Hello people. As Cincinnati Joe won’t pipe down about these boring Night’s Watch cards from the 3rd cycle and Watchers on the Wall box, I thought I had better write some more words about a better faction so that someone would actually read the content he provides (heh).
In my opinion, Greyjoy were in a strong position following the end of the second cycle. We had just received Esgred and Victarion Greyjoy, both of whom were very strong characters; the latter being a staple in almost every Greyjoy deck built since his release. Valar Morghulis continued to be everpresent in the Greyjoy plot decks, giving them the explosive tempo advantage leveraged by their numerous saves.
At the start of this cycle, attention began to shift toward Greyjoy ‘The Rains of Castamere’ decks, with their ability to pump strength with the Iron Fleet Scouts and the propensity to win unopposed challenges. This gave particular power to the Valar turns, being about to flip out of 0 claim is crazy good, and they would ride their tempo advantage to victory. The introduction of Flea Bottom to the meta saw Dagmer Cleftjaw popularized somewhat, and the Rains builds seem to still be the strongest variety seen today.
Anyway, that’s enough wittering, onward with my ‘review’.
Moat Cailin is a card you can try to build around. You can pack Winter plots into your deck in order to activate the effect, and you can stack this on top of other reserve lowering effects for your opponent to truly make his gaming experience miserable and bereft of cards. I still to this day have dreams of playing a Greyjoy Winter reserve choke deck with Moat Cailin, Frostfangs, Early Frost x2 etc.
The problem is, this card is bad. The biggest problem for this card is the requirement to have more Winter plots than Summer plots, in order to gain the effects. This is non-trivial as I’d expect almost every plot deck in joust to have more Summer plots than Winter plots. Essentially then, there is the very real possibility that this card is a dead card in some rounds of the game.
The first effect of this card, should you meet the criteria, is that is lower the initiative on your opponents revealed plot by 3. Great. I don’t think I’ve seen many Greyjoy decks in recent times trying to win initiative every single round. This does of course go nicely with King Balon’s Solar and Raiding Longships etc if you want to control initiative but this effect is not powerful alone. The second effect is that it reduces the reserve on your opponents plot by 1. This for me is the best part of the card. You can combine this with other cards like Wraiths, Kings of Winter, and other aforementioned cards to create a stifling effect on your opponents hand size.
Unfortunately, this card costs TWO gold, TWO! Well that’s quite a lot to pay for a card that is dead in some rounds, has negligible effects, and has the ‘Contested’ keyword to boot. This card therefore is crap. Do not put it in your decks.
This card is also a bad, bad card, and for some reason it makes me irrationally angry when somebody tries to defend it. On the face of it, it’s a card that gains you monies. Yay! But then you look at the card and think about the card. It is 0 cost but a faction card kneel, the value of which equates to 1 gold (Fealty as comparison). Fine. Then you gain a gold for each location and attachment in the discard pile. Not really that fine.
To begin with, this obviously favours a Greyjoy deck that aims to pillage. At the time of writing, pillage decks became a lot more viable with the release of Corpse Lake; a card that supplemented King of Salt and Rock as a win condition for the pillage decks. Yet the best Greyjoy card with the pillage keyword written on it is Euron, and that guy wants to take locations out of the discard pile.
Another problem is attachments. There aren’t that many decks that run multiple attachments. Irrespective of this, you’re relying on the contents of your opponent’s deck to fuel your economy, which is unreliable to say the least. Why wouldn’t you just run more economy cards if you need economy? At least they don’t get cancelled with a Hand’s Judgment for 0 gold.
Finally, you might expect this card to gain you more gold the longer the game goes on, as more and more locations and attachments get discarded by your magnificent pillage deck. Sadly, by the time you have plenty of targets in the discard pile, you’ve probably got 2 or 3 limited locations out and have a board presence established. What would you want the money for? Ours is the Old Way?
This card isn’t necessarily bad, but I believe it isn’t positioned that well in the current metagame. For 2 gold, you can take an attachment from your opponents discard pile, and put it into play under your control. This evokes wonderful dreams of using your opponents Crown of Gold repeatedly on their characters every round for half the price. Amazing!
But then, as always, you play with the card and reality sets in. Sometimes, your opponent will play a deck with zero attachments. Sometimes, they will play attachments, but they don’t go into the discard pile. Sometimes, they will have plenty of attachments, but you have no good target for it. The most likely scenario I see for this is to take a Bodyguard and use on your own characters; although I also predict many people being delighted they can use their opponents Craven, whilst simultaneously being sad they have no targets for it.
Being reliant on your opponents’ deck for your effects doesn’t fill me with joy, however the rise of pillage effects makes me believe that in future this card will improve in viability. Currently though, costing 2 gold to put a Bodyguard on Balon seems like a raw deal.
The Stony Shore Raider isn’t a bad card. At 2 gold, a military monocon is par for the course for a Greyjoy card, but at the extra cost of bestowing her, you can trigger the action to kneel a location of printed cost 3 or lower. The action is undoubtedly useful, yet feels somewhat superfluous in a faction that has an abundance of location control tools at its disposal.
The likelihood is that a Greyjoy player already runs the Lordsport Shipwright and We Do Not Sow as their principle methods of location control. Some may also opt for the Newly Made Lord, who blows up a location under 4 cost, and Sea Bitch takes control of a location for a phase so that you can use it for yourself. I think all of these options are generically better than Stony Shore Raider, and I never really want to bestow a 2 cost chud who will inevitably die as claim soak.
The Shipwright may have a valuable intrigue icon, but the advantage the Raider has over this is that for the 3 gold investment, you get a character than can kneel a location and participate in challenges in that same round, thus saving you from losing tempo. For now, I’ll probably stick with the other options.
I like Nute. But this doesn’t mean he’s a good card. I think he’s passable, especially seeing as he’s draw in a faction that suffers from a lack of it in a pillage focused deck. At 5 gold for two icons and 4 STR his stats are acceptable. Also the fact that his action triggers from any pillage is useful as he doesn’t need to be participating in the challenge to trigger, and he can trigger from 3 different pillages per phase.
The interesting thing about this card for me is the decision making it requires. Of course, it is never ideal to refill your opponents’ hand, but if there are ways to mitigate the downside, then it may be advantageous to do so. For example, you could be playing Winter and have reserve choke applied; what’s to stop you from giving your opponent a chud and playing Heads on Spikes next round? Why not give them a copy of their dead unique character so you can draw a card? These can of course backfire, and this is the risk/reward judgment that only a good player will master (although a counter argument is that a good player wouldn’t be running Nute :P).
This card does have great application in melee though, acting as a great bargaining tool to push through your pillage effects and refill your hand in the process. My partner Rebecca tells me of a melee game she had where a Bara player would allow her to win a challenge to trigger the pillage and activate her King of Salt and Rock/Corpse Lake, and in return she would allow him to retrieve Seen in Flames so that he could remove threats from the opposition!
Conclusion, Nute is great in melee, but more difficult to use effectively in joust.
The Iron Victory Warship got many people moist when it was spoiled. To be rewarded with a power for doing something Greyjoy want to be doing seemed great, and many people loved the ideas of Voltron Victarion and winning games with an offensive plot phase Valar. These upsides are pretty strong, especially whilst you have this and Victarion on the board, effectively allowing you to save him at the cost of 1 power instead of 2.
The downsides can be steep though- imagine spending 2 gold on this boat and not drawing into any Iron Mines or Risen from the Sea. Imagine not drawing Victarion all game, rendering this an expensive way of gaining an extra power once or twice in the game. These happen more often than I’d like in practice, which sour the Iron Victory experience for me. I could change the plot deck I suppose to ensure drawing the pieces I need, but I feel I’d be changing the way Greyjoy works and reducing its efficiency. There will be a time in future, I’m sure, where this card will be more than a token 1x in a build, but right now 0x or 1x is the right number.
I like the Salt Wife. She is cheap for setups, and is a great target for that Flea Bottom your Euron Crows’ Eye has just stolen from the opponent. Using her on a tricon is effectively a stealth in all three challenges which is strong, and flipping into a 2 claim plot with her on the board is a nightmare for people to deal with. And if she’s the target for Nightmares, then I’d say that’s also a win.
That said, she doesn’t see play in many of my Greyjoy decks. Although she is 2 cost, she has 1 STR and an icon which Greyjoy have in abundance; power. Also, Greyjoy aren’t likely to be running Flea Bottom at 3x, which means the sacrifice cost to use her ability reduces your board presence and can leave your big characters a little more vulnerable.
My favourite use of this is when I played a certain podcast legend, and I played Retaliation with 2 Salt Wives on the board. I think it took him at least 5 minutes to decide whether he was going to do a challenge or not, as he knew those Salt Wives would absolutely wreck him if he began to kneel his board out. Win win.
Corsair’s Dirk I believe is a good card, primarily because it is just super efficient. For a small 1 gold investment, you boost your character by 2 STR (out of Dracarys range!), and upon winning a challenge you can trigger the reaction to steal a gold from your opponent. This is good!
A simple 2 STR boost for the 1 gold would have been favourably received I think, especially because at the time, Astapor and Dragon is no Slave had just been released amid a strong Targaryen tournament presence. The fact that the attachment provides a source of income theft opens it up to other choky builds like Winter, which has good synergy with Greyjoy elements anyway. Just be careful you don’t try and put it on The Reader as it’s IRONBORN ONLY!
This is another card I am quite excited to build around one day; a location control effect that can actually target 4 cost locations like The Wall or Harrenhal, and remove them from play. There are many blue cards that provide both soft and hard control for non-limited locations of cost 3 or lower, so it is great to have options that deal with the 4 cost slot too. The triggering condition is relatively simple to meet too; win a challenge on attack, and kneel a warship location. Greyjoy currently have 3 Warships that do not kneel to use their abilities, and these are great foil for this card.
So why doesn’t this card see much play?
For me, a full on Warship deck isn’t a thing yet, and in many decks there will not be many Warships available to kneel. It doesn’t feel efficient to use a Raiding Longship or Iron Fleet Scout, as you lose future challenge control effects, so Great Kraken, Iron Victory, or Sea Bitch seem to be the most appropriate targets. Also, the removal is usually only temporary, as the card goes to the top of the opponents deck, available to be replayed next round. We Do Not Sow has the ability to trigger in any game and is a more permanent removal method, and I expect this is why it is generally preferred.
In the future, I expect this card to see play in upcoming pillage decks (putting the removed card into the discard pile for Euron shenanigans), and maybe Drowned Gods decks (Warships boost the Drowned Men after all), but ignored for the popular Greyjoy ‘good stuff’ decks.
This little Mick Jagger lookalike is the chud that was promised for Greyjoy. A 2 cost bicon chud has been at the top of our wishlist for a long time, and although it’s a unique character, a military/intrigue bicon means that it is just what the faction need to support the bottom end of the curve. Sadly Wex is unique, but we can’t have everything we want! On this basis alone, he will be a 1x in many Greyjoy decks for a long time.
As it turns out, Wex has text too. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t particularly relish the idea of bestowing a 2 cost chud but in some cases, Wex is actually really effective. Being able to completely ignore a low STR chump defender and forcing the opposed from a bigger defender can open up new challenge routes, or even allow an unopposed to go through to trigger your WDNS etc. I’ve seen somebody in topdeck mode versus Lanni Rains, playing the final plot of Late Summer Feast, drawing and playing Wex, and bestowing 7 gold, hilariously allowing him to bypass the Mountain and Tywin for unopposed to win the game!
Same cost as the Drowned Men, same icons, but base 4 STR instead of 3, and the potential to be so much more. These guys are pretty good, and if you go for the full bestow right off the bat, you get a 10 STR monster to attack with. In a dedicated pillage deck, these don’t actually get better, as they only trigger from their own pillage, yet they do benefit from Raiding the Bay of Ice to trigger the reaction to make them even more monstrous.
Despite the fact they’re very strong, they’re also very bland and I’ve run out of things to say. Hilarious jumping man art though.
This little fellow will shape the Drowned Gods decks to come during cycle 4. On the face of it, he’s a non-unique chump in the 3 cost slot with a solitary power icon. Doesn’t seem great. However, his text allows wonderful and glorious machinations to occur. And occur they will.
