The goal of this guide is to provide the Gwent newcomers with cheap decks. Each deck was built with a budget of around 1000 scraps in mind, showing examples of how our Crafting Guide can be utilized to improve the starting decks. You can check out our Meta Report to see the best and most expensive decks in the current meta.
Writing: Hippo and Wusubi
Last update: 26th of December, Patch 5.0.1
We also included the lucrative upgrade section, ultimately tailoring each deck towards the meta standard. In each spoiler, you will find the faction's budget deck, the exact crafting cost and the changes we made to starting decks, along with our reasoning behind them. If you have any questions, you can always join our Discord server.
Imperial Formation is a fine jumping-off point. You won't take advantage of the ability to place a Soldier to the top of your deck, but having flexible 8 points across all 3 rounds shouldn't be underestimated.
Crafting cost: 1060 scraps
260 scraps - 2x Fangs of the Empire and Cupbearer
400 scraps - Roach and Assire
400 scraps - Carlo and Ocvist
Nilfgaard usually focuses on disrupting the opponent with Locks and removal. Carlo Varese helps you with round control, especially when he punishes people for using Tactical Advantage at the start of Round 1. Ocvist finds a lot of value in long rounds, making him a solid finisher. Imperial Formation allows you to boost the Dragon to 7 strength, protecting it from everything except for Locks.
Roach synergizes with Assire, granting you tempo and thinning in Round 1 and a nice proactive play in later rounds. Geralt works better than usual in this deck thanks to Nilfgaardian Knight's Deploy ability. We've also included the Poison package with Fangs of the Empire and Cupbearer, who also has the secondary ability to Purify which can come in handy.
Upgrade #1 - 530 scraps: 2x Alzur's Thunder, 2x Alba Cavalry, 2x Nauzicaa Sergeant, Spearman → 2x Imperial Diplomacy, 2x Tourney Joust, Assassination, Battle Preparation, War Council
Leader ability: Imperial Formation → Enslave 
We've replaced some miscellaneous starter cards with a lot more synergistic Tactics package. This allows you to switch the leader from Imperial Formation to Enslave, which fits much better with the control-based style of the faction. Keep in mind that your deck will be less proactive and thus prefers to win the first round, allowing you to react to the opponent's plays in Round 3.
Upgrade #2 for 400 scraps: Thunderbolt, Dorregaray → Hefty Helge, Artorius Vigo
Helge is one of the best pay-off cards for Tactics. Not only does she help you deal with the opponent's threats, the Shield makes her difficult to answer for most decks. Since with the addition of Tactics the amount of Bronze units was cut down, Artorius will always show you what you want, whether it's thinning Impera Brigades or getting an extra Poison from Fangs.
Upgrade #3 for 1680 scraps: Geralt, Treason, Battle Preparation → Menno, Bribery, Assassination
Bribery is a card people love to hate, but it works perfectly in Nilfgaard as a high value tactic that Menno can pull while triggering Assimilate on Cupbearer and Artorius.
Upgrade #4 for 1800 scraps: Ocvist, Serrit, Auckes → Yennefer's Invocation, Maraal, Glynnis
Invocation is powerful removal with carry-over. Maraal rounds out the Poison package, while Glynnis is a sturdy engine that gets Assimilate value from your Create cards.
Anywhere along the way: Tactical Advantage → Magic Lamp (800 scraps)
Nilfgaard is known for their problems with proactivity due to having a lot of reactive cards. Having Lamp instead of Tactical Advantage makes it easier to put points on your side of the board, as it doesn't require you to play a unit.
Calanthe is the reigning queen of Northern Realms, since her Pincer Maneuver ability is unmatched by the other contenders to the throne. Unfortunately, you don't have an effective way of utilizing its potential until you expand your collection. We suggest Royal Inspiration for the time being.
