The Starks are Coming - Winner U.S. Nationals 2018

Card draw simulator
Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% more
Derived from
None. Self-made deck here.
Inspiration for
Skagos 0 0 0 1.0
One third of UKTC Winner - Stark hidden Rush 2 2 0 1.0

Mhoram 258

Before we get too into this, I’ll give you a warning - there’s a play by play of the semi-finals and finals in this decklist due to me being able to review the stream. Feel free to jump ship at anytime, because there’s a lot in here. I tend to give more information than necessary, but I wanted to make sure those that can’t watch the stream can still read how those games went.

Thanks again to Will Lentz for all his hard work, Roy and company for streaming and commentating, the Stormbruhs for late-night testing and deck tweaking, and all of the amazing players for such a fun, competitive tournament. This community never ceases to amaze me with it’s capacity for love, fun, and karaoke. If you want to check out the Stormbruhs podcast, you can do so at the website (that needs some serious design work): https://www.stormbruhs.com/

I’m going to rip off of Jim Hansen’s deck and tournament report to an extent, but imitation is the best form of flattery, right? I think he’s got a great idea going in discussing the current meta, the deck’s concept and impactful cards. If you haven’t read his write up of his Top 4 deck at U.S. Nationals, check it out here - https://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/11791/ranger-rush-top-4-u-s-nationals-2018-1.0

~ Stark Crossing - Deck Concept and Meta Calls ~

Stark Crossing was already a fairly well known deck when the Stormbruhs started playing around with it about a month and a half ago. Versions of it had been floating around and finishing decently at multiple tournaments. Many of the cards you see to the left are givens, in my opinion - Superior Claim, Arya Stark (Core), Septa Mordane, I Am No One, and Sansa Stark (Core) - but others were more meta calls and spicy inclusions to combat certain elements I knew would be at Nationals and were prevalent in the meta.

Looking over the list, you can see that this deck isn’t meant to be out-and-out rush. It can go for more of a mid-game if it needs to with the draw capability of Wyman Manderly and the plot control provided by Breaking Ties and King in the North. I’m not a fan of glass cannon builds, and this deck showed that it was quite resilient during testing and doesn’t focus on any one character. The Stombruhs went back and forth on some cards, disagreeing strenuously on certain ones, and I’ll discuss the two most contentious cards here in a bit.

The main decks I expected to see were Drowned God decks, Builder decks, other rush decks like Targ and Lanni Crossing, various Martell builds from Doran's Game to King's Landing/Ghaston Grey recursion, and Targ HRD Meereen. Tyrell Dragon had just beaten Austin in the finals of a well-attended tournament, so we assumed that’d make an appearance since the Dragon banner is just phenomenal right now. Something the vast majority of these decks had in common was that they played some high impact locations and I wanted a way to combat that. Dorne, Ghaston Grey, The Hightower, Meereen in Wars to Come builds, The Wall, etc. - all of those could cause Stark Crossing problems, and we needed an answer for it. More on that in a moment.

One card that was a late stage inclusion was the Bolton Flayer. While not immediately something you might turn to in a Crossing build, it does have a good icon spread and it combats two decks I knew would be heavily present - Builders and Drowned God. While I didn’t use it in every game, the Flayers did their job well in the games I did by creating heavy board pressure and making the opponent change the way they marshaled and made challenges.

The other card that caused serious rifts in the team discussion was Put to the Torch. Andras and I were huge proponents for it after about 5 games of testing, with both Austin and especially James totally against it. In the end we brought it, and I’m damn glad we did. I burned Nagga's Ribs in Drowned God matches and econ in Builders matches combined with Breaking Ties to keep them from flooding the board. I wanted it in the game I lost to Tyrell Dragon, as he opened with The Arbor, Plaza of Pride, Flea Bottom, and a character in shadows. Put to the Torch was the right meta call, but it was just that - a meta call for high cost, high impact locations. If the meta shifts away from that, this card should likely change as well, but locations are only getting more plentiful.

