Qyburn’s Laboratory #2: STR Matters

by James Waumsley (JCWamma)

Wow, it’s so great to be out of that dungeon! It’s so much brighter and airier up here! I don’t know if all these computers and bunsen burners are necessary, but…uh, sorry. Welcome to another issue of Qyburn’s Laboratory, this time with me, JCWamma.

As a lover of Shagga-jank and an increasing Tyrell fanboy, I’m always on the look out for dumb Tyrell cards that can be contorted into doing hilarious things, and the Wolves of the North box gave us two doozies. While “To the Rose Banner!” will undoubtedly feature in an article I write somewhere down the line, today I wanted to focus on the more obvious of the two cards, namely House Florent Knight.

Upon seeing this card, my first instinct (after getting the Jaime complaints about how bad it is in a normal deck out of my head) was “the upside on this card is potentially very powerful — how ’bout we build a deck designed specifically to exploit that?”

florent knight

Now, I will say in advance that the degree to which this deck will work might be questionable, simply because we only have three copies of House Florent Knight and no way (short of an opponent kindly using Ghaston Grey or The Things I Do For Love on them) of returning them to hand for re-use. Therefore, this deck is being constructed with a plan B in mind. However, before we get onto plan B, what’s plan A? Well, the optimal scenario for using House Florent Knight in is clearly going to be on a board where no character has lower STR than the Knight, and your opponent has at least one character of equal STR. The seemingly-rubbish Knight gets a lot better if you can pick off the likes of Syrio Forel, after all!

But how do we ensure this scenario? Simple: we build a deck with no characters lower STR than 3. That way, the Knight’s possible number of targets are maximised. Obviously, our cost curve goes way up, and we will sadly have to drop the 1-cost reducers. Therefore, the only way to even begin to make this mega-curve work is to borrow cards from a faction with good cost:STR ratios at the lower end of the curve. Hi Targaryen, home to Braided Warrior and Ser Jorah Mormont, it’s nice to see you again!

Targ offers us a couple other advantages:

  • First, we need to not only clear out our own weenies to get full use of House Florent Knight but also our opponent’s; between Blood of the Dragon and Plaza of Punishment, we can clear out low-STR from his or her board.
  • Secondly, Targaryen provides us our plan B. That plus the efficiency means our main faction will be Targaryen.

So now we have a rough Plan A – don’t keep any characters lower than STR 3 on our side of the table, clear out the lower-STR characters on the opponent’s side of the board, and play a House Florent Knight to push the advantage. Can we help optimise this plan even more? Yup! See, in Wolves of the North, we got a lovely synergistic plot, A Song of Summer. After all, the logical answer to the question of “what’s better than being able to target-remove STR 3 characters” is “being able to target-remove STR 4 characters”. This gem of a plot, conveniently, has just enough gold to let us play the Knight as well as enough initiative that we can win it with some regularity. Following up a First Snow or Blood of the Dragon round with A Song of Summer and picking off a character of STR 4 before the opponent can put any chuds in your way seems…appropriately amusing for a Shagga deck’s end-goal.

We can’t always rely on House Florent Knight, though, as said before. So what’s our plan B? Well, we’re building with the aim of character attrition, we’re including multiple summer plots, and we’re in the Targaryen faction… Sounds like Dothraki to me, which gives Aggo his moment in the sun. Additionally, Khal Drogo is going to greatly enjoy pushing those military challenges through once the weaker characters have already fallen. So, with those steps all in place, let’s look at a rough draft of the deck:

Deck Name: STR Matters

Faction: House Targaryen
Agenda: Banner of the Rose

Plots (7)
1x Trading with the Pentoshi (Core Set)
1x Calm Over Westeros (Core Set)
1x Marched to the Wall (Core Set)
1x Blood of the Dragon (No Middle Ground)
1x The First Snow of Winter (No Middle Ground)
2x A Song of Summer (Wolves of the North)

Characters (35)
2x Dothraki Outriders (No Middle Ground)
3x Khal Drogo (Core Set)
1x Rakharo (The Road to Winterfell)
1x Randyll Tarly (Core Set)
3x Aggo (Wolves of the North)
1x The Knight of Flowers (Core Set)
3x House Florent Knight (Wolves of the North)
1x Littlefinger (Core Set)
2x Unsullied (Core Set)
2x Roseroad Patrol (Calm Over Westeros)
2x Rattleshirt’s Raiders (Core Set)
1x Drogon (Core Set)
1x Rhaegal (Core Set)
3x Margaery Tyrell (Core Set)
3x Ser Jorah Mormont (Core Set)
3x Braided Warrior (Core Set)
3x Hedge Knight (The King’s Peace)

Locations (14)
2x Plaza of Punishment (Core Set)
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
1x Tourney Grounds (Wolves of the North)
3x Illyrio’s Estate (Core Set)
2x Rose Garden (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)

Attachments (4)
1x Crown of Gold (The Road to Winterfell)
1x Drogo’s Arakh (Core Set)
2x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)

Events (7)
3x Put to the Sword (Core Set)
2x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
2x The Hand’s Judgment (Core Set)

There’s no Daenerys in here because we simply can’t afford her — no two ways about it. Economically we’re in a very tough position, with only one plot over 5 gold and 3 below it; however, Blood, First Snow and Marched are kinda necessary for what the deck’s trying to do, and the summer plots are also required for maximising Aggo (as well as not being actually BAD for the economy…). That left one spot, which has understandably went to Trading with the Pentoshi. Without Daenerys, the draw is weak. Though once Funeral Pyre comes in the next pack, it should probably be a 3x staple of this deck, as I imagine it will be for many Targareyn decks.

The other issue with economy is the lack of reducer weenies — damnit FFG, why didn’t you have the foresight to make them all STR 3?!? — and the lack of easy economy they provide. Incidentally, this omission is yet another reason not for including Daenerys; our character cost-curve bottoms out at 2 gold, which makes a 7-cost character far less appealing for setup. In the meantime, 10x limited locations plus Littlefinger (who is, yes, expensive, can help with both our economy and draw issues) and Tourney Grounds (about the only way we can realistically hope to afford Put to the Sword).

You may be, justly, looking at this deck and sighing at its naivete — running such little draw, a sketchy economy and enough limited locations that you will almost always struggle to set up cleanly; however, in a perverse way, the problems actually help mitigate each other. With fewer cards to draw, you can focus on playing the ones you do have. And while that might sound like a pathetic attempt to sugarcoat the deck’s shortcomings, I’ll offer these defenses: a) shut up, and b) the idea is to be providing so much attrition that you can overcome draw disparity — it doesn’t matter if they can draw and afford an extra card if you can kill off two more each round!

How would you improve this deck (scrapping the concept not being allowed)? Can it work in a tournament setting? Is a non-weenie route remotely viable, even in this First Snow-heavy meta? Let us know!

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