Hello people. As Cincinnati Joe has written War and Peace on the Night’s Watch cards from the Westeros Cycle, I thought I would write some words too. Since I have primarily played Greyjoy, I will follow the Cincinnati Joe blueprint™ for his review, but in a Greyjoy format.
My name is Richard and I will start by saying that I am not the best player you will meet. I’m not even one of the best Greyjoy players. I do however play Greyjoy A LOT, and I do have opinions on which cards I think are effective, and which ones are less so. With that in mind, I will review the cards from my own perspectives and experiences, rather than declaring card ‘x’ or ‘y’ the best card in the cycle.
From the Core Set, Greyjoy were generally considered to be strong out of the box. They have had some excellent cards that saw a surge in competitive performance, yet in recent days, both results and visibility of Greyjoy as main faction have diminished. That said, the number of Kraken banners have swelled recently, reaching Regional winning heights with the infamous Lanni Kraken decks.
It’s fair to say that Greyjoy Fealty was one of the most popular decks at the release of the Core Set. Although some banners have seen varying degrees of popularity, the other major popular deck seems to be Greyjoy Lords of the Crossing builds. Fealty was strong, with Balon Greyjoy being an almost unstoppable force, supplemented with zero cost Iron Fleet Scouts (ZERO cost!) to boost his strength, and also with stealth if his Great Kraken is out (heh). In addition to this, Risen from the Sea kept their characters around longer with an extra strength boost, Euron is a massive tricon with the ability to steal a location from the enemy discard pile, Asha is a repeatable challenger with stealth, providing unopposed is possible. What’s not to love about that?
So, my opinions on the released cards….
Taking the Black
Rise of the Kraken is the Greyjoy loyal plot, providing only 2 gold, but complemented with 8 initiative and some lovely 2 claim. Not only that, if you were in a position to engineer an unopposed challenge or two, you would be doubly rewarded with 2 powers instead of 1.
When this card was released, I absolutely loved it. Best. Card. Ever. All I could think about for weeks was getting Balon out with Iron Fleet Scouts and Seal of the Hand. Very few people can oppose Super Balon when he’s boosted to 7 STR, and so a simple power challenge suddenly became “6 power to me, -2 power to you”. Even more if you had Great Kraken, or you could piggyback Euron or Theon into the challenge too.
I spent months playing this strategy with great delight and joy. Until Nymeria happened. And icon controlling attachments. And Gregor. And Nightmares… All these cards hamper your ability to pull off that all important unopposed challenge with Balon, making the plot less of an auto-include in Greyjoy decks. Of course, you can still leverage Theon or Asha or Wendamyr to push through the unopposed too, but the ubiquity of available counters (read- maturing card pool) means that the plot is no longer easy to trigger.
Now, it’s still a good card, if you can set up effectively to pull it off. Even if not, it’s still a two claim plot, but the two gold on offer means you have to have a better board state than your opponent, or be prepared to win the game in that round.
The Seastone Chair is in my opinion a card that is at least a 1x in all Greyjoy decks. The ability to choose any character to die for military claim is excellent in a house that has a strong military presence and ways to achieve the unopposed challenge. When the card was spoiled, some people in the forums were having fits, but now I feel it is simply another strong card for your opponent to play around.
I like the Seastone Chair, but I don’t think it’s the most amazing card of the cycle. I like it more for its ability to alter the psychological game of the opponent, with them needing to ensure sufficient military characters on the board, and having to play around any Raiding Longships or Krakens Grasps you may be holding. If the Greyjoy player has some stealth on the board too, the opponent is going to have to work hard to stop your trigger of the chair.
In the current metagame, there are many answers to the Chair. These include Nightmares, Treachery, Vengeance for Elia, attachments, all in addition to just successfully defending military challenges.
Recently, I am seeing aggressive decks that are all-in with Seastone Chair, running them x3 to ensure that it is out as early as possible. This would indicate that I am misguided somewhat and that others are exploiting the targeted kill far better than I am. If I am missing something obvious, please let me know!
The Road to Winterfell
This card is excellent, and in my mind, catapulted Greyjoy back toward the top of the pile. Being able to go first and use a Black Winds Crew to make my opponent kneel 2/3 characters to avoid a Seastone Chair kill was excellent. Asha loves this card to increase the chances of triggering her reaction. If there is a character with a pesky attachment, send Balon in for another unopposed.
