So, people seem to be playing green cards an awful lot these days, which definitely evokes some sort of cognitive dissonance in that I’m torn between being a) excited for folks trickling in to swear fealty to the rose banner and b) sad that I may not be the only resident Tyrell player in our meta anymore.
All delusions of hipsterism aside, I’m here to evaluate the War of the Five Kings cycle of A Game of Thrones the Card Game: Second Edition in terms of its impact on the competitive viability of House Tyrell, my personal faction of choice (though I’ve been known to play red cards and some dragons, on occasion). I’ll touch on each card released in the second cycle of our young game (including those released in the Lions of Casterly Rock Deluxe Expansion).
Personally, I find it hard to make judgment calls on Tyrell as a main faction at the end of this cycle, as many of its loyal cards are functionally combo enablers and stabilizers for Banner decks that have a cadre of exceptionally utilitarian non-loyal cards. But I’d be lying if I said Tyrell didn’t get some much needed help. More on that later.
The Heavy Hitters
In terms of the overall impact of in-faction cards (loyal and non-loyal), the conversation begins and ends with the following, in this order (yeah, hot takes!):
#TheBombThatWasPromised (credit to Patrick Haynes, and Happy 21st birthday, my friend).
In all seriousness, Renly is one of the best characters in the game. With two plots available that allow you to mitigate his “drawback,” (Ghosts of Harrenhal and Close Call), I just don’t see why people continue to undervalue a 6-Str Tricon that fuels both card advantage and power gain. I use scare quotes mostly because I have yet to play a game in which his non-keyword text has been a backbreaker. This card is definitely the best card with the printed King trait, but the biggest benefit of this card, from a deckbuilding perspective, is that it’s finally a card with a green border that you can safely include as 1x or 3x (depending on the deck type) and always be happy to see in the draw phase or in the top 10 with a revealed Summons. Flexibility is a crucial component of 7-drops in terms of viability in a competitive environment, and Renly is a home run. Play this card.
Gotta have something a bit unexpected in here, yeah? Though not necessarily a heavy-hitter all the time, this card single-handedly reinvigorated an entire deck archetype that, in my opinion, is vital to the metagame both thematically and mechanically. Rush decks, though dangerous when unhindered, provide a good check on the metagame for almost all deck archetypes, even if Rush is a bit of a corner case. More to the point, though, Knight of Summer is just a baller with almost any Summer plot revealed as a 5-str bicon with Renown. Sure, he’s Ward bait, but in the current environment, with so many folks showing a proclivity for resets and a general decrease in the number of copies of Ward in many Stark and Banner-of-the-Wolf decks, I’m not as worried about it as I would’ve been a few months ago. Also a great melee card. Yes, melee is a game – catch me outside.
So, this card is nuts. When I was testing Tyrell-“The Rains of Castamere,” in order to get some data on it for Wamma’s preparation for Stahleck, I was completely blown away. Though I said it on an episode of The White Book some time before its release, in practice, this card proved better than I would’ve ever hoped. The threat of activation is infinitely better than Heartsbane, as the timing is different. It’s a way to make Renly into a 9-str beast and some redundancy for Randyll Tarly’s stand ability, what more do you want? In many ways, it’s also a way to simply ditch dead cards when you have a low-Reserve plot revealed, simply need to win a challenge, or threaten the trigger so as to entice an opponent to overcommit.
Yeah, this card makes its way into a lot of decks. The ability to filter your own draw or muck with your opponent’s, repeatedly, is quite good. Though not necessarily a centerpiece card, Caswell’s Keep is a worthy inclusion in any Tyrell deck that wants to go the distance. If you haven’t played with it, try a singleton in a control-heavy deck (Banner Stag, Banner Sun, etc.).
So, she’s not exciting at all (seems like she should be a Stark card, then…), but she is in almost every Tyrell deck or Banner-of-the-Rose build as a trusty, efficient 1x. She’s a natural fit in a lot of builds as a mid-range, highly versatile bicon with Renown, either as a tertiary closer or simply a board stabilizer. Despite her relatively bland nature, she’s just too efficient to be left off the “best of” list.
Sadly, not all cards released are bombs or automatic considerations for inclusion in decks, but there were a few cards released that were definite utility cards that get slotted into many decks. I’ll rank what I think are the best utility cards from cycle 2, in this order:
Yup, this event, in combination with Highgarden, Mare in Heat, and any other future remove-from-challenge effects, has the potential to be the backbone of an entire archetype; It’s also a cheap form of redundancy for that type of soft control when you don’t find a copy of Nightmares.
Perfect for what Tyrell wants to do in many cases. She fetches so many little cogs that make a current Tyrell build run smoothly – Margaery Tyrell, Olenna’s Informant, Arbor Knight, Butterbumps, Ser Colen of Greenpools, etc. There’s nothing to dislike, here, but her utility is dependent on the agenda you’re running, as she tends not to play nicely in decks that banner in another faction. Anything that thins the deck, though, with the two icons that Tyrell cares about, with a positive trait to boot, is good.
