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A Rant of Epic Proportions

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#1
WWDrakey

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A Rant of Epic Proportions

I used to love this game. Honestly, I did.

That love for the game managed to pull me through the degenerate 6-Agenda environment where decks were draw-capping with Val to flood the game with 9 STR armies at 1 gold a pop. It helped me through the times when chain-laden Maester Bob ran rampant, when Search and Detain was in every deck, Stark and Greyjoy games began with the obligatory coin flip due to the Fury-mirror, the period when every deck I faced was 85 cards etc.

It carried me through all that, but somehow this last Cycle has finally managed to do the one thing that could never be done before... break my heart. The game I fell in love with, is not the same any more. No amount of make believe will make it so, and the only fool here is me, clinging to my old preconceptions of what the game was supposed to be like.

Melodramatic enough? So, what the hell am I talking about?

Here, let me show you... in my own long-winded fashion.

Rush is Dead

The things I love most in cardgames are:
- Synergetical effects and Combos
- Alternative playstyles and victory paths
- Controlled gambits, with both risk and reward

In AGoT terms, I guess that means I'm mostly a Combo/Rush -type of player. I just like constructive Combos instead of Lockdown ones - feel free to engage in the obligatory ridicule. Now, interesting Combo-based decks in AGoT have always been few and far between (with Queen of Thorns being the card that made me become a Baratheon player in the first place). So, that has naturally meant that I've tended to mostly favor Rush decks, or decks having Rush at least as their secondary element.

For Rush to be a viable competitive archetype, it cannot be too fast. Huh? Yeah, you heard me right. This may sound odd at first, but the gist of it is, that nobody likes 1-2 Turn rocket decks, which reduce the whole game into an internal coin toss. Not even most Rush players. No, the real meat of playing Rush is in the 3-4 Turn games, where you're barely surviving on the daggers edge, protecting your key pieces through shrewd choices, timing your plots correctly... either working your way around an Aggro wall of flesh, or dodging Control effects just enough to squeeze out a win before they can lock you down.

Now, that's the place where Rush belongs, and where it has a sensible spot in the competitive Meta. What I'm rambling towards? That place is no more. Gone. Decimated. All that's left are the ashes. Competitive Rush, is dead. Dead and buried.

Oh, thanks to Noble Cause (and Siege to a lesser extent) we still have some extra-random Glass Cannon style Rush decks. Those may be completely fine for winning single games, but they fall into that aforementioned coin-toss category. And what's worse, the moment they become competitively consistent... is the moment they have to be erratad/restricted to hell. Like I said, those things just ain't good for the game.

So, if Rush is dead, who killed her? And why now? While KotHH may be the guy left at the scene, awkwardly holding a knife, it's not really his fault. He was just one of many, and can't really be held responsible. No amount of punishing on him will ever repair the damage.

The real reason lies with card design and Control effect power-creep. Especially the non-interactive point-n'-click kind. The way the game is currently, a Rush player will need to pay 4-5 gold for a character, and spend at least 1-2 other cards (dupes, attachments etc.) to fuel the power-gain... as well as actually push through those challenges. All a Control player will need to do to get rid of all of that is... to play one Shadow Stalker. Rally Cry. Storm the Gates. Melisandre's Favor. Coldhands. Ser Mandon Moore with anything. House Divided. Hatchling's Feast. City of Soldiers. Incinerate.

~ Ohh... the skill required from the Control player! So. Awesome. Almost makes my knees tremble! That paying of 0-4 resources and choosing the target, now that takes true talent!

See, hard removal used to be difficult in AGoT, and for good reason. You usually either had to combine several effects with different restrictions (Burn), or win challenges with a specifically limited set of characters (Stark, Die By the Sword). Now, both of those were interesting and also had a nice amount of interaction. You knew you can play an attachment on a character to stop King's Landing Assassin, Hatchling's Feast and Flame-kissed. Rally Cry has none of that. Neither does Incinerate. You could always make the Stark player have to work for those challenge-victories and protect your characters with saves and other forms of protection. Shadow Stalker just cuts through that. So does new Robb. Easy cancel (The Iron Throne) and Ser Mandon Moore just makes the whole thought of protecting anything quite ludicrous. Currently, you can point n' click anything from characters to locations and even Agendas at your leisure. No pesky restrictions of attachments protecting from anything anymore either.

So, like I said, Rush is dead. Positive attachments too, after all the trouble we went through to finally get Tin Link restricted. More fool us, eh?

