House Lannister

Second Sons, Episode 11: Post-GenCon Palooza

by Luke Wortley (eldub)

I would say that I have some interest in this episode, seeing as it’s the first podcast (is it really a podcast, though?) appearance by North American Champion, Chris Schoenthal — of the fabled SoCal meta.

Additionally, as an added bonus(?), we get the other side of the Final Table at GenCon, Seth Low.

There was a part of me, as a live listener, to try and write a review with some sort of witty comment, but let’s be honest, the Second Sons neither needs nor deserves blurbs of any sort.

Here’s the link:

Well, if you haven’t taken a solemn vow to never watch another episode of Second Sons (as you might want to do, seriously), there’s another one live on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 at 22:00 Eastern Time (02:00GMT). You can watch the next, completely incorrigible piece of shit on http://twitch.tv/agotnordic.

 

On the Current Meta: Thoughts for now and for the future

by Patrick Haynes (patrickhaynes)

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the current state of the game and the meta at-large, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

What’s good?

Let’s start on a positive note and talk about what’s good in the game right now.

  1. Big Characters: One of the coolest things about this game is that the iconic characters actually matter. Rather than a Castellan of the Rock or some House Clegane Brigands being the stars of the show, it’s the man himself, Tywin Lannister. When he hits the table your opponent will groan in frustration, which is exactly how it should be, at least thematically. In A Song of Ice and Fire, it is the heads of houses that inspire fear in their enemies and so it is in the card game right now, which I love.
  2. Challenges matter: Challenges have always been an integral part of this game, and they continue to be such. Knowing which challenge to do, in which order, and when it’s useful to do something entirely differently is an important aspect of playing the game. It is certainly one of the things that takes a while to get adjusted to, and analyzing the risk/reward of doing a certain challenge at a certain time is always an intriguing process – not to mention that it’s never 100% formulaic.
  3. Highly competitive: All of the factions have at least a tier 1.5 deck. Yes even Night’s Watch and Tyrell. Night’s watch and Tyrell are both way better than people think, and in the right hands (Looking at you, Wamma), they can even be tier 1.

What’s bad?

As we all know, there are some shortcomings…

  1. Deck ubiquity/solved meta: One of the biggest problems with the game right now is that the current meta really is solved. Players from all of the world seem to have found just about every top-tier deck possible at this stage of the game. Because of the abundance of deck sharing in the community (which I think is great, just to be clear), basically everybody knows what all of the good decks are and will often net-deck them, or build a deck inspired by one of them, which results in playing many games against almost identical decks, which gets tiresome.
  2. Lannister: This one, honestly, isn’t one of my major concerns at the moment. Lannister happens to be in a really good place right now, but I think Stark and Martell are basically right there with them. Lannister decks are relatively easy to play and incredibly easy to build, however, so the largest problem with Lannister is simply their ubiquity, and the fact that every other game you play is against a Lannister deck with 48 of the same cards as the last one you played.
  3. Big guys smash: Definitely my biggest problem with the game right now. Basically every good deck boils down to throwing your biggest and best dudes on the table, trying to get off your targeted removal, and stopping your opponent’s targeted removal. It’s just dull, and it means that the game is almost entirely based on luck at this point. If your opponent draws her bombs and you don’t, you will lose the game – simple as that. Personally, as much as I like the fact that big-name characters matter, I am not a fan of the disproportionate weight given to them, considering it really limits the amount of skill at strategy that go into the game, both of which are basically the only reasons I play this game (that, and a love of the source material). Essentially, if I wanted a game based on luck I’d play a kid’s game like Sorry!…or Roulette. Basically I’m just fed up with seeing an opponent flop a duped Tywin and literally not being able to do anything to stop it, no matter how well I play.

Solutions

So how do we fix this crazy situation?

  1. Release more cards: Hopefully the second cycle will have enough good cards that we will see plenty of new decks and new ideas that will be tier one. I know my buddy Ruben is in favor of releasing the whole second cycle as a single block but I also know that: a) FFG will never do that, b) we’ll have the cards soon enough, and c) FFG will NEVER do that. This solution, however, isn’t much of a solution so much as it is a “let’s just wait and see what happens” method, which I’m not a huge fan of.
  2. Wait for Valar: Pretty much in the same vein as the first solution, but a much more specific thing to wait for. I think Valar will positively affect the game; it will make people more cautious and will ideally give us a few more decision points while playing (e.g. should I play my Tyrion now? Or will they just Valar me next turn if I do that?). That was one of my favorite aspects of 1.0, and I’m happy to see it coming back in this game.
  3. Restricted list: For those who don’t know, an FFG restricted list means that there are a number of cards on a list, and you are only allowed to play one card in your deck (draw or plot) on that list. You can play as many copies of that card as the game allows, but cannot use any of the other cards on the list. For example, if Winterfell and Eddard Stark (WotN) were both on the list, you could still play a full playset of Winterfell, but you would still be prohibited from playing any copies of Fast Eddie. Even if you only played a single copy of Winterfell, you could not play any copies of Fast Eddie; you could, however, play Eddard Stark from the Core Set (trust me, it’ll be relevant one day). I know that, for some people, the mere mention of a restricted list sends shivers up their spine and gives them an uncontrollable urge to sharpen their pitchforks and grab their torches. However, I have always been a fan of the restricted list as a method of curbing the metagame and keeping things fresh.

