Hello and welcome to the Martell review of the second cycle, including the Lions of Casterly Rock expansion. Boy oh boy how much can a cycle shift the meta? It was only a year ago after we had gone through a majority of the first cycle where Martell was a dominant force in the meta. Now, it is barely to be seen, except for a few exceptions (I.E Thrones W.A.R.). A big reason for that is for their lack of strong cards in the second cycle as well as a meta shift to more decks that are strong against what Martell’s strengths are.
With how poor this cycle was for Martell I am going to be going through the cards in the reverse order that I normally would, we are going to go through the garbage and hope to see some light at the end of the tunnel. It is also funny to point out how a lot a lot of these cards in this cycle are reprints of some of Martell’s most powerful cards in first edition, but with extremely nerfed game text.
So with that out of the way let’s all take a look at the cycle for Martell.
Rarely Will See Even Casual Play
This 2 cost loyal location nets you one gold after 3 events are played. This location was obviously going to be busted so they even limited it to once per phase. So in order for this to gain you gold for Marshalling, you need events that can be played before the Challenges phase, the phase where 90% of events are played.
The only situation where this will see play is when we eventually see a reprint of a 1.0 Champ card Dark Wings, Dark Words, or possibly in Melee depending on how competitive you are playing. Comparing this to some of the loyal econ locations that other factions got, this is at the bottom.
For 3 gold you get plus 1 to Martell characters for each Summer plot card revealed. Now if the meta becomes heavy summer someday maybe, just maybe, it will see play because plus 2 to everyone does sound worth it. The real frustrating part about this location is for just one more gold you can get Winterfell or The Wall, which not only has a strong effect but also plus 1 across the board with no conditions. There will be turns were you play Greenblood and you get nothing from it, since even Summer decks don’t run 7 Summer plots.
With Valar Morghulis released, renown just isn’t as good. Paying a gold to give characters’ renown is even worse. This is another card that is pushing a bad theme for Martell that I personally wish they would just give up on. I would say this could be a great melee event, but its strength is its better to close the game in the late stages of a game. Currently, melee games only go like 3 rounds, so giving 2 renown for 1 gold isn’t that great. The reason I could see this see some play at some point is if they reprint a 1.0 plot To the Spears, which let’s all of your characters not kneel to attack. But, if we never see that plot, I don’t ever see this in a tier 1 deck.
So we get the first of the 1.0 “reprints” although I wouldn’t consider this a reprint at all; it just has the same name. The 1.0 version had the text “Response: After you lose a challenge as the defender, kneel 2 influence to choose and discard an attacking character from play. Then, search the deck and hand of that character’s controller for any number of copies of that character and discard them. Then, shuffle the deck.” Now that is a real card. This is some combo wombo that just isn’t consistent enough. Now to be fair I am 1-0 using this card, but it will never be a serious contender card. Again, possibly better in melee though.
Will See Play But Not Everywhere
When the second cycle started this was a character that saw an okay amount of play. It gives Martell some renown and lets you ambush Bastard Daughters into play for 1. Or a surprise Nymeria for 4 that could guarantee not be Milked for a turn. However, being at 6 cost and not in Arianne range, does make him a weaker card for Martell. He just doesn’t do enough for 6 cost, especially in a meta where characters die left and right.
Now we get another one of the 1.0 reprints at least in spirit, the 1.0 version was named The Viper’s Bannermen with stealth and Response: After The Viper’s Bannermen comes into play or leaves play, reveal the top 2 cards of your deck, then put them into your hand. This one is obviously a lot weaker but does cost only 6 where the old one costs 7 in a version where cards cost less and the 1.0 version was a restricted card. When you draw 3 off the Starfall Calvary it really does feel good. In a Martell fealty deck where you can reduce the cost or in a slower control type deck it is a very solid card, but again the problem is that it costs 6, and since its non-unique there is currently no way (Other than Iron Mines) to save them from Valar. No keywords is also a disappointment for that cost.
Well another 1.0 card and another over costed disappointment. The 1.0 card is hard to explain to players that didn’t play it due to it using a mechanic that hasn’t been in 2.0 called shadows, but the text read “After Venomous Blade comes out of Shadows, attach it to a character you control. Then, choose and kill an opponent’s character with printed STR 2 or less. Response: After you lose a challenge, Venomous Blade goes into Shadows.” The key thing to know is that it only cost 2 to put into shadows and was free to come out of shadows, so after you pay just 2 gold for this attachment it constantly was killing things. The new one has almost the exact same effect, however, it costs one more to use it for the first time and 3 more gold every other time. Now I am glad they didn’t remake the 1.0 version, as it was busted. However, most decks can’t afford to pay 3 gold continuously for this effect, especially since it hits far fewer characters than the 1.0 version did, in which the cost and strength of characters was lower across the board. If the game eventually gets better economy than perhaps this will be a key Martell card in future.
This is a really powerful effect, getting to pick who is satisfied for claim is real strong, however, Martell isn’t exactly known for being the most aggressive of factions and won’t be able to trigger this often. Only 1 icon and has the ally trait, which is starting to get some negative side effects. It does only 5 cost so the surprise trigger with Arianne is great. Spearmaiden is a card where you are either going all in on the idea or not. It is a strong possible banner card though since some factions can use the effect better.
