Hunting Parties and Entourages Seeking Royalty goes to Winter Draft 2017 Championship, a tournament report

winter-draft-2017

First tournament since the Battle of the Trident in November is a draft tournament, but that’s okay because 1) draft is a blast and 2) I’m not that excited about heading face first into a spread of Baratheon dominance and Lannister Harrenhal nonsense.  Twenty-three people make it out to the Fantasy Flight Event Center, including a crew from Wausau and a handful of people I didn’t recognize.  Cool.  Draft pods were seven and eight people, but the tournament was four-round Swiss with cut.  Feeling good.

The drafting  It was an inauspicious opening.  My very first draft was Bodyguard.  It’s fine.  Saves remain good, but the card lacks excitement.  It was an omen of the rounds to come.  The most exciting card I take in the first round is The Red Keep, but enough Baratheon filler comes around that I feel good about having at least one house.  Tyrells start to roll in with the second pack.  Still no bombs, no removal, but I ought, at least, to have an efficient deck.  Third pack opens on Eddard Stark, Wolves of the North style.  I have no Starks thus far, being disappointed to pass on Wardens of the North earlier, but there’s no question.  Drafted.  Catelyn Stark, Wolves of the North flavor, and Ser Edmure Tully appear in the next pass, and the brother is taken.  It’s late, but they’re worth it.  I grab a Ser Rodrick Cassel, too, a hand or two later.  I’ve got my bombs now, but for the life of me, I can’t find the Stark filler to round them out.  Baratheon continues its steady trickle of filler, and Tyrell begins to offer the big bodies in Blackcrown Knights, Randyll Tarly, Brienne of Tarth and Margaery Tyrell.

I have a decision to make.  Tyrell, Power of Wealth to Baratheon, lacking the cards to make it Stark, or a Tyrell, Treaty to Baratheon and Stark.  I opt for Wealth.  The best cards are in Stark, but they’re expensive and awkward against The Pale Mare.  The low end of Baratheon is fine, the top end of Tyrell is good and the mid is solid for both.  It’s a hard decision, but the right one, I think.  Deck is easy enough to make, cutting Knights of Summer late when I realize that Feast or Famine negates them by itself, and the deck is ready.

Interesting, my draft pack has two too many cards.  Two extra commons are at the bottom of the pack.  Terrified for a moment that I somehow screwed the earlier rounds up despite no one coming up short, but that is thankfully not the case.  R randomly pulls two to keep the draft going.

Against S, Greyjoy, Wealth to Tyrell

Feel great at getting a six card setup.  Feel less great when Euron Crow’s Eye comes down first turn and grabs a King’s Road on the pillage.  It gets better though, as Filthy Accusations and a Pulling the Strings into Filthy Accusations keeps him neutered for the rest of the game.  The Pale Mare wins it for me as S overextends on awkward cost slots and loses The Knight of Flowers and Alerie Tyrell to my King’s Hunting Party.  None of my biggest bodies drop, but that’s fine.  Euron can’t get up, and power challenges lead me to the win.

Against J,  Night’s Watch, Protectors of the Realm

Feels a lot like the first game.  J gets a fat board early by popping two King’s Roads and has a Ranging Party, Lyn Corbray, duped Jaime Lannister and chump while my board looks much thinner.  Two military claim is taken on Feast or Famine in that first round by means of a stealthy Roseroad Patrol enabled by a King’s Hunting Party and critically takes the dupe off Jaime.  Slow play into the Pale Mare on the third plot to kill a new Ranging Party and Jaime against no losses on my side.  It’s the beginning of the end.  Shireen Baratheon and Even-Handed Justice keep the Ranging Party down, a lack of economy slows any possible comeback and power challenges win me the game.

Against C, Baratheon, Treaty to Stark and Greyjoy

Fourth? tournament game against C.  Fourth loss.  That’s fine.  He’s really good.  Another six-card setup but an otherwise slow start.  I set up Tobho Mott’s Armory, and he drops Chamber of the Painted Table.  He has Fiery Followers, I have Edric Storm.  We play around The Pale Mare, and most dominance ends in a push.  C has an early edge in Sansa Stark, core flavor, and a bigger edge in The Seastone Chair, forcing me to protect all military challenges, even kneeling King’s Hunting Party to chump challenges.  My only edge after Edric dies to The Pale Mare is The Red Keep to protect me on power challenges and keep me in the draw.  Power is piling on his card, but I’ve dropped Blackcrown Knights.

