Burning Sensation

This is a post based on the competitive scene, focused upon joust.

Just as we arrive at the end of the second full cycle of datapacks for Thrones, FFG have delivered some juicy new spoilers for House Targaryen, to arrive midway through the third cycle, with ‘The Fall of Astapor‘ and the Watchers on the Wall deluxe:

Things are finally beginning to heat up in Essos, and it seems like a really good time to take a look at the state of House Targaryen.

Riches to Rags

In the books, House Targaryen was an all-powerful dynasty that crumbled from a combination of complacency, misrule and, ahem, inbreeding. One of the three strongest factions out of the core set, along with Baratheon and Lannister, the fortunes of the faction have been in relative decline since.

Out of our small group of players at the inception of Thrones 2.0, we initially diverged quite heavily in what factions we were playing, while Joel and George fumbled around finding their feet with 2-player ‘lifestyle’ card games in general, playing Lannister, Stark, Greyjoy (I know…) and Night’s Watch, I was drawn towards Targaryen and Martell. I loved the timing mechanics of Martell (and loved the House from the books) and the explosive closing power of cards like Doran’s Game and The Red Viper, but also recognised the brutal economic swings and terrible decision paralysis granted by Ghaston Grey. Despite this however, the initial tournament deck I settled on was a Targaryen deck, probably pretty similar to a lot of the other Targaryen decks out of the core set:

‘Ancient History’

House Targaryen
Fealty
Packs: Core Set (3)

Plots
1x Calm Over Westeros (Core Set)
1x Filthy Accusations (Core Set)
1x Heads on Spikes (Core Set)
2x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x The Winds of Winter (Core Set)
1x Wildfire Assault (Core Set)

Characters
1x Littlefinger (Core Set)
3x Daenerys Targaryen (Core Set)
3x Drogon (Core Set)
3x Khal Drogo (Core Set)
2x Magister Illyrio (Core Set)
3x Rhaegal (Core Set)
2x Ser Jorah Mormont (Core Set)
3x Viserion (Core Set)
2x Viserys Targaryen (Core Set)
3x Braided Warrior (Core Set)
3x Handmaiden (Core Set)
3x Targaryen Loyalist (Core Set)
3x Unsullied (Core Set)

Locations
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
3x Plaza of Punishment (Core Set)
3x Illyrio’s Estate (Core Set)

Attachments
3x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
1x Drogo’s Arakh (Core Set)

Events
3x The Hand’s Judgment (Core Set)
3x Dracarys! (Core Set)
2x Fire and Blood (Core Set)
2x Waking the Dragon (Core Set)

You can certainly argue if this is the ‘optimal’ Targaryen deck out of the core set (probably not), but in my opinion, it shows off the strengths of faction extremely well. Looking back, it looks pretty light on draw and consistency, particularly in the plot deck. The economy was fine, enhanced by Fealty, but certainly did not leave much spare.

This deck was all about Military claim, threatening Dracarys. It then leveraged a board advantage by repeatedly Marching them to the Wall, before using Winds of Winter as a finisher, preferably with multiple 2-claim Military challenges with Drogo. Marched was, and is still an amazing card for aggressive, Military-focused decks due to the powerful effect, great stats and initiative. However, in Targaryen it reaches another level, due to its synergies with two of the best core set cards for the faction, Viserys and Jorah Mormont. With Marched, you could hammer your opponent with Military claim, threaten with Dracarys (perhaps shrinking their board further) then, when you were ahead, you could March and ‘piece trade’ characters with them, only you would be getting the benefit of the effect of Viserys, or ‘resetting’ Jorah to be played out from hand again.

