Surviving the Fighting Pits of Meereen

by Ruben Barnhoorn (Barnie25)

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article – four months to be exact. The reasons as to why are quite varied: the delays with the release of new cards, not attending important tournaments, among others. But summer as come and gone; the long wait for new cards is almost over, and I am ready to jump back into it. I want to try and publish every other week.

As A Game of Thrones is entering in its second year, I feel that it’s time for me to rebrand myself. I am no longer a squire working his way up the ladder. I feel that I have proven myself to be a worthy adversary in my first year of the game. I no longer aspire to become a knight, to serve in the Kingsguard. Now we are fighting in the pits of Meereen, trying to get an audience with the true queen of Westeros, Queen Daenerys, first of her name, the unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Rhoynar, the Andals, and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Shackles, and Mother of Dragons. In my article series “Surviving the fighting pits of Meereen,” I will try and discuss topics that will help you improve as a Joust player, give you new insights, or at the very least make you think.

Today, I am going to examine footage of a Game Night Kit match in the UK. We are following a newer player running Greyjoy Banner of the Dragon. I will look at two pivotal moments during the game in order to try and figure out what different lines of play would have been possible to take. The link to the YouTube game you can find at the end of the article. I would like to give a shoutout to Daniel Mulchrone for doing a fantastic job as TO for recording, commentating, and posting the video to his channel: Guardians of Tyr.

So, like I said, we are following a player running Greyjoy Dragon. His opponent is running Targ Crossing. From now o,n I will assume the role as the Greyjoy Dragon player.


MOMENT 1

Turn 1

Setup

Our setup is very strong and exactly what Greyjoy is looking for:

  • Balon
  • Reducer
  • Kingsroad

Our opponent has an unfortunate mulligan and sets up:

  • Rakharo
  • Rose Road

Marshaling
First Player: Us

We have access to a shit ton of gold, as we hit the Trading with the Penthosi plot of our opponent with our Summer Harvest – 15 to be exact. Here’s our board at this point:

  • Theon
  • Captains Daughter
  • Balon
  • Reducer
  • Euron (duped)
  • Kingsroad
  • Iron Mines

Holding back 1 gold

Here’s what our opponent drops:

  • Rahkaro holding Drogo’s Arakh
  • Rose Road
  • Daenerys
  • Viserys

Holding back 1 gold

We are now at the 11:30 mark in the video.

Now let’s take a minute to really take in how uneven the boards are at the moment. Not only do we have two more characters than our opponent but we also have an Iron Mines. In this position, we really want to put our opponent under pressure and leverage our board advantage. We also know our opponent has 1 gold left in her gold pool, what implications does that have for our challenges?

  1. She can have Dracarys!, potentially killing one of our characters
  2. She can have Tears of Lys, potentially killing one of our characters
  3. She can have Nightmares, but we don’t care at this point

Our Iron mines protect our characters from a potential Tears of Lys, but not from Dracarys!.

How can we maximize our power grab while putting the most pressure on our opponent? In this moment there are a few thoughts going through my head.

  1. I want to reduce the board of my opponent and keep applying pressure
  2. I don’t want my opponent to draw into a Dragon, which would allow a successful Dracarys! on Balon

Challenges

So, with these things in mind, we head into the challenges phase.  What challenge should we do – and in what order – to get past that 6-strength Rakharo and have someone die on our opponents side of the board while playing around Dracarys!? Let’s look at the options:

  1. We stealth past Rakharo with Theon and get UO.
  2. We do a mil challenge with Balon
  3. We do mil with both Theon and Balon and get UO

What happens if we take options A and they have Dracarys!? Theon dies and we lose the challenge as nobody is participating anymore; Balon also becomes useless this turn, as our opponent can easily defend the remaining power challenge.

gt01_176-1With option B, he blocks with Rakharo and wins the challenge.

With taking option C, we stealth past Rakharo, and even if Theon dies, we win the challenge. This leaves her board with a knelt danny and just a standing Rakharo.

We also have Euron, so instead of doing a military challenge we will first do intrigue, giving us the possibility to pull that Dracarys out of her hand, if she would have it in hand, that is. Then we take option C, which would leave our opponent’s board with just two big characters; if we were running Marched, we would be able to trade our reducer for most likely her Rakharo – a great trade.

The player we are following, however takes option A. Theon dies and we don’t put pressure on our opponent.


MOMENT 2

Turn 3

Marshaling

First Player: Us

Going into turn three, after marshalling, our board is as follows:

  • Seastone Chair (duped)
  • Reducer location
  • Kingsroad
  • Raiding Longship
  • Handmaiden
  • Balon
  • Reducer
  • Euron (duped)
  • Crone of Vaes Dothrak

Holding back 1 gold

Our opponent has the following:

  • Rose Road
  • Daenerys
  • Rakharo
  • Viserys
  • Rhaegal

Holding back 1 gold

Important information: opponent has flipped A Song of Summer

In the video we are now at the 27-minute mark.

gt01_160Again, let’s take a minute to figure out what our priorities are in this board state. Our opponent now has what we as Greyjoy hate the most: Dany, a standing Dragon, and gold, which basically means that, if we don’t have a Risen from the Sea, which can both save Balon and get him to 6 strength to have him survive the Dracarys!, we can’t use him in a challenge unless one of them is knelt.

On our side of the board, however, we have some potent kill tech as well; the Seastone Chair plus Raiding Longship means that, if our opponent defends the military challenge with a single character we can trigger the Longship to have that character not count STR and then kill Daenerys, which is our prime objective this round – again, without needlessly running into a Dracarys. So if we can’t make sure that we don’t lose Balon in our attempt at an UO challenge, we want to kneel out the board of our opponent as much as possible. That way we slow the progress of our opponent down while getting ahead ourselves.