We’ve gone around the horn on plots, and C goes for it.  Gendry sans power and Victarion are on the board with a pile of small bodies, and A Feast for Crows is his plot.  If I can survive the turn and get back to The Pale Mare, I have a shot, small as it may be.  I blow it.  C overcommits on intrigue to force a kneel on a Royal Entourage, but Nightmares sets him straight.  Pro play.  Entourage remains standing to defend the military.  Then I forget Seastone is there and let it go unopposed.  I scoop when Seastone targets my Blackcrown Knights.

It wasn’t much of a chance, but reconsidering the phase, I could have won dominance and kept the game going to The Pale Mare, but C would have been on 14, and Victarion likely would have remained on the board.  Like I said, not much of a chance but a lot better than what I gave up.  Lesson learned.

Against T, Targaryen, Treaty to Lannister and Martell

Win this one, and I’m pretty confident of being in the cut at 3 and 1.  No problem.  The third six-card set-up of the day.  T is playing high control.  He drew a second Filthy Accusations for his plot deck and found at least two copies of His Viper Eyes (one of which pulled Randyll Tarly), which are pretty useful when you’re playing to Valar Morghulis.  It’s not too devastating, as I was playing to my own Pale Mare, but that Ser Ilyn Payne that survives is a problem and keeps me from repopulating with Margaery Tyrell and Courtesan of the Rose.  Blackcrown Knights and King’s Hunting Party force the early Valar on the plot reset, and I’m actually feeling a little good.  Power levels are pretty similar, but I actually have a military icon on my board and am whittling T down.  Then he plays House of the Undying.  I drop Nightmares for a one-turn reprieve.  A one-turn reprieve is not enough.  Khal Drogo shows up on the next turn, and a popped House of the Undying nets him Blackcrown Knights and Brienne along with all the bodies he could possibly need.  Three unopposed challenges, the power challenge, renown and Blackcrown grab him eight power in a single phase, winning him the match.

Not proud to say I hit the table at that, a first time for Thrones, but that was that.  I was out.  Considering it later, if I had counted everything, it would have been better for me to let him pop the House earlier.  He wouldn’t have had quite enough power without the good Khal’s second military and renown, and if he had found the means, the Nightmares would have been better served on the Blackcrown Knights.

Oh well.  Cut and tournament win next time, whenever, whatever that may be.

Thanks to R for hosting another fun tournament and for his final fan alts and generally great prize support.  Thanks to all my opponents.  Thanks to my wife for watching the kid today.  Thanks to everyone who asked where the kid was.

Lessons

Don’t forget about The Seastone Chair.

Control can work in draft.

Nightmares is still good.

Royal Entourage still isn’t good, especially when your intrigue game is light, but they are great targets for Little Bird.

Roseroad Patrol is a lot better in a format where you don’t have to worry about strength getting much higher than six, and they’re backed by King’s Hunting Party.  And uncommon Muster the Realm.

Pulling the Strings was a second Filthy all tournament, and that’s just fine.

Swag game

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Considering The Queen of Thorns

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I’ve been dabbling with Tyrell for some time.  I like them, they’re fun, but they still hold mysteries to me, woman mysteries.  Specifically, is The Queen of Thorns good?  I’ve put The Queen in decks, I’ve taken her out of decks, but I don’t think I yet know the answer to that question.  So let’s talk about The Queen of Thorns.  Is she good?

Yes.  The art is solid.  Diego Gisbert Llorens doesn’t get the same attention as Magali Villeneuve or Tomasz Jedruszek or Michael Komarck, perhaps because Warhammer, 40K and otherwise, has attracted more of his attention, but the work he has done in the world of Thrones is very solid.  Of those big three, Llorens perhaps most resembles Jedruszek in style with their thicker brush strokes, but Llorens uses a greater palette and his colors pop more than Jedruszek whose pieces sometimes turn out muddier.  Since Games Workshop took their license back, maybe, hopefully Llorens will take on more Thrones work, but it looks like he has a history with Legend of the 5 Rings, too.  We’ll see.  Also, I love the triptych that emerges as Right and Left come down.  Don’t mind me.  Just let me organize my cards in the appropriate order over here.

