News for April 2014
A Living Meta
Explore the Evolution of Winning Decks in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 09 April 2014

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is as full of twists and turns as the events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Just as the fortunes of the Great Houses rise and fall in the series, different Houses and play styles become more and less dominant in the card game. One House may rise to supremacy, but as soon as it does, the cunning minds of other players devise a way to upset the balance.

Today, Alex H., a long-time player of the A Game of Thrones LCG, provides the unique opportunity to look back at the Store Championship season and speculate about some of the driving forces behind change in the metagame. Read Alex’s thoughts below!

Change in the Metagame

For any of Fantasy Flight Games’s Living Card Games®, there are two games you play to succeed in competitive play. The first game is the match played out before you, where iconic characters from A Song of Ice and Fire live and die by your decisions, and your mistakes can cost you a game. The second game is the metagame: your assessment of the tournament scene, the prevalent decks that people will be playing, and the best counters to those decks. Misreading the metagame and bringing the “wrong” deck can cost you all your matches! The metagame is an incredibly important part of the competitive game, and its richness and diversity are directly related to the vitality of the competitive scene.

This season, thanks to the participation of dozens of players from across the world, the A Game of Thrones community has access to stats compiled from eighty-three tournaments with a total of over 1600 attendees in a project entitled The Annals of Castle Black on cardgamedb.com. As a community, we’ve had an unprecedented look at the overall metagame and its evolution through a season. Rather than present data immediately obtainable from the Annals, let’s look at the metagame across time periods; beginning before the Store Championship season, and giving snapshots of every two weeks following.

Percentage of tournament victories claimed by Great Houses throughout the Store Championship season

Let’s start with which Houses have been winning tournaments since Worlds, shown in the graph above. However, it’s important not to be too hasty. By looking purely at tournament winners, we’re reducing ourselves to a very small sample size: the eighty-three tournament winners. Still, it’s definitely apparent that in the fifth and sixth weeks, Greyjoy and Baratheon underwent a huge reversal of fortunes! This is a sign of rapid adaptation driven by players pioneering new decks. The question, of course, is what decks?

To broaden our outlook, let’s look instead at Houses qualifying for the top cut in tournaments, shown below. Here, we see a vastly different story, but it centers once more on a sudden shift in weeks five and six. This time, Lannister suffers, while Martell rises to prominence. However, as we saw in the graph above, this radical shift in Houses qualifying for the top cut could have influenced a string of Greyjoy victories and, presumably, Baratheon losses.

Prevalence of each House in tournament top cuts throughout the Store Championship season

One might suppose that the three new agendas – A Noble Cause (Forgotten Fellowship, 81), Bloodthirst (A Hidden Agenda, 119), and The Old Way (Forgotten Fellowship, 99) – are directly responsible for these fairly drastic shifts represented in our sample of the metagame.

This seems unlikely however. As you can see below, in our sample, none of these agendas exceeded fifteen percent representation in the top cut, and of the three, only Bloodthirst was prevalent in weeks five and six.

Prevalence of key agendas in tournament top cuts throughout the Store Championship season

So what’s the story behind this shifting metagame? Obviously, it’s subjective and we don’t have access to data from every tournament, but I see this as a period defined by the consistent representation of Lannister decks and the Knights of the Hollow Hill (Mountains of the Moon, 59) among the top cut. Then, for some reason, (possibly the appearance of a fairly robust Bloodthirst deck) Lannister’s fortunes fell in the fifth and sixth weeks. This change freed Greyjoy as a natural counter to heavily event-reliant decks to claim over half of its store championship victories in that two week period! Greyjoy and its cancels would also take a heavy toll on the popular Baratheon Knights of the Hollow Hill deck, explaining Baratheon’s sharp decline in wins in that same period.

The story’s not over yet – it’s still too early to tell, but the metagame seems to have undergone another shift since then. Rush decks, many built with the new Conquest (Spoils of War, 1) agenda, are exploiting the slow pacing of the dominant decks, possibly signaling an upcoming radical shift.

At this point in the game’s life, the card pool is deep enough that, given enough time, the metagame will find answers to any deck or archetype that threatens to dominate the game, and the FAQ only enhances this natural metamorphosis. In this case, the rise of decks with a low character count, longer games, and the emphasis on phases other than the challenges phase seems to have been countered by slow, controlled decks that avoid committing strongly to aggressive tactics. This, in turn may soon be countered by rush decks, potentially making frequent use of the Conquest agenda. While everyone’s wondering what will come next, I think it’s critical to remember that with a cardpool of this depth, players of this adaptability, and the influx of new cards, the metagame was, and will continue to be far from stagnant. At this time, it has never been more evident that A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a Living Card Game.

Thanks, Alex!

Alex H. is an active player of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game who enjoys taking up pen and calculator to defend contrary viewpoints. He is also a co-host of “Beyond the Wall,” a weekly A Game of Thrones LCG podcast hosted on cardgamedb.com. Look for more A Game of Thrones guest articles from writers like Alex in coming weeks!

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.

    
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