Thursday, 3 September 2015

Faction Review (Review): House Tyrell

Last, and quite possibly least, of the eight factions in the Core Set we have House Tyrell.  The sense that I got from the CardgameDB review of the Tyrells was that they were considered pretty, well, pretty darn average.  A few of their cards were pretty good, though none at all were given a resounding 100% score, and while there were only a couple of cards that really drew the ire of the reviewers there was just an awful lot of filler.  The Tyrell's are marshalled by The Queen of Thorns but she joins some of the less stellar faction leaders in actually having very little impact on play when she arrives, and having one of the weaker abilities to boot.  The CardgameDB team handed her an 84% approval rating but I find it very hard to justify this when you compare it to the 40% they gave to Old Bear Mormont (who has more strength and a similar ability) and I think they've been somewhat generous.  To my mind you don't get much for your 7 gold when you bring in the Queen of Thorns, which is a bit of a shame considering how lethal she is in the books... perhaps a future version will be an upgrade.

Perhaps the biggest controversy in the Tyrell review was their low rating for the pairing of Left & Right, two cheap unique characters who combine to make each other much better.  It wasn't controversial among the review team, who all handed them a 1/5 or 2/5 rating, but they're a card that many people have struggled to correctly evaluate and I know many consider them good.  JCWamma practically wrote a thesis on why they're bad and I won't repeat all of it, but to summarise:
  • Their base stats makes them the worst 2 gold characters in Core Set, unique or not.
  • They're cheap 'claim soak' that you don't want to use as claim soak, both because they're unique and because you want to get both Left & Right out at once.  As soon as one dies any of the other that you draw become much worse.
  • The plus side of getting them both out together isn't actually that hot anyway.
  • They're a deck design minefield - if you play 1x copy of each then you'll never get them out at the same time so they're basically always awful, but if you play 2x or 3x then you're just increasing the likelihood of drawing useless copies once one has died. 
The only logical number to play of Left and Right is 0x, unfortunately, at least until a mad Tyrell rush deck exists that just hurls out so many cheap characters that you can have other things to soak the claim with.  Right now you'd probably prefer to keep the non-unique Courtesan of the Rose alive over the unique Left or Right, and when your uniques are claim soaking for your non-uniques then you know something's not right!

Although Tyrell as a whole faction are relatively weak in Core Set it didn't take players long to work out that they have some of the best non-Loyal cards, and this makes Tyrell's an attractive choice to bring into other houses via the Banner of the Rose.  Almost certainly the three strongest Tyrell characters are non-loyal: Margaery Tyrell, Randyll Tarly and The Knight of Flowers.  Together they don't quite do enough to make House Tyrell stand strong on their own, but they make fine allies for another house and we've seen Tyrell become one of the most common banners as players explore building their own decks, particularly in alliance with House Lannister.
If you're a staunch Tyrell supporter than you may have to bide your time before being able to proudly pin your colours to your chest and play Tyrells as the main faction but you'll certainly be able to happily take a strong suite of their best characters (and most recognisable faces) into other houses.

If there IS a strong reason to stay loyal to the Tyrell cause then, in the opinion of the CardgameDB reviewers (and myself) it's in their two premier locations: Highgarden and The Mander.  Card draw is a crucial element of the A Game of Thrones LCG as if you can create an attritional battle of Military and Intrigue challenges then the player who draws the most cards is likely to win.  The Mander is the Tyrell card draw engine, and with the promise of 2 cards should you win any challenge by 5 STR it can be a very potent weapon.  You may not get to activate it quite as often or as easily as the Baratheon's will use The Red Keep (probably the gold standard of card draw in Core Set) but it's not too far behind, and it does a lot to deter the opponent from making throwaway challenges just to see what you'll do if there's a risk you'll defend and win by 5 STR.  Right now The Mander doesn't quite deliver the good just because, like with Messenger Raven in The Night's Watch, it's helping you draw more pretty average cards, but when the time comes it will be a powerhouse.

Alongside The Mander is Highgarden, which is a card that I really like and would probably have rated a solid 5/5 had I been in the reviewing party.  Highgarden really screws with how people try and put together attacks, either stopping challenges entirely if only a single character launches them or swinging the odds heavily in your favour if they throw multiples.  If the opponent has quality spread across multiple icons then Highgarden gets a bit worse as all you're really doing is deferring the inevitable, but when the board is light of characters it really shines... so long as you can keep finding that 1 gold spare.

The Tyrell's are in a tricky spot, and although I wouldn't choose them as a main faction I'm loathe to sound too critical as I think there's a lot of value in the non-loyal cards and Banner of the Rose will see a lot of play.  What Tyrell really lacks right now is anything for the opponent to be scared of as everything is so passive... Olenna's Cunning and The Bear and the Maiden Fair are no match whatsoever for the likes of We Do Not Sow or Treachery that directly disrupt the opponent, and yet they sit in the same slots in their factions.  I think a lot of what is wrong in The Night's Watch in Core set is wrong in House Tyrell, and like The Night's Watch a lot will depend on how their strategy is fleshed out by the first year of chapter packs.
Until then I predict you'll see a lot of green cards, just as a sideline in other Houses.



I've spent the last couple of weeks rounding up the CardgameDB faction reviews but that is behind me now, so what's coming up?

Well while I've been compiling these faction reviews I've been using the data to come up with ways of comparing the houses to each other.  The CardgameDB reviews do this with their aggregate % scores for each faction but I think this is quite misleading as it suggests the houses are all very balanced.  That hasn't been my experience of Core Set play and I think I can improve on this and provide a bit more insight... the best factions, the best cards in those factions, the best cards overall.  That's where I'll turn next!
As a teaser, this is what I rank as the Top 10 Most Powerful cards are in Core Set... you agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below!


  1. QoT seems pretty damn good to me. The turn she enters play you just have to win an intrigue challenge (which Tyrell is pretty strong in), to get a free character. That character can then be used in other challenges. That's a fantastic ability. Use her once with a decent cost character in hand and she has more than made her value back.
    Old Bear really doesn't have a comparable ability. You have to stop all your opponents challenges rather than just winning one of your own, and Old Bear is no help at all for intrigue. And the character comes into play after all the challenges have ended, so only helps with dominance.