Ofir – Neutrals & Balance

Welcome to the last part of our Merchants of Ofir card review! Yangtse42 will be today's judge of the Neutral cards and Hippotompotomus will go over the most important balance changes. Keep in mind that if you want to discuss anything, you can always join our Discord server: https://discord.gg/uSUSJZr

Part 1: Scoia'tael & Northern Realms
Part 2: Monsters & Skellige
Part 3: Nilfgaard & Syndicate


Neutral cards

 

Some of the new additions are very powerful and already found their place in the meta. Magic Lamp is the best Neutral Stratagem, with Radeyah and Matta being not just eye candy, but also the best Neutral cards of this expansion.

 

Stratagem: Basilisk Venom
Power rating: 2/5

An underwhelming Stratagem. It offers some synergy with Poison, which can however be superfluous.

 

 

 

 

Stratagem: Ceremonial Dagger
Power rating: 3/5

Possibly a good stratagem for Control-oriented decks. It can help with killing an engine or any key card on your opponent's side of the board, potentially granting you the much-needed round control.

 

 

 

Stratagem: Crystal Skull
Power rating: 3/5

In order for Skull to be even a consideration over Tactical Advantage, Locks or Poison would have to be very common. However, it can be good in decks that go tall in Round 1, with a game plan that relies on pushing Round 2, such as Skellige with Svalblod Priest. Crystal Skull allows you to get rid of stuff like Poison and keeps your big unit alive.

 

 

Stratagem: Cursed Scroll
Power rating: 2/5

Helps with consistency for the sake of tempo. Not adding any points to your side of the board can hurt and you risk losing the card advantage. Might see some play in Hyperthin.

 

 

 

Stratagem: Enchanted Armor
Power rating: 2.5/5

Can be used in Handbuff decks, namely Scoia'tael. If you want to utilize Enchanted Armor for carry-over, you have to be careful to not lose your card advantage, similarly to Cursed Scroll.

 

 

 

Scenario: Magic Lamp
Power rating: 4/5

The best Neutral Stratagem. Some people would say Magic Lamp is what Tactical Advantage should've been after Homecoming's release. Solid 5 point body that helps with developing engines like Svalblod Priest or Temerian Drummer on Turn 1. Good for no-unit shenanigans and unlike Tactical Advantage, the Djinn allows you to dodge resets.

 

Radeyah
Power rating:
5/5

Radeyah is one of the best cards of the expansion. Same condition as Shupe, but she gets similar value for just 10 provisions. On top of that, she offers the flexibility of choosing a Stratagem from your faction or creates a Neutral one. Radeyah has found her rightful place in a good portion of Midrange decks across multiple factions.

 

 

Maraal
Power rating: 4/5

Supporting the wholesome Poison archetype, Maraal can destroy any unit over the course of 2 turns if unanswered. In reality, you wouldn't play this card outside of Nilfgaard, especially with Imperial Formation which ensures that Maraal will get to use his Order ability.

 

 

Matta Hu'uri
Power rating: 5/5

Mata Hari is the best card of the set and almost an auto-include for the majority of Midrange decks. Drawing one of your crucial high provision cards and giving the opponent a low value card can win you the round, if not the whole match. Other than the card draw, Matta also prolongs the round, supporting every deck that can make use of some engines. She's a must-have for every Gwent collection, especially the animated version for... obvious reasons.

 

Ser Qu'an
Power rating: 3/5

This card is better than most people would think. You can play it for full value after the opponent has passed. With that said, it's otherwise too easy to answer and should only be played in decks with multiple ways of protecting it effectively.

 

 

Dulla kh'Amanni and Runewright
Power rating: 2.5/5

Dulla and Runewright aren't the cards you would want in a competitive deck. Their combined 12 power with an ability to create a random Gold card can be good, but it can also lose you the game. The 6 strength is usually good enough to stick to the board, but the combo is still draw dependant, weak to removal and well... lowrolling.

 

Caravan Vanguard
Power rating: 2/5

Caravan Vanguard seems to be the Neutral version of the likes of Half-Elf Hunter, Daerlan Soldier or Immortal Cavalry. But at 6 provisions, this card isn't worth running even in Swarm-oriented decks.

 

 

 

Caravan Guard
Power rating: 1/5

Even in a meta full of big boy Monsters, Caravan Guard would be a bad card to include in your deck, as its stats and ability are weak.

