As many of you know, I love the Night’s Watch. From the beginning of the game I, along with most of the community, noticed two major strategies that really defined the faction. You could either sit back and defend the Wall or utilize Jon Snow to go after your opponent with several low cost characters and Jon participating in each challenge.
Both strategies were immediately written off as bad by the vast majority of the community. I agreed with the community on Jon Snow, for a variety of reasons including on demand kneel and burn being so prevalent in the game, but I spent most of October through today trying to convince people that the Wall is a legitimate strategy that is capable of beating any faction.
I wrote an entire article back in January about the Night’s Watch strategy of defending the Wall. At the time, there were a very small percentage of Night’s Watch players and just about all of them were running Wall decks to varying degrees of success. It can be very dependent on how you build it and the decisions you have to make during the game can be somewhat hard, considering the situation you’re in.
In fact, after ThroneRunner featured my Night’s Watch Banner of the Wolf deck on his Youtube channel back in November, it began to be the most played Night’s Watch deck out there, according to the Iron Link database. In addition, as of the end of January, it was the most successful Night’s Watch deck in regards to making the cut in tournaments and store championships.
But even with the marginal success of this deck, the Night’s Watch had not won a single Store Championship, and the chapter packs were not offering much to help in this regard.
A New Watch Begins
That, of course, all changed on February 6, 2016. Jeremy Hammond (code name Kidohearts) won a store championship in Durham, North Carolina with a Night’s Watch Banner of the Kraken deck. This was a huge thing for us in the Night’s Watch community (yes, there is a community, Haters) not just because he won a SC with a Night’s Watch deck, something that I failed to do with my NW Wolf deck on that same day. But also because he did it with a deck very few people have ever played before (either with or against).
The Night’s Watch Banner of the Kraken deck is unique in its execution. There is no Wall. There is no Jon Snow. Jeremy already wrote an article on the White Book about his store championship, as well as his deck list published on Cardgamedb.com here. So I won’t go into any further details on his championship win in particular. What I wanted to discuss is this new Night’s Watch deck type that he helped to create: The Night’s Watch Aggro kill control deck.
I wanted to write a little more about what it can do and how. I figured it would be easiest to cut this deck into four easily digestible portions that best exhibit what this deck is trying to do.
Portion 1: Economy Control
The deck uses Meager Contribution, Lordsport Shipwright and Naval Superiority to control the opponent’s economy and make it very difficult to get big bodies or several characters out in the same turn. Even if you choose to go first, which is not uncommon with this deck, you can still use Meager Contribution on your opponent just to keep the gold out of their hands. Plus, then it can fund your Tears of Lys, which is never a bad thing.
Lordsport Shipwright can kneel reducing locations as well as King’s Roads to stop them from using that economy to buy big characters that may be hard to get off the board. In addition, the shipwright can be used to get rid of their draw, such as by kneeling the Red Keep, Gates of Winterfell or the Mander, and can be used to stop other priority locations that could cause problems, like Castle Black, Highgarden, Ghaston Grey, Plaza of Punishment and Chamber of the Painted Table.
Naval Superiority finishes out the economy control portion of this meal by removing the economy from several commonly used plots, such as Trading with the Pentoshi, Noble Cause, Feast for Crows, Summons, Confiscation and Marched to the Wall. You can use it on first turn, as many people start the game with Noble Cause or other big money plots to get their important characters out, or you can try to predict a Marched or Confiscation turn later in the game, based on the circumstances. If you milked their main character the turn before, there’s a pretty good chance they will want to remove that milk with confiscation the following turn. Just remember; you’re not going to hit every time. So only play it when you are content with that risk.
But this is just the appetizer. The main course is what will win you most of your games.
Portion 2: Character Control
I spoke to Jeremy about the strategy of the deck, and he mentioned he didn’t care who he used Tears of Lys on. If there is a juicy target like Knight of Flowers or Stannis Baratheon, of course that would be his first choice. But if he is facing Lannister or Martell and all the big characters have intrigue icons, he would just as soon kill a reducer for all he cares. He just wanted characters off the board. This goes for dupes and bodyguards as well. By removing dupes and bodyguards with Tears of Lys, he can prevent bigger characters from being saved when he uses Varys to discard their entire board. The less “safe” military claim your opponent has the better. If he removed the reducers and dupes from the board with Marched, Varys and Tears, his military challenges will take care of the rest (with no chuds to protect the big guys).
Portion 3: Stealth and Unopposed
What helps you win those challenges to get those Tears and high impact military challenges off? Well, when it comes to the banner of the Kraken, the deck uses Asha, Theon, Maester Wendamyr and Raiding Longships, in combination with Ghost, to get as much stealth on the board as possible and win as many unopposed challenges as possible. If we’re going to keep the meal metaphor alive, consider this the French Fries to your Cheeseburger (Portion 2).
Ghost makes it so that the character you stealth with him cannot defend for the rest of the phase. You can use ghost to stealth a character like Tywin, and then he will be unable to defend the intrigue or power challenge that you’re following up with. You can even use Ghost to stealth someone who doesn’t even have a military icon. You would do this if that character, like a Queen of Thorns or Daenerys Targaryen, would stop you from getting your intrigue or power challenge through in the following challenges.
With this much stealth, Asha has a better chance of standing often and getting multiple challenges through. Plus, with her in the deck, it is very common for your opponent to do everything in their power to remove her from the game, whether that be Dracarys!, Crown of Gold, Put to the Sword or Tears of Lys. Luckily, Aeron Damphair makes it possible to bring her back from the dead. So, in a way, she protects your other characters by having such a large target on her back.
