Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Core Set - Card Power Rankings

For the past few weeks I've been compiling the excellent CardgameDB reviews of the cards in the Core Set of A Game of Thrones LCG Second Edition.  You can see each of those reviews by clicking on the appropriate house sigil below...
http://oldgodsandthenew.blogspot.com/2015/07/blog-post_27.html    http://oldgodsandthenew.blogspot.com/2015/08/faction-review-review-house-lannister.htmlhttp://oldgodsandthenew.blogspot.com/2015/08/summary-basically-consensus-was-that.html



 With all eight faction reviews complete I can now unveil the true reason behind why I've been compiling them in one place, namely using those reviews to help us compare the various factions and get some sense of the shape of power levels in the Core Set.  I'm going to do this by using the CardgameDB card rankings and applying a weighting to those scores that factors in either the gold cost (for characters) or what type of card it is (for non-characters) to get to a combined power ranking.

I'm using the CardgameDB reviews score rather my own personal opinion because this represents a blended average of the opinions of a number of for experienced A Game of Thrones LCG players.  The weighting that I'm using is above.  It's intended to reflect that a good 7 gold character is more powerful than a good 3 gold character, for example, but the modifier that I apply helps to flatten the gold advantage off and gives the good weenie characters the chance to rank above relatively average 6 gold characters.

 Why Are You Doing This?

I was always going to compare the factions but the need for applying some additional weighting occurred to me while I was writing the Night's Watch review.  I was trying to reconcile in my own mind why the high ratings for the individual Night's Watch cards wasn't translating into a strong faction when I actually played with them.  Part of this was down to a lack of synergy between cards but I also felt, as I said in the review, that the Night's Watch suffered from having it's support cards be good but the main hitters being weaker.  It felt as though having good expensive characters was more important in the Core Set metagame than having good cheap characters, and this was what was hurting the Night's Watch.

This weighting system is an attempt to adjust for that and thus get us closer to an actual power level for the cards.  I'd expect an average 5 cost card to be better than an average 2 cost card, in terms of quality of the card, and yet that difference was always apparent in the CardgameDB ratings system.

How Did You Define Your Weightings?

Partly through discussion with other players and partly through trial and error: making small tweaks and then looking at how they affected the rankings. 

I initially weighted characters only for gold but players I talked to strongly suggested this was undervaluing the best cheap character.  In retrospect they were almost certainly correct - by not giving Ser Jorah Mormont the chance to score highly I was dooming arguably the best 2 gold character from ever ranking above some decidedly average characters that were more expensive.  With this in mind I made several passes trying to balance up the weighting to boost cheaper characters and pull down the most expensive.

For the non-character cards I classified the card by what it was in order to apply a weighting, valuing card draw and character removal above other effects.  Again I made several passes of the weightings until I felt I had it close to correct - I wanted the best one-shot Events to rate highly enough to make the cut but I also wanted to ensure that cards like removal or card draw didn't completely dominate the lists and push all the good characters too far down.

One last thing to note: the two faction reducers (such as Illyrio's Palace and Targaryen Loyalist) were rated at 5.0 for the location and 2.5 for the characters.  Most of the time this doesn't matter as every faction has them, but in the case of The Night's Watch (which sees their location replaced by A Meagre Contribution) it's significant - Meagre Contribution is a great one-shot event, but it's a poor replacement for a permanent economy location.

So Is This A Definitive Power Ranking List?


I don't believe that would ever exist as card values are subjective and change with the local metagame and personal styles of play.  This is a combination of a blended average of 10 people's ratings of the cards, passed through another person's method for valuing those cards.  Hopefully you will find that you agree with these rankings more often than you disagree but I wouldn't want to suggest that this is taken as gospel.  This isn't necessarily how CardgameDB would rank cards and it isn't how I would rank the cards if I was doing it alone, but as a blend of the various viewpoints of the experience and knowledge of the players involved it hopefully produces something useful.

If you agree with the rankings and find this helpful, then good.  If you disagree but this sparks you thinking about things in a different way, or creates an interesting discussion, then good.


This immediately throws up some interesting observations.

