Ciri and Geralt playing Gwent artwork

When it comes to card games, no matter how generous they may be, there is only so many decks you can create without spending an exorbitant amount of money. So when faced with limited options most people will opt to take a peek at the various competitive tier lists in order to figure out which deck is considered the best, and then copy it.

While these types of tier lists are genuinely useful, they can also become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a deck is considered overpowered its going to end up being copied by a large amount of the playerbase, which will only further pump up its stats and make it seem like its literally the only deck in existence. In Gwent's case, the various tier lists are quite clearly pointing towards Dagon and King Bran being by far the best decks out there, but according to Rethaz, one of the developers, the reality is much more nuanced. So if you're interested in seeing what exactly is happening with high level Gwent, here's the most interesting part of Rethaz's post:

"I will touch very lightly on leader popularity and say that for the majority of the ranked system we see a good and fairly even distribution that we are generally happy with. The only exception to this is Harald the Cripple.

However at the top end of the game we have a large subset of competitive players that tend to switch exclusively towards whatever is deemed the "best" by our top players, this leads to a much narrower distribution of leaders. In reality there is little we can do to combat this other than by limiting certain mechanics so that mathematically they cannot generate more than the intended points for the color of the card (Bronze, Silver, Gold). The trade off is that in many cases this leads to those cards being less interesting and fun (for the user) because they cannot generate large point swings or the same moments of drama. We try to judge how and when to do this, a recent example of this is Villen, who is now less interesting, but ultimately more balanced.

Despite what some of you may believe, Dagon's peak play rate is lower than Crach's was during the Skellige meta, which in turn was lower than the Calveit peak during the Nilfgaard meta."

Regarding win-rates:

"For example I can tell you that in the lowest brackets Brouver Hoog actually has a win rate of 53.21% in contrast to what is presented here as 43.1%. The lowest his win-rate ever drops to within a specific MMR range is 45.99%. Across the entire ranked system Brouver's win-rate averages out to roughly 50.39%.

The Highest win-rate in the top MMR bracket is King Bran at 55.8%, the Lowest is Harald the Cripple with 47.21%. The difference between these is 8.59%. In contrast the GWENTUP Data shows the highest win-rate comes from Dagon at 54.9% and the lowest comes from Harald the Cripple a 37.7%, the difference here is significantly more at 17.2%.

I am going to post the current win-rates at the top end of MMR per leader for the last week. I am not going to make a habit of this though, so please do not expect it with every patch / week."

Leader win-rates at the top end of MMR for the last week:

King Bran - 55.8

Unseen Elder - 54.95

Dagon - 54.91

Eithne - 53.92

Eredin - 53.92

Foltest - 53.49

Henselt - 52.33

Jan Calveit - 52.12

Crach an Craite - 51.84

Radovid - 51.70

Brouver Hoog - 51.0

Francessca - 48.81

Emhyr Var Emeris - 48.43

Morvran Voorhis - 47.26

Harald the Cripple - 47.21

So while there are obviously some problems with balance (most notably when it comes to poor ol' Harald), there is nothing keeping you from reaching a high rank with just about any leader. Even Nilfgaard, a faction commonly considered heavily underpowered this patch, still has one leader with a very positive win-rate. In other words, things aren't as bad as they might seem at first glance!

Naturally, this doesn't mean CDPR will no longer be doing any sort of balance changes or that Gwent is perfect. On the contrary, you can expect to see some balance adjustments in the near future as they will be coming alongside the 20-card expansion this August. The details are still a bit shaky, but you can read a little bit more about it here.