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You’re Doing it Wrong: The Litterbox, pt. 2

by John Wright (handshaker6)

…Continued from part 1. featured here.

The Plot Deck

1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Heads on Spikes (Core Set)
1x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x Naval Superiority (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x The Long Plan (Taking the Black)
1x The First Snow of Winter (No Middle Ground)

Unlike the majority of plot decks, the Litterbox is able to center on negatively impacting your opponent rather than facilitating your own attack. Naval, First Snow, Marched, and Heads on Spikes hit your opponent’s economy, board position, and hand. Each is also a tempo play. First Snow forces your opponent to get a board set up quickly. If they are unable to get multiple 4+ cost characters out, then they will likely find themselves permanently behind in board position. The presence of Naval in the deck is going to affect your opponent’s choice in plot selection every round until it is finally revealed. Right now there are too many players including Trading with the Pentoshi without any fear. Punish them. Marched is really the lynchpin of the deck. If you are able to push the tempo of the game consistently for a few rounds, eventually you will get to a point where your opponent has only quality characters left on their side; at this point, Marched accelerates the tempo advantage you have already been building by allowing you to trade one of your weaker characters for their quality one.

GT01_15Most plot decks eschew the second number on any one plot card – Initiative; this deck leverages it, which gives you the ability to dictate much of the pace of the game. There are just so many good things that come from being able to frequently go second, including: being able to marshal after seeing what threats your opponent has played on the table; having more targets for your own negative attachments; letting your opponent kneel out his board on the attack before scooping up unopposed challenges on your counterattack. Going second also gives you the option of playing defense for a round while stabilizing your position, if needed.

In exchange for these negative effects, we have given up the economic stability that most plot decks feature. Calling the Banners is the only pure economy plot, and even that generally maxes out at 6-7 gold for a round, which means that you will have plan for when you want to play your expensive characters.


The Draw Deck

The deck is made up of three primary card-types: tempo, control, and economy. There is some overlap – for example, I think Ghaston is a tempo, control and economic advantage card, since it is targeted removal of a character from the board and does so at a higher cost to your opponent than to yourself – but for clarity I have tried to avoid double-listing them wherever possible.

Tempo

Characters
2x Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tyrion Lannister (Core Set)
3x Burned Men (Core Set)
2x Areo Hotah (Core Set)
2x Arianne Martell (Core Set)
1x Maester Caleotte (Core Set)
1x Ser Ilyn Payne (True Steel)
2x Tyene Sand (True Steel)
3x Greenblood Trader (Core Set)
2x The Hound (Taking the Black)
2x Rattleshirt’s Raiders (Taking the Black)*
2x Knights of the Sun*

Locations
3x Ghaston Grey (Core Set)
1x Sunspear (Core Set)

Events
3x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
2x Vengeance for Elia (Calm over Westeros)

All of the above characters are tempo cards. Trader and Areo feature strong come-GT06_96into-play effects. The Tyrion/Burned Men/Hound ambush package gives you economic power beyond the marshalling phase. Caleotte punishes a challenge win against you. Jaime and Arianne give you multiple challenges out of the same character body, while Tyene gives an extra benefit to winning her challenge of choice.  Ser Ilyn is perhaps my favorite addition to this deck. If you’re able to keep him on the board for two rounds, he has generated a positive board effect for you. I can’t think of any other card that removes bodies so reliably.

Ghaston Grey has been the centerpiece of Martell decks since the beginning, and I imagine it will continue to be so for years to come. Once again, its ability to eat through saves and duplicates is unprecedented in the current card pool. Sunspear is chronically underrated; it guarantees you are able to hit your opponent harder than they hit you every turn, giving you a tempo boost each round with careful play.

Vengeance for Elia is the tempo card par excellence. It takes a win by your opponent and flips it against them. In effect, VFE gives you an extra challenge, while robbing the attacking player of one of their three. I’ve had to cut down to two copies because you don’t typically want to be holding multiples in your hand at the same time, but this is a card that you always like to have in your arsenal, and that your opponents must always be wary of during the challenges phase.

