Where Others Fear to Tread – Winner’s Report

Wow. Can you see that H1? Winners report. Sheeiiitt.

I’ve written a lot of tournament reports in the 18 months or so that I’ve been playing Thrones ‘competitively’. But I never really expected I’d be writing a winner’s report.. In fact it came as some surprise that I’d made the top 2 in this tournament.

The Scene

If you just want to hear about the deck and the games, you can probably skip this section, but my ego dictates that every single thought I have needs to be published on the internet, and not enough of you follow me on Twitter, so I’ll use this space to give bit of background on the tournament.

In terms of England, Manchester to Norwich is close to as far apart as you can get, meaning an early alarm on Saturday morning. There were a number of other factors that were possibly preventing me from making the tournament like the country being covered in snow, a gig/date on Friday night with an actual real girl, and my fondness for lager/gin.

None of that mattered though, as I did get my train on time and with the bare minimum of public transport shenanigans met my regular Thrones co-conspirator Sam at the station. Sundance had volunteered to drive us the last hundred miles of the journey, because it was a lot cheaper and took half the time of the train. It did mean going on what could be the most criminally dull road in the country, the A17, just hours and hours of flat cabbage fields for miles in either direction and a speed capped lorry in front of us with no opportunity to over take it.

Eventually though, we arrived in Norwich, and parked almost completely without incident in a multi storey car park.

The Deck

The deck went through various forms, I experimented with No Agenda and Defiance builds around the same idea, loads of Lannister good cards back up by all the draw. In play testing though, the Defiance build gave way too much Prized power for too little gain, even if I did have every restricted plot in it.

I started the first draft by looking at every restricted card available to Lannister and putting them all in the deck. One of these was Val, I didn’t really need any more draw but she has a decent trait which lends itself nicely to Wildlings sub module in the deck and Betrayal at the Wall. The de-errata of Alchemist Guild Hall and my love of all things Lannister Shadows meant there had a to be a shadows module as well.

This left the deck at 79 cards, rather than cut anything, I just decided to add another seven cards and go for a slim, lean 86 The Long Voyage deck. I’m a bit anal (lol) about ratios and getting an exact balance of Mil/Int/Pow icons in my deck, so once I had my 43 Characters, 30 Locations, 10 Events and 3 Attachments, the characters needed a bit of shuffling about to make sure that was right, occasionally to the detriment of actual good characters, cough Bronn/Jhalabar Xho.

As for the plots, they basically picked themselves. Fear of WinterArt of Seduction, and Search and Detain, all seemed like good control options. If Cersei’s Scheme isn’t in your Lannister deck you’re doing it wrong. Forgotten Plans was there to stop other people’s nasty restricted plots, and Fury of the Lion was there for anti Red Viper tech and for that high gold.

After putting this together I realised that I could probably get away with Bay of Ice, especially if the other decks are running Rivers as a means of card advantage. My only other thoughts were Rule by Decree and Fleeing to the Wall, but neither hit Sam’s Bloodthirst deck in testing as hard as I thought they would, and with all my draw and locations, actually did me quite a bit of damage.

The list ended looking something like this:

Lannister – The Long Voyage

Plot: (8)

1x Cersei’s Scheme (The Pirates of Lys)
1x Fear of Winter (Beyond the Wall) – Restricted
1x Betrayal at the Wall (The Horn That Wakes)
1x The Art of Seduction (Lions of the Rock) – Restricted
1x Search and Detain (Here to Serve) – Restricted
1x Fury of the Lion (Ancient Enemies) – Recently Unrestricted
1x Retaliation! (A Song of Silence) – Recently Unrestricted
1x Forgotten Plans (Kings of the Storm)

Character: (43)

3x Vale Refugee (Refugees of War) – Restricted 
3x Mountain Refugee (Refugees of War) – Recently Unrestricted

1x Gilly (Refugees of War)

3x Carrion Bird (The Winds of Winter)

1x Zollo (Fire Made Flesh)
1x Tommen Baratheon (Scattered Armies)
1x Penny (Valar Dohaeris)

3x Janos’s Conspirator (The Horn That Wakes)

1x Craster (Wolves of the North)
1x Coldhands (The Horn That Wakes)
1x Ser Boros Blount (The Kingsguard)
1x Maester Aemon (Core Set)
1x Syrio Forel (Tales from the Red Keep)
1x Ser Preston Greenfield (The Kingsguard) – Restricted
1x Val (Return of the Others) – Restricted
1x Ghost of High Heart (Where Loyalty Lies)

