Hello people. As Cincinnati Joe has written War and Peace (again) on the Night’s Watch cards from the 2nd cycle, I thought I had better write some more words too. As before, I will follow the Cincinnati Joe blueprint™ for his review….
In my opinion, Greyjoy were in a fairly bad place at the beginning of the 2nd cycle. Tyene and Mirri were causing all kinds of trouble with their targeted kill, and the lack of Greyjoy intrigue really left them weak to this despite the inevitable 3x Iron Mines in every deck. The ubiquity of Nightmares also hurt, often shutting down opportunities to win unopposed challenges by blanking stealth, or more annoyingly, Core Balon mid-challenge.
Valar Morghulis was then spoiled as the 2nd cycle was launched, and to be frank, it felt like a slow crawl toward the 4th chapter pack where all our woes would be solved. We would be able to murder everyone, save our own dudes, and proceed to bully our opponents like the good old days! Of course, it didn’t quite happen like that, but Valar has definitely made Greyjoy relevant once again in the current metagame.
At the end of the last review, I had shifted away from the ‘go first’ cards and leaned back toward a Fealty deck that was more reactive instead. Now, at the end of the 2nd cycle, I still eschew the ‘traditional’ Greyjoy decks that attempt to win by forcing unopposed bonuses with ‘go-first’ tech, in favour of decks that prefer to go second and hit with strong effects. This will undoubtedly affect my score for certain cards, for which I’m sure the internet will take great pleasure in telling me how wrong I am.
Without further ado, I will attempt to rank from 14 through to 1, the released Greyjoy cards since the end of the 1st cycle.
Let’s face it, this card is utter tripe. I can guarantee that nobody is running this in a tournament deck, nobody is thinking of ways to use this card, and nobody has any intention of ever taking this out the binder. You probably couldn’t pay me to build a deck with this (but feel free to try!).
Firstly, the card is 4 gold. FOUR GOLD! Greyjoy aren’t generally blessed with abundant resources with which they can fritter away on a 4 cost non-loyal event, nor do they have the intrigue presence to fend off intrigue claim. Secondly, the actual effect itself is…. Ok. I mean, it’d be lovely to have the entire Greyjoy family on the board on a Rise of the Kraken turn with stealth for all, but the plot only gives 2 gold. The only possible combinations I could consider in order to play this card involve Littlefingers Meddling and/or Tourney Grounds, but nobody really plays those cards, right? Finally, you have to hope that you somehow draw this card at the right time (in a faction possessing mediocre draw), protected it from intrigue claim, have the required gold, with the appropriate board conditions in which to use it. No thanks.
Helya is an interesting card, but is clearly not appropriate for the 2nd cycle metagame. In the future, there may indeed be a world dominated by pesky non-terminal Martell type attachments, where deviant Martell players will endeavour to wipe the board with Valar/Varys in order to recycle these attachments to hand. Helya will be the hard counter to that type of strategy, if and when it ever becomes popular. Until then, she’s just a 2 cost 2 STR power monocon in a faction which does not struggle for power monocons.
Oh look! Another power monocon!
This dude costs 3 gold but is loyal so can be reduced by those playing the Fealty agenda. Furthermore, his effect is usable by all types of Greyjoy deck – draw a card. This seems okay, and has potential synergy with the Old Wyk location. As with Helya though, this card is pretty unexciting, and probably won’t make many decks outside of Fealty due to his inefficient stats.
This is another card that has great potential in future builds. As the card pool develops, I would expect to see more attachments and locations that see play in decks. Already since the release of Valar, there has been a shift toward locations, and attachments too in the form of Bodyguard. Upon discarding one of these with pillage, the wearer of this exquisite piece of driftwood can acquire themselves a power.
On the positive side, this attachment can trigger from any pillage, even your opponents! Also, you can play a Kraken banner with Lannister main faction to acquire the services of Tywin/Gregor/Gregor’s Marauders to really cram your deck full of pillage, and use Tywin’s ability to select the most appropriate card to fuel your strategy. You also acquire the ‘King’ trait, which isn’t insignificant in that you can freely run your Valar Morghulis safe in the knowledge that your opponents King Renly will definitely die and your one million saves will keep you in good stead.
On the negative side, I just don’t really get excited about building a deck around this card. I’d rather get the best out of it by playing Greyjoy main house, and the only characters with pillage are Black Wind’s Crew, Euron, and the wearer of this crown. It doesn’t feel that Nedly to play Wildling Hordes and Lannister guys, and so I would personally prefer to wait a few more cycles for some more Greyjoy cards which have stronger synergies. Also, it’s very sad not being able to trigger this from the discard reaction of The Reader or Loot, something which may have made the latter less surprising to see played.
