Alright, this time around I need to write about it fast, before another Hotfix is released and nerfs Skellige again. I really hope not, because Queensguard-related decks are the most fun decks I’ve played in Gwent so far! I’ve got really bored of Radovid after hitting rank 15 and I’ve tried to make some Skellige decks work for the last few days. Sadly, it wasn’t that easy and I just fell down a few hundred rating points. But today, I’ve played the deck for the whole evening and got my rating back. I’ve played around 30 games with the deck and got 70% win rate in the end (21-9), which is really solid.
So, a new patch was released yesterday. You can read the full patch notes here, but I’ll focus on explaining the changes that are important to this deck. First, King Bran‘s ability was buffed and now can discard up to 3 cards from the deck instead of 2. It means more deck thinning and more things you can get into your Graveyard on turn 1. That’s seemingly a small change, but it matters A LOT in the game. Then, Draigh Bon-Dhu was reworked again. It has 4 base strength and adds 3 base strength to 2 units in your Graveyard. While the effect is worse than it was before (affecting whole Graveyard), it lost all the tags – it’s not Relentless or Fleeting anymore, meaning that you can Decoy it and resurrect it. I don’t play Decoy, because I don’t think it’s really worth it with the new effect (and it’s really hard to fit it), but the fact that you can resurrect him with Sigrdrifa (and then possibly with Restore -> Sigrdrifa again) it means that you can add TONS of base strength to your Queensguard (or any other card you want to add Base strength to). On top of that, Ermion was reverted back to his pre-nerf state and he once again DRAWS first and only then you choose which cards to discard. That’s a huge change and Ermion is once again a staple Skellige Gold.
And so, the deck is back in action with a few small changes – for example, it’s not worth it to play Cerys right now, because Ermion is just simply better. After playing 12 games with it so far But once again, I go through the card choices, mulligan, strategy etc. so read more if you want to learn how to play this deck!
Edit: After playing the deck a bit more, I’ve just hit top 100 with it 🙂
King Bran – An obvious choice for a Discard deck. Most likely the best Skellige leader right now. I mean, it thins your deck by 3 cards AND can get you the cards you need consistently. Of course, it puts them to the Graveyard, but if you discard a Queensguard or Morkvarg that’s not a problem at all.
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 res target when you need something that’s Weather Immune or when you have nothing else to res.
3x Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith – You use them to buff the base strength of your Queensguard, Morkvarg or Olgierd. 2 doesn’t sound like much, but if you buff something in round 1, it’s +6 in total, since base strength sticksl.
3x Priestess of Freya – Skellige’s basic medic, very powerful in this deck since you use a lot of base strength buffs. Your basic res targets are Bronze anyway, so that’s not a very big limitation.
2x Clan an Craite Raider – A filler unit you use for discarding. It’s really weak when played from your hand, but it’s an amazing discard target – you don’t lose any meaningful card and you get extra strength on the board. Especially great with Birna Bran and Ermion.
1x 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.
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 – Adding 3 base strength to 2 units is a huge deal. If you play him in round 1 on your Queensguards, that’s 6 immediate + 6 in round 2 + 6 in round 3 = 18 strength in total you’re getting from his effect. It’s even better if you can res him and apply the buffs again.
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 something straight away (if you have no Medics in your graveyard).
Morkvarg – A very powerful unit. You can discard it with the Bran’s ability and even not counting any buffs it will give you 6 + 5 + 4 strength (only loses 1 each round because of the Skellige’s ability, unless it dies mid-round of course) = 15 in total. For a 1/3 of the Leader’s Ability (and Silver slot) that’s an amazing value. Great base strength buffs target, as it generally sticks to the board very well (even if your opponent kills it, it gets back).
Olgierd – Another unit that comes each round. I’d say that it’s generally slightly weaker than Morkvarg, but it’s still some extra strength. Since you’re playing Skellige, it will usually be 6 in the first round + 5 in the second + 4 in the third if you don’t use any base strength buffs on it (+1 if you discard if with Bran).
Birna Bran – Another spy. With both spies, you’re often cycling through your whole deck. You really want that card advantage so you can have last move in round 3 and e.g. counter the weather (that’s the biggest counter of the deck).
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.
Ermion – The card is much, much better after the nerf was reverted. It provides a 6 strength gold body and lets you cycle through your deck. Since you have a lot of cards you don’t mind discarding or you actually WANT to discard, like Clan an Craite Raider, Morkvarg, Olgierd, your you basically get 2 cards deeper into your deck at no additional cost.
