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Is a pure control deck possible in AGOTse? Lets see.
Comments, especially from those who played first edition are quite welcome. As with http://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/97/how-to-train-your-dragon-to-stand-lannisters, I am hoping this is a decent shell to build off of. Will this deck work? Will pure control work in AGOTse? Chime in!
Control in AGOTse
Control decks traditionally forego early board state, and manage the opponent's with denial in an attempt to build up to late-game inevitability. They seek to do a few main things:
- Maintain card advantage to out-last the opponent. This is often done with a focus on the denial of opponent options.
- In doing so, you often suffer an anemic board state.
- Focus on a superior economy to keep denial options open.
- Enable a "closer" that becomes efficient once the card advantage kicks in to end the game.
There are some aspects of a strong control package in the core set focused around:
- Character neutralization (via Tears of Lys) and Treachery (and via many of the kneel effects) to efficiently de-value characters.
- Event neutralization (via The Hand's Judgment) to efficiently swing key events your way.
- Character bounce (via The Things I Do For Love) to manipulate key challenges, and force inefficiency in the opponent's econ decisions.
- Board sweep (via Varys and Wildfire Assault) to trade efficiently.
Card advantage. There are significant card advantage options. I'll focus on the simplest of these - a player's capacity for future options - otherwise known as their cards in hand:
- enables explicit card advantage as a fundamental in-game mechanism by degrading the opponent's options. This is compounded by Cersei Lannister's ability, and claim 2 plots such as Sneak Attack or The Winds of Winter.
- Significant card draw through Lannisport and insight via Grand Maester Pycelle. This draw is a side-effect of your main game-plan, and doesn't require tangential plans.
- The combination of the previous two is at least a 2 card swing (discard for , and draw for Lannisport/Grand Maester Pycelle). This advantage is increased multiplicatively via Casterly Rock along with Seal of the Hand to reuse powerful characters (i.e. double card's effectiveness).
Though this isn't a complete list, it is the most relevant list to this deck (and to , in general). A strong case can be made for control, with a focus on kneeling as well. Given the current card pool, I can't make a control deck, just a hybrid. In the future Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre might enable a lock, but this deck will be a little closer to combo than control.
Shortcomings of control in AGOTse. Unlike control in MTG, there are no ways to prevent characters from being on the board. Counter-spells for characters don't exist (and likely won't). However, this is offset by the natural rate-limiting of the impact of characters in the game: though you can't prevent them from getting out, the maximum impact characters can have in a turn is determined not by the number of characters, but by the fixed number of challenges. Stated another way, if we can deal with a single military loss/turn, and make up our card advantage in another way, then we're in a decent spot.
Summary of control in AGOTse. Thus, (pure) control decks in AGOT will walk a fine line between denying the effects/characters that they must, while weathering the attrition of those they don't want to deal with. This is similar to allowing a creature build up in MTG, only to sweep them soon-after -- trading life for card advantage.
Sketch of a Control Deck
We focus on card advantage, thus we must include
This can result in drawing 3 cards, and discarding 4 of your opponent's in a power turn. Of course, this is the ideal situation, so a more realistic +2, -2 should be the typical expectation. Note that this is enough to "lock" the opponent if they don't have powerful draw themselves.
This focus on is at the cost of both and, likely .
We focus on denial and neutralizing opponent threats via:
- The Hand's Judgment
- Tears of Lys
- The Things I Do For Love
- Milk of the Poppy
- The Queen's Assassin
Closing. How do you get to 15 ? You're saving your money for the challenge phase anyway, so why not use it to super-power Tywin Lannister? He's your closer. If you can manage not hitting hard on , then the children can help a well.
Be sure to not play Tywin Lannister until you have a The Hand's Judgment or two. You really don't want him to be Milk of the Poppyed. EDIT: Yeah, milk is not an event. Guess we have to rely on confiscation!
Surmounting inherent limitations
What are the limitations of this style of control?
- You really must have a ton of gold. Most of the denial options require gold on hand during the challenge phase.
- The character package is expensive, given the desire for high-impact, card-advantage effects.
- Focusing so much on card advantage costs us in icons.
- We rely on the abilities of expensive unique characters to maintain advantage.
Economy. To address 1. and 2., we just need a strong econ package:
- Lannisport Moneylender, Tywin Lannister, Littlefinger, The Roseroad all provide unrestricted cash.
- Lannisport Merchant and Western Fiefdom provide necessary reducer power. Given the deck is Fealty, they can be used to reduce most cards in the deck.
- Fealty provides a light bump to help out with problem 2. It can save 9 gold, and lowers the barrier to entry for many of the larger characters.
To ensure that we have gold going into the challenge phase so that we can harness our disruption and denial cards, Tyrion Lannister also provides a strong boost (up to 4 gold). However, most of the time, we won't be using this, or the gold we save into the challenge phase. So what options do we have?
and challenge-phase econ. To address 1., we must be able to save our money for our events, we need to not spend in the marshaling phase. If we don't spend in the marshaling phase, we're going to be down on (problem 3.). The answer to both of these problems is ambush .
These all provide the ability to spend our saved gold and survive the attrition of military challenges. Many of these translate into "pay 2, which you already received from and Tyrion Lannister, to deny a , and a discard". That's a great deal if we're decent on cash. We are explicitly relying on our card draw to get a decent number of these cards which are used not offensively, but as per-turn denial of military advantages.
Character protection. As we rely heavily on powerful character abilities on a relatively few number of characters, we run into issues if they have a lot of character removal/neutralization. So against the likes of Milk of the Poppy, Dracarys!, and Put to the Sword, we have The Hand's Judgment. Against card abilities that seek to maim us at key times, we have Treachery.
If we don't draw these, the game likely won't go our way. This is probably the largest source of variance in the deck. Finding a way to include Varys would be a good way to force a reset if we don't draw these and our characters are maimed (just don't duplicate them!). For now, we'll rely on s (Wildfire Assault) for this.
Don't lose the
The plot selection is relatively straight-forward.
- Calm Over Westeros and A Game of Thrones are obvious plots to buy us turns when we need them. We can avoid difficult or engagements when necessary.
- Wildfire Assault for a board reset. This should be used on the same turn as the ambush of a The Queen's Assassin for maximum impact.
- Filthy Accusations to enable a little more control. Avoid a loss, or ensure an challenge.
- Summons and A Noble Cause are flex slots. We don't want variance to kill us economically, or deny us our necessary characters. These are there to address this variance. It might be better to include Building Orders if the consistency issue is getting Lannisport. They could also be replaced with two claim s, or others if variance isn't an issue.
- Confiscation is there in case we can't find our The Hand's Judgment, and get a key character Milk of the Poppyed.
Will this work? Maybe.
Weathering the onslaught. We'll bleed . How much? Will it eat into our beefy characters? We plan on feeding chumps to the challenges. How many are there in the deck?
- 3x Burned Men
- 3x Gold Cloaks
- 3x Lannisport Merchant
- 2x The Queen's Assassin
- 1x The Tickler
- 3x Lannisport Moneylender if in despiration
That's a total of 15 cards (1/4 the cards in the deck).
With an initial draw of 10 (conservatively playing 3 cards initially), we should start with two chumps. We don't need to worry about for two turns due to Calm Over Westeros and A Game of Thrones. So we have four turns of options. During those four turns we draw 8 more cards, which should give us 2 more turns worth of fodder. Our draw-power might net another. After 7 turns, we should have two more, the plots refresh, and we have another couple of turns of -driven respite. So we're back up to 3 more turns of fodder drawn, during which we'll likely draw a couple more...and we're at the next plot refresh.
Conclusions. A stream of cannon fodder should (on average) survive the onslaught. That, while assuming that we 1. never win challenges, 2. we always discard a character, 3. they make a challenge every turn.
challenges. We are quite heavy in characters, who happen to also be heavy in . We don't get the card-draw multipliers for , so we don't want it to eat into our domination. If we either contest the challenge, or win domination every turn, then they are netting 2 /turn. This gives us a 7 turn clock. Renown changes the math, and forces us to win challenges. Early on, however, it is likely reasonable to still focus on , and bleed . Milk of the Poppy and The Things I Do For Love can help with renown as well.
This game is a race. You'll bleed , and likely challenges while ravaging the opponent's hand, filling your own, and building up a significant econ. When they're forced into a top-decking mode, and you have a hand full of options, you can build up to a state that contests their board-state (often helped with Wildfire Assault). Can you slow them down till you have the advantage? Time for control!
The only swap I can think of currently is Littlefinger for Varys. Littlefinger gives us card advantage and money, both important. But I think that the board reset of Varys (in combination with Summons) can be situationally essential to win some games. Just be sure you have your duplicates out!