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  • published the article Gwent Concepts: The Mulligan 'Bug'

    Note: This is an advanced Gwent Concepts article. You don’t necessarily need to know about Blacklist Bias to play Gwent, or even to be good at it! Nevertheless, I hope it is both interesting and informative.

    This article follows on from Gwent Concepts: Mulligan and Blacklisting, so check that out if you haven't already done so!

    ---

    Last time we looked at the mulligan, blacklisting, and how those mechanics impact a game of Gwent. Today we delve deeper, and consider how the mulligan algorithm affects the deck. It turns out that blacklisted cards (including those mulliganed away) tend to be closer to the top of the deck than one would expect. This blacklist bias is not some kind of 'mulligan bug', but rather a conscious design decision. Let's find out why it exists, and how you can use it to your advantage.

    The Gwent Deck

    Gwent is a game of few shuffle effects. "Shuffling" a card into your Gwent deck usually places it in a random position among the other cards, the order of which remains unchanged. Actions that would normally prompt you to shuffle in a physical card game (for example, after looking through your deck or performing a mulligan) do not randomise the order of your Gwent deck. In this article, we will consider how the mulligan alters the deck’s order. Because of the scarcity of shuffling (available only through Stefan Skellen, King Bran and Dandelion), this alteration usually impacts the entire game of Gwent.

    The Mulligan Algorithm (Revisited)

    • Choose a card in your hand.
    • This card is blacklisted, meaning a card with the same name cannot be drawn for the remainder of this particular mulligan phase
    • The chosen card is placed in a random position in your deck. As far as we know, any position, including the top or bottom of your deck, is equally likely. The order of the other cards remains the same.
    • Draw the top non-blacklisted card of your deck
    • Repeat the process until all of your available mulligans are completed or you decide to end the mulligan.

    In Depth: Sequencing Theory and Blacklist Bias

    Steps 3 and 4 of the mulligan algorithm dictate that a blacklisted card is more likely to end up close to the top of your deck than a non-blacklisted one. This occurs because blacklisted cards are not taken out of your deck during the mulligan process. Instead, they remain in the deck, but are unable to be drawn. This causes them to rise up as cards are drawn from above them, or remain on top (without being drawn) if they started off there, making them more likely to be higher up in your deck. But, it's easier to understand this by looking at a simple example:

    Example: Horsing Around

    Suppose you have 9 cards left in your deck, and mulligan a single Roach. The Roach has 10 equally likely positions in your deck where it could end up.

    • If Roach lands on top of your deck, you will draw the second card in your deck to replace it (as Roach is blacklisted)
    • If Roach lands second from the top, then you will draw the top card to replace it, and Roach will once again be on top of your deck
    • If Roach lands anywhere else, it can not end up at the top of your deck after just one mulligan.


    Thus, there is a 20% chance that Roach will be on top of your deck (compared with 10% chance for any of the remaining 8 cards to be on top).

    Mulliganing more than one card at a time compounds the effect:

    Example: A Base Case

    Suppose you are playing a deck of 25 unique cards, and you mulligan 3 cards (say Geralt, Roach and Triss Merigold, in that order) at the start of the game. What is the probability that each of those cards will be on top of your deck after the mulligan?


    To compare, the probability of drawing Geralt, Roach or Triss Merigold from the top of a shuffled deck is a combined 20%. Furthermore, suppose, like in the ‘Horsing Around’ example above, only Geralt was mulliganed. Then the probability of him being at the top of your deck would be 2/16=12.5%. So mulliganing more cards after him actually increased the chance of Geralt rising to the top.

    Importantly, this is a lower bound. If we relax the assumption that mulliganed cards are unique, then the probability of drawing a copy of a mulliganed card would be even higher. Thus, if you are playing a 25 card deck and mulligan 3 cards at the start of the game the probability of one of them being on top of is always at least 46.7%.

    The Math

    • 20.6%.
      • Geralt is the top card if he is mulliganed into position 1,2,3 or 4 in your deck (before the replacement card is drawn), AND after that neither Roach nor Triss are placed above Geralt in the deck. If this occurs, all cards above Geralt will be drawn during the mulligan process and he will end up being the top card.
      • The probability that Geralt is mulliganed into position 1/2/3/4 is 1/16=0.0625 for every position.
      • For each of the above positions, calculate the probability that neither Roach nor Triss are ever mulliganed above geralt. This is 0.88/0.88/0.82/0.71. Or rather:
        • 1-1/16-1*15/16^2=0.88
        • 1-1/16-1*15/16^2=0.88
        • 1-2/16-1*14/16^2=0.82
        • 1-3/16-2*13/16^2=0.71
      • Multiply the first probability by the second, and sum over all possible positions.
    • 15.4%
      • Roach is the top card of your deck if he is mulliganed into position 1,2 or 3 (before replacement) AND Geralt was not already in a position above it AND Triss is not placed in a position above it.
      • (1/16 * 1 * 15/16) + (1/16 * 14/16 * 15/16) + (1/16 * 13/16 * 14/16) = 0.154
    • 10.7%
      • Triss is the top card of your deck if she is mulliganed into position 1 or 2 (before replacement) AND Neither Geralt nor Roach were already in a position above her
      • (1/16 * 1) + (1/16 * [1-3/16-13/16 * 2/16]) = 0.107

