Hoo Boy, this was a lackluster cycle for Stark enthusiasts. Perhaps because the first cycle and deluxe box did so much for Stark bringing it up from middle tier to competing with the top Houses, the designers pulled back a bit and gave Stark only a handful of moderately useful cards. We didn’t get any truly new deck styles and many of the interesting cards Stark did get are able to be leveraged better in other factions. Let’s dive right in and see how they fared with the best, worst, and interesting utility cards.
Stark’s Best Cards from the War of the 5 Kings Cycle
It’s saying something when the best card you got in the cycle is a 3 cost character that you maybe run at 1x. Jeyne allows you to use your high impact renown characters (Eddard, Robb, and The Blackfish) in two challenges, greatly accelerating your power grab. The fact that she’s only 3 cost means you can continue meaningfully building your board (since Stark likes to go so wide) while limiting your exposure to board resets like Wildfire and Valar. She also gives you an Intrigue icon in a pinch and helps against the Baratheon matchup, which can be an unexpectedly difficult matchup for Stark.
Staying in the same theme as Jeyne, The Wolf King adds to Stark’s focus on reusing impact characters and accelerating to victory. As with Jeyne, you’re probably only running this at 1x, but this attachment has the added bonus of having some extra utility with Arya, allowing you to get stealth on 2 challenges. It’s probably still better on one of the big boys, but the interaction with Arya is nice in a pinch. Probably the best or second best King attachment, it can have some fringe uses with depowering Renlys and other similar scenarios, so there’s that.
He’s shown up in a handful of interesting decks, but I still prefer the core Robb. I do think he has his uses and I’m sure there will be a deck to be built around him that really wants to dominate the military challenge. Again, it’s saying something when the best cards you get in a cycle may not even make it into the top Stark decks. Such is life for the Stark player this cycle.
Impactful/Utility Stark Cards From the War of the 5 Kings Cycle
An interesting card that can make some blowouts. He’s definitely a “build around me” card that can get creative deckbuilders’ juices flowing, but the problem is that he’s just too expensive for a Stark player. You’re already running Robb, Eddard, and The Blackfish and you probably don’t have the room for this treacherous asshole. As may be fitting, he probably belongs more in a Lannister deck or other House that can more easily afford his hefty price tag. Even then, without extra support (like Needle or other strength boosters like Margaery), he may not have enough of an impact, which keeps him from the “Best” list. Still, he’s fun and interesting enough to play with occasionally, so I didn’t want to go the whole article without touching on him.
Similar to Roose, this card is very tempting, but it doesn’t seem to fit into Stark all that well. You’re already running a 4 cost location in Winterfell, and I think it’s probably correct to continue running that in favor of Harrenhal. Again, it probably fits better in a deck that can more easily afford it, like Lannister. Also, with more location hate coming out, like Sea Bitch, and more people running location hate because of Night’s Watch and Baratheon dominance, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. Still a fun and interesting card that will occasionally just win you games if your opponent can’t deal with it. Still, I’m not sure many top decks won’t be able to deal with it.
I’ve been running a copy of Last Hearth Scouts in my Stark Fealty decks and I’m liking it. It has some great impact in the current environment, lessening the strength of Lannister ambush characters, Arry, Arianne, and Bloodriders while still giving you a solid body for a reasonable price. I’m thinking of bumping it up to 2, but I just need to find the room. You won’t be building any decks around this card, but it can be a great utility player in a variety of builds.
Stark’s Worst Cards from the Westeros Cycle
I know before release a lot of people were liking this card, but I just didn’t see it. After playing with it, my suspicions were confirmed. You often won’t be playing 2 loyal cards in a turn as beyond Sansa, there aren’t a ton of low cost loyal cards in current builds. Assuming you’ll be playing 1 loyal card a turn, it pays for itself in 2 turns. Not a great investment for a card and the tempo hit. If you’re still running this card, please take it out of your deck.
The effect simply doesn’t warrant the card slot. Perhaps if you were in a hyper rush build you might consider this card, but you’d probably be better served running Superior Claim. If you really need the strength pump, run For the North! or banner Tyrell.
Stark is far too resource starved to be able to hold back 2 gold each turn in case there’s a scenario you could use it. You also have better options in Bran and/or The Pack Survives. Perhaps if it wasn’t loyal it would be something other than binder fodder, but as it is, you’re never going to win much if this is in your deck.
Stark in the Current Environment
Not a whole lot has changed for Stark in the current meta. They still like their ability denial and still want to utilize their renown and efficient low end of the curve to get them to 15 power. However, due to the resurgence of Baratheon and the rise of Night’s Watch, certain older cards have more impact. There’s now more of a reason to run Arya’s Gift to combat the Night’s Watch negative attachments, and since you’re running Ice and likely a direwolf or two, it’s not going to be a dead card against an opponent that doesn’t run negative attachments. Frozen Solid is also rising in worth. Again, you are almost guaranteed to run into Night’s Watch and/or Baratheon in any tournament you go to, so being able to turn off some of the high impact locations is quite useful. Frozen Solid also has nice fringe uses turning off Iron Mines, Sea Bitch, Plaza of Punishment, and other pesky locations.
Lastly, no analysis of Stark for this cycle would be complete without evaluating how they handle Valar. Because Stark generally plays wide, you likely aren’t leveraging Valar yourself, but you do have a number of ways to be resilient against a Valar. Maester Luwin and Septa Mordaine allow your Bran and Arya immunity in order to stick around. Arya has her free dupe, and post Valar, Summer allows you to rebuild your board fairly quickly. You’re also still running dupes of your impact characters, so you are likely able to save some and Jory gives you an additional save. Overall, your board is going to be pretty resilient, but you might have to hold on to your Eddard an extra turn before playing him while you search for a save. It’s important to protect your renown power!
Our series continues on Thursday, February 16th when Luke Wortley (Yes, we borrowed him from The White Book) will review the faction known as Tyrell. Hope you all can join us then!