“A golden rose growing strong? Ha! That strikes fear in the heart.” Olenna Tyrell
On a recent episode of a “popular” podcast, it was noted that, if you dismiss Nights Watch as not a real house, then Tyrell is the worst house in A Game of Thrones LCG 2.0. As someone who has played Tyrell since the beginning, I would say that I can only disagree on the Nights Watch exception. In fact, initial reports from last weekend’s US national championship tournament at Origins say that there was not a single Tyrell player in the field. Tyrell excels at economy and offers a lot of tricks by way of support, especially when it comes to complicating challenge math, but they lack a clear path to victory that fits in the current meta. As of now, they are best in a support role. On their own, they play a bit too straight forward.
Tyrell has one objective: grabbing as much power as possible as quickly as possible. The problem is that much of that power sits on characters who can easily become victims of targeted kill and their most effective means of quickly acquiring power require a minimum of three cards – a knight, a lady, and an event – and even then, at best, you can turn that combination into only a third of the power necessary to win with most of that sitting on a vulnerable character unless you can trigger multiple effects at once. At the same time, they lack effective measures to obstruct their opponent’s plans without completely derailing their own plans.
Much of my current opinions on House Tyrell are based on the way they developed over the course of the first cycle of chapter packs to be released for AGoT 2.0. At the outset of this cycle, Tyrell was in a much better position. Perhaps not a top tier house, but an excellent banner house who contributed to a couple powerful builds (think back to the beginning of the store championship season when Lannister Banner of the Rose and then Stark Banner of the Rose were popular builds). As the cycle progressed, Tyrell continued to focus on a single theme built around power rush and ignored the changing meta around them.
In the following review, I will look at the Tyrell cards which were released in the first chapter pack cycle as well as the Wolves of the North deluxe expansion, ranking them roughly from best to worst, and offering some comments about their place in the current meta.
Tyrell Cards Ranked from Best to Worst:
1. The Arbor:
I know it can be controversial, I’ve seen enough videos of people tearing this card up and this may very well be the card that broke the backs of anyone who was trying to make Tyrell a viable house, but I am going to name the Arbor the best Tyrell card to come out of the first cycle for a couple of reasons. First, it’s pretty much the only loyal Tyrell card that would make it worth playing main house Tyrell. For that reason alone, it should be named the best Tyrell card. Highgarden has a great repeatable effect but it requires you to hold onto one gold every single challenge phase to maintain threat of activation. And that’s in addition to any gold you want to hold onto for events. You really need the economy of the Arbor to keep that up. Paxter Redwyne is a nice source of economy and may surprise an unsuspecting opponent here and there when you drop a Tears of Lys or Lady Sansa’s Rose for free all of a sudden, but he’s not the economic engine that is the Arbor. The Arbor makes an early round Pleasure Barge playable by offsetting the negative gold adding to that card’s versatility. The Mander is great when you can pull it off but winning a challenge by five strength in order to trigger it is not very reliable. I don’t know how many times I’ve won an intrigue challenge with the Queen of Thorns and actually had a Tyrell character in my hand, but it’s not often. She’s a great card, but not worth choosing Tyrell as main house. And Butterbumps is… well… Butterbumps.
Second, 2.0 is all about economy. This is one of the reasons Lannister has such a huge advantage in the current meta. The Arbor is the biggest single source of repeatable income in the game right now. This makes the prospect of Tyrell as the home for a false banner that is in need of economy a bit more appealing.
But, how do you play a four cost limited location that gives no effect until the turn after it was marshalled? I have stuck with the advice I heard when this card was first released, treat it like the Knights of the Hollow Hill in 1.0. (For those of you who don’t know, the Knights of the Hollow Hill was an agenda that gave you plus two gold, plus two influence, and plus two initiative every turn but you skipped your set-up.) You need to mulligan aggressively for the Arbor and play it in set-up. Consequentially, you will also need a lot of low cost characters in your deck along with the Arbor if you want any hope of a decent set-up. You also can’t be afraid of a single card set-up if you are going to play the Arbor. You just need to go into the match knowing that you will be starting from a weaker board position but should be able to catch up quickly.
Yes, if you get the Arbor in your hand late in the game, it’s a dead card, but, if you get it out on set-up with a decent hand, you’ve got a huge advantage over your opponent starting with turn one.
