If any of you haven’t caught my epic string of 3rd grade level reading errors and play mistakes that lead to my undefeated joust record, feel free to look into the upper right hand corner and hit the “AGOT Regionals: Joust Finals” link to watch an epically edited and commentated video of the match, and count the play mistakes along with me. (Hint: I count 16, four of which drastically altered the outcome of the game.)

 Amid the severe head-desking and painfully embarassed facepalms that followed, it occured to me that I definitely owed you guys one. Going back through the regional coverage, everyone wanted to know, what made the choke decks work? More importantly, what are the differences in approach and why?

 I can’t answer directly for Steven’s deck, being that it’s very similar to my own, and clearly he’s got some major playstyle differences from me, including reading cards, that I don’t want to misjudge. So, I’ll break down my own deck for your enjoyment and learning.

A Brief History of Choke

 To be honest, I hate choke. I distinctly dislike games where negative play experiences are the norm for a single player in the game, and I hate causing them even more.

Shortly before the Regional season in 2011, I was still deckless, and making a joke one day, someone suggested that I combine my love of choking people in jiu jitsu, with my love of Greyjoy, and gave me the idea to construct a Greyjoy Choke deck. I had a list put together quickly and then ran it by Greg Atkinson, and off I went on the 12 hour drive to Kingsport, TN to play their regional and visit my good friend that haunts the area. A 3-2 finish took me to 7th overall in their regional. A few weeks and tweaks later, I made it to the top 8 in the Springfield, MO regional, beating Greg in an elimination match and eventually falling in a downright crazy game against Will Lentz’s Martell Brotherhood.

The reason I bring this up is to set up one of the elements I banked on in this deck: experience. There aren’t that many cards different in this deck than the 2011 version, and most of the changes were to the Locations, adding in Reducers. Knowing this deck this well helps in games that I bother to read in.

 So with the list readily available, I’m going to present it to you by card type, and hopefully explain a few things. I will note that if my luck holds out and I get to play the Springfield and Kingsport Regionals this year, this is NOT the deck I will be running at those events.

Public Cards

House: Greyjoy

Agenda: Kings of Winter

 Obviously to pull half these tricks off, we have to be Greyjoy. It allows for access to Burned and Pillaged, Ice Fisherman, the absolutely insane Asha Greyjoy and, of course, Wintertime Marauders. I’ll note that for those of you looking at Greyjoy, there’s several builds I think are competitive that aren’t choke, and if you show a Kraken when you start the game, most people will assume and already begin the game off kilter of what you are actually doing.

 The Kings of Winter Agenda hasn’t always worked out for me. It sometimes becomes a hinderance in both the mirror agenda match and in Summer matchups. I tend to keep it in though because it can help reign in Martell and Lannister decks that tend to get away with a lot of draw early on. I really want to cut it, but I’m still not sure if going agenda-free is worth it.

 A lot of other choke decks are based off of The Maester’s Path right now, and I still am not sold on this idea. I feel like even with a lot of Greyjoy’s saves and basically getting two Maester Aemon (Core) in the deck with Maester Wendamyr (Kings of the Sea), there’s still a lot of bad luck that can swing your way. Choke has trouble finishing, and if you can’t get chains off, you’re toast.

Plots

Rise of the Kraken

Rule by Decree

A Time for Ravens

Valar Morghulis

Dry Season

Blockade

Fear of Winter

 If you guys caught any of my games for more than two turns, you’ll notice I care about the first three to four plots more than anything in the world. And I’m generally, horribly, predictable. The plot order is somewhat set for this deck, but allows for flexibility. In general, you look to use cards to build up a board advantage while stranding their characters and cards in their hand for a gigantic Rule by Decree turn, effectively shutting them down until they get hand advantage back.

 My two personal plots in the deck are Rise of the Kraken and Dry Season. I say personal plots becuase you (Obviously) need a reset, and generally most decks really operate around 4 plots, leaving you 2 slots to play with to compensate or give a wildcard.

 I use Rise of the Kraken because I feel like Choke has a hard time finishing out games, and even nabbing only 1 unopposed challenge gets you that much closer to 15. The claim 2 and 8 inititive are also nice, contributing to my control of the game and being able to use Ice Fisherman and Wintertime Marauders to muss up any plans the opponent has of recovery.

 Dry Season doesn’t usually make anyone’s list becuase it turns off both your own income and reducers, but I have found it to be valuable for creating an extra turn of stall in the game if I know my opponent can’t draw their 0′s and 1′s to start fighting back. I also like having a claim 2, and if I’m in the lead and have already seen their reset, there’s little risk on my end for playing it to get a third claim 2 turn in on them.

 To add fire to the Valar argument, this is a deck where Valar becomes an offensive tool. If I successfully clear an opponent’s locations or am at a major character disadvantage, such as getting choked myself, I can sweep the board and set up a comeback myself using the ungodly number of reducers in this deck. I can also use it if I know I can play out my hand and win the game off of unopposed challenges, or save enough of my own dudes to not really care.

 Oh, and uh, you didn’t really think that I’d just hand over my plot order did you? It’s easy enough to figure out. Thematic and Nedly, even.