     

    Example: Foglet Fiasco

    Suppose you are playing a deck that runs 3 Foglets, you draw one in your opening hand, get rid of it first and then mulligan two other cards (which I will assume to be unique, or rather, not blacklisting any cards other than themselves, for the purposes of this example). The probability that there is now a Foglet on top of your deck is 50.6%.

    A more detailed explanation follows, but this probability is almost equivalent to the chance that there is at least one Foglet in the top 4 cards of your deck after the first Foglet is mulliganed, but before the replacement card is drawn. At this point there are 16 cards in your deck, and thus this probability equals to 60.7%. The top 3 non-blacklisted cards of your deck are drawn into your hand during the mulligan process, which in the situation described would push the Foglet to the top, unless one of the other mulliganed cards is placed on top of it (this is accounted for by the ~10% difference between the numbers).

    As a point of comparison: the probability that one of 3 specific cards is on top of a shuffled deck of 15 is 20%, so the impact of the lack of shuffling at the end of the mulligan algorithm is rather significant.

    It is worth noting that relaxing the assumption that the cards mulliganed second and third do not add any other cards in your deck to the blacklist would make the probability of a Foglet being on top slightly lower, depending on how many cards are blacklisted during those mulligans. In the ‘worst case’ scenario (your last two mulligans blacklist 3 cards each), the probability of a Foglet being on top drops by around 5%.

    The Math

    • 60.7%:
      • This probability that there are no Foglets in the top 4 cards of a randomised 16 card deck is: 12C3/16C3 = 11/28. Thus, the probability that there is at least one Foglet in the top 4 cards is 1-11/28=17/28.
    • 50.6%:
      • A Foglet ends up being the top card of your deck if the topmost Foglet of your deck is in position 1,2,3 or 4 in your deck (after the first mulligan, but before the replacement card is drawn) AND Your second and third mulliganed cards are not placed above the Foglet.
      • The probability that the topmost Foglet in your deck is in position 1/2/3/4 is 0.1875/0.1625/0.1393/0.1179. (Calculated by considering the number of ways to arrange cards in your deck to satisfy the conditions outlined, divided by the total number of arrangements).
      • For each of those positions, the probability that your second or third mulligan lands above the topmost Foglet is exactly the same as with Geralt in the previous example, 0.88/0.88/0.82/0.71.
      • Multiply and sum to obtain the result.

    To Summarise:

    • Blacklist Bias: Mulliganed cards are more likely to end up higher in your deck. This also applies to copies of mulliganed cards that started off in your deck.
    • Generally, the more mulligans are performed in a given sitting, the more likely it is that one of the blacklisted cards ends up on top of your deck.

    Using This Information

    It is even more important to conduct your thinning as early as possible, so that the quality of your draws at the start of rounds 2 and 3 is maximised. Likewise, draw effects are not as good as you would expect, as they are more likely to draw you cards that you have mulliganed away, which are usually the worst cards in your deck. This is another reason why draw effects should be combined with plentiful thinning in order to be effective. On the other hand, offensive draw effects, like Avallac'h and Albrich, are quite likely to undo your opponent's hopes, dreams and mulligans if they are running a lot of undesirable cards like Foglets and Crones.

    Effects that “shuffle” (in reality, they “randomly place”) cards back into your deck, like Emissary and Thaler, can help clear up the blacklist blockage. It is important to note, however, that they are very much impacted by it too (i.e. an Emissary giving you the option between two bronzes you mulliganed). Complete deck shuffling (with Stefan Skellen, King Bran or Dandelion) is even better for this.

    As we saw in the second example, the earlier you mulligan a card in the initial mulligan, the more likely it is to end up higher in your deck. This means:

    • Mulligan earlier: Cards that won’t affect your future draws, usually because you’re planning to thin them from your deck early. Examples: Foglet, Imperial Golem, Roach. However, as discussed in the previous article, it is also important to blacklist early.
    • Mulligan later: Cards that you want to draw least, such as ones that are ineffective in a specific matchup. Examples: Mardroeme, Lacerate, Blue Stripes Scout

    The Mulligan 'Bug'!?

