STANDARD JOUST AND MELEE RESTRICTED LIST UPDATE V1.5
The Global Operations Team’s Card Committee is excited to present some new changes to the Standard Restricted Lists – both for Joust, and for Melee! Both of these updates will come into effect on Friday, October 7, 2022!
While our last list was a minor update to address a single faction, we believe this update will have a far greater impact. Without further ado – let’s get into the details, starting with Joust!
While Baratheon has not been crushing tournaments recently, it has been a consistent threat for quite a while, and leaving it untouched while implementing the other changes planned for this update would likely leave Baratheon in a dominant position. As such we have determined that a proactive action was warranted, targeted more at addressing a consistent efficiency in their decks, rather than any abusive or overperforming styles of play.
After analyzing recent successful Baratheon decks, two cards seemed to be played across the vast majority of them – Red Priest, and Traitor to the Crown. Traitor was actually played in more decks than Red Priest, though usually at fewer copies in each – as a versatile tool to many decks (especially decks like Assault from the Shadows, which can introduce the card mid-challenge), it seemed a good choice to restrict. And Red Priest is almost the epitome of efficiency – as a cheap body with good icons that can temporarily steal your opponent’s most important card, there was almost no reason not to run three copies.
We also grew concerned at the potential resurgence of one of Bara’s most powerful historical decks – Trading with Qohor. While the above changes will hopefully effect a light touch on the faction as a whole, we thought it was appropriate to address this deck in particular as well. As such we have decided to restrict one further card for Baratheon – Azor Ahai Reborn. Making a Qohor deck choose whether it wants to use this card as its only Restricted seemed an appropriate consideration for the upcoming meta.
We are generally quite pleased at the performance of the faction that was hit hardest by our last update – we are seeing a trend away from the dominant “big guys” decks that performed so well at Worlds back in May. However, our contacts in the Chinese meta have continued to see this faction overperform, and it is difficult to argue that the faction doesn’t still have some of the best cards in the game available to it at the moment.
As such, we have decided to add one further card to the list for Greyjoy – Pyke (BtB). This card has shown the ability to effect a huge amount of control on the tempo of a game, which (combined with its efficient six- and seven-cost characters) can become oppressive. We will continue to keep an eye on the faction to see if these changes remain warranted.
As every other faction is receiving an update with this list, there was some consideration of adding a card for Lannister as well – if nothing else, to serve as a “shake-up” to their normal play styles. However, as the faction is currently underperforming by a wide margin, we ultimately decided to leave it alone.
Martell was the main target of the RL list not too long ago, and we have seen a drastic reduction in the number of decks it was designed to target, which we are generally glad to see. However, on discussion, we’ve decided it may be time to release one of the offenders, to give Martell back some leeway. We will therefore be removing In Doran’s Name from the restricted list in this update, giving some freedom back to the faction.
While the Night's Watch had not performed well at higher levels of competition for some time, they have been pushed to the top on the backs of just two recent cards. After a short debate, it was agreed these two cards should be restricted.
Great Ranging, with some of the best keywords in the game, also benefits from trait interactions unique to the Night’s Watch that allow it to be used in multiple challenges (such as a free stand from Satin or Samwell Tarly). And if the Night’s Watch player happens to be going first, there is a good chance they can use the Great Ranging on defense as well, thanks to the other main offender – Castle Black (BtB).
Even when not combined with that army, Castle Black has proven itself an immensely powerful defensive tool, especially in decks like Aloof and Apart, which have the characters that can best benefit from its free stand.
By adding these cards to the restricted list, we hope to bring the Night’s Watch back to a more appropriate power level.
Stark, as a faction, has been difficult. While they have access to some very interesting cards and play styles, we keep seeing the same decks from them every time – namely Fealty, and Lord of the Crossing. While there is nothing wrong with this per se – at the time of writing, these decks are good, but not dominant – part of our goal is to diversify the meta, and to stir things up when factions stagnate.
One of the reasons for Stark’s success with Crossing is that it has some of the best low-end characters in the game – Alysane, Arya (Core), Sansa (WotN)… and that’s before we even get into the non-uniques. Adding another of these characters to the list might have served to lower the overall power level of the deck, but would likely be fairly ineffective. We have decided instead to restrict the card that allows Stark to so easily throw these cards onto the table – Passing the Black Gate. Frequently able to generate the equivalent of three, four, or even more gold, this card has been one of the main offenders in promoting Stark’s low end, and by restricting it we hope to see more Stark decks choose another direction.
That said, we are adding one more low-end character to the list. Septa Mordane may seem innocuous at first glance, but her ability to protect Arya from resets, and to speed up the deck’s power gain with Sansa, has isolated her as a potential issue.
While those changes will hopefully tamp down on the popularity of Lord of the Crossing, they are unlikely to do much to a Fealty deck. We went back and forth on an appropriate change here and eventually made the difficult choice to restrict Robb Stark (Core).
At the time of his release, Robb functioned as the cornerstone of Stark’s identity – with limited and expensive ways of triggering him yourself, he frequently functioned as a deterrent to your opponent’s military challenges. Now, however, we have reached a point at which it has become almost trivial to sacrifice your own characters and stand all the rest – many times at no real cost to your board state. While we did not relish the idea of restricting such an important character – both thematically and mechanically – it felt the most appropriate action to take.
Targaryen is at an interesting place right now. While the faction itself is, if anything, underperforming, we are seeing some of its best non-loyal cards become problems in other decks. As such, we are forced to take action, even if doing so hurts a faction that doesn’t deserve it.
Aegon Targaryen is perhaps one of the strongest cards in the game. The strength and icons he adds to your board the turn he comes out of shadows is wildly out of step with any equivalent ability – and while the card he grabs leaves play at the end of the phase, the fact that it goes back into your hand actually means Aegon serves as a kind of draw as well. While he does serve Targaryen’s faction identities in many ways, the fact that he is both non-loyal AND is able to grab another faction’s character with his search has pushed him over the top.
The other non-loyal card of note is Queensguard. When paired with a character with insight, this card effectively allows for (almost) infinite use of that character in the challenges phase. And even without insight, a deck with enough draw can still too easily use a single big character in far more challenges than is healthy.
In adding Queensguard to the Restricted List, we did discuss whether or not we could safely eliminate its pod with Trading with Qohor – but out of an abundance of caution, we are currently keeping that pod in place.
Unfortunately, the non-loyal cards are not the only issue at play currently. In a previous update, we sought to allow Targ more access to its burn archetype, by removing Daenerys Targaryen (TFM) from the list. While we are fairly happy with where the archetype is right now from a purely competitive point of view, we have been confronted with a design issue. Dany being off the restricted list has constricted the design space of burn to the point where the Design Team does not feel comfortable engaging with the mechanic at all, for fear of hitting a tipping point.
As such we have decided to return Daenerys Targaryen (TFM) to the restricted list. We have also chosen to add Incinerate to this list as well – as the only burn event with zero cost, this card could too easily combine with Dany to immediately kill almost any character in the game, and its intended downside of lacking the terminal kill effect almost never mattered, with Dany there to ensure it was added.
We will however be removing one card from the list for Targaryen – Meereenese Market will once again be freely available, for decks that wish to cycle their burn events (or other cards) back into the deck. While we know this may be cold comfort to burn players, we hope that giving the ability to design new burn cards back to the Design Team may overcome this.
First things first – let’s talk House Florent Knight.
This powerful character has been in almost every Tyrell deck for years now – by getting rid of an opponent’s character (and by virtue of being one itself), it has been one of the most consistent ways of getting a classic two-for-one exchange in the entire game.
That said, since the HFK can only discard the character with the lowest strength in play, it is clearly meant to play into Tyrell’s faction identity of “strength matters.” But in nearly 100% of decks including the HFK, you would also find At the Palace of Sorrows – a plot that, by setting every character in play to 3 strength, allows the HFK to ignore its normal restriction and discard anything on the board.
