So, the new FAQ dropped today. It comes with some much needed changes, but a few of the choices were a little odd and I definitely disagree with a couple of them… but, overall, this FAQ erases any doubt anyone might have had that FFG is using the FAQ as the primary means of balancing the meta. Below, I’ll recap the significant changes and my thoughts and musings on the why’s and wherefore’s…
While a few elements in the Errata section are only fixing typos, the following changes actually impact the game:
- Bran Stark (Core) can now only be triggered 3 times per round, so the Win on Turn 1 (or almost certainly by Turn 2) shenanigans are gone. The limit serves to prevent abuse while not really affecting how the card was typically played. Most people only ever triggered Bran once or twice per Round.
- The Old Way – Joust format only? Yeah – that needed to happen. Most of us pay little attention to Melee competitively, but that agenda will either wreck a Melee table or just sit there quietly gaining power because nobody will attack.
- Meraxes – House Targaryen Only… FINALLY! As a Targ player, I hated seeing this thing out of house. It was a two-fer in every Greyjoy Warship deck (warship boost PLUS a card draw) and it could be cheated into play! No thank you. Personally, I think they should do the same to Pyromancer’s Cache and take it off the restricted list.
- Knights of the Hollow Hill – now counts as 5 cards at your command. This is probably one of the more controversial and perhaps wrongly executed errata. Don’t get me wrong, something needed to be done about the Cards at Command shenanigans. I just don’t know if this was the right call. Penalizing the KotHH player for the ENTIRE game with a +5 CaC seems like overkill. I’m just not sure how else I would have changed it. Making it only applicable during Turn 1 is awkward and probably wouldn’t go quite far enough. While I’m glad they didn’t restrict the card, it puts the KotHH player at a pretty big CaC disadvantage. Essentially, it’s treating you as if you got a 5-card flop (which is rare for most people).
- Rhaenys’s Hill – House Targaryen Only… again, a good call. No more OOH shenanigans with the Prince’s Plans or other discard recursion decks. But, is it enough? Targ can still abuse the crap out of this card. Run it 3X, use some recursion tech like Shores of the Summer Sea out of house. I guess time will tell. This pulls it specifically out of the OOH decks that were abusing it, but history has shown that Targ has opportunity. And, with Conquest in the meta, it still opens some doors using Targ and allying it with Martell or some other shenanigans I have yet to consider.
Now here’s where things got interesting. First, let’s talk about the cards that came back off the list.
- Kings of Summer and Kings of Winter… far riskier in a meta where the Songs exist, but considering the rarity of Song of Fire decks, Kings of Winter is a much better bet than it was with little to no downside, In fact, if you keep your own hand size small, with the winter Kingsroad, you’re ensuring your opponent can’t really get their Card Advantage engine working for them. With the amount of Winter in the environment, Kings of Summer is rarely going to see play – the downside is a killer.
- All House specific refugees – well, we all get our refugees back – yay! Dothraki decks are going to love this. Now you can keep your refugees and then decide whether you want Narrow Escape or Negotiations (or some other Restricted Card). Really opens up a few things for some decks that were struggling with setups.
- Robert Baratheon – not a surprise here. A lot of people were wondering why he didn’t come off with The Knight of Flowers.
- Retaliation! will once again move to being an auto-include in ALL character control decks. Go second? Yes, please!
- The Scourge should have never been restricted in Joust. That is all.
The more interesting side of this for me are the choices of what has gone ON to the restricted list. They were clearly looking to nuke the massive reset decks and the event recursion Martell decks (which were sometimes one in the same). Bara recursion was also hit, but not in the way I would have expected. I think errata’ing See Who is Stronger to only apply to Bara Knights and Armies would have been enough to nerf the power of the Bara Army Recursion deck. Also, finally, The Old Way now has to choose what it wants to do. Maiden’s Bane is such a great card, I can still see a lot of Old Way decks choosing that card. They just can’t run Asha or Fury anymore. Plus, they no longer get the benefit of Meraxes. Still – I don’t look forward to facing Old Way decks with Maiden’s Bane and Naval Escort.
- Westeros Bleeds – I feel like this needed to be restricted just to get it out of people’s minds for a bit. On its own, it’s a potent card, but not at all OP. But, if you can recur… it becomes brutal.
