This article aims to provide a quick glance at changes proposed for Stahleck. It is a purely personal view of the matter. Since I want to discuss the change broadly, I will be talking about things like the impact of the restrict list, the philosophy and the process behind it. In order to organize these thoughts, I arranged the discussion and the comments in a “Top 10 Questions Raised by the Stahleck Announcement Concerning Melee”. Once again, this is purely personal and subjective. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you enjoy.
Top 10 Questions Raised by the Stahleck Announcement Concerning Melee
1: Why do they need to reference the 1st Edition Extended Melee rules?
First, because Second Edition doesn’t have its own. Second, a lot of players should be reminded that Melee is an individual game and is not a team game. Eventually king-making situations will happen, but, apart from that, a competitor should play for his/her own and consider only inside match/game aspects to make decisions, hence – doing implicit and explicit agreements outside of the game is forbidden. These are things that were covered by the First Edition Melee rules. And third, recently players have been questioning if they really need opaque sleeves, so it is important to reference that in an extra piece of documentation.
2: Why doesn’t the RL include the most powerful cards in the game right now?
It probably does. If it doesn´t, it is because the Restricted List was thought of as a whole. Also, the power level of the cards was just one of the aspects considered when adding a card in the list. But, being honest, just so you know, I do think the most powerful card was left out of the list… We talk about that in a minute…(spoiler alert – it is not Maester Lomys as you may think).
3: Why are there bad cards in the Restricted List?
Because a bunch of people thought otherwise. Or, at least, some strong arguments were presented to include the card. And again, I do think there questionable cards in the list when concerning only their power level or efficiency, but that wasn’t the only decision driver.
4: Why this is being made by players and not by Fantasy Flight Games?
I don’t have good answer for that. However, even if you do prefer the Fantasy Flight Official stamp on things when it comes to organize play, I would say that players are more likely to listen to themselves and improve things learning from mistakes. So embrace that, because that is the best way to go. FFG, I love you, but you know you are a bit of slow learner.
5: A lot of things have changed, is that because Melee was bad?
Over 200 hundred people were/are already signed up to play a melee tournament in the lovely village of Bacharach in Germany, so I don’t think that was the case. Also, a RL doesn’t change the game as much. The three player table got indeed some big changes, but here is another way to look at this change: Standard player tables are so much fun, that they wanted 3 people table to be able provide a similar experience.
6: Which cards got better/worse with the Restricted List?
Several cards will see more play. It is not that they were bad or didn’t see play before, but their value has improved. Below, I point out 3. It is a bold statement, I know, but I believe we will see more of:
Rains of Castamere: This is also true for all the other agendas. But if RoC was a great agenda before, now it is even better. The super-efficient “The Lords of the Crossing” is in the RL. The super-efficient Relentless Assault that would compete for a faction kneel is also there. Those are the main reasons I think this card is even better now.
Doran´s Game: This is also true for the Martell house card. Doran´s Game gets especially better because you likely will have one more round added to a game. Also, Gossip and Lies rises up as a good initiative winning plot to close, since Clash of Kings is on the list. I expect to see more Doran´s Games winning tables for Martell. Especially in RoC builds standing that sneaky vengeful Viper. The build is viable and strong.
Snowed Under: The fact that Clash of Kings and Heads on Spikes are restricted opens up a lot of room for closers. Since controlling initiative is so important, especially in the last round, it makes me expect more people trying to win initiative in other ways and this plot is the ultimate initiative control tool.
Well, every restricted card got worse. But apart from that, I point to 3 cards just to start, and, from there, you can think of others:
Margaery Tyrell (Core Set): This is a bit obvious since the knight´s build got nerfed as you can see. But also, the hyper efficient “win by 5” events will have to fight their way into your deck now. The extra pump of Marge changed from being a Superior Claim enabler to just a good extra pump. I would still play this version of Marge but its usefulness got reduced. It is still a good bargaining coin to use.
Tyrion’s Chain: This card truly went from being too good from being bad. The reason is that the interaction with Heads on Spikes is too costly now. I believe we will still see some Heads, but not as much.
