Brief Summary of Build
Edit 3 from mid July 2018: Vanhemar has been scrapped again for The Guardian. An additional Swallow has been added to achieve 11 damage on Viper Witcher. 11 damage helps in the Greatswords matchup by giving you more flexibility on when to use Viper Witchers since it allows you to kill 11 point Light Longships. It also makes dealing with Wild Boar of the Sea easier. In the Veterans matchup, you can kill Bears and not worry about An Craite Armorsmith. In general, 11 damage is also good from a value perspective.
Edit 2 from July 2018: Switched The Guardian with Vanhemar. Many decks in the current meta run at least one silver Mage: Ida and Vaedermakar in Shupe Scoia'tael decks, Dagon and Vaedermakar in Deathwish decks, Vanhemar in Soldier Swarm Nilfgaard, Dethmold and Vaedermakar in midrange Foltest decks. This is why I think teching Vanhemar is correct. The only matchup in which Vanhemar is not good is against Greatswords. You always want to tech against your bad matchup however, so Vanhemar is a very good choice in this meta.
Edit 1 from June 2018: Switched Cahir with Vilgefortz. Vilgefortz is a more flexible gold, can be used in round 1 to enable an Ointment, is better in the mirror match and can still be a good finisher. The reason why Cahir specifically was cut is because you cannot use him in round 1, he can sometimes be countered by your opponent's Mandrake and the other golds are just too valuable - Dandelion: Poet still remains as a fantastic proactive play, Triss: Telekinesis often represents 21 points and is very flexible and Vesemir: Mentor tutors Mandrake for denial, carryover or value as well as Black Blood and Ointment for value or even Mahakam Ale or Swallow for disalignments on Scorch effects. Keep in mind that you can still use Mandrake to set up a strong round 3 with a 10 strength Roach but don't play into Eithné's potential Artefact Compression or Skellige's Coral. This set of golds is very flexible for any situation.
Try to use Vilgefortz after Jan Calveit so that you know the order of cards at the top of your deck. This allows you to, for example, burn a Viper Witcher and pick up an Ointment from the top of your deck if you know that it's located there. If you hold Vilgefortz in round 3, try to set up a 2 strength Vicovaro Novice for him to burn. You can do this by keeping one Ointment in your deck and then using Vicovaro Novice on Ointment and dodging a boost on the Vicovaro Novice. That way you sacrifice minimal value when playing Vilgefortz.
Hello, Lewt from Complexity Card Gaming here. This is the Alchemy deck I made GM with, I started using it at 4150 and got to 4313 with a 76.4% winrate (13-4-1). I played Alchemy extensively since February of this year and after playing in the new patch, I feel like Alchemy is now stronger than ever before with the weakening of Brouver Elf Swarm.
Why no Stefan Skellen?
Alchemy lost a proactive play in Slave Driver with the Swap Update. A lot of people instantly switched to Stefan Skellen. He’s a 14 point tempo opener (with Roach in mind) that puts a card to the top of your deck and boosts it by 5. This was often used to search Cahir or Vesemir: Mentor to instantly strengthen your Jan Calveit in the same turn as playing him.
What I don't like about Stefan Skellen is that he is a pretty weak gold in general. He’s only worth 15 points and the points can be split between Rounds depending on when you want to play the searched card. If you play Stefan Skellen, your opponents will most likely Mandrake your Jan Calveit (unless you play Mandrake in the same turn) since most Stefan Skellen lists are paired with Cahir, so it's a telling sign.
I never had a problem finding my Cahir, and I found better proactive plays instead. More on that follows below.
Why Dandelion: Poet over Vilgefortz?
Instead of Stefan Skellen, I use Dandelion: Poet into Roach into Vicovaro Novice as a proactive play when I have to start (unless I draw The Guardian of course). This is a high tempo starter and it makes your blue coin game a lot easier. Sure, Roach can land next to Dandelion: Poet and Vicovaro Novice can show you Mahakam Ale at the same time, but usually it works as a consistent proactive play because Vicovaro Novice can also show Swallow in that scenario.
I definitely understand why Vilgefortz is so strong - he adds to your Cahir finisher and also plays around Harald Houndsnout who is widely played in Greatsword decks. I am more worried about round 1 on blue coin, or round 2 after an opponent's drypass, where I need to find good spots to escape the round. To combat Harald Houndsnout's Wilmar Skull, I keep a Swallow in reach to deal with him. If you do that, make sure he cannot use Geralt: Igni on the 11 point Wilmar.