Positive attachments were not used en masse, and if they were, you could often just stealth the character with the attachment anyway and use the Longship to take out further defenders. In practice, many people didn’t bother kneeling anyone and would often just give you the unopposed. Quite often, opponents would simply forget about the Longship and oppose your challenge anyway, only to have their strength removed from the challenge. Furthermore, in combination with Rise of the Kraken, this card became brutal.
This card alone moved me from Greyjoy Fealty to Greyjoy Rose. With the Balon/Iron Fleet Scout/Margaery and Knight of Flowers/Raiding Longship combinations made for some easy unopposed gains.
The downside to this card is that you would need to build your plot deck in a way to ensure you would be first player. As a result, the mirror match was always a pain in the arse, as whoever got their boats out first and won initiative often took the game.
The Reader is a former champion card, and brings a much needed intrigue icon into Greyjoy. Another loyal character to be reduced by Fealty, and provides another source of card draw for unopposed challenges (because nobody chooses to discard three from their opponents deck, right?).
Again, he’s a solid card but I never wanted to run multiples of him. When he is out with Syrio he becomes a little more monstrous, but otherwise he’s generally not a card to be feared. The problem is that he doesn’t provide anything to contribute to my overall strategy in order to achieve that card draw; he generally goes in to shore up the intrigue in the deck as a way to defend against Tears of Lys. His value has increased a lot now that Tyene (and to a lesser extent, Mirri) have entered the card pool, as Greyjoy are certainly struggling against the proliferation of decks that are intrigue icon heavy such as Martell and Lannister.
If you do have the stealth on the board, or Balon/Raiding Longship etc, then The Reader does provide that much needed card draw, as Greyjoy always seem to be low in cards in hand. Generally though, he’s just a ‘good’ card.
The King’s Peace
When Newly Made Lord was released in the King’s Peace, I was very much underwhelmed despite favourable reviews for the card. Many 1st Edition players have seen the previous iteration of the card and have seen its usefulness. However NML is a monocon whom for 4 gold can discard an opponent’s non-limited location costing 3 gold or less upon marshalling.
The problem is, the opponent doesn’t ever appear to have many locations worth destroying. Tyrell have some juicy targets in Highgarden and the Mander, but they are underplayed in the current state of the game. Lannister rarely play Casterly Rock and Lannisport, Targaryen have Plaza which isn’t usually a 3x in decks, and so on. Only in the mirror match are you guaranteed targets to destroy. As a result, I don’t run NML in my current GJ Fealty, but when the card pool expands and more effective locations are printed, this card will become much more useful.
I loved this card when it came out. Immediately I began running decks with at least 2 Nets, after all what better way to get unopposed when your opponents cannot defend? That stealth character being really irritating and foiling your unopposed shenanigans? Fishing Net them.
Recently however, I haven’t been running any of them. It’s not a bad card, but there’s something annoying about leaving your opponent lovely fresh standing characters to attack you with. You could instead throw a Fishing Net on your opponents chud, but if you have Longships or stealth on the board already, your opponent probably isn’t going to kneel to defend anyway.
If you are going all-in with Fishing Nets though, they are not Terminal. So if you do throw them on your opponents chuds, you’ll just get the Nets back to throw on the next character of your choice.
No Middle Ground
Loot is a fantastic card which has many applications in the current meta. Or not. Effectively, you can discard as many cards from your opponents’ deck equal to the amount of gold they have, providing that you have won an unopposed challenge. Wonderful.
Unfortunately, this effect is pretty crap at the moment. At best, it can affect the ubiquitous Lannister decks, getting rid of all their gold, ensuring they have no money for their nasty little events. What’s that you say? Tyrion? Oh. Well perhaps you can destroy all that spare Tyrell gold that they got from the Arbor. What? Nobody plays Tyrell? Oh.
When the day arrives and a pillage deck becomes viable, this card will have a place (having no cards left in your draw deck is a losing condition y’know!). Coupled with The Reader, Euron, and other cards with pillage effects, Loot will also be included. But until that jank becomes a ‘thing’, just stick with We Do Not Sow.
Of course, my partner Rebecca wanted to play this card in a Greyjoy Dragon deck complete with Crone of Vaes Dothrak. With two Crones on the board, she swung in for an unopposed military challenge, and to my astonishment, she played Loot. LOOT. Most distressingly, I had 7 gold remaining as I had failed to draw characters to marshal in that round. I can still hear her gleeful cackling as she pillaged 7 cards and knelt both Crones to put Fat Bob and Melisandre into the dead pile.