Of those solutions, I think it’s pretty obvious that I prefer the restricted list, so I’m going to delve a little more deeply into why I think it would help and what I would put on it. Firstly, I want a restricted list, not because the game is broken, but because the game is getting boring. As soon as my opponent flips her house card, I know so many of the cards in her deck, and I am pretty much only surprised by a card if it’s a bad one (legitimately saw a Brandon’s Gift the other day and almost did a spit take). With a well-considered restricted list, not only could we reign in some of annoying silliness that has been going on with Lanni Dragon and the like, but we could also add some variety and guesswork to the game. Essentially, with the addition of a small restricted list, when your opponent flips her house card up, you won’t know exactly what bomb she’s playing and might have to alter your play style accordingly.

So what would I put on this restricted list? Well, given that the general concept is to shake up the meta and make sure that just about every good deck will have to slightly adjust, I would restrict the best loyal and the best non-loyal card from most every faction (i.e. everything but Night’s Watch and Tyrell).


So, my restricted list would be the following:

House Baratheon

Robert Baratheon (Core)
Melisandre (Core)

House Greyjoy

Balon Greyjoy (Core)
Iron Mines (Calm Over Westeros) 

House Lannister

Tywin Lannister (Core)
Tyrion Lannister (Core)

House Martell

Ghaston Grey (Core)
Nymeria Sand (The Road to Winterfell)

House Stark

Winterfell (Wolves of the North)
Eddard Stark (Wolves of the North)

House Targaryen

Mirri Maz Duur (Calm Over Westeros)
Dracarys! (Core)

House Tyrell

None

The Night’s Watch

None

Neutral

Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell)

A word on Trading, as that plot has become near ubiquitous in the meta (I haven’t built a deck without it in a long time), but it seems like the presence of Naval and the introduction of Summer Harvest might lower its popularity enough already.


A notable exclusion – The First Snow of Winter. What a card, right? A staple in aggro / removal decks and the meta-defining card for several months. Additionally, a lot of people complained about First Snow being such a ubiquitous card and a silver bullet to at least three deck archetypes: Tyrell Knights, Targ Fealty (debatable), and Night’s Watch Defense. Not to mention that the card single-handedly pushed Burned Men into almost every Lannister main or Banner Lion deck. Here’s the thing, there are three reasons why FSoW should NOT be on the restricted list: 1) Cost curves have adjusted for almost every competitive deck. Given the ubiquity of the card, every deck, no matter how strong in the current meta, has to take it into account. 2) I think people dramatically undervalued the levelling power that Wildfire Assault and Varys could have. With both cards making a bit of a resurgence as hard-and-fast board wipes, First Snow is taking a bit of a back seat in decks that might otherwise prefer more permanent resets. 3) Perhaps, most importantly, we should consider the fact that resets are a cornerstone of the game’s identity and always have been. The possession of an on-demand reset is also, at times, more detrimental to your own board-state as it is to your opponent’s, which leads to tricky scenarios, especially mid-late game.


What effect would this restricted list have? Well, right off the bat it would completely break apart the Lanni Dragon deck that everybody knows and loves. As someone who plays that deck a lot and sees the pain in my opponent’s eyes, I think it’s probably a good deck to break up. Secondly, it would damage the Stark Fealty decks that are currently so stellar. Now, rather than having the best of both worlds with insane power gain and challenge denial, they’ll have to pick one or the other. Additionally, a restricted list makes Martell decks choose between icon removal and Ghaston Grey/hand control, while still leaving them very open to the creation of a Sand Snake deck. For Targ, it limits their kill and forces them to choose between burn and target kill, rather than having an abundance of both. Bara is not particularly dominant right now, and it’s only on this list because I think that, were they not hit, they would quickly soar to the top of the pool. Greyjoy is no longer an insanely optimal banner, and the restricted list limits the power of their blitz rush, while still making it very possible. However, the most important thing that this list would do, in my opinion, is boost the popularity and playability of both Night’s Watch and Tyrell. If all of the other factions are shaken up, and people can no longer play the easy to build monster smash decks from the other factions, they’ll have to start looking more carefully at what decks they can build, which may draw them to the two factions that have been inordinately underplayed since the release of the core.

Overall, I think it would significantly shake up this game, and make everybody go back to deck building and looking at their options of what they can put in a deck which I would really like. I personally haven’t been very inspired to build a deck in a long time (except Night’s Watch, shout out to Arry the orphan boy) and I think a lot of people are in the same boat. Maybe this is pointless, and the cards in the second cycle will shake things up enough by themselves. But from what I’ve seen so far that is not the case. I’ve been playing around with proxied versions of new cards for a while, and none of the ones that have been spoiled have opened the doors for new tier one decks. There are a lot of new tier 2 or tier 1.5 decks, some using the seasons agendas, others just using new cards (hello almost tier 1 Night’s Watch with Craven) but I have personally not found a single deck that is better than an updated version of an already tier 1 deck, and that’s just boring.