Another bonus that Dandelion: Poet has is that you can play your Cantarella for fewer points using him. Rainfarn of Attre would overthin in this deck now that it runs less units, Dandelion: Poet is a good replacement to play your card advantage spy for fewer points. This of course requires you to have Cantarella in hand, similar to how it was with Rainfarn of Attre, this sequence can be game winning in some cases.
If you pilot this deck correctly, you thin down to 2-4 cards left in your deck before entering round 3, so the likelihood of having Cahir is very high. This is another factor that speaks for Dandelion: Poet over Stefan Skellen.
It is true that Vilgefortz is better in the Alchemy mirror match, but I will talk about this later.
Why Swallow over Mardroeme?
As I explained earlier, I often use Dandelion: Poet into Vicovaro Novice as an opener on blue coin. Having freedom while playing Vicovaro Novices is important because your game plan relies on thinning the deck out of Alchemy cards quickly so Jan Calveit can find quality cards. Having Mardroeme in your deck gives you the chance of finding a combination of Mardroeme and Ointment very early, which is an extremely low tempo play. It does give you carryover, but it most likely leads to you going down in card advantage on blue coin. Blue coin is where Alchemy is at its weakest, and you definitely don't want to make your blue coin game weaker by putting Mardroeme into your deck.
Why Black Blood over Dazhbog Runestone or Expired Ale?
Black Blood actually became more consistent after the patch. There are only 6 targets for it now: Foglet (6), Rotfiend (10), Drowner (11), Ancient Foglet (12), Ekimmara (13), Ghoul (6 + Graveyard consumption). The chances of finding a specific unit are 50%. In most cases, you will find either Ekimmara or Ghoul. Try to play Black Blood as late as you can so that you can use Ghoul to potentially consume The Guardian, Assire or the opponent's card advantage spy that he may have put into your graveyard.
Dazhbog Runestone has always been inconsistent. It has the highroll potential of Joachim de Wett, but its floor is very low, especially now since bronze cards have been added to the pool of Dazhbog Runestone. Many Nilfgaard bronzes and silvers rely on some form of deck synergy making Dazhbog Runestone unstable. If you find cards that don't work well in the Alchemy archetype, you're looking at a very low floor of value.
Most people expect Expired Ale and play into one or two rows. If they play into two rows, Expired Ale represents 12 points. Waiting to find Cantarella for the third row to maximize expired ale points is unrealistic and inconsistent. Given that you either see Ekimmara or Ghoul from Black Blood most of the time, Black Blood just finds better value.
Tips for playing Black Blood: When facing against a deck that runs Coral, Artifact Compression or Scorches, consider taking the wide play over the tall play if the tall play loses and the wide play wins. This requires you to calculate the points. Also keep in mind that Ekimmara can be used as an Ointment target - this only applies in niche cases. Don’t forget about Ancient Foglet being able to capitalize from Fog on your side of the board and that Black Blood can destroy your opponent’s bronze or silver Necrophage/Vampire units, such as Ghoul, Ozzrel or Ancient Foglet.
Why The Guardian?
Just like Dandelion: Poet, The Guardian is an excellent proactive play on blue coin. He is really strong in the Alchemy mirror since a Dandelion: Poet or Vilgefortz will be dropped at some point in the game. He’s also valuable against Dagon Deathwish Nova. Dagon Deathwish Nova is a deck that barely thins and runs many cards that are simply bad in round 3, such as Barbegazi or Rotfiend.
Why no Vicovaro Medic?
Vicovaro Medic has become popular in many Nilfgaard lists recently because of the overwhelming popularity of Greatswords. It’s a graveyard hate card that can win you the game if you successfully steal a big An Craite Greatsword in that matchup.
On paper, this card seems like the perfect fit into any Nilfgaard deck. In reality, it’s not. A good Greatsword player will not only stagger their Greatswords well, but will also not give you the opportunity to take their biggest Greatsword. Against Greatsword, you need to push the first Round as hard as possible because they will simply not give it up. Vicovaro Medic becomes counterintuitive here because you cannot use it in the first round. Also, your game plan is to disrupt their Greatswords from strengthening anyway, so if you play well, they won't have a Greatsword that is so game deciding that you would need to steal it. In most other matchups, Vicovaro Medic is just a mediocre card.