 

 

 

 

King Cobra
Power rating: 3/5

Not too useful outside of a dedicated Poison deck. King Cobra sees play especially in Radeyah/Shupe Nilfgaard and Syndicate.

 

 

 

 

Ofiri Merchant
Power rating: 2.5/5

Merchant adds a way of interrupting your opponent's deck. He could be combined with something like Courier in Nilfgaard, although generally playing this card isn't worth the risk.


Balance changes

 

With a surprise expansion came a balance patch with some interesting game design choices. It's a mixed bag, with CDPR declaring war on Portal, some welcome redesigns to unpopular leader abilities and a good amount of controversial nerfs, such as the nerf to Svalblod Priest.

 

  • Aguara power changed from 5 to 7.
  • Germain's Piquant provision cost changed from 11 to 10.
  • Iris' Companions provision cost changed from 9 to 8.
  • Lambert: Swordmaster provision cost changed from 9 to 10.
  • Operator provision cost changed from 10 to 8.
  • Shupe's Day Off no longer has Doomed on it.

 

We saw some well-deserved buffs to underused cards like Aguara, Germain, Operator and Iris' Companions. Lambert got a slap on the wrist to make him less of a menace to the newly introduced Crows and Rats. The biggest change however is the one that wasn't mentioned directly, and that's the huge nerf to Portal. Virtually every good and even some bad Portal targets (4 provision cards) suffered either a nerf to 5 prov or a nerf to power. It feels like they jumped the gun on this one.

By the end of the previous patch, only Syndicate, Blood Scent Vampires and Nilfgaard's Assimilate have played Portal. With the introduction of a powerful new Neutral card in Matta, who can potentially disrupt Portal, nerfing only the most egregious of all offenders in Sly Seductress would have been a more measured response. Alas, a lot of Bronze cards are worse now because of Portal.

 

Monsters

 

  • Dominance changed to: Trigger this ability if you control the highest power unit on the battlefield.
  • Death's Shadow ability changed to: Order: Destroy an allied Monster unit, then Spawn and play a base copy of it. Provision bonus changed from 15 to 16.
  • Garkain power changed from 4 to 3.
  • Vran Warrior provision changed from 4 to 5.
  • Kayran power changed from 5 to 6.
  • Whispering Hillock ability changed to: Play a Deathwish unit from your deck.

 

Dominance was returned to its former glory, which can breathe new life into long-forgotten cards like Wild Hunt Hounds, Wild Hunt Riders and Adda: Strigga. The redesign of Death's Shadow might seem like a straight up nerf at first glance, but spawning a base copy opens up combos with the newly introduced Deathwish cards in Penitent and Plague Maiden, as well as with the good old Caranthir. People are already experimenting with the Swarm archetype.

Garkains weren't left unscathed, but Portal can still be played in Blood Scent Vampires. Whether or not will they prove too easy to remove remains to be seen. The nerf to Vran Warrior seems to be a pre-emptive one, CDPR perhaps thought that with the new Rat infestation in Monsters, using Portal on Vrans alongside of Glustyworp would simply be too strong. While the buff to Kayran is nice, Whispering Hillock is now a sad, overpriced tutor for Deathwish units.

 

Skellige

 

  • Raging Bear ability changed to: Deploy: Damage an allied unit by 2.
  • Drummond Warmonger ability changed to: Deploy: Damage 3 adjacent enemy units by 1.
    Bloodthirst 5: Damage all units on enemy row by 1 instead. Power changed from 5 to 3.
  • Svalblod Cultist power changed from 4 to 5.
  • Svalblod Priest provision cost changed from 5 to 6.

 

Raging Bear finally received the Nilfgaardian Knight treatment, turning it into a great proactive play on an empty board. Drummond Warmonger got a weird re-design, which might make him a fringe choice in decks that rely on Bloodthirst. Unfortunately, the Priest faction took a huge hit with the nerf to Svalblod Priest, the very card keeping it afloat. An extra point on Svalblod Cultist doesn't even begin to compensate.

Skellige is a strange spot, where their old tricks don't work anymore and the new cards don't bring too much to the table. Talk about kicking a faction while they're down. Moreover, Arnjolf the Patricide found yet another Vincent to be afraid of, since his Doomed tag foreshadows what happens if you run into a Nilfgard player with Vincent Van Moorlehem.

 

Northern Realms

 

  • Redanian Archer power changed from 3 to 2.
  • Redanian Knight Armor changed from 1 to 2. Power changed from 2 to 1.
  • Lyrian Arbalest provision cost changed from 4 to 5.
  • Shani's Armor removed.

 

Iron Judgment has introduced new NR staple cards in Redanian Archer and Redanian Knight. Archer was one of the best 5 provision cards in the game, eclipsed only by Endrega Larva, so the nerf was warranted. Nerfing the Knight is consistent with CDPR weakening the 4 provision engines. Both cards should still see some play, especially in singleton Midrange decks with Radeyah.

Engine-overload NR decks got additional nerfs in Lyrian Arbalest and Shani. Arbalest at 5 provisions is going to be a tough sell, but Shani is resilient to removal even without her armor and should be a mainstay for the foreseeable future.

 

Scoia'tael

 

  • Precision Strike ability changed to: Order: Damage a unit by 1. Charge 3. Once all Charges have been exhausted, Spawn and play Brokilon Sentinel. Provision bonus changed from 18 to 16.
  • Brokilon Sentinel ability changed to: Deploy: Damage an enemy unit by 2. Deathblow: Summon all copies of this unit from your deck to this row.
  • Vrihedd Sappers ability changed to: Deploy: Purify an allied unit. If you control an Elf, Purify a unit instead.
  • Dwarf Berserker Armor changed from 5 to 4.
  • Dwarven Mercenary provision cost changed from 4 to 5.
  • Sage provision cost changed from 5 to 6.

 

The redesign of Precision Strike is interesting. At the cost of awkward mulligans, you have a solid 11-point leader ability that creates 3 bodies for The Great Oak. Even if you brick your Brokilon Sentinels, a 7-point leader with 16 provisions is nothing to scoff at. The ability looks like a good candidate for the emerging elf decks. The re-designed Vrihedd Sappers could also find a home there, if you're looking to save some provisions on Ida Emean.

Munro Bruys and Novigradian Justice got a well-deserved nerf with Dwarf Berserker losing 1 armor. Figgis Merluzzo spawning only one Rowdy Dwarf makes Munro unreliable. Dwarven Mercenary and Sage both cost an extra provision.

Mystic Echo Gord took the biggest hit, as it relied on Dwarf Berserker and Sage, losing 2 provisions and a lot of points. With no additional support printed, it will have a hard time staying relevant. Dwarf-based decks also took a huge hit in both points and provisions. Harmony is the clear winner here, as it can safely cut Munro and Zoltan's Company for the dynamic duo of Etriel and Muirlega.

 

Nilfgaard

 

  • Aristocrat category added to following: Vattier de Rideaux, Joachim de Wett, Vivienne de Tabris, Cahir Dyffryn, Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen, Ceallach Dyffryn and Roderick of Dun Tynne.
  • Nauzica Sergeant provision cost changed from 4 to 5.
  • Slave Hunter "Soldier" category added.

 

Nilfgaard got away mostly scott-free, as even after the provision nerf to Nauzicaa Sergeant, the Assimilate deck still has viable Portal targets in Ducal Guard or Ard Feainn Heavy Cavalry. That said, Poison got a lot of support in the expansion, so the No-Portal version might prove to be superior anyway. The buff to Rot Tosser makes Poison/Assimilate much better and even Spy-oriented decks could become a force to be reckoned with.

 

Syndicate

 

  • Azar Javed power changed from 3 to 5.┬áScarab Armor changed from 2 to 1.┬áScarab no longer has Deathwish.
  • Witch Hunter Executioner provision cost changed from 5 to 6.
  • Sly Seductress provision cost changed from 4 to 5.
  • Grand Inquisitor Helveed power changed from 4 to 5.

 

Azar Javed got a power buff, but his Scarabs lost 1 armor along with their Deathwish ability that used to generate Coins, making Azar easier to deal with. It's impossible to justify running Witch Hunter Executioner at 6 provisions. The majority of decks have settled for a single copy of Executioner before the nerf.

The only Portal target left in Syndicate is Eternal Fire Priest, but Congregate has been underwhelming for a while, so the hopes aren't too high even with the slight buff to Helveed. Some sort of a Midrange Syndicate build should be positioned well in the meta, but after this patch the faction won't be the top dog.

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