The House of Kneel

Card draw simulator
Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% more
Derived from
See the Light of the Lord - Winner Brawl 2018 (46p) 27 20 17 1.0
Inspiration for
None yet.

Odrl 26

Hi folks. :)

This is the most recent version of a deck I've had fun with online for the past three months and a half, ever since Blackwater Bay was released. I've played 93 games with it so far, which for me is a huge number for one deck, as I tend to get bored of playing the same thing over and over again fairly quickly. For some reason I have a soft spot for good old Bara kneel though, and while it's definitely not a good meta call at the moment with the rise of Stark and Targaryen in recent times, Blackwater Bay has made it a lot more viable than it was before. I will try my best to describe how it works, what it struggles against, and why I have settled on this particular list of cards.

Basically, the deck is a continuation of the Bara Summer deck that was introduced by Diomedes shortly before Blackwater Bay was released. Huge thanks to him for bringing fun back to Bara. :) I had been trying to play a control deck out of Baratheon for some time with very little success, so the use of Grand Melee in combination with kneel was a real revelation. Obviously the big difference we have here is the agenda and the draw engine. Exchange of Information was a key plot in Bara Summer, and it benefited a lot from having a decent number of each card type. This is no longer needed, so the focus has shifted more towards kneel events. The Red Keep is also missing, simply because Blackwater Bay has a much greater draw potential and you don't really need those two extra cards. This also means you are no longer desperate to defend the challenge, although it is still preferable to do so. Let's examine some of the key concepts of this deck in detail:


Draw

  • Blackwater Bay - The one and only draw engine of this deck. Of all three of Baratheon's main themes in this game, kneel has always appealed to me the most. Obviously it worked great in the core set and for most of the first cycle, but since then it's become a little impotent with all of the stand effects in the game now, and some factions have so much draw and economy that it's impossible to kneel everything they can put on the board. Rush decks in particular were really difficult to stop for a while. Basically you could neutralise a couple of rounds with kneel effects early on, but then you would run out of resources and they would just do what they were trying to do all along, only with a slight delay. Blackwater Bay has been a huge help in that regard, because you are now directly rewarded for kneeling characters in the marshaling phase. Ideally you should draw at least a couple of cards every round, with occasional huge bursts of draw whenever Selyse is played. I have rounds where I have to discard 4 or 5 cards to reserve in practically every game, which is a luxury I don't remember Baratheon ever having before. Kneel feeds draw, and draw in turn feeds kneel, because you keep drawing kneel effects to replace the ones you had just used. Unlike the Red Keep, BB is also difficult to stop from triggering, because there is no action window where it can be hit with Nightmares.
  • The House With the Red Door - Obvious choice of agenda, because you want your key card on the board right from the start, and you don't need to worry about it being discarded from play. Unfortunately the downside of this agenda is very real, so setups can be rough sometimes if you draw a hand full of events and negative attachments. Could this basic concept be played with a different agenda? Possibly, but I haven't found one that works better than this one yet.
  • Maester Cressen - May as well put him in this category, because his only real purpose in this deck is to keep Frozen Solid and Seized by the Guard off BB, so you don't end up without any draw. That, and to keep Milks off Melisandre. I have played around a lot with different numbers of Cressen. Sometimes he does basically nothing all game, but against Stark he is invaluable, so I wouldn't go below two copies at the moment.
  • Time of Plenty - The only other draw effect in this game, but it's mainly here because it's such a safe opener. Rarely are you desperate for that one extra card.


Setup and Economy
As I said above, this is the one big obstacle you have to overcome in every game. You have 24 cards that can't be set up, and several others you would prefer not to set up if possible. Ideally you want to see a Stormlands Fiefdom, a limited location and a character, but one thing you should never settle for is a set up without any economy, unless you put in an additional economy plot.