Old Wyk is another interesting card received this cycle, although it’s another that I feel has been released a little too early (although not Brandon’s Gift early, so be grateful for that). There aren’t really that many Drowned God characters yet with enough benefits to justify dropping some of the core Greyjoy family from your tournament deck.
That said, it’s still fairly good fun wiping the board and killing your own characters, only to have them jump out of the dead pile screaming “WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE!!”, just to see your opponent block the challenge and have them sent to the bottom of your deck whilst you pray you’ll draw that 1x Lordsport Fisherman next turn. It’s very usable whilst playing Jousting Contest as the character will participate with you regardless, and is also fairly certain to return to hand if you initiate that power challenge with Core Balon. There is extra fun to be had if that Priest of the Drowned God participates from the dead pile whilst Balon has the Blessing of the Drowned God.
Conclusion; good for fun, shite for tournaments.
Addendum: With the newly spoiled Drowned Disciple, this card seems hilarious; I have visions of voltron Core Aeron (Or Hagrid?) resurrecting characters from the dead along with Old Wyk and letting them die again whilst perpetually gaining power for doing so – again, fun, but probably not consistent enough for tournaments!
I like this card more than most, judging by internet reaction. What’s not to like about a surprise 3 STR boost in a power challenge, especially when it replaces itself afterward? The immediate thought for this card is to further boost the strength of Core Balon so that you can trigger your unopposed, get your replacement card and all other bonuses for winning the challenge. The secondary use is to use it on Victarion after defenders are declared so that the appropriate amount of intimidate can be leveraged as required.
If you’re one of these Greyjoy players that love to run Superior Claim or Support of the People in a power rush deck, this card is another form of redundancy so that you may trigger these cards. This is akin to a one-shot Iron Fleet Scout, albeit stronger but more conditional. Also, you also have the possible combination with Old Wyk too, but I appreciate I’m almost definitely clutching at straws now. Maybe a 1x or 2x in some builds, more likely 0x in most.
At 0 gold and providing 1 gold per turn for winning initiative, something Greyjoy are generally quite good at, it’s pretty good. This card is excellent for setup, and turning Rise of the Kraken into a 3 gold plot, Weapons at the Door/Oxcross into 4 gold plots, and Clash/Wildfire/Marched into 5 gold plots is pretty damn good. The location is however unique, and will rarely be more than one card in your deck.
In some respects, I think this is a bit of a trap card for a lot of players. I’ve seen some lists on thronesdb with King Balon’s Solar along with Raiding Longships and Kraken’s Grasp, which indicate that this is a deck that wants to win initiative and go first. Whilst the Raiding Longship is undeniably a great card, with the recent proliferation of Baratheon and NW in the metagame along with Nightmares being ever popular, perpetually going first is inherently a very risky strategy. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with Milk or Craven, or having your Balon knelt, ruining your entire strategy for the round.
This card always gets cut from my Greyjoy builds for some reason or another, the primary reason is that saves are currently far more important than that extra gold per turn, and it doesn’t net me any extra gold on the one turn I really need it; when I flip Valar.
The Captain’s Daughter is essentially a friendlier character version of Harrenhal (Stark) and we all know how terrifying that card is. This card can be brutal in the right deck, which unfortunately I believe is probably a deck that likes to use Varys. Greyjoy are not exactly renowned for their brilliance at intrigue challenges, and the existence of so many low cost events and locations means that cards in hand are relatively few. This would imply that running Varys without the ability to maintain the quality of your hand is bad. A faction such as Martell might do well to banner Kraken in order to be able to wipe the board and go first in the following turn to play the Captain’s Daughter.
In Greyjoy mono build, I find the Daughter is most effective in Winter, or other decks that run Valar. Both try to generate board superiority via aggression and saves and reducing the options of the opponent. Unfortunately it is unlikely you’ll be able to afford the Captain’s Daughter on your own Valar turn, but if you can she will most likely provide the tempo advantage you need to run away with the game. For me, she’s a really good card, but finding the reliability to use her consistently and effectively in a mono-Greyjoy build is tough.
