I’ll be honest – before the patch I thought that NR might be dead after all the nerfs. But instead of dying, it just came back to its roots – Radovid Control was the strongest NR deck when I’ve started playing (I remember Philippa being completely broken back then) and it seems to be one of the strongest meta decks right now. To be fair, close to 50% of my ranked opponents have been exactly Radovid. There are few variations of the deck, but most of them share a similar core.
I’ve finally hit rank 15 two days ago, starting from around 3,300 MMR. I’ve peaked close to top 100 playing this deck only. The deck is very consistent and has no terrible matchups in the higher ranks. In this guide I’d like to go through the card choices and talk a bit about strategy and how to play it. I feel like it’s a great deck choice for anyone who wants a working Control deck or a competitive deck in general. I hope you’re going to like it!
I’ve experimented with multiple deck lists, but I’ve found this one to be most successful against the meta right now. I’ll go through the potential changes later, so you can adjust the deck to your own needs and the meta you face.
Radovid – After nerfs to NR deck thinning and Medics, Foltest is no longer a go-to leader, because you lost two great Leader’s Ability targets. Henselt is good, but only in the Gold-centered decks. And Radovid is the most well-rounded option in the current meta. Having an 8 strength removal is just a slightly stronger Alzur’s Thunder, but with a big upside – you can target Gold cards too. It means that you can clear a problematic Gold card like let’s say Yennefer: Conjurer, Ciri or let’s say Isengrim (or Villentretenmerth against non-NR deck). Given how Radovid can neutralize some of the best Golds in the current meta, he’s the best leader to run in such a deck (and probably best NR leader right now in general).
3x Temerian Foot Soldier – Another deck thinning tool. I’d say that it’s stronger than Reaver Hunters, as you don’t have to wait, it can’t be interrupted and 12 strength is still a lot for a Bronze card. Probably auto-include into any NR deck.
3x Kaedwani Siege Support – It’s pretty strong Bronze right now. 9 strength is high for the Bronze and on top of that you can buff something through the weather or tinker around with max strength to play around stuff (let’s say you have 4 units at 5 strength and nothing higher, now Scorch could be potentially devastating – buffing one of them to 8 means that it’s no longer that good). The downside is that to get full value you need 2 other non-Gold units on the board, which makes it amazing in the longer rounds, but often only 3 strength in round 3.
3x Ballista – Control decks used to play Trebuchet here, but since Ballista now has the same strength total and 3 single target damage seems to be better than 2 damage on 2 targets, Ballista is now a Siege Machien of choice. I like Ballista over Trebuchet, because you can concentrate fire on one target more easily. With 2x Ballista in your hand, you can clear a 6 strength target over 2 turns, which can be great in some matchups.
2x Reaver Scout – Another deck thinning tool. Since you run 3 copies of Ballistas and Kaedwani Siege Support, you can pull extra copies from your deck with Reaver Scout. Not only you technically add 2 extra strength to them, but you also get them out of your deck, which is exactly what you want to do.
1x Kaedwani Sergeant – Another demoting tool. You can sometimes demote your opponent’s Gold card to a) be able to kill it without using yoru Leader’s Ability or b) remove its Weather resistance. On top of that, since the deck runs Nenneke and Shani, it means that demoting your own Golds can hold a lot of value. I often demote my Villentretenmerth (after it goes off) or Roche to be able to replay it later.
1x First Light – Monsters are very popular right now and I’d say that Weather is probably the best Monsters deck right now. Besides that, it’s another deck thinning tool if you play Rally after you’ve already thinned the deck with Reaver Hunters and Foot Soldiers.
1x Alzur’s Thunder – There are a lot of up to 7 strength targets that you want to remove. You can take down Ancient Foglet or Clan Tuirseach Axeman before it grows, Ocvist before it procs, or even just hit a high strength Bronze to get a decent Bronze value.
1x Dimeritium Shackles – Tech card, not necessary, but pretty useful in the current meta. Great counter to buffing strategy and Villentretenmerth. I’ll explain how to use it in Strategy section.
Priscilla – A very powerful card. You get a small, 2 strength body, but you get to pick one of the two non-Gold cards from your deck to draw & play immediately. While it doesn’t give you any card advantage, it thins your deck even further AND it can pull the right answer from your deck if you don’t have one in your hand currently (I’ve pulled out a clutch First Light or Dimeritium Shackles exactly when I’ve needed them many times).