Molten Core:

In the previous article about Greyjoy, in addition to offending 83% of the Thrones community, I illustrated that, for a competitive player, the overarching reason to play a House as the main faction has to be high-impact loyal cards. While Greyjoy got as sparse a selection as the Iron Islands themselves, House Targaryen was gifted among the best cards in the Core set:

The instant I looked through the card list for Targaryen, Dracarys and Plaza of Punishment reminded me of Parasite and Datasucker from Netrunner:

This combination (presumably in no coincidence delivered together in the Netrunner core set) has been widely regarded as very powerful throughout the history of the game. Initially the Anarch faction (my preferred faction of choice) suffered through a lack of consistency cards. As that problem has been gradually resolved, the faction has ended up on top of the Netrunner metagame, and it eventually resulted in parasite being placed on the MWL, the A:NR restricted list. As you can see, these cards are highly synergistic, and are similar mechanically to the strength reduction mechanism in Thrones, almost ubiquitously described by the community (and hereafter in this article) as ‘Burn’. The initial ability on Dracarys of -4 strength would alone be an excellent, relatively low cost challenge maths trick. However, the ability of Burn to create a continuous kill condition if strength hits 0 or lower is an incredibly powerful removal effect, preventing duplicates from saving a unique character, as the game self-checks, and the Str 0 = Death condition is repeatedly achieved after each save. When you compare the potency of Dracarys to the other kill effects in the core set, for example Put to the Sword, it is clear that this loyal card is extremely powerful. It costs one gold fewer, is loyal, and thus can be reduced and played with Fealty alone. The triggering requirements are relatively trivial compared to the +5 Str win required for PTTS, you merely need a standing dragon or Daenerys to kneel. As such, the requirements are more mutable in the challenges phase, and ultimately are less easy for your opponent to cope with in comparison to the binary 2 gold or not for PTTS. Unlike Tears and PTTS, Dracarys has the terrifying benefit of being able to be used in any challenge type. Whilst a fantastic card in its own right, Dracarys looks even more dangerous when you consider it’s deletion effect on some of the lynchpin characters of other Houses, such as Tyrion Lannister, Nymeria, Arianne Martell, The Blackfish and of course, Melisandre. I can’t stress enough that this is a Faction-defining, probably game defining, card, and alone, would be enough to make a reasonable case for choosing Targaryen as your main House.

Plaza of Punishment is a similar card to Dracarys in that it provides a Strength reduction, in this case triggered by winning a power challenge, as well as instituting an additional Str 0 = Death condition. Having multiple mechanisms to reduce strength is obviously great, and the fact that this effect is tied to a location means that both the strength reduction and kill effect are present on the board, meaning your opponent has to play around them. The Strength reduction conferred by Plaza is not as threatening as Dracarys, and it will rarely threaten an important character without the aid of Dracarys itself. What Plaza does do is provide the ability to kill-off low Strength characters from a Power challenge. This is a highly effective way of stripping your opponent’s board of claim soak. When combined with the ability of Khal Drogo to make an additional military challenge, you can theoretically be threatening a functional 3 military claim a turn, which can be incredibly difficult for an opponent to answer. I like that Plaza of Punishment focuses on the Power challenge, as it spreads your opponents out more, in terms of worrying about what challenges matter in the turn. It can also affect gameplay in terms of order of operations. Often making a power challenge early as Targaryen can leave your opponent affected by a relatively bad decision tree, since if they do not win the Power challenge, you can either strip their board of a chud, or reduce the Strength of a more important character. Consequently, in further challenges you can potentially threaten to Dracarys the weakened character, or simply win the challenge more easily. I love cards that give you a strong benefit for what you want to be doing anyway, and Plaza does this so very well.

I’ve touched upon Khal Drogo in the above paragraph, and there’s not too much additional to say. He’s a decent body with renown that has a particularly strong effect if you build your deck for an aggressive Military strategy. Cards that subvert basic rules of the game  (one challenge of each type per turn) have the potential to be very strong. He can be particularly of benefit in Crossing decks, where the ability to make two challenges of the same type allows you extra flexibility.

