"When you reveal Black Sails as your agenda, shuffle your deck and cut it into 2 stacks. Then, the opponent to your left chooses one stack to be The Hold, which is out of play. The other stack is your draw deck.
Response: After you win a challenge in which you had at least 1 [Naval] attacker, choose 1 card from The Hold. At the end of the phase, add it to your hand (Limit once per phase.)"
What are the implications of this card and is it good card design?
At first glance, the negative is the loss of ~30 cards from your deck. This means that critical cards for your deck could be out of play and in the hold. Ultimately, what decks does this impact? It impacts any deck that could already search itself for a card. Here are the list of cards with search effects that are ultimately impacted by this negative:
- A Time for Ravens - A card that does not necessarily fit the Black Sails archetype
- A United Cause - A purely melee card exclusive to Stark and Bara
- Abandoned Forge - A card that sees no play in my local meta
- Aeron Damphair - See above
- At the Gates - An inherently good card
- Bound by the Light - I literally didn't know this card existed. I've never seen it.
- Bran the Builder's Legacy - I have never seen this card played
- Building Season - A mostly melee card
- Campfire Lights - I've never seen this card played
- Dance with Dragons - A fairly good card in a deck archetype that is not currently considered top tier
- Depleted Host - I've only seen this card used to search for Riders of the Red Fork and there are simply better cards
- Family, Duty, Honor - If you're playing enough Tully's to run this card the odds are good you will see them even with half your deck missing
- Harried by Dragons - A decent card
- Heralds - These generally see little play, but have been seeing test play in my meta
- Jeyne Westerling - A good card that is significantly impacted
- Khal Drogo - A good card that is significantly impacted
- Muster - A card that I rarely see played
- No Use for Grief - A gimmick card that rarely sees play
- Red Warlock - I see this played, but am not sure how broadly applicable it is
- Rhaegal - A good card, but in a weak archetype
- Riders of the Red Fork - Can get stuck in the hold in non-Stark decks
- Spending the Winter Stores - A card I rarely see played
- Summoning Season - A mainly melee card
- To Be a Wolf - Probably the most powerful and best search effect in the game
- Widow's Watch - I never see this played
- Winterfell Kennels - I occasionally see this played, but it is in a weak archetype
- Wolf Dreams - See above
- Yoren's Task - I didn't even know this existed
As can be seen there are about 28 cards in the entire game that are significantly affected by "The Hold". 1 of these cards is ubiquitously good, At the Gates. 1 card could be considered core to a faction, To Be a Wolf. Several cards are melee cards. Several cards are Stark and Targ cards. Ultimately, this aspect of the negative is effectively non-existent.
The next consideration is the fact that you have only a ~30 card deck. Assuming you have an average flop of 4 cards, at the end of the first turn (with no additional draw) you will have seen 13 cards. If you draw 2 cards per turn it will take 9 turns to deck yourself. 3 cards per turn will take 6 turns. 4 cards per turn will take 5 turns. This means over the course of the game you will only get to use 35 - 39 cards from your deck assuming you do not play the plot that comes with it and you have a naval card each turn to set off the agenda. I do not recall a large number of games coming down to me having 20 or less cards in my deck. You are guarantted at least 1 naval icon if you play the plot that comes in the same pack. This negative doesn't seem like it would apply in a majority of games, but this may be inaccurate and be a point for discussion.
The final consideration is that you can not run another Agenda with Black Sails
If you have and can win a challenge with 1 attacking naval character per turn you will be able to choose 5 - 9 cards from the bottom half of your deck to add to your hand. Dependent on card distribution and a critical mass of naval support, this should ultimately pan out to mean that you can get any 5 - 9 cards in your deck guaranteed per game. Additionally, I can imagine people making Epic Battle decks focused on using the agenda multiple times a turn, though the top tier competitiveness of a deck like this will be unknown.
You guaranteed get 1 character of your choice from the bottom half of your deck if you play the associated plot. This will either be the naval character to ensure the Agenda works or a character you want (unless you are really unlucky).
This cards ultimate weakness is the shortened deck and the fact that it takes your agenda slot. Is the shortened deck a true weakness? That is likely up for debate. If the ultimate intent was to make a card that guaranteed you saw a certain number of cards from your deck, the card design was a success. If there was intent to create an agenda with a significant drawback to go with a significant benefit, the drawback is minimal. The benefits could, ironically, play out as equally minimal, but only actual play of the card will be able to determine that. Additionally, this could see a rise in play of some of the Epic Battle cards as well as see larger decks enter the meta. This may be the first deck archetype that chooses to go over the 60 card limit for more reasons than simple indecision on cards to cut. That additional 10 - 20 cards could override the negative of the inherently smaller deck.
Let me know if I missed anything.
Edit: Removed Maege Mormont as she naturally conflicts with agendas. Added Riders of the Red Fork for non-Stark decks.