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How Deep Does The Fear Cut?

by Sergey

Hello! I am Sergey. I have been playing Stark a lot since I got into The Only Game That Matters. The most enigmatic card for me in the Stark card pool has always been Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords. At first I struggled even to understand its effect, then got it, but still lacked a clear idea as to when I should consider it in my decks. Now I would like to have a closer look at this card and understand, what it actually does in the current meta and maybe help other Stark players know better when to use it.

1. Introduction

Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords (FCDTS) is not a new card. It has been around from Called to Arms chapter pack that was released back in August 2016. The reviews upon the release were not quite positive because FCDTS costs 2 gold and Stark had underwhelming economy from the start, the other concern was that there were not enough abilities to justify running it, so it may stay a dead card in hand. Now over time things have changed: economy got better and a lot more annoying abilities have been printed!

The card says:

“Interrupt: When the effects of an ability that chooses a [Stark] character as its only target would initiate, cancel those effects and stand that character”.

Let’s break it down into several parts:

a) effects of an ability

An ability is the special game text that a card contributes to the game. Card abilities fall into one of the following types: actions, constant abilities, interrupts, keywords, reactions, or when revealed abilities.

As we can see from definition  FCDTS can be used to cancel a wide range of abilities on cards of different card types (characters, events, locations, attachments), e g. even some plots (if you have gold) like Filthy Accusations.

b) chooses a [Stark] character as its only target 

Obviously there should be a word “choose” in the ability text, unfortunately, FCDTS cannot cancel e. g.Tears of Lys. The cancel only works if exactly 1 Stark character is affected by the ability.

c) would initiate

This is an interrupt, so the play restrictions (1 Stark character chosen) have to be met when an ability initiates. What that means – FCDTS cannot be used to cancel an ability with the word “Then” in it, if the choice of a target happens in the post-Then text (e. g. Ser Gregor Clegane).

A more technical discussion of the card is here in the rules forum of Cardgamedb (beware the site is not secure):


The summary from Called to Arms chapter pack FAQ about the card:

– This event can only cancel an ability with the word “choose” in its text (so it won’t work with Tears of Lys, Tyene Sand, etc.).
– The targeted Stark character doesn’t have to be kneeling (standing is not a cost here, unlike with Ser Barristan Selmy).
– You can use this event to cancel your own ability (from an event or a card in play) that targets a Stark character you control, just to stand that character.
– You cannot use this card to cancel the ability of Ser Gregor Clegane or The Tickler.
– You can use this card to cancel Intimidate or Stealth.

2. House by House review

Below I discuss the cards FCDTS can counter quite well. Warning: this may not be a comprehensive list, but the list of most important and common threats to justify using FCDTS.


There are some plots here like Breaking Ties and Filthy Accusations, also it can be quite handy to cancel The Red Wedding. Pay attention that all these plots are schemes, so you can find gold to cancel them, if they are flipped out of Rains of Castamere. 

Besides plots one can cancel some powerful neutral cards like

  • Jaqen H’ghar
  • Varys DITD
  • Nightmares
  • Put to the Sword

Remember that you also get to cancel Intimidate and Stealth keywords from any source!


FCDTS is good against kneel theme. A lot of character abilities and kneel effects choose a single target, so you get to cancel all the annoying stuff, like:

  • Melisandre
  • Asshai Priestess
  • Shadow Priestess
  • Shireen Baratheon
  • Dragonstone Castle
  • Saving the Kingdom
  • Consolidation of Power (only if 1 character is chosen)
  • Bend the Knee

I expect there will be more of that from the upcoming Baratheon deluxe! Cancelling kneeling abilities may break the whole opponent’s strategy.

Besides kneel theme notable cards are also Edric Storm, Fury (if a character is chosen), Banished from the Light.


There are not so many character abilities to cancel in Greyjoy, but there are a few nasty locations, which got especially popular with Sea of Blood.

  • Golden Storm
  • Raiding Longship
  • Grey Ghost (if 1 character is chosen)

Plus some old cards like The Seastone Chair and The Kraken’s Grasp.

Overall not many options to make life sad for the pirates.


Where FCDTS excels is in cancellation of Lannister kill and control effects!

The most juicy cancel, I think, is Ser Robert Strong. A big tempo hit, if an opponent planned to use Bobby on a crucial turn, spent 5 gold and got nothing. Besides him some other kill stuff, like:

  • Joffrey Baratheon GOH
  • Ser Ilyn Payne
  • Ser Mandone Moore
  • Stone Crows
  • The Queen’s Assassin
  • Timett Son of Timett

Control effects can be nasty too:

  • Catspaw
  • Red Keep Spy
  • Raff The Sweetling and

upcoming Hands of Gold.

So if Lannisters treacheried you, you can pay them back with your own treachery.


Martell is the big reason to run FCDTS. There are just so many effects that you can cancel, so if you know that Martell is on the rise in the meta, definitely consider FCDTS. This event can cancel the effects of total 20 Martell characters, among them are the good stuff staples like:

  • Areo Hotah 
  • Arianne Martell JTO
  • Desert Raider
  • Shadow City Bastard
  • Dornish Spy
  • Nymeria Sand
  • Southron Messenger 
  • Dorea Sand
  • Starfall

The Night’s Watch

One particular theme FCDTS is good against is Recruitment aka Steal Stuff. This is quite an NPE experience, if you are not ready for it but you can counter your opponents key cards, like:

  • Yoren
  • Queenscrown
  • Old Bear Mormont WOTW
  • Recruiter for the Watch
  • Guarding the Realm
  • The Rat Cook
  • Mutiny at Craster’s Keep


Fellow Stark players often run a lot of cards with kill effects, a lot of them require choosing a target. Here are those you can counter with FCDTS:

  • Bolton Flayer
  • Grey Wind
  • Meera Reed
  • Ice 
  • Taste for Flesh


Targaryens are another big reason to run FCDTS, in particular Targ burn theme. The ideal scenario here is that you kneel some character for attack, Targ player tries to burn it, you cancel it and stand a character for another attack. Pretty much every Targ burn card uses the word “choose”, so you get to cancel:

  • Daenerys Targaryen TFM
  • Drogon IDP
  • Grey Worm
  • Astapor
  • Plaza of Punishment
  • A Dragon is no Slave
  • Dracarys!
  • Consuming Flames


And finally Tyrell. There are actually not so many effects to cancel, but there is one particular theme – control through challenge removal.

  • Margaery Tyrell HOT
  • Shrewd Diplomat
  • Ser Hyle Hunt
  • House Florent Knight
  • Highgarden
  • Mare in Heat
  • Offer of a Peach

3. Conclusion

You can view this card as an interesting 3-in-1 combination of a Hands Judgement with fixed cost for targeting events + limited use Treachery + a stand event.

Using Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords is going to be a meta call. If particular house themes, like the ones below, are on the rise:

Baratheon Kneel

Lannister Kill and Control

Martell (good stuff I guess 🙂 )

Night’s Watch Recruitment

Greyjoy Unopposed Aggro or Rush

Targaryen Burn

Stark Aggro

Tyrell Control

you may well consider including the card in your deck. Make sure to adjust your economy for it a bit, perhaps by running Fealty, Donella Hornwood, Bear Island and so on. Hopefully, you liked the discussion. For the North!

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