  • The Roseroad - No explanation needed.
  • Dragonstone Port - I initially wasn't playing these, mainly because they have anti-synergy with Withering Cold, but I found I simply had to include them if I wanted to increase my chances of setting up three cards. Just be careful not to trigger them needlessly on a Withering Cold turn. Consider whether they are better left standing for the following round.
  • Stormlands Fiefdom - Absolutely invaluable card in this deck. The fact they are not limited helps you put down more economy on setup, and it also helps you protect your dominance locations from Nothing Burns Like The Cold, although you don't have to deal with that plot as much now that Wars is restricted. Stormlands Fiefdoms also serve another purpose in this deck, but more on that later...
  • Gates of the Moon - Had two copies for a long time, but the lack of immediate benefit hurts you when you don't see it on setup, so I found I was discarding it to reserve too many times for my liking.
  • Dragonstone Faithful - No explanation needed.
  • Vanguard Lancer - None of the 2-cost characters help with kneel, but you can't really do without them if you want a decent setup. The obvious dilemma was between this and the Bastard in Hiding. The difference in STR is rarely relevant for challenges, since either can win an unopposed challenge when most of the board is knelt, and either can oppose a challenge you are losing anyway. One situation where it does matter of course is against burn, but at least Blood of the Dragon is mostly gone now that Targ is no longer playing with 10 plots. I have to confess the Vanguard Lancer's ability to discard 1 power has rarely proved pivotal in the games I've played, so this choice could go either way.
  • Edric Storm - Easy include since he helps with dominance as well.
  • Shireen Baratheon - I can't remember the last time I built a Bara deck without a copy of Shireen. No reason not to include her, unless you're playing the new one.
  • Time of Plenty - I've played around a bit with different opening plots, but unfortunately I haven't found one that is as consistently reliable as ToP.
  • Trade Routes - Almost always useful, particularly for loading up a Begging Brother, or for when you want to play out most of your hand because you are about to draw a huge number of cards after Selyse or Withering Cold. I've also had the fringe scenario of playing Trade Routes against Valar Morghulis and getting the gold to cancel Iron Mines, but that was a fluke more than anything.


Dominance
Getting power through dominance is very important for this deck, because there is no other way to quickly gain power, and you have to win somehow...

  • The Iron Throne - One of the most important cards of the deck, since you have several supporting pieces that rely on winning dominance. The +1 reserve also helps to limit the number of cards you are throwing away.
  • Chamber of the Painted Table - Nothing new to say about this card, clearly it's brilliant for any deck that wants to win dominance. It's often the key card that gets you to 15 power, and even more often the key card that stops your opponent from rushing to victory before he runs out of resources. One thing that is important to remember is that the Chamber kneels for its effect, so you might want to play out something else on the Withering Cold turn if you have the choice, since you will only be triggering the Chamber one time in the next two rounds anyway.
  • Storm's End - This card has been a very pleasant surprise for me. It's 1 extra power for dominance every round, and losing that power on resets really hasn't been much of an issue.
  • Stormlands Fiefdom - I know this card is often compared unfavourably to the non-limited economy locations other houses got in this cycle, but this is one deck it really shines in. Getting the power back to your faction card after triggering Storm's End is really nice, and sometimes you can trigger it on your opponent as well when they have no power to steal with the Chamber or for claim. Remember that you can trigger it again in the standing phase if needed, if there is a reset coming and you still have power to save. On the other hand, there might be cases where you might not want to trigger it at all, when you are the one who has no power on your faction card and you want it to stay on your characters until your opponent's challenge goes through.
  • Devan Seaworth - Apart from being wasted on setup, this is a fantastic card that helps you find the missing piece of your dominance machine. Unfortunately you can't put 4 gold on him, but most of the time you only need to grab one location anyway. If in doubt, take the Throne first, because that's the card that enables everything else. You might want to put 3 gold on Devan if you can afford it, to grab a cheeky Storm's End as well after the Throne and Chamber are already on the board. Sometimes BB will already draw you the card you were hoping to get with Devan, but it's a good thing Stormlands Fiefdom is an eligible target as well, so Devan's ability almost never goes to waste.
  • Edric Storm - Surprisingly useful in some games, when his ability actually makes a difference between winning and losing dominance. Easy for your opponent to overlook as well, which is always a bonus. Sometimes you might not need him, so you just use him as claim soak.
  • Fiery Followers - A perfect card for this kind of Bara deck, because they basically work with everything your deck is trying to do. Their ability helps you win dominance some of the time, but even when it's not needed they still give you a "free" challenge on a Withering Cold turn. They're also easy to overlook for your opponent, which can lead to misplays.


