Brief Summary of Build
Hey guys, I'm back with another project of mine. Northern Realms has been underrated throughout most of Gwent's history due to NR deckbuilding being more difficult than it is for most other factions, and most NR builds also require a good understanding of your deck to thin yourself properly and avoid bricks. I was pretty shocked by how many people were complaining that NR was unplayable garbage during my venture back into Gwent, so after building the relict deck and a few failed attempts at trying to make Eredin work, thoroughly resetting my MMR in the process, I set out to show people the error of their ways. I was inspired by the tempo Henselt deck that was running around on ladder recently and having some success, but after trying the deck I realized that it just wasn't a good way to play Henselt. So I switched to Foltest, took out the garbage filler bronze of choice (KSS/Reinforced Treb), and added tormented mages for the knight elects, which are by far the most way to reapply armor to knight elects and a good way to thin but are not runnable with Henselt because you have too many mulligans. I also added DJ because DJ is OP and running a proactive NR without DJ is like running a consume deck without running Nekker. After 3 iterations I got to a list that I was pretty happy with and made the push to rank 1.
GwentUp recorded 160 games of Foltest with a 60% winrate. This winrate started lower and steadily went up and the most recent version of the deck climbed very quickly. No I did not play 900 games of Foltest :P
Redanian Knight Elect - By far the best bronze in NR. Much better in Foltest than Henselt due to Alzur's Thunder dealing 9 damage, which allows you knight to live and then you can reapply armor with Tormented Mage. You want to play this card as early as possible provided you have the tempo to do so, though in some matchups you'll want to avoid commiting all 3 of them.
Kaedweni Knight - A severely underrated bronze, and the only good part of the tempo Henselt deck that inspired this list. Most people look at this card and see that you have to trigger the effect in order for it to meet the baseline of 13 points per bronze, then realize it costs mulligans, can be reset, and can be hit by Scorch if you play multiple and proceed to laugh, but this analysis ignores a lot of the card's strengths. First off, the card has fantastic synergy with Knight Elect. Kaedweni Knight being tall allows you to play multiple Knight Elects as quickly as possible instead of having to play around Scorch or Igni. In return, you can buff a Kaedweni Knight to 15 in order to avoid the Scorch problem. Second, this is a Northern Realms deck. Northern Realms has a different point distribution than all of the other factions, with gold cards and leaders being very strong and bronzes and silvers being weak as a general trend. Therefore, the 13 point guideline doesn't apply. If you try to find a 13 point bronze in NR other than Knight-Elect, you'll find the rediculously low tempo 8 point armor dude that has to be enabled by a DBHC or Vincent, which is far more clunky than just pulling a Kaedweni Knight with Recon while also forcing you to drop a card against high tempo openings. Finally, you get 2 armor, which is often relevant with Aeromancer, Ida, Dagon, and Woodland Spirit running around in so many places. If you pull it with Stennis, it has 7 armor. That's a lot of free weather blocking! In conclusion, this card is great and more people should be looking for ways to use it.
Tormented Mage/Tbolt: Used for thinning and armor reapplication. If you're in a matchup where you won't need the armor, try to burn these in round 1, with the exception of the Greatsword matchup, where you can counter Harald Houndsnout with this card.
Reaver Scout: Great bronze in a faction where good bronzes are sparse. I only run 1 because you want to be able to open Recon after Foltest a lot of the time, but the card is so good that you could unironically try running 2 in this deck.
Battering Ram: Great card to have in some matchups against Slave Infantry, Blue Mountain Elite, etc. Also the best way to answer Vicovaro Medic stealing your Knight Elects. Most of the time it's just in the deck because all of the other NR bronzes are worse. I usually like to play these round 1 since Foltest is on the board and it can be hard to find 3 pt targets in round 2/3 sometimes. I run 2 so that Reaver scout has an extra target and you can combine them to kill a Greatsword.
Prince Stennis: The only good NR silver. Change my mind.
Deathmold: Ran because occasionally you get a good weather clear and the thunder kills a greatsword.
Vaedermaker: Ran because occasionally you get a good weather and the thunder kills a greatsword.
Marching Orders: Ran for John Natalis, and because Reaver Scout, Tormented Mage, and Prince Stennis are all cards that you'd really like to have access to round 1.
Roach: Filling in for the silver witchers that a lot of people saw me running for a while. Has anti-synergy with Stennis and DJ but it's still the best way to add tempo to round 1, which Foltest desperately needs when on a blue coin against decks like Shupe ST and Spotter NG. Natalis and Seltkirk can both play for 26 points very easily thanks to Roach, with Natalis being able to hit upwards of 30.
Margarita: Ran because it's less bad than the other silvers and it can win you the consume and handbuff matchups without costing you that much in most of the other ones.