Crafting cost: 1260 scraps
460 scraps - 2x Redanian Archer, Black Rayla and Vissegerd
400 scraps - Vincent Meis and Nathaniel Pastodi
400 scraps - Carlo and Betsy
Royal Inspiration works great with the boost-centric shell of the starter deck. You enable cards such as Anna, Trebuchet or Tridam. We also threw in some cards that benefit from boosting. Nathaniel can create a plenty of pressure, especially when placed next to Anna or Drummer. Vissegerd is your finisher.
If boosted, Black Rayla is a 2 point-per-turn engine. Redanian Archer is a good bronze engine that can be difficult to remove when buffed up to 3-4 strength with 2 armor. Carlo and Betsy are the Neutral cards that can be played in each faction, representing decent removal. Vincent is used as either tall punish or to weaken an engine and finish it off with Rayla or Archer.
Upgrade #1: Geralt of Rivia → Bloody Baron (800 scraps)
While Geralt can be a bit unreliable, Bloody Baron will always find his value. Fulfilling a very similar role, Baron punishes greedy players.
Upgrade #2: Betsy → Prince Anséis (800 scraps)
Prince Anséis is a more flexible removal option, especially in a shorter round. Similarly to Baron, he works well with Royal Inspiration, allowing you to play him in Melee row with Zeal and boost him up for the Duel.
Upgrade #3 for 1660 scraps: Carlo Varese, Thunderbolt, Dorregaray and Lacerate → Falibor, Philippa: Blind Fury and 2x Carroballista
Falibor and Philippa are among the best cards in Gwent. Philippa makes the opponent think twice about playing multiple engines on an empty board, while Falibor plays for a lot of points if you can set-up a 3 strength target.
Leader ability: Royal Inspiration → Pincer Maneuver
As you add more high-end cards to your deck, missing one of them becomes that much worse. Pincer Maneuver makes the deck consistent, while allowing you to play two cards in one turn. You can obliterate your opponent's engines with 2 removal cards, develop 2 engines yourself, or go for some fancy combo like Anséis into Stennis.
While the starter deck is geared more towards Invigorate, we suggest going for Guerilla Tactics. This allows you to activate and/or protect your engines, or use it offensively, granting you more value with Lacerate. You can also move (and thus disable) row-locked enemy engines.
Crafting cost: 1280 scraps
410 scraps - 2x Fledgling, 2x Hawk, 2x Ranger, Weeping Willow and Miner
470 scraps - Percival, Half-Elf Hunter, 2x Smuggler and Vrihedd Brigade
400 scraps - Barnabas and Carlo Varese
Carlo Varese is a powerful removal option and most importantly a Neutral card, making him an ideal addition to budget decks. Barnabas can provide you with amazing value if you distribute a sufficient amount of the required categories. We started off by adding Dryads: 2x Fledgling and 2x Ranger.
Weeping Willow offers the Harmony tag and synergizes with Rangers, making the Poison package reliable. Percival is one of the best Harmony pay-off cards and thanks to his armor, he is likely to stick around. Trained Hawk provides the Beast tag, while also being an engine. Vrihedd Brigade is a great sink for your leader charges. Smuggler has the Human tag and generates carry-over.
Upgrade #1 for 880 scraps: Geralt and Thunderbolt → The Great Oak and Dwarven Chariot
The Great Oak is the best gold card Scoia'tael has to offer. The more you stack one row the better, so it synergizes with Guerilla Tactics.
Upgrade #2 for 1310 scraps: Thunderbolt, Dorregaray, Lacerate, Half-Elf, Brigade → Water of Brokilon, Etriel and Muirlega, Chariot and Dryad's Caress
Water of Brokilon greatly bolsters our Harmony package, as it's rare that the opponent is able to deal with both Fledglings. The dynamic duo of Etriel and Muirlega plays for a lot of points. You can protect them with Guerilla Tactics.
Upgrade #3 for 1600 scraps: Carlo, Pavko, 2x Mahakam Defender and 2x Dryad Fledgling → Call of the Forest, Fauve, 2x Mahakam Marauder, Vrihedd Officer and Dwarven Skirmisher
Leader ability: Guerilla Tactics → Mystic Echo
Call of the Forest and Fauve consistently fetch Water of Brokilon, so we can trade Guerilla Tactics for Mystic Echo. Replaying Water makes your leader have insane value, well-worth the 2 provisions you lose. For the final upgrades, you can always confer our Meta Report and soon you too will be spreading some Harmony on the ladder.
Anywhere along the way: Tactical Advantage → Aen Seidhe Sabre (800 scraps)
Both Magic Lamp and Sabre are an upgrade to Tactical Advantage. Sabre works very well, as it procs Harmony and if used right after you play Percival, he will get boosted and protected from Piercing Missile or Stunning Blow.
Patricidal Fury is the best ability to start with, as it immediately enables all of your Bloodthirst cards.
Crafting cost: 1340 scraps
540 scraps - 2x Priest, 2x Drakkar, 2x Raging Bear and 2x Stunning Blow
400 scraps - Raiding Fleet and Harald Houndsnout
400 scraps - Carlo and Jutta
As usual, Carlo is added as a cheap removal option. Jutta is a great proactive card that can play for 12 points. You can achieve this by boosting one of your units to 13 strength with Thunderbolt or Tactical Advantage. Raiding Fleet is guaranteed to tutor Armored Drakkar, which is a potent engine when hit by Svalblod Priest, Raging Bear or Harald Houndsnout. Stunning Blow is a nice removal card that deals with Armored units.
Upgrade #1 - 800 scraps: Geralt → Morkvarg: Heart of Terror (800 scraps)
Even though Geralt can deal with unboosted tall units, Morkvarg has a much higher floor, making him more of a staple than a tech card.
Upgrade #2 for 1200 scraps: Svanrige, Giant Boar and Udalryk → Ermion, Delirium and Gigascorpion Decoction
Leader ability: Patricidal Fury → Second Wind
With Delirium and Decoction in the deck, we've hit a critical mass of Alchemy cards that let us run Ermion without fear of bricking him. Now that you have some good SK golds, you can play Second Wind.
Upgrade #3 for 1260 scraps: Donar, Dorregaray, Lacerate and 2x Alzur's Thunder → Triss: Telekinesis, Gremist, Stribog Runestone and 2x Crow Messenger
Triss is used as a Swiss Army knife, letting us deal with an engine using Stunning Blow or simply replaying a fallen Bronze unit. Gremist makes you well-equipped to deal with all the Poison in the meta. At this point, you're well on your way to making the Gedyneith deck that can be found in our Meta Report.
Anywhere along the way: Tactical Advantage → Magic Lamp (800 scraps)
Magic Lamp works great in Skellige. It allows you to start Round 1 with Svalblod Priest hitting the Djinn.
Fruits of Ysgith provides extra points in Round 1, allowing you to win it and then bully the opponent in Round 2. Ideally, this would result in a short Round 3, where you emerge victorious with your big finishers.
Crafting cost: 1380 scraps
380 scraps - 2x Endrega Larva, 2x Griffin and 2x Noonwraith
600 scraps - Katakan, Pugo Boom-Breaker and Golyat
400 scraps - Carlo Varese and The Beast
Carlo offers the key removal, as you really want to win Round 1. Katakan works very well because it procs Thrive units with lower power and gets Thrived itself by the giants. Endrega Larva is an auto-include bronze. While playing for low tempo, it quickly ramps up and the added armor makes it difficult to remove.
Pugo and Golyat are added for Ozzrel consistency. Golyat's drawback can be mitigated by playing him late into the round when most of the removal has been used. The Beast is an absolute powerhouse, you usually want to play it when there's at least a 5 strength unit on the board, so it immediately grows and is much harder to kill at 6 power. Griffins serve as Ghoul food.
Upgrade #1 - 960 scraps
Lacerate, Ice Giant, Nekker → Naglfar and 2x Bruxa
Naglfar is at its best when pressuring the opponent in the second round, as it fetches you a gold card for both Round 2 and Round 3.