Geralt: Igni – Flex Gold slot. I feel like Igni is the most powerful Gold to play in this slot, because it works so well against many decks. It’s amazing against Monsters Consume or Swim’s Dworf Hybrid decks. It’s also great in Skellige mirrors, especially if you can play it as the last card and your opponent can’t resurrect back whatever you’ve killed.
If you find yourself playing against more weather decks, you can switch out one Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith for a second copy of Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith. After the patch I didn’t face almost any Monsters Weather, so I was playing only one. But 2 of each should be better if you face more weather decks.
Donar an Hindar and Olgierd are flex Silver slots. You won’t buff Olgierd anyway, because you have other buff targets (Morkvarg and Queensguard). He’s there mostly as a discard target + to provide some extra strength in round 2 and 3. And while he’s a good card, he’s not necessary. Then, Donar an Hindar is a Spy, which thins the deck and provides card advantage. While card advantage is great, more deck thinning is sometimes redundant. When playing against Monsters, after they give you an extra card with Avallac’h, you might actually skip the last draw, because you have no more cards in your deck. You naturally draw 13 + you thin the deck by 3 from Bran, 3 from Birna, 2 from Pirate, 2 from Donar and 2 from Ermion. That’s exactly 25 cards. Meaning that if you’re ever forced to draw more, you basically waste the draws. Silver slots were always key in Skellige, so there are many other cards you can play instead of those, depending on the meta you face:
- Dimeritium Bomb – The card has two purposes. First, it can counter the heavy buff decks. E.g. it’s amazing against Swim’s Dworf Hybrid. If you D-Bomb a full buffed melee row, you should win the game easily. It’s also good against Monsters Consume or Axeman (if someone still plays them). The second purpose is to have another way to clear weather in case you’re affected and you don’t have Armorsmith (or you need to clear 2 rows).
- Decoy – Even though Draig is not the best Decoy target right now, it’s still alright. But Decoy can basically serve as an extra Medic. When you already play Sigrdrifa or Priestess of Freya, you can Decoy them and replay them. I don’t think that necessary, as I was almost never finding myself with not enough Medics.
- King of Beggars – You want to play this one instead of the Donar if anything, because otherwise you’d have too much deck thinning. King of Beggars is solid, as it’s guaranteed to pull a Medic from your deck if you didn’t draw all of them already. Plus it thins the deck and adds extra 3/4/5 strength to the combo depending on the round. It’s also a great res target for Sigrdrifa if you need a lot of immediate strength. If you Sigrdrifa it and you still have a Priestess of Freya in your deck, you can get a great Chain. E.g. Sigrdrifa -> KoB -> Priestess of Freya -> Queensguard is only one Silver card, but should give you TONS of strength.
- Operator – I haven’t tested this one myself, but I think it might make some sense. You’d want to Operator the Draig. There is a solid chance that your opponent has no way to utilize his effect. Monsters, Nilfgaard or ST can’t interact with their own Graveyard and NR decks are very light on Medics now. Basically only other Skellige decks can utilize Draig to its fullest potential, which means that majority of time it should be worth for you. The only problem is that you need to have both Draig and Operator on t1 to really utilize the combo well. Drawing Operator later, after you’ve already played Draig (you can’t really wait and not play it) might be a bit useless.
- Cleaver – Neutral Lock option. If you find yourself needing to Lock things down, Cleaver is your only option. It’s good against Resilience (once again, Swim’s ST deck) and Weather Immunity (neutralizing that huge Ancient Foglet might be really worth it).
- Udalryk – If (for some reason) you face a lot of mirror matches, then Udalryk can be a great card choice. It’s AMAZING in round 1, right after your opponent has played King Bran’s ability. If he plays the Queensguard version, you can snatch one, which will make his combos weaker while yours stronger. And against non-Queensguard version, they often use Bran on Morkvarg, Clan An Craite Raider and Olgierd. While the first two land on the board immediately, Olgierd stays in the graveyard, which is a perfect time to pull it to your side. That’s a huge swing, because not only your opponent won’t have 5 + 4 strength (round 2/3), you will have that much extra – that’s 18 swing on top of the Udalryk’s body. However, he tends to be quite inconsistent and pretty weak in some other matchups, especially the ones running tons of small stuff (like Monsters).
- Ocvist – After the changes, Ocvist is not as powerful as it was before. It can only proc right now and since it’s in the Alzur’s Thunder range (even in round 2), it might not get you a lot of value for a Silver. Dealing 1 damage to every opponent’s unit also doesn’t synergize with this deck… so why play it? Well, for the card advantage. Or rather, move advantage (because you basically replay the same card). Move advantage is important for the reasons I’ll explain in Strategy section, but basically you always want to have the last move, especially in the final round, so instead of being suspectible to counterplay, you can counterplay instead. And if Ocvist survives, he still accomplishes that thing (without actually having to put a big body on your opponent’s side like Donar does).