1x Janos Slynt (The Horn That Wakes)
1x Ser Lancel Lannister (The Pirates of Lys)
1x Ser Balon Swann (A Dire Message)
1x The Hound (The Kingsguard)

3x Castellan of the Rock (Battle of Ruby Ford) – Restricted

1x Ser Mandon Moore (The Kingsguard)
1x Jhalabar Xho (The War of the Five Kings)
1x Margaery Tyrell (A Turn of the Tide)
1x Ser Arys Oakheart (Princes of the Sun)
1x Ser Kevan Lannister (Secrets and Schemes)

1x Ser Jaime Lannister (The Kingsguard)
1x Cersei Lannister (Lions of the Rock)
1x Tyrion Lannister (City of Secrets)
1x Tywin Lannister (The Kingsguard)
1x Bronn (Lions of the Rock)

1x Asha Greyjoy (Where Loyalty Lies) – Recently Unrestricted
1x Daenerys Targaryen (Ancestral Home)

Location: (30)
3x The Goldroad (Core Set)
3x Bay of Ice (Kings of the Sea)

1x Street of Silk (Lions of the Rock)
1x Street of Sisters (Core Set)
1x Street of Steel (Core Set)
1x River Row (Queen of Dragons)
1x Shadowblack Lane (Core Set)
1x The Roseroad (Kings of the Storm)
1x The Searoad (Kings of the Storm)

2x Kingdom of Shadows (Kings of the Sea)
1x The Kingsroad 23 (Fire and Ice)
1x The Kingsroad 29 (Fire and Ice)
3x Pentoshi Manor (A Harsh Mistress) – Restricted
1x The Westerlands (Ancestral Home)

2x Harrenhal (Ancestral Home)
2x The Iron Throne (Lions of the Rock)
1x Lannisport Brothel (Core Set)
1x Golden Tooth Mines (Core Set)
1x The Mander (Fire Made Flesh)

2x Alchemist’s Guild Hall (The Battle of Blackwater Bay)

Event: (10)

3x Harry the Riverlands (Forgotten Fellowship)
2x A House Divided (Where Loyalty Lies)
2x Condemned by the Council (A Time of Trials)
1x Royal Decree (The Prize of the North)
2x Narrow Escape (Kings of the Storm) – Restricted

Attachment: (3)

3x Pyromancer’s Cache (The War of the Five Kings) – Restricted

Round One – James ‘JCWamma’ Waumsley – Baratheon The Maester’s Path

I setup 5 fairly decent cards , two Refugees (one Mountainous, one of the Vale, which is also mountainous if you think about it), Shadowblack Lane, a Pentoshi  Manor  (which would hopefully help keep those 9 chains on James’ agenda), and a Bay of Ice. So I was quite comfortable with draw, but slightly lacking in economy.

I gambled on Forgotten Plans as my opener because I was terrified a Fear of Winter would throw me too far behind. In hindsight, as well as at the time, I could or should have guessed that he would At the Gates and hit those gates with the Art of Seduction.

In my marshalling, Wamma’s Val let me trigger one of Janos’ Conspirators on a Brightwater Man at Arms. And I dropped the Mander for some draw. Lovely draw. The Seat of Power/Dale Seaworth/Seat of Power happened, and no one was surprised. I let a few challenges through, because Maesters only get worse when you put attachments on them.

Never fear though, Search and Detain will deal with a chained up Maester…. Oh.

Round two I went for Retaliation because two claim and four gold is always fun. Wamma went for Threat from the East to neutralise my draw advantage. It also discarded Dany, who I couldn’t afford and a Castellan of the Rock, who would’ve been fun. And annoyingly, I didn’t draw any economy.

My attempts to limit the number of challenges Wamma could win didn’t really work, so I started playing badly. For example, wanting to taste the sweet nectar of a drawing into an economy location, I played Margaery Tyrell and a Pyromancer’s Cache, and then drew something shit, even though I had the Mander and could’ve just waited and played something that might have got me back in the game. Around this time the Laughing Storm reared his ugly head. So concentrated my kneel on him and let the Maesters run amok.

I committed a Betrayal at the Wall, which turned out to be a Scheme of one Cersei Lannister.  Unfortunately Melisandre was also up to schemes of her own. I didn’t kneel a thing.

In what I was fairly sure was the last turn of the game, James was laying down the King’s Law, nicely backed up by No Shadows Robert Baratheon. I had the choice between playing 4 one cost cards. Or one 4 cost card, Reverse Deadly Bronn

Bronn promptly found himself in the favour of a certain redhead.

