Welcome to The FAQ & U. After seeing the latest discussions over the restricted list, it occured to me that we don’t ever get much written content on what’s changed outside of the official article. There is always plenty of talk in the Facebook groups and on podcasts, but I thought I’d try to take a different approach this time round as this is probably one of the most notable set of changes to decks we’ve had so far.
I’m going to go through this article in two parts. The first will be looking at what cards each faction is losing out on with the latest changes. The second will be discussing what each faction can now do with these changes, from picking their own restricted card to how they can react to changes to other common builds. To avoid repeating myself too much, the next line will apply to most factions and I’ll only discuss it further if it’s a notable loss –
X lost Trade Routes.
Now that’s been cleared up, let’s dive in.
So what have they lost?
To everyone’s great shock, Baratheon have managed to keep their cards off the list, so not much to talk about here just yet.
Greyjoy were one of the factions that were basically operating without a restricted list prior to this, and were getting great results so it’s not surprising to see some additions to the list. However, not everyone was agreed on what needed to go, so these changes have had a mixed response. Let’s start with Iron Mines, a staple card since it came out in cycle 1; some people have just put it down to saves being Greyjoy’s ‘thing’. This hitting the list means they will now have to pay an extra cost for that character security. Next we have Raider From Pyke, one of those rare cards that did nothing until it did everything. By not including Pinch of Powder on the list as well, FFG have pretty much suggested they consider this interaction not game breaking, but strong enough that you have to take up your restricted slot. Finally I have to mention Trade Routes, as Greyjoy are one of the factions that could abuse this plot pretty easily with their great selection of 0-cost non-limited locations to pad out the gold. Not being able to play both this and Iron Mines for the easy synergy mean that picking this plot will be a more active choice rather than just an auto include.
While Lannister didn’t get any cards put on the restricted list (or removed #FreeMeRoar), it’s not really a great thing for them either as its hit some of the banner options that were helping them just about get by. The restricted of choice seems to be Flea Bottom due to its synergy with Gold Mines, and I think most Lanni builds won’t want to drop that for the alternatives unless they have a solid game plan.
The last FAQ hit Martell pretty hard by breaking up the effectiveness of the Wars build, and this one isn’t much kinder to them. Dorne is one of the best tools for card advantage in the game, so it’s not surprising that it’s been targeted. However the loss of Trade Routes and Ward has affected two of their best builds in Wars and Wolf. The Wars decks liked to make use of the the economy options and card advantage to get Someone Always Tells off or survive ‘til that big Doran’s Game, while Wolf used Dorne to find those nasty cards to feed to Flea Bottom or to steal their opponents’ cards. Splitting up these options will be a welcome sight for some but will send most Martell players back to the drawing board.
As a faction that really likes their locations, the loss of Trade Routes is notable but I expect many to find a way to work around it easily. Wolf variations of recruitment decks are also having to make a choice between Ward, Flea Bottom and Breaking Ties now, which we will discuss more in the next part.
Stark players are going to have to think a little more now before they throw 3x Wyman in their deck with this latest FAQ. This restriction has been expected for a long time – with his amazing synergy with Flea Bottom and Stark’s love of sacrifice triggers, he was able to single-handedly fuel a lot of the tricks that helped push Stark back up the power rankings.
Alongside Wyman, we have a very different and older card In Ward. Already mentioned above, this card has always been a solid option for Stark but has not been as key to their game plan as it has to some other factions’ Banner Wolf decks. With this, I don’t expect it to be the choice for the majority of builds, but it could still have a place in those decks trying to play more aggressively.
Now for the ones we were all expecting. Hizdahr and Meereen have been running rampant for a while now, and have been a huge factor in the upswing of Targ since mid-last year with their ability to provide quick card draw and economy with minimal downside when together or with Flea Bottom. Limiting players to only one of these options should help to tone them down a bit and start to make discarding cards a bit of a tougher choice.
Having taken the hits in the last FAQ, Tyrell players have nothing to really worry about this time round. The Summer builds will be sad to lose out on Trade Routes, but with the easy access to economy already available, it should be an easy change.
While there’s not much adjustment for Baratheon to have to make beyond choosing between whether to run Wars or Trade Routes, this list will start helping them get back on track now some of their biggest threats have been reduced. Ward threatened some of their best characters and, with that likely dropping off, Penrose and Davos can start appearing again. Not being able to just cycle characters with Wyman and Flea Bottom allows kneel to do a bit more in the Stark matchup. Targaryen will be losing some of their easy ways to flood the board and, if Meereen proves to be more popular than Hizdahr, then King tech might start to make its way back in. Greyjoy will still remain tough but you can be more confident that you aren’t going to get buried in powder.
The expected choice for most Greyjoy decks is going to be Iron Mines in a meta where aggro is proving dominant. However there are still some valid reasons to use either Trade Routes or Raiders. In warship builds, your location base fills up really quickly and is spread pretty wide, so the quick econ grab of Trade Routes can be a nice bonus if you don’t want to try to force in those Mines. Raiders and Pinch of Powder has proven itself even if it has fallen off a bit recently while everyone’s playing with the fancy new options. If you can force people to have to put more defense into intrigue and power challenges when they are prepping for military, it might throw off their game plan.
Overall I think the main card that has been lost with the new restriction is Wars. It was still being used in the GoodStuff builds, and provided the benefit of double Forced March. But I think most people will now consider it to not be worth losing out on the other options, and it will be moved away from.
