Hi guys! Here we are again, the aftermath of the third weekly joust tournament at Good Games Blackburn. Apologies in advance for an incredibly lengthy post. Aside from the tournament stuff, there’s also some thoughts about builds and such at the bottom.

I was going to write up my thoughts pre-game, but when I sat down to it, there wasn’t much to say. I expected a good Stark presence based on previous weeks and more maesters. I was all set to play my Martell deck… I have some reservations about it in all honesty. It is a pretty mean summer build centred around Red Vengeance/Burning on the Sands to deny challenges – and in testing, it works well… but it is slow. It seems that I slowly grind my opponent down… and I’m unconvinced it can win consistently in the time permitted.

When I arrived, I opted not to play the deck. Turns out we had 9 players along. Stark was to go unrepresented (in the end, turned out there was another…!) and there were already a couple of declared Martells… I didn’t want a third of the field to be very similar decks (all were playing challenge denial), so I decided to declare for House Stark, playing my revamped Siege deck (lean and mean; list below).

With 9 players, we had 2 Stark (both Siege of Winterfell; the other Stark was playing a Tully deck), 2 Martell (one with KOTHH, one with no agenda), 2 Lannister (no agenda and Power Behind the Throne), 1 Greyjoy (Winter… smelly choke), Baratheon (Knight agenda), and one lonely Targaryen (burn with Heirs agenda).

My first round opponent was one of my regular opponents, Jason, playing his horrible Greyjoy Choke. I felt reasonably happy with the matchup – my deck is built with that matchup in my mind. I have a number of reasonably high gold plots and I have virtually no cards that I cannot play while being choked.

Our setups were both roughly equal – in cards, anyhow. I had beefier characters, whereas he flopped 2 vale refugees, an island refugee and some other random henchman. He opened a blockade – he was able to drop in a couple of other characters. I was also able to play down a weenie or two, despite having no gold. Next round he opened with Fear of Winter and played a White Raven as his only card. I played a Great Keep, having nothing else to play. Next round he Rule By Decreed me – my hand was massive as I had two Guards of Riverrun in play and he could not win military challenges. Despite the perfect plot sequence, I wasn’t suffering as expected. Essentially, with Winter and 2 Burned and Pillaged, I had -3 gold (I flipped back his Raven in the fifth plot), but, even though my economy was hurting (I had 2 other producing locations to even it out a bit – so I wasn’t as badly choked as I could have been), my board wasn’t. He struggled to maintain any position – I couldn’t really play very many characters, but it was irrelevant as he couldn’t kill any either, but I was slowly grinding down his board. He had to Valar, but I bounced back faster – Ser Kyle gave No Quarter to Dagmer and eliminated the only serious character he managed to play post-reset… all in all, a very enjoyable game and a win for House Stark.

My second round opponent was Ducky playing his Baratheon Knight deck. Pre-game we were chatting about the Knight Agenda – I mentioned that there were only 3 knights in my deck, so he probably wouldn’t have any trouble with the drawback. My opening board was excellent – of particular note was Ser Jorah. I opened with a Fear of Winter and slaughtered his board. This was to prove absolutely decisive as now I had a knight and he didn’t. Basically, he was then able to play a couple more knights – I played Reek, he didn’t have an intrigue icon on the board and it was a very sad day indeed. He had to valar, but it didn’t do him any good and I won on the fourth plot. Just an absolutely horror run for the bara deck – drawing one card a turn only is pretty much going to guarantee defeat.

My next match was probably the most fun match of AGOT I’ve ever played. I ran into Thomas’ KOTHH Martell deck. I knew how the deck worked as it is very similar to my own – he wanted to recycle Red Vengeances and beat me down with Red Viper (the new one – he’s awesome when he works, although I suspect Thomas would be better off with the classic Viper). I had a better setup (obviously, as he didn’t have one :P ) and I was pretty tempted to play Fear of Winter. I opted not to (instead going for an epic battle and RBD), as I figured he probably would simply play a location and do nothing further. He played Muster the Realm and played Viper, a dupe on viper, a taste for blood and a location. Was quite sad. Had I considered that he might lead with high economy I should have played the Fear anyhow just to get some free power and slow him down. The rest of the game was incredibly closely fought – I had to keep bouncing Meera in and out to blank the Viper and his Lost Oasis. With the Viper unable to make lots of challenges at high claim, I was able to keep him from developing his game – but at the same time, I had to eat Red Vengeances when I went in for the kill. I only ate one 2 claim military one; the other three were largely irrelevant (although one did prevent me getting 2 power that would have been decisive). At one point I had a plan – I played Reek; I was hoping to push him across the line with Meera and steal the Viper. Of course, this would have been decisive – but he had Ser Arys. Had I played this better, I’d have waited for a turn in which he had to marshall first, but my thinking was that if he had Ser Arys he’d have blown up my Ranger of Winter (who was beefy because of Winter)… he was not fooled and kept Ser Arys for a juicier target. That restraint ruined my plan.

Very slowly he started to take control of the game – reaching four influence and recycling his Red Vengeances with Prince’s Plans was emblematic of that. Nonetheless I was still ahead – I had two back to back attempts to win the game, both stymied by his Martell trickery. The 8th plot, time was called – he played Muster again and I just couldn’t keep an army on the board to save my life. My Boltons had been discarded the turn before – and that was all important. Had I had the Boltons, I’d have won the game – but with no military challenges possible, I had to sit and take it. I was still on a power lead going into the turn, so I just had to hold him off. I couldn’t stop every challenge and he snuck in a 1 claim power challenge – reversing the lead and giving him the modified win. Absolutely fantastic game – my opponent played very well and I was pleased with my plays. There were mistakes, but the game was very tight and there was lots of complex turns during which there were many opportunities for horrific mistakes. If you are going to lose, that is definitely how you want things to go – bloody fantastic.

So I was quite pumped after that going into the final round. This one would be a mirror match – Starks versus Starks. My opponent David is very new to the game – he played last week with a starter and went 3-0; this week he was 2-1 going into the last round. Dramatic improvement – some of those wins were brutal too. Unfortunately for him, my random assortment of Stark warriors proved tougher than the Tullys – my setup was better, I lead with Fear of Winter and blew him out. I got a couple of early epic battles and wrapped the game up on the third plot (I also beat him by surprise in a challenge in the second plot and snagged another 2 power that turn). Quite unlucky for him to get nailed like that – I explained that is why you need a plot to answer the first turn FOW if you are concerned about it.

After the final round there were 3 players on 3-1; since I had defeated the other two (Jason’s Choke and Ducky’s Baras), I came in first. The other two guys were incredibly close – it took quite a while to determine that Ducky had just squeezed into #2. Thomas, the bloke who beat me in round 3 came in at fourth – unfortunately for him, he had a bye, 2 wins (modified) and a loss. Had he completed the games he won by time, he, quite likely, would have placed first. As our builds were so similar, this really highlighted the problem of not being able to complete games in the time – both times he won at time, he really needed another 2~ plots to wrap a game up. Maybe more as another Valar would have then been a real possibility.

So, final standings:

1 – Stark Siege (that means 3 Starks in a row have won these tournaments)
2 – Baratheon Knights (power rush with lots of knights)
3 – Greyjoy Winter
4 – Martell Knights of the Hollow Hill
5 – Targ Heirs Burn
6 – Stark Siege
7 – Lannister No Agenda
8 – Lannister Power Behind the Throne
9 – Martell No Agenda

My current Starks:

House Stark
The Siege of Winterfell

A Time For Ravens
Search and Detain
Retaliation
Battle of Oxcross
After the Mummer’s Ford
Rule by Decree
Fear of Winter

2x The Blackfish
2x Catelyn Stark (Jumpin’ Cat)
2x Meera Reed (an absolute all-star)
Ser Jorah Mormont (2 gold, 3 strength tri-con with stealth? Wow)
Reek
Osha
Arya Stark (shadows Arya)
Craster
Ser Kyle Condon
Sansa Stark (the one that keys off shadows)
Syrio Forel
Hodor
The Hound
2x Samwell Tarly
2x Ranger of Winter
3x Guard at Riverrun
3x The Bastard’s Elite
3x Hungry Mob
3x Bolton Refugee
3x Carrion Bird

Battle of Ruby Ford
2x The Battle of the Whispering Wood
2x No Quarter
3x To Be a Wolf

2x Frozen Moat
Lord Eddard’s Chambers
3x Great Keep
3x Narrow Sea
Street of Steel
Street of Sisters
River Row

3x Frozen Solid
2x White Raven

I expect from here on to see a lot more tech against this type of build. If you are not prepared for it, it gets out of control from the very first turn. Martell definitely seem to be a natural predator. The Blackfish is also overrated – I rarely play him, and I usually play him after I have board control anyway. Otherwise the deck is really really solid. To Be a Wolf is absolutely phenomenal – it is a great trick, but being able to search out whatever you need most is also fairly key. I did miss the Frozen Outposts in the games that were a little closer, but I’m not sure they’re really worthwhile. After all, spending that 2 gold on another dude is usually going to be better value… even if jumpin’ Cat is incredible with them.

In terms of decks that would do well – Martell control seems to have the goods, although I’m also reasonably confident that I’d win that matchup as often as I’d lose it. First Snow of Winter would be devastating against me and I think more decks probably need to run it to deal with Starks. I also kinda like Burn in this matchup too. If you can reliably pull off a 2nd turn Threat from the North…

On this, I’m pretty sure that I have been wrong about KOTHH. On paper (and in a lot of our testing), KOTHH is awful. You start many cards behind your opponent and lots of things can go horribly wrong as a result. On the other hand, KOTHH seems to have two very important advantages – two influence makes Red Vengeance and Hatchling’s Feast very reliable and you are immune to Burned and Pillaged (not to mention you also have two extra gold). Therefore, in my thinking, you have a natural advantage against Choke and Siege. The more I think about the match, the more I realise that Targ Maesters v Stark Siege isn’t so awesome for Targs (not a horrible matchup, by any means, but not as favourable as KOTHH could be) – to reliably set up a second turn Threat, you need to lead At the Gates for the Advisor. If you do that, and you need to, the first turn Fear of Winter ruins you (not to mention Frozen Solids make it hard to ever catch back up). Good game, thanks for coming. With KOTHH you can meet their first turn fear with a First Snow and even the board up. From there, you are well established to blow their board at any time – your influence locations easily outnumber their frozen solids, and you’ll always have the economy to play a Dragon Thief.

Martell KOTHH is the same thinking – from the get-go, Red Vengeance is a possibility and once you reach 4 influence for Prince’s Plans, the nature of the game has changed. Of course, I’m just theorizing – probably as Targ Maesters you just need to play a defensive plot first turn, forget trying to get chains – set up the Feast next turn and then, the third plot, try and burn down their board. Nonetheless, these are matchups worth testing a lot more – being strong against two very popular and powerful decks has to be a good thing.

Anyone have any thinking on KOTHH to share?