akaean

Akaean’s First Interview | Welcome To Bandit Gang | Exclusive

Babyjosus: What does it mean to you now that you are officially part of BG?

Akaean: I am very excited about being a part of Bandit Gang because I can continue my borderline incoherent ramblings about Gwent and, I hope, other people will read them and even occasionally find them helpful. Bandit Gang is a better outlet for my obsessive energy than Reddit. As Bandit Gang grows, it will continue to be an excellent resource for people who want to learn about Gwent, and I am excited to be a part of that.

The other major thing is that it is exciting to be a part of a community that is as passionate about Gwent as I am. I remember when I made pro-rank for the first time, I was pretty stoked about it, but who could I share that accomplishment with?  My 65-year-old mother?  My buddy, who played through the tutorial and was done with it?   It just feels good to be a part of a community that shares the same passions and obsessions, and I’m looking forwards to becoming a contributing member.  

BJ: What made you join BG?

A: Honestly, a recruitment topic on the Gwent Subreddit is what pushed me to reach out to Bandit Gang. I am a pretty active poster there, and I was already frequently posting in the newcomer’s thread to help new players.  When I learned that Team Bandit Gang was looking for a content creator, I knew that I wanted to do this. I already liked spilling unnecessary amounts of ink about Gwent, and I brought with me some prior experience guest writing articles about other mobile games, such as Pokemon Masters.  In this case, I have the opportunity to pontificate endlessly about Gwent, and Bandit Gang gets to host my ramblings. All that said, that dope pink suit stirred something deep within my psyche, and it does a disservice to BabyJosus to not give credit where credit is due.  

BJ: What can people expect from you now you are on BG?

A: I think it is safe to say that people can expect me to write content about Gwent. My favorite topics generally involve theorising about strategy and giving advice to anyone willing to listen to me.  The focus of my articles will be on various decks, strategies, and guides aimed at helping new players learn some of the concepts of the game. In addition to writing, I am not opposed to contributing content in other ways as well.  Streaming, Podcasts, whatever projects Bandit Gang is working on – I am more than happy to pitch in and learn something new. 

BJ: How well suited do you think you are to the life of an article writer for BG?

A: I’m probably no better suited than anyone else, to be perfectly honest.  As a matter of philosophy, I don’t think anybody can be better suited to do anything than anybody else.  What makes the difference is the will and desire to be a part of something.  In that sense, my passion for analytical writing and Gwent itself will be exceptional assets for our journey ahead.  As Aelirenn would say, “WE SHALL DRIVE THE APE MEN INTO THE SEA!”

BJ: What message would you give to the supporters of BG?

A: Look at how far I’ve come, supporters of BG!  Look at me!  With hard work, dedication, and drive, you too can spend long hours producing quality content for free on the internet! In all seriousness, I think the best message I can give to supporters of Bandit Gang and Gwent is to remember that we all play this game, ostensibly, for fun, and that is something we should never forget. 

You can find out more about akaean here.

Like a Stuck Pig (The Strategy Of Bleeding)

Wait, What’s that picture of Blood Moon doing up there!?  Not that kind of bleeding!  

One question that I hear time and time again from players new to Gwent is, “when should I ‘dry pass’ and when should I ‘bleed’?”  It can be challenging to give a concise answer to that question because the answer is contingent on various factors ranging from what deck you are playing, what deck your opponent is playing, what happened in round one, and what cards are in your hand.  This guide aims to open a discussion to clarify the different options players have available in round two.

The Terms

Before we can dive in, let us define some terms.  Gwent is a game that is played in a best-of-three format.  When a player wins the first round, there are generally two strategies that they may employ, “dry passing” and “bleeding”.

Dry Pass:  A dry pass simply refers to passing immediately in round 2 without playing any cards.

Bleeding:  Bleeding is generally a catchall term for playing cards in round two, usually with the goal of “bleeding out” essential combos that you don’t want to deal with in round three. 

Card Advantage: Card advantage means having more cards than your opponent at the start of a round.  In Gwent, each card can represent many points, and it can often be difficult for your opponent to make up the points from an extra card.

Last Say: Last say means playing the last card of the round; this is generally coveted because you can deny your opponent the opportunity to counter a potentially game-winning combo.   

Dry Passing

The dry pass is a popular round two strategy because it carries the least risk and can give you a guaranteed advantage.  Card advantage and last say are precious from a tactical standpoint, and dry passing will often guarantee one (or both) of these.  

