Well folks, the first cycle has come and gone. It has been an exciting cycle with a lot of great new cards being released for all factions. Since I am a Night’s Watch player, I figured I’d give my two cents on a few categories of cards released; the best new Night’s Watch cards, the worst new Night’s Watch cards and the non-Night’s Watch cards that will have the greatest impact on the Night’s Watch, split into faction and neutral cards.
In terms of their competitiveness, I think that they are better off than they were in the Core Set. They have gotten a lot of very strong cards that have helped them become more competitive. Unfortunately, so have other factions to, arguably, a greater degree. But all is not lost! They are getting stronger. Old Bear now has a good set of complimentary cards to work with. Defending the Wall has become easier and a with a few more cards, the deck could become very strong in the near future. In addition, there are now two different functional Night’s Watch decks.
The first, obviously, is the Wall defense deck. I love it because it feels underdoggish without feeling difficult to win with. In addition, it can win a lot of match ups in the current meta, including Martell, Stark and Lannister decks. Aemon’s saves make targeted kill less of a problem in Night’s Watch as they are in other factions.
The second is the choke/attrition deck. This is a deck that focuses on keeping your opponent’s board small with Tears of Lys, military challenges, Marched to the Wall, Varys and Yoren to recover their characters. You can see my write up of that deck here. This deck didn’t receive all that much in terms of in faction help, but Raiding Longship and Fishing nets from the Greyjoy builds have helped it in some ways, so it wasn’t completely static throughout the first cycle. In the second cycle, we’ve already seen a partially spoiled location that is basically a repeatable Meager Contribution. That will only enhance the chokey nature of this deck and continue to improve it as a cheeky anti-meta deck for a good while.
Jon Snow still doesn’t work.
As for my opinions on the cards themselves…
<Caution: This is a long article, as I will be going over cards from all 6 chapter packs and the Stark box.>
Best Night’s Watch Cards Released:
I’ve gone back and forth on this character for a long time. What I’ve learned over time is that this guy is absolutely amazing against some factions, and should probably just stay in your hand against other factions. For example, if you’re playing against Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Night’s Watch or, perhaps, Greyjoy, this character is amazing. You don’t really want to set him up or play him too early in the game, especially if you don’t have the Wall out yet, simply because he gives you another thing you need to do to protect your board that you may not be able to yet. But on turn 2 to 4, this card can be an amazing addition to your established board. Against Martell and Baratheon and, perhaps, Greyjoy…maybe just leave him in your hand or use him as claim soak as soon as possible. Those factions are very good at getting unopposed challenges through. It won’t happen every single turn, but if your opponent has Nymeria, an attainted and Maester Cal, they may be able to get an unopposed challenge through and make you sacrifice a Ranger. Or, if they have Melisandre and you just happen to only have one intrigue icon out that turn, they may be able to get an unopposed challenge through. The Old Forest Hunter isn’t too bad to lose, but if you’re forced to sacrifice a Ranging Party or Will himself, you’re not going to be happy about it.
This card got a relatively bad wrap when it was first released. Most people saw him as “only” a good character for Night’s Watch defense decks, so they rated him rather low, especially since he is a 3 for 2 strength with no inherent icons. Their concerns were noted but that isn’t a bad thing. In a faction that is relatively light on intrigue icons and having many of their power icons stuck in the builders who are not ideal (not a single 4+ builder yet, sigh) having a character that can fill either, as well as chump block military if required, is welcome. But, beyond that, he works extremely well with Jon Snow, since he can attack on any challenge and bring Jon with him. He gets returned during First Snow of Winter, but you can’t hate him too much for that.
Another card that was essentially an afterthought when it was first spoiled, especially since it was spoiled alongside Ser Gregor Clegane. But this card is money. 1 gold makes it great for set up and it gives several monocons a purpose, since it provides the stewards and builders with a second icon. Halder uses it particularly well, as he gains +1 strength and a military icon and then, in addition, can kneel it to give a strength boost to himself or someone else. Admittedly, I’ve used the ambush ability exactly one time, but it worked (my opponent attacked with exactly equivalent military strength, I ambushed this onto Old Bear to win the military and stop a bad turn on First Snow of Winter. He had more military strength, but chose not to commit it because he wanted to use those for other challenges). It is very good against Greyjoy, as they cannot target kill characters with attachments using Seastone Chair and they cannot bypass characters with attachments using the Raiding Longship.
