Scoia'Tael

Deck Guides: Saskia’s Gift & Milva’s Witchers

Overview

Saskia: Commander has arrived on the battlefield to lead your Scoia’tael commandos to victory! Prepare to summon your troops and topple some kings with the full arsenal of the Scoia’tael. Saskia said it best herself: “We’ll win!”

Saskia: Commander’s ability revolves around being mindful of the tags (Witcher, Human, Dwarf, etc.) you have on board and in deck. In this deck, you specifically want to utilize her to summon your bronze units onto the board in Round 1. Her Immunity ensures she cannot be easily countered by your opponents and allows you to thin the deck multiple times. 

With Round 1 secured, you can push Round 2 as much as you want. You have a big point slam card in Barnabas Beckenbauer, which you can play for 15 points with an Elf, Dwarf, and Dryad target on board. Saskia (the one with Harmony) serves as a Swiss Army Knife, providing any tag you might end up missing.

Round 3 is reserved for the final form of Eithné: Wrath of the Brokilon with a few Nature cards and Harald Gord.

Your Nature’s Gift leader ability enables many of your bronze engines and adds points to your Nature cards. Saskia: Commander, ensuring an early round victory, allows you to decide how best to approach the later rounds with your multiple combos.

Pros

  • Round 1 plan is solid on both Red or Blue coin
  • An overwhelming amount of engines
  • Can be very consistent with all your thinning
  • Multiple finishers
  • Can survive if bled or combo missed round 1

Cons

  • Devotion 
  •  Minimal control, no tall punish
  • Difficult mulligans
  • Can over swarm in a long round

The Deck

Core Cards

Saskia: Commander An amazing thinning tool which also gives you bronzes you want to have early. You have 5 sets of bronze units for her to call forth into the fray. Mulligans in Round 1 are crucial, since you want to guarantee a wide selection of targets for your draconic general. Your Cursed Scroll stratagem is very useful to guarantee her and put any unwanted bronze back in deck.

Eithné: Wrath of the Brokilon– Round 3 form is a big payoff for being Devotion. Adds 3 points to your Nature cards.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr– A carryover play with Orb of Insights which can be used on Elven Seers to create multiple copies or on Hamadryads to gain an extra point for each vitality.

Saskia– Spawns an Elf, Dwarf, or Dryad specifically to be combined with Barnabas’ deploy ability.

Harald Gord– Usually gets to his 12 point cap thanks to Elven Seers creating multiple copies of your specials. Our ultimate Round 3 finisher card.

Abandoned Girl Never want to have abandoned girls in hand the same round you play Saskia: Commander as you want to utilize their transform into a Dryad ability to summon the other Human copy from deck later. 

Overview

Pierce your opponents heart in a flash with Milva: Sharpshooter, the lightning fast removal card! Your opponents will be left wondering how their units disappeared and all the while you will be setting up for a devastating combo of your own thanks to your various Feline Witchers and their leader Gezras of Leyda.

Milva: Sharpshooter turns your Guerilla Tactics leader ability into 5 damage removal! She jumps from the deck whenever you move a card (you have leader and many cards to do this). Her Deathblow is very important as it allows you to use her multiple times in a turn and throughout the game. Deathblow must be achieved by her 2 damage order so do not leave her on board if you don’t have a way to kill a 1 or 2 point card! She can be combined with your many offensive movement cards to remove opponents’ threats. 

This powerful control tool allows you to remove any threatening engines your opponent throws at you in Round 1 supported by your various offensive movement bronzes. We have multiple carryover plays to set up for a devastating short Round 2 or a long Round 3 with a fully set up Gezras of Leyda.

Pros

  • So much control 
  • Flexible game plan
  • Good carryover 
  • Tall punish 

Cons

  • Unitless decks 
  • Can be inconsistent (Cursed Scroll is a consideration)
  • No Heatwave 
  • No Purify 

The Deck

Core Cards

Gezras of Leyda– Does this legendary Witcher need any introduction? Loves a long Round 3 with a full back row to boost! Also is known for cheeky 2-0s when the opponent is unprepared.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr– Your targets in this deck are Bountiful Harvests and Rock Barrage! Usually best to go for Harvests in an early round to thin and get 4 points of carryover.

Milva: Sharpshooter– with Rock Barrage she can remove a 7 power unit. If you have a Dol Blathanna Sentry on melee your movements will deal an extra point of damage which can be useful but often makes Sharpshooter’s Deathblow more awkward to achieve. 

Stygga Castle– Most often spawning you a Cat Witcher Saboteur who’s very useful to target a unit on a crowded row but also works just fine with Sharpshooter on a row only consisting of 2 units. The carryover location order is very useful to move a Sentry from Melee to Ranged or to move any 3 cards to ensure Gezras value.

Brehen– Your one destroy card is pretty easy to set up thanks to all your movement cards. Pairs perfectly with Malena or Vrihedd Dragoon as they do not deal any damage themselves and take away from your destroy value. 

Gaetan– Used to move a full row of cards from one of your rows to the other. Usually melee to ranged to give Gezras guaranteed value. Loves to be combined with Cat Witcher Mentor from Stygga Castle.

Milva– A very useful proactive play to force your opponent to play something worth removing. We play many units to trigger her ability. She can be a cheeky target for Harvest’s hanbuffs too.

Malena– Specifically combined with Sharpshooter she turns into a 3 power removal. She is also used on your side of the board with Treant Boar or to set up your own back row for Gezras

To improve the Madoc match up an Elven Swordmaster at 4p could be swapped for a Squirrel or Milva at 7p could be swapped for Xavier Lemmens at 6p and Elven Swordmaster at 4p could be upgraded to a Cat Witcher Saboteur at 5p. 

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Beyond the Starter Deck

Eithné Mother Gwent Art

The Upgraded Starter Deck

Beginning Scoia’tael players can work towards the upgraded starter deck or other archetypes.

The cards in the upgraded starter deck here can be obtained through a Reward Tree that costs only 15 Reward Points, the best value in the game. We highly recommend that new players interested in Scoia’tael complete this Reward Tree as soon as possible. More information on how to upgrade the deck is in the next section.

The upgraded version of the starter deck is a Nature’s Gift list. The strength of Nature’s Gift depends on which other decks are common in the metagame. If you face Nilfgaard a lot, the Purify effect of Dryad’s Caress and the Veil effect of Shaping Nature are very valuable.

The upgraded starter deck is not a refined deck, as it uses only cards from the starter deck and the Reward Tree. It also leaves 4 provisions unused. For a more refined list, see later on this same page, where we’ll look at several options for other Scoia’tael decks that you can work toward after upgrading your starter deck.

Using the Reward Tree to Upgrade Your Deck

As of Patch 9.5 (October 2021), Gwent offers Reward Tress to upgrade each faction’s starter deck. Each Reward Tree costs 15 Reward Points (keys) and offers multiple faction-specific Legendary cards. As such, new players should absolutely spend their keys on these trees, as they provide quick and cheap access to viable decks.

To access the tree, select the key resource at the top, then select the blue crown tab along the bottom right. The Scoia’tael tree is on the far right.

When you are in the tree, you will see 15 nodes, each costing 1 key. The trophy nodes provide Quests, which are simple to complete and reward you with Scoia’tael cards to upgrade your starter deck.

In order, the cards are Malena, Call of the Forest, 2 copies of Nature’s Rebuke, Treant Boar, Forest Protector, The Great Oak, and Shaping Nature.

As we will discuss later, Call of the Forest and Forest Protector are both excellent cards to have in almost any Scoia’tael deck.

Both the upgraded and original starter decks leave provisions on the table (never a good idea for an optimized deck). What that means for you, though, is that you can replace low-cost cards with higher-cost ones as you go (e.g., remove a 4-provision card to insert The Great Oak). As you go, though, do not have more than 25 cards in your deck, as that reduces the chances you will draw your best cards.

If you look at the upgraded starter deck, you will note that it includes all the cards you gain from the tree except Malena. This is because Malena is so non-impactful that she is generally worse than even your 4-provision cards.

Must-Have Cards

Unlike some factions, even the most powerful Scoia’tael cards aren’t played in every deck. These gold cards, though, are the most useful ones you should work toward as you build your collection. Make sure you know, though, what decks you are interested in building, or you could find yourself crafting cards you can’t use.

Note: The cards at the top of this list are all used in the Scoiatael deck that is currently the most competitive, an Orb of Insight Spella’tael deck. More on that deck later.

Note: If you dont know what these cards do, click on their images to learn more about them.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr Gwent Card Art
One of the best tutors in the game, since it is able to thin 2 bronze cards and get 2 triggers for cards that want you to play Specials.

Simlas Finn aep Dabairr is one of the best tutor cards in the entire game, as well as currently the main reason to play Scoia’tael. Simlas thins your deck of 2 bronze cards, provides at least equal to his provision cost in value, adds flexibility in the choice of boosting your units or removing your opponent’s units, and provides 2 immediate triggers for your special-loving cards like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and Harald Gord. The main consideration with Simlas is in the deckbuilder: you should usually run at least 3 pairs of 2x bronze specials. Orb of Insight is a particularly valuable target for Simlas.

Harald Gord Gwent Art
In the right deck, Harald Gord is an absolute beast of a finisher.

Harald Gord is a powerful finisher for some decks that play a lot of Special cards. For only 7 provisions, you can get at least 15 points, and sometimes as much as 20-25 points. Harald is a strong finisher for the Orb of Insight Spella’tael deck, as well as No-Unit variations of Scoia’tael.

Forest Protector Gwent Art
A strong, flexible option, frequently used to replay Nature's Rebuke.

Forest Protector is a very flexible and high-powered card. Most ST decks run at least one Nature’s Rebuke, and often two. Combined with another bronze Nature cards like Tempering, Dryad’s Caress, or Circle of Life, you should basically never brick Forest Protector. Giving access to a second or third Nature’s Rebuke is helpful, and it often plays as 11 or 12 points for 11 provisions.

Feign Death Gwent Art
The Scoia’tael Scenario is quite easy to trigger and provides a lot of points, especially played early in a round.

Feign Death is the Scoia’tael Scenario, and it’s one of the easiest scenarios to trigger, since many of the best Scoia’tael cards are elves. Feign Death can be used in a variety of decks, and it can be used flexibly in different rounds. If possible, try to play Feign Death early in the round you will be playing it, since the engine it spawns can continue to boost itself every turn. Feign Death also benefits from the Scoia’tael strategem, since it can immediately trigger Chapter 1 of Feign Death, making Feign Death more resistant to Korathi Heatwave.

Aelirenn Gwent Art
Run in most decks that include Feign Death, Aelirenn is 5 free points and thinning for only 8 provisions.

Aelirenn is an excellent card if your deck plays enough elves to reliably pull her out. If you run Feign Death, you can almost always pull out Aelirenn the same round you play Feign Death. One of the best things about Aelirenn is that she is controllable, so you can pass with 4 or fewer elves on board if you want to save the tempo for a later round. You can also keep her in hand if you do not want to commit the tempo until later.

