This week Will, Roy, and Scott talk about the new champ card article and then discuss silver bullets and sideboarding in relation to Thrones!
Music by Spinozar.
This week in From The Shadows we’re going to be looking at being first player and breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of being first player. I feel I must warn readers that some of this article will get fairly heavy into the rules, you’ve been forewarned.
Will, Tommy and Roy make a big announcement about the pdocast, discuss the new tournament rules document, and announce a NY tournament.
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Will, Aaron, Greg, Tommy, and guest John Bruno talk new preview cards and start to touch on themes and mechanics the would like to see return to Second Edition. Our apologies for the short episode this week. Alas, we faced a multitude of technical difficulties this week. We’ve salvaged as much as we can.
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In this article series, Kenno addresses some of the crafting and design aspects of A Game of Thrones: Second Edition by examining the relationship between current cards and 1.0 counterparts as well as by projecting how certain 1.0 cards and general mechanics may scale in the coming cycles.
One of the most interesting things about A Game of Thrones: Second Edition is it is one of the few existing card games with an extremely colourful and comprehensive past. The game was originally launched as a Collectible Card Game (CCG) in 2002 and was rebooted as a Living Card Game (LCG) in 2008. In August 2015, despite First Edition’s (1.0) popularity, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) made a conscious decision to release a second edition (2.0) of Thrones, but this time, with streamlined rules and new factions, with the intent of chapter packs cycling out after a certain number of years.
The last part is especially important, since 1.0 was never designed with a rotation in mind — it was simply a vast pool of different cards that interacted with each other in ways the designers did not intend to happen. Most of all, its core set, designed during the early stages of FFG’s exploration into the LCG format, was more than six years old.
With that said, 2.0 brought forth an amazing number of cards — 211 of them to be exact — in a brand-spanking new Core Set that aims to be a non-rotating, evergreen set for years and decades to come. Thrones is unique in that there are cards from the CCG and 1.0 era that have been reworked and tweaked, with the intention of being playable, but not broken, in 2.0.
These various “callbacks” are what we’ll delve into in this article series. We aim to examine 1.0 cards and their 2.0 counterparts while discussing: the decks that use them, what type of effects synergize with them, their place in the meta, as well as going deeper into the design decisions that R&D considered and lessons learned from previous versions that led to the printing of these new and (in my estimation) better-designed cards.
Each week, The House of Black and White (thanks for the title, Luke!) will focus on one theme and discuss certain cards that fit.
Much like the Faceless Men that shake off their former identities, old mechanics are made new once again under a different name, with a different face.
To start off the maiden article, let’s talk about a mechanic that has been very dear to me as a 1.0 player: kneel.
The Kneel Mechanic
In Thrones, kneel involves turning the card sideways, usually to declare a challenge or to activate an ability. This means that having a way to kneel your opponent’s cards outside of their challenges phase is key to challenge denial and soft control.
In 1.0, the kneel mechanic belonged to the Lions of Casterly Rock. No other house harnessed the power behind the throne better than these sneaky little Lannisters, and thus, making enemies kneel into submission. In 2.0, however, the mechanic has been passed on to R’hllor and his followers, in their mission to convert everyone into their religion, led by none other than the Red Queen herself, Melisandre.
Let’s take a look at Melisandre and her 1.0 counterpart, Castellan of the Rock.
Mel reads: “Reaction: After you marshal or play a R’hllor card, choose and kneel a character. (Limit once per round.)”
Naturally, she also has the R’hllor trait, which means that she triggers off her own ability. Because of the size of the card pool, Melisandre is currently being used in almost all Baratheon decks. This number will start to dip once the card pool expands, though. Now, let’s look at Castellan:
Castellan reads: “Limited Response: After you play a House Lannister character or location from your hand, choose and kneel a character without attachments. (Limit 1 Limited Response per round.)”
And as you can guess, Castellan was in all Lannister decks, up till the end of 1.0. If you were running a different restricted card, you had to justify your decisions.
Let’s break this down one by one.
Icon-wise, both characters are similar. Their strength has also been scaled well, in my opinion.
However, this is where their similarity ends. If we look a Thrones history, we can see that Castellan of the Rock was one of the first few cards to be restricted in the game, along with a pesky location that also provides a kneel effect. Why were they restricted?
