This article, like most of mine, is written from a competitive play point of view.
People that know me, know I believe Greyjoy is the worst faction in AGoT 2.0. Bleak, depressing artwork, dull colour palette in the frames of cards, and a stupendously boring, one-trick-pony play style are all strong reasons to avoid this, most GREY of factions. Barely relevant in the books, barely relevant in the competitive meta game.
Up until now, I’ve considered Greyjoy to be a bad player trap, in that they have a lot of cards which seem to attract casual, non-discerning players with bad card evaluation skills, as well as players that are mechanically weak at the game. Anecdotally, the worst players I end up playing in tournaments are pretty regularly playing Greyjoy decks. I first started to notice this at the Bristol Regional last year, where I witnessed numerous (and sometimes hilarious) misplays by Greyjoy players, as well as firsthand experience in one game of awful card evaluation skills. I saw a player who shall remain nameless, playing Greyjoy-Crossing make a first challenge with Fishwiskers, only to see his character get wolfed down by his (much) more experienced opponent, who also had Robb Stark on the board. He laughed it off, but it was the first of many incidents which slowly began to form a pattern in my mind.
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Later in that same event, I was paired up against a different Greyjoy-Crossing player, who by the end of the game was visibly a bit frustrated. I’d spent the entire game stripping his intrigue icons with my Martell deck, preventing him from ever making an intrigue challenge. Consequently, he’d spent the entire game unable to trigger his Crossing challenge, with one of his challenges always being hampered by the negative strength from his agenda. His one reprieve during this entire game, where he perked up a bit was when he’d got to combine the use of Snowed Under and Ahead of the Tide to…do nothing of any impact on the game. At least he’d got his combo off…
The first of these is just a funny anecdote. Anyone can make a misplay in a tournament (except Ryan Wood) and learn from it. The second situation though, was much, much more severe, and actually began to push me down the path to eventually writing this article.
Why does Greyjoy appeal to new/bad players?
I think this is relatively straightforward. They have an obvious, aggressive play style with little subtlety. New players I’ve found (including myself when I began to play) definitely seem to overvalue the Military challenge compared to Intrigue and Power, and as such typically end up playing Greyjoy, or Stark. This isn’t massively surprising I suppose, killing your opponent’s stuff is good right? Well, it’s ok, but due to the mechanics of the claim system, you’re very rarely killing characters your opponent cares about. What you really want to be doing, is killing people that matter, which, to be fair, Greyjoy got pretty early on with the Seastone Chair, creating a kind of ‘pack 1 apogee’ for the faction. However, if you overestimate the strength of certain parts of the game, it’s kind of zero-sum, and you end up undervaluing other aspects. In this case, as far as I’m concerned, the other aspects (Intrigue and Power challenges) are more important to AGoT. New players and bad players tend to have a critical thing in common, and that’s poor card evaluation skills.Building good, tournament quality, decks for card games is hard, and it’s even harder when you can’t tell what is worth putting in a deck and what isn’t. People with poor card evaluation skills are unlikely to tease out the understanding that the Greyjoy card pool is comparatively weak…
Why are Greyjoy so bad?
Regardless of what I believe in terms of players, and the factions they are attracted to, discussion of this situation initially needs to focus around the card pool.
Iconography and Character Assassination:
The initial reason (in terms of competitive game play) I have avoided Greyjoy like the plague since the core set was released, is they are not a balanced faction in terms of icons. Greyjoy as a faction have very weak access to intrigue icons. All of the factions on AGoT 2.0 are thematically weaker and stronger in different challenge icons, but in my opinion, being weak in intrigue is the worst lot to draw:
- Greyjoy: Strong in Military and Power, very weak in Intrigue.
- Stark: Strong in Military and Power, very weak in Intrigue.
- Night’s Watch: Strong in Military and Power, weaker in Intrigue.
- Baratheon: Strong in Power, ok Intrigue and Military.
- Targaryen: Relatively balanced across the board. A little weaker in Intrigue.
- Tyrell: Relatively balanced across the board. A bit weaker at Military.
- Martell: Strongest at Intrigue and Power, a little weaker at Military.
- Lannister: Strongest at Intrigue and Military, weaker at Power, though probably the most balanced spread out of the core box.
Why is being weak at Intrigue so much more of a liability than being weaker at Military or Power? There are two main reasons:
- Susceptibility to Tears of Lys. Out of the two neutral kill cards (along with Put to The Sword), this one is absolutely the stronger. It is cheaper to play, meaning that it is less of a burden to save the money after marshalling. It is also a lot less to a telegraph than holding two gold. Secondly, the difficulty required to trigger the reaction is far lower, than the ‘win by 5’ requirement on PTTS. Thirdly there are the dumb rules templating benefits of poison tokens.
- If you are weak at Intrigue, you will very quickly end up losing cards from your hand. This means you are at more risk of losing pieces you require for specific times (typically events, and in Greyjoy’s case, their saves), as well as characters saved for marshalling in the future. This is particularly bad, with the entry of Valar Morghulis into the 2.0 game, meaning you cannot splurge all your cards onto the board and play from there. It means you will normally be on the losing side of the good old fashioned term, card advantage, and will be more susceptible to the high variance in AGoT 2.0 (as far as FFG card games go, anyway) as you enter A Game of Topdecking.
Three out of 4 of Greyjoy’s best (but mediocre as far as the overall game goes) characters out of the core set (Theon, Asha, Balon) are highly susceptible to Tears of Lys, due to lack of that all important Intrigue icon. When you contrast this to House Lannister, and House Martell, who have Intrigue icons on every one of their key pieces in the core set, you end up looking very sub optimal. Obviously other houses have key characters without intrigue icons, but they also have far better ways to protect themselves. Baratheon has an Intrigue icon on Melisandre (its lynchpin character), has Selyse to deliver Intrigue icons to those that need them, and can kneel large threats at will. The Night’s Watch don’t care who dies, as long as they do their duty and defend The Wall first. Stark notably have Catelyn to prevent the card being played (and received a similar effect in Winterfell, very early on). Tyrell have enough of an Intrigue presence to maybe prevent some of the challenges going through, as well as Highgarden. Targaryen at least have Fire and Blood.
Greyjoy’s saves (until the release of Iron Mines) must be held in hand until exactly the right moment, which is difficult when your hand is constantly getting wrecked because you can’t win an intrigue challenge to literally save your character’s life. In the metagame of the first cycle, where kill effects were ubiquitous, and Tears rained supreme (joyous down the cheeks of Lanni players, salty as fuck down the cheeks of Greyjoy fans), Greyjoy was a very bad place to be. But wait! What about those fabled Iron Mines? Well, would you rather use an Iron Mines to save some average at best Greyjoy nobody, or Tywin or Tyrion fucking Lannister? It’s not Greyjoy loyalists’ fault that the Twin Terrors of the core set are so much stronger than anything they can put on the board (even now); that’s the designers’ fault for baking significant balance problems into the evergreen part of the game from the very start. It IS Greyjoy players’ faults if they want to play competitively and don’t recognise that they’re very likely hamstringing themselves before they even set foot in an event venue by bringing a suboptimal deck. There’s a reason Joel calls it ‘Banner of the Iron Mines’. If you desperately need to play Greyjoy, because, like Richard Walker, you can’t get enough of tentacles, Banner builds were where it was at. This leads us neatly into the next section.
Card Pool or Card Puddle? Or, to quote Wamma: ‘Arse is the Old Way’
Out of the core set, and effectively still to this day, a Greyjoy player’s strategy has been as predetermined and inflexible as the Old Way itself:
While not a core set card, this is it, this is all you’ve got. Unopposed challenges, facilitated by stealth. This is your modus operandi.
The problem is, you can only stealth one character a challenge, unless you commit multiple characters with stealth to the same challenge, which suggests overcommitting. Alternatively, the opposing character has stealth themselves, in which case, you’re shit out of luck.
The problem here of course, starts with the fact that your opponent will ALWAYS know your game plan. From the moment you put down your house card, a savvy opponent will know exactly how you are going to have to play, and be prepared to deal with it, likely because they’ve seen it a thousand times before.
Your strategy, defined and constrained by the incredibly shallow, linear, puddle of cards you’ve been able to select from is to rush to gain as much power as possible in the small board of the early game while applying as much military pressure as you can, then hope your opponent overextends/hasn’t smashed your hand too badly so that you can reset (traditionally Wildfire, but now also Valar) and try and play the early game all over again, hoping you are close enough to victory to squeak it out. You’re a rush and reset deck, only without the traditional card advantage of those style of builds. You have to hope that your opponent can’t outpace you (Stark, Night’s Watch wall builds, Baratheon dominance), outmuscle you (Tyrell, Lanni, Stark), outlast you in the reset stakes (also likely to be Tyrell due to economy and card advantage, or Lanni, based on economy), control your early game too much for you to recover (Martell, Baratheon kneel) or simply murder your vulnerable characters (Martell, Lanni). Mostly all these things will happen, simply because the other player has a deck full of cards of higher power level and impact than what are available to the Greyjoy player. It’s also worth noting that the Crossing agenda, which is a great aid to a rush strategy, is, in my opinion, weaker in Greyjoy than elsewhere due to the faction’s unbalanced icon spread.
Pretty much the entire card pool Greyjoy players have been given has pushed them in this direction, and the cards simply haven’t been good enough. Initially hampered by a constrained plot selection out of the core set, many Greyjoy players initially had to settle (or were convinced that the plot was simply highly effective) for terrible plots such as Sneak Attack. I used to see a lot of Greyjoy players play this plot for the money, initiative and two claim. I tried it out, but it was always confusing to me why you would play a plot that hampered yourself so badly by limiting you to one challenge. Yes that challenge has 2 claim, yes, your opponent may be able to tap out to defend it, without the fear of being severely punished in another challenge type. It was always weaker than it looked, due to the early prevalence of the plot Calm over Westeros. Calm is still a great plot now, and still sees play, particularly in stall decks, and most notably in a lot of Tyrell decks as it can be used as an opener to mitigate the weaker initial board position of setting up The Arbor. Back in core set days, this plot was not only used for it’s excellent flexibility and opening strength and security, but also as one of the best economy plots in the core set, with the added bonus of not being susceptible to Naval Superiority. The ‘best’ impact of Sneak Attack for Greyjoy players was a turn one 2-claim Military challenge, when their opponents’ boards were most vulnerable, leading to a snowball victory (though hampering them in the long run with low reserve). The ubiquitous play of Calm made these aggressive military decks a dicey prospect at best. Sam Braatz negotiated his way through a field full of heavy military decks (often Targ and Greyjoy) to pull off the ultimate vindication of people like me, who suspected that more subtle play would carry the day. I’ll say that I was enthralled watching Braatz take the Greyjoy deck to pieces, as it showed me that there was more depth to AGoT 2.0 than I’d initially been seeing as our group of 2.0 scrubs learned the ropes of the game together. The so called ‘worst’ faction out of the core set dominated one that the talking heads had anointed one of the strongest. In fact, the best use I found for Sneak Attack in those early days was for the Night’s Watch, letting them go second, defend The Wall, and maybe get off a two-claim if the opponent pressed too hard to try to kneel The Wall.
Cards in hand?