Asha Greyjoy: Still the best Greyjoy character not hit by the Duel plot, but she is not as great as she was. With Relentless Assault and Great Kraken on the list, her ability to push through multiple unopposed is far less potent.
7: What is the best faction now?
That is easy. The same as before: Targaryen. Of course, this is my opinion and since I am far from an expert, I am very likely wrong. But I can say honestly that if I need to try to win a tournament right now I would bring Targaryen. Joust Targaryen decks are being piloted in top tables in melee tourneys. Imagine if they were more Melee-ish. But don’t worry, I can change my mind next 2 weeks when House of Thorns comes out.
8: What are the best cards not restricted that are not characters or plots (aka cards there are still super good)?
Since is impossible to point all the very good cards I´ve choose 2 to point out for their extreme power level (once again) in my humble opinion:
Sea Bitch: This card is a complete game breaker that can make you win the game in several ways. Sea Bitch still is, in my super humble opinion, the very best card in Melee. Of course, I’m not talking only about the ideal scenario where you marshal a Sea Bitch, steal Honeywine, marshal another Sea Bitch steal a Small Council Chamber, etc… It is a pure efficiency card that has many good targets to completely shift the game in your favor.
House of the Undying: Also a game winning card. Having this almost guarantees you have the best board presence in the round. I do believe Targaryen is strong even without this card. But I have seen this card win game alone so many times, that I would feel that I would be hiding a secret if I didn’t point this card out in the article.
What are the best characters that are not restricted?
I am not sure if that crossed your mind, but in the list there aren’t many characters, so the answer to this question is quite hard. Please, excuse myself for forgetting better characters there should be pointed instead of the choices below:
Khal Drogo: Double challenge enabler and a renowned big body in the house of Fire and Stand? Yes, please!
Ser Edmure Tully: Passive power steal (not grab) is just a silly strong ability that is hard not to love. Some can argue Tully tech is worse now, but this card is good on his own and probably still one of the best characters in the game for the format.
How about plots?
Rise of the Kraken: This signature Greyjoy plot is a bazooka. I don’t need to explain why this is so good. Also any high initiative plot got better. Opening deck space for closers is the best contribution of the list.
Varys’s Riddle: Some expert once said that he would play 7 Varys’s Riddle in the plot deck in Melee if he could. Another obvious plot that still super strong. I will try to be less obvious in the next plot, but it probably won’t be as good the first 2.
Littlefinger’s Meddling: This is probably me trying to be cheeky and surprise you with this pick. But I do play this plot and this is a very interesting tool in several decks. Last of the Giants into Rattleshirt, playing Blood of My Blood for Aggo and Jhogo (not the other one), doing Taena shenanigans, etc… Please, build with this option in mind.
Duel: This was add was a suggestion by Laplante and is one of the few cards that really shapes the meta in Melee. Also, Duel opens room for old-school negotiations and deal-making. This card has only 1 problem: It’s limited 1 per plot deck.
9: Why did Annals of Castle Black get restricted? It is not high initiative, does not provide power grab, can be countered, etc…
10: Should other tournaments should use these rules?
Yes, but as some said before, keep in mind that the proposal is not perfect. However, I believe it was perfected as well as possible by many great players like Andreas Aldrin and some enthusiasts like myself. I play an average of 12 melee tournaments per year and I would love to be able to see these changes in all the events I play. Also, more people using it can mean more feedback for the group that made the changes which leads to further improvement.
So, those were my top 10 questions raised by the new Melee announcement. I hope I was able to provide a positive insight on the changes and also a bit of deckbuilding and card discussion. Feel free to reach me if you want to discuss any Thrones related subject. I have been a player in love with the game in all the formats since I played my first game in 2014. And for some that don’t know, the country I live in (Brazil) competes in melee and only every now and then play joust for funsies. That doesn’t make us any better, but that shows how relevant this proposition is for me and my meta. That can also give a rough idea of how much thought I had put into this. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed.
Luiz Gustavo Bretas