Nenneke – The only Medic in the deck. While this deck isn’t very Medic-friendly, as it doesn’t offer multiple powerful Medic targets, there are a few you can ress. Priscilla and Sabrina (if one clear wasn’t enough) are great ress targets + you can ress a Spy to gain card advantage + even pulling out a Ballista is 12 strength in total spread around 2 bodies + removal. Can also ress a demoted Gold card, especially powerful when you demote Roche. Definitely not a staple right now, but I still like it.
Pavetta – After a buff to 6 strength, the card is actually really powerful. Great against decks flooding the board with low strength units. Can be combo’d with Sabrina for even bigger swing (remember that Sabrina procs before second Pavetta proc, which can be important). Insane synergy with Shani – since it can’t target itself, because it’s gold, if your opponent has 2 non-Gold units on the board you basically kill them no matter how much strength they have (especially useful against Monsters if they keep a big body behind).
Scorch – Since it’s a Control deck – a Control deck with pretty much no high strength targets (5 is max for a non-Gold) – if played right, you’re very likely to burn something big from your opponent. And even if you face some low strength deck, you can always Scorch your own Spy.
Prince Stennis – Spies are there to gain card advantage. While they have suffered from a pretty significant nerfs (Stennis has got +4 strength and Weather Immunity for example), they’re still solid in Control decks. When you run both Scorch and Villentretenmerth you should still be able to deal with it quite easily.
Sabrina Glevissig – While it requires a turn to set up, your opponent should rarely have a way to counter it anyway. You play Sabrina, you destroy it with Ballista or something and now whole opponent’s side of the board (besides Golds) takes 3 damage. It also has insane synergy with Pavetta – since it’s 1 strength, it’s most likely the first unit you destroy, damaging whole opponent’s side of the board and after that destroying lower strength units anyway (which means that if your opponent had some 4-5 strength units it will get rid of those too). Can provide a huge swing in a long round, but it’s a bit risky, because it rarely gets value later in the game.
Ciri – Ciri is another card advantage tool. Especially powerful if you play her on r2 after winning r1. Not only she provides 11 strength (8 + 3 from Roach), but you also get her back at the end of the round (most of the time). I’d say that Ciri is strongest in NR, because of the passive – if she works, 2x 8 strength is significantly stronger than 2x 6 strength.
Roche – Standard 12 (14) strength Gold, but the 5 strength comes in a form of removal. Removal you can play on Gold units too. It straight up counters a very popular Yennefer: Conjurer against non-NR opponents while leaving you with a 7 (9) Gold body on top of the trade. It also lines up nicely against Reaver Hunter when playing in the mirrors (against the lists that still run Hunters instead of Scouts) – you can prevent your opponent from getting the deck thinning advantage by sniping the first Reaver Hunter with Roche.
Villentretenmerth – A huge powerhouse, which can make things really awkward. On the 3rd turn after playing it, it will play Scorch twice in a row. Since your units are generally low strength and you should be able to not develop the non-Gold board anyway during the timer, it will often Scorch two strongest units from your opponent’s side of the board. Best when played in round 3, when your opponent can’t likely stall the game for 3 turns, because he doesn’t have enough cards to do so. There are some counters to it, but it’s a really powerful Gold anyway.
Shani – Shani is great when you have good targets to resurrect and this list runs a few of them. It’s one of the most powerful Medics, as making the card you Resurrect Gold can be huge. Even though it’s not as powerful as with the old Baron chains, demoting a Gold card to replay it with Shani is still viable strategy – demoting your own Vil or Roche to replay it later is pretty meaningful in most of the games. Especially since your opponent might not expect it if he’s the one demoting your Gold card.
There are multiple cards that you might want to replace depending on the meta you face. It can also give you a nice view of what other cards you can put into the deck if you don’t own some from the base list.
Since Field Medics were nerfed, NR isn’t really left with a lot of Bronzes to choose from. You can’t make a lot of significant changes.
- Current builds have cut Reaver Hunters from the list in favor of Reaver Scouts. Reaver Hunters have died too easily in the meta and they weren’t too consistent thinning tool. Instead, running Reaver Scout makes the thinning more consistent. On the other hand, Reaver Hunters are better if they aren’t disturbed by anything + topdecking a Reaver Scout when you have no targets to pull from your deck is more punishing than topdecking Reaver Hunter. I think that both options are viable, but I had better luck with the Scouts.
- You can remove Dimeritium Shackles from the list if you don’t face many buffs or Villenthretenmerths and play another Kaedwani Siege Support instead.
