After its debut as a mini-game in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Gwent has grown into a standalone game, with enough depth to allow it to become its very own esport. CD Projekt Red’s Gwent: The Witcher Card Game offers a daunting amount of content. It boasts a collection of 1,198 collectible cards (as of the writing of this guide), six separate factions, various game modes, progression trees, and consistent updates from the developers. This guide will cover various tips and tricks for anyone looking to improve at Gwent. I will go over the basic systems of the game, must-know tactics, card synergies, the arena mode, and tips for building up your card collection.
Make sure to also check out 5 Tips for Getting to Legend Rank in Hearthstone, and The 12 Best Cards in the New Legends of Runeterra Expansion.
This section was included in case you skipped the tutorial or need a refresher. The game only tells you these things once, and it doesn’t do so in detail. Also, the game doesn’t really explain currencies or deck building, unless there’s been a tutorial update since I went through it.
Playing a Match
The primary objective in a match of Gwent is simple: have more points than your opponent in two out of three rounds. At the beginning of the first round, a player is randomly chosen to go first, and each player draws 10 random cards from their deck. From the 10 cards received, the first player can redraw up to 3, and the second can redraw 2. In the game, this redrawing of cards is sometimes referred to as a mulligan. The player going first is also allowed a stratagem card to make up for their blind start in the match. Stratagems are a special type of card unique to this situation.
During the round, players take turns in placing cards on the board until both players either pass or run out of cards. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins. The same player must take the first turn in the following round. All cards remaining on the board are moved to each player’s respective graveyard.
Before starting the 2nd and 3rd rounds, each player draws 3 more random cards from the ones remaining in their deck and is allowed 2 mulligans. Notably, the amount of cards in the player’s hand is limited to a maximum of 10, so if a player passes the round with 8 cards in their hand, only 2 will be drawn. To make up for this, the player would be allowed an extra mulligan for each card not drawn. Afterwards, the 2nd and 3rd rounds play out the same as the first, though no more stratagems are granted to either player. The first player to win 2 rounds wins the match, so there is no guarantee that there will be a 3rd. After the match, players can see their in-game progression, the final score-board, and are given the chance to be classy press a big button labeled “GG.”
Contracts and Currencies
Gwent features a special kind of mission known as a contract, which are basically in-game achievements. A list of these can be found in the player profile menu, and can even be showcased to people visiting your account. A player can actively try to complete these, but it is unnecessary; many contracts will be completed by simply playing. Completing these special missions can yield various rewards. The most important being the creatively named, “reward points,” which look like golden keys. Reward points can be spent to progress in one of the various reward trees, from which the player can receive ore, scrap, meteorite powder, card kegs, and various cosmetic items. Recently, there has been a new season-pass system integrated into the game. Reward points are the main rewards from the free part of the season passes, making it the best source of reward points after contracts have been exhausted.
Ore is the primary currency in the game, and it can be obtained from pretty much everywhere. It can be used to purchase card kegs and to gain entry into the arena mode (more on this later). Card kegs are the player’s main source of cards. These come in base, faction-specific, DLC-specific, and premium variations. With the exception of premium kegs, these can all be purchased with ore.
Scrap is a special kind of currency which is primarily obtained by “milling” or destroying extra cards. Since the game only allows 2 copies of bronze cards (and 1 gold) to be used within a deck, there’s no point for keeping any extra. The game has a newly updated system to do this for you automatically, it can be set to your preferences from within the deck-builder menu. Alternatively, scrap can be obtained though the arena, receiving GG’s, as a login reward, and from the reward book. With enough scrap, a player can create any card of their choosing.
Meteorite powder is probably the coolest, rarest, and most unessential reward in the game. Its only purpose is to “transmute” your existing cards, transforming them into cool animated versions of themselves. It is shown in the top-right corner of the image above.
