Article Archives

A Quick View on the Changes in Melee for Stahleck 2017


This article aims to provide a quick glance at changes proposed for Stahleck. It is a purely personal view of the matter. Since I want to discuss the change broadly, I will be talking about things like the impact of the restrict list, the philosophy and the process behind it. In order to organize these thoughts, I arranged the discussion and the comments in a “Top 10 Questions Raised by the Stahleck Announcement Concerning Melee”. Once again, this is purely personal and subjective. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you enjoy.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read what is going to be different, here is the link to it:


Top 10 Questions Raised by the Stahleck Announcement Concerning Melee


1:  Why do they need to reference the 1st Edition Extended Melee rules?  

First, because Second Edition doesn’t have its own. Second, a lot of players should be reminded that Melee is an individual game and is not a team game. Eventually king-making situations will happen, but, apart from that, a competitor should play for his/her own and consider only inside match/game aspects to make decisions, hence – doing implicit and explicit agreements outside of the game is forbidden. These are things that were covered by the First Edition Melee rules. And third, recently players have been questioning if they really need opaque sleeves, so it is important to reference that in an extra piece of documentation.

2:   Why doesn’t the RL include the most powerful cards in the game right now?

It probably does. If it doesn´t, it is because the Restricted List was thought of as a whole. Also, the power level of the cards was just one of the aspects considered when adding a card in the list. But, being honest, just so you know, I do think the most powerful card was left out of the list… We talk about that in a minute…(spoiler alert – it is not Maester Lomys as you may think).

3:   Why are there bad cards in the Restricted List?

Because a bunch of people thought otherwise. Or, at least, some strong arguments were presented to include the card. And again, I do think there questionable cards in the list when concerning only their power level or efficiency, but that wasn’t the only decision driver.  

4: Why this is being made by players and not by Fantasy Flight Games?

I don’t have good answer for that. However, even if you do prefer the Fantasy Flight Official stamp on things when it comes to organize play, I would say that players are more likely to listen to themselves and improve things learning from mistakes. So embrace that, because that is the best way to go. FFG, I love you, but you know you are a bit of slow learner.

5: A lot of things have changed, is that because Melee was bad?

Over 200 hundred people were/are already signed up to play a melee tournament in the lovely village of Bacharach in Germany, so I don’t think that was the case. Also, a RL doesn’t change the game as much. The three player table got indeed some big changes, but here is another way to look at this change: Standard player tables are so much fun, that they wanted 3 people table to be able provide a similar experience.

6: Which cards got better/worse with the Restricted List?

Several cards will see more play. It is not that they were bad or didn’t see play before, but their value has improved. Below, I point out 3. It is a bold statement, I know, but I believe we will see more of:

Rains of Castamere: This is also true for all the other agendas. But if RoC was a great agenda before, now it is even better. The super-efficient “The Lords of the Crossing” is in the RL. The super-efficient Relentless Assault that would compete for a faction kneel is also there. Those are the main reasons I think this card is even better now.

Doran´s Game: This is also true for the Martell house card. Doran´s Game gets especially better because you likely will have one more round added to a game. Also, Gossip and Lies rises up as a good initiative winning plot to close, since Clash of Kings is on the list. I expect to see more Doran´s Games winning tables for Martell. Especially in RoC builds standing that sneaky vengeful Viper. The build is viable and strong.

Snowed Under: The fact that Clash of Kings and Heads on Spikes are restricted opens up a lot of room for closers. Since controlling initiative is so important, especially in the last round, it makes me expect more people trying to win initiative in other ways and this plot is the ultimate initiative control tool.

Well, every restricted card got worse. But apart from that, I point to 3 cards just to start, and, from there, you can think of others:

Margaery Tyrell (Core Set): This is a bit obvious since the knight´s build got nerfed as you can see. But also, the hyper efficient “win by 5” events will have to fight their way into your deck now. The extra pump of Marge changed from being a Superior Claim enabler to just a good extra pump. I would still play this version of Marge but its usefulness got reduced. It is still a good bargaining coin to use.

Tyrion’s Chain: This card truly went from being too good from being bad. The reason is that the interaction with Heads on Spikes is too costly now. I believe we will still see some Heads, but not as much.

Asha Greyjoy: Still the best Greyjoy character not hit by the Duel plot, but she is not as great as she was. With Relentless Assault and Great Kraken on the list, her ability to push through multiple unopposed is far less potent.

7: What is the best faction now?

That is easy. The same as before: Targaryen. Of course, this is my opinion and since I am far from an expert, I am very likely wrong. But I can say honestly that if I need to try to win a tournament right now I would bring Targaryen. Joust Targaryen decks are being piloted in top tables in melee tourneys. Imagine if they were more Melee-ish. But don’t worry, I can change my mind next 2 weeks when House of Thorns comes out.

8: What are the best cards not restricted that are not characters or plots (aka cards there are still super good)?

Since is impossible to point all the very good cards I´ve choose 2 to point out for their extreme power level (once again) in my humble opinion:

Sea Bitch: This card is a complete game breaker that can make you win the game in several ways. Sea Bitch still is, in my super humble opinion, the very best card in Melee. Of course, I’m not talking only about the ideal scenario where you marshal a Sea Bitch, steal Honeywine, marshal another Sea Bitch steal a Small Council Chamber, etc… It is a pure efficiency card that has many good targets to completely shift the game in your favor.

House of the Undying: Also a game winning card. Having this almost guarantees you have the best board presence in the round. I do believe Targaryen is strong even without this card. But I have seen this card win game alone so many times, that I would feel that I would be hiding a secret if I didn’t point this card out in the article.

What are the best characters that are not restricted?

I am not sure if that crossed your mind, but in the list there aren’t many characters, so the answer to this question is quite hard. Please, excuse myself for forgetting better characters there should be pointed instead of the choices below:

Khal Drogo: Double challenge enabler and a renowned big body in the house of Fire and Stand? Yes, please!

Ser Edmure Tully: Passive power steal (not grab) is just a silly strong ability that is hard not to love. Some can argue Tully tech is worse now, but this card is good on his own and probably still one of the best characters in the game for the format.

How about plots?


Rise of the Kraken: This signature Greyjoy plot is a bazooka. I don’t need to explain why this is so good. Also any high initiative plot got better. Opening deck space for closers is the best contribution of the list.

Varys’s Riddle: Some expert once said that he would play 7 Varys’s Riddle in the plot deck in Melee if he could. Another obvious plot that still super strong. I will try to be less obvious in the next plot, but it probably won’t be as good the first 2.

Littlefinger’s Meddling: This is probably me trying to be cheeky and surprise you with this pick. But I do play this plot and this is a very interesting tool in several decks. Last of the Giants into Rattleshirt, playing Blood of My Blood for Aggo and Jhogo (not the other one), doing Taena shenanigans, etc… Please, build with this option in mind.  

Duel: This was add was a suggestion by Laplante and is one of the few cards that really shapes the meta in Melee. Also, Duel opens room for old-school negotiations and deal-making. This card has only 1 problem: It’s limited 1 per plot deck.

9: Why did Annals of Castle Black get restricted? It is not high initiative, does not provide power grab, can be countered, etc…


10: Should other tournaments should use these rules?

Yes, but as some said before, keep in mind that the proposal is not perfect. However, I believe it was perfected as well as possible by many great players like Andreas Aldrin and some enthusiasts like myself. I play an average of 12 melee tournaments per year and I would love to be able to see these changes in all the events I play. Also, more people using it can mean more feedback for the group that made the changes which leads to further improvement.

So, those were my top 10 questions raised by the new Melee announcement. I hope I was able to provide a positive insight on the changes and also a bit of deckbuilding and card discussion. Feel free to reach me if you want to discuss any Thrones related subject. I have been a player in love with the game in all the formats since I played my first game in 2014. And for some that don’t know, the country I live in (Brazil) competes in melee and only every now and then play joust for funsies. That doesn’t make us any better, but that shows how relevant this proposition is for me and my meta. That can also give a rough idea of how much thought I had put into this. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed.

Luiz Gustavo Bretas


Plot Rehab: The King’s Peace

You know the feeling. You’re building a new deck, excited to try out some new ideas, and you’ve built your cool new plot deck… except you’ve forgotten that one plot that you always need to include. Oh, and that one too. It’s not exciting, but you just can’t justify ignoring the staples. By the time you’re finished, that plot deck you were psyched about testing looks pretty much the same as all of your other ones.


Welcome to Plot Rehab, where every two weeks we will endeavor to thwart that feeling of resignation by admitting a lesser-played plot into our clinic and trying to find a way for it to finally sleeve up and hit that playmat. If you encountered this column at its previous home on cardgameDB, welcome back. Now let’s put some pizazz back into your plot deck.




“George, why are you starting your White Book career by tackling one of the worst plots in the game? What are you trying to prove?” Shut up, surprisingly Thrones-literate spectral voice of my non-existent mother-in-law. The King’s Peace was indeed roundly panned when it was initially released in the third chapter pack, entitled… er… hang on, it’ll come to me. But we’re a year further into the game’s lifespan and the least-loved faction plot of the first cycle has acquired a little more potency than it did before.


Why it might be worth considering:


The value of a faction-card kneel has increased significantly since the release of this card. At the time, only a handful of frequently seen cards cared about the trigger. The most important of those was Fealty, with a handful of other effects largely separated by faction (The Seastone Chair, INBAMF, In the Name of Your King! and a couple of other cards) meaning that most decks wouldn’t care about the first part of the King’s Peace’s trigger.


Now, however, the release of the Rains of Castamere agenda and effects like Moon Brothers and Dolorous Edd, alongside the continued popularity of Fealty, make that price harder to pay than it used to be, and that will never slow down. Faction-kneeling as a limitation will always be baked into the game, and it is already becoming harder and harder to build decks that don’t have to identify how many such effects they can afford to include. Just in the most recent chapter pack, the introduction of Relentless Assault adds an affordable neutral card that can be attractive for all manner of top decks.


So suddenly the King’s Peace becomes a real annoyance for a lot of decks, just on the first trigger. The real meat is yet to come when opponents can’t or won’t meet that price, and they must weigh up whether or not it’s worth their while to initiate three or even just two challenges in a round. Depending on how desperate your opponent is, this card represents a valuable opportunity to either stall them out or profit significantly from their need to initiate challenges.


Speaking of which, Lord of the Crossing decks hate the King’s Peace. If they don’t pay up, their agenda is wasted, saddling them with all of the drawbacks (weaker first challenge) without the payoff (stronger third). This plot could act as a great meta call against plentiful Crossing, Fealty or Rains decks in your environment.


Finally, the cornerest of corner cases: this plot really annoys Khal Drogo, Olenna’s Informant or A Storm of Swords.


Why it’s not seeing play:


While the card is particularly potent against those aforementioned agendas, it has less of a kick against decks that aren’t necessarily kneeling their faction cards or focused on all three challenges. Banner decks or Kings of Summer/Winter don’t inherently have issues in dealing with the King’s Peace, although that will vary immensely on a case-by-case basis.


Let’s face it: the stats are still bad. Four gold is average, especially if you’re hoping to use this plot as a stall tactic to set up your board while frustrating incoming military challenges. Zero initiative is quite literally the worst possible option and five reserve seems unnecessarily harsh. Put them together and compare them to the power level of the reaction and it’s easy to see why Bara players felt short-changed compared to some of the stellar plots handed to other factions in that first cycle.


If Baratheon players are looking to stall, they could just as easily play more Filthy Accusations to kneel out problem attackers. If they want to siphon power away from opponents, A Clash of Kings could be more flexible with better stats and a tighter focus on the only challenge that’s really important to most Bara decks: power.


Decks that could use it:


An interesting aspect of this plot that we’ve not yet discussed is its second trait: Scheme. Bara/Rains might not be the most obvious faction/agenda combination but some players have had success with it, using Selyse Baratheon to distribute the icons necessary to fire off agenda triggers. Flipping into King’s Peace mid-challenges phase has some clear advantages: firstly, you no longer care about two of the three mediocre stats that are printed on it (gold or initiative) and, secondly, it forces your opponent to rethink their entire challenge phase after the chance to marshal with your plot in mind has passed. Going first and looking to leverage this plot’s power in challenges has tremendous situational potential.


Anything that disincentivises the initiation of challenges is of interest to decks running The Wall, so Bara/Watch could find some application for this bad boy. Is it worth their knocking down your Wall if making the required challenge would prompt a two-power swing in your direction?


