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I publish the list I have played with during the last months in competitive TIT games. I wanted to have my name published with Kingdom of Shadows since I played with it since the beginning and participated in the two others important lists. So I publish the list when all the cards are finally available (Tyrion Chapter 5) and I am satisfied with the completeness of the deck.
You have the dissertation bellow for explanations of most of the thematic. I have written the explanations over several months and several versions. It would explain any incoherence or non-completeness.
---------------------------------- Work behind the publication -------------------------------------
I started playing Tyrell-Lion months ago (Cyrano's decklist) and then Martell-Lion recently (Gabryel's decklist), so I had a good experience with Shadow and was only waiting for the "City of Shadow" agenda. It was heavily suggested by reading at abilities of the cards and seeing the economic premium of Shadow cards that an agenda allowing to group them together and reducing the economic cost would be released. (I was playing on TIT with a proxy of Kingdom of Shadows roughly equal in terms of powerlevel at the end of October 2018... I just removed any economic bonuses to allow me playing enough Loyal Shadow cards to have a full Shadow deck).
I publish it because I want to encourage the sharing of decklists (at least "standard" decklists since this agenda will be a classic) and the compliance with minimal standard of publications in terms of explanations.
------------------------------------------- Where does it stand ? --------------------------------------
It depends on mainly two factors : 1°) GJ et Stark being hitten by the Restricted List 2°) How much other players metagame Shadow
This is definitively possible to beat Greyjoy and Stark sometimes. With Greyjoy, the main problem is The Lord of the Crossing, who is giving the additional powerush making the ultimate difference between an open match-up and a loss. Asha Greyjoy (Km) + Maiden's Bane and Grey Ghost are problematic cards.
Against competitive Stark decks, there is not much to hope. A normal start from Stark-LotC (Paris winner) is overwhelming. They are simply too strong overall. I t's not only No Surprises that is the problem. It's the addition of many elements on which No Surprises is a big cherry on the cake. Restricting Skagos would be a good start.
The problem of Shadow metagame is their radicality. You are completely prevented from playing with them, and you cannot counter them efficiently. If you can counter them. Without Exposed Duplicity, the success of Shadow inside a tournament would depend on the willingness of players to metagame it, making it an underdog strategy that size opportunity windows in favorable metagame. With Exposed Duplicity, it takes one slot to secure a matchup and make some marginal gains in non-Shadow ones. So I am not going to be particularly optimist until FFG release a Tywin saying "Leave Shadow, and any counter is cancelled".
----------------------------------------Part 1 : Heavy Economy----------------------------------------
Shadow needs economy, so I filled with economy. Limite economy, Non-Limited economy, Double Limited economy opener. As many economy as you can, as fast as possible, in order to potentially make Valar Morghulis as soon as possible.
But there is more than that, since metagaming Political Disaster is mandatory. So far, it is automatic to think about PD against Knights of the Hollow Hill, Tyrell-Arbor-Straight or Wars to Come builds.
Bowels of Casterly Rock is not as strong as it looks like on paper. You will trigger it generally once per turn, in challenge phase. You will trigger it in marshalling if you have a sudden urge to spread on table. You will trigger it sometimes on Trade Routes turns to refill a bit your hand, and you will sometimes use excess economy in Dominance to draw. He provides the first technique to counter PD : duping locations. Usually, you keep it in hand in PD-matchup or when there is a risk of location discard (We Do Not Sow + We Take Westeros!).
Gates of the Moon and The Goldroad provides the second technique to counter PD : Having +2 economic producers. GotM is the great economic stabilizer of the deck, and for this reason make the At the Gates strictly superior to Fallen from Favor, which is a short-term accelerator. It is possibly the best card of the deck, since it allows the deckbuild to exist at competitive level. Goldroad can express itself in this ValarM & Challenge phase build. One important technique to learn is to keep one in hand during PD-situations (5 locations on table).
Lion Gate provides the same draw than You Win Or You Die (which put things in perspective) and the third technique to counter PD : Replacing the card when PD-situation occurs (5 locations on table = Discard it if the opponent is suspected to play PD).
