|Shouts, Screaming Horses, and the Clash of Steel
A look at the A Game of Thrones melee metagame with guest writer Will Lentz
|A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 05 April 2012|
Catelyn turned to see the end of it. Only four men were left in the fight now, and there was small doubt whom king and commons favored. She had never met Ser Loras Tyrell, but even in the distant north one heard tales of the prowess of the young Knight of Flowers.
–George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings
April has arrived, and the sounds of steel striking steel ring through the air. Across the Seven Kingdoms, players prepare their decks for the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Regional Championship tournament season.
Since last year, the battlefields have altered significantly for both Melee and Joust competitions. Recent releases, including the Lannister Lions of the Rock deluxe expansion, have brought the Great Houses to a new parity. The fields are littered with Knights and Maesters, the skies are burnt by dragon fire, and Lannister plots force their opponents to shame, then keep them there.
This week, we turn our attentions to the Melee format, and examine the evolving metagame. Two major themes stand out: the impact of A Tale of Champions and its wealth of new Melee-focused cards, and the maturation of the format itself, as players begin to understand how it plays as its own game.
A Tale of Champions
As lead developer Damon Stone noted when introducing A Tale of Champions, the cycle was created largely with the goal of strengthening the game’s melee format, offering “new cards that allow you to make or break alliances in the game, as well as cards that will be useful in the one-on-one format, but get stronger the more opponents you have.”
Some of the game’s greatest figures appear in this cycle with text that discourages opponents from attacking you. The new Euron Crow’s Eye (The Grand Melee, 29) forces an opponent to discard the top card of his deck each time he attacks you, and Doran Martell (The Grand Melee, 34) punishes your opponents for winning challenges against you by stripping cards from their hands. While the cards are playable in the Joust format, they lose much of their edge when they can’t encourage your opponents to turn against each other.
A Tale of Champions also introduced several Melee-focused plots, giving players more options than ever when they seek to customize their plot decks for Melee games, where bartering and alliances are arguably as important as the deck you bring to the match. New plots like I Fight to Win (Trial by Combat, 100) and Across the Summer Sea (A Poisoned Spear, 120) can be used to build alliances or even force a temporary truce.
The 2011 European A Game of Thrones Melee Champion, Grégoire, took Castle Stahleck by way of cunning and diplomacy more than by the sheer, brute strength of his deck. While many players have commented upon the power of a Martell Sand Snake deck that can explode to victory over a single turn, the Melee environment pits players against multiple opponents at once, all of whom may hold the key to defeating any single strategy. Time and again, we see players win Melees through patience, strategy, and diplomatic interchanges with their opponents. Now, more than ever, A Tale of Champions has supplied the field with potent means to forge timely alliances… only to reveal how no partnership is ever truly equal.
Will Lentz on the maturation of the Melee format
Guest writer Will Lentz recently shared with us his observations on the current Melee metagame. A founding member of the 2 Champs and a Chump podcasts, Will is an active player in the Missouri meta and witnessed some interesting developments carrying through the recent Moon Boy Classic Melee tournament:
The greatest change that I’ve seen over the last year in Melee play is greater strategic use of the Title cards.
Now, this isn’t to say that Titles weren’t used before. They’ve been a part of the Melee metagame since the beginning. In past years, though, I saw them used most often for immediate tactical gains. That is to say, players looked to claim Titles for extra gold or greater military strength on one specific turn. By and large, the most interesting uses were those of the Crown Regent or Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, in order to redirect challenges.
Lately, I’ve seen greater use of the Titles in a strategic sense as players have used them to forge or force alliances and, thus, more interesting play. This usually comes through the use of the supporting and opposing mechanics, and it highlights two key points:
One of the key cards pushing this change is Myrcella Lannister (On Dangerous Ground, 43). A lot of people made a great fuss about her in the Joust environment due to Ghaston Grey (Forging the Chain, 34), but it wasn’t until recently that I had the opportunity to test her out in Melee and use her ability. In the melee game, her ability is simply staggering. She allows multiple tactical plays like taking the Master of Coin Title for the additional gold, then trading it later to gain the Intrigue strength from Master of Whisperers… and she permits you many other plays of that nature. Her most amazing strength, though, is the capability to set up deals by helping trade an advantageous Title to another player, or in swapping Titles around so that supporting effects stymie the offensive efforts of the player in the lead. I’ve already played several games where other players defended my Myrcella in order to keep her around to manipulate the Titles to maintain a general status quo on the table.
Speaking of defending, you shouldn’t ever forget the ability to defend for a player that you support. This has become more and more prevalent lately, and I’m seeing more decks constructed to take advantage of supporting. It can be a brilliant way to trigger your effects when other players aren’t expecting them. Plus, a handful Title-related cards from the A Tale of Champions cycle can interact with supporting and opposing other players and force your opponents to pay further attention to the implications of their choices of Title at the beginning of each round. Look closely at Greatjon Umber (Where Loyalty Lies, 61), The Smalljon (The Grand Melee, 21), Arya Stark (Tourney for the Hand, 1), and Varys (The Grand Melee, 24).
They truly change the melee game into a more competitive and interesting place. I’d recommend players try them out.
As you prepare for the Regional Championship tournament season, consider how your plot deck and your use of titles can forge or force alliances, and look at how the new cards from A Tale of Champions can prove valuable bargaining chips as you plot and scheme your way toward victory…
Based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, playable by 2-4 players, brings the beloved heroes, villains, locations, and events of the world of Westeros to life through innovative game mechanics and the highly strategic game play. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Chapter Pack expansions to the core game.