Stealth is a good ability at helping you avoid specific defenders, but it doesn’t really help you making unopposed challenges outside of small board situations because most of the time your opponent will have more than one copy of each challenge icon. Finding an opponent who’s willing to let you make a lot of unopposed challenges is generally going to be quite hard, unless they’re running Crossing, in which case the race is on (hint: they’re probably still faster). Asha is as vulnerable to Dracarys as she ever was, and her partner in crime, Theon looked a lot less enticing due to Ward in the Stark-heavy metagame of mid-2016. Stark are similar to Greyjoy, in that whether they’re good or not, you’ll always find some at a tournament due to their straightforward brute efficiency play style, and because inexplicably a lot of people seem to like them from the books (these people are probably all Dog lovers). They played the Game incredibly poorly, and their House was destroyed as a result. Probably should’ve invested in some Intrigue icons I suppose. These non-loyal Greyjoy characters are ok, but are not worth building a deck around, in the same way that some of the others are, notably loyal characters such as Tywin, Catelyn Stark or Daenerys. The rest of the Greyjoy loyal cardpool cannot hold a candle to cards such as:
- Night’s Watch: Messenger Raven, Old Forest Hunter
- Tyrell: The Arbor, Pleasure Barge, Renly
- Martell: Ghaston Grey, Greenblood Trader
- Baratheon: Robert, Red Keep
- Targaryen: Dracarys, Viserys, Plaza of Punishment
- Stark: Ice, Robb, Winterfell
- Lannister: Harrenhal, Cersei
The best reasons to play a House as your primary deck choice have to be excellent loyal cards. Greyjoy’s best loyal cards are:
We Do Not Sow is a truly excellent card. Reasonably costed, with a requirement that is hardly too onerous (especially with the Stealth available in faction), it performs some critical functions very well indeed. Attachment removal in Thrones is primarily handled by the workhorse plot Confiscation, with a little help from Rattleshirt’s Raiders. Targaryen, on the other hand, got the fantastic Viserys, which was a solid part of their strength out of the core set, whilst Baratheon, rather unfairly, ended up with Maester Cressen in addition to their embarrassment of riches. Removing attachments, most commonly the ubiquitous Milk of the Poppy was (and in many ways still is) a crucial requirement. Rattleshirt’s is a mathematically weak card (4 cost, monocon, 3 str), but provides an effect so necessary, that it sees play regardless. I struggle to believe anyone would turn down the opportunity to cut Rattleshirt’s for copies of WDNS. Whilst Confiscation has decent stats, every competitive player is desperate for plot deck slots, and would love the luxury of freeing one up by dropping it. The fact that WDNS is also currently the strongest location control effect available means it truly is an all-star card.
Euron is a good character, whom I think the community has been slow to appreciate. Solid value at 7 gold for a Str 6 tricon, including that all important intrigue icon. Euron has Renown, but it’s the effect that has really been undersold. I’m generally of the opinion that you can find efficient characters across the factions of the game at this point, but it’s a mixture of truly unique effects (and synergies with your deck), combined with the depth of a character pool which really define whether a player should consider playing the faction. Euron’s effect is certainly unique. In practice, metagame aside, you can normally expect it to provide a decent amount of economy in your game, if you can keep reusing your opponent’s Kingsroads. Often you may find more experienced opponents elect not sacrifice the Kingsroad at all while you have Euron in play, but at this point, you can be heavily limiting their own economic options, which is obviously not nothing. Currently probably 90% of decks or more are running the Kingsroad, as it is a part of the basic economic package available to all factions in the game with the exception of Night’s Watch (Roseroad, Kingsroad, In faction reducer location, in-faction reducer chud, Ocean Road). As the game progresses, we will start to see more economy locations, which may render the Kingsroad obsolete, or at least far less common. If this occurs, then the baseline effectiveness of Euron will fluctuate as a function of the amount of Kingsroad that sees play, combined with other critical locations yet to be released that have a sacrifice effect. With the exception of lucky pillages which generate hard locks (and who doesn’t enjoy watching a Tyrell player’s Arbor or NW player’s Wall get stolen!) about the best other location you can expect to steal regularly is Ghaston Grey. Obviously since this location is loyal, whether you can see it will depend on the amount of Martell played in the metagame. However, the card is strong enough to be basically a guaranteed 3-of in any Martell deck, and if you can steal it and use it, you are likely to be able to repeat the process! While an efficient character, the value of Euron therefore seems at least partially metagame dependent, compared to someone like Tywin, Renly or Robert.
In my opinion the final loyal card worth discussing is The Seastone Chair. While another unopposed requirement, quite the scary effect. People exploded with rage all over the AGoT 2.0 Facebook group when this one was spoiled. I find this card to be quite difficult to evaluate. On the surface, obviously the repeated targetable kill attached to a location (and thus harder for your opponent to control) initially seems pretty good. Dig a little deeper though, and the card may not be as good as it seems. While in my discussion above about ‘We Do Not Sow’, I described the requirement of an unopposed challenge to be a pretty low bar to set. However, once you’ve installed this card, you’d better fucking believe your opponent is going to try like hell to avoid giving you an unopposed Military challenge if they have a vulnerable character. Unlike WDNS, this card can only be triggered from one challenge type, so stretches your opponent less thinly. It also requires a Faction Card kneel, which is a non-trivial cost, particularly when Fealty is such a powerful economic agenda. In the future, it seems highly likely that other good effects will be fighting tooth and nail for that faction kneel cost. Let’s compare this to Put to the Sword, which seems like the most obvious comparator: The economics of PTTS are a lot worse than this, requiring 2 gold (and a copy of the one-use event) each time you wish to trigger it. Whilst theoretically PTTS has an advantage of being held in hand, and thus a surprise, it’s debatable how surprised your opponent can be when you swing with a suspiciously large Military challenge and 2 gold carefully saved… Of course, the nature of PTTS means your opponent has to respect it at all times when you could theoretically threaten the conditions to play it, and they will have to contort themselves to defend it, even if you were bluffing. There is no bluffing element to the Seastone Chair per se, but your opponent will have to respect it every military challenge, and contort their board in slightly different way to protect themselves from that effect. PTTS allows you to target anyone, whereas the Seastone Chair has a fairly major drawback of not being able to target characters with attachments. When the card was originally released, this was not a massive problem. Not many attachments saw play, and the main thing you had to worry about was not accidentally Milking someone you wanted to kill! However, with the release of negative attachments like Fishing Net, this card started to look anti-synergistic, and with the release of Valar, however, Bodyguard has become very common in the metagame as people struggle to adjust. People are more careful about only deploying critical characters once they have a save/duplicate available, have built decks more resistant to losing specific characters (including the appearance of the plot Close Call) due to the deeper character pool now available in the game as a whole, and are generally more sanguine about losing unique characters. The final factor to note is that the Seastone Chair, unlike PTTS is a Claim Replacement Effect. This means you rarely get the big swings associated with a well-timed PTTS, and also occasionally run into factors such as Vengeance for Elia. The repeatability on the Chair does allow for some interesting prison-style situations, where you can repeatedly kill their biggest military icons, and then stealth past others to keep firing it every turn, though this seems somewhat difficult to achieve. While I’m firmly on the fence about the Seastone Chair, I’ve seen it do enough good work to consider it a viable reason for wanting to be in Greyjoy as a main House. At the moment though, the proportion and relative strength of passive power gain ‘Clock’ decks such as Night’s Watch and Table and Chair in the game as a whole, both of which don’t massively care about the lives of their characters make targeted kill decks seem pretty weak at the moment.
If these are the three best reasons to be in Greyjoy main faction, it’s a bit of a problem. Two of the three are cards aimed at dealing with locations, which is a pretty specific strategy. Even in a location dominated metagame like the one we see at the moment, I’m not convinced that they’re enough to justify the rest of the weak state of Greyjoy’s card pool.
The Row of Shame: Or ‘Jorg! Get the Bell!’
It is my opinion that the Greyjoy card pool is generally pretty weak to mediocre. As such, any further releases that are sub optimal are especially painful for the faction. Baratheon and Targaryen have had their fair share of total shit in the first two cycles, but are able to subsist mostly based on the strength of their core set cards. To a lesser extent the same is true of Lannister, but Lanni had three of the strongest 5 cards in the core set (Tywin, Tyrion and Treachery, forever known from this point on in this blog as ‘The Three Ts’), a game plan that synergised with another exceptionally strong card (Tears) , which they were almost completely immune to due to their surfeit of Intrigue icons. Whilst the second cycle has delivered almost nothing of value to Lannister, they got plenty to be excited by (or disappointed by if you were on the other side of the table) in the first cycle, and a solid big box release too. Poor Greyjoy, the first cycle delivered some solid but unspectacular cards, but of recent, their barren islands delivered the set of ‘goodies’ shown below. No wonder they have to raid others, when their own offerings are so poor:
Look at this wall of shame, of which the pinnacle of embarrassment is Ours is the Old Way. A card pretty much unanimously panned by the community. I’ve never been a fan of the theory that bad cards are printed so that good players can distinguish themselves through superior card evaluation skills, and it’s doubly crippling for the LCG model when crap cards slip into the card pool, since it grows slowly and the pace of rotation is so slow. The fact that Ahead of the Tide is taking up an evergreen slot is not good for Greyjoy in the slightest. I know I can sleep safe at night though, knowing it’ll never rotate. It’ll always be available to waste a slot in my binder and to trick bad card evaluators into wasting a deck slot. Many of these cards are damaging, simply by not being a copy of Nightmares or Milk of the Poppy, a useful trigger event like PTTS or Superior Claim that accelerates your win conditions or even something Greyjoy might want to run like Little Bird or Appointed to shore up their critical Intrigue woes. I’d like to clarify that I think it’s much better to just run a faction that has a better icon spread than to try and plaster over the cracks in your strategy by giving up vital draw deck slots. I generally prefer to maximise and play to my strengths in a deck, rather than cover weaknesses. Some of these awful cards are prohibitively costed versus the dubious strength of the effects (notably OITOW). Unless you like cards with suspiciously lewd art, Bless him with Salt will never make the cut over cards like The Kraken’s Grasp which have more generally applicable and useful effects, are more mathematically efficient and already struggle to find slots in decks. Helya is anti-synergistic with one of Greyjoy’s main options for helping their unopposed strategy (Fishing Net) and so actively helps your opponent. Attachments aren’t as common as they used to be, currently, since one of the best decks this Store Champs season is Night’s Watch, where most of the characters have No Attachments. I don’t necessarily hate Dagmer since the tournament scene is full of location heavy decks, but with Valar back in the metagame, other, better, high cost characters like Mirri have struggled to remain in the game since they can’t take a bodyguard. Dagmer doesn’t have natural stealth, and actually punching through a Military or Power challenge through the Night’s Watch with Dagmer alone is going to be pretty difficult. In any case, you can’t take the Wall, and you’re almost certainly going to want to be pressing Power challenges for actual claim to try and stay with the power gain of the NW player, rather than wasting a crucial power challenge on a claim replacement effect in that matchup. Dagmer might be better in the Table and Chair matchup, but is seems likely that he’ll just get knelt out if the opponent thinks there’s a chance you might take a critical location. In any case, the Red Keep and Baratheon’s natural Power icon surfeit makes Power challenges quite difficult to push through against them. He’ll probably just get milked anyway.
One Trick Longship
While the main, overarching ‘Unopposed’ theme dominates the Greyjoy card pool, the sub-themes of mill and location hate also proliferate, along with other factors such as ‘go first’, ‘saves’ and ‘strength pump’. Of these, the location hate theme seems particularly worthy of discussion, due to its alignment with the location heavy decks dominating tournament season. If you look at the Greyjoy card pool, they are swimming in viable location destruction compared to all other factions. We Do Not Sow, Euron, Lordsport Shipwright (which I think is up there as one of the faction’s absolute best cards, and one that can truly compete with other factions’ best and brightest) and Newly Made Lord comprise about half of the game’s location hate for draw decks, in addition to the often difficult to trigger Put to the Torch, horribly over costed Pyromancers and Milk of the Direwolf. The forthcoming ‘Scaling the Wall‘ could well expand this, and finally there is the much maligned, but playable (metagame dependent) plot Political Disaster. I don’t understand why Political Disaster didn’t have the caveat of ‘cannot be saved’ like Wildfire Assault. The mechanics of the dead pile makes ‘cannot be saved’ much more punishing to characters, yet that plot has it, whilst locations can be rebuilt, and the location reset doesn’t have it. Scaling the Wall looks to require a significant investment in the ‘Wildling Module’ and it looks likely to directly compete with Banner of the Kraken if you really feel you need heavy location hate in your deck.
The difficult question becomes, if location hate is the thing Greyjoy are best at, how much do you put in your deck? It’s really hard to justify running all these options. Whilst they may do good work versus Night’s Watch, they’re often quite weak versus much of the rest of the field. I’d personally look at sticking with Lordsport Shipwright (it has an Intrigue icon!) and We Do Not Sow. The point I’m attempting to make here is Greyjoy have a lot of their good cards tied up doing the same (quite niche) thing, yet you cannot afford to really run them all, making a strength of the faction in some ways a weakness, for the moment, anyway.
Light on the Horizon?
Luckily the last pack of the second cycle, Tyrion’s Chain, has brought some reinforcements:
The notable omission in the previous section was the newly released Sea Bitch, which I think is so strong, it deserved to be discussed separately. Much of this article has been ragging on Greyjoy pretty hard, and rightly so, the card pool is pretty miserable, but fair is fair, it’s important to take note when times might be a changin’, especially with the forthcoming Greyjoy Atman:
It remains to be seen how strong this card is in Thrones, but in Netrunner in the past it’s been both a lynchpin of decks, as well as an almost ubiquitous 1-of tech card. The effect is flexible and strong.
Whilst Sea Bitch is another card added to a card pool that already has lots of similar effects, with the exception of We Do Not Sow, this is the strongest of the lot. Economically efficient at 1 gold, and preemptive, in that you can deploy it and leave it threatening on the table, investing that gold long before that critical turn where you might need it for something else The biggest strength of this card is the fact it can be used mid-challenge. This can lead to some pretty savage swings, for example, taking an opponent’s Iron Mines to save your own character, or taking their Iron Mines simply to prevent them using it themselves, taking a Lannister player’s Tower of the Hand to ensure one of their bounced in characters is killed etc.. The biggest swings with this card can be generated by taking a Martell player’s best card, Ghaston Grey (potentially getting to use it, then stealing it with Euron from their discard!), or stealing three power from them by using their own Boneway. Considering Martell are a faction that Greyjoy struggle very heavily against, this card is going to be extremely beneficial for Greyjoy players. This card may well encourage people to start running location hate to protect their own locations, rather than just to deal with those of their opponents, or running maximum Nightmares (if they weren’t already). This card is going to see a hell of a lot of play (non-loyal), and people better get used to playing around it as soon as possible, from the deck building stage all the way through to actual challenge by challenge decisions.
Esgred is just a really efficient card that basically supports Greyjoy’s mono-strategy, with the added bonus of a free power if (for some reason) you want to downgrade her into the other version of Asha. Intrigue icons with stealth are powerful, and a tricon with super stealth is certainly nothing to sniff at. If she sees a lot of play (and I suspect that she will, again, non-loyal) I may consider moving back towards Targaryen, who will just parasucker her down with Plaza and move on with their lives.
So, with this excellent pack for Greyjoy, what does it mean for the faction as a whole? Well, realistically, not a lot. Sensible players will still not be playing Greyjoy as their House. Both of these cards (and Wex Pyke too) are non-loyal, which means it’s business as usual, you’re better off just running a banner and getting access to all the loyal goodness in your own main faction of choice (these days, probably Tyrell, Lannister or Night’s Watch). I fully believe that Sea Bitch however, has strongly improved the Kraken banner, which wasn’t awful to begin with. Iron Mines, Esgred and Sea Bitch, along with Lordsport Shipwright and Victarion lend some solid options and great location control to any faction. As such, I expect to see a lot of Kraken banner as we move towards regionals season.
Disclosure: The Author enjoys playing fun factions like Martell, and Sea Bitch is like a massive slap in the face to his favoured faction.