Shadows Overload (4-2 at A Feast for Crows II)

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Odrl 77

Hi folks. :)

Since all the other Baratheon decks from A Feast for Crows II have been posted, I thought I would post mine as well, in case it's of interest to anyone. I am not entirely happy with the final list but, apart from a couple of hopeless games, it performed quite well and is reasonably fun.

Basically the idea is to put most of your hand in shadows, then take control of the board once some resets have been played and the gold builds up. It's really mostly about the Lion package. I've tried it in Targaryen with Meereen as the restricted card, which was nice because any excess cards could go into shadows like in Targ Assault. Black Market Merchants were particularly useful to fetch Underhanded Methods, and the Hired Assassins and the Shadowblack Assassins were nice as well. I've also tried this concept in Martell, which is probably the most extreme version if you can get The Shadow City in play, as virtually the entire hand can always go into shadows with the reduced cost. The downside is that Starfall Spy is the only non-unique Martell character with a useful shadows ability, so the rest of the deck mainly revolves around icon removal with Arianne Martell (PoS).

I find these three decks to be roughly equal in strength, but in the end I went with the Bara version mostly because it's the faction I am generally the most comfortable with. The added bonus here is that all three non-unique shadows characters have the power icon, and they all have quite a useful ability. Red Keep Gaoler can come in for free most of the time, with no real downside if you have Stormlands Fiefdom in play. Shadow Priestess is great on small boards, especially in combination with Black Cells. And Castle Guard is just amazing late game to recycle some of your other tricks, and also usable on your opponent's characters if you are facing other shadows decks. I've also made a late decision to go with 3x Shireen instead of the usual single copy, as power icons were a little lacking and she is great with The Red Keep (Core). The Lion package of course mainly revolves around multiple uses of Ser Robert Strong and Ser Mandon Moore, who are both great after resets and on small boards in general. I thought Catspaw would be equally useful, but I actually never did anything with it in any of my games, so that was a little disappointing. Penny, on the other hand, was always useful. The Hound (TtB) is the only non-shadow character here, again mostly because I needed more power icons, and ambush works just as well as shadows basically. The neutrals are also quite obvious. Varys' cost is usually greatly reduced, so he deals quite nicely with renown and with characters that gain power through other means. Old Bill Bone is a no-brainer, and the Nefarious Acolyte is here for the icon and to deal with Barring, so it's the one character you might want to leave in hand if you suspect Barring is coming.

Now let's have a quick look at the non-character cards. Underhanded Methods is superb to win challenges when you really need to, since it's usually a 5+ boost in this deck and it comes in for free as a surprise. Alchemists' Guildhall is ridiculous as well, repeatable cancel that comes straight back after it's used and single-handedly ruins certain strategies. Hardly seems fair. :) And the third major Lanni card here is of course Clever Feint, which complements TIBWHID and lets you re-use some of the obnoxious reactions to cards coming out of shadows. Baratheon adds Black Cells to the mix, a great control card that lets you dominate the challenge phase once your resources build up. I've also gone for the Throne and Chamber package here, partly for stall, and partly because there is no other way to gain power in this deck apart from unopposed and power claim. Finally, Shadow of the Throne turned out to be a key card for me in this event, heavily contributing to three of my four wins. I actually considered only including a single copy after it proved underwhelming in (admittedly very limited) testing, but it did a great job on the day. Obviously you want it to return to hand every time, so you can use it in the standing phase on at least four of the seven plots (usually the opponent will contribute a Kingdom or two of their own), and in the plot or draw phase when you reveal Trade Routes. That allows you to kneel some obnoxious locations before they could trigger, and usually you can target some economy at the same time. Oh, and I forgot The Red Keep (Core) as well... Not super needed I guess, but the extra draw and the synergy with Shireen can be nice.