When this guy was spoiled I was very excited to throw him into a deck and see what he can do. The immediate thought was to play Valar, save your main characters, and if your opponent was fortunate to have duplicates or saves, you can kneel them all out regardless of whether Dampy lives or dies. How awesome would that be? Also, if you didn’t want to play Valar, you could still make your saves worthwhile in a go-first deck. You could do the important challenges, leave enough standing to defend power, and if the opponent attempted military, you could take claim, save, and stand. Superb.
In reality, Dampy’s cost is quite high for his stats; 6 cost for an int/pow bicon at 4 STR isn’t excellent value. So if he’s going into a deck, you want to be able to leverage his ability. I’ve spoken to many people who are underwhelmed by this new Damphair, and still prefer to run Core Dampy in this Valar environment. Certainly now that dominance decks are all the rage, this is a viable tactic seeing as it provides another reason for you to run the Iron Throne.
In my Store Championships this season, I have run Dampy x3 in my Greyjoy Fealty build, finishing in the Top 4 in both of them (29 and 20 players). I would credit Damphair with being a key part in some of the victories, allowing me to gain the tempo advantage on the Valar turn and scooping up that glorious renown. However in some games, I’d prefer to play out other characters for their more efficient stats and abilities, and that’s why he’s only number 6 in this list.
I like Pyke. It can be reduced by Fealty, and it gives any character stealth. It’s pretty much a cheap Syrio but without the extra body and military icon, which doesn’t matter so much in Greyjoy. This can free you up to reduce the quantities of your stealth characters like Theon and Asha should you be so inclined, and run other characters with strong abilities (I know there aren’t too many to choose from but work with me here). Getting stealth on Victarion or Euron is particularly powerful, and can swing whole turns in your favour with that Intimidate or stealing that location. I’m pretty confident when I say that this will be 1x in many Greyjoy decks until it rotates out. Nothing more to say.
Esgred is a tricon with DOUBLE STEALTH. Well that’s rather fantastic, isn’t it? On a small board, she will just win you an unopposed challenge of your choice, allowing you the pick of all your triggers, providing your opponent doesn’t have Nightmares or any stealth on the board. Good luck to your opponent when you’re going second, as they’ll need to leave three characters of the required icon standing in order to prevent that unopposed from happening. Needless to say, this is extremely helpful in the early game, the late game, and just the entire game in general I guess. And if that wasn’t good enough, you can marshal Asha just to get that bonus power to win the game in a banter play guaranteed to piss your opponent off.
The only downside to Esgred is her low strength. She isn’t likely to win many challenges on defense, and if your opponent can declare a defender against her, she will likely lose that challenge too. Furthermore, 2 STR leaves Esgred vulnerable to certain control effects such as the popular Asshai Priestess and House Florent Knight, as well as the not so prevalent Venomous Blade and Plaza of Punishment. It’d be a shame to spend such precious gold on Esgred just to have your opponent get a tempo jump on you. All things considered, she’s another very good Greyjoy card, but I won’t ever be running all three copies of her.
I’m very aware that many people will disagree with my high ranking of King Balon. I have heard him called “Fail-on Greyjoy”, and been told that “he’s just not as good as Core Balon”. Whilst this may or may not be true, I have had great fun playing King Balon throughout Store Championship season. I have previously inferred to my annoyance at having Core Balon shut down mid challenge with a well timed Nightmares to scupper all of my dastardly unopposed shenanigans. King Balon doesn’t suffer this problem at all, in fact, people have to Nightmares him before you have to make the decision to initiate that military challenge. So far, so good.
The existence of Valar in many Greyjoy decks is instigating smaller board states in these matches. As a result, King Balon does double duty in many of these matches, with an effective built-in Seal of the Hand, allowing him to participate in 2 challenges per round providing there is no King controlled by the opponent. The only King I have seen with regularity is King Renly, which is rather excellent as although King Balon’s non- kneeling ability is shut off, the fact that he is a King will ensure that Renly will die to your Valar. It is not that unusual to finish games with 6/8 power on King Balon, and he is often underestimated by your opponent. It’s also quite fun if you can get a Throwing Axe on him too.
His ‘action’ however is very rarely used. It can be useful to kneel the Seastone Chair, Iron Mine or Great Kraken to give +1 strength to Euron, The Reader, or Balon himself, which can help to push through troublesome challenges. This aspect of the card will surely improve as more locations and more loyal characters get released.
Try him, you might enjoy it.
