When 2.0 was announced, I was one of the people who was fairly unhappy about the announcement. Not because of the financial investment of buying every 1.0 card within less than a year, but a simple dislike of such grand change. After spending 6 months committing the admittedly baffling 1.0 rules to memory and mastering them, it would all be for naught as the game was being simplified for “filthy casuals” who couldn’t be bothered to read endless pages of discussion explaining how Moribund works. Even when details for 2.0 started trickling out, I was still fairly cynical.
Treating it as the last hurrah for our favorite card game, 7 of us from the Montreal / Ottawa meta drove down to Gencon. I brought my favourite 1.0 deck (Greyjoy Winter Choke) and thought I’d have some fun underperforming. I ended up placing 18th out of 123 players, just missing the cut to top 16. Still very pleased with how I performed, I considered Gencon a success, and went to bed setting an alarm “just in case” I felt like actually getting up and playing in the second edition tournament. Considering there were a lot of people who wanted to play who didn’t manage to get a ticket, in hindsight I shouldn’t have been so flippant about it.
Alarm went off, and during a week of not sleeping well, my hotel bed felt fairly comfortable. It took one of my hotel roommates to say “Get up, of course we’re going to the Kingslayer!” to get my ass out of bed. One cab ride later, and me and my quickly assembled Greyjoy and Night’s Watch deck were sitting in wait, badly needed coffee in hand. The deck choice came from Greyjoy being my favourite house in 1.0 (and in the lore of the franchise itself) and from them appearing very strong based on reading the cards the day before. Night’s Watch as a pairing added inexpensive characters to serve as claim fodder, as well as slight Choke mechanics, which I had always been a big fan of in first edition. Still, I had barely practiced 2.0, and was here for some casual fun, seemingly nothing else. My friend Salim had been really practicing, and clearly cared about his performance. I told him I thought he was going to do really well, and we went off to our pairings.
It didn’t take very long before it became clear that many people had come to the same conclusion as I had: Greyjoy was really strong in 2.0. Throughout my day, I only played 1 opponent who didn’t include Greyjoy as one of their house choices. I was happy to see my favorite house do so well, but concerned about saturation (not to mention the hipster feeling of “I always thought they were cool in 1.0”). I brought my Greyjoy / Night’s Watch deck in, and prepared for some fun.
Three matches in, with a score of 3 and 0, there were a few things that I had come to realise. First of all, Balon Greyjoy is a terrifying powerhouse, particularly if you get his kids Asha and Theon on the board with him. Being able to stealth around your opponents stronger characters with Asha, and have Balon discredit all other defenders is really overpowering. In a way, it thematically fits Greyjoy. This isn’t a game of intrigue and betrayal, it’s thuggishly hitting your opponent really really hard.
Secondly, the plot Sneak Attack was being criminally underrated. Despite stupidly high stats (5/11/2), its one drawback (you can only perform one challenge) was being perceived by many as a dealbreaker. However, once you start a round with Balon and Theon on the board, already having 10 power, then flip this plot and watch as your opponent realizes you’ve just won the game and there’s literally nothing they can do unless they topdeck Milk of the Poppy, its value becomes clear. Almost guaranteeing first player, combined with Greyjoy cards that can in fact score you five power in a single challenge (renown on Balon, power claim with Theon, two power from opponent’s house, 1 power for unopposed) is nothing to scoff at. If there isn’t much detail in most of my recounting of matches, it’s because it ended up being “I marshalled and played challenges until I was at a point where a power challenge with Sneak Attack would win the game, so I did that.”
Third was something that we had all predicted, and it turned out to be 100 percent true: Milk of the Poppy is a must have, with two being optimal. This is something I’d declare a problem with the game, since it forces two slots of every deck, and one slot in every plot deck with Confiscation. Getting your 7 gold big guy blanked stinks, and really feels cheap to neutralize someone else’s Balon for only 1 gold.
I won my first three games fairly handily, though I realized I was having more fun than I thought. Talking to others, I realized that being 3 and 0 was not a given, and I could potentially do fairly well, maybe even get a playmat. I wasn’t wild about the mat design, but I figured that could be nice. My round four pairing was listed, and I started to get nervous: Will Lentz. This was a player I had heard of, someone who cared enough about this game to host a podcast about it. I figured my streak was over. But alas, 2.0 is a reset for everyone, it seems. We played a great tight match, but the Greyjoy master plan of “Get 11 power, then Sneak Attack” proved to still work, particularly once we both realized that whoever won initiative in the last round would win the game. After this match, I realized that making top 16 was a real possibility.
With Will being the only opponent named so far, I must admit to a terrible shame I have about this tournament and this report: I am awful with names. Everyone I met and played against was very pleasant, but alas I don’t remember many of their names. My sincere apologies to any of those players reading this. I assure you: it’s not you, it’s me.
My next opponent was my one loss before the cut, to a man named Ben. Ben’s defenses and answers were tight enough that I was never able to reach the power needed to Sneak Attack to victory, and I ended up losing a fair match at around 8 to 15. It was a good match, and I had no shame of losing. I did however realise that the pressure was now on, and I’d have to win my final match to make the cut.
My final match was against a Bara/Greyjoy player. I was somewhat concerned, as kneel would do a decent job stopping me. My opponent had control fairly consistently from the get-go, getting a duped Melisandre out right away. We traded Milk of the Poppy’s on each other’s Melisandre and Littlefinger, both confiscating them with plots. When he used his second Milk of the Poppy on Littlefinger again, I was honestly a tad relieved, since it meant the Balon in my hand would not be getting blanked. Between that, and there simply not being enough R’hllor cards in the deck to fully use Mel, I think that in a constructed 60 card deck match between this gentleman and I, he’d have defeated me. Alas, not enough kneel was available to him, and I eventually took the match.
So now I was 5-1, with my only loss being to another 5-1. My friend Salim was also 5-1, and we both anxiously waited for Nate to bring the final results. I laughed at how I had gone from not even wanting to get out of bed to play this, to being really invested in whether or not I was making the cut. When Salim asked me if I would want to play in the White Book top 16 if I made it, we both agreed that while we were exhausted, we had already come so far, so why not.
Silly though it sounds, when Nate brought the top 16 results to the board, I felt a rush of emotion and excitement when I saw that I had made it. While I was no slouch, I had never performed astonishingly well in AGoT before, and here I was in 15th place out of over 200 people. As prizes were being handed out, Nate French even pronounced my last name correctly, which was rad. I considered the day a success already, and told my friends that I would play the first round in the White Book podcast, get my ass kicked because I was exhausted, and then we could go eat. When I found out I was paired against Kevin Shi, I told my friends not to get too comfortable, he’d be making short work of me.
My match against Kevin was solid, with two notable highlights. I drew enough economy and the right cards to be able to trigger Put to the Sword on round one, and he had marshalled Tywin to unfortunately be its victim. This presented an odd situation: He had flipped Calm Over Westeros and declared Military claim would be reduced by 1, to zero. I still had to take Tywin out, so declared an overly committed military challenge, still having kept two gold. Kevin looked at me, and I looked back, and we both knew what was happening. He even chuckled, and said “I know exactly what you’re going to do, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.” After it was said and done, it really became clear that with such expensive characters, getting your big guy put to the sword is really demoralizing, especially early on.
Our match went back and forth, with buff Balons being swung back and forth, until his Balon received Milk of the Poppy. The big turning point came when Kevin made an unfortunate mistake, overcommitting to defending a power challenge from Balon, it slipping his mind that if none of the defenders were as strong as Balon, it wouldn’t matter. After that, one sneak attack, and the tag team of Balon, Theon, and Asha closed out the game for me. I considered the victory bittersweet. On one side, I’d be continuing in the tournament and could now say I was at least in the top ten. On the other side, I was horribly exhausted and hungry, and was kind of looking forward to stopping.
My next match was against Sandy. This is where full disclosure comes in: I barely remember this match happening. I remember Sandy made some sort of mistake early on that we both agreed would be costly, and I remember apologizing to him multiple times that I was loudly eating almonds my friend had offered me while we played. I also remember Sneak Attack closing the game. I’m very sorry, Sandy. You were a pleasure to meet, and I had a great time, but I do not remember the minutia of this match whatsoever.
In terms of Chris, my semifinal opponent, I actually forget one of the houses he used. I remember he was playing Tyrell, and that’s most of what he drew. I DO remember he spent the better part of the match completely kicking my ass, and was a terrific player. Whenever I thought I’d win an important challenge, he’d offer either a surprise strength boost, or point out that his character’s strength was boosted by something visibly on the board, and I had just fucked up. He got both Left and Right out early, which cause no end of headaches for Greyjoy’s attempt to get unopposed challenges. At a certain point, my 90’s sports movie moment happened. From the other table, I saw my friend Salim win his match, meaning that if I won, we’d be playing together in the final. I distinctly remember seeing that, and consciously telling myself “I can’t lose now.” I had to ride this train to the end.
In a turning point, I managed to use Put to the Sword on his Knight of Flowers, and then blank either Left or Right (the one that gains a power icon) with Milk of the Poppy. With that pest out of the way, I eventually clawed back to a Sneak Attack. In this game, a unique Night’s Watch character with Longclaw to give him Renown, whose name escapes me, was crucial, as getting him and Euron in the final power challenge was essential, since my opponent had Highgarden to kick on them out, and I needed at least one renown to close it at fifteen. He looked at the board, did the math, then extended his hand in congratulations.
My hand hadn’t even touched his to reciprocate the handshake before my friend, the resident Montreal AGoT TO Julien Vazquez let out a deafening “Wooo!” that would have made Ric Flair proud. It was happening. The all Montreal final was happening. Salim was out of the room, and hadn’t heard yet. I had to go to the bathroom like nobody’s business, but there was no chance in Hell I was going to miss him hearing the news. When I finally saw him from across the room, I simply smiled, pointed at myself, then pointed at him. We embraced, practically in tears. We discussed the idea of walking away and calling it a draw, but came to the conclusion that Will Lentz and the White Book had gone to all this trouble to crown a champion, so we owed them that. We agreed that in Montreal, we’d call ourselves the co-champions.
Fellow Canadian Rob St John informed me that he would be filming the match, and I could not say no (as I’ve refused him before). So the entire final match is available on youtube. Needless to say, I consider it an awful, sloppy mess on my part, and I don’t care. In one of my favorite moments, Salim plays an event, then questions whether it is valid. I read the same event from my own hand, aloud, and confirm that yes, yes it is. After 30 minutes of Salim consistently blowing me out, he put the 15th power on his house. It was over. I could not think of anyone I’d be happier losing to in that final. We posed for photographs, and left both as conquering heroes to our fellow Metamates, who had stayed the whole time to watch.
Overall, I had a fantastic time, and felt it cemented that 1.0 may be gone, but I always loved this game for the people, who will still be a part of this great game. I want to give a special shout out to the following individuals:
Will Lentz: For arranging the top 16 cut, and providing outstanding additional prize support. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you, and I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for everything.
Peter Wilson: My best friend of more years than I’d care to count, best man at my upcoming wedding, and the one who got me into AGoT. Thanks for everything, Peter. Your pride in Salim and I was beaming and visible, and it made me want to do my best. The Montreal AGoT meta will be poorer without you. Watching Back to the Future together (for the hundredth time) on the car ride over, providing insane commentary to everyone else will remain a highlight of the trip.
Sean Emberly: My hotel roommate, whose presence in the road trip meant my jokes weren’t always the most inappropriate, and who encouraged me to get out of bed and come Kingslay with him. Thank you Sean. I would have deeply regretted missing this.
Phillippe Paquin: The Canadian FFG distributer may have goofed up, but that won’t stop us: In Montreal, Phil will always be known as the Canadian National Champ. An excellent player who takes the game and the lore of the franchise 100% seriously, who pushes all of us to reach higher levels. It’s always a pleasure to play Phil, and I look forward to doing more of it in second edition.
Alex Chiappini: A man who went a solid 4-2 in both the Joust and the Kingslayer, and who puts up with more bizarre nonsense than anyone I’ve ever encountered. From the nickname “King Chipp” which was literally forced on him without his will, to the inanity of everything everyone else from the MTL meta says or does. “Hey Chipp, who’s your waifu? Be honest!” “Hey KC, I took this photo of you eating, for no reason, and posted it in the FB convo for the MTL meta.” You’re a trooper, and every day you don’t tell all of us to cram it and get a life is another notch on your belt of how hardcore you are.
Julien Vazquez: The man who keeps the AGoT Montreal meta alive by being our resident TO and ordering every kit he can get his hands on. Also, the man who was insane enough to drive 16 hours to Gencon and 16 hours back, with little relief, while wiseasses made asinine comments about Back to the Future and Waifus in the back seats. Literally none of any of this would happen without you, Julien. You are and always will be the best.
Salim Hammoum: Last and certainly not least, our resident Kingslayer, the one man who ended my run for good in the tournament. You practiced like crazy for this, and it shows. Whether you’re using your grand wizardry claiming 2 out of the 3 regional tournaments you attended, or being crowned the first ever winner of a 2.0 tournament, you are a force to be reckoned with, and are a terrific friend. Your mining career may be taking you abroad, but you’ll always have a home in the Montreal Cool Kids Club with us. Your cheerful attitude and inventive humour could put even the most dour of individuals in a good mood. And of course, for your incredible suggestion that I’m going to end on here:
After the tournament, the MTL meta was sitting around having a beer and a meal, giving Salim and I props for our performance. Salim then turned to me and said the following, which I will remember until I am old and grey, and will laugh at every time I think about it:
“Hey, you know those huge pants for big guys? We should get those, I’ll stand in one leg, and you stand in the other. Then we’ll walk around Gencon tomorrow, saying “We are the Kingslayer!” at the same time.”
We are the Kingslayer indeed.