Ranger Rush - Top 4 U.S. Nationals 2018

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Ranger 0 0 0 1.0

teamjimby 1269

I had the pleasure of competing for the US National Championship this past weekend in Springfield, Missouri. I'd like to start with a big thank you to Will Lentz and Metagames Unlimited for hosting a great tournament. I was fortunate enough to make it to the top 4 with this deck. Here is a far-too-long write up and tournament report for your reading pleasure.

--- DECK CONCEPT AND META DISCUSSION ---

Ever since the release of the Haunted Forest Scout, the concept of a ranger-centric rush deck has been simmering in the back of my mind. Especially when combined with Longclaw, the scouts have the potential to collect a lot of power. But, for a long time it was a bit too fragile, struggled with icons, and was forced to run several subpar rangers. With the recent addition of cards like Naive Scout, Compelled by the Faith, Janos Slynt (TSC), and Poor Fellows, a lot of the deck's issues were solved.

In the current meta, I would say there are 4 deck types to be worried about. This deck is able to compete against all of them. I'll break it down a bit:

Overall, this deck doesn't really do anything that fancy and is slower than other rush decks. But it is fairly resilient and is largely immune to a lot of strategies. It has the added flexibility/threat of doing either power or military for the big third challenge. Some of the cards that are weak or useless against this deck include Milk of the Poppy, Craven, Ward, Frozen Solid, Seized by the Guard, Newly-Made Lord, Valar Dohaeris, Confiscation, Weapons at the Door. Additionally, the ever prevalent Trade Routes tends to be ineffective since I have few locations and I blow up their locations. And while I have no kings, The King in the North isn't even that bad because it doesn't stop the events and many of the key effects are passive (Haunted Forest Scout, Ser Jaremy Rykker, Longclaw).

--- KEY CARDS ---

  • Ser Jaremy Rykker is probably the most important character in the deck. He turns efficient bodies like Naive Scout and Lost Ranger into super-efficient bodies, and has more fun interactions described below.

  • Haunted Forest Scout is the workhorse. He can almost always make 2 challenges since there are so many rangers. With Rykker and Relentless Assault, he can make up to 4 challenges. With Longclaw, 4 challenges can potentially turn into 4 power. He's immune to Milk of the Poppy, Ward, and The King in the North. Grenn and Pyp love this guy, too.

  • Grenn is the counter to rush and also an acceleration engine. With the Scouts he can steal 2 power, and with Rykker he makes it possible to get up to 10 power on a single challenge [Crossing (1) + Unopposed (1) + Grenn (2) + Superior Claim (2) + Claim (2) + Longclaw (1) + Qhorin (1)].

  • Maester Aemon (Core) is critical for keeping everyone else alive. Especially the Scouts that might have a lot of power on them and are vulnerable to cards like Venomous Blade and Grey Wind.

  • Qhorin Halfhand is the only non-1x character above 4 cost in the deck. The renown is nice for rush, no attachments is money, and his reaction is always a threat. If you do military on the 3rd challenge, he can even kill the ever-resilient Second Sons. Just be careful with him if you are expecting Valar Dohaeris or Breaking Ties.

  • Begging Brother gives the two icons that are most lacking in rangers, and repeatable control against annoying effects like Shadow City Bastard or Melisandre (Core) that can make it hard to do 3 challenges. They are also great against powerful effects like Varys (Core), Greatjon Umber, Bolton Flayer, or Daenerys Targaryen (TFM) that can really disrupt your board. 3 STR is very nice, since they can trigger Superior Claim or Relentless Assault by themselves on the 3rd power challenge. Just be careful with them against Stark since they are your only real targets for Ward, which can be especially devastating if you bestow 3 gold.

  • No Jon Snow (Core): A lot of people expect Core Jon to be in the deck. But he's really not necessary and is too expensive. He's not a ranger, the other bodies are big enough that his STR isn't needed to win challenges, the Scouts are as effective at taking Longclaw, and he is too vulnerable to Breaking Ties and Valar Dohaeris.

--- PLOTS ---

  • Summer Harvest is the default opener. It's great against common openers like Time of Plenty, Trading with the Pentoshi, and Late Summer Feast. Going second on turn 1 is critical for rush decks because it allows your opponent to get power for you to steal (let them go unopposed), and you don't need to worry about defending the power challenge. Almost nobody opens with Varys's Riddle or Counting Coppers these days, so it's safer than it has ever been. Even if they also open Summer Harvest, you are probably in better shape because the cheap military icons are great for the small boards.