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.
- Then, you can throw away your Morkvarg as you can pull it from your deck with the Bran’s ability anyway – there is just no reason to play it from your hand.
- After that, you can throw away Clan An Craite Raiders. Those are good in your hand only if you have Ermion. So, if you have Ermion, you might decide to keep them (even both) – if you don’t throw them away. Throwing them away also increases the Birna Bran’s consistency, as you have a chance to get it as one of the draws = you have less chance to discard something you don’t want to + you get extra strength on the board.
- If you did all of that and you still can mulligan something, you can throw away Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith in the non-weather matchups or Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith if you have 2-3 copies. In case you drew 2-3 copies of Priestess of Freya, you can throw it away too. You rarely play them in round 1 and you should draw at least 2 every game anyway (unless you get really unlucky with your discards).
- Since there are many cards you DON’T want to draw, like extra copies of Queensguard or Clan Dimun Pirate (if you started with 1 of each), if your hand is solid, you can end the mulligan early. I sometimes drop the last card if I know that I have a much higher chance to get something I don’t want than something that will improve my hand.
Round 1 is most straightforward and in majority of the games you will be doing the same thing for the first few turns. The order may vary a bit depending on what deck your opponent plays, what moves he makes etc.
- Play Clan Dimun Pirate to discard 2 extra copies out of your deck.
- Use King Bran‘s Leader Ability. If your mulligan went well, you want to discard 2x Queensguard and Morkvarg. But depending on the mulligan, it might vary a bit. If you drew Morkvarg, you can discard Olgierd instead. If you have both, you can discard Clan An Craite Raider. Generally the discard priority looks like that – Queensguard > Morkvarg > Olgierd > Raider.
- Play Morkvarg / Olgierd if you have one (or both) in your hand. If you have Ermion and no good Discard targets, you might skip this step and discard them instead of playing later.
- Play Draig Bon-Dhu if you have it. Buff 2x Queensguard if possible.
- Play Queensguard to pull 2 buffed copies out of your Graveyard.
Now, depending on the score, you can go two routes. If the score is close or at least within one card swing – (e.g. if you’re 30 strength down, but Coral can swing it), you can try to go for the round 1 win. If you decide to go for the round 1 win, try to not play Spies, as it might be hard to get that score back. You can play Ermion instead and possibly get a nice tempo boost with Clan An Craite Raiders / Morkvarg (if you had him in your hand). You can also use your Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmiths and start buffing the base strength of units. I’ll explain it more in the Tips later in the guide. If you have many Medics, you can also use one to bring something back if you can still win the round. However, if you don’t win round 1 – don’t worry. Your deck scales well with the game’s length and it’s at the weakest point in round 1.
The second route is when your opponent is ahead of you and you don’t plan to go for the round win. Then instead of playing more cards or Ermion, you can play one of your Spies instead. Your opponent will very likely pass, but that’s fine, you just cycled through your deck a bit.
If your opponent passess at any point, even very early, you need to do a bit of counting. If you can swing the score with a single card, e.g. Coral or Geralt: Igni it might be worth to go for it. Winning round 1 will give you a nice advantage, as you will be able to play Spies in round 2 without worrying about the score, buying you a nice card advantage. If you have to use 2 or even 3 cards, it’s rarely worth it – you should just pass too, even if it’s in the middle of your “deck thinning” cycle.
In round 1 your deck was weak, but in round 2 it already got a little bit more powerful. If you won round 1 – then Spies, Spies all the way. You can open with Spy or two since you don’t have to worry about winning that round. Buying card advantage is important. Even if you don’t win round 1, you still have to play them, but they’re significantly weaker. If you lost round 1, you probably don’t want to open with Spies unless your hand is really bad. if you play your spies too soon, instead of gaining card advantage you might lose it, because you will have to use 2-3 cards to catch up (remember that your QG aren’t insanely strong yet).
My standard round 2 opening, if I’ve played Draig Bon-Dhu in round 1 is resurrecting him with Sigrdrifa and buffing my QG again. That’s a really powerful move. Sigrdrifa -> Draig Bon’Dhu (buffing 2x QG) into Priestess of Freya -> Queensguard is A LOT of strength with just 2 cards. That’s like a ~35 strength play with just Silver + Bronze card, not to mention that by buffing your QG you make your round 3 even stronger. After you get ahead in the score, you can play your Spies. Key cards you want to get are Ermion (so you can cycle through your deck even further), Restore (so you can do the same Sig -> Draig play in r3) and depending on the matchup either Geralt: Igni or Coral (they’re especially useful if you lost round 1, to swing the score when it’s necessary).
