By Buz H.– February 28, 2013
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Let's start with the worst of them: FFG stopped TradeCardsOnline.com from providing online play for its LCG properties.
I can't say that I blame them, per se, since FFG is totally within their rights to do so. OCTGN provides similar support by abiding by some reasonable restrictions (censoring the latest card text) and I'm hopeful TCOL will resurge by adopting this same policy.
BUT THEN MY DAY GOT BETTER! NEW TOURNAMENT RULES!!!!!
To date, there were a few complaints emerging about the tournament scene surrounding AGoT:
1. Too large of a cardpool means a high barrier to entry, particularly when compared to the new LCGs
2. The attempt to keep power creep under control results in old cards remaining powerful….which means a stale meta. The Season agendas are a good example of this and there was increasing ennui among veteran players.
3. Each house had a large base of “auto-include” cards and 10-15 slots for personal taste (if that) in each T1 build, leading to a homogeny in the meta and new builds just didn't have the steam to keep up with the historic classics.
It seems that the designers of the LCG held to some of these same feelings and undertook a relatively drastic measure to shake things up. Their method was to enforce a type of “semi-rotation” by restricting a large portion of cards, increasingly from the older sets. This means that players will have to pick up fewer chapter packs to have a shot at a T1 deck and taking the hammer to staple cards from all houses means that creativity, selection, and metagaming will once more rise to the top.
Before getting to my thoughts on the list itself, I wanted to also note one almost overlooked aspect of the AGoT and Star Wars tournament rules: each new chapter pack is legal AS SOON AS RELEASED! This means that each month the meta shifts; no more “locking in” a 3-4 month period like we saw last regional season. I love this change as I like to see builds and archetypes shift on the fly.
So let's look at the additions to the list a bit more closely. Before this new FAQ, I'd say that the biggest debate revolved around unrestricting the Castellan and what to do about Long Lances. Well, the choice seemed to be “let's take anything resembling the Castellan in power level and stick it on there. Then, if we missed any staple card from a recognizable build, let's get that too. And then let's get cards that are in 50%+of decks. Then let's get a few more for good measure.” Here's the additions:
While this may seem a strange include, I think this represents the choice of the designers to reduce homogeny among decks and to crimp setups a bit more, making House of Dreams a harder choice (though I don't know if this was intentional or just an unintended consequence of trying to shake up older cards). This hurts Martell Maesters the most, Stark probably second most (perhaps tied with Lannister HoD Tunnels), Bara Iron Throne HoD, Targ Dothraki builds, and Greyjoy of all types. I'm actually a huge fan of this choice as it will create more impetus and variety among cheap characters. Lannister does OK here since their refugee isn't the best in a lot of their builds and they can drop in gold weenies and not miss a beat. Targ has Hatchlings, Brown Ben Plumm, and other useful 1-drops, Greyjoy has a ton of cheap dudes, etc. We'll see how many pick the Refugees as their restricted; my guess is it won't be many.
Robert Baratheon (The KL version)
Errata to TMP, errata to himself, and now The List. Yeah, he's a Voltron-type character, but that's one of Bara's things, right? There's plenty of other Roberts to use and even if it hurts to lose him, I'd say The Laughing Storm would have hurt Bara more. They actually come out ahead in my estimation since the nerfs were mainly to control, perhaps opening the door to rush decks to return to viability.
Knight of flowers (KL cycle)
Same as above. Just too efficient. If they're going to nerf control, Bara had to be slowed a bit. Not a huge deal for them, especially considering how hard other houses were hit.
Aegon's Hill –
Overlooked until recently, Aegon's Hill is amazing. This is the first in a list of locations possibly too good with House of Dreams. It also crimps Bruno-style jumper decks…..but not THAT much. You can still use Confession for hand control if you want, or just add Flaming Pitch Tower for more kill.
The Long Lances
Yep. They're too good. Kudos to Robert and Steven for pointing it out as far back as the chapter pack review. Not also putting Street Waif on the list allows the combo for card advantage to keep going, but both cards share negative traits so there's some options to stop it. I might have put the Waifs on here as well, but I do think restricting the card is preferable to errata. If they prove to be still too strong, then limit the response or some such.
The Hatchlings' Feast
This will make for a tough choice between Feasts and Long Lances in Hollow Hill decks. I know what I'm likely to choose….but choosing wrong is the difference between winning and losing. I'm a bit surprised to not see Incinerate on here as well, but perhaps the changes will be enough. I don't personally think they did enough to knock Targ Hollow Hill down from the top spot on the ladder, especially compared to what they did to Stark and Martell builds.
Yet another reaction to House of Dreams, I think. I wonder if we will see this come off the list since Bear Island decks haven't proven to be OP, even with No Quarter in them, or if it will stay on as part of the 'soft rotation' mindset.