Most of the time, the player who wins round one will be a card down, simply because the opponent can choose to pass if they don’t think they can win the round or otherwise want to conserve the other cards in their hand.  In this case, a dry pass will fix the card disadvantage (since your opponent will have to play a card to win round 2) and guarantee the last say (since your opponent won the round, they have to play first in round 3.)

In rarer cases, a player may “win on even.”  A player wins on even when they win round one with the same number of cards as their opponent.   In this case, a dry pass will force the opponent to play round three a card down and give double last say (your opponent has to play first because they won round two, and because they are a card down, you will play your final two cards unanswered.)

Dry passing is a popular beginner strategy because it has tangible benefits that you can generally guarantee and, in general, is the safest choice.  

Bleeding

Compared to a dry pass, choosing to play into round two carries genuine risks.   You have to play first, usually a card down, and you might even end up giving your opponent the last say and card advantage over you for the final round of the game.  So why would a player give up the guaranteed benefits of a dry pass?

Well, bleeding allows you to throw a wrench in your opponent’s game plan, so it can be quite useful.  If you think about most games of Gwent, there are cards that you want to hang onto. Cards that you depend on to win the game.  If you are bled, you could be forced to play those cards in round two, whether you want to or not.  The person being bled typically cannot pass until their opponent does. This is because if they lose round one and round two, it’s game over for them. So if you are bleeding someone, and you are behind, you can keep playing, and they have to keep playing cards as well, whether they want to or not

Bleeding is a common tactic against decks like Blaze of Glory Skellige with Eist or Lined Pockets with Tunnel Drill.  These cards represent huge point swings with relatively little opportunity for counterplay.  Bleeding can force the opponent to commit these combos in round two to stay in the game.

Bleeding is also frequently effective against decks that depend on a long round.  Decks like Nilfgaard and Eldain Trap decks thrive in a long round.  Bleeding in round two shortens round three, so if you are playing a deck with a solid short round- you can give yourself an advantage by bleeding your opponent and creating a round length more favorable to your deck.

Finally, bleeding can cause your opponent to make misplays or otherwise play inefficiently.  As we noted above, your opponent will have cards that they will try to avoid playing and conserve for round three.  Those cards will frequently not be played optimally and instead used only as a last resort.   This change of focus can cost your opponent a significant amount of points and may even cause them to lose round two.  A great example of this might be your opponent playing Masquerade Ball when they no longer have enough aristocrats in their hand to trigger the whole scenario.   Sometimes this can result in a 2-0 victory.

To Bleed or Not to Bleed? That is the Question.

Many factors decide whether bleeding your opponent in round two is the best strategy.  Some of these considerations include knowledge of the opponent’s deck, what cards were played so far in round one, and what your hand looks like in round two.

Knowledge of your opponent’s deck is one of the most critical considerations, and so possessing some meta knowledge is essential.   We talked about a few of the decks that bleeding is often a good strategy against above, but there are also decks where bleeding is exceptionally dangerous.  Monster Viy decks and Skellige Lippy decks have devastatingly powerful short rounds.  In general dry passing ensures the longest round three possible and is frequently the best tactic against these decks.

Aside from knowledge about how your deck matches up with other decks, you also need to consider the state of your hand going into round two.  There will be cases where your hand is not in a position to bleed.  You might have essential combo pieces that you want to save for round three, and you might just have a bad hand that you want to mulligan away.  The decision of whether to bleed the opponent thus will often be a game-by-game decision.

My rule of thumb is essentially to look at my hand and ask myself these four questions;

  1. Does my opponent have a win condition I need to bleed out in round two?
  2. Does my opponent prefer a long or a short round three?
  3. Is my hand good enough that my opponent will have to play an extra card to defend the bleed?
  4. Do I have a plan to win a short(er) round three?

These are your primary concerns when deciding to bleed.  Moreover, bleeding is frequently the default strategy for several decks.  Viy, Lippy, and Northern Realms Witchers – strong point slam decks that excel in short rounds –  will generally want to bleed their opponents.  

Using Northern Realms Witchers as an example, long rounds are frequently dangerous because cards like Yrden potentially ruin the matchup. Most dedicated engine decks are often able to outvalue the Witchers throughout a long round three.  On the other hand, a short round has significant advantages for the Witchers.  The deck possesses some very powerful point slams, such as the Witcher Trio (Lambert, Vesemir, and Eskel) playing for 15 points if correctly set up with Erland and Vesemir: Mentor.  Bleeding with this deck can not only force a short round on decks that would beat it in a long round, but it can also potentially draw out counter cards like Yrden in round two.  As a result, Witchers will generally prefer to bleed, and vice versa; they are generally more difficult to bleed.