Just as an aside, a lot of people had to read the text on Bronn because he’s never really seen much play. I learned why not play Bronn very early on in my tournament level Thrones ‘career’.. I was running House of Dreams – Tunnels of the Red Keep against Rob Hayes who was bouncing everything with a Martell KotHH deck.

I had Qyburn‘d back his Ser Arys Oakheart into play, and then he was quickly bounced back into Rob’s hand. Knowing Arys effect, I paid 4 gold in the following marshalling phase for Bronn. What a noob.

We were getting close to time, or everyone else (even the Bloodthirst mirror match) had finished. So I resolved to play even more loosely. With very little chance of winning, I decided to throw everything I had into claiming 2 power from getting rid of Harrenhal. I had a Condemned by the Council in hand. I threw all my intrigue icons in and brought Bob in with Maggy for a laugh. He immediately stood up again. Laugh achieved.

I did win the challenge though, but my appeals to the council were cancelled by killing Bronn, but I got the 2 power anyway because Harrenhal was full. Winner!

Three unopposed challenges and dominance closed the game for James.

Round 2 – Tournament Report

As the lucky recipient of a bye. I smashed my opponent, the tournament report by writing up the previous match and the very words you’re reading now in the break.

I wrote this sentence later, because I enjoy stretching already thin jokes to their very limit.

Round 3 – Becky – Lannister City of Shadows

I think I got a slightly unfair match up here, because while I wasn’t writing up the match against James, I was watching Becky’s City of Shadows play against Bambi’s Targaryen Knights of the Hollow Hill, because they’re two of my favourite decks in the game, I love one of them slightly more.

So when it came to the game against Becky I knew she was running the the Rivers train, and I knew I could slow that right down by getting all Seductive turn one. Even so the Redwyne Straits gave Becky are fair amount of gold to play with, on top of a Lannisport Moneylender, a Kingdom of Shadows, and Goldroad. Luckily a lot of that gold was spent putting cards into Shadows to save for later, giving me the opportunity to throw down some actual characters and a Lannisport Brothel.

I also managed to marshal a Castellan and a Pentoshi Manor, to match the one on my opponents side of the table. It was quite tempting to use A House Divided when Becky marshalled, a second one, but instead I decided to hold onto it for a juicier Ally. Instead, I Searched & Detained the Moneylender‘s who’d managed to grab himself a power from a manor.

I was lucky enough to see my copy of the Westerlands quite early on in this game as well, which when paired with a CastellanBrothel and an Alchemist Guildhall becomes really, really effective against three Pentoshi Manors. From here I just kept throwing characters at the board and racking up power.

Eventually Becky threw down a Valar to reset the board and start an offensive of her own by bringing cards out of Shadows and also dropped Littlefinger, who just happened to be the kind of juicy Ally I kept A House Divided in hand to get rid of. My Iron Throne was a killer in the late game, stopping any draw from Ser Jaime Lannister, and I imagine deterring Becky from bringing anyone like Arianne MartellQyburn, or Tyrion Lannister out at all.

The game ended when I went for the rush win with my Jaime, Tyrion and Ser Arys Oakheart, backed up by a stealthy Carrion Bird to take me to 15 power.

Round 4 – Rheece – Martell Bloodthirst

I had been dreading this game all day. In testing I tried all my deck ideas against Sam’s Bloodthirst deck, and each time it made me want to quit Thrones forever. I decided that my best chance of winning was to just keep throwing characters down, making all my challenges, and winning dominance. I knew if I could get to around 10 or 11 power, I could probably close out the game on a Fear of Winter turn, the problem of course was getting into that position.

This, and *SPOILERS* the rematch in the Top 2 Final were both really fun games. Rheece and I are both quite sarcastic players, which kept the mood light. But it was also an interesting clash of Thrones ideologies. I was going draw cards, marshal characters and make my challenges, Rheece was going to try and stop me and cycle plots endlessly.

Again I knew Rheece was running Rivers, so I went for the Art of Seduction for my opening plot. It didn’t matter because Rheece had a Vale Rookery out, but it slowed the loop down a little. A lot like Zapp Brannigan’s military plan in an early episode of Futurama, I threw wave after wave of suicidal weenies into the Bloodthirst machine, considering myself lucky if they lasted more than a single turn and even luckier if I got one out of three challenges through.