~ Key Combinations and Cards ~

I’ll mostly discuss key combinations, because this deck isn’t meant to rely on any given character but rather the synergy of two or more specific cards.

My two favorite cards in this deck are I Am No One and "Off To Gulltown". "Off To Gulltown" in Crossing provides the icon spread you need and replaces itself to boot, while I Am No One allows you to get off multiple challenges with one character that gets you cards and stealths your opponent's biggest threats. That’s some serious utility for a 1 cost event, and I highly suggest any Stark Crossing run both of these for the foreseeable future. Put these cards together and you have a non-kneeling tri-con with stealth and insight - absolutely bonkers in Crossing.

Robb Stark (Core)and Wyman Manderly work phenomenally in conjunction by providing both card draw and stand. Flea Bottom works great with them as well as you can bring someone in, use them, and sacrifice them for some stand and draw.

The Blackfish didn’t make much of an appearance - he was mainly there for some easy draw and his loyal renown - and Eddard Stark (Core) can be Breaking Ties fodder, so he’s really just there to mop up a final turn. Greatjon Umber, however, is one of the most impactful characters in the deck other than Sansa Stark (Core)’s insane renown with Septa Mordane. In some games I couldn’t allow the opponent to ever go first if I wanted to have any characters on the board (see the final match, for instance), and Greatjon Umber allows you to run the board from turn one if you keep initiative.

~ Plot Choices ~

  • Summer Harvest: This is a plot I have never, ever played in a tournament. Props to Austin for convincing Andras and I to run it, because it really did do well throughout the tournament. Knowing when to open with it and when not to - for instance, never open with it against Martell or Alliance Qohor decks - is where some important deck and meta knowledge comes into play. Martell flipping into a low gold plot from At Prince Doran's Behest, or a Qohor deck opening with Peace and Prosperity makes for a sad Crossing turn.

  • Time of Plenty: This is the alternative opener against the aforementioned decks that Summer Harvest is bad against and can be used if you had a really poor setup and need to try and hunt for some economy while providing some guaranteed economy of its own.

  • Breaking Ties: With a decent number of low-cost loyal characters, Breaking Ties is still one of the best control plots in the game. This helps keep this deck in the game long after some other Crossing builds might fizzle out, and in a pinch you can sacrifice Robb Stark (Core) to bounce a souped up Randyll Tarly, which is what I had to do in my Top 4 match against Matt Phillips.

  • Forced March: With so many low-cost military characters Forced March is a great choice in Crossing. Stark has so much stand - Northern Armory, Robb Stark (Core), The Wolf King to not kneel in the first place, etc. - that it really doesn’t bother me to kneel out my whole board to kneel theirs. It’s also got 9 initiative, and winning initiative is really, really important for this deck.

  • King in the North: This is one of the top 3 plots I got surprised comments on when people found out I only ran 2 The Wolf King. About 50% of the time in testing I would flip this without The Wolf King on the board or even in hand just so that I could shut down Martell decks and Drowned God decks that hadn’t found a King trait yet. While having your own board shut off can be annoying, it’s less an issue here than it is for most decks. Your power gain is via events, renown, and Crossing - that’s what matters.

  • A Storm of Swords: This is the 2nd most surprising plot for many, but I think that it’s got a great place in most Crossing decks, especially Stark ones. This allows for Stark Crossing to get off all 3 challenges even if you don’t have an intrigue icon, and Greatjon Umber synergizes with this plot perfectly. The 8 initiative is beneficial against most other plots as well.

  • Valar Morghulis: Do not enter a high profile tournament without a reset. I’ll say that again for those of you that doubt me - do not enter a high profile tournament without a reset. The vast majority of people in the top cut know their opponents’ plots when they sit down across from them, and if you’re not running any reset then your opponent will just flood the board.