    I’d like to reassure you that there is no mulligan bug. As far as we know, everything is working exactly as intended and any reports of always drawing back mulliganed cards are likely to be confirmation bias. As we saw, you are more likely to draw back blacklisted cards, but it is by no means a certainty. Of course, while each step in the mulligan algorithm makes reasonable sense, the resulting deck order at the end of it can seem rather unintuitive. But that is the way CDPR has decided to make it function, and the approach has its pros. The most important of these is that the mulligan algorithm allows for the cards that remain in your deck during the mulligan to sustain the same relative order, whilst simultaneously enabling the valuable blacklisting mechanics.

    ---

    As always, questions, comments and feedback are always welcome! In particular, I would love to know your thoughts on the more math-heavy approach, and what other quantitative results you might be interested in. Also, I would like to give a shoutout to reddit user G_Helpmann who did a whole lot of science, discovered and proved sequencing theory, and made an awesome infographic about it!

    About the author

    Aych

    Aych discovered his love of card games at the ripe old age of 11, as his Bulbasaurs were brutally massacred in the brilliant Pokemon TCG. The original Witcher was his gateway into the wonderfully time-consuming world of RPGs. And then... his two passions converged with the creation of Gwent! You can find him on Twitter and YouTube.
    Posted in: Gwent Concepts: The Mulligan 'Bug'
  • published the article Gwent Concepts: Mulligan and Blacklisting

    Each game of Gwent begins with a mulligan phase, which allows both players to replace any given card in their hand with a card from their deck up to three times. This happens again at the start of rounds 2 and 3, but this time only one card is replaced. There are also cards in the Scoia'tael faction that allow you to mulligan cards during a round, but they're a relatively minor component of the Gwent game, so this article will not focus on those (but the concepts outlined here apply to them too).

    Understanding the exact mechanics behind how cards are shuffled back in and drawn from the deck is integral to making correct decisions and taking calculated risks in any given game of Gwent.

    The Mulligan Algorithm

    • Choose a card in your hand
    • This card is blacklisted, meaning a card with the same name cannot be drawn for the remainder of this particular mulligan phase
    • The chosen card is placed in a random position in your deck. As far as we know, any position, including the top or bottom of your deck, is equally likely. The order of the other cards remains the same.
    • Draw the top non-blacklisted card of your deck*
    • Repeat the process until all of your available mulligans are completed or you decide to end the mulligan.

     

    * Suppose there is a Foglet on top of your deck, and you mulligan another Foglet that gets randomly placed second. Then you would draw the third card from the top.

    This process has not been directly confirmed by anyone from CD Projekt Red, but it is generally accepted, and some community members have conducted tests to confirm it. Notably, there is no shuffling anywhere in the mulligan process, and actually very few shuffling effects in Gwent, so the order of your deck remains mostly the same as cards are placed into it or taken out.

    Why Mulligan?

    The primary purpose of the mulligan is to get rid of cards that you don't want to have in your hand. In the initial mulligan, these could be:

     
    Contrastingly, the mulligans at the start of rounds 2 and 3 should mostly focus on improving your average card quality, and are thus relatively straightforward.

    In Depth: Blacklisting

    The blacklisting mechanic ensures that after you mulligan a specific card, you will not draw any cards with the same name during this mulligan phase. Quite importantly, in your initial mulligan (and when using Francesca's ability), the blacklist is shared between all 3 of the mulligans, making sequencing very important - you want to blacklist undesirable cards as early as possible.

    Example:

    Suppose you're playing a monster deck, and the only undesirable cards you are running are 3 Foglets and The Crones. Your opening hand contains 2 of each. Your mulligan order should be:

    • Foglet, blacklisting 2 cards: itself, and the Foglet that's still in your deck
    • a Crone, blacklisting only itself.
      • The Crones do not have the same names, and thus do not blacklist other Crones. In the scenario where you draw your third Crone in one of the first two mulligans, mulliganing a Crone second gives you the option of whether you want a useless Crone or a dead Foglet in hand
    • Foglet, blacklisting only itself (the other Foglets are already blacklisted)

    This example is fairly straightforward, as Crones and Foglets are both so undesirable that we would rarely need to consider other mulligan pathways in the scenario outlined. However, sometimes mulligan decisions can depend on the availability of combos, or ways to mitigate the drawbacks of undesirable cards. So…

    Example:

    Suppose you are playing a discard Skellige deck, the undesirable cards are:


    So, having too many of any of the above in hand, while not desirable, is by no means catastrophic.

