Jump to content

Welcome to Card Game DB
Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!

Search Articles

- - - - -

Valar Morghulis at Red Saturday XII


The Thrones community anticipates the imminent release of Valar Morghulis in the next chapter pack. A perusal of the various fan sites reveals many opinions in support of and opposition to the release of this card, but few in-depth posts on the impact of the card to the environment. One of the most analytical and well-reasoned arguments I have encountered is authored by Ire in an article on Card Game DB. Ire’s central argument, supported by contributors who played competitively as far back as the CCG era, is that while many of us 1.0 veterans (I’ve played since 2005) recall the glory days of Thrones that coincided with the existence of Valar, the plot was less ubiquitous than memory would have us believe and less impactful for much of the time it was playable. While it is not explicitly stated, the suggestion is that Valar may have a smaller impact on the current 2.0 metagame than 1.0 veterans would have you believe. I disagree, and I’m looking forward to testing my hypothesis at the 12th annual Red Saturday tournament in NYC on November 26.

The introduction of Valar will fundamentally alter the metagame, and I hope add a new layer of strategy. To be sure, I agree with much of the logic presented in Ire’s article, and many of its conclusions. A “save heavy” environment will result in less Valar, locations (especially economy) will become more important, and non-terminal attachments will become more powerful. However, there are some important themes that I think Ire and the contributors have overlooked.

First, I remember the history of the LCG a little differently. Valar was in many, if not most, of the competitive decks that won tournaments since its release. Not unlike today, Lannister dominated the environment the first 1.5 years of the LCG. The inclusion of Golden Tooth Mines in the 1.0 Core Set, combined with Castellan of the Rock in the first cycle and cost-efficient characters that supplemented the resource curve, gave Lanni a huge advantage. Valar was important both in overcoming that deck, and in leveraging the powerful Lanni cards. Valar was the go-to plot to clear the board on round 2 or 3 if the opponent had marshaled a Castellan—players gladly revealed Valar to kill a single character, such was the power level of the Castellan. Conversely, Lanni players could use Valar to thin the board and then marshal a Castellan to gain board dominance. This was especially effective with one (and better with two) Golden Tooth Mines in play to give the Lanni player the edge in a long game. When Lanni’s dominance began to wane following Greg Atkinson’s win at Worlds with Greyjoy, Valar remained a staple in Greyjoy and in the many control decks that followed. (As Ire’s article notes, aggro decks tend to find less value in Valar, but still often ran it as a 7th plot that players could use as a contingency.)

Players may wonder “how could Valar be both an anti-Lanni card and a card that maintains Lanni’s dominance?” The answer: Unlike most other cards in Thrones, Valar was less intrinsically aligned with a particular card mechanic or card combination, and more dependent on timing and the strategic setup of the plot multiple rounds in advance. Games were won or lost not on whether one or both players had Valar in the plot deck, but rather the timing of when the first and second Valars were played during the game. As Ire suggests, there were many players who attempted to leverage the strength of Valar by packing saves in their decks, but more often than not Valar was used truly as a reset both defensively and offensively, and to use Valar effectively required skill.

Even if I am right that Valar was impactful for most of the 1.0 game, many would argue that 2.0 will be different. Certainly, the expanded gold curve with more expensive characters (it was rare to see a player spend more than 4 gold for a character in 1.0) and introduction of reserve as a mechanic (1.0 did not require players to discard cards during taxation) makes the 2.0 reprint of Valar a less flexible plot than it was in its original incarnation. Given the power of the effect, I strongly suspect this is wrong. If Valar was worthwhile to kill a single character in 1.0, I expect it will be just as potent in 2.0, albeit with a higher skill cap and a lower “bottom” (higher variance in its impact).

Moreover, Valar will be fun. With any new neutral card that is heavily skill-dependent, there is a learning curve. This will not be an off-the-shelf solution for decks lacking removal, nor will it be always best used as a last resort. As players learn how to use the newest version of this plot, I believe we will come to appreciate the depth the plot offers as games become more strategic. The game will become less automatic and less predictable (while avoiding the randomness of Ser Gregor and The Tickler).