Characters and Hexproof

The average character in AGoT used to live for something between 2-4 Turns. That’s enough for it to have an impact for a few rounds, but also with enough risk for character-based decks. The current meta seems to average at something like… 1-2 rounds. Now, this impacts a load of things, so let’s look at a few of ‘em.

Comes into play effects. Leaves play effects. Various bouncing characters. Cheap efficiency. Running 1x of ‘all of the good efficient 3-for-3 uniques’. Those are the AGoT hallmarks of these kinds of Metas. With one addition, but let’s get back to that later.

Remember that mention of liking card synergy/Combos? For those to be even remotely possible, we need to have enough of a window for gathering the different pieces into play. 1-2 turn lifespan with point n’ click removal tends to make the possibility of gathering the pieces for a character-based combo almost ridiculously small… so the only way for stuff like trait-synergy to work anymore is by either pushing it with power-creep or by having the first part of the synergy-providing card automatically available and providing a large high-quality cardbase for the second part. Dothraki would be an example of the first, while Wildlings with their Agendas the second. Forget about Sand Snakes, House Tully, Asshai, House Bolton, Smuggler and all that other Jazz. Binder fodder. Well, Dragon’s might have an outside chance, since most of their synergy is built from easily-setuppable and redundant 1g locations.

Anyway. I was looking at the results from Worlds, Stahleck and France… and something struck my eye. See, I was following MTG when point n’ click removal started getting off the charts there, and the next step that happened were… hexproof characters. In MTG hexproof was a keyword that prevented your opponent from ever targeting your character with any effects. Since character lifespan was otherwise so short, they had to start printing those cards to give character-based decks a chance.

See, one of the Stahleck Top 4 decks was a Beric-deck, one that was called the ‘Beric Tower’, because it thrived on getting Snakeskin Veil onto Beric via OOH Rhaegar’s Harp… and packing cancels to stop Targ’s attachment removal attempts. Hexproof! A brief mention of what won in France? A ‘Joffrey Tower’. Yep, KL Joffrey is one of the few almost purely ‘hexproof’ characters in AGoT. In AGoT our immunities aren’t at the ‘hexproof’ level quite yet, which is probably good. Most commonly this just means having power-characters packing various immunities or cannot be killed/discarded effects. And from looking at the spoilers for the new Dragons, new Asha, and the amount of immunities suddenly appearing on cards… you can see that this is a pre-meditated move from the design team. They’re not ‘accidentally’ pushing removal and control effects, they’re doing it on purpose and adding those immunity-characters to combat this.

Hexproof wasn’t a good direction for MTG, and it sure as hell won’t be one for AGoT. Just like forgetting the inherent double-weakness (to both attachment and character/location removal) of positive attachments in the first place wasn’t a good thing in MTG, but we took that road anyway, and haven’t bothered to add those pesky “without attachments” clauses into cards ever since. They never served a purpose anyway... right? Meanwhile, of course, other games (like L5R) have tried to actually learn from the classic MTG design-mistakes instead of repeating them…

Soft-Control

There’s another loser to over-efficient hard control being pushed. Dedicated soft-control decks. In AGoT there are three classic types… Baratheon Shadow Control, Martell Icon Removal and Lannister Kneel.

Surprisingly, my favorite of these has always been Martell Icon Removal, since it’s kinda the Soft Control version of Burn - requiring combinations of effects to work properly and usually being very cost-intensive. So, I guess it figures that it’s the one getting hosed the worst. How The Scourge was left on the list, when Aegon’s Hill and Pentoshi Manor were allowed to come out… I’ll never know. Well, probably as a knee-jerk reaction to GenCon results.

Baratheon Shadow Control is oddly doing quite well, since it’s pretty much based off locations, has received an efficient draw engine in Jaime and a new nice home in that Hollow Hill place, where the Knights apparently throw the best of parties. Of course, it’s just playing side-fiddle to the new hard-removal cards Bara has obtained - Storm the Gates and Shadow Stalker, but hey, at least it’s seeing the open air outside the binder’s for once!

Then there’s Lanni kneel. Which, as everybody is well aware, is purely T1 goodness. Well, how could it not be? Like Baratheon it’s not having to choose between Soft and Hard Control, it can easily do both at the same time, without having to dilute their deck from anything except T1-level effects! If it weren’t for those pesky Favorable Ground -running KotHH decks, Lanni’s Throne would be secure. And with reprints of two CCG era monster cards (Wheels within Wheels and Counterplots) on the way to allow them complete Valar-dominance? Yeah, let’s leave it at that, you get the picture.