3 of the Silver slots are pretty flexible. You definitely want to run Priscilla, Prince Stennis and Scorch. But Pavetta, Sabrina and Nenneke can all be replaced. The cards you might consider are:
- King of Beggars – Another deck thinning tool. The card works really well with Priscilla, as she is the lowest strength unit in your deck. If you didn’t draw her yet, KoB will certainly pull her out, thinning the deck by 2 cards in the end (1 from him and 1 from Priscilla) – sometimes even 3 if Priscilla pulls First Light and you Rally something. Later he can pull out other units, including Nenneke. KoB is usually a pretty big strength swing with deck thinning attached. Sadly, I had to cut it to make space for Sabrina.
- Ocvist – If not answered, it should give you +1 card advantage. Great against proactive decks, pretty poor against reactive, because they will most likely have a way to kill it (Alzur’s Thunder trades Bronze for Silver, which is a good trade for your opponent). It can also force a round 1 win if your opponent doesn’t have a way to kill it – he might pass right after you play it so you don’t get the card advantage from him.
- Myrgtabrakke – It was nerfed a bit compared to the pre-patch version, but it’s still solid. The fact that you can spread the damage however you want makes it great against swarms and good at setting up the Scorch effects + Yennefer: Conjurer. If you line up a few units at the same strength, those cards can get tremendous value. The card also gets extra value against Nilfgaard – you can completely counter a Rot Tosser – you kill the 4 strength body and the Cow.
- Roach – The card is amazing if you don’t draw it. It offers valuable deck thinning and adds 3 strength to your gold power plays. I’d say that it gives you 6 strength on average, but more importantly – for absolutely free (well, for a Silver slot, but that’s it). However, I don’t run it, because it has negative synergy with Pavetta – especially when ressing her with Shani on round 3.
- Dimeritium Bomb – Better version of Dimeritium Shackles, but taking a Silver slot as a cost. Amazing card against decks which buff one row heavily. Lately I’ve been facing quite a lot of Scoia’tel decks that focus on the Melee row with all the buffs, Dimeritium Bomb is great against that deck. Also works wonders against Skellige Axemen deck or Monsters Consume. Can also be used as another Weather counter. Shackles seem enough in the meta I’m facing, but I can see using Bomb if you face some of the decks I’ve mentioned a lot.
- Aeromancy – It’s good mostly because no one really expects it right now. It’s rarely played in general and people don’t play around weather vs NR. Can be used to swing the round after your opponent has passed or after he has used his First Lights already. Especially good vs decks stacking Melee Row, since you don’t really play any Melee units.
- Decoy – It’s really hard to fit this card, but it’s still decently powerful. The best Decoy targets in the deck are Nenneke, Priscilla, Pavetta and Spies (especially if you play Villentretenmerth on the same turn). If you don’t have any other Decoy targets, your Bronze units aren’t worst – Ballista is +6 strength and Kaedwani Siege Support is +9 strength.
In case of Gold cards, this Gold roster is pretty important to have. The deck often relies on gold power to win round 3 and it’s hard to work around that. This set is simply one of the best and it’s hard to make improvements to it. You can switch out some of the cards for those two, if I will find more potential includes then I will update the list:
- Regis – Some builds run Regis instead of Ciri. Ciri is generally superior to Regis if you win first round. Then you can play her on r2 and r3 again, getting you card advantage and 16 strength in total. However, you don’t always win round 1. Sometimes your opponent gets ahead by a lot and you can’t afford to swing it, maybe you drew poorly etc. Then Ciri doesn’t really accomplish that much, it’s just 6 (8) strength Gold. On the other hand, Regis is way more consistent – it doesn’t matter whether you win round 1 or not, it’s a powerful Legendary that you can play in one turn while still getting some sort of advantage in the next one. You basically sacrifice a potential card advantage for the sake of consistency. Plus it’s better in the mirrors, as it’s not countered by the Radovid’s Leader Ability (I mean, he can kill it, but then he has to deal with 10 more strength).
- Yennefer: Conjurer – Even after a slight nerf in a Hotfix, she’s still one of the best Gold cards in the game – when played early in a long round, she can often get you 20+ strength in total. Thanks to multiple damage tools available to you, you can also influence the hits by trying to line up multiple units at the same strength. However, people have already realized how powerful the card is and often run ways to counter it or know how to play around it better. I think that the card is great in the deck, but it was either Yen or Shani and in the list running Pavetta, not running Shani would be a huge mistake. If you don’t run Pavetta, you probably want to run Yen: Conjurer instead of Shani.
The goal of your Mulligan is to get as many Gold cards as possible. It’s especially important with this deck, as it heavily relies on the Gold cards power to win the games.
- First, you want to throw away all extra copies of Temerian Foot Soldiers. You want to have only a single one in your hand – only then it accomplishes its goal. Extra copies of Foot Soldier are actually the only cards that you absolutely don’t want to have in your hand.