Daenerys is an interesting character. Alone she looks perhaps a little over-costed, but the Insight and ability are obviously stellar. The ability in particular is mathematically very strong in general, helping your other characters push challenges through if you wish to keep Daenerys aloof for defence or dominance, however, it also opens up Strength 5 characters to Dracarys, of which there are plenty of powerful options you’d love so set light to. Additionally, if you play your cards right, though more awkward to set up, you may even manage to snipe a Strength 3 character with Plaza of Punishment. Daenerys has the ability to become so much more through the conferred Stealth, Renown and probably most importantly, the stand effect of her hatchlings. Though obviously a combo card, Daenerys has the ability to be one of the most efficient character cards in the game. Particularly before the release of Valar, getting her out with the three dragons was not massively challenging, and would present a terrible difficulty for your opponent to overcome. Whilst greater inclusion of resets in the metagame weakens any combination based around characters (and strengthens those based around locations, see Night’s Watch and Table and Chair clock decks), the unique nature of the dragons allowed them to dodge First Snow of Winter at times and there’s always the underrated (and possibly best card art in the entire game) Fire and Blood. Prior to the release of Close Call, this event was one of the only ways to return characters from the dead pile, and is particularly efficient with hatchlings. Nevertheless, having Insight on a character so easily able to make multiple challenges is highly desirable. It will be very intriguing to see future versions of Daenerys (as indeed there must be in the pipeline), and see whether they can stand up to this core version.

Viserys is not a sympathetic character in the books, in fact he’s rather repellant, but he holds a magnetic attraction in the LCG. For a start, he’s a 1-coster. The only other faction to have a 1-cost character outside of the faction reducers in core set was Night’s Watch. This instantly gave Targaryen a helpful boost in flexibility during setups, especially since Viserys was a card you were happy to run more than one copy of. The reason you were so happy to slot him into decks was the effect. Removing attachments is a required ability in Thrones, and alongside Confiscation, Viserys is one of the best and lowest cost ways of doing so. That the ability fires whenever he leaves play, rather than when he is killed means there are multiple ways to trigger it, such as Marched and First Snow, as well as just military claim. You can often trigger the effect multiple times a game. The additional important effect of having high quality attachment hate in your draw deck is that you can afford to drop Confiscation (often mandatory) from your Plot deck. Since plot deck slots are probably the most precious resource in Thrones, this is a a boon to the Targaryen faction that is difficult to understate.

In addition to these fantastic loyal core set cards, Targaryen acquired some other great loyal cards in the first two cycles:

Pot of gold is one of the dumbest cards I’ve seen designed for a game. While I love the fluff of giving the character being crowned the King trait, it obviously doesn’t make up for the fact that this card is just really poorly designed. The requirements to activate Dracarys are one thing, and allow for interesting levels of bluffing (see below), and your opponent to preserve their characters by playing cautiously and protectively, the ability to delete a 4 Strength character in marshalling is just absurd when combined with the dead pile mechanic, especially when it wrecks whole strategies, such as Melisandre. The fact that this card is ‘limit 1’ in a deck shows that the designers knew it was too strong, and decided to balance it through this limitation. Let’s not beat around the bush. If a card is too strong to have a full playset of copies in a deck, it’s too strong. Don’t print it. Certainly don’t try to balance it by making it HIGHER VARIANCE. This card is fucking stupid and if you’re playing Targaryen, you should absolutely be playing it in every deck. It will hand you wins you don’t deserve, and for tournament play that’s great. You can go grab a choc ice or something and chill out before your next round while your opponent is left wondering how the hell this card got through playtesting.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, are the other two loyal cards pictured above, reducing variance through draw effects. Doreah is just really good. Two cost bicons with Insight (even if conditional) are bound to see play. Funeral Pyre is a really interesting card. In a game so hampered by lack of draw, anything that says ‘draw three cards’ is worth a look at. The requirement to trigger this event is actually relatively challenging and timing sensitive, even in a faction where kill effects are the norm, but the upside is obviously extremely high. This card provides yet another awesome use for Viserys (seriously, you’d never have known from the books he was such a diligent workhorse), and is probably pretty matchup dependent. It’s good versus houses like Stark with lots of Lords and Ladies. Perhaps this card is better off in a banner build where you can trigger it off effects like Wildfire Assault, losing your own characters in order to guarantee the draw, or we may need to wait for more Targaryen Lords and Ladies (if they come). Probably even better now Valar Morghulis is in the metagame.

These loyal cards are backed by some extremely efficient non-loyal faction cards:

Illyrio Mopatis is an efficient character, boosting Targaryen’s intrigue presence. His ability is always useful to have, but was exceptionally relevant in the core set metagame, where Baratheon Kneel decks were one of the other exceptionally strong (and fully formed) archetypes out of the box. Jorah is a wonderful character, extremely efficient at two cost for Strength 4 and two aggressive icons, as well as having Renown (to a point). Jorah is great for set up and allowed Targaryen decks to put on very high pressure early on in games. Extremely flexible, you can just treat him as an ultra-efficient chud and spend him for Military claim when he is out of use if you set him up or draw him early. Conversely, you couldn’t really find a more efficient character late on in games and trying to close out. As discussed above, like Viserys, Jorah has excellent synergy with cards such as Marched to the Wall, and First Snow of Winter, which allow him to be reset and played out again.

Mirri saw a lot of play, but principally outside of Targaryen main decks. In Targaryen, I saw her popping up occasionally in Crossing builds, where she could take advantage of the Strength boost from the agenda on the 3rd challenge, though these seemed strictly inferior to the straight power-rush equivalents. Obviously the interrupt effect is extremely threatening. With Mirri in play, you can threaten to shrink your opponent’s board with the natural effect of Military claim, but also the opportunity for targeted kill on Intrigue and Power. As discussed about Dagmer in the previous article, the lack of ability to take a bodyguard in a Valar metagame has curtailed Mirri’s excesses somewhat, as has the necessity to keep up as best as you can on power versus clock decks. It’s very hard to justify replacing the claim on your power challenge when the Wall is garnering your opponent two power a turn, or the Chamber of the Painted Table module is creating a three power swing away from you every turn, especially when these decks often don’t care about the lives of specific characters. That said, ignore Mirri at your peril. At some point, conditions in Thrones will shift, and she’ll step back out onto centre stage, threatening as ever.

Fealty accusations: Bluffing with Dracarys:

Any faction with a relatively high number of strong loyal cards will benefit from the economic windfall of Fealty, but because Dracarys is loyal, Targaryen gain probably the most of any faction, along with Stark. People quickly realised that being able to threaten Dracarys from zero gold was strong. The event is so dangerous that simply kneeling Fealty would force your opponent to play very conservatively, or risk getting their Tyrion/Melisandre/Arianne/Nymeria cooked. This could lead to the Targaryen player acquiring power through challenges their opponent cannot risk opposing, or easier Win by 5 triggers, primarily PTTS. Dracarys itself can mess with maths enough to potentially enable an unexpected Swording, though this requires copious gold in the challenge phase, enough that your opponent should rightfully be very wary.

The release of Beggar King however gave Targaryen an interesting economic option unique to the faction. While this can easily add a further economic boost to Fealty decks such as the one that made the finals at Worlds this year, the interaction with Summer Harvest opened up the doors for the potential of Targaryen-Kings of Summer decks, getting the most out of Aggo. Overall though, no matter what agenda you use, Beggar King requires that to utilise it effectively, you need to build your plot deck to have consistently lower gold than your opponent’s. In this case, you can receive a one gold, or regularly 2 gold from the attachment. It helps the Beggar King significantly that plots tend to have a inverse correlation between gold value and strength of the effect. As such, with this attachment, you can afford to run multiple high-impact low gold plots such as Blood of the DragonFamine, and Valar Morghulis without the tempo hit they normally apply. As the game progresses and more of these sorts of plots are released, the more value Beggar King will gain. It is currently one few cards yet released that are worth talking about as an ‘economy package’ and is almost certainly the best card Targaryen received in the second cycle.

Blood of my Blood: Synergy within and without:

Targaryen seems to be a House strongly reliant upon synergy. If the key card that draws players to the faction is Dracarys, the deck starts to take shape very quickly. In order to fulfil the requirements to play this signature event, you need a critical mass of Dragons and/or Daenerys on the board. I haven’t tested this absolutely thoroughly, but I feel you probably want at absolute minimum, 7 of these cards in your deck. If you’re running 7 dragons, well, you might as well run Daenerys too, since she is an excellent all-round character and gains so much from the Dragons you’re already playing. If you’re running Daenerys and Dracarys and dragons, Plaza looks extremely tempting as a support piece, and so on, and so forth. This core set ‘core module’ is one of the reasons many Targaryen main House decks don’t look a huge amount different to those that were developed early on in 2.0’s life cycle. While this internal synergy is pretty self-evident just by reading the cards, it didn’t take players long enough to identify the synergy between Khal Drogo and Jaime Lannister:

‘Smash Bros’

House Targaryen
Banner of the Lion

Plots
1x A Noble Cause (Core Set)
1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Calm Over Westeros (Core Set)
1x Counting Coppers (Core Set)
1x Filthy Accusations (Core Set)
1x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x The Winds of Winter (Core Set)

Characters
3x Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
1x The Tickler (Core Set)
3x Tyrion Lannister (Core Set)
2x Lannisport Merchant (Core Set)
3x Daenerys Targaryen (Core Set)
2x Drogon (Core Set)
3x Khal Drogo (Core Set)
2x Magister Illyrio (Core Set)
3x Rhaegal (Core Set)
3x Ser Jorah Mormont (Core Set)
2x Viserion (Core Set)
2x Viserys Targaryen (Core Set)
2x Braided Warrior (Core Set)
3x Targaryen Loyalist (Core Set)
1x The Hound (Taking the Black)

Locations
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
3x Illyrio’s Estate (Core Set)

Attachments
2x Seal of the Hand (Core Set)
1x Widow’s Wail (Core Set)

Events
1x Put to the Sword (Core Set)
3x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
3x The Hand’s Judgment (Core Set)
2x Treachery (Core Set)
3x Dracarys! (Core Set)
1x Fire and Blood (Core Set)

Marrying two of the three strongest factions in the Core Set together would probably be called sensible decision making, rather than a stroke of genius, but ‘Smash Brothers’ decks took Core Set synergy to a logical conclusion. Pretty much all the good loyal Targaryen stuff described above has been squashed into this list, including the Daenerys/Dragon/Dracarys module, and it has been supplemented by the best red cards Lannister gold can buy. At heart, this deck was looking to exploit the synergy between Drogo and Jaime to gain as much Renown as possible in a turn in multiple Military challenges, where Jaime (and Drogo, if he got the Arakh present in other variants of this build) didn’t have to kneel. It was no slouch elsewhere however, backed up by Tyrion and Daenerys. Tyrion’s gold producing effect allowed for huge synergy with Illyrio and powered threatening events like PTTS and Tears of Lys, as well as Dracarys of course. This was a deck at the time with answers to basically everything, and almost no weaknesses.

Over time though, the metagame shifted, and as Lannister got some truly outrageous cards in the first cycle (whilst Targaryen received comparatively little), this deck shape morphed heavily into the infamous ‘Lanni-Dragon’ build, which put up savagely consistent results at Regionals and Nationals in 2016:

Lannister Banner Dragon- 2016 NAC Championship Winner

House Lannister
Banner of the Dragon
Packs: From Core Set (3) to True Steel

Plots
1x A Noble Cause (Core Set)
1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Confiscation (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x The Winds of Winter (Core Set)
1x Wildfire Assault (Core Set)
1x Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell)

Characters
3x Rattleshirt’s Raiders (Core Set)
1x Grand Maester Pycelle (Core Set)
2x Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tyrion Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tywin Lannister (Core Set)
3x Burned Men (Core Set)
3x Lannisport Merchant (Core Set)
3x Magister Illyrio (Core Set)
2x Ser Jorah Mormont (Core Set)
1x Viserion (Core Set)
3x Targaryen Loyalist (Core Set)
2x The Hound (Taking the Black)
2x Ser Gregor Clegane (The King’s Peace)
2x Wildling Scout (No Middle Ground)
3x Mirri Maz Duur (Calm over Westeros)
2x Ser Ilyn Payne (True Steel)
1x Mance Rayder (Wolves of the North)

Locations
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
2x Western Fiefdom (Core Set)

Attachments
3x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
1x Widow’s Wail (Core Set)

Events
2x Put to the Sword (Core Set)
2x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
3x Treachery (Core Set)
2x Nightmares (Calm over Westeros)

