Bannermen! Michael Shinall here, and we continue our Faction Focus article series today with House Stark!
To catch up on the rest of the series, click any of these links below:
As usual, we’ll dive into the general themes of the faction, their Tactics Cards, as well as some preview units and Attachments. Lot’s to cover today, so let’s begin!
DEFENDERS OF THE NORTH
While not as severe as the lands of the Free Folk, the Northern Regions of the Seven Kingdoms is still a harsh environment, and as a result, it breeds hearty and grizzled individuals with little natural weaknesses. A deep part of northern culture is also its sense of honor and loyalty to its Great House, and that House’s name is Stark. It is this sense of loyalty which sets House Stark apart from many of its rivals in the War of the Five Kings. While liege-houses bend the knee for wealth, power, glory, or merely following the charisma of greater leaders, the North embody an ideology of honor and commitment. They fight because it is right. Which, while a noble sentiment, also directly conflicts with how the majority of the world of Westeros works.
The Starks have a focus on aggression, emboldened by their cause to achieve victory at any cost- even if that cost are their own lives- after all, they are fighting for an ideal, and even should they fall, the North Remembers.
TACTICS OF THE WOLF
Embodying this mindset, House Starks’ Generic Tactics cards have a focus on combat, whether it be through Attack Buffs (at the expense of Wounds) or enhanced Charges (and Starks do love their Charges). A sub-theme present through cards and units is also that of being a cornered animal. When the chips are down and all hope looks lost, that is when the fires of the Starks burn brightest- and they find themselves at their most deadly. So while many of the benefits granted to the faction come at the expense of suffering damage, this only furthers to push them into their most potent capabilities as well.
Overall, the Stark deck has some nasty buffs for it- but they are all also relatively predictable. They are going to Charge you, most likely with some sort of benefit, and then attack you… Again probably with some kind of benefit. They aren’t particularly sneaky, they don’t have any devious tricks or mind games- they do what they do and they do it well. When playing against them, it’s good to remember this predictability as well.
WINTER’S MIGHT: The first of two “companion cards” (the other being Northern Ferocity), this card gives Starks a means of cutting through heavy-Defense opponents. The first card in their toolkit when it comes to bypassing a target’s advantages.
NORTHERN FEROCITY: The second card in this utility “set”, this card target’s an opponent’s Morale, allowing damage via the Panic portion of an Attack.
DEVASTATING IMPACT: The first “charge focused” card for the Starks, Devastating Impact again pushes the damage capabilities of the Starks to the forefront- assuming they get the position they want.
THE NORTH REMEMBERS: The North does not forget its fallen, and when one falls, the others will rally to avenge them. This, perhaps more than most any other card, fully embody the “cornered animal” mindset of the Starks, as it perpetually allows them to maximize both their Attack Dice as well as their Charges, comboing with virtually every other card available to them.
WINTER IS COMING: This card can be said to be the “companion card” to Devastating Impact. They both share the same trigger, so you’ll need to choose which effect will be more beneficial for you at that time.
SWIFT REPOSITION: Starks have a few movement tricks, but those tend to be restricted to Charges (or specific Commanders). Swift Reposition however allows some minor movement control to allow both defense and offensive plays.
ASSAULT ORDERS: While Starks were never known for their political savviness, they do know how to launch an offense- so why bother with the political machinations of the throne when you can just attack more?
Now, moving onto our previewed Commander’s cards, we have Robb Stark, the Wolf Lord. Robb brings the movement shenanigans to the faction. While Greatjon Umber might focus on extreme damage and Brynden Tully holds the line as the premier defensive Commander, Robb is your choice for those who value mobility and movement shenanigans.
SUDDEN RETREAT: It should be evident that Starks like charging and don’t like getting bogged down. This allows them to get out of risky engagements and realign themselves for a new assault.
SUPERIOR POSITIONING: When your opponent thinks they have a clever plan for coming at you, this card can put a major damper on them, not only cutting off access to re-rolls and tactics, but also making your counterswing that much more potent.
HIT AND RUN: The inverse of Sudden Retreat, this card allows you to set the pace of the engagement by giving you yet another method of getting out of engagements that you’d prefer to avoid (or, again, just set up more Charges).
SOLDIERS OF THE NORTH
While “the North” does invoke a certain image of hardened and grizzled soldiers, toughened by a lifetime of hard living, that doesn’t necessarily represent all of them… Just most of them.
HOUSE UMBER GREATAXES: We previewed the House Umber Berserkers in our December Update (LINK here). While that unit was an excellent counter to chaff units, being able to throw down a large number of attack dice with high accuracy, the House Umber Greataxes are your answer for the other “specialist” units of your opponent. These guys can cut through most problems they come across. The trade-off, however, is that they don’t exactly synergize well with Tactics Cards or any greater battle plan than “go kill those guys”. While they are extremely effective in that task, they are also very predictable in what they’re going to do on the battlefield and their potential can be wasted if they get stuck fighting something not worth their time.
STARK SWORN SWORDS: One of the “basic” five point units of the faction, Sworn Swords have an overall average stat-line is pretty much all regards. Literally across the board they’re just… average. What isn’t average though is the Ability to gain both Critical Blow AND Sundering in an Attack. This can cause their damage potential to jump massively- as long as you are careful about it. It’s not the type of Ability you want to just spam over and over… Or maybe it is, depending on the situation. It’s really about how much risk-tolerance you can stand as a Stark player!
GREY WIND (and the rest of the pack): Good doggo. When it came to the direwolves of the faction, they are often seen as one of the “iconic” units and “faction identities”. Their original design space, however, was always meant to be more of a “supplemental” role for their owners than an actual “role” in their own right. As the game progressed however, they took on a life and role of their own, so we’ve aimed to expand that. To achieve this, we’ve decoupled the reliance on the wolf and their respective human. Previously, the wolves were a “freebie” that came with the human, which means their utility had to be directly linked to that human as well. We’ve decoupled them a bit now and made them their own thing- their linked Attachment should be worth taking on their own, and as a small added bonus, you get the opportunity to purchase a wolf- who in turn also received a buff to their solo capabilities (with an individual point-cost to match).
ROBB STARK, THE YOUNG WOLF, WOLF LORD, AND WOULD-BE-KING-IN-The-NORTH
That’s quite a long title, but Robb acted as one of the central characters in the “early” stages of the War of the Five Kings, and he has two versions to represent this.
THE YOUNG WOLF: Robb’s Attachment brings a miniature version of his Commander (a theme that is present with most Commander/Attachment Characters). Here, you are paying two points for the Swift Retreat Ability, as well as Enhanced Mobility, giving any unit he joins the flexibility to not be tied down and choose the engagements they want. You’ll again notice some overlap with the generic Stark Tactics- but this is more of a “resource saving” benefit as it means you can use those cards elsewhere. Also, being able to take Grey Wind does mean that for the combination of five points you are gaining a premium Attachment as well as an additional Activation in the form of Grey Wind.
THE WOLF LORD: While not a “blunt” with his benefits as his Attachment version, an important factor to consider is just how well The Wolf Lord synergizes with his own Tactics Cards. Robb can attach himself to a unit and, via his Regroup Ability, really ramp the sustain of a unit. Meanwhile, his Tactical Reposition Ability allows for a constant level of field-control over the course of the game. Finally, being a Commander, and thus free, Robb allows the inclusion of Grey Wind into your army for no additional cost outside the 3 points of the wolf itself!
And that concludes our look at House Stark. Which Commander from the North are you most excited to try when the 2021 Updates launch?