The King in the North
A Champion Card Preview for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
“There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m'lords,” he thundered. “The King in the North!”
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Across the many cards of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, you’ll find dozens of traits on your characters, locations, attachments, events, plots, and agendas. King is just one of those many traits, but a new champion-designed card coming in Favor of the Old Gods will lend that trait the weight and majesty that it so richly deserves. (You can pre-order your own copy of Favor of the Old Gods at your local retailer or online through our website today.)
Today, we invite 2015 Joust World Champion Jakob Hultman to the stage, where he’ll share a few of his thoughts on designing his champion card for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game.
Jakob Hultman on His Champion Card for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
Before I started playing the first edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, I had never played in a card game tournament. In fact, I’d never played any game competitively. But something stirred in me from the moment my brother Samuel gave me my first Core Set. It evolved into a bloodthirst to experience the thrill of winning tournaments in a game (and a world) where failure is not an option.
From winning the first Regional Championship in Sweden in 2013 to taking the Melee title in Stahleck in 2015, I experienced the rise and fall of powerful agendas, unbelievable combos, and a restricted list that grew longer than the greatest of beards. All leading up to the ultimate year in the first edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game—the last one.
Alongside my travel companion Andreas, I decided to make the most of that last year and give the game the send-off it deserved. We traveled to Spain, England, Denmark, Germany, and last but not least, the United States and the World Championship Weekend to compete in the only game that matters. (I have probably traveled more with Andreas than I have with my wife, yikes!) Throughout the intense, Olympic-like preparation window before Worlds, I had approached the testing sessions with a firm mindset on what I would play. My deck was Stark No Agenda, a deck that heavily consisted of tutoring effects with a lot of one-off characters and events, giving me every opportunity to find what I needed in dire situations. When it comes to deckbuilding I have always been drawn to finding ways to use player skill and tough, well-timed choices over having a rigid game plan.
But no matter how much I tweaked the deck, it persistently lost to a deck I couldn't get my head around: Greyjoy Dark Wings, Dark Words, built by my friend Björn. It turns out that if you give Greyjoy a consistent draw engine, you can build a deck with cards like Plunder or Euron's Enforcers… cards that people point at and say, “That's a bad card,” or “Where did you find that binder-fodder?” With the consistent draw of Dark Wings, Dark Words, not only did those cards work wonders, they could catch the best players so off-guard that they could single-handedly turn games in your favor. I quickly changed sides and started tweaking the Greyjoy deck to a semi-control / rush-on-demand deck until I felt it could win against anything—hard to beat that feeling!
Things went pretty well and I ended up winning the Joust tournament, which not only brought honor and glory, but the privilege to work alongside Danny Schaefer to design a card for the game. This time I wanted to honor one of the best effects in the first edition of the game—a plot card called Burning Bridges. The reasoning behind this was partly that I've always enjoyed semi-control effects in all kinds of decks. Having temporary spot control or a way to lock down a player’s options has always been my cup of tea, even if I'm running a rush or aggressive deck.
I was also drawn to this design because the best mind games in a Joust match come when choosing plots, so a plot card was an easy choice this time. The Nedly part of the effect was rewarding players that play and control Kings. The power and authority of having a King in play, or the punishment and stultification for lacking one, would be vital for the round in which my plot is in play. Thus, The King in the North (Favor of the Old Gods, 80) came to be.
In a way, The King in the North can shape and reshape how metas evolve and turn to different factions and archetypes of decks.
- Whenever Night's Watch or Martell become prevalent in the meta game (two factions that lack in-faction Kings), just turn to The King in the North and say, “Let's slow down here, shall we?”
- Getting tired of bellicose Greyjoy players getting trigger-happy and playing Valar Morghulis (There Is My Claim, 80) when they've filled up their location base with Iron Mines (Calm Over Westeros, 92)? Call upon The King in the North. Hard to get your men down to those mines without a King!
- Is your opponent trying to deny your triggers with Winterfell (Wolves of the North, 17)? You can’t say no if you don't have a King.
- Is your opponent trying to make a timely save with the otherwise-so-lovely Beric Dondarrion (The Brotherhood Without Banners, 117)? Show them what The King in the North has to say about that.
Shutting down all triggered abilities can be good enough in many circumstances, but when you have a King and your opponent doesn’t, you can choke them out and keep them from playing the game they had planned. Meanwhile, you can trigger as many of your own effects as you want. Fair, isn't it?
The possibilities are close to endless and I'm eager to finally have a go-to option in my plot deck to solve difficult situations and possibly even turn games around by following my King into battle. I hope you’re excited for this card too!
Jakob Hultman is a founding member of the Swedish meta, holding a World Championship title in Joust and a European Championship title in Melee. He wears a beard at all times and is pretty bad at describing himself in general.
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