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.
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?
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.”
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.
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!