Everybody I have spoken to has indicated that they believe this is the number 1 Greyjoy card released this cycle. I believe everybody is wrong. The effect is undeniably great, and adds another element of location control to the Greyjoy armoury, thus adding further appeal to the Kraken banner too. There are plenty of tasty locations that can be stolen for the phase, including the Red Keep, Highgarden, Harrenhal (both Stark and Lannister) among others. The Sea Bitch is setup friendly, and is great to use mid military challenge to steal the opponent’s Iron Mines to save your own character. It has also made Martell players like James “Blue Borders are Dull” Nowecki very sad due to potential Boneway theft, which is very satisfying too.
When this card was released, I was extremely excited to sacrifice Sea Bitch to take control of my opponents Sea Bitch to sacrifice that to steal an Iron Mines etc etc but it turns out this would be an illegal play and cannot be done (check the thronesdb FAQ for reasoning). To compound my woes, I am also unable to Sea Bitch the Iron Throne or the Painted Table in order to prevent their effect, which is the bane of tournaments across the globe currently. In fact, quite often this card would stay on the board for a number of rounds against some opponents, waiting for the ideal opportunity to make that game winning play. As such, I don’t think I would play this card 3x, more likely as 2x (has great synergy with King Balon and his action though, amirite?!), but this card obviously will get even better as more locations are printed and used.
To me, this is a no brainer. The same stats as Core Balon, with an equally impressive text box, giving Intimidate and the ability to save himself once two renown powers have been accrued. Going first, Victarion is strong, especially with Raiding Longships, and can kneel out other hurdles to winning unopposed challenges. Often though, I prefer to go second and play reactively, then hitting back with less resistance to reap bigger spoils. Victarion is also another good target for all those things that buff Core Balon such as Iron Fleet Scouts, Bless Him with Salt (really!), and Pyke, as they make his intimidate just that little bit more reliable. Furthermore, Victarion is an excellent target for Seal of the Hand, considering his need to have renown on him in order to save himself, and enabling intimidate for two challenges per round.
As with Balon, the mid challenge Nightmares are a bit tiresome, and he isn’t reducible by Fealty in the monofaction decks. But these minor quibbles aside, you’d be hard pressed to find a competitive Greyjoy deck in 2017 that does not contain this granite jawed fellow. I spent a good month of SC season simply playing Greyjoy in the style of those old Lanni Dragon decks of yesteryear; spamming out big dudes and putting Seal of the Hand on them. The only difference was that I would Valar all their characters and save all my own, before gleefully turning Victarion/Euron/Balon sideways and winning the game. Accordingly, he is my number 1 choice for best Greyjoy card released during the second cycle, and I challenge you all to explain why if you believe I am wrong.
1st Cycle Recap
At the end of the previous article, I ranked (in order) the best Greyjoy cards as Iron Mines, Raiding Longship, Rise of the Kraken, Seastone Chair, and The Reader.
In the present day, I think it is fair to say that Iron Mines are omnipresent in every Greyjoy deck ever. They are probably put into a deck before Roseroads, because that’s how important they seem to be. Valar has almost singlehandedly made Greyjoy relevant again in Thrones, and this is purely down to cards like Iron Mines. The Reader has also become more important in many Greyjoy decks, as draw is still imperfect, and also because Greyjoy Rains has become a thing. The other three cards are less consistently seen in Greyjoy decks as the meta has evolved; Seastone Chair is powerful, but targeted kill has become less important with a complete reset plot available, Raiding Longship is still good but lessened in effectiveness with the unstable ‘go first’ Greyjoy decks and the ubiquity of Bodyguard on opponents characters, and Rise of the Kraken sometimes seems to be shunned in favour of Clash of Kings or other higher gold finisher.
To conclude, I think Greyjoy are fairly strong in the current meta. They have the saves to protect from the opponent’s Valar and they have the saves to take advantage of their own Valar, which gives Greyjoy players the ability to bully the board and amass renown power. Their ability to control locations is matched by no other faction, boasting characters like Newly Made Lord and Lordsport Shipwright, plus Sea Bitch and the fantastic We Do Not Sow for options in soft and hard control. These cards, coupled with the prevalence of strong locations, has made Euron Crow’s Eye even better, and can ruin entire strategies by stealing The Arbor or Harrenhal. Banner of the Kraken is one of the strongest banner agendas due to the non-loyal status of the majority of cards just mentioned, and are frequently seen at tournaments in the U.K. The only downside to Greyjoy is the lack of a competitive playable theme outside of the unopposed strategy, so hopefully the 3rd cycle will give us some cards to support that.
Join us for the seventh review of this cycle on March 2nd, when James Booker spends some time reflecting on the least absurd and definitely not evil faction in the game, Baratheon.