GWENT Explained To Hearthstone Players
In this new player guide we’re going to use your prior knowledge of Hearthstone to help you get started in GWENT.
- Northern Realms
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Paladin, Mage.
Beginner friendly: yes.
NR in general is great for players who love building up their board state by boosting their units, but that’s just one aspect of it. The faction has its fair share of control options as well thanks to its warfare cards, not to mention Mages and their spells.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Revenants – when a Revenant kills a unit, another Revenant is spawned for the NR player. The gameplan of the deck is to keep the Revenants alive and get as many kills as possible.
- Shield Duel – something of a hybrid deck, you focus on building up your board in the early stages, then obliterate the enemy’s tallest units with your shielded ones that are protected from harm.
- Uprising Swarm – swam your board with smaller units, boost them, and then play cards that benefit from the amount of boosted units you have.
- Blue Stripes – Blue Stripe Commandos can be ordered to summon copies of themselves from your deck. You want to multiply these cards throughout the game and shuffle them between your graveyard, deck and board. The more the merrier.
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Warlock, Shaman.
Beginner friendly: yes.
Most traditional MO decks are low on control options, this faction excels at smashing a lot of points on the board. If you like overwhelming your opponent with big units or starting off with a swarm of smaller ones that gradually grow stronger each turn, can’t go wrong with Monsters.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Thrive – units boost themselves when you play another, bigger unit. Start with small units and slowly snowball the game if left unchecked.
- Consume/Deathwish – basically Deathrattle decks that want to destroy their own units for benefits when the time is right.
- Keltullis control – Keltullis destroys the lowest unit on the board on the side of the player with the most units. The idea is to make sure your opponent always has more units than you do, but not too many. Play special cards and consume your own units to stay behind while Keltullis feasts on your enemies.
- Dominance – frequently seen in Wild Hunt decks, the goal here is to make sure you control the highest unit on the board (from which Dominance cards benefit) either by playing bigger and bigger units or by spawning damaging Frost effects on enemy rows to make sure their units never outgrow yours.
- Swarm – multiple versions of swarm exist in MO. To mention a few: Kikimore decks want to stack insectoids on a row and then boost them repeatedly while Glusty decks want to get 1 point units everywhere and then consume them for a big finish. There’s even reverse swarm where you want to fill up your opponent’s board to prevent them from playing units, which is admittedly more on the meme side but can work.
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Druid, Hunter.
Beginner friendy: yes.
Nature cards, traps and non-humans dominate ST. Many cards in this faction revolve around row interactions – stacking your own rows for big payoffs, moving the enemy’s units from one row to another in order to disrupt their synergies, and more. Some cards even have different effects based on which row they’re played on, which makes them rather flexible.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Symbiosis – whenever you play a Nature card, you spawn a Treant with power equal to the amount of Symbiosis units you control. Symbiosis is unique to Dryads, here you want to stack Dryads and then use Nature cards to either keep them alive or get rid of enemy threats.
- Elves – a board swarm archetype with decent amount of control and strong finishers that scale in value with the number of Elf cards on your row/board.
- Dwarves – for this you want to stack a specific row with as many Dwarf units as possible. Many of your cards scale in value with 2 things: number of Dwarves on that row and the amount of armor they have. Tough lads that can take a beating, but their control options are limited and often a bit RNG driven.
- Spellatel – a low unit deck high on control options that’s all about using Gord as a finisher. Gord boosts himself by 1 on deploy for each special card (in HS terms, spell) you’ve played during the game.
- Handbuff – several cards in ST benefit from being played in a state where they are already buffed. Slow ramp up for big payoffs that can catch your opponent completely offguard.
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Warrior, Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Druid.
Beginner friendly: yes.
SK is a faction of legendary Warriors, Pirates, beasts but also Druids both pure and corrupted. Skellige tends to be highly focused on damage, constantly inflicting harm on both sides of the board.