- Then, depending on the matchup, you can mulligan away Dimeritium Shackles. It’s great against heavy buff decks (let’s say Skellige Axeman), but it’s rarely useful in the first round, maybe outside of a few exceptions. Since it’s often a dead card round 1, I often mulligan it away if I think that I won’t need it.
- If you won’t likely need to demote anything round 1, you can throw away the Kaedwani Sergeant. If you have e.g. Villentretenmerth or Roche and Shani already in your hand, you can keep it and play round 1 Vil/Roche and demote it back later to replay with Shani. But outside of demoting your own Golds, it’s not really a powerful card in round 1.
- Then mulligan away the extra copies of your Bronze Units – Ballista and Kaedwani Siege Support. Keep your Reaver Scouts and First Light so you can pull them out of your deck and thin it.
Most of the time, round 1 will be the longest round. You want to push for a round 1 win, because it gives you a nice advantage. However, DO NOT go all in on round 1 win. If you sacrifice 2-3 card advantage to push round 1 win, it means that you basically wasted your whole win advantage and even more. Knowing when to pass is an important skill in Gwent, especially if you play a deck with Ciri.
Usually, you open round 1 with Temerian Foot Soldiers. It’s a very powerful play, as with just a single Bronze card you put 12 strength on the board and thin your deck by 2 cards. That’s why you absolutely want to have only 1 copy of Temerain Foot Soldier in your starting hand.
After that, it mostly depends on the matchup, but you most likely want to start flinging your Bronzes. You can buff something with Kaedwani Siege Support, you can clear something with Ballista (you can set up a 2 turns kill on up to 6 strength unit) or keep pulling more Bronzes with Reaver Scouts / First Light (Rally).
If you have Priscilla in your hand, you want to play her once you get as much thinning through Foot Soldiers, Scouts and First Light as possible. The less cards you have in your deck, the higher the chance that Priscilla will pull out the card you want (which can be Scorch, Prince Stennis or whatever, depending on the state of the match and your hand). You want to play Priscilla in round 1, especially if you have Nenneke in your hand already, as she’s one of the best ress targets.
Setting up Sabrina can be a decent way to swing the whole score in your favor. In a long round 1, people tend to play multiple Bronzes, meaning that Sabrina can get you 30+ strength swing after blowing up. Sabrina + Pavetta is probably the best combo, as you won’t only clear Sabrina, but also most likely the lowest strength minions after she blows up (be careful to look whether you’re not the one with lowest strength unit after she blows up – if yes you can buff something up, if not it’s still sometimes worth). One important note is that you NEED to keep a way to activate Sabrina in your hand. Using last Ballista on something else when you set up Sabrina is stupid, because it might force you to use your Leader’s Ability to proc her and that’s a huge waste.
Pavetta can also be played without Sabrina, especially if your opponent has some 1-3 strength units and you don’t. Pavetta is tricky, as one round she can get you 20 strength swing and another one she can be dead card. Don’t be greedy with her. If you get a good value, even killing 6-8 strength from the opponent’s side, go for it. Remember that you will be able to ress her later with Shani, but you need to play her once first.
Do you use your Golds in round 1? If necessary, yes. First you want to go through your Bronzes and generally less useful cards. After that you need to decide whether you want to push for a 1st round win. If you won’t likely win the round, because your opponent has a big advantage, then using Golds is a waste. Using Golds is more justified if you have Kaedwani Sergeant in your hand – you can demote your Gold after using it to get the value again. Remember, however, that it’s a little bit risky against Monsters, as they can steal it with Griffin or Caretaker, eat with Katakan etc.
You can play round 1 Ciri in two ways. First – if you want to force a round win. And second – if you know that you won’t win the round. When you’re sure that you’re going to win round 1, don’t play Ciri in r1 at all. But if you aren’t sure, using her in the first way might be good. If you and your opponent are both close to each other in score and the 8 strength from Ciri will swing the score in your favor, it might be a good time to play her. Now, your opponent has two options. First, give you a round win. You didn’t get card advantage value from the Ciri, but you forced a first round win. Second option is that opponent plays another card and swings the score in his favor. Now you pass, as you’ve got a nice card advantage – not only your opponent played an extra card, but now you get Ciri back. In case you have another low value unit that can swing the score you can continue doing that if you really want to win the round. If you win – well, you won. If you don’t – you got something back.
When you know that you’re going to lose the round, you ALWAYS play Ciri. There is simply no reason to, as you will get her back anyway. 99% of the time, your opponent will just pass, but he might play another card instead of passing immediately. Most of the time this is a clear misplay, but that’s how you win a lot of matches – when your opponent misplays. Should happen in low ranks much more than in high ranks, but I’ve seen people around 3.5k playing another card when I clearly lost the round already.