Firstly, there are a few ways that characters can enter play from the dead pile; Craster, Fire and Blood, Ghosts of Harrenhal etc. The most consistent and in-faction way to do this is Aeron Damphair (Core). If you have 2 Disciples out, then winning Dominance with Aeron on the board will net you 3 power if you can resurrect an Ironborn character from the dead pile. You also have Old Wyk as a way to resurrect characters in the challenge phase.
There is further synergy with the spoiled Acolyte of the Waves (who provides power when he dies), the Drowned Gods Apostle (who is Ironborn and Drowned God, so you win Dominance to kill himself to resurrect an Acolyte, trigger Disciples, gain power, then you trigger Aeron to resurrect Apostle, trigger Disciples, gain power….), and Nagga’s Ribs (discarded characters go to dead pile and help with winning Dominance). Imagine how silly this can get if the Drowned God character you’re putting the power on is Victarion with a Drowned Gods Blessing…
Ultimately, the Drowned Disciple is a combo piece, which looks like it will enable a lot of power claiming Drowned God decks. Like many combo pieces, it can be disrupted, negated, or simply just hide at the bottom of the deck. The reason I rate this so high as it is finally a theme which enables the use of a subset of cards that remain unused in competitive play, and it is a welcome relief from the one dimensional ‘good stuff’ Greyjoy decks we always see.
This card is very average in a normal ‘good stuff’ Greyjoy deck. This much is clear. However this card would be great if the designers would see fit to support the pillage theme. Luckily, there is plenty of evidence to support this idea, seen with recent cards like Corpse Lake from the Tyrell box, and the spoiled Asha Greyjoy from cycle 4.
Looking outside of the monofaction, we see plenty of decks on theironthrone.net playing Greyjoy banner to the Lion, using the Iron Islands Markets to great effect, being turned on consistently by turn 2. Soon, I expect this to be a possibility in Greyjoy alone, and the Money Super Markets will support the economy requirements of the pillage decks. There’s nothing more to say about this really.
Baby Theon is hands down the best Greyjoy card in the cycle. You can slot him into just about any Greyjoy deck and he will improve it. Being about to consistently trigger unopposed simply by making a challenge is comparable to Core Balon Greyjoy. The upside is that he’s far cheaper and manageable to get onto the board during your low gold plot turns like Rise of the Kraken, and in most games he’s practically guaranteed to fire as you have the option of either power or military to attack in. He really makes the Lord of the Crossing agenda and Rise of the Kraken plot more powerful, and gives the option of playing Greyjoy with some more unopposed focus again. The Seastone Chair is another tempting inclusion with Theon, if you fancy the more aggressive route. Another side benefit is that he gives your opponent more headaches in determining which character to control. The most powerful characters are generally the higher cost guys like Victarion, Euron, Balon et al, but Theon provides another consideration lower down the curve.
He is not without downsides however, as a simple Nightmares can ruin the entire challenge for you, unlike Core Balon where he still commands a level of strength that needs to be answered. He is also susceptible to The First Snow of Winter, which is a turn he would be highly effective otherwise. He no longer has pseudo-renown like his first iteration, but that would be too strong if he did.
2nd Cycle Recap
At the end of the previous article, I ranked (in order) the best Greyjoy cards as Victarion Greyjoy, Sea Bitch, Balon Greyjoy, Esgred, and Pyke.
In the present day, I think it’s accurate to say that Victarion and Balon Greyjoy are everpresent in the best and strongest Greyjoy decks seen at Worlds and Stahleck. The raw power Victarion gives the Rains deck is great, and King Balon providing two challenges with one body is great value, especially on small boards. I’m really pleased that people have seen the light and are using King Balon nowadays; although Core Balon is clearly still the best choice in the Crossing builds. Sea Bitch is still considered a strong card as before, but doesn’t get run 3x. This is likely to change when the House with the Red Door is released, as the Bitch gets around the wording on the agenda and can deprive your opponent of the location for a phase. Esgred is popular in some builds and not seen in others. I personally still prefer the double stealth tricon as I value the intrigue presence, especially in the Rains build. Others value the smaller board and Asha’s standing ability. Finally, Pyke was suggested as the 5th best card, and although the effect is strong, it seems to have been dropped for other alternatives in many decks.