When you first start out, you are provided with pre-built starting decks for every faction (excluding syndicate). Although they aren’t bad by any means, it is extremely difficult to truly get competitive without heavily modifying them or replacing them entirely. When creating a new deck, players must choose between 6 different factions to build it around: Monsters, Nilfgaard, Northern Realms, Scoia’tael, Skellige, and Syndicate. The cards usable in the deck will be limited to neutrals and those belonging to the chosen faction. Each faction features 7 different leader abilities to choose from, all of which increase the provision limit of the deck. Personally, I don’t worry much about these when starting a new deck, since they can be replaced later.
Afterwards, players are prompted with adding the desired cards to their decks. Each deck requires a minimum of 25 cards, of which 13 must be units. Additionally, the collective provision cost of of all of the cards added to the deck must not exceed 150 plus the amount added by the leader ability. For every card, the provision cost is displayed on its bottom right corner. Naturally, the more powerful cards cost more, placing strategic limits on what cards can and should be added. Here, you can also change your stratagem if you get any, though the base one works well with everything.
Growing Your Card Collection
The most important part of a card game is the cards. The more you have, the more options you have for building your decks and perfecting your strategy. There are various easy ways to get new cards, but even that can become strategic.
How to Get Cards
Of the many sources available for cards, the two most important are crafting and card kegs. Kegs, being the most abundant source of cards, are mostly obtained from the shop with ore (or real money). Each keg contains five random cards, 1 of which is chosen from a group of 3 rare or better cards. Alternative sources of kegs are the rewards tree, the arena, and some events.
As mentioned before, cards can be crafted with scrap. To do this, visit the deck-builder menu and use the filter to browse through the full collection of available cards. Once you find something which complements your deck, you can select and craft it. I recommend to set the milling settings to “resource focused” to maximize the amount of scrap received. Use this same method if you want to transmute any card, though the currency needed for this is meteorite powder. Cards can also be obtained directly every few days as login rewards, though this is more of a little bonus than anything else.
Getting Cards Efficiently
When I first began playing Gwent, I decided to follow a completionist route for my chosen faction, Skellige. I put all of my reward points into the various Skellige reward trees and invested all of my ores into Skellige faction kegs. I figured that I would do the same for every individual faction once I was done with the previous, and have the full collection of cards by the end. My reasoning couldn’t have been more wrong. At some point, I realized that all of my decks were limited to faction cards; I had no neutrals. Luckily, I had saved up my scrap and was able to craft some of the good ones. A new player probably won’t feel the weight of this, and an experienced one could probably work around it. Nonetheless, the benefits of having a large neutral collection can be huge.
In the long run, focusing on base set kegs (the only ones containing neutral cards) is probably the best route to take. However, this would probably make for a bit of a rocky start. Premium kegs are pretty much the same, but they’re rare for free players and have the cool animated cards. Optimally, the player should use their ore to buy an even mixture of base set kegs and kegs for their chosen faction. This route would allow them to get to a higher level of play with a single faction, benefiting from the increased experience and rewards while simultaneously building up strength in neutrals and other factions.
With time and effort, your deck-building and card-placing skills are pretty much guaranteed to improve. Even so, the following tips will likely help you speed this process up.
The key to having a good deck is making your cards work together. A good start for this is focusing on the categories assigned to each card. Most of the time, synergies between cards of the same categories are abundant. Making a Scoia’tael deck with nothing but dwarves won’t necessarily make a good deck, but it will create a solid base to build from. After making your deck with a bunch of random dwarf cards, start a match with it. During your first few matches, try to notice which cards work and which don’t. Then, go back to the deck builder, make adjustments, rinse, and repeat. By fixing the flaws, you’ll be making your deck better.
Besides learning from your own actions, it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for combos made by your opponents. As you become more familiar with your deck and the game in general, you will be able to notice potential for more complex card combinations. Don’t be afraid to experiment with risky moves. Sometimes, they pay off!
The arena mode in Gwent is arguably the best in the game. Despite setting you back 150 ore (1.5 kegs) to enter, it is undoubtedly worth the investment. In the arena mode, players choose between 3 leader abilities and randomized trios of cards to build a special deck, free of faction limitations. With this deck, the player competes in a series of matches until they reach nine victories or three losses. Naturally, a better performance is rewarded with bigger rewards. It only takes three arena wins to profit, and the minimum reward only results in a loss of 15 ore.
