Dance of Shadows, Cycle 5 Martell Cards
Reasons to be Cheerful…
Hi, I’m Martin from the UK Meta, known by some as Reader online. I’ve been asked to offer my opinion on the cycle five cards of my preferred faction. I thank Richard for this opportunity, as it is an honour, and an absolute pleasure to guide you through the Dance of Shadows cards that came to us… dripping with deadly poison!
Firstly, I will take this opportunity to congratulate Lennart Paga on becoming the 2018 AGOT World Champion with our beloved faction. As a result, Martell players are now looking forward to the release of some lovely full bleed orange cards to add some extra zest to the board state… should we choose to construct one of course. Lennart has kindly taken time out from designing his game breaking Champ card, to be one of my guests in this Dance of Shadows cycle review. Also joining me in this reflection will be Istvan Cserdi, and Aaron Glazer of the Second Sons.
Cycle five has introduced some very interesting cards for Martell, featuring designs that are very unique within the game. These unique designs have led to some powerful combinations that promise to allow Martell to wield some dangerous weapons in the wars to come. The cycle has focused on developing the Shadows theme for all eight factions, finally releasing the Assault from the Shadows agenda in pack six. While I feel that Martell are not the strongest house to run Assault at this time, with six of the twelve cards featuring the Shadows keyword, we certainly have the support for some interesting new builds.
Martell have also had some great non faction support in cycle five, cards such as Bolton Flayer and even Skagos have added extra bite to Martell’s most successful and most feared build: Martell Wolf. Aegon Targaryen has been one of the most impactful and most widely used characters from the Dance of Shadows. You can’t ignore the strength of Aegon’s ability to fetch a Starfall Cavalry to draw three cards, or to just to fetch a humongus Host of the Boneway. Although, his ability in any Targaryen or Dragon banner to fetch Daario Naharis has all but seen off one of my favourite ally cards… the Spearmaiden. Running Spearmaiden now, can result in suicide. Banner Dragon is a great shout for Martell, with Aegon, Second Sons, and King Hizdahr… I think we can have some fun with our Targaryen friends. With new Shadow cards like Catspaw and Ser Robert Stronk, plus the ‘return to shadows’ event Clever Faint, banner Lion offers some great new support for Attrition, while banner Kraken offers support for hand destruction with Nighttime Marauders.
Also supporting our attrition and shadow archetypes, are neutral cards such as King’s Landing, Poison Coin, A Pinch of Powder, “On a Misty Morn” and the new Varys. Varys will offer more support once the Desert Raider card is with us.
I will say it now and get it over with… the cycle did not offer us anything quite as good as a Victarion Greyjoy, a Cersei Lannister, a Jon Snow, or a Drogon… all big powerful loyal uniques that should see complete playsets included. However, we did get our deluxe box prior to the start of the cycle, although our Bigs from the SoD box have struggled to hold down regular places in our competitive joust decks, and the RL update mid cycle altered many of the play styles and builds that Martell players had been successfully testing for upcoming events such as Thronestoberfest, Worlds and Stahleck. But if we look at the Orange cards in a vacuum, I think we have reasons to be cheerful…
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 1 – Summer Sea Ports
Summer Sea Ports have been wonderful for Martell decks, allowing us to hold onto more cards and effectively run low reserve plots such as Marched to the Wall, Forced March, Retaliation, You Win or You Die and Valar Morghulis. In Attrition builds these impactful plots can easily take up 5-6 slots in your plot deck. The reserve boost is crucial to the game plan, as we are always thinking about the next plot, planning ahead… you know… our long plan 😉
With the Ports, we have the chance to enlarge our armoury. We can draw more tricks with Dorne, Secret Schemes and SoD Nymeria. Not having to discard them due to the low reserve on our impact plots is a huge boost that cycle five’s non limited economy has given us. The Ports also offer your other non limited locations some protection from Nothing Burns like the Cold, and unlike B.O.G.s and Dornish Fiefdoms, Ports are not affected by The King in the North. However, like all non limited economy locations, Ports can be targeted by FroSo, Newly Made Lords and Jade Sea Dromonds.