In all seriousness, I don’t think the changes have really opened up many new avenues for Lanni, just taken some away. Jumper decks have the potential to bypass a lot of the stealth issues to deal with Sea of Blood, but there’s always a risk relying on a big location like Harrenhal if Greyjoy are prominent. There could be good ways to utilise the Sun banner as well to hand strip with one of the many versions of Cersei, or using Supporting the Faith and Brothel Madame to try and lock down the challenges phase. But the problem is these tend to be measures to not lose rather than win, and I think we need to see something better in Lannister’s future for them to consistently compete.
While I may have been fairly negative above about how hard this hits Martell, the deck-builders in this faction are a resilient bunch and I am sure they will have something equally mean ready for us in no time. But for the rest of us, what could we expect? Flea Bottom is what I expect to be the restricted of choice for a lot of Martell players, with Dorne as a close second and Wars dropping off in popularity. It’ll largely come down to the goal of the deck, whether you want to make the most of those enter play effects or just gain card advantage when possible.
A possibility for Flea Bottom builds that has been floating around for quite a while and might start properly kicking off is Assault from the Shadows builds utilising The Shadow City for draw. The downside for this is that shadows builds always seem to be a fan of Trade Routes, so you’ll have to utilise plots such as Marching Orders to get that much loved burst of gold.
Banner Wolf decks will suffer from losing two of Ward, Dorne and Flea Bottom. Even without Ward, the Wolf banner still does offer many strong attritional pieces – Arya Stark (TFM), Bolton Flayer, Ramsay Bolton – so it might be that the deck needs to focus on finding alternate draw and otherwise keep the same gameplan. Only, you know, a bit worse.
Defensive Night’s Watch decks continue to remain in an odd place in the meta, where they have some of the best tools deal with the big threats but can the most vulnerable if it goes wrong. Core characters like Aemon and Benjen may be key, with the ability to soak military pressure or benefit from it, and reduce the impact of stealth on strong bodies. This can also apply to more Ranger focused decks as well, where you can put the pressure on quickly while reducing the impact of the swing back, and remove the reliance of locations that can be stolen from you.
Moving onto recruitment decks, I expect the agenda choice will be largely linked to what restricted card is of interest to the player. Those wanting to use Flea Bottom will most likely stick to mono faction options, focusing on getting The Wall and Queenscrown repeating as many times as possible with Veteran Builders to take cards from you that you haven’t managed to get into play yet. Banner Wolf decks will have a much larger interest in Ward as it was one of the big reasons for taking it in the first place, and using other nasty tools such as Ramsay aim at reducing what you have on the board then taking it away. Breaking Ties is also a powerful option that I would expect to see in mono faction as well, but will take a little longer to be apparent if its a threat.
For Stark, I expect the choice to largely be between Wyman and Flea Bottom, with Ward maybe finding its way into more aggressive options such as Sea of Blood. Even without Flea Bottom to recur characters, there is still a lot of value to be gained in the immediate sacrifice and draw Wyman provides, so he is still a very good option for most decks. The main difference will now be that you have to be a little more careful on how your board is holding up if you want to bounce Meera around repeatedly.
If you are more interested in using Flea Bottom however, there’s still plenty of sacrifice options within some of the latest plots and Starks other cards. Heir to the Iron Throne has become a staple card in most Stark decks since its release, and Return to the Fields is increasing in popularity as well. Both provide the sacrifice triggers you need for Robb or Fat Cat, and you can still bring the characters back with Flea Bottom rather than lose the board position. Recurring Bran (and currently Rickon) is a very useful thing in most meta’s that could be worth it on its own.
Even with the updates, Targaryen still have a great set of cards to make use of and the restricted options provide them with some different ways to achieve their goals.
Hizdahr will be a good option for any decks looking to get bodies on the table quick such as Crossing, or make use of his ability to reduce costs in Shadows. Without the ability to replay the lower cost bodies with Flea Bottom, decks with him may move more consistently towards including Freedmen (and of course Missandei) to not feel like they are losing out. There is always still plenty of value in the King trait, but Beggar King is a good alternative if the trait is all you are after.
Flea Bottom will likely be a very popular choice due to how strong Targaryen cheaper characters like Second Sons are, and may be a key part of a shift back towards more burn heavy builds like we saw at Thrones WAR recently. With plenty of discard effects still available, keeping Flea Bottom shouldn’t change your existing deck structures too much.
Meereen is still a very strong card but may be the least popular of the three options if there are less ways to make use of the cards you can’t use. Shadows decks can still work around it by putting the cards into shadows if they can’t play them, but it might not be worth the cost of protecting it.
There was an extra bit of info alongside the restricted list in this FAQ that works very well in Tyrell’s favour, in that they can now dupe the Arbor! (And Redwyne Straits.) Tyrell always had a pretty solid matchup versus Greyjoy in the past, but one of its main risks was having the econ investment wasted if you couldn’t protect it. Being able to dupe these key economy cards and still play another limited card that round will allow Tyrell to set up Political Disaster quicker in some matchups, and protect their investment from Put to the Torch and We Do Not Sow in others. There are still other issues such as Vince that can cause them problems, but I think some builds from recent months like Wars, Shadows or Summer will have a better time in the coming meta.
In response to restrictions in other factions, a few things have opened up. Like Baratheon, they can look to start using that King tech they leveraged so well in the past again, and be a little more confident in Renly’s ability to survive a Valar. 4g Knight of Flowers is also safer from the Wards that hunted him down before, which is good when events are being filled out more and you can get an benefit from playing Hand’s Judgement. In addition to the reasons above, Political disaster is also gaining more value if you can hit econ without having to worry as much about whether they play trade routes before you can comfortably set it up.