Alright, as promised, a report from last night’s joust tournament. We met for the second of the weekly joust events at Good Games Blackburn – a little light on the turnout this week, sadly – only 7 players. With 7 players, we had: 1 Martell, 2 Targaryen, 2 Stark, 1 Greyjoy, 1 Baratheon. No Lannisters this week, but a pretty even spread otherwise. In terms of agendas we had: 2 Kings of Winter, 1 Kings of Summer, 1 Siege of Winterfell, 2 Maester’s Path and one deck (the other Targ) wasn’t running an Agenda at all.

Had quite a few already confirm for next week, so hopefully we will crack 10 for the third event.

I opted for my Targaryen Burn deck. I’ll save the decklist until the end, but I have played a lot of different versions of this build – some with Hollow Hill, some with Summer and finally, I have settled on Maester’s Path. I’ll discuss the reasoning behind the list at the very end.

This week, since we were shy of 8 players, it would be two rounds and a final. My first round opponent was Dave – a very new player playing a Tully deck. It was, essentially, the starter list with a few minor modifications. I had a pretty awful setup, but At the Gates got me my Advisor to the Crown and I was able to burn his characters off the board. I got my chains off my house pretty quickly and wrapped the game up quickly. The Siege Agenda snagged him a good 6 power before the end, but he just couldn’t keep characters on the board.

My second round opponent was from my normal playgroup. Jason was playing his (much feared) “Hyper-Viper” deck. The aim of which is to play the Red Viper (PotS), tool him up and swing repeatedly until you win. It isn’t exactly subtle, but it has worked really well. We’ve been arguing over just how dangerous this deck was – I was pretty sure that both Choke and Burn would be builds that could handle his deck well… but given that his first round opponent was a Greyjoy Choke that he beat… well, I was thinking I might be in trouble.

My setup was again fairly poor – 4 cards, all dudes. I did, however, draw into a couple locations which helped considerably. He played summoning season into my at the gates – I got my Advisor and put Jorah into my hand. It allowed me to 2-for-1 him on the first turn with Jorah, giving me an early edge. He made it Summer but he never got the bonus gold from it – I was able to get some challenges across the line and Copper/Tin Link onto my Advisor who blew up his bird. I kept burning down characters and winning challenges and by the time Viper hit the board I was firmly in control of the game and had all my chains onto the table. With no reset button, it was all mine.

The final I met the only other undefeated player, Chris and his Stark Winter Shadows deck (with a little direwolf flavour). I had another rough setup – only three cards. He started quite strong, making it Winter on the first turn. This was to be my downfall. I could never quite get enough gold – and I completely fumbled my attempt to reset the board and get back in… I attempted to Hatchling’s Feast a Robb Stark… who had a Grey Wind attached. A sad, sad story. I was also one gold away from the Dragon Skull which would have bailed me out of that sad situation. The result was I had to go Threat one turn then Valar the next, further compounding my gold troubles. Also of note – no attachments on the Direwolves made it quite difficult to burn them… on the final turn, expecting a Meera or Arya in Shadows to end the game for him, I had the Flame Kissed… but it was a shadows wolf and that’s all it took. A brutal 15-0 loss. I don’t think I even got a challenge off… he just had the goods and I responded poorly to being on the back foot. A mistake or two and that’s all she wrote – two different Stark decks have taken home the prizes and the glory two weeks running ;) .

Although I was a little sad to lose so badly (we did play a friendly afterwards in which I performed *much* better and won handily… although no where near as brutal as the game that counted :P ), I’m glad that I was able to test my Targ Burn in a more competitive environment. Here’s the list; I’ll note some thoughts below…

House Targaryen
The Maester’s Path

Search and Detain
Retaliation
At the Gates
Threat from the North
Loyalty Money Can Buy
Regroup
Valar Morghulis

2x Jhogo
Ser Barristan Selmy
Khal Drogo (fetch Dothraki version)
Lyanna Stark
Daenerys Targaryen (+1 str version)
2x Dragon Thief
2x Horseback Archers
2x Shadow Parasite
2x Street Waif
3x Refugee of the Plains
Maester Aemon
2x Advisor to the Crown
Green Hatchling
The Titan’s Bastard
Pyat Pree
Daario Naharis
Viserys Targaryen
Ser Jorah Mormont
Black Hatchling
Brown Ben Plumm

2x Meereen Tourney Grounds
2x Meraxes
Lady Daenerys’s Chambers
Meereenese Brothel
2x Rhaenys’s Hill
Street of Steel
Street of Silk
The Red Keep
Khal Drogo’s Tent
3x Eastern Fiefdoms
3x Summer Sea

2x Forever Burning
3x The Hatchling’s Feast
3x Narrow Escape

3x Flame Kissed
1x Dragon Skull

Copper Link
Tin Link
Bronze Link
Lead Link
Valyrian Steel Link

So, overall, I’m pretty happy with the build. I need to do more to ensure smoother setups – in every game I played in the tournament my setups were poor and this really hurt my ability to play the deck as I wanted. I never really had an issue with influence – between 8 locations and At the Gates I always have what I need in that regard. This helped ensure I got access to my toolbox of chains. Also, I was always happy with my options for chains and I my 3:5 Maester:Chain ratio was never an issue.

With regard to my chains, I think my selections were spot on. I opted for a copy of Bronze link over a 2nd Dany’s chambers because, although the risk of running too many chains is there, it is far more reliable and thins the deck. The Tin/Copper links are fantastic – Tin is great on its own, but Copper gives me an answer to seasons without resorting to running birds (which would crimp Threat from the North’s style). Additionally, Copper has a cute interaction with Jorah and Daario. Lead Link is probably my only dubious include – but it does, importantly, give me another way of kneeling maesters out of the challenges phase and it does add a reliable source of some burn if need be. If I were to cut one, it’d be Lead Link.

My Maester:Chain ratio was a concern before the game – I only have 3 maesters in the deck, although one can save himself. The thing is, there’s a good amount of card draw in the deck and Narrow Escape protects them very well. Maesters are pretty resilient to opposing burn effects (since they will usually have attachments) and I have a lot of tricks to make sure I win the right challenges.

So, if I’m happy with the resources curve, the amount of burn, the agenda… but the deck didn’t perform anywhere near as expected… well, where’s the problem? Well, as mentioned, I suffered a string of bad setups. In my view, I’m getting hammered because I’m just not reaching critical mass fast enough. Looking at this deck, just over a third of the deck isn’t really suitable for a setup – compared to my current Stark build where I have just over half that number. I’m including anything of 4 cost, anything with a sweet CIP effect, events, non-shadows attachments and counting duplicate copies of things as half a card. I think there’s some serious scope for some trimming: I want to reliably hit 5 card setups.

I can also help matters by switching up my plots. 3 2-gold plots is painful, no doubt. This serves to complicate poor starts by giving me fewer early game options. That needs to change.

Any thoughts? I really feel like this has exposed a design flaw in the deck – I need to sweep a razor over the build…!