After bringing back the QG and cycling through the deck you can proceed to play the rest of your cards. Use your Shieldsmiths to buff the base strength even further. If you drew 3x Priestess of Freya you’re free to use 2 of them – first will probably bring back the QG, but second one can let’s say resurrect Shieldsmith.
You prefer the round 2 to be as long as possible. If you won round 1, now you dictate how long the round 2 will last. You’re fine with it lasting until you have only 2-3 cards in your hand. On the other hand, if you lost it, you have to keep up for however long your opponent plays. If you have a huge strength lead and your opponent stalls the game, forcing you to play the last cards from your hand, you might need to pass and hope that he doesn’t have a way to catch up. If he does – bad luck. But you need AT LEAST one Medic to win round 3, without it it will be hard. Optimally you want to end up with Restore + Priestess of Freya combo for round 3.
If the game got to round 3, there is a pretty solid chance that you won. Optimally, you want the round 3 to be very short. Because you can bring out massive strength with just a single Medic, but your opponent won’t likely be able to keep up with one card. However, when the round gets longer, he might get more opportunities to counterplay.
Like I’ve mentioned, Restore + Priestess of Freya is usually enough to win round 3 (it really only gets countered by the weather, so against weather decks you might want to have last move advantage and Armorsmith too). You do the same combo you did in round 2 – you Restore the Sigrdrifa, resurrect Draig Bon-Dhu, buff 2x Queensguard. Then you play Priestess of Freya and resurrect all the Queensguard. That 2 cards combo in round 3 should be around 50 strength + it doesn’t play into the Scorch effects (as you should be keeping 1 Queensguard at the highest base strength to play around those). On top of that, you should have some extra strength from Morkvarg and Olgierd – probably at least 10 more.
When things go badly and you either don’t draw all the Medics / Restore / you’re forced to use almost everything in round 2, you often don’t even need 2 Medics. Even a single Medic bringing the Queensguard back should be enough to win round 3.
- Base strength buffs are the identity of this deck. You buff base strength a lot. But what do you actually want to buff? So, first of all, you want to spread your strength around multiple targets. Buffing only 1/2 things can play into some stuff like Villentretenmerth. There are 5 buff targets in the deck – 3x Queensguard, Morkvarg and Olgierd. Out of the last two, you generally prefer to buff Morkvarg, so Olgierd is rarely targeted by buffs. However, when do you buff Morkvarg and when Queensguard? I usually put some buffs here and some buffs there, optimally I like to have e.g. 11 strength Queensguard, then 10 strength Morkvarg, then 9 strength Queensguard etc. – you know what I mean, it’s best when the targets are close to each other but not on the same base strength. However,if I lose round 1 I prefer to buff Queensguard over Morkvarg for one solid reason – since your opponent doesn’t care about winning, he can target Morkvarg instead and get rid of it. I’ve been playing against NR decks that just want to get rid of that Morkvarg no matter what. They will Thunder it, Ballista it, even Pavetta it when it’s low enough. In that case I prefer to not fight and “waste” the base strength buffs since they will try to get rid of them and focus on buffing Queensguard. On the other hand, if I play against Monsters I prefer to buff Morkvarg, as Queensguard have a chance to be stolen. Since Morkvarg never really hits the Graveyard, it can’t be stolen by the Griffin or Caretaker, making it more safe buff target.
- Queensguard are your basic buff targets, obviously. But in some scenarios when at least one Queensguard gets destroyed, stolen etc. (e.g. eaten by Katakan), you can start base buffing other stuff instead. If you suspect weather, Clan Dimun Pirate is a solid target. And if not, I’d say that Shieldsmith is probably the best one, as it provides most base strength in total (his own strength is equal to Pirate/Armorsmith + he gives 2 extra with his ability). So that’s a secondary target for buffing if your QG plan gets disrupted.
- Try to not go for the plays that will lose you card advantage, ever. One very common play is pushing the round 1 win after the opponent has passed. Doing it with 1 card is great, but if you have to spend 2, it might be already not worth it (it MIGHT be worth if you already have both Spies in your hand and can get the card advantage back). But using 3 or more cards is just a big no-no and you shouldn’t be doing that no matter what.
That’s all folks. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the guide. I was having a blast playing this deck. I’ve intended to play just a few games and ended up playing it for the whole evening. The deck is really fun to play and I really hope that this time around it won’t get nerfed. I don’t think that it’s too strong, especially since it has clear counters (Monsters that interact with your Graveyard destroy it). But it’s a pretty solid deck and since I was having a pretty high win rate around ranks 14-15, I can easily say that the deck is pretty strong right now.
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Until next time!