That just leaves the economy, which is pretty standard apart from The Iron Bank. I like that card more and more for some reason. Sure, it's unreliable and it sucks when it gets removed from play, but it's also a great counter to Political Disaster, as you can sacrifice the rest of the economy and still be fine. I usually play Trade Routes three times in a row from Round 6 to Round 8, so I use The Iron Bank gold quite generously on other plots, mainly to put cards in shadows without using up any of the "real gold" that I need in challenges. Speaking of plots, we have At the Gates here as the opener, fetching Gates of the Moon if possible. Since it's usually impossible to put anything into play that would survive military claim, I just eat the three unopposed challenges in the early game. Building Orders often comes next, with several possible targets to choose from. It could also be Uneasy Truce, depending on whether opponent's power is already reaching critical levels. I think I went something like 10-0 down after three rounds in every single game I played, so that could have easily been 15-0 without Uneasy Truce. And then we just have the two resets and the two Trade Routes that actually allow us to get back into the game. To be honest, Valar Dohaeris wasn't really that great on the day, so perhaps First Snow should be considered here instead.

I've forgotten some of the details by now, but here's a short summary of my games:

Round 1 vs Knights of the Hollow Hill

This game was streamed by my opponent if you wish to see it. Basically this was a very favourable matchup for me, because having my characters stolen doesn't really hurt me that much. There is no renown and they can't trigger their reactions to coming out of shadows, so it's mostly just bodies without any useful text. I played with no characters in the first half of the game, stalling a bit with Throne and Chamber, and Uneasy Truce. I only did what was needed to protect The Red Keep after I got it in play. The game turned around in Round 6 when my opponent had to play Valar Morghulis. I kept playing Shadow of the Throne on Queenscrown and his lone Underground Vault in the standing phase, so he was never able to establish a big board after that. That allowed me to control the challenges phase with Black Cells and shadows tricks, so I was able to win with unopposed challenges and Chamber. Castle Guard was nice in this matchup as well, as I was able to use it on my opponent's Janos Slynt (TSC) to keep him in shadows.

Round 2 vs Kings of Winter

This game was partially streamed as well. My opponent's deck had a lot of shadows itself, with Meera Reed, Skagos and Tower of the Hand (BtRK), but I was able to stall again to prevent a quick victory. It turned around when Bolton Flayer killed Meera, followed by my opponent's Valar Morghulis to empty the board. Once again I had Shadow of the Throne, so Skagos was knelt for most of the game, along with some economy. Black Cells then made sure I kept winning unopposed challenges and dominance for the rest of the game. My opponent did play No Surprises twice, but it wasn't enough, especially since I learnt my lesson after the first one and made sure to bring something out of shadows in marshalling next time.

Round 3 vs Valyrian Steel

I'm not 100% sure, but I think Expose Duplicity was played early on in this game, and that just killed any chance I might have had. I'm pretty sure I would have lost anyway, because controlling a wide board with multiple Haunted Forests that just rebuilds itself after Valar is virtually impossible. This time The Wall and unopposed challenges just ended in a quick 15-0 win for my opponent.

Round 4 vs "The Rains of Castamere"

Another quick defeat. I knew Expose Duplicity was coming the first time my opponent was allowed to trigger the agenda, and I think that happened in the very first round. I tried my best to recover, but Maester Murenmure was there to stop Black Cells, which allowed Asha Greyjoy to get multiple challenges through for a couple of rounds. Once that happens, no resets can save you, because Asha obviously stocks up on Risens and Drowned God Fanatics, which is what I assume my opponent did. A duped Victarion joined Asha after Valar D, so the game was over shortly after.

Round 5 vs The Wars To Come

I was thinking this was a Doran's Game deck, but 2x Winter Festival and 2x Heads on Spikes reminded me that I'd seen this deck before. :) Dorne didn't really bother me since I had no characters to do challenges with early on, but The Iron Throne on my opponent's side was an unwelcome sight. Luckily there was no Expose Duplicity, so the game started to turn around after I got the big gold from Trade Routes. I just concentrated on winning all the power challenges and dominance, although things didn't go quickly as my opponent kept playing stuff like Vengeance for Elia, Burning on the Sand and He Calls It Thinking (on the Chamber). This game eventually went to time (I think my opponent revealed nine plots), with me 1 or 2 power in front. I think I would have lost if my opponent had been able to trigger The Boneway, but Shadow of the Throne came to the rescue again, keeping it knelt all game. :)

Round 6 vs The Prince that was Promised

I had a duped Iron Bank and Black Cells in play right from the start, so I felt pretty optimistic about my chances. I actually played this one a little more actively in the first few rounds, trying to stop the agenda trigger to find Balon. Eventually I had to allow it, but resets kept the board small, so I was able to control the game in the second half and come back with unopposed challenges and dominance, as usual. Underhanded Methods was the key card in this game, as I was able to oppose Balon and get past the Raiding Longship at the same time, which meant I never lost a challenge that mattered.

Unfortunately four wins weren't enough for me to make the cut, but it was a very enjoyable evening nonetheless. Having mostly played Baratheon decks in the past, it felt nice to have a good matchup against Stark for a change, and I felt pretty optimistic in case I had to play Targ as well. On the other hand, the usually favourable builders matchup was hopeless here, which was kind of a new experience for me. :) I must say I've enjoyed this recent rise of online events, and this was probably the most fun one so far. The field was delightfully diverse and there were some very interesting decks at the top. Nice to see the return of Tyrell, and some more diversity in Stark now that Skagos is back. If only we could see something similar with Greyjoy and Night's watch. :)

In conclusion, I would say that concentrating so extremely on shadows wasn't really needed. I went 10-0 down in every game, then either lost quickly, or had way more resources than was needed to make the comeback. Perhaps another high gold plot for the early game and a few more impactful characters that don't rely on shadows would be the way to go. Easy to see why Assault from the Shadows works so well in Baratheon. :) I can't think of a way to make Expose Duplicity less of a hit though, it's just so tough to overcome...

Thanks for reading. I might play this again some time, so any suggestions are very welcome. :)

6 comentarios

Derry 40

It's again so great to see Black Cells decks perform so good competitively, congrats on your run! Looking at your list, I wonder how do you feel about the amount of disruptive cards you run. It looks like you are a bit unprotected from events (maybe some copies of privileged position) and from location attachments (you rely exclusively on Clever Feint if your Black Cells gets "milked". I also miss 1x Pinch of powder, I think aligns perfectly with the deck plan (shadows+power challenge) and is a very cheap card that will most likely be playable each turn.

I love the kingdom plot pack + shadow of the throne, the guard tricks and the Iron Bank tech against PD.

Finally, I think it's a fairly complex deck and a bit risky to play in a tournament where time can be an issue. What are your thoughts on including The Starry Sept?

Congrats again!

Derry 40

Oh and clever feint wouldn't work if BC gets milked btw, my bad! More reason to protect them :D

hagarrr 579

I do enjoy your decks Miha, congrats on the 4-2!

Odrl 77

Thank you. :)

Yes, there is currently no way to get rid of location attachments, apart from the opponent's Political Disaster or Nothing Burns. It's not so bad to lose Black Cells though, it's just one piece of the puzzle once the comeback starts. I guess Imry could be an option, to just sacrifice any location that gets locked.

My worry with Pinch was that it would be difficult to win challenges by 5, as The Hound is the only character that can do that by himself. You would need two characters or Underhanded Methods in most cases. The Starry Sept wouldn't be that great in terms of power gained, but of course the synergy with Varys is great, to kill anything big that doesn't gain power by itself. I actually considered Storm's End for that same purpose. :)

I definitely think dropping some of the shadows stuff in favour of some efficient goodstuff cards is the way to go, just to compete more in the early game and not be so weak to Expose Duplicity. Concentrating on the power challenge like Hanno's Bara Assault does seems like a pretty good option, and both Pinch and Starry Sept go very nicely with that.

As for the time concerns, I can't say how it would go in a live tournament, but online my games all seemed to go pretty fast. The early rounds pass quickly when you don't have a board, and the later rounds are the same once the opponent runs out of options. The only games that are slow are the ones where the plan doesn't work, but you are losing those anyway. :)

Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. :)

SonOfBattles1 248

Nice deck Miha, I've been trying to find a way to incorporate banner Lion into a viable Bara Shadows deck for a while - Did you find yourself hurting for Privileged Position? I've always gone back and forth between running Shadow of the Throne and a cancel event in my shadow decks.

Odrl 77

Thanks. :) I think Privileged Position is never a bad card and generally improves any deck. Shadow of the Throne worked out great on the day as repeatable location control, but I can easily imagine a scenario where Privileged Position would have been better. I certainly could have used it against No Surprises.

If you want to include a couple of copies, I think one Clever Feint or TIBWHID could go, and perhaps one copy of Catspaw as there rarely seems to be a chance to use it effectively. It can be tricky to defend the power challenge in the early game though, and the cards you can't put into shadows are very susceptible to intrigue claim, because your hand size is always pretty small.