Thematically it’s a good fit for Warrior and Shaman players from HS who prefer aggressive decks, but some archetypes also cater to Priests who enjoy healing/resurrecting their units. Even Warlocks who like thinning their decks via discarding their units will find their niche here. To a lesser extent Druids may also gravitate towards SK because of the beast/druidic themes.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Warriors – damage as many units as possible, as often as possible to set up your Bloodthirst cards and boost engines such as An Craite Greatswords. They can even play and interact with cards from their graveyard.
- Lippy – go all in and blow your steam at round 1, then go for an explosive finish in a short round 3 where you swap your deck with your graveyard and play your best cards all over again.
- Druids – a boost and healing focused archetype, Druids have great synergy with Alchemy and Beast cards.
- Self-wound – turn suffering into a weapon, generate points by damaging your own units. Maximize points by healing them up or giving them armor to prevent the damage.
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Priest, Rogue.
Begginer friendly: not really.
NG’s biggest strength is control and deck manipulation. They tend to shut down and dismantle the opponent’s game plan, sometimes even turning their own cards against them. Some of the archetypes are a bit similar to Rogue’s in HS, like Hyperthin (Miracle Rogue) or Mill, while the control oriented gameplay and the stealing of enemy units should be familiar for Priests.
New players may struggle to get value out Nilfgaard decks at first. NG units are worth relatively few points, the faction’s true power lies in outplaying the opponent and always having the right answer to their moves. Without basic knowledge of other factions, new players are likely going to have a hard time with NG. By no means is Nilfgaard impossible to pick up for new players, but there are easier factions to start with.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Control – there are too many variations to count. In broad strokes, Nilfgaard control decks utilize poison to destroy tall units and locks (silences) to get rid of engines. NG can even steal enemy units if all else fails. When extreme measures are necessary, the Lockdown leader ability comes into play which disables your opponent’s leader ability.
- Hyperthin – these decks aim to draw almost all their cards by round 3, leaving only a desired few in there on purpose. There are cards with a very high point ceiling that interact with a random unit card in your deck – Hyperthin’s goal is to eliminate the RNG by narrowing down the potential targets.
- Assimilate – units with the Assimilate keyword receive a boost whenever you play a card that wasn’t part of your starter deck. You can use cards that create other cards, copy units from the enemy, or play cards straight from their deck to generate points for you. It’s said that some Assimilate decks can play the opponent’s deck better than they ever could.
- Mill – the dreaded Mill archetype, ever present in card games. The win condition is to go into a round 3 where your opponent doesn’t even have cards in their deck to draw from, hopefully winning with card advantage. However, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your views) CDPR won’t let Mill become a truly competitive deck.
- Reverse mill/deck clog – a version of Hyperthin and the polar opposite of a mill deck. These decks play cards that benefit from having fewer cards in your deck compared to the opponent’s. Thin your own deck while also filling up the opponent’s with useless cards in order to widen the gap and also ruin their mulligans.
Closest Hearthstone equivalent: Rogue(?).
Beginner friendly: no.
SY is quite possibly the most unique faction in GWENT, and a latecomer added with the 2nd expansion. This alliance of Novigrad crime lords uses a special mechanic – coins. View them as combo points. You build up your coin count (up to 9) which you can then choose to spend on various bonuses. The extra layer of complexity which coins provide makes Syndicate the hardest faction for new players.
Coins make Syndicate highly adaptive as they can decide exactly how many coins to spend, when and on what – assuming they have a sufficient amount of coins built up, which is where the complexity comes from. Planning ahead is very important. While there is no real Hearthstone counterpart to Syndicate, Rogue might be the closest one because they can adjust the value of some of their cards with the Combo mechanic whereas Syndicate can do something similar with coins. Thematically both of them are criminals as well.
Core themes and archetypes include:
- Firesworn – if you’re looking to pick this faction up, start here as Firesworn decks make minimal use of coins. It’s a deck that focuses on swarming but also has options for going tall or protecting units from row punish (AoE) by upgrading them with armor. If left unchecked, Firesworn decks can generate insane value in long rounds.
