Edit: So… I was in the middle of writing this guide when the news about nerfs to the Queensguard deck hit me. I’m still going to finish it, because I think that the deck is viable even after the nerfs, but I have to say that anything besides Draig Bon-Dhu’s change was pretty unjustified.
As you all probably know, Nilfgaard patch for Gwent was just released. It added a new faction, a bunch of new cards for the classic four and A LOT of balance changes. Among those changes were buffs to the Queensguard-based Skellige archetype (now some of which were reverted…). Two most important ones were Draig Bon-Dhu’s buff and changes to the King Bran’s Leader Ability.
Draig Bon-Dhu is now fleeting, relentless and gives +2 base strength to every unit in your graveyard. And given how much Skellige interacts with own graveyard, that’s A LOT. Now, the second change might be even more interesting. The thing about Queensguard build is that it was only successful where you could pull out all 3 Queensguard consistently in round 1. Standard mulligan can only get you so far and you rarely ended up with all 3 Queensguard in your graveyard unless you were running a heavy discard archetype. Old King Bran’s Leader Ability added a little bit of consistency, but at the cost of card advantage. The new one, however, allows you to put any 2 cards of your choice from your deck to your graveyard any time you want. It means that you now only need to get a single copy of Queensguard and pull the other 2 with the Leader Ability.
I’ve peaked at ~3550 rating (around top 300) after the nerfs. The deck is not as powerful as it was before, but it’s still very playable.
Below I’ll show the deck list, explain card choices, write a bit about the combos and general strategy.
Leader: King Bran
3x Queensguard – Base of your strategy. Once you have every copy in your graveyard, every time you resurrect one, it pulls other 2 out of the graveyard too. After a few base strength buffs, it leads to a huge strength swings, especially in round 3.
3x Clan Dimun Pirate – Thins your deck by 2 cards. Good ress target when you need something that’s Weather Immune or when you have nothing else to ress.
3x Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith – You use them to buff the base strength of your Queensguard. 2 doesn’t sound like much, but if you buff it in round 1 and resurrect them in r2 and r3, it’s +6 in total.
3x Priestess of Freya – Skellige’s basic medic, very powerful in this deck since you use a lot of base strength buffs. Your basic ress targets are Bronze anyway, so that’s not a very big limitation.
2x Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith – Since most of the buffs in your deck are the base strength buffs, it’s like a better First Light most of the time. Besides dealing with the weather, it can also “heal” the wounded units to base strength.
1x First Light – Even though Armorsmiths are better in general, one First Light is always good to have. Sometimes you want to clear the weather from the opponent’s row too (e.g. against Foglets), or maybe you need to play around Geralt: Aard etc. Rally still thins your deck and brings out a Bronze, which is most likely something you want to play anyway in round 2/3.
Donar an Hindar – Your first Spy. You use him to gain card advantage and thin your deck. Best when played in round which you’re going to lose anyway.
Draig Bon-Dhu – He adds 2 base strength to every unit in your graveyard. That’s a huge buff to Queensguard, but also to any other unit you happen to have in the graveyard. Sadly you can’t Decoy him anymore, but that was a justified nerf.
Decoy – Since nearly every unit does something on play, there are tons of solid Decoy targets in this deck. I’ll explain that in the Strategy section.
Sigrdrifa – One of the best medics in the game. Not only she can resurrect Silvers, but she also gets buffed for each card resurrected (meaning +3 from Queensguard).
Restore – Allows you to play r2 Sigrdrifa and still replay her in r3. But even without her, you can use an additional Priestess of Freya or in the worst case scenario just resurrect Queensguard straight away (if you have no Medics in your graveyard).
Udalryk – Reverse medic. It can mess with your opponent’s graveyard a bit. I’m using it because I was facing a lot of Skellige and Monsters in ranked – against Skellige it’s good in general and against Monsters it might get you back the card they snatched with a Griffin. Generally it’s a flex Silver slot, you can play other Silvers here (e.g. D-Bomb, Ocvist or King of Beggars).