The Long Voyage and Knights of the Hollow Hill

Now, there’s been some discussion lately of Knights of the Hollow Hill, which I think cannot really be discussed without bringing The Long Voyage into it. See, the two Agendas do pretty much the same thing. Give you a completely un-interruptible and consistent source for your deck. Whereas Aggro needs that steady stream of cards to fuel it’s endless hammering at you with hordes of characters, Control needs the constant stream of resources to pay for all of it’s repeatable effects, high-impact events and bouncing back from the constant resets.

I’ll go back a bit further, as far away as the release of the Targaryen Deluxe Expansion. See, there was also an Agenda designed, which in a very similar way fuelled Rush decks. Heir to the Iron Throne. What TLV does to Aggro and KotHH does to Control, Heir would have done for the then classic Rush decks (since they tend to naturally be high on M/P icon characters). Now, there aren’t very many actual ‘Rush’ players around anymore, but back then… there still used to be. For a long while, Rush had been languishing as ‘not quite competitive but close’, and two new cards had been spoiled that would clearly drive it to the fore of the competitive metagame. One was The Laughing Storm, the second was Heir to the Iron Throne.

I guess everyone knows what happened? Yep, Heir to the Iron Throne got an errata and The Laughing Storm got restricted… before either of the cards had even hit the shop. And people nowadays claim that FFG over-reacts to the constant whining which is the AGoT online community... Now, this was also just before the Regionals Season, and let me tell you… there were a lot of Tourneys with zero Baratheon participants. What’s worse, we lost most of the good older Rush-players… whole Metas completely disappeared within a few months! The writing was clear on the wall, FFG and the player-base at large did not want Rush to become truly competitive, so it never would. Why bother playing competitively, when you could not play with your own playstyle?

Everybody who goes with that c*** of good players tending to gravitate towards Control should maybe consider, that the truth is more like only good players with a preference towards Control stay in the game for long. Now, that’s not completely true… but neither is it completely untrue. Along the way, we’ve lost most of the best and most experienced Rush-style players, and that’s all there is to it.

Right now, I’m thinking that I was probably too young and optimistic to see what they saw… and now, now I think I see it.

So, we have this trifecta of Agendas. All un-interruptible. Each with a ‘drawback’ that the particular playstyle can easily work around. One got errata’d to a House where it did not have enough support, as did the second one… and the third one has been winning Tourneys for 3 years now. Yeah, completely fair. See, the important part here is that uninterruptible -thing there. Uninterruptable access to something you would otherwise spend valuable deckspace on - effectively raising the average quality of your deck greatly. Every good competitively-oriented Aggro player has been having to spend ~6-9 cards and 2-3 plots mostly as anti-KotHH tech for several years now, and the choices of effective Aggro builds have been really limited because of it... not sure if that’s a good thing. Control players sure didn’t like it when the same situation was at hand with The Long Voyage in play.

Rush is dead, so I’ll let her lie in peace. And I don’t want to start a cycle revenge either, so KotHH is fine to be unrestricted/restricted without being errata’d to hell, if you ask me. But only if we also give Aggro back it’s equivalent. So, it’s a matter of choice… either we tone both down or let both run amok, hoping for some kind of balance of terror. It’s all the same to me, because the critical mass of removal has been reached and the amount of restrictions/errata needed to bring Rush back to being viable is too long to even consider.
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#2
PulseGlazer

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I agree.
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#3
Tomdidiot

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I agree with PulseGlazer.
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#4
theamazingmrg

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Hear, hear.

Now I'm not a competitive player by any stretch but I like Nedly decks. Nedliness tends to come with an in-built weakness, which is fine. To make a Nedly deck, sacrifices have to be made. To make it competitive, you dilute the theme. No problems there.

However, the plethora of control effects out there make it far too easy to shut down anything that's not a top-tier deck with one or two cards. I think being double-teamed by two Meera Reeds in a melee made me bitter!

#5
FranciscoG

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Me too. Hard control with games going to time is boring. Not even my alliance deck is fast enough or consistent enough to deal with all of it at the same time.

