-Chris Thompson “CT” “WailingJennings”
“The powerful have always preyed on the powerless, that’s how they became powerful in the first place.”
If the inaugural cycle of the Second Edition of Game of Thrones is meant to encapsulate the feel of the first novel in the Song of Ice & Fire series, the designers certainly achieved that in spades. When only the core sets existed, the general consensus was that Baratheon (very thematically) was the ruler of all the seven kingdoms. Robert’s rule was absolute and unquestioning. Then, wheels within wheels began turning, as the first cycle got under way. The real power behind the throne started to reveal itself, House Lannister.
Much as they did in the first novel, House Lannister began to throw their influence, money, and strength around in the first cycle of the Second Edition. The economic dominance the house built their foundation on from the core with cards like Tywin & Tyrion Lannister had already set the stage for them to claim the Iron Throne. Each helpful Lannister card seemed to have an edge over cards printed for any other house, just by the nature of Lannister’s economic advantages. If they can play their cards more often, then surely no one could outspend the coffers of the richest house in the kingdom. Tywin and Tyrion would go on to fund the various wars Lannister looked to be getting themselves into within the initial year of the game. Cersei would play her tricks at court; Jaime would saunter into combat and intrigues alike. Where the Lion family truly struck gold, is in the ruthlessness of their henchmen.
Lannister, much like their novel counterparts, quickly gained a reputation as being the most despised of the great houses of Westeros in a very short time. They made their move quickly and unapologetically to assert control over Westeros. A very large and very vocal sect of the Thrones community will tell you exactly how they feel about every Lannister card that gets spoiled and released. While Lannister certainly had an extremely powerful base, I would present what is sure to be an unpopular viewpoint in regards to the first cycle of released cards. Lannister only received 2 really good cards… Neither of which even belong to their faction’s namesake. The house in Westeros that strikes the most fear in the hearts of the small folk is Clegane.
Lannister’s Best Cards from the Westeros Cycle:
“Who am I fighting?”
“Does it matter?”
Ser Gregor Clegane
A card that truly lives up to the aura of its namesake. In the novels, Tywin Lannister unleashes his chief instrument of destruction onto the Riverlands as retribution for the Starks capture of his least favorite progeny. Just like the horrors that The Mountain reaps in the novels, once he was let loose in the LCG, all of Westeros bleeds. (Let it bleeds! Let if bleeds!) He was spoiled early, and reactions were mixed, but profound. Firstly, we had never seen a 10-strength character before. Gregor has twice the strength of most armies. Some dismissed him with his single military icon and ability to be stopped or poisoned. After all, Nymeria is a thing. Some said he would ruin the game. I fell in the camp of the middle. I certainly thought he was good enough to see play, but wasn’t some insane powerhouse. I chuckled at the Nedliness of the unrestrained random murder he may create, and that he was intimidating enough to be a presence (especially after the disappointment of all his 1.0 incarnations). For heaven’s sake, there are cards in this game with “intimidate” written on them that aren’t as intimidating as this card. I said to myself, “Yea he is a 1 of for sure.”
Well I underrated him. I was one of the people who said he would be good, but I didn’t think he would make the bloody splash that he did. The first half of 2016 is paved with the mangled bodies that Ser Gregor has left in his wake. As a chief facilitator of Put to the Sword, in addition to his own game text, he can swing a game so decidedly sometimes. The biggest criticism he saw in the early goings was “well his ability to be rewarding is so random”. How random is it though? You usually have a good shot of putting a guy into the dead pile, and taking guy off the board. Even if it’s a chud, that can make a big impact on the board with what you can do.
The first tournament I went to after his release was the Chicago Windy City Cup. I played a lone copy of him in my Lanni/Rose. Out of 9 games, I saw him 7 times. 6 of those times he either A. put to the sword someone with barely any effort, B. “Trampolined” someone from play to the dead pile of real impact, or C. Did both. My friend Steve Gillispe played 3 of him. We even played each other in the swiss where we both saw him. It was a slaughterhouse. We both made the cut, and I really upped my opinion of him after that.
He is just a fantastic card. Nigh, the most impactful card of the first cycle? When he hits the board opposite you he changes how you approach all your challenges, makes you fear for every one of your good characters, and demands an immediate answer. With Lannister’s gold, he isn’t a problem to run in any main house Lanni build and has been a staple of all main house Lannister decks (sans Lanni/Kraken in some cases) since his inception. His randomness attracts the ire of new players and veterans alike. But no matter how you feel about him, he made his impact and is power personified. Hear me roar, indeed.
