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|The Rains of Summerhall||2||2||0||1.0|
Hi folks. :)
I'd like to talk about a fun little deck I've been playing a lot recently. It was undefeated in a small tournament celebrating the release of the For the Realm expansion, so I decided to play a slightly updated version in the Canadian Nationals, and I just missed out on the cut. I didn't have much time to put a deck together for the Italian Nationals, so I decided to play this one again, and this time things worked out absolutely perfectly for me. It was the first tournament of any note I've ever won, so I think it's fitting that I talk a little bit about how the deck works and how it's come about.
Summerhall and White Ravens
- Basically, the idea of trying to rush with White Ravens and Winter Festival has existed for a long time. These cards came out early in the 2nd cycle, which would be somewhere around the summer of 2016, if I'm not mistaken. It's a very quick and cheap way of gaining power. The idea never worked in the past though, because the reality was that you were not always able to defend every challenge and then win dominance as well, and potentially having multiple small characters sacrificed at the same time was too high a price.
- With Summerhall, it's a lot more difficult for the opponent to get those Ravens off the board. It's my favourite card of the new pack for sure, bringing back some old and forgotten cards for . I actually played decks built around Summerhall in both open playtesting tournaments for the pack. The one focusing on Kings and Long May He Reign didn't really work, but this one focusing on the Ravens looked quite promising. Things were made a little more difficult with the added condition that Summerhall now needs to be standing, and also the final definition of the assault keyword has changed a little bit since. It gives the opponent a little more counterplay to overcome Summerhall, but I think that's fair enough, because absolute safety would not be fun for anyone.
- There are basically two main concepts within this deck. One is the quick power gain in the dominance phase, and the other is a more traditional Bara Kneel package that supports that plan, or serves as a plan B when things don't go well early on. Dominance has often been used to complement Bara kneel, but until now it's mostly been used as a stall effect, with Chamber of the Painted Table keeping the opponent from getting to 15 power, along with cards like Vanguard Lancer. In this deck, it's more about dominance rush than "dominance stall".
- The absence of Devan Seaworth is immediately obvious here, and the reason is precisely that he can be a little too slow. He doesn't have any of the Traits you are looking for, and he really costs you 4 to get any use out of him. I'm quite happy to make that investment in other decks for long-term gain, but here I eventually dropped him after testing. He was actually the 61st card though, so it was a close call. :)
- White Raven is one fairly easy source of power, R'hllor Infiltrator is another. Of course the difference is that the Infiltrator is best used when you are actually within reach of victory, or whenever you are facing an imminent reset, otherwise you are giving away board presence in order to gain power.
- The other character that can also gain power is Gendry. He is among the more expensive characters in this deck, so I'm not usually looking to play him early on, but he is a nice backup target to find with Delena Florent.
- Apart from Chamber, there is also Storm's End to speed things up, a nice cheap location that you don't need to go out of your way to protect.
- Unfortunately, winning dominance is not optional in this deck, because things kind of fall apart when you can't do it consistently. I think three copies of The Iron Throne are therefore non-negotiable.
- I've had a few games in testing where my army of chuds was struggling to win dominance against the bigger bodies on my opponent's side, so I've added an additional two copies of Delena, mainly to give myself a better chance of finding Edric Storm. He can help you win dominance in games where you don't find the Throne, or in games where your opponent also has the Throne and is actively fighting you for dominance.
- Traitor to the Crown does the same thing, with the added bonus of helping you successfully defend challenges whenever you don't find Summerhall (or when your opponent has a way of controlling it), but this is not something you want to rely too heavily on.
- The other part of the deck is of course controlling the board, mostly with the help of kneel effects. This supports the general plan of going fast, by helping you win dominance and by opening up more opportunities to gain power with unopposed challenges and claim.
- Ser Imry Florent is particularly good at closing out games, since he virtually guarantees 5 power in a single round if you have enough locations and your opponent has no stand effects. With Winter Festival and some cards that can gain additional power in dominance, you can sometimes go from 7 or even less to 15 with Imry.
