Deck Guide: Proper Espionage

Introduction

It’s time to let you in on a secret. Nilfgaard’s spies are actually good. Forget Masquerade Ball, this list can do everything that the old list can but has more provisions to spare. The Devotion criterion in this list is not to be underestimated. I reached Pro Rank with this list without a problem. The combos are magnificent and sometimes even a little dirty. But that is to be expected of the Nilfgaard faction.

Main Strategy

Unlike other spy decks, this list does not rely on multiple Impera Enforcers to carry you through a round with engine power and removal. Instead, this list relies more on gold interactions. This means that your bronze cards serve both as immense threats and removal bait. It’s okay to lose a few of your engines because you have Seditious Aristocrat as a well-deserved finisher. Most importantly, your leader is a tool to set up important Amnesty targets and/or Coup de Grace targets. The game plan does not differ much between playing on Blue or Red Coin (going first or second). Here is a per-round overview of the general strategy:

–        Round 1: in this round, you want to set up some of your engines and prevent your opponent from taking control of the round. You set the pace. Play slowly and conservatively but also try to match the tempo of your opponent. Deny carryover attempts from your opponent with for Amnesty. It is perfectly fine to commit Emhyr, Braathens, Vincent, or even Joachim with Coup as long as you get good cards in return. On Red Coin, if you see your opponent commit a lot of good cards in the first round, it is not a bad idea to pass instead.

–        Round 2: No matter if you won or lost the first round, your goal for round 2 is to set up your combos for round 3. This means playing Joachim and Coup if you haven’t already, and playing Gorthur Gvaed to leave the Order for the next round. Vilgefortz is there to put your opponent in his/her place if they decide to be greedy. Perhaps you get a good card out of his/her deck in the process. Sometimes your combos are already too strong and you win 2-0.

–        Round 3: If everything is set up right, you can put Joachim on top of your opponent’s deck with Gorthur Gvaed. You can then play Cantarella to get Joachim back and use Coup de Grace for another one. If you just drew the Joachim, you can try to kill it first or put Roderick or one of his good gold cards on top instead. If you have last say, it is worth keeping Vilgefortz for your opponent’s tall finishers. Usurper‘s final transformation is especially good in round 3 because of the many agents you play in this deck. Roderick is there for you if you do not draw all the golds you want. These finishing cards are in most cases enough to flat-out win you the game.

The Deck

Mulligans

The goal of your mulligans is to find all your golds. You obviously want to mulligan one of your Hunting Pack. Two bronze engines per round is optimal. You want to mulligan any excess engines, especially because these bronzes are the best target for Joachim. Amnesty is best used early game, so you might consider mulliganing them away in round 3. The bronze spies are also mulligan options. Reasons to keep them in hand are to protect your engines, or if you plan to play Usurper and/or Emhyr in the same round.

Combos

  • Use your Stratagem or a leader charge to put an enemy unit to 3 power and steal them with Amnesty. If it has veil, it will now serve as one of your engines.
  • Similarly, you can use Coup de Grace to spawn your own copy of an engine.
  • Gorthur Gvaed‘s order ability can set up any good card for Cantarella to play. Joachim might not always be the best option.
  • Use Gorthur Gvaed‘s order ability to put a spy on top of your deck as a brick or as a 1-strength body that gets summoned when you destroy an enemy with Vilgefortz.
  • Similarly, you can use the alchemist to put a bronze spy from your deck on top of his deck and, in return, you might get one of his good cards in return.
  • Use the alchemist to look at the top of your deck to see what Joachim will play next.
  • Use Emhyr right after you play alchemist to draw the card you stole. If it is good, you can keep it, or you can put it on the bottom of your deck and you never see it again.
  • When you use Coup de Grace on Joachim, you leave another 1-power spying unit for Emhyr to seize.
  • Emhyr and Fergus can give you alternative Coup de Grace and Vincent targets.
  • Emhyr with Impera Enforcers allows you to steal the engines he plays instead.
  • Emhyr with Seditious Aristocrats can generate points whenever your opponent plays a unit, even after you have passed.
  • Fergus can give spying back to Joachim when your opponent tries to purify it.
  • Fergus is best used in combination with at least one bronze engine.
  • Joachim into a Hunting Pack will automatically fulfill the criteria of having an enemy unit with a status effect.
  • Braathens after Usurper in round 3 will boost Usurper at least twice.
  • You can use the one charge on Zeal from an Impera Enforcer to damage a 4-power engine into Amnesty territory.

Matchups Specific Strategies

  • Skellige bronzes, Madoc, Flying Redanian, Cerys, Keidweni Revenants, Blue Stripes Commandos, Dwarven Berserkers, Elven Deadeyes and Bruxa are all targets that deserve to be seized.
  • Vincent against Crystal skull can win you round 1 on even cards.
  • Vincent against Carapace has easy removal targets. It is even profitable to wait for the right moment.
  • Leader tokens and Defenders are also no match for Vincent.
  • Mage Infiltrator is good against Endrega Larva, Azar Javed’s Scarabs, Elven Deadeyes, and Draug. You might want to take this option from Braathens.
  • Emissaries can deny bloodthirst.
  • Cantarella is a direct counter to Yennefer: Invocation.
  • Against no-unit   strategies, you can play your own enemies using your spies. Search for cards that play for points on your side of the board.

Replacements

Since this is a Devotion list, it does not have many replacement options. However, you can consider replacing Vilgefortz with Yennefer’s Invocation if that card better suits your playstyle.

Closing Remarks

This deck is a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to compete with Nilfgaard. It has a lot of great matchups and is equipped to handle the meta with grace. That said, it has some difficulties playing against Blaze of Glory lists with Eist or Pirate’s Cove, which are the best decks at the moment. Therefore, I would place this deck on B-tier even though its strength matches that of A-tier lists.

Most of the time, the game will play out according to the plan. but it depends on your match-ups. Sometimes, you end up in a rather unfair situation where you have stolen all of your opponent’s good cards and have more engines than they can possibly contend with. That’s the dream.  On the other hand, you could “low-roll” with Joachim and spend too many provisions in round 1, leaving you with a lot of bad cards for the rest of the game. Or your sequencing was bad, leaving you just short in points. These moments are rare, but user discretion is advised.

4 thoughts on “Deck Guide: Proper Espionage”

  1. This deck should have been called “Nilfgaard Bag Full of Dirty Tricks”. It’s how I will named it moving forward. Thanks for the guide and for the deck! Both are lovely..! It’s true that sometimes games can be hard with this list but that’s because it has so much stuff going on! At least, every game is fun with this list.

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