  • Time of Plenty is the backup opener, almost exclusively for games against Martell. It also provides some mediocre card draw if you are desperate. I'd love to be able to cut this, but I think it's necessary right now.

  • Valar Dohaeris is the obvious reset of choice. The cost curve is really low, so I typically have 3-4 characters after a Valar D.

  • Nothing Burns Like The Cold is a card nobody expects in rush and can lead to blowouts if you can burn a Dorne, The Hightower, The Wall (either), or Winterfell. They might think their duped Dorne is protected by another location like Flea Bottom until you kill the cheap location with Put to the Torch. Nothing Burns is hilarious against Valar Morghulis if you can discard a Bodyguard and/or Iron Mines. It can also hit some big attachments like Queensguard, Ice, and the King attachments (especially on their The King in the North turn).

  • Forced March is a great plot in general, and fits perfectly in here. 9 initiative is amazing, and I almost always have more military icons than my opponent.

  • Compelled by the Faith serves two important purposes. First, it protects the power on your characters acquired from Grenn, Longclaw, and Poor Fellows. Second, it moves power to your opponent's faction card so you can steal it. This is especially important against cards like Mace Tyrell (HoT), Drowned Disciple, and voltron renown characters.

  • You Win Or You Die is a great closer and gives some card draw when your hand is low. Just make sure you don't use the Messenger Ravens when your reserve is zero!

  • No Heads on Spikes! While this is a staple of many rush decks, there are no particular synergies like some other crossing decks have (especially Lanni and Bara). It would probably be my 8th plot, but I have to say it was very refreshing to not need to worry about whether my Spikes hit a character. I played Lanni Crossing at Gencon and those games feel like they swing wildly based on what the Heads on Spikes hit (or miss).

--- TOURNAMENT REPORT ---

Round 1 - Stark Wars (Matt Davey): My Stark games blurred together a bit, but I remember in this game that Matt was trying to push military challenges a lot. Rangers tend to be very efficient military icons, so I was able to defend his military pressure and still swing back for my challenges. He did play The First Snow of Winter, which hit me hard, especially because it was my You Win Or You Die turn and I discarded all of those characters. Janos Slynt (TSC) was clutch on that turn because I just sacrificed a chud that was going to return to hand anyway to allow me to keep 3 or 4 characters on the board. I was able to maintain enough of a board and close it out. Win, 1-0

Round 2 - Bara Alliance Rose Qohor (Matt Phillips): Matt opened with Peace and Prosperity, which is great counter against Summer Harvest. He got out an early The Honeywine (protected by Jousting Pavilion) and Ser Cortnay Penrose (with King Beyond the Wall). Randyll Tarly came out turn 2 or 3 and then Robert Baratheon came out the next turn when we both played You Win Or You Die. I believe he went from 4 to 13 power on that turn, but I was able to keep enough bodies up to win on the swing back. This was a very close, exciting game and Matt also went on to the Top 4. Win, 2-0

Round 3 - Stark Wars (Alex Esposito): We both opened Summer Harvest, so the boards were small Turn 1. Alex had a Bolton Flayer, which was a big concern for me, and we each had 3 characters. He made a mistake by making an unnecessary intrigue challenge on Turn 1 with the Flayer. This allowed me to both defend his military challenge and swing back with my own military challenge. From there I was able to stabilize and rush him down while also keeping his board small. Win, 3-0

Round 4 - Greyjoy Wars (Jesse Carpenter): Jesse was playing the Drowned God deck and saw all of his pieces, including Tarle the Thrice-Drowned, Nagga's Ribs, Old Wyk, 3x Drowned Disciple, and 2x Drowned God Fanatic. He opened Trading with the Pentoshi, so I had plenty of gold to bestow my Begging Brothers. But even with 5 Begging Brother triggers at my disposal, he was still able to win in plot phase of Turn 3 with me at ~10 power. Loss, 3-1

Round 5 - Stark Crossing (Dustan Archer, eventual champion): We both opened Summer Harvest, so boards were small again. He was able to play Greatjon Umber, which was very problematic. Turn 2 I played Forced March into his A Storm of Swords. I let him go first because I thought I was safe with Greatjon (and all his mil icons) knelt and not much gold for him to work with. That backfired immensely as he played Northern Armory to stand Greatjon and The Wolf King to prevent my Begging Brother from cancelling his stand. The game was effectively over from that point. Loss, 3-2

Round 6 - Tyrell Wars (Mike Lamezac): Mike had The Hightower with Left and Right on Turn 1. Mace Tyrell (HoT) showed up either Turn 1 or 2. Normally this would be a loss for a lot of decks. But first I took out his Hightower with a Turn 2 Nothing Burns Like The Cold. Then the next turn I had my most memorable play of the tournament. I made a big military challenge with 3 gold while he had 2 gold. I won by 5 and played Put to the Torch on his Great Hall, which he cancelled with The Hand's Judgment. Then I played my 1x Put to the Sword to kill his Mace with 3 power. With Hightower burned and Mace dead, the game was effectively over. Win, 4-2

Round 7 - Targ Qohor (Brett Vaughn): Brett mulliganed and was forced to setup Qotho, Missandei, and Bloody Arakh. He couldn't recover from that terrible setup and I was able to win comfortably. A Put to the Sword on his Hizdahr zo Loraq just added insult to injury. Win, 5-2

This got me into 14th place out of 72 and into the Top 24 cut. Don't ask me why it was top 24.

Top 32 - Greyjoy Wars (Aaron Groth): Aaron was playing the same deck that Jesse crushed me with in the Swiss. Thankfully, his draw wasn't nearly as good. He only saw one Drowned Disciple, which I was able to hit on intrigue (with no Nagga's Ribs out). Balon Greyjoy (CtA) with Dragonbinder became his main threat, but I was able to control him enough via Nightmares and Forced March. Thanks to plots like Wildfire Assault, Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris, Forced March, and Uneasy Truce, the game really slowed down and somehow went to 8 plots. That's where The Wars To Come backfires because I was able to replay You Win Or You Die and close it out. He finally saw another Drowned Disciple towards the end and might have been able to beat me if I didn't intentionally skip a Grenn trigger to make sure he couldn't put his Drowned God Fanatic into the dead pile. Win

Top 16 - Stark Crossing (Andras Fulop): For the second time in a row, I got to play against a deck that beat me in the Swiss. Thankfully he didn't see Greatjon Umber. He didn't have a military icon Turn 1 and I cancelled his "Off To Gulltown" to keep him from making his 3rd challenge. He did see a Summer (Core) Turn 2, but that meant he had to let my military go unopposed if he wanted to make 3 challenges. I was in pretty good shape until he warded my Begging Brother. Next turn I played You Win Or You Die and forced him to use all of his dupes in order to prevent my win (thanks to a clutch 2 power Grenn trigger). That was huge because he played Valar Morghulis the next turn, leaving me with one character and him with none. I top-decked a character and a longclaw, which gave me what I needed to close it out from 13 power. I felt pretty fortunate in this game and probably lose against that deck more often than not. Win

Top 8 - Night's Watch Wars to Come Builders (Jess Thompson): Jess knew I was running Nothing Burns Like The Cold, but she setup an unprotected The Wall (Core) anyway and kept her second copy in hand. I predictably burned it Turn 1 and she played her second copy... which I then Put to the Torch. Her Milk of the Poppys and Cravens were useless and she couldn't do anything to slow me down. Like I mentioned in the meta discussion, this deck vs builders is an extremely favorable matchup. Win

Top 4 - Stark Fealty (AJ Valle): AJ is running a very aggressive deck and applied military pressure every turn. I defended it turn 1 as he was threatening a Winter Is Coming. Turn 2 I went first and he played an Umber Loyalist (Begging Brother cancelled the draw, lol) with an Ice. I had a Put to the Sword in hand, and decided to commit to the military challenge as my third. I had the tough choice of either killing his Wyman Manderly or his Loyalist with the Ice (which was his only standing military icon). I just couldn't resist Wyman because he had a lot of chuds to sacrifice. He then swung back on military and played Winter Is Coming to kill 3 of my characters. This was the beginning of the end as he proceeded to trigger Ice again on Turn 3 and 4, then Breaking Ties on Turn 5. It was still a close game and I got to ~11 power (thanks to Benjen Stark dying twice), but I wasn't able to close it out. I think if I saw Maester Aemon (Core) in that game I would have won easily. The game would have also been very different if I had killed his Loyalist instead of Wyman. Loss

--- POST-TOURNAMENT REFLECTIONS ---

US Nationals was a great time, and I'd like to again thank Will Lentz for working hard to make it a great tournament! It was amazing as always to see old friends and make so many new friends. That's really the number one reason why I come to tournaments like this.

I was obviously very pleased with how the deck performed. If I were to play another tournament in the same meta, I don't think I would make many changes to the deck. One super-spicy card that I didn't include in the final version of the deck, but that might have been worth including, is The Watcher on the Walls. It's pretty useless against a lot of decks like Mace, Drowned God and Martell. But, it could have been game-winning against the Stark decks I played and only gets better when Sea of Blood comes out.

Going forward, I actually think this deck will be more consistent than many other rush decks. In part because it doesn't have any terrible matchups (other than The First Snow of Winter, if that is a thing) and in part because it doesn't rely too heavily on any particular character or combination. I think there a lot value with the flexibility of making good use of either the power or the military challenge as the 3rd challenge.

Before too long, Sea of Blood will enter the meta and pose a big threat to rush decks. Unlike most other rush decks, this one can actually defend against a big military challenge thanks to all of the efficient military icons and has Maester Aemon (Core) to protect against Put to the Sword. The Watcher on the Walls, or even the threat of activating it, will be a big thorn in the side of those decks that need to commit heavily to military.

That's all I've got! Thanks for reading this far, and don't hesitate to ask any questions you might have.

22 comments

celric 312

Way to go @teamjimby. Great run and thanks for the detailed recap!

Reader 124

Excellent work getting Rangers to Top 4 at Nats, and a great write up. I enjoy playing Ranger Crossing myself and always have a deck sleeved.

Personally, I always find burn problematic. I see that you faced Targaryen, but like you say, the dude had a bad set up and never recovered. Daggers and blades are useful in the match up (just Daggers in my version), seen as your guys can't be directly hit with A Dragon is No Slave. But with Targaryen taking up a lot of the field, I'm like to keep Rangers as a build for Season kit events and casual play. Along with Bloodriders I find it one of the most fun builds to pilot.

Regarding First Snow; Duping has helped me. If I think my opponent is likely to run First Snow, I just try and tease it out as early as possible with characters like Pyp, Grenn and maybe one HFS. High Reserve helps recover from First snow, so I always ran two Time of Plenty, making use of the high reserve with The Watch Has Need. I find running 3x Pyp instead of Ravens helps. If on plot 1 and 2 you flip Time of Plenty with The Watch has Need to benefit, its easier to find dupes for Pyp and Grenn. Nothing you can do to save Haunted Forest Scouts from First Snow though (not very thematic for dudes as hardy as this to get hit by a touch of snow). I also found 3x Gates pretty decent. Seeing this on set up gave me at least 8 gold for the first 2 plots.

Anyway... you have made top 4 with Rangers, and I ain't never been near there at Nats. So I'll switch a few cards and try your version. Congrats again.

teamjimby 1269

@Reader Thanks! Burn has potential to be a bad matchup, and I used to have Dragonglass Daggers partly for that reason. Ultimately it was a meta call. Targ burn used to be super popular, but has been struggling at tournaments and people seem to be abandoning it. The usual suspects that were coming to Nats that typically play Targ burn said that they were playing different decks. So, I just didn't really worry about it much.

Dupes definitely help against First Snow. If I have a First Snow susceptible setup, I was always setup Aemon or Grenn if possible since they have the potential for getting duped. 3x Pyp is an idea worth exploring. The Ravens could potentially be cut. I kept him at 1x because in practice I found him to not quite live up to his potential.

3x Gates seems crazy to me. If you're worried about getting blown out by First Snow, I think Kingsroads are the better call to give you the burst to play 2 bigs or to reflood the next turn. And if you just open Summer Harvest instead of Time of Plenty, you'll have all the gold you need! Most of the time, anyway.

Beknirvana 184

I was working on something similar to this, but couldn't get it to work. I get cutting Jon Snow (Core) because he is a big tempo hit to play out, but did you ever consider the lulz of The Watcher on the Walls? I know it would slow down a rush deck a bit to kneel out 2 rangers, but that could be crippling. I lost count of how many first ed games I lost to lethal counter attack.

teamjimby 1269

@Beknirvana Yeah, I definitely considered Watcher on the Walls. It was 1x to 2x in the deck for a while, but I almost never actually got to trigger it. In the current meta, military challenges are relatively devalued. Only certain Stark and Targ decks really rely on the military challenge (and maybe GJ, but they have saves). For US Nats, I was expecting a lot of passive power gain via Mace and Drowned God, so decided to cut my 1x copy.

But like I said in my write up, Watcher on the Walls will be very good in a Sea of Blood meta.

TrueSokles 47

Great deck with very nice idea behind it. Hope You don't mind it might be used (with some minor changes because of little different meta) in Nationals somewhere across the ocean ;)

teamjimby 1269

@TrueSokles Nothing would make me happier than to see the deck do well in other big tournaments! Feel free to message me on Facebook if you want to discuss changes.

TrueSokles 47

@teamjimby Sure, I even massaged You few minutes ago, only I'm not sure if correctly to You or by mistaken to some other guy ;)

scurofra 1

Hi .. first of all congrats for your performance .. nw are my "house" and i love when somenone made results with it .. a question : with the coming of Lord commander, do you think it could fit ?

teamjimby 1269

@scurofraI don't think Lord Commander fits in this deck. Currently, the only characters that can take the attachment are 1x Benjen and Janos. I think you'd need at least 2 characters at 3x to justify Lord Commander. There may be a different crossing deck that it fits into, but not this one.

drake164 1

Hi do you think the new thronesdb.com and/or thronesdb.com could fit in to the deck?

teamjimby 1269

@drake164The new Jon Snow is a possibility for this deck, but I'm skeptical. There are no builders and only one steward, so you are missing out on Jon's stealth and insight (typically). But, a 6 STR tricon with intimidate is still really good. Also, since almost everyone else is no attachments, that means Jon is going to always get the milks and cravens.

Off to Gulltown is always a card worth considering in Crossing. I'm not a big fan and it doesn't have any great synergies (like Stark Crossing has), but it could certainly fit in if you like it. In my experience, there are enough characters and a good enough spread of icons that I don't need Off to Gulltown to be able to make 3 challenges.

HidaHayabusa 55

How would you change the deck to fit Watchers on the Wall? Also, I wonder what would you remove if you were to add Dragonglass as a Burn counter.

Would Will be an option?

teamjimby 1269

@HidaHayabusaI don't like Will in Crossing because you are going to let through a lot of unopposed challenges. You can't defend all 3 challenges and still expect to make 3 challenges of your own.

If I were to make cuts for Watchers on the Wall, it would probably be some of the other events. Maybe Put to the Sword, 1x Relentless Assault, or 1x Nightmares.

If you're worried about Burn and want to add Dragonglass Daggers, I would probably cut Messenger Ravens or Poor Fellows since they die easily to burn.

HidaHayabusa 55

Thanks for the reply.

I just think that if you are to make room for an event that requires two rangers to kneel for an effect, you will need to lower the curve of the rangers to do so. Probably Old Forest Hunter?

I agree that Will is as bit awkward in Crossing. Thanks again.

teamjimby 1269

The curve is already quite low and full of rangers. There are 24 rangers and 13 of them cost 3 or less. If you wanted to add more, I would add another Lost Ranger or maybe more copies of Pyp before I went to Old Forest Hunters.

The Haunted Forest Scouts are actually pretty great for Watchers on the Wall, especially if you go first. They allow you to keep more guys standing, and it doesn't matter if you kneel them for the event because they can't defend anyway.

HidaHayabusa 55

That's true. Thanks for the replies.

BizTheDad 1

So, I've played this deck online a fair number of times and it's done well. I'm fairly new to the game amd I'm gonna play in my first tournament next Saturday. How would you approach playing this deck against the slew of Queensguard and Free Folk decks that have cropped up?

teamjimby 1269

@BizTheDadI'm glad to hear you're enjoying the deck and planning to bring it to a tournament! Against Queensguard decks, I think the main thing is to be patient with your Nothing Burns Like the Cold. A lot of those decks don't run many other attachments, so you can probably hit the Queensguard.

Against Free Folk, I think you just need to be cautious. If you are vulnerable to the extra military claim, then hold back to defend what you can. Aemon can be a lifesaver.

Good luck in your tournament, and let me know how it goes!

HidaHayabusa 55

How does this fare against the Free Folk agenda?

teamjimby 1269

@HidaHayabusaI've played it a few times and the deck does ok, especially if you see Aemon. I think my only loss was when I got hit hard by First Snow.

HidaHayabusa 55

That's really good to know! I was running the exact same concept with less events that cost 1 and tried For the Watch (to stop the brutal first turn of Free Folks), and 2 Supporting the Faith to counter some Targs and Martel.

In general, it has been working a really good for me.