One of my absolute favorite new cards for the entire cycle. For the Watch is one of the best faction loyal plots in the game and can really ruin your opponent’s turn. When you reveal it, your opponent will do one of three things:
- They will attack with a small character in the challenge they least care about. This gives you an opportunity to defend and win it by 5 or more strength and play The Sword in the Darkness to cancel their entire challenges phase. Or, if you have the Shadow Tower out, you can win it and turn off the character they actually wanted to attack with.
- They will attack with more than one character, hoping to prevent you from winning on defense, if they are aware of the tricks from the above point. This wastes valuable resources and may make it so that they can only initiate one winnable challenge that turn, if any.
- They will forget your plot exists and will do a big challenge and end up wasting several powerful characters for no reason. You may think this is not common enough to be relevant, but you’d be surprised. It happened, if I recall correctly, 3 or 4 times out of 6 at the Indianapolis Regionals.
No matter what happens, you only need to worry about losing 2 challenges that phase (barring a 4th challenge) and they will have to kneel something and risk losing their entire challenges phase/their most important attacker. I’ve written more about the possible interactions with For the Watch! in my article about the Old Bear here.
This is another extremely powerful card that was released this cycle. Its cost is a little prohibitive, as kneeling 2 rangers can be difficult, but it is incredible on turns that you have those 2 rangers out, especially with the Old Forest Hunters. When I have two rangers standing and a gold/fealty available, my opponents fall into two camps:
- Those that either don’t know this card well enough to expect it or are willing to risk it
- Those that don’t even want to fuck with it and, instead, choose to just forego military.
Either is just fine with me. And, if they ever feel frisky, I can always play this card. I’ve had games where my opponent has risked it and ruined their entire game. In a recent spring kit tournament, my opponent, who was playing Stark, lost Greywind, Summer and, I believe, Robb Stark because he forgot about this card. And, until that point, the game was still undetermined. However, after losing that much strength on the board, the game was practically over. Even if you don’t have any gold or fealty, if you have a card available to discard, you can use the Old Forest Hunter to gain a gold prior to using the ability, so your opponent can very rarely feel safe with a military challenge as long as this card exists.
Amazing card. I gave it a 5 out of 5 in my review and even I have found that I probably underrated it. It is 2 gold to solve 2 of Old Bear’s 3 weaknesses (the other being kneel). That’s a big deal. I’ve already written an article about how good Old Bear actually is. This only makes him better. But it has application even if you don’t run Old Bear. Although there aren’t too many Night’s Watch characters that can carry it (would it seriously have been too overpowered to just make this card a weapon?), I still have 14 targets that don’t already have stealth. And, more importantly, it is non-loyal and has no restrictions on who to attach it to, so you can banner the Watch and give your best characters stealth, such as Tywin, Randyll, Fast Eddy, Mirri Maz Duur, Robert etc. Old Bear Mormont is, in my opinion, the one true Voltron in the game right now. Old Bear, Old Bear’s Raven, Longclaw and the Wall makes for a game that you very likely cannot lose. You know…unless they are playing Baratheon… Especially when teamed with Maester Aemon to protect him from shenanigans and enough claim soak to make sure he is never out there alone. This card, in combination with the Ranging Parties, 1 or 2 Aemon, the reducers and maybe 1 more new non-loyal card will make Banner of the Watch a pretty attractive alternative banner.
As I said in the For the Watch! summary, this card makes life hell for your opponent. If they try to soft ball a challenge at you, just to kneel some characters or make you use Castle Black, you can deactivate the character they were trying to open a crack in your defenses for. You won’t use it as often as you like, but that is mainly because your opponent will play around it to the point that they are making fewer challenges and, ultimately, playing exactly how you want them to play. Well worth the 1 gold, in my opinion. I detail this card in that Old Bear article as well.
Worst Night’s Watch Cards Released:
I still am at a loss with this card.
