by Lauren Fitch
Hi everybody, and welcome to another installment of The White Harbor Times. This week we’ll be talking about something near and dear to my heart: House Baratheon! Specifically, we’ll be looking at the new dominance-focused cards in Baratheon and how to use them to good effect. Lastly, I’ll be examining possible agenda choices for a dominance deck out of Baratheon.
Baratheon has frustrated its opponents since the release of the Core Set with its ability to win dominance and capitalize on that win with extra power gain. In-house cards like Fiery Followers and The Chamber of the Painted Table both facilitate the dominance win and use it for additional advantage. The Iron Throne, although nominally a neutral card, has a natural home in Baratheon. With the release of No Middle Ground, Baratheon has gained two more ways to benefit from winning dominance!
Gendry’s reaction allows him to claim 1 power when his controller wins dominance. If the controller loses dominance, she must discard a power from Gendry or sacrifice a Bastard character. Although this potential seems risky, it’s really not. So long as you win dominance the turn you put Gendry out, you’d have to lose twice in a row before you would be at risk of sacrificing a Bastard character. In addition, your Iron Throne and Bastard in Hiding should help protect Gendry as well.
Tobho Mott’s Armory allows its controller to draw one card after winning dominance. As a two-cost location, this card is an affordable addition to the draw options in any Baratheon deck. Baratheon now has three draw cards: Moon Boy, Tobho Mott’s Armory, and The Red Keep. Playing some combination of all three cards should maximize your chances of drawing at least some extra cards each turn. If you have more than one on the board, your opponent will often have to choose between over-committing to try to win the Power challenge and leaving characters standing to try to win dominance, creating a win-win situation for the Baratheon player!
So you know you want to play a Baratheon dominance deck, but what agenda should you choose? There are several options depending on your play style and what other goals you’ll be trying to accomplish.
Let’s look at the choices one by one.
Baratheon Fealty is already regarded as a strong, although somewhat unpopular deck. Tyler Hockman recently won the 58-player Indianapolis Regional with the deck in a Lanni/GJ-heavy field. It’s clear that this agenda is still an efficient way to leverage the loyal Baratheon cards on a budget. Baratheon Fealty generally plays Stannis Baratheon, who can help win dominance by locking down your opponent’s board. I don’t enjoy playing Fealty because it doesn’t set up well, and I frequently play against high-pressure Targaryen decks like Targaryen-Banner of the Lion that will punish a slow set up. However, it’s a strong deck in the overall meta and can easily slot in 2 Gendry without banner characters fighting for space.
Banner of the Sun
Baratheon-Banner of the Sun is a great control deck and has won some store championships recently. The combination of kneel and icon control can be very effective. However, icon control conflicts with winning dominance, seeing as it can leave an opponent’s characters standing, thereby contributing strength to your opponent’s dominance total. Therefore, despite this deck being very strong, avoid it if you are specifically trying out the dominance module.
Banner of the Kraken
I haven’t explored this combination. Although I did play the inverse deck briefly (Greyjoy-Banner of the Stag). The good cards in a Kraken banner, namely Asha Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy, share the same military/power icon spread as many Baratheon characters. Although Baratheon loves the stealth on a power challenge, this banner may not offer any specific benefit to the dominance deck. Aeron Damphair’s ability is probably best used in a mono-house deck when he’s likely to have more Ironborn targets for his ability.
Banner of the Dragon
Another deck combo I haven’t tried, although Kennon wrote an article on a janky Stannis-stand deck. It’s possible that Illyrio and the Handmaidens could lead to some dominance wins that otherwise would have slipped away. The dragon banner also offers a ton of cheap intrigue icons, which Baratheon likes. It seems pretty fringe though.
The Lord of the Crossing
This agenda is probably not there yet for Baratheon, but the extra power gain goes nicely with the dominance cards for extra speed. It’s possible this agenda will use the dominance cards when Baratheon gets enough intrigue characters to play it reliably.
Banner of the Watch
Being a somewhat lazy player, I have a goal of someday winning a game without making any challenges. If that sounds good to you, then try out Baratheon-Banner of the Watch! This deck uses Baratheon’s kneel cards to defend The Wall and leverages the dominance suite to passively gain power. You’ll probably take cards like Ranging Party (great for defending The Red Keep) and Maester Aemon to nullify your opponent’s military claim. I’ve won many games with this deck where my board position was lousy but I had out The Red Keep and The Wall, forcing my opponent to choose between going all out on a Power challenge and trying to get an unopposed challenge through. In The Name of Your King! helps this deck tremendously, as Balon Greyjoy can wreck your day, especially if he’s captaining Great Kraken and can stealth your Bob. This build doesn’t play Stannis but instead relies on an army of nameless chuds to defend The Wall. Fortified Position can also allow you to defend The Wall successfully for at least one turn by turning off your opponent’s stealth characters. This deck is fun to play (not so much for your opponent!) but has probably been hurt badly by the release of First Snow of Winter. Perhaps with the release of some cheap ambush characters it can come back.
Banner of the Wolf
Banner of the Wolf was the first banner agenda I tried out of Baratheon. All of the Stark children help out with Baratheon’s cost-curve problem, and they are great characters in their own right. The only card that really synergizes with the dominance theme is Sansa Stark, whose reaction allows you to claim a power for your faction when she stands. Sansa isn’t strictly related to dominance but her passive power gain fits in nicely. This deck is soft to Targaryen, since Plaza of Punishment can start munching through your board. However, some upcoming cards could help it make a comeback. For example, Septa Mordane gives Sansa +2 STR and renown, and gives Arya an intrigue icon and “immune to opponent’s plot effects”. The new Eddard Stark who gives renown to another participating character is another great way to increase your power gain. This deck could really improve over the next few months.
Banner of the Lion
The Lion banner doesn’t offer any passive power gain – just good, efficient Lannister cards. Tyrion does help with the dominance win indirectly, since any unspent gold at the end of challenges will raise your dominance total. The Brothel Madame helps in this way as well. The Banner also helps improve the icon spread of the deck by providing some much needed intrigue icons.
Banner of the Rose
Baratheon-Banner of the Rose can be played as a power rush deck without Stannis Baratheon, focusing on The Knight of Flowers, Randyll Tarly, and Robert Baratheon for renown. I’m not a huge fan of this combo because it feels like a “win more” combination rather than one that shores up weaknesses in the faction. It’s very weak to Tears of Lys and runs a lot of expensive characters. However, I haven’t tried it since First Snow of Winter was released. Despite the fact that Margaery Tyrell will bounce, it’s possible that a post-Snow board with some combination of Randyll, Bob, and KoF would be strong enough to power to victory. I’m not sure this banner really loves the dominance cards and may want other optional effects like Support of the People and Lady Sansa’s Rose.
What do you think? Have you tried out the new dominance cards in Bara? Do you love them, or do you think they take up too many slots in your deck? How have you been approaching the fourth challenge?