#6
Tomdidiot

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Actually, I think one of the things that would be worth considering to bring characters back to the fore,(as well as being less of an NPE for new palyers) would be to make dupe saves uncancellable. This is a quite a small and subtle change, but it would counter the effects of Valar, it would reduce the impact of cards like Iron Throne, and make mass all those hard control effects a little bit more managable. It sure as hell won't be enough to stop control, but it would be a step towards making characters more survivable. Also, how many times have you had to blush as you told a new player that his or her "Super Red Viper" is dead when you He Calls it Thinking a dupe?
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#7
FranciscoG

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Me too. Hard control with games going to time is boring. Not even my alliance deck is fast enough or consistent enough to deal with all of it at the same time.


How humble i sounded.....xD

I do think that it's the best rush deck out there.
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#8
Reclusive

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Actually, I think one of the things that would be worth considering to bring characters back to the fore,(as well as being less of an NPE for new palyers) would be to make dupe saves uncancellable. This is a quite a small and subtle change, but it would counter the effects of Valar, it would reduce the impact of cards like Iron Throne, and make mass all those hard control effects a little bit more managable. It sure as hell won't be enough to stop control, but it would be a step towards making characters more survivable. Also, how many times have you had to blush as you told a new player that his or her "Super Red Viper" is dead when you He Calls it Thinking a dupe?


This image is too painful man.

#9
14Shirt

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This is all enough to make me quit and go play Warhammer Invasion. Oh wait . . . crap.
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#10
Tomdidiot

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This image is too painful man.

I've only ever done it once. Never again.

#11
Karma

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At the risk of having people yelling at me i'll chime in i guess.

To be honest, AGOT has a bit of a flawed system much like other card games. Because of the way the game is setup you wont ever have a truly balanced game state. There might be short periods of time where Rush and Control are in a dead lock but at some point or another a style of rush or a style of control will appear that shifts that balance and people will gravitate to what is better. So, even if you were to achieve a balanced state of game, it wouldn't stay balanced for long. Someone would find a build for rush that would tip the balance in the favor of rush or the other way around. At that point you have people moving from one side to the other simply because this style is better then this style and then you end up with the same exact issue we have now. At the end of the day, this is the age old problem with a majority of card games. There just isn't a way to keep them balanced. One style will always end up ahead of the other and the meta will shift. Players who like control will hate the meta because it becomes to rushy and find it boring. Or it shifts the other way and players who like rush will hate the meta because its to control based.

At the end of the day you can ask for the meta to be balanced but it takes a lot for that to actually happen and once it happens it never stays that way for very long.
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#12
Danigral

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Quite a few gems in here. I love your writing style.

While KotHH may be the guy left at the scene, awkwardly holding a knife, it's not really his fault.

~ Ohh... the skill required from the Control player! So. Awesome. Almost makes my knees tremble! That paying of 0-4 resources and choosing the target, now that takes true talent!

Right now, I’m thinking that I was probably too young and optimistic to see what they saw… and now, now I think I see it.

Control players sure didn’t like it when the same situation was at hand with The Long Voyage in play.

One more that bears commenting

Everybody who goes with that c*** of good players tending to gravitate towards Control should maybe consider, that the truth is more like only good players with a preference towards Control stay in the game for long. Now, that’s not completely true… but neither is it completely untrue. Along the way, we’ve lost most of the best and most experienced Rush-style players, and that’s all there is to it.


I remember this dark moment of Thrones history, when a lot of the rush players, Bara in particular, vacated the game. A lot of the reason control is seen as more viable by competitive players is because of the continuous nerfs to rush/aggro. I still have hope that FFG can right the ship, although all the powerful neutral characters are a bit disconcerting. Coldhands is just crazy (no offense to Brett, who of course deserves his champ card) in how it single-handedly destroys multiple archetypes and playstyles. Design should have thought harder about that one...then again, perhaps Drakey would say that they were much too intentional with it.
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#13
RobbyStark

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that was very well articulated. I too dislike cards that don't have play restrictions. why do you think everyone dislikes newly made lord? what's the difference between him and condemned by the council? condemned does not happen *for free*. it's also particularly frustrating when the point and click kill effects are either terminal or cannot be saved (and lots of them are). I used to play a very fun deck based on the fat unique armies. getting king robb with jeyne and then the bastard's boys and robb's host was tons of fun, especially when duping the armies (which I ran x3, it was brutal!). now forget about it there's no way robb survives an entire round. there used to be a time when having a duplicate and being careful about not losing military as the defender meant the character could stay alive for a long time.

point and kill effects are the bane of decks that actually rely on winning challenges (mostly aggro and rush). do you know how fun it is to have a duped bastard's boys killed by shadow killer? no fun. no fun at all.

