Hello and welcome to the first cycle review of Martell. My name is Brandon Zimmer or mnBroncos. For those that don’t know me I have been playing Game of Thrones since 2012 about three months before the first official worlds at FFG. Through that time I’ve been a pretty active member on Cardgamedb with doing different articles series. I’ve won a regional, made cut at worlds, and have posted a .500 or better record at every official tournament have attended. I have also been a longtime supporter of House Martell.
When the core set came out the weakest faction according to the masses was either Night’s Watch or Martell. It may be hard to remember that at the beginning that Martell was deemed so poor, but it really lacked the strength at the top of the curve to match that of other houses. Even after Sam won worlds with Martell it was still seen as one of the weakest factions for quite some time.
However, a lot has changed and Martell is now considered among most as one of the top factions in the game due in part to a lot of the cards they gained this first cycle. Martell is still missing some key pieces as some of the best Martell decks require the added strength of banner cards from other factions. But there have been some successful mono Martell decks and that wouldn’t be the case without some of these really powerful cards from this cycle.
The Best Martell Cards In This Cycle (including Wolves of the North box)
This card when it came out in the second pack of the cycle is what started putting Martell back on the map. Made banner of the sun one of the most played banner factions and made the main faction more appealing. The control this provided is unmatched in the game. It makes every character weaker especially key characters that need to win specific challenges, it allows you to win a lot of challenges that you normally can’t since you are able to gain the icon as well as remove one making that challenge so much easier to win, and also made tears near broken in Martell being able to kill any character you want.
This made players attempt Martell more than before and people realized the true potential of them. This gave Martell their first “true” bomb card in the game that they desperately needed.
So two Sand Snake characters in a row, this is already more Sand Snake power than 1.0 ever had in joust. By the time Tyene had come out Martell was already making a serious rise in power having won multiple regional tournaments. However, this was a true stand out of this cycle that really gave Martell true power. Constant removal is huge in this game, especially since Tyene isn’t random like The Mountain and doesn’t need to win alone like Mirri. Sure the character can’t have an intrigue icon but Martell has multiple ways to remove that from any character they want to make this character’s ability often read ‘win an intrigue challenge with this character to kill any character.’ Yes I believe she is overrated compared to what a lot of people think but that doesn’t make her not a superstar.
Vengeance for Elia (Red Vengeance):
I do think this is a top 3 Martell card but I know I rate this higher than most. I loved this card in 1.0 and think it is still amazing in 2.0. The amount of control it provides is unreal especially when the board is kept in to a small state which Martell excels at. Not often used for Power challenge but Military or Intrigue swing hitting your opponent instead of you can really turn the game. Also there is already multiple claim replacement effects that are seeing a lot of play that you can play this in response to too make it hurt even more.
The Real Role Players for Martell
Icon Removal Attachments (Attainted, Condemned, Imprisoned):
I need to say these are way over played and way overrated especially the intrigue removal one. However, these open up deck building options and can help you control opponent’s key characters. The fact that they are non-terminal is what make them so great, because even if opponent kills their character you can just replay the attachments. However, they do take up non-setup spots in the deck and there is already very powerful events that make significant impact on the board state when played. Once Valar comes out these will become even better since when the board gets wiped you get to just replay these down on the new characters your opponent plays. Cheap ways to control your opponent’s characters is really great. If Martell gets better draw at some point these will become really useful tool.
Knights of the Sun and Bastard Daughter:
I am putting these both in the same spot because they fill the same big need for Martell. Very very solid characters at the curve. Knights of the Sun is one of the strongest non-unique 4 cost characters and Bastard Daughter is one of the strongest non-unique 2 cost characters. The fact that Martell got two of the better characters to round off the curve in the cycle really gave them a huge push in creating effective decks with Martell.
His Viper Eyes:
This is a strong card. Getting access to the knowledge of what your opponent has in hand is already very useful but then removing the strongest card from that hand is just brutal. Yes it is a one for one trade in card resources but you’re using your zero gold event to remove your opponent’s strongest card from their hand. It also has fun interaction with Ghaston Grey (return a character to their hand, discarding all dupes and then using this to discard that character from their hand).
