I’m now a Gwent gent, so get bent while I vent about the dent Gwent has put in my…..tent? Scent? Clark Kent? Okay, I’m done now.
I am a Gwent addict now. I am cheating on my wife, Hearthstone, with a better looking, smarter, and more exciting Eastern European mistress.
After unexpectedly getting into the closed beta for Gwent one fine day, which I tried while I was bored, I have not stopped since. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to buy The Witcher 3 and role play as a Geralt who is a Gwent addict like me, and has to murder every merchant to collect every card and win every tournament or else he’ll burn down every town and village until he is the Gwent champion.
Maybe. But here is where the intense passion comes from: as a former card game junkie, my youth was filled with enough lands, energy cards, tokens, coins, dice, gems, and Exodia pieces to last a lifetime. Then after a few years hiatus I became a newborn CCG player when I got into the closed beta for Hearthstone. As you can read in this companion piece here that I’ll plug because it’s relevant I’ve been playing that game everyday for years, and only recently have I begun to get burned out on the meta and lack of intelligent support/updates from the developers.
(Of course that would come back to bite me because they announced some sweeping changes and the new expansion with lots of new goodies but I digress).
If Hearthstone was the beginner level game to get me back in and invested, Gwent is the game that takes my knowledge and skills to the next level, which is a phrase that I dislike but it’s apt here. The hooks are in me deep, and it’s so bizarre to see how little my experience with Hearthstone has helped me with Gwent since those games have almost nothing in common.
But the areas where Hearthstone comes up short recently, Gwent has in spades. Let’s do a quick side by side comparison of each game, apples to apples, that is full of jargon that only CCG players would understand. Sorry, it’s hard to separate all of this from the inside baseball:
Hearthstone — It’s incredibly common for an HS match to end within the first two turns, either because of a bad match-up, or a very cheap and fast start, or because of a bad mulligan.
Gwent — It’s incredibly rare for that to happen in Gwent.
HS — Board clears have little to no risk, can destroy an enemy board entirely and can quickly end any potentially cool decks, combos, strategies, or anything experimental involving buffs or tribes.
GW — Board clears, and to an extent, spells in Gwent are very situational, have drawbacks, and there’s so many it can be hard to find a ‘one size fits all’ like the Flamestrike in HS. In fact, there are so many kinds (weather, deuterium, shackles, scorch, etc.) that can backfire on you, you need to fit your deck with specific kinds of removal to enhance your tribes, or your buffs, or combos without sacrificing blowback.
HS — There is no cap on how many legendary cards you can fit into a deck, and pro players have more rares and epics than casual players.
GW — There is a cap on how many gold and silver cards you can put into a deck, which means the percentage of useful cards in your collection are obtainable. Pro and casual players alike will undoubtedly use the same basic commons and rares, with only the 6 silvers and 4 golds being the thing that stands in the way. Choose wisely when crafting your deck!
HS — When you pick a class to play, there is a good chance you can only run one viable archetype because that’s how it’s designed and meant to be played to win. Some classes are horrible and will not win no matter what you do.
GW — All classes are worth playing and each one has a number of different ways to build them. It’s all in the design.
HS — Curves to decks are not only important, it’s vital to have strong tempo to outpace your opponent in most match-ups. Aggression is rewarded and running out of cards means only ‘top-decks’ can win you the game, if you string enough of them together.
GW — There are no curves to decks. Play what you want and have fun.
HS — Everything can be silenced or destroyed somehow. Nothing has meaning.
GW — Not everything can be removed from play, but since the game has rounds to them, those cards don’t stick around to see the light of day.
HS — If you play Wild, Arena, Tavern Brawl, or Adventures, you aren’t playing the mode supported by the eSports circuit.
GW — You’re always playing the mode that’s set for eSports. You can now watch and not be confused!
HS — The primary way to balance cards is by changing how much mana they cost, thereby linking cost to power, so you’ll see powerful neutral cards in almost every deck run on ladder. Tired of Defender of Argus or Patches? Fuck you!
GW — There is no mana, so each card is only limited by how it fits in with your deck and how you use it. Patches is not in Gwent.
HS — You can heckle and spam emotes to your opponent, and THEY have to turn that off every single game! Let the BM commence!
GW — You cannot interact with your opponent in any way. There is no trolling or bad manners. You can even give them a GG afterwards to get rewards! It’s really easy; every game I’ve ever played was a mutual ‘good game’.
HS — When you level up, you get some cards that everyone else will also get. It’s a wash. When you rank up, you get stuff at the end of every month tied to your performance.
GW — When you level AND rank up, you get rewards. Some are random, and eventually you get free epic and legendary cards.
HS — It’s hard to counter-play, and most times there’s nothing you can do to stop what’s about to happen, or predict it and punish. You can only really react and punish. Cool counters like Loatheb are gone now, and secrets aren’t great for the classes that have them. You know what’s run in all other decks, you know what to expect and when to expect it based on mana and other factors.
GW — Counter-play is the name of the game. Anticipate, react, predict, gamble, hell you can even bluff! It’s like poker and Magic the Gathering had a baby that was the first in the family to get a degree. Psyche outs, mind games, pure and utter mystery to ever turn based on the events unfolding!
HS — As many cards can be played in a turn, as long as the mana is there. Including all the 0 mana ones. Turns can last a while and the animations will not catch up in time, sometimes fucking you in the process.
GW — One card per turn. That’s it. Sometimes more actions or decisions are required, but it’s one a turn. Choose wisely.
Right after I published that piece on the current state of Hearthstone, the following happened, like an answer to my calls. Or a sign my traitorous actions of playing Gwent were being validated, praised by a peer agreeing with me, taking action where I didn’t have the strength to do so. And yes I just called the legend Lifecoach my peer. A man can dream, can’t he?
It’s hard to go through all of this without teaching someone to play this game, it’s really tough since it’s in closed beta, and there is another version of Gwent, the one from Witcher 3 (it’s very different and not as fleshed out). So I could link videos and get into the nitty gritty mechanics, but I’m not sure I’m equipped to do that. And soon you’ll be able to play when the beta goes open, and everyone’s progress gets reset.
But Gwent is a game where every moment matters, no victory cannot be achieved, and where the ending is always tense and draining. It’s pins and needles, risk and reward, as you egg your opponent on and dare him to one-up you, or vice versa. Hearthstone is a game about momentum and there are lots of dead moments and wasted opportunities. As long as CD Projekt Red supports their game, listens to feedback, is fast to patch the game, and makes the single player campaign worth it, then this is going to be the main rival to Hearthstone and to my time. And that’s pretty nuts since I didn’t see this coming, and if I had been playing something else, I could have missed this one and never would have known.
I guess that’s the magic of Gwent at work.