GUIDE: Balance Council - How to cast nuanced votes

Balance Council: Avoiding “Bad” Votes

After three balance councils, there has been significant chatter about horrible balance changes, and several instances of changes being immediately reversed (presumably because the community considered them horrible and not simply to mix up the meta). After some discussion with other players, I have concluded that trying to influence players to vote for specific cards (and not for others) will be unlikely to impact the prevalence of “bad” changes. There are a huge number of reasonable changes – tastes and preferences and hence, votes, will naturally differ (as they should). What may prevent future balance council issues is to help people recognize what are likely to be “bad” changes; that is the intent of this article.

Game Mechanics and Core Balance Components:

Probably the greatest potential for complete disaster is if players make changes that disrupt essential game mechanics or core components of game balance – these include elements like engine/ control/ point-slam balance, commitment, consistency, carry-over/advantage, tempo (both in terms of reach and of simultaneous threats), and faction/archetype/card playability. Let me explain each in more detail.

First, it is critical that engine value, control (or removal), and point-slam stay within reasonable balance. And the reason for this is two-fold. First, there is some level of rock/paper/scissors between these elements of the game. And while rock/paper/scissors is neither strategic nor terribly exciting, it is far more meaningful than rock/paper with no scissors! But even if decks remain balanced after one of these strategic approaches is nerfed or elevated, play becomes much less interesting. For example. I hate Korathi Heatwave. I do not like that the most ubiquitous removal card is also a banish card; in fact, I don’t really like absolute removal at all. But I recognize cards like Heatwave are absolutely essential to counteract numerous cards with abilities that are far too strong without risk of removal. The difficulty with over-nerfing core removal / engine/ or point-slam elements is that loss of any one of these elements reduces the enjoyability of Gwent in general. If engines are removed, there is no need for control – everything comes down to point-slam. The game plays very much like the seasonal “Barely Balanced” mode – which isn’t horrible, but which does get old / boring. And this is the best case. If control is removed, the game deteriorates to a purely solitaire game of engine development which is utterly devoid of strategic interaction. And if point-slam is removed, there becomes no deterrent to rampant control. And if everything is removed or controlled, there is nothing to interact with, and again, strategy disappears. Cost and return of engines must be balanced with cost and return of removal, and both must be balanced with the potential point-slam or Gwent falls apart.

Second, choosing level of commitment each round, and even each turn, is the heart of Gwent strategy. Rewarding overcommitment (the way Aerondight does) is very dangerous if you value quality of play.

Consistency may seem like a valuable feature of the game, but removal of all elements of RNG will make the game much less enjoyable for most players. Experiencing different matches – even between the same decks – based upon factors like draw and random effects not only keeps the game fresh, it provides unique strategic challenges. When a game is determined solely by RNG, there is no player agency. But when every match simply becomes a choreographed sequence of plays, there is equally litter player agency. Consistency tools like thinning and tutoring in moderation, increase deck variety and enrich deck building strategy. In excess, they destroy the game.

Balanced trade-offs between the likes of carryover, future card value, and potential card advantage makes for a nice strategic interplay in early rounds, but they denigrate the game when out of proportion. Witness the distaste left when a Kolgrim deck deliberately goes down 6 cards in winning round 1, but then easily win round 2 because Kolgrim’s engine value is worth more than playing cards.

Tempo can potentially refer to two different game elements and both must be balanced. The most common usage refers to how rapidly points can be played (which is closely related to reach). If any one deck obtains too much tempo advantage over another, the notion of round-control (and the value of round-control) gets very distorted to the detriment of the game. Too much support for this type of tempo, and all competitive decks will have to be designed around high tempo, and deck variety disappears. The second type of tempo is the speed with which engines or desirable board-state can be established. It is a huge advantage to be able to establish engines or board state faster than opponent can respond. Allow even a little too much of this type of tempo and certain deck-types will dominate play.

Finally, players must maintain balance between all factions, a reasonable variety of archetypes, and a broad selection of cards. Everyone has a right to enjoy the game. Destroying something just because you dislike it both reduces variety and destroys some player’s joy. It is certainly OK to suggest a given archetype is too powerful and needs to be toned down – this is not the same as destroying it. And it is even OK to suggest that the game might be better off if certain cards did not exist (were nerfed into oblivion) provided there is sound justification for that action. But this is also not equivalent to destroying a card where there are alternatives, or simply based upon its over-use or personal distaste. Incidentally, cards can be destroyed in ways other than by rendering them unplayable. For example, Xavier Lemmens were buffed to 4 provisions, Squirrel would become obsolete (it would always be replaced by Xavier – even if Squirrel remained a decent tech card in isolation).

Consideration of Deeper Consequences:

Cards are never played in a vacuum; what happens to one card inevitably influences what happens to cards around it. Avoiding bad votes requires considering indirect influences of a change. Some indirect impacts can include: unintended balance consequences, rendering cards irrelevant, impact on replay/duplication/summoning, buffing deck-defining archetype-independent cards, and impact on other power/provision based effects. Again, I will address each factor separately.