- Tribute/Fee – the ultimate builder-spender playstyle. Constantly keep building coin and spend them on whatever you need at the moment to pay off lesser Fee cards while still saving up enough for bigger, one time Tribute payments.
- Hoard – one of the easier SY decks, the goal here is to build and maintain a high coin count which fuels your engines that require you to hoard X amount of coins.
- Self-poison – poisoning a unit twice kills them. This archetype plays a dangerous game, constantly poisoning and cleansing its own units for various benefits.
- Insanity – don’t have the coins? Pay in blood by damaging your units instead of paying their fee.
There’s no playing on a curve, you have your full arsenal at your disposal starting with the very first turn. Cards can be played in any order, all that matters is your strategy and how well you can adapt to the situation.
One Card Per Turn
Because there is no mana, players are only allowed to play one card per turn. Some cards can play other cards though, so it’s not always the case. Many units also have cooldown based abilities that add more stuff to do each turn other than playing cards from your hand.
Instead of having one row on each side of the board, there are two: a melee and a ranged row. How you spread your units out is a key part of GWENT strategies. Some units have different effects based on which row they’re played on, and moving them from one row to another can either enhance or disrupt synergies.
In GWENT, you’re not playing one continous round – you’re playing 3 in a row. To win a game one must win 2 rounds, and how much you’re willing to contribute to winning each round is going to impact how you approach the other rounds.
A round ends either when both players pass or they run out of cards in their hand. The winner of the round earns half a crown – win 2 rounds to complete your crown and win.
Unlike in Hearthstone, you don’t draw cards each turn, but once each round. You get to adjust your hand at the start of every turn with a new mulligan phase.
In small doses, randomness can be both healthy and fun. While GWENT has its own share of RNG, it’s way less prominent than in Hearthstone. RNG driven cards are rarely top tier, most of them are just fun options for meme decks or weaker cards with low value.
No face, just points
The win condition isn’t to kill your opponent’s hero, but to have more points at the end of the round. GWENT is all about building your board state and destroying the opponent’s. Units can’t directly attack other units unless it’s part of a special interaction such as Duel.
Unlike in HS where each class has one baseline hero power, in GWENT every faction has multiple leader abilities to choose from that synergize with different archetypes.
Some abilities provide passive benefits, others can be used multiple times and there are ones that can only be used once per game.
Picking a leader ability also affects the provision limit of your deck.
Side note: leader abilities are much more impactful than hero powers in Hearthstone and instead of being used throughout the game, most of them should be kept for round 3 when possible.
Cards in GWENT don’t cost any mana, which means you can play them in any order you want. To prevent people from stacking their decks with only legendaries, each card has a provisions cost.
- A base deck starts out with 150 provisions.
- The stronger a card is, the higher its provision cost. If you wanted to build a deck out of 10 provision cards you could only fit 15 cards into a base deck, which doesn’t even hit the minimum 25 card requirement. This forces players to spread their provisions and include some weaker cards in their decks.
- In theory the provision system ensures that all decks are on a similar power level.
- Leader abilities add extra provisions to your deck.
- Stronger leader abilities add fewer provisions to compensate for their strength, while weaker abilities add more provisions which allows for overall stronger cards to be included in the deck.
Cards can be split into 2 groups based on border: bronze and gold. Each one has 2 subgroups:
- Bronze: Common and Rare
- Gold: Epic and Legendary
Let’s talk a bit about the composition of the decks:
- Minimum amount of cards: 25 per deck. While you could go higher, that’d only spread your provisions thinner while making it harder to draw your stronger cards.
- Minimum unit count: 13 per deck. Unitless decks aren’t fun to play against, and CDPR wants GWENT to be interactive.
- Maximum amount of bronzes: 2 per card. Just like in HS, you can put 2 copies of the same bronze card into your deck.