But what about The Queen’s gameplay?  Honestly, it’s not that great.  Win an intrigue challenge with The Queen of Thorns, on offense or defense, and put a Tyrell character of cost 6 or fewer into play.  First of all, the ability is kind of redundant in the faction with the best marshalling phase economy.   It’d be huge in, say, Martell or Greyjoy but doesn’t have that same pop when Tyrell has The Arbor, Paxter Redwyne and To the Rose Banner!  How many characters do you really need to play at once?  Even if you were in favor of dropping four characters on a turn, that has lost a bit of luster since the release of Valar Morghulis.  Why play every character in your hand, if they just going to die next turn?  It certainly has given me pause when I’ve had the chance to activate her.

Speaking of activating her, it’s really hard.  The Queen of Thorns has to be in the intrigue challenge, and she has to win it.  While Tyrell has a pretty solid spread of icons, most of its intrigue icons are, unfortunately, on the lower end of the curve with lower strength.  Tyrell has plenty of strength pumps, but it’s not always enough or too much of a commitment.  The Queen doesn’t help that much herself.  While 5 strength isn’t unusual for 7 drops, it is disappointing when Tyrell has two 5 drops with 5 strength.

She’s also fairly easy for the opponent to plan around.  When Tyrell is defending, the opponent can bypass her with stealth.  When Tyrell is attacking, it has to commit to her victory.  The opponent can just let them swing in and save their icons for what is to come.  That’s not to mention faction-specific counters like Winterfell, Catelyn Stark, Attainted and Baratheon kneel.

What is she good for then?  There are House Florent Knights and Olenna’s Informant.  They have nice ‘enters play’ effects that kind of need The Queen of Thorns to be their best.  Or Arianne Martell, who is better at it, which just emphasizes how weak The Queen’s ability is.  She’s also a Lady, a trait with a fair amount of synergy in Tyrell (Lady Sansa’s Rose, Sers Horas and Hobber Redwyne, Lady-in-Waiting).

Those are all nice, but ironically, in spite of my earlier complaints about her usefulness post-Valar, I think The Queen can be huge in that environment, if she survives.  On a short board, she is easier to activate, and once the reset drops, extra bodies are safer.  Right now I run her in my reset heavy Tyrell, Summer deck.  I don’t always play her, but she has a place.  For now.  Further testing should reveal further woman secrets.

“I Want A Do-Over” v1

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You want to know a secret?  I ran a Tyrell, Summer reset deck at Worlds because I liked my odds of earning World’s best Tyrell.  I didn’t win it.  Someone else went 5 and 3, and I went 4 and 4 with a toilet strength of schedule.

This deck is an update on that one and is, two chapter packs and a deluxe expansion later, immeasurably better.  The first boost the Tyrell reset deck got was, of course, Valar Morghulis.  Tyrell may be the greatest at draw and card sifting, but sometimes you need that reset now.  You can’t wait to draw Varys or wait until after dominance for the board wipe.  You need it now, and now you have Valar.  Awesome.  And Tyrell has the economy to not be totally hosed on the Valar turn.  Double awesome.

Second, Tyrell got two more Ladies in Alerie Hightower and Brienne of Tarth.  Both are solid, if not setting the world ablaze, but they do make Lady-In-Waiting playable, by doubling the number of Tyrell Ladies. More dupes, more saves, more reset freedom.  Awesome possum.

And that’s kind of what the reset deck needed: an on-demand reset and more saves that aren’t kill specific.  The deck itself is pretty simple.  Get The Arbor down early.  Prioritize intrigue challenges to limit your opponent’s options post reset.  When it will give you an advantage, hit the reset button.  Hit it again.  Keep power on your faction card where it’s safe from Varys and off theirs.  Don’t forget that Bodyguard isn’t terminal.  Feel free to drop it on Varys for added protection and bring it back to hand when he pops.

