Hello everyone! It's wusubi again, bringing you another in-depth review, this time focusing on Skellige. I have very good news for you - the self wounding archetype is back! The new leader Svalblod is fully commited to damaging his own units, the ruffian he is. There are many new synergies within the faction. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Svalblod might seem like a leader with an ability that doesn't get you that much value. However, damaging your own units always comes with huge benefits, not that I'm encouraging you to partake in such mindless barbarism. You have to utilize all 5 of his charges to spawn the Bear Abomination. Luckily, you've got amazing targets for this. Some units are just begging to get spanked, the masochists they are, granting you incredible value in the process. The beauty of Svalblod's ability lies in its versatility. You can either commit your charges into a very powerful bleed, or save them for your finisher. Let's start with showcasing the best targets to efficiently use Svalblod's charges on.
Drummond Shieldmaiden are back in action baby. Finally! Our shieeeeelds, are our rampaaaaarts! You always use one Svalblod charge on them. 7 points and 1 thinning for merely 12 provisions. Unfortunately, it plays into Gimpy Gerwin, but at least your Bear Abominations will be safe from his leash in the later rounds. Shieldmaiden very quickly became the staple in every popular Svalblod deck. Such a great bronze.
Berserk is the vital keyword for Svalblod. It procs when the base power of a unit is at half or less, rounding down.
Vildkaarl is one of your win conditions and definitely one of the most potent cards in the entire set. You usually use three of your Svalblod charges to proc his Berserk and turn him into Champion of Svalblod. This plays into tall removal, but your deck already does that with cards like Olaf or Gregoire. When you suspect your opponent might be holding onto tall removal or a even lock, you can try to bait it out before you play Vildkaarl. When you have the last say, you can save Vildkaarl for the finisher, which is a 17 point play coupled with Bear Abomination.
If Champion of Svalblod sticks to the board, things get spicy. Let's look at all the absolutely ridiculous synergies.
Champion of Svalblod has an insane Order ability; he destroys an allied unit and heals himself back to 12 power. Svalblod decks play Harald Houndsnout. His skulls are the perfect target. Other than that, you usually consume Tuirseach Skirmisher, or any unit that was damaged by your opponent. Keep in mind that all the combinations I'm about to mention also work with Olaf. Having 2 different targets makes the deck very strong and consistent.
Olaf is quite popular in the vast majority of Svalblod decks. Similarly to Champion of Svalblod, you often combine him with either Knut the Callous or Hym. One of your big boys will generally stick to the board, enabling you a disgusting swing which can win you the game. Olaf also sees a lot of play in Bran decks, as he's a solid proactive play and offers the additional synergy with cards like Knutty. Unbearable!
In Svalblod decks, Hym allows you to utilize a Leader charge very effectively. If either Olaf or Champion of Svalblod stick to the board, your Hym can get crazy value. The downside is obviously the consistency, as this play requires you to draw the cards in the same round and one (or both) of them can get answered. Hym could always be used on an enemy unit, as your deck tends to play plenty of damage and bleeding.
Knut the Callous is the pinnacle of Gwent. You can call me a biased Skellige player, but I adore the design of this card. Knutty's value is conditional, but with enormous potential. He offers you so many compelling combinations. You can combine him with Olaf and Champion of Svalblod to get sick value. Knutty can be used on Gregoire, which breaks his shield, but doesn't damage him. This card often finds extra value, even on Houndsnout's skulls. When you don't have a target, he still plays for 6 points, which isn't terrible.
Harald Houndsnout has to be mentioned. While most Bran decks replaced him because he plays into Gregoire without offering any further synergies, he's great in Svalblod decks. Other than being a proactive play and a lock bait, this card regularly grants you even more value. You can use his skulls to get a nasty amount of points with Svalblod Butcher and Champion of Svalblod. Houndsnout's active ability can even be used on Olaf to squeeze in another point. Good flexibility.
Svalblod Totem takes the prize for the most versatile card of the entire set. Decent proactive play for 8-10 points. With the nerf to Commander's Horn, plenty of Bran players replaced Houndsnout with Totem. In Svalblod decks,
it obviously offers you more utility. If one of the Fanatics get killed, you can put a card like Olaf next to the Totem and get extra value. When you have the last say and you suspect your opponent could be playing Gimpy Gerwin, you should wait with activating the Totem. It also helps you with getting value from your dead cards vs Usurper.
Arnvald is a neat card, albeit conditional. Nice synergy with Svalblod, as he allows you to utilize one charge. You usually try to damage a 2 power card like Tuirseach Skirmisher and then play Arnvald for 7 points, which is solid for 6 provisions. However, people generally Deathblow your 2 strength units, so finding a good target can be a hindrance. You might also end up giving Gimpy more value. Fair card, nothing special.
Corrupted Flaminica is another cool but conditional card. This card has an interesting design, as it relies on Bleeding to meet its provision cost. Using her on Bear Abominations, Morkvarg or Ulfheddin can be awkward when the round isn't long enough. Bleeding value can also get disrupted. You could use her on Savage Bear to potentially empower the 2nd Bear in your hand. I don't think I've seen her played even in Beast Bran decks. She often struggles to find value.
Primal Savagery is a great special card. Amazing in Crach. Coupled with a ping, it trades up on Bronze engines nicely. Normally, it's very easy to find a good target with Bran too. The best part is that you could always discard it with Coral.
Disgraced Brawler is a very well designed card. Similarly to Tuirseach Veteran, with his high base power body, he offers synergies with cards such as Hjalmar for mere 5 provisions. Unless you playing Crach, you won't meet the Bloodthirst 3 condition. Your opponent can kill the Brawler with any card that deals 4 damage, so it effectively deals 7. Brawler is a fair card and offers a considerable reach, given how cheap he is.
Svalblod Butcher is a great addition to the bronze core.
You can use him to damage Houndsnout's skull, Olaf or Svalblod Fanatic. Coupled with cards like Cutthroat and Svalblod Ravager, you can easily afford to play Gregoire.
Butcher usually reaches a lot more value than a regular Bronze, especially in Svalblod decks. You'll beg for death!
Svalblod Ravager is simply another Wolf Pack in disguise. You can't go wrong with including him in any Skellige deck since he often plays as a 6 for 4. You only need Bloodthirst 1 to activate his Bleeding ability, as the damage he deals on Deploy counts as Bloodthirst 2. This means that you should always use him on a 4+ power unit in order to get full value.
Svalblod Fanatic isn't a terrible card per se, but you don't need to play 4 power cards as Skellige. You generally either discard your 4p cards, or you want them to play for at least
6 value. Fanatic synergizes with Butcher, but if your list runs Totem, you're getting clapped by Gimpy for no good reason. There are far better 4 provision cards to play. You also can't realistically afford to sink two Leader charges into this card.
That was a fair amount of good cards, but with Svalblod Fanatic, I'm slowly but surely approaching the meme tier. Let's take a look at the cards you don't want to play (unless the meta shifts drastically) and explain why they suck.
You might have guessed it already, the cards in the meme category are going to be engines like Sigvald. I remember this card was hyped before the expansion, even making it to some lists of Top 5 Crimson Curse cards. The issue is that Skellige doesn't need to give value to removal or any locks. You want to slam points. Sigvald regularly plays as a 5 for 8, meaning you would much rather play a card such as Skjall.
Artis is... a complete and utter joke. He gets locked or killed.
I honestly can't recall him ever matching the provision cost. You either want to play tons of engines and pray that your opponent will eventually run out of answers, or you don't want to play any engines at all. Perhaps I'm totally wrong and the meta will end up being Avallac'h, Artis, Giant Boar into Wild Boar of the Sea... or not. This card is too expensive.
Svalblod Priest is probably the most honorable mention. This card would actually be somewhat ok at 4 provisions, but it's terrible at 5. You could easily come up with some synergies such as Heymey Protector or Blueboy Lugos. They require two turns of setup and always get disrupted.
If you aren't getting any value from damaging your unit right away, you're playing a 4 for 5. Priest gets answered
too easily for my liking. Useless in current damage meta.
Svalblod Cultist isn't outright awful, but at 5 prov, you can't really fit her into any deck. Her value is quite conditional so there simply isn't a good reason to play her. She's essentially a strictly worse Hawker Healer that costs 1 more provision.
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