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Restricted List Balance & Pods

by Sergey

What can be more exciting than playing A Game of Thrones? You are right! It is talking about the Restrcited List (RL) and game balance 🙂 .  Now at this stage of the (meta)game with quite a big cardpool and control moving into the hands of community, the topic is a matter of utmost interest and hot debate. There are several opinions on RL going forward and I want to share mine. I am going to touch only on the joust RL.

Restricted List for the game started out in February 2018 (two and a half years after release) and kept growing ever since. The latest version by the Conclave includes 53 cards. It is interesting that the RL keeps taking on new funtions throughout its lifecycle: started out as combo-killer, then moved on to keep in check the most powerful cards, then started to include overly popular cards and then (as of recent) cards causing NPE (negative player experience). The cards are mostly added to the RL, they come off quite rarely, however, I think, quite a few of them can be revisited.

I think that the general approach to restricting cards should be “as many as necessary, but as fewer as possible”. The cards on the list should provide meaningful deckbuilding choices and the list itself be as short as possible. To put it in another way: there should ideally be no “soft banned” cards there (cards that generate problems while unrestricted, but that, once on the RL, are never chosen as a restricted card). The way we get there is, what I call, non-functional errata and creating a hybrid RL by adding a pod system to the RL (alongside the general restriction).

What I mean by non-functional errata is adding limits and maxima to cards that clearly lacked them (shout out to Tyrell :)) and letting those cards come off the RL. That should help return the cards to the cardpool in a better form and increase deckbuilding options. I am against functional errata (changing the abilities on existing cards) unless there was a clear error in the text. If we edit exiting cards, that can cause problems during games because of the difference between revised and original text. However, using limits and maxima to restrict an ability should be less problematic: the ability is exactly the same and you have to take care of the number of times you used it.

Pod system restriction can complement the general restriction that already exists on the RL. Restricting cards in groups can help fine tune the balancing and let bring some of the cards off the general RL. For example, Raider from Pyke resides on the RL just because of A Pinch of Powder. Restricting these two in a pair we can let the raider come off the general restricted list. During deckbuilding they cannot be used in the same deck, but otherwise are fully usable unrestrcited cards. Such a conditional restriction should complement general restriction used now.

A note on bans. I am against bans. There should be a real big reason to ban a card, such as the card being overpowered in any decks that use it, it is automatic restricted card choice for any faction and restricting other cards that synergize with this card does not help. I do not see currently any card in this game that deserves a straight ban. Sea of Blood is strong out of Targaryen, but I think it can be managed by implementing a pod restrict, while other SoB decks are nowhere near as powerful.

Let’s look at how the Restrcited list could change. My version with non-functional errata and pod restriction complementing general restriction is discussed below:

  1. Non-functional errata – change limit or maximum and release the card from the general RL:

Taena Merryweather – restrcited due to Lady combo, “Limit twice per round” can be added to prevent abuse.

Drowned Disciple – the restriction killed the whole Drowned God archetype for competitive play. Limit can be changed to “Limit twice per round”.

Highgarden Minstrel – restricted because of combo, limit can be changed to maximum “Max. 3 times per round” to ensure that you get max. 3 gold from all copies in play.

Oldtown Informer – suggest to add “Limit 1 per round”.

“Six Maids in A Pool” – suggest to add “Max. 1 per round”.

2. Add cards to the general RL:

Bowels of Casterly Rock – restricting it will provide incentive to play shadows decks other than with Kingdom of Shadows agenda, e. g. with banner, Assault from the Shadows or House with the Red Door agendas. Bowels double up on the advantage provided by the Kingdom of Shadows and it feels a bit too strong.

Raiding Khalasar – this card leads to blowout plays with Sea of Blood, more so the effect stacks and is easily achieved by jumping in through the Womb of the World. The resulting board swing with 2-4 claim not many decks can stand. The effect of Raiding Khalasar is too easy to get since most Targaryen aggro decks run bloodriders in abundance. 

3. Remove cards from the general RL

Tower of the Sun – this card was restricted previously due to combo, but the fact that other combo cards firmly stay on the list and the limit once per phase make this card safe to remove.

4. Cards to move from general RL to pod RL

Cards in the same pod can’t be used in the same deck, otherwise are unrestrcited (unless one of them is on the general RL).