The Priest of the Drowned God was a good card with good timing- coming hot on the heels of the previously released Lords of the Crossing agenda. A bicon shoring up the weakest icon in GJ with 3 STR for only 3 gold is pretty good. But when it gives +1 to the Drowned Men, who are also boosted by all the ships you’re inevitably running, then it’s pretty damn mean.
At this stage, I began running GJ LotC decks, using the Drowned Priests to mitigate the lack of intrigue icons in the deck. It quickly became clear that the dream of having all the Priests and Drowned Men on the board at the same time was just a pipe dream. Still, they enabled the deck and were useful to put in for that first challenge with the reduced strength, in order to allow your marquee characters to put in the hard work in the military and power challenges. Now with the new Drowned God’s Blessing released, they provide a way to boost Balon’s strength too.
Generally in Greyjoy, I prefer to keep the board as small as possible, sometimes running double Wildfire, or sometimes First Snow of Winter and Wildfire instead. This way, the stealth characters and many saves are more impactful on the game. Priests of the Drowned God however I think may benefit more from a build that prefers to keep more characters on the board, therefore allowing their bonuses to be used to greater effect on a greater number of characters.
Calm Over Westeros
Raider from Pyke was another interesting card with the potential for sneaky shenanigans. With the same stats as Salty Navigator, instead of a +1 initiative modifier, any weapons in your hand gain the ambush ability. So where the Greyjoy Throwing Axe was previously open information and you could play around it, now it could be ambushed in after defenders are declared, to kill the defending character. Fishing Nets can also be ambushed in at any time, which is much more useful if you are the second player, and your opponent has already knelt out more of their board.
In practice, the combination is not reliable enough to build around in my opinion. I actually built a Fealty deck and took it to a regional in the UK with the aim of testing the combo out. In 5 rounds of Swiss and one top 8 match, I managed to ambush in a Throwing Axe onto Euron in order to kill Drogon. That just serves to highlight the difficulty in getting the full use of the Raiders ability, but once more weapons become available this will be more consistent, especially with the Street of Steel in play. Currently though, the strongest Greyjoy decks successfully leverage their effects as the first player, which indicates that Salty Navigator may be the better choice for now.
Iron Mines is an excellent card and will be for a long time. Paying a single gold to save a high impact character is good value, and the existence of the save plus Risen from the Sea ensures that Greyjoy can leverage First Snow of Winter, and protect against the intrigue based kill such as Mirri Maz Duur and Tyene Sand. Furthermore, Iron Mines are not loyal, and so the Kraken banner is much more popular, evidenced by the enormous success of Lanni Kraken decks.
We already have Valar Morghulis spoiled, and is due in the fourth chapter pack of the next cycle. The existence of the Iron Mines I expect will propel Greyjoy to one of the most played factions, either as main house or with the kraken banner. After all, who wants all their characters to die to Valar?
As I reach the True Steel chapter pack review, I am amazed to see Dagmer Cleftjaw. I had totally forgotten that this card existed, which speaks volumes for its lack of impact in the metagame.
Having renown with military and power icons isn’t too bad, but it’s the ability which is the problem. By winning a challenge alone, Dagmer can take control of a non-limited location with cost 3 or lower. Excellent! Unfortunately, I have yet to see decks aside from other Greyjoy decks that run many locations in this cost bracket worth taking. The best steal at the moment must be Red Keep, but otherwise, he is just too expensive for a 5 STR bicon with renown. As the card pool expands, this is another card that may be worth another look at in the future.
The Drowned God’s Blessing is a useful card in Greyjoy decks I feel. There are three aspects to this card; the protection from targeted events, the nominal strength boosts possible from the Drowned God trait, and the +1 initiative modifier. The ability to put this on Asha against Targaryen to protect against Dracarys, putting it on Balon whilst you’re running the Priests of the Drowned God, is pretty good. The initiative boost is also good if you’re running the Kraken’s Grasp and Raiding Longship, as it can give you more confidence in being able to win initiative with your plots.
The downside to this card is the susceptibility to Tears of Lys. It turns out that this card does literally bugger all to protect against Tears and your character will still die regardless. Given that I feel Greyjoy’s biggest weakness is Tears, then this is not great news. Lucky then that I have Iron Mines and Risen from the Sea I guess…..