Tears of Lys is the cheapest removal in the game. Everyone knows Tears is good. The one thing I have to add about it here: in a tempo build, it’s okay to use Tears in a pinch to remove chuds from the opponent’s board. Obviously, the dream is to combo it with Nymeria to target-kill Tywin, but this dream play, though optimal, is not necessarily reliable. Use Tears to keep up pressure where needed; a tempo build cannot often afford to hold back and wait for combos to click into place.

*Note that these two cards are simply efficient, useful bodies and do not slot in to any particular category.

Control

Characters
3x Nymeria

I actually think Martell could use another control character or two. Nymeria is really, really good, but right now Martell is leaning on her to do a lot of heavy lifting by herself. Someday, once the card pool has grown, she is going to be a perfect auto-include as a 1-of in every Martell deck, but for now we have to run 3 copies and just wince every time she gets milked.

Attachments
2x Imprisoned
3x Milk of the Poppy
2x Condemned

Events
1x Nightmares

GT03_35These negative attachments are a meta call against decks that strongly favor event-heavy packages right now. Imprisoned is included in an effort to try to curtail Lannister decks that love their military presence and Put to the Sword. Condemned is practically your win condition, as it allows you to poke through power challenges that you may otherwise struggle to win – after all, the goal of a tempo deck is to gradually accumulate power on your faction card, putting pressure on your opponent to keep up on the attack. Milk has re-risen to prominence in the current meta as a way to handle the expensive characters with flashy effects that are everywhere, and it serves the same purpose here. Nightmares works as a fourth copy of Milk, with the versatility of being able to hit Winterfell, Ghaston, or other impact locations as well.

 

Economy

In a lot of ways, tempo decks are economic-advantage decks. I don’t have a lot else to add beyond stating that fact, but check out how many cards from this list give you an economic advantage: 1x Naval Superiority, 1x The Long Plan, 3x Tyrion Lannister, 3x Lannisport Merchant, GT01_1183x Desert Scavenger, 3x Ghaston Grey, 3x The Kingsroad, 3x The Roseroad, 3x Blood Orange Grove. That’s over a third of the deck, without even including other tempo cards with an economic facet (such as a Vengeance, which removes a character your opponent paid to marshal).

It’s my belief that the only other decks that can match this kind of economic redundancy are the Lannister ones that currently dominate the meta. And, if there’s one lesson I would like to get across through this massive 2-part article, it’s this: right now Second Edition is a game about generating economic advantage. The simple way to accomplish that is to play Twyin and enjoy your extra two gold every round. But, there are many other ways to create economic leverage. As we uncover and explore those different, more subtle avenues of deck construction, this game will continue to grow and diversify in really interesting ways.


Controversial/Unpopular/Unusual Card Choices

Attachment Control

The primary means of attachment control in the game right now is Confiscation. I’ve written about this card elsewhere, so I won’t get back into it here in-depth. The long-and-short of it is: if you have little enough regard for your own characters, two Rattleshirt’s Raiders is enough spot control.

However, by running 7 negative attachments, this deck also hopes to take advantage of this singular attachment removal card by overwhelming the opponent with more attachments than they can handle. (Plus, Confiscation is a beautiful target for Naval Superiority.)

Cancel

I forget who I heard say this first, but I want to give credit to Seth Low (although it could have been a number of people): cancel cards are inefficient because they rely on your opponent to make a play to which you must then respond. They make you the reactionary player, rather than placing you in the position of driving tempo.

Is not running cancel a big risk in the current meta? Yes. Have I often wished for a Hand’s Judgement or Treachery when I didn’t have one? Yeah, of course. Do these cards fit the tempo philosophy of the deck, particularly when Martell is so lacking in card draw? No, they don’t. And so, when you play this deck, you have to play around the removal effects of your opponent. PTTS, Tears, Dracrys, Ice, Gregor, Mirri, and Ghaston can all be avoided. Is it easy? No. Can you do it? Most of the time.