Kneel events and Annals

  • The Annals of Castle Black - There is nothing revolutionary or even particularly creative about this deck, but I guess the inclusion of Annals is one thing that stands out a little. Usually you would play it as the 6th or 7th plot, and you can either use it defensively or close out the game with it, depending on the situation. Basically, the "trick" you have available is to play Consolidation of Power on your own characters to win. Usually you would have a couple in your discard pile when you get to the Annals turn, and probably a couple of Privileged Positions as well, so you have a guaranteed victory in the marshaling phase if you are on 13 power. This is a tactic your opponent almost never sees coming, so they don't know how important it is not to let you get to the verge of victory in the preceding round. But you do know, so you can play accordingly. I've actually done this in 28% of my wins, so this is the other main way to win apart from dominance and unopposed challenges. I've gone from 12 to 15 in marshaling a couple of times, and there was one game where my opponent went to great lengths to completely wipe out my board and take control of the game, only to lose in such an anti-climatic way. Beware though, for some reason people don't like this particular tactic and you can just feel the mood sour when you do this sometimes. :) Anyway, just as often you will have to use the Annals defensively, and it works very well for that purpose too. Usually you will have access to more kneel events you can even pay for, and you should probably be able to neutralise a round completely. It's always nice if you can play it against You Win Or You Die, because it's the one round where your opponent really needs to do something for it not to be a complete waste, and preventing that can and has turned games around for me several times. Occasionally there will be times when Annals does backfire, but it doesn't happen as often as I had feared. Mainly you don't want to give your opponents access to stuff like Treachery or burn events, and sometimes innocent stuff like Superior Claim might bury you, but mostly you are able to control the board that round anyway. Annals is a plot you have to keep in mind for the entire game, so think carefully when discarding cards for reserve. It might be worth discarding the events first, since you will be able to access them again later.
  • Consolidation of Power - As I said above, this card is one of the MVPs of this deck. Obviously you will be using it on your opponent in the early rounds, and since BB triggers off the number of kneeling characters, you should go for quantity over quality when you can. Think about where you want the power to go as well, it's always better on cards like the Messenger Raven rather than something that will stick around. Even if you can't win on the Annals turn, it's still always nice to have this card in the discard pile to use defensively, just be careful with it when your opponent is close to winning.
  • Even Handed Justice - This card unfortunately proves to be a little too expensive at times, but it's crucial to have it when stuff enters plays in the challenges phase. Don't forget you can use it in the standing phase as well, if you have gold left over and no particular reason to hold onto the card.
  • Stannis's Wrath - Cheap and efficient, particularly against Targ that has several great targets for it, but sometimes it's a dead card because literally every character on the board has a icon. That's why I am only playing one copy.
  • Saving the Kingdom - One of my favourite cards in Bara kneel, but in this particular deck it is not one of the stars, mainly because it's tough to pay for it. It does make a big difference in some games though and there are several good targets for it. Lordsport Shipwright for instance...
  • Seen In Flames - Obviously not purely a kneel event, but using this with Melisandre on the board is still the cheapest way to kneel stuff in the challenges phase. Choosing which card to discard is probably one of the key decisions you will have to make in each game. Think carefully about what card can hurt you the most. Sometimes just getting rid of stuff like Lady Sansa's Rose makes the difference between winning and losing, other times you might want to get rid of stuff that could cancel Selyse, or something like Queensguard that you have no way of dealing with. Don't just go for the most expensive character, particularly when you haven't played Valar Dohaeris yet. And obviously it's always nice to get a look at your opponent's hand as well, particularly against Targ.