If you won round 1, round 2 is usually pretty simple. After round 1 win, you set up for card advantage for turn 3. You want to play Ciri (if you didn’t already), as she will most likely get back to your hand (unless you face Radovid, then she will at least bait the Leader’s Ability). You want to play Prince Stennis to gain even more card advantage. If you have a Spy you can resurrect and Nenneke, you can also do that and gain even more card advantage. After your card advantage moves, you want to stall the round for as long as possible. If you won r1, now you can dictate how long the round will last. By playing the rest of your Bronzes or generally bad cards, even something like a 2 strength Reaver Scout, you stall the game and force your opponent to play more. He can’t afford to pass, unless his strength lead is HUGE, because you can swing the game with 2-3 cards and take it 2-0. Play cards as long as you have only Golds + other valuable cards left in your hand.
Remember to not play EVERY card unless you think that you can win round 2 and take the game 2-0. If you can, then playing your Golds is justified. But if not, you want to have AT LEAST 3 cards in your hand in round 3 (including the draw and potential Ciri). That’s because Villentretenmerth takes 3 turns to proc. If you have 2 cards left, now the game can end before it procs, which isn’t excactly what you want.
If you lost round 1, now it’s a little bit harder. Now your opponent can keep you playing cards for as long as possible. If you lost round 1 and you’re still at cards disadvantage, then it’s pretty much game over. But if you have card advantage, you just want to play all your Bronze/Silver leftovers without falling behind. You want to keep the score in your favor or close to even all the time, so you can pass immediatelly after your opponent passes or only after playing a single more bronze. You CAN play Prince Stennis in round 2, but not at the beginning. Your opponent will likely play slow, play his worst/dead cards and Spies. If you can play Stennis without getting a huge strength disadvantage, go for it.
Alternatively, you can open round 2 with Villentretenmerth after you lose. It’s best if you have Prince Stennis in your hand too. Now, your opponent might be forced to pass early if he has no good way to counter it. If not, you should have an easier time winning, as it should take some strength from their boards. Of course, it can get countered by Spies and demote, but you can’t really help that.
If you expend a Gold card in round 2, especially Vil, then demoting it with Sergeant can be game-winning, as you can Shani it back in round 3 again.
Round 3 is usually the shortest one, but also the hardest one to play correctly. The basic game plan is to play Villentretenmerth, then play your other Golds/Leader’s Ability/whatever – generally don’t play any units, so it Scorches only the opponent’s side – and play the rest of your stuff (if you have any) after the Scorch. However, since the card is very popular right now, people are generally running cards like Dimeritium Bomb or Dimeritium Shackles to counter it. If Vil is the highest strength unit, he will just burn himself and won’t destroy the second card. It’s an amazing counter. You can play around it a bit by playing Prince Stennis on your opponent’s side – it gives you a card advantage and higher strength unit to burn.
If your basic strategy gets countered, you’ve played Vil before or you didn’t draw it, you have to improvise. Another great finisher is Shani + Pavetta. You don’t want to play ANY other non-Gold units before that combo. The combo puts 5 + 7 (12) Gold strength on your side of the board and burns 2 weakest units on your opponent’s side. But it doesn’t matter how big those “smallest units” are – even if they’re 10 and 15 strength, you will still burn them. Especially powerful against Monsters, as they will probably have a unit leftover from the last round, so after they play another one you can clear both no matter how big they are.
Besides those combos, you want to overwhelm your opponent in terms of strength. You will very likely be left with a few reactive cards, maybe even your leader’s ability. So your turn 3 strategy often isn’t to put a lot of power yourself, but to deny whatever your opponent wants to do. Optimally you’d like to have the last move advantage (not even card advantage, just having last move is okay) against many decks. For example, against Monsters you want to have last move advantage and a removal in your hand to counter Grave Hag. Against Scoia’tel Neophyte deck you want to have last move advantage and Scorch (or set upt Vil to proc on your last turn) to counter Ele’yas. Those are just two examples, but many decks play their most powerful, but counterable card as “last card”, meaning that having a way to counter it is great.
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading my second Gwent guide, I hope that you’ve enjoyed it. I like to play Control decks most and so far I’m having quite a lot of fun with Radovid. Right now it’s probably the best Control deck in the meta, maybe even the best deck in general. If you’d like to read about some other deck, let me know in the comments – if I have enough cards to play it, I can test it and write about it. Since I hit rank 15 already, I don’t really mind going down a bit right now when testing stuff.
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Until next time!