Brief Summary of Build
EDIT: Sick of the Henselt/Consume/ST meta? Destroy them with Foltest: http://www.gwentdb.com/decks/17182-aychs-ballistas-w-guide
This is one of the decks that helped me get top16 in the EU Challenger tournament. My plan was to ban monsters, so I haven't tested this deck extensively against that specific faction, but it's very good against all the others.
The idea behind this deck is to thin with raiders and pirates to get more of your golds and silvers and extensively reuse Udalryk and KoB to get powerful plays in round 2-3. Since you don't run any CA, you want to try to get your opponent to play their spy in round 1, and because of the lack of Birna/Donar, this deck can effectively bleed out round 1. Morkvarg, while nerfed, is still a good card as it enables your shieldsmiths to do their best impression of dragoons and give you some much needed resilience. Most importantly, this deck is really fun to play and doesn't rely on winning round 1 (unlike most other current meta decks). It has a little bit of everything, and I hope you enjoy playing it!
Also, shout out to Garunah, his discard experiments inspired me to make/play this deck! And if you have any questions about the deck, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me @Aych on discord, always happy to help!
King Bran: Usually you want to discard a bronze unit to resurrect and 2 raiders (or a morkvarg and a raider if you don't start with mork in hand). That way you can get a respectable 8 points while also setting up a possible resurrect for a priestess/KoB->priestess. The bronze unit should either be the archer or the berserker, in order to assemble the mini-combo of making an 11 strength bear (which will empower your priestesses in the final round). If you have neither in hand, consider binning the berserker if you have another way to activate it (e.g. wild boar/your opponent's trebuchet/yennifer conjurer). Otherwise, targeting another raider or a shieldsmith to resurrect is always a solid plan, or an armorsmith if it's good in the matchup. In rare cases you can also bin udalryk (for example, if you have both Sig and Restore in hand, no KoB and your opponent has good first round steals, e.g. thunder/lacerate/manticore venom). Be careful about what you discard against Nilfgaard and Monsters though!
Clan an Craite Raider: In combination with Bran/Ermion help you build a bad version of Temerian Foot Soldiers. Only 2 are run since Morkvarg sometimes needs to be discarded from the deck, and you're not guaranteed to draw your other discarder Ermion every game.
Clan Dimun Pirate: A necessary evil that helps you thin your deck and draw more of your silvers and golds in later rounds. Also protect your graveyard against Ghouls, to an extent, and make sure that any surprise priestesses you pull (such as through Udalryk stealing rally or reaver scout) are not completely dead. Ok to resurrect against weather decks.
Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith: Allow you to build a huge Morkvarg, and are your main priestess targets in round 2 (if your opponent is bleeding you out). Can also be used to make rows uneven for scorch and offset Yennifer procs. If your Morkvarg has bitten the dust, try to buff the units that you will resurrect round 3: bear/shieldsmith or Udalryk/KoB.
Raging Berserker: Usually seen in twos and threes as good resurrect targets for Harald/Crach decks in round 3. However, with the extra thinning, this deck can usually guarantee to get a berserker out and transformed round 1, and has better resurrect targets for silver medics in round 3. Also, after losing round 1 (which this deck is very good at), your opponent can usually whittle you down to 1-3 cards in hand, so you won't have a lot of resurrects to work with. Additionally, priestesses are often used round 2 on shieldsmiths (pretending we're Scoiatael and carrying value into the next round). To summarise, you need 1 to get your 16 strength priestess in the last round, but you usually dont need more. As an extra bonus, with the abundance of trebuchets and Yen Cons it can often get activated for free.
Clan Brokvar Archer: Another one-of, required to activate the berserker and synergises well with Coral. Can also help set up (or bluff) a Gigni, and screw with your opponent's scorches. Good at killing stray cows and making Geels sad. The good thing about running singletons in a skellige deck is that if a matchup really needs it, you can keep resurrecting (and sometimes even decoying) them.
Clan Tordarroch Armorsmith: Very good in some matchups and quite poor in others. Can be a lifesaver against a Harald that's desperately trying to level your units with Yennifer and your only way to really combat surprise weather. Against decks with a possibility for Aeromancy/Dagon/Coral, try to hold a res for this until the last possible moment if you have CA.
Priestess of Freya: Makes Skellige decks a little more bearable.
Manticore Venom: A necessary evil required to control the Henselt matchup, so that they can't get far away from your score too early (you really want to bleed them out). Is decent against axemen round 1 and can also be used in conjunction with other removal to kill larger targets.
Morkvarg: He's back! You can buff him with Shieldsmiths! He blocks Scorch/Villen! Helps you stay ahead in round 2 and allows you to keep up with your opponent's carry over value (monsters passive, ST Dragoons). It is a good shackles/cleaver target, but you have three ways to remove that (Decoy, Restore, Siggy), so it's not too bad.