Often cards are critical to (or possible in) multiple decks. For example, I hate Simlas. Actually upon reflection, it is not really Simlas I hate – it is the whole Vanadain/Heist/Waylay/Alissa/Simlas mess that I hate. But I will never vote to nerf Simlas – he seems essential to at least a half-dozen different, interesting decks. To better reduce the impact of that awful exploitive combo, I would look to nerf Vanadain or Alissa – both of which are more problematic on their own. Also one card can impact the usefulness of another. For example, nerfing Curse of Corruption would prove a huge buff to either Erland or Sove whose boost becomes much safer without final say.

The most obvious way a card is rendered irrelevant is by buffing a similar card to a point of being uncategorically better. If Ice Giant were buffed to 9-power, there would be no real reason to play Griffin. But cards can also be rendered irrelevant by killing essential companion cards. I doubt Radeyah would see use if Shupe were dead. Otkell would be unusable if Freya’s Blessing cost 10 provisions. Cards can also be killed by making effective counters too attractive: if Xavier Lemmens were power 12, Witches Sabbath would disappear.

Easha has already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. When certain cards are duplicated/summoned(/sometimes replayed) by other cards, buffing/nerfing power effectively affects all the cards that duplicate it The December 2023 Balance Council buff to Cleaver’s Muscle also buffed Novigradian Justice and hugely buffed Cleaver!

There is extra risk to over-buffing any cards that are archetype independent – especially cards that contribute a strong flavor to decks. Cards that are over-powered will tend to appear in every deck that can play them. Dominant cards that can appear is many decks – especially if they shape the feel of the deck – will make all decks seem the same. We saw this when Renfri and Golden Nekker were first released – almost every deck was a Renfri or a Nekker deck. It felt like the meta had two decks. This effect is strongest when Neutral cards are OP, but faction cards can have similar effects on a more limited scale. There may be exceptions to this principle in the case of neutral cards that support different factions in unique ways. For example, cards like Wagon or Peasant militia are not going to make ST and NR decks feel the same because they work through distinctive feeling cards.

Probably the most common indirect effect from changing provisions/power is the impact of change on provision or power-based effects. I think the impact of provision changes and of power changes are significant enough to merit their own sections.

Impacts from Provision Changes:

Aside from directly affecting the price of cards in the deck building process, provision levels of certain cards can affect the level of deck polarization. They can also affect game play through powers that either target only cards of certain provision level, or through cards whose effect depends upon another card’s provisions.

Cards with effects whose intensity changes depending on the provision level of other cards include: Mysterious Puzzle Box, Viper Witcher Mentor, Sorceress of Dol Blathana, Endrega Queen, Prism Pendant, Pitfall Trap, Damnation, Palmerin de Launfal, Cosimo Malaspina, Mercenary Contract, Deadman’s Tongue, Bride of the Sea, Vivienne de Tabris, Summoning Circle, Triangle Within a Triangle, Vivienne: Oriole, Gimpy Gerwin, Mutagenerator, Abduction, Ihuarraquax, Jan Calveit, Land of a Thousand Fables, Filavandrel aen Fidhail, Alzur, Gerhart of Aelle, Yaga, Melitele,Amphibious Assault, Torres var Emreis: Founder, Fucusya, and. Renfri (Blessing of Charity).

There are certain provision level changes that strongly affect the ability to target a card. Below are the levels at which card targeting changes.

Between 4 and 5 provisions: Crow Clan Druid, Eventide Plunder, Epidemic, Musicians of Blaviken, Shady Vender, Sorceress of Dol Blathana, War of Clans, Damnation, Bride of the Sea, Artis, Gerhart of Aelle, Portal

Between 5 and 6 provisions: Shady Vendor, Filavandrel Aen Fidhail

Between 6 and 7 provisions: Penitent

Between 7 and 8 provisions: Penitent, Blood Eagle

Between 9 and 10 provisions: Ciri: Nova, Abduction, Golden Nekker, Hanmarvin’s Blue Dream, Renew, Telianyn aep Collen

Between 10 and 11 provisions: Oxenfurt Scholar, Caranthir Ar-Feniel, Amphibious Assault, Torres, Fucusya

As can be clearly observed from this list, changing provision cost between 4 and 5, between 9 and 10, and between 10 and 11 is often impactful; other changes are usually not very significant.

Impact of Changes in Power:

Because power is a gameplay statistic, while provision is a deck-building statistic, it is not surprising that the implications of change in power are far more numerous and subtle. But crossing various power thresholds can impact any of the following: survivability, tempo/reach, highest or lowest power triggers, seizability, base power effects, ability to trigger deathblow, ability to align power (for the likes of Schirru), tall punish triggers.

Here are a few power level thresholds that I find particularly important:

1 to 2: vulnerability to on deploy pings (Artis, Naval Supremacy, An Craite Longship), division/duplication (Self Eater, Reaver Hunter), one-point ping removal becomes impossible.

