Ever since the cards of our lovely second edition were published on cardgamedb, a fierce debate has raged: Which is better, Fealty or Banner? The debate will often simmer under the surface; posters will refrain from commenting but may scoff under their breath when they see someone having success or failure with the agenda they feel is inferior. But the truth of the matter, regardless of what some vocal community members say, is that neither Fealty nor a Banner is inherently good nor bad, neither better nor worse. There are decks in the meta that are currently weak and others that are strong. However, these builds cross the boundaries of factions, agendas, play-styles, and skill level. Some of these dominant decks are Fealty: Targ Fealty, Baratheon Fealty, or Greyjoy Fealty; others like Lannister Banner of the Rose, Targaryen Banner of the Lion, or Baratheon Banner of the Watch utilize the banner agendas. Using Fealty provides some inherent advantages and disadvantages as does using a banner. Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a better sense of what those advantages/disadvantages are and which agenda will be best for you and your future decks.
The Advantages of Fealty
Conditional one gold doesn’t seem great until you realize that the game is all about gold. – Aaron Glazer
The most obvious advantage of fealty is the economy it provides. Fealty will provide at most one gold of economy per turn. However, this boost also requires you to play one loyal card every turn. Currently, Lannister has the most reducible loyal cards at eight, with Targaryen, Night’s Watch, and Baratheon tied for second with seven apiece. So, due to the relatively low amount of loyal cards and the average number of rounds in a game (about six) even in the most prevalent factions, it’s unlikely that you’ll use fealty more than five times in a single game and often not even that. In most of your games, you’ll use fealty about three times. Now while three gold may not seem like a lot, it can actually be incredibly influential, especially when you consider that the gold will often allow you to play your expensive characters in games when you don’t see very many economy cards.
The second advantage of Fealty is that it allows you to capitalize on the natural trait synergy that most factions possess throughout their curve. By playing Fealty, you allow yourself to fill in both the low and high end of your curve with characters from your main faction without having to worry about banner cards. For some factions, like Greyjoy, Stark, and probably Targaryen soon (Dothraki deck?), having a lot of characters with a positive trait can be highly beneficial. In a Greyjoy deck, having a smattering of Ironborn characters throughout your deck means that you can use Aeron Damphair to recur your claim-soak and to back up your hard-hitting characters.
Disadvantages of Fealty
Banner agendas allow you to fill in the 3, 4, and 5 gold slots better, and allow you to play 6x 1-drops for better setups. – Chris Kizer
For the most part, there are two disadvantages to playing Fealty – first, the limitation of Fealty itself states that you cannot have more than 15 neutral cards in your deck; second, if you are playing Fealty, you are unable to play another agenda, which, in the current pool, means you cannot banner to another faction. Let’s discuss both of those reasons individually.
First up, the neutral limit. Now, in my meta, I very often see people playing No Agenda decks. When I ask them why they didn’t play Fealty (as they clearly wanted to play with only one faction), many will say “Because there were too many neutral cards I wanted to include,” to which I respond, “How many neutrals do you have?”
Their answer is often some amount between 17 and 20. Now, there are a few valid reasons for running enough neutrals to merit using no agenda, the most prevalent of which right now is wanting to use both Varys and a large number of kill events. The most obvious example of this build is the classic Lannister No Agenda build, pioneered very near the game’s release by Aaron Glazer, Istaril, and Darknoj found here: http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/agameofthrones2ndedition/a-game-of-thrones-2nd-edition-decks/_/a-game-of-thrones-2nd-edition-decks/btw-a-hunting-accident-anti-bara-r143.
This deck runs 26 neutral cards, which is certainly enough to merit not using a Fealty. However, as I mentioned earlier, many of the No Agenda decks I see are running more like 17-20 neutrals. I find, very often, if a deck is running less than 20 neutrals, the deck would be better off dropping enough to use Fealty to gain the economy.
In addition to the neutral limit of fealty, it prevents you from bannering to another faction, which can stop you from achieving some excellent cross-faction synergy. Fealty can also negatively impact your potential cost curve, as all of the factions currently have a finite (and small) number of low curve characters. By bannering to another faction, you gain another set of one-drop chuds and probably some solid low-curve characters like Margaery Tyrell or The Hound. At this point, Banner of the Lion, Rose, and Sun will benefit a huge amount of decks, as they have some exceptional low-cost characters and some amazing bombs (Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Nymeria Sand, Randyll Tarly, etc.).
So Why Play Fealty?
So if those banners are full of so many good cards, is that +3 economy and extra synergy really worth it? The simple answer is, sometimes. While banner agendas provide some great cards, the extra gold and synergy can far surpass those cards’ benefit in certain scenarios, especially with the current small card pool. If your deck can really capitalize on one of the advantages of fealty and doesn’t require banner cards to accomplish its primary goal, then go ahead and leave the banners at home and swear fealty to your desired faction.
Some Examples From Both Sides of the Aisle
If you’ve decided you want to play Baratheon, then Fealty is one of your best options (also don’t tell Joe from Cincinnati because he may never speak to you again). Fealty is strong in Bara for a number of reasons, but chiefly because it has a high number of loyal cards (seven), and all of them are the kind of cards you want to reduce – events that you’ll want to have the money to play, big characters that can be tough to get on the board, and an expensive location that can be difficult to afford at times.
My firstborn son of 2.0 decks. Fealty is a great choice for Greyjoy because it allows you to fill in your curve with characters that can be recurred by Aeron Damphair. And, in a relatively econ-starved faction, having a reduction for Balon Greyjoy and Euron Crow’s Eye can be huge. Additionally, Greyjoy doesn’t really need support from other factions to accomplish its primary goal, getting unopposed challenges (note: this is from a pre-Nymeria meta standpoint, she may make it worth the switch to Banner of the Sun)
Lannister Banner of the Rose: http://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/2408/chicago-sc-winner-lions-growing-strong-1.0
An example of a deck that gains more from its banner cards that it does from Fealty. Getting the extra rushing power of Randyll Tarly and The Knight of Flowers, combined with the tricks potential of Margaery Tyrell is far more valuable than the extra income provided by Fealty. However, the Rose variant relies more heavily on Tywin than the Fealty version due to the higher curve and, of course, the lack of the economy that fealty would otherwise provide.
So there you have it: just one man’s opinion on the agendas that are currently available to us. If you have any questions or thoughts about agendas please post them in the comments! I’d love to get a good, old-fashion debate going. If you have deck ideas or want advice on how this whole agenda business applies to a deck you’re thinking about, email me at Takingthewhite@gmail.com.
Note: This week’s article was a little bit shorter than previous ones. Please let me know how you felt about that in the comments, do you want them to be longer? Shorter? Exactly this length? Let me know and I’ll do my best to oblige.