Since I’m not going to be able to play in this week’s joust event, I wanted to post something else. I’ve been playing on OCTGN and thought about posting a ‘how-to’ for others, but I won’t have the time to upload a video this week. So, instead, given all the discussion on the Choke builds since the Tulsa regional, I thought I’d discuss the evolution of my own choke build coming up to regionals.

I’m going to reveal my final version (barring any last minute tweaks) that I intend to play at at least one of the regionals here… I’m a big fan of sharing information. I figure that by sharing this stuff we can develop a much more robust, deeper metagame – a metagame that is inherently more competitive and welcoming for newer players.

First, a recap – here’s my choke as it stood after last week’s joust.

House Greyjoy
The Maester’s Path

Valar Morghulis
At The Gates
Winter Festival
Take Them By Surprise
Fear of Winter
Search and Detain
A Time for Ravens

3x Oldtown Scholar
Maester Aemon
Maester Murenmure
Maester Wendamyr
2x The Conclave
2x Samwell Tarly
3x Carrion Bird
3x Distinguished Boatswain
3x Island Refugee
1x Pyromancer’s Apprentice
2x Newly Made Lord
2x Ice Fisherman
3x Wintertime Marauders
2x The Sparr
Gylbert Farwynd
Baelor Blacktyde
Asha Greyjoy

2x Support of the Kingdom
2x Risen from the Sea

2x Bay of Ice
2x The Iron Mines
River Blockade
Flea Bottom
Street of Sisters
Shadowblack Lane
Street of Steel
Aeron’s Chambers
3x Gatehouse

2x White Raven
3x Burned and Pillaged
Tin Link
Pale Steel Link
Iron Link
Bronze Link
Valyrian Steel Link
Gold Link

A good deck, no doubt. But there was definite room for improvement – Jayke’s fantastic post really helped to challenge my thinking about some of my choices. I’ll break down my decisions and thoughts in sections, then I’ll reveal the final version.

Ok, to plots:

Valar Morghulis
At The Gates
Winter Festival
Take Them By Surprise
Fear of Winter
Search and Detain
A Time for Ravens

For the most part, I have been reasonably happy with my plots. More thinking about them led me to mix things up – I tried Blockade, Winds of Winter, Attack from the Sea, and a host of others. Nothing I tried really made me happy – in the end, I switched only one plot out – Winter Festival. That plot became Rule By Decree.

Now, I only have 1 2-claim plot, and RBD seems like an odd choice. So, why? First, I don’t feel that I need the high-claim. This deck wins by control. I think this is so important as to be worth repeating: this deck wins by control. I want the high initiative much more than I want the claim – I want more opportunities to apply my choke effects early. The RBD brings reasonably high initiative and sets up some effects in the deck: in particular, the addition of Alannys Greyjoy (the cancel one) and another copy of Asha Greyjoy. Take Them By Surprise just fits so nicely with Sparr/Burned and Pillaged/Bay of Ice – the risk of playing it is greatly diminished: I can reliably grab a turn whenever I need with it.

For characters, I had:

3x Oldtown Scholar
Maester Aemon
Maester Murenmure
Maester Wendamyr
2x The Conclave
2x Samwell Tarly
3x Carrion Bird
3x Distinguished Boatswain
3x Island Refugee
1x Pyromancer’s Apprentice
2x Newly Made Lord
2x Ice Fisherman
3x Wintertime Marauders
2x The Sparr
Gylbert Farwynd
Baelor Blacktyde
Asha Greyjoy

I made some changes here. First, I removed the Oldtown Scholars and the Conclaves. I added another copy of Murenmure – I have also cut down the number of chains I’m running to facilitate this change. Primarily, I wanted to lower my vulnerability to some counter strategies – First Snow, Burn, Blanking, in particular – but I also wanted to include some effects that would enhance my ability to apply choke, especially effects that allow me to do so in a less direct way (like Murenmure). I also removed Baelor – I added a third Newly Made Lord and another copy of both Asha and Farwynd. I also added two copies of the new Alannys Greyjoy.

I cut Baelor because, although he’s great, he doesn’t really advance my central goal of choking my opponents. Asha doesn’t either, but, she is an excellent finisher and she has an INT icon, which is sorely lacking. The other choices all enhance my choke – Farwynd is particularly important because of how he interacts with KOTHH decks (which are only running reducers for economy). Jayke’s build, including both of these guys 2x was definitely the inspiration here. I can see why he does it and I think he’s right. It also helps that I have a considerable number of nobles myself.

Alannys was a more difficult choice, but I’m convinced she’s right for this deck. She also interacts neatly with Rule By Decree, which is nice, but her real strength is her INT icon and her flexibility. Being able to cancel Triggered Effects means that she can choke if needs be, but, she can also deal with events and provide some additional location control.

After Jayke’s post, I seriously considered Kingsmoot Hopefuls. They have a noble crest, which is nice for Farwynd and they also have that very nice INT icon. 2-cost, 3 strength… fantastic, no doubt. That said, the limited keyword is horrible, even if this deck does include ways around it. If I were to include them, they would take Alannys’ place and I’d remove one of the Newly Made Lords to accommodate the third. I’d also then change Rule By Decree for something else.  This still remains a possible change, but again, very leery about Limited.

All in all, I remain stable at 32 characters.

As to the rest of the deck:

2x Support of the Kingdom
2x Risen from the Sea

2x Bay of Ice
2x The Iron Mines
River Blockade
Flea Bottom
Street of Sisters
Shadowblack Lane
Street of Steel
Aeron’s Chambers
3x Gatehouse

2x White Raven
3x Burned and Pillaged
Tin Link
Pale Steel Link
Iron Link
Bronze Link
Valyrian Steel Link
Gold Link

There’s very few changes here, but, although there’s not many, each is important. First, I remove both the Iron Link and the Gold Link. Iron was straight up useless for me in testing and the Gold Link is really for the mirror (I’d run Gold Link in other house Maester builds, just not this one). As I’ve cut down the number of Maesters available, I need less chains – although Gold is cute in the mirror, I already have tin link to deal with Burned and Pillaged.

A quick note on the links – I don’t always get them off as fast as possible. I usually like to keep Bronze on the agenda until later so I can pick up my PSL if I need it. PSL is incredible and opens up a lot of really great plays – kneel to draw 2 cards from Valyrian Steel Link, trigger Bronze to pick up the raven they just discarded and then PSL it into play. Summer decks will cry.

One quick final note on Gold, while I think of it. It might well be worth finding room for it and just shuffling the link into your deck in every game that you don’t sit across from a Kraken. This is what I do now in my Targaryen Maesters (and what I would do in other Maester’s Path builds). This gives you the *option* of additional counters in that match-up without hurting your win-condition in other matches. This is something that I keep umming and ahhhing over here – you could slot it in over the additional Newly Made Lord, for instance. Again, something I’m considering, but I already do have a lot of good options…

Second, I switch Shadowblack Lane for Ocean Road. There’s simply more reducible nobles/war crests than there are INT icons. An easy swap. For my locations, I’ve opted for more repeatable reducers (again, advantage in the mirror), but, overall, I have relatively few economy locations. On the other hand, however, I have a good income on my plots – since I’m not running blockade and my plots aren’t providing symmetrical choke effects, this seems to work well. In addition, Pale Steel Link has a considerable number of targets, further improving my economy.

With my two extra choices, I’ve opted for an additional Risen from the Sea and a second River Blockade. The Risen from the Sea is more defense against burn and protection for my maesters. It also helps to turn Valar into an offensive weapon. The second Blockade, although useless if I draw both, is nice for setup consistency and also it is a card that I really do like to see. It helps, again, in the KOTHH matchup by providing more relevant sources of choke in that match.

So, in summary, here’s my list:

House Greyjoy
The Maester’s Path

Valar Morghulis
At The Gates
Rule By Decree
Take Them By Surprise
Fear of Winter
Search and Detain
A Time for Ravens

Maester Aemon
2x Maester Murenmure
Maester Wendamyr
2x Samwell Tarly
3x Carrion Bird
3x Distinguished Boatswain
3x Island Refugee
1x Pyromancer’s Apprentice
3x Newly Made Lord
2x Ice Fisherman
3x Wintertime Marauders
2x The Sparr
2x Gylbert Farwynd
2x Alannys Greyjoy
2x Asha Greyjoy

2x Support of the Kingdom
3x Risen from the Sea

2x Bay of Ice
2x The Iron Mines
2x River Blockade
Flea Bottom
Street of Sisters
Ocean Road
Street of Steel
Aeron’s Chambers
3x Gatehouse

2x White Raven
3x Burned and Pillaged
Tin Link
Pale Steel Link
Bronze Link
Valyrian Steel Link

It is a very strong and very reliable list. I have built it with unfavourable matchups in mind – Burn will still have the edge against you, but the matchup isn’t actually horrible and there are a number of outs. Alannys becomes particularly important to protect against a turn 2 or turn 3 Threat/Hatchlings Feast. Blow up their influence as soon as possible and just try and keep them down.

My strategy largely depends on what house card I see across from me. If it is a Hollow Hill deck, I’m looking for different things in my setup – I want to see River Blockade and Farwynd, in particular. In that matchup, I don’t want to see Bay of Ice. In the Greyjoy mirror, Sparr and Bay of Ice are what I want to see. For Targ, I’m looking for Alannys and anything that might help me get ready for RBD on turn two. I’m also searching for Newly Made Lord, Support of the Kingdom and Pyromancer’s Apprentice there: keep the influence off the board.

Also, on agendas… I now think you are insane for playing Kings of Winter with Greyjoy. The drawback of Kings if something goes wrong isn’t so bad – but the advantage isn’t so exciting either. On the other hand, Maesters gives you a tonne of flexibility and delicious card draw. More importantly is that Summer is much easier to deal with for Maesters than for Kings. You have the option of Copper+Tin (although I feel it is unnecessary), but you also have Bronze/PSL to recur your White Ravens and drop them in at almost any time. Bronze makes it much much more difficult for your opponent to clear away your season and keep it off the board. In my opinion, this advantage is hard to overstate. Additionally, it gives you some, albeit vulnerable, defense against burn for some characters, which is definitely handy. Finally, the option of Gold Link is cute for the mirror match… all huge pluses for Maester’s Path.

And since I have a few minutes, I thought I’d finish off with my two cents on the NPE discussion. I don’t feel that Choke really creates NPE – I used to agree, but after playing both sides of matchup, my view has changed. Choke is merely a powerful archetype at the moment – and you do need to build with powerful decks in mind. Unlike truly degenerate combo decks that actually play solitaire, there’s considerable amount of interaction between Choke and its opponent: Choke is playing a disruption game and you need to be able to roll with that.

You might say “well, I don’t get to play my cards” – and that is sort of true. But, it is the same situation as when you build a pure MIL rush deck and run into a deck that goes Shadows and Spiders -> Lineage and Legacy -> First Snow -> RBD -> Valar. Playing Siege or somesuch, you need to build with the very real possibility that you’ll run into a deck like that. Not doing so is simply gearing up for failure – the deck design process is integral to games of this nature and it is critical to build with what your opponent might do in mind. At the moment, availability of the packs with Carrion Birds notwithstanding, there are good options for every house (Lannister might be the exception, but in my view, they’re gimped against all the dominant strats at the moment). DC Dennis’ Stark Deck running that event that prevents non-INT characters counting strength is largely an example of this type of deckbuilding.

Maybe I’m just a sick, sick man… but I actually enjoy both sides of the match.