    Suppose your opening hand is:

    Mardroeme, 2 Clan an Craite Raiders, Clan Dimun Pirate Captain, 2 Clan Dimun Pirates, 2 War Longships, Johnny and Ermion.

    This hand is somewhat flooded with undesirable cards and lacks the flexibility, removal and power provided by your other silvers and golds. However, it contains an Ermion, which will help you draw into them after you thin effectively. Here, my mulligan order would be:

    Mulliganing the Captain first provides a lot of blacklisting value, and only gives you a 2/13 chance of drawing another Pirate or Raider, which is an ok risk to take with this hand, as having one or two Raiders at the end of the ordeal is not actually terrible because of Ermion's presence.

    But, what if the Ermion was swapped out for a Coral? In this scenario, my mulligan order would be:

    Here, I would want to maximise the tools I have in order to win the first round (the Pirates and King Bran, in combination with War Longships) and hopefully draw some better cards later. This is aided by the presence of Coral, who is likely to seal a victory if my opponent decides to take the round long. But, if an Ermion or Svanrige is drawn along the way I might want to amend my plan.

    These are just two examples of the mulligan procedure, but they illustrate the importance of ordering your mulligans correctly in order to craft a good hand. We pause our discussion of mulligan mechanics here and move onto some of their implications.

    Food for Thought

    • Bear in mind that different players will have different mulligan preferences, and what I've explained above isn't necessarily the only good way to do it.
    • Think about the sequencing of your mulligans before starting them. What are the main problems with your hand, and how can they be most effectively solved?
    • If you have a good starting hand, you are not obliged to go through with all 3 mulligans. It can often be unwise to perform a third mulligan if your deck still contains undesirable cards that have not been blacklisted, unless it is a risk you're willing to take
    • It is not necessary for you to have all of your good cards in your opening hand, as it can occasionally lead to over-killing your opponent in round 1 and running out of steam later in the game. This is especially true if you can thin effectively enough to have a reasonable shot at grabbing your good cards later
    • Mulligan decisions can be heavily dependent on the matchup. For instance, some cards (like Mardroeme) may become undesirable, or you may choose to blacklist more aggressively to look for tech cards
    • The mulligan is as much an art as it is a science, especially given the limited time given to analyse any given hand. The more you play a specific deck, the more you'll understand about its goals and mulligan strategy

     

    When Disaster Strikes

    Some hands are so suboptimal that they can't be saved, even with all the mulligan magic one can muster. However, there are several ways to mitigate the impact of undesirable cards.

    There are several ways to minimise the impact of mulligan mayhem during a match. Most notably, the mulligans at the start of rounds 2 and 3 give you another opportunity to remove undesirable cards. To prepare for this, it is even more important to get as many other undesirable cards out of your deck, so that you don’t end up drawing them. Another option is to bleed your opponent out in round 2 (after winning in round 1), by playing these suboptimal cards for little value. (Bleeding refers to a situation where you’re in a position to decide round length, and can play your worst cards out and save the best ones for a later round. This is only a good idea if the cards you play are worse than your opponent’s, and they have no way to capitalise on this bleeding to gain card advantage.)

    Furthermore, if you believe that it will often have suboptimal hands, it can be useful to include some safety valves in your deck. A perfect example of this would be running a Giant Toad in a Monster deck to eat an extra Crone or Nekker if it happens to find its way into your hand in a situation where you can’t mulligan it away (such as in round 3). Discard and Mulligan mechanics also allow you to get rid of undesirable cards. These are available to all factions in the forms of Sarah and Johnny (though both have their own drawbacks).

    Don't Mulligan This Article

    So, whilst the concept of a mulligan is rather straightforward, Gwent's limitless deckbuilding potential leads to all manner of quirky mulligan puzzles. I hope the examples provided have illustrated the technicalities behind blacklisting, and will help you think about how to mulligan in your own decks. After all, every victory is built on a foundation of a good hand, or knowing how to mitigate the drawbacks of a bad one. So I suggest you keep this article in your starting hand, and it will not disappoint.

    ---

    The concept of thinning is heavily intertwined with the mulligan. Check out our previous Gwent Concepts article about it: Gwent Concepts: Thinning.

    Next time, on Gwent Concepts:

    We continue with a discussion of sequencing theory, talking about how the mulligan affects the order of your deck. Turns out that blacklisted cards tend to be closer to the top of your deck than you would expect. See you soon in "Gwent Concepts: Blacklist Bias"!