This is the card that defined Tyrell in the first cycle and for just one freaking second this card made us think that Tyrell power rush might be a thing. Seriously, I had a lot of fun that one game at a store championship shortly after the Road to Winterfell was released with my Tyrell Banner of the Wolf deck when I got to use this card its full effect. I was facing a Targaryen deck with fourteen power to my four power when I was able to get an unopposed challenge off with the Knight of Flowers, play Lady Sansa’s Rose, stand him with Seal of the Hand, get another unopposed challenge, and win another challenge with a second Lady Sansa’s Rose. For those of you keeping score at home, that would be eleven power in two challenges, enough for the win. Is that a reliable strategy in the world of targeted kill we live in today? When you consider that eight of those eleven power tokens went directly onto one character without an intrigue icon, probably not. All it would take is my opponent canceling the second Lady Sansa’s Rose or stopping the second challenge (or even opposing it), killing the Knight Flowers with, well, any of the things that provide targeted kill these days, and I lose at least four power like that. And that’s not even taking into consideration the growing number of tricks to insert characters into challenges to mess with challenge math and unopposed which could shut down my rush to victory at a crucial moment. As it stands right now, Tyrell is a closer. If you can survive long enough to get all your components in place—including a knight or two, at least one lady, a couple Lady Sansa’s Roses in hand, and, hopefully, a Superior Claim—at a point when you can win the game with a big final rush, you got it. If you can’t slow down your opponent’s tempo in the early rounds, you will spend the game playing from behind knowing at any moment you could drop a bunch of power on a character who can be killed in any number of ways.
3. Mare in Heat:
This is the attachment that helps you push through that game winning challenge. The ability to remove defenders from a challenge is huge and if you put Mare in Heat on a low strength character like the Arbor Knight you can remove any defending character with strength greater than one. This attachment also works incredibly well with the Knight of Flowers. Because your opponent can only defend with one character when the Knight of Flowers attacks alone, Mare in Heat will make sure that the one character they defend with has strength less than or equal to the Knight of Flowers, meaning all they can accomplish is shutting down the unopposed challenge. Mare in Heat has use on other knights as well, but mostly for removing Tywin or other monster characters. This card is useful not just for winning the challenge but for hitting that threshold where you can trigger Superior Claim or the Street of Sisters and really rake in the big power. If you are running the Lords of the Crossing agenda, Mare in Heat becomes slightly better on that first challenge when the range of defenders it could affect increases by one strength.
4. Pleasure Barge:
Here is where I am supposed to write “BURST DRAW!!!” in all caps with lots of exclamation points and say nothing more. Well… yes, burst draw is awesome. Drawing three cards on command is fantastic, especially in 2.0. There is no other card out there that can do this. From a card design perspective, this is one of the most interesting cards to come out yet for 2.0, in my opinion. In many ways it plays like an event. Drop it in the marshalling phase for zero cost and immediately draw three cards. But, it’s a location and a location with a negative one gold value at that. It’s not a zero cost event; it’s an event with a legacy cost that gets worse the longer the game goes on. This is a closer. When you drop a Pleasure Barge (and note that you can only gain its effect once per turn, no playing two or three in a single phase) you better hope you draw a Lady Sansa’s Rose or a Superior Claim (or better yet both) right then and there and you better hope you are able to trigger those events and win the game that turn because that burst draw is about to get real expensive if you don’t. The Arbor helps take the pain away on this card and, since both are loyal, I would assume you aren’t playing one without the other. By the way, the name is perfect too. Just like a day on a pleasure barge, this card lets you party now and pay for it later.
5. Arbor Knight:
Taking the Black started off the cycle with this incredibly versatile character who would have great synergy with the whole knight power rush theme Tyrell was focused on through the following five chapter packs. Like FFG planned it or something. His low base strength makes him a great host for Mare in Heat, allowing him to eliminate most any defending character from a challenge. His strength bump ability could be applied after Mare to push through a challenge with multiple defenders and it could also be used on two more knights who were released this cycle. And, to top it off, he has the intrigue icon, rare on knight characters, and that makes him a good option for sneaking through a Lady Sansa’s Rose on a challenge type where most houses are the weakest. But, alas, Arbor Knight was a card that started out strong and seemed to get weaker as the cycle progressed. His beginning strength of one made him susceptible to any and all forms of burn or general strength reduction and First Snow of Winter made him a useless target for Lady Sansa’s Rose until the final push. In the end, still a solid card with great set-up potential and great synergy with a number of other cards in house.
I really like this card. Like the Arbor Knight, knights with intrigue icons are necessary to fill out the versatility of your knight deck. The one thing that would take it to the top of the list is a consistent way to bring it into play during the challenges phase. I love popping this guy out with the Queen of Thorns (or Arianna when bannered with Martell) and getting rid of some military claim soak or the one chud who could block what should be an unopposed challenge, preferably by a knight with renown who is about to win you the game with a Lady Sansa’s Rose. It’s also fun to bring him out for a surprise military challenge with a bit of extra claim on the front end. Without the Queen of Thorns or other method of delivery, he’s a bit trickier. A little expensive to marshal for his strength unless I find myself in position to really take advantage of that ability and kill something bigger than one of my opponent’s chuds, perhaps he’s most useful in the marshalling phase following a First Snow of Winter turn. Under the right circumstances, he could kill someone as consequential as a Varys, Syrio, Theon, Rhaegal, or Fishwhiskers (but I haven’t seen it yet).