2 to 3: Two-point ping removal (weather, lacerate, etc.) no longer suffices.

3 to 4: Moves unit outside most unit-based damage removal; moves unit out of most seize range.

4 to 5: moves unit out of bomb and similar kill-range.

5 to 6: moves unit out of faction-based damage kill-range.

6 to 7: moves unit outside most damage kill-range, moves unit out of Enslave 6 and Vigo’s Muzzle range.

8 to 9: moves unit out of almost all damage-kill range, but into tall removal (e.g. Geralt of Rivia).

Other Sources of Poor Voting Choices:

There are numerous other reasons that players make poor voting choices. These include uncontrolled bias, inconsistency, lack of vision/future planning, extremism, carelessness/assumptions, and trolling/manipulation. Again, I will discuss them separately.

The most nefarious basis for poor balance council vote is abject bias. Now, let me make this clear – balance is inherently subjective; it is perfectly reasonable that players value different elements of the game differently and have different experiences with various cards. What is not reasonable is to buff cards just because you like them and nerf others because they are bad for some poorly constructed pet deck. Votes that do not consider the well being of the game in general risk being destructive.

In Gwent there are certain parallels between factions: for example, up until the last balance council, top faction removal was 5 points for 5 provisions, self-summoning thinning cards were 4 power and 5 provisions, Defenders were 7 total point value for 9 provisions, etc. These symmetries not only helped factions to remain balanced, they provide a valuable baseline for equity between factions and a worthwhile aesthetic to the game. While changing this is not disastrous for the game, it feels like it would be a loss. But consistency applies not just to benchmark cards; it applies to reasoning about cards. To argue that Nilfgaard is a control faction so it shouldn’t have engines, while Northern Realms, as an engine faction, also needs significant control to be viable is inconsistent. Changes or standards that are not applied consistently tend to be harmful.

One of my biggest complaints about Balance Council so far has been a lack of significant movement toward what I would consider a better game. To me, there are two features of Gwent that significantly decrease my enjoyment of the game: the first is the lack of player agency in deciding the outcome of a match. Barring huge blunders, 90% of the time a match result is determined exclusively by either the match-up or the card draw; game-play simply doesn’t matter. The second major flaw is the very limited potential for different viable decks. Unless one chooses from a very narrow pool of “meta decks”, there is virtually no chance of winning a match. I believe that much of the problem is the huge difference in strength between a handful of top cards and everything else. I consistently vote to nerf the luck driven and highly powered cards and to buff the strategically interesting cards as well as the dross in general. While I don’t expect that all players will share my impression or vision for the game, I would like to see more votes supporting some meaningful, long-term plan.

Extremism in balance council would be actions like killing a card when other options are available. A classic example was the decision of many people in the first balance council to reduce the power of Reaver Hunter’s to the point where their order ability could never be used. It would have been perfectly sufficient to raise the provision cost of Reaver Hunters – or even better to raise the provision cost of the cards that allow a million copies of bronze soldiers. The results of extremism are: 1. reducing the variety of viable decks., 2. wasting future votes reverting destructive changes, 3. offending segments of the player base.

Carelessness and faulty assumptions result in votes that even the voter might agree were bad ideas. I think many players naturally assume that a power decrease is always a nerf and a provision decrease is always a buff and may think no deeper than that. Decreasing power on a unit with a berserk condition may just make the condition easier to trigger. Or they may vote to change the power of some card like Viper Witcher Mentor (that will reset on deploy anyway). An assumption that is easy to make is to assume that other player’s votes will not mess up your plans. If you think a vote to buff one card in a certain deck is well balanced by a second vote to nerf a different card, you should definitely consider what would happen to Gwent if just one of your two votes actually went through.

Finally, although it is unfortunate, there will always be “voters” whose primary aim is simply to disrupt the process. And there are others who may sincerely believe a certain, say buff, is appropriate, but who try to mislead other voters into supporting that buff by posing it as a nerf. For example, some players believe that Nilfgaard has been over-nerfed and needs some buffs. I have also seen calls to “nerf” the highly binary Puppet Master to 3-power. If players actually think it through, this would not be a nerf; it would be a huge buff – it makes a used Puppet Master easier to destroy, or even to seize! The best counter to the small number of players who attempt this type of manipulation is simply to think about the merits of suggestions before voting.


Despite the possibility (and even the inevitable occurrences) of bad voting, Balance Council holds enormous potential. It is my hope that this and similar articles can help players to avoid many of these “bad” votes.
Good Stuff (but way too much time on your hands)! Your last example, Puppet Master, is a perfect example of the motivation I see within Balance Council choices. This past year almost no one played PM. It was part of a successful deck during Master's and a lot of people started playing it. Those who couldn't figure out how to play against it then want to eliminate that problem by nerfing it next balance Council. The same will happen with the next trendy deck that becomes successful. I agree with much of your assessment.
Changelog: January 22nd 2024:
-added a link to this changelog
-Updated the link to the official Balance Council article
-added an explanation regarding buffing leader abilities under the One vote, several changes? – a checklist paragraph


With the bureaucracy out of the way, let me first extend my gratitude towards quintivarium expanding on my thoughts. Most of their idea are in line with mine and while I wanted to keep it brief for the guide, more detailed insight might swin some readers of this to improve their votes.