(Vesemir: Mentor) -> Mandrake targeting Jan Calveit or Roach
Dandelion: Poet + Roach -> Vicovaro Novice -> Mahakam Ale/Swallow
Dandelion: Poet -> Cantarella
The most important phase of playing Alchemy is the Mulligan phase. Your starting hand is very important. You always want to have 2 Ointments in your starting hand. This makes it impossible to see 2 Ointments at the same time from Vicovaro Novice early. This is a key aspect of playing the deck without bricking and something that all Alchemy players should do. The only exception to this rule is the Jan Calveit mirror match. You want to blacklist Mahakam Ale first, then blacklist Swallow, and then kick whatever you don't need: An Alchemy silver that you want to play through Vesemir: Mentor, an Assire that doesn't find value in round 1, a Roach, or potentially another blacklist in some matchups to find certain cards (such as Viper Witcher against Crach an Craite). Having one Mahakam Ale or one Swallow in hand is not the end of the world, keep your game plan in mind for specific matchups and mulligan accordingly.
Round 1: Blue Coin focus (or an opponent's drypass)
Since Alchemy plays Ointments, it needs graveyard setup. Your game plan is to thin your deck out of Mahakam Ales and Swallows in round 1. These are the key reasons why Alchemy cannot drypass round 1 (unless it’s the Jan Calveit mirror match).
Alchemy also plays a lot of reactive cards or cards that need board setup (Viper Witcher and Mahakam Ale). Finding a proactive play can be hard, especially after the Slave Driver change that reduced his viability. It’s good to start round 1 with Dandelion: Poet into Roach into Vicovaro Novice into Mahakam Ale/Swallow for solid tempo. Alternatively, if you drew The Guardian, you can use him as your first play. Vesemir: Mentor with Roach into Mandrake strengthening Roach is also an alternative because you can shuffle back Roach with Assire later, but I would only suggest using this opener if you have no reasonable alternative. After that, your game plan is to thin using Vicovaro Novice as fast as possible, unless your opponent plays a strategy that you need to disrupt with Viper Witcher. Don't fall behind on tempo and expend your golds if you need to. Use Mandrake for Jan Calveit or Roach if you can afford to do this without falling behind in tempo.
Against engine decks, you need to find a good pass after they expend a good amount of their engine without keeping up with you. Don't pass too early, or else their engine will beat you in the future rounds. Don't forget that you need to establish your graveyard setup for Ointment. For example, against Dagon Deathwish it’s good to pass after they used their second Fog. This requires you to play high tempo fast, which is where the Dandelion: Poet opener becomes really good.
If you can be 100% certain that you will go down 2 cards, then feel free to bank on your Cahir finisher. If you know you will go down in card advantage for sure, playing a low tempo Mandrake can still win you the game in round 3 a card down. But I highly advise you to dodge these situations as well as possible. Going a card down for 6 points of carryover is pretty much as bad as playing Mahakam Defender while going down a card in the process.
On red coin, you follow the same game plan, except you have more freedom in using cards like Mandrake for carryover.
Round 2 is played similarly to round 1, the differences occur in the fact that you will have less thinning to do because of the amount of thinning done in round 1. You can use your Ointments on Vicovaro Novice for more thinning or on Viper Witcher for value or disruption. Just keep the cards you have in your deck in mind for round 3, you want to know for certain which cards you are going to play in round 3 and plan ahead. This is one of the harder parts of playing Alchemy, or any Nilfgaard deck in general.
When playing Jan Calveit, don’t be too quick when picking an option. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind: The order of cards for the top 3 cards of your deck. In case you didn’t know, Jan Calveit shows the top 3 cards of your deck in order, with the top card being on the left. Sometimes you need to plan ahead into the next round because you will draw the next top card and mulligan into the third card you saw unless you thinned some of the displayed cards out. Plan ahead accordingly, sometimes a choice that looks suboptimal can win you the game when it can secure you the win condition in round 3.
Round 3: The End
This is where you want to finish your opponent. Ideally you have Cahir in hand and a 11 point Jan Calveit in your graveyard. This is the perfect finisher that beats most other round 3 strategies. Your first turn in round 3 is usually Assire, unless you had to use her earlier. I recommend using her in round 3 instead of round 2, because it allows you to shuffle back Roach without having to worry about drawing roach, your deck won't be larger when drawing cards into round 3, so you have a better chance of finding that last gold that may be stuck in your deck. There are situations where it’s good to use her in round 2 of course, such as using her to shuffle back Barclay and Cantarella into an Elf-Swarm deck. This was extremely good in the previous patch and can be applied to other matchups as well, such as decks that play Blue Stripe Commandos.