This board state is a lot more complex than the first moment, and therefore the permutations of the amount of challenges grow proportionately.

Challenges

Our objectives:gt03_32

  1. Try and push an UO mil challenge
  2. Minimalize the chance of Balon dying to Dracarys
  3. Kneeling out the board of our opponent as much as possible

What are our options?

  1. We can try and win intrigue first, maybe pull that Dracarys if our opponent has it in hand
  2. We do military first; if we win, we reduce her board and make it easier to win the rest of the challenges
  3. We do power first and see what our opponent does

Then there are a few things we should keep in mind:

  1. All characters of our opponent have +1 strength from A Song of Summer
  2. All our characters get -1 strength as long as Daenerys is standing
  3. Rhaegal allows Daenerys to stand one time after she wins a challenge

We don’t want to give an easy win on power or intrigue to our opponent, as that opens up the possibility for Danny to draw a card (potentially that second Dracarys! we don’t want to see) and stand.  We also shouldn’t attack with our reducer or Handmaiden, as Dany’s text nulls their STR, which rules out option C, or at least with our chuds. That leaves doing intrigue or military first. Let’s look at all possible scenarios:

Scenario 1

We do intrigue first with the Crone, with the negative modifier his strength is 1, meaning he can win a challenge. Our opponent now has several choices.

  1. She leaves the challenge UO and we get a free pull.
  2. She blocks with Danny, wins, stands and draws a card.
  3. She blocks with Danny, we use Longship, we win and pull a card.
  4. She blocks with Rhaegal and wins.
  5. She blocks with Rhaegal, we use Longship, win and pull a card.

Out of these options option D, is the most favorable for us, with option E coming in second. Why? Her kneeling Rhaegal frees up Balon to participate in a challenge, but given that Rakharo is now 5 strength due to A Song of Summer, we can’t get UO unless we Longship him. In summary, is it smart to do intrigue with Crone first? Well, in theory we have favorable odds, but there also situations where we are not getting the most use out of our challenges.

Scenario 2

We do intrigue first with Euron. Even if our opponent commits both characters to the challenge, our Longship gives us the ability to win the challenge.

  1. She blocks with both intrigue icons, she wins, stands and draws a card
  2. She blocks with both, we ship and win.
  3. She blocks with one of the two, we win.
  4. She leaves it UO, we get a pull and she gets to keep all her characters standing

Both scenarios have good and bad outcomes. Depending on what our opponent will do we might still have to swallow a bitter pill after doing intrigue first and not being able to achieve our objectives this turn.

Scenario 3

Balon

  1. We do mil with Balon, she doesn’t have Dracarys!, blocks with one character, and we ship and kill Danny.
  2. We do mil with Balon, she doesn’t have Dracarys!, blocks with both, and we ship the biggest. But fail to get UO because Balon is now 4 STR due to Danny and Rhaegal is up to 4 strength due to A Song of Summer.
  3. We do mil with Balon, she has Dracarys!, and Balon dies.
  4. We do mil with Balon, she doesn’t block nor does she have Dracarys!, and Danny dies.

Euron

  1. We do mil with Euron, she blocks with one character, and we ship to kill Danny.
  2. We do mil with Euron, she blocks with both, we ship the biggest and win but can’t kill Danny.
  3. We do mil with Euron, she doesn’t block nor does she have Dracarys!, and Danny dies.

Together

  1. We do mil, they single block, ship, Danny dead.
  2. We do mil, they double block, no Dracarys!, we win, claim.
  3. We do mil, Dracarys!, Balon dead, we ship and still win, claim.

Now that we have looked at the available options we now know that if we don’t want Balon to die or our opponent to draw a card and be able to save our Longship for our mil challenge, we shouldn’t do intrigue first.

gt01_69I think that in this case the best play is to open with military with just Euron; he is big enough to withstand Dracarys! and to beat both opposing characters in a one-on-one confrontation, which would force our opponent to either waste a burn card to not have to suffer mil claim in the case she has the Dracarys! or make her commit both characters in order to have Daenerys not die. If successful, we severely hamper the ability of our opponent to strike back at us while still being able to do a power challenge with Balon if we would like (mind you that Waking the Dragon is a card and that, in combination with Dracarys!, still kills Balon, so if you are extra careful you can keep him back still and play around it, but that basically turns Balon into an expensive Iron Throne).

The player we are following leads the challenge phase with a single attack with Balon and gets burned out and dies. As we have just explained above Balon wouldn’t be able to win that challenge UO anyways, even with the help of our Raiding Longship. Lessons: Don’t lose to burn and keep track of your opponent’s modifiers, both positive and negative.


Now that we’re at end of the exercise, we look at how a game can spiral out of control and how you can, even with a very strong start, let a game slip through your hands. This exercise also shows that games often have multiple turning points or key points in the game. Try and identify these moments as they happen and capitalize on that opportunity. Rebecca, the Targ player, ended up winning the game despite having a very poor start. Could the Greyjoy player have won the game if he took the lines of play as shown above? Quite possibly, but the most important thing I want you to take away from this article is to really look at the board, figure out what your objective is for the turn, and figure out which line of play gives you the best chance of making that happen. Think outside the box when needed, and don’t let the obvious play tempt you, as sometimes the obvious play isn’t the correct play.

That’s it for today, I hope that you like the first installment of my new article series. I am trying something new and I hope that people will find this interesting and maybe even get new insights from it. Please leave a comment down below, message me on Facebook or Cardgamedb. Until next time, here’s the whole video: