Gwent may be the hardest part of The Witcher 3.
The Witcher 3 guide: how to win at Gwent
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains an optional card game called Gwent, which is tied to one of the longest and most difficult secondary quests in the game – Collect ‘Em All.
The Skellige Faction
Note that Gwent as it appears in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and its expansions i not the same as in the standalone release, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. If you’re looking for help on the latter, see our Gwent: The Witcher Card Game guide.
Although The Witcher 3 has a hell of a difficulty curve, one of the most difficult challenges for new players is mastering Gwent.
There’s an in-game tutorial that will teach you the basic rules, which you can view at any time by opening the Gwent menu in-game if you skipped through it during early missions.
So let’s skip a rehash of that and start with six basic tips on collecting a deck, then go on to more detailed strategies.
How to build a decent Gwent deck
- Commit to Gwent lyfe
Gwent is a deck building game, so if you want to succeed, you need to do the legwork. You need to take every opportunity to collect new cards and fill out your deck before you face tough opponents. There are missable opportunities to obtain powerful cards you can’t get anywhere else. You need to role play Geralt as a Gwent fiend, chasing NPCs across the landscape shouting “Gwent, anyone? Gwent? Gweeeeeeent?” and interrogating every merchant on the possibility of a game. Find a new town? Look for Gwent opportunities. About to leave a region? Look for Gwent opportunities. See a character with a name? Ask them about Gwent. Be unbearable. Your ultimate goal should be to collect every single Gwent card in The Witcher 3.
- Buy every Gwent card you can
Some merchants will sell you Gwent cards, especially innkeepers. Check with every single merchant; if they have a store, see if they will sell you a Gwent card. One of the most vital of these is the innkeeper at White Orchard; if you haven’t got the cash, go out and fill in every question mark on your map, and rob every single house, until you can afford the cards. If you upset a merchant so you can’t buy cards from them, restart your game. This is why we maintain multiple saves, people.
- Play every game of Gwent until you win
The cards you win are sometimes random, sometimes set, but every Gwent match, except some story ones, will reward you with a card. You have to win every single unique Gwent match, everywhere, to collect the whole set. Bet one gold and keep trying till you succeed – or just reload your save after a loss, if you can bear the wait.
- Do the Gwent quests as soon as you can
Some of the characters included in Gwent quests can die. Play Gwent with them as soon as you possibly can, in case you carelessly off them making story decisions. Most of their cards are recoverable, but not all – and there’s at least one card that isn’t available except during one particular mission.
- Don’t despair if you can’t win the tutorial match first try
Even if you buy cards and arrange your own deck, the game forces you to use set cards. It can be very hard to win. Don’t worry. Finish the match and then have another go with your customised deck.
- Don’t despair if you can’t win against the Nilfgaardian Nobleman
This guy is deliberately overpowered to show you the error of your ways re: not taking Gwent seriously. He is supposed to scare you into trying harder from here on in, before you miss opportunities by being slack. If you follow my advice below you’ll get him after a few turns; just keep trying and hoping for good luck with your draw, and his draw.
With that out of the way, let’s talk tactics and strategies.
Foltest is dead but his legacy lives on. In Gwent. Image from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
How to win Gwent matches with a beginner’s Northern Realms deck
There’s no one single way to win Gwent matches, but in the beginning, there’s a very simple deck you can build towards that will get you through most early matches. I call it Foltest 2.
Foltest 2 is a Northern Realms deck that relies on the special ability of the second Foltest Leader card, which you can purchase from the innkeeper in White Orchard. This ability will cancel weather effects. The idea behind this build is to remove all weather cards from your deck, except perhaps one Clear Weather card, to give you a much higher chance of being dealt decent attack cards, such as your precious stock of Heroes.
In the early sections of the game, NPCs lean heavily on weather cards to change the course of battle. Building a very heavy attack line up of just one card kind – melee, ranged, or siege – will usually cause the AI to play the corresponding weather card to try and ruin your day. Keep building on that range, wait for the last possible moment, then use Foltest 2 to clear the weather effect, hopefully securing your victory.
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This approach relies on you being able to front at least one decent attack group so you can lure the enemy into casting a weather spell on it. I say one, rather than two, because keeping two attack groups in your hand in the early stages is very hard – all your cards are a bit shit. Which brings us to:
Stacking your Gwent deck
You only need 22 Unit cards (including Heroes) to play a match, plus whatever Special cards (weather effects, Commander’s Horn, Scorch, Decoy) you fancy. You can bring more, but every card you bring lowers the chances of your drawing a better one.
To elaborate: if you bring 26 cards to a match, including four cards with low attack power, you may draw all four of those low-powered cards, when you could have had four better cards. Why would you want that? Clear them out.
In my Foltest 2 deck, I don’t ever carry weather cards; that way, I never draw a useless Biting Frost when I need just one tiny attacker to win the final round. This happens regularly, because I have tricked the AI into using all its best cards early on by throwing a round.
— Biscuits Hellfire (@draqul) May 22, 2015
One of the most important tactics to master in Gwent is throwing a round. You can afford to lose one round if you can win the other two, and it’s much easier to win the other two if your opponent has used up all their best cards. This is especially effective in the early sections of the game, when everyone has lots of bad cards, and NPCs frequently leave nothing but weather cards for endgame.
If you have some mediocre cards in your draw, chuck ’em out there alone and trick your enemy into piling on their best cards, then throw the round by passing. You’ll have your best cards in reserve while they’ll be left with three Bitter Frosts or whatever – which you can smack with Foltest 2, if you need to. Chances are you won’t.
You can throw either the first or second round depending on your strategy and the enemy’s tactics. (Remember that Northern Realms get an extra card when they win a round; if the enemy is also running a Foltest deck, this can be devastating.)
A more advanced deck
Northern Realms cards are by far the most common in the early part of the game, so Foltest 2 is easy to grow initially, but it also develops into a very powerful deck as you continue. Its key strength is Bond: cards that double their attack power when they combine – exponentially, when in groups of more than two. Look for Catapult, Crinfrid Reavers Dragon Hunter, Blue Stripes Commando. Combine with neutral cards like Commander’s Horn and Dandelion for sensational multipliers.
Northern Realms also favours siege weapons, and you can put together a great collection, which is useful with another of the Foltest special abilities when you graduate past Foltest 2. The Dun Banner Medic is also a fantastic card thanks to its Medic ability; more on that shortly.