The Red Saturday tournament has a long tradition of unearthing new deck lists and ideas, and I hope to see many players experimenting with Valar at the event. Prior to 2013 (if I remember correctly), the Thrones World Championship was held at GenCon. The first Days of Ice & Fire event was held in 2011 (I think) around the time that Worlds is held now, but it was smaller and more niche. Red Saturday, then called “Black Friday” and held the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday, was one of the key tournaments held long enough after GenCon to allow for the introduction of new cards. With the shift of Worlds to November, Red Saturday competitors were encouraged to avoid net-decking, and as a result we often saw many new and creative builds. This year, Red Saturday will be the first major event to allow cards from There Is My Claim. I expect it to be a fun event with much variety in deck lists. (Note: The tourney organizers have decided to allow proxies in the event the chapter pack is not available at the store on the day of the event.)

It may be that in the end I am proven wrong, and that Valar is more niche, perhaps run competitively only in Greyjoy. If that is the case, I will be truly surprised. More likely, there is an entrepreneurial player out there who will find a way to leverage the full power of this plot. When I see that person, I’ll buy her or him a drink, and we’ll discuss the many ways in which Valar has changed this game for the better.
  • WWDrakey, JCWamma, Ire and 3 others like this


Good read!

While I do think Valar wil have impact on the meta, I'm quite pessimistic on that it won't have the 90-100% representation on decks like in the good times, but more of 60%, so something that players will have to take into account, but not something you will see everygame.

Now, I'll gladly be proven wrong on this as I would find a heavy valar meta more interesting environment to play the game in than low Valar meta.

    • WWDrakey and Twn2dn like this

Being largely in the same "hoping for the best, but not really expecting much" sector as Ire (with regards to Valar allowing the game to really reach it's full potential and diversifying it properly)...


Now that the Tourney is over, I'm interested in hearing Twn2dn's thoughts on how his prediction feels like it turned out... and whether it indeed led to the increase in variety that he was hoping for.


So... spill? ;)

    • Twn2dn likes this
It's difficult for me to tell the impact of Valar at Red Saturday. I ran it, and I can tell you it was impactful in every game I played, though once it helped the opponent more (GJ player who managed to see 8+ saves), but I was losing that game either way so perhaps in that sense it wasn't impactful to the outcome of that game. My sense is the metagame had not caught up to Valar at that point, but that in the games that people played it, the round was generally impacted by the effect. I guess what that tells me is that the card is very powerful, which will make it both a good addition for certain decks and a plot everyone needs to be ready for. The question then is how flexible it is, and whether it works well enough with a variety of builds. For the card to be ubiquitous it would need to be useful beyond just GJ and a few other decks. My sense from the limited experience at Red Saturday is there's potential, but it's not an auto include yet. Unlike in 1.0, there are definitely decks in 2.0 that run better with Wildfire. I think there are two major variables that suggest it's an issue of when, not if. First, is economy. As the game adds more economy, Valar will become more attractive and flexible, and will be more of an obvious addition to more decks. Second is card pool. While the card pool is growing, it's no surprise that the two houses with box sets are winning tournaments more frequently. More to the point, neither of those houses have common builds that run Valar, and both have tools to overcome Valar more easily than many houses (Stark has lots of dupes and Summer, while Lanni can play around Valar with ambush and recover with gold). I guess I'm saying that Valar hasn't disrupted the metagame as much as I'd like because of the card pool, but the initial signs are promising, and I view it more as a matter of time, with the impact being felt in the somewhat near term (by GenCon of we need a date) than in the remote future. Finally, I'll admit that Valar isn't as powerful as in 1.0. The stats are fine, I think, but the problem is duplicates. Dupes are much more common in 2.0 because they are allowed on setup and because nearly every deck runs Close Call. If more cannot be saved effects are printed, or burn gets to the point it can handle bigger characters more consistently, we'll see fewer dupes and Valar will be more ubiquitous, I'd imagine. My personal view is I'd like to see that happen, since dupes tend to add a lot of variance to the game (I.e. a game can easily swing on whether the player drew a dupe for Melisandre). So if we get to GenCon and dupes are less common, that'll be good for Valar (and the game, I think) but if there's no change with dupes, I think Valar's rise will be much slower but still increase over time.
    • Ire likes this
Sorry for lack of paragraph spacing, posting this on a phone.