Of the two Redwyne brothers, “Horror,” as he’s known in the books, is far and away the better option. When you kneel him, stand a lady. Who doesn’t want to use Margery twice in a single challenge phase? Pump Horas, declare him as an attacker with strength seven and stand Margery while you’re at it. The only downside is the lack of ladies in general right now, but, of course, the ones that are in Tyrell benefit greatly from a free stand. And think about how much fun he could have bannered to Stark! As a Redwyne, you can also pump him with the Arbor Knight.
So, “Slobber” is a knight with a tutor ability. Not bad. Except, he’s a bit on the high end of the curve at five gold, which should sound worse because you are playing him to fetch another character you probably hope to play immediately. While his ability makes him bad for set-up, it does help you grab the necessary pieces for a big Lady Sansa’s Rose turn down the road. With only two in-house ladies at this point, he might be a better character in a banner deck where he will have more targets. As a Redwyne, he can also be pumped by the Arbor Knight. This is the C student of Tyrell cards for the first cycle. He does just enough that I want to include at least a copy of him in my deck but he has just enough negatives that I’m afraid he’s going to sit in my hand when I draw him or, worse, get played in set-up when I can’t even trigger his ability.
9. Roseroad Patrol:
This card should probably be one higher on the list but who would want to get in between “Horror” and “Slobber.” Anyways, Roseroad Patrol is a perfectly good card. Four cost keeps it safe from First Snow of Winter and Ser Ilyn Payne. Three strength and two icons isn’t so bad. The no attachments keeps it safe from all the Martell icon stripping shenanigans. Its special ability, considering how many strength pumps there are in Tyrell, will probably get a lot of use. Just remember, you only need to control the character with the highest strength, it doesn’t need to be the Roseroad Patrol. Unfortunately, it will be hardest to trigger this ability against Lannister where you are trying to top the strength of Tywin or the Mountain and, to be honest, odds are good you will see lots of Lannister anywhere you go these days. Three strength military and power with stealth is not too shabby.
What can be said about Butterbumps that hasn’t already been said about Moon Boy? Good cost to strength ratio and the rarest of the challenge icons with insight to boot. Because there are no effects that pull characters into challenges other than the rarely used Dornish Paramour, there is little risk that he will be forced to participate in a challenge he can’t win. Besides, Tyrell is the home of strength boosts, so there should be some opportunities to help him out if he gets in over his head. So, there is no reason not to throw a copy of him in your deck, space permitting. Let him sit there until there’s an opening for him to win an easy challenge. If that doesn’t look like it’s going to be happening, he’s claim soak. Personally, I would prefer a more Nedly version that farts.
11. A Gift of Arbor Red:
This is probably lower on my list than it should be. Much and More, which had the same effect, was awesome in 1.0, but, then again, it was most effective as a pre-plot action before the beginning of the first turn when you were about to drop Rule by Decree. (For those of you who don’t know, Rule by Decree was a plot that forced the player with the most cards in hand to discard down to four. If you could play Much and More before the first plot was revealed, you would guarantee that you had seven cards in hand while your opponent had eight and then you would immediately force them to discard four cards before the first marshalling phase.) Will this have the same impact? Probably not unless we get a card that synergizes with it as well as Rule by Decree did, but this kind of burst search might be just what you need when you are rushing to find a Lady Sansa’s Rose or some other event late in the game. But then you must ask yourself the real question, is it worth the card slot?
12. To the Rose Banner:
You know, there are a lot of synergies between Tyrell and Stark and if this card didn’t specify that you must choose and sacrifice a Tyrell character, this card would be playable in some combination of a Stark-Tyrell deck that utilized Stark sacrifice. As it is now… meh. If there’s one thing I’ve learned playing Tyrell, it’s that you can get plenty of money and be hurting for characters. Killing a character for even more money is a tough exchange for Tyrell right now and I can’t think of a scenario where I would really want to have this in my deck versus any other event or economy card.
Lady-in-Waiting, more like waiting for more ladies, am I right?… But seriously folks, what we have here is half a Bodyguard, one that can only affect ladies, who can also be a chud with an intrigue icon when necessary. Not awful… At least it’s arguably not the worst card Tyrell has… but that’s not saying much. Unlike Bodyguard, Lady-in-Waiting becomes a duplicate so if you ever run into someone with too many Rattleshirt’s Raiders who have run out of shirts to rattle, they can’t discard her. At the same time though, Tyrell currently has only two ladies, so the targets for Lady-in-Waiting are limited. Lady Sansa’s Rose, which also appeared in the Road to Winterfell, encourages you to play more ladies and perhaps banner to a house like Stark that has more ladies, but, even then I don’t know if she’s worth the card slots or a better choice over Bodyguard.
