Growing Strong

House Tyrell in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game


“Here, Sansa, sit here next to me, I'm much less boring than these others.”
–The Queen of Thorns, A Storm of Swords

Last month, we took a closer look at the Night’s Watch in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, inviting guest writer Joe Habes to discuss the best plots for the Night’s Watch faction. Every faction that plays the game of thrones is unique, however, and every faction has its own ways to approach victory. 

House Tyrell in particular has a reputation for secret schemes and plans that run deep beneath the surface. Today, we turn to House Tyrell and invite guest writer James Waumsley to discuss House Tyrell’s deck archetypes! 

James Waumsley on Deck Archetypes in House Tyrell

While there’s only one commonplace victory condition in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, each faction has multiple routes to victory—it’s a natural consequence of having different cards to select when you’re building a deck. From my point of view, however, the faction with the most variation in paths to victory is House Tyrell. To understand why this is the case, it’s important to understand the different tempo levels and how Tyrell can use all of them successfully.

The Short Game

Decks playing the short game are commonly known as rush decks—they try to reach fifteen power as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences. The player isn’t concerned with keeping cards in hand or maintaining a significant board presence so long as the win condition is in sight.

Making a rush deck work can be difficult, because to reach fifteen power before your opponent hits their stride, you need lots of power grabbing effects that introduce additional power into the game. You also need to get these effects on the board quickly enough that your opponent can’t stop you from winning. Fortunately, House Tyrell has several such cards in their pool.

Pleasure Barge (Taking the Black, 6) is the ultimate “short-term thinking” card, giving you three cards to immediately impact the game in exchange for a permanent downside thereafter. Pleasure Barge isn’t constrained to short-game decks, inevitably finding its way into just about every Tyrell deck; but only here is it a no-brainer to include three copies. This deck wants to trigger a Pleasure Barge every round if possible, and it won’t worry about the negative gold. If the game reaches round four, this deck probably loses anyway.

Randyll Tarly (Core Set, 183) can repeatedly gain power round after round at a speed unmatched by most other characters. He requires very little synergy—any STR pump will do—and not only provides additional power but wins key challenges on attack and defense to keep the power-grab going.

Lady Sansa's Rose (The Road to Winterfell, 24) is a very simple power-grab card—in exchange for a card and a gold, you gain three power. What stops the card being an auto-include is that the three extra power has to be the difference between winning and losing—if you’re winning regardless, what have you gained by playing this? If you lose despite the extra power, you’ll wish this event had been more impactful on the board. That means Lady Sansa’s Rose, though potent, only goes in decks that exploit a small window of opportunity—like a rush deck.

The Mid-Game

Decks planning to win during the mid-game could be referred to as “good stuff” decks. Essentially, you pair a faction’s most broadly strong cards with the most powerful neutral cards that complement your approach, balancing the overall lack of direction with sheer efficiency.

Mid-game decks differ from faction to faction, but they generally center on the faction’s “bombs:” big characters with powerful effects; characters with renown to increase your threats; cards to neutralize or kill your opponent’s bombs; and cheap, efficient bodies to round out the cost curve. The Tyrell version of this deck looks slightly different, however—with almost no powerful, destructive effects in the faction, a Tyrell “good stuff” deck tends to be more constructive, focusing on creating more problems for your opponent rather than answering what your opponent offers.

Renly Baratheon (For Family Honor, 43) is in many ways the card that makes this deck work from House Tyrell. As a beefy character with renown that can participate in any challenge, is tough to burn, and provides extra card draw, your board position will always be better with Renly on the table, no matter what other cards are in your deck.

Knight of Summer (Called to Arms, 23) is a non-obvious-but-key component of the build, providing up to three cheap characters with conditional renown that your opponent has to answer quickly. They do necessitate a Summer build, but whether or not you use Kings of Summer (Called to Arms, 37), Tyrell usually favors Summer plots anyway due to their inherently constructive nature.

The Long Game

Decks focusing on the long game try to leverage cards with immense long-term power but less immediate impact—and they’ll complement these cards with resets. Whereas a short-game deck will try to win around turns two to four and a mid-game deck might win anywhere between turns four to eight, a long-game deck will wait until the opposing deck runs out of steam, then close before the opponent can recover.

Resets are key to running a successful long-game deck—you need to keep wiping away any advantage that your opponent builds up. You can expect to see both Varys (Core Set, 29) and Valar Morghulis (There Is My Claim, 80). In order to leverage these resets, however, you need powerful cards that will stay around after resets (i.e. locations). Thankfully, House Tyrell has plenty.

The Arbor (No Middle Ground, 64) is a fine card for pretty much any deck (except the short-game deck!), but it truly shines in the long run. Unless you played a high-gold plot, The Arbor will often be all that you play on your turn, and it does nothing for you until the next marshaling phase—it’s the ultimate tempo hit. But once you remove whatever your opponent played that round with a reset, the temporary setback is gone and you’re left with three additional gold every round. In a game where economy remains such an important feature, this gold surplus can often be the difference between victory and defeat.

Highgarden (Core Set, 192) is a fantastic challenge control tool. It induces headaches in opponents with a large board, but it’s unbelievable on a small board, potentially locking an opponent out of an entire challenge or forcing them to overcommit when every character counts.

Caswell's Keep (There Is My Claim, 64) is useful both before and after a reset: beforehand, it helps you find your pieces or slow your opponent down while you set up; afterwards, it lets you go for the kill by filtering away anything that could save your opponent, or finding your own closing cards.

Growing Strong

It’s important to know that each approach is valid, and there are also hybrids: decks that start slow but gather power quickly or play more destructively. The main point, however, is that you need to understand your deck’s pace and look at the cards you’re including—do they fit what you’re trying to accomplish? Without those considerations, you’ll find your deck pulling in different directions at key points in a game. If you do understand your deck, though, you may be able to help make House Tyrell the top dog in this game, if that's not too much of a Reach.

James Waumsley started playing the first edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game in 2012 and has played the second edition since its launch. He writes articles on CardGameDB as part of the Quill & Tankard Regulars, as well as his own contributions under the name JCWamma.

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