Wolves of the North
When Fishwhiskers was spoiled, most Greyjoy players I know were quite excited. “How easy it will be to make unopposed challenges” we chuckled, “we’re going to destroy everybody”. Except it hasn’t really turned out that way.
Fishwhiskers is pretty damn good if you have a winter plot out. He’s even better if that winter plot is The Long Winter or First Snow of Winter. And he’s just excellent if you have a Seastone Chair ready to fire. However, most of the other winter plots don’t really all fit into a deck together, in my view. Snowed Under? Sure, that’s okay. Wraiths? Maybe not until the Kings of Winter agenda is available. Famine? Nah.
When you don’t have a winter plot, he’s a 5 cost bicon with only 3 strength who is prone to all types of control, be it icon control, kneel, milk of the poppy etc. I suspect he is probably a 1 of in many Greyjoy decks running the odd winter plot or two, but until more winter plots come out, I think he will fly under the radar for a while longer.
As with Dagmer Cleftjaw, I haven’t really seen this card used at all and I haven’t put it in any of my Greyjoy decks. When this card was released, it seemed like it would be okay for those decks that wanted to win in few turns, and especially those where it was important to win initiative and go first in order to abuse the go-first tech.
Around the time this card came out, I shifted away from the go-first cards and leaned back toward a Fealty deck that leveraged tempo instead as second player. Initiative was less important for me, and I don’t have any use or interest in this card. Other Greyjoy decks I have played against do not seem to be running it, so I’m assuming that this card was underwhelming for the majority too.
Impactful Neutral Cards
I wasn’t too excited for Syrio Forel when he came out either (sense a trend?). Although every time I would speak to Ruben Barnhoorn, he would give me chapter and verse about how useful Syrio is in getting those challenges through. It turns out that he was dead right.
The ability to provide a military icon and stealth should not be underestimated in a faction that benefits from unopposed challenges. I hear people with the view that Greyjoy have enough stealth already, but Syrio with Euron or The Reader make them both stealth tricons. He also provides Balon stealth if you haven’t drawn the Great Kraken (now that many people run it 3x anymore).
Syrio may be a little pricey and have a low strength to cost ratio, but I feel he brings some redundancy to the Greyjoy game plan, where often the most difficult games are those where you don’t see any of your stealth characters. One of the best neutral cards in the cycle!
This plot is quite divisive among my local Greyjoy players. Some people replace Confiscation with it, some prefer to leave Confiscation in. After all, there’s nothing worse than a Milk of the Poppy on your key character before your Rise of the Kraken turn.
Personally, I prefer to keep Confiscation. I would prefer to get rid of the attachment permanently and hope that they haven’t drawn another in the subsequent rounds. I do not like the prospect of sending all attachments back to the owner’s hands so they are able to re-play them out in the turn afterward. There is an argument for using this plot on the turn you want to push through the win and that is fine. You can also use it to redistribute your Fishing Nets and other attachments that you are running, and that is also fine. But for me, the low gold and lack of permanent removal keeps it safely in my binder.
I really enjoy playing this plot in Greyjoy. I typically use it in turn 1 or 2 and encourage the opponent to play out characters, whilst I would normally play out two major characters safe in the knowledge I would usually have a save or two as back up. Next turn I would follow with the Wildfire/First Snow and go to work on the smaller board state with the stealth at my disposal. There are other economy plots available, but Marching Orders can be too restrictive, and the others do not provide enough gold.
This agenda spawned a whole new raft of Greyjoy decks in the game. Initially it was feared that Greyjoy cannot provide enough intrigue to play the agenda and manage to complete all three challenges. With The Reader, Priests of the Drowned God, and then the House Maester added to the card pool, the agenda rocketed in popularity.
Essentially, this agenda sped up the deck providing an extra power for winning the 3rd challenge you make, and also giving +2 strength for each character in that challenge. With Balon, this can make for huge power gains, and I have even won a game in two turns with this exact play on a Rise of the Kraken turn.
I don’t think there is much to say about this plot being great for Greyjoy. With the plethora of saves available and stealth being much more effective on a small board, First Snow of Winter is a superb plot for the Greyjoy player to press their advantage.
Best 5 Cards
I feel like I should wrap this up by doing a top 5 best cards so that you can all abuse me and decry my lack of Thrones knowledge, so here it goes:
Rise of the Kraken