A few cards I’d like to comment on specifically.  I’m still not sure on The Queen of Thorns.  She’s too easily controlled, her ability is a bit redundant in the house with the game’ second-best economy, but she can refill the board pretty well post-Valar.  We’ll see.

House Florent Knight is also intriguing post reset.  People want to get out chumps to protect their beef post-reset, and he clears them right out while increasing your military presence.  You can trigger him twice through Unexpected Delay and a successful Queen of Thorns activation.

Speaking of Unexpected Delay, it offers some fascinating options in a reset deck.  First, there is the aforementioned House Florent Knight combo.  Second, you have positive attachments, a pile of dupes and a lot of reknown.  You might be able to force the double removal on your opponent’s side.  Third, it’s a reset deck.  Protect your beef by sending it back to hand.  Unfortunately, its initiative is low, and you’ll be picking a character first if your opponent makes you first player and may be broadcasting your intentions.

I’m excited to bring this back.  We’ll see just how much better it got in this new era of Thrones.

You can also see this decklist at ThronesDB.

“Starfall Crossed” v1

martell-crossing

The challenge: to build a deck that can beat not only defensive Walls but also aggressive Lannister jumpers.  Walls prefer a wide board.  Lannister jumpers can get away with just one or two characters sticking around between turns.  Walls are heavy on attachments and short on events.  Lannister jumpers are heavy on events and short on attachments.  The Wall endures.  The Lannisters lay waste.  The only common point is that there are specific locations (The Wall, obviously, and Harrenhal for the Lannisters) critical to the success of these decks.

Behold, the first draft to my solution.  While my above assessment suggests that Greyjoys and their loyal location control would be most useful, I’m opting to tack different, mostly because I find Greyjoy one note.  Instead I’m rolling Martell, a house on the slide against the rise of Night’s Watch.  Its reactive game is a lot weaker against a faction that doesn’t care to attack, and its icon-stripping attachments need to attach to work.  Still, I like Martell, and they’ve picked up some solid cards this cycle.

This is a delayed power rush deck.  Naval Superiority, Burning on the Sand and Vengeance for Elia slow the opponent’s game down.  It accrues power where it can through The Lord of the Crossing, The Boneway and unopposed challenges.  If the deck is at 8 or 9 power by plot 4 or 5, it’s in good shape.  Gossip and Lies is the closer as it can burst power gain in conjunction with The Red Viper or The Scorpion’s Sting.  So can Doran’s Game.

Against Lannister: Most of the aggro Lannister jumper decks I’ve seen so far have been Kings of Winter, though I would definitely expect to see more Banner of the Wolf with the release of Roose Bolton.  In either case, these decks need to clear and control the board by plot 3 or 4, or they run out of cards and steam.  The aforementioned Burning on the Sand and Vengeance for Elia should help a great deal with this, especially on 2-claim turns.  Martell’s strength in intrigue should also be useful in emptying their hand even faster.

Against Night’s Watch: Even though Night’s Watch favors a long game to find and set up The Wall and all of its support, this deck slows down for the one-turn power bursts.  It favors Arianne Martell, Palace Spearman and Knights of the Sun for dodging Craven and Milk of the Poppy until the big push.  Nightmares can slow down The Wall.  A well-timed Song of Summer neuters Winter Festival.

The plots: These need work.  The only one I am positive on is Gossip and Lies for closing.  The inclusion of everything else has a rationale but not a great one.  Song of Summer is anti-winter tech and was a double in Sam Braatz’s Targaryen Crossing that made top 8 at Worlds.  Who am I to doubt?  Naval Superiority slows the game down, and Varys’s Riddle duplicates Valar Morghulis.

The big problem is the generally low economy.  Three plots offer three gold or fewer.  In Doran’s Name and The Long Plan can mitigate it a little but are more stopgaps than solutions.

That’s the idea, anyway.  We’ll see how it plays.  I’ll let you know.

You can also find the list at ThronesDB.

“Forecast: Freezing Rain” v1

nights-watch-rains

Let’s start this right: a faction and agenda combination with zero representation on ThronesDB.  Inspired by D.C.’s The Night’s Watch, Lord of the Crossing deck that went to Top 8 at Worlds this past year, I began toying with this after the release of There Is My Claim because every Night’s Watch deck got exciting with Shadow Tower Mason and The Haunted Forest, but I was really waiting for Ghosts of Harrenhal to make it click.  Dragonglass Dagger had been spoiled in the fan, and I was really hoping for a beefy Steward to supplement the intrigue icons.  Instead I got Craster.  I got happy.

Anyway.  The deck:  Rains looks kooky with Night’s Watch, but it really is a classic Wall defense deck with options to go on the offensive or punish chump intrigue challenges.

The scheme plots: The appeal of Rains is its toolbox nature, picking the right plot at the right moment, and Night’s Watch can appreciate a solid toolbox.  The utility of surprising your opponent with A Game of Thrones in a defensive deck is obvious.  Filthy Accusations as well.  Wildfire Assault is there to pick your moment to kill Benjen, Vary’s Riddle to copy a Counting Copper or Building Orders,and Power Behind the Throne because there aren’t any other good options.

The not-scheme plots: The regular plot deck is nothing exceptional.  Counting Coppers, Building Orders and Time of Plenty are draw, rather important in a deck that needs The Wall to win.  For the Watch! because you’re defending The Wall.  Here to Serve because you have Maester Aemon.  Winter Festival for power gain.  Calm Over Westeros to protect your power or board or hand or whatever.  But mostly your power.  Calm is the first cut right now, possibly for Song of Summer to make triggering Rains a little easier.

The characters: Character choice is pretty classic.  Arry and Unsworn Apprentices are surprise intrigue defenders.  Only one Dolorous Edd because his pseudo ambush is anti-synergy with Rains.  The plan is mostly just pop him in and keep him around for a cheap 3-strength intrigue icon.  Will gives you an option for triggering Rains on the offense.  Everything else is obvious.

The everything else: Nothing you wouldn’t expect regarding Attachments, Locations or Events.  Dragonglass Dagger pumps your intrigue characters, and that’s about all you need to know.

The performance: It’s been spotty so far.  Earlier incarnations were pretty successful, but results have drawn closer to .500 lately, generally against more aggro decks.  I’ve only triggered Rains a handful of times, one time kneeling Asha Greyjoy with Filthy Accusations at a critical moment and probably winning the game, so those wins may be more an indication of the general might of Night’s Watch right now more than the unique strength of this deck.

I am particularly interested in seeing it in the Night’s Watch mirror.  It may still come down to whomever draws The Wall first, but I feel Rains could give it that little extra spice.  Unfortunately, though everyone at casual night is packing a Night’s Watch deck, no one wants to play the mirror.  For some reason.  We’ll see.  It’s fun.  It’s a little different.  It’s what I like.

You can also see this deck at ThronesDB.

Goals

Since this game began in 2015, I have participated in 13 joust tournaments.  Twice I have come in second.  That’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Three of those tournaments were regionals and Worlds.  Second in those competitions would have been something to celebrate.  So far as store championships and game night kits, Knights of the Laughing Tree, Harrenhals and Kings in the North go, the Minnesota community has some exceptional players.  Nothing wrong with two second-place finishes, only two or three tournaments with a final record under .500 and just one 0-for-3 tournament.  And I have had plenty of fun.  Definitely nothing wrong with that.

But I would like to do better.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, though I have some ideas.  I’d at least like to win a table in a melee.  I’d like to take a tournament win over a few locals that have not yet allowed that.  A few top 4 finishes and even a first would be nice.  Top quarter in an event with over 100 competitors would be about as much as I dare dream.

It’s a new year.  There’s a draft tournament coming up in three weeks.  Store championships will soon follow.  Then there are regionals and Harrenhals and Lord Commanders and everything else.  Maybe even a nationals or continentals.  Plenty of opportunities to start making these goals happen.

I don’t know if these writings will help.  I plan on writing about my decks and their evolutions, considering their performances at casual nights, writing tournament reports.  No chapter pack reviews.  That’s for people better than me.  And every other fan creation.  If nothing else, this should make me pay attention to what’s working and what’s not in my play and deck construction.  That ought to be worth a spot or two in a tournament.

Enjoy.