I played YuGiOh! alot as a kid. I loved the game! It was, in fact, my first encounter with a trading card (otherwise known as Deckmaster) game. I played it casually for years as a youth and had many hours of fun with it. However, at that time in my life I was neither old, nor knowledgeable, enough to search for a local game store. I stopped playing and grew older and in my early 20’s I was introduced to Magic the Gathering.
That was a few years ago now and it has been an encompassing hobby for me since. I am an avid player and have played frequently across Standard, Draft, Modern and Pauper formats both casually and at tournaments. It was when I first began visiting my LGS that I networked with other players who taught me much of the game. One of the most important lessons I learnt was that of card advantage. It’s no secret to the seasoned TCG Player just how important card advantage actually is. Reid Duke, of Channel Fireball fame, when writing for Magic the Gathering in a strategy article on the basics of card advantage had this to say,
Players who do not treat cards as a resource are likely to be frivolous, squander their spells, and quickly run out of things to do…. Card advantage is, very likely, the single most important concept in competitive Magic. A tremendous proportion of games are decided, in one way or another, by card advantage.
Reid Duke goes onto quote Eric Taylor, a highly regarded columnist of MTG fame, with the first definition of card advantage. In Layman’s terms, card advantage pertains to when a player has more cards in his/her hand than the opponent. Now admittedly, card advantage in MTG and Gwent are two very different things. Here are some examples for the differences:
Firstly, throughout an entire match of Gwent, both players will only draw three cards. Secondly, cards in Gwent such as ErmionDeploy: Draw the top 2 cards from your Deck, then Discard 2 cards (can be Golds) from your Hand. that draw you cards also force you to discard cards. Lastly, cards such as Elven MercenaryIf this Unit is Spying, move it to your side after you play an Ambush Unit. Deploy: Draw the top 2 Bronze Special cards in your Deck. Play 1 and shuffle the other back. tutor random cards and can sometimes be more detrimental than they’re worth.
However, despite their differences, card advantage in MTG and Gwent do have one thing in common:
IN BOTH GAMES, CARD ADVANTAGE IS F*****G IMPORTANT.
Due to the limited amount of card draw that either player will experience in a game of Gwent, having one or two extra cards over your opponent becomes that much more valuable than having a round win over your opponent. Because of this a game of Gwent can be decided after the first round. Example:
Round 1: Your opponent wins the first round with 7 cards in hand whilst you lose with 9 cards in hand.
Round 2: You win the round with 5 cards in hand, your opponent loses with 4.
Round 3: Both players exhaust their hands. The power difference between winning and losing is 3. Luckily for you, the extra card you had in hand was an Ancient FogletEvery turn, at the start of your turn, Boost self by 1 if Fog is anywhere on the Board. and was enough to get you over the line.
There are many ways to generate card advantage over your opponent in Gwent. The easiest way I find is to get your opponent to overcommit to winning a round. For example, let’s say your opponent is playing first. They’re playing Skellige Good Stuff and you’re playing Monsters Breedable. As their first card, your opponent plays VillentretenmerthAfter 3 turns, at the start of your turn, Destroy all the Highest Units on the Board twice.. In response, you play an Impenetrable FogApply Fog to a row on your opponent's side. Fog: Every turn, at the start of your turn, Damage all the Highest Units on the row by 2. to get your FogletWhenever you apply Fog to an opposing row, play this Unit from your Deck or Resurrect it on that row on your side. When all Fog has been cleared from the Board, Destroy this Unit.s out. The Dragon is a big turn 1 bomb and it’s likely now that for the rest of the round you’ll be playing catch up. Furthermore, if the round lasts longer than 3 turns, VillentretenmerthAfter 3 turns, at the start of your turn, Destroy all the Highest Units on the Board twice. can start eating your Nekkers and Foglets. At this stage, you’ve lost card advantage and the round.
However, this can be avoided. Let’s say you play GeraltDeploy, Brave: Strengthen self by 3. in response to the Dragon. Your opponent responds to Geralt by playing ErmionDeploy: Draw the top 2 cards from your Deck, then Discard 2 cards (can be Golds) from your Hand., ditching a Clan an Craite RaiderVeteran: 1. Whenever this Unit is Discarded, Resurrect it immediately. and a LacerateDamage all Units on a row by 3.. You pass the round after this. Sure, your opponent is ahead on board but they’ve also overcommitted. The Raider could’ve been used in a later round and had your opponent realised they were playing a Breedable deck, they would’ve kept the LacerateDamage all Units on a row by 3.. You have card advantage going into round 2 and your opponent has just ditched some important removal.
Another way to generate card advantage is with a card itself. Avallac'hDeploy: If neither player has passed, both players draw the top 2 cards from their Deck. literally does it for you. A well played CiriAt the end of the Round, return this Unit to your Hand if you lost. in Round 2 can turn a Round 3 loss into a Round 3 win. With DecoyReturn an Ally to your Hand, Strengthen it by 3 and play it., you can fool your opponent into thinking you’ve overcommitted and trick them into an early pass without giving up on as much card advantage as would meet the eye.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the strategies of many TCGs, I hope this has been a learning experience. As you can see, card advantage is indeed a vital aspect of whether you’re going to win or lose at Gwent. There are two major resources in Gwent; the cards in your hand and the first side of the Crown. Pay attention to them and I guarantee your win rate will begin to increase.
Oh! In case you were wondering, I did win that game. My opponent forfeited in Round 3. I was on 44 power; they were on 43.