You Win or You Die: Introducing a new, alternate format for competitive play

by Chris Thompson (WailingJennings)


My father went south once, to answer the summons of a king. He never came home again.

– Eddard Stark

The World of Ice & Fire is a dangerous place. Westeros is a hard place that breeds a hard people. You can hardly turn a corner in any castle or holdfast without fear of backstabbing, whether it be physical or political. The wars are long, and save a few, scant years of peace from time to time, they are inevitable. The horrors of death always lurk in the shadows and can come for anyone at anytime. This looming threat translates well to A Game of Thrones LCG 2nd Edition and remains one of its richest themes. We take the lives of our treasured characters very seriously, but do we take them seriously enough? In Martin’s world, death isn’t always permanent, but it certainly leaves a lasting impact on the houses of those who have fallen. What if you went into an event having to feel the true loss of those who did not survive? You just may find out. I present to the masses…


When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

– Cersei Lannister

core_044_tears-of-lysThe “Win or You Die” format is a new, edge-of-your-seat, alternative tournament format for the game. We have all played games where important characters must make sacrifices for the survival of their house, or made foolish decisions that led to their downfall. At its core, that is the essence of Thrones. Each match is an exciting experience, and when it is all over, we scoop up our cards and look forward to the next one without a single passing thought to the unceremoniously slain from our previous game. But death is not something to be taken lightly, and in this world, dead is dead. In this exciting new format, your house will face many wars with many enemy houses, and you will feel every loss.


So how does it work?



  1. All standard draw deck and plot deck construction rules apply as outlined in the RRG and must meet agenda requirements. However, in addition to a player’s deck, players also construct a 15-card Retainer Deck, which counts as a side-board, consisting of any 15 cards of their choice that, if added to the main deck, still constitutes a legal tournament deck. Your Retainer Decks must be noted on your deck list and may be consist of cards from your main faction, banner faction, or neutral cards and may be any card type, other than plot.
  2. Tournament organization is followed by regular FFG guidelines (swiss rounds depending on # of players in attendance). A “top cut” of any number of players is permitted but must be public knowledge well in advance of the event to give players time to prepare their decks accordingly for a longer event.
  3. Players will have an additional score card beyond the standard scoring slips. This card is used to track that player’s dead characters for the remainder of the event. At the end of each game, in addition to recording game results, players must note on this sheet each unique character in their dead pile at the end of their game. This sheet remains visible to its owner and his or her opponent for each round of the tournament. For game-play purposes, the characters on that sheet are considered to be in their owner’s dead pile, meaning that, when a unique character dies in a game, they are dead FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE EVENT. Obviously, several card abilities exist that allow for the return of characters from the dead pile, and these will be valuable tools to your strategy. But be wary – any unique character that is located in your dead pile at THE MOMENT a victory condition is met in a game, remains dead for the remainder of the event.
  4. At the conclusion of each round, players may consult with the event judge to modify their deck using cards from their “Retainer” side-board. Characters that have been recorded on a player’s “dead sheet” may be modified in one of 2 ways before the next round:
    1. All copies of the dead unique are turned backwards and become a blank card.
    2. You may remove any or all copies the permanently dead unique from your deck, replacing them with any cards from your “House Retainer” sideboard. All changes to a deck each round must be discussed with the judge, and all changes must be noted on a player’s deck list by that judge.

Only Renly could vex me with a piece of fruit. He brought his doom on himself with his treason, but I did not love him, Davos. I know that now. I swear, I will go to my grave thinking of my brother’s peach.

 – Stannis Baratheon

As you can see, this format is very punishing. I decided to put it together for several reasons. Firstly, it’s incredibly GT07_120thematic. Also, the format encourages players to be more inventive in the deckbuilding process and to rely less on multiple copies of heavy-hitting characters, which increases the likelihood of having more dead copies of cards in your deck if things “go awry” in a game. You Win or You Die also gives some characters and deck strategies that do not often see as much play in a “tier 1 competitive environment” the chance to shine as a replacement in the Retainer Deck, picking up slack for characters that could not make it to the end.  Interesting game states may occur that result in hard decisions for players.

core_148_summerinstance, does the Targ player close on a game they know they can win this turn? Or attempt to buy time until a copy of Fire & Blood can resurrect a dead Rhaegal? Additionally, more cautious play is rewarded, provided you can keep key characters alive and still win. However, you are not totally crippled in the event of an important loss. The format really encourages the use of these “get out jail free cards” like Aeron Damphair, Fire & Blood, Summer, and Close Call. Non-duplicate saves become considerably more valuable as well.

I encourage people to organize events using this format and enjoy themselves with a very different style of Thrones. The Midwest will be holding the inaugural You Win or You Die event in July, and we hope to see as many of you as possible! Valar Morghulis!


For more information, contact Chris Thompson (WailingJennings) or Luke Wortley (eldub).


There is no other side. I have been to the darkness.

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