I’ll be awarding 7 out of 10 Lemon Cakes to Summer Sea Port. It’s probably the only orange card from the cycle that will feature as a x3 in a wide variety of Martell decks.
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 2 – Ser Archibald Yronwood
“I am always prepared to fight”
I opened my Streets of King’s Landing chapter pack in the usual way… ripping off the inner plastic and skipping straight to the first wonderful flash of orange. It was a long while before I actually shifted my focus onto the text of the card I was looking at. This due to the incredible all action Archie illustration by Antonio José Manzanedo. This dude looks like he could put a rather large dent in anyone’s half helm. He’s always prepared to fight… so be prepared to die!
I really love this card, as do many of the stalwart Martell players I regularly talk to and test with. Our big hammer swinging knight immediately slots into any Martell deck, at x1 or x2, and joins forces with SoD Nymeria: the nine gold duo who can draw, force your opponent to discard, and grab an extra kill, all for the price of losing Dominance.
Being able to set Archie up in Shadows is great. In an attrition build you can bring him out at just the right time… to cause some serious unexpected damage. Picture the following: Interrupt your opponents military claim with Vengeance, then bring Archie out of the shadows to strike back with your own military challenge, before ambushing in a Venomous Blade for extra kill. Combo with SoD Nymeria for hand and board destruction upon losing Dominance, setting up one of the games best plots… Marched to the Wall. It can be very tasty!
The Archie/Nymeria combo is even sweeter if you manage to combine the losing of Dominance with the neutral song event “The Song of the Seven”. If only we had a half decent unique Martell Seven Character… Bogging Brether will have to do. If Martell get some support for running The Faith Militant agenda in cycle six, we could have a very strong and competitive control deck that doesn’t run W2C or banner to another house.
I’ll be awarding 7 out of 10 Lemon Cakes to Ser Archibald Yronwood. He may be a mono-con, but at 5 STR, with two keywords: Shadow & No attachments except Weapon, a trigger that supports attrition and combo’s with Nym’s reaction… he can be a very effective x1 in most Martell decks.
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3 – Ser Gerris Drinkwater
Gerris is not a card that I can slot in every deck and even when he’s in there, he’s never a x3. But I’m gonna say this… he is my favourite card from the cycle. He can be a tempo hit, but Martell are patient and his ‘out of Shadows’ reaction is so unique and powerful that I always want to include him. All those incredibly impactful plots that you are limited to including just once… Gerris breaks the rules and effectively allows you to run double Valar Morghulis, or double First Snow (there are many other great options of course). Bring him out of the shadows on your Long Plan flip, react with him to put Valar Morghulis back into your plot deck, then TIBWHID (Ryan Bank) Gerris back to hand to add another six gold to your coffers for your second Valar Morghulis flip. Damn!… you could even put him back into shadows for a third, and probably unnecessary, Valar Morghulis… for the melee banter of course. The double First Snow is pretty good too, especially if you time it for your opponents You Win or You die.
We also need to mention the artwork. With two Martell cards in cycle five and another four cards to his name in the new Greyjoy deluxe box, Italian illustrator Paolo Puggioni is one of AGOT’s best regular artists. I’m always happy to see new cards featuring the talent of Paolo, even the green ones like Growing Ambition, which I will never play… and doubt I will ever see played. In this cycle alone Paolo has illustrated characters such as Aegon Targaryen, Ser Justin Massey, Gerris Drinkwater, plus Ser Talbert Serry and The Knight from the GJ box.
I’ll be awarding 8 out of 10 Lemon Cakes to Ser Gerris Drinkwater. Like Archie, Gerris has 5 STR. He also has Renown and an intrigue icon. But to be honest… I just want to flip Valar Morghulis twice within the first four rounds. For that alone… Ser Gerris Drinkwater is my biggest reason to be cheerful from cycle five.
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 4 – Maiden of Poisons
“Can you milk me Focker”
Wonderfully illustrated by Gabrielle Portal, this card is possibly underrated and underused in Martell builds at the moment. I see it being more popular going forward though, especially now that we have Istvan’s Champ card. It took me a while to really appreciate our Maiden of Poisons, but now that we have cards like the Desert Raider and Poisoned Coin to support it, I’m actually quite keen. I love the cards that can reward you for both winning or losing a challenge, and that’s just what our poisoner does.