For the rest of this report, just assume that Rheece is revealing a new river plot three or four times a turn, I had stopped paying attention to them, and we had got so out of sync that any kind of turn by turn report becomes a little muddy..Because I had such a big deck, I didn’t get too emotionally attached to any of my characters. Any power of them was utterly disposable, and a Carrion Bird can always be replaced by a Refugee, who can always be replaced by a Conspirator.

While the weenies lead the charge, I was doing work behind the scenes to prepare for the inevitable rush from The Red Viper, namely Pentoshi Manor and the Alchemist Guildhall. I got close enough to a win to bring Jaime out of Shadows and push through with the Fear of Winter. It wasn’t to be. Rheece kept pinning me back with the river that discards a power.

By getting 5 cards before the marshalling phase each turn though, I could just keep attacking and try to force a mistake on Rheece’s part. Which he did (this might’ve been in the final actually), when he forgot to He Calls it Thinking one of my Alchemist’s Guild Halls, essentially stopping the Viper for a turn.

I think I finally won the game with Tyrion Lannnister on the second or third time that Fear of Winter had been cycled, Rheece let an intrigue challenge through, and completely forgot about the Kindgom of Shadows standing Tyrion back up for another challenge.

So I”d beaten the undefeated evil, antithesis to all things Thrones, and as my reward I got play it again in the final. Somehow despite getting battered in my first game, I managed to finish second in the Swiss. I was as surprised as anyone else.

As he was driving me home, I asked Sam how he felt about staying for final Top 2 game. He said he didn’t mind staying if I wanted to watch the final, not quite realising that I’d be playing in it.

The Final – Rheece – Martell Bloodthirst

You’ll have to forgive me if things get a bit ropey here. Not only had I been awake about 12 hours here, it was my second Bloodthirst game in a row and the store was trying to close so both Rheece and I were playing fast and loose. I think this suited me more.

My battle plan was exactly the same as the previous game, except this time I was lucky enough to actually see a copy of Harrenhal as well as enough weenies to keep it fed. I managed to recycle it enough with the River plot chain and Ser Kevan Lannister to get 8 or 9 uses out of it as well, including cancelling a dupe on the Red Viper. Delicious.

I also cycled through some major characters here, DanyAsha, Jaime and Tywin all had brief moments of glory before being sent to the dead or discard pile. No worries, there’s always another character to play, and plenty of gold.

I actually got to use Jhalaba Xho‘s ability to prevent the Viper from claiming Renown power when I’d used one of my three Pentoshi‘s on Arianne for that challenge. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that Jhabala actually works on old Oberyn, but who really cares? The, dare I say, crowd was also quite firmly supporting me in this match, but I think that’s more to do with the general anti Bloodthirst sentiment, than any reflection on my character.

The turning point in this game was after I’d spent a turn cancelling everything Rheece wanted to do with Harrenhal playing Narrow Escape to get back my three chud characters. Rheece decided to drop his 20 card hand to cancel it. I smelled blood.

The following turn I put enough dudes down to close it with Fear of Winter the following turn. And then I made the pro play of dropping a Goldroad as my one card. It wasn’t a particularly big deal though, as the following turn I had Cersei and Tyrion on the board, Rheece didn’t have as much recursion left in his deck as he thought. He couldn’t stop the intrigue challenge, and very gracefully conceded the game.

And that’s it

I always do a list here, because it breaks things up a bit. So:

  • First of all, thanks to Sam for driving me from Newark to Norwich, I really wouldn’t have been able to get to the tournament any other way. Read his view of the day here.
  • Thanks to Rowan and Athena Games for hosting the event, the venue is one of the better ones as far as I’m concerned for UK Game Stores.
  • Thanks to all my opponents, particularly Rheece for going to head to head with me twice.
  • Also thanks to my meta mate Mark for his input and being a second sounding board for ideas. Sorry I keep bailing on Wednesday nights…
  • As a format I found this tournament incredibly fun. And not that much more broken than Thrones as it exists at the moment. But perhaps I’m bias because I won, and didn’t really encounter too much broken stuff. If you’ve got enough cards for it, you should probably bring an unrestricted deck for a side game for most major tournaments.
  • Speaking off tournaments, the Manchester meta has a Store Championship at Fanboy at 12 next Sunday, and last night I booked the travel stuff for Battalla por el Muro in Madrid. So I look forward to seeing Thrones guys at both of those. Get involved.
  • Finally, thanks you, you mad bastard, for reading this far.

But wait, an interactive poll!