Characters

3x Carrion Bird (1)

3x Ice Fisherman (1)

3x Kingsmoot Hopeful (2)

3x Newly Made Lord (3)

3x Island Refugee (0)

3x Wintertime Marauders (3)

3x Distinguished Boatswain (1)

2x Gylbert Farwynd (3)

2x Asha Greyjoy (WLL) (3)

2x The Sparr (3)

1x Balon Greyjoy (KotS) (4)

1x Theon Greyjoy (WLL) (2)

1x Maester Wendamyr (2)

1x Cragorn (2)

1x Maester Murenmure (2)

 Aah, Characters. This is where my particular choke runs. I want to start by saying that the Tale of Champions cycle literally revolutionized the Choke arctype and gave us the heat to back up the choke. Between Asha, the Sparr and King Euron the Badass, we now have enough of an arsenal to REALLY hit hard, even when our deck doesn’t choke off the first try.

The main thing I want to put up about the characters is their relationship to the reducers. Gylbert Farwynd, when I pay attention, is a bit of a pain in the ass, but again, Tale of Champions gave us enough Greyjoy Nobles to really start using him well. A good portion of the characters can be played for 1 or 0 gold thanks to the number of reductions available in the deck, making that 4 gold go much farther than you think. I’ll get a little more into the Bloody Keep/Sunset Sea argument in the locations, but in general, repeatable reduction is good, and makes all of my heavy hitters a whopping 1 gold.

 Kingsmoot Hopeful was a card that I overlooked last year, and paid for dearly. The Intrigue that he provides is enough to keep your hand relevant, even against Power Behind the Throne decks, and allow you to get an extra challenge off here and there. Asha is also extremely helpful in this regard.

 I do want to plug Newly Made Lord here. He’s not the MVP of the deck, but he definitely pays off in spades when you target correctly. I.E. Actually hitting valid locations and taking out their reducers before effect locations.

 My MVP is actually Ice Fisherman, who generally gives you the extra 1 gold of choke you need to really put the squeeze on your opponent. I love having multiples active, and letting him go to town on an opponent’s gold pool.

 And here’s a fun trick for all you Greyjoys out there: Wintertime Marauders CAN be used to discard the non-unique Duplicates on Unique characters. Feel free the next time you run into Will to ask him about how much fun this can be for a brotherhood deck that can’t draw Beric Dondarrion. This is extremely useful for setting up a Valar to recover a game or destroy a high renown character.

Events

3x Support of the Kingdom

3x Finger Dance

 Support of the Kingdom is pretty self explanatory. I steal your stuff. A neat trick is stealing a unique location using Burned and Pillaged and Support of the Kingdom. The way that Burned and Pillaged is worded turns the attached location into a gold producing location, allowing for you to steal it and clear the Burned and Pillaged with Support of the Kingdom. I won’t get into the crazy high level play implications of this here, but trust me, it makes Ghaston Grey players go blue in the face.

Finger Dance is really the big change here that I love. This card is so useful and provides both a cancel and a potential shuffle, often only by kneeling a Refugee or potentially useless Distinguished Boatswain. Comes in handy quite a bit.

Locations

3x Bloody Keep

3x Gatehouse

3x Iron Mines

1x Longship Iron Victory

1x Aeron’s Chambers

1x River Row

1x Ocean Road

1x Seastone Chair

1x River Blockade

1x Flea Bottom

1x Longship Blackwind

1x Street of Steel

1x Street of Sisters

 The two major things I do with locations is make my gold not matter, and provide draw.

By including such a wide range of reducers, I’m able to keep the cost of the war down long enough to squeak out a win long before my opponent, as well as often times secure Dominance just off of Gold, allowing me to swing for the fences every turn.

The main change I have over other Choke decks is running 3x Bloody Keep instead of Sunset Seas. Looking back, I would rather have 2x Sunset Seas and 2x Bloody Keeps, due to the Influence. Lannister loves its Influence effects, and my main annoyance, Brothel Guard, can be stopped by having it available. Yes, it gives them a power, but you could just steal that and more back with a power challenge. It also would give me a speedier setup with two more 0 cost cards in the mix.

The other reason I run Bloody Keep is that its’ repeatable and instantly pays for itself. That 2 gold I put into playing Bloody Keep instantly gets transferred over to whatever character I play with it that turn, and it lets me profit every turn after that by adding more and more reduction to my pool.

OK, so three locations provide draw, and they are all conditional. Seastone Chair is phenominal now that there’s worthwhile Nobles to run out of Greyjoy. Longship Iron Victory is a solid challenge winner and gives a card on a successful offense OR defense.

Black Wind is funny. Read closely. It just specifies an attacking character, which normally is only relevent in Melee games, but can be pretty funny in Joust. My favorite use of Black Wind is to off my own characters when they are no longer useful, are going to die anyway, or I’m looking for the Valar on the next turn. Simply hand Deadly to my opponent’s attacker till the end of the Challenge, and voila! Free card! Especially when chump blocking military challenges, this can swing games around.

Attachments

3x Burned & Pillaged

3x White Raven

They’re pretty obvious. They help the deck run, give me effects and reduce opponent’s gold. I’ll be honest, this is where you will sovle Knights of the Hollow Hill. The answer is an attachment, and I’m willing to drop a Burned and Pillaged AND a Raven to get it in here at 2x.

Closing Thoughts

 I do hate choke, but it is fun because of the versatility, and when an opponent does manage to start working underneath the choke, games turn into unforgettable affairs of true struggle, which is what keeps me coming back to the archtype game after game.

When playing Choke, remember, you’re always considering your position versus theirs. Ask yourself: Does this get me closer to the win? Does this keep them from advancing their position? And can they recover from this card? Keep these ideas in mind and you’ll be choking in no time.