You want to look at your deck and shuffle back a card you want to play off of Cahir into Jan Calveit. Often that is Black Blood, but can also be Ointment or Viper Witcher (if you still have Reconnaissance in your deck or hand). Of course, you only have to do this when you don't have any better quality cards such as golds left in your deck. Otherwise, feel free to use Assire for graveyard disruption: Disrupting Restore by shuffling back Heymaey Spearmaiden and Dimun Pirate Captain, shuffling back An Craite Greatswords (don't do this if they have Heymaey Spearmaiden in their deck or graveyard, or when you identify that they play Reconnaissance and Triss: Telekinesis, unless you can calculate that their Greatsword wins them the game for sure. Then you need to take the risk).
If you still have some thinning left to do, do it now before playing Cahir so that Cahir always finds the card that you want to see. If you still have Cantarella in your deck, dodge her because playing your card advantage spy in round 3 is very bad in most cases, unless you absolutely need to play around a huge Scorch. Before playing Cahir, if your Jan Calveit has 11 strength, make sure to stagger Scorches in certain matchups before you play your finisher.
With all that out of the way.. You play Cahir, and ideally, you win.
This matchup is not as one sided as people think it is. If your opponent is smart, he will start with Dimun Light Longships to delay your Viper Witchers. This often leads to you having to make awkward plays because you need units on the board for before playing Vicovaro Novice. The boat package is so strong that even that alone can be hard to deal with for Alchemy, especially on blue coin. You need to decide whether to kill An Craite Greatswords or Dimun Light Longship, you cannot kill both at the same time so once you killed one of them you are locked into killing more of them. Killing Dimun Light Longship is also a valid strategy.
Blacklist in favor of drawing Viper Witchers in the mulligan phase. Your game plan here is to delay the timer on An Craite Greatswords as much as possible. Never kill a Greatsword when the timer is at 2, unless you’re stuck in a position where it is inevitable. This way, you can keep their Greatswords small for as long as possible.
Never use Mandrake to strengthen your own units in this matchup. Instead, use it to counter their own Mandrake. Since our game plan is to delay their timer, they will get the opportunity to Mandrake their Greatsword when the timer is at 1. Your response here is to Mandrake it back: This is the same amount of Carryover that you would get by using it on Jan Calveit, but it also keeps the Greatsword in Viper Witcher kill range while also setting it back to white health, which means that the timer won't go off for another cycle. Since most Greatsword lists cut Vesemir: Mentor, you can trade extremely well in this exchange.
Play round 1 for as long as you can. Use Assire to ideally disrupt their Restore by shuffling back Dimun Pirate Captain/Heymaey Spearmaiden, since Restore is still a very strong win condition for them even if you disrupted their Greatswords. Keep yourself in reach of a Swallow so that you can use it to boost Wilmar if they play Harald Houndsnout. Just make sure to ideally have at least 12 strength units in all rows so that they can't use Geralt: Igni on Wilmar.
If you pilot this matchup well, you shouldn't have much trouble, but don't go into this matchup thinking you will always win - if your opponent plays well and utilises the Longship engine well, it is still losable for Alchemy. Wild Boar of the Sea makes this matchup favored for Greatsword since it can bring their units out of Viper Witcher kill range. If they do that to an An Craite Greatsword, start targeting Dimun Light Longship instead because there is nothing you can do about Wild Boar. Trying to hit it with 2 Viper Wichters overshoots value and its purpose is already done anyway.
Dagon Deathwish Monsters
Some of the harder matchups for Alchemy are engines that it can't disrupt or trade with in a good way. Dagon Deathwish is a perfect example of this. Since Dagon Deathwish has a good drypass, the coinflip only matters to a little extend, such as last say or first play. As we established earlier, Alchemy has a hard time dealing with blue coin or good drypasses. Start with early tempo so that their Fog doesn't overcome you. If they establish 2 Fogs while you are still behind in points, you will most certainly go down 2 cards, so you have to avoid that by playing fast tempo with cards like Dandelion: Poet, Triss: Telekinesis or Jan Calveit early. If they establish 2 Fogs and you are still up in points while also having a graveyard setup, it is a good point for you to escape the round.
If they play an Archespore, answer it with a Viper Witcher. You trade positively in this exchange and you want to remove that engine as soon as possible. Against D'ao, Mandrake can often be good, especially once you see that they play a Ciri: Nova version of the deck and might not have a second D'ao available. Since they also run less Griffins in a Ciri: Nova version, you have to decide whether it is worth it to Mandrake the D'ao or go for your own carryover which will make it easier to deal with a round 3 Ciri: Nova for you.
The Guardian is a very good round 2 card against the Ciri: Nova version. Ciri: Nova Deathwish can be stuck with cards like Barbegazi or Rotfiend which are very bad in round 3, so making their round 3 mulligan worse is definitely good in this matchup.
Your mulligans are very different in this matchup. Try to keep Ointments in your deck. Having Mahakam Ales and Swallows in your hand is not the end of the world, but they should still be dodged. Dodge Cahir in all 3 rounds. You just play Jan Calveit in round 3, unless your opponent doesn't drypass.
If you see Jan Calveit and you get blue coin, you drypass always. While you can potentially play against Nilfgaard Soldiers, that matchup is almost impossible to win regardless and you don't want to lose to a potential Alchemy mirror by playing into round 1 on blue coin. If your opponent has the same thought and drypasses you, play Vicovaro Novice and discard an Ointment. You will not need it, since you want to drypass round 2 as well to not lose a card.
If you start in round 3, never play Cantarella here. This is a common mistake that many Alchemy players do in the mirror match. Before the patch, the opponent would resurrect a Slave Driver to find a Vicovaro Novice into a Mahakam Ale. Now they will play their next best proactive play since many Alchemy decks added more proactive plays. So by playing Cantarella in round 3 here, you're just giving your opponent 13 free points.
Start with a proactive play. Ideally that is Dandelion: Poet into Roach into Ointment on the Vicovaro Novice you played on the drypass. Now you only have one Ointment left that is dead and you want to dodge that as well if possible. The chances of seeing 2 Ointments from Vicovaro Novice are 0% now, so you don't have to worry about that anymore.
If you have The Guardian, wait a bit until they play a potential Stefan Skellen that they could run, but don't play The Guardian too late so that you don't miss out on bricking their potential Vilgefortz or Joachim de Wett. Now play wide for as long as possible. This means Vicovaro Novices into Mahakam Ales so that they can't get full value out of their Viper Witchers. Depending on your opponent's hand, this can force them to play suboptimally. If they make a tall play, answer with Viper Witcher.
This is basically how you win the mirror match, by making your opponent play suboptimally. There is a lot of draw RNG and also coinflip RNG involved here, but after getting more experience with it, I often find myself winning as the more experienced player in the mirror match. It is definitely not easy to play.
This matchup is slightly favored for Alchemy since you just have better point output. There are two major ways to lose this matchup: Playing into a teched An Craite Armorsmith or playing into their Morkvarg carryover.
In general, try to not remove their units because they can be revived with Priestess of Freya and depending on how many Tuirseach Veterans they have played, you can trade down from that exchange. Be careful not to hit 2 of their Bears down to 1 health since you run 10 Alchemy cards. Some Veteran players have teched An Craite Armorsmith against Alchemy, which would be a 27 point bronze generating 6 armor if you play right into it. Playing around that can be hard sometimes as you don't want to waste too much value.
Dealing with Morkvarg can be difficult on blue coin. Try to not get into the situation where they can let you win round 1 one card down while also having their Veterans developed. Playing round 2 from behind against Morkvarg's carryover and their high tempo bronze units can be very difficult. On red coin, this is not as much of an issue as long as you can stay above your opponent to potentially secure a win on even or losing one card up, as you have more control on over round 1 when going second.
With that out of the way, your general game plan applies.
Against Handbuff Nilfgaard, don't give up round 1, or at least try to get as many resources out of them as possible without going down a card. Definitely always count the amount of points they can make, including Triss: Telekinesis. This matchup became much harder with the removal of Slave Driver and is favored for Handbuff Nilfgaard now since they simply have the higher point ceiling. Your best bet is trying to get into a short round 3 with Cahir and a second gold as a finisher. This will be very hard to accomplish since you have to keep up with their tempo.
Do not Mandrake the first unit they want to handbuff since they most likely have a second one ready. You would lose tons of value if you use Mandrake on that over a Spotter or a unit buffed by Wyvern Scale Shield. You can’t play Viper Witcher in response as well because he will just heal and strengthen the unit, so find a proactive play.
You definitely have to play Mandrake twice in this matchup. Depending on how strong their tempo is, you may never be able to strengthen Jan Calveit or Roach for carryover. If you are in a situation where you won round 1 and you know you can bleed out their cards without going down a card, do it, but you have to be certain that you can keep up with their tempo. Don't feel safe in this matchup when you have Cantarella, smart Handbuff players won't spy back right away and will wait for you to fall back in tempo to play their card advantage spy. If you can bleed out their handbuffed unit, you will definitely win the game, but your chances of doing that are very slim because of their high tempo. Do this in a very calculated way. Always count their Wyvern Scale Shields (including Triss: Telekinesis) and Spotters.
Since Consume Monsters just has a strictly higher point ceiling than Alchemy, the only way to win this matchup is to disrupt their strategy. Ideally you want to have these 3 cards in your starting hand: Mandrake, Vesemir: Mentor and Assire.
If they start with a Nekker, stall for a turn. Do not use Mandrake on it right away because of Summoning Circle, unless you have to play Mandrake through Vesemir: Mentor which would make Roach the next Summoning Circle target. They will play a Nekker Warrior next turn. This is where you use Mandrake on the Nekker, since Summoning Circle would now summon a Nekker Warrior that is useless without a Nekker on board. If they play a second Nekker from hand, stall another turn. They will now start to consume the Nekker Warrior to enable Slyzard, pulling out more Nekker Warriors out of their deck. Now you use Assire to shuffle back Mandrake into your deck and Nekker Warrior into the opponent's deck. Good Consume players know about this line of play and will keep a second Nekker Warrior in hand, at which point you probably lose since their point ceiling is so much higher than yours anyway, the aforementioned line is the only winning line, so you have to rely on their draw RNG being bad.
If you can't disrupt their game plan, push round 1 as hard as you can. If you can get off a good Mandrake on a Vran Warrior, you still have slim chances to win the game. If you win round 1, bleed out their valuable resources in round 2. The card you definitely want to get out of them is Brewess: Ritual. You always want to play Mandrake twice in this matchup. If you can win round 1, bleed out Brewess: Ritual in round 2 and have Mandrake and Cahir in round 3, you still have some chances to win even if their game plan is coming through.
As long as you play around huge Scorches, this matchup is nearly unwinnable for Éithne Control decks. Staggering scorches isn't hard with 2 Swallows or even Triss: Telekinesis for Swallow if needed. If you win round 1, which you most likely will since you play more points than them, bleed out a potential Villentretenmerth in round 2. There is not much else to say here since you simply play the better deck with more points.
This is a version of Control Scoia'tael that actually puts points on the board. If they play Operator their point output will be lowered since you also benefit well from the Dol Blathanna Sentry. Preferably, you want to stay out of Alzur's Thunder range for as long as possible to delay their Ithlinne Aegli or potentially make them overshoot value if they are unlucky with Elven Mercenary. This is another matchup where playing Mandrake twice is really good, preferably in round 3.
Your game plan is to win round 1 and then bleed round 2 as long as you can, but don't bleed them in a way where they can have their perfect round 3 setup. If possible, try to count how much value their Dol Blathanna Sentries can gain and plan your round 3 ahead of time.
This matchup is basically unwinnable, especially since you cannot create any weather clear effects anymore. Even if your opponent doesn't have Skellige Storm available to buff their Axemen above Viper Witcher range, you just lose due to the fact that you have to play into Golden Weather and cannot pass. If Alchemy can't trade with the opponent's engine in a positive way, it simply loses.
Since you either get blue coin or they drypass you, you have to play a long first round because you can't pass early against a deck that grows exponentially in points with every turn. You will always go a card down here at minimum, at worst even two. If you cannot bleed out their leader, you have no chance of winning. Since the first round will be a long round, rowstack, even though you play Mahakam Ale. The value of Mahakam Ale would get wasted regardless and you would just generate more damage pings for the opponent.
Since Wardancer changed, the Barclay Cleaver combo became much less threatening. Don't panic and pass early here, play for the round win and use your tempo based on what your opponent does. Wait with Viper Witchers because your opponent might play Vrihedd Dragoons.