The high initiative of running 2 Marched, a Naval Superiority and Calling the Banners in the plot deck means you will be able to use the Raiding Longships to remove anyone without attachments from the challenge relatively often, which will ensure plenty of victories. Plus, a lot of people mistakenly will make you go first if they win initiative, especially if they are unfamiliar with this deck and think you’re playing just another Night’s Watch defense deck.
Portion 4: Yoren
Yoren is, in my opinion, one of the most important cards in the deck and the card I want to spend the most time on in this article. You might call him the dessert, or maybe the cherry on top of this deck (get it? Cuz of all the food metaphors so far? Yea, you get it 😉 ).
Despite his power, he is very easy for people to overlook. I know I did. When I was building my Wall deck, he was always the last cut. I liked him, but since I didn’t run Marched to the Wall, and since I didn’t have a powerful intrigue presence, I wasn’t discarding characters from their hand with any regularity. This meant I didn’t often have any viable targets and he was just a 3 for 2 monocon, which is not all that great for a Wall defense deck. But this card can be incredibly impactful and can single-handedly win a game in the right circumstance.
After Jeremy released this deck to the public and everyone got to understand the strategy behind it, I picked it up and played a few games, both in person and on OCTGN. There were two games where I really experienced the power of this character that I would like to share.
The first one was against a Stark player. It was maybe the third turn and he didn’t have much of a hand left (Samwell was doing work for me that day). He had Gates of Winterfell on the board and, at the beginning of the challenges phase, he used it to grab the top card from his deck. We saw that it was Arya, so he drew it. He only had two cards in his hand, so I knew there was a 50% chance that an intrigue claim would get her out of his hand. I won and I got Arya into the discard pile. This was great for me, because I was sitting with Yoren in my hand, waiting for a useful target to hit his discard pile.
The next turn, I figured he would play Confiscation, because I milked his Robb the turn before, so I played Naval Superiority. I had guessed right. So I chose to go first and used Yoren to go get his Arya. I used Arya, Theon and Asha to stealth through enough challenges to win a turn later. He told me after the game that he had another Arya in hand that he was going to play that turn, but could not because, and this is important, if Yoren takes a unique character from the discard pile, your opponent is NOT allowed to play that same character. The one on your side of the board counts as a character your opponent owns but does not control, which means he cannot play a second copy of a card that he already owned that is on the board, despite not controlling the first one. That is the most powerful part of Yoren.
In the second game, there was a very similar occurrence. I was playing against a Tyrell player and was able to steal Margaery, who he had to discard because of my Ser Waymar Royce dying. He was unable to play her the turn he drew her because, surprise, I Naval Superiority’d him that turn.
I even watched a game at my Local game store (Arkham House Games)’s store championship in which the Night’s Watch player stole Maester Cressen from the discard pile and then, when the Baratheon player went to get Cressen from his deck with Here to Serve to remove a milk, he was unable to bring in the Cressen because he already owned a Cressen in play (albeit not under his control). This meant he was unable to remove milks (he apparently was running Here to Serve in lieu of Confiscation) and almost lost because of it.
Not only does he give you this benefit, but he also makes your opponent very reluctant to put a 3 coster in the discard pile. Just the other day, I was playing my Martell LotC deck against a guy playing Night’s Watch LotC. My set up included Areo Hotah, duped, and Maester Caleotte, duped, and a reducer. When my opponent won a military claim, I chose to claim the reducer, because I did not want a dupe of Cal or Areo hitting the discard pile and then him stealing that dupe with Yoren. Now, maybe I’m just overly sensitive to Night’s Watch because I play them, so I take extra precautions like that, but I have heard people say similar things when it comes to choosing between low cost dupes and reducers.
One more trick that you can do with Yoren is, you can use him to take a character out of your opponent’s discard pile, then use Marched to the Wall the following turn and send Yoren to the discard pile. Now you can play a second Yoren to claim another character from your opponent’s discard pile.
Varys, when paired with Yoren, Tears and Marched to the Wall, makes your opponent’s side of the board never safe. You can also use Winds of Winter to have 2 military claim to go with your multiple discards, to make sure your opponent has very few dupes and reducers to protect his board state.
This deck type has taken the Night’s Watch community by storm, and is even getting non-Night’s Watch players to try out this underplayed faction. It has had a lot of success in store championships as well, as I know I’ve seen it pop up in the top 4 of several championships in the past month or so.
Before I go, I wanted to make quick mention of another deck that is relatively similar to Jeremy’s deck. It is a Night’s Watch Banner of the Lion deck that runs the same basic strategy of Varys/Yoren/2x Marched with Tears, Ghost and Winds of Winter on the side. It was designed by Dan Strouhal, and was featured on the Beyond the White Book Youtube channel here and the decklist is on Thronesdb.com here.
This deck, like I said, was built with the same basic idea in mind. I’m not sure if Dan and Jeremy discussed their decks or if they both came up with the same strategy on their own, but Dan’s deck is equally effective at really tearing down the opponent’s board. It hasn’t gained the same steam as Jeremy’s because it has not won any championships yet, but it is definitely worth trying out. It even runs Put to the Sword because of the Hound providing 6 strength at such a low cost.
I would like to thank both Jeremy and Dan for contributing to this community by building these decks. And, as always, thank you for taking the time to read this article. I strongly encourage you all to try this new deck type and form your own opinion. If you previously had written the Night’s Watch off as janky and weak, give them a chance one more time. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed. If you have any suggestions or comments on how to improve the site, content or have a topic you’d like to hear about, feel free to comment below, or email us.
Images by HBO/AP.