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The White Harbor Times: Attachment Theory

by Lauren Fitch

Hi everyone, and welcome to another installment of The White Harbor Times! This week, we’ll be talking about attachments: what’s good, what’s bad, and whether or not you need attachment control (spoiler alert: you probably do!).

Attachments are one of the four card types in A Game of Thrones (in the draw deck, at least), along with: characters, events, and locations. Attachments have gotten some bad press in the past, mainly because of unfavorable rules in First Edition – considering they couldn’t be set up and were discarded if the card they were attached to left play. Attachments were also vulnerable to a Maester deck, particularly the Tin Link:

tin link

 

For all of these reasons, First Edition players were used to seeing attachments as mediocre at best, unplayable at worst. However, the situation has changed in Second Edition! Attachments can be set up, so long as they can be played on your own character, and attachments without the Terminal keyword return to their controller’s hand when the attached card leaves play; both rule changes have increased attachments’ value considerably.


I decided to write this article because of a new attachment that’s being released this week in the True Steel chapter pack: Ward.

ward

Although paying 4 gold for an attachment may seem extravagant, it’s really 4 gold to your advantage (assuming you take a 4-cost character), because you pay 4 gold and get a 4-cost character, which is net zero, but your opponent loses 4 gold worth of board position. Just a couple juicy targets for their effects in the Challenges Phase: Cersei Lannister and Ser Davos Seaworth. But you can also win the game in the marshalling phase by stealing a Theon Greyjoy or Gendry with sufficient power on him! Ward also enables Stark sacrifice shenanigans by giving the attached character the Stark affiliation, meaning that you can sacrifice the stolen character with Jon Snow to stand a character and trigger Winterfell Crypts on its leaving play.


Attachment Deckbuilding Guidelinescore_32_seal-of-the-hand
Attachments, though one card type, come in two forms: positive and negative. In reality, negative and positive attachments should factor differently during deck building. Positive attachments are those that can be set up on your own characters and generally don’t need to be limited in number (within reason – a deck with 59 attachments probably wouldn’t be too successful in today’s card pool), as long as you have sufficient targets for them. For example, Seal of the Hand must be attached to a Lord or Lady character, so your setup can be negatively impacted if you have too many Seals and not enough eligible targets. Unrestricted attachments, like Noble Lineage, can be set up on any character without the No Attachments keyword and therefore don’t have any negative impact on setup at all. In fact, 0- and 1-cost positive, unrestricted attachments are great for setup!

Negative attachments, however, cannot be set up and should be considered more like events when building your deck. Therefore, you should always consider the total number of non-setup cards in your deck, and minimize it whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is no more than 15 non-setup cards, which includes both events and negative attachments, the ratio of which is completely up to you and what you’re trying to achieve with your deck. Cards with “come in to play” effects like Areo Hotah should also be considered as non-setup cards for this calculation since you should avoid setting them up to maximize their effect on the game.


Neutral Attachments
core_035_milk-of-the-poppyWhenever building a new deck, you should consider whether you want to include any of the neutral attachments. Milk of the Poppy is probably the most popular of the neutral attachments, but it has seen its ubiquity rise and fall. When the game was first introduced, many decks predictably ran 2-3 copies, but as chapter packs were released, Milk of the Poppy was often cut. Recently Milk of the Poppy has been enjoying a resurgence, since it’s a hard counter to powerful, prevalent characters like Mirri Maz Duur, Tywin Lannister, and Balon Greyjoy.

Seal of the Hand is another powerful neutral attachment that has seen its use change over the course of the game’s young life. Initially it was considered to be a required 2x, since it helped overcome one of the strongest decks of the Core Set meta: Baratheon Fealty. Like Milk of the Poppy, it saw less play as new cards came out, but was recently a feature of the tournament-winning Lannister-Kraken decks. Baratheon is still one of the best counters to Lannister, so including Seal of the Hand in a Lannister deck adds a counter to one of its counters. In addition, the dream combination of Tywin Lannister with a Seal of the Hand attached is extremely powerful and will be difficult for your opponent to deal with. A quick scan of recent tournament decks shows that Seal isn’t being played outside of Lannister.

The icon attachments (Noble Lineage, Little Bird, and Syrio’s Training) saw some play at the beginning of the game, but these cards’ use continues to decline (and will ultimately, it seems, become nonexistent). As more and more cards are released, it becomes easier to achieve a good icon spread with icons printed on characters, rendering the icon attachments less useful.


In-Faction Attachments
core_153_iceSeveral of the factions don’t run many attachments, or the ones they do don’t require any attachment control (if Crown of Gold doesn’t leave play immediately, your opponent is doing it wrong).  Others, like Martell, Stark, and Baratheon, may play quite a few.

Stark could probably use an entire article solely about their attachment game. Many Stark Fealty decks are now running a large number of attachments and compensating by running fewer events. Frozen Solid, Lady, Ice, and now Ward are all worth your attention if your opponent plays them in a game. Frozen Solid in particular will only get better as more powerful locations are released.

Martell usually runs at least some of the icon-stripping attachments, as well as possibly Dawn. Since Imprisoned, Attainted, and Condemned are all non-Terminal, attachment control is critical to remove them from the game. Baratheon frequently runs Bodyguard, Lightbringer, and Milk of the Poppy. Some builds may run Seal of the Hand as well. As Baratheon’s attachments tend to be more defensive in nature, it may not seem necessary to run attachment control to counter them, but removing a Bodyguard can often allow a game-changing kill effect to transform the board.


Attachment Control
GT01_30Based on the ubiquity of powerful attachments like Seal of the Hand, Milk of the Poppy, Ward, and Attainted, all decks should be running at least some attachment control. If your deck depends on the ability of some keystone character, you should strongly consider multiple sources. Everyone can run the plot Confiscation as well as Rattleshirts Raiders. The Raiders are great right now because they leave you with a military icon after First Snow of Winter, they have the No Attachments keyword so even though they’re 4-cost, so they can’t be stolen with Ward, and they can help deal with problem attachments repeatedly. Any faction with in-faction attachment control (Greyjoy—We Do Not Sow; Targaryen—Viserys Targaryen; Baratheon—Maester Cressen) should be playing it or have a good reason not to play it. In addition, the new card Maester’s Chain provides repeatable attachment control to any house, as long as you have the Maester to wear it!

 

What do you think? Are you running more attachments these days? More attachment control? Do you lie awake at night thinking of all the characters you can steal with Ward? Let us know in the comments!

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Lauren Fitch
Lauren Fitch, aka Dr. Fitch, aka The Fitch That Wins, resides in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s been playing AGOT competitively for 3 years; prior to that she was a competitive Scrabble player. Lauren is an infectious disease researcher at a medical school in Boston and she loves to listen to Thrones podcasts while she’s working in the lab. She also writes The White Harbor Times, a biweekly column focusing on deckbuilding, tactics, and strategy in A Game of Thrones. Lauren has been referred to as the “beauty, brains, and brawn of the Boston meta”—she organizes tournaments there as well as online via the OCTGN platform. There once was a doctor named Fitch From Bara she never would switch Her rivals were beat And they knelt at the feet Of Lauren and Mel, the Red Wit

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