The Maiden of Poisons has a cost of three gold with a sacrifice effect, making it another recursive Flea Bottom card. Whilst our Maiden shares a similar ‘send back to hand’ effect to our old ally Southron Messenger, it also has two useful traits with it being a Sand Snake and a Bastard. These traits allow the possibilities of our Maiden becoming a Tri-con via icon stealing Nymeria (TRtW), and she can give Power and increase the STR of The Red Viper (SoD). She rewards Oberyn when winning on the attack, and can punish your opponent when you altruistically allow them to win a challenge against you. Lose a challenge and combine her with the new Desert Raider, bringing Istvan out of your dead pile to steal an icon from the victorious attacker, then give the attacker a power token for being so brave, before sacrificing our Maiden to send the reckless victor back to its opponents hand. His Viper Eyes anybody?
Our Maiden also has the Shadow keyword. Through the Shadows she can enter a challenge unexpectedly, meaning you don’t have to telegraph her trigger. At just 1 STR, it’s easier to lose challenges with her, but she’s not bad on the attack either. Use your tricks to win a challenge unopposed, then you can trigger your Poisoned Coin that’s been sat in the Shadows, stewing in Snek Venom.
It’s 6 out of 10 Lemon Cakes for the Maiden of Poisons, but if she hands you one… I highly recommend that you decline the offer.
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 5 – House Manwoody Guard
Errata: No Attachments Except Weapon
Did this go to print too early? I think they left some very important text off this card. Which is a shame, cos I actually think Woody could have been the best Martell card from cycle five. The passive ability of the House Manwoody Guard allows all of your guards to defend challenges whilst remaining stood, as long as you are not the first player. This is a refreshing design and should really enable Martell players to build more constructive decks for competitive play.
I have built and tested a number of decks using a variety of banners to see how I can get the best out of Woody. I found that within a few rounds of board building, I could literally create an impassive wall of non kneeling defenders. Couple this with SoD Hotah’s ability to increase claim on the rebound, and you can stump your opponent like a good old fashioned Night’s Watch Wall deck.
However, you need to build around Woody in order to make his excursion out of the binder worth while. Without the No Attachments/No Attachments Except Weapon keyword, I believe he is too vulnerable in a tournament setting to be a focal piece of any viable competitive build. Sure he is cheap enough to bounce into play with Obara (who you bounced in with Arianne), but as a stand alone character in the four cost slot, Woody falls short of our Palace Spearman, a conditional tri-con, and our Knights of the Sun with their conditional renown. Both of these have Power icons and both have the No Attachments keyword, making them safe from your opponents Ward.
As it stands (pun intended) your guard deck will fall down (pun intended) to Martell’s most competitive build: Martell Wolf, or any build running Ward or Burn. Almost every other guard character across all factions are blessed with the No Attachments keyword: Left, Right, Brazen Beasts, Dothraki Honor Guard, Highgarden Honor Guard, Vanguard of the North, Nymeria’s Guard, Palace Spearmen… why not Woody?
I really like this guy and the unique design of the card, but without the necessary keyword I can only award him 5 out 10 Lemon Cakes. Mind you… he does need to stay in shape. It does look as though we are getting another Guard in the Gates of King’s Landing chapter pack to further support him. From our first glimpse it seems our new Southron Escort lacks the Power icon, but does have the Shadows keyword. I’d love it if his entering play from shadows effect was to choose and discard an attachment. If Ward ever finds itself on the Restricted List, which I hope it doesn’t, then Woody might have a bright future.
Reasons to be Cheerful Part 6 – The Shadow City and Starfall Spy
Through our conversations, I was aware that a fellow Martell player had been vigorously testing and thoroughly enjoying the next two cards. So I invited Aaron Glazer, Second Son and Martell team leader from this year’s Thronestoberfest to share his thoughts with us….
Hi Glazer here. I wanted to talk about two cards that combine to give Martell a new archetype. Shadows is not quite as good as Wars or Wolf yet, but may already slot in as Martell’s third build. So let’s talk about each card individually.
The Shadow City is a strange card, but it fits Martell thematically. In order to draw with it, you need to lose a card. Unless that’s a dead dupe, which for Martell is fairly rare, that means that the draw in Shadow City is suboptimal, especially since it can only happen in the challenge phase, as opposed to both Lannister and Tyrell’s Shadow location which trigger in any phase. That leaves it seemingly underpowered. And underpowered it would be… if Martell didn’t love Flea Bottom so much. In Assault from the Shadows, a Dornish Spy, Maiden of Poisons, Southron Messenger, Shadow City Bastard and especially Starfall Spy, absolutely love Shadow City with Flea Bottom out. We have created a situation where you get the card you want for about two gold cheaper and draw two cards as well. This play works just as well in a Banner Agenda… and Banner Agenda’s are the other place that The Shadow City really shines.
Martell doesn’t really have enough efficient Shadows cards to run a dedicated mono-Shadows deck using The Shadow City without the Assault agenda… but with a Banner, they absolutely do. Shadows are expensive, and in Banners they are especially so. Reducing each card to one gold to put into Shadows, however, changes that math completely while acting as a multiplier to how many cards you can put into Shadows. Being able to consistently shove half a hand into Shadows on the cheap, get draw, utilize Flea Bottom, and have extra cash for control effects is huge. Is Shadow City the best of the Shadows locations? No, but it is a nice accelerant for those decks.
The actual heat of those decks though is the Starfall Spy. Our Spy allows cheap plays of expensive Shadows cards like Moqorro or Robert Strong, Archibald or Gerris. It allows stand tricks when two are in Shadows as they each trade places. They can, for the same cost as Marshalling, but at the cost of a Flea Bottom Trigger, draw you two cards with Shadow City and end the turn safely back in Shadows. Hell, that play pattern alone is enough to take Hotah’s Axe from binder fodder to pretty damn good. Starfall Spy creates new decks by existing and is one of the best Shadow cards in the game. These cards create interesting and strong play patterns. Martell can effectively jump in big guys with Intimidate, Jaqen H’ghar, Varys, or, my absolute favorite, the seven cost loyal Arianne Martell. – Glazer
Thank you to Aaron Glazer for contributing. I am also looking forward to getting more out of both of these cards going forward. They seem to combo so well together with Flea Bottom. I’ll be awarding The Shadow City 7 out of 10 Lemon Cakes and the Starfall Spy 8 out of 10 Lemon Cakes. Zesty! And that is me totally out of Lemon cakes I’m afraid.
Now I’d like to welcome our A Game of Thrones World Champion of 2018; Lennart Paga, to help us take a look at two more cards from cycle five that did not come dripping with deadly poison!
I’m Lennart and I’m here to talk about two non orange cards from cycle five that I feel offer great support for House Martell.
The two cards I picked therefore are the Bolton Flayer and King’s Landing.
This cycle five Stark character is one of my favorite Banner Wolf cards. The Flayer is a solid body with a printed cost of three gold, three strength and two icons. For Setup he counts as a 2-cost or a 3-cost-character depending on your needs.
I normally compare him with Martell’s Venomous Blade, as he has a similar ‘end of phase’ kill effect. With two Flayers and one Blade, I believe you have the best mix; the Blade killing at the end of the marshalling phase and our Bolton Flayer murdering at the end of the challenge phase. If he enters play via Flea Bottom, and is still around after challenges, his text allows him to trigger before he departs. One of the best features of the Bolton Flayer is that characters ‘cannot be saved’ from his kill ability. He can of course backfire, but normally you are already ahead when this happens.
Bolton Flayer ability is a Forced Reaction, so will still trigger during your opponent’s King in the North flip, and you only need to pay once for his ability. He is just lovely to prepare your Marched to the Wall or your Valar Dohaeris.
His Shadow keyword allows him to shine even on your Valar Morghulis round. Popping him into Shadows is also great when you are flipping “You Win or You Die” with some spare money and your opponent is playing resets in his deck (or you have to reset next round). Against Stark or other Banner Wolf decks his Shadow keyword helps a lot, as an opponent’s Ward on him can be a huge problem for a Martell deck.
