News for August 2012
Ambushed by A Harsh Mistress
An A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Spotlight by Guest Writer Dan Strouhal
A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 02 August 2012

“If you were grown,” she told Drogon, scratching him between the horns, “I'd fly you over the walls and melt that harpy down to slag.” But it would be years before her dragons were large enough to ride.
   
–George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

House Targaryen boasts many of the most dynamic and powerful attachments in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. There is arguably no other attachment more elegantly designed than Flame-Kissed (Core Set, 103), which combines the flexibility of ambush and the potency of “burn” (strength reduction) into a convenient two-gold package. Meanwhile, a deck from the era of the King’s Landing cycle may prefer Dragon Skull (City of Secrets, 13) as its attachment of choice; it can fuel The Dragonpit (Tales from the Red Keep, 74) and provide continuous character control through Targaryen’s “burn” mechanic. The maesters of Oldtown are often known to enjoy the warm wrappings of a Hrakkar Pelt (Return of the Others, 110), which allows them to take double advantage of the many chain attachments accumulated throughout their journeys. And the sweet melodies of Rhaegar’s Harp (Battle of Ruby Ford, 84) have turned many a would-be warrior into a forlorn Refugee.

Each of these powerful Targaryen attachments has no doubt spurred the invention of a deck or two. But none has truly revolutionized the way House Targaryen is played – until now. Enter Dragon Egg (A Harsh Mistress, 74).

Masters of Ambush, Wizards of Flight

The dothraki of House Targaryen are the masters of ambush, as epitomized by Khal Drogo (Core Set, 107) and Horseback Archers (Queen of Dragons, 15). Dragons similarly take flight when called to defend the True Queen. For a skilled Targaryen strategist, the ability to control the timing of a character’s entrance frequently transforms a lost cause into victory.

Despite the obvious advantages ambush offers, the keyword has typically played only a supplemental role in competitive decks. Dragon Thieves (Ancient Enemies, 37), Dragon Knights (Trial by Combat, 89), and even their namesake Dragons have entered battle through ambush to supplement their allies on the field. Yet the variety of ambush characters remains low, and this surprise effect has been tempered by the opponent’s ability to observe and control the other Targaryen characters already in play. Without a significant investment in locations, Targaryen players have difficulty deploying several characters mid-phase to repel invaders or push through attacks. Even when multiple characters enter play during the challenges phase, they are more often than not lowly non-unique allies whose value quickly diminishes after their initial “come into play” effects trigger.

Dragon Egg offers a new application for the most strategic keyword in the game. You can attach the Dragon Egg to your opponent’s character, location, or attachment to grant ambush to all the Targaryen cards of the same type in your hand. Would you like to have ambush on all the Targaryen characters in hand – from the all-mighty Balerion the Black (Return of the Others, 109) to the lowly Brown Ben Plumm (Core Set, 118)? Would you prefer to surprise your opponent with the effect of a powerful location such as Rhaenys’s Hill (The Battle of Blackwater Bay, 112), or would you like to turn a goblet of Poisoned Wine (Core Set, 101) into Flame-Kissed 2.0? Attach Dragon Egg to a location or attachment, and you can approach the game in a whole new direction.

Worth the Cost?

At first glance, Dragon Egg may appear to force you to make a significant investment in influence. This is not necessarily the case. Consider that Disgruntled Mercenaries (Battle of Ruby Ford, 98) may now freely participate in multiple challenges, and the fact they may remain in play beyond the first challenge initiated each round is an extra boon to War crest decks. Worried the opponent may be running Ally discard effects? Hold Shadow Parasites (Here to Serve, 109) in reserve and play them once the Challenges phase begins. With just a little influence, Viserys Targaryen (Core Set, 108) becomes the brilliant melee (multiplayer) claim-soak that he was always meant to be.

The true value of this new effect transcends enticing combinations, however. Winning challenges has never been about controlling the most characters, or even the biggest characters. It is simply about controlling the right characters. Targaryen players may now hold their most powerful cards in reserve, deploying each card only as necessary and at just the right moment, rather than risk overextending their battle lines.

Synergy at Its Best

Additionally, Dragon Egg gives Targaryen players even greater control over their resource curve. Managing the dual resource curve of gold and influence has long been a struggle for many Targaryen players. The dilemma originates not only with decision about the amount of influence and gold to include in the deck, but which to marshall first when forced with the difficult decision of one or the other. Dragon Egg makes these resources nearly interchangeable, and with it, it is possible to imagine the creation of decks that spend gold only when they marshall their most important neutral cards; all their Targaryen cards can be held in reserve for ambush, so long as the opponent has a character or location in play. Such an influence-heavy deck would also improve the usefulness of influence-intensive cards like Plaza of Purification (The Isle of Ravens, 70).

To be sure, though, running Dragon Egg carries risks. As an attachment, it is doubly vulnerable to removal effects. Both the attachment and the card that bears it must remain in play. Taking full advantage of this effect during gameplay will also prove complex: one must choose whether or not to declare a Military challenge against an opponent when that opponent may allow the character that bears this attachment to die for claim.

This simple, yet elegant design opens new doors for the tactically inclined Targaryen player. No other attachment in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game to date has allowed players to use old cards in such a new, exciting way. For a house already rich with attachments, Dragon Egg is a welcome addition that will usher in a new era of creativity and strategy to deck-building and play.

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.

    
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