The complexity of The Witcher universe is a large part of its charm. There, political quarrels rise alongside supernatural ones, ferocious beasts battle for domination over civilization, and exiles and outlaws seek to take advantage of the chaos for their own personal gain. As a game inspired by this world, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game presets these entanglements in the form of factions. From these, players must choose one to base each deck on.
When reading the abilities of each faction’s respective cards for the first time, they all seemed extremely fun. Needless to say, I was stumped when originally trying to decide which faction I would focus on. Consequently, I decided to make this list in hopes that I can help new payers make educated decisions. Since I didn’t go into depth about the individual factions in my beginner’s guide, this list will feature a quick overview of each faction’s gameplay style along with their ranking.
The Nilfgaardian Empire is, in The Witcher lore, the most powerful one to ever exist. This power manifests in the form of its huge army, bearing the emblem of “the Great Sun,” as well as their unmatched skills in treachery. In Gwent, the faction plays and feels much like it sounds; key parts of its gameplay involve thwarting the strategies of the opposition through locks and poisons while making use of said strategies for one’s self. However, unlike the Nilfgaard of the lore, this faction lags behind all of the others in terms of power.
The problem with Nilfgaard-based decks is that they are extremely reactive, and many of their combos require a lot of setup. To top it off, this faction is a drag to play against, since poisons and locks render the opposition’s hard work worthless while requiring little to no skill to pull off. On the other hand, this makes it easy to pick up for new players.
The Syndicate faction is comprised of the criminals and shady evildoers of The Witcher universe. As such, it is fueled by coin, a secondary currency that gives the money-hungry delinquents incentive to function. Specifically, gameplay with this faction involves earning coins and hoarding and spending them to make the most out of the various gangs of the Novigradian underground.
The Syndicate faction is pretty good in terms of power and competitive viability. The reason it doesn’t take a rank higher than 5 is its difficulty; having to manage a secondary currency while also attempting to outwit the opponent can present a challenge for newer players. Over time, this might make it more rewarding for the right player, but it can also make it more stressful.
The various beasts of The Witcher universe are one of the main attractions of it, and they are, rightfully, really fun to play as in Gwent. With this faction, swarming and dominating is the main focus, as many Monsters cards gain benefits from having the highest value on the board, weather effects, and even death.
This faction is decent competitively, fun to play, and easy to pick up. These terrors have limited defensive abilities, however. Since this faction is very reliant on “growing tall,” it is extremely susceptible to poisons and cards like “Geralt: Yrden” and “Korathi Heatwave.” Alternative strategies with Monsters, like focusing on “thrive” or “deathwish” abilities, are also easy to counter due to requiring time for setting up.
Based on the unity of the oppressed elder races, the Scoia’Tael faction provides an impressive degree of immersion. The gameplay of this faction is based on the co-dependence of cards, mobility, and lots of small instances of damage, traits which are very reminiscent of guerrilla warfare. Another bonus of playing as the dwarves, elves, and dryads comes from their unpredictability, as it makes use of trap cards to trick opponents into destroying themselves.
With no easy-to-identify weaknesses, the Scoia’Tael faction is great for competitive gameplay. In the form of drawbacks, the faction may be mildly confusing to play as when first starting. Additionally, some of its main features, like the “harmony” ability, have become weaker over time as new cards have been added to the game.
2. Northern Realms
Though I am not very fond of them, the ever-warring kingdoms of the north are a faction to be feared. The general gameplay with this faction doesn’t seem to take into account their self-destructive nature though; Northern Realms decks revolve around huge self-boosting and “order” abilities. In short, the Nordlings focus on simply overwhelming the opposition with big numbers.
Combined with easy to understand abilities, the raw power of Northern Realms makes it one of the best factions in the game. Although it is open to high damage from cards that focus on “tall removal,” the high numbers are often so widespread that losing 20 points doesn’t even matter.
When it comes to taking and receiving punches, there is none better than the Viking-like Skelligers. This faction features extensive ways of damaging units, making it a constant threat to engine cards. Additionally, “berserk” abilities help allied cards benefit from taking damage. Together, these two features make Skellige an extremely flexible faction with no obvious weaknesses.
Needless to say, the island-bound warriors are an absolute monster to play against. For competitive gameplay, a Skellige deck is a must-have in your top four, with the bonus of being really fun to play. Its cards truly reflect the fearless, bloodthirsty berserkers which they represent and make it the best faction in Gwent.
Check some of the latest additions to the Skelligean ranks: