Ok, so last night we had the fourth in a series of Joust tournaments at Good Games Blackburn. Sadly, was a smaller turnout than usual: we had 7 players all up so we would only play 3 rounds of joust. Some really odd things were happening last night: Starks, which had been both popular and dominant were entirely absent, and the much-maligned Knights of the Hollow Hill were seriously overrepresented.

Of the seven players, we had 2 Greyjoy (No Agenda, Kings of Winter), 2 Targaryen (KOTHH, Maester’s Path), Lannister (PBtT), Martell (KOTHH) and Baratheon (KOTHH).

I played my Targaryen KOTHH deck. It is a pretty standard burn deck with a focus on the First Snow-RBD-Valar/Threat plot chain. Lots of ambush to support a low-board presence strategy. Overall it worked well. The first match was the Targ mirror against the eventual winner, Jason. It was a brutal slug-fest – it ended on the 12-13th plot, 15-14. I weathered 3 back to back turns of Rhaenys’s Hill (each on 2 claim). As I kept such a low board profile throughout the match, I only had a couple characters in the bin; but the second hill put another two there and I wasn’t able to wear it. Was incredibly close throughout – had I not goofed the turn I played the Mad Mouse, I might well have taken the game and avoided 3 rounds of the Hill. Hard to be upset losing a game like that – I was quite impressed with my build’s overall strat, as I would have said that Maester’s have quite an edge. Having some larger, jumpy characters really made it hard for him to burn them down – playing it again, I’d be much more mindful to keep my board even smaller at times to make it harder for him to Hatchling’s Feast.

The second round was against Matt’s KOTHH deck. He had a terror run – he played Areo on the first turn and held the rest of his hand back as I led with First Snow (I was hoping to bait Flea Bottom for a 2nd turn RBD – no such luck). He took the cheeky unopposed against my empty board – and I dropped in an ambusher and stabbed Areo. He got some board up, but not for long. A third turn Threat wrapped the game up. The most heartbreaking moment was when he wanted to play FBS on the fourth turn – but he had 1 power on his house… I had opted not to do a power challenge the turn prior in order to win dominance and keep my refugee.

The third round was against Chris’ Lannister PBtT deck. Poor bloke had just played the other burn deck and had come off a bad loss. This wasn’t to be much different – he started well, but lead Game of Thrones into Loyalty Money Can Buy. His setup was a Castellan, a Brothel Guard and some locations. Going into the second turn he had Jaime (duped), Castellan, Brothel Guard, and two chumps (he had taken 3 unopposed power from me as well). He went with Breaking and Entering and I went with Threat from the North. He played Cersei anyway… and I burned down everything. From that point he was pretty much out of gas.

With only 3 rounds, this would put me in third. Pretty happy with that really.

Final standings were:

1 – Targaryen Maester’s Path
2 – Greyjoy Winter Choke (piloted by a friend who is pretty new to the game; 2-1 was fantastic for him, and the final was really hard fought).
3 – Targaryen Knights of the Hollow Hill
4 – Greyjoy No Agenda
5 – Lannister PBtT
6 – Baratheon KOTHH
7 – Martell KOTHH

Hopefully next week we’ll have more along – 3 rounds isn’t really quite enough, IMO.

My deck this week:

House Targaryen
Knights of the Hollow Hill

First Snow of Winter
Rule by Decree
Valar Morghulis
Loyalty Money Can Buy
Threat from the North
Twist of Fate
Retaliation

1x Thundering Calvary
Drogon
Rhaegal
Viserion
Daenerys Targaryen
Khal Drogo
The Mad Mouse
Lyanna Stark
Ser Barristan Selmy
Daario Naharis
Ser Jorah Mormont
Pyat Pree
The Titan’s Bastard
2x Jhogo
Viserys Targaryen
Brown Ben Plumm
Black Hatchling
3x Refugee of the Plains
2x Shadow Parasite
3x Dragon Thief
2x Horseback Archers

3x Bay of Ice
3x Summer Sea
3x Eastern Fiefdom
2x Meereen Tourney Grounds
2x Meraxes
Aegon’s Hill
Meereenese Brothel
Rhaenys’s Hill
Lady Daenerys’s Chambers (I’ll be dropping this; 1 card in the entire deck for recursion just isn’t worthwhile)
2x The Red Keep
Street of Steel
Street of Sisters

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

3x Flame Kissed
2x Unburnt
1x Dragon Skull

Again, very happy with the build. I’ll spend some time thinking about the character set; Dany’s Chambers will go. There’s no other cards dedicated to that – no functional equivalence. I think I either need to run more, or cut it. Since I draw a good amount of cards – I don’t feel the need to recur things.  It also kinda runs counter to my low-presence strat.

One other thing I wanted to discuss… Lannister. What’s the deal with Lannister?

Except, unlike the early Two Guys podcast, I want to know… why are they so terrible?

It seems to me that Lannister doesn’t work very well. But I’m not sure why. We’ve been trying to make the PBtT work – and I can see the rush thing being ok, but not really a Tier 1 build. It feels to me that, compared to Martell, Targ Burn, Stark Murder or Greyjoy Choke, Lannister just doesn’t do its trick well enough.

So, what’s wrong? I’m I just a terrible Lannister player? Is our meta missing something about Lannister? They draw cards, they get an extra challenge a turn, Cersei is a house, they have the economy…?

It feels to me that the problem is deep. First, whereas the Siege agenda looks weak on paper but performs incredibly well, Power Behind the Throne looks strong but man does that drawback suck. This is compounded by the fact that Lannister just don’t have the Intrigue game locked down. Martell seem to have a better set of INT characters and many other strats have plenty of tricks. Winning INT against Targ is difficult – it is hard for Cersei to push challenges while she is on fire.

Aside from lacking INT dominance – at least to the extent that Stark dominates MIL – the agenda also basically forces you to make 2 INT a turn. If you can’t do that reliably, the agenda is all downside – but it seems hard to actually achieve in normal games. This is compounded by the fact that you actually lose some flexibility in your challenges – you can’t make a piddly 1 strength INT to kneel out bigger characters. Once you lose an INT or two, that agenda of yours is losing you the game.

The character set also just seems weak. Lots of allies, lots of low strength characters – the icon spread is similarly poor. Perhaps the new character goes some way to addressing that, but we haven’t played a lot with him yet. Since you are relying on a couple key characters to push the key challenges, Lannister also seems vulnerable to strategies like Burn or Kill (both very popular) which can just brutalise it.

Also, kneel as a control strat seems good, but not stellar. It isn’t as flexible or as devastating as burn and some decks aren’t really effected by it – choke and Stark, in particular, don’t seem to care if a couple dudes are knelt. Hell, kneel the whole board – it doesn’t seem to matter that much. In particular, Stark need just one challenge across the line to keep up in the power-stakes… just seems like a Sisyphean task playing Lannisters against Siege.

Maybe the way is to play outside of PBtT – maybe we’re doing it wrong and other people are having a lot of success with it. All I’m seeing is Lannister consistently performing poorly in casual games and in tournaments – when they even turn up at all. I’m beginning to think that Lannister are worse than post-TLS Baratheon… and I know someone will always be the worst, but it feels like the gap is huge. Lannister, on-paper, have the goods: does neutral access to card draw and economy really cancel out Lannister’s natural advantages? And if so, should Lannister start to get more aggressively costed chuds to round out their lacklustre character package? Am I just missing some solid Lanni strats? Help us! :P