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|Golden Boys (Best Lannisters; 2x Stahleck Top32)||12||9||10||1.0|
I made Top 8 at the World Championship again this year and had people asking to see my deck when it was done, so I figured I'd share the deck and some of the thinking behind it.
(Also fair warning: this gets a little long, so feel free to ignore the rambling and just go about your netdecking.)
- - - DECK BUILDING - - -
Leading up to Worlds I had a feeling that Lannister was being overlooked and written off. I felt that if I could just crack the issue of not having a lot of draw, then they have powerful tools to answer the giant Crossing decks I was expecting. I tried a lot of different ideas like Bowels and Fever Dreams, but the only thing I really liked was Gold Mine.
The imitable Ryan Jones had been working on a Targ Lion deck for Worlds that I tried and liked the concept of, but found it to be really inconsistent: sometimes it would be unbeatable but other times you wouldn't find Meereen and would just flounder.
So I went back to Lanni Dragon, a deck I had messed around with right when Queensguard came out. As I started seriously refining the deck with the other SoCal guys, GJ Pinch started to be a big thing, but I felt this had a good matchup against it. So I went for it and have no regrets with the deck choice! (Also nice to get those fantastic Cersei alt arts!)
- - - DECK STRATEGY - - -
The general idea is play giant characters and stand them with Queensguard. Because I'm so in love with stand and Queensguard, that's a big factor why I prefer the Lanni version of this deck over Targ: more good QG targets. Let's go through them:
--- Tywin Lannister (Core): Compare him to the usual Targ target of Khal Drogo and hopefully you'll see one of the big reasons I prefer Lanni Dragon over the reverse. Tricon with renown that can be gigantic with some gold to close out games or play epic defense against A Pinch of Powder.
--- Ser Gregor Clegane: The Mountain that Rides is a fantastic threat. 10 STR is crazy and lets you push through his renown pretty consistently, even if you miss with his pillage. I even included tech like Noble Lineage and "Off To Gulltown" to get more use out of him, though just locking down and dominance can be enough.
--- The Rest: Daario Naharis and Tyrion Lannister (Core) can also be reasonable targets for QG in a pinch. I've even put QG on things like Grand Maester Pycelle or Second Sons if I'm really desperate.
"But Lannister has no draw!" I hear people say, "how can you afford to keep using Queensguard?!" The answer is in three parts:
--- Plots: You use Exchange of Information, Time of Plenty, and You Win Or You Die to draw extra cards. Originally I had 2x Exchange, but switched one out for Time of Plenty so I could more consistently play big guys if I got unlucky on seeing econ.
--- Flea Bottom: Still my favorite restricted card, it makes many of your discards so much less painful since you can bring them back in. The Hound (TtB) merits special mention as you can discard him to stand with QG, FB him in to win the next challenge and bounce him to hand, then discard him again for QG and you're ready to do it again next turn!
--- Play Conservative: This might be the key: make every card count. Try to never over-commit to the board or discard to stand when you don't need to. Especially early, let Military and Power challenges through if you have to, but try to never lose the Intrigue. You'll really need those cards.
The final piece of the puzzle is I Never Bet Against My Family which combines so nicely with Valar Dohaeris. Use it after your own or your opponent's to keep up pressure, or as a surprise to stop their key A Pinch of Powder attack.
- - - TOURNAMENT REPORT - - -
I will try to keep this relatively quick, just give you an idea of what matchups I faced and how the deck performed. All my opponents were very nice and a joy to play against!
Round 1- Bara Wolf (Gilles Molina): Not a great way to start the day. I had a lousy setup of something like The Hound duped, Flea Bottom, and something in shadows. I draw no econ for the first two turns while he gets out Melisandre (Core) and uses Ward on my Hound. The slow start gets compounded by Queen's Men keeping my hand small and I just can't get out from under the control. Loss, 0-1
Round 2 - Stark Qohor (Thomas Carasso): I only had a little testing against the new Stark Skagos decks, so I knew this would be a tough one. He had Wyman Manderly and Meera Reed from pretty much turn 1 and it slowed me down a lot. He got out to a decent lead, but I was able to hang in there by defending as much as I could with giant QG characters and a key Dohaeris. We both played Win Or Die on the same turn, but I was able to push through my power challenge for 2 claim and defend his (I think with a good Never Bet). That put us close on power and he discarded waaaaay more cards to reserve at the end of the turn. Next was our 6th plot and I thought he would Valar Morghulis. I played Confiscation and was rewarded by him playing Valar, so I got rid of the Bodyguard on Wyman while Tywin used his Bodyguard to survive. Time was called soon after and I barely won 12-11 by taking the final dominance. What a game! Win, 1-1
Round 3 - NW Alliance Qohor Rose (Fred Byrd): I had played against this deck a lot as a few of the guys from my store were in Fred's build group, so I knew the match-up and felt confident. I got an early ChopMan to take out some smaller characters, but he got milked quickly. From there played very defensively (Alliance Qohor decks are much worse if they can't trigger Qohor). There was a big Dohaeris turn where I was able to Never Bet to get Tywin back and defend. Then I redrew ChopMan to clear his board and close out. Win, 2-1
Round 4 - Targ Crossing (Kevin Austin): He set up locations and Drogo as his only character, while I had a bunch of weenies and Gold Mine. So down comes the Marched, I go 2nd, then kill his bestowed Second Sons with ChopMan. Gregor comes down soon after to control the board until his concedes. Win, 3-1
Round 5 - Lanni Dragon (Collin Weir): The mirror match! Actually Collin had a fairly different build with more shadows/control cards like Catspaw. My early ChopMan kept me in the game as he put out threats with Hizdahr. But then The Mountain spun his roulette wheel and killed Hizdahr. That gave me a chance to stabilize and close out. Win, 4-1
Round 6 - Bara Alliance Qohor Rose (Even Sørgjerd): I felt like I had good board control early with Cersei and ChopMan, but a Milk on ChopMan made me miss any good Marched opportunity. I used my Pinch early to pretty good effect, but never found the money to play it again. Even forgot a bunch of key triggers at one point, but it didn't matter as I never found a way to deal with his giant Randyll Tarly, Bara knights, and power from The Honeywine. I only saw 1 Nightmares, no Treachery, no Queensguard. But really I think I should've found a way to play Pinch again and try to bounce Randyll. Loss, 4-2
Day 2 Round of 48 - Targ Wars (Geoff Bergh): We had about an even start, but he had Drogo so I was a bit scared. I was able to get down The Mountain turn 2, which slowed down his military. Then I gave him Queensguard. Then Noble Lineage. That locked down the board and then blew it out when on one turn Gregor pillaged Viserion to kill Viserion, then pillaged Hizdahr to kill Drogo. You Win Or You Die let me close it out the next turn. Win, 5-2
Top 32 - Greyjoy Fealty (Joe Zimmer): I generally felt good about the Greyjoy matchup, but knew my opponent would be no pushover. Found this to be one of my most interesting games of the tournament, so I might go a little long in this description. Hang in there.
I had a good start with Cersei. Quickly I also got out Gregor with a dupe, Queensguard, Noble Lineage, and Bodyguard. I played very defensively against his Core Balon and Euron because I knew he had a A Pinch of Powder in shadows he was itching to use, likely on Gregor to get rid of his dupe and prep for a Valar Morghulis. I got out Qarth to protect against the Pinch, but he got out a Lordsport Shipwright to kneel Qarth. I slammed down ChopMan and killed off the Shipwright. We're about 3 or 4 plots in and I don't have a clear plot choice for the round. I don't want to Valar Dohaeris yet because he only has two giant characters out, but there's also not a good Marched set up and I'm not close enough to close with Win Or Die. Instead I try to use Confiscation as a "neutral" plot and just discard my Bodyguard. Mistake! He plays Nothing Burns Like The Cold to discard my Qarth (giving him an opening to Pinch) and now I have to lose either Queensguard or Noble Lineage off Gregor. I discarded QG because I felt I needed the to stop Pinch. I hit a very key Tywin off of Never Bet to survive through that turn. Next round I play Win or Die and get the absolutely ideal draw of Tyrion, the final Queensguard to replay on Gregor, and a Nightmares to stop Big Vic from standing and defending everything. I barely closed as time was called. Later Joe told me there was a chance he had to actually trigger Pinch one turn and in the excitement of actually winning a challenge against my wall of giant characters he completely missed it. It was a crazy close game and I think a combination of my good draws and his momentary slip up got me through. Win, 6-2
Top 16 - Martell Wars (Robert Mixer): This is the sort of matchup where I really want ChopMan with Queensguard, but I never saw him. I set up a A Pinch of Powder in shadows (important later). I saw The Mountain early and was hoping I could hit something juicy like Ricasso with his pillage reaction, but he was really just a big renown body this game (which is also fine). I collected quite a bit of power early and made him spend a lot of cards, despite his draws from Dorne. I was especially happy to get all 3 of his He Calls It Thinking played relatively early. It all came down to a BIG last turn on plot 5:
He flips Uneasy Truce and I flip You Win Or You Die. I let him go first in hopes I can topdeck ChopMan and respond to whatever his board looks like. He plays Ricasso with 2 bestow (puts him up to 7 used plots) and Stealthy Darkstar and I know he has Doran's Game in hand, but he's also only at 5 power. I have a ton of big characters down, from Tyrion to Gregor to Tywin with Queensguard. I know I can't stop Doran's Game, but don't know which card to Nightmares: Ricasso to give less power, Starfall to protect one of Tywin's icons, or Darkstar to protect an icon. I decided to blank Darkstar and it was definitely the right choice. It forced him to Starfall Tywin's icon to get the Doran's Game off and get to 11 power as time was called, so we're just playing out the round. When it's my challenges, I go with my 19STR Tywin to win the 2-claim power challenge by a lot. In fact, remember how I mentioned that I set up a Pinch? Well it had been sitting there until this moment, when I used it to bounce his Knights of the Sun with 1 power on them. We're both at 11 power, so I stand Tywin, win dominance, get a pow-- oh wait! Uneasy Truce means I don't get power for dominance. With time already called, we tie on power and it ends up going to cards in deck where I win since he had Dorne the whole game. Crazy close and I scrape by again! Win, 7-2
Top 8 - Martell Wolf (Lennart Paga): As soon as I saw the matchup, I knew I was on trouble. "The first time they put me on stream and it's my worst matchup!" I complained to anyone in earshot. Lennart had already taken out Ryan Jones who was running a variation on this deck. I knew that it was ChopChopChopMan with Queensguard or bust. You can go watch the stream of the match of FFG's Twitch, but spoilers: the only ChopMan I saw got intrigued away. I'm going to watch the game and see if I could've taken any different lines to improve my chances, but it felt like my best strategy in the matchup was just crossing my fingers to never play against it in the first place. So I was satisfied with losing in the Top 8 to the eventual champion! Loss, 7-3
- - - CLOSING THOUGHTS - - -
I was very happy with my deck choice and performance, so there's not much I would change. There are certainly flex spots to adjust to taste, I was fiddling a lot with the exact balance of attachments and events like A Pinch of Powder, Bodyguard, Noble Lineage, "Off To Gulltown", and Nightmares. Others tried things like Unexpected Return (too expensive for my taste), Widow's Wail, and Little Bird. Confiscation may have been the one thing I really noticed that underperformed, as I was expecting more opposing Queensguard (though it's still always a nice plot to deal with Milk of the Poppy).
Worlds is one of my favorite events of the year (behind Thrones W.A.R.) and I'm so excited I can perform well for a second year in a row! Big props to FFG who continue to improve the experience each year. Huge props to the SoCal guys for their ideas and testing and convincing me of #neverlancel. And biggest props to everyone I met and played, Thrones has the greatest community and it's why the game is so much fun to play on any level from casual to Worlds!