Because they were recurring effects that were too easy to trigger.
If we look at other houses and their options for control, we see that Stark and Greyjoy rely on kill, while Targaryen has burn. These effects disposed characters in a permanent way, but were harder to trigger, to say the least. But Castellan’s triggering condition is literally a joke — either a Lannister character or location. And guess where you would be playing those cards? In a Lannister deck! If you weren’t triggering this card every turn, you’re building your deck wrong.
This made soft-but-targeted control a monster in Joust, since you could always just disable the most potent threat turn after turn.
Aside from the triggering condition, Castellan was also non-unique, which meant that he was as disposable as your other characters. You could always marshall a new one anyway.
Now, looking at Melisandre, we can definitely see why FFG designed her as such. These are qualities that went into her design:
1. Triggering condition – By using a trait-based condition rather than just trigerring off from every character you play, it forces players to make a conscious decision — how many R’hllor cards do I need to run to make her work?
2. Unique – Giving the recurring kneel mechanic to a unique character is definitely the correct decision. Rather than having a disposable generic character that can serve as claim soak, Melisandre becomes one of the priorities of the Baratheon player to protect, specially in the early game. Putting Melisandre to the Sword early means that the Bara player won’t have a reliable means of targeted kneel.
3. Non-loyalty – Since the bannering to houses is now easier as compared to 1.0, keeping the recurring kneel mechanic non-loyal becomes a boon for defensive decks like Martell or The Night’s Watch, which still opens up options for these factions. This is balanced by keeping certain R’hllor cards loyal (Selyse Baratheon, Lightbringer) and some nonloyal (Fiery Followers, Seen In Flames), which makes sure that kneel is still the most potent when used as the main house.
4. Choice – For the health of the game, I believe this is one of the most important points that needs to be tackled. Much like point number one, Melisandre and the R’hllor kneel module is not an immediate given when building a Baratheon deck — it is a conscious choice that the player has to make. There is calculated risk in playing Melisandre, such as not getting triggers, her dying, or getting Milked. Right now, it can be argued that Mel and co. is an auto-include in all Baratheon decks. But as the card pool expands, we can definitely see other strategies emerge for Baratheon, like an aggresive “Go-First” variant, which uses Bob, Stannis and Royal Entourage to win Military and Power, while maybe utilizing removal such as Put to the Sword.
As you can see, our game has a wealth of history that old and new players can look back on from time to time. It would be a waste if we did not acknowledge errors, oversights, and lessons that the first two iterations of the game have taught us.
Join The House of Black and White in the next edition as we continue dissecting 2.0 card design and their 1.0 counterparts! What card or theme would you like to see next? Sound off in the comments section.
by Lauren Fitch
Champ Cards: What’s To Come?
Welcome to this week’s installment of The White Harbor Times! In this article, I’ll be discussing champ cards – hat have we seen so far, and what could possibly be to come.
If you’re a new player, you might be wondering, “What exactly is a champ card?” Well, in the past, FFG has awarded to World champions and other high-level tournament winners the chance to design a new card for A Game of Thrones. Some of these cards (Bandit Lord and Flea Bottom, among others) were released during the CCG and were later re-released for the LCG. FFG has previously stated they intend to re-release all of the champ cards for Second Edition. However, given the rules changes between the first and second editions of the game, some of these cards may need major revisions before being released. If you’d like to view the full list of champ cards, you can do so here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Game_of_Thrones_(card_game).
Already Released or Spoiled:
Newly Made Lord (Bandit Lord)
Originally released as Bandit Lord in the CCG era, this card was re-released in A Tale of Champions as Newly Made Lord, with the same text. It has recently been spoiled and will appear in The King’s Peace, with 4 cost, 4 strength, a power icon, and the same text as a Reaction. Unlike in first edition, Newly Made Lord’s ability is now cancelable by Treachery. With this change and the slightly higher cost/ability ratio, NML is a little worse than he was in first edition, but still very playable, particularly in a deck focused on Euron Greyjoy. Newly Made Lord is non-loyal, but probably not a great choice for banners unless you’re very concerned about opponents’ locations.
The First Snow of Winter
This plot was also released in the CCG and then updated for the LCG. When it was first printed in the CCG, it discarded all characters with printed strength 2 or lower from play; however, this was updated in the LCG to return to hand all characters with printed cost 2 or lower to hand. For Second Edition, the effect has been updated to reflect the game’s increased cost curve, and now returns all characters with printed cost 3 or lower to their owner’s hand. The effect has also been changed to be a Forced Reaction at the start of the challenges phase. Previously, in First Edition, the effect was a reaction to the first challenge being initiated, which could be avoided if both players did not make any challenges that round. The First Snow of Winter was often played in combination with another plot, Rule By Decree, which forced the player with the most cards in hand to discard down to 4 cards. Reserve could now make First Snow that painful again. This plot has been designated as “Limit 1 per plot deck,” which is reasonable given its powerful effect.
Previously released in the Lords of Winter Stark deluxe expansion, The Blackfish has been updated to reflect Second Edition’s higher gold curve, and also now requires 1 additional power before your House Tully characters don’t kneel to attack, but the card draw ability remains the same. His previous “House Stark only” affiliation has been translated to loyalty for House Stark. His 4 strength makes him vulnerable to burn, but with attachments like Lady or Ice, he’ll be formidable. He’s also a Knight, and targeting him Lady’s Sansa’s Rose would turn all of your Tullys into non-kneeling attackers in one challenge!
The Reader was recently re-released in The Road to Winterfell. His strength and gold cost were updated to Second Edition standards, and he was made loyal (as has all card-draw so far). Otherwise, he’s identical to his First Edition version, with the notable exception that he now lacks the Ironborn trait.
Image not available.
Marshalling: Kneel Flea Bottom to lower the cost of the next character you play this phase by 2. That character comes into play knelt.
Card designed by 2004 A Game of Thrones World Champion Greg Atkinson.
Flea Bottom does not inherently conflict with any second edition rules. Having the reduced character enter play knelt is just as much a penalty as it was in first edition. I think we could see this card introduced with identical text, costing 1.
Ghost of High Heart
This card interacted with the Brotherhood without Banners agenda, which used Brotherhood characters to keep power off of the house card. These characters would have abilities that were only usable when their controller had no power on his house card. GoHH’s Brotherhood-related ability could come back in a relevant cycle. Let’s look at her other ability: Challenges: Kneel Ghost of High Heart to look at a player’s hand. Choose and discard 1 card from that hand. That player draws 1 card. (Limit once per round.) There is already a similar effect in Seen in Flames, which has been shown to be very powerful. Discarding an opponent’s Dracarys! or Put to the Sword makes your challenges math easier, as does imply knowing all the cards in her hand. This ability could come back, with a requirement to kneel one’s faction card. GoHH would also have to be updated for second edition’s cost curve, probably at 3 cost, 2 strength. You could also use it on yourself to discard an unwanted card and draw a new one. If released, this would be a very popular card!
Den of the Wolf
Den of the Wolf was used in some First Edition combo decks to repeat either the Challenges or Dominance Phase with the expressed intent to leverage an icon advantage and to gain some extra power. For example, in Second Edition, you could use it in combination with A Feast for Crows to claim 6 power! Influence is no longer used in Second Edition, so the cost would have to be updated to pay gold. I’d update this card to cost 3 gold to marshal and 3 to trigger, plus kneeling the faction card. We don’t currently have many characters with immunities, and that effect isn’t necessary for Den of the Wolf’s other ability, so I’d probably take out that part of the text to streamline the card.
When I Woke . . .
This card could be updated by converting its influence cost to gold, but it would probably be too powerful in second edition given the higher gold curve. Imagine losing a military challenge and then returning your opponent’s Tywin Lannister or Robert Baratheon to the top of her deck! A similar card, The Things I Do for Love, costs X, where X is the card’s cost. I would update this event to cost X, and have the text, “Reaction: After you lose a military challenge, choose one participating character strength X or lower and return it to its owner’s hand.” Targeting bomb characters, then, is expensive. On a Nedly note, the card title and flavor text come from a quote by Stannis Baratheon, “It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean.” However, the effect is more thematic for Martell, since it involves losing a challenge and removing a character from play.
Former Champion would not require many changes for Second Edition. He could use an extra 1 gold cost and 1 strength, and deadly could be changed to another keyword, perhaps Insight.
