Another douche who likes to share his "well-founded worries" about this game? Well, part of, but hear me out first. All of the following is my personal impression.
I play AGoT for about 4 years and every now and then attend a tournament. I played in small ones, and I played in Stahleck, and I always had a good time. Now with 2nd edition picking up some speed, the number of players at tournaments increased dramatically (double, on avarage, I would say). A growing community is a good thing, and I am optimistic for the future of my hobby.
That said, it also became harder to distinguish onself at tourneys - the competition is fierce. And here I see the root of my worry: the irredeemable luck factor of the game. Some of it is rules-inherent, like:
- Setup: even the best players/decks can get screwed by a bad setup. Just look at the constraints: you pracically cannot, for setup purposes, run more than 12 non-setup cards in your deck, which seriously limits deckbuilding; you cannot keep a hand with one good character due to Marched to the Wall; you cannot setup a bunch of small dudes due to First Snow. So the chance for ending up with a lousy setup is pretty high, no matter how well-designed your deck is.
- Mulligan: Of course, here is a remedy for what I said above. But IMO it is a bad one, because you just get another chance of getting screwed, and no planning, no strategy can help you at this point. There are better versions of the mulligan out there, like the Hearthstone or Elder-Dragon Mulligan, which FFG could adopt to mitigate this issue.
- Running cards only x3: This makes things hard for all kinds of combo decks, because at times, you just don´t see a single copy of a card that is vital for your plan... again, specific deck-building is required to handle this: you cannot rely on specific cards to pop up, so you need to be able to make due with what you get.
Plus, there are some things that grew more serious with the cards they released:
- Killing things: Suspending a board-wipe like Valar Morghulis, they needed to print lots of other kill effects in order to provide players with tools to handle opponent´s characters. So far, so good. But in my view, there are two problems connected with this: First, you need to build your deck accordingly, with big but disposable characters and a ton of kill effects of your own. Hell, even NW plays Tears! Second, this just adds to the luck-based game where the first one to get through his Tears/Mirri/PttS gets a huge advantage, all depending on a lucky draw and setup, basically. Is there much room for comeback once you got wiped by the overabundant kill mechanics? You no longer can apply your own, because for that you need characters who win challenges... the point is: up to a certain point it just feels like gambling: Does my opponent have a hand´s judgment? A treachery? A save? And then, whoever won the gamble can drive home relatively savely - but is this what competitive play should feel like?
- Some factions cannot really compete: NW and Tyrell are struggling since the day they were released: Stark an GJ can be strong, but lacking intrigue icons is a big deal in the current meta. Targ is popular as a Banner (Mirri!), but not so much as main faction since First Snow. That leaves us with Lanni, Bara, and Martell as the dominating houses. On saturday, I will go to the Regional in Prague and I am expecting 85% Lanni, Bara, Martell, all of them probably revolving around kill effects (OK, Bara will probably focus on kneel, but presumably as a way to enable Tears). I will be playing Martell-Lion, with mixed feelings. I´d rather play Stark-Tyrell, with Blackfish, Sansa´s rose and Arbor red, but I know that I could not make the cut with this.
So what´s the point? I guess I just try to make sense of all the coin-flippy luck of this game and competitive play at tournaments. I tend to see the game less and less seriously; it´s becoming a nice way to spend time, and it captures the spirit of the series nicely - but as a game? I´m not sure... and of course, if someone won a tourney, it was due to his skill, but if a renowned player lost, he just had a bad day.
Of course, there are always a few people who still manage to distinguish themselves at tournaments in a relatively reliable manner (I could drop some names here, but I won´t ). I figure these guys manage to accomplish that because they have huge experience in the game which can swing the odds in their favor more often than not, but even those can get screwed by their next setup hand.
I would be interested in your thoughts on my thoughts - can you understand my feelings? Do you feel the same from time to time? What would be good measures to improve the state of the game? Or am I just a sissy who should shut up and play something else?