#14
scantrell24

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I too dislike cards that don't have play restrictions. why do you think everyone dislikes newly made lord? what's the difference between him and condemned by the council? condemned does not happen *for free*.


To be fair, NML isn't free. He costs three gold.

As far as terminal and cannot-be-saved kill effects go, I'm fine with the idea of them, but some are probably a little too easy to trigger (which goes back to influence being too readily available).

I very rarely run more than 1x of unique characters anymore unless I'm building an unusual deck, or I'm packing Power Blood, On My Oath, etc.
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#15
RobbyStark

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To be fair, NML isn't free. He costs three gold.


yes that was a poor word choice on my part. I meant free as in ''I choose to kill this location whenever''. there's a huge contrast with let's say The price of war
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#16
divinityofnumber

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I would rather err on the side of point-and-click removal than have super characters run wild. Beefing up one important character who is immune to various things is a completely degenerate play style, in my opinion. I think that every house should have access to some form of easy removal. No one wants an environment where all someone has to do is get a certain character into play with a certain attachment and then they win.

I would much prefer a meta of well-established control archetypes than anything with aggro dominating. Aggro decks are annoying, and have always been considered a noobish play style, and it comes in two varieties:

1) I played more stuff than you, so I win
2) You can't kill my super character, so I win

Thrones should be about the long game. I don't mind aggressive decks, so long as they are aggressive in a control-ish way.

But, the minute that I lose to decks because they put out things that there is no way to deal with (i.e., super characters with tons of immunity) is the day I leave the game (yes, there are already things that are hard to deal with, such as HoD locations, but you know what I mean). We've all had the pleasure of trying out a new, inventive deck, and then playing against someone who spams out a Red Viper with a bunch of attachments dangling from him, flipping those Power of Bloods on turns 2-3 to just sit and hammer on you. No fun. That sort of thing needs to be stopped.

Three cheers for easy spot removal from me. You can never have enough.
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#17
slothgodfather

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yes that was a poor word choice on my part. I meant free as in ''I choose to kill this location whenever''. there's a huge contrast with let's say The price of war


Except that Price of War is, to me, in a similar boat as Condemned by the Council. yes, you have to have a warcrest, but we all know that is a restriction that is easily met. The other requires you to win an INT challenge. Both of which require a certain amount of consideration during deck building and match-ups. So PoW is still "free" location control as much as CbtC is.

@divinity - to say that aggro/rush shouldn't exist because you find it annoying is no different than a rush/aggro player saying all this control shouldn't exist because it is annoying.

But, the minute that I lose to decks because they put out things that there is no way to deal with...


And after the hour long game against a control deck that just kneels/kills/resets your board is not much fun either.

#18
JCWamma

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I would much prefer a meta of well-established control archetypes than anything with aggro dominating. Aggro decks are annoying, and have always been considered a noobish play style


They have? That's news to me. As far as I can tell they're mainly considered newbish by people who don't play them.

I refer you to two posts Drakey has made in the past on deck archetypes and how all require skill and judgement, just for different things.
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#19
divinityofnumber

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Except that Price of War is, to me, in a similar boat as Condemned by the Council. yes, you have to have a warcrest, but we all know that is a restriction that is easily met. The other requires you to win an INT challenge. Both of which require a certain amount of consideration during deck building and match-ups. So PoW is still "free" location control as much as CbtC is.

@divinity - to say that aggro/rush shouldn't exist because you find it annoying is no different than a rush/aggro player saying all this control shouldn't exist because it is annoying.



And after the hour long game against a control deck that just kneels/kills/resets your board is not much fun either.



True, but they are two different types of annoying. And, to me, having someone spam out a bunch of stuff, or one uber-thing, is far more annoying than having someone kneel out my board, reset things, etc. I love a control game that drags on for a long time.

#20
Danigral

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No one wants an environment where all someone has to do is get a certain character into play with a certain attachment and then they win.
...
But, the minute that I lose to decks because they put out things that there is no way to deal with (i.e., super characters with tons of immunity) is the day I leave the game (yes, there are already things that are hard to deal with, such as HoD locations, but you know what I mean).

This is a bit speculative, as I doubt that there is not one single player who wants this. Your argument that you don't prefer it is the same on the other side for rush players. It's not "fair" to disregard one entire group of people's play-style just because you like your own. And your pseudo-threat to leave the game is exactly how rush players felt, I imagine.
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