    About the author

    Aych

    Aych discovered his love of card games at the ripe old age of 11, as his Bulbasaurs were brutally massacred in the brilliant Pokemon TCG. The original Witcher was his gateway into the wonderfully time-consuming world of RPGs. And then... his two passions converged with the creation of Gwent! You can find him on Twitter and YouTube.
    Posted in: Gwent Concepts: Mulligan and Blacklisting
  • published the article Gwent Concepts: Thinning

    In Gwent, it is almost always correct to play decks of the smallest possible size - 25 cards. There are a plethora of reasons for this, but they all revolve around improving the consistency of your deck, allowing for your game plan to be executed more reliably. This is ever more important in Gwent (compared to other CCGs) because of the limits placed on the amount of Gold and Silver cards that can be included in any deck. Having a larger deck size would result in seeing these more powerful cards less frequently, and would decrease the average value of cards you play.

    Increasing your deck's consistency through thinning

    The concept of thinning encompasses cards that remove other cards from the deck in some way and thus decrease the remaining deck size. Thinning can take all manner of forms, from units that pull out copies of themselves (known as 'mustering'), to units that allow you to play a specific card from your deck, to units with the words 'draw a card' imprinted upon them.

    The most important component of thinning is the removal of bronzes from the deck. This helps optimise your draws at the start of rounds 2 and 3, maximising the chances to grab your powerful silvers and golds, and making your deck more consistent. Overall, Nilfgaard and Northern Realms are the factions with the most thinning options, but there are plenty in every faction (as well as among neutral cards), so pretty much any deck can be built to thin as effectively as is required for your game plan.

    A note on thinning and sequencing

    It is desirable to increase the average card quality and power of the cards you’re playing by thinning as many bronzes out of your deck as you can before using draw effects like Avallac'h, or effects that allow you to play one of the top cards of your deck, like The Last Wish.

    For the same reason, it is also better to thin early in the game, in order to make your later round draws and mulligans better. It is also vital to limit the impact of randomness by making sure that every card you can get from a random effect would be useful. For example, you want to have a resurrect target in your graveyard before using First Light’s rally option to potentially pull a Priestess of Freya. But all of this depends on what else is happening in the game, which makes sequencing a very complex topic that perhaps deserves an article of its own.

    The costs of thinning

    Since thinning is generally seen as a benefit, cards that thin have one or more drawbacks to balance that out. These include:

    Restricted mulligan options

    Examples: Clan Drummond Shieldmaiden, Blue Mountain Commando, Foglet, Roach.

    You are often obliged to mulligan these cards away, which constrains your ability to freely optimise your hand and blacklist. Furthermore, too many of these effects in a single deck can lead to hands that cannot be fully optimised with 3 mulligans, which decreases both the power and the thinning provided by these cards considerably.

    Decreased power or randomness

    Examples: Emissary, Elven Mercenary, First Light, Barclay Els.

    There are definitely ways to mitigate both of these drawbacks, for instance by playing multiple Impera Brigades with your Emissary cards or making sure that every bronze unit in your deck will provide good value in the event that it gets pulled by Rally.

    The opportunity cost of using silver and gold slots for thinning

    Examples: Nature's Gift, Royal Decree, Alzur's Double–Cross, Ge'els, The Crones.

    This drawback is somewhat counteracted by the fact that these cards provide another benefit in addition to thinning your deck - either adding power to the cards they pull (like Alzur's Double–Cross) or giving you a good deal of choice (like Nature's Gift).

    Lack of Flexibility

    Examples: Reaver Scout, Imperial Golem, Clan Dimun Pirate, Eredin.

    Some thinning cards, such as Reaver Scout are conditional on what cards you have on the board, or in your deck. Other cards, such as Clan Dimun Pirates and many of the muster units, often oblige you to play them in round 1, or risk drawing extra copies in later rounds.

    The perils of thinning too much

    While the previous section considered the costs associated with individual thinning cards (or card sets), there are also drawbacks to running too many of these cards in a single deck.

    Over-thinning

    Everyone starts a game of Gwent with 10 cards, and draws 3 more over its duration. Thus, in a typical 25 card deck (which is what you'll be running under most circumstances), it is imperative that you include 12 or less sources of thinning, otherwise you'll simply run out of cards! (there are some interesting exceptions to this - discussed in the next section)

    Diminishing Returns

    There are definitely diminishing returns to thinning, exacerbated by the mulligans at the start of rounds 2 and 3. Thinning 10-12 cards decreases the value of your round 2 and 3 mulligans and thus also reduces the value of situational cards like Dimeritium Bomb and Mardroeme. If you thin the full 12 you are obliged to play every card in your deck, no matter how bad it might be in any given matchup. You might also occasionally run out of targets for targets in your deck for cards like Aretuza Adept, though this problem is lessened by the ability to mulligan them back in if the need arises, so it's rarely a huge issue.