On a jankier note, this column has recently been experimenting with a different sort of Bara/Watch build that leverages the many cost-efficient armies available to it. In a plot deck free of many of the usual constraints applied to typical Bara builds, the King’s Peace did some solid work in a flex slot thanks to its strengths against several frequently seen agendas. Disclaimer: the deck was taken to one Store Championship and went 1-3 (the one being a bye).


What a deck running this plot might look like:


The Gauntlet – Introductions

Chris: Greetings and welcome to The Gauntlet, a new deck-challenge series on The White Book.  Every month we, your gentle, genial gauntleteers Chris and Patrick, will be doing everything one can do to a gauntlet.  We will throw gauntlets, we will run gauntlets and, finally, we will gird gauntlets in a test of superiority for your amusement.

Patrick: Today we start with throwing the gauntlet and presenting the deckbuilding challenge.  Our theme this month is Good Card/Bad Card.  We give each other a faction along with two good cards we can’t play and two bad cards we have to play.

Chris: Patrick, seeing as how you created this month’s theme, please, do me the honor of posting your challenge.

Patrick: Of course, Chris! As we all know Baratheon has always been a pretty strong faction: they love denying people power challenges and power challenges win the game. You know what is really great at denying power challenges? The King’s Peace. Honestly, if you have such a powerhouse of a plot, you probably don’t even need to play The Red Keep or Robert Baratheon. Plus, with all that deck space you’ve freed up so, you can play even more R’hllor cards, like all three copies of Ruby of R’hllor.

Chris: This is a dive straight into the deep end.  I was thinking of easing into this for our first month, but I’ll have to come back harder. Your house will be that classic Baratheon enemy, Targaryen.

Patrick: Why do I have a sinking suspicion I’m going to have a very expensive location in my deck?

Chris: Because I got wrecked by House of the Undying in a draft and want to know if it actually is any good. Also Shierak Qiya.

Patrick: Was that you on the other side of the 8 claim challenge?

Chris: No. He stole my Brienne and Blackcrown Knights to swoop eight power in a phase.

Patrick: Pretty much 🙁

Chris: Well, to truly make House of the Undying stand out, it should probably be the most expensive card in your deck.  No Daenerys Targaryen and no Mirri Maz Duur for you. Challenging enough?

Patrick: Seems like it should be! I’m racking my brain, does Targ finally have draw cards not named Daenerys?

Chris: Funeral Pyre and Doreah. No problem. You’ll be killing plenty of Lords and Ladies and, once you pull them over to your side, Doreah can pair with them. Any initial thoughts on deck direction?

Patrick: Well, I’m thinking I should either go with a very aggressive pressure deck that kills a lot of your guys or maybe some kind of rush, especially with the Shierak Qiya.  The problem with that is that I’ve stopped you from playing the best rush card I could have stolen…

Chris: I’m two steps ahead of you.

Patrick: What are you thinking?

Chris: I haven’t dabbled much in Baratheon myself, but I am intrigued at the possibility of a Baratheon Rains deck which might at least give the Ruby a chance to shine.

Patrick: If you go with Rains I better not see that King’s Peace hide at the bottom of your scheme pile all three games.

Chris: Oh, I’m playing Peace. I have to stop your rush somehow. Or mildly inconvenience it.  One of those two.


Be sure to check back next week when we begin to run these decks through the gauntlet of actual games and make them less terrible.

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.


Turn 1


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

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


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.


Turn 3


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.


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


  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.


  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.


  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:



Two Guys, One Deck: Targaryen — Banner of the Watch

by Luke Wortley (eldub)
This time on Two Guys, One Deck, we have Cameron Davisson, the King in the North, to build a non-stark deck with yours truly. The full decklist will be linked at the end of the article. Thanks for reading.
kinda want to build a targ deck
Lately I’ve wanted too as well, but I don’t have any hands on experience with the faction.
It’s the only faction I’ve yet to touch.
Still, I’ve recently messed around with a Summer deck on thronesdb.


Targ-Watch is something I’ve wanted to try for a long tim.
Craven/Milk opponent’s big guys, burn smaller ones. attrition from military claim.
I say we start with the banner package.
Let’s do it. I don’t think it will be too hard.
So start with 3x Craven?
Yep. Old Bear’s Raven would be another consideration for attachments. It’s a one-of, I think.
Seems legit. Drogo or Mirri with Stealth is tasty.
Alright. How about characters next?
1 or 2 Benjen?
I’m not sure if he’s worth including. 5 is expensive for an out-of-faction card.
I think if we include him we’ll want at least 2 economy plots.
I think we want at least 1.
Imagine the jank! Drac your own Benjen for the win!
Even so, he’s a good 5-coster, a slot that targ isn’t exactly swimming in at the moment.
Sure. Or you could pull the classic move and kill him and win on a Wildfire, after all.
1 Dolorous Edd?
Yep! Keep those tears at bay.
I think you’re always running at least 1x of him, right?
Sure, don’t know why you wouldn’t.
I love Ghost, and this deck is perfect for him.
I still think he’s a one-of, though.
2x Aemon?
He’s a card I waffle on.
Sure he kneels to save himself, but I have other things I’d rather spend 3 on in targ…like a dragon.
Can’t win all of the military challenges. I think it’s gonna be tough to hit 12 without him.
3x ranging party and 3x steward puts us at 13 without him.
 And I’d like to sneak a cheeky 1x Shadow Tower as well.
 1x Waymar isn’t a bad shout, either.
Eh. Ranging Party has great stats, but they’re going to be hard to afford pretty often.
I think we want to go pretty character-lite here as far as NW stuff goes.
 Waymar is a solid x1
I think the ranging party makes sure we don’t fold to FSoW, even if the meta is shfting away from it, no?
 Plus with cravens running around, they’re a solid defender.
 I’d rather drop a ranging party than an unsullied almost every time.
I think we’ll have plenty of First Snow-proof cards without them.
You might be right. We can come back to them.
If we’re running Dracarys!, Unsullied are a better fit and will be much easier to play between the loyalists and estates.
Stewards 3x or 2x, then? Without ranging party I’m not inclined to run 3.
We can try x2, but I don’t know how often you’ll be using their reduction.
Setup and claim-soak at that point, really.
You down with that cheeky shadow tower?
Oh, yes. I’m a big fan of that card.
Okay, with singleton Benjen, Edd, Ghost, Waymar, 2x Steward, and a Shadow tower, we have 11 banner cards.
So we should be able to make top 8 at a Missouri regional, then, right?


Aemon, I tell ya!
I’m still an advocate of at least 2 Ranging Party, because the deck can be either defensive or aggressive, but Aemon is serious card advantage.
Are we running Here to Serve?
I don’t think so.
If we see him, we see him.
This choice is fascinating.
We’ll leave it up to readers — Ranging Party or Aemon?
You’re the guest. 2x Aemon, then? Definitely want to see him, but not dupes.
Sure, let’s go with that.
So move on to Targ characters?
Well, you seem pretty set on wanting to burn stuff to the ground.
Should we just start with the Dragon package?
I think the point of the deck is maintain your own board, Craven / Milk big guys, and burn (or at least threaten) the mid-range ones, right?
Sure. Sounds like a headache for the opponent.
I’m a fan of the 3-3-1 build.
Sounds good to me.
Ok, so 3 Rhaegal, 3 Viserion, 1 Drogon.
3 Dany?
My man
I love Daenerys; she’s a great card and really undervalued.
Definitely. She can be a pain to deal with.
Do we wanna have singleton Aggo and Jhogo?
I don’t know that Rakharo is worth it in a non-Summer / LotC build at the moment.
I’m not sure. But we at least want big papa Khal in there.
For sure.
We can knock out the upper end of the curve first.
3x? He’s been wrecking people in our meta.
Okay, so with 3x Dany, I’m interested in how many Drogo / Mirri?
Without completely destroying the top end I would saw 3x Drogo and 2x Mirri
I think that’s fair.
We could even go with 2x dany at that point, really.
Then it’s a matter of who we see: Mirri or Dany?
The little dargons help force through either one.
I could see that.
Yeah let’s put that down for now.
22 characters at the moment.
I’d say we want to be around 33-34
So i think 2x Jorah.
Yeah, agreed
1x Doreah
3x Targaryen Loyalist
1x Viserys?
Hm. I like 2.
Fair enough.
We’ll definitely want a Syrio.
My thoughts exactly
And an Illyio or 2.
So, Illyrio.
I just don’t know if we’re going to have the board to sit back on gold or the money consistently without Tyrion.
Unless everything is going our way, of course.
I think we definitely want 1x Jhogo, though.
Illyrio is very good with our expensive characters — Mirri and Drogo, in particular. Perhaps just one?
We’re at 32 characters without Illyrio.
And you wanted to try and include Unsullied.
Sure, Jhogo is a solid body and dodges First Snow. And I think Unsullied gives our burn more bite.
2 or 3?
Personally I would go with three, but we can try 2 for now.
Let’s go with 3. We can cut.
35 characters seems good.
Are we missing anyone obvious?
Ranging Party ????
Perhaps Braided Warrior / Aggo to support Khal, maybe? It depends.
Rattleshirts, perhaps?
If we’re running Conficastion we should be okay between that and Viserys.
So can I get 1x Crown and 3x Milk?
Yes we can!
Sweet. 8 attachments seems legit.
Locations —  1x Shadow Tower, 2x Plaza, 2x Estate, 3x Roseroad, and 3x Kingsroad?
I run all of the 9 economy locations, personally.
Plaza is tasty. x2 feels right.
I can see that, though we might end up cutting 1.
So we have 55 cards at the moment with those, which leaves us very little wiggle room for events.
3x Drac for sure.
There are so many I want to run!
Yep. x2 Put to the Sword as well?
PttS might be steep in terms of cost.
I like Nightmares, Fire and Blood, Funeral Pyre, even a cheeky stand event.
Nightmares is never “bad” but we should be nerfing enough between Milk and Craven.
Fire and Blood, sure.
Nightmares might feel redundant at times in this deck, is all.
But Funeral Pyre is so legit.
I think we are gonna have to be somewhat event-lite.
 We could probably trim 1 or 2 characters but no more.
Okay, so I want to cut a copy of Illyrio’s Estate and go 2x Funeral pyre, 2x Fire and Blood. Gotta have those dragons.
Illyrio’s Estate can’t reduce any of our NW characters nor events, and it can only reduce one of our attachments.
7 events seems good to me.
Sure, that’s fair point.
You don’t play banners enough ????
I really like Funeral Pyre or stand.
I’m always cautious about losing economy in general, though.
Always sucks to lose a game because you can’t find any economy.
 Let’s try x2 Estates though.
What are we at?
So that’s room for 4 events.
Or 3 if you’re one of those.
One of those? Oh! So your one of thoooose
60 or bust.
My vote is 2x Fire and Blood no matter what; Wildfire is everywhere.
And paying 1 for surprise dragons is nice.
Yeah, it’s a great event.
Since I’m publishing the article, i’m going with 61.
I’m in favor of 2x funeral pyre, cutting an Unsullied, and then adding 1x Waking the Dragon.
That event is just stupid sometimes.
I still think this should have Put to the Sword. We have more military icons than anything else, 3x Drogo, 1x Syrio, etc. Seems like a natural fit.
Fair enough.
You can have your extra card, but give me my PttS!
We have the bird for extra stealth, too.
Don’t forget about Ghost!
My case for the draw / stand over PttS is that this deck is generally wanting to go second, and with craven, a lot of big dudes will still be standing…all of our stealth characters (and attachments) are 1x. Plus the cost.
Don’t forget, Dragons/Dracarys helps with enabling it as well.
So 2x Fire and Blood, 2x PttS, 3x Drac is your suggestion?
Yes, that’s probably what I would go with.
Ight let’s roll with it.
A Noble Cause and Calling the Banners straight off?
I’m not of big fan of Pentoshi.
I love Trading haha.
You would…
I love-hate it.
I hate it because i think it enables the shitty big dudes decks that everyone complains about, but I love it because it’s the only reliable comeback plot in the game.
I think we want Noble, Calling, and Wildifre.
Confiscation since all we have is Viserys for attachments otherwise.
So that’s 4.
I’m undecided on Marched; it’s probably my favorite plot in the game, but it’s kind of a win-more card in the current environment — that or it punishes bad setups.
Targ can eat through guys like no one’s business. Marched seems like a good fit.
You don’t have to sell me too hard on Marched. Haha I’m down.
What do you think of Rebuilding?
Decent cash with the ability to recycle the drac / crown / marched dudes / terminal attachments?
Sure. If we don’t have a third straight-up economy plot, Rebuilding may be nice to have.
My suggestion for a third econ plot would be a second Calling or Summer Harvest if we need one.
Lt’s consider other stuff first.
I’m never sad to see that plot.
One left.
So if we’re pushing the swing-back idea, I kinda want a 2-claim
If we’re pushing for more money, I want the second Calling or Rebuliding
So it’s Rebuilding, a two claim, or another Calling.
I’m leaning towards Rebuilding or Calling.
I think Rebuilding is more fitting to what our deck wants to do.
Make it so!
Well, that’s a deck.
Sure is.
Here’s the link:

Wolf Rising: An Interview with Cameron Davisson, the King in the North

by Travis Pinter (14Shirt)

Travis Pinter (14Shirt) is that one guy you’ve seen at tournaments but did not realize was him. He has been an AGOT player since 2012, is a wolf at heart, and always tries to keep his sense of humor even while in the thrashes of a humiliating defeat.  


Group photo of the participants in the King in the North event, held at the FFG Event Center in Minneapolis, MN.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Cameron Davisson, newly crowned King in the North, about his tournament success this past year, The King in the North tournament, and all things Stark. . . .

TP: How long have you been playing AGoT? What meta do you belong to and how would you describe it?

CD: I’m a member of the Minneapolis meta. While the people that I play with all fit the “Minnesota nice” stereotype, it’s definitely a competitive group of players. When I started playing first edition three years ago (late to the party, I know) I really had to grind and grind to get better at the game. My opponents showed no mercy, but that’s how I learned from my mistakes. I took a beating at first, but eventually I started to win games. Personally, I really enjoyed the deckbuilding aspect of Thrones and gravitated towards houses that were less played. These days we’re just as serious about 2nd edition, but we don’t really brew decks together or anything like that. While we do discuss cards a lot, for the most part we build our own deck and see for ourselves what works. People from our meta often make the cut at the large tournaments, so I feel like our meta is pretty strong.

TP: I first met you at a regional in Wausau, WI back in the first edition days, and we were both playing Stark back then, too. While I haven’t shared your success, I do share your loyalty to the faction. What has attracted you to Stark and kept you there across both editions?

CD: Truth be told, when I started playing first edition Baratheon was my first real love. No one was really playing that house when I started out, so I gave it a shot and found something that worked pretty well. The deck was a fun mixture of power rush and recursion, with “Super” Stannis Baratheon leading the charge. After the first year, I decided to switch my focus to Stark, and I found success there, making the top 8 cut in joust at Worlds 2015. At times I missed my old Baratheon deck, but overall I preferred Stark’s more aggressive nature. In second edition, Stark may not be as focused on murdering as they were in first edition, but they do play like a mix of first edition Baratheon and Stark, so I’m happy.

TP: Well, apparently I met you after you’d made the switch to Stark then. But make no mistake, like it or not, you’ve become synonymous with the faction at this point.

CD: Fine by me! I’m glad I was able to bring some attention to this underplayed faction. Stark is fun to play; it isn’t as narrow-minded as some of the others like Greyjoy, Baratheon, or Night’s Watch. It also doesn’t hurt that Stark has the all-around best art in the game, in my opinion.


Some swag at the event, provided by the Thrones Minnesota Meta and Citadel Quartermaster (click on link to visit their site!)

TP: Let’s talk about your impressive track record with the Wolves in 2.0. Can you summarize your tournament results this past year?

CD: This year I won three store championships with Stark Fealty (pre-deluxe box), made the top 8 cut at the Minnesota regional, and won the recent The King in the North Minnesota championship. I also won my meta’s first The Lord Commander melee tournament, but was bested at the second one that was held a couple months ago. So yeah, I went from Lord Commander to King in the North, go figure! Some people give me a hard time for playing Stark so often at tournaments but it goes back to my desire to play something that’s less popular. It’s true that the house has gotten some more love lately, but Stark was certainly was an underdog (pun intended) earlier this year.

TP: Your most recent victory, the one that prompted this interview, was a takedown of a pretty competitive field of 41 players at the inaugural The King in the North tournament put on by your local meta in Minnesota. Before we get into the specifics of your performance, can you give details on the tournament for readers who aren’t familiar?


Photo of the finalists, Cameron Davisson and Brandon Zimmer.

CD: Sure thing! The King in the North is the biggest tournament that our meta has ever hosted. This year we had 41 players, many of which traveled across state lines to compete. It really was a lot of fun. People were hollering “THE KING IN THE NORTH!” in unison throughout the day, and there was just a positive, upbeat vibe to the whole thing. We’re thrilled with the response we’ve gotten back from participants so far and we’re already making plans for next year’s. Our meta always has something on the horizon, though. The best way to stay informed about our events is to either join the Thrones of Minnesota Facebook group or subscribe to the YouTube channel. That’s where Ryan Ritter and I also do our chapter pack review series, The Wolfswood.

TP: I can confirm that the atmosphere for The King in the North was fantastic and your meta hosted a highly successful event – honestly the best I’ve ever attended, player-run or otherwise. I’m already looking forward to next year.

CD: That’s great to hear. We put a lot of thought and time into organizing it so I’m glad it paid off!

TP: How was your path to victory? What highlights (or lowlights) would you like to share from any specific games? What card in your deck was the star of the day?

CD: I placed 5th after six rounds of swiss. I bested Lannister Wolf, Baratheon Summer, and two Stark Fealty decks, but came up short against Night’s Watch Fealty and Martell Lion. Then I went on to defeat Martell Fealty in the top 8, Baratheon Summer in the top 4, and Martell Lion (piloted by Brandon Zimmer / mnbroncos) in the final.


Round 3 of the Swiss at The King in the North.

One notable takeaway from the tournament is the importance of setups. I actually considered floating King Robb over Core Robb in my deck the night before the tournament but decided against it due to my lack of experience with the King version as well as the fact that the seven cost version is much harder to setup. If your most expensive characters cost six in your deck, you are generally going to have better setups against decks running seven-cost characters. The chances of me setting up a six-cost character and a two/one-cost character is a lot higher than me setting up King Robb with one of my three Winterfell Stewards.

Out of the nine games I played during the tournament, I believe I only mulliganed twice. In most of my games I had an advantage from having a better setup than my opponent. The banner decks that run multiple seven cost characters can be nasty to deal with, but they can also just completely implode on setup as well. Personally, I don’t like losing games right from the start.

The star of my deck was probably Winterfell. For about a week I tried my deck with only two copies of Winterfell, due the fact that it’s hard to setup and I generally want to see it after I draw or by round two but then after losing some games I could’ve won with Winterfell around, I went back up to three copies. Even if your opponent has a Winter plot card revealed, the +1 STR to all of your Stark characters is a huge effect. Of course, Robb and Arya Stark did a lot of work during the tournament as well. I also made sure that Grey Wind was never hungry.

TP: It’s interesting that you bring up King Robb and the importance of set-ups in general. I have been trying to find ways to get him in a deck but always come to the same conclusion you describe. Can you envision an environment where he’ll ever be the better choice over Core Robb? Maybe a card pool that includes more support for the King trait? Or the availability of more 1-drop characters?

CD: Sure. Like you mention, if there’s more King stuff coming out that could make him more enticing. I wouldn’t expect many one-cost characters anytime soon. It seems like FFG is being pretty careful about releasing those, and rightly so. Perhaps if Stark got another murder card similar to Ice that was irresistible, King Robb could be worth considering again, as he is military-focused. Time will tell.

TP: You’ve had tremendous tournament success for someone playing, essentially, the same faction and agenda since the reboot. Why is Stark Fealty so strong?

CD: Denial is very strong. Robb and Ned make a great combo on the table, and Bran, Catelyn, Jory, and Winterfell all do a great job at keeping them safe. If I can keep the threats at bay and focus on power challenges it’s usually smooth sailing. Stark doesn’t have much in the way of great events, but it does have Winter is Coming, which is just a super versatile and efficient card. It can be used to devastating effects during a military challenge, sometimes killing a high cost character for the price of one gold. Or, alternately, it can swing the power totals into your favor rather dramatically. I think Winter is Coming is a good representation of what makes Stark as a house great – it’s efficient and can adapt its playstyle depending on the situation.

TP: What tips would you give a player considering trying Stark Fealty for the first time? How does Stark play differently than the other factions? What makes the deck tick and how do you keep it running efficiently and effectively?

CD: Play to the faction’s strengths and try to be careful around resets. Stark likes to play kind of wide (Septa and Luwin, Robb and Greywind, Bran and Catelyn, etc), so if you are using a reset make sure to time it wisely, and watch out for your opponent’s own reset. Summer is a great card to recover with, but use his trigger on something worth recurring, such as Arya or Bran. Strength-boosting effects like Winterfell and Lady can make all the difference in the world. Punish your opponents for forgetting that you can move Lady or that Wardens of the North is your revealed plot; trust me, they will forget. Try not to marshal Robb or Ned unless you have some kind of protection in place. Running a copy of Summons is a must. Milk what you can’t murder. The bottom line is, Stark is full of efficient characters that are great at winning power challenges and are often hard to get rid of. As long as you play carefully, the faction will be sure to reward you.

TP: It’s funny that you mention people forgetting about Wardens of the North . . . because I’m that guy. This is especially problematic since, well you know, I’m a Stark player. It cost me a close game, in fact, in a mirror match during the event. It’s the mistakes that haunt you after a tournament.

CD: True, but it’s hard to avoid making mistakes like that during a big tournament. These events are typically long days and the pressure can be pretty intense even before the cut. All you can do is try to play carefully and minimize your mistakes and hope that your opponent is a little more careless. I never understand the people who play casual games in-between their matches. The last thing I want to do is spend more mental energy on a game that doesn’t matter during a tournament.

TP: We’ve recently been given a taste of a new Stark archetype in a Tully-rush mechanic that promises to get more support this cycle. Where do you think the faction might be headed in terms of diversity or options outside of Fealty? Where would you like to see it head?

CD: While I don’t have much experience with the House Tully tech myself, I think the new Edmure that’s been spoiled may be exactly what the theme needs to become really fleshed out. But even without the Tully tech, I’m sure he’ll still be worth running. As far as Fealty goes, I think it’s going to be the dominant Stark agenda for the foreseeable future. With cards like Donella Hornwood and Bear Island, loyalty in Stark itself seems to be an important subtheme that’s getting a good amount of support.

As far as the faction itself goes, I’d like Stark to become more murder-focused and more dominant in military challenges. It always feels a bit odd when Gregor by himself is causing multiple Stark characters trouble during a military challenge. With Roose Bolton on the way it looks like I just might get my wish. Hopefully we get a little more where that came from. Maybe someday we’ll get a new spin on 1st edition agenda The Siege of Winterfell or something similar to it.

TP: I second a return, in some form, of Siege. It’s one of those cards that Stark players love and all others hate. I have nothing but fond memories of it, personally.

CD: Yeah, I found some success with it in melee in particular.

TP: Now that you are officially King in the North, what plans do you have for your bannermen (the other seven finalists at the tournament)? They are, after all, sworn by oath to serve their king (I believe it was fine print that Ryan Ritter snuck onto the back of the deck lists).

CD: I’d like for them to continue to chant my title until I get tired of it. But I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Surely I will have a long, fruitful reign as The King in the North where nothing terrible will happen to me or my family.

TP: This sounds very likely, yes. Cameron, thanks for taking the time to elucidate your thoughts on Stark. Congratulations on your continued success with what we both know is the greatest of all factions.

CD: Thank you, Travis, it’s been a pleasure. Winter is coming!


To view Cameron and his Fealty deck in action at The King in the North tournament, check out the Minnesota meta’s YouTube channel (Videos for his top 4 and final match posting soon!).




Sungarden: The small, squishy characters deck

by James Waumsley (JCWamma)

In the GenCon Meta (and, to a large extent, the current one), the way to succeed is to put out big, beefy guys and have more big, beefy guys than your opponent’s board of… you guessed it, big, beefy guys. The big, beefy guys will win challenges for you; a lot of them will accumulate power through renown; and you will reach 15 power – unless, of course, your big, beefy guys are killed by a removal effect (be that event-based kill like Tears of Lys and Put to the Sword, or repeatable kill like The Seastone Chair, Mirri Maz Duur, and Ser Gregor Clegane) or have Milk of the Poppy played on them when you stupidly forgot to include Confiscation in your plot deck.

While a shameless generalization, the previous paragraph is also a pretty fair summary of almost every deck that has been popular for the past few chapter packs (essentially since The First Snow of Winter came out and pushed everyone’s cost curves up). Even Martell, the seeming ‘answer’ with their icon control, has gravitated towards Ghaston Grey (to remove those big characters), and Tears/Tyene Sand (to remove those big characters) and are only different because they lack the renown to win quickly. The ubiquity of this build has actually been a cause of complaint for many people who feel the metagame is too “same-y,” or even random, with a “who can draw their big dudes/removal for the opponents’ big dudes first wins” feel.

I’m here to tell you there is, and has been, Another Way™.

varysIf the game has become a quest of “who can drop the most big guys”, it seems like the easiest way to win that game is to reduce your opponent’s big guy count to zero. What’s the only card in that game that can remove all of the big guys at once? Why, Varys, the grand equalizer of the first year of second edition. I’m genuinely kinda staggered by how few people have been playing Varys in the current meta. So, moving forward from there, what’s the best faction to play Varys from? I may be looking at this through the, ahem, rose-tinted spectacles of my personal success with the deck, but I would like to put forward the case for House Tyrell.

Varys has five weaknesses, to offset how strong he is:

  1. You have to draw
  2. You have to be able to afford
  3. You have to protect him from soft-control(Milk/Nightmares).
  4. You have to protect him from hard-control(Put/Tears/Mirri/etc.).
  5. You have to stop him being cancelledby Treachery.

Now we’ll be outsourcing weaknesses 3 and 5 to our banner, but Tyrell is positioned like no other faction to deal with points 1, 2 and 4.

bear and maiden fairDrawing: as well as having access to the ONLY free, non-conditional draw in the game other than the double-sided Dragon’s Tail – Pleasure Barge – Tyrell also has two tremendous ‘fixer’ events in the form of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (#trueBAMF) and Much and More, AKA A Gift of Arbor Red. Between these three cards, Tyrell’s chances of finding Varys are greater than any other faction.

Affording: The Arbor is good, isn’t it?? The most income any one card can provide for marshalling phase use, and unlike the Tywin Lannisters of the world, Varys doesn’t get rid of it. The Arbor will fuel a Varys deck like no other card can, and it’s loyal to Tyrell, baby. Now what’s the weakness with The Arbor? Why, drawing it. Wait a minute…

Protecting from hard control: in a word, Highgarden. As well as completely shutting down Tyene and halving the number of challenges you need to be able to beat Mirri on, it also helps shield you from the likes of Put to the Sword. Good luck winning by 5 on military when I can remove a character.

Now for the other two weaknesses, we essentially need to focus on hand control. Essentially, if the opponent has no hand, she can’t hold onto a Milk for when you drop Varys, and they won’t have Treachery or Nightmares left in hand come the dominance phase. And while Lannister might seem like the ‘go to’ option there, they really don’t have much beyond the loyal Casterly Rock and Cersei Lannister in the way of hand control. No, Martell is where it’s at here. Here’s how the Banner of the Sun can help with an aggressive protection of Varys, as well as what else the banner offers:hve

His Viper Eyes works wonders. On a Varys turn, as long as you have claim-soak, you are more than happy to lose a military, and it lets you target-remove any particular answer card you’re scared of, be that soft-control, cancel, or kill. If there aren’t any there, great! You get their best character instead, you lucky thing – that should make their attempts of rebuilding a touch harder, now, shouldn’t it?

Bastard Daughter is the ultimate troll card for helping increase the attrition. With my extra draw from Pleasure Barge and my focus on intrigue challenges, I’m more than happy to pay 2 gold for a 1-for-1 trade of cards that you have no control over…while also chump-blocking your military challenge.

One of the more subtle benefits of Banner of the Sun is that of First Snow-proofing. The First Snow of Winter has been one of the defining cards of the meta we play in now, to the point where several high-level decks have actually started dropping it out of an assumption that all decks have adapted to deal with it! Certainly not all, though, so being able to combat it is important. Thankfully, the Sun banner allows us to do just that. Palace Spearmen is a surprisingly versatile body, and Knights of the Sun, while not as good, have the potential to offer some much-needed closing speed in tight match-ups. Both sit at the all-important 4-cost slot, a slot made even better for setup reasons thanks to the Arbor, and both cannot take the Ward attachment, removing the vulnerability the cost-slot can suffer from.

Additionally, icon control, especially the military icon, is immeasurably better on smaller boards. Imprisoned can happily sit on most troublesome characters, and Nymeria Sand is versatile and especially great on the First Snow turn. She also makes for a great distraction from Varys, likely to draw Milk/Treachery/Nightmares before he ever hits the table. Lastly, Arianne Martell is delightful on First Snow – effectively giving you an extra character on a smaller board. The permutations she offers are as varied as they are useful.

house florent knightIt is important to focus on surviving First Snow and deploying Varys, of course, but that’s not all. We have a pre-Varys game for if the opponent starts off strongly: deplete the hand, set up econ, manage bombs; and we need a post-Varys game.This is the second part where Tyrell proves invaluable. Two of the most underrated characters in the game, in my experience – and I can only assume it’s because not enough people play Tyrell or Rose banners for people to remember them – are House Florent Knight and Olenna’s Informant. Both of these characters allow you deploy attrition on your opponent’s character-base. The Knight can even, if the stars align, discard the likes of Tyrion and Nymeria (no cards of lower STR on either side, Song of Summer to boost the HFK to 4 STR)! What I just described isn’t just a pipe-dream scenario either, but rather something I have accomplished multiple times. He also loves being dropped in with Arianne on a First Snow turn to discard Syrio, I hear. The Informant, meanwhile, offers an opportunity to provide the finishing touch to destroy an opponent’s board or hand, or else to just swing the power counts around very quickly. Both cards combo delightfully with Arianne, both are non-unique so can be run in a carefree, 3x manner, and both are wonderful at making an opponent say, “…ohhh“.