Other kneel effects

  • Selyse Baratheon - Let's start with the most important one. When Queen Selyse first came out, everyone was saying this was a card you really needed to build your deck around, and I was of a similar opinion. I've changed my mind completely about that now though. If you're playing anything resembling a traditional Baratheon deck, just stick her in and don't give it a second thought! This is the deck she really shines in though. She can basically turn BB into Secret Schemes, with the added bonus of completely shutting down your opponent for a round, or even two rounds if you play her on a Withering Cold turn. Ideally you should play her when going second, and try not to play her when your opponent could cancel her with Treachery or Drowned God Fanatic, though sometimes you simply have to take that risk. This is the key control card of the entire deck, so don't waste her on situations where she would have little impact if you can avoid it. If you have another way of kneeling most of your opponent's board, it's better to keep Selyse for rainy days.
  • Melisandre - Nothing new to say here. Play her with a dupe if you can, and try not to get her killed, because she is your only character that needs to stay on the board if she can.
  • Fiery Followers - Probably the last chud you should ever kill for military claim, because they are very versatile and work very well with both plots I am about to discuss.
  • Asshai Priestess - Works better against some decks than others, but most of the time you should have a target for her ability, which gives you an extra card to draw with BB.
  • Shireen Baratheon - Always useful, but try not to waste her ability in the challenges phase if you suspect she could be more useful in the plot phase. Also, she doesn't kneel for Selyse, which can be a nice little bonus sometimes.
  • The Withering Cold - Probably the card I missed the most in Bara Summer, if only I could play three of these... :) It can backfire spectacularly with cards like Robb Stark around, but most of the time it should work in your favour, and I am always happy to see my opponent playing their own copy as well. Don't be afraid to use it as an opener if the situation calls for it. You will usually win initiative, so if you can go second and pay for Selyse, or if your CoP would take care of multiple characters, it's worth considering. My favourite thing about this plot is that it shuts down some annoying locations for a turn. Of course that goes for your own locations as well, but usually you are more than happy to trade those for stuff like new Wall, Plaza of Pride or Flea Bottom. Even better if you can cancel them with Privileged Position on the same turn. It also keeps the faction card knelt for a turn against stuff like Free Folk or Greensight. Remember that BB will stay knelt as well, so you have a decision to make... Do you trigger it now, or the turn after Withering Cold? If you are reasonably happy with your hand and triggering BB would bring you way over reserve, you might want to delay the trigger until next round. Be careful though, if your opponent plays a reset, most of those knelt characters could be gone!
  • Forced March - I actually played two of these in most of my games with this deck, and I have to say they did their job most of the time. They help control the board, they feed BB, and they win initiative so that you can go second. The fairly low gold and reserve is not a negligible downside though, unfortunately. It can also misfire on occasion, when your opponent has managed to kill all of your chuds with a icon, or when they have no icons of their own. I've experimented with a variety of plots in place of the second Forced March, but I haven't found one that fits perfectly.


Other control elements

  • Seized by the Guard - Generally, annoying locations are the most difficult thing to deal with, and unfortunately there is no perfect solution for them at the moment. Seized is expensive if you want to keep it for a few rounds, and it's a giant setback if your opponent removes it shortly after you've invested so much into it. It's the only way of dealing with HRD locations though, as well as with stuff like Dorne that triggers time and time again. The other option I've experimented with is Jade Sea Dromond, and I would say it's about equally useful. It can discard locations permanently and has a secondary function as economy if you don't need to use it, but it does nothing against duped and high-cost locations, and it's generally a struggle to pay for it.
  • Privileged Position - The third copy was a very recent addition, I only played two in most of my games with this deck since it was released. I mostly use it to cancel locations, which can be very sweet if it's something like Stark Harrenhal or the new Wall. It really helps with the Targ matchup as well, though unfortunately they have too many triggers for you to cancel them all. Nice to have it in the discard pile for Annals as well, either to shut down locations that turn or to protect your CoP against cancels. This card sometimes separates strong players from average ones, because a sharp opponent will invest in a challenge before they start triggering all of their stuff. Sad day for you when that happens. :)
  • Milk of the Poppy - The number of Milks is always a meta call, sometimes you don't really need any, sometimes you play all three and it's still not enough. Almost all of Stark's and Targ's big characters desperately need to be milked, as does stuff that stands itself, such as Victarion, Randyll Tarly or whatever nasty character has Queensguard attached.
  • Begging Brother - Lovely card when you can get it on the board, but unfortunately it's difficult to pay for it, so you can only really play in on a Trade Routes turn. You should keep it after resets if you can, especially if it's fully loaded.