- Maximum amount of golds: 1 per card. This is where we diverge a bit from HS – both epics and legendaries are gold cards, which means you can’t put 2 copies of the same epic or legendary into the deck.
anatomy of a card
The card layout is quite different from that of Hearthstone’s, there’s a lot to decipher:
- The tiny triangle gem at the top left indicates the rarity of the card. This one is orange, which means legendary.
- The number in the top left corner tells us the power of the unit when played on the board. In GWENT, Attack Power and Health are the same thing.
- All around the card you may notice the gold border – a gold card, which may be important for some gameplay mechanics.
- Finally at the bottom right you’ll find the provision cost. That’s how many provisions you must sacrifice during deckbuilding to include this card.
GWENT’s version of The Coin, except here it’s given to the player who goes first, not second.
If you lose the coin flip and go first, your selected indestructible Stratagem will spawn on your melee row. Tactical Advantage is available for free for every player, but others must be crafted.
The following sites are great for looking up current and viable decks:
Crafting And Resources
GWENT uses an automill system. Above certain optional thresholds extra copies of cards are milled for scraps automatically when you enter the collection panel. Don’t worry, you’ll be notified first and get to change the settings if you want to keep them.
Regardless of settings, automill would never leave you with fewer copies of cards than what could be put into your decks!
Automill has 3 options to choose from. We recommend the “Resource Focused” for new players, as this is the one that’ll give you the most scraps. This option will mill your regular copies whenever you get their premium version (assuming you’d go over the deck limit of 2 bronzes or 1 gold per card).
The 4 main resources are the following:
- Ore – HS equivalent: gold. Used to purchase kegs (packs). 100 ore = 1 keg.
- Scraps – HS equivalent: arcane dust. Used to craft cards.
- Meteorite powder. A cosmetic resource, you can transmute your existing cards into their animated premium versions (or craft the premium right away) with the help of powder. Can be earned through the reward book or purchased directly from the ingame shop.
- Reward points (keys) come from journey levels, daily quests and contracts. These unlock nodes in the reward book where you can choose which rewards you want to pursue with them. Rewards include every other resource, but also kegs and cosmetic rewards.
The reward book lets players decide which resources, skins and cards they want to pursue at any given time. Each entry has multiple paths to take and you’ll need rewards keys to journey through it. Click on your reward points in the resource menu to access the reward book.
Each day you’ll be offered a new daily quest upon logging in, which you can reroll once a day (twice once you hit Prestige 2).
A maximum of 3 daily quests can be active at a time.
Daily Login rewards
Players can earn resources, kegs and even premium cards simply by logging in each day.
These are weekly quests. Each week everyone gets 3 new journey quests that must be done in the right order. Those who have bought the premium journey gain access to a bonus set of quests on top of the free ones.
Completing a journey quest or winning rounds in a game awards you with crown points. 24 points = 1 journey level.
There’s also a thing called well-rested bonus. At the start of each day you’ll get a couple of rested points, which makes you earn additional crown points after every round won. This should help casual players stay competitive.
A journey consists of 100 levels and has two tracks:
- The standard (free) track is available to everyone and mostly focuses on reward points that should help players gain resources for deck building.
- The premium track is mostly about cosmetics, but also a couple of other rewards including kegs and legendaries.
Journeys are limited time offers and rotate every ~3 months. Don’t worry, even if you join in the middle of a journey, you’ll be able to do all its previous quests for some hefty reward point gains.
Every journey is themed after a main and a side character. If you buy the premium journey, the main character will be forever unlocked for your account as a neutral leader skin. Even after the journey concludes, you’ll be able to obtain some of their extra cosmetics through contracts (achievements).
For the more impatient ones, CDPR offers a chance to speed up the journey progression and skip entire levels. One could even finish the journey on day 1. To do this, you can pay an additional fee for fast travel to the next milestone, or even all the way to the end.
This however is not necessary, even the casual players should be able to finish the journey without using fast travel. But the option is there.