Isengrim's Council Gwent Art
A cheap tutor with RNG that can be controlled in the deckbuilder.

Isengrim’s Council is a strong consideration, especially if you can control the outcomes to a certain extent. For instance, running only 1 elf like Ida Emean Aep Sivney or Ele’yas ensures you don’t have less optimal choices from Isengrim’s Council. Another popular option is running only 1 dwarf in Harald Gord (this can give you a cheap tutor to guarantee access to your finisher).

Call of the Forest Gwent Art
A strong tutor option that can get you any Scoia'tael unit and benefits from a Nature tag.

Call of the Forest is a powerful tutor card that is used in both Devotion and non-Devotion decks. Call of the Forest is a Nature card, which means you can tutor it with Fauve. Scoia’tael also has many units that tutor, so you can use Call of the Forest to get you access to a spell through a card like Fauve or Forest Protector. Basically the only important card you can’t find with this is Feign Death.

Fauve Gwent Art
Many Scoia'tael specials are Nature cards, so Fauve can find key bronzes and powerful golds.

Fauve is a strong consideration in a lot of decks, not just Nature’s Gift. She ensures you have access to Nature’s Rebuke, as well as Nature tutors like Call of the Forest and Isengrim’s Council. Most Devotion ST decks will include Fauve and Call of the Forest, including the upgraded starter deck.

Eithné Young Queen Gwent Art
An excellent card if unanswered, though the 2-point Young Dryads are very vulnerable to many decks.

Eithné Young Queen is a useful addition to Symbiosis decks. The 2-point Young Dryads she spawns are weak to control, but they can generate a lot of points if left unanswered. She can be run in non-Devotion lists, but she really shines in Devotion.

Gezras of Leyda Gwent Art
A must-answer engine that can generate a ton of points for swarm decks.

Gezras of Leyda is one of the most powerful engine cards in the game if left unchecked. Even if he is removed immediately, playing him at the end of a round can often get you 12 or 13 points. Even better, those points are spread around, making you less vulnerable to tall punish. While decks that don’t play many units, such as Traps, can’t make use of Gezras, he’s a strong consideration in many other ST decks, especially Elf Swarm.

Other Archetypes to Build

While the upgraded starter deck will help you win games at lower ranks, it is not currently competitive at the highest ranks. Below is an optimized, competitive version of the same archetype, Symbiosis Nature’s Gift.

We have also included other Scoia’tael decks which are generally off-meta but can be strong when piloted well.

Current Meta Deck: Devotion Symbiosis

This deck is quite similar to the upgraded starter deck, though it is much more optimized.

Devotion Symbiosis is flexible with its gameplan, though you generally want to win Round 1 to gain round control and last say for a big Harald Gord finisher. If possible, open with Dunca to get your handbuff train going. You want Filavandrel aén Fidháil to be your primary handbuff target, as his effect benefits from boosts in hand. Preferably, you want Filavandrel on 8 or 10 power, since playing him on Melee on 8 power generates Isengrim’s Council and on 10 power generates Call of the Forest.

Almost all of your cards are expendable in Round 1, except Harald Gord and Filavandrel. Your typical gameplan is to win Round 1 with some handbuffs for carryover, then push Round 2 (often with second-form Eithné), then win a short Round 3 with Filavandrel, Forest Protector, and Harald Gord.

In some situations, you may want to give up Round 1, focusing on playing low-tempo handbuff cards like Circle of Life. If you can stay competitive longer into Round 1, that is usually preferable. If you go into a 10-card Round 2, you can have the problem of wanting to develop valuable Symbiosis engines, but not wanting to overcommit in case your opponent passes. A 7-card Round 2, then, is often better for the sequencing of this deck, since you can commit to defending the bleed.

Note: You should generally mulligan Eithné Young Queen, as it loses all handbuffs when it Transforms.

Viable Off-Meta: Orb of Insight Spella’tael

This deck relies on playing Orb of Insight as many times as possible, both immediately triggering Special-loving engines like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and beefing up Harald Gord for a massive finisher. In best case scenarios, it’s possible to play six Orbs, each of which comes back again for six more Special triggers.

Since Harald Gord is your big finisher, your goal should be to win Round 1, bleed your opponent in Round 2, and beat them in a short Round 3 with last say Gord plus 2 other cards.

You have two big power plays outside of Gord (Feign Death and Simlas), and you will often use one of them to win Round 1 and the other in the Round 2 bleed.

Feign Death is excellent when going second (Red Coin), but may be an overcommitment going first (Blue Coin). Unless you keep her in hand, Feign Death will usually bring out Aelirenn for some tempo and thinning (especially good to keep her from clogging up Isengrim’s Council, which can be taken for an Elf if you aren’t using it for Gord). A nifty trick with Feign Death is that Chapter 2 will play a Special, meaning you can play Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and get an immediate trigger. If you have Orbs in the graveyard ready to go, you can even get a bunch of chained Special triggers without your opponent ever having the opportunity to react.

Your other non-finisher power play is Simlas. The best case is to use him for Orb of Insight, but he can used on Nature’s Rebuke or Tempering in a pinch. Even without Special-lovers on the board like Elven Scribe or Elven Seer, double Orb of Insight (and playing a couple of specials to pull them back from the graveyard) can often get you enough points to either win Round 1 or stay ahead of your opponent in a Round 2 bleed.

Once you’ve executed the above gameplan as best as you can (the deck can be awkward, so don’t worry if it doesn’t quite go according to plan), it’s simple: play big Gord, win game.

