Brief Summary of Build
Hey guys Swim here, with my Machine Combo deck I was playing on stream earlier today. The deck was performing VERY well for me on ladder, and can accumulate a ridiculous amount of power to be able to shut down opponent's strategies. The idea of the list is to use Ballistas in conjunction with Reinforced Ballistas to decimate the entire enemy board, while setting up your own value with Siege Supports, Witchers, and Dandelion. You can in round 3 elect to Neneke two witchers back into your deck, and then Shani the third one back as a finisher. Special thanks to nalnal1 from my stream for his idea of using Witchers in Northern Realms, albeit in a very different deck.
Crafting Order: Vesemir/Eskel/Lambert -> Thaler -> Nenneke -> Reinforcement -> Renew -> Dandelion -> Keira Metz
If you have any of the following cards, you can replace any cards you don't own with:
Gold replacements: Ciri, Dijkstra, Royal Decree, Yennefer: The conjurer, Bloody Baron, Avallac'h
Silver replacements: Dethmold, Botchling/Lubberkin, Operator, Margarita Laux–Antille
This deck's BUDGET VERSION is VERY cheap, as this deck relies mostly on its solid bronze core moreso than its silvers and golds. Obviously, it will be lacking the power of the full deck, and could in some cases have a tricky time finishing out the other rounds, but in most cases the sheer amount of power you're able to output with your bronze combo will be enough to secure two rounds.
June 14: -Dethmold, -Keira Metz, +Roach, +Vernon Roche
Dethmold gives kind of a weak amount of utility given the lack of need for clears, but more importantly Roach provides a very strong Nenneke target, which is something the round 3 wanted most of the time. I tried switching the Keira slot for many alternatives, but eventually decided on Vernon Roche, as it gives you additional round 3 power and synergizes with siege supports. Try to use Roche in later rounds if possible, as he's not generally needed in round 1.
June 17: -Vernone Roche, +Keira Metz
Switched back to Keira, as she was proving to be very reliable value compared to Roche.
June 18: -3x Ballistas, -1x Blue Stripes Scout, -1x Reaver Scout, -Roach, -Shani, +2x Aretuza Adept, +2x Torrential Rain, +1x Immune Boost, +Thaler, +Renew
Obviously a big update. These were the tweaks that took this deck to top30 global. I ended up going in a somewhat different direction than at first. Ballistas were very strong at the start of the patch, but ended up being kind of win-more and unnecessary, while on the other and Reinforced Ballistas allow you to control key targets such as Axemen. Aretuza Adepts go in instead, as they provide a huge amount of pressure when combined with Rain. This deck uses Rain (frost is also an option) because in most cases you want to be able to kill high value targets (savage bears etc), and rain targets can be aligned by using your Reinforced Ballistas. Due to having fewer units from rain, you end up only needing 2 reaver scouts, and due to having fewer machines, 2 blue stripes scouts will suffice as well.
Lastly in this case I decided to get rid of the Roach + Shani package: they committed to extremely valuable silver and gold slots and didn't actually offer that much. Instead, I use witchers round 1, Nenneke round 2, and redraw the witchers in round 3, or in some cases use Reinforcements. Lastly, Immune Boost actually provides a great option against so much weather and is a great option to be able to protect lord of undvik and reduce axemen's power. Very underrated card in this meta. Renew and Thaler are otherwise independently valuable cards; Thaler allows you to play more for reach in round 1, and Renew gives you more options later in the game as a very high power gold.
Kaedweni Siege Support: A HUGE enabler for this deck. Generates you massive value, and it's what allows you to push really hard for round 1. Also synergizes with roche, witchers, roach, etc. Play them on the row you have the least amount of "fixed" power on (typically siege or sometimes ranged), and stack that row with these and your machines. As with all crewmen, play these adjacent to each other, to create "pockets" where you can get triple deploy effects. Play 2-3 of these asap in round 1 (just after foltest), often pulling them out with scouts. Against Radovid, you may want to play just 1 so as to not give them a great option for Radovid.
Ballista: A large part of your round 1 win condition, in most matchups. Set units to the same value (~3) with these, and sometimes Reinforced Ballistas, and then play one in a "pocket" between two crewmen to slam the opponent's board HARD. Against monsters, I'd recommend actually popping their harpy eggs before slamming their 3 strength units, so that the harpies die too. The trick with this card is knowing when to use it on high strength units (5-7+ str) to prep them to die when you slam their low strength units (1-3 str), or to avoid doing that and just start with their low strength units. Make sure to be aware how many more ballista deploys you're able to use in your entire hand (crewmen pockets, reinforcements, reaver scouts, etc), and play accordingly.
Reinforced Ballista: Pretty great value card. You typically don't need more than 1 in your opening hand, unless you're in a matchup where Ballista gives you limited value (such as skellige). They enable great value in terms of setting up your Ballistas, or in later rounds. They can also be used to slam units for up to 6 value by playing them into crewmen pockets. These make very quick work of axemen, bears, ocvist, and any other threat under 6 strength (note that this ignores armor completely). However, while you can kill Arachas Behemoth in this way, typically you don't need to worry about them as you kill all the 3 strength units with Ballistas as your round 1 finisher regardless.
Blue Stripes Scout: Your anti-weather, in addition to a nice crewman alternative in later rounds, as you often might not have any Siege Supports going into later rounds. In terms of countering weather, be sure to play more Kaedweni Siege Supports BEFORE trying to clear weather, as there will always be more weather to clear and you'd like to have Siege Supports down before fighting to clear it. You can mulligan all of these in round 1 in matchups where weather isnt anticipated (outside of Dagon, Eredin, or Eithne), although you can keep 1 if you have no Kaedweni Siege Supports.
Reaver Scout: Fantastic Northern Realms card in general. Huge utility here as it gives you better dominion over your Siege Supports, and the swarm aspect here synergizes with Foltest. This will be your Reinforcements target decently often, when you don't need Nenneke or anything that you don't already have on the board.
Vesemir/Eskel/Lambert: The witchers make a pretty fantastic addition to this deck. They have huge synergy with Dandelion, Foltest, Nenneke + Shani, as well as providing great finishers which this deck has been in need of. You can play these on round 1 if needbe, although it's better to save them for later rounds if possible. Try to keep Eskel or Lambert in your hand over Vesemir, to allow you to Dandelion and stay staggered. I'll often play these on round 2 (if I have Nenneke and Shani), then in round 3 I'll Nenneke two witchers and roach, and then shani the last witchers to pull everything out.
Roach: Even with only 4 points, still finds a pretty good use in this list. If you buff this card with Dandelion, it gets pulled out directly after resulting in a 15 point play. Typically you might buff roach and both witchers with Dandelion, then play witchers on round 2 if you have both nenneke and shani, then on round 3 you can nenneke roach, and two witchers, to pull them all out with Shani. Overall great synergy with dandelion and Nenneke.
Nenneke: Great card that allows you to re-use your resources. Namely, you want to use this card in most cases on roach and 2 witchers, if you have Shani to resurrect the third, although you can also use it on units you want to pull from reaver scouts, or possibly on all 3 witchers if you don't have Shani and hope to draw into them later. This card will be your most common Reinforcement target.
Reinforcement: This card is honestly pretty bonkers. It's basically Nature's Gift for units and units are fundamentally absurdly better than spells. You'll note this deck has basically just one silver Reinforcement target, yet still runs it, because the ability to play any bronze/silver unit you want is extremely powerful. Use this for Nenneke if you need her, although otherwise you often pull Reaver Scouts, Kaedweni Siege Supports, Blue Stripes Scouts, or possibly even Witchers if you can't draw them.
Phillipa Eilhart: This card is actually ridiculous. I can't imagine playing Northern Realms without this card, regardless of deck. Note that if this bounces between 2 units, it deals 9 to the first target and 6 to the second. Thus, it's 100% reliable to use this as not just 5 points of removal, but even up to 9 in the early turns of a round, all on top of being worth 16 points. Try to avoid using this card in round 1 if possible, although if an opportunity presents itself with a great removal target, take it. Don't be afraid to use this on 2 savage bears, for example.
Dandelion: High value Northern Realms card. Typically you use it on roach and 2 witchers, although you can use it on 3 witchers if you haven't drawn any, and in a pinch you can use it on any cards you plan to pull out with reaver scout. Pretty effective way to generate value. Play it round 1 as a way to put points into later rounds.
Shani: Great finisher card here. Typically you use it on round 3 to get back a witcher after sending 2 of them back to your deck. At a worst case scenario, she often represents a Kaedweni Siege Support in a round where it generates decent value. Note that in some games you may res Nenneke; if you do and send back roach with Nenneke, the roach will be pulled out immediately by the Shani even though you already played it.
Vernon Roche: Pretty great inclusion to this list. Be ware that you typically don't want to use this in round 1 in this list. You're better off if possible securing your round 1 with machines, and using this as a round 2/3 finisher. Right now there's many low str units in later rounds to enable this to see value, although outside of that option, you can set enemy units to 3 str with tools such as Reinforced Ballista, Phillipa Eilhart, or Ballista.
This section is simply for explaining why many cards that look very fitting in this list aren't run, and in many cases aren't actually as great here as they seem.
John Natalis: While this card seems like a major enabler for the machine archetype, it ultimately provides very little of what machines actually want from their gold slots. It's contingent on running more machines than you actually want to, and it can only gain you value in a late round 1 scenario where you want to swing for 20+ points, which should basically never happen with this deck, and even if it did, it provides more control than you typically need. This card is fundamentally hugely antisynergistic with how the machine archetype actually plays.
Yennefer: The Conjurer: Another card that looks super synergistic with this list but falls short in reality. While it can set up your Ballistas, you don't really want your golds in this list to help secure your round 1, and instead you want them to act as finishers; effectively supplementing your bronzes instead of being redundant with them. It's very important to realize when something that looks like synergy is in fact somewhat of a redundancy instead. All that aside, this card is still a decent budget replacement.
Dijkstra: Honestly not awful, but way too random.
Geralt: Igni: Achieves most of its value in round 1, which this deck doesnt want to use its golds for; ultimately meets the same fate as Yen:Con, John Natalis, etc.