Finally we have the contracts that are GWENT’s achievement system. These even incentivize players to branch out and play multiple factions by offering rewards for it.
Start out at rank 30 and make your way all the way to rank 1, or even Pro rank (GWENT’s version of Legend). Ranked is the standard gamemode.
Once you hit Pro, MMR starts to matter and show up on your ranked screen. Each faction has its own separate fMMR. If you’re interested in competitive and professional play you’ll have to commit to mastering 4 different factions and play them regularly each season. Luckily in GWENT it’s way easier to get multiple viable decks together, so resources shouldn’t be holding F2P players back – it’s all about skill and dedication.
Okay for testing new decks without having to worry about losing ranks or MMR. To queue for unranked, uncheck the “ranked progression” box.
We recommend playing Ranked instead of Unranked even for new players. Ranked will match you with similar players to ensure fair games, while in unranked you could meet anyone, even pros.
Our version of the Tavern Brawl, a fun casual gamemode with a ruleset that changes each month. In the screenshot above it’s season of Mahakam and the mode is Entrench.
Play vs bots to test your decks. Not very popular, you learn more when playing against other palyers and the rewards are better in ranked.
GWENT’s version of the Arena. The old version was recently retired and replaced by a new early acces iteration of Draft. You get to beta test this on the live servers for free, but becaue currently there’s no entry fee there are also no rewards for it at the moment (other than fun).
Rounds And Strategies
GWENT uses a best of 3 format during matches. First player to win 2 rounds wins the game:
- Each player starts out with 10 cards in round 1. This is the maximum amount of cards you can have in your hand at any given time.
- You generally want to win round 1 either with a maximum of 1 card down (e.g. you have 3 cards in hand and your opponent has 4), or on even if possible (e.g. 4 cards in both hands).
- Winning on even is hard to do however, unless your opponent gets greedy or miscalculates heavily.
- The winner of a round goes first in the next round.
- At the start of round 2 and 3, each player draws 3 cards from their deck and get to mulligan a few of them away.
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
Importance of round one
The first round can sometimes decide the game, and the player who wins this gets to dictate the pace of the game going forward.
Let's say your deck is all about using a potent, highly powerful card with lots of points as a finisher and win condition:
- In this case you may want last say in round 3, meaning that you should be the one who plays the last card in the match so your opponent can no longer react to it.
- Assuming you win round 1 with 3 cards in hand and your opponent has 4, you could pass immediately in round 2.
- This forces your opponent to play at least 1 unit in round 2 in order to pick up a win and head into round 3.
- Now both of you will have the same amount of cards in hand, but the loser of round 1 goes first in round 3, which means the winner of round 1 gets to have last say.
Strategies of Round Two
Some basic concepts:
- Drypassing. If you won round 1, you may choose to do nothing in round 2 and just pass. Decks that specialize in building up their board state and generate points over many turns often want to force a long round 3.
- Bleeding. On the other hand, if you're up against a deck that's good in a long round, you may want to force them to play some of their key cards in round 2 in order to ruin their strategy.
- Defending the bleed. Bleeding an opponent could easily backfire, unless you won round 1 on even (which is very rare). Let's assume you have 6 cards at the start of round 2 and your opponent has 7. If you fail to make your opponent play more cards than you do and they can stay ahead in points, you'll be heading into round 3 with fewer cards than your opponent.
- 2-0. Now this is the definition of being greedy, but sometimes the winner of round 1 could try to win round 2 and end the game right there. Since you'd have to commit a lot of powerful cards, especially to win a round with 1 card down, this is generally not recommended as it could backfire hard.
The grand finale
There is one strategy for round 3, and it's called winning. Use whatever means necessary to secure the final round.
The official youtube channel has a couple of brief but very insightful guides on basics and strategies narrated by none other than Game Director Jason Slama. Definitely worth checking out.
Keywords And Mechanics
While the two games are fundamentally very different, they are both CCGs and as such there will be some overlap. Hopefully this list will help you understand cards better right off the bat.