Viy is another deck that will almost always want to bleed.  Viy has possibly the most potent short round three in the game.  Viy decks will not generally lose any real value by playing cards in round two due to Viy’s unique ability to return to the deck and increase power every time it is killed or consumed.   Playing against Viy, unless you have a hand that is capable of a 2-0 against the centipede, usually you will want to force as long of a round three as possible so that your engines have an opportunity to outvalue Viy.  

Conclusion

I suppose that this is just a way of saying “just go with your gut.”  Bleeding is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, and sometimes pursuing it will lose you the game.   I’ve won games I should have lost because my opponent was too greedy in round two and tried to 2-0 me, and then was defeated in a short round three.  I’ve also had games where I tried to bleed out a win condition, and the opponent was able to successfully defend the bleed and force me to go into round three a card down, sealing my fate. 

The ladder does not punish losing players heavily because Gwent does not have any form of demotion.  The best way to learn how to bleed your opponent and apply pressure is to practice—work on getting a feel for your deck and what your hands can do. Think about the considerations we discussed above, and don’t be afraid to try pressuring your opponent in round two. 

Deck Guide: A Love Letter to Harmony

Introduction

This article is a love letter to the Harmony archetype, whether you play it with Precision Strike, Guerilla Tactics, and, well, probably Call of Harmony.   Harmony often feels like a catch-all archetype for Scoia’Tael, a misfit collection of dwarves, elves, dryads, treants, and other misfits within the faction.  Somehow, they all come together to form a whole that is greater than its parts, and it is a deck that has a surprising amount of flexibility and can take many players off guard.  Suffice to say; it warms the cockles of my bleeding SJW heart.

How Does Harmony Play?

Harmony is simple in concept. “Boost self by 1 or the specified amount whenever you play a Scoia’Tael unit whose primary category is unique among all your units.”

There are nine primary categories in the faction: Dryad, Elf, Dwarf, Treant, Beast, Human, Witcher, Dragon, and War Machine.  So, if you play an Elf and there are no other Elves on the board currently, any units with Harmony will boost themselves.  A Harmony deck will compound each turn, as long as you can keep playing unique categories.  

Generally speaking, most Harmony decks are going to be somewhat Dryad heavy.  If for no other reason than carrying the Harmony keyword, most decks will include Dryad Fledglings, Dryad Rangers, and Waters of Brokilon.   In addition to boosting, Harmony typically relies on poison for tall removal.  Dryad Rangers and the Weeping Willow come with Poison and Harmony, so it is a natural fit to include a few other poison-oriented cards to make sure you can get the necessary stacks.  

Harmony can be a tricky and rewarding deck to play, as there is a heavy emphasis on unit sequencing. The deck needs to balance playing unique categories to score points and interrupting your opponent’s combos to win. 

The Deck

Why Play Harmony In This Day and Age?

Many players remember a time not that long ago when Harmony was king, and Francesca was the queen of all with her ability to play Waters of Brokilon two times!  Harmony has been power crept significantly since those days, and it remains today a seldom seen Scoia’Tael archetype.  That said, Harmony is still capable of holding its own, and it provides a rewarding experience to pilot; I find the deck to be more enjoyable than Symbiosis, Movement, Traps, or even Dwarfs.  

The first draw of Harmony is that the deck is capable in most situations.   It plays engine heavy and can typically hold its own in a long round, but at the same time, it has a deceptively powerful short round thanks to its leader ability.   Waters of Brokilon combined with the Leader Ability will slam 17 points and put three engines on the board, often taking a short round 3 by storm.   

Overall, the deck plays very much like a jack of all trades, master of none.  You have some removal but need to be careful when to play it.  You have solid engines but nothing that can compete with real engine decks.  Decent enough point slam, but again, not the best.  You get the idea.  Each game with harmony is thus unique to the matchup.   

That said, the deck relies on being competent in a short round quite a bit.  Recent expansions have seen the release of a glut of potent cards and combos that you cannot beat unless you bleed them out.  Lined Pockets with Tunnel Drill, Blaze of Glory with Eist, allowing these combos to play in round 3 will likely result in defeat.  Similarly, decks like Eldain traps thrive on a long final round.  These matchups create s disproportionate pressure to winning round one, with the usual caveats of knowing when to bow out if your opponent has overcommitted.  It can be complicated!

Useful Cards

Unlike other Scoia’Tael decks, which build themselves to a degree based around a keyword, Harmony needs to play a bit faster and looser with what cards it includes.  Cards with the Harmony ability, of course, are necessary, but once you have included those, you want a couple, but not too many, of each different primary category.  That said, there are a few noteworthy cards that have stood out to me as tech pieces.

Gezras:  Witcher is a unique category, and Gezras represents a lot of points.  Not only does he do his usual thing where he buffs the entire back row, but he will also generally trigger every unit with Harmony as well.  

Barnabas: Gnome is a rare category, and he can play for 12 + Harmony Triggers.  He is a solid point slam and benefits exactly the diverse type of deck Harmony is. 

Dennis Cranmer:  Dennis is most useful as a discount Gezras. He plays for a surprising amount of points when considering harmony procs and can be helpful in either the melee or ranged rows, depending on the board state.  

Toruviel:  She is crucial for staying competitive with Arachas Swarm.  Her ability to damage all units on a row by 1, if timed right, can clear out an entire row of tokens before the Swarm has an opportunity to start buffing them.  

Ida Emean aep Sivney:  She recently enjoyed a slight buff, and at 6 provisions, she provides a critical purify, and if you don’t need to purify, she can give a unit 4 vitality instead.   Purify helps combat defenders and can purify Joachim to prevent an opponent from using Coup on him.

Forest Whisperer: This card has grown on me in the deck, she can be helpful to make sure you have enough poison to complete a stack, or she can play into the ranged row to give a shield to help a more vulnerable harmony engine stick.  

Strategy and Tactics

The basic game flow of Harmony is to overpower the opponent in round 1 with multiple harmony engines, then bleeding round two to disrupt any combos that you won’t be able to deal with, and finally point slamming in a short round 3 with your leader ability. 

Generally speaking, Harmony has a tough matchup with most meta decks in a long round 3.  Especially in Devotion Harmony decks where saving Heatwave for a scenario isn’t an option.  There are exceptions to this rule, like against Viy decks where you need to force as long a round 3 as possible, and of course, there will be times when an opponent overcommits themselves in round 1 with their leader ability or additional gold cards.  

Generally speaking, you want to play Percival in round 1, where your opponent will be less likely or willing to use premium removal to kill him.  It is usually a good idea to play a few other cards first to get a feel for your opponent’s deck and play Percival as soon as it is safe(ish) to do so.  If you are running Aen Seidhe Sabre, you will likely want to spring it the same turn you play Percival to take him out of 6 point removal range.   Waters of Brokilon is preferable to play in round 3 because it sets up more engines which gives some protection against the potent control cards usually seen there. Waters of Brokilon into Call of Harmony plays for 17 points and puts three engines on the field, which can often jumpstart you into a powerful position.  Of course, sometimes it won’t shake out like that, but the general rule of thumb is to play Percival and Waters in different rounds.  

Let’s look at some of the specific matchups!

The Matchups

Arachas Swarm:
Arachas Swarm is a tough matchup because they can very quickly spiral out of control.  Scoia’Tael, in general, is capable of teching against them effectively.  While the Swarm is one of the most popular decks on the ladder, including several counters is necessary.  Gezras is an auto-include in a harmony deck and will help the matchup, but you will need more than just Gezras.  Toruviel, as discussed above, can clear out a line of bugs before they can get buffed, and Crushing Traps are flexible 6 point tools against the swarm.  Arachas Swarm is far from an unwinnable matchup, but it is going to come down to how well both players draw and how effective you are in timing your Toruviel and Gezras plays.  

Lined Pockets:
On paper, this matchup looks bad… It is simple, right?  Just outscore Safecrackers and Novigradian Justice in round one.  Bleed out Drill AND Cleaver in round 2… and still have enough gas in the tank to beat Phillipa / Jacques / Gord in a short round 3.   In practice, I found Lined Pockets was not a bad matchup for this deck.  Harmony Engines will outpace Lined Pockets in round one, especially with a poison package taking out one of the Halfling Safecrackers.  Generally speaking, Lined Pockets will need to commit the Tunnel Drill to kill your harmony engines to take the round from you.  And if you bleed out the Tunnel Drill and most of their leader charges in round 1, you’ve done what you came to do and can generally bow out safely.  In the short round 3, Waters into Leader is usually enough to outpace Jacques and Gord.  

Conclusion

Overall, Harmony is a refreshing way to play the game, a mismatched band of units all working together into a sum greater than its parts.  Each of your cards is a special snowflake, just like me, and they all have to work together to win.  This type of deck isn’t as powerful or as flexible as other meta decks, but it still has the tools to find a line to victory. I would recommend giving it a try. Who knows, you might fall in love with the power of diverse friendships too!

Please consider checking out our article section where you can find plenty of articles. From member interviews to deck guides and more!