Gold Mine is necessary because the possibility to ValarM T2 is important in this deck, so you need non-Limited locations. Additionally, GM is a draw-motor in this deck : You need one copy of a character to put in Shadow, you have a lot of economic location, you can have dead cards such as Pinch in NW-matchup and PC in Shadow-matchup. GM allows to recycle your non-useful cards.
Trade Routes provides the necessary amount of money to make the mechanic work. The second copy is rarely a marginal improvement. You really need that extra economy to make the mechanic work.
--------------------------------- Part 2 : Anti-Anti-Shadow Cards ------------------------------------
I will start to explain cards that counter the counters, because they are the more interesting points for the reader.
Forgotten Plans is your only solution for King in the North. It's more or less forced to play it as soon as the opponent is on a King-situation (except if you Valar M), but even if your opponent outwit you, you have won one turn. It can be huge in Shadow.
Nefarious Acolyte is the way out of Barring the Gates. The point is to NOT play it in Shadow (you will often not have the economy to play all your cards in Shadow anyway) if you are expecting your opponent to play Barring. You keep it in hand, pay 4 golds in Marshalling and trigger it in Challenge phase. His interest is securing a TR turn against BtG.
Concerning anti-challenge release Supporting the Faith and No Surprises : The first one is not a credible anti-Shadow because with the agenda, Goldroad, Bowels, Starfall Spy + UM, Lannister can still play normally. This is a problem for Martell and for Tyrell.
The second one is a problem, clearly. But this is far from being a desperate problem : Maybe the Stark player will play it to secure a Challenge phase where you did not plan to do much anyway. Maybe he will want to wait, and you will force him to play it by threatening with Cersei. If you are on a Trade Routes turn, you can release your cards before Challenge phase and refill your hand in security. Additionally, playing with Meilhen (Paris winning deck) revealed that he has a huge weakness to Marauders since his discard pile rapidly contain a 1-gold card. You can play around No Surprises, but it is still a problematic card.
Since Shadow will likely be strong, it becomes necessary to play Shadow cards that are anti-shadow in order to have the edge in the mirror at best, and be on equal terms at worst. Because Shadow cards anti-Shadow provide a huge tempo win for the price they cost when they hit. And remember : You can know where a card is in Shadow because rules obligate him to reveal the placement of a card that was brought back to Shadow, or because he did not properly took the time to place his Shadow cards at random when marshaling them and you can take behavioral bets.
Hired Assassin is the one I took because it's a Shadow-2 character, so I can bring it out in whatever action window with the agenda and it will always be useful due to the Mil-Int icon spread ideal for this absorb claim characters. I can cycle it with Tyrion. The kill effect is marginally important, but it remains a negation to FB bringing back the character and can definitely deal with an important character.
Shadow Politic is a largely overlooked card, because the panel of situationally interesting effects does not seem enough to allow the card to make the cut. This is exactly what happens in practice, yet the card had merits : #1 It always hit Shadow cards and #2 it's often a contrariety for opponent's gameplan at cheap cost. Moreover, Shadow decks lack location control and this card allows to deal with Flea Bottom, which could potentially be important in Tyrell shadow matchup because Arbor-Straight-QoT can do the economy on their own, giving the edge over the matchup. (This is also an important reason on why Shadow decks need anti-Shadow cards).
---------------------------------------- Part 3 : Flexible Cards -------------------------------------------
Close Call is a choice by default against Return to the Fields and You Win Or You Die. I ultimately choose him because none of the two previous plots succeed in being indeniably decisive, while Close Call is more stable and important for mirrors.
Nighttime Marauders are here to search for Risen from the Sea and No Surprises. Also useful in the mirror to counter a The Iron Bank Will Have Its Due or Clever Feint. With The First Snow of Winter you cover the deck weakness : swarming cheap cost characters. Remember you can Trade Routes the following turn to perform Marauders in plot phase. It is the radical counter to Drowned God and Builders. Or this annoying Desert Raider.
Clever Feint is often considered as "the argument for Lannister Shadow". To me, it is a flexible card. The two solid reasons to play it are that 1°) You want recursion without condition in Shadow (not like Castle Guard). 2°) A lot of the efficiency of the deck is triggering again the enter play effect (of the unique characters). And #2 reason means that you have a draw motor in a deck that lack it. The hole point is to have more recursion of the Assassin for mirrors, more recursion for Mandon and deal better with resets (from you or from the other).
The anti-synergy with TIBWID is not important empirically. You do not want to play them in the same challenge phase, and you can play them in the same turn with TIBWID in Challenge and CF in Standing.
Bolton Flayer is your way out of Night's Watch (Messenger Raven, Three-Finger Hobb and Maester Aemon (Core)) and it can helps a lot against Stark (Arya Stark (Core), Bran Stark (Core),Rickon Stark and others 2-3 cost cards such as Summer (Core)). He is also basically useful by removing the need to do a military, allowing to focus on attrition with Intrigue and Power challenge. He also deals well with duped characters.
Old Bill Bone provides occasional drastic utility versus SoB or mirrors, and more regular utilities than a copy of Castle Guard. He is a metacall, and can be easily played in x2 and x3 if the metagame requires it.
Poisoned Coin is a targeted removal with minimal condition and playable on Barring the Gates. Note also the synergy with Cersei.
----------------------------------------- Part 4 : Key Cards ----------------------------------------------
Underhanded Methods is the best card of the deck. Jumping +5/+6 STR on any challenge is gold. His basic utility is to secure the use of Starfall Spy (mainly) (and Pinch of Powder if you play it), but it can also be used for a fast and drastic hand reduction with Cersei.
Starfall Spy is an economic gain and an additional challenge won if you only need him, a neutral economic gain and an additional challenge won if you UM. If you are unsure of triggering it because of Nightmares, you still can directly play the card you really need... It's about learning to identify those situations, and anyway playing Nightmares is very seldom nowadays.
Ser Mandon Moore is good when you recycle him extensively. I do that here. He is especially important because if your goal is to play the Shadow strategy, you will be much better off with hand reduction in order to prevent your opponent benefitting from a reset. So you need a critical number of 9 cards to do so. The point of Mandon is that he can put pressure on the table when you finished to empty the hand with Cersei, and if your opponent choose to prevent hand discard by using a claim soaker he puts his table at risk.
Valar Morghulis finally find a deck with enough economy to be reliable. Moreover, the Shadow thematic is just perfect to support this plot. You need it over others reset because you need a reset that will maximally reduce opponent's table and potentially solve some problems definitely.
Tyrion Lannister (TB) is the needed return to shadow for important characters. You prefer returning one card from your table to shadow, and not all of them like with Clever Feint. Additionally, he provides a draw engine that is very much needed. Since when you play him, you are likely to draw economy location. Like all decks benefitting from one location, Frozen Solid on Bowels is problematic. Tyrion brings Bowels back to Shadow to solve the issue, and more generally is your attachment control.
Cersei Lannister (DitD) is needed because nowadays, this is pretty easy to counter or prepare a reset by keeping cards in hand. Drastic hand reduction is necessary for this type of ValarM-deck to function. She is also needed because you will need to expand on table at some point, and you will have to prevent your opponent to refill his hand for a reset that will benefit him.
Varys is clearly the best of the two at competitive level where you need to deal with the major character of opponent's strategy (It also explains why Asha Greyjoy (Km) is one of the major problem of the deck). Remember that if the opponent does not size Renown because he is afraid of Varys, it means that your Varys is unuseful... but he is still allowed you to gain time ! So it is a win-win situation, especially if you do not have Varys at all. This sort of psychological manipulation is only possible if you play 3 copies of it and you are assumed to most likely have it. Note his synergy with Tyrion, by the way.
Robert Strong faded now that others expensive cards rose in Lannister Shadow. He is not at 100% of his potential because there are no Claim 2 in this deck. But he remains an instant Claim 2, with one of them being chosen. I would argue he is a factor in allowing Forgotten Plans to be played instead of Marched.
---------------------------------------- Part 5 : Support Cards ------------------------------------
The Iron Bank Will Have Its Due is strictly superior to Clever Feint because it allows to deal with a Poppy/Meera on Tyrion (or any character). Moreover, CF is good when you want to expand-reset-expand-reset. It does not allow to push the rhythm of the game on one turn like TIBWID. Nevertheless, I would like to have Clever Feint. It's a good card with utilities. I just do not have the space.
Tunnels of the Red Keep is excellent, but he is really economically worthy with Bowels, since he is a locker once you have stabilized your board presence and not a condition for creating your victory. It is entirely possible to remove it for more metacall (OBB, Castle Guard), cut UM to put it x3, or play both options with more copies of Tunnels. I would be curious to know what is the best option in general.
----------------------Not in the Cut (But I would not mind playing them) ---------------------
The Knight of Flowers (AtG) is not a needed card by himself. The time constraint of the game and the mirror match against a deck who would have him make him a necessity. You must not claim Renown in a mirror, just put Underhanded Methods on him and lock the table. Not playing him means that you will be very slow in powergrabbing once you reverted the game. You will (frequently) expose yourself to a loss in time limit. Especially because on the panel of the population of players, there will be slow players, there will be players that will be slowed by the pressure of a competition game and the fear of making a mistake against a Shadow deck , and players who will slowplay voluntarily (hélas). KoF is really good. It's a Randyll Tarly with the massive boost of STR of Underhanded Methods. He will hold the table, but you will often be worried by the need of a dupe and the fear of drawing dead if he fall in dead pile. I chose not to play him because I believe i can be fast enough in real life conditions to regularly win under 50 minutes.
The Regent's Guard is cycling without temporality condition and "Shadow 0" character. The main point is having the 10th and 11th recycling cards, but having a "Shadow 0" character in a deck mainly made of Shadow 3 and more is beneficial. It will become more interesting in a metagame with a number of Exposed Duplicity.
Castle Guard main argument is the Power icon. This is what you are looking for and he is the only card with this icon who has utility. Then you realize that he provides the 10th and 11th recursion you appreciate and additional Shadow counters since you can use him against opponent's cards in mirrors. And you have this additional bonus for self-recursing Assassins in this type of matchup.
Marched to the Wall is normally in this type of decklist, but after playing it extensively I realized that it was rarely useful sine the deck is usually aggro enough to not need more of it in the plotline. If I have a 7th plot unuseful 80% of the time, it is better to have a counter to the radical counters with FP.
Return to the Fields is probably surprising because I don't intend to rush or heavily agro there. But :
- I search high initiative plots to play second
- I want draw in the plotline
- Economy in the plotline is fine too
- It's hard to dupe cards in Shadow decks, so I want a save from reset.
- The "enter play" effect is the important of my card, so I want to recycle them. And this plot provides a bit of everything I am looking for. Since I do not have the place for Clever Feint (cf.TIBWHID), it secures his place here.
You Win Or You Die faces the problem of Reserve 0 outside of Martell, in addition to the problematic tendency of Underhanded Methods to go back to hand on a Starfall Spy.
A Pinch of Powder is a card that is normally considered as a x2 because you must pay it again each time you trigger it. Additionally, passing with a 5-STR difference is difficult without Underhanded Method. And sometimes, you will put UM on Starfall Spy, so you will have to repay both cards. Nevertheless, three copies are needed because Begging Brother can park the bus behind you. Bodyguard in Trading With Qohor in also a pace-stopper. Cersei helps stabilizing the efficiency of the card, which is useful in the swarm matchup. Penny and Hagen's Daughter are nothing else than good statistics. They don't provide something deeper.
Shadow Priestess is an almost universal kneel for 3-gold with Int-Pow biconicity. It's simply strong. However, the Shadow 3 cost, the large number of stand effects and the No attachment condition make it less useful than you would believe. It's almost a flexible cards. But I like to have characters in my decks, so they stay. I will probably be keen on replacing them with slightly superior cards in future releases.
Valar Dohaeris is only metagame reasons. It can slows Greyjoy and the swarm of the Stark. It also helps me saving my characters from a ValarM or trigger their enter play effect again if I have a second copy in Shadow. It is a "support" reset. It does not much by himself.
----------------------------------- What are the counters ? ----------------------------------------
Exposed Duplicity is impossible to counter. When he will be there and becomes the dominant Shadow counter (thus minimizing the use of the others anti-Shadow plot), it will probably not be necessary anymore to play Forgotten Plans and Nefarious Acolyte.
Barring the Gates prevent you from doing 90% of what your deck want to do... But you can counter it ! If you TR on this turn and obtain a lot of economy, you can normally marshall characters. You can also counter it by dedicating this turn to putting cards into Shadows with TR... or Valar Morghulis (you clean the board and use the remaining economy to put cards in Shadows). Barring will not harm you if it was not your intend to play cards from Shadows on that turn...
The King in the North is the second very problematic counter. But you still can neutralize it with Forgotten Plans and potentially Valar Morghulis (the goal of these turns is to refill your Shadow zone). Even on a Trade Routes turn, you can still bring your cards out-of-shadow, so the plot will not radically prevent you to play. He will be a (too)(large) setback.
No Surprises is a problem because it does not take much skill for the opponent to identify a situation where he is beneficiary in playing it. The thing is : Trade Routes with golds at the hand of marshaling phase is the only moment when the Stark player can really benefit from it. So the natural counter is to release cards out-of-shadow before and draw with Bowels to refill your hand. Note that you can also force the play of NS with Cersei, but you will likely lose her in the process. Anyway, if you play properly around it, this event cannot harm you radically. He still can harm you.
Outwit is a radical counter because it stops both ValarM and TRoutes. The good point is that it requires to play a Maester module that not a lot of strategy can afford. I need to play more against those strategies, but it is a priori counterable by playing FSoW before the Outwit turn, or on the Outwit turn.
Among strategies, Economy-breaking, Tyrell Shadow with FB and Stark resilience are problems.
Other counters that you can play around have been named before... but let's list them again :
Begging Brother can park the bus, so it could justify Pinch if the deck did not have Valar M + FSoW. Bodyguard can be a problematic setback, so it could justify Pinch. Dupes are a problem, so you need Poisoned Coin. Barring the Gates requires to keep Nefarious Acolyte in hand. Political Disaster requires to keep Bowels in hand until the dupe, marshal one Goldroad and keep one in hand. Flea Bottom is out of your reach, but with Robert and Bolton Flayer you can act on the characters. In general, locations are a problem. But among them, only Maiden's Bane is dangerous, Winterfell (if properly used) is a setback and Hollow Hill get around your cards. I managed to play around the rest of them (even Astapor Bestow 4...). Supporting the Faith can largely be played around with the agenda + Goldroad + Starfall Spy... It's a (much) weaker version of King in the North. It is quite problematic if it hits a Trade Routes extensive turn...
--------------------------------------------------- Matchup ---------------------------------------------------
Shadow - It's for a good part about obtaining the Assassin, but not necessarily playing it first. Playing the Assassin without informations mean that you will have variance, while waiting allows to hit the Starfall Spy or any card that came back into Shadow (because of Tyrion, Olenna...). Otherwise, Martell and Tyrell can got you because of Flea Bottom.
GJ Drowned God - FSoW + Marauders. It can also be a good idea to go full Bolton Flayer, Military challenges and kill effect since DG typically hate having his characters killed above a certain threshold.
GJ classic, not LotC - It's definitely possible, you must find a way to hit their Risen with Cersei or Marauders. UM deals very well with their Scouting Vessel, but not their Grey Ghost.
Stark not LotC - It's also definitely possible. Bolton Flayer makes marvel. But they are generally too resilient. Wyman and Summer + Skaagos are drastic counters to what you aim to do.
Targaryen - The hole point is to make them draw deck by putting their unique characters in dead pile. It's just about parking the bus and removing their characters one by one since they have troubles with powergrab.
Baratheon - IT + Painted Table hurt when you cannot counter hit with Robert Strong or Underhanded Methods. Any mechanic efficiently vacuuming power too. Red Keep is hard to counter without much Power icons. But generally they are too weak to be a real threat and their table ends up cleaned. It happened that I pass this matchup by obligating them to draw their deck, since their cards are inefficients.
Night's Watch - Bolton Flayer. The magical solution to Messenger Raven, Hobb, Aemon or Builders deck.
Tyrell - Nobody plays Tyrell anymore, except people who metagame. But Varys with Tyrion would make the job if it happens, in addition to Valar Morghulis. And Macroeconomically speaking, people who pay 5/6/7 golds the cards they need to win are on unfavorable ground when you pay 2/3/4 golds to remove them from the game. If The Hightower was unrestricted, I would start considering Cersei more of a winning condition in the matchup.