Qhorin Halfhand would, in Second Edition, join The Night’s Watch faction, and would therefore no longer be a neutral card. He could remain No Attachments (except Weapon) since that’s the case for many NW cards. His cost and strength could be increased by 1, and his Reaction updated to require a win by 5 STR. Otherwise I think this card could remain as-is. Since his own strength would only be 3, he would always require at least 1 other card to trigger his ability. We’ve seen that Stonesnake is one of the two Night’s Watch cards in the Wolves of the North expansion, and I expect that Qhorin Halfhand will be the other.
This card was released as dual-house Baratheon/Lannister card with the House Tyrell trait because Tyrell was not available as a main faction in first edition, which makes one change obvious: the card would be House Tyrell. Arrogant Contender contains a keyword, melee, which is not presently in second edition. A character with melee gains +1 strength for each opposing character when participating in a challenge. This ability could simply be written out on the card with no conflicts with the current rules. His other ability frequently led to the opponent not declaring any defenders, rather than power being claimed. I’d keep the ability the same and make him non-loyal, which could lead to a home in Greyjoy-Banner of the Rose decks!
The Laughing Storm
There have been some rumors that FFG would no longer allow cards to be based on “historical” characters, that is, characters like Rhaegar Targaryen, who only exist outside the timeline of the main books. I hope they make an exception for existing champ cards, because The Laughing Storm was a staple of Baratheon decks for years (and was the only card restricted before its release!). The Laughing Storm should become a 5-cost, 4 strength bicon and retain his ability and trait. He would be loyal. Since deadly is no longer a keyword, I’d like to see him gain insight. That way, you have to decide how you want to use him to gain card advantage—by drawing a card or protecting your hand. Since he’s not a Lord, he can’t easily be stood to use both. If you’d like to learn more about the champ card design process, you can read how Alec Irwin designed The Laughing Storm!
Dark Wings, Dark Words
Based on its text alone, Dark Wings, Dark Words could be released without any changes and would not conflict with any Second Edition rules. However, there are not enough events in the card pool to make running this agenda worthy of its downside yet. This agenda was a favorite of mine (I took it to Top 8 at Worlds 2014) and I’m looking forward to second edition having enough events to make it playable again!
House of Dreams
House of Dreams allows a player to start the game with a location in play, with a reduced setup. I think this agenda could see play now and be very powerful. I would keep the setup hand size the same at 6 as well as change the setup gold to 5, to reflect second edition’s higher cost curve and the likelihood that the agenda would be used for a cost 3 location. As a Baratheon player, starting the game with The Red Keep in play could certainly mitigate losing the discount from Fealty. Imagine running a Night’s Watch defense deck where The Wall starts the game in play! It’s possible this agenda would require an additional downside to keep it balanced.
Margaery Tyrell was another dual house card in first edition, since there was no Tyrell faction at the time. Obviously she would be a House Tyrell card now. This card was powerful in both the houses it was played in at the time, complementing Lannister’s kneel and shoring up Baratheon’s intrigue deficiency. Since we already have a very good Margaery Tyrell card, the champ card would have to be strong to compete with Marge from the Core Set. I’d make a cost 5, strength 4, Lady, Queen, with text: “While Margaery Tyrell is participating in a challenge, she gains +1 STR for each Lady or Queen controlled by an opponent. Reaction: After Margaery Tyrell is knelt as an attacker, choose and kneel a character controlled by the defending player. That character is now participating in this challenge as a defender. (Limit once per phase.)”
A Time for Wolves
Despite this being one of the newest champ cards from 1.0, I believe it will probably come out in the Stark box. Although it was not a Stark-only plot, the ability to put a Direwolf into play is most valuable in Stark. The stats should stay the same at 3 gold, since there is another functional 3 gold if you put the card into play, bringing it on par with Here To Serve. Reserve could be at the standard 6.
Mad King Aerys
At 4 cost and 4 strength with renown, MKA was a beast in First Edition! Prized was a mechanic that compensated for the high power level of certain cards by awarding a power to its controller’s opponents when it was killed or discarded. It’s unclear whether that mechanic will be returning in second edition. We also do not have crests, but this could be changed to reference the Lord or Lady traits instead. Let’s change him to 6 cost, 5 strength, with the text: “Renown. Mad King Aerys cannot be killed unless an opponent controls a Lord or Lady character or Ser Jaime Lannister. Forced Reaction: When Mad King Aerys is killed or discarded, each opponent gains 1 power for his or her faction. Dominance: Kneel Mad King Aerys to choose and kill a Lord or Lady character.” While this effect is strong, as we saw in first edition, using it meant forgoing making challenges with MKA and giving up the possibility of his claiming renown, unless he could be stood.
This dual-house version of Theon Greyjoy was priced very aggressively and had an ability that could be taken advantage of by both Greyjoy (with its repeatable saves) and Stark (murder murder murder). Instead of repeating the Prized mechanic, he could be made “Cannot be saved” and given an increased cost of 3. I’d keep his strength the same to maintain his vulnerability to burn and other removal. Finally, I’d change his effect to, “Forced Reaction: After a player counts income, he or she must choose and kill a character cost 3 or lower he or she controls.”
3 cost, 2 STR, kneel the faction card for the Reaction, and this guy is ready to go!
The other champ cards need major changes to play nicely with second edition. I’ll be reviewing those in the next installment of The White Harbor Times. What do you think about these cards? Let me know in the comments!
The Importance of Plot Choice
“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens”
These seven cards may be the most important seven cards you choose to include in your deck, yet I still see players (and have been guilty of myself) throwing in plots while uttering the phrase “that’ll do “or “should be ok”. What they (and yes, I) fail to sometimes realise is those seven cards are the only cards you can 100% depend on and have complete control over throughout the game (at least at the time that this article is written). With this is mind each plot should be selected to fulfill a specific role and complement the archetype you are creating (aggro, control, rush, etc.). Hopefully this article will help players when choosing their plots; to that end, I have broken them down into the categories I like to use when deck building.
These plots are usually played as your starting plot to help you get characters and resources on the board and help solidify your set-up. Cards such as A Noble Cause give you the ability to drop those “power” characters you couldn’t or didn’t want to drop on set-up; Here to Serve can grab you that Maester Aemon for a save, Maester Cressen for that milk of the poppy protection or Grand Maester Pycelle for that sweet, sweet card draw.
On the other hand, a card such as Naval Superiority can be used in decks that have consistently good set ups to stop an opponent from having such a good opening whilst not being punished by the low income of the plot and taking advantage of the high initiative. This sort of momentum can finish a game before the game has begun.
Pressure plots are plots that are used to apply as much pressure as possible to the opponent either pushing board advantage or pressing for the win. Most high claim plots are pressure plots, such as Winds of Winter or Sneak Attack (with the latter being somewhat narrow in scope but still good). Other cards that also come under this banner are A Clash of Kings essentially being a two-claim plot for the power challenge but also notably different as is works when you are defending as well, allowing you to close games even if your opponent goes first and is trying to steal power back to stop you from winning. Storm of Swords can be devastating with cards like Sunspear or allowing multiple triggers of Put to the Sword or Winter is Coming. For every deck other than a pure control deck I would always advise at least 1 pressure plot.
These are the plots that fill a specific purpose in the deck helping fill a gap where the main deck may struggle. Examples are Counting Coppers for factions such as House Targaryen, which is scarce on draw-engines, or Confiscation for factions that lack inherent attachment removal (namely everyone who isn’t Targaryen or Greyjoy). Summons may be used in decks where certain characters are integral to the deck’s function, with the same going for Building Orders for the likes of The Wall in The Night’s Watch.
Control plots are plots that are used to exert some measure of control over the board. A prime example is Wildfire Assault; this card is the only plot we currently have that can help try and bring the board to a near equal state and can flip a board dominated by quantity to one dominated by quality. A Game of Thrones is a great blanket-control plot, allowing decks that are light on military or power but strong on intrigue to render the opponent’s challenge phase obsolete for a round, whereas a plot such as Filthy Accusations can deal with a specific problem character for the turn.
If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be to ensure you have put some thought into your plot deck, because when your back is against the wall and your draw deck has decided that you get a poor set-up or you’re getting nothing but locations for the next three turns, these seven guys will always have your back. Treat them well J.