Dijkstra: The best gold in the deck, and one of the primary motivators to play Foltest over Henselt. This deck currently thins to 0 if you play Shani on Stennis instead of RKE. I'm not opposed to thinning to -1 in this style of deck since Shani gets played on a card other than Stennis more often than Stennis, but the bronzes and silvers worked out such that there was no good way to do this. Also, a lot of special snowflakes are running mill for some reason, so I'm certainly not in a rush. Cards that you'd like to have out of deck before you DJ include but are not limited to Reaver Scout, Thunderbolt Potions, Roach. Watch out for Shani/Natalis/Margarita as well. A lot of people cut DJ because Nilfgaard has 1000 ways to try to screw you, but this deck can afford to DJ round 1 with proper play, and if you don't find DJ until round 3, you can either kick it or roll the dice. It's simply not worth cutting DJ, the card is just too good.
Seltkirk: The other autoinclude gold in this deck, and a close rival to the amount of bonkers that DJ provides. Smash something big or something that wants to be removed. Make sure to craft his premium.
John Natalis: It's somewhat close between Natalis and Triss TK, and I went from Natalis to TK to Natalis in my 3 iterations. I think it boils down to MO = Natalis, no MO = TK. The card very rarely bricks even when pulled by DJ and the extra thinning and option to pull MO can be really huge. He's usually your favorite gold to commit in round 1 to pull roach, and you'll basically never be behind in tempo if you have him in hand.
Shani: The least flashy gold, but a 4th Knight Elect is nothing to scoff at, and a relatively riggable 22+1 thinning+armor with Stennis is pretty strong. You could also try running TK over Shani instead of Natalis but Shani Stennis is more points and TK Recon and you have other options, so it's probably bad.
Blacklist Kaedweni Knight, then Tbolts. Then kick the remaining tbolts/knights/roach. Don't kick tactics unless you are out of tactics in deck. The ideal tactic situation is that you have Natalis in hand and one recon/MO in deck, as tactics in deck will sometimes hurt your DJ if you're not careful. If you have 2 spare mulligans, you can kick Knight Elects against Calveit or Battering Rams against most other things in an attempt to search for DJ. You'll rarely get farther than that, but as long as your hand is servicable and you have at least one gold card you should be in decent shape. Natalis and DJ are the golds that you particularly want to see in your hand, as Natalis is amazing points and thinning and DJ will fetch your other golds if you don't draw them.
Do not drypass. Do not play other cards. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Get your damn leader on the board. A lot of other NR players will have PTSD from playing Temerians and getting rolled by tempo openers on blue coin. If your hand is half-decent, that won't happen with this deck at all. From there, play Knight Elects as soon as possible while playing around the appropriate answers, and keep tempo when needed. Try to mage use of Rams and Mages round 1 if you get good opportunities.
If you win, pass. This is true 95+% of the time. Unless you're against an engine deck like consume or a greatsword player that doesn't have a giant res target yet, you want round 3 to be as long as possible. You have Knight Elects, ways to shut down enemy engines, weathers, weather clears, the whole shabang. DJ/Natalis/Seltkirk/Shani are all absurd points but they are unreliable finishers, and you're better off abusing them in long rounds.
Decide on your first play what you intend to Shani, and if your answer is Knight Elect, lead Shani. Play your remaining cards in the right order, rig DJ as well as you can, and pray to shrek.
Shani or Natalis --> Triss TK or Keira Metz is reasonable. Triss TK is definitely the better of the two in most matchups but a zap is a zap in this greatsword infested wasteland.
3 of Roach, Margarita, Vaedermakar, Marching Orders --> Silver Witchers is a very underrated idea since the NR silvers are pretty underwhelming compared to most factions. They can help you with tempo round 1 in some matchups when you don't draw Natalis, or in addition to Natalis. You could try Ronivd, which I gave a brief chance, but Ronvid is a Coral target and the Crewman isn't well utilized. He also sucks round 3. You could also try Thaler, who also sucks round 3 and can't not be played because of DJ. The advantage to running Thaler is that you have opportunities to drypass on blue coin instead of always leading Foltest, but this deck has so much tempo to follow up Foltest with that you don't really value this that much outside of maybe the Alchemy NG matchup.
-1 Ram +1 Recon or Reaver Scout is an interesting idea for getting that extra thinning. I've also heard -2 Ram, +1 Tbolt +1 Mage and -2 Ram, +1 Tbolt +1 Recon/Reaver Scout as viable suggestions that I haven't given a fair try. The latter has the advantage that your opponent will think they're using mages to brick your assire when they're really giving you live mages, but the disadvantage that you'll have to play a vanilla Thunderbolt Potion. I'll be interested to hear what people try as bronzes, as I do think that Battering Ram is probably the least impressive card in the deck (though I have a lot of respect for the card in decks with a couple more crewmen).
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