by Jonathan Herr (icarusrising)
This week we have Jonathan Herr from Cincinnati, winner of the 36-player Louisville Regional with Stark Fealty (also Top 4 at the 58-player Indianapolis Regional). He’s a veteran of many card games and is an accomplished Star Wars player, having won multiple GenCon titles. Now that we have him hooked on Thrones, he’s wrecking face. If you didn’t know who he is, you will.
This past weekend, I attended the last Regional in my area at the BluegrassMagic game store in Louisville, KY. I was fortunate enough to win the tournament with my Stark-Fealty build that I’ve been playing since the start of the Regional season. My first version of the deck (pre-Wolves of the North) placed 3rd at the Indianapolis regional – my decklist and tournament report for that event can be found here: https://www.wardensofthemidwest.com/indianapolis-regionals-top-4-tournament-report-stark-fealty/
I have since updated it with the new cards from Stark’s deluxe box and feel it may be the best answer to the current popular decks.
Today, instead of a traditional round-by-round tournament report, I’d like to break down the deck and discuss why I feel it is such a good deck in the current meta-at-large.
The deck can be found here: https://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5026/stark-fealty-louisville-regional-winning-decklist-6-4-16-4.0. We’ll also post the decklist at the bottom of the article.
Denial: Catelyn Stark, Winterfell, and Bran Stark combine to provide a near-impenetrable wall of event/trigger denial. Stark is the only house with a deluxe box, which gives them a high density of high-impact characters. If you can protect them, you can leverage that advantage throughout the game.
Attachments: Because so many people rely on Confiscation as their attachment control, Ice and Ward can be very difficult for your opponent to deal with and will swing games in your favor if their effects are ever successfully triggered. Only Lannister can prevent an Ice trigger, and that can be prevented with a militarized Cat or Winterfell (if you have a Winter plot revealed).
The Combos: As everyone already knows, the combo of Robb Stark + Jon Snow / Grey Wind is exceptionally good and can win games. Additionally, the combo of Sansa + Septa Mordane + Lady also provides a beatstick character that can single-handedly guarantee a win on (potentially) 2 challenges per turn, gaining renown on both.
Power Rush: In my build, this theme in Stark is a bit of a misnomer, as the deck is very defensive and the goal is not to rush to victory. However, you do need a way to close out the game before an opponent figures out a way to get through your wall of defenses. Fast Eddie, Robb, The Blackfish, and Sansa (with Septa Mordane) provide the renown necessary to close out games. With so much renown on big bodies, it is possible to put your opponent on a clock instead of putting yourself at risk through attacking and leaving yourself open.
The Plot Deck
A Noble Cause & Trading with the Pentoshi: First, you need economy in order to play your bomb characters and Winterfell reliably, so A Noble Cause and Trading with the Pentoshi find a place.
The First Snow of Winter: From the beginning, I knew that I wanted a deck resilient to First Snow, and if your deck is resilient to First Snow, you might as well run it, too. With my density of 4+ cost characters and Arya being able to save herself (as well as Sansa and Bran in triplicate), I could reliably keep a solid board presence after First Snow. Playing Winter is Coming on a First Snow turn (and combining it with Winterfell or a militarized Cat can put your opponent in a very bad position. It can also single-handedly win games against certain factions/decks – not to mention it can be brutally punishing to bad setups.
Marched to the Wall: Marched has a place for post-First Snow removal and is a good play the turn after you steal a character with Ward, seeing as its initiative bests Confiscation 8 to 5. I also like to have it in most of my plot decks as a way to punish poor setups.
Summons: With two important combos inherent to the concept of the deck, Summons will allow you to assemble your ideal board-state a turn or two faster than simply top-decking.
Confiscation: The bubble plot for me, as always, is Confiscation. It’s a dead plot against some decks and absolutely necessary against others. The decision to run or omit it should be reconsidered before every major tournament based on expected meta. Because I expected a lot of Milk of the Poppy, Martell icon-stripping, and Ward, I opted to include it.
Mirri Variants: Ever since Calm Over Westeros was released, people have been trying to exploit Mirri’s game-breaking effect to win games through pairing with Lannister, Greyjoy, or Lord of the Crossing. This deck can generally deal with Mirri fairly easily by using Cat, Winterfell, or Milk of the Poppy to shut her down.
Heavy Kill Event (Generally Lannister): Most Lannister decks are running 2-3 Put to the Sword, 2-3 Tears of Lys, and 2-3 Hand’s Judgement. Use Cat/Winterfell to deny them triggers on Intrigue and use your military presence to deny them Put to the Sword. Only use Winter is Coming when protected by Cat or Winterfell. By taking this approach, you ensure that ~15% of their deck consists of dead cards, thus providing you a form of card advantage.
Bara Kneel: This is one matchup where Winterfell and Cat take a back seat. Jon Snow, Robb, and Lady/Sansa provide several ways to combat kneel and ensure you get your important challenges through. First Snow often hurts Baratheon quite a bit allowing you to get an extra impactful Winter is Coming through.
Martell: This matchup can be difficult, but given the fact that Martell takes a while to win, you can afford to spend time building your board before attacking. Never attack into Martell unless you have an active Cat, Winterfell, or Bran. A well timed Ghaston, Vengeance for Elia, or His Viper Eyes can be devastating. Win dominance and play defense until you have enough renown on the board to close out the game.
Stark Mirror Match: This matchup was the one I was most worried about (but didn’t encounter at the tournament). Against the mirror, generally, whoever can get the Robb/Jon combo online first, or, alternatively, whoever can get their Winterfell out quickest will win. When you can use all your guys twice and your opponent can only use them once, you will generally come out on top. For this reason, I felt Summons was necessary.
Greyjoy Rush: I didn’t expect much Greyjoy, so I wasn’t too worried about encountering this matchup. If it’s an unopposed/Seastone Chair build, this deck doesn’t have a problem as you use Syrio/Cat or Winterfell to deny triggers. I do think a dedicated power-rush build could have an advantage over this deck, but I haven’t seen a successful version make a big impact on the tournament scene yet.
Targ Burn: In this matchup, Winterfell is nearly a mulligan condition. Winterfell puts your most important characters out of Dracarys/Crown of Gold range, puts your Bran out of Blood of the Dragon range, and shuts down Plaza of Punishment. The main thing to be concerned about is board wipe through military attrition/Marched to the Wall. If you can successfully defend 1 of their 2 military challenges a turn, you should be ok.
So, what happened?
During the Swiss, I faced primarily Lannister and Martell decks where Cat, Winterfell, and Milk of the Poppy won me the games. I went 4-1, with my only loss to my nemesis (Tyler Hockman, who knocked me out of the Top 4 at the Indy Regional and went on to win) piloting Martell/Lion. I had a bad setup of Winterfell/Cat/Roseroad. After his first-turn Marched, I had a hard time stabilizing before he was able to run away with the game. I had hoped to have a rematch in the top cut, but the pairings didn’t work out that way.
Top 8 vs. Jessica Thompson (Lannister Banner of the Dragon):
This game was a rematch from earlier in the tournament. She setup Tyrion, Chud, and economy, playing a Tywin turn 1. I was able to Milk her Tywin (knowing from Swiss that she didn’t run Confiscation) and kill her Chud, hoping to March the following turn. Unfortunately, she prevented this by ambushing in a Burned Men before the end of the turn. The rest of the game I relied on Winterfell and/or Cat to deny intrigue challenge triggers (Tyrion gold, Tears of Lys, etc.) and used my military strength to deny Put to the Sword. Mid game, Wardens of the North was able to prevent her from making any challenges that turn, and I was able to capitalize and push with renown.
Top 4 vs. Matt Kohls (Targaryen Fealty):
Matt is a good friend, and we play together often. He hasn’t had a ton of time to play the game and explore all the factions, so he mainly sticks to Targaryen. We have played this matchup many times with my Stark deck winning ~60% of the time. He set up Mirri, Loyalist, and Roseroad. Turn one, he’s feeling pretty good since I didn’t set up Cat or Winterfell, but I am able to play Winterfell during my Marshalling phase to stop his Mirri shenanigans. He’s unable to draw into dragons nor Dany, allowing me to make challenges without fear of Dracarys! and save my Winterfell for Mirri. He did have Plaza of Punishment out, so I had to prioritize winning power challenges, but I was able to Milk his Drogo, control his Mirri, and control the pace of the game from there.
Final vs. Chris Thompson (Martell Banner of the Lion):
I now come up against the other half of the Husband/Wife duo. He referred to me as “wife-slayer,” and I feared for the inevitable revenge loss. I set up duped Cat, Septa Mordane, and Kingsroad. He considered his hand and decided to mulligan as he “didn’t have enough military icons vs Stark.” I learned later that he mulliganed away a Jaime, Chud, Roseroad setup into a worse setup of Tyene and Bastard Daughter (no economy). He had a rough first turn, flipping Close Call and playing only Tyrion. I flipped Wardens of the North and played out: Heart Tree Grove, Arya with Ice, and Ward to steal the Bastard Daughter. He’s unable to poison anyone with Tyene except the Bastard Daughter (Arya has Intrigue from Septa Mordane). He opted to forgo challenges and defend. I attacked with Arya and jumped Cat into the challenge with Wardens to prevent Treachery shenanigans stopping my Ice. I wiped his board with Ice and military claim. From there, I controlled the game, getting Grey Wind out to clear his board of chud and make my military claim more impactful. I didn’t see my renown characters for a while, but eventually I killed enough of his guys that he conceded.
If I were to make any changes to the deck, I’d try my hardest to drop this deck from 61 to 60 cards. Likely cards on the chopping block include 1x Septa Mordane, 1x Little Bird, or 1x Ward. I would love to fit in Building Orders, but the only options for swapping are Summons and Confiscation, both of which are useful against the mirror match. I feel like the deck runs a little light on characters and would love to increase the character count, but the rest of the deck is pretty tight and tough to find cuts.
In a meta full of nasty events and powerful triggers, it’s hard to build a deck that can answer all the different threats a deck can throw at you. Since Cat and Winterfell don’t care if the ability is event-based or character-based, they provide blanket coverage to protect your investments and push your advantage. By building and taking a tournament deck that may not have many slam dunk matchups – but doesn’t have any bad matchups – you can rely on your own skill and hopefully outplay your opponent without worrying about losing to the “silver bullet” matchup.
Stark Fealty – Louisville Regional Winning Decklist 6/4/16
Faction: House Stark
1x A Noble Cause (Core Set)
1x Confiscation (Core Set)
1x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell)
1x Wardens of the North (No Middle Ground)
1x The First Snow of Winter (No Middle Ground)
3x Arya Stark (Core Set)
3x Bran Stark (Core Set)
3x Catelyn Stark (Core Set)
1x Grey Wind (Core Set)
3x Robb Stark (Core Set)
1x Summer (Core Set)
2x Tumblestone Knight (Core Set)
3x Winterfell Steward (Core Set)
2x Syrio Forel (The Road to Winterfell)
1x Hodor (No Middle Ground)
2x Septa Mordane (True Steel)
2x Eddard Stark (Wolves of the North)
2x The Blackfish (Wolves of the North)
2x Jon Snow (Wolves of the North)
3x Sansa Stark (Wolves of the North)
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
2x Gates of Winterfell (Core Set)
3x Heart Tree Grove (Core Set)
3x Winterfell (Wolves of the North)
2x Little Bird (Core Set)
3x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
3x Ice (Core Set)
2x Lady (Taking the Black)
2x Ward (True Steel)
2x Winter Is Coming (Core Set)