by Aaron Glazer (Pulseglazer) & Greg Atkinson (dobbler)
So, another Monday, another column needed (hint…you should be submitting content. Message Luke — eldub — on the boards or on FB). Our old friend, two-time world champion Greg Atkinson decided he liked the format and would get in on these articles. What follows are Greg’s thoughts, then my thoughts (sometimes, but kind of not really, related). Greg will be bold. I will be italics.
I believed 5 STR was the magic number due to the number of effects that required winning by 5 STR to trigger. Prior to True Steel, there were 18 characters with printed 5 STR (And only 6 characters with printed 6 STR). With such a bevy of regularly played 5 STR characters, I now believe 6 STR is my magic number. Why? I want to be able to defend and win against the common played 5 STR characters (I’m looking at you Jaime, Mirri, and KoF) with a single character if possible.
Strength matters to win challenges, but when do challenges really matter? Winning a challenge without a subsequent effect is rarely enough, and this is a game of effects. Thus far, amongst the most powerful effects has been burn, but will burn survive the current meta? See #6 for more.
Speaking of 6 STR, the White Book podcast spoiled the two Bara cards in True Steel, Ser Barristan Selmy and City Watch. Both have 6 Printed STR. Ours is the Fury is a card with GREAT potential but was nearly unplayable because Robert Baratheon was the only target of any real consequence. Bara now has three playable targets for Ours is the Fury. Watch out.
Baratheon Banner of the Lion is just getting crazy. It still has the dominance build, but don’t sleep on a keep-everything-knelt jumper, either. City Watch is a slightly worse, non-unique Hound. Having that much jumping and kneeling messing up challenge math is a nightmare for opponents.
Illyrio is criminally underplayed. I often hear people say, “I only play him in Targ Banner of the Lion or Lanni Banner of the Dragon where Tyrion provides the gold for him”. 2 gold to stand your best character on the board? Sign me up for that all day. Illyrio and I are best buds.
Danny is being played less and less with Mirri in the meta. Dragons are less safe than ever between First Snow and Ser Ilyn. The gold on Blood of the Dragon is a huge tempo hit. Dragons and burn should still see play, but are they really T1? If you had to win a tournament and play Targaryen, would you go with them and take the Lanni/First Snow risk, or would you just play them as extra kill and focus on Drogo and Mirri? The meta has seemingly spoken and the answer is the Drogo/Mirri build.
Ward is a Stark attachment coming in True Steel. It has been spoiled for about 5 months now, so if you haven’t yet seen it, go find it. I believe this card will change deck building (both draw decks and plot decks) more than any other card in the Westeros Cycle. I played some practice games with it this past week, and it drastically modifies the tempo of the game in your favor.
Septa Mordane is legitimately scary. Plus 2 strength and renown on the new Sansa keeps her in challenges for a long time as an amazing 2 for 6. That’s awesome, especially on defense, as it becomes a question of Stealthing her or Cat…and Mordane herself can still defend. The real strength, though, is for Arya. Arya surviving First Snow with a dupe goes a long way toward keeping her on the board AND having Marched protection (for the following turn) on a hugely impactful turn that could change the game.
I was wrong about Trading with the Pentoshi when it first came out. I just didn’t see myself using it, as I never wanted to give my opponent 3 gold. Then Matt Phillips owned me with it several times in the Springfield, Missouri SC. It has gone in every one of my decks since then.
Fallen from Favor is really good. I always worry I can’t take the tempo hit, but with a proper build, it’s rarely an issue. Greyjoy and Stark particularly love it, as they get extra use thanks to their gold curve, desire to control initiative, and the sacrifice hurts less. I’ve yet to have to sacrifice something I really need. Be wary of sacking a reducer chud, though, as that’s a two gold swing, making this, essentially, an effective five gold plot.
Even Handed Justice has been my favorite card for the past month. I have played both Joust and Melee games, and it works great in both. I love cards that are amazing in both formats.
My current favorite card is Winterfell. The plot is incredible at controlling what an opponent can do and when. It alone has changed my evaluation of Stark as a house. With Winterfell and Cat on the board, the opponent is ridiculously limited in what he or she can do. Be wary of two things though: 1. First Snow is common and Winterfell will turn off nothing on an opponent’s First Snow turn. Nothing hurts more than some target kill right when Winterfell (and Bran) can’t help you. 2. Winterfell turns off your Robb’s stand if used on military. Because of this, I often defend military and use it on intrigue to protect against Tears.
Seastone Chair wrecked my face at my first SC (in Kansas City) and Willycon. But every time I build Greyjoy, I don’t seem to get the same mileage out of it. Sometime the statement “If you can’t beat them, join them” is just not accurate.
Greyjoy remains hugely hit or miss for me. I cannot get it to be more than just consistently fast and easy to stop. I think we’re a few cards away. I’m intrigued by Drowned God tech and how it works with Balon, but that’s really just doubling down on Balon for president.
When Gregor first came out, he was polarizing. The community seemed to fall into two camps – A) “he will be easily controlled with Icon control or kneel and he only has 1 Icon so I don’t have to worry about him that much” or B) “OMFG, he is so brooooken.” He is definitely a high impact RNG card, but between INBAMF Lanny decks and Gregor Voltron decks, I believe the A) portion of the community was simply wrong on him. I don’t remember which side I fell on when we reviewed him on the White Book podcast (honestly!) but he wins games. Often.
Greg loved Gregor, and I did not. He was right and I was wrong, so far, but it feels set to change. Martell has gained prominence recently and gets two cards, Imprisoned and Tyrene, that simply destroy him. Add that to Ghaston, and it’s hard to see him as a three-of going forward. I still may run one or two, but at that rate, he’s less likely to turn a match, which is healthy for the game.
When the Core set came out, all of the repeat kill cards were loyal (Grey Wind, Plaza) and even some of the “one-shot” kill cards were loyal (Ice, Dracarys). So what is up with FFG releasing Gregor, Mirri, and Ilyn Payne (True Steel), cards that can repeat kill but don’t have loyalty? I don’t like it. At least they have stayed consistent with draw cards continuing to be loyal. And if I was making a guess on the first cards to get errata’d, mark me down as voting for Gregor and Mirri and assigning them the Loyalty flag.
Draw should matter more. Between the lack of resets and the existence of reserve, I often just straight cut draw cards, which would never happen in first edition. Second edition is all about tempo and ways to swing it. Right now, draw rarely swings games; it can help change tempo by seeing the right cards, but since gold/economy and kill are the main tempo shifters, I prefer to just stack more of those in my deck, along with specific ways to find them.
I was wrong about The Red Viper. I thought he was horrible. I felt the same about Doran. But I finally built a Martell deck, and those two play very nicely together. I won my first 3 games with my Martell Fealty deck (which should likely be a Crossing deck instead), largely on the strength of a mid-game power rush, going from 5 to 15 power in a turn.
Martell has ascended to being amongst the top tier houses. Lannister and Baratheon aren’t going anywhere, but Martell answers those two amazingly well; it has the right bodies, the right control, and the right removal. I’m impressed with its general showing. I think I’d have it #3 right now, but that’s an impressive jump. Viper goes in all my decks, as a 7 for 7 tri-con both stops and enables an awful lot of effects. I do, however, cut Doran, partially because Tyene fills his cost slot, but also partially because I can get his effect from a two drop attachment (Dawn). Even without Dany, he’s amazingly burnable.
FFG won’t, but REALLY should, announce which CPs will be legal at Gen Con. A new cycle shakes up a lot, but especially if CP2 is legal. That’s where the Kings of Summer and Winter agendas are located. If two new agendas will be prominent at continentals, we really should know in advance. If they’re legal, that’s fine, and if not, that’s fine, but the gray area is absolutely a hindrance to competitive players that could be easily alleviated if FFG cares to do so.