“Words are like arrows, Arianne. Once loosed, you cannot call them back.
I have worked at the downfall of Tywin Lannister since the day they told me of Elia and her children.“ – Doran to Arianne Martell.
In some ways the Martell house is very similar to the Stark house. At the head of Dorne’s remote lands, to the south end of Westeros, the Princes of Dorne have always done their best to stay out of the wars and intrigues of the Seven Kingdoms, and have a tenacity that can stand up to all evils. They were thus able to retain a certain degree of autonomy for a long time, and even during the Targaryen reign, which lasted three hundred years, they were able to maintain their independence at least in part, thanks in particular to their diplomacy and their taste for guerrilla warfare rather than direct confrontation. Alas, their recent alliance with the Targaryen House during the reign of Aerys the Mad King was unfortunate, causing the death of Princess Elia and her children at the hands of Gregor Clegane. A crime that the Princes of Dorne have not forgotten, and intend to avenge sooner or later. Whether by the iron hand of the dangerous Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, or by the shenanigans of the reigning Prince Doran Martell, they will do everything to remain true to their motto: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.
In Game of Thrones: The Card Game, House Martell is probably the most intriguing faction after the Lannister house. That said, they are willing to consider all options to accomplish their revenge and claim their place as the great house of the Seven Kingdoms. Oberyn Martell and his many bastard daughters are formidable fighters, while Prince Doran knows how to play the game of power and intrigue. The Martells are guerrilla fighters, preferring to flee when the enemy is too powerful, then choose their battles and win them with brilliant moves. Because if there is a house for whom revenge is a dish to be eaten cold, it is undoubtedly House Martell.
In the first edition, the Vengeful keyword allows the Martell characters to stand after losing a fight in defense, allowing them to counterattack to avenge their victims. They also have access to numerous revenge effects, triggered when they lose a challenge or suffer casualties, which allow them to kill opposing characters, kneel them or cause them to lose challenge icons, making them even more vulnerable. In addition to that, they heavily rely on influence to trigger more effects and turn the tides at the right moment.
In the second edition, House Martell is not a straightforward faction, but rather adept to schemes. They have a lot of control effect, to either remove enemy cards from play, kneel them or make them lose challenge icons. Moreover, it’s also possible to setup deck-sifting mechanics with them, so that you can slowly build your strategy and wait for the right moment to get all in and reverse the trend. That means that you’ll have to soak up damage early game, but with some good cards to control the enemy or slow him down, you should be able to get that revenge in the end.
First Edition Deck – Joust – The Sand Snakes
“When I pull my blade, your friend starts bleeding. Quite a lot, I’m afraid. So many veins in the wrist. He’ll live if you get him help straight away. Decisions.” – Oberyn Martell, The Red Viper
The daughters of the Red Viper know no pity, their vengeance is red like blood and burning like sand. The characters of this vengeful deck strengthen each other with the Sand Snake trait and wait, letting the enemy come with low initiative plots. They can then retaliate with many events and other responses triggered by defeat in challenges.
The To the Spears! plot is the perfect example of the guerilla war style of this deck. Wait for your opponent to move, then retaliate with everything you’ve got. Moreover the Bloodthirst agenda grants easy card draws as long as you are outnumbered, to help prepare your strategy on the long run.
Blood for Blood or War Scorpion will make the enemy regret having attacked. This is ideal to prevent him from getting too strong early game, either by killing his important characters or instill fear in his heart.
In the meantime, the Maiden of Poisons and other cards such as Desert Raider or To Be a Viper will cause enemy characters to lose challenge icons, making them vulnerable to retaliation.
Losing challenges will also you allow you to stack gold on The Red Viper, which you will use to stand him and retaliate with increased damage. You can also get Renown for your Sand Snakes thanks to Her Viper Eyes and won’t have to kneel them to attack thanks to Dorea Sand.
If you’ve managed to keep Nymeria Sand, Obella Sand and Tyene Sand alive, all your Sand Snake characters will have the three challenge icons, Stealth, Deadly and Vengeful.
Once you have removed enough icons to the enemy characters, they will be helpless in the face of your own challenges and vulnerable to attacks from Poisoned Spear and Hotah’s Axe.
First Edition Deck – Melee – The Schemes of the Prince
“I am not blind, nor deaf. I know you all believe me weak, frightened, feeble. Your father knew me better. Oberyn was ever the viper. Deadly, dangerous, unpredictable. No man dared tread on him. I was the grass. Pleasant, complaisant, sweet-smelling, swaying with every breeze. Who fears to walk upon the grass? But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes.” – Prince Doran Martell
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. This is the motto of Martell and this deck. Led by Prince Doran, this defensive deck is based on the Prized keyword to allow you to sieve your deck, looking for the cards you need most. As a good strategist, don’t be blinded by a thirst for vengeance, be cold and methodical like Prince Doran, and focus on what really matters: power.
The attachment Prince of Dorne is the key of this deck, to get easy good draws when you play Prized cards, so if you don’t get it during the setup, do a mulligan or fetch it with Spending Winter Stores.
Try to build your defence strategy with influence cards. Advisor’s Chamber or Doran’s Favor early game are nice to prepare yourself.
Use blocking and disruptive effects fueled by Dorne’s influence such as Scorpions Underfoot and many places of power like Lhorulu and The Vaith.
To feed the Prince of Dorne, the deck has many powerful Prized cards such as Dorne Loyalist and Summer Sea Scout. Zollo is also a very nice card to play when you feel your opponent is preparing a strong marshalling phase.
If your opponent becomes too threatening, throw his most dangerous characters away thanks to Spear Phalanx or the incredible You Murdered Her Children, and cancel his events regularly thanks to Doran’s Game.
This disruptive strategy will help you avoid the most devastating defeats, and choose the right moment to let attacks go when you are ready to strike back hard with The Viper’s Rage, ideally combined with the plot Focused Attack and/or The Red Viper for even more damage.
Last but not least, don’t forget to focus on power challenges with Doran Martell. You also have a Valar Morghulis plot to either stop your opponent if he makes a very good start or wipe the table before making a well-prepared counterattack.
Second Edition Deck – Reset The World
“It’s a big and beautiful world. Most of us live and die in the same corner where we were born and never get to see any of it. I don’t want to be most of us. ” – Oberyn Martell
There are multiple ways to control the board and prevent your opponent from getting too strong. This deck doesn’t work in subtlety, it has many ways to put down enemy characters and also locations. In the usual Martell way, it goes the long way towards victory by crippling the enemy’s efforts and waiting for the right opportunity.
The Iron Throne should ideally be played early game, to start gaining power in dominance. In the meantime, you can control the development of your opponent thanks to Political Disaster and Valar Moghulis plots.
The other great combo of this deck is Varys with The Last of the Giants. Play Varys by surprise with it and discard all characters in play. This can be done several times! And just before doing that, get Arianne Martell back in your hand in exchange of a less important character.
If some characters resisted to some of the above table wipes, use Marched to the wall in the next turn. Against remaining locations, use Pyromancers using the power accumulated with The Iron Throne.
You have some control effects to prevent your opponent from winning too many challenges, namely Nymeria Sand and Areo Hotah.
For even more counters, use the Outwit plot and powerful cards such as the terrible Vengeance for Elia. His Viper Eyes is also very good, either early game to discard enemy characters even before they are put into play, or later to prevent your opponent from rebuilding after a table wipe.
Finally, Starfall Cavalry and Counting Coppers are perfect to draw cards easily and get the advantage after a table wipe.