14. Pulling the Strings:
If this plot said you could trigger the when revealed effect of a plot with the Edict, Kingdom, or Scheme trait in your used pile, this would be much better and would have been in the top half of this list. Having to hope your opponent plays an Edict, Kingdom, or Scheme with a when revealed effect you would like to copy before you feel the need to or must play this plot can get dicey. There’s probably only one combination that gives you a huge advantage over just playing the original plot yourself and that’s Counting Coppers (well, and Reinforcements if anyone actually played that). Besides, none of the plots you would actually want to copy are even limited to one per plot deck, so if you really just wanted to march your opponent not just to the Wall but up it and over it, I guess you could play two copies of Marched to the Wall plus Pulling the Strings assuming that most opponents will have a copy of Marched in their deck too… but are you really going to do that?
Here are some neutral cards that appeared in this cycle that I believe have a home in Tyrell.
1. Hedge Knight:
Great utility chud for your knights deck. In Tyrell you are going to have more than one knight out on the board, so the Hedge Knight is effectively a two cost three strength bi-con who can be a target for Lady Sansa’s Rose and Mare in Heat (though you will want to be careful about putting too many attachments and too much power on a chud who is susceptible to First Snow of Winter, Ser Ilyn Payne, etc.). On you’re A Tourney for the King turn(s) he will also get renown and immune to opponents’ events. Because there really doesn’t seem to be a way to play Tyrell right now without knights, this guy is pretty much an auto-include.
Have you noticed that most of my review has focused on the necessity of pulling off one big final rush? This is a plot that can make it happen. This is your closer. High initiative will help you go first. Renown for all your knights means your Arbor Knights, Hedge Knights, Redwyne brothers, etc. are all going to be able to maximize their participation. Giving your knights immunity to opponents’ events will prevent some shenanigans (my that’s a cute dragon you knelt there) while still allowing you to play Growing Strong or other booster events on your knights to push that big challenge through for the win. It replaces A Clash of Kings in the power rush deck.
Tyrell wants to be a rush deck. They want you to go all out on a challenge with a knight, preferably a power challenge, with Lady Sansa’s Rose and Superior Claim in hand. If you are already trying to work for the Superior Claim challenge, Street of Sisters just ups the reward by one. Knight of Flowers winning an unopposed power challenge with Lady Sansa’s Rose, Superior Claim, and Street of Sisters equals nine power in a single challenge. Now, if you could only pull it off.
4. Syro Forel:
Stealth. ‘Nuff said.
5. The Eyrie:
You can get some pretty Voltron-y decks going with Tyrell and you can find yourself in situations where you have the Knight of Flowers with the Seal of the Hand, Mare in Heat, and a ton of power on him. You know what? The Eyrie might be pretty good in those situations. But it’s still a four cost location. Instead, you should probably figure out some ways to spread the love around a bit more and not rely so much on a single character. By the way, this card will probably get better once Valar is part of the meta.
All decks can find a use for Nightmares. Tyrell is no exception.
On the Fence:
I’ve played around with Tyrell Lord of the Crossing and, from my perspective, it has too many downsides for its occasional upside. Tyrell wants to wait until it has all of its pieces together before it goes for a big win in a single challenge phase, grabbing as much power as humanly possible all at once. In the turns leading up to that, you need the ability to keep your opponent in check. Odds are you won’t have enough board presence to make three challenges on most turns while leaving yourself enough defense to protect your hand and your characters sufficiently. What you will really want is the ability to push through a specific challenge at the necessary moment and when you are forced to make that one challenge at minus one strength, your agenda has put you at a disadvantage. Even when you make that final play, when you want to throw all of your knights out into a single challenge when they all have renown from A Tourney for the King and you are hoping to play Lady Sansa’s Rose and Superior Claim, you don’t want your knights entering that one challenge at minus one strength and you certainly don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have to use some of them for a throwaway challenge just so you can make the important challenge at normal strength. Just because Tyrell wants to be a rush deck does not mean it can be a fast deck and it’s the fast deck that plays best with Lord of the Crossing.
Well, those are my thoughts on the worst house in AGoT 2.0 following the completion of the first chapter pack cycle. What does Tyrell need moving forward to make it more competitive? A bit more resilience would be nice. The deck relies on a lot of key characters who could use some help staying on the board. They also need some more tricks that can disrupt the tempo of their opponent. I find my opponent getting way ahead of me a bit too fast and then feeling challenged when I have to play catchup. So far the only card spoiled for Tyrell from the next cycle, Ser Colen of Greenpools is just doubling down on what Tyrell already does. He’s a knight who gets a strength boost during power challenges. Growing nowhere…