Viable Off-Meta: No-Unit Madoc

This deck’s win condition is to continually disrupt your opponent’s gameplan while developing just enough of your own points to win.

In most games, you’ll push to win Round 1. When going first, this usually involves playing Saber-Tooth Tiger (which is much better when going first). When going second, you’ll usually play as uninteractive as possible, using your removal on your opponent’s cards so that they cannot set up their board.

This deck has very few proactive plays (Saber-Tooth Tiger, Maxii Van Dekkar, and Pyrotechnician being the main ones), so try to save these for when you have to go first in a round.

Depending on the deck you’re facing, you may want to go into a short Round 3 with a Harald Gord finisher, or into a long Round 3 where you respond to your opponent’s plays.

This deck is highly meta-dependant, as it eats engine decks alive, but it struggles greatly against pointslam.

Note: For new players, this deck may be prohibitively expensive, since many of the cards are not useful outside of this specific deck.

Low Tier Off-Meta: Elf Swarm

This deck’s strategy is to play a lot of Elf units to swarm the board, then use cards like Gezras of Leyda, Isengrim Faoiltiarna, and Vernossiel to benefit from the swarm.

One of the biggest advantages of the deck is its flexible damage: Elven Swordmaster should get one point of damage almost every turn, while Dol Blathanna Bomber, Dol Blathanna Bowman, Vrihedd Officer, and Waylay let you fill in whatever other damage you need to disrupt your opponent’s gameplan.

The downside of the deck is that while it has an extremely powerful long round, it can be hard to swarm the board in two different rounds. Generally, you’ll be looking to have one medium-power longer round (some elves + Aelirenn + Yaevinn + perhaps Isengrim) and one high-power longer round (Feign Death + Vernossiel + Gezras + Isengrim).

The ace up this deck’s sleeve, though, is the combo of Simlas and Vanadáin. You can use Vanadáin to clean up your hand early (for instance of you draw Aelirenn), then mulligan the Waylays to play 4 Waylays from your deck with Simlas. Alternatively, if you have Simlas in hand and Vanadáin sticks, you can play Simlas for 2 Waylays from the deck to get as many as 18 points from Simlas.

Low Tier Off-Meta: Traps

This deck is an interesting hybrid of the Elf Swarm and No-Unit decks above. The goal of the deck is to get to a long Round 3, play Traps so that your opponent can’t do things, then play Eldain as your penultimate card and Vernossiel on the Melee row as the last card. When it actually gets to play out this plan, the deck is almost unbeatable. Of course, actually getting there is the tricky part.

The typical Round 1 gameplan is to play Feign Death, cheap bronze Elf cards to trigger Feign Death and pull out your Aelirenn, and Yaevinn and/or Isengrim as big tempo swings.

If possible, try to avoid playing any Traps in Round 1. This is not just because your Eldain will benefit from playing more Traps. This is because any good player will recognize the win condition of a Trap deck and do everything they can to prevent you from having a long, uninteractive Round 3. Holding back on your Traps means that players may think you are an Elf Swarm deck.

If you aren’t able to win Round 1 (which will happen relatively often, especially if you miss Feign Death), you can defend the bleed with Traps and Eldain. Try to save Vernossiel and Feign Death, since they’re really the only source of points you have in a short round.

Note: For new players, this deck may be prohibitively expensive, since many of the cards are not useful outside of this specific deck.

Finally, here are a few descriptions of decks that venture into meme territory. They are not particularly competitive, but they can be a lot of fun to play.

  • Dwarves (Mahakam Forge): This deck plays a bunch of proactive dwarves, taking advantage of the Mahakam Forge armor passive to protect them. Mahakam Guards can easily be 10 or 11 power for 4 provisions, the Resilient dwarves can be a real pain for some decks, and Brouver Hoog is a huge ongoing threat.
  • Harmony (Call of Harmony): This deck sets up a ton of Harmony engines and plays a wide variety of tags to benefit those Harmony engines. Francesca Findabair allows you to play Water of Brokilon twice for a massive amount of threats. Unfortunately, this deck is significantly outclassed by other similar options, such as Monsters Thrive.
  • Aglaïs (Mahakam Forge): This deck is mostly a meme, but at least it’s a fun meme. The goal is to secure last say at all costs, then pump everything you have into a huge Aglaïs. Francesca Findabair allows you to duplicate Tempering from your Leader, and Sorceress of Dol Blathanna allows you to play another buff, such as Tempering or Dryad’s Caress. This deck is easily disrupted, but when it works, it works spectacularly.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – The Starter Deck

Eithné Young Queen Gwent Art

Your Deck’s Foundations

The Scoia’tael (ST) starter deck is a Nature’s Gift list. While more advanced Nature’s Gift lists focus primarily on Symbiosis (cards that benefit from playing Nature specials), the ST starter deck has a variety of packages.

First, let’s look at Symbiosis. This keyword effectively adds 1 extra point to each of your Nature cards for each unit with the Symbiosis keyword you have (your Nature’s Gift leader has Symbiosis, as well). You’ll want to develop your Symbiosis engines (Hamadryad, Duén Canell Guardian, Abandoned Girl, and Freixenet) early in the round before playing Nature cards, so you get the full benefit from Symbiosis.

This deck also includes a Harmony package. The Harmony keyword boosts a unit whenever you play a Scoia’tael unit whose tag or “tribe” isn’t already represented on your side of the board. The tribes you have in this deck include Human, Dryad, Beast, Elf, and Witcher. Like Symbiosis, Harmony engines should be played early in order to maximize their value.

The deck also includes several cards that give Vitality to your units. Since Vitality generates points slowly (and can be removed with Purify), the payoff is it generally plays for more value than boosting a unit. Hamadryad is your primary Vitality target in this deck, since its ability effectively doubles any Vitality on itself.

There are also several cards that boost units in your hand, a mechanic that’s informally called Handbuff. While you will sometimes use boosted cards in your hand in the same round, they’re often most useful brought into future rounds, a concept called Carryover. Carryover is especially powerful, since it allows you to gain an advantage over your opponent in the deciding Round 3.

Your starter Scoia’tael deck is rounded out by several Utility cards: cards that are useful in specific circumstances. Geralt of Rivia allows you to remove one of your opponent’s units with 9 or more power. Surrender allows you to punish an opponent who is swarming their board on a single row. Dorregary of Vole allows you to lock one of your opponent’s cards to disrupt their gameplan. Alzur’s Thunder allows you to remove key engine cards from your opponent’s board.

How to Win with the Scoia'tael Starter Deck

Mulligan Phase

ST Starter Deck Mulligan
Choosing what to mulligan in the Scoia'tael starter deck.

You should use all of your mulligans, since this deck has no possible “bricked” cards (cards that will play for zero or minimal value). General mulligan strategy applies here: keep your gold cards and mulligan bronze cards.

You want to prioritize handbuff cards: Dunca is excellent in Round 1, Circle of Life gives you flexibility (especially going second), and Freixenet can be used for the handbuff if you get him Round 1.

Otherwise, prioritize a mixture of Symbiosis cards and Nature cards, as well as diverse tribes for Harmony if possible.

Round 1

ST Starter Deck Round 1
A typical Round 1 opening with the Scoia'tael starter Deck.

If you go first in Round 1 (Blue Coin), your strategy should be to develop engine cards like Symbiosis and Harmony, then play cards that benefit from those keywords. Dunca (with Tactical Advantage to protect her from the opponent’s removal) is an excellent opening play.

When playing your Symbiosis engines, start with Duén Canell Guardian or Abandoned Girl if possible. This deck has a lot of Vitality, so Hamadryad is one of your highest value cards, and playing it later can ensure your opponent has used up their removal. You can also use an immediate Leader charge on Hamadryad to boost her to 6 power, out of range of most removal.

You only have 2 Harmony engines in Sirssa and Trained Hawk. If you have both, play Sirssa first so she can boost from Trained Hawk’s Beast tag. Abandoned Girl can get you 2 Harmony triggers: you can play her for a Human trigger, then use her Order to transform her and play another Human unit.

Otherwise, weave in Nature cards and utility cards. You should almost always develop your Symbiosis engines before playing your Nature cards. For example, if one of your units has Bleeding, you could Purify that with Dryad’s Caress. If you instead develop a Symbiosis engine, you’ll take 1 damage but gain that back in the extra Symbiosis value if you play Dryad’s Caress next turn.

If you go second in Round 1 (Red Coin), decide immediately based on your hand if you are going to compete for Round 1. If you have Circle of Life, Freixenet, and/or Dunca, you should usually handbuff as much as possible before passing and letting your opponent win Round 1. If you play Dunca, it’s good to play out your weaker cards while Dunca keeps handbuffing every turn. If not, you can play a few handbuff cards and weaker cards, then pass once you have 7 cards in hand.

Round 2

ST Starter Deck Round 2
Going into Round 2 with a number of handbuffed cards gives you flexibility and carryover power.

Your deck is generally best in a long round, though it can be good in a short round if you saved handbuffed cards.

If you win Round 1 and have more than 7 cards, you can play more handbuff cards to prepare for Round 3. If you win Round 1 and have fewer than 7 cards, you should usually pass to go into a long Round 3.

If you lose Round 1, your opponent may choose to push you in Round 2, also called a “bleed.” Hamadryad is an excellent resource for Round 2, since she both adds Symbiosis and gives you a high-value target for your Vitality cards.

Round 3

ST Starter Deck Round 3
Going into a long Round 3 with Surrender for wide punish, Geralt of Rivia for tall punish, and several handbuffed cards gives you a good chance at winning.

Play Round 3 as if you were playing to win on Blue Coin in Round 1. Play out your Symbiosis engines, your Harmony cards (Sirssa first), then play Nature cards and utility cards.

You almost always want to save Geralt of Rivia for Round 3, though not necessarily if you are going into a short Round 3. Geralt and Surrender both represent the highest potential point ceilings in your deck, so keeping them, especially for a long Round 3, can help you swing the game.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – FAQs

Scoia’tael Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to questions you may have after reading our guide to Scoia’tael. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, drop them in the comments and we will respond to them when we can! 

Technical and Mechanics Questions

Should I craft the Scoia’tael strategem, Aen Seidhe Sabre?

Probably not. The main utility of Aen Seidhe Sabre is in triggering Chapter 1 of Feign Death immediately, without giving your opponent a chance to play Korathi Heatwave. While Korathi Heatwave on Feign Death can be devastating in an Elf Swarm deck, that deck isn’t currently in the metagame. The much more popular deck using Feign Death is Orb of Insight Spella’tael, which both doesn’t want to commit Feign Death in Round 1 and doesn’t care as much about having it Heatwaved, since it clears the way for Harald Gord.

Why did my Eithné lose its boosts? Eithné (in her 1st and 2nd form) has a unique mechanic called Transform. Cards that Transform will always set to the base power of the new card. So, if you boost Eithné to 8 in Round 1, she will then transform and reset to 6. This is why it’s common to mulligan Eithné if you will be playing Dunca.
Why did Forest Protector not trigger? Forest Protector plays a bronze Nature card from your graveyard. This means that you must have previously played a bronze Nature card, such as Nature’s Rebuke, Circle of Life, Tempering, or Dryad’s Caress. Other Bronze Specials, such as Orb of Insight, cannot be played with Forest Protector. Gold Nature cards, such as Shaping Nature, also cannot be played with Forest Protector.