What else do you want? If there is a card with a white Banner on it next to your orange faction card, just play this guy! His design already feels like it should be an orange card.
This is a more interesting card than the Flayer, as it should have a huge influence of your deck building.
Let’s first talk about the most obvious King’s Landing recursion targets for your Martell deck:
A brilliant location to stop rush-decks, voltron-decks ,or to buy another round before Euron can start to steal some locations. King’s Landing is a huge tempo hit for every deck, but Ghaston Grey might be an option to fix this problem.
Or as I call him: the little brother of Ghaston Grey. This card needs a little bit more support from your deck, but as it discards the character rather than sending it back to hand, that seems fair enough.
Jade Sea Dromond
A lovely card for Martell in my opinion, because of the flexibility it brings. Use it to get rid of your opponents Flea Bottom/Meereen/Skagos/Astapor/Great Kraken etc… which is often really important for a control/reset deck. Use it to get rid of your own Flea Bottom when an opponent attaches a Frozen Solid to it, or just use it as economy. Note that this is already a slow card and it’s definitely not getting faster with King’s Landing.
King’s Landing is a very flexible card, you can draw cards, if you have some spare duplicates, you can do some combo-stuff like above, and you can use it to recover from a Political Disaster.
The problem is, it is very slow and vulnerable, so you definitely need to be able to fix this with your build. To be honest this card is normally too slow in my opinion. It is often weak in the beginning and strong in the end-game. I wouldn’t play more than one or two copies of it for this reason, even if I really like the card design.
Unfortunately the days of King’s Landing might be already over with the Greyjoy’s taking Westeros, but maybe we will see it again someday. – Lennart
Thank you Lennart for taking a detailed look at these two cards. In terms of cycle five neutral support for Martell, I really like Poison Coin and “On a Misty Morn”. A Pinch of Powder can also be good, but we are not usually attacking in great strength, not unless we are looking to play Doran’s Game.
My last guest is here to to take a quick look at his Martell Champ Card from the King of the Isles deluxe, and to give you some background on the creation of the card that was originally released in version 1.0 of the game. Welcome Istvan Cserdi, the designer of Martell’s latest character, the Desert Raider…
Hi there. In 2012, I was travelling back from Stahleck with my old friend “Niko” Miklos. We were brainstorming about options for the card design I had won for my victory in the melee tournament. Niko, who was such an original Martell fan, that at that time his Facebook and basically every profile picture was of CCG Red Viper, told me that every house had its ‘infinite’ card except Martell, and that Martell had no existing Champ card either. So this part was figured out fast.
I remember my first game with the Trident Reinforcements Tully card from 1st Edition. It felt so strong to have a character reincarnating out from your dead pile. The recursion idea was perfect, and the rest was easy: a classic Martell ‘when you lose a challenge’ trigger, classic icon stealing ability, and a cheap enough non unique character to be worth playing multiple copies of.
My Desert Raider card came out around 2014. The cost and ability being no different to the 2.0 version, except that it had the Ally trait. I had a lot of fun playing with it, however all the Ally hate in 1.0 made it a difficult choice to include. Therefore I usually included just the one… two max. Now that the Ally trait has been replaced with the Raider trait (usually reserved for Greyjoy cards), I am looking forward to trying out the new version. I am yet to try it out, but I hope you enjoy the experience of discovering how Desert Raider interacts with all the ‘lose’ triggers and with other non Martell cards. I can imagine the Raider being perfect in a Greyjoy build, with Vince making a perfect pair. They can be used for some good old passive power gain madness with the right cards on the table. Winning challenges is overrated guys! – Istvan
Thank you Istvan. Some of my own top tips for supporting the Desert Raider include cycle fives Maiden of Poisons and Varys (DitD), plus Karhold from the the Greyjoy box.
Now let’s take a brief look at the rest of the Martell cards from the Dance of Shadows cycle…
He Calls it Stinking
It took me a while to work out what was going on in this picture… is she slapping Doran?!!!, is she slashing him with a knife?!!!… oh… she’s just pointing out the door with her hand on her hip…. nagging away at the poor old man. Leave him alone Arianne, he has a hard enough time getting out of the binder.