That said, why did I choose Valar Morghulis? In testing I found that people had stopped worrying as much about VM. Valar Dohaeris had become more widely played as a reset, and VD would generally be the right call for Crossing, especially one not running 7-cost characters. VM being less of a threat in the overall meta meant that I could use that to my advantage and surprise my opponent with it, or force games in the top cut to play a more narrow board (if they know I have it) where my stealth from Arya Stark (Core) and I Am No One are more impactful.

I didn’t flip VM once during the entire tournament if I remember correctly. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong call - I feel that it means I played well enough that I didn’t need to. It meant that I could probably surprise someone in the top cut with it if I had to, and then keep future opponents from trying to flood the board.

~ Tournament Report ~

Most of the games won’t have a lot of information - I just don’t remember all the details. There’s video of the semi-finals and finals, though, so I’ve broken those two games down play by play to explore my thought process.

Round 1 - Bye

I won a 4 person regional for this bye. A win’s a win, though, so...yep. Moving on.

Round 2 - Dakota Bowen - GJ Stag

Dakota had a decent setup, but I was able to Ward his Salladhor Saan to give myself a wider board presence turn 1. He wasn’t able to keep his board wide enough, and his core Asha was always opposed, meaning I could strike back hard. (Win, 2-0)

Round 3 - Eric Greene - Tyrell Dragon

Austin had just lost to a Tyrell Dragon deck at the Lord of the Crossing tournament in the finals so I was nervous coming into this match. I knew what Tyrell Dragon was capable of, and if I didn’t have Put to the Torch for his high impact locations I was likely finished. My mulligan was good but it didn’t have Put to the Torch, and Eric set up the Arbor, Plaza of Pride, Flea Bottom, and Aegon in shadows. Turn 1 he brought out Aegon to get Renly’s Host and did Renly’s Host things with them. I struggled onwards but there was no recovering from that without drawing Put to the Torch. (Loss, 2-1)

Round 4 - Alejandro Pantoja - Martell Wars

Alejandro set up a duped Dorne, which made me a bit disappointed as the Put to the Torch I had in my hand meant far less. It found a target later in the game, but since I don’t remember what it was it certainly wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been. This felt like a fairly standard Crossing V. Martell Wars game, with King in the North doing some work and trying to rush it out while stopping Doran’s Game as much as possible with Catelyn. Unfortunately for Alejandro, he made a number of mistakes that ended up costing him the game, such as spending gold on chud rather than playing cards like Prince’s Plan when he had a large number of used plots to prevent me from winning challenges. (Win, 3-1)

Round 5 - Jim Hansen - NW Crossing

Jim and I were on the Trial of Three team at Nationals 2017 in Seattle, and I’ve always enjoyed watching him play and seeing what he comes up with for a deck. This NW Crossing was no exception and featured a large number of rangers, Put to the Sword, and Put to the Torch. Unfortunately for Jim I was able to control the board from turn 1, despite both of us opening on Summer Harvest - Qhorin really didn’t have any targets on my side of the board, and Greatjon did Greatjon things. Forced March turn 2 with Northern Armory in hand let me kneel out his board, bring Greatjon back up, and keep him up with Wolf King. Stark continued marching on. (Win, 4-1)

Round 6 - Jesse Carpenter - GJ Wars Drowned God

This was one of the decks I knew would have a significant presence at Nationals and we had teched against it specifically with the Bolton Flayers and Put to the Torch. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that Jesse didn’t get enough of his pieces or his Nagga’s Ribs, despite playing both Summons and Building Orders, and I was able to run over the salt priests. (Win, 5-1)

Round 7 - Andras Fulop - Stark Crossing Mirror

Andras and I had the exact same deck so it became “Who gets Greatjon first?” Unfortunately, Andras got a duped Greatjon Turn 1, while I only had 1 Greatjon. He ran the board from the get-go, and I conceded after it became abundantly clear there was no coming back and Valar Morghulis wouldn’t help me against his duped characters. (Loss, 5-2)

The cut was odd - they went all the way to 24th place - and I ended up in 6th seed after they made the byes super byes, which isn’t how it works anymore...but, alright, sure. Onward!

Top 16 - Daryl Webber - NW Wars Builders

This was another match where the Flayers and Put to the Sword shone - most Builders are 3 and lower, and while he duped his old Wall I was able to put Brandon’s Gift to the torch and Breaking Ties his econ chud. Daryl couldn’t keep a heavy board presence and often had to get hit with unopposed due to I Am No One, keeping his Wall down and power count low.

Top 8 - Jesse Carpenter - GJ Wars Drowned God

Jesse got to see Nagga’s Ribs this time, but he didn’t have the full combo early enough to win. I also got off a Put to the Torch on the Ribs early on and knocked a Drowned God Fanatic into his discard pile afterwards, helping disrupt his overall plan. Similar to the previous game against him, he just couldn’t get the deck to work and I rushed out the win.

Top 4 - Matthew Phillips - Bara Alliance Rose Qohor

Bara Alliance Rose Qohor was a deck I tested for a month straight before I decided to go with Stark Crossing. B/A/R/Q is a solid deck that tends to be more expensive than I like, but it can do some solid on-demand control and fast power gain. That said, since I had tested at least a similar version extensively I knew how to play against it, including never ever opening Summer Harvest against it.

Below is a play-by-play of the match if you’d like to read it, but if you want to watch the game check it out on Roy’s stream: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/305069554

Setup: Duped Greatjon, reducer, Northern Armory, vs Arbor Knight, Ser Davos with a couple attachments and a econ location.

Plot 1 - ToP into Matt’s Peace & Prosperity. Matt goes first, reducer location (no 2 reduction), Randyll, bodyguard, illegal tourney lance on Randyll (I completely missed it, but I’m sure it wasn’t malicious). I put down extra reducer, great hall, Wyman and Arya.

I blocked intrigue, sacced reducer for Wyman stand and draw during the mil challenge in case of milk after the mil claim on Wyman. Oathkeeper for Randyll instead, saccing knighted on Ser Davos. Pow with Randyll, unopposed, sacced tourney lance on ser davos for milk on Greatjon. Pow with Greatjon, opposed, mil (arbor knight claim), intrigue. Round 1 - 4-3 Stark.

Plot 2 - Breaking Ties into Matt’s Head on Spikes. I make Matt first, Matt snipes my Summer, making me very sad - I wanted to use him to bring the steward out of my dead pile to get Sansa higher. Now I had to use Robb to BT Randyll when I had two Robb in hand. Matt plays Ser Jon Fossoway, Vanguard Lancer. I play reducer location, Northern Armory and Robb, holding the dupe back for next turn since I needed to sac Robb to BT Randyll. Matt made a mistake in coming intrigue first which I got to block with Wyman for free since I planned on sacrificing Robb for Randyll anyway. Randyll came across for mil, I sacced Robb with Breaking Ties to send Randyll back to MAtt’s hand, and then to my challenges. Military with Greatjon, won, claim Vanguard Lancer. Intrigue UO, hit Bastard of the Nightsong. Power opposed by Davos. Round 2 - 6-2 Stark.

Plot 3 - Forced March into Matt’s Trade Routes. I go first, kneeling out his board with Arya. Draw into another Robb, so duped Robb and Sansa come into play. Matt plays Randyll again and milk on Robb, as well as Ser Massey duped. Tried to Tourney Lance Randyll again but it was noticed, and Bodyguard came out instead.

I start off with I Am No One on Sansa, intrigue UO to hit Big Bobby B. Mil with Robb, UO and claimed Davos. Power with Sansa, unopposed. Lots of power gain and draw there. Matt comes across with power with Masey and Randyll, I stood the Armory and defended the challenge, but should’ve put Sansa in for another card draw. If I remember correctly I meant to and just forgot. Round 3 - 12-1 Stark.

Plot 4 - Storm of Swords into Matt’s You Win or You Die. Matt went first, played Ser Garlan and bestowed 1, arbor knight, tourney lance on Massey, some attachment on Garlan. I put another dupe down of Greatjon, duped Wyman, played Septa, and sat on 4 gold. Matt came across with Massey on military, and with the Tourney Lance I couldn’t do much. I did oppose with Robb just to prevent Matt from gaining much power (still had another Northern Armory anyway), and Matt sacrificed an attachment on Garlan for King at the Wall for Massey to get renown and stand. Matt came across with Randyll and Massey for 10 and I opposed with Greatjon, Sansa, and Wyman for 14 to ensure I won on defense. Matt passes challenges to me.

I Am No One goes on Arya right away and Northern Armory for Sansa. Wyman sacrifices Robb to stand as well. First challenge is mil stealthing Randyll, forcing opposed as I’m at 13 power to his 2 - but he doesn’t oppose, and I play Winter is Coming for 2 claim. Matt claims the Massey dupe and Randyll’s bodyguard. 2nd military and stealthed Randyll again, and Matt opposed this time. 3rd challenge is an intrigue with the renown on Sansa for the game.

Time to face some Stark Kill.

Top 2 - AJ Valle - Stark Fealty Kill

I had no idea for sure what was in AJ’s plot deck so I was a bit nervous going into this game. Other opponents I’d heard tidbits here and there, but I hadn’t expected to face AJ. I’d heard he was running Ice, PttS, Kill Arya, and puppies, and from there I assumed he’d have Marched to the Wall, Ramsay, and other kill events like Taste for Flesh. I knew that I’d be in a very, very difficult position if I let AJ get the upper hand at any point, so in the words of Sonic the Hedgehog - “Gotta go fast!”

Like the previous match, below is a play-by-play if you’d like to read it, but if you want to watch the game check it out on Roy’s stream: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/305069554

AJ needed to mulligan, but I had a beautiful opening hand - low cost characters and lots of economy, with a couple big characters to drop T1 and T2. AJ ended up opening with Ramsay, Kill Arya, a reducer location and Flea Bottom. I opened with Septa, Sansa, Northern Armory and Great Hall.

Turn 1 - Summer Harvest into AJ’s Noble Cause. That gives me the initiative, which I knew I’d need - I had Greatjon in hand - so I went first. Reducer location, play Arya - and damnit, Catelyn is her dupe - followed by another Arya dupe and then Greatjon. Rather than play Wolf King on Greatjon, I duped Wolf King on Arya to prevent it from getting knocked off. While I was sure AJ played Ward, and would probably get it early, I wanted to have Arya stealthing high strength military characters for Greatjon’s intimidate. Plus, his Arya was out right then anyway, so no concern that first turn. AJ played another reducer location, Ice on Ramsay, Wolf Bran, and Tumblestone Knight. He’s got two left, so I assume he’s got PttS, Winter is Coming, or both.

I intrigue unopposed and hit...a Tumblestone Knight. Crap. He’s got Flea Bottom and 2 gold, so there’s a free military claim for him and another military icon - definitely not what I wanted to see with Ice on the board and kill events likely in his hand. Military with Greatjon and non-kneel Arya, stealthing Ramsay. AJ puts in the Tumblestone Knight with FB, defends, and claims him. Greatjon stands and kneels out Ramsay. Power with Greatjon, unopposed, knock down Arya. My challenges done, I pass to AJ.

AJ comes across with military on his Tumblestone Knight, 1 gold, and I only have Arya to block. That’s not enough. I need this board to stay wide, so I stand Greatjon with my Northern Armory and defend with him to win it. AJ came across with power for some reason, so I got renown on Sansa and win dominance. Round 1 - 5-0 Stark.

Turn 2 - Forced Marched into AJ’s Marched to the Wall. I wasn’t sure AJ played Marched, but I knew that if he did and he played it right then, my goose was cooked if I didn’t win initiative, so Forced Marched it is. I see that Marched to the Wall and I figure he’s going to march Arya so I fire Marched to the Wall first. I hate losing Sansa like that, but it has to be, and he gets rid of Arya. Since I’m concerned about his Ward, I kneel my Arya to kneel out his board.

I play another reducer location, Wyman and a dupe (I hear econ and draw wins games, y’all), and a Bolton Flayer. AJ sits on his 4 gold, playing nothing...color me surprised - I figured he’d play something, anything, so now I’m suspicious. Was I missing something? If he had the Ward he had some good targets - the Flayer and Septa Mordane. While Septa isn’t amazing on her own, it does make my game plan harder without Arya being immune to plot effects if AJ ran Valar Dohaeris. I think this was a mistake by AJ, and might be what cost him the game.

I intrigue unopposed and hit a Flea Bottom dupe - bah, but it could’ve hit a nice Flea Bottom character for him to put in, so it could’ve been worse - and then come across for unopposed military with Greatjon, AJ claiming Bran. Unopposed power with Wyman boosts me some more. The Flayer goes off to kill his Tumblestone Knight as AJ had no standing characters for challenges and decided not to Flea Bottom Arya in (due to the Flayer on the board), and I win dominance. Now, I didn’t know for sure he ran VD, but since he might I decided I wanted to get the Flayer off the board but still provide juicy fodder for AJ to bait him into playing VD. I’d have to get rid of either my Wyman or my Greatjon the next turn, so I sacrificed the Flayer in Dominance to get a card from Wyman. Round 2 - 9-0 Stark.

Turn 3 - Storm of Swords into his Valar Dohaeris. I get rid of my duped Wyman - I may still need the intimidate on Greatjon - and we move to marshaling. Another dupe on Arya - all 3, now - and Catelyn Stark and Flea Bottom hit my board. I’ve got two gold left over and Off to Gulltown in hand, which I was saving specifically for Catelyn Stark against AJ’s deck. With his likely Ward for Arya, I knew that would be clutch, and likely something AJ wouldn’t expect. I was afraid I wouldn’t draw a 2nd copy of Catelyn as one copy went under Arya for her reaction, but she decided to show up anyway. AJ plays a reducer location, Ward on Arya (it was bound to happen at some point), and his own Catelyn.

After that, I knew I had it. Off to Gulltown Catelyn and turn her sideways with Greatjon. AJ defends with Arya, I stand Greatjon, he kills Arya and I come across for another mil. UO, he claims Ramsay, and i intimidate Catelyn. Intrigue with Flea Bottom Sansa, unopposed, renown - that’s 13 power total - then unopposed power for 14 since he doesn’t have any on his house. I can’t get to 15 - Sansa will go away before dom, so I’d be stuck on 14 - but AJ scoops and the game’s over.

~ Reflections ~

Nationals was an amazing time, Will Lentz put on a great event, and the community came together and had a blast throughout the entire weekend. What more could you ask for? I’ve travelled for more events in the last year than I’ve ever travelled before, and I only see that continuing - there’s so many fun fan-run events that it’s getting hard to decide between them!

The deck performed flawlessly, and there was never a time that I wished for a card that wasn’t in the deck. The inclusions of the Bolton Flayer and Put to the Torch was the right meta call, and these may be able to be switched out for future versions of the deck if the meta shifts enough.

I think this deck will likely have some staying power as a template for Stark Crossing, but we’ve got a lot of interesting cards coming up. Music of Dragons just released today and In Daznak’s Pit isn’t far off, so it’s possible this deck won’t be as strong if Targ makes a comeback with the new In Daznak’s Pit event and you can’t keep a hold of the initiative from the get-go.

Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for reading my thesis! =D

3 comments

teamjimby 1269

Great run and great write up! Congrats, Dustan!

The only card missing is Relentless Assault. It's so good with Greatjon, I Am No One, and Wolf King.

Summer Harvest confirmed best econ plot in the game.

adam_geek 422

Hey I find a PHD literature here

BlaiddDrwg 1

Would you play Meera Reed in this? If so, what would you take out?