- Then we have the core Melisandre with her R'hllor package. It's slightly different to my usual set of R'hllor characters, because the three Infiltrators take up some of the deck space where I usually have cards like Anguy and Acolyte of the Flame.
- In the 3-cost spot, Red Priest is an obvious choice, but I've replaced the usual kneel characters like Asshai Priestess or Shadow Priestess with Fiery Followers on this occasion. Even though the card has been kind of pushed out of most decks by Red Priest, I brought it back here because winning dominance is that much more important. And of course they work so well The Withering Cold and Robert Baratheon.
- Speaking of Robert, it didn't take me too long to decide which version to use here. While it's true that anything with the word fast in its nickname is bound to fit well in what is essentially a rush deck, the potential to gain any huge amount of power is somewhat limited by not having any stand effects. That's why I think the "chef" version of Robert fits much better here. He takes care of any huge swarm of characters on the opponent's side, or he can control a smaller number of big characters your opponent is relying on. Generally, if the challenges phase "fizzles" because almost nothing is standing, it will benefit you much more than it will your opponent, so I am usually quite happy to trade my small characters for my opponent's by initiating as many challenges as possible and either gaining unopposed power, or kneeling additional characters in the process. Apart from Summerhall, I think Robert was probably the most impactful card in this deck throughout my recent tournament run.
- And of course no kneel package is complete without Queen Selyse. I actually started with a single copy of her in the deck, but I found that she was desperately needed whenever the deck needed to revert to plan B and play the longer game. She works fantastically well with The Withering Cold, she can invalidate entire rounds to help you with your dominance power gain, and you have a couple of ways of getting her off the board and replaying her when needed.
- Heir to the Iron Throne is an important plot here, because it can help you protect against a reset, or it can help you trade a weak character for a stronger one. The 1 initiative beats Morghulis in most situations, so you can protect yourself by going first and trying to find a duplicate for the character you are hoping to protect. Alternatively, you might find Alester Florent or Shireen Baratheon and get a kneel out of it, while your key character survives to be marshalled again in a future round. The other good use of the plot is to trade Selyse after you've marshalled her. Trading her for Robert after The Withering Cold turn can be particularly damaging. Additional copies of Delena also have the added benefit of helping with this sequence, as well as "surviving" the mass kneel of Selyse, along with Shireen.
- Set Down Our Deeds is another one of my favourite cards that were released this year. There are some decks where I am quite happy to sacrifice 3 power in order to draw 6 cards. This isn't necessarily the case here. Since you are trying to win early, throwing power away is something to be considered very carefully. Nevertheless, it's often quite an easy call, and it can be game-saving when you've run out of cards to keep the pressure on. I mostly go for 4 cards in this deck though. Who knows, sometimes you might even draw the cards that will gain you more power than you've thrown away. Remember though, this event kneels your faction card, so you need to juggle this and Selyse, and keep The Withering Cold in mind at the same time.
- Since the Ravens need to be supported with Summer and Winter plots, Exchange of Information is the draw plot of choice. And it works very nicely here. I usually reveal it whenever I've played out most of my hand and I already have some economy in play. It does require a good spread of cardtypes, but including 3x Milk of the Poppy is something a lot of decks do anyway, and decks have an easy job of finding decent events as well. For instance, Privileged Position is a nice versatile card that can usually find something annoying to cancel in every game, while Seen In Flames is a stalwart in decks with core Melisandre, and here it also gives you hand knowledge to see if you are likely to hit with Heads on Spikes. And if the opponent is forced to give you Set Down Our Deeds, that can of course immediately turn into even more draw.
- There is also the occasional card drawn by Alester, but you are not really getting much out of that interaction in this deck.
- The economy locations follow the premise that you are going to be winning dominance. I have mainly stayed away from Northern Encampment in Bara Kneel in the past, because the risk of having them remain knelt is too high and messes up your economy too badly when things go wrong. This deck has slightly more tools to secure dominance though, so I was feeling a little more confident in including it. I've also been hit with Political Disaster too many times recently, so I think having a 2-gold location is important to help you survive that. But one thing I always do is a quick calculation in the marshaling phase before I use the Encampments. If dominance is not guaranteed and I am not desperate for gold, I may leave some of them standing just to be safe.
- In the past, I've often taken The Withering Cold into consideration as well. It has some anti-synergy with locations that kneel for their effect, and being such a crucial plot in a pure kneel deck, I've always built my deck with economy that doesn't kneel, if possible. Here though, that plot is not a central part of the plan, so I didn't feel like I needed to make those concessions. I thought the slightly better tempo of Dragonstone Port compared to The Roseroad was worth it. Just make sure you don't needlessly kneel them whenever The Withering Cold is revealed.
- The final economy location is of course Stormlands Fiefdom. It helps protect the power gained by Gendry, Storm's End and Robert's renown, and being non-limited is always a bonus.
- I've omitted the usual suspects like Gulltown and Gates of the Moon, because I am not playing the City chain, nor am I able to find them with At the Gates like most decks can. I'm also not playing King's Gate here. It seems like it would be a good card on paper, since you can rush to some early power and then grab a couple of cards if you run out of steam. However, I almost never triggered it in the earlier versions of this deck, so I took it out completely in the end.
- As far as plots are concerned, Late Summer Feast is the only one with 5+ gold, so I think it's important to mulligan for at least some economy. Without it, I am left with LSF as the only plot that allows me to marshal Robert, which is obviously not the ideal situation. But most of the time it works out okay. I usually open with LSF to play Robert or Melisandre, along with some claim soak and whatever non-character cards I can still afford. The only time I don't open with this plot is if I have nothing in my hand to spend the 9 gold on. Like Exchange of Information, the choice of plot here is mainly due to the useful Summer trait. How to deal with the downside of potentially giving cards away? Well, that depends on the situation. A lot of your characters have low STR that enables them to do "fake" challenges, so if you have some of your rush tools on the board, the opponent might not want to give you that unopposed power just to draw some cards. And defending almost always means defending successfully. And if Robert is on the board, defending anything means some characters might end up being permanently knelt, which can be a lose-lose situation for your opponent as well.
The Wars to Come
- I basically went through all of the available agendas to try to find the best one, but I can't see anything else that would be that great in this type of deck. The Wars To Come allows for a wide selection of plots that help you overcome the various weaknesses of the deck. As you can see, I'm not really bothered about giving prized power away in this deck. Heads on Spikes is the only War plot, but I've never revealed it with the intention of not giving power away. I've always used it as an additional rush tool instead. I've lost games due to prized before, but it's mostly games that weren't going well anyway. If you are going to win, it will most likely be well before you need to worry about prized.
- Another benefit of this agenda is being able to include plots you will not necessarily ever need to reveal, as the vast majority of games will end way before Round 9 or 10. Valar Morghulis in particular is a good tournament plot, because you can keep it secret with this agenda and then reveal it when it is no longer expected. I use it quite rarely, since I am not usually looking to kill my non-unique characters, but it can save games for sure.
- Valar Dohaeris is the more common reset for this deck, especially whenever you have to resort to plan B and play this deck in a more Bara Kneel way. It stops too many big bodies staying on the board for your opponent, it can get rid of some power on characters, and it can also help you get Selyse off the board to marshal her again, if needed. And if it's played against you, you can usually survive it quite well. Melisandre can survive it with a couple of characters, while Robert can at least survive it without having to get rid of a key Red Priest, if nothing else. I think the plots you should probably be more worried about are The First Snow of Winter and The Stranger, especially when revealed very early in the game.
- Wildfire Assault is usually the reset of choice in Wars decks, but as I said, I am not that worried about the War trait here. I think it would work against you most of the time, killing off the small characters that are doing good work for you.
The 10th plot
- I am quite happy with the nine plots I've already talked about, but that last one has been constantly changing throughout my journey with this deck. There is no single plot that accomplishes everything that still needs to be accomplished to make it perfect. :) I have Barring the Gates here. Apart from having the Winter trait, my thinking was that it would help against some of the strongest decks in the game at this point in time, most notably Tyrell Lion. However, having one round of partial safety from some tricks is usually not that decisive, so I'm wondering whether it's really worth it. I think the only time I revealed it in the recent tournament was against , when I was trying to block Heir to the Iron Throne from resolving, and even then I missed. I will just briefly mention the other plots I've tested and/or considered...
- Close Call. I had it in a previous version of the deck and never revealed it, but I think it does have some merit. Having to reveal that panicky Heir when your key characters are unprotected is a little annoying, especially when you mistime it. It's definitely a little easier to play when you know your Robert or Melisandre can be resurrected.
- A Feast for Crows. Gaining 2 power is the same as Winter Festival and Heads on Spikes, and it does have better gold than my current plots. It doesn't have any of the Traits I'm looking for though.
- The Pointy End. Another stalwart of Wars decks, and certainly useful in many situations. I didn't really regret not having it though.
- Forced March. I love this plot in Bara Kneel. It has the War trait and usually wins you initiative, and there is a control element to it that can prove to be useful.
- The Crone. I was thinking this would be a nice way to save your Ravens and Infiltrators from Morghulis, Blood of the Dragon, or even from White Raven's forced sacrifice, but again, the traits are not very helpful.
- Parley at Storm's End. I had this one in an earlier version of the deck too, and I did reveal it quite a few times. The idea again was mainly to protect the Ravens by stopping challenges altogether, but of course you're not getting any power from them that round anyway. The War trait is okay though, and the plot does have the potential to stop other annoying things as well.
- I've also considered a second copy of Late Summer Feast as backup economy (along with Time of Plenty), a second copy of Heads on Spikes for additional rush and avoiding prized, and a second copy of Exchange of Information for additional draw when needed. All of these are legitimate choices that I wish I had made at one time or another.
- Round 1 vs Krapfen9 - The Lord of the Crossing
I immediately had Melisandre and Robert on the board, against a board of full of characters with cost 4 or lower. That's really a killer for Crossing decks, which is why my opponent immediately revealed Dohaeris to get rid of Robert. That turned out to be a good plan, especially since one of the few characters I drew was Selyse, who had already been killed by Heads on Spikes in Round 1. I had the Chamber, Storm's End, and a White Raven, but no Throne or Summerhall to help me gain power with those cards. I was still able to gain a little bit though, because my opponent had to kneel most of his board to get the Crossing trigger through. I then revealed Winter Festival in Round 3. My opponent got to 11 power in the challenges phase, with lots of characters still standing, but I had enough locations for Imry to kneel everything, which allowed me to go from 7 to 15 in an instant.
- Round 2 vs Alex (France) - Knights of the Hollow Hill
I was not looking forward to this one, because my Ravens burn really nicely with Blood of the Dragon. I was happy to see Robert and The Iron Throne on the board immediately, but less happy to see Pyro Dany on my opponent's side. And of course she burnt a Raven and an Infiltrator immediately. I was lucky to find a Milk for her next round. My board after Round 2 was Robert, Melisandre and Delena, all without dupes, and I was gambling my opponent was not willing to trade his Dany for them. I was wrong though. Morghulis was revealed, leaving me with just Shireen on the board, along with a full set of locations that included Throne and Chamber. Winter Festival kept me ahead though. I then tried my luck with Exchange, drawing Selyse, so I decided to go full Bara Kneel and keep her for The Withering Cold the following round. Drogon burnt another couple of chuds in the meantime, but Traitor to the Crown on the only icon still kept me ahead. Selyse then knelt everything, and I still had a standing Shireen and Gendry, with 1 gold for Privileged Position to cancel any terminal burn. Incinerate stopped one unopposed, but I was able to cancel Consuming Flames to push the challenge through. Along with the dominance stuff, that got me to 14 power by the end of the round. I revealed the second Winter Festival, and there was no way to stop me winning, even with Blood of the Dragon and a resurrected Dany coming back into play. A surprising win, but certainly a welcome one. :)
- Round 3 vs argento - Fealty
Stark is usually a favourable matchup for me, so I was fairly confident about this one. For once I had a bad start though, with nothing to play with LSF, so I opened Barring instead, thinking my opponent would try to trade Rickon for something bigger with Heir. Bad call. I then made another blunder by Milking Arya, even though the much more annoying Wyman Manderly was on the board. I've become so used to playing against Crossing that I thought taking icons away would help me, but I ended up regretting that decision for the rest of the game. To make matters worse, I had to set up Gendry without the Throne, and of course he was inevitably sacrificed by his forced reaction. The only character I still had in hand was Selyse, against a board consisting of Wyman and three Ladies. That's why I had to go for a very early Exchange, finding Melisandre and Traitor to at least hold on a little longer. My opponent continued to swarm the board, then timed The Crone perfectly to counter my Dohaeris and keep a big board presence. I then lost the mini game with both players revealing Heir as well, because my opponent grabbed Robb and cancelled my plot with Rickon. That was pretty much game over. I was still able to prolong the game into another round and try a desperate Morghulis, but too many characters survived, and argento revealed You Win Or You Die. I conceded before seeing what horrors awaited me that round. :)
- Round 4 vs kantzsot - "The Rains of Castamere"
I had a really good game against Rains in the Canadian Nationals, so I wasn't really that worried about this one. I was in for a surprise though. A terrible mulligan left me with Selyse and an econ location on setup. I then at least drew Robert, hoping to keep part of the board knelt and eventually catch up. The fun only lasted one round though, because my opponent then marshalled an Alchemists' Guildhall, stopping any chance of a Melisandre or a Robert trigger for the remainder of the game. Tywin, Jaime and Tyrion then had a pretty easy job of triggering Rains, surprising me with a Wildfire Assault that killed more of my opponent's characters than my own. I was in for another surprise though, because kantzsot also played "A Lion Still Has Claws" in that reaction window, getting rid of my claim soak and forcing me to claim Robert instead. I tried with Dohaeris, but I lost soon after that, with Cersei now on the board and gaining some quick power with no resistance. Probably the most brutal defeat I've ever had with this deck. :)
- Round 5 vs Vlado Janecek - Valyrian Steel
My Strength of Schedule was very high at this point, so I knew I still had a chance of making the cut if I won my last game. It was a favourable matchup for me, but one thing that worried me a little was that Vlado had The Iron Throne in his deck. Without dominance, beating a Wall defence deck was a pretty hopeless task. I had a very good start though, having both Robert and Melisandre in hand after setup, and the Throne as well. My opponent marshalled his chuds, but no Wall or Throne, so I was able to take control of the game pretty quickly. I duped Melisandre with Heir in Round 2, while my opponent's Building Orders failed to find anything useful. The board was small enough so that I didn't even need to marshal Robert. My opponent did find The Wall though, with some aggressive use of his agenda and a Seasoned Woodsman. I couldn't kneel it, but I wasn't too worried, because my Throne and Chamber were just faster. And then came two Winter Festivals and Storm's End to get me to 13 power by the end of Round 4. I took my chance with Heads on Spikes and missed. Vlado had Palace of Sorrows revealed and actually did a fantastic job of fighting me for dominance by keeping 10 gold. I thought we would be going into another round, but then I saw I had a chance to kneel one of the icons with Seen in Flames, which allowed me to push a challenge through and win with Robert's renown.
I recorded all of my swiss games, so do let me know if there is any one in particular you would like to see, and I will see if I can put in on youtube. I won't talk about my games in the cut in detail, because you can see all of them on my youtube channel, including of course the rematches vs the two players I lost against in swiss. Here are the links:
Top 8 vs vs kantzsot - "The Rains of Castamere"
Top 4 vs Tamás Albeck - Valyrian Steel
Final vs argento - Fealty
I think that's just about all. I think I've won just over two thirds of my games with this deck at the time of writing this, so it's definitely not one of the very best decks around. It has some bad matchups for sure, which I was lucky to avoid in the Italian Nationals. But it can also be quite difficult to stop for decks that don't deal with locations well, or for decks that have traditionally struggled against the good old Bara Kneel mechanics. I would also also like to thanks a few fellow players who have advised me with potential deck changes along the way. You know who you are. :)
Thanks for reading if you've made it this far. Give the deck a try if you like it, and feel free to comment if you have any questions or suggestions. Hopefully see you in a game some time. :)