then spending that boost on a Tridam Infantry to get 1 point of damage from it too.
-Crew: A card with a crew ability means that the specified ability happens if the card is played inbetween two soldiers. For example, Foltests Pride will deal 1 damage per charge, but 2 damage if it’s crewed. A reliable way to set up a crew condition is to use cards that summon copies of eachother (Dun banner, Blue Stripes Commando, etc.) or use cards that spawn more soldiers. Immportal Cavalry will instantly create a crew condition as it puts 2 soldiers on the board in 1 turn.
-Duel: A duel is when two cards take turns damaging eachother by their current power. Pretty simple, but it can sometimes be a pain to calculate when taking into account Armour or Shields. The dueling unit will always attack its target first.
-Formation: If a card has Formation, then it means that if played on the Melee row it will gain Zeal, and if played on the Ranged row it will get a 1 point boost. This very useful as it gives you the choice to either get instant value out from your order ability, or you can play greedy and risk waiting 1 turn for an extra point, and in some cases letting you use the Inspired ability without having to manually boost. You’ll notice that this keyword is on a few cards with the Inspired keyword, meaning that playing on the back row and risking the wait will result in even more value than just the 1 point boost.
-Inspired: If a card text says Inspired, followed by an ability text, then it means that the ability will only happen if the card is boosted (All boosted units have their power number in green).
-Order: While not exlcusive to Northern Realms, this keyword is important as there are alot of NR cards that have abilities revolving around playing cards with Order (such as Lyrian Arbalest) and NR also has the best tools to give cards zeal. Order simply means that the card ability is activated manually, and must wait 1 turn before it can be used.
Unless you have a way to give zeal, then never play a card with Order as your last play, since the next turn wont happen and you can’t activate it. Make sure to use all your Order abilities if you plan on passing, too, as you won’t be able to activate them after passing.
-Resupply: Some cards have Resupply, followed by an ability. Resupply simply means that the specified ability will activate every time you play a Warfare card (We’ll get on to those in just a bit.)
-Shield: A shield is a Status. A status is pretty much a keyword that can be removed by being Purified, but can also be given to other units. They also have a small icon in the bottom left corner of the card when applied. In this case, a Shield means that the next instance of damage dealt to the unit will be negated, and the shield will be removed. It can take 1 damage or 1,000 damage – it will all be blocked either way. If a card has armour aswell as a shield, the shield will break first. It’s great for keeping engines or cards with Order abilities alive and can also be very, very powerful if applied to a Dueling unit. It’s important to remember that units with a shield can still be instantly destroyed by cards such as Geralt of Rivia or Scorch.
-Warfare: Warfare is a tag belonging to some Northern Realms special cards. That’s it! When played, they will trigger the Resupply abilities of cards that have them.
-Zeal: Finally, zeal means that a card with an Order ability can be activated on the same turn it is played. Again, not exclusive to Northern Realms, however they have the best tools to make use of it.
Some of the keywords mentioned above (Shield, Zeal, Order, Charge, Duel) are not exclusive to Northern Realms, however I thought they were worth mentioning here because NR has the best way to utilise them and has the best tools that involve those abilities.
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:
Stockpile (17 Provisions):
Order: Give 1 Charge to an allied unit. Cooldown: 2.
Stockpile is an interesting one, however it’s probably one of the least played leader abilities out of every single leader ability in the game. This is mostly because charges are worth 1 point most of the time, and it requires setup, so why not just use Royal Inspiration for the same value? Well, there are a few cases where the charges can be worth more than 1 point and in certian situations the ability can be very powerful and get out of hand if paired with cards such as Dandelion or Shani. Decks designed to best use this ability either completley steamroll the opponent or get completley steamrolled themself. More often the former happens since it can be hard to get charge-takers to stick as each faction has access to good removal. 17 Provisions is among the highest out of all leader abilities so there is alot of room to fit in powerful cards.
Its average value is about 12 points. Assuming you can use the ability 8 times (a minimum of 16 cards are drawn in total throughout a game) aswell as some of those uses being worth 2 points (or even 3) Although, it can be very common to miss a turn with this ability if you don’t have a charge taker on the board – but it’s value can be much higher than 12 points if played correctly. Key cards to use with this ability are ones such as Dandelion, or charge-takers like Shani who represent a high charge to point ratio. Tridam Infantry also let your ‘Boost by 1’ charges be worth 2 points aswell, so they are usually worth putting in. This ability doesn’t really have any single units to rely on but instead it supports a wide range of units that work better if your opponent has few counter options.