In past lists, we have decided to allow this, as Tyrell lacks any real other access to targeted removal. We have instead prevented Tyrell from easy or repeated access to this ability, by podding To the Rose Banner! With Sorrows, and podding the HFK itself with Burning Bright.
In this update, we are changing gears a bit, and have decided to instead address the root combo. We are therefore podding House Florent Knight with At the Palace of Sorrows (R), and by extension, forcing players to only use HFK “honestly.” However, by doing this, we are also able to remove the older pods – which, in addition to cleaning up the RL a bit, will allow those players that wish to do so more ways to reuse the HFK in decks that want to focus on keeping higher-strength characters out.
One other change to Tyrell was warranted, however – another combination that could be found in almost every Tyrell deck of note. Oldtown is already one of the best cards in the game for Tyrell – used blind, it gives a roughly 50/50 chance of gaining you both a card and a power, and when combined with some of Tyrell’s abilities to manipulate the top card of their deck, increases to 100%. However, one of these manipulation abilities appears on a card that by itself is extremely efficient and infinitely repeatable: Scheming Septon. As such, we have decided to break up the combo and restrict both cards.
While no neutral cards have really leaped out recently as competitive issues, the Committee did want to revisit one restriction from a past list. The Annals of Castle Black (R) was previously used in Martell to draw an obscene number of cards with Secret Schemes – and given the other events available it was determined this could not be allowed to continue.
However, restricting a Neutral card based solely on its interaction with one faction is not ideal, as it also affects those factions that could use the plot in a balanced way. We discussed if there was a satisfactory way to remove Annals, but at the end of the day, decided that it would best be left on the list for now. We will of course revisit the issue in the future, but for now, there will be no changes to the Neutral restricted list.
It has been a fairly long time since the last update to the melee list, as world events have largely prevented melee events from occurring. We are extremely happy that melee events are slowly starting back up again – but that does mean we have quite a lot of new cards that now need to be evaluated against this format!
Firstly, we have some pods to add. Mirroring Joust, The Many-Faced God and Bribery will be podded. As single-target removal isn’t as big a problem in melee, we have decided not to include Dissension at this time – the priority was instead to prevent taking control of a character with lots of power to instantly win the game.
The interaction between Varys (Core) and Valyrian Steel Armor, while powerful enough in Joust, has too much ability to disrupt the table of a Melee game, and as such will be podded as well.
Lastly, a pod to address one of the most popular melee decks of late – Battle of the Trident. In Joust, all players are aware that this deck has the ability to switch into a three-claim plot (Desperate Attack) by winning a Military challenge, and can do several things to guard against it (or limit its effect). With multiple opponents to send challenges against, however, this quickly gets out of hand. As such, Battle of the Trident and Desperate Attack will be podded for melee events. However, even after doing so, we felt that the extremely versatile ability to switch plots like this was still very strong, and have decided to add Battle of the Trident to the restricted list as well. While this may seem harsh, Trident decks were quickly becoming meta-defining, and we hope to tamp down on that a bit.
As is common for the melee restricted list, the remaining additions are all cards that contribute to immediate power gain – either by passive means, gaining renown, or increasing claim. Some are only able to gain an extra one or two power at once, but in combination with other cards can create momentous single-action power grabs that we would prefer to avoid in this format.
- Catelyn Stark (WotN)
- Winter is Coming
- Sea Song
- We Guard the Way
- Barristan Selmy (FtR)
- A Clash of Kings
- A Tourney for the King
- The Starry Sept
Hopefully, these additions will lead to a diverse and engaging melee format!
As always, the Card Committee will watch the results of these decisions closely, with a mind towards maintaining a healthy, fun, and diverse meta that provides a wealth of effective, competitive options, and we welcome your feedback.
Good luck, have fun,
The Card Committee