HS keywords and their GWENT counterparts:
- Battlecry = Deploy – triggers the effect when you play the card on the board. Doesn’t trigger if it’s summoned/spawned!
- Deathrattle = Deathwish – triggers when the unit is killed, except if it gets banished.
- Discover = Create – chose a card to create and play from a number of options.
- Divine Shield = Shield – absorbs the next incoming damage, but only the next! If the unit gets hit 10 times for 1, it’ll take 9 damage. If the unit gets hit once for 10, it’ll take no damage.
- No neutral , “pure” = Devotion – cards that become stronger if there are no neutral cards in your starter deck.
- Immune = Immunity – a unit which can’t be targeted directly.
- Discard = Discard – discard a card from your hand, sending it to the graveyard.
Our list is not over yet, but these aren’t perfect matches. While the following are similar, there are some notable differences.
HS keywords and their closest GWENT counterparts:
- Armor – Armor. Same thing really, but in GWENT it’s for your units. 1 armor absorbs exactly 1 point of direct damage.
- Silence (first half) – Lock. Cancels the abilities tied to a unit. A combination of 3 GWENT keywords is necessary to replicate the HS Silence effect.
- Silence (second half) – Purify. Removes every status effect from the target, both good and bad.
- Silence (third part) – Reset. Removes boosts from a unit, but unlike in HS, reset as the name implies completely resets a unit back to its base power. Thus reset can be used either to decrease the points of a boosted unit or restore health to damaged one.
- Taunt – Defender. While taunt cards protect units from being attacked by other units in HS, they also protect them from being targeted by spells in GWENT. They are much more rare though, as every faction only has 1 Defender and it’s a legendary, which means you can’t even pick 2 of them to defend both of your rows at the same time.
- Attack – Duel. Make a unit attack another, damaging it by its power. Then the damaged unit will strike back and do the same. Repeat until one of them dies.
- Enrage – Berserk. In HS Enrage procs whenever a unit is damaged, but here it has more depth. Berserk procs when the unit reaches a certain threshold. Berserk 3 = something happens when the unit is at or below 3 power.
- Charge/Rush – Zeal. In HS this lets you attack in the same turn, in GWENT it lets us use the card’s Order ability in the turn it hits the board.
- Secret – Trap. A card played face down on the board that triggers when its condition is met (e.g. damage the next unit played by your opponent). Difference is, many trap cards have an option to spring them, manually triggering a weaker effect.
- Twinspell – Echo. Echo cards return to your hand at the start of the next round.
- Sidequest – Scenario. Again, not a perfect match. Quests provide benefits when you play X amount of cards from a speicific category. Scenarios are similar, but they provide benefits after every card you play from a given category, not just at the end.
A couple of terms everyone should know:
- Engine: a card that generates points over multiple turns.
- Going wide: filling up a row with smaller units.
- Going tall: using big units with lots of power.
- Row punish: AoE.
- Carryover: these card are worth points in multiple rounds. Cards with Resillience are one such example, they stay on the board even after the end of the round.
- Status: statuses can be both positive (Resillience) and negative (Poison). You can get rid of statuses using purify, but not lock!
- Tutor: a card that draws another card.
- Thinning: reducing the amount of cards left in your deck.
- Blue coin: the player with blue coin goes first in round 1.
- Red coin: the player with red coin goes second in round 1.
It’s possible to manually discard cards if you don’t want to play anything in that turn, yet also don’t want to pass.
Simply drag the card from your hand into your graveyard.
Order of effects
At the end of the turn, card effects are resolved melee to ranged from the leftmost card on the row to the rightmost.
For example we have card A, B and C in this order:
- Card A deals 1 damage the unit to the right (B) at the end of the turn.
- Card B has 1 power (health).
- Card C applies 1 armor to the unit on its left (B) at the end of the turn.
Does the armor save card B, or does B die?
B dies, because it takes damage from the left before it gains armor from the right. If A and C were swapped, B would gain armor first and live.