Mobilization (16 Provisions):
Order: Play a copy of an allied unit from your deck, boost it by 2 and give it Zeal.
Mobilization is a very fun, and can have great power in a short OR a long round, depending on what card you pull out. It only works with bronze units, but the +2 boost and zeal means they can get to work right away aswell as having a good chance to survive. There is a big risk that comes with this ability, though, and that is it can brick and not have a valuable target. Since you can only have 2 copies of a bronze card in a deck, then its easy for you to have both of them in your hand, or have one in your hand but another in the graveyard from an earlier round. In rare situations you might not have any bronze cards in your hand at all! For this reason it can be played in round 2 if you want to push and go for a 2-0, if you don’t want to risk it not working in round 3.
Its average value I’d say is about 10. This assumes that the card you pull is an engine that lasts a couple rounds. As with how all averages go, it can be less and can be more. A definitive way to get very high value with this card is to use it on a Kaedweni Revenant or a Trebuchet. Revenants are very powerful cards that create very high value overtime and represent Northern Realms swarm archetype. Trebuchets, on the other hand, are a good choice as they can be used to progress the Siege scenario to the next chapter on the same turn it is played, this is a great combo as siege spawns a trebuchet for you to copy and then also you will progress to the next chapter of the Scenario in the same turn you play a copy of it. For pure points with little synergy value, then Kaedweni Knight is a reliable option in a short round, but there are plenty of cards to chose from and this ability can work with a few different archetypes.
Royal Inspiration (16 Provisions):
Order: Boost an allied unit by 1. Cooldown: 2.
Royal Inspiration is an ability, like Stockpile, that is consistent and can be used throughout the game. It has a fair provision bonus and is generally used to support the boost archetype, as seen in Section 2, and can be great for keeping engines alive and activating inspired effects. You’ll (probably) always have a target for this ability too, so its unlikely that you’ll miss an opportunity to use it.
Its average value is about 12, as you’ll get 8 pure points alone in a full game but even more if used on cards such as Tridam Infantry, or to set up an Inspired ability. While I’ve stated this average value as 1 point lower than Stockpile, I still think it’s better since you will always have a target and the value of using it to keep an engine alive is much more valuable and complex to be defined by a single number – so my average may not be accurate in this case. The simple fact is that it will always reach this average value consistently, whereas the Stockpile average value is a type of average that is a median between a superb game and a terrible one rather than a consistent measure. A good card to use with this leader is Anna strenger or Anseis, as you can instantly enable their Inspired effect.
Vicious Slash (16 Provisions):
Order: Damage an enemy unit by 8. Deathblow: Give adjacent units Bleeding for a duration equal to any excess damage dealt.
And here’s the ability that does not synergise with any northern realms cards at all. It’s on the same unplayed level as Stockpile, except this one just isn’t as fun and lacks potential. However, it is certianly valuable on its own, that 8 damage can shut off any engine or powerful order card most of the time and even the excess damage is compensated so it could be worse. You could find use for it in decks that all-in engines and have no removal cards of their own – but that would be a bad idea in its self. Alternatively it might have a place in the opposite; decks that are all-in removal, if you really want to stop your opponent having fun. The 16 provisions is enough for it to hold a decent deck, and I suppose it is a simple ability and therefore suitable for a beginner. It’s not a bad ability – it just wont contribute to a reliable gameplan.
Its average value is about 11 points since it has 8 pure value that will almost always deny future engine value, aswell as excess damage being given in the form of bleeding. So it has decent value – all in the form of removal which is not to be underestimated. There aren’t really any good cards that combo well with this ability – even the ones suggested in-game don’t have synergy with it. So until a new card gets added that works with this ability, I’ll leave you with a picture of Knickers, everyones favourite dog. (He also represents the idea of power with 0 synergy.)
Inspired Zeal (15 Provisions):
Order: Boost an allied Northern Realms unit by 1 and give it Zeal. Charge: 3.
Here’s the ability that you may know from the unmodified starting deck. It can be very strong when used on Gold cards with Order, and having 3 charges is nice and leaves you with flexible options in every round. As of right now there aren’t a huge amount of cards worth using this ability on, however it can only go uphill when more are added in future expansions. You don’t really want to use this ability just for the boost alone. Always prioritize zeal on your target, if you want boosts then stick to Royal Inspiration.
Its average value is about 3 points… except not really. Sure it’s 3 points written down however the idea of using high power Order cards without your opponent being able to stop you represents value that is too high/abstract for me to sum up to a single number. It’s hard to say how much of a cards ability value can be credited to the leader ability so it won’t make sense if I try. But its definitely good value. Some good cards to use with it are Seltkirk (for sure), Prince Anséis and the Bloody Baron, as they all have strong abilities on Order that are even better if used instantly. Another very good combo – that entire decks are built around, are Blue Stripe Commandos. Using Blue Stripes Scout then you can put more in your deck to pull out. Then during round 2 (or early round 3) you can shuffle them back into the deck with Pavetta, and then pull them all out at once, using the zeal, for an insane round 3 finisher.
Uprising (14 Provisions):
Order: Boost an allied unit by 1. Charge: 3
Once all Charges are used up, Spawn and play Lyrian Scytheman
Uprising is a one of Northern Realms few abilities that comes with a built-in finisher. It is perfect for any boost decks and it can thrive in a long round. Obviously you’ll want to save as many charges as you can for round 3, as you want to spawn the Scytheman in round 3 for maximum value where it matters. Of course you could spare a charge in the earlier rounds if you are desperate to catch up, or if you want to set Anna Strenger off as early as possible, but other than that it is usually best to save your energy and unleash it all at the end.
Its average value is about 12 points since you’re getting 3 boosts, 3 base strength from the scytheman and you can easily achieve 6 boosts from that scytheman. Or perhaps if you’re spending the boosts on cards like Tridam Infantry in which they gain more value, or simply to keep an engine alive, then they see more than just 1 value. A good card to use with this leader ability is Vissegerd as he also gains points off of boosted units, which your deck will be doing anyway. Note: His provisions has since been changed from 8 to 7.
Pincer Maneuver (12 Provisions):
Order: Play a Northern Realms card from your hand, then draw any card. Finally we have Pincer Maneuver, this is a super flexible ability that lets you not only play 2 cards in 1 turn, but also draw any card of your choice. This allows you to always get hold of a finisher or key card from your deck if your redraws are unforgiving. It has very high potential and can be used in a vareity of situations; to either pull a tech card (card put in your deck to deal with a very specific matchup/counter) from your deck or to get off a big wombo combo uninterrupted. This is all held back by the hefty cost of only giving you 12 provisions, though, which is among the lowest few leader abilities in the game.
Its average value is about 12, but that’s a vague estimation. Unfortunatley very hard to say yet again, due to the amount of potential and possibility it has, but no matter the value it will always be in the form you want it. Damage? Boosts? Bodies on the board? It has your back. There are loads of good cards to use with this leader, but a simple combo for a beginner would be something like Prince Anséis and Knighthood. There’s always new wacky ideas appearing from this leader so go ahead an experiment for yourself! It’s one of the most fun leaders going due to how reliable & flexible it is. The only problem is how limiting its provisions are.
Overall I would consider Pincer Manuever and Mobilization the best due to their strength of playing 2 cards in a turn, however Royal Inspiration and Inspired Zeal can have great potential if used in decks that are designed around them. Like I said, Inspired Zeal is a little lacking for now but will become better when more NR Order cards are added later on.
5. Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best Cards/Combos?
For pure value, single cards, then Northern Realms has access to so great High-Power cards such as Falibor, Prince Anséis, Bloody Baron and Phillipa: Blind Fury. These require little setup and are super reliable.
As for combos in engine decks, then Tridam Infantry are a must have bronze for any decks with boosting. Nathanial Pastodi is also a better version of those which can be used as a boost target for high value. Anna Strenger inbetween these cards make huge engine tempo aswell. Playing a Shield onto any dueling unit will also stop it from taking the first hit, making them super strong for taking out cards. A good way to get a shield is using NR’s Strategem, Engineering Solution.
If you’re playing revenants, then Ronvid the Incessant is a must-have as he will keep respawning as a 1 Power unit whenever you play a soldier, helping your Revenants reproduce and fill the board like crazy. Voymir can then boost them all for a big finisher.
If you are going for a charge deck then Priscilla is a must have, along with Dandelion as mentioned in Section 4. The best cards to get high value out of your chages are Hubert Rejk, Shani and a Crewed Foltests Pride. Vysogota of Corvo also works insanely well with Dandelion.
What are the best Meta Decks?
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 Northern Realms 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: 05/16/2020 for Patch 6.2.1
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