There are so many things they could have released to sure up some of the weaknesses in Night’s Watch. And they chose to give us a 2 cost location that won’t even give you any kind of benefit until you play 3 builders. How many builders do they expect you to run? And that’s assuming you have enough gold to play the builder and then another card that same turn. And what is up with that limit 3 times per phase? I’m marshalling 3 builders and then something else? When? Right now, the only builders in the game are monocons. Until they start printing some actual bicon builders that would allow the majority of your deck to be builders (and make it so that builders have some other interaction other than just this) I can’t imagine a time when this card will ever see play in even a single deck.
I don’t want to be too hard on this card, as it isn’t as horrendous as Brandon’s Gift. It replaces itself with card draw and gives you an additional reserve. We’ve already seen from previews of the second cycle that reserve will start to mean something for the Night’s Watch soon (Night Gathers). Plus, it is a target that Halder can kneel to give someone +1 strength. It doesn’t have a kneel trigger like most of the other Night’s Watch locations do (Shadow Tower, Castle Black, The Wall), meaning using it for Halder’s ability doesn’t cease its functionality. But still…2 gold for 1 draw and 1 reserve. Even a fair comparison to the Iron Throne makes this seem unnecessarily expensive. If they wanted this card to see a good amount of play, it should have been free. I would have understood 1 gold, but still would have been a little annoyed. But at 2 gold, color me confused. I’m already cutting great cards from my deck, like dropping the Shadow Tower to 1x. If they continue the reserve trend shown with Night Gathers, I could see this played in a Night’s Watch attrition deck (Think: Night’s Watch Kraken), but we’ll have to see what other benefits the Night’s Watch gets from having higher reserve than their opponents.
I’ve cooled on this card a bit since it was released. I really liked the idea of it when it was first spoiled. It’s a form of economy and is a cheap character, but the stats are so terrible. There are some games where this card is great and there are other games where I wish it was, literally, any other card. That said, getting the Wall out for 3 gold is awesome. If only he reduced attachments as well. He’s not worth 3 slots in your deck, but it’s not consistent to see him early enough for him to matter unless you commit 2 to 3 slots to him. Quite the conundrum.
I like Stonesnake, as he can be used to gain renown to accelerate your win. Plus, he’s a ranger so he can instill that fear in your opponent of Watcher on the Walls. He has stealth and he can carry attachments like Littlebird. But 5 for 4 and only 1 printed icon is just a shame. He was 1 icon from being a 3x 5 out of 5 card. I play him at 1x and don’t expect to raise that any time soon.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention why I didn’t include the other Night’s Watch cards released in this cycle on either list so…
Cards That Are Somewhere In Between:
Draw is never a bad thing. But I too often find this is the 62nd (or 63rd) card and is ultimately cut. As the game stands today, you can only really call Ranger and expect a good return and even then it’s not impossible to completely whiff, wasting a gold (very precious) and a card and card slot (also very precious). As the card pool grows, maybe it makes a resurgence, but right now there are too many other cards I need in order to make my deck run, that this card is merely a luxury.
I like Alliser, but he’s too expensive. 6 gold is restrictive and most of my characters will already have military icons. He’s very good against Martell if they try to steal Old Bear’s military icon, for example, he makes it so Old Bear still has a military icon on defense. That is great. Plus, his faux ambush is nice. But, when you account for the faction kneel, his effective ambush cost is 5 gold (if you’re running fealty). And your opponent can always just choose to skip military that turn that you save 4 gold and your faction card, especially if you have Maester Aemon or enough military strength out already. He’s good, not great. Probably a 1x at most in most decks as soon as something better comes along to take his place. If he were simply a 4 cost ambush, I’d say he would be a mainstay in the deck. But requiring the opponent to initiate a military challenge against you is just too easy for your opponent to forecast and prevent his reaction from occurring. The fact that your opponent can treachery it is just a dagger as well.
I wanted to put him in the first list, but I find myself running out of deck space, like with The Watch Has Need. Maybe that’s my fault, as his ability is legitimately strong. If you’re running 2 to 3 practice blades, a few Longclaws and Old Bear’s Ravens and a good amount of locations, he can find a lot of use. I just wish he were 4 gold, so he could survive that damn First Snow of Winter without requiring a dupe.