It is, of course, worth pointing out the sacrifice required to properly deploy the House Florent Knight – namely, no 1-drops. In the entire deck, the only STR 1 cards are the Bastard Daughters, and they won’t stick around long enough to prove relevant. While this decision might seem like too high a price to pay, let’s look at what the 1-drop reducers actually do: they let you optimize your setups to protect from Marched to the Wall (the fabled “Tywin/chud/Roseroad” setup is stuff of legend at this point), and they provide an economic boost in character form. With the Arbor providing a lot of economy already, and with Varys removing all character-based economy, we’re not too interested in that economic boost; as for setups, our ideal setup is either Arbor + 4-drop, Arbor + Highgarden, or Arbor + 2x 2-drops. Never mind cost 7, our only character above cost 5 is Varys – who needs 1-drops??

So with the main faction and banner faction both set in stone for various reasons, we end up with this listCredit for the initial list, as well as joint-credit for all subsequent changes to it, goes to Antti Korventausta (WWDrakey), the man who worked out all of the above in his head, then told me slowly and repeatedly until it sunk in. There will also be a screenshot at the bottom, for those intent on  reading the rest of the article.

With the deck set as Tyrell and Martell, let’s look at all the cool synergies on offer between those factions:

  • Aforementioned Arianne + Informant/HFK
  • Against an empty hand, A Gift of Arbor Red + His Viper Eyes to get round the downside of the Gift and filter their best cards away.
  • A particularly devious one: Imprisoned to help root out the opponent’s Confiscation (play one on a Jaime or Gregor and it often appears quite imminently), allowing Pulling the String to act as pseudo-Confiscation for you. That Pulling performs this function importantly allows you not to run Confiscation yourself, freeing up a vital plot spot and preventing yourself from having to discard your own Imprisoned or Milk on plot 7.
  • Of course, without Confiscation you need Rattleshirt’s Raiders, just in case they don’t play it. Good thing Imprisoned makes it easier to push the Raiders through, and that Arianne can drop them in mid-challenge phase. A personal favourite is declaring a military with the Raiders, the opponent opposing for 4 or 5, then triggering in Arianne to drop in Wildling Horde and triggering them to win the challenge. A similar, albeit less banterous version can be accomplished with Margaery Tyrell.
  • Another application for Pulling the Strings: hand destruction as previously described will often bait an opponent running it into playing Counting Coppers, which, of course, is a contender for the best plot in the game to copy.
  • The third application for Pulling the Strings: with the Arbor on setup, you will often be very happy to set up a Knights of the Sun or Palace Spearmen alongside it. An opponent who is perhaps unfamiliar with your deck, or otherwise overly-aggressive, will be tempted into Marching your 4-drop to the Wall. Marched isn’t omni-applicable enough to justify running 2 copies of it, but running 1 copy and a pseudo-second copy? Perfect.
  • With Varys discouraging running high-costers and Arianne encouraging 5-cost or lower, Tyrell’s lack of good bombs (aside  from Randyll) is actually warped into a boon for the deck!
  • As well as being great on the First Snow round (and a general pain for cards like Gregor), Imprisoned helps make the attrition that the House Florent Knight and Olenna’s Informant push hurt even more.
  • Lastly and most importantly, House Dayne Knight and House Florent Knight have the important distinction of being the only two characters in the game who have their traitsas their name, and you will get a warm feeling every time both are on the board for you at once.

The plot deck is worth touching on briefly:

Pulling the Strings – described above.

The First Snow of Winter: an important tool for keeping the board small in games where you can’t trigger Varys, or for decreasing the chances of a top-decking opponent being able to get out board presence post-Varys. Also a Winter plot to protect against Stark decks running Winterfell.

Marched to the Wall: ideal follow-up plot to Varys, and often to First Snow as well (especially if you’ve dropped in a chud with Arianne or ambushed in an Olenna’s Informant). Can regularly feature as the final nail in the coffin when you’re in post-Varys attrition mode.

Summons: finds what you need in a pinch, provides card advantage and high reserve. Often the opener.

A Song of Summer: high gold, can’t be Naval’d, useful effect that has the side-benefit of letting House Florent Knight hit juicier targets.

The Long Winter: 2 claim goes great with the Informant and often forces opponents to base their entire turn around it on a smaller board. Winter trait for the Stark matchup. And that ‘downside’ of power discard? I have won several games where I’ve triggered this plot and my opponent has reached 14 power. It even removes power from your faction card that the opponent could potentially steal!

Trading with the Pentoshi: not only allows you to play Varys even when you don’t see the economy in your draw deck but also tricks your opponent into overextending beforehand. It can also be flipped post-Varys, if you’ve depleted your opponent’s hand and board and want to move through the gears yourself. More generally it is the “Valar Morghulis” of second edition right now, the only plot you can flip that really gives you a chance to get back into a game you’re losing, and is highly undervalued for that function in my opinion – far from simply being a mindless first turn board-spam plot, it is an important tool to recover seeming lost causes.

Now, I’d like to flatter myself as a reasonable advocate for this deck; however I would be remiss if I did not emphasise how tricky it is to play correctly; it can feel like walking a tightrope – as long as you take every action correctly, you will make it to the other side, but one misstep… To give an example I’d like to link to the video of the final of the Reading regional, recorded and commentated on by erstwhile Southron Bannerman Ben Davy (shout-out to Ben!).GT03_35

Now, having linked it, I’m going to spoil the results (though the deck description that includes a TR does much the same thing): I lost. A big reason I lost was due to a round-two Gregor trigger, in which Gregor pillages Wildling Horde from my deck to kill Arianne. Unavoidable error leaving me a victim of lolrandom high variance, right? …Except, that round, before Gregor was even on the table, I should have teched against him in the plot phase. My opponent, Miguel, had revealed A Noble Cause as his plot. I had revealed Summons, and had a choice between Nymeria and Arianne Martell. Blinded by the facts that a) I had a House Florent Knight in hand and wanted to take advantage of that totes awesome combo, and b) there were 3 Nymerias left in my deck versus 1 Arianne, I opted for Arianne.

Here’s a link to the video:

What I should’ve done was acknowledge that Miguel had just flipped a plot that was almost certainly going to be putting out either Gregor or Tywin; that my deck has a major vulnerability to Gregor (13 5-cost characters, whoop-whoop!); and that Nymeria is as anti-Gregor as it gets. If I fetch Nymeria there then there’s no Gregor trigger, ergo no game-ruination. That’s one example of the level of play you have to maintain throughout a game with this deck. There are several, every game. This is not a deck for the sane (sometimes characterized as a “Full-On Drakey” deck).

And, of course, the deck itself: