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The Deck Doctor w/ Sunny

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In this week’s Deck Doctor I will be building a Baratheon Banner of the Sun deck with Sunny, who took the deck to a Store Championship this weekend (Feb. 20) where he finished 2-1-1 and missed the cut in 5th place. Damn those ties!

Alex
Welcome to the Deck Doctor. How about you introduce  yourself and talk about the deck you’d like to build.

Sunny
I’m James “Sunny” McDonald, a former X-Wing player that has decided to switch to A Game of Thrones with the release of its second edition. I finished 4th in my first Store Championship with Lannister Banner of the Rose and would like to try something else in the next one. Nobody was playing Baratheon and I think Nymeria is insane. So I’d like to build a Baratheon Banner of the Sun deck for my next Store Championship.

Alex
Sounds good to me, where do you like to start when building a deck? Core cards, card types, plots, staples?

Sunny
Since I’m still new to this, I like to think about my general strategy first and then probably go through the card types.

I’m thinking that I want this deck to just grind out wins through kneel and dominance.

Alex
So our strategy is to kneel out our opponent, win power challenges and dominance, grinding out the win in a long game. I usually start with characters once I have an idea of the deck.

Sunny
Okay. I guess we start with all six 1-cost reducers. Helps with setup and economy and claim soak.

Alex
They sure do, which is why I pretty much always use all six.

We have a lot of options at the 2-cost spot, especially since Baratheon just got a new one with Royal Entourage.

Sunny
Yeah, that seems okay, but I’m not sure I love it. Good STR for cost, but I feel like it might not get much use.

Alex
Well, the STR higher than cost is superb, but the issue is whether or not it just gets knelt before we can use it.

Sunny
Do I want to go first or second with this deck?

Alex
Since we are focused on kneel and dominance we will likely want to go second, which would make our opponent’s lead with intrigue challenges to kneel Royal Entourage if they are in play.

Sunny
So that reduces the value of a card like Royal Entourage if we go second, especially with Stannis.

Alex
Stannis is a non-issue because if he is in play we are unlikely to be standing any of our 2-cost characters. How about we try the Royal Entourage for now and see how it plays, we can replace them after a couple games if you feel like you can’t use them. They have a higher upside than the other 2-cost options, so I’d like to give them a try and see if they can work.

I generally like to have about eight 2-cost characters, so we have others to consider here, like Edric, Shireen, Houes Dayne Knight, etc.

Sunny
I think Shireen is a must have. Edric is pretty solid too.

Alex
Agreed, let’s use one of each for now.

Sunny
House Dayne Knight has an intrigue icon, which will probably be rare for our characters I think.

Alex
Probably so.

Sunny
So one Edric, one Shireen, two Entourages, and two Knights. That’s six so far.

Alex
I like Bastard Daughter for the deck, it works well with Nymeria and could potentially have an intrigue or power icon. If we add two of those it gives us eight 2-cost characters.

Sunny
Sounds good, let’s move on to 3-cost. There are so many good ones to discuss.

Alex
Obviously we’ll have three Fiery Followers to go along with Melisandre.

Sunny
I really like the Dornish Paramour with Stannis.

Alex
The problem with Dornish Paramour is that they are better when going first unless you have Stannis in play, but then you might not stand them again if Stannis is in play.

Sunny
True. What about Caleotte and Obara?

Alex
Obara for sure, she is great with the Red Keep. Caleotte is good too, going first or second.

Sunny
How many would you use?

Alex
Probably just one of each unique.

Sunny
So three Fiery Followers, one Obara, one Caleotte, one Cressen, one Selyse?

Alex
Selyse is one I usually consider for two copies since she is R’hllor, but space is so tight with all these 3-cost characters.

Sunny
Let’s use two copies of Selyse, that gives us eight 3-cost characters as well.

Alex
Any 4-cost characters?

Sunny
Palace Spearman or Ser Davos? I never have much success with Rattleshirt’s Raiders.

Alex
We have Cressen for some attachment control anyway, so we can probably skip the Raiders. Davos is good.

We have a lot of 5-cost characters we want to use, so we probably need to be pretty lean here.

Sunny
I like Davos a lot and his Stealth is pretty awesome. What about King’s Hunting Party?

Alex
I like their STR and they can be great at just shutting down military challenges and Put to the Sword from your opponent, but in a Stealthy meta they just get ignored. We can use a couple for now and check back in on them once we fill out the rest of the deck.

Sunny
Okay, now the fun stuff.

Alex
Yep. Three Melisandre, how many Nymeria do you want?

Sunny
Can we use six?

Alex
I suppose if you want to buy two chapter packs and keep the deck secret…

We can use three if you want, but I think two could be enough, especially if we need the space for other things. One of the drawbacks with her is the complete lack of usability if she has Milk of the Poppy. Melisandre is pretty bad with Milk of the Poppy, but at least she can still participate in challenges.

That’s why I suggest maybe only using two copies of Nymeria.

Sunny
Okay, I’ll bite. Let’s use only two copies.

Alex
We have five 5-cost characters so far, do you want to use Littlefinger, Syrio, or Arianne?

Sunny
Do you think we need Arianne?

Alex
I was thinking not, it’s not vital to the idea of the deck, just useful. I’m not sure it would be more useful than some other cards though. Same with Littlefinger and Syrio. I think we can include them if you want, but not more than single copies.

Sunny
I agree. They don’t make as much sense. They’re just “nice cards.”

Alex
Yep. We are building a deck with some specific synergies, so we can’t just include all of the nice cards, but instead have to just pick the few that go best with our focus.

Sunny
To Varys or not to Varys?

Alex
With the repeatable soft control, I’m not sure Varys is necessary, it also helps us to keep room in the deck for Stannis and Robert.

Sunny
Okay. Stannis, three copies or just two?

Alex
I had two, but if we are going to stay with only five 5-cost characters, we can probably fit a third copy of Stannis if you want.

Sunny
Okay, three copies of Stannis. Also, why does nobody love Renly?

Alex
Lower STR for cost, Dracarys and Crown of Gold just kill him immediately. His effect won’t trigger every turn which means he basically has no effect. But having all three icons is quite nice. If he cost 5 he’d be played, if he were 5 STR he’d be played. Once a deck can reliably use his effect, then he’ll be played. We can’t, so it’s not worth the expense. Though the idea of using him in combination with Arianne to play 4- and 5-cost characters seems neat, but that’s a different kind of deck entirely.

Sunny
I see. That leaves Robert Baratheon.

Alex
Yeah, he’s the big closer for the deck, so all three copies seems right. I think we’re set on characters now. We have 36.

2x Bastard Daughter
3x Desert Scavenger
3x Dragonstone Faithful
1x Edric Dayne
3x Fiery Followers
2x House Dayne Knight
2x King’s Hunting Party
1x Maester Caleotte
1x Maester Cressen
3x Melisandre
2x Nymeria Sand
1x Obara Sand
3x Robert Baratheon
2x Royal Entourage
2x Selyse Baratheon
1x Ser Davos Seaworth
1x Shireen Baratheon
3x Stannis Baratheon

What next?

Sunny
Locations, I think those are going to be pretty important. The Red Keep and the Iron Throne. And three of each neutral economy location.

Alex
Yep, all six of those unless we have a reason not to do so. I’d say three copies of the Red Keep as well.

Sunny
If we have the Iron Throne, we probably want the Chamber of the Painted Table too, right?

Alex
Absolutely. That helps the grind it out and win through dominance vision of the deck. I think we should probably use one of each and then two or three copies of Support of the People to fetch them.

Sunny
Sounds good. Sunspear?

Alex
What do you think about it?

Sunny
Well, we want to be going second and that means we already want high initiative to make that happen. If we kneel stuff it can make Sunspear more powerful, giving them fewer options or even keep them from initiating some.

Alex
Yeah, it can be a great deterrent or a good way to speed things up if we are reliably going second. But I wouldn’t want to use more than one copy of Sunspear because it doesn’t really fit our vision on its own. It’s a good card to have in the deck, but not key. It also works well with Support of the People.

Sunny
Okay, let’s put in one for now. Any other reducer locations?

Alex
Since it is a banner deck, we’re not using three Dragonstone Ports, but having one or two can really help us to play Stannis or Robert.

I usually use the six neutrals and two of the faction reducers with the most expensive (or just the most) characters in a banner deck.

Sunny
Okay, so we’ll put in two copies of Dragonstone Port.

Alex
That gives us 14 locations.

1x Chamber of the Painted Table
2x Dragonstone Port
1x Sunspear
1x The Iron Throne
3x The Kingsroad
3x The Red Keep
3x The Roseroad

Sunny
Events!

Alex
Three Seen In Flames for sure. At least two Support of the People.

Sunny
Seen In Flames feels like cheating when Melisandre is in play. It’s one of my least favorite cards to play against.

Alex
Definitely. It’s disgusting.

Sunny
So many events to choose from between these factions. Confinement into Tears of Lys? In Doran’s Name? In the Name of Your King?

Alex
Yeah, and we have only a few spots to work with. So now we need to focus on the vision/strategy of the deck and determine which events help us accomplish that goal the best.

Sunny
Kneel and dominance. Grind out some power each turn to stay ahead.

Alex
That’s the plan. So we need to consider In the Name of Your King, Confinement, Consolidation of Power, and the neutral events like Put to the Sword, Tears of Lys, and the Hand’s Judgment.

Sunny
I think Hand’s Judgment is a must have. We need some defense and protection from Dracarys, Treachery, other Hand’s Judgments, etc.

Alex
If we use two copies that puts us at seven events and leaves us with only four spots left in the deck, attachments yet to be determined.

Sunny
Do we need Consolidation of Power?

Alex
I thought so at first, but I’m leaning towards not. Same for Confinement. The STR limitations make them lower impact than we want. It wouldn’t stop Syrio or Nymeria the way Milk of the Poppy could and they can’t touch the high impact characters.

Sunny
True. Let’s look at attachments and then see what we have left.

Alex
I think Lightbringer is a must have, probably two copies. The R’hllor trait is so good with Melisandre and it is game-winning on Robert.

Sunny
It can also make Stannis a win condition too.

Alex
Also, since we are lacking actual character removal, Milk of the Poppy is a necessity for dealing with characters like Syrio, Nymeria, Tywin, Tyrion, etc. So if we include two of those as well, we’re at 61.

Sunny
Do we need Little Bird or is Bodyguard just as good?

Alex
They are useful, but I don’t think necessary. The question at this point for a card becomes “is it better than X other card that we already have in the deck?” I’m not sure either of those attachments are better than anything else in the deck right now.

Should we cut Sunspear or a King’s Hunting Party for 60?

Sunny
I think we can cut a King’s Hunting Party for sure. That leaves 35 characters. Is that good?

Alex
I think approximately 35 is perfect. I usually end up with 33-38 characters in a deck.

Revisiting characters has me thinking. Since we are focused on winning initiative and going second, would Palace Spearman be better than King’s Hunting Party?

Sunny
Balon and Knight of Flowers are the characters I worry about with that switch. The extra 2 STR is what really makes King’s Hunting Party stellar against those two.

Alex
That’s true, maybe we can just be flexible on that last spot based on meta. If you expect Balon and Knight of Flowers, use King’s Hunting Party, otherwise use the Palace Spearman?

Sunny
That sounds good, let’s use the Palace Spearman for now.

Alex
Any other changes to consider before plots?

Sunny
Do we need any more attachments besides those four?

Alex
Maybe, but what would you cut for Little Bird or Seal of the Hand or Bodyguard?

We could maybe cut Sunspear for one of them.

Sunny
I’d rather have Sunspear. I am afraid of Tears of Lys though.

Alex
Well, we have dupes, we have Hand’s Judgment, and we have Selyse. Also, Caleotte and Nymeria can weaken your opponent’s ability to win intrigue challenges against you if you need to play it defensively. I think you’ll just have to try and play around it and be defensive until you get a dupe or Selyse to protect Robert or Stannis.

Sunny
Sounds good, let’s move on to plots.

Alex
Okay, what do you like for the deck?

Sunny
Start with a Confiscation and A Noble Cause. Probably Calm Over Westeros so I don’t just lose turn one to Greyjoy or Targaryen.

Alex
Calm Over Westeros for sure. What if I suggested that we not use A Noble Cause at all?

Sunny
My mind is blown. Why not?

Alex
Initiative. We really want to control that as much as possible.

Sunny
So how do we play Robert?

Alex
I think we can reliably get the same gold value from Calling the Banners. I think Calm Over Westeros is the primary opener and then we can use Calling the Banners to play Robert or Stannis when drawn.

Sunny
Okay, let’s add Calling the Banners. We could even run two of them since it has good initiative.

Alex
If we want three money plots, we could do that and still get initiative. We do want Confiscation because Milk of the Poppy on Melisandre or Nymeria is very sad for us.

Sunny
A Clash of Kings has 9 initiative.

Alex
I’m glad you mentioned it, because I don’t see that plot in Baratheon much, but I like it a lot. It can help you close a game and you are almost assured to win initiative. It only gets beat by Sneak Attack, but you can probably play around that.

What about Marched to the Wall or Wildfire Assault?

Sunny
I want Wildfire Assault. I think it benefits us a lot. And another that is important, but has 0 initiative, Summons.

Alex
Yeah, but we have to have Summons because we need to find some specific characters, especially Melisandre.

So right now we have Calm Over Westeros, two Calling the Banners, Confiscation, Summons, Clash of Kings, Wildfire Assault.

What do you think of Marched to the Wall in the deck?

Sunny
When would I use it? No Varys or high claim to capitalize on the effect.

Alex
It has one of the highest initiative values and you can open with it if someone sets up a single character. Basically it’s so you don’t lose to someone with a cheesy single Tywin or Daenerys setup. It can also be used in a pinch to get rid of a Milk of the Poppy on Nymeria or Melisandre by allowing you to replay them.

Sunny
True. We can give it a go.

What about Filthy Accusations?

Alex
I have mixed feelings about it. It fits the theme, but I don’t know how necessary it is and the initiative isn’t great.

Sunny
I wonder about it because if Stannis or Robert are in play, then you can kneel their Tywin or Balon and get a free turn of hammering at them. Is initiative worth losing that effect?

Alex
Maybe not, but ideally you have Melisandre triggering to kneel the best character or Nymeria taking their icon and allowing you to do the same. I just think you might be getting similar impact through your draw deck and can use your plot deck for other purposes.

Do we need two Calling the Banners or could we cut one of those for Marched to the Wall or something else?

Sunny
If we drop one for Marched to the Wall, I don’t know that I want to cut any of those for Filthy Accusations.

Alex
Clash of Kings is the least necessary, but I rather like it. Filthy Accusations might be better.

Sunny
I like Clash of Kings because I can use it as a closer and can swing a close game at the end. I think I’d like to go with Clash of Kings for now and then see how it goes. Filthy Accusations is my first substitute.

Alex
Then I guess we have ourselves a deck?

Sunny
We sure do! Thanks a lot. I think this deck is going to be a lot of fun.

After playing a couple games Sunny came back to discuss a few changes. He wasn’t getting any use out of Marched to the Wall, but rather than replacing it with Filthy Accusations, we decided to use a second Clash of Kings. He really liked using that plot and we talked about using it as a way to slow an opponent down and exerting ‘power control’ during a game. Also in the first couple of games he tested, Sunny was not having much luck with the Royal Entourages, so we decided to switch those for the same icons and costs to either Bastard in Hiding or Vanguard Lancer. We went with the Vanguard Lancer because it also fits that ‘power control’ theme that double Clash of Kings is supporting. We also decided to cut Edric and the Palace Spearman for Tears of Lys, Sunny felt like he needed some removal in the deck. So the deck in its final form (which was taken to his Store Championship) can be found below or at ThronesDB.

The Deck Doctor w/ Sunny (#2)

Plots
2x A Clash of Kings (Core Set)
1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Calm Over Westeros (Core Set)
1x Confiscation (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x Wildfire Assault (Core Set)

Characters
1x Maester Cressen (Core Set)
3x Melisandre (Core Set)
3x Robert Baratheon (Core Set)
2x Selyse Baratheon (Core Set)
1x Ser Davos Seaworth (Core Set)
1x Shireen Baratheon (Core Set)
3x Stannis Baratheon (Core Set)
3x Fiery Followers (Core Set)
3x Dragonstone Faithful (Core Set)
2x Vanguard Lancer (Core Set)
1x Maester Caleotte (Core Set)
1x Obara Sand (Core Set)
3x Desert Scavenger (Core Set)
2x House Dayne Knight (Core Set)
2x Bastard Daughter (Taking the Black)
2x Nymeria Sand (The Road to Winterfell)

Locations
1x The Iron Throne (Core Set)
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
2x Dragonstone Port (Core Set)
1x Chamber of the Painted Table (Core Set)
3x The Red Keep (Core Set)
1x Sunspear (Core Set)

Attachments
2x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
2x Lightbringer (Core Set)

Events
2x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
2x The Hand’s Judgment (Core Set)
3x Seen In Flames (Core Set)
2x Support of the People (Taking the Black)

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Alex Kern (agktmte)
Alex Kern has been playing Thrones since the summer of 2012. He is fortunate enough to live in the Tulsa area and plays locally at The Covenant Store. He currently writes two columns for The White Book: Two Guys, One Deck and The Deck Doctor. Both are centered around his favorite aspect of the game: deck building. If you ever want to talk shop about deck building, you can usually find him hanging out on the Discord server.

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