Every game of Gwent is essentially a careful balancing of resources and proper usage and sequencing of every play. Albeit lacking any sort of mana system, the resource management in Gwent can prove to be a difficult task. As there is no mana costs or mana curve, the hand size is much larger and the percentage of the deck one can see during the game is bigger, each play carries a greater impact.
Lorenzo Mastroianni - Shanni
The resources in Gwent generally fall into two distinct categories: Concrete and Intangible. Concrete resources are things we can observe and calculate, i.e. the value, card advantage and rounds. Intangible resources are a little more difficult to understand. They are conceptual resource like opportunity cost, information, tempo and reach. All of them are interconnected and rather difficult to analyse individually, tempo and reach in specific, I will only touch on briefly in this issue, and take an in-depth look at in the next one.
Concrete resources are those we directly hold in our deck, hand, graveyard and on the board. Management of these resources begins with deckbuilding and is generally completely in our hands.
Simply put, the value, strength, is what Gwent inevitably comes down to. The game is effectively won by the person who manages to secure two round victories through superior board position at end of round. Depending on our deck, and that of our opponent, the value of each unit and special can shift based on its current location, round you are in and cards available to you. For example, playing Mahakam Defender round one or two essentially doubles his power due to resilience
Maintaining a good account of the value available to you in round one and two is extremely important. Knowing how much value you have remaining in your hand and deck for the next round(s) can be the difference between winning and losing. It is absolutely essential to know when leaving the round early to secure another resource (i.e. Card Advantage or securing value for further rounds).
Value comes in various shape and forms, but carry-over is one of the most powerful ones in the game. It’s essential to keep track off and deny the carryover value to your opponent whenever possible, as resilient units and units that present carry-over on deathwish effect, can be extremely troublesome for certain decks to handle.
Grafit Studio - Aretuza Adept
Perhaps the most notorious of the resources and likely the hardest to gain and used to be the most quintessential win condition in the game. Throughout the latest patches, the value of card advantage has diminished, but it’s still one of the most significant advantages that is often outside the player's’ control. The coin flip can often lead to a significant advantage of one player in certain matchups (Radovid Control being an excellent example) and nearly negligible in others (Dagon Tokens being the offender there). The player going second in round one, generally gets the ability to go card down in round one, bleeding the opponent round two and still having a last say in round 3. This can often be denied using spies or through proper tempo management, but it can significantly hurt chances of certain decks to win the game. Hunter Combo and Control radovid archetypes are notorious for their difficulty in securing round two and even three after losing round one. The reason behind that is the fact, most opponents are able to force the decks to blow their win condition (Reaver Hunters and Bloody Baron) in round two fairly easy after a long round one, leaving them unable to secure round three.
Other decks, such as Swarm and Dwarves on the other hand, often completely let go of this resource, as their carryover alone can secure round two, or force their opponent to play out their hand completely to overcome it.
Often overlooked as a resource, rounds are a significant part of how tempo, value and card advantage influence each other and the outcome of games. Gwent as a game, offers the players up to three rounds to distribute their value through, and the opponent that does that better, takes the game. As we’ve discussed above, winning certain rounds can be a very significant factor for some archetype and/or cards. Control and other decks that run Card Advantage Spies and even more so Ciri, are at their best when they secure round one and are allowed to bleed their opponent of resources in the next one. Ciri and spies, allow them to give up additional card advantage in round one and then recover them through them in round 2.
Other decks can use large tempo plays in round one to gain significant card advantage by giving up round one early, and try and secure round two through hard-to-remove units and plethora of specials. The ability to essentially lose a round and trade it in for other resources is what’s so unique and difficult about Gwent. Knowing what resources to cash in on, what to give for them and when to do it, are what makes the difference between good and great players.
Anna Podedworna - Xarthisius
Intangible resources are a little more abstract and often involve reading the opponent and anticipating his actions. They involve some calculated risk and are less accurate in general, yet no less important than concrete ones. Tempo and reach are two I will only mention briefly as they warrant a separate article. In short, tempo is the impact of a play relative to current board state. It is unique in a sense that it’s practically irrelevant in round 3. Reach on the other hand, is a single turn positive tempo swing potential relative to your hand and board state that only exists as a resource when one is behind on tempo.
By definition, opportunity cost is the cost of other alternatives once an option is chosen. This applies to Gwent in several ways, and is nested into the management of the other resources. An interesting situation would be a Consume Monster opponent opening with Arachas Behemoth, and you holding a Fiend as your deck’s only way of locking/removing Grave Hag.
Now, you could lock the opponent’s Behemoth, denying him upwards of 12 points of value this turn alone, significantly increasing the odds of you winning the round, potentially preventing opponent from mustering the Arachas out of his deck and lowering the Grave Hag by the amount of point equal to the number of Arachas the opponent would be able create with the Behemoth. On the other hand, by doing, so you would effectively leave yourself unable to deal with Grave Hag, should the opponent manage to amass enough units in the graveyard for her to be threatening your round 3.
Unlike in other games, the opportunity cost has significant value in Gwent especially due to the way the round system functions. Certain cards, even when used in the same way, carry significantly more weight or different purpose in later rounds. Muster units for example, when used in round one, offer deck thinning and high tempo swings. If used in the last round however, they normally provide significant amount of value the opponent is often unable to match.
Information in an invaluable resource one can acquire through experience, learning and paying attention to the opponent’s actions. Be it information on the metagame, where one can not only predict the opponent’s deck with increasing precision as the game progresses but the potential plays he needs to answer or play around, or the matchup specifically, knowledge is incredibly important.
Reading the opponent is a difficult topic that we will approach in a separate issue aswell, but a lot of information can be given through opponent’s plays as well. Some of the key cards one needs to play around for example, are Igni and Scorch. If the opponent is using spies, movement cards or damaging units to either align your high strength units or increase a row’s value above 20, one can safely assume they are setting up an Igni or Scorch. In that case it’s detrimental to evaluate whether we have the resources to stay in the round, and more importantly, what do we gain from leaving the round early.
Information is unique amongst the intangible resources in it being a game mechanic of sorts. Reveal not only offers direct information on the opponent’s hand, but is in addition one of the basic Nilfgaard Archetypes that translates directly into value through Spotters, Mangonels and other synergetic cards.
To understand how to manage all of this resources properly, one needs a lot of practice. Starting from something as simple as making sure your opponent doesn’t gain significant card advantage or to overcommit to a round you have no way of winning, to more difficult things like properly calling the opponent’s bluff in round two, good and well thought out plays take advantage of this intermediate knowledge. In the next issue, we’ll take a closer look at the king of all resources to manage - Tempo.
Author: Jernej “Gravez” Golob
Gravez is a Gwent Content creator and a member of team Gwentlemen. Introduced to Magic: The Gathering a decade and a half ago, he has been playing card games ever since. His articles are aimed at newer and intermediate players looking to improve their gameplay and game knowledge.