Which brings me to the next point: a recap of what we have seen so far.
I will skip the discussion of the part that cannot be changed, namely the inherent flaws of the voting system (buffs must equal nerfs, no two levels of voting ), as it is what it is. We will see no changes here, so why bother explaoning what is bad about the system. The one we have is the best we will ever get, so we will have to make do with it.

First of all: I hate to have been proven right about yo-yo votes.

Do mind that this guide was written before we ever saw any voting results, yet it was not rocket science to predict that it would happen. The most prominent example is Nauzicaa Sergeant, a constant part of each of the three council votes so far. All of them wasted. The whole issue would have probably been solved by getting Slave Driver and thus the duplicating issue down to a reasonable level, yet here we are.

People tend to have the right idea but choose the wrong solution for whatever reason.
Lord Riptide is a notable example in Balance Council 2 and 3. The card was overplayed and needed a nerf. But people opted to nerf the power, which ruined the interaction of the Might keyword, instead of addressing provisions that would have weakened the card yet kept the flavour.
The same problem we saw with Casino Bouncers. A one power buff would have made them better, yet now we have them sitting at 4P and being in the pool of Eventide Pluders for a ridiculous tempo and thinning play.

Pooling votes has its pros and cons.

It is nice to see one's votes go through, so flocking to some popular online stranger with a critical mass of followers is a nice way to make oneself feel good about having voted for what made it into the game. It is also terribly convenient to not have to think too much about coming up with own choices. Which is fair enough. Not everyone wants to think too deeply about some pixel game vote.
The issue is when people who did put some thought into it, still come up with awful votes and those gain traction among their followers without second-guessing them. To toot into my own horn here for a bit: notably awful votes that could have been avoided by reading this guide and overthinking the own suggestion once more.
On the other hand we have so many cards that never see play, it is hard to pool enough votes and settle on a single card to buff when there are so many of them in dire need of help.

Contrary to popular belief: the developers knew what they were doing prior to Gwentfinity.
The buff of Magical Compass into Golden Nekker range during BC1 was a disaster written on the wall that could have been seen coming from miles away. Why? We have been there in the past.
The constant buff to thinning that is basically free with 4P leads to more consistent decks and thus more one-dimensional matches. During GWENTs beta, pretty much every deck played all their cards. You never had to work around suboptimal hands as all cards would be played throughout the match anyway. Thus making things work under difficult circumstances became less and less of a crucial player skill. And once again we are steering into this territory.

So the question remains: what to do about this? I am inclined to just be cynical about it and give up.
As it seems we already have a few people with a significant following and bad balancing ideas that have a notable impact on the votes. We had happy yo-yo voting in every council so far. Not a single old archetype emerged with a new deck - even thoug that particular aspect might simply be too early to judge, so take it with a grain of salt.
The biggest issue seems to be that votes tend to favour instant gratification and vote on cards that are already failry decent instead of going for the long run approach of getting truly atrocious cards playable. If that sentiment changed, we would likely see much healthier votes.

Maybe spreading this guide would help, too. It had its fair share of visitors but still remains comparably hidden in the somewhat obscure place that is the forum. Do feel to promote it elsewhere via social media, streams, videos... whatever.
Personally I am not here for the clicks. If I were I would have dubbed this thing YOUR BALANCE COUNCIL VOTES ARE WRONG! AND HERE IS WHAT YO CAN DO ABOUT IT , used a picture of me being lightly dressed and doing a face with excessively faked surprise and panic into the camera as a thumbnail, spammed the link on my non-existent social media accounts and called it a day.

Maybe I will really stop caring, maybe I will do a brief analysis of each new council and point out where things went wrong and why in this thread.
It seems more effective to me to attempt to change the voting philosophy of players to increase the quality of votes in the long run, rather than trying to campaign for a card to buff only to see that slot occupied by another vote that would warrant being reverted in the next Balance Council.
We shall see what the future holds.
If I were I would have dubbed this thing YOUR BALANCE COUNCIL VOTES ARE WRONG! AND HERE IS WHAT YO CAN DO ABOUT IT , used a picture of me being lightly dressed and doing a face with excessively faked surprise and panic into the camera as a thumbnail, spammed the link on my non-existent social media accounts and called it a day.
please, please, add all those things for our amusement :)
Why is so hard to find the results of the last council?
There is no official post or website that have the changes?
This is a total mess....

i once saw a summary of the last results when i logged in. but it worked for me only once and never since then. (so i didnt found an option to see latest results after you clicked this screen away and it only appears under rare conditions)
please, please, add all those things for our amusement :)
Let me think about it... How about...No? This is not for entertainment, this is is to imporve vote quality. And we all know how many people read and vote according to this...

As for the last vote's results, yes - you cannot seem them outside the game. To have a look in the game:
Click the bell icon in the lower left of the main menu, there among other news you have another panel which leads you to the results of the last Balance Council.


Forum regular
Just as threatened in #23 I will go over the most recent Balance Council vote and provide a brief analysis and assessment of the vote quality. Going forward it will follow the following format for each card

1)Card Name
2)Evaluation and analysis, usually a sentence or two given the sheer number of changes.
3)Vote quality in descending order:

+ (plus)
follows the voting suggestions in the guide, solid vote to improve the game's variety

? (question mark)
time will tell if it will be a good vote or not, might turn out just fine or problematic

- (minus)
goes the voting suggestions in the guide, no improvement of the game's variety, very likely a wasted vote

!?!? (What were they thinking?)
outright harmful even short term, potentially worse in the long term - warrants an immediate revert

With that out of the way, let's have a look.

Balance Council January 2024

Power Increase

Prevents her from getting deleted from effects like An Craite Long Ship, fair for a conditional 12P meme card. Will not outright terrorise the ladder with this small buff, but might make it more appealing to built a meme deck around here.

Cave Troll
Revert from the last BC, probably suffered for the sins of Witch's Sabbath, no longer in reach of Enslave 6 and Muzzle. While I am not a fan of Defenders, rather nerf the the strategy they are meant to protect directly instead of such indirect blanket nerfs.

The Sausage Maker
A consideration to include, saw no play earlier. Might be problematic in combination with the faction's Coin carryover with this change, also a spender R2 and R3 on an otherwise empty board, but desincentivises a drypass for obvious reasons.

Vincent Meis
Never saw play for Revenant synergy which will likely not change. Tall base power units are still rare in Gwent with Boost being much more prevalant, but might be a meta-call for sheer valaue. Needs other cards and the right meta to shine, but certainly does not mind the extra power.

Nauzicaa Sergeant
Four Councils so far, four times part of it. The posterchild of the yo-yo-nonsense. It would help a lot if other NG cards would be voted for instead of wasting a few slots for this every month. Okay in a vacuum, probematic if duplicated by Slave Driver.

Bear Witcher
Scary value if healed, also removal (setup). On the positive side a SK Witcher buff instead of neutral Witchers - and the SK Witcher deck is certainly less viable that NR's Shieldwall Witchers, so only helping the former is the correct choice to get them to a similar power level.
?, but probably +

Drummond Queensguard
much harder to activate, but more resilient and more value. Finally a proper healing target that does not heal itself making ( Heymaey) healing cards more appealing. Also Heulyn and Cerys buff.

Slave Driver
sadly no surprises here - I consider this card to be the issue behind the NG Soldier deck issue and the yo-yo nonsense around it. With a weaker Slave Driver cards that are targeted by it could be left alone. Duplication is the issue as it makes otherwise solid cards too strong.

Redanian Archer
While the card needed help in a vacuum, it might become scary in context: Mutagenerator, Lyrian Arbalest, Siege engines - its ability to store Charges to enable removal as follow up to other damage pings from the ballista cards might become oppressive if it lts the NR player can shut down opoosing engines as soo as they are played.

Just like Archer potentially very cary as budget Ethereal - 4 points per turn for one Coin with an Immune Gellert might win a round on its own. At least needs some support to enable it instead of mindlessly jamming it into whatever is the current $yndicate midrange flavour of the month.

Power Decrease

Dana Méadbh: Provider
Sadly an issue with all the expensive evolving cards - too much value in one card so the effect tends to be answer-or-lose. This makes answering her easier, but all of those cards could probably use a nudge to decrease their power level. Not a handbuff card, as that deck does not play enough different tags, so limited to Harmony. Probably okay as carryover is usually problematic.
+ (sceptically)

Needed the help, but provision would likely have been the better choice given its Deathwish effect. Killing it is not particualr difficult for the decks that run it.
+ still, but please give it more thought the next time you vote for such changes.

continues the reasonable trend from earlier BCs given the downside could be mitigated too easily. Hard to tell where to stop, but 19 was not it, and 18 likely won't be it either.

Arachas Queen
Once again, duplication is the issue. Enables cheesy strategies with Sabbath but can only ever be as good as her targets - so do not make her unviable and maybe address the cards she duplicates. Probably protected by the Defender anyway, so still viable.
+, but please don't overdo it

Ivar Evil-Eye
Very swing-y which is what probably caused people to feel strong about this one. Do mind that it has its own deck in NGights and should always be superior to tall removal like Geralt of Rivia in that particular list, but never superior in any list - but might be in the right meta.
?, unsure if that was warranted

was buffed before to show Discard some love. Not a great change as the Skirmisher buff was what gave rise to Discard, not her. If you want to show Discard some love (which it needs once Skirmishers are bck to 5P where they should be), buff Morkvarg's power instead.

Frenzied D'ao
Thinning plus removal was too easy to include which the power nerf does not change. Yes, it could use some nerf to keep it out of lists just running it with no other constructs, but provision probably would have been more resonable.

Hvitr and Aelydia
trades down to most removal now, was probably okay given its random nature. I rather have the obviously overtuned $yndicate cards nerfed, they seem like a colleteral of the faction's strength last month.

Prince Villem
takes away player agency via its randomness, at least less harmful than other thinning buffs. Will probably still not see play outside of Viy and maybe NG Spies.
Giant Toad
uninteractivity is sadly king in GWENT, so naturally it saw play. Makes otehr Consume options more appealing and will not kill the card. Likely not the reason why MO was strong this month (rather Ysgith, Ethereal), but should be still fine.

Provision Increase

Blood Scent
Leave Leaders alone and buff the cards that want this leader instead. You do not help the archetype per se but give morte incentive to include midrange cards without any Vampire synergy if you buff the leader instead of putting in the effort to think which actual cards to buff. Vampires need some help but this was not it.
Inspired Zeal
See above, just worse and another yo-yo vote. NR Siege Engines wich have their dedicated leader in Stockpile barely consider it as IZ is just superior. Within NR leaders, this one is the one most played by far while simultaneously holding other Leaders back. The issue is Order cards which need to be overtuned to warrant the risk of them not getting the Order effect, so just run three of them with this leader and you are good to go. This is not good deck building - NR has other ways to grant Zeal like Ves or Siege Support that currently see no play just because of this leader ability. Buff those and not the leader which should have less provisions compared to the other options.

Madame Marquise Serenity
Absolutely warrented. Made the Tribute package mandatory tto run and why would it not by thinninh two cards and having three engines on board with one play. The nonsensical buff to the 4P thinners only amplified the issue, play them and Mada R1 and pass at 7 to likely win the round anyway unless your opponent commits heavily.

Superior in every aspect to Treasury, uninteractive Coin generator. Should be appealing to decks that run Townsfolk and want small Coin gains each round in particular - not be the superior choice in pretty much every deck of the faction.

Lord Riptide
Was too prevalent in a faction that lacked removal. Should be fine with those exact stats, more expensive while keeping Might synergy. This could have been done with a single vote instead of three. First consider all implications, then cast your votes.

Conjurer's Candle
Uninteractive spender, engine protection, a staple in many decks. Probably too prevalent so the nerf might be warranted, but once again: don't kill the card and give it some time to see if 8P are a decent spot.

Dennis Cranmer
Huge value after the Workshop rework. The combo needs a nudge dow, even though I am unsure if it is Cranmer or Workshop that needs the nerf. At least Simlas did not die for the sins of those two cards.

Corrupted Flaminica
Gets lots of value for lots of setup, but was too cheap for what it did after players finalised and optimised the deck list. Will still see play, but seems more in line now.

Tuirseach Skirmisher
YES! Should have never been buffed in the first place. More Blue Coin abuse for free with Mask of Uroboros. Once again: Buff Morkvarg's power if you want to show Discard some love. Thinning needs to come with a cost.

Casine Bouncers
See Skirmisher. Especially problematic as part of Eventide Plunder's pool for brutal tempo on top of thinning. The card needed help but it should have been a power buff in the first place. The same goes for Sewer Raiders.

Provision decrease

Water of Brokilon
Saw no play in Harmony which might change now, but the deck is starved for provisions. Maybe we will see less polarised lists running this instead of a different high-end gold. Probably not too impactful of a buff, but certainly not a wasted vote as it increases potentially different way to build Harmony lists.
Magic Compass
The last vote probably was to prevent it from being back at 9 again. 10 seems like the sweet spot where it should firmly remain - outside of Golden Nekker decks, but accessible for decks that thin heavily. Saw more play wth Renfri to grab Regis which made for a huge finisher if combined with Curse of Gluttony.

Lydia van Vredevoort
Classical Assimilate card that saw less and less play after its introduction because of the Calveit-way to play Assimilate. Finally a NG vote outside of the yo-yo circus. At 8P it might also be preferred over Traheaern if a NG deck ahas 8P to spare and is more consistent than for example Bribery.

Actual Vampire buffs instead of blanket buffs to the leader are very much preferred. Might still not make the cut, has the potential to.

Thirsty Dame
More NG yo-yo. Very controversial buff the first time and now again. Shuts down decks like Symbiosis single-handedly as her effect triggers during all turns. I believe it should remain at 6 with its point potential. To compensate, show the status NG deck some love by buffing otehr cards - preferably ones that do not see play already.

Sorceress of Dol Blathanna
Spella'tael loves this buff, the issue is: so does Symbiosis. While the former needs it, the latter is a strong deck already. Once again the RNG issue, it can potentially chain into Bountiful Harvest repeatedly. Definitely on the very strong side now.

Bear Witcher Quartermaster
See Bear Witcher. A very strong card now as the self damage is usually a welcome bonus instead of a hindrance. Power might have been the safer option for a buff. Also do mind the Queensguard synergy if you do not have Totem on board. SK Witchers might become a viable deck now, so for now I highly recommend to wait and see before making further adjustments to that list Maybe start buffing other selfharm cards instead, Blueboy Lugos being a very good choice as it also helps Healing cards.

Wild Hunt Rider/Mahakam Volunteer/Hunting Pack
Outright harmful buffs as the buffs to $yndicate's 4P thinners just showed.
Thinning should never be free if it is unconditional like this. Just like Calveit is takes away an entire aspect of the game, draw RNG and making things work with suboptimal hands. Matches should not be won by RNG of course, but there should be player agency of whether you want to spend the provisions or don't do it and take the gamble. If every deck draws all ist cards every match, the game will get incredibly stale as you know pretty much every move as soon as you saw a few cards. We have been there in beta, it was awfully broing and should not be repeated.
8/4 bronzes plus thinning are downright autoinclude if your deck can spare the slots. This will limit deck building, the amount of playable 4P cards decreases, overall tempo of decks increases - a whole lot of problems that would not be an issue if those bronze thinners were buffed in a sensible way:
Buff them by one power if you have to, but absolutely keep them at five provisions.
This should be reverted at once, and sadly will very likely be another group of cards joining the yo-yo circus. All the while it will likely slowly creep into the game if supporters of this problem and people wanti ng to prevent it keep engaging in a tug of war. Sewer Raiders should be reverted as well, but did not make the cut. If this continues, in the long runs we will sadly have all the problems explained above - and they are likely here to stay.
If you need yet another argument just how absurd the buffs to 4P thinners are: Dun Banner makes Blue Stripes Commando absolutely useless now as they fill the same niche while Dun Banner is less conditional and thus does it better.
I cannot stress it enough: this voting behaviour has a huge impact on the game and not for the better.
Revert any attempts like thoes immediately.
Do not vote in their favour.

!?!? terrible outright dangerous vote for the entire game's health, short-term and long-term

To summarise
Most nerfs are on point.
The buffs are twofold: outside of the 4P thinners, most buffs might actually make underplayed cards a consideration. The 4P thinner nonsense will likely continue which is a dangerous tendency - try to counteract it.
That aside plenty of wasted votes in yo-yo hell, I expect the usual suspects to be reverted - and likely rightfully so. Once they are toned again, please take a good look at other NG cards that could use the help far more instead of wasting another cycle and vote slots on this drama.
Even though... given awful 4P thinner votes, maybe having those slots blocked might be the better option. No I am not being serious, yes I am being cynical.
Where Balance Council Is Going Wrong

As of the February 2024 Balance Council, I am beginning to see a pattern in Balance Council votes that is both pleasing and disappointing. I am pleased that yo-yo voting and faction revenge voting seems to be settling out. I am also pleased to see very few short-sighted votes. And I am pleased that there is a trend away from highly binary play. From what I hear, this may be due to the influence of some very influential streamers.

What I find disturbing about Balance Council vote trends is that I believe they are based on a very flawed notion of balance and that they are obviously not sustainable.

My sense of Balance Council now is that some powerful streamers are imposing a sense of balance based upon balancing archetypes at the expense of balancing cards. I believe this will quickly kill all fun in the game. Let me explain.

At present there are a dozen or so meta decks that are quite even built around a variety of different archetypes. These decks far out class any other deck. I believe there is a strong movement to preserve (or at best slightly tweak these decks) while finding additional archetypes to raise to this level. On the surface, this appears well-reasoned, but it has a pernicious down-side.

At present, Gwent has a small handful (perhaps 25) of cards (call them super-cards) that simply play for way too many points. 30 or 40 points from one play – even if it requires a game’s worth of set up, even if it is spread over an entire round – is simply too much when typical plays are worth about 10 points. Turns are resources just as much as provisions are. And because these cards are so good, every viable deck must include them (and be designed around them). These cards are absolutely integral to the current, “balanced” meta. And this poses two major problems:
  • meta decks are limited to decks that can effectively use these super-cards.
  • failure to draw your super-cards (or losing them to the likes of Ihuaraquax or Traheaern) results in a certain loss.
The first of these issues results in severely limited deck variety (which cannot be fixed by buffing under-utilized cards because as soon as an under-utilized card is good enough to validate a new deck, it will be absorbed into super-card decks, keeping them on top). It also destroys the joy of deck-building – the only viable choices are the choices already built into a handful of meta-decks.