Awesome chud to round out a curve, but he’s not really breaking open the game or making an opponent worry about the board state. Best uses: power challenge defense, claim soak, and making a melee deck illegal at North American Championships.
This card could be rated higher, but event slots are tight in almost any Tyrell build, no matter the iteration. The fact that it’s a Challenges Action hampers its ability somewhat, but being able to dig deep, filter, and replace makes it better than just a cantrip.
Although Tyrell already has plenty of these corner-case superstars, this cycle gave us a few more options that could either be seeding the card pool for future interactions or simply being one-off, fun cards that go in specific builds. Without further ado, let’s talk about the fringe benefits of these cards, in this order:
Okay, so I’m prefacing my comments by saying that I lack sufficient data on this card. It seems fine in theory (it might even deserve to be considered in the previous category), but I haven’t had enough time to test properly with this card on the table. Challenge manipulation is a cool sub-theme of House Tyrell, and this card makes me excited; I’m just not sure how much of an impact it actually has because of the number of slots dedicated to it. It’ll certainly be annoying to play around in the right deck, and I see a really fun deck in the future for Tyrell with the remove-from-challenge effects on defense and then buffs for massive, smash-face attacks. I still don’t think this card goes in every deck, though.
Great Cost-Str ratio with a good trait and conditional power gain. Seems like a home run, right? Although the current environment doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re guaranteed to run into a bunch of Winter plots, I don’t like the idea of investing any of my gold in a character who will be essentially easy-buttoned into not being able to participating in challenges nor contributing his strength for dominance. He’s also a monocon in a faction that simultaneously needs the military help but ultimately doesn’t really care about the military challenge much. Play him in a Kings of Summer deck for an additional power-gain engine; consider him as a 1x to fill in the lower end of the curve in other decks, and even then he may not make the cut.
I want this card to be good, but it’s just too dependent on the matchup. Nothing necessarily wrong with it, but turning off its only keyword is decidedly unappealing for an investment of six gold. I get more out of that price point in Randyll; I get more out of some of the four- and five-cost slots as well (see: Knight of Flowers, Brienne of Tarth, Ser Hobber Redwyne, etc.). I’m still trying it in decks, though, and I’m never really sad to see it, but I also end up cutting it quite often.
If you don’t look at this card and see SO MUCH FUN, then there’s something wrong with you. Banterbridge has earned its moniker honestly. The jank is strong with this one. I sincerely hope that this card becomes a staple in a particular deck archetype because it’s just too much fun.
I’ll never play this card. And you can argue that I could’ve just went ahead and euthanized a couple other cards by including them here as well. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
Yeah, there was a goofy Tyrell Winter deck that ran this card in triplicate. I still don’t buy it. The Hand’s Judgment is creeping back into certain builds, and it’s only good for a single trick. Granted, that may be enough to blow a game open, but I still don’t see myself ever playing this card.
Well, that’s all the cards in this cycle. Hopefully I don’t get eviscerated by some other Tyrell fanboys (and girls) out there. There’s no doubt that Tyrell is seeing more play, and more green cards on tables worldwide is only good for the game, in my opinion.
State of the Meta for Tyrell:
Okay, as I stated earlier, it’s really hard for me to gauge the power level of Tyrell as a main faction. In the early part of this Competitive Play season, we’ve seen a handful of archetypes emerge: JC Wamma’s Tyrell-Rains (The Green Manalishi), the Brotherhood’s Tyrell-Kraken (Brotherhood Red Saturday List), and Rheece Paice / Ryan Wood’s Tyrell-Stag (Deergarden), with a couple other fringe decks making Top 4 consistently.
Common theme: leverage resets.
The economy and card draw that House Tyrell offers is irresistible if you’re planning on playing Valar Morghulis, which seems like a natural fit in most Tyrell builds, whether you’re playing mono-faction or (false) banner. Despite this sort of tautology, I’m reasonably confident that House Tyrell, at least for the foreseeable future – that is, until they get a box or some other serious bombs (I’m looking at you, Speed Dating Margaery) – will simply be a faction that enables consistent economy and card draw to grab that second or third Varys, another save, or even The Iron Throne to combat your opponent’s passive power gain; spoilers: Passive power gain is t1 right now…get used to it, as you’ll see a lot this Spring at Regionals around the world. I like using all the other toys and efficient dudes Tyrell has to offer, like in the Rains deck, but I just think that’s the spot the faction is in at the moment.
All that said, Tyrell’s faction identity, from a competitive viewpoint, is relatively ambiguous, perhaps even tenuous, despite several sub-themes accreting pieces in the wings.
Join us for the fourth review of this cycle on February 21st, when Brandon Zimmer (mnBroncos on the forums) visits to provide his thoughts on the faction known as Martell!