by Patrick Haynes (patrickhaynes)
Hello once again, everyone! Apologies for the slight hiatus, but Taking the White is back and we’re picking up where we left off. Last time we analyzed the mono-faction potential of three factions: Lannister, Night’s Watch, and Tyrell. This week we continue the series with one of my old favorites, House Greyjoy, and the new kid on the block, House Stark.
Greyjoy Fealty has, unsurprisingly, maintained a special place in my heart, and in my opinion still occupies a slot in the meta at-large – the major drawback being that Greyjoy still has a bad case of tunnel vision, being so zeroed in on getting unopposed challenges. That said, Greyjoy decks have gotten a few more tools to consistently ensure unopposed and still have all of their old ones, making them a force to be reckoned with. Fealty is still a very strong agenda choice for them, although unlike some factions, Greyjoy has been given very few new reasons to run fealty. While Tyrell was given a massive location that they can reduce the cost of and Lannister was given a powerful two-cost event, Greyjoy received only two loyal cards throughout the entire course of this cycle to date: one a pretty reasonably costed character (The Reader) and the other a location that requires a faction-card kneel itself (The Seastone Chair), making it less appealing to reduce with Fealty. Being able to play Balon with no economy and a five gold plot remains strong, and being able to play We Do Not Sow unexpectedly is still powerful, but with more high-gold plots and Tourney Grounds for event reduction, Fealty has become less and less valuable.
The Lord of the Crossing, on the other hand, gives Greyjoy something they desperately wanted, acceleration. Earlier Fealty builds needed to be able to walk the tightrope between aggro and rush, playing aggressively in the early game to thin out the enemy before closing in for the kill late in the game. Crossing gives House Greyjoy a slight ramp to power gain, which is exactly what they needed to be able to fully cross (heh, get it?) into the Rush archetype. Additionally Crossing can increase Balon’s strength, which should never be underestimated. The biggest drawbacks for Crossing are: 1) need for intrigue icons and 2) occasionally having to leave yourself vulnerable to an opponent’s incoming challenges. Thankfully for Greyjoy, the last two packs mitigated both of these downsides. Priest of the Drowned God is an excellent body with the icon the squids needed and Iron Mines gives them a great method of preventing damage when forced to take challenges on the chin. Now all they need is a way to give Balon the Drowned God trait and the priests will become truly insane.
So, which is better? Honestly the jury is still out on this, and both have merit, but personally I’m siding with Crossing on this one. I think the rush potential is huge and with the new influx of intrigue icons and saves, Greyjoy can mitigate the downsides and capitalize on the upsides.
Ah, Stark – the honorable Northern faction that leaves their tricks on the table and lets you know exactly how they’re going to beat you. As the first faction to get a deluxe expansion, Stark has an advantage when it comes to mono-faction builds. Additionally, Stark already liked mono-faction builds, seeing as all of their draw thus far centered on having Stark cards/characters.
Prior to the release of the box, most of the Stark decks that were doing well were Fealty, primarily due to the lack of intrigue icons native to the faction (three prior to the boxes release). Now that the box is out we’ve seen a wide variety of both Fealty and Crossing decks with several themes available. From the testing I’ve done so far, it is possible to make a solid deck using any one of Stark’s many themes using Fealty. The best two in my opinion are Direwolf Aggro/Tempo and Challenge Denial. Both of these are strong decks that can hold their own at competitive events. The aggro gets great mileage out of Fealty due to the best Direwolf characters being loyal (Grey Wind, Wolves of the North, and Summer); furthermore, Robb Stark, the Renown body central to the deck’s success, is also loyal. Being able to reduce the cost of all of these high-impact cards means that the plot deck can be much more versatile, focusing on lower gold plots that will have a higher impact on the board state. The Challenge Denial deck also benefits from Fealty, as it two highest-impact cards, Catelyn Stark and Winterfell are both loyal. Also, once again, having Fealty allows the deck to run lower-gold, Winter-traited plots that allow you to trigger Winterfell and still use your own effects during the challenge, which can be huge if done at the proper moment (e.g. preventing a Lannister player from using Treachery on Ice).
Crossing, on the other hand, really only makes sense for one Stark build – Rush. The box gave Stark a huge number of rush tools: Catelyn Stark, The Blackfish, Eddard Stark, Riverrun Minstrel, etc. The new intrigue icons from the box help to shore up the faction’s innate weakness (seven characters with green icons now, not including multiple versions of unique characters), and the passive strength boost of Winterfell can mitigate the -1 Strength during the first challenge while using crossing. The upside of Crossing can be huge for a Stark rush deck; between the Blackfish, Catelyn, and MC Ned, the deck can accumulate power very quickly and crossing can give it the boost it needs to close the game. Given the spoiler of Riverrun that we saw for the first chapter pack of the second cycle, this build is definitely a deck to watch for in the future.
So which is better? Ultimately, Stark Fealty is more consistent and reliable, but Stark Crossing has the higher ceiling; that rush can get out-of-hand really fast, and if you see the right cards at the right time, the deck is nigh unbeatable.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you guys agree or disagree with my thoughts, and as always, feel free to send article ideas or decks to discuss to [email protected]