Your build is going to be a bit different since you are playing Melee while I was building Joust decks… I'm guessing jmccarthy put up a Joust build as well; if I'm wrong, props, cause it doesnt look like a viable Melee deck. Vanguard Scouts that I advocated use of in the earlier post would be pretty useless in Melee; your lack of I icons will also encourage unopposed farming from everyone at the table.
1) In your opinion, how critical are the Shadow cards? My original build was just a top heavy Stark-Military build, with a surprise push of Syrio turn 2 or 3. I never tried to play Shadow stuff other than Syrio because of the pressure.
Which ones are you using? I don't want to speak for him, but jmccarthy probably has the Shadowcats just because they are cheap Stealth and free to bring out; I didnt run any Shadows other than Syrio and 1-2x Arya in my build (since she can be used for claim soak and then brought right back out for Epics).
2) Direwolf support? Is that just thematic, or is that the 'right' play? Sure a 2M for 1 or a 3M for 2 is good, but good enough to force direwolf events and locations into the list?
I wouldnt bother with Direwolf themed cards, but it depends on your build I guess. Pups are good cheap stark guys, good for setup and with a Round 1 FoW plan you want as much cheap M in setup as possible. If you aren't planning a rush build then you might be able to slot some Direwolf support in, but I've always felt Direwolves are for a different type of deck, flooding board with more M crests than your opponent can defend against and guaranteeing you can win M challenges. Given the amount of non-unique hate available right now I wouldn't recommend using too many of them.
3) I really like Qhorin and a couple of the other Night's Watch characters. Does the deck HAVE to play Siege at Winterfell to win? I think it might, but looking for other opinions.
If it isnt running Siege then you can't do a rush build like this; you're too dependent on M challenges providing all your power. I think Qhorin is a pretty weak card right now with fewer and fewer non-uniques being played. He's also pretty expensive for what he does when you consider his lack of icons and the "by 4 STR" condition; the vulnerability to VB and burn is just the icing on the cake. I do think you could run a Stark kill build with Epics for that extra M punch, but you'll need a different bunch of cards and its going to end up pretty Event-heavy; you'd almost certainly need to include Forgotten Plans to shut down any Power of Bloods that get revealed. Another option may be to run KM as your Agenda and figure some way to jump Beserkers into play at least 2x per Round, murdering everyones board and making enemies all over the place.
I'm really not a fan of Siege for Melee builds; maybe its just my meta, but seeing a Muster the Realm first Round is not uncommon, and when you consider that 3 other people could also be running Uneasy Truce, Shadows and Spiders and Lineage and Legacy, an entire game may be played without you being able to make a single M challenge. With Siege the Epics could help you push for the win in Melee since you can just go after the weakest player, but Siege in Melee is just too much of a gamble for me.