Where his brother was put on this earth to end lives, Sandor is a lot more versatile. Sure, he can still do a put to the sword on his own and has a respectable military presence. But his debut gave us something really special. A big power icon, Lannister’s weakest type, and a repeatable ambush character. It’s not totally unreasonable for The Hound to fight twice in a phase. If things are really crazy, I have seen 3. His ability to make an impact, and then get off the table to avoid removal is just fantastic. Obviously, his synergy with Tyrion is off the charts. If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to pick the first 2 cards that probably deserve to make up the restricted list, I’m inclined to make my honest answer those 2 cards. I have heard many a tenured Thrones players exclaim “What were they thinking?!” I have asked a play tester or 2 that exact question. The viewpoint seems to be that “he seemed fine”. I don’t contest that opinion. He is powerful. He has defined a banner. When you build a deck, you immediately consider how much Tyrion and Hound can benefit your character base. But he can be dealt with in a variety of ways. And more answers are on the horizon, such as the Mormont scouts. But few characters made a “splash” into the game the way The Hound did. Being in the first pack we also spent a good deal of time with him.
Impactful Lannister Cards from the First Cycle:
“You’re blessed with abilities that few men possess. You’re blessed to belong to the most powerful family in the kingdoms.”
There are 2 other Lannister cards from the cycle I would touch on as being definitively impactful for Lannister. But I don’t consider them the “best” cards for their house from the cycle, because the Clegane brothers they are not. Nevertheless, they warrant discussion.
I Never Bet Against My Family
Initially a fairly unassuming card (card disadvantage rabble rabble!), this card helped birth Lannister’s first alternate deck type thanks to the efforts of Lucas (of Second Sons fame). Lannister had a whole new strategy! Instead of throwing down all my big, nasty dudes, turning them sideways, and beating you, NOW I can put half of those guys into play for essentially free, just for a turn, then turn them sideways and beat you!
Honestly, the “BAMF!” deck has a lot of finesse and interesting card interactions that make it truly stand out in the meta. It had an excellent run in the spring in Lucas and Andreas’s hands. I took it to a store championship and totally cleaned house with it. Just look at how this card interacts with the 2 best cards I said Lannister received this cycle…
The only thing more terrifying than The Mountain is a free Mountain, which you did not account into your challenge math at the start of the phase. Add in the Mountain’s “trampoline” and games can be won and lost on Betting with the Lannisters.
With the Hound, there is something very satisfying in pulling him off the bottom of your deck, then getting him back to hand after the challenge to avoid INBAMF’s drawback. A beautiful interaction that yields you no negatives.
Ser Ilyn Payne
A six cost character that you have to kneel to use an ability for screams underwhelming. But this guy’s sheer existence in the card pool (in conjunction with cards like First Snow and Ward) will make some houses sweat. The children of House Stark, Dany’s pets, a beautiful Lady of Highgarden. So many decks rely a lot on the abilities of some of their lower cost characters. The tongue-less wonder can really put some pressure on those characters. I have yet to play an actual game where I had him in play, but I have been using him as a singleton in many decks, and I think the threat of him looms over deck building. It’s almost like Lannister has no bad cards! Almost…
Worst Lannister Cards From the First Cycle:
“When soldiers lack discipline, the fault lies with their commander.”
So, did our Lannister overlords get any bad cards this cycle? Yes, yes they did get a few stinkers. Admittedly, several houses received some straight unplayable garbage, and Lannister did not get any of those. But they did get some pretty lackluster cards. Behold!
This card has 0 appeal to be played ever. If you are going to play a 2-3 drop in Lannister, why would you ever choose this over deeply inhales Red Cloaks, Burned Men, Tickler, Gold Cloaks, Hound, Brothel Madame, all the chuds of your potential banner, etc. If this had been some kind of clansmen character then maybe he could have had future synergy, but I don’t foresee mercenaries getting a big sub theme at this point.
Small Council Chamber
I lead with the caveat that this card is likely to not always be bad. Just super lackluster in the first cycle Meta where Frozen Solid & Newly Made Lord lurk in the shadows and our economy is very harsh on 3-cost locations. I can’t really say anything bad about it beyond that. We know this card has good mojo with where Lannister is headed with their deluxe box. It could be a thing in a future cycle, just not the one we are reflecting upon.