 

GenCon Wrap-up: Preparing for a tournament

by John Wright (handshaker6)

A couple weeks ago was GenCon. Hopefully by now you know the happy result: Chris Schoenthal won the North American Championship using a Lannister Banner of the Dragon deck, which had been run through the SoCal testing wringer until it was in championship form.

I’ve been trying to think of how I can add something to the community processing of a major tournament. By the time this write-up is published, Chris will have gone through his victory lap of podcast appearances and likely will have also published a tournament report of his own. Many others will have shared their experiences as well. Since I wasn’t able to make it out to Indianapolis, I don’t have anything to contribute on that end. However, I did get to work on the creation of the winning deck as it transformed from a Lannister ambush deck to a Lanni-Dragon Monster deck, so I can provide a unique perspective on our development and testing process.

**Note: Originally, I was hoping to pair this article with a mirroring one written from Seth’s point-of-view to give insight into the preparation of both of the final two GenCon decks. Unfortunately, work and life commitments kept Seth busy, and he is now flying across the country for Simoni’s wedding (congrats Steve!). I’m still hopeful we get some kind of tournament report, etc., from him in the future. In the interest of attempting to present a little bit of both sides, at the end of this article I am including my attempt at recreating the Martell-Wolf build Seth played. My attempt won’t be as good as Seth’s own retrospective, but at least it’s something.


From Southern California:

I was there when Chris Schoenthal decided to go to GenCon this year. A little over a month before the tournament, we were preparing to say good-bye to our friend and metamate Shaun, who we were sending to South Carolina in order to start an eastern branch of our SoCal meta. David and I were playing a match while Chris and Shaun watched, and conversation turned to David and Shaun’s reunion visit in Indianapolis at GenCon. “Wait,” Chris interrupted, “you guys are going to GenCon?” David and Shaun confirmed. “Great!” Chris said, “then I’m going, too!”

“But, Chris,” we rejoined, “GenCon is sold out! Tickets were gone the day they went on sale.”

It turns out that Chris has a habit of buying tickets to major Thrones events, even if he is unsure that he is going to be able to attend them. As is his wont, he had bought one for GenCon, but being unaware of anyone else traveling from California, he had not made any plans to follow through on his trip to the Midwest.

Right then and there, Chris decided to attend GenCon. Immediately, the small group of us hanging around on a casual game night started discussing the expected meta for GenCon and what deck we thought would perform best at the tournament.


The Meta

winterfellThe largest surprise of the GenCon metagame to me was the relative lack of Stark decks represented at the event. That first evening, our conversation basically boiled down to “a lot of Lannister, a ton of Stark, a smattering of Martell, with maybe some Greyjoy around the edges.” Now, I don’t have any official numbers in front of me currently, but we really expected a large number of players at Gencon to be playing some form of the Northerners.

You see, Lannister was undisputed tops of the meta, with Martell close behind. We thought Stark would see play as a viable answer to these two houses. On top of their role as counters to Lanni and Martell, the Starks had dominated Origins and had been performing well internationally. As we brainstormed decks, we were really focused on these three houses, with the belief that Stark would truly be the deck you had to be able to beat regularly in order to win.

(Side note: I love that there were a few NW-Lanni decks that did well at this tournament. I really didn’t think this was a super-viable deck quite yet, but I was obviously wrong on that front. Looks like choke is going to be a strong deck type sooner than I thought.)


Deck Preparation

At one point that first evening, I remember David turning to me and asking what I thought. “Well,” I answered, “I think I would start off looking real hard at Lanni Crossing.”

The Lanni jumper deck is one that I consider SoCal-flavored, since Lucas was the first to really popularize it, and I liked the idea of our SoCal travelling party wielding a SoCal deck. Plus, I knew the BAMF! deck ran 3x Treachery, which works really, really well against both Winterfell and Ghaston Grey. Also, I feel that Tower of the Hand is a card that really quickly got overlooked, and I wanted to see if I could make it work. So, here was our starting point:

http://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5895/bamf-tower-of-the-hand-1.0

The one other part of this deck that I think is worth pointing out here is the removal of Tears of Lys in favor of two copies of Nightmares. In a meta with Winterfell, Robb, Nymeria and Ghaston, doubling up on Treachery and Nightmares is one of the significant features of the Lanni-Dragon deck that ultimately won.

After a couple weeks of testing, the group was not super happy with the BAMF! deck. I remember Chris in particular did not find it consistent enough for his taste. So, we decided to start looking in other directions for what to bring to GenCon.

Around that same time, I happened to have a Facebook conversation with Jeremy Hammond. For my money, he’s one of the more creative deck builders in Second Edition, and I was picking his brain about a Lanni-Wildling deck he had once brought to a tournament (going undefeated before dropping out before the cut). Among the words of wisdom I got from Jeremy: “People just weren’t ready for 3x Milk and 3x Nightmares.”

This conversation also sparked another idea: if we were concerned about Winterfell, there is an easy, on-demand way to handle this troublesome location – running Winter plots. And so, I started trying messing around with builds that ran Mance, a Winter plot suite, and other Wildling cards to round out the edges. Here’s the closest I got, trying to create a hybrid mix of BAMF and Winter-Wildlings:

http://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5896/wildling-house-lannister-winter-lord-of-the-crossing-1.0mance'

I still really like this deck – mostly because it features Mance and the Wildling Horde, which have become pet cards of mine. Also, between Gregor, Tower of the Hand, PTTS, Tears, and two two-claim plots, it can hit really hard on removal. However, this deck also became extremely reliant on Mance coming out quickly. Once again, testing found it too inconsistent.

Some quick reflections about the Wildling deck: as you’ll see, it’s really not too far away from the deck that Chris piloted to victory. Rattleshirt’s Raiders and Milk of the Poppy have both entered as important 3x inclusions. Importantly, we took out the heavy reliance on Wildling and Winter tech, and removed the janky Tower stuff in favor of the best cards of the Dragon Banner, but the core of the deck is here at this point: really good Lanni stuff supported by a lot of blanking and removal effects.

At this point, we were running out of time with about two weeks before GenCon. I started experimenting with GJ-Lion featuring the Wildlings, wondering if Fishwhiskers could give a little extra punch needed to make the Winter plots worthwhile (he didn’t). Then, I flipped it around and looked at Lanni-Kraken, which James Speck had won the SoCal Regional with. I never really loved either of these decks, but they did teach us that there was room for a minimized Wildling package in a Lanni deck running a Banner – we didn’t necessarily have to force it into Lord of the Crossing build.

I remembered that Ryan Jones had a really good Lanni-Dragon deck he had used to win KublaCon. I ended up taking the Lanni-Kraken/Wildling build I had been toying with, removing a dozen GJ cards in favor of the 12 Targaryen ones he had used and running it out to our group. I sent the deck around to our small testing group again, they continued to make it better (i.e. removing weird Shagga/Melisandre cards I like), and we ended up with the finished product that both Chris and David (who made the second-day cut) ran. Chris’s Tournament Report and list can be found here:

http://www.cardgamedb.com/forums/index.php?/topic/32433-tournament-report-2016-north-american-continental-champion/#entry281922


Final changes and last thoughts

There were a few things Chris and David insisted on, which made the deck a lot better. When I first sent out the list, it was running 3x of Tywin, Mountain, Mance and Mirri – which was fun, but not ideal. The amount of Winter plots gradually dropped, until only Winds of Winter remained. Most importantly, they really wanted to get up to 3x Treachery and 2x Nightmares. I thought that maybe the 5th event doing the same function was perhaps overkill, but Chris was definitely right on that point – the 3rd copy of Treachery won him the final match against Seth by canceling a key Ghaston (although, he was holding a Nightmares in his hand as well, so maybe there’s still room for that argument).

We ended up with a deck that just straight-up featured more overpowering characters in it at the high end of the curve than almost any other deck would be able to bring. Illyrio and Jorah are fantastic support cards that fill out the curve and help push the deck to close with renown. Illyrio is perhaps the most important here, as he provides you with very valuable stand in order to get more mileage out of the large 7-cost characters the deck is filled with. Finally, Confiscation, 3x Rattleshirt’s Raiders, Nightmares and Treachery worked together to counter the best control options currently available out of Martell.


Last thoughts on certain cards:

rattleshirtsMance Rayder – Just think of him as a very poor version of a 4th copy of Tywin. A tricon with renown that gives a +1 bonus on winter plots (or lets you use Tyrion gold for ambush). He’s not amazing right now, but I do really think he adds just a little bit of consistency to the deck that you need in an extended tournament like Chris faced at Gencon.  Also, Mance is great to push Martell into doubling down on icon removal – having a 4th huge character (or even 5th, if you’re counting Jaime) gives too many targets for Martell to handle, and featuring another tricon keeps icons on the board.

Attachment control – I think this is the most you can run in a single deck currently. Attachments are really good right now, and one of the more subtle strengths of this deck is the ability to constantly remove them.

Wildfire – Personally, I believe that we are in a post-First Snow meta. The top decks have adjusted and are no longer vulnerable to a FS-based total board wipe. So, one of the last changes we made was actually to swap out FS for Wildfire; I think WF actually hits Stark a lot harder than First Snow currently.


From the District of Colombia (kind of):martell main

Here is my best stab at what I think the other final deck looked like. We know DC doesn’t actively share decklists, but I’ve done as much research as I could from people who got to play against it. I’m sure this list isn’t totally accurate, but it seems to be reasonably close. As close as we’re going to get, anyway.

http://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5907/house-martell-banner-of-the-wolf-attempted-recreation-of-g-1.0

This build is a powerful control deck. I think the addition of Filthy Accusations is just brilliant. I’m not entirely sure about how the negative attachment and event suite were filled out, but it sure seemed like it leaned heavier into the attachment side of things – which is a strong move in a meta where you’re expecting lots of Winterfell.

I’m also a big fan of the cost curve. Playing so many 4-5 cost armies is a great way to leverage the high efficiency of Arianne. To be honest, this is the direction I’d like to see the game continue down in the future. Congratulations to Seth for taking it to an impressive Final.

 

Green Dreamers, Episode 3: National Champ vs. National Champ

by Luke Wortley (eldub)

This week, Green Dreamers is finally back with a special feature episode. The matchup speaks for itself: Lannister-Banner of the Dragon vs. Stark-Fealty. It’s a meta-defining matchup with two decks that are clearly top-level builds.

However, what really matters here is the players. We have two players from the Columbus, Ohio meta (I told yall that those guys are good…) who swept US Nationals, keeping the crown in Columbus in both Joust and Melee for the first Origins of Second Edition.

Seriously, if you’re still doubting whether or not good players come from the midwest, go to Columbus and play some Thrones. They’ve got 2 National Champs and a bunch of Regional swag…

At any rate, here’s the newest episode of Green Dreamers, featuring Nate Tarantelli (Stark-Fealty, 2016 US National Champion — Joust) vs. Ryan Erichsen (Lannister-Dragon, 2016 US National Champion — Melee).*

 

*It’s also worth noting that Ryan made Top 8 in Joust, finishing King of Swiss and that Tyler Hockman (Indianapolis Regional Champion, also made the Top 8).

Tournament Report: Montclair, CA Regional from James S

by James S

Saturday’s AGoT Regional at Montclair was AWESOME! For the quick rundown and all you really need to read: I played Lanni/Kraken and went 8-0-1 on the day. No big surprises… I put in the “good cards,” hoped for the matchups I wanted and planned for, and let the deck do its thing. Big highlights were meeting so many new faces, competing in another strong field, and successfully defending the SoCal title from those persistent NorCalers!

Pre-Tourney Preparations

Decklist here: https://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5144/socal-regional-winner-8-0-1-52-players-1.0

Glazer’s gonna smack me, but Memorial Day weekend was the first time I built and sleeved a main-house Lannister deck. Why? It stems back to Thrones W.A.R. where I was King Stark and Stark Lion was spoken for by other members of my team, so I didn’t devote much focus to those red cards. Then, with the booming popularity of Lanni, my rebelliousness prevented me from joining the bandwagon. So a day before the big KublaCon tournament in the Bay Area I built a Lanni Kraken deck to pilot for a few games to “get the feel” for their play, so I’d know how best to beat ‘em. Naturally—I can see you all nodding out there—I had great success in testing, and after some gentle encouragement from Ryan Jones, I decided to put my pride aside and go with the beat-stick deck instead of Targ Crossing or my hyper-control Bara-Sun deck. I ended up 3-3 on the day after failing to break Margo’s Bara Fealty kneelfest and losing to Martell twice, as Lucas Sydlaske and Joel Rodriguez both used Varys to turn the tide after I pulled ahead early. Lessons learned!

Fast forward to the morning of the regional…at 6:45am Ryan Jones called me to say that he’s en route and that the event posting indicated that PRINTED decklists were REQUIRED. Whoa—that’s a first! And a problem because I don’t own a printer! So, after picking up David K and John Kraus, our merry band booked it north. I entered my decklist to ThronesDB via phone while navigating us to a unique destination…the Montclair public library! After a couple dimes and a pleasant tour of my new San Bernadino County library card privileges (complete with full-color brochure), I had a printed list and was ready to get some food in my belly before the tourney. Costco hot dog for breakfast? Why not!


Round 1 – Tony from Las Vegas – Stark Fealty
Tony and I chatted a bit before the game and we both agreed that Las Vegas would be a SPECTACULAR site for a Regional (amirite?!)! Here’s hoping FFG can make it happen next year! It was his first tournament, and unfortunately he mull’d into a poor setup with a duped Robb and a Roseroad. I opened with Marched to his Trading with Pentoshi, which gave me enough money to play Tywin; Tony marshalled Winterfell, which proved to be yet another tempo hit, and I was able to quickly overcome him with Big T’s massive strength and economy. Tyrion let me do really dirty Lannister tricks too, generating enough gold for a Put to the Sword after ambushing Widow’s Wail. Gross!

1 – 0

Round 2 – THE Justin Smith from LA – Tyrell Kraken
Okay, time to get serious. Justin’s been a consistent contender in many SoCal tournies and took down the Arizona regional in mid-May with Lanni-Wolf. But wait, Tyrell Kraken? Uh oh, better be on my toes with this left-field madness! He opened with Heads on Spikes, and I had 2 Tywins in my hand…greeeaat! Luckily he pulled Cersei… phew! Throughout the game I ended up getting higher quality characters; although Highgarden stalled out my kill events for a couple turns, First Snow sealed it for me. It was tough to sit on 5 gold in the marshalling phase (I’m very much an aggressive “go gittum!” player) but it was the right call with Hound, Treachery, and Put to the Sword in hand. Special props to Justin for going with something outside the box instead of the easy-button Lannister deck!

2 – 0

Round 3 – Player from LA – Lanni Crossing
This match definitely stands out for me because everything clicked so well that my opponent on turn 2 frustratingly said, “Do you just have ALL the cards?!” to which I laughed and jokingly said, “Yes, absolutely! I’m amazing!” (which in and of itself is hilarious for those that know me!). Turn 3 he conceded. A neighboring player and friend turned to me afterward, patted me on the back, and said “I’m so glad it was you that played that game. You handled it very well, and way better than I would have.” Haha.

3 – 0

Round 4 – Corey Briggs from San Diego – Bara Fealty
Ohboy. Corey and I have battled before and he’s probably one of – if not the – top Bara players in SoCal. I had to mulligan and was terrified of my only setup option: Tywin, Cersei’s Wheelhouse, and Roseroad. Thank the Seven that he didn’t have Marched! I was able to go first most of the game so Cersei’s Wheelhouse continued to perform well. I weathered 2 stinking drunks and his kneeling plots, leveraging his lack of economy on my First Snow turn where all he could do was play a red keep. Mel was soon put to the sword and I Marched Gendry to the Wall the next turn, preventing any possible comeback. Newly Made Lord also helped this game, eating his Red Keep. Corey is great people and is a stellar example of the awesome newer generation of 2.0 players.

4 – 0

Round 5 – Jeff K – Martell Lion
The other standout match of the day. Jeff is part of my local play-group and a member of the Wrecking Crew, and rumor has it that his efforts introduced John Wright to our LCG. I had his number early in his thrones career, but he finally turned the tide against me in the Kingdom Con 2015 top 4 match, when he went on to win the day and grow into his own.

We both had poor setups, although mine included Rattleshirt’s Raiders, which would prove to be pivotal. I drew back up to find a Tywin in hand and little did I know, that first Noble Cause turn would be the only time I would have the option to marshal him the entire game. Instead I opted for better board presence and some control with Tyrion, milk on his Tyene, an iron mines, and the Hound. I couldn’t believe my eyes with his next moves… He proceeded to Milk my Tyrion, marshal his own Rattleshirt’s AND Hound! What is this, a mirror match? And so began one of the most fun, and completely unique 2.0 matches I’ve ever played! I don’t remember specific decision points early, but the cat-and-mouse game of choosing who to attack and defend with was pivotal, because once the other player got their character back online the game would slip away. Burned Men were important for me early here as well because I didn’t have any resource locations until mid-late game, so their strength was a boon to the Rattleshirts battle. Turn 3 or 4 was pivotal, when he played Naval to my Calling the Banners. That was the round I expected to finally get Tywin out, but he saw it coming, and although he wasn’t pleased to see me get gold, it was a still an important hit. My 3g let me stay in the game with another round of the Hound.

His First snow on turn 6 and my First Snow—when time was called on turn 7—really hurt me without any money to spend. Down 10 power to 9 in the final challenges phase with him clearly winning dominance I needed to somehow scrape out 2 power for a tie with only Tyrion to do it. My only out was an intrigue challenge stealthing by Tyene and playing Tears of Lys on his Knight of the Sun, which had 1 power from Renown. That one power from unopposed and removing his character with power let me secure a true draw at 10 power each. What a game! And Jeff played expertly—had that gone one more round he would have likely won.

4 – 0 – 1

Round 6 – Shaun M from San Diego – Martell Lion Part I
At this point I was near the top of the standings because the top table in round 5 also went to time, although they ended up with a mod win/mod loss. Here I was given the opportunity to intentional draw and refused. Much to my surprise, to the room that no I.D. would be taken at the top table, that we came to play, and play we would. And, believe it or not, this announcement was met with applause.

I started with another poor setup of Gregor, Iron Mines, and economy location. He set up Tyene, a reducing chud, and Kingsroad. Predictably, Gregor was Marched, and he let me go first since I revealed First Snow. My own Kingsroad let me marshal Jaime, who promptly had both icons taken away with Attainted and Imprisoned! Luckily he didn’t have enough resources for a character, so I let Jaime die in challenges phase and Marched Tyene next turn. I’ll never forget Shaun’s reaction… I saw him edge his seat forward, muster his remaining chakra (this was proving to be a LONG day), buckle in, and prepare for battle… all represented in a tight-lipped, frown-grimace that I would later dub his “Warrior Face”! Game on!

Over the next few turns I managed to draw and afford better quality characters, including trusty Tyrion who fueled 2 critical kill events and other dirty Lannister tricks help me lock in top seed going into the cut.

Shaun, the defending Kingdom Con champion, was a great sport about playing the game out—and good on him because we would later meet in the finals!

5 – 0 – 1


Quarterfinals – Kelsey from San Francisco – Bara Fealty
Kelsey was super pleasant to chat with before the game, rockin’ mint green card sleeves and matching headband! Definitely going to color-coordinate with my decks in the future! But the tone shifted when the game started since we now suddenly had an audience and the room was much quieter. I kept my subpar setup because I had Tywin and Seal of the Hand, which I knew would be important. Throughout much of this game she focused the kneel effects on Tywin, but the Seal helped me win at least one challenge with him each turn. Greyjoy cards really shined for me here, with Asha and Raiding Longship partnering nicely and Newly Made Lord blowing up Chamber of Painted Table. Late in the game, I triggered Lordsport Shipwright on her Kingsroad, which I believe kept Stannis off the board, likely securing the win. Kelsey represents a burgeoning Bay Area Thrones community so I’m looking forward to seeing her and others from up north again in the future. Best of luck to her at Gencon!

