by Patrick Haynes (patrickhaynes)
After another short hiatus, Taking the White is back — this time with the final edition of our three-part miniseries. After examining the merits of the two mono-faction agendas for the other five factions, we have come to the final three: House Martell, House Baratheon, and House Targaryen. Let’s take a look at the advantages of each agenda and why you should or shouldn’t be playing them with these factions.
Baratheon Fealty is one of the oldest tier one decks in our young game. Since the release of the Core Set, many players have gravitated toward House Baratheon. With all the kneel you could want, Bara Fealty is an excellent control deck, the kind of deck that makes your opponent feel like they’re not even playing the game, causing numerous rage-quits. The economic advantage offered with Fealty is substantial for Bara, as they have a fair amount of expensive characters with no special in-faction economy (like “In Doran’s Name” or “To the Rose Banner”). They also have no problem keeping their neutral count below 15, as they tend to run little, if any, kill. All of these reasons and more make Bara Fealty a constant presence in the meta, and while it has slightly dropped off in recent days, it is still quite formidable.
Bara Crossing, on the other hand, is a relatively unexplored archetype. As I’ve mentioned previously, the best crossing builds are rush decks, and as of yet, Bara hasn’t had the speed to create a viable rush build. However, with the addition of Barristan Selmy as another source of renown, Bara Crossing could certainly be much more playable. The only major issue would be intrigue icons, though Selyse Baratheon could potentially mitigate that downside.
So which is better? Definitely still Fealty. Kneel is very strong, and Fealty does a lot more for a control deck than crossing. Although I am very curious to see if anything can come of a Baratheon Crossing rush deck.
Until recently Martell had very few options for mono-faction decks. The most common of these decks was your standard Viper, delayed-rush build. Essentially it would use all of Martell’s snazzy control tool to keep things in line while it built up a massive board and performed a crazy blitz attack that, ideally, snagged a bunch of power with the Viper and Doran’s Game. This style of deck is certainly still possible, and can be built using either Fealty or Crossing. Though, at this point, crossing may be the better choice. The deck likes the added power gain and can also benefit from the massive strength boost.
Other versions of Martell have certainly cropped up in recent days, and I think an all-in on the poison deck with Tears, Tyene, Nymeria, and Attainted could definitely be viable. Also, with the upcoming release of Harmen Uller, it may be possible to simply go full-on Sand Snake blitz.
Which is better? Honestly, I think I have to go Fealty here. I think a super Tyene deck, or something with a lot of Sand Snake cards (they could even be the same deck!) is probably Martell’s best mono faction build. With that being said, I think Martell Banner of the Lion is probably better than any mono-faction build at the moment.
Ah, Targaryen, the only faction I still suck at playing. I don’t know what it is about Targ, but I still can’t find a build for them that I like. From what I’ve had played against me, though, Targ Fealty was the bee’s knees. All of that Dany, Dragons, Dracarys! nonsense was really good, and it was hard to stop. But then First Snow entered the meta, and targ fell off the map a bit. Having all of your dragons bounced back to your hand is really rough, and Targ didn’t have too many ways to recover. I think the Dragon deck is probably still viable with some slight adjustments to account for First Snow, but I don’t know if Fealty is still the right choice.
While Fealty certainly provided some great benefits for Targ (helping an econ-poor house, the dreaded faction-card kneel, etc.) there may be simply too many downsides at this stage. With the addition of Shadowblack Lane, and now Funeral Pyre, Targ has two massively powerful effects that require the kneeling of a faction card. Using Fealty has become a far steeper price for Targ than it was in a Core-Set environment. It can also benefit from Crossing’s upside, with Khal Drogo in play, Targ could do two military challenges and a power challenge and ignore intrigue all together, which is often optimal for them, especially in a more Dothraki-centered build. Additionally Mirri Maz Duur benefits tremendously from having +2 Strength in a challenge and can completely swing a game.
So, which is better? It’s still a pretty tight race, but I have to side with Crossing on this one. There are simply too many good faction-card-kneel effects to use to be spending it to gain one gold. Now when Kings of Summer comes out, we may be having a completely different discussion. On a final note for the faction, I think that despite everything I have said, Banner of the Lion is probably the best agenda for them as well; if you agree, check out Ruben’s article posted yesterday!
Conclusion: Crossing and Fealty are pretty close, but you should probably just play Banner of the Lion instead.