First of all, what is the goal of this little comment or even essay cause to be honest, most of the people know what a meme might be and what memery in gwent might look like. I guess generally speaking most players or viewers would even say, that a meme is synonymous with bad cards or a bad deck or at least not really competitive in the top ladder. So does it mean everything which is not tier 1 to tier 3 is automatically a meme? Does this mean including certain cards for different strategies which might not be as strong as others are meme cards?
The outcome and goal of this article should be to discuss the topic memery in general, describe what memes may look like and how they work, what they want to achieve and why it is so contrary to the meta.
What is memery in gwent?
When we try to remember any meme decks, we normally think of some piles we saw in viewerbattles on some streamers channels, like Synergygod, KingDenpai or decks played by streamers like Trynet and Redrame. Sometimes we even think of Magpies decks during the open and Myamons alternative decks on ladder. What most of these decks have in common is, they will be hard to find in any meta snapshot. Also instead of playing out strong synergies and being able of handling many threats you see on ladder, they are more focusing on a certain outcome which most likely is called something like “for the meme”, “memery” or whatever. The Rat decks swarming their opponents boards with rats, the Turtle meme plays around with armor, Skellige Crows has its goal to get as many crows as possible, to let them fly in every round and Nilfgaards Mill…well, it wants to mill their opponents deck, so there’s nothing left to draw. The winrate with those decks are quite low, said politely, cause to get their meme working, they lack many tools which are needed to compete with a certain meta on ladder.
That doesn’t change, most of those memes are existing for many months and even if some alternative cards or flexible options through the expansions will help their goals, like Oneiromancy for consistency or provision changes, sometimes these decks even get bullied. Triple Gedy for example seems quite impossible now, because of the leader and provision change of Second Wind. So, it is not possible to play Lippy out 2 times to get your scenario back. Well, you can try it with Masquerade Ball, Renew, Avalach and Assire, but I don’t really think that would be a fun experience…for you or your opponent.
So, when memery does not really want to stay competitive, what is its task? Most of all, except from maybe suprising your opponent on ladder with random cards to sneak some wins, it is more like the fun aspect of those decks. Playing out weird combos with Syanna and the Runewrights, seeing your opponent unable to play meta cards cause they are filled up with rats or milling their high provision cards with Cantarella and Tibor, that can be pretty funny. Also creating lore friendly decks, full of Witchhunters and Bounty cards, going in with a full NR Mage deck or trying out Viper Witchers around Letho, with now maybe Ciri Nova might sound pretty cool. But there is one problem…
The struggle to be a memer…
With all these new cards from the Master of Mirrors expansion, the provision changes on some cards and the announcement that “double card” leaders, like Second Wind, Pincer Maneuver and so on, will be changed in the upcoming patches, memery feels way harder to do. The biggest threat to memery are actually the strong power capped cards for all those factions right now. SK warriors are controlling the meta once again, together with Hidden Cache. Also NG Ball with their soldiers and aristocrats does it for like half a year now. NR seems kinda back on ladder, with maybe a midrange deck or a devotion version around Pincer Maneuver or even Uprising. And yes, Monsters are in there as well, with Haunt, Auberon and Ethereals. But how can a crow or rat swarm compete with all this? When there were elves and harmony, you could try to swarm them, but now, most of the decks want to bleed, want to push, most of the factions have 12p cards or more on their own, like Harald and Ursurper, so no synergy is needed. And playing lore friendly decks? I think the Frost/Wild Hunt package is a good start, like the Spy combo right now, but it needs more like that. Where is the NR Mage buff? Is Tamara the only synergy card for playing more Witchhunters? And…why is Vesemir Mentor still such a bad card, which except for NG, will never get its value? With Mahakam Forge you could think, dwarves might be seen more often, but the only real way to play it right now, is to focus on spells, for one thick dwarf: Gord.
You can see, it’s not only pretty hard to compete with all those disadvantages as a memer on ladder, but these days it also feels sometimes even harder to create a working meme pile to make it work…and to survive long enough to see the outcome.
Conclusion and Outlook
As a more moderate player which is not really involved in Top 64 ladder gameplay, I count myself to the majority of gwent players in general. Yes, some changes need to be done for a more competitive environment, to get a healthier balancing and maybe a different route in qualifying for tournaments, like open decklists or whatever, but this should and certainly will be discussed in some other article in the future.
What I find problematic here, is the growing distance between “meme” oriented fun decks and meta snaphot lists on ladder. To be clear, I will never expect that Mill can deal much damage in pro gameplay and I certainly don’t want to buff Rat Swarms as a deck to easily climb with. In my opinion though, there are many synergies and cards in every faction left over in gwent, which we might never see again except in viewer battles. Every expansion creates a new, stronger card pool, which not always synergizes well with the old stuff and almost always replace the previous played piles. While a few months ago Druids with Boats and even Dracoturtle were quite competitive, now its more like a meme. While there was once a Blue Stripe Commando meta, now its something between a meme pile and maybe a tier 3 ladder deck. With all this stuff going on in Gwent, lets not forget that some people say “memes are to culture what genes are to life” and “for a meme to survive and spread in a competitive environment it must have attributes which give it advantages over other memes” …or in this case maybe other decks.
Things are changing in gwent and that’s good but keeping an eye open for what’s left behind to maybe close the gap between meme and meta synergies would be valuable for the game. Meme decks show us the variety of what’s possible, so it might be worth it to take them seriously. Maybe not in a competitive and professional way, but more as a friendly reminder of what gwent is also all about, to keep us a little bit longer in the fantastic world of the witcher, by telling us small stories we enjoy, with old friends from books and games.