Birna Bran – Another spy. Thanks to Donar and Birna, you should be cycling through the most of your deck every game. Discarding most of the cards is not a problem, because you can resurrect them.
Cerys – You should be spawning Queensguard 9 times per game on average, so if you add 2 base strength you gain from Skellige’s passive, you can count Cerys as a 19 Strength Gold in round 3. If your opponent will want to kill your Queensguard multiple times, you might get even more. Before the nerf (which changed her back from 12 to 8) I got her to 29 once, it would mean 25 after the nerf – still a lot!
Coral – Even after the nerf (she now targets only the row opposing her) she’s one of the most powerful Gold cards. Best to use when your opponent has already passed – you can get a 30+ strength swing a lot of the times.
Geralt: Igni – Flex Gold slot. I feel like Igni is the most powerful Gold to play in this slot, because we’re in a pretty buff-heavy meta – Skellige’s Axeman deck, Monsters consume, even Dwarves are rather popular. Anyway, there aren’t too many good Skellige Gold cards, so you’re mostly looking at the Neutrals if you want to replace it. Cards like Geralt: Aard, Ciri, Yenneffer: The Conjurer, Triss Merigold or Regis might work okay.
For anyone who doesn’t know exactly how mulligan works, I need to explain one thing right away. If you mulligan a card away, you can’t get any copy of the same card throughout the mulligan phase. It’s very important when it comes to the order you want to mulligan the stuff in. For example, if you have 2x Queensguard and 3x Clan Dimun Pirate in your starting hand, you want to mulligan the Queensguard first so you won’t get the third copy back. Starting with Pirate here is just wrong, because you still have a chance to get the third Queensguard and ruin your mulligan. So when doing a mulligan, look through your cards carefully and mulligan the cards you don’t want to get back in the first place. On the other hand, if you want to mulligan away a card like First Light, you might do it last, because you can’t draw the second copy anyway (you don’t run it). Now that we have this explained, let’s proceed to the mulligan guide.
Instead of explaining what you mulligan for, in a game like Gwent it will be easier to explain what you mulligan AWAY.
- First and most importantly, you want to mulligan away your extra copies of Queensguard and Clan Dimun Pirate. You want to have only one copy of each in your starting hand, if possible. Getting one extra as the last draw is not the end of the world, but you’d rather not.
- You can mulligan away First Light and Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith in matchups that generally don’t use Weather (or can’t screw you with it).
- After that, you can mulligan away the Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith – it’s good, but there are higher priority mulligan targets.
- If you still have something to mulligan, you can get rid of Priestess of Freya if you have multiple Medics already. Sometimes you end up with a lot of Medics and nothing to resurrect, that’s when you’d love to have something else than Priestess in your hand.
- If you think that the general quality of your hand is really high and you have a lot of cards you DON’T want to draw left in your deck, you can decide to end the mulligan early. I often end the mulligan after just 1 or 2 cards if my hand is great, because mulliganing further might mean that I draw Clan Dimun Pirate or Queensguard which I don’t want.
Round 1 is for setting up the Queensguard and deck thinning. You start the round by using the Leader’s Ability and getting rid of 2x Queensguard from your deck. If don’t have 2 copies left in your deck (e.g. you drew the second copy after mulliganing last card) you want to discard something that you don’t necessarily want to draw, but might want to situationally resurrect – e.g. Armorsmith (you don’t want to draw it against the decks that might not play weather, but if they happen to tech in Aeromancy or even Lacerate your row, you might want to ress it). After the discard, you want to play the copy of Queensguard to summon all 3 on the field. This is important for two reasons. First – now your opponent can’t meddle with your Graveyard and steal one QG as soon as round 1. Second – all 3 QG will be in the graveyard at the start of turn 1, so you can Draig them.