Now, sometimes your opponent just manages to flood the board with enough monster characters and effects that it doesn’t matter how many cancels you have in-hand, or The Mountain pillages Jaime to kill Tyene. This phenomenon is called getting 2.0’d, and it’s something we all live with right now. *shrug*

One other note on Ser Gregor: I believe this cost curve is built to be as Gregor-proof as possible. Most decks right now clump their character bases at certain cost points: namely, 2s, 5s, and 7s are the most common costs for characters, which makes Gregor more likely to hit on his pillages. The Litterbox has a very diverse cost curve, with 8 5-cost characters, and every other slot running 6 or fewer copies – and very few triplicate characters. Therefore, Gregor has a smaller chance of having a massive impact on this deck than almost any other deck I’m aware of.

Impact Characters

‘Your deck is missing Gregor’ is a phrase I’ve heard more than once.  However, with the choice to run negative-impact and high-initiative plots, there is simply not a viable way to play 7-cost characters in this deck.


Conclusion

Martell-Lion is an undisputed Tier-1 deck; it has won tournaments in San Diego, Sweden, Wausau, Copenhagen, Budapest, France, and Washington (that I know of). As I mentioned earlier, the meta has begun to prepare for it through heavy inclusion of cancels, blanking cards, and Winterfell. So I’m no longer sure if it is the best call to bring to a tournament – you’re not going to be catching anyone unaware any longer. However, I am still planning on bringing it to a Regional in four days for two major reasons:

1) The deck is fun. You really do feel like you’re playing a different game and interacting with your opponent in a different way.

2) Martell-Lion represents my hope for the game in the future. Like I said in the opening, the prevalent strategy of filling your deck with as many expensive, impact characters as possible does not appeal to me. I want more diversity in the game, more viable deck types. I want there to be more of a skill quotient added, rather than just seeing who can draw Tywin and/or Mirri first. I want a game that encourages difficult economic decisions each round. I want plot selections to matter each phase. I want Aggro, Tempo, Control, Rush, and Combo builds to be equally viable in a tournament field.

The seeds for all of these archetypes are planted already, and I believe the card pool will realize my desire. It’s my hope that the Litterbox, along with many other creative and atypical builds out there already, is among the first examples of where the game is headed in the years to come.


The Results

Three of us who worked on this deck took slight variations of this list to the Regional Championship, and all 3 of us made Top-8 cut in the field of 52. Jeff beat me in a mirror in the cut and then lost to Shaun in another mirror in top 4.  Shaun lost to James Speck’s Lanni Kraken in the finals.

After swiss, I was 5-1, jeff was 4-0 with 2 draws (1 real, 1 intentional), and Shaun was 4-2 with a mod loss.


The Deck

The Litterbox

Faction: House Martell
Agenda: Banner of the Lion

Plots (7)
1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Heads on Spikes (Core Set)
1x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x Naval Superiority (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x The Long Plan (Taking the Black)
1x The First Snow of Winter (No Middle Ground)

Characters (34)
2x Rattleshirt’s Raiders (Core Set)
2x Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tyrion Lannister (Core Set)
3x Burned Men (Core Set)
3x Lannisport Merchant (Core Set)
2x Areo Hotah (Core Set)
2x Arianne Martell (Core Set)
1x Maester Caleotte (Core Set)
3x Desert Scavenger (Core Set)
3x Greenblood Trader (Core Set)
2x The Hound (Taking the Black)
3x Nymeria Sand (The Road to Winterfell)
2x Knights of the Sun (Calm over Westeros)
1x Ser Ilyn Payne (True Steel)
2x Tyene Sand (True Steel)

Locations (13)
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
3x Ghaston Grey (Core Set)
1x Sunspear (Core Set)
3x Blood Orange Grove (Core Set)

Attachments (8)
3x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
1x Widow’s Wail (Core Set)
2x Condemned (No Middle Ground)
2x Imprisoned (True Steel)

Events (6)
3x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
2x Vengeance for Elia (Calm over Westeros)
1x Nightmares (Calm over Westeros)

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