    Offensive Thinning

    Another knock against excessive thinning is that there are a number of cards in the game that allow your opponent to thin your deck, which can potentially leave you with no cards to draw. A perfect example is Tibor Eggebracht, a common sight in modern Nilfgaard decks. You really want to have a bronze left in your deck when he stampedes onto the battlefield, otherwise your opponent is getting away with playing a drawback-less 23 point gold! When meta decks start to thin a bit too much, players may look to punish this by running more of these types of cards. A full on 'mill' Nilfgaard deck is also a real thing, the main goal of which is to run it’s opponent out of cards using cards like Avallac'h, Sweers and Albrich.

    Using thinning to your advantage

    Despite all the pitfalls of excessive thinning, there are several ways to benefit from it, or at least mitigate the problems outlined above.

    Conditional Thinning

    This refers to cards that can thin your deck, but don't have to, and are still powerful if you don't. There's only a few examples of these, most notably Vicovaro Novice choosing to copy the ability of an Ambassador rather than an Emissary. But if you're in a position where you're bleeding your opponent out (usually in round 2 after winning round 1), you can stop several more of your cards from thinning your deck - for instance, using clear skies instead of rally from your First Light.

    Including more than 25 cards

    The more cards you run, the fewer silvers and golds will find their way into your opening hand. Ordinarily there are other drawbacks too, such as decreased consistency and having to pay a cost for including more bronze thinning, so this is almost never correct. Unless, of course, the thinning effects you can run are so good that the (marginal) benefit of adding another one to your deck outweighs the costs outlined above without considering the benefit of thinning (since by adding an extra card to your deck, most of that benefit is actually lost). This doesn't happen often, but Nilfgaard decks can sometimes justify running more than 25 cards to utilise Imperial Golem, Emissary and Vicovaro Novice to their full potential.

    Thinning in reverse

    And finally, there's a few cards in Gwent that allow you to increase your deck size by putting cards back into your deck. The most notable examples are Ciri: Dash, Assire var Anahid and Nenneke, and these can be used to enable excessive thinning and/or to provide a payoff for it. For example, you can shuffle back a roach and/or other powerful silvers with Assire to add even more power to your final round gold and increase the card quality for your round 3 draw + mulligan.

    All good thins must come to an end

    So there you have it - thinning is a vital tool that will help you succeed, and comes with a plethora of benefits and drawbacks. But thinning is just one piece of the Gwent puzzle, rather than an ultimate end goal. So thin well, but thin wisely - Gwent isn’t always a thinning game, but it is always a thinking one!

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    This is a pilot for a potential series about Gwent concepts. Let me know whether you like the format and content as well as what other topics you'd like to see covered! You can find me in the comments below or on reddit.

    About the author

    Aych

    Aych discovered his love of card games at the ripe old age of 11, as his Bulbasaurs were brutally massacred in the brilliant Pokemon TCG. The original Witcher was his gateway into the wonderfully time-consuming world of RPGs. And then... his two passions converged with the creation of Gwent! You can find him on Twitter and YouTube.
    Posted in: Gwent Concepts: Thinning
  • published the article How to Improve Your Nilfgaard Starter Deck!
    For players just starting out with Gwent, here are some tips on how to improve your Nilfgaard starter deck!
    Posted in: How to Improve Your Nilfgaard Starter Deck!
  • published the article How to Improve Your Monsters Starter Deck!
    For players just starting out with Gwent, here are some tips on how to improve your Monsters starter deck!
    Posted in: How to Improve Your Monsters Starter Deck!
  • published the article Trump Shares His Thoughts on Gwent and How He Experienced the Challenger Tournament
    Photo by Thomas Tischio © Tempo Storm

    I recently had the pleasure to talk to one of my favorite gaming personalities - the illustrious Trump! He had a lot of interesting thoughts about the past, present and future of Gwent and also talked about his experience at the Gwent Challenger.

    Hi Trump! For those who don't know as much about you, could you talk a little bit about your background and experience with card games?

    I've played Magic: The Gathering since invasion, starting in high school and ramping it up with MTGO… I started playing Hearthstone right from the closed beta, so it's been over 3 years now. Altogether I probably have almost a decade of card game experience, across a lot of different games.

    So you're definitely a veteran and you've recently started dabbling in Gwent, playing quite a bit over the past two weeks. So the first thing I want to know is, overall, what do you think about the game... Do you love it?

    Yeah, I really like the game... Taking two weeks off to play Gwent and participate in the Challenger was a lot of fun, and very challenging. It really spurred my competitive spirit and made me put on my thinking hat.

    Trump's thinking hat

    I heard you also took part in some early alpha testing, before the game was even announced, and asked by CD Projekt Red to provide your feedback on the game. What was the game like at that time and do you feel like your feedback has had an impact on the game’s evolution?

    I do think that my feedback had a lot of impact. The great thing about CD Projekt is that they encouraged us to give as pointed feedback as we could - and, certainly, we did. The game at its alpha release was very similar to Gwent from The Witcher 3, and was horrifically imbalanced as a result. We're talking about one power spies, bronze decoys, etc.

    The game has come a long way since then. And not just that, but also a lot of the cards have become a lot more interesting. There were originally a lot more vanilla cards, and cards that did similar things. Now, every faction seems to have its own identity and with the changes announced for open beta I feel like it's only going to get better.

    When we talk about Gwent, the comparison with Hearthstone, the market leader in online CCGs, is inevitable. What do you think are the most important differences between the two games?

    Well, it's really hard to talk about that, because the games are completely different. I think the most important difference is that Gwent has made a lot of headway in being generous with their pack giving - you can essentially get 2-3 kegs a day through just playing the game. The move to make the last card you open a choice between three is also very good. And it's been announced that in the open beta they're going to have around 5 hours of individual content in order to unlock all the leaders - that should be a lot of fun and will help people get started off faster.

    On the other hand, what Hearthstone has going for it is the strength of the IP - there are a lot of Blizzard fans out there. It was also the first in the market, and it's a very streamable game because of its artwork and animations.

    A lot of players argue that one of the main draws of Gwent is the relative lack of randomness. Would you agree with this sentiment?

    Gwent does a very good job of not including many cards that have random effects. Yet it is still a random game - sometimes you draw the better hand and sometimes you draw the worse hand.

    "There are two extremes - in Hearthstone people complain that there's too much randomness, but with Gwent... you have to make sure not to go too far in the opposite direction, because then matches would become too similar"

    The power levels of the cards do differ because of the bronze, silver and gold system. That said though, Gwent's making some efforts to remedy that. One of the big things that CD Projekt has pointed to is that in round 3 a lot of matches come down to the card you draw. However, the addition of a mulligan at the start of rounds 2 and 3 is going to help out quite a bit.

    And… I understand that Hearthstone has introduced a lot of random components, but that doesn't necessarily make the game more or less random. A lot of the game is still based on the order you draw your cards in. I think Gwent does a very good job in appeasing people who don't want a random game while still making every game very different. There are two extremes - in Hearthstone people complain that there's too much randomness, but with Gwent… you have to make sure not to go too far in the opposite direction, because then matches would become too similar. In most Gwent games right now you draw around 80% of the cards in your deck and it does become a little bit same-ish.

    You were one of the pro gamers selected by CD Projekt to go up against four qualified players in the Gwent Challenger tournament recently - a grueling best-of-5 single elimination tournament. And you started preparing less than two weeks before it started! You began, naturally, with the top rated deck on the front page of GwentDB - JJPasak's hidden roach. How did that work out for you?

    [Laughs] Man, that was a good time, I had previously looked at the meta snapshot and noticed that this hidden roach deck was nowhere on it. And I was taking it easy at the beginning, wanted to put on a good show and jumped straight into a very tricky deck… and boy did that backfire.

    You quickly improved and started taking the game - and the tournament, very seriously. Can you talk me through how the rest of your twitch-chat fueled preparation went?

    While Francesca excels at hiding a horse under her dress, green snakes are another matter...

    Like any Gwent player, I made a lot of very basic blunders, publicly on stream. Learned a bunch of decks - over twenty archetypes, either by playing them directly or by playing against them. It was really fun to just have another learning experience - I really love the initial part of the game where you get better quickly. Unbeknownst to people I did manage to hit rank 15, peaking at around 4000 MMR. I could've gotten higher, but I was practicing decks that I would play in a meta where I would always ban Scoia'tael.

    Let’s talk a little bit about the Challenger itself. I believe it’s fair to say that you exceeded everyone’s, and your own expectations, managing to get two wins out of Fion56 before ultimately losing the match 3 to 2. You put up a fierce fight in every single game. How did you feel about your performance overall?

    I know that on paper it seems pretty good that I even managed to take 2 wins off of Fion. I'm really proud of my fellow pros, and very surprised that all of them managed to beat the Challengers. That actually brings a bit more shame to me on not being able to defeat Fion and I know that if I had even more preparation and if I was more familiar with the game I would have won. Which highlights the skill cap of Gwent. There are a lot of plays from both the Challengers and the Pros that could have been better. Even during the tournament, a lot of the pros were talking about 'man I could've done this differently…'. Sometimes the game is about who makes fewer mistakes.

    I think it was an amazing result, considering you had only really started playing Gwent two weeks prior. From behind the screen, the tournament looked awesome and I found myself on the edge of my seat during most of it. As someone who got to experience all of that in the flesh, did you think they organised a good tournament?

    Oh yeah, that was one of the best kickoff tournaments I've ever seen. Clearly, they have taken a lot of notes on best practices in the past, since their first tournament is pretty much on par with Hearthstone's tournaments 2-3 years into the scene.

    Favourite card in the game?

    Operator

    Most fun deck you've tried?

    [Laughs] I actually really like the hidden roach deck

    Most inherently overpowered mechanic in Gwent right now?

    Being able to keep a 50 power monster

    Which card do you think the Gwent community currently underrates?

    From watching Lifecoach with his Poor Infantry, I feel like that's a card that almost everyone overlooked

    Team Triss or Team Yen?

    Definitely Yennefer, I value sophistication over wildness

    After your preparation period, meeting lots of Gwenters at the Challenger and your acquaintance with the devs, what do you think of the Gwent community?

    Well, I'm a frequent visitor of reddit, so that's where I'm most familiar with communities. And comparing the Hearthstone and Gwent communities, I've got to say that the Gwent one seems to really excel at giving off a positive vibe. Whereas, about 3 months ago, right before the most recent expansion, Hearthstone had a very negative community. Even now, as the game of Hearthstone is in one of the best spots it has ever been in (in terms of metas) people still find things to complain about. And when I was streaming Gwent I got a lot of support from many of the people who played Gwent; they encouraged me and gave me suggestions. I even ended up with a practice group of Gwent players for the Challenger. So… I really like the Gwent community.

    I know overtaking Hearthstone is a herculean task, but do you think Gwent has a place as a strong number 2 in the online CCG market?

    Sure. I actually think that on the current trajectory Gwent will be a strong number 2. From talking with a lot of the guys at CD Projekt Red I know that they understand that they're not necessarily here to topple Hearthstone. There can be two very strong card game showings. If LoL and DotA can coexist, why not Hearthstone and Gwent?

    What can Gwent still learn learn from other CCGs?

    I think they're doing a very good job of learning ‘best practice’ in games, but it will take time to implement that into Gwent. What I really respect about the creation of Gwent is CD Projekt's continued insistence that they're looking to release a good game rather than release a game that is 'on time'. It’s already past when people expected the Gwent release date to be, and there's still a lot of things that the devs are looking to implement. I really look forward to the single player, that's going to draw in a lot of people. CD Projekt Red is known for their excellent work in having decisions matter, and Gwent is probably going to be one of the first card games where there will be a major story component in the campaign.

    "What I really respect about the creation of Gwent is CD Projekt's continued insistence that they're looking to release a good game rather than release a game that is 'on time'."

    Are you planning to keep following Gwent, streaming it, participating in future tournaments?

    When open beta rolls around and the new changes come out I am definitely going to be trying out a bunch of stuff. I will be creating a series of Gwent videos in order to ease people into the game, with one video on each of the faction basics, and just one overall 'Welcome to Gwent, this is how the game goes' video.

    Definitely looking forward to those! Finally, any shoutouts?

    I wanted to shout out my Gwent practice crew after I won the first match, I had them all memorized… Unfortunately I didn't win so I'll just mention them here instead. I'd like to thank everyone who helped me prepare: Delta65, ImpetuousPanda, Aych, Crokeyz and Garrett_023.

    ---

    Trump can be found on YouTube and Twitter, and of course his stream on Twitch!

    About the author

    Aych

    Aych discovered his love of card games at the ripe old age of 11, as his Bulbasaurs were brutally massacred in the brilliant Pokemon TCG. The original Witcher was his gateway into the wonderfully time-consuming world of RPGs. And then... his two passions converged with the creation of Gwent! You can find him on Twitter and YouTube.
    Posted in: Trump Shares His Thoughts on Gwent and How He Experienced the Challenger Tournament
  • published the article The Update That Will Make Gwent Future-proof
    Aych goes over five of the upcoming changes to Gwent that will ensure it's longevity and make it ready for the big leagues!
    Posted in: The Update That Will Make Gwent Future-proof
  • published the article Player Spotlight: Fion56, Gwent Challenger Finalist
    We talked to Russian player Fion56, one of four players coming out of the Gwent Challenger qualifiers who we'll be seeing in the live Finals two weeks from now.
    Posted in: Player Spotlight: Fion56, Gwent Challenger Finalist