- The Red Keep – I hate this restriction, but I understand it. As a Targ Burn player, I’m upset that this means I can no longer use Red Keep to fuel my Hatchlings’ Feast (they’re both restricted now). I understand it because it was so easy to get almost indestructible influence for houses like Bara and Martell who were abusing the influence for multiple resets and constant OOH Army shenanigans. Now it requires a bit more work to make it happen.
- Bungled Orders – this one surprised me a bit. This plot was rarely played for a long time until it was re-popularized by Vaapad and others out of a Targ KotHH build. Then it steadily caught on and became crazy good in mass reset decks. Still, with a lot of the recursion and Bleeds being nuked… the necessity of this confuses me a bit.
- The Prince’s Plans – this was a must-restrict. Not because it was so good on it’s own, but because of WHAT it was recurring. This was an engine that drove multiple crazy card combos. Now that it’s restricted, a lot of other cards become far less potent.
- The Red Queen’s Faithful – really? I guess. Still, I don’t like it. I think this card is just fine.
- Pentoshi Manor – in its current form, it had to go back onto the restricted list. It was ridiculous to play against in triplicate. But, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Make the card unique (like they did with the Brothel) and it’s suddenly not a problem anymore.
- Melisandre’s Scheme – ugh. I hate that this is restricted, but, again, they’re trying to balance the meta and there is a stupid good deck that was abusing recursion. Still, this isn’t the one to nerf, in my opinion.
- Ser Preston Greenfield – stupid good. Fuels Black Cells, Alchemist’s Guild Hall, Shadows Tyrion, and much more. Restriction was needed.
- Longship Maiden’s Bane – also… stupid good. While it’s disappointing to see such a new card hit the RL so quickly, just facing it once proved to me how crazy it is. A lot of people were saying they should have also restricted Naval Escort and time will tell. You can still play them together, so we’ll see. Maiden’s Bane definitely makes Naval Escort better than it was on its own, but the Escort has existed for years without ever needing to be restricted, so I’m not convinced it needs to be now.
The one Melee change is not a huge surprise. Coldhands is essentially soft-banned in Melee. He’s a great card, but he’s not a card to build a Melee deck around but he’s an auto-include if he’s not restricted. The ability to take 4 characters out of the game during the marshaling phase is a brutal ability. If all four people play him, then it gets ridiculous quickly.
The rules updates cleared up a number of problems that I was seeing in the rules, in general. For me, the biggest one is the update to the “Responses Per Trigger” rule. I’m very happy about this ruling because it returns the rule to what was already standard convention until Damon threw a wrench in the works with his email to me. I ended up very confused once I got that email, but I reported what he said, even if I didn’t like it. Now, we’re back to the way it was – cards that trigger their responses from out of play, when canceled, may simply trigger their response again (if there isn’t any specific limiting text). Now, the specific exception to Agendas and Plot cards have been added to make the ruling consistent – what’s funny is that’s how we’ve all been playing it for a long time now.
Backing up to the plot framework rule change – finally!! They’ve updated the language to more accurately reflect the flowchart (though they left other passive language in place, which is awkward). Now, we know that When Revealed effects activate during their own framework event during the Plot Reveal FAW. The one surprising change for me is the update to no longer allowing a player to trigger an effect if there would be no change to the game state. So, while Frozen Outpost can still stand an already standing character, it can only do so because it also buffs that character. But, this means you can no longer kneel your Maester for Valyrian Steel link if you’re already at draw cap, which, in turn, means you don’t get to stand Janos Slynt if you’re already at draw cap. The ability to kneel for Valyrian Steel even while at draw cap was a huge boon for Maesters as the threat of activation of all of the other links was constantly present. This is a potentially far-reaching effect that changes a long-standing rule.
And, finally, we get the final word on multiple instances of Prized (they all resolve separately regardless of distinction) as well as a clarification to Show of Force and the Epic phase. So, this FAQ cleaned up a LOT of stuff that has been outstanding for quite some time and that makes me happy. Time will tell what the restriction changes will do to the meta, but I believe it’s going to open some add’l deck types while removing a lot of the stall-style NPE decks from the meta (decks that were purely one-sided and you were simply a spectator). Overall, I’m very happy with this FAQ.