I have a unit in my hand and Dunca on the board, but nothing is happening. Why?

Dunca and Circle of Life both buff Scoia’tael units in hand, not Neutral units. If you have only Neutral units, these cards will not trigger their effects.

Why isn’t Call of the Forest showing me all the units in my deck?

Like Dunca, Call of the Forest only applies to Scoia’tael units. It will not show you Neutral units from your deck.

Why didn’t Eldain transform my trap? Eldain requires Traps to be face-up, meaning they have triggered either their Ambush or Spring abilities and turned over to the card art side. Any face-down traps will not be converted into Elven Deadeyes.
I’m a Devotion deck and Pavko Gale is only dealing 1 damage. Why? Pavko Gale’s conditional for 2 damage requires only Scoia’tael units on the board. While you may be playing Devotion, it’s possible your opponent put another card on your board, such as a Nilfgaard spy or a bronze unit through Operator.

Overall Faction Questions

What are some good tech cards in Scoia’tael?

If you are facing a lot of decks with Defenders, Vrihedd Sappers can provide a flexible offensive or defensive Purify. If you’re facing lots of Nilfgaard, Dryad’s Caress can be helpful to remove Poison and Locks. Making a Bomb provides 4-damage removal while maintaining Devotion. If you’re facing a lot of row-locked units, Vrihedd Dragoon is a cheap 4-provision option for movement (Paulie Dahlberg also works here and can protect one of your own engines). Ciaran aep Easnillen and Morenn both offer locks, though they are worse in points than Dorregaray of Vole. Ida Emean aep Sivney is another nice Purify, since her floor is generally 8-9 points because of the Vitality option. If you’re facing decks that play a big threat as their first play, Serpent Trap with the Spring option is basically a cheaper Curse of Corruption on the first card your opponent plays.

What’s Scoia’tael’s playstyle like? How will I know if I like Scoia’tael before investing my resources?

Scoia’tael is a flexible faction, as it can successfully play Control, Midrange, Swarm, Engine Overload, and No-Unit. For new players, Elves and Nature’s Gift are both solid Midrange options. Scoia’tael also offers a lot of room for growth, as most ST decks can be fairly tricky to play optimally.

Which Scoia’tael deck should I play?

Currently, Orb of Insight Spella’tael is likely your best option. Nature’s Gift and Deadeye Ambush decks, such as Symbiosis, Elves, Traps, or Movement are also options, though they are not as strong in the current metagame. For more information, see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck.

Should I upgrade the Scoia’tael Starter Deck using the reward trees?

If you intend to play Scoia’tael, yes, absolutely. The upgraded starter deck, while not 100% optimal, is fairly close. A few swapped cards, and you’ll be able to compete with the deck.

What’s the current state of Scoia’tael?

The Price of Power expansions have provided Scoia’tael with some useful cards. In particular, Thanedd Coup introduced Orb of Insight, Elven Seer, and Simlas Finn aep Dabairr. These cards, combined with Once Upon a Pyre cards like Whisperer of Dol Blathanna and Sorceress of Dol Blathanna, form the core of the current meta deck, Orb of Insight Spell’atael.

Outside of this deck, only No-Unit Madoc is often played on ladder. Other Scoia’tael decks are much weaker than these decks and are likely to get overrun, especially on higher ranks.

Which Scoia’tael premiums should I craft?

If you like Traps, the music on Eldain is a banger. The third-form of Eithné (Wrath of the Brokilon) is beautiful. The premium for Aglaïs has an ethereal beauty that I could watch on loop many times. If you want a cheap but cool premium, Oakcritters is creepy and cute at the same time.

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Concepts, Keywords and Leaders

Eithné Wrath of the Brokilon Gwent Art

Concepts and Keywords

In order to get better at Scoia’tael and build your own decks, you need to understand these concepts and keywords that are a part of the faction’s unique identity.

Symbiosis is a Scoia’tael-only keyword that adds 1 point to each of your Nature cards. Symbiosis makes weaker bronzes like Tempering and Dryad’s Caress much more playable with the Nature’s Gift leader. Eithné Young Queen, when played in a Devotion deck, is your most powerful Symbiosis engine, representing 3 points for every Nature card if the opponent does not have answers. The combination of solid Symbiosis engines in Hamadryad and Eithné with strong Nature cards like Call of the Forest and Nature’s Rebuke makes Symbiosis one of the most powerful sets of cards in Scoia’tael.

Harmony is another Scoia’tael-only keyword. It boosts Harmony units whenever an ST card with a new “tribe” tag is played on the board. For example, if you do not have an Elf on the board, playing an Elf will boost any cards with Harmony by the specified amount (Percival Schuttenbach is the only card with more than 1 Harmony right now). There are currently 11 different tribe tags in Scoia’tael: Beast, Dragon, Dryad, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Human, Machine, Relict, Treant, and Witcher. Harmony cards are often inefficient for their provision cost, and the keyword can force you into playing cards in a sub-optimal order. As a result, it is currently too weak for competitive play.

Movement is a package of Scoia’tael cards that either move rows or benefit from moving rows. Dol Blathanna Sentry is the core of the movement package, and it’s supported by cards like Dryad Matron, Cat Witcher, Malena, and Gaetan. Movement also helps with dealing with enemy units that are row locked. Vrihedd Dragoon is a very flexible card that also costs 4 provisions, making it easier to fit into decks as a tech choice.

Handbuff is the concept of boosting units in your hand, and it is one of Scoia’tael’s biggest strengths. Cards like Dunca and Circle of Life are frequent inclusions in Scoia’tael decks. Unlike cards that boost units in the deck, the cards that you boost in your hand can be either played in the same round (if you need the tempo) or saved for carryover. This makes them extremely flexible. Unfortunately, there is some anti-synergy between Eithné Young Queen and Handbuff cards: if you are playing Handbuff, try to mulligan Eithné to prevent her from Transforming and losing all boosts.

Traps are Artifact cards that are played face-down, meaning the opponent doesn’t know which Trap you played. They have 2 conditions: an Ambush (which triggers when a certain condition is fulfilled, such as your opponent passing or playing a Special card) and a Spring (which you can manually trigger for a weaker effect). Traps are generally too weak for inclusion in other decks, but combined together can make for a solid archetype. Eldain and melee-row Vernossiel are a powerful finisher for Trap decks.

Poison can be played in Scoia’tael, but it is by far the weakest of the 3 poison factions. Dryad Ranger is a very strange design, since it damages a unit you will ideally be destroying anyway. Forest Whisperer is an overcosted Fangs of the Empire. Treant Mantis: Stalk is random, making it very easy for the opponent to minimize its value. Until ST Poison cards get a buff, do not play them in your deck if you want to win.

Resilience is primarily used in Dwarf decks, with Zoltan Chivay and Gabor Zigrin both representing Carryover points. Both are generally included in all Dwarf decks, since they don’t pay too much of a provision penalty for having Resilience.
Row Swarm is the concept of playing a lot of cards on a single row, then playing cards that benefit from having a lot of cards on the row. Cards that benefit from Row Swarm include bronzes like Cat Witcher Mentor and Cat Witcher Adept, as well as high-end golds like Gezras of Leyda, The Great Oak, Brouver Hoog, Gaetan, and Yaevinn. Just be careful to not fill up your own row so that you can’t play these cards, especially against Nilfgaard and their Spying units.

Specials is one of Scoia’tael’s strengths, harkening all the way back to the early days of Gwent and the “Spella’tael” deck. Cards like Francesca Findabair, Harald Gord, Whisperer of Dol Blathanna, and Elven Scribe all benefit from playing Specials. Sorceress of Dol Blathanna and Forest Protector let you play additional Special cards. If you are playing a Special-heavy deck with Harald Gord as your finisher, try to secure last say so that your Gord isn’t answered by your opponent.

Leader Abilities

Below is an explanation of the 7 Scoiatael leader abilities, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Guerilla Tactics is a weak leader ability at 6 points with the additional utility of buffing one of your key engines or disrupting your opponent’s card placement. Unfortunately, one of the key cards that benefits from Guerilla Tactics, Brehen, has anti-synergy with the leader, since you deal 2 damage to a unit you want to destroy with Brehen. Usually, Guerilla Tactics is best with an all-in movement focused deck including as many movement cards as possible.

Invigorate is another weak leader, though balance changes have at least made it sort of, maybe a bit playable (if you don’t mind losing). For new players, it can be a bit of a trap: 10 points with upside (used on cards like Sheldon Skaggs) for +16 provisions seems good on paper. However, unlike other leaders, it is highly awkward and inflexible. With a leader like Deadeye Ambush, you can always spend a charge or two for tempo, or you can save them for a powerful burst in Round 3. Invigorate’s boosts will likely be spread throughout the entire game, making them neither powerful as a finisher nor immediately impactful as tempo.

Nature’s Gift is one of the mainstays of Scoia’tael: for +15 provisions you get 6 points of Vitality, additional boost and protection for your Hamadryads, and one of the best passives in the game in the form of 1 untouchable Symbiosis. ST has enough decent Nature cards to make the Nature’s Gift leader upward of 20 points spread throughout the game. The 3 leader charges are also flexible, as you can spend one to get ahead or to protect key engine cards from common damage thresholds. For more info about how to play Nature’s Gift, see Part 1: The Starter Deck and Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck guides.

Precision Strike is another powerful leader option. In order to enable the leader, you should always run 2 Brokilon Sentinels, then mulligan them so you can pull them out with the leader’s Deathblow. Precision Strike is generally used as finisher in Round 3, representing 11 total points. It can be used with a variety of decks. Two of the best Scoia’tael decks currently use Precision Strike (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Deadeye Ambush is the third of the “good” Scoia’tael leaders, alongside Nature’s Gift and Precision Strike. It always represents 9 flexible points for +15 provisions. In many cases it can represent more, though, with cards like Vernossiel, Yaevinn, and Isengrim Faoiltiarna benefiting from the additional Elven Deadeyes. Running Aelirenn in a Deadeye Ambush deck gives you the flexibility to push for tempo by playing leader charges until you have 5 elves on the board. Deadeye Ambush can be played with Traps, Elves, or Movement (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Call of Harmony as a leader is currently only useful in Harmony decks. If you are playing Harmony, though, you should usually play this leader, as it represents 10+ points for +16 provisions. The leader ability is a Relict, so you should usually play it after developing other Harmony engines, as it’s one of only 2 Relicts in ST. Unfortunately, the single burst power of the leader makes it fairly inflexible, as you cannot spread its value around strategically.

Mahakam Forge is one of the weaker leaders in raw points, with only 5 points from Tempering. The passive ability of giving armor to your Dwarves makes it the best choice for Dwarf decks, as you can power up cards like Pyrotechnician, Xavier Moran, Yarpen Zigrin, and Brouver Hoog. Mahakam Forge is also used as a 5-point boost for Aglaïs decks, though those decks are not competitive (see Part 2: Beyond the Starter Deck).

Bandit Gang’s Guide to Scoia’tael – Overview

Table of Contents

Introduction

Elves, dwarves, dryads, gnomes, and treants: Scoia’tael is the home for all the “bloody nonhumans” of Gwent. Scoia’tael specializes in guerilla warfare: dealing damage, laying traps, moving units around the board, and swarming the board.

In this section, Gwent beginners can learn how to play and win games with the Scoiatael starter deck. While no starter deck is particularly competitive at higher ranks, the Scoiatael starter deck can win you games with the right strategy at lower ranks. Read this guide to learn how to pilot the starter deck, or continue on to Part 2 if you want to know how to upgrade the deck to compete better at higher ranks.

Click the button or image to continue to Part 1.

In this section, you will learn how to upgrade the starter deck into a more competitive deck. This guide includes must-have cards in Scoiatael, as well as a variety of archetypes you can work to build toward. If you aren’t sure if you like Scoia’tael, we recommend checking out Part 1 of this guide and playing with the starter deck first.

Click the button or image to continue to Part 2.

If you want to get better at playing Scoia’tael, you will need to learn the concepts and keywords essential to the faction. This guide will help you learn all things Scoiatael, as well as build a foundation toward making your own custom decks. 

Click the button or image to continue to Part 3.

If you have questions about Scoia’tael, we’ve got answers! Check out our Frequently Asked Questions in this concluding guide. 

Click the button or image to continue to Part 4.

Guide to the Plus One Seasonal Mode

Okay guys, I think we can keep this one relatively short. Anyone who has played the seasonal mode this month will likely have run into an iteration of Guerilla tactics with Idarran and Snowdrop, because its point generation is ridiculously off the charts. So much that this guide will just revolve around that list: How to play it, how to play against it.

The deck and its strategy

As we all know, the Scoia’tael movement archetype got great support with the latest expansion. Its bronze engines can generate a lot of points now. On top of that, movement itself is a good control tool that can shut down several strategies on its own. That makes movement decks pretty popular right now, even on the conventional ladder. Now consider the seasonal rules which spawn a 1 point copy of each unit you play and you realize that all these passive engines can be set up in a very short time. You can use all these options to take control over the game and win round one, then bleed round two.

What you should save up though is your leader ability, Idarran and Snowdrop for an ideal round 3. This is where you play Idarran, who begins to spawn 1 point copies of himself until the row is full. From then on, he will repeat the same thing for each unit you play, however always in the same row that Idarran is in. That’s why you need your leader charges to move three copies to the other row, enabling six additional spawns of the next unit you play on the other row. This is where Snowdrop enters the chat, cycling through two cards with each copy and piling up an enormous amount of points, approximately 300. And since the original Snowdrop has one more point than all the copies, it even provides a scorch roof. This is pretty hard to overcome if you don’t tech against it.

Flexible plays

Stygga Castle deserves some mention here. If you need to spend your leader charges early, you can also go and carry the order ability of the castle over to round 3, serving the same purpose. But keep in mind that if you play the castle in round 1, you either need to save your leader or pull the combo in round 2.

It can always happen that you draw absolutely poorly. In that case, you can take Snowdrop out of the combo and use her for the actual ability, giving you four tries to find the cards you need plus 19 points. In that case, Living Armor becomes your Idarran target, playing for 10 points of each copy. You can also do this if you get bled relentlessly, possibly making the opponent think that he ruined your combo.

Flex slots

I’d argue that the four 5 provision bronze units are the core that shouldn’t be exchanged, just as Oneiromancy, Stygga Castle, Gezras, Malena and the combo pieces mentioned above. Lambert is a tech against Idarran in the mirror, but can also be Gimpy if you want to save provisions. The remaining cards can be exchanged if you want to include other ones. I’d keep a bunch of special cards though, in case the board is full.

There are actually a bunch of cards that can be fun in the Idarran combo. Cheap bronzes like Dwarven Berserkers are becoming a hail of bullets. Yennefer: Conjurer can melt the board down entirely, if she sticks. You get the idea.

How to play against this

What you need is a deck that can keep up in points in the first round, while also bringing the control tools to keep the finishing combo in check. Frankly, the best deck to achieve this is just this one in the mirror match. But other factions can offer decent point generation as well. So if you have an engine core that can keep up the pace, you can counter the big combo in various ways.

Neutral options available to any faction are Yrden and Igni. If you can damage the one original Snowdrop by one and are able to wait a turn, good old Scorch can also be your friend. You can also use certain control oriented leader abilities along control tools to get rid of Idarran immediately. Plays like Lambert/Gimpy along Reckless Flurry for example. An easy way to cheese as Nilfgaard is Cahir obviously, being double as you play him and quadruple with Letho Kingslayer, if you want to humiliate your opponent even further (or the other Cahirs get countered by movement somehow). There’s probably more, but it’s only going to succeed if it’s teching against this deck in one way or another.

Final Remarks

After the Damien Cycle that we saw last year, I was hoping that the removal of the Strategic Withdrawal leader ability might open this mode up to more creativity viable strategies this time. Unfortunately, the Idarran interaction feels just as bad and kinda kills it for me in this season. So maybe there will be an update to this guide if Idarran gets hotfixed, otherwise I’m not going to bother finding any decks that can compete here.

Credits go out to Sawyer as well, for participating in deckbuilding here.