Solid ‘x1 of’ Cards
His effect is rarely something that will swing the game for you and is also slightly pushing the hyper viper idea again. So his effect isn’t amazing but it also isn’t bad and you get a 4str character with two icons and positive trait for only 4 cost. He isn’t anything flashy but can’t blame someone for throwing one in their deck.
On to another 1.0 nerfed reprint. The 1.0 version cost 3 had renown and didn’t have to pay any additional gold to discard the ally (also could discard a Mercenary for whatever that’s worth). He is a good x1 to have in your deck, just in case you come across a Craster or some other Ally that opponent happens to have. I also am glad he is in the game since he does keep some of the Ally cards in check. Again though we get an over costed Martell character that doesn’t have a keyword. In the whole cycle we got 1 character that has a keyword at all times, no attachments expect weapon doesn’t count!
Clearly Martell’s best character in the cycle…..which is more sad for Martell than how great Elia is. She is at the dreaded 3 cost which is not a great cost since Martell still can use First Snow well. Giving Martell some conditional stealth is really good though. They currently only had 1 character beforehand that always had stealth; good old little Edric Dayne. The best part of her effect is that it also works when you lose a challenge as the attacker which they haven’t always been giving Martell, they easily could have put after you lose challenge as defender, and I am so glad they didn’t. This character will however, be a x1 until the cycle rotates out.
Martell just gets another role player. Doesn’t change your strategy and doesn’t change the game once it’s played. A good thing is that currently in the game there will rarely be a king on your opponent’s side of the table so for 4 cost having a bi-con with renown that doesn’t kneel to defend during power challenges makes her a solid character. Martell often wants to go second so being able to defend either two challenges or defend and attack makes her a very solid character. I have no complaints about this character, she just won’t ever be more than x1 of.
Very Solid Cards
The last of the nerfed 1.0 cards but at least this one is still good. The 1.0 version just straight up ended the challenge; no winner or loser. Again, this one is clearly significantly worse, but that is because the 1.0 version was too good. Not having to suffer claim for a challenge is really strong. The real problem with this though and why it isn’t for every deck and every meta is that your opponent still gets their triggers and, at 0 cost, it can be canceled easily. Your opponent’s characters still get renown and unopposed power. Against Greyjoy they can trigger their unopposed effects and most of the time, you opponent will be able to trigger their win by 5 effects. I really wish this was triggered just after losing the challenge and really don’t think that would have been too good, but I still like this card and it will see a fair amount of play.
I personally love this card. To me the icon removal is the most intriguing aspect of Martell’s arsenal right now. Ghaston Grey is also by far my favorite Martell card. Now, this isn’t Ghaston and I still believe you play x3 Ghaston but if you are running Nymeria and the icon removal attachments this can be an easy x2 or x3 if you want to go crazy. Martell got another strong control effect with this location which is what Martell really needs.
Bomb Cards of the Cycle
Sadly, it is true. I don’t want to sound to negative. I still love Martell but this wasn’t a great cycle for Martell. They got just a few x1 unique characters and some situationally good cards. They got some really nerfed 1.0 cards where you could tell FFG wanted to remake them but played really safe with them (once bitten, twice shy in some cases). Their best cards in the cycle are all slightly over costed or missed a nice little touch to bump them up a little bit with Venomous Blade, Spearmaiden, and Starfall Calvary.
Best Neutral Cards
Martell got two interesting neutral cards in this cycle. Valar and The Rains of Castamere. With Rains of Castamere, we get a strong agenda that is focused on intrigue challenges, one of Martell’s strengths. The problem with the agenda right now is that it is just stronger out of Lannister or Tyrell even. I do see potential for some Martell Rains builds and I see it getting only better in the future. With Valar Morghulis we get a control plot that helps the tempo Martell wants to play at. Martell runs a lower cost curve than a lot of factions and can make the most out of a smaller board state, the same reason why first snow was so good for them. The real problem with this plot though is with only 2 gold it often is hard to still use as a comeback plot than it is to use offensively.
Closing Comments on Martell
Martell still can have some strong decks and can have some good match ups. The real problem right now is that NW has gotten so strong which is leading to a heavier NW meta which also is making more people play Baratheon as well since that is a strong counter to what NW is often trying to do. Both Baratheon and NW have favorable match ups against Martell. The biggest downside of Martell right now is how they often have dead cards depending on the match up. The icon attachments aren’t always good: against NW they go on virtually no one, and depending on the other match ups each icon has a different level of importance in the match up so the decision of how many of each to put in your deck isn’t always straight forward or always the right decision depending on the meta. Also, their cards that work only as defender: Cards like Ghaston, Prince’s Pass, and Vengeance/Burning are just more dead cards against NW or even more passive decks like Baratheon.
So right now the real problem for Martell is the meta. They did much better when decks were more aggressive since those cards like Ghaston and Vengeance hurt the opponent more. The other problem is the design team seems to be taking Martell in two different directions. We got some cards that are just average effects or are just solid cards, we got some control type effects, and then we still got some cards that are trying to push the delayed rush theme. There are some solid options for Martell right now, but most of those rely heavily on a banner to balance out their weakness. I still enjoy playing Martell but here is to a better third cycle.
Join us for the fifth review of this cycle on February 23rd, when Justin Sengstock, fresh off his store championship returns to give us his opinions on how AMAZING the Targaryen cards for the second cycle are ;).