by Luke Wortley (eldub)
I was talking to Aaron a couple days ago about a guy he played against on OCTGN; apparently, the guy blew a gasket over a smart play on Aaron’s part. On OCTGN, without a table manifest (to flip, of course), the player apparently him-hawed around, lobbed a few insubstantial insults over chat, and quit before the Marshalling Phase even began.
I’m a semi-competitive player; I like to test my best decks against other good players, and I generally have a good winning percentage in tournaments when I can make it to play. However, much of the Thrones community, even the highest level competitors, is managing a life with veritable responsibilities. Sure, we all take time to listen to podcasts, debate card values, and mercilessly ridicule each other’s mistakes, but the real value, as has been stated on other websites and podcasts, of playing the only game that matters is the sense of belonging to something that’s greater than any one individual player. We’re telling stories and having fun, people.
I may sound a bit sentimental, perhaps even trite, but forgive me this one lapse into overt sentimentality, seeing as I began playing Thrones in the seventh grade (2002-2003) after having read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire. My teacher at the time, who also ran the after-school Adventure Gaming Club (which was just a fancy way of saying we played D&D on Wednesdays or Fridays), was also an avid fan of the books. He was one of my closest friends and one of my first mentors, and I lost him last week to a war-of-attrition with several infectious diseases, including cancer. He got me started playing this game, and though I took a long break – an almost 10 year break, actually – I did finally return. What always intrigued me about the card game itself, though, apart from the unique mechanics (which I’ll get to in a moment), was the seamless integration of the world of Westeros into the card design. And although I grew older and snobbier (I earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Butler University in Indianapolis) when it came to my books, I found that the world of Westeros (and Essos) always managed to carve out a bit of space in my psyche – a space that hadn’t been completely worn smooth and polished flat and shining by years of workshop and haughty proclamations of “literary” merit. In many ways, the series was a safe haven for me, and it is perhaps now more than ever with him gone. Here’s to you, Mr. V.
Anyway, thank you for indulging my bit of waxing on; now, for the point of the series. Nerdly Ned is an article series that will focus on the Nedly value of cards, which, if we’re all honest, is one of the reasons we play the game. Yeah, we all love actually playing the game, but so many of us only casually give a nod to the actual story behind the card and we get caught up in the nuances of the moment, rather than realizing that it’s a game (see above anecdote) based on a fantasy world with a lot of texture.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the most important cards in the game (yes, I said it): Plots.
The eponymously named card-type, the Plot card, denotes some of the over-arching plot points throughout the book (and TV) series. Of course, there are currently 30 plots in the game, so I’ll just focus on some of my favorites and some that see a lot of game-play.
These plots almost made the cut in my Favorites list but fell just short.
A Game of Thrones
Excellent plot, very cool art with the royal entourage leaving Winterfell Castle with the new Hand of the King, Eddard Stark riding alongside his friend and King, Robert Baratheon (first of his name, titles, titles…). The ability is also super Nedly because it shows how bad Eddard really was at the only game that matters, the game of thrones. Didn’t quite make the cut because that quotation is actually from A Storm of Swords and is said by Petyr Baelish (not pictured) in King’s Landing (nowhere near Winterfell). Still awesome, though.
I love this plot because we all know what is about to happen. Viserys is about to get his crown. His arrogance and refusal to accept foreign customs that he deemed primitive ultimately lead to his coronation at the hands of Khal Drogo in the ancient, holy city of Vaes Dothrak. The only thing that would make this card better (and perhaps push it into the Nedliest of the Nedly, in my opinion) is if the attachment removal were specific to Weapon attachments; however, for gameplay purposes, I get it.
The Nedliest of the Nedly
The following plots are in my Favorites list. Obviously each reader has their own biases, so this list is open for debate. In fact, I encourage it.
Okay, so this plot, apart from being a staple in some aggro decks in the current meta, is swoon-worthy from a Nedly perspective. Everything about it is great. On the way down to King’s Landing, we all remember the butcher’s boy and Arya fighting with stick-swords on the banks of the Trident (where Robert crushed Rhaegar’s chest with his Warhammer, coincidentally) and Joff ruining the day by twirling Lion’s Tooth around like an idiot and getting his arm chomped by Nymeria. This card captures that moment perfectly, and the limitation to one challenge, coupled with the title, makes this plot in my top 3 for Nedliest plots in the cycle up to this point.
A Clash of Kings
Speaking of the Trident…The art on this card is dazzling. What’s not to love about a mounted Rhaegar and Robert dueling in single-combat while the Seven Kingdoms burn? The game text is great, too. Notice that you actually get to take a literal crown (power symbol) from the opponent – of course symbolic of Robert’s triumph at the Trident and the end of the Targaryen dynasty. One of the Nedliest aspects of this card, though, is the initiative value. In the first part of the books (where we are in terms of the cycle), Robert’s Rebellion is still very much a part of the cultural mythos of Westeros; though the King has gone slightly to seed, the stories of his valor, fury, and strength are still enough to give him sway over many of the proceedings of court and beyond. The high initiative reflects this fact.
A Noble Cause
Oh, Sansa, you learn so much from this experience. She kneels prostrate before King Joffrey pleading for her father’s life, only to be forced to watch as Ser Illyn Payne serves the King’s Justice with Eddard’s own sword. What I like about this card, apart from the obvious connection between art and title, is the ability is so Nedly. The reduction of the cost for the next Lord or Lady character is due to the fact that, after Lord Eddard’s execution, the Lannisters essentially own Lady Sansa, thereby giving them a stranglehold on the North.
Well, that’s what I got for you this time around. Please feel free to debate and banter in the comments. Would love to hear from any and all of you on suggestions to make this article better (we’re planning on incorporating card art — this post was a bit rushed because our regular contributor fell ill).
Yall take care now.
*All card images from CardgameDB