|The Many Faces of Jaqen H'ghar
A Spotlight on A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
|A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 29 January 2014|
“My time is done." Jaqen passed a hand down his face from forehead to chin, and where it went he changed. His cheeks grew fuller, his eyes closer; his nose hooked, a scar appeared on his right cheek where no scar had been before. And when he shook his head, his long straight hair, half red and half white, dissolved away to reveal a cap of tight black curls.
–George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings
The Kingsroad cycle carried the game back from the shores of Essos to the war-torn lands of Westeros, and it has strengthened a number of the game’s pre-existing themes and mechanics. The Bannerman trait is worthy of notice, the shadowy members of the Kingsguard appear more lethal and influential than ever, and new agendas like A Song of Ice (Fire and Ice, 40) and A Noble Cause (Forgotten Fellowship, 98) compete for deck space with old favorites and cards that reward players for simply playing without agendas.
Still, the new cards from Kingsroad cycle aren’t the only ones you’ll want to consider as you explore the current metagame. Back in July of 2013, both Compelled by the Rock (Calling the Banners, 106) and Jaqen H’ghar (Sacred Bonds, 43) were removed from the banned list when they were reprinted with errata.
With its errata, Compelled by the Rock becomes a solid option for Lannister attachment control. Not only can it shift your opponent’s harmful attachments onto targets where they may be less harmful, it can add flexibility to your own attachments. For example, you could catch your opponent by surprise when you move your Devious Intentions (Battle of Ruby Ford, 94) from a knelt character onto one who can kneel to participate in a challenge.
As for Jaqen, he has largely been dismissed as an overly expensive Ally. Ally characters share one of the game’s most vulnerable traits, since they can be discarded by Dissension (Queen of Dragons, 44), as well as both Ser Arys Oakheart (Princes of the Sun, 9) and Varys (Secrets and Spies, 97), two of the game’s more popular characters. The threat of having Jaqen discarded by one of these cards makes it hard to want to invest five of your hard-earned gold into recruiting him, but given the myriad viable deck options currently available, it may be worth reconsidering this hesitation.
Today, then, we’ll look a bit more closely at Jaqen H’ghar and a sample deck that explores how he might fit into the current metagame. Before that, though, lead developer Nate French offers a few words about updating one of the game’s most popular assassins:
“Jaqen H'ghar has spent the bulk of the lifespan of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game on its banned list, but the reprint of the Clash of Arms cycle gave us an opportunity to revisit this card in a manner appropriate for the the new environment.
“Revising a banned card is an interesting challenge, in that you want to capture the feeling and identity of the original card while scaling back its overall power level. The key element of the original Jaqen design was the idea that his many guises as a ‘faceless man’ were captured by the fact that he bore every House affiliation, every challenge icon, and every House keyword. Those keywords really pushed him over the top, though, and had to be scaled back. The revised version does a better job of balancing the card, but it also does a better job of capturing the character’s essence. It’s more balanced because each of Jaqen’s keywords now comes with a cost. However, since his keywords are no longer static, the card also does better job of capturing the essence of the character: he can transform himself from one person to another, depending on the circumstance. This ability that Jaqen provides to adjust and adapt his character to the needs of the game allows a player to feel that he truly does have a faceless man at his disposal.”
While the sample deck below presents one way that players might use Jaqen H’ghar to their advantage, it also draws upon a number of cards and themes from the Kingsroad cycle.
One of the most important of these is the shift in Brotherhood strategies from triggers that required zero power on your House card to having less power on your House card than each opponent. This means you reduce your demand for the agenda, The Brotherhood Without Banners (Rituals of R’hllor, 39), it means you can explore other agendas for helpful effects, and it means you gain a little breathing room. You can gather power onto your House card before spending it to fuel Jaqen, and once you use your power to fuel Jaqen, you can trigger your Brotherhood abilities. Our sample deck draws upon this synergy through its use of both Beric Dondarrion (Illyrio’s Gift, 17) and Lady of the Leaves (Forgotten Fellowship, 97).
Meanwhile, since we’ve moved away from The Brotherhood Without Banners, we are free to explore the benefits of other agendas. Because we have relatively few characters in our deck, and because many of them are quite expensive, we’re unlikely to find ourselves in a position where we ever have more characters on the table than our opponent. This makes Bloodthirst (A Hidden Agenda, 119) a terrific option for us, especially since we can use the extra card draw to find the events and attachments we’ll need to power up our characters for quick and deadly power grabs.
1x At the Gates
1x The Prince That Was Promised
1x Summoning Season
1x To the Spears!
1x Valar Morghulis
1x Arianne Martell (The Kingsguard, 47)
3x Beric Dondarrion
1x Ghost of High Heart
3x House Messenger
3x Jaqen H’ghar (Sacred Bonds, 43)
1x Lady of the Leaves
1x The Mad Huntsman
1x Maester Aemon (Core Set, 151)
1x Maester Kedry
3x Orphan of the Greenblood
3x The Red Viper (Princes of the Sun, 1)
1x Flea Bottom
1x Lord Doran’s Chambers
1x The Roseroad
1x The Searoad
1x Shadowblack Lane
1x Street of Steel
3x Water Garden
3x Cannot be Bribed, Cannot be Bought
3x He Calls it Thinking
3x Ill Tidings
3x Make an Example
3x The Viper’s Rage
With this deck, your goal is to set up a one-turn or two-turn power rush, using The Red Viper, The Prince That Was Promised (Illyrio’s Gift, 20), or To the Spears! (Princes of the Sun, 60) to win multiple challenges with Renown. All the events, attachments, and complementary characters exist solely to help you establish and execute this power rush.
In this deck, both Beric and Jaqen can take the place of The Red Viper, or they can participate in challenges alongside him. Either way, all three of these characters are potent combatants with three challenge icons. However, while The Red Viper and Beric both have Renown and are obvious threats on the table, Jaqen is far more mutable and mysterious.
While the revised version of Jaqen loses the six static House keywords he used to have, he gains more flexibility, and as Nate said, he’s far more capable of adapting and adjusting to the situation.
Though Jaqen requires you to burn power to get him started, he can quickly earn it back, too. Spend one power to give him Vigilant, spend another to give him Renown, and spend a third to give him Intimidate. So long as you win three challenges unopposed, you’re spending three to gain six, plus the claim from your power challenge.
Moreover, one of the hidden features of the revised Jaqen H’ghar is namely that… hidden. There are many different keywords in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, and if you have even a single power on your House card, Jaqen can have any of them. Not only that; he can gain a keyword at action speed. Suddenly, if Jaqen enters a challenge, it falls to your opponent to remember all of the game’s keywords and to think of the worst possible outcome. Will he gain Deadly? Will he gain Intimidate? If your opponent commits a four-strength character to his defense, will Jaqen simply gain Melee and win the challenge?
The deck above looks to play duplicates on Jaqen and use He Calls It Thinking (Princes of the Sun, 21) against Response abilities, like that of Ser Arys Oakheart, in order to keep Jaqen on the table, but there are other ways to protect him.
Then, if you can keep Jaqen safe, so that he owes you a life, he’s an assassin that’s fully capable of delivering. In the game’s current environment, while everything that was old is now new again, you’d do well to give Jaqen H’ghar another look.
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.