by Lauren Fitch
Hi, everyone, and welcome to another installment of The White Harbor Times. Instead of a tournament report, this week I’ll be engaging in some wild speculation and a look back at dual-house cards. Spoiler alert! We’ll be discussing characters from all books from A Song of Ice and Fire. If you haven’t read them all, proceed with caution!
So, what is a dual-house card? Simply put, a dual-house card is any card in A Game of Thrones that has two (or more!) house affiliations. These cards were designed for both flavor and practical reasons. Let’s take a look at some examples from First Edition, and then discuss the possibility of dual-house (dual-faction!) cards in Second Edition.
Jaqen H’ghar is a Faceless Man whom Arya frees from a Night’s Watch wagon cage during a battle with Lannister henchmen. Although Arya is the only main character we see Jaqen H’ghar interact with, it wouldn’t be appropriate to make him a Stark-affiliated character, since he has no loyalty to the Starks. He could have been designed as a neutral card, but the developers decided to give him every house affiliation, which could have been a Nedly nod to Jaqen’s status as a Faceless Man from the design team; in essence, he can change his appearance and blend in with the members of any house! Since Jaqen had all of the house affiliations, he was considered “in-house” for all of the houses. If Jaqen H’ghar were to be released in Second Edition, he could be released as either a neutral or as he was in First Edition. As much as I like the flavor of the original, the challenges of graphic design and sheer space on the card might be a bit prohibitive. Side note, this card was banned from competitive play. More on that later, perhaps.
Some of the dual-house cards that existed in First Edition were for practical rather than Nedly reasons. Margaery Tyrell had two Baratheon versions before this version was released with both Baratheon and Lannister affiliations. Of course, in Second Edition Margaery is a Tyrell card, but in First Edition Tyrell did not exist as a main faction, so that wasn’t an option. Margaery’s dual affiliation more accurately reflects her position at court. Her marriage to Renly Baratheon was very short, and most of her time in the books up to this point is spent either betrothed or married to Joffrey or Tommen Baratheon. Joffrey and Tommen are Baratheons in name only, and the court is filled with Lannisters. Would we ever see a dual-faction Margaery? As much as I think her dual-house First Edition card was the perfect way to describe her situation, I don’t think it would make sense now that we have Tyrell as a main faction. Margaery does not have any special loyalty to the Lannisters that would warrant an additional faction affiliation. However, it would be very interesting to see a Baratheon Queen Margaery!
Janos Slynt was captain of the Gold Cloaks in King’s Landing until Tyrion Lannister stripped him of his position and sent him to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch. There were several versions of Janos Slynt in First Edition –all Lannister – with the Night’s Watch trait. However, now that we have a Night’s Watch main faction, Janos is a superb candidate for a dual-faction card. After he is sent to the Wall, he retains his loyalties to the Lannisters and develops virtually none to the Night’s Watch, ignoring orders and disrespecting traditions as well as his sworn brothers. Unlike other characters, whose allegiances may change and develop over time, Janos could feasibly have both the Night’s Watch and the Lannister affiliation at the same time.
Brienne of Tarth
We first encounter Brienne of Tarth in A Clash of Kings, when Catelyn Stark travels to Renly Baratheon’s camp to try to negotiate with him for her son, Robb. At that time, Brienne is a Lady who wishes to be a knight. When she wins the melee at Renly’s camp, he makes her a member of his Rainbow Guard. Later, she and Catelyn flee the camp together (because reasons…) and Brienne swears fealty to Lady Catelyn. Interesting point to note that the First Edition print of Brienne has a remarkably similar in-game effect to that of Catelyn Stark out of the Core Set – neither of these ladies like tricks. Now that we have a Tyrell main faction, where would Brienne’s loyalty lie? If, as I hope, a King Renly is released as a Tyrell card in the upcoming cycle, then I expect we will see a Tyrell Brienne as well. The Tyrells’ alliance with Renly was crucial to his brief reign as King, so any cards from that part of the books should reasonably be Tyrell. However, Brienne spends the majority of her time in the books trying to fulfill promises made to Catelyn Stark. If we don’t get a dual-faction Brienne, then I would expect to see versions in both houses eventually.
Ser Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan Selmy was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under three Kings: Aegon Targaryen, Robert Baratheon, and Joffrey Baratheon. He left King’s Landing after being stripped of his rank by Joff. He had four versions in First Edition, reflecting his popularity as a character in the books, but all were either neutral or Targaryen. The cover of True Steel appears to be a depiction of Ser Barristan, and because of card numbers (Maester’s Chain is the first neutral card in the pack, but characters typically come before attachments) he appears to be a Baratheon character, which would be a change from the past, seeing as the Kingsguard characters have always been printed as either neutral or Lannister characters (except for Ser Arys Oakheart). Having a Baratheon version seems appropriate because the Kingsguard should be loyal to the crown, not the Lannisters. I’m sure we will see a Targaryen version of Ser Barristan eventually, but I wonder if we would ever see a dual-faction version. He seems to have completely switched his allegiance from House Baratheon to House Targaryen when he goes in search of Daenerys, so it might be more Nedly to have versions in each faction rather than a dual-faction card.
We never had a dual-house Jon Snow in First Edition because Night’s Watch was a trait rather than a playable house / faction. There were several versions of the card with both the Night’s Watch and the Wildling traits, which alluded to Jon’s conflicting loyalties. Jon Snow is a great example of a dual-faction card because, despite his misgivings, he retains at least some semblance of loyalty to his father’s house even after becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Why do we need a third Jon Snow? So we can have a dual-faction version! A successful dual-faction card should be equally playable in both factions or it loses some of its functionality. Stark and Night’s Watch both tend to play somewhat defensively, depending on the deck, so a defensive-themed, dual-faction Jon Snow could be a great card.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to the return of dual-faction cards? Do they sound like too much hassle! Let me know in the comments! Check in with me in two weeks when I post my tournament report from A Dance with Dragons – NYC’s unofficial regional.