by Lauren Fitch
Hi, everyone, and welcome to another installment of The White Harbor Times. As you may have gathered from reading some of my previous articles, I love power—especially power gained without even having to make a challenge!
I’m sort of a lazy player, so if I can get power without making challenges, all the better. Coincidentally, Second Edition is quite favorable to passive power-gain: The Boneway, Sansa Stark (Core Set), the upcoming Winter Festival, etc. Of course, none of these cards offer the turn-after-turn potential of The Wall. So this week I’ll be analyzing how best to defend The Wall and take advantage of that power gain—should you go Night’s Watch as your main faction or take them as a banner? Which factions pair well with The Wall? Which plots should I run?
The Watch Stands Alone
Currently we have two mono-faction agendas: Fealty and The Lord of the Crossing. Although a LotC deck may be feasible for Night’s Watch (maybe), it doesn’t add much to a defensive Wall build, so we’ll pass on that for now. Fealty offers economic advantage with a manageable restriction on the number of neutral cards we can run. Since a Wall deck doesn’t need many of the staple neutral events like Tears of Lys and Put to the Sword, Fealty’s downside isn’t much of a problem.
What about the two spoiled agendas, Kings of Summer and Kings of Winter?
I could consider trying Kings of Summer in a Wall deck when it’s released, depending on what the Summer plots look like. Increased economy is great in a deck whose centerpiece is a 4-cost location. Summer Harvest and Calm Over Westeros are both potential plots in the deck that can help you build up your board position. This deck’s viability would depend heavily on the prevalence of Winter plots in the meta, since they essentially nullify the advantage of the agenda. Kings of Winter may help Night’s Watch develop a new theme—choke—where you win by denying your opponent the resources they need to develop their board position. It doesn’t fit the defensive Wall build, though. Therefore, Fealty is your best bet, currently, if all you purists you want to play mono-faction Night’s Watch in your Wall build.
But should you? I started to write that Night’s Watch has the highest number of monocons in the game when I realized I didn’t know if that was true, so I decided to check. According to ThronesDB, Night’s Watch currently has the second highest number of monocons in the game at 11, edged out slightly by Stark at 13. Baratheon has the fewest at 5, while Targaryen and Tyrell are tied at 6. The remaining houses have 7 or 8. So while Night’s Watch doesn’t have the fewest icons in the game, it’s certainly close. And, if you’re going to defend The Wall, you’ll need a good spread of icons. That’s why I’d chose to banner with another faction, either in or out, to gain access to more efficient characters. And I probably wouldn’t choose Stark. I’ll start by looking at some intuitive choices and then move on to some more unconventional ones.
Baratheon is a natural choice for helping to defend The Wall for several reasons. Kneel can control pesky stealth characters or those with a difficult ability like Balon Greyjoy. Bara also has several cards that pair well with winning dominance, a mechanic that many defensive decks like because it provides another way of gaining power passively. Finally, in a deck that is all about power gain, the power challenge is extremely important, and Baratheon excels at making and defending power challenges.
Banner or Main Faction? Let’s look at the loyal cards to see what you get out of each. In Night’s Watch you get: For the Watch!, Messenger Raven, Old Bear Mormont, Samwell Tarly, The Watcher on the Walls, Will, and Yoren.
Yoren isn’t particularly necessary in a defense deck, and Samwell has recently been outclassed by Moon Boy, but the rest of the cards are helpful in defending The Wall. Baratheon loyal cards include some kneel (Consolidation of Power), draw (The Red Keep, Moon Boy), and challenge denial (In the Name of Your King!, The King’s Peace), as well as Robert Baratheon himself. If we’re to compare side-by-side, For the Watc!h seems better than The King’s Peace, with more initiative and actually stopping a challenge versus just punishing your opponent for initiating it. Robert is objectively better than Old Bear in a vacuum. In the Name of Your King! is also an excellent card for defending the Wall when you can’t kneel Balon. I’d rule in favor of Baratheon Banner of the Watch in this case.
Martell is another great choice for Wall decks. Stripping your opponent of key icons means you can more easily defend whatever challenges they manage to throw your way. They also have another passive-power-gain card—The Boneway, which, coupled with The Wall can put some real pressure on your opponent. Obara Sand can defend two challenges, and Maester Caleotte with Nymeria Sand can prevent your opponent from challenging optimally.