This card can be great if your opponent isn’t playing around it. But with so much gold in the game I’ve found ‘Stinking’ to be a dead card in my hand more oft than not. It is most reliable, and particularly good in the plot phase when you or your Greyjoy opponent flip Valar Morghulis. But after testing our cancel event in a few different builds, I think my preference is to run Nightmares; a card you always get value out of. He Calls it Stinking would fit nicely into a choke build, maybe with the Kings of Winter agenda. If you didn’t need gold for your Flea Bottom, you could make good use out of Supporting the Faith… you still have challenge phase econ with The Water Gardens after all.
Something about Essos/Around Essos in 80 Days
Yep… its a card… definitely a card… its orange too… and I like it… I truly do… mainly (or only) because it’s our boy Paolo illustrating again. This one featuring a depiction of the Suicide Squad… kinda, the Lost Boys… maybe, The Three Stooges… probably!
I always look forward to seeing this card in my storage box. Honestly I do. I stop for a moment to admire the artwork before moving on to get back to the business of building a deck… with good cards.
Suicide Squad is actually quite accurate when I consider my own usage of this card. The only two times that I’ve ran Martell’s underwhelming cycle five Shadow event was online, where I managed to mill myself both times… proper Stooge play. Although, I hear that it saw one day of glory at this years FFG World Championships, before its creators correctly saw fit to place it upon the Melee restricted list… lol. At least the combo was with a card that contained the word ‘Dornishman’. This card certainly isn’t getting any Lemon Cakes today.
Serve. Obey. Protect.
This is not a card I have seen played by any Martell player in real life or even online. You have to lose a challenge as the defending player in order to trigger it, but it does have the ability to remove negative attachments from your valuable Martell characters by bringing them back to hand. It can also allow you to return Nymeria (TRtW) back to hand, replacing her with Arianne, before bouncing her back in with Arianne to trigger her again.
S.O.P. also has the ability to bring back your low cost characters with potent ‘when enters play’ effects. It can also be useful for setting up your next reset. It’s by no means a bad card, I can see its use and I quite like it. But finding the space to run it seems quite tough, especially when you can just run The Iron Bank Will Have its Due, with the added bonus of gaining gold for further Ambush or to add to your coffers with The Long Plan. Maybe you run this event over TIBWHID if you don’t want another faction kneel other than Secret Schemes, Doran (SoD) or even Fealty.
Blood of the Viper
Very nice art from Drazenka Kimpel featuring Tyene, Obara and Nymeria, even if it does resemble a scene from a Disney fairytale.
Blood of the Viper is an attachment with the Ambush keyword that allows you to stand a participating Sandsnake character after losing a challenge. It’s an ok Stand effect, slowing down your opponents power gain from Unopposed bonuses I guess, but I’m struggling to see what attachment cards I would drop in order to fit this into any of my current Martell builds. It just doesn’t seem strong enough.
Seriously… do I have to. We have too many decent icon removal cards for this dude to even be considered. The art is uninspiring, the text is uninspiring. We have a much better Maester with the same stats in Maester of Sunspear. However, on the plus side, with Loreza on the board, this guy draws you a card when you kill him… possibly with your own venomous blade. Maybe if the new Wall becomes more of a threat, I run these just to giggle at my opponent as I hand them over. Seriously though… he’s not even worth Ward or Burn bait!!!
Quick thoughts on Cycle Six
Believe it or not, I don’t always want to build my Martell deck with attrition in mind. So in cycle six I would personally like to see some support for building a competitive board presence with characters. We came close in cycle five with House Manwoody Guard, but without the No attachments except Weapon keyword, he is just too vulnerable to build around. I’m sure many of you will have very different opinions on the cards discussed, and I’d be happy to read and discuss these, if you would like to comment.
Thank you for persevering with me and reaching the end of this look at the Martell cycle five cards. Thank you to Richard for allowing me the chance to waffle on about my favourite faction, and thank you to my three guests; Lennart, Glazer and Istvan for their contributions.
Oh… I lied about the Lemon Cakes… I was saving one just for you xOx