Udalryk: The only card that can sometimes be considered 'good tempo' in Skellige. Try to use him first round when you know you're getting something good (such as an Alzur's, Lacerate, Venom or a unit you killed). Can be resurrected later against most decks, as they will usually have a high density of good targets in the graveyard (notable exception: monsters, try to grab the crone they Ekimmara or a first light ASAP). As much as possible, try to sequence your plays so that most options are at least decent: play your priestess before you grab a Reaver Scout, make sure your opponent has targets for removal, if you steal the scorch it should scorch your Morkvarg at worst. And remember, Udalryk can no longer pull medics.
Sigrdrifa, Restore, Decoy, King of Beggars: These all allow you to resurrect and/or reuse your silvers. Make sure you don't keep too many of these in your opening hand, as they are not super useful in round 1. Unlike in wounding skellige, your opponent doesn’t really remove many of your units, and thus medics are not fully live until round 2.
Ermion: Good for discarding your extra raider/morkvarg and getting to your medics/silvers in rounds 2 and 3. Always play pirates before Ermion, but the order of Ermion and Bran depends on the quality of your hand (if your hand is all cards you don’t want to discard, Ermion first for a higher chance to draw useless bronzes/raiders, and then use Bran for thinning your deck of bronzes/enabling medics)
Wild Boar of the Sea: Important as a tempo play and to kill pesky dandelions and ocvists.
Coral, Geralt Igni: Your primary ways to win round 1. Against most decks, you don't want to keep them until round 3, since with few cards in hand their value drops. The choice to play both is to increase consistently. You don't necessarily need both, but you really need at least one.
Lack of Roach: Not enough space, all the silvers, are very synergistic with each other. Also, you can't really play any of your golds proactively round 1, excluding Ermion, and you can sometimes risk drawing it in round 2. You can sometimes grab your opponent's roach with Udalryk though.
Lack of CA: With all the medics, you already have so many cards that do not contribute anything to winning round 1, or bleeding out your opponent. Also, most decks only play one or two sources of card advantage, and were often forced to use it in round 1 when I bled them out (especially with Yaevinn). Also, since this deck can't consistently win round 1, your spies can get stuck in your hand quite easily. Most people are also playing at least one Alzur's, which doesn't have a profitable target unless you run Ocvist. The only option left for card advantage is Ciri, and it's underwhelming without roach. And you don't really need CA, you have Morkvarg to win you round 2 and your plays in round 3 naturally get more points, so you can very often win 1 card down. If other decks start playing lots of CA round 2 though, consider adding a Birna or a Ciri (silver slots are tight though).
If you don't have Ermion, get rid of raiders, and get down to 1 clan dimun pirate. Blacklist a priestess first if you have enough chances to mulligan. Ideally you want to have 1-2 resurrects in hand (this includes KoB). Playing Morkvarg from hand is not actually that bad.
Every deck wants to win round 1 in this meta, often going down to 0-2 cards. You can sometimes contest that with big power plays like geralt igni or coral, but usually your aim is to bleed them out, buff Morkvarg and pass (losing on even cards is not horrible if they've already played their spy). You also want to set up a bear in your graveyard for rounds 2 and 3, discarding an archer/berserker with bran (unless you're playing against a deck that can steal it - monsters/ng). Try to use at least one of KoB and udalryk so you have a silver res target for later rounds.
Since you have a morkvarg, your opponents can't pass to force you to go down on cards. Stay ahead of their points as closely as possible, and try to save your big resses for the last round. Staying ahead should usually be prioritised though.
On the other hand, if you (somehow)won round 1 with a well placed gold, you have two choices. Get mad tempo from your medics to force them to use more cards, or if they have too many points, res their spy. If they're a combo deck, bleed them out, if not, get down to all your best cards (medics/golds/udalryk) and pass. You have the OP passive on your side!
Ideally you have a somewhat buff Morkvarg on the board and a couple of resurrects in hand. A standard combo to pull off is Sig->KoB (previously decoyed) -> Priestess -> 13 str Bear, for a total of 30 strength. Go nuts. Even if you're one card down and going first you can win this round. Two cards down is very hard, but you can sometimes pull it off.
Strategies against specific decks, and how to play and tech differently against monsters: coming soon
Manicore Venom is a tech card against the current proliferation of Henselt decks, and to a lesser extent Harald. If you're seeing a lot of consume train monsters and Scoia, lacerate would be better. Another option is basic fog, which you can run in conjunction with Geralt Aard (replacing Wild Boar/GIgni)
Decoy/Restoration can be replaced with Cleaver/Myrg for additional control
Having GIgni, Coral AND Boar is not critical, but I like having a variety of powerful control golds. You can replace one of them with something like Ciri or Birna though, if you can't fathom playing a deck without CA :)
Legendary crafting order: Morkvarg>King of Beggars>Coral>GIgni>Decoy
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