This was one card I was surprised to see on here. Lots of houses have cards with similar effects (Terminal Schemes, Die by the Sword) and this one is more efficient but Stark is the kill house, isn't it? I've heard Damon talk a lot about the “true power level” of the houses and maybe they think Stark was up on top. Am I missing something, or is this a bit weird? It will force Stark to think outside the box a bit, so that's good.
It's about time. She's too good. She loses some of her awesomeness without No Quarter in there, but Stark Winter is just taking hits left and right especially considering the agenda was restricted as well. Loyal TC-er Alex's Winter deck has gone from 0 to 4 restricted cards overnight. lolz.
This slightly surprised me too. I thought they'd take care of it in melee (they did) but I never really feared the Scourge. I think Lost Oasis was a better candidate for restriction, but I guess since Lost Oasis is in a different type of deck (?) that they left it alone. Or was it the House of Dreams fears that led to this measure?
I will note that since Martell isn't getting Naval stuff (at least yet) that icon removal seemed a strong option for them in the new Song of the Sea meta….but not anymore.
Orphan of the Greenblood
This staple hits the binder. Great for setup, Martell will now have to rely on their Spearmen and possibly the Greenblood Merchants out of the last cycle to fill that role. I think it's good to encourage them to explore new options; it's funny but the Orphans are one of the things I think holds decks like Dragons back in joust. This is a hard blow for Martell.
Game of Cyvasse
Good, about time. I hate this card. It's super strong, tons of uses (especially in the hands of a skilled pilot) and has remained auto-include for like 4 years. Martell has other options such as Words are Like Arrows or even Parting Blow and Ghaston Grey for this type of effect so they should be OK. I think the Orphan loss hurts more (and perhaps even Summer)
This card is so awesome. I remember @Theorist said as much when it was released, but it's exceeded all expectations. A very worthy candidate and one that will give Lannister another tough choice. I can't see picking anything but this for my decks from Casterly Rock, though.
None. Should there have been some? I can't think of one…..boatswain? Asha? Greyjoy maesters is the strongest build and that took a small hit (but not as much as Stark Winter) and Choke took a small hit too with the Kings of Winter agenda going on. I actually think Choke gets better with the refugee restriction and the updates to Burned and PIllaged (it can affect KotHH) This house improved the most after this new list.
A great choice since this plot not only makes control decks sing, it is in almost every T1 build. Let's get some diversity into those plot decks! I remember when lots of people said that restricting Search and Detain was a soft ban for that card (since proven to be totally false), but I think this really might be a soft ban for Retaliation! AND push the Furies further down the list. I would have voted to take the Furies off, but putting more Fury-level plots on is just as good of a choice IMO. I think First Snow of Winter might be another one to look at going on in the near future.
The Conclave and The Tin Link
More hurt to the Maester decks. Good; I hate them. I don't think this hurts Greyjoy Maesters as much as Martell Maesters, though. I bet there is a large swath of the player base that sees Greyjoy Maesters now as the best deck in the format; regionals will tell the tale! We may see more positive attachments in the meta now, though three large reasons to run them (Bear Island; Search and Detain; Castellan of the Rock) are also on the list.
Why not put Valyrian Steel Link on here as well? I'm probably just overly maester-phobic but I still think they have very strong options out of the Citadel.
Kings of Summer/Winter
I think Dobbler was the first one that I heard calling for bans on these cards, not because they were too powerful but because they have been powerful for too long and led to a stale meta. Simple card advantage agendas are now reduced, leading to more space for Black Sails exploration and a resurgence in Knights. I think Stark Knights, Lannister Knights, Greyjoy Black Sails, Stark Black Sails, and a few others will rise up in place of the seasons.
Perhaps there is a sterling soul out there who will make a Summer deck go now that the worst enemy of the agenda (winter) is likely to see less and less play. I bet it comes out of Targ (like a Targ Army deck or something) since Martell has just SO many cards on the list now.
Bara, Greyjoy–Not a HUGE hit to Greyjoy's best build, boosts to House of Dreams for Greyjoy and Greyjoy Choke; restriction of control and hard removal mean Bara rush is better placed than it was yesterday.
Stark, Martell–Stark's best build is dismantled; Martell sees more and more options go. The good news is that each of these houses still has plenty of space to resurge.
IN THE MIDDLE:
Lannister, Targaryen–Targ's best build takes a hit, but not a crippling one IMO. Their second build (Summer) is hurt pretty bad but their House of Dreams Dothraki stuff is still pretty viable…even very close to T1 perhaps. Lannister sees the Manor go, but lost relatively less than the other houses. They'll benefit the most from the Refugees going.
I'm SO glad that the meta is reset right before regionals…..now to the hard work of building decks and testing them out in the New Meta!
I'd love to hear from you all below about your thoughts and reactions to the list! As always, thanks for reading.