Bloody Baron: Too unreliable. The fact that its currently bugged to be the top card of your deck starting the game, and in conjunction with it not getting buffed in your hand makes it ultimately a bit win-more here. While it's very true that in many cases the card can reach 20 or so value, there are too many more cases where it's 6.
Prince Stennis: Honestly this card is just kind of bad. The numbers on this card don't really do enough for a silver. Again, it incentivizes you to run more machines than any competitive deck should run, and even then the payout isn't great, and it's vulnerable to control.
Kaedweni Siege Platform: This card's...not great. On paper it looks OK, but when you compare it to reaver scout, it falls short. Crewman tags are definitely useful, although the fact that if you want the crewman in round 3 with no other sources, you will be wasting this card's deploy effect, and its base strength isn't great. Somehow just feels much stronger than it objectively ends up being.
Trebuchet: Not really much room for this. Ends up giving you more removal options than you ultimately end up needing here, and you get by just fine with your Ballistas and Reinforced Ballistas.
Reaver Hunter: Card's good but this deck can't find the bronze synergy cards to make it work, and instead likes to finish with the witcher combo.
Reinforced Siege Tower: Hard to find room for. Typically it's proper to evaluate machines based on getting their crewmen off once, as the triple-deploy takes crewmen pockets, which you have a finite amount of. Therefore, it plays most commonly as a 9 that gives a bit of armor, which honestly isn't great. Can be run as a 1x instead of the third scout, maybe.
Be sure to read the "Updates" section above, as some of the changes will invalidate minor things in this guide.
Take note of the matchup. If weather, start by blacklisting any superfluous Reinforced Ballistas (in weather matchups you only need 1), otherwise drop any Blue Stripes Scouts. Take note of the number of witchers you have in your starting hand. If 2, remove one with your second mulligan, then proceed to remove a third additional card if you need to. If 1, if you mulligan twice and don't find a second, decline the third mulligan. If 3, remove both the extraneous ones with your 2nd and 3rd mulligan. Prioritize keeping Eskel and Lambert in hand over Vesemir, as you want to be able to stagger with Dandelion. Overall this list's mulligan is pretty straightforward.
Open with Foltest turn 1 as always. Then, start playing out Kaedweni Siege supports, typically playing them in the Siege row, as it's your least-occupied row, making sure to always keep your crewmen adjacent to each other, to create "pockets" where you can play a machine between them for a one-time triple deploy effect. Note that a large part about playing this deck is to know when to put machines between 2 crewmen for triple deploy, and when to save the opportunity for later that round, as you will only be able to utilize a couple triple-deploys throughout the round. Typically play 2-3 Kaedweni Siege Supports before starting to deploy your machines. If you don't have any Siege Supports in hand, you might need to start with a Blue Stripes Scout to get 1 crewman down, as it's very important to have one down for all the machines you play. Use Reinforced Ballistas to keep threats down (note it goes through armor) and to align units down to 3-5 strength for the Ballistas to start destroying. Typically you want to avoid using your triple deploys for these, unless you need to kill something important or it allows you to align things just right. Look for an opening to play Phillipa: Keep in mind that if there are 2 units that she bounces between, she'll deal 9 to the initial target and 6 to the secondary target. So if you need to kill something at 6, use her on the second unit to either kill them both or swing for 16 while removing a high value target. Don't be afraid to use her to kill 2 savage bears, etc.
When the round is 4-6 turns deep, you're normally able to start playing Ballistas to absolutely smash the opponent's board of aligned units. Note that some of the most important decisions you need to make with this deck are about what to start hitting with Ballista's. If you have enough Ballista shots and don't need the immediate tempo, you can play a bit of a slower game, starting your ballistas at something higher like a 7, and working your way down to kill the entire board. However, sometimes, you'll need to play them much more aggressively, and ignore units that are 2-3+ points higher than the group. You can slow down the round by playing Dandelion on Witchers if you want, and don't be afraid to play your witchers if you need to for the round, particularly if you have either Neneke or Shani in hand. This deck so excels at being able to win round 1 against basically any strategy, so at a worst case your opponent will be able to force you out of valuable options such as buffed witchers, etc
You may elect to give up round 2 quickly here, although if you do have Shani, Neneke (or reinforcements), and Witchers, you could elect to force cards out of your opponent with witchers here, to then reuse them in round 3. Playing a single Crewman (often a scout) enables your Reinforced Ballistas to be very easy 10 point plays, with removal options, which are pretty strong. Finish with Witchers, and possibly other high value cards like Phillipa or Vernon Roche. Your typical combo (if you have the pieces) is Nenneke to return 2 witchers and roach, and then use shani to resummon all your witchers and roach. Note that if you ever find yourself having to Shani your Nenneke, returning roach to your deck with it will resummon roach with the same chain from the Shani. Ultimately, as with any decks, for the most part, rounds 2 and 3 will in many ways be a culmination of how round 1 went, and you'll have a very easy time if you were able to assert your presence hard enough in round 1.
Like this Deck?
Let us know what you think about this deck by giving it a rating!