Semifinals – David from Santa Barbara – Greyjoy Targ
After another photoshoot for top 4, David and I were paired. He and his comrade Phil were both super fun, and I wish them both lots of success in developing a regular play-group! But I had my guard up, as he had bested Tiny Grimes, an old Regional nemesis of mine, in the quarterfinals. We both mulliganed, and I had a reducing chud and Theon with a Seal of the Hand. Ugh. Luckily his setup was poor as well, flipping a duped Mirri and Kingsroad. He took a calculated risk and went for the double Marched, and it paid off. While he won the plots battle turn 1, I came out on top turn 2 as he played Naval and I went with Calm Over Westeros, gaining the full gold and lowering military claim. That foothold proved to be enough as I set up for the First Snow turn. Cersei was an important part of this win, capitalizing on a typically weak intrigue house and going through unopposed to hit his hand hard. When he finally ran out of cards I played First Snow and came in for yet another 2 claim intrigue, effectively taking Jorah and a reducer (?) out of the game. Later he was able to marshal Balon, but I had enough econ andboard  presence by then to Tears my way to the finals.

SoCal Regional Finale – Shaun M from San Diego – Martell Lion Part II
First off, I’d like to congratulate Shaun on a hard-fought journey to the finals. He was the 7th seed going in after our non-I.D. and had to claw through tough competition in his side of the cut. By now we were eclipsing 12 hours of Thrones and running on fumes, but with the regional title and #mamtap on the line we battled on! The setup and plots were more traditional compared to our first game, but I was again able to stifle an early Tyene with milk. Tyrion was huge on my end, helping fuel The Hound, who I used mostly via ambush so he didn’t get Imprisoned. A key Tears on Areo helped me keep his military presence low and the First Snow to Marched turn kept me ahead in quality characters. By the final round I had Tywin, Asha and a put to the sword with enough gold to force it through. He put up a great fight, but the Lannister card quality, supplemented with Greyjoy stealth, locked in my first regional victory!


Props
–To the event attendance…we drew 52 players despite many consistent tournament “regulars” being unable to attend. Special props to perennial contenders Chris Schoenthal, Alex Esposito, and John Bruno for their lack of attendance, which likely played a big role in my victory! Also slops to them for missing out. J

–Costco food court, which fed me 2 of 3 meals on tourney day for a bargain!

–Kevin at Gameology for providing custom playmats and significant store credit to supplement the prize support.

–Montclair Public Library. They’ll ship in any book from any other San Bernadino branch at no charge!

Slops
–Optional Intention Draws. Although I’m not a veteran tourney director, I still say the option for ID’s sucks—they should be either automatic or not an option at all. Players are either vilified for ID’ing or vilified for not ID’ing, depending on where you stand. Moot now, I know.

–Tywin and Tyrion. People have pegged Greyjoy as the “easy button” house, but in my opinion it’s Lannister, bar none. Sure there may be a few more moving parts and secret hand knowledge, but the character and event quality make it really hard to make a wrong move. Direct kill is still king, and no one has the cash to do it like Lanni.

–Excessive Deck Checking and manual pairings. I appreciate keeping everyone honest by deck checking and even going to the extent to ensure that cards aren’t marked, but it can be taken too far. Some players in the top 8, myself included, had to get new sleeves for barely perceptible blemishes. And although the tournament director got the job done, time in between rounds was much longer than at Kublacon the week before—likely due to the manual tracking. Meant for a long day!


Conclusion
After midnight, the merry band of companions headed back south to San Diego with the regional trophy in tow! A welcome relief to get the “always a bridesmaid” monkey off my back since I have a least four 2nd place finishes at regional events under my belt, and even more finals appearances at non-regional events. It’s still setting in as I write this! Thanks for the read, from someone who somehow did it right!

Nerdly Ned: Theme decks

by Luke Wortley (eldub)*

First of all, please excuse my tardiness in doing a wrap-up of the first cycle with Characters; I’m still trying to hammer out exactly how I’m going to tackle each faction’s Nedliest characters.

En lieu of that piece, though, I’ve been contemplating the larger scope of Nedliness to extend from individual cards to entire deck archetypes as well. Though the card pool is still quite limited, the Core Set + Westeros Cycle card pool has given us several deckbuilding options if we want to explore a theme that is consistent with A Song of Ice and Fire series. Though some factions are a bit harder to diagnose than others, some decks are just dripping with theme.

In an attempt to add a bit of entertainment value to the inevitable lull between the end of Regional season and GenCon, I’ll be attempting to break down the Nedliest decks in the current card pool (notice I don’t use the term meta, considering only a handful of decks on this list will actually have any viability in even the most casual of tournaments).


Honorable Mention:

Most things Banner of the Wolf
Because Sansa…

Baratheon Banner of the Lion
Obviously this deck, if built to be competitive, is dynamite. However, from a Nedly perspective, it’s got major upside and downside. For pros, you get: Bob, Renly, Moon Boy, Joff, Tyrion, Jaime, Ser Ilyn, Widow’s Wail, The Hound, Gregor, In the Name of Your King!, The Iron Throne, Small Council Chamber, and The Red Keep, all of which are cards that are representative of key characters and events. Cons — Unfortunately, however, you don’t get Tywin, Cersei, nor Pycelle, not to mention the fact that it makes zero sense thematically to run Stannis, Mel, Chamber of the Painted Table, Selyse, Shireen, Cressen, Davos, nor even Dragonstone Faithful / Dragonstone Port. So, unless you’re willing to sacrifice theme for deck consistency, which I’m not, Banner of the Lion is only an honorable mention.