Gone is the none-kneeling synergy of the loyal Drogo and Jaime. Instead, this build leans heavily on the strategy of ‘good red cards’, the absurd economic advantage granted to a player simply by electing to play Lannister as a main House, and a few critical synergies. This economic advantage is most obviously shown by the incredibly high cost curve of this deck, yet the fact that it can happily afford to play PTTS and utilise the ability of Magister Illyrio. In this deck, Illyrio’s stand effect was incredibly strong, when the characters you were standing were of the calibre of Tywin and Tyrion. You could really abuse Mirri here, as not only did you have easily enough economy to play her out, but Tyrion’s gold generation allowed for her to be stood and used twice in one challenges phase, or to ambush in the Hound (or Widow’s Wail). The interaction between Mirri and the Hound is kind of silly, as when his forced reaction triggers upon winning a challenge in which Mirri is also participating, he returns to hand, leaving Mirri’s ‘attacking alone’ requirement to fire in the C phase of DUCK. You could even do really silly things with Illyrio like stand Ilyn Payne in marshalling with all that spare Lannister gold to incredibly pressure your opponent’s board state. This was an exceptionally aggressive deck with a horrific amount of kill potential, and a fine line in Renown, if (somehow) the attrition and targeted kill game fell through. The deck hasn’t appeared to have survived the introduction of Valar Morghulis into the game due to its high cost curve, or perhaps people are just sick of playing it. Either way, this deck was metagame-defining, one of the titans of the first two cycles and first year or so of the game. Targaryen was still highly competitive, but main House decks were just less efficient than playing aggressive, heavy kill effects out of Lannister.

Missing Pieces:

We’ve basically had to wait a cycle, but the Bloodrider module is complete:

Regardless of the individual cards themselves, this set is a little odd. For a start, since Aggo was released in Wolves of the North, he is an evergreen card, whilst Rakharo and Jhogo (or at least, these incarnations) will rotate. Secondly, Jhogo is loyal, which means that you probably aren’t very likely to use them in a banner, since you can’t export the full package. These cards aren’t massively exciting. They’re decent enough characters, they probably aren’t impactful enough that you want to use them as 3x in a deck, unless you REALLY love the bloodrider theme. Aggo is probably the best of them, as he synergises heavily with Targaryen-Summer decks to get the most out of the strong economy of summer plots, or the Summer Harvest-Beggar King synergy. His free conditional stand is generally excellent, and gives Targaryen a plethora of ways to make Baratheon players sad, along with the stand from Illyrio and Daenerys (with Rhaegal). In this case, potentially getting to abuse Rakharo’s intimidate in two different challenges is very appealing. It’s important to note that Aggo can use this benefit himself, which makes him the best of the three in isolation, which is good when resets will often break up these three musketeers. For Family Honour helped this with the release of a ‘vanilla’ bloodrider to turn on the others and give them a strength boost, as well as a consistency card to support the module. Blood of my Blood is quite expensive, but as a tutor it puts the card into play for a round, and the character is only returned to hand rather than discarded like some of the Lannister jumper events, so this card doesn’t seem horrific. Best use probably to find Aggo using spare gold from a summer plot in order to get use out of his ability. It’s hard to slate tutoring, even if it’s a little inefficient.

The Bloodriders all have the Dothraki trait, and thus fit into that nascent module too. Crone of Vaes Dothrak is inherently pretty janky, and not very good value as two gold for a single Strength 2 Intrigue, especially compared to the potential utility and icon spread of options such as Handmaiden. On the other hand, Dothraki Outriders is more intriguing. As ever, the pillage effect probably isn’t worth worrying about, though with the Crone you can achieve a weak Gregoresque effect, which is not nothing. It’s the potential efficiency of dropping this card with a significant cost reduction that interests me. To do so, you need a good number of Dothraki in your deck and in play, and that is far more difficult since the release of Valar, when boards are more temporary and often artificially smaller as people are playing around the reset and holding characters back. You probably want low cost Dothraki to be released that do more for you than Crone and Braided Warrior though. Braided warrior is a good cost-to-strength ratio, but with its single icon, has seemed to get squeezed from decks of late. The required set up to get Outriders to feel efficient is quite high, and they will often stick in your hand when you would prefer them to be almost anything else. They compare quite unfavourably to King Robb’s Host, a card that was badly misjudged by the community and has found a place in certain strong decks. Granted, this deck shape probably doesn’t survive post-Valar release, but the strong power transfer effect and ability to dupe the host make it currently a much better card than the Outriders, especially if you have the economy to support it. Whichever way you look at it, the Dothraki trait doesn’t seem particularly worth worrying about with regards to deckbuilding at the moment.

House Targaryen’s affinity for attachments was made clear early on in 2.0, with Viserys in the core set, and the release of Merchant Prince and Vaes Dothrak in Taking the Black. Other enabling cards released since have included Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos:

Pieces are coming together to enable a heavy attachment-based strategy, how strong this strategy becomes is yet to be seen. I’m unsure if Merchant Prince, even if you can get an attachment on it, is a strong enough card to build a deck around. The best attachment to put on it is Noble Lineage. In this case the closest comparator seems to be Shadow Tower Mason, which is an exceptionally strong card, but with a different attachment, you aren’t getting the Power icon on the Merchant Prince. The Mason is incidentally powered up by cards you want in your deck to compliment your main strategy, which is what makes it so good, and at 2 cost, isn’t bad for the price even when a monocon. The vulnerability with Merchant Prince to First Snow could end up with you having to dump a lot of cards to reserve.

Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos both have interesting effects for attachment based decks, on the same body. Pree costs one gold more, for arguably the weaker effect, though of course he synergises with events (so Dracarys) too. I think it’s going to be quite hard to get significant work out of Pree, since the partial tutoring effect is directly correlated to the margin by which you win a challenge, and thus, in most cases, can be at least partially controlled by your opponent. Daxos on the other hand is cheaper, and provides quite a significant economic saving. The difference  here, is while both require attachments (and events in the case of Pree), Daxos is highly specific. He requires unique attachments, the lower cost the better, that you want to put into your deck, but you aren’t likely to be marshalling multiples of the same unique attachment. There are some decent unique attachments in the game, for example Seal of the Hand, and obviously in Targaryen a functional cost reduction on Crown of Gold, or getting money back from The Beggar King is great, but this leads us to the current problem with the attachment theme: the quality of the Targaryen attachments is somewhat dubious. With the exception of Pot of Gold, the rest of them are pretty tough to justify including in large numbers in a deck. Of course, as the card pool expands, who’s to say there won’t be a gamebreakingly good unique attachment that synergises with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, or simply a threshold number of playable unique attachments to get good work out of his ability? In an ideal world, you’d like to use Daxos to repeatedly play Pot of Gold, but thank goodness that there currently isn’t enough consistency to recycle it over and over. If I were to go out on a limb and suggest a card that would justify XXD, it’d be a low cost unique attachment, probably strength reducing without the terminal restriction. This is the kind of card you’d like to see early and often, and would repeatedly marshal to benefit from the ability. Alternatively some sort of cheap unique attachment with a strong ‘when marshalled’ ability that you could return to your hand by letting the character die through military claim, or through some jank like Weapons at the Door. It’d have to be AMAZING to run that plot though. Of course, when a deck exists that wants to run lots of attachments (or a card exists facilitating attachment recycling back to hand), Vaes Dothrak becomes a perfectly viable card for attachment hate, whereas right now, it is heavily outclassed by Viserys.

For a faction based around a key event, there have been some excellent supporting cards released:

Shadowblack Lane is really powerful for Targaryen as a semi-tutor for Dracarys, as well as other powerful events such as Fire and Blood. Street of Steel on the other hand can help dig for the Crown or weapon attachments, and may thus be more useful when Targaryen’s attachment theme is more fleshed out. Both Shadowblack and Street of Steel require faction card kneels, and so are a lot more useful outside a Fealty deck. These cards are further enabled by Isle of Ravens, which can recycle the Dracarys moderately efficiently, or even (bleugghh!) Crown of Gold, as well as Tourney Grounds. Tourney grounds is a solid economy card anyway, if you’re interested in playing a lot of events. It also provides an alternative to the Fealty reduction for Dracarys, allowing you to bluff and threaten from with no gold saved even without the agenda discount, and so works well with the locations requiring a faction kneel. All of these locations are only one gold, and are solid in set up. None of these on their own are game changing, but they’re solid options for a faction that contains specific high-impact cards.

Feel the Burn:

The new cards previewed give a strong incentive to revisit the burn package:

Both of the new Targaryen burn cards look potentially highly effective and are loyal, which is what any House needs to make it more attractive as a choice for primary faction. As a character alone, Grey worm seems extremely efficient. 5 Strength bicon for 6, except he’s functionally Strength 8 when attacking. This ability cannot be switched off with Milk. FFG have been careful to avoid too much easy synergy with Plaza by making sure he hasn’t got a Power icon, and cannot get one through Noble Lineage. His burn effect is very strong at cutting large characters down to size for Dracarys however, and potentially triggering ‘Win by 5’ conditions like PTTS and Relentless Assault. The fact that he has an Intrigue icon grants some good synergy with The Rains of Castamere agenda, and I expect to see people doing some significant testing with that combination when these cards are out. With Astapor as well, there are clearly going to be enough Strength reduction cards that Targaryen players are going to be able to make challenge maths a real headache for opponents. We appear to be seeing ‘burn for control’ rather than more ‘burn for straight kill’ which is probably a good thing for the game. The Str 0 = kill effects currently still only number four:

Obviously these additional strength reduction cards will heavily boost the playability of Blood of the Dragon, as well as combine well with Unsullied and a stood Daenerys. Blood of the Dragon is looking poised to become the auto-include terrifying Targaryen plot your first-edition veteran always warned you about (in the short breaths between moaning about the lack of Valar). Astapor is pretty interesting use of the Bestow mechanic, and I look forward to playing around with it to work out what the optimal gold investment is. Thematically it’s quite amusing that one of the best ways to get this card up to speed is going to be to Trade with the Pentoshi. There are strong rumours of further location hate coming in the upcoming cycle, and within Fall of Astapor itself in the form of ‘Lay Siege’, which appears to punish Contested locations. How much investment to place in Astapor was a difficult decision for Daenerys in the books, and I expect it to be no different for Targaryen players in the game. There’s tension between Grey Worm and Astapor and the third new burn card, Weirwood Bow in that while the Targaryen cards are loyal, and thus benefit from Fealty, the Bow is neutral, requires specific characters to be attached to and thus struggles to fit in Fealty decks. The bow itself looks highly effective, particularly in combination with Plaza, and is an attachment, so partly fits in with that aspect of the House. The one gold cost is fairly low, the bows work in multiples, and are knelt themselves, so can all be placed on a single character if required. The effort required to get this card to work efficiently seems to be pretty much up front at the deck building stage. To use the card you either need to use banner of the Watch, or include a proportion of Wildlings in your deck (which may increase the utility of the non-constricting  agendas like Rains over Fealty). The current quality of the Wildlings in the game is alright, and they look to be gaining a big boost from the Night’s Watch big box. It’s worth noting with the mid-cycle releases of Thrones big boxes, these packs may well end up releasing at very similar times. Banner of the Watch got a lot more exciting with the release of the bonkers good Qorin Halfhand, who already has some synergy with Illyrio’s stand effect and Drogo’s extra military challenge, as well as the Strength reducing effects present within Targaryen.

So, whilst Targaryen has not received the best of new cards across the first two cycles, this set of spoilers has me excited to build decks for the faction again. The fact that these new cards are loyal, puts them in a far better spot as a main faction than Greyjoy, though they’re almost certainly weaker as a Dragon banner than Banner of the Kraken. There are going to be some tough decisions to be made by players as to which agenda to run with Targaryen, with Fealty, Rains, Crossing and Summer all looking like potentially viable options. Daenerys’ strength is growing, and the Lords and Ladies of the Great Houses of Westeros should beware.

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One thought on “Burning Sensation

  1. Good Article. As a player with no highly defined faction loyalty who just likes to deck craft and mess with combos I’ve largely left Targ behind this cycle (other than a brief foray into a Targ/Wolf murder deck with Roose using buff/debuff effects to make his kill better/push it through). That said, these upcoming cards bringing new burn effects into the game have me highly tempted to give them another run in the near future. Now just to try to pry those Targ cards away from the super loyal to the Dragon player who always borrows all of my Targ cards each week…

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