Banner or Main Faction? Martell contributes Areo Hotah, Doran Martell, Ghaston Grey, The Long Plan, The Red Viper, and Vengeance for Elia as loyal options. Doran and The Red Viper are both pretty iffy for a defense deck. Although tricons are great for defending The Wall, TRV only triggers his game text on attack, making him less useful. And you might not have a lot of Martell lords and ladies to get the full benefit of Doran’s ability. However, The Boneway, while not contributing directly to The Wall’s defense, can lead to massive power gain. Areo Hotah is useful for removing problem characters from challenges, and Ghaston Grey can deter your opponent from attacking with her best characters. Despite all these boons, Night’s Watch Banner of the Sun seems superior to Martell Banner of the Watch because of its superior draw and the fact that most of the useful, cheap Martell cards are non-loyal.
Tyrell offers a great banner package in Randyll Tarly, Margery Tyrell, and The Knight of Flowers. It also has several useful control pieces in Highgarden and Mare in Heat. Renown can help speed up games, while Tyrell also has some of the best draw in the game.
Banner or Main Faction?
Tyrell only offers a few loyal cards useful for defending The Wall, but they are huge. Highgarden allows for the repeatable removal of problem characters from challenges, which is incredibly useful when Balon Greyjoy is on the board or you’ve been stealthed. Pleasure Barge allows you to dig for the pieces of what is essentially a combo deck, and The Arbor helps to pay for The Wall and everyone you need to defend it. On the flip side, Taking Night’s Watch as your main faction and only bannering for a few Tyrell cards gives you non-kneeling defenders (Left & Right), cheap bicons (Courtesan of the Rose and Arbor Knight), and renown (Randyll Tarly and The Knight of Flowers). Advantage: Tyrell Banner of the Watch, but it’s close.
Targaryen/Banner of the Dragon
This probably looks like a crazy suggestion at first, but there are some good reasons to look at Targaryen when building a defense deck. First, Targaryen has one of the most balanced icon spreads in the game, which has enabled them to have a successful LotC build. Second, Targaryen has cheap, unique characters (that are bicons!). Why is that important? Unique characters can be duped, which helps Night’s Watch survive one of its most hated plots: First Snow of Winter. Ser Jorah Mormont, Vision, and Rhaegal are all great at defending The Wall and can survive First Snow with a dupe. Third, Targ has some nice control options, including Dracarys!.
Banner or Main Faction?
Targaryen has a lot of non-loyal cards that could be useful for defending The Wall, like the dragons and Ser Jorah. Illyrio is also great for letting you reuse defenders, provided you have the cash to spare. The Unsullied are a decent 4-cost Army that survives First Snow. The loyal cards include Dracarys! for burning away attackers and Plaza of Punishment for neutering strong characters like Balon and Randyll Tarly (Wall decks probably care less about using it to get rid of chuds). However, Targaryen does suffer from a lack of in-house draw, therefore without playtesting I’m calling this one an (intentional) draw.
Greyjoy/Banner of the Kraken?
Greyjoy, of course, has multiple stealth characters who can block and defend The Wall. Overall, though, its contributions to a defense deck are rather limited.
Banner or Main Faction?
Asha Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy, and Maester Wendamyr are all non-loyal, so if you’re choosing to send the Greyjoys to The Wall, Banner of the Kraken offers everything that main-faction Greyjoy does. You can also add Newly-Made Lord for some location control and Iron Mines for saves.
Stark, as mentioned above, has a large number of monocons, but as a banner, it’s not a problem since you’re only taking a small number of characters anyway. They have some passive power gain and a few useful characters for defense.
Banner or Main Faction?
If you’re recruiting the Starks to The Wall, Eddard Stark (Core Set) is a great choice, especially once equipped with a Little Bird and given stealth by a Wildling Scout. Sansa Stark (Core Set) and her power gain are great in a Wall deck, and I also like the Riverrun Minstrel, who gives herself a power and survives First Snow of Winter with much-needed icons to boot. Stark’s draw is only good if you’re running mono-faction Stark, plus most of the cards I like for this deck are non-loyal, therefore this combo goes to Night’s Watch Banner of the Wolf.
Notice the conspicuous absence of that faction?
What do you think? How would you choose to defend The Wall?