Hi Gwent lovers! Welcome to coverage of the final faction for this series, Northern Realms. It may be last but it is definitely not least. Some of the cards revealed for Northern realms have incredible potential. Although the faction still lacks a solid direction, it has received some nice toys that may give it a nudge along its path. The revealed cards explore the concept of positive deck manipulation with this new set. In my analysis I will try to focus on this aspect and see if we can form a picture in our heads what type of decks we will be building on release day.
Thoughts- As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, positive deck manipulation is a big part of the cards revealed for Northern Realms, in the new ‘Way of the Witcher’ set. ‘Erland of Larvik’ seems to do this very well, as it boosts all units in your deck by 1, however, if you look closely, on its own it only represents 6 points of carryover. This is because if you play this card in Round 1, in Rounds 2 & 3 you will only draw 6 cards, if all 6 are units you have gained 6 points of carryover. There are some cards you can use to increase the value of the carryover effect which we will discuss in the ‘Potential Synergies’ section.
I believe the true strength of ‘Erland of Larvik’ lies in the threat, rather than the effect itself. Among my other hobbies which includes tabletop wargaming, there is a term called a “Distraction Carnifex”. Basically what this means is that the threat of its power is the unit’s role. I draw parallels of the aforementioned concept to ‘Erland of Larvik’. The card represents both carryover as well as reach, having the option for you to come out on top, either if your opponent deals with it or not, it puts you in an extremely advantageous position. If played in Round 1, it can cause you to secure round control on blue coin quite easily and on red coin you can seriously threaten to win on even if your opponent does not respect the ‘Order’ ability on ‘Erland of Larvik’
Strengths- Extremely advantageous unit in Round 1, can open up two lines of play that are both incredibly strong. Can force your opponent to make sub-optimal decisions. Can seriously threaten to win on even while playing on Red coin.
Weaknesses- Power of card severely reduced in Round 2 & 3, further reduced if employing any consistency tools like tutors or thinning.
Potential Synergies- If ‘Carryover’ line of play is chosen, the most value will be derived playing as many cards from the deck as possible. This would mean having all tutors in your hand, Round 1 or playing cards like ‘Vernon Roche’ which allows you to play the top two cards from your deck. The usual tutors like ‘Amphibious Assault’ ‘Oneiromancy’ can also help with this if they were in your hand Round 1, as they would not have been boosted from this cards ability anyway. ‘Griffin Witcher Mentor’ and ‘Snowdrop’ may also allow you to pull more units from deck with the upside of hand correction, but comes at the commitment of further provisions catering to ‘Erland of Larvik’s’ effect.
Thoughts- ‘Griffin Witcher Mentor’ if ‘Adrenaline’ effect is active is a 5 provision card that plays for 7 with upside. If I were to include this card in my decks, it would not be for the points but for the draw, plus hand correction. There is currently one infamous Northern Realms deck that can have some consistency issues, which is Triple Duel, Shieldwall. Now I am not saying this will be an auto-include or even make the cut as it would be taking ‘Temerian Drummers’ position which is a powerful engine. However, with a bit of shaving here and there of provisions this card can be a great addition allowing you to access those powerful golds that are sorely missed when not drawn.
Strengths- Plays for respectable points if ‘Adrenaline’ effect is active. Provides hand correction which is sorely sought after in ‘Northern Realms’ devotion lists
Weaknesses- Provision cost of card hurts cards ability to be a staple in ‘Northern Realms’ decks. Supplanting 5 provision staples such as ‘Temerian Drummer’ very hard.
Potential Synergies- This card may see some play in ‘Coen’ lists as if ‘Adrenaline’ effect is active, provides boost to ‘Coen’ prior to playing, however as the card you draw is random this is not guranteed. Will mostly likely be relegated to Witcher swarm lists as a hand correction tool.
Thoughts- We are seeing many unique cards this expansion, ‘Arch Griffin’ is definitely a part of that group. The effect of this card is that it is shuffled back into your deck at the end of the round, but, gets to retain all boosts it has received. ‘Arch Griffin’ is a tough card to analyse and theory craft the potential decks it could fit into. Naturally the way to get most value out of this card is to play it all 3 rounds, somehow make it survive and play it for huge points as a finisher. All while dodging the plethora of removal and tall punish available to players. ‘Griffin Witcher Ranger’ seems to have been designed with ‘Arch Griffin’ in mind, however, I am not sure if it is enough to make it playable much less viable. The single biggest factor that will prevent this card from being played is tall removal.
The bigger picture usually comes easily to me but with this card I am drawing a blank. I hope that someone solves the puzzle and makes this card work, as its unique design in being the ultimate carryover card is an exciting concept.
Strengths- Can play in all three rounds, representing the ultimate carryover
Weaknesses- Combination of this card being your win condition and vulnerable to tall punish, can be quite polarizing.
Potential Synergies-In the ideal world if you were to make this card work you would naturally play cards that boost it, which ‘Northern Realms’ has no shortage off. ‘Amphibious Assault’ would not work on this card, however cards like ‘Oneriomancy’ & ‘Alzurs Double-Cross’ seem to be the most reliable to tutor this boosted beast in a short round 3.