After you’re done with your Queensguard, you want to play Clan Dimun Pirate. This thins your deck, so sets up for the spies and round 2 draws better. You also get more ress targets in the graveyard, so more stuff to buff with Draig.
Now, there are two approaches to the first round, depending on how powerful your opponent’s start was. Leader Ability + QG + Pirate is a rather slow start. You spend 3 cards/moves and you get only 13 strength on the board. If your opponent also had a slow start and you have a chance to win, you might want to try to push a bit more in the first round. If you have cards like Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith, you can play them on your QG and push for a bit more. However, don’t force too much – winning round 1 as Skellige is great, but not necessary. You’re at your weakest in round 1, so it’s very common that you just give it up.
If you decide to not push the round, as you won’t likely have a chance to win, you want to just play your Spies (the order isn’t really that important, although I like to play Donar and Hindar first and save Birna Bran for round 2 when I have less cards in my deck already and I can more consistently get exactly what I need + prevent opponent from Decoying her). After the first one your opponent will usually pass, and so do you. If your opponent passess before you even play a spy, right after you play your first 3 moves (Bran, QG, Pirate) or basically at any point when he still doesn’t have a huge lead, see if you can still win the round. If you can win the round by using not more than 2 cards, you can make a push. If not, you also pass. Winning round 1 might be really great, because now you guarantee round 3 no matter what happens in round 2, and you’re at your strongest in r3. However, if the win might have to come at 3-4 cards disadvantage, it’s just not worth it.
Round 2 is for buffing your QG and further stalling the game. If you somehow won the round 1, you don’t have to worry about anything. You just play your Spies, buff your QG as much as possible and eventually pass after playing out all the cards you won’t need in round 3. However, that’s the best case scenario and won’t happen often. Usually, you want to buff QG, but you also need to worry about winning the round.
Most of the opponents after winning first round will try to push for 2 rounds victory. Sometimes it happens and you can’t help that, especially if you drew poorly. However, you should have a slight card advantage going into round 2 (1 or 2 cards) which can be increased further by the second Spy, stealing Spy you’ve played round 1 with Udalryk (it’s RNG but it happens sometimes) or Decoying a Spy they play. That card advantage is important, because now you can keep up with their round 2 push and still have the last move.
Having the last move is very important when you play cards like Coral or Geralt: Igni which can swing the whole round around. While you can play Igni when you get a good lining up of stats (e.g. if your opponent’s front row happens to have five 6 strength units, just Igni it, because he might buff something or play a new unit), you want to save Coral for after your opponent passes. It’s a great strategy against decks stacking the Ranged or Siege row heavily, but after a looong round 2 you should get at least 20-30 value out of Coral against basically any deck. Playing her after opponent passes is important, because now they can’t Clear Skies which might really ruin your whole plan.
The usual round 2 looks like that: you start with Draigh, you resurrect your QG (I like to use Sigrdrifa first, because she will be buffed throughout the round, especially if I have Renew in my hand already and I know that I can replay her) and then you start buffing them with Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmiths. Besides situational cards, the order in which you play cards should be from the least useful in round 3 to the most useful in round 3. Remember that you want to save at least a single Medic for round 3.
What about round 2 Cerys? I don’t see people doing that too often, but I think that’s just wrong. Cerys is a great round 2 play if you will keep either Sigrdrifa or Restore + another Medic for round 3. Or even Sigrdrifa + Decoy combo. Basically, Cerys becomes Silver after she dies, so you will be able to resurrect her in round 3. QG still get a higher priority, because they will likely have more strength. But Cerys is your second bess ress target, as she should have close to 20 strength in round 3 (unless something has gone wrong). Of course, if it’s not necessary to use her in order to win round 2, you want to keep her as Gold to play around Scorch/Igni/Weather. But the ~15 strength gold often helps in winning round 2.
Round 3 is where you shine. Since your Queensguard are at their best right now, one Bronze card can get you A LOT of value. Let’s actually count for a bit. Base strength of 3x Queensguard would be 12 in round 3. +2 from Bran = 14. +6 from Draigh = 20. +6 from Shieldsmiths (you don’t always draw 3, but you often resurrect them after they die or even Decoy them when you have no better target) = 26. If you add 3 points from Priestess of Freya, that’s a 29 strength you’re getting with a single Bronze card. If you follow it with Cerys, or Restore/Sigrdrifa + Cerys, that’s an extra ~25 strength (counting Sigrdrifa). You can get 50+ strength in round 3 with just 2 cards. And that’s usually all you need. Round 3 with this deck will likely be very short. If you win round 1, you try to prolong round 2 as long as possible. And if your opponent wins round 1, he will try to go for 2 rounds win 90% of the time, because he knows that your strategy works best in round 3.
However, if for some reason you get short round 1, short round 2 and long round 3, then you basically do the same things you’d normally do round 2. Since you won’t likely be resurrecting QG again (it’s the last round after all), if you still have Shieldsmiths you might want to buff something else instead. For example, if you’re afraid of the weather, throwing base strength buffs on Pirate is alright. You still try to get the card advantage, so you can play Coral as the last card. Many matches are decided by whether you’re the one moving last or not, because it’s very likely that your opponent will keep weather removal as the last card if he suspects you have her.
- Play around Geralt: Igni and/or Scorch when buffing your Queensguard. Basically you always want one of them to have a highest base strength – if you have them at 2/3/3 (after Bran), you can buff the 2 strength one first (it will be 4/3/3 now), then the 3 strenght one (4/5/3) etc.
- What if your Queensguard gets stolen? Both Monsters (Griffin, Caretaker) and Nilfgaard (Vicovaro Medic) can steal your Queensguard quite consistently. Does that mean that you automatically lose the match? No, you don’t. Even though Queensguard are your basic plan, you still have strong round 3 if you keep ressing other things. If only a single QG gets stolen, you still continue buffing them, as it will still be worth to ress them over something else. However, if 2 of them get stolen, now you want to buff something else. Clan Dimun Pirate is a solid target, because it’s immune to Weather.
- Decoy is a very powerful tool in this deck. Most of the time, the best Decoy targets are: Sigrdrifa or Priestess of Freya (extra ress), Udalryk (stealing card from the opponent’s graveyard twice – great in mirrors) and Spies (like I’ve mentioned, having card advantage is pretty important). Less powerful/more situational targets include: Clan Tordarroch Shieldmith (extra 5 base strength – 3 to Shieldsmith and 2 to target you choose, makes the Shieldsmith much better ress target in r3), Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith (if you need the effect, e.g. on a Weathered row) and Queensguard (if at least one QG is dead, you can bring her back this way + you give 3 base strength to the one you Decoy).
- Remember that Draig Bon-Dhu is both Relentless and Fleeting. It means that a) you can’t Decoy him and b) it gets banished instead of going to your graveyard when it dies or gets discarded. I made this mistake when I was first playing the deck – I’ve tried to Bran the Draig to ress him with Sigrdrifa, but it failed horribly.
- Be careful when playing Udalryk. Remember that it can bring ANY card from the opponent’s graveyard, not only units. Against Monsters Weather you can pull out a Skellige Storm and screw your whole Siege row or you can pull a random Scorch when you have the highest strength unit on the field. That’s why you need to look carefully through your opponent’s graveyard before playing it and assess potential risks.
That’s all folks. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the guide. Honestly, the QG deck shaped to be one of the strongest if not THE strongest in the meta, but after recent nerfs it only viable. I’m pretty sad, because it feels like an overnerf. The deck is still stronger than it was before the Nilfgaard patch, mainly thanks to the consistency boost of King Bran, but it was one of the most fun decks I’ve played and it feels bad to see it getting nerfed so fast.
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Until next time!