If it’s Brouver Elf Swarm, bleed them in round 2 until you find a good pass where they wasted a lot of their Elf Engine, pass right before they could overcome your tempo. Using Assire to brick their draws is really good here, such as shuffling back a dead Barclay, Wardancers or Cantarella.
If it is Handbuff Scoia'tael, bleed out Elven Swordmasters. Since you can deal with Vrihedd Dragoons well and they have to play low tempo Hawker Supports, it’s not hard bleeding them out. Try to count the amount of handbuffs they generated and the amount of buffs that a unit has been hit by so that you can estimate how strong their Elven Swordmasters are. Ideally, you play a short round 3 where their last Elven Swordmaster(s) overshoot value.
If it is Shupe Scoia'tael, try to bleed out Shupe without letting them draw a card securely. If you get the opportunity to shuffle back Barclay into their deck, take it since they want to use Hattori to resurrect him and potentially replay him with the means of Shupe Hunter.
Swim-VinKelsier Sabbath Monsters
Against this deck, try to dodge having a 7-9 or 11-12 point unit as your highest unit on the board for as long as possible, Imlerith:Sabbath will achieve full value depending on him being used from hand or through Royal Decree. Try to play tall, but not too tall to avoid getting punished by Cockatrice. Ideally you don't want Sabbath to come out of Royal Decree and have 7 health with 4 Armor at the end of the turn because removing it with a Viper Witcher is better than using Mandrake.
Don't fall behind in tempo and don't undersetimate the point output of the Johnny Wolfsbane combo which they will almost always have. If you can keep up with that combo, dealing with their 11 strength tempo bronze units shouldn't be too difficult. Playing Mandrake twice is very advisable in this matchup as it can be used to remove Sabbath in one round and a Ghoul/Toad Prince later, Mandrake can also be used on Jan Calviet/Roach for a big point swing in later rounds.
Consider what cards they can get out of Johnny, Cahir can be a second Fog, so don't assume that they won't have an engine in round 2 or 3 as an example. If you don't fall into their trap of Imlerith: Sabbath and Wolfsbane, you should be able to outpoint them in round 3.
Soldier Swarm Nilfgaard/Northern Realms
These matchups are highly favored for the Swarm lists since Alchemy can't deal with their engine in a positive way. Try to force a short round 3 without going down in card advantage, but this is a very hard task to fulfill since your point ceiling gets lowered by not having good Viper Witcher targets while their point ceiling is nearly untouched.
Armor Northern Realms
A lot of Armor Northern Realms decks use Radovid as their leader which incentivises them to run more Control and Anti-Greatsword options. While this is good for you, you still have to deal with the Armor engine. Use Viper Witcher on Redenian Knight-Elects. If necessary, you can also use Black Blood on Ekimmara or Drowner, but you need to count how many Thunderbolts they have left, otherwise it could be wasted value.
You have to find a good pass in this matchup. Ideally that is when they have so many Redanian Elites and so much Armor that their next play of Vincent would overcome you in tempo - this is when you have to escape the round. This will force them to play their setup again in another round. If it is not a Vincent list but a Ciri: Nova list, try to bleed out their win conditions.
Henselt Northern Realms
I suggest killing all Machines, unless you see a duplicate. With all available Viper Witchers on the board, you can pass, at which point you will have a lot more information about what their Henselt target is and can disrupt it with Ointments into Viper Witchers.
If they play Henselt targets that you cannot disrupt, such as a crewed Siege Tower or Kaedweni Knights, you need to calculate if you can overcome them after they play Henselt. If you cannot overcome them, you need to pass if possible. This puts their unremovable Henselt target in the graveyard and you can start dealing with the other units through Viper Witchers.
At the start of a patch, Reveal Nilfgaard decks become popular. This matchup is fairly easy as you simply play the better deck.
Blacklist for Viper Witchers, you will need to use them on Mangonels. Your strategy here is to not pass until you absolutely have to. Try to make round 3 as short as possible so that you can play around the Letho-Regis combo or Villentretenmerth, depending on what finisher they run. If you win round 1, try to bleed out both of those finishers which is not hard to accomplish.
Remove their Impera Enforcers and try finding a good pass after they expended most of their engine pieces. Keep in mind that you can use Ointment on Emissary to disrupt their strategy, but you will lose some value doing so and could potentially overthin since you only play 6 bronze units.
Dandelion: Poet, Triss: Telekinesis, Cahir and Vilgefortz are all excellent interchangeable golds.
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