Chett is a serviceable character, but ultimately not extremely impactful. He’s an intrigue icon, but can’t stay during a First Snow turn unless he’s duped. He can retrieve ravens and direwolves though, which is nice. He can get your Old Bear’s Raven back if it was confiscated or return a messenger raven if you discarded it for reserve, but ultimately, his most consistently useful trait is that he’s a 3 for 3 character. He isn’t too inspiring, but he’s playable.
Cards Released For Other Factions That Impacted the Night’s Watch the Most:
In this section, I’m keeping it vague in terms of impact being positive or negative because, in a lot of cases, the card is good if you have it, bad if your opponent has it, such as Syrio and Nymeria Sand. So rather than list the best cards and worst cards, I just want to refer to them as the most impactful.
Removing icons makes defending the Wall more difficult. Especially when combined with the icon removal attachments and Maester Caleotte. On the other hand, when you have her, she can make defending the wall extremely easy. She’s 5 cost, can almost singlehandedly swing any 1 challenge per turn (unless they just have an overwhelming presence in all 3 challenge types, in which case it sounds like you lost that game) and synergizes extremely well with Maester Caleotte, Tyene, the icon removal attachments and Tears of Lys. All around great card. Maybe one of the top 5 best characters in the game (although, they have been releasing some pretty incredible ones recently).
Night’s Watch is one of the few factions that has multiple valuable attachments, so this isn’t as bad for them as it is for a few other factions. But, at the same time, they are the most impacted if they do let an unopposed challenge through due to this card. The fact that it is non-unique is ridiculous, as they can then remove up to 3 characters from challenges at their will, as long as they are the first player. This card is very difficult to get around, but with proper deck building and a little luck, it can be withstood. Old Bear’s Raven has really helped in this match up.
The reason the Martell icon removal attachments are not on this list is because many of the Night’s Watch characters have the “no attachments except weapons” text. But, for some reason, they decided to make this card a weapon, probably because of the Night’s Watch. Not being able to defend with one of your Ranging Parties is very frustrating. But the most frustrating thing is when you get your Old Bear out, get the Wall out, get that Raven on Old Bear…and then they fishing net him.
While it (thankfully) cannot target the Wall, losing Castle Black or the Shadow Tower to this character is annoying. Night’s Watch, along with Martell and Baratheon, have the best locations in the game and this can really mess with your defensive set up if you have a good location without a duplicate protecting it. Whenever I see Banner of the Kraken or Greyjoy main house, I do my best to always dupe my locations.
Talk about RNG ruining the day. I’ve had games where this guy has done nothing at all to me and I didn’t care. Then I’ve had games where his random pillage flipped Benjen and then killed Littlefinger. Or flipped Old Bear and killed Old Bear from my board. I’m not sure why they introduced such a random card into the game, but it is frustrating to play against and can really open up a hole in your defenses…all on random chance.
Targeted kill is going to hurt for any faction. But in a faction like The Night’s Watch, that doesn’t have a marquee intrigue icon available (nothing higher than 3 printed strength other than Jon, who I don’t count), Mirri can be a problem. I had a game recently where my opponent set up Mirri. I had Aemon, Castle Black, the Wall, a reducer, an Old Forest Hunter and a Ranging Party vs his Mirri, a few chuds and Illyrio. He saved 3 gold. He started with an intrigue challenge for 5. I defended with Aemon, the reducer and stood Aemon with Castle Black. He ambushed Widow’s Wail onto Mirri. Winning that challenge, he forced me to kneel Aemon. Then paid 2 with Illyrio to stand her and finished the job with a power challenge. From there, he was able to kill 1 targeted character per round, in addition to any military claim he could win. Not great.
Like I said above, targeted kill is dangerous. Especially in a faction with Attainted and Nymeria. She can kill just about anyone in the game with just 1 or 2 more cards from her faction and, as I said in my last article, intrigue is the only challenge that has a clear divide between factions in terms of weakness and strength. If you’re playing against a Martell deck and you aren’t running Lannister, Martell or one of their banners, you may be losing a character to Tyene every turn. She doesn’t even have to win alone, making her even more reliable than Mirri.
As with Mirri, Ilyn is just abusive to your board state. On his own, he basically can kneel Aemon each turn, which is a major problem if they also have Tyene or Mirri or a Tears of Lys or a Put to the Sword or the Mountain ( Did I mention I think there’s an awful lot of targeted kill in this game?). In addition to that, he can also kill your chud blockers and really make military claim hurt more if they are able to win it each round. He isn’t nearly as impactful as Mirri or Tyene, but he is still a cog that concentrated death decks can use to their advantage.
Kneel hurts. This kneel in particular because it costs 2 gold and, maybe, a reducer kneeling to remove your best character from any challenges phase. This, along with Baratheon’s core set kneel cards, makes it very difficult for Night’s Watch to ever really win against Baratheon with any consistency. They desperately need to give the Night’s Watch some in faction stand. Desperately.
Fishwhiskers is kind of a niche card, but he is powerful. I had a game recently where my opponent played Fishwhiskers on turn 1 (without a winter plot.) He had Asha set up. I, like an idiot, chose to milk Asha instead of Fishwhiskers, thinking stealth was going to be annoying with the cards currently in my hand. Well, 3 winter plots later, I was still waiting to get the Wall because Fishwhiskers got an unopposed challenge each round (don’t run any summer plots, unfortunately). And I would have been able to handle Asha just fine if I hadn’t milked her too…I lost 15-14, but that one choice really made the big difference in the game.
Basically, Catelyn on a stick. Unless you have a winter plot out (which, admittedly, I may be running a few more in the future in this second cycle), your opponent can choose whatever challenge they want to stop your reactions, actions etc. Against me as a Night’s Watch player, it’s almost always military. They don’t need to worry about Watcher on the Walls, I can’t use Aemon to save someone if I lose. I also can’t use Castle Black if I need it to win a challenge or defend all 3 challenges and I can’t use Shadow Tower to win a challenge and stop one of their big characters. All around, a major pain in the collective asses of the entire player base (not just the Night’s Watch). I think this card is a major reason why you are starting to see Stark win a lot more regionals, especially this past weekend.
While not typically played right now (for whatever reason, I’m not complaining), this card is similar to Newly Made Lord, except it blanks a card instead of removes it. So, if you have a dupe or if you draw a second copy later, you still can’t play it because it’s blank on the board. It is relatively easy to remove, so that may be why it doesn’t see more play. But if my opponent is confiscating my Frozen Solid, as a Stark player, I prefer that over them removing my Nymeria, Lady or Ice.
Neutral Cards That Have Impacted the Night’s Watch the Most:
With the targeted kill released in this cycle, being able to go get Maester Aemon is invaluable! Even if you have him in hand or on the board, this plot isn’t a dead card because you can always go get a dupe for Aemon. Then he’d survive the First Snow of Winter turn, and would be able to save against a military challenge that could normally have killed your big character. Sure, he may still be marched the next turn, but still. This is an extremely good plot for the meta we’re in right now. I highly recommend it.
As with Nymeria Sand, this card is excellent if it’s in your deck, and terrible for you otherwise. I had a game recently where my opponent had both Nymeria Sand and Syrio out. It basically made it so that I needed 4 military icons to protect the Wall (Nymeria would steal one, Syrio would give her stealth, they’d do 2 stealth military attack, requiring me to have 3 eligible blockers, 2 of which are stealthed). Obviously, Benjen is a great counter to Syrio, as are the Old Bear’s Raven and your own Syrio
Oh man! So close to making Jon Snow good. I will admit, that I haven’t tested Night’s Watch Lord of the Crossing since First Snow of Winter came out, so maybe it’s not as close as I thought. But this agenda at least gives Jon Snow a purpose. With Targaryen falling out of favor, also due to First Snow of Winter, this deck may be a little more reliable. I remember playing NW Crossing against Targ back when this agenda first came out and, when Jon was on the board, I basically automatically got Dracarys’d because it isn’t an option for him to join his brethren. He has to. So, you have to do the -1 challenge and, unless you have a neutral character out, Jon is participating in that challenge at 3 strength (4 strength if you have a Longclaw, Practice Blade or the Wall). Still susceptible to Dracarys!
In addition, when it comes to opponent’s agendas, Lord of the Crossing actually can help you as a Night’s Watch player, especially if you have the Shadow Tower out, For the Watch! and The Sword in the Darkness.
