Introduction - Current State
So, the Way of the Witcher expansion is now a month old, Pajabol is the winner of the Gwent Masters Season 2 and 2020 lies behind us.
What is the current state of Memery in Gwent right now in my opinion and what would I wish for in 2021?
As mentioned in some articles before, which you can check out here, I already talked about the power gap between memes and meta, tried to define what the term “meme” in general might mean and which obstacles you have to overcome to be a memer, if you desire to.
In this current Season and also the Season of the Wolf, starting this week, we know what we have to expect from the meta. It will be a mix between Viy and Lippy decks, paired with Lockdown and ST Movement. Sometimes you face good old SK Warriors, Hidden Cache, some Kolgrim piles or even NR Witcher Swarm.
You can argue that this might be a good sign to see a viable meta list for each faction and indeed, every faction has his dark horses cruising on ladder. The problem I and also some people in the scene see is, that many matchups feel very binary. You need certain techs, certain coins, certain matchups to make each strategy powerful or at least being able to compete. A strong hand for Lippy on red coin feels overwhelming, with the recent buffs to some thinning cards and new added cards like Snowdrop. Without the removal options against Viy you will struggle to keep up with the points, while you also want to have removal abilities to handle ST’s Cat Witchers and other movement engines. Oh right, do you have a purify? Heatwave already used? How do you want to get through the defender to deal with Kolgrim?
The Way of the Witcher introduced us some cards, which will see balance changes for sure in February, but it kinda shows the direction I already talked about in the past. Meta decks become more rock paper scissors like, where some certain cards can be game deciding or certain matchups are really hard to deal with. And that’s where my thoughts and fears as a memer come in play.
Meming in the Way of the Witcher
As a memer I want to make some combos outside of meta synergies. A memer sees potential in cards you wouldn’t see regularly on ladder, while building a deck around it and making them viable. But in this current state of the meta, you kinda have to fit certain tech cards to survive long enough against these decks, to play out your combo. This costs you some provisions and reduces your meme potential. Therefore memes right now, like Alzur Arch Griffin decks, Enforcer Idarran swarms or some movement decks getting pretty rare and are also kinda a hybrid between meta and meme. Lockdown kills almost every meme, heatwave deals with your key card. Viy outpoints you while you can’t make it to round 3 against Lippy. And a 2:0 vs. an early Gezras might be certain anyway.
If you look around on PlayGwent, you don’t see many meme decks on its own. They are all hybrids, some “meme” versions of meta lists, including every important card and then just a few surprise cards. The powercreep of some leaders, units or specials also reduced the variety of memes and their potential to work. Every deck right now has the same key aspects: powerful thinning, neutral removal, oneiromancy and some good working faction own engines. Lippy is just a neutral thinning and removal deck, build around double Cerys and the SK discard package and location.
The question is now, what to do?
The Evolution of Casual and Unranked
Well, this also leads me to another problem, mentioned before, which has grown with this new expansion: casual or unranked mode. Many people get sick of facing Viy and Lippy, they don’t want to play on ladder, are afraid or don’t see the point. But they want to try out their Tier 2 or Tier 3 lists maybe, so they go in casual mode to play some games, farm some crownpoints and do their quests. Some people in my Team, like KingDenpai or Bomblin, experienced the same: casual is swarmed by meta lists and is sometimes even harder to play than reaching pro rank. The amount of people already being in pro rank, over thousands of games experience, deciding to play their meta lists on unranked has grown tremendously.
So as a memer, the need to have at least some tech cards and answers in your deck to deal with some of the known meta combos is huge, which means trying out full meme combinations seems almost impossible. Sure, this might change this month when actually CrownPoints are on the stake, nevertheless the struggle to be a memer continues.
Alternatives and Solutions
As a change, I don’t want to just complain, I want to offer solutions. And the solutions don’t need to be setting up a safe space for memers, but to evaluate the importance of flexibility in playing Gwent in general.
Draft Mode and Arena
With the removal of classic Arena, we now have Draft which is, with no disrespect, terrible. You don’t get any rewards for winning and it doesn’t cost you anything to play, so you just redraft till you have some broken ass combo deck. Multiple thinning vs. charge spamming decks can be considered as the standard Draft experience. I would like to see a rework of Draft in terms of the packages and the possibility to pick them. One thinning package is enough. Let us pick between 3 special packages and don’t give us random packages which have no synergy at all. At least our legendary should always support the leader ability we just picked. I see a high potential to make Draft a cool alternative to play, but right now it is not really enjoyable.
Seasonal for everyone
And what about seasonal? Well…it kinda depends on the season. With all these new witcher cards it might be interesting to see how the Season of the Wolf might play out, but why don’t we have every seasonal mode available? Make the season about the rewards and certain items, maybe even create an own seasonal ladder where people can compete if they want to. And then have every seasonal mode available for friendlys, please make it happen! It would give every noncompetitive player the possibility to try out fun stuff with their friends, while also, if being tired of the actual ladder, try to give seasonal a shot and see some progress there as well. Imagine being able to play vs. streamers in viewer battles and select a certain seasonal! I know, that’s not for everyone, but I bet a huge amount of people would enjoy it.
Old but gold
In terms of card…it was already announced that the next expansion will take another 3 months. Okay, but why not try to make a “rework” kind of expansion in between? An overhaul of all the left-over cards which nobody touched in years. Why are new cards reworked two or three times, while Wolf Pack remains as it is forever? How can Iorveth’s Gambit be 13 provisions…while Viy or Harald cost 12? Dandelion: Vainglory kills a beast…cool, but the only beast seeing played right now to make it worth it’s 10 provision is a specter! Maybe I am lucky to kill a boosted Slyzard or a Bear Abomination, but that seems to be it. Make it 8 provisions, so at least you get the value back, if you even face a deck with beasts in it.
So my solution here would be to think of some cards which can support certain archetypes but are out of their provision value or rework some leftover cards to fit them in into the meta. The NG Sergeant or SK Hunter changes were awesome, so I know it’s possible.
As a conclusion I would say that we have to be careful to not left the more meme and casual oriented audience behind, when creating new cards. The kinda easily handled meta lists right now opened the door for many maybe not so skilled players to reach higher MMR, while being stuck with autopilot decks like Lippy, Viy and Kolgrim.
The ability to create own homebrews decreased in my opinion, which you can see in unranked and seasonal, where nothing is tested, just optimized. People scream for a meta list for ladder and seasonal in the first 3 days after a patch, relying on the provided snapshots. Small tournaments end up being meta battles as well, because nobody wants to be the one bringing “memes” and getting slaughtered on stream first round, that’s how weak the potential of memes is right now.
The optimization of the Draft mode and the ability to play different seasonal modes with friends would help to create a healthy alternative and break from a quite meta heavy ladder, while an update on leftover cards might help to make memes more viable and increases the deckbuilding process in general. Let’s hope for the best this year, I’m really looking forward to it! Stay safe, stay humble and don’t let your memes be dreams!