Baratheon: relatively top-heavy, as I talked about in my review their power flows from a small number of cards (Robert, Red Keep, Melisandre).  In Robert Baratheon they probably have the single most dominant card in the Core Set and The Red Keep is probably the best card draw effect, but once you go beyond that the cards get rapidly worse.

Greyjoy & Lannister: they're the two most consistently strong factions, with both having a slew of good cards.  With a power score of 3.3 the 8th best Greyjoy card is as good as all but the best two Martell cards.

Martell and Targaryen: both houses are hugely dependent on their Loyal cards and this would make them poor choices to banner into other factions.

Night's Watch: although only two of the best Night's Watch cards are loyal there's a hidden message against bannering here, as Jon Snow, Maester Aemon, Longclaw and Benjen Stark all exist purely to buff Night's Watch characters.  So you CAN banner the Night's Watch, but you'd want to bring in a lot of characters, rather than just 12 cards, to really get the benefit.

Neutrals: three Neutral cards are demanding to be played - Littlefinger, Milk of the Poppy and Tears of Lys.  All the others are significantly weaker or only have a niche application so will be picked up only by players with a specific need for the card.

To my mind this list is quite solid, assuming you believe in the CardgameDB reviews that form the basis of it.  If I compare within factions I'm pretty happy with the rankings (Cressen is worse than Melisandre, better than Fiery Followers... Ser Jorah is better than an Unsullied, but not as good as Dracarys! or Khal Drogo). 

I also think it stands up relatively well to comparisons across the factions, for example Tyrion and Asha are both 5 gold Stealth characters with similar rankings... Robb Stark is probably slightly better than Jaime Lannister who is slightly better than The Knight of Flowers... Dracarys! is better than We Do Not Sow which is better than Confinement.

You can disagree with the placings of individual cards here and there but I think, overall, the list is a lot more right than it is wrong.


Compiling across the houses, this is therefore the Top 40 ranking for cards.

Effective card draw locations and the strongest characters in the game dominate the Top 10 spots, while slots 11-20 are primarily taken up by the best mid-range characters and powerful removal effects.  After that, slots 21-40 are less clearly structured, with a mixture of OK big guys (Ser Jaime Lannister, strong non-removal effects (Widow's Wail) and the best cheap characters (Ser Jorah, Greenblood Trader).


So what does this weighting do to the overall power rankings of the various factions?

This table shows how the original CardgameDB average % rating translates into a weighted Old Gods & The New (OG&TN) rating.  The biggest change is that the Cardgame DB reviews effectively gave us four good factions and four bad factions, while the weighting rankings create a bit more of an even spread, with Night's Watch coming down slightly and Baratheon jumping up towards the middle of the rankings.  The gap between the Greyjoys and the other houses is also shrunk a little.

There's also some interesting observations about where the weighting ranking is coming from, in that the Tyrell's have the clear worst characters in the Core Set but actually the third-best non-character cards, boosted by the strength of The Mander and Highgarden.  In the opposite direction the Targayen, Night's Watch and Stark factions have strong characters let down by weaker non-character cards like Dothraki Sea and Wolfswood.

The two factions that stand out at the head of the pack, Greyjoy and Lannister, combine solid characters with the best non-character cards in Core Set, and it's the non-character cards that really make the difference I would argue.  Core set characters are largely interchangeable - with not many exceptions everyone has a 5 gold character that's a threat, and a few annoying 3 gold characters that have powerful abilities or keywords like Insight or Stealth.  I would argue that it's having strong and cheap events (We Do Not Sow, Treachery), locations (Lannisport, Iron Fleet Scout) and attachments (Widow's Wail, Throwing Axe) that really help create a gamewinning edge over the other factions with less impactful cards.


I think there's plenty to digest there so please let me know what you think - what you agree with and disagree with.  Please try and remember that if CardgameDB didn't like a card then that's not my fault, though!

I'm also going to return to this in my next blog for a little bit of a more personal view, changing a few of the card rankings that I disagree with to get to something that more reflects my personal view on Core Set, as much for my own satisfaction as anything else!

Edit: a calculation screwup on my part originally rated the Tyrell cards wrongly, that is now corrected!

No comments:

Post a Comment