Upgrade #2 - 1190 scraps: Geralt, Dorregaray, Ice Giant and 2x Wild Hunt Rider → Dandelion: Poet, Penitent, Kikimore Worker and 2x Slyzard
Dandelion synergizes with Naglfar, as he can draw the gold card you put on top of your deck, while also procing your Thrive cards twice. Penitent looks meager at first glance, but it can pull The Beast or Pugo from your deck. You've got the newly-added Slyzards as well as Griffins to trigger Penitent's Deathwish. Slyzard can eat the Fruit every turn after you Thrive it with a unit, effectively making your leader play for 2 points-per-turn.
Upgrade #3 for 800 scraps: Old Speartip: Asleep → Yghern
Yghern is a great upgrade, making Ozzrel incredibly efficient. Just be careful not to play Yghern as your last card.
Anywhere along the way: Tactical Advantage → Magic Lamp or Enchanted Armor
Tactical Advantage can get awkward, since most cards either Thrive by being lower in power, or are already fairly high in power, making tall punish that much scarier. Magic Lamp can solve the problem, but given how easily this deck wins Round 1, you can use Enchanted Armor to get some carry-over for the future rounds.
Choosing Wild Card over Jackpot was a tough call, as Jackpot enables Bincy, who can run away with the game by herself if unanswered. However, the prevalence of Geralt on lower ranks makes her a liability. Wild Card can set up a guaranteed Graden by pulling a Slander, not giving the opponent a chance to Purify the Bounty.
Crafting cost: 3300 scraps
Adriano can spawn a Seductress at an affordable price. Dire Mutated Hound is a great proactive play. With a plethora of tall punishment in the deck, Moreelse will often play for 4 damage, killing an engine. Savolla on his own is an efficient coin sink, but he becomes absolutely nutty when you cheat out his Frightener with the help of the fabulous Madame Luiza.
To earn your Coin, you will do Crimes or collect taxes, but what's the difference? Tax Collector is best paired with Thunderbolt - he's notoriously prone to injury. One Slander is used with leader and Graden, try to use the other copy on units with high base power to get as much value as possible, finishing them off with Witch Hunter Executioner or Ewald.
No Syndicate deck is complete without spenders. Here we have a couple of the usual suspects: Blacksmith, Executioner, Sea Jackal, Street Urchins and Ewald. Managing the spenders is the crucial aspect of winning games with Syndicate. Having a sack full of Coin and nothing to spend them on is the easiest way of losing precious mosaic pieces.
Syndicate isn't recommended for newcomers until they get comfortable with the basics of Gwent. Those who master it will find it to be a powerful faction that can deal with most things thrown your way.
Upgrade #1 for 960 scraps: Geralt and Thunderbolt → Philippa and Alzur's Double-Cross
Philippa is a very efficient spender with the added benefit of being a big threat to engines. Alzur's Double-Cross makes Luiza-Savolla combo more consistent.
Upgrade #2 for 1190 scraps: Thunderbolt, Lacerate, Executioner, 2x Alzur's Thunder and Slader → Azar Javed, Maraal, Dip in the Pontar, Assault, Mutated Hound and Street Urchins
Azar is still among the best defenders. He's a good proactive play and can be used to put Dire-Mutated Hound or any spender out of harm's way. With Maraal, you'll be able to get a couple of Poisons off, dealing with high value threats or forcing the opponent out of Round 1.
Upgrade #3 for 910 scraps: Dorregaray, Tax Collector and Coerced Blacksmith → Ferko, Eavesdrop and Assault
Ferko can pull any Crime that suits your needs, be it Poison, Assault or proactive hand correction with Eavesdrop.
Anywhere along the way:
Tactical Advantage → Magic Lamp (800 scraps) and Carlo → Royal Decree (800 scraps)
Keeping your spenders alive with Tactical Advantage is nice, but Sea Jackal and Street Urchins boost themselves when spending, making them more susceptible to resets or removal. Magic Lamp is overall the better Stratagem. Syndicate as a faction is very combo-oriented, which is why Royal Decree comes in handy to ensure that you get the key pieces at the right time.