If Gregor really jacked up the hype train, this fan favorite certainly did the opposite. People may argue me on the declaration that Bronn is a bad card, but short of having him to facilitate the set up of a Tywin I otherwise would not have had, I just never have drawn a card and thought to myself, “Boy! I wish I had drawn a Bronn here.” As far as the Lannister minions go, this guy brought down the batting average.
Best Non-Lannister Support Cards for Lannister in the First Cycle:
“You and my family have more in common than you might admit.”
Lannister is no stranger to making alliances for their own benefit and they are certainly adept at it. Tywin Lannister is no fool. So what non-Lannister cards really stood out this cycle as adding valuable support to the Lion’s cause?
Let us not forget the joys of the “BAMF!” deck. This was one of those cards that really helped fuel the engine. It helps you get the sneaky events you need to cheat guys into play, and it shuffles your deck to improve the quality of your future INBAMF triggers. All we have to do is win intrigue challenges in Lannister. Well, gee!
Lord of the Crossing
This agenda gave the exact sort of platform to the aggressive nature of the “BAMF!” deck that it was looking for. So good you can play it with regular old Lannister decks also.
The First Snow of Winter
Suppose the board state filled with my high impact 5-7 cost characters would have free reign on your board minus your entire claim soak? You can easily determine how a card helps Lannister by going, “Does this make my Gregor/Tywin/Put to the Sword more efficient?” Lannister doesn’t mind flaunting the fact that most of its characters are heavy hitters. And just to rub it in, their most efficient 2 and 3 drop can plow through a first snow and be re-ambushed right back into play. The Lannisters don’t seem to mind the cold as much as you would think.
Trading With The Pentoshi, Syrio Forel, Wildling Scout, Iron Mines
I am blanketing these together because there is not a house these 4 cards did not help. Money is good. Saves are good. Gregor or Tywin with stealth is terrifying. These cards universally help every faction, but sometimes when your faction has what are considered the best characters in the game, giving them more keywords and saving them more often benefits you more than the potential of your competitors.
First Cycle Lannister Cards to Look Out for in the Coming Cycles:
“When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their fleet. Else wise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say “I am the king” is no true king at all. Aerys never understood that, but you will. When I’ve won your war for you, we will restore the king’s peace and the king’s justice.”
While reminiscing is fun, plotting the future is also essential to the survival of a great house in Westeros. So what cards that didn’t impact the first cycle in a big way are likely to rear their power to terrifying results in the coming cycles? Here are the cards I think are worth keeping an eye on from Lannister…
Wardens of the West
Its initial introduction was a bit overblown. It just doesn’t end up warranting spots in Lanni decks in the first cycle. But as economy becomes more available, and these “Turbo Intrigue” Lannister cards (Lion Box Cersei, Casterly Rock, Small Council Chamber, likely more to come) become more prevalent in the card pool, this will become more desirable to have in your arsenal. I think Wardens will have its day in the sun eventually.
Trial by Combat
This card is just waiting on the ability to do multiple intrigue challenges with more high claim options. Things that are being seeded slowly into the card pool all the time.
Tower of the Hand
No one is denying the power of this card. It is just hard to justify its cost in the first cycle Meta for several of the same reasons Small Council Chamber just doesn’t work. But eventually this card will be just dandy. And every heavy hitter with an Intrigue that we get will just make including this card more alluring for the Lions of the Rock. We certainly haven’t seen any slow in the train of playable trigger fodder for this card. We just got Ilyn Payne. Janos Slynt is already waiting in the wings to start throwing his jowls around. Let that mental image sink in. Mmmmmm.
“I have served six kings, but here before us lies the greatest man I ever knew, Lord Tywin wore no crown, yet he was all a king should be.”
So that’s my take on Lannister for the first cycle! I look forward to maintaining my youth and boyish good looks from the tears of all the Lannister haters in the second cycle, just as I did in the first. Hear me Roar!
-Chris Thompson (or “CT” for short) is the scourge of the Midwest in Game of Thrones, hailing from his own Dreadfort in Indianapolis where he and the Lady Thompson rule the Hoosier State. He started playing Thrones in early 2014 and thought it was swell after he placed in the cut at his first Gencon. He was hooked! Then FFG told him to throw all his cards away and start over shortly thereafter. He loves 2.0 just the same, and submits content, sometimes. Look for him at an event near you! He is loud, belligerent, and boisterous. So it isn’t that hard to spot him. He loves draft format and hugs. He is exfoliating for your skin, and actually improves your quality of life by his mere presence. He has a love/hate relationship with the Arbor. He is 38% troll.
Garbage, absolute garbage. Who let this guy in?