Those of you that checked into my previous reviews will have noticed a certain amount of pessimism about the future of this once great House. At least two full cycles have been spent paying penance for the first year of the game, when Lannister was the faction of choice for any tournament going try hard (how do you think I was first drawn to them…?)
Coming into this cycle as one of the bottom tier factions, it has been truly refreshing to look over the cards in the Dance of Shadows cycle. There is a lot more promise in the cards below than we’ve had for a
while. If the Shadows theme can receive some more support in the coming King’s Landing cycle, then the Lions could quite well find themselves back on top of the food chain.
On that note, let’s begin by looking at the Shadows cards that we got this cycle, and what better place to start than with the beautiful giant that is Ser Bobby Stronk.
Strong is a threat that must always be considered; even if he’s not in shadows your opponents will be playing around him. If he’s already shown his face and then returns by some Clever Feint, then the opponent’s fear will only grow stronger.
This is one of the key facets of the shadows deck – creating uncertainty and threat of activation in order to force your opponent into mistakes. They may be expecting a Robert Strong so opt to use a smaller character (or for that matter, a bigger one) only to have them bounced by a Catspaw.
You may even have a free strength boost in the form of Underhanded Methods, or unexpected stealth from Penny, to mess up their challenge maths.
Of course you will need to stockpile gold to create these threats, and that is the real downside of this deck – it is just too expensive. Nearly every card is there to give you tempo, but you cannot maintain that
tempo without 6+ gold every turn in challenges. This makes finding Bowels of Casterly Rock an absolute necessity.
This card is so good, I decided to play it out of Lanni HRD at Stahleck (although it turns out not teching for Frozen Solid will shut you down completely, who knew?) Assuming you can keep your Bowels active – eat your fibre kids! – you are getting 4-6 gold each round in the early game, and refilling your hand with draw in the late game, by which point 2x Trade Routes should ease your financial fears.
Of course, this deck does not only seek to control the board, it can also control your opponent’s hand with the other centrepiece of the deck – Cersei Lannister. This is a card I was very excited about coming into this cycle, however she could still use a little more support. The shadows options in Lannister currently are either too expensive to recur (Bobby Strong, Catspaw) or too low impact to want to recur (Penny, Underhanded Methods). When she goes off, she really goes off, and I can honestly say that playing a Shadows deck centred around this Cersei is some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing this game. Between Cersei, Strong and Catspaw you can create a lock on the game which it can be very hard for an
opponent to escape from. But be aware that this deck is slow, so don’t expect to get there within 55 minutes.
Somewhat overlooked this cycle we also received a couple of pieces for the Lannister Seven deck. The first, Tithe Collector, is a rather niche card that is unlikely to find a home in many decks. At first I was
trying a Bara Lion that use Fiefdoms to shift the power off of him, along with a general passive power engine in the Chair and Table.
It didn’t work.
So what other use do we have for this guy? The power’s not likely to hang around for long, making him unreliable as a power engine not to mention expensive in the first place.
It wasn’t until I saw Vince Tee’s Faith Militant deck (https://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/12053/lanni-
faith-militant-5-3-stahleck-2018-1.0) that I truly saw the Collector shine, combined with none other than Walk of Atonement.
The premise is simple, use the Tithe Collector’s ability, along with Poor Fellows and the Agenda, to stack power on your characters. Then use Walk of Atonement to bin it all before going into a reset. Whereas Walk… may initially look bad because you are giving up your win condition, in this deck those characters didn’t stand much of a chance of sticking to the board anyway, which allows you to
turn the power into an alternative win condition. I am not sure if this deck has been perfected yet, and it could be another that will benefit from more support next cycle. I certainly think you should certainly keep an eye on it.
This is that part of the review where I usually mock Clansmen, though with Sea of Blood they may actually be good now. Painty Dags has helped the deck too – getting an extra stand on your Timett or a
beefed up Chella can be huge. Remember that the ambush part isn’t necessary; you can also use the effect after a Harrenhal or Hear Me Roar for maximum value.
A second clansman appeared in Kings of the Isles: Gunthor Son of Gurn. Apart from the ambush and his trait, I don’t really see how this guy fits into the Clansmen theme. What I do see is a very efficient
character and an argument could be made that he should slot into every Lannister deck for the foreseeable future (something something Austere Assembly).
On that subject, this cycle gifted us with what is undoubtedly an auto-include: Beneath the Bri… sorry no, Gold Mine. For me this comes out on top of all of the non-limited econ this cycle. From the Hound and Flea Bottom combo, to King’s Landing shenanigans, to, ya know, just drawing cards cos they’re good innit, Gold Mine is a must have in every deck.
Ah yes, this is the part where we talk about Beneath the Bridge of Dream. I’m really not sure what the idea was with this card. Sure, there’s some fun to be had in Lanni Crossing to shoot for four Heads on Spikes in a row. But the plot phase is the most important aspect of this game, and removing any agency from that simply cannot be to my benefit. I know, I know, you just build a plot deck where any flip is good – but then, how effective could that plot deck really be?
Finally, I’m going to include My Mind Is My Weapon here. I don’t necessarily think it is jank, but I can honestly say it is not a card that I have figured out yet. My previous review of Ser Pounce has left me a
little more cautious about panning cards completely – by the end of the Store Champs season, I’m sure we’ll have a new deck from Nimer or Hanno showing us what it’s capable of.
That wraps up what has been an interesting and most importantly fun cycle for Lannister, which I haven’t been able to say for a while. The designers are showing some love to the red cards again and with another cycle of Shadows to come, the future is looking very promising indeed.
– Joel Pearson