Lannister Lord of the Crossing
Lannister characters with an agenda traited House Frey. Need I say more?

Martell Lord of the Crossing
I mean, the deck is thematic in the sense that, mechanically, LotC is exactly the type of game that Prince Doran will play — losing a couple battles on purpose to win the one that counts. But the real Nedly value of LotC comes from the fact that it’s representative of Lord Walder Frey’s refusal to commit to battle until the winner was all but determined. In that case, it only makes Honorable Mention.

Night’s Watch Banner of the Stag
Pretty much all the same reasons I listed in the Bara-Watch discussion sans Stannis…In that case, it’s not quite the Nedliest of the Nedly. I suppose this one is really just a bone for the TV show.

Targaryen Banner of the Sun
Because isn’t burning your own Quentyn such an OG move?

Targaryen Banner of the Watch / Wolf
Because Jon Snow is non-loyal, yall, come on.

Tyrell Lord of the Crossing
I’m sort of going out on a limb, here, but Tyrell LotC isn’t thematic because of all the Knight characters and such…it’s thematic because Tyrell does sort of show up out of nowhere to carry the day and, within no time, starts ruling the court at King’s Landing. The rush potential of LotC puts it in the Honorable Mention category. Ultimately, though, I think Tyrell is a control house that’s just biding its time…at least, I hope so.


Nedliest of the Nedly:

Baratheon Banner of the Watch
What’s there not to love about this deck? It may be the Nedliest deck in the entire game. Want to take Stannis to The Wall? I do! Sure, you have to sacrifice Bob and Moon Boy, but you get to have the satisfaction that the Lord of Light will guide a Lightbringer-wielding Stannis to victory over the invading Wildling hordes. You get the entire R’hllor package, Jon Snow, Halder, Chett, Davos, Shireen, The Wall, Ghost, Maester Aemon, Ser Alliser Thorne, and Castle Black. I mean…come on, right?

Baratheon Banner of the Wolf
Big Bob, Fast Eddie. Are we done here? Not really, because even if Bob dies, Eddard does support Stannis’s claim (and it’s really the only deck that can effectively leverage Tobho Mott’s Armory from a Nedly perspective). And you get to marry Joff and Sansa. It’s like the “Road to King’s Landing” deck.

Greyjoy Fealty
House Greyjoy of Pyke hates every other house in Westeros that isn’t loyal to the Kraken banner. I will do a primer on all of the Nedliness to each individual card in the Greyjoy arsenal, but for now I’m including Greyjoy Fealty as a super Nedly deck because it is completely reliant on the unopposed challenge. Much as in the books, the GJ-Fealty deck must win initiative to catch the opponent unaware and use its warships to raid the mainland, blitzing villages the coast (or even castles) before anyone can dig in defensively. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Lannister Banner of the Rose
Once a meta-defining deck, Lanni-Rose has fallen out of favor somewhat…except for Nedly players! Getting the package of Marge and KoF, along with the courtesan, Horror and Slobber, Mare in Heat, the Mountain, and other key players (Cersei, Tywin, etc.), this deck still has a ton of thematic value if for no other reason than the deck is held together by sheer force of wills; let’s be honest, this deck has a ton of beatstick characters who are important, rich, crafty, and obstinate.

Night’s Watch Fealty
Does this one really require explanation? The Night’s Watch takes no part in the vapid intrigues of the Seven Kingdoms; as they say, they are the Watcher on the Walls, which, coincidentally, is a loyal card. The Wall deck is something I’m so ready to play but haven’t committed the resources necessary to get good at playing it, yet. But thematically it’s just so rich. Meager Contribution, Old Bear, The Wall, Castle Black, Sam, Ravens…it’s up there with Bara-Watch for Nedliness.

Stark Fealty
Do I really need to get into why this deck is so Nedly? Arguably the Stark faction as a whole has the Nedliest identity of all…a no-nonsense, insular house that gets disproportionately better depending on how well you can protect the Stark family, including Jon Snow. Should’ve never left Winterfell, yall…though, to be fair, if you hadn’t, Robb wouldn’t be able to call the banners and stand your entire board.

Targaryen Fealty
Nobody is flocking to Dany’s side. She has to rely on her dragons, bloodriders, and a ragtag Khalasar buoyed by a vanguard of Unsullied and sellswords. That’s pretty much what the deck is. Can’t run Mirri, though…that’s just heresy.


* image used with permission from the artist The Mico / Тхе Мичо

Second Sons, Episode 6: So, what’s the fourth worst house?

by Luke Wortley (eldub)

Okay, it’s that time again…when I blurb this affront to humanity.

In all seriousness, though, this episode is among the more redeemable…the amount of red beard is just amazing (Ryan and Buzz killin the game), and we have Craven from Banter Behind the Throne (need I say more?).

Given the recent controversy in Missouri, the first hour is dedicated to a discussion of tournament etiquette, Tagore, and, of course, deck-checks. Yet despite all the opportunity for devolution into more base behavior, the fellas are remarkably well mannered and also drop a disappointingly low number of D.C. slights.

True to form, however, the Second Sons devolve into squabbling hens as soon as the opportunity for real, meta-defining discussion arises.

Listen for a ranking of factions from worst to first and a wrap-up of the Westeros Cycle.