The second of these issues can be (and is being) addressed by buffing thinning and tutoring to the point where risk of not drawing super-cards is minimal. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, this “fix” is worse than the problem – for two reasons:
  • It entrenches already over-powered cards by removing their only drawback (the inconsistency of being unable to play large numbers of provisions under the wrong circumstances).
  • It further reduces the fun and challenge of Gwent by removing most need for adaptation. The challenge and creativity in Gwent arises when one must use innovative approaches to adapt to actual card draws rather than merely following some previously-established, optimal card order.
The correct way to deal with RNG, in my opinion, is to even the value between cards to the point where drawing more gold cards than your opponent is not a win condition. And in cases where super cards cannot be evened, make them sufficiently costly that the expected return is per provision is no more than that of typical cards. Then inconsistency can be addressed by simply choosing less polarized cards. (At present, this is not viable because the super-cards are so much better than average alternatives that the alternatives require good luck to win. Rather than being seen as villains of RNG, cards like Ihuaraquax and Trehearn should be seen as heroes of balance because they help equalize less extreme deck building.)

To me, true balance has to begin at the card level. Yes, it is true that cards cannot be balanced in a vacuum – their value depends upon other cards that support them and that they support. But when the disparity between cards becomes so great that one cannot build a viable deck without including at least some of a small pool of super-powered cards, that disparity must be fixed or the game will flounder. If low provision cards play for about provision cost +3 points, high provision cards should play for no more than that, or one encounters an inevitably binary and repetitive focus on highly polarized decks centered on a small variety of super-cards.

Unfortunately, given that the meta decks naturally revolve around existing super-cards (which by my philosophy of game balance need significant nerfs on the order of 5 or more provisions), current “archetype” balance will be substantially disrupted by the changes needed for healthy, stable game balance. In short, we should be focused first on balancing cards. Only after that is archetype balance meaningful.

And that leads me to my second complaint about the current balance council trends – they are not sustainable. At present, I freely admit that there are perhaps a dozen closely matched, top meta decks. Without truly fixing op cards, there is little potential for more than a handful of additional decks to reach competitive level. But much of the current council vote seems focused on preserving this status quo balance – to the extent that some are advocating for no further nerfs, and voting to prevent them. For instance, in the February, 2024 Balance Council, of 10 provision increases voted in, 4 went to leaders (which are actually buffs), two (Compass, Thirsty Dame) went to yo-yo votes, and two (Ihuaraquax, Tainted Ale) went to scapegoat cards that actually help balance the polarized metadecks dominating the game at high levels, and only two (Philippe and Temple) are arguably deserved nerfs. And of 10 power decreases voted in, 5 (Lara, Rainfarn, Coen, Roderick, and Scapegoat) are actually buffs, one (Nauzicaa Sergeant) was a yo-yo vote, one (Regis) was a multi-council adjustment (now probably bordering on over-done), with only 3 (Serenity, Yago, Rosa & Edna) new, potentially balancing nerfs (though one could argue that those, too, are archetype hate votes). It very much appears to me that influential voting blocks are deliberately maneuvering to prevent meaningful nerfs. The result is that already strong (I would argue too strong) cards are being buffed. Cards desperately needing nerfs become untouchable because fixing them would temporarily disrupt the delicate balance at the top. And leaders are being buffed, which will only allow still more super-cards to be included in decks. And this cannot continue indefinitely. Ultimately, scapegoat cards will run out. Ultimately disloyal and related cards that receive boosts from changes that typically are nerfs will run out. Ultimately, only archetypes with no super-cards will remain to be buffed – and they will never be competitive. And that day will probably come in the next three months.


Forum regular
I did not bother -and likely will not bother anymore - to write a patch analysis for those very reasons. The evaluation is mostly spot-on. Given my joy lies in GWENT's deck building which is ruined by this balance philosophy there is simply not much of a point for me to engage with the entire system anymore.
Yes, we will get a few more decks but the issue is, you can only build those decks in a very specific way by using the newly (over)buffed cards to revive it. Alumni got all the love, yet you will never see cards like Dethmold or Síle in that list. Will never see single-Spell Mages with Keira and Ban Ard Tutor.

All the thinning nonsense already has an impact on how the game is played in general: Tempo and thinning R1 and nothing else, then either R2 or 3 is ist just slamming the "super cards" how you call them. No variance in lines of play, the general structure is pretty much the same across all decks now.
Ultimately, scapegoat cards will run out. Ultimately disloyal and related cards that receive boosts from changes that typically are nerfs will run out.
Lo and behold, the CIS community already found a glorious solution to this problem, comrade! There have been talks about just using any underplayed card as a scapegoiat. For example making Wolf Pack a 50 provision card, just to block other players from using the nerf slots in a meaningful way.
Of course cards like Ihuaraquax will get nerfed, so will get mill. You cannot allow cards that show the glaring flaws of the design philosophy you declared as good for the game to exist after all.

If at any point people will realise just how harmful that trend is, it will be too late to revert it. It will take ages to get all the introduced powercreep back in line before you could even start to work on underplayed cards again. Even if the long- and short-term voting philosophies would not clash, balancing archetypes instead of cards will not work out for reasons mentioned above. But I am afraid we are past the point of no return here.
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