Pod 1

Bribery<-> Mercenary Contract – fixes broken interaction

Pod 2

Raider from Pyke <-> A Pinch of Powder – fixes broken interaction

Pod 3

Kingdom of Shadows <-> Nighttime Marauders – fixes broken interaction

Pod 4

Orphan of the Greenblood <-> Sparrows – fixes broken interaction

Pod 5

Sea of Blood <-> Khal Drogo (Core) – removes Core Drogo from Sea of Blood and lets more thematic Khal Drogo DotE version be used while keeping Womb of the World unrestricted. The use of core version in SoB decks makes military challenge control too difficult, since there are 2 military challenges.

Pod 6

Mace Tyrell HoT <-> The Hightower – Mace stays generally restricted, while The Hightower can’t be used  only with him and is free to be used in any other deck.

I think hybrid approach of using general RL and addting pod restrictions can be a good solution to fix problematic interactions and keep the variety of decks in the meta. Also application of limts and maxima to some of the cards on the latest RL can help free them into cardpool. Hopefully this article can spark some interesting discussions. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I am not in any way connected to the Conclave.

The list described by me can look like that:

General Restricted List

The Annals of Castle Black (Guarding the Realm, 40)

Wheels Within Wheels (Oberyn’s Revenge, 100)

“The Dornishman’s Wife” (Guarding the Realm, 39)

Littlefinger’s Meddling (Lions of Casterly Rock, 49)

The Dragon’s Tail (Across the Seven Kingdoms, 1)

Flea Bottom (Oberyn’s Revenge, 98)

The Wars to Come (Sands of Dorne, 45)

Breaking Ties (Sands of Dorne, 50)

Trade Routes (House of Thorns, 51)

Sea of Blood (Kings of the Isles, 45)

Great Hall (Guarding the Realm, 38)

Forced March (Sands of Dorne, 48)

Kingdom of Shadows (Beneath the Red Keep)

The King in the North (Favor of the Old Gods)

Return to the Fields (Kings of the Isles)


Selyse Baratheon (Fury of the Storm)


Iron Mines (Calm Over Westeros, 92)

Drowned God Fanatic (Streets of King’s Landing, 51)

Euron Crow’s Eye (Kings of the Isles, 2)

We Take Westeros! (Kings of the Isles, 46)


Bowels of Casterly Rock (The March on Winterfell)

The Red Keep (Dragons of the East)


The Red Viper (Core, 109)

A Mission in Essos (Music of Dragons, 76)

Desert Raider (Kings of the Isles, 29)


Night’s Watch:
Yoren (The Blackwater, 85)

Bound for the Wall (The Blackwater, 86)

Clydas (Dragons of the East)

Three-Finger Hobb (In Daznek’s Pit)


Wyman Manderly (The March on Winterfell, 21)

Ward (True Steel, 102)

Skagos (In Daznak’s Pit, 82)

Meera Reed (Music of Dragons, 61)


All Men Are Fools (All Men Are Fools, 4)

To the Rose Banner! (Wolves of the North, 38)

Mace Tyrell (House of Thorns, 1)

Growing Ambition (Streets of King’s Landing, 44)

The Queen’s Retinue (Long May He Reign, 103)

Unexpected Guile (Pit of Snakes, 44)


Hizdahr zo Loraq (The March on Winterfell, 33)

Meereen (The March on Winterfell, 34)

Qotho (House of Thorns)

Overwhelming Numbers (Dragons of the East)

Gifts for the Widow (Daggers in the Dark)

Raiding Khalasar (Someone Always Tells)



Pod Restrictions
Pod 1
Bribery (Dragons of the East) <-> Mercenary Contract (Long May He Reign)

Pod 2
Raider from Pyke (Calm Over Westeros, 91) <-> A Pinch of Powder (In Daznak’s Pit)

Pod 3
Kingdom of Shadows (Beneath the Red Keep) <-> Nighttime Marauders (The Shadow City)

Pod 4
Orphan of the Greenblood (Guarding the Realm) <-> Sparrows (The Blackwater)

Pod 5
Sea of Blood (Kings of the Isles) <-> Khal Drogo (Core)

Pod 6
Mace Tyrell (House of Thorns, 1) <-> The Hightower (House of Thorns, 17)


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