The benefits of the arena reach past the monetary. In the arena, players are allowed to experiment with cards they aren’t familiar with even if they don’t own them. This provides invaluable experience, since observing card interactions mid-game can help players gauge their potential much better than simply reading. Additionally, the random nature of deck building in the arena forces the integration of irregular synergies. Within a single game, cards from every faction can be seen on the board simultaneously, an impossibility in regular gameplay.
There are some very important things that the game simply glosses over, sometimes leaving the information out of the tutorial. Though most of these things can be found later in rotating loading screens, the game never really explains their significance.
Having a carefully crafted deck is great, but optimizing your card placement mid match can make a huge difference in the final results. For this, it is important to know the order in which card abilities are triggered:
- Deploy – These abilities trigger as soon as the card is played. Even if there’s a trap waiting to destroy your next card, the ability will trigger. This makes it the only type of ability that can’t be effectively stopped.
- Event-Triggered – Event-triggered abilities are abilities that only trigger when a specific event has taken place. These range from getting a boost every time your opponent plays a card to transforming into a different card after taking a certain amount of damage. Because of their event-dependent nature, this type of ability often occurs after orders or even after recurring abilities.
- Order & Leader – This is the type of ability which has to be triggered manually. They are very flexible, since they can be saved for more opportune time. Normally, the player must wait a turn before being allowed to set off an order ability, though the wait can be skipped if the card has or is given “zeal.” Additionally, some cards have cool-down periods for their orders, meaning that the order can be used again after the cool-down is over. Leader abilities usually follow these same rules, though they don’t require “zeal” to be played immediately. Notably, it is possible for a player to forget to trigger these.
- Recurring – Recurring abilities are those which trigger as soon as you end your turn. It is important to know that these abilities still happen when you pass. If you pass and your opponent continues to play cards, they will trigger every time it should have been your turn. In the event that you have multiple cards with recurring abilities on the board, those on the melee row will trigger first, left to right, and the ranged row will follow likewise.
For an example of ability trigger sequence being crucial, consider the following scenario: It is your turn, you have a svalblod priest (shown above) with only one point remaining. No worries there, though, since it can drain the card to its right to heal itself. Then, you play your second svalblod priest to the left of it, figuring that the first one will gain 2 points and lose 1. You end your turn, and the first svalblod priest is destroyed by the new one, which had its ability trigger first. Because of this, you miss out on potentially round-winning points.
Passing and Bluffing
As mentioned before, both players draw the same amount of cards after each round, and players are allowed to pass early if they want to save cards for later. Needless to say, these mechanics can easily be used to gain the upper hand in a game.
If you’re able to gain a significant point advantage during the first round, it might pay off to pass early. Your opponent will be faced with two choices, win the round and take a card disadvantage later or pass and forfeit the round. It is a little tricky though, since players can recover 3 cards per round. This means that if your opponent can win the first round with at least 4 cards in their hand after you pass, they can still close the card gap by the third round, since you can only have up to 10 cards in your hand.
Alternatively, if they forfeit the round, they will be forced to win the 2nd one if they want an opportunity at taking the game. Depending on turn sequences, they might have a single card advantage here. If you believe that you can take the round either way, go for it. Alternatively, you can use their situation to “bait” them into placing their more powerful cards. Place cards that are either very good on their own or that imply that you will continue playing in the round later, even if you don’t intend to. However, make sure that you are not weakening yourself in the process. There is a 3rd round after all.
I’ve won countless games because of card advantages, or attempts at them. In many cases, opponents have tried to force me into situations like the ones mentioned before. Often, I’ve put myself into a card disadvantage to win a round, used the pre-round card draws and the second round to get the best hand possible, and completely obliterated my opponent in the third round. Regrettably, I learned of this trickery from other players. Now I’m adding it here so you don’t have to.
I would also recommend watching professional matches; there’s often some insane combos puled off there. Gwent is a very deep and complicated game, but it is extremely rewarding. Hopefully, this guide helped make you a better Gwent player. If not, please let me know what I missed.