This plot makes Old Bear Mormont a possibility. In a fealty deck, you can buy him and the Wall with this plot alone, which is amazing value. Sure, you’re giving your opponent 3 gold, but that’s the price in order to enable your entire deck. Watch out for Naval Superiority. Never open with this plot and always keep in mind what your opponent may play that you don’t want to give them gold to fuel (if they have no hand, expect a Counting Coppers and wait on this plot. Ain’t nobody got time for a 5 gold Counting Coppers turn).
I think I’ve spoken enough about this plot. I absolutely hate it. Its existence is a scourge on the game.
I’ve seen this card used many ways. In each case, it is a pain to deal with. They can Nightmares your Wall so you can’t get the power. They can Nightmares Aemon and then kill him. They can Nightmares Old Bear, so he kneels to defend. They can Nightmares Castle Black to create a crack in your defenses that you didn’t see coming. It has almost infinite uses and is, essentially, never a bad card to draw.
On the other hand, you can use it to great effect as well. Nightmares Fishwhiskers or Balon on a turn that they would get unopposed. Nightmares Tyrion if you don’t want them to have gold for their Mountain military attack/PttS fiesta. Nightmares their Nymeria if you don’t have the icon spread to resist an icon being stolen etc. It has infinite uses for you, as it does for your opponent.
And, finally, the solution to First Snow of Winter. It isn’t a perfect solution, as you still have to predict your opponent’s First Snow of Winter turn. Sometimes, it is painfully obvious that your board would be wrecked by First Snow of Winter. For example, if you have the Old Bear and 3 1 to 2 cost characters as well. This is where the mind games come in. You may be able to stop their First Snow, which is probably the biggest possible swing in the game possible at that point. Or, your opponent can realize how obvious First Snow would be that turn, potentially baiting your Forgotten Plans and then First Snowing the following turn. This is one of those player skill differentiating plays in the game right now. It’s definitely a gamble, but I find it very comforting to have in my plot deck. If I ever do have a stupid set up or weird board in the mid game, I can always protect it if I need to.
My biggest piece of advice when using this plot? Do not play it when you think your opponent might play First Snow of Winter. That is a risky play and may end up resulting in your whiffing. Play it when your board cannot afford a First Snow of Winter turn.
For example, I had a game the other night where I had 1 Ranging Parties, Benjen and 3 chud on the board. I knew my opponent was playing First Snow in his deck because it was a Lannister deck. From his perspective, this is a good turn to First Snow because he’s going to get 3 cards back into my hand. But I had a Will and a Ranging Party in my hand. I chose to go with Trading with the Pentoshi in order to fill up my board instead of hoping he played First Snow that turn. He did, and my 3 characters came back to hand, but then I added Will and the Ranging Party to the board. I think he ended up sitting on the 3 gold I gave him anyway and my board was stronger at the end of the turn. I could have played Forgotten Plans, but I didn’t think it was necessary and chose, instead, to defend my board with more high cost characters. Maybe Forgotten Plans was still the right play, but I didn’t feel the repercussions of my actions and his board ended up losing more by the end of the turn (he didn’t have any 4+ in his hand, so my 3 gold was wasted for him). I then was able to replay the chuds the following turn and win the game shortly after.
As a counterexample, I was playing against another Lannister deck the other night and I had something like an Unsworn Apprentice, a reducer and Sam on the board after turn 2 (It was a bad game for my deck haha). He didn’t have a dominating presence and I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. But I knew that I couldn’t be First Snowed that turn. I played Forgotten Plans and ended up canceling his First Snow. That turn I played a Ranging Party and the following turn I played 2 more 4-5 costers. So, even if I missed and he played First Snow the next turn, I now would have 3 characters that survive the First Snow, whereas if he did it the previous turn and I didn’t Forgotten Plans it, I’d have only 1 4 coster who would likely have died.
So that’s it. Those are my opinions on the most and least impactful cards for the Night’s Watch in this cycle. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do you disagree with any? Did I miss a card that you think is a pain for the Night’s Watch? Should I do this for other factions (I’m not offering that, per se, but should I? 😛 ) Let me know in the comments!