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|[French Nat 2019] [Top16] The Rage Cook||5||3||3||1.0|
This is a deck that I have been tinkering with for a few months in an attempt to make choke possible. It's done well online and I played it at the side event for Jesse's Name Day and went 3-0. People seemed entertained by it and I probably won't be able to bring it to a tournament anytime soon, so I decided to post it in hopes that other people can enjoy it, improve it, or have tournament success with it.
DECK ORIGINATION AND CONCEPT
The premise of the deck has always been about two core concepts: (1) stealing or denying gold/cards, and (2) stealing characters (which is like stealing gold and cards at the same time!). With that goal in mind, the core of the deck has always been The High Sparrow, "The Rat Cook", Recruiter for the Watch, White Tree, and A Meager Contribution. Rat Cook obviously synergizes well with Dareon because of their cooperative trait synergies to push the choke theme further. In order to push the choke/song synergy to the max, I started out as Banner of the Rose to tap into their various songs and The Blue Bard.
Early testing ran into a few problems. First, the choke package relied too heavily on The High Sparrow, Dareon, and White Tree. If I didn't see at least two of those three cards, the choke was not potent enough. Second, even if my choke was working, they would still eventually get a board. Often I would steal a chud with Recruiter for the Watch, but they just wouldn't do a military challenge, so I had to keep my Recruiter knelt. You can use Marched to the Wall to free up your Recruiter for a fresh recruit, but that combo is a bit sluggish as it leaves your Recruiter unable to trigger his ability on the Marched turn.
Very quickly I added two key cards to the deck to maximize the value of the Recruiters: Maester Aemon (WotW) and our favorite friendly giant, Mag the Mighty. Maester Aemon (WotW) punishes your opponent for not making military challenges while Mag the Mighty makes Recruiters and "The Rat Cook" infinitely more effective. The deck still tended to lose if my opponent had Trade Routes and I didn't have my The High Sparrow, but the addition of Trade Routes to the restricted list has greatly reduced that problem. I eventually moved almost entirely away from the Song theme and Banner Rose, which made The House With the Red Door the best agenda. Banner of the Wolf also has obvious synergies, but that concept has been done before and Ward going on the restricted list made it less appealing. Kings of Winter is also an obvious choke consideration, but it is just too weak and restrictive to be playable.
White Tree and A Meager Contribution - Any choke deck probably starts with these cards. Not only are you denying your opponent a gold or two every turn, but if you are 2nd player you can use that gold in marshalling. This is helpful as it allows us to run many impactful, low gold plots.
The High Sparrow - This is where the real choke happens. With High Sparrow on the board with White Tree, you are limiting your opponent to 6 gold maximum per turn. Add in A Meager Contribution and/or Dareon and the choke becomes oppressive. His card draw limitation can also be very good, especially with the new Gate locations, and he makes Meereen players cry.
Recruiter for the Watch - If your opponent has limited gold, they will likely be forced to play several low cost characters. These low cost characters tend to come from rough backgrounds and/or have no families, which makes them easier to recruit to serve the Night's Watch.
"The Rat Cook" - Similar to the Recruiter, Rat Cook provides additional choke/attrition pressure. Even though the number of stewards in the deck is lower than one might expect from a Rat Cook deck, usually stealing a 2-4 gold character is enough to push your game plan. The "until end of round" limitation isn't a problem when you can combine Rat Cook with Mag or Breaking Ties.
Mag the Mighty - With Recruiter and Rat Cook, the best way to leverage those cards is to kill the character that you stole. These recruiting cards allow you to cut your opponent with both sides of the double-edged sword that is Mag the Mighty. By stealing a character and then winning a military challenge with Mag, you are effectively getting 3 claim military every turn. Most decks won't be able to keep pace with that while you are also choking them out.
Maester Aemon (WotW) - Big Aemon puts your opponents in a tough situation with Recruiter and Rat Cook. If they make a military challenge, you just kill their character. If they don't, Aemon hits them with extra military claim (while you have already stolen their likely claim soak). Even if you can't trigger him on military, more often than not you will be able to use him on either intrigue or power.
Late Summer Feast is the typical opener. You need the high gold to recover from the HRD setup, and if you have The High Sparrow in play, your opponent can only draw at most 1 extra card from the forced reaction.
2x Marched to the Wall helps push the attrition theme. As mentioned above, it's good with recruiters because you can get rid of two of your opponent's characters (especially those pesky Desert Raiders). Your opponent will expect the first Marched, but the second one can often surprise. While you prefer to March the big characters, Marching chuds also gives you more targets for Yoren and Guarding the Realm. I previously had Valar Dohaeris instead of the 2nd Marched, but I think there is enough choke/attrition that you can skip a reset.
Political Disaster is important to maintain the choke when you don't see The High Sparrow. It feels particularly good right now as people are going wider with econ locations via At the Gates. Keep in mind that you get to keep 3 locations thanks to the HRD protection.
Nothing Burns Like The Cold hits non-limited economy and many important cards that can get around our game plan such as Dorne, The Water Gardens, Frozen Solid, Venomous Blade, or saves (it feels really good to hit Iron Mines or Bodyguard on a Valar Morghulis turn). The value of this plot gets even better when combined with Political Disaster. It does somewhat limit our ability to add attachments or locations. Otherwise I might have included cards like Bridge of Skulls, Miner's Pick, or Craven.
Breaking Ties is still a ridiculous plot, and it's stronger now that people aren't expecting it. And you know what's better than sacrificing your own characters? Sacrificing your opponent's characters! Steal a loyal character with "The Rat Cook" or Recruiter for the Watch, then sac them to bounce a big non-loyal character. Then maybe sac the Recruiter as well while he's still knelt. There are many cheap loyal characters with Messenger Raven, Samwell Tarly (Core), and Three-Finger Hobb (if you're desperate). Breaking Ties is great with Yoren because he can often provide both of the loyal characters you need, or you can sac him to allow you to play a second Yoren. Don't forget that you can bounce cards like The Roseroad, Great Hall, or Gates of the Moon to keep the choke pressure on.
I would normally have a tourney report, but I haven't had a chance to take this to a real tournament. As the deck title states, I would consider this deck to be semi-viable at the moment. It's not the most consistent and has a few particularly bad matchups. But, it can absolutely win some games and almost every game I've played with it has been super fun for both me and my opponent (as far as I can tell). I'd be happy to answer any strategy/deckbuilding questions. Otherwise, let me know if you have suggestions or are able to find success with the deck!