Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Faction Review (Review): House Targaryen

All the above ratings were drawn up by a group of the A Game of Thrones LCG veterans at CardgameDB, with each rating a card from 1 to 5 and the percentage score being an aggregate of all their marks.  So a card that gets 100% means everyone rated it 5/5, while a slight wrinkle in this method (or their refusal to hand out 0/5 scores) means the lowest result possible is 25% if they all gave the card 1/5.

The CardgameDB review handed the Targaryen's an average character rating of a weighty 80%, well ahead of the other factions who all scored in the mid-70's.  With help from some solid non-characters like Fire and Blood or Dracarys! the house seems to be in great shape.  The one thing I felt during reading through their reviews was that I saw the word 'Dracarys!' far too often included as a reason for scoring a character as highly as they did.  Each Hatchling gained a bit of a score from the fact they're needed to play Dracarys!, similarly the Unsullied had "works well with Dracarys!" as did Plaza of Punishment and even Daenerys Targaryen herself.  How you feel about this really depends on quite how good you think Dracarys! actually is.
Burn is a unique Targaryen mechanic, a form of removal that is particularly potent for its combination of flexibility (no "win an Intrigue" challenge or "military by 5 STR or more" needed here) and lethality.  When you burn a character down to 0 STR that character dies, and if you had any way of saving them such as a Bodyguard or duplicate then it won't work as you'd still be left with a 0 STR character in play and they'd immediately die again.  Played alone, Dracarys! will remove any lower or mid-level character from play by giving them -4 Strength, but combined with Daenerys Targaryen handing out a -1 Strength to anyone in a challenge against her Dracarys! becomes much more potent and threatens almost any character in the game.
That's the good side to Dracarys! and there's no doubt that it's a powerful card, but it doesn't come without a cost.  Having to kneel Daenerys or a Dragon to play the card is not a negligible cost and often your desire to hold a Dragon back standing will telegraph your intended play to your opponent for them to work around.  And just as importantly while the dream of Dracarys! is burning through Balon Greyjoy with two duplicates and a Bodyguard for a 4-for-1 trade that removes their puts their best character in the dead pile... that dream only lives if you've got Daenerys and a Dragon both standing and your opponent is dumb enough to walk into it.  Most of the time Dracarys! removes 4 Strength characters only and won't touch the very best cards, meaning there's a tradeoff in power between the fact you burn through duplicates vs the fact that something like Tears of Lys can at least TRY to kill Robert Baratheon when there's no way of saving him.
A lot of the debate around the CardgameDB review was around the rating for Dracarys!, which wavered between 3/5 and a 5/5.  Where you settle on that debate probably defines how you feel about the ratings for a lot of the other cards because I think in the CardgameDB review 5 or 6 Targaryen cards are being given some reflected glory from the possible power of Dracarys!
Khal of Khals
While much of the Targaryen cards are obsessing over the potential benefits of dragons there is another side to the faction that is far more predictable and certain - Khal Drogo's war machine. 
This, to my mind, is where the power of House Targaryen lies... not in obsessing over creating a three card combination to potentially Dracarys! a powerful Lord but in riding forth Conan-style and laying waste with repeated Military challenges, supported by as many Military characters as he can lay his hands on. 
Drogo is his own one-two combination punch but he also combines very usefully with another powerful Targaryen card, the Plaza of Punishment.  Putting my cards on the table I personally fall into the camp who think Dracarys! isn't the ultimate removal card, and I'd even rate Plaza of Punishment more highly.  While Dracarys! will burn mid-level characters as well as the low ranking ones the Plaza can really only handle the little guys, but it can do this repeatedly and that takes away the claim soak dudes.  This is especially important for Targaryen decks because it means that Drogo's military challenges will bite much more deeply into your opponent's powerful cards.
In the end: Daenerys and Dracarys! combine to kill a powerful character.  Plaza of Punishment and Khal Drogo combine to kill ALL the characters.
The Wily Merchant
The one card that completely split the review team was Magister Illyrio, and reading between the lines I think I saw why.  There are a number of attractive reasons for adding the Lannister banner to your Targaryen faction (Jaime Lannister and Khal Drogo never met in the books but the LCG tells us they would have got along famously) and Magister Illyrio gives you another powerful axis of alliance, this time with Tyrion Lannister.  Tyrion gives you gold for Intrigue challenges and that allows Magister Illyrio to stand your best characters for future challenges, which is hugely powerful (not least when you've got cards like Daenerys and the Dragons who want to be standing to threaten Dracarys!).  So for those players rating Magister Illyrio as part of an alliance with the Lannisters then I fully understand where that 5/5 rating came from.
If you're not allying with the Lannisters?  Yeah the 2/5 he got from the other reviewers is probably about right.  Magister Illyrio is a lot less impressive without all the gold in Casterly Rock behind him, and for a house so low on card draw as the Targaryens I think Littlefinger makes a much better case for occupying Illyrio's slot at 5 Gold in your deck.