This will be an x1 of in all Martell decks maybe for as long as the game is around (since it is Wolves of the North and won’t rotate). It has an effect on him dying so will rarely want to run 2 in your deck. However, you are getting an effective character for the cost in a bicon with 4 strength and stealth. But you are also getting a new Lord (Doran synergy) and a very powerful effect on certain board states. Wildfire or Valar with Quentyn helps you gain advantage of resets and hurting your opponent even more.
The Long Plan:
This isn’t an amazing broken powerful card, but it is a solid utility card that will see play here and there in different Martell decks. Obviously, it is cute with going with this into a Counting Coppers or a Valar in the future but it is really a lot more than that. It is a solid stat-line on its own and it also makes your opponent have to over think challenges. Are they going to win challenges to prevent claim or are they going to let you win challenges to prevent gold? It also makes your events a lot more playable. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve used this plot Marshalled to 0 gold and then gain a gold or two and played events in the challenge phase that I wouldn’t have been able to afford with a standard 4 gold plot. It isn’t the most powerful plot but it gives you a lot of game decisions that can increase its power level.
Cards that just aren’t there (at least yet):
In Doran’s Name:
Yes economy is important but not that important. This takes up a non-setup card slot and, with so many good attachments and events you want to play already, especially in Martell, there is zero room for this. It is also too slow as in it is a dead card until late in the game when you can gain that big 4 gold burst but that event could have been something that actually impacted the game the first few turns and this game is too much about momentum to waste a card slot on this right now.
Maester of Starfall:
3 gold for only one icon is already not good (look at every NW character) and having an ability that is kind of meh already requires kneeling the character. I think even if it was limited to once a turn and didn’t have to kneel the Maester that this card still wouldn’t see play. Only reason would maybe consider it is if Mountain is destroying your meta. Really wish this card was pushed a little more because, unless Maester gets so much synergy that you want every Maester possible in your deck, this won’t see play.
I know there are some that really like this card. I know it is better in a Lord of the Crossing rush style deck. But I really don’t like this card. Now I need to say I am looking at these cards from a joust perspective I will note that this is better in melee where power gain is more powerful and making opponents doing less challenges against you is more powerful. However, in joust this is not a card I think you need to play. It is a two gold location that doesn’t impact the board (compare this to Ghaston Grey), and takes quite a long time in certain games before you can gain any power. It is a dead draw late in the game since the game won’t last long enough to get the six tokens and it hurts you in momentum early in the game when you are using that two gold for this card that doesn’t impact the board. Solid if you get it on setup but significantly worse if not and for that I wouldn’t play this in a Joust deck.
Best Neutral Cards for Martell
First Snow of Winter, First Snow of Winter, First Snow of Winter:
I would argue with anyone that Martell gained the most from First Snow. Lannister is nice too because of their ambush and put into play events. However, Martell really shines with this. First, it gains in being able to bounce characters. Hotah can be triggered again which is a very effective ability and can often be used even during the first snow turn to protect your board. Greenblood Trader becomes not just a benefit in card quality but also quantity in getting to net 2 cards instead of 1 by its enter play ability. It has some of the best four cost characters in the game in their two armies Palace Spearman and Knights of the Sun. Having great four cost characters helps you get solid setups that last during first snow and even more of a benefit these characters are immune to Ward that hurts the playability of many other four cost characters. Also, Arianne is amazing. It also had effects that benefit from a smaller board position that First Snow provides. Vengeance, Ghaston, Tears, and Icon removal all benefit from a smaller board position. I could go on and on but point is First Snow is by far one of the cards that put Martell right up to tier 1.
Oddly, Martell didn’t get a lot of help besides First Snow in the first cycle from Neutral cards. Close Call is solid but not amazing but all the other Neutral superstars like Trading with Pentoshi, Wildling Scout, Syrio, The Lords of the Crossing, and Nightmares, although all see some play in Martell and are not bad choices in Martell decks, have benefited other houses significantly more.
The cycle, as a whole, greatly helped Martell. They got a lot more playable cards than bad ones. They rounded off their curve greatly with a very good two and four cost non-unique character. They got solid control options that Martell greatly lacked in the core set, and gave them a more true control style path towards victory than what we had beforehand and all these factors have put them right near the top of the houses.