I am just a bored guy that plays Gwent and currently working on a project in RPG Maker. In between those and my real-life obligations, I like to discuss things like game balance and design. I can be a bit biased at times (my post history may reflect this) but I try to approach all matters objectively before taking a stance on anything (I like to think my post history also reflects this).
If you find these ramblings not worth your interest, I apologize in advance. I was just a bored guy looking to discuss the game mechanics.
Some of you may remember me from my Making Busted Cards Until Tunnel Drill Gets Nerfed series or even the other few posts that I make around reddit. Honestly, I find myself just wanting to chat about some of the mechanics around Gwent and discussing ways to either improve them or utilize them in new ways. Today I want to discuss a mechanic/keyword that I think is criminally underutilized in the game, which should be obvious by the title, Devotion.
Introduced back in the Master Mirror expansion (June 30, 2020), the Devotion tag as described by CDPR “Enhances a card’s ability, assuming your deck consists solely of faction-specific cards.” Popular devotion cards include all the Evolving (Leader) cards included in every faction that transform at the end of each round and becomes their strongest version in round 3given the devotion requirement. Additional Devotion tagged cards have been released but sparingly and as of July 10, 2021, there are 24 Devotion tagged cards playable in the game (extra tidbit not related to the topic, but it is the Independence Day for the Bahamas).
Opinion on Current State of Devotion
I do not think that there are enough Devotion cards in the card pool. I think personally think the phrase “criminally underutilized” is an understatement. Only 2% (1.78%) of the Gwent’s card pool are tagged Devotion, which is 24 out of 1,352 cards. Only 6 of these Devotion cards are bronze (1 per faction), and in most cases, I do not feel the need to run them even when I build a devotion deck since they want me to work with a particular archetype (War of Clans with Warriors or Amnesty in Tactics).
Now do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to argue that all cards should have the Devotion tag, but I do think the number needs to be increased significantly to make deckbuilding more difficult. Many decks are built to utilize powerful control tools such as Heatwave or Geralt: Yrden and I feel that these cards often outweigh the benefits of building a Devotion deck when I think they should rival them. I do not think we should punish deck builders for building decks on either side (Devotion vs Non-Devotion) but I think that Devotion lists are punished heavily while Non-Devotion decks are not (or on a lesser scale) and I think that should change.
The Devotion mechanic can also allow for better balancing of existing cards. Cards seen as too strong can be reworked to hide their strength behind the devotion bonus. That way, cards can be toned down under regular play but excel in Devotion lists. Blightmaker was a card seen as overpowered since the release of PoP. A 7 for 5, with the potential to become an 11 for 5; given you played Mage Assassin in the deck and the opponent has at least 1 unit on the board. Blightmaker was nerfed in the recent patch to 6 provisions but there are still some people that argue that this card is still too strong and should receive an additional nerf. Applying the principle here, I think we could effectively balance the ability of Blightmaker:
Deploy: Move a card in your deck to the top of it.
Devotion: If it was a Mage,* Spawn The Guardian in this row. If it was a special card, Spawn and play a Cow Carcass.
Did I kill the card? Debatable but I argue more that I only reduced the effectiveness and incentivized the deck builder for foregoing powerful neutral cards in their deck building choices. I think Gwent really lacks that difficulty from a deck building perspective and proper use of the Devotion tag could help some archetypes using Devotion reworks, without the need to create more cards.
I also think there is room to consider a Devotion payoff to some (if not all) leader abilities in the game. A Devotion payoff on leader abilities, in my opinion, could potentially differentiate two decks with the same leader ability in the mirror matchup. Again, the case here is somewhat relative to the changes to cards for balancing, so I will not linger here.
The feeling may not be mutual by all players, but I feel the Devotion tag is underutilized in the game. I think CDPR should use the tag to adjust the strength of cards and to balance them where necessary. I also feel that Devotion could be an added level of difficulty to deck building as players will really need to choose more between powerful neutral cards or devotion payoffs. I also believe that there is room for Devotion on leader abilities as well since this can create an extra level of differentiation between decks with the same leader abilities/strategies, but these would need to be implemented properly to ensure that the abilities remain balanced.
So how do you feel about the Devotion tag in Gwent? Is it underutilized or do you feel that the right proportion of cards are currently in place? What do you think about leader abilities with a Devotion payoff? Curious to know your thoughts.