That's covered everything apart from four cards, which are all useful in their own right but don't really fit into any of the above categories.

  • Ser Cortnay Penrose - One of the few constructive cards that do stuff for you rather than against your opponent, and at the same time have nothing directly to do with dominance. He is great on a Withering Cold turn and whenever most of the board is knelt. Not particularly important to keep around though.
  • Ser Davos Seaworth - He could be replaced, but I wanted a character that "survives" Valar M and burn, and he gives you at least some sort of chance of having some board presence against First Snow.
  • Valar Dohaeris - Credit to Diomedes for this one, I never previously considered this particular reset for a Baratheon deck, but it fits like a glove here. Most of your characters are low cost, so you can usually keep three if you have Melisandre on the board. As Diomedes says in his deck description, the idea is to basically delay this plot for as long as you can and give your opponent the chance to overextend, especially if you can frustrate them with stuff like Selyse and Withering Cold so they feel like they have to play out more characters. It's usually not a good idea to play it directly after Withering Cold, because most stuff will be knelt at that point anyway. I usually play Trade Routes first, especially if I have a Begging Brother in hand. Valar D is currently your only way to get Selyse off the board and replay her, so use it wisely. Needless to say, you probably want to get Selyse off the board even if you don't currently have another copy in hand, because she is just a weak body after she has served her purpose, and you don't want to get her killed. If you have unprotected Melisandre and/or Selyse on the board, you should probably consider playing Valar D when you suspect Valar M from your opponent, unless you include Close Call in your plot deck. You don't want your best kneel effects to become dead draws. Another good thing about Valar D is its relatively good initiative, since going second is more important in this deck than most. Obviously there are downsides to Valar D as well, mainly that it's an inefficient reset against decks that are trying to take advantage of it themselves, but I guess you can't have everything...
  • Grand Melee - As I said earlier, this was actually a second Forced March in most of my games, but I felt Grand Melee was worth trying as well, because some boards are just more vulnerable to this plot and it's good to have different options. Just remember you have it revealed, otherwise horrible misplays can happen, on both sides! :) This last plot spot is actually very flexible, which brings me to my next point...


Plots that could also be considered

  • A Game of Thrones - If you want another control plot, this basically serves the same purpose as Grand Melee and Forced March, only in a slightly different way. You don't have to kneel everything to neutralise the round, just kneel every icon.
  • Filthy Accusations - BB benefits from quantity and Forced March is better for that, but there is no doubt you sometimes want to kneel something very specific, and being able to do so with a plot is very reliable.
  • Trade Routes - A second copy of this instead of another control plot is definitely worth considering.
  • Summer Harvest - I played this a lot instead of ToP early on. It wins initiative against most common opening plots and gives you the chance to breathe a little if you get 8 gold or more, but hitting another Summer Harvest or a low-gold plot is something this deck just can't handle. It's too crippling with an agenda that also limits your setup options.
  • Close Call - Yeah, getting Melisandre or Selyse killed with stuff like Heads on Spikes or Crown of Gold sucks, and there have definitely been a few games where I felt Close Call could have saved me. But then again, those are the only two characters you would ever want to bring back, and 0 initiative is not ideal either.
  • Barring the Gates - Not a bad option, particularly now that shadows are becoming a thing. Stuff that comes into play in the challenges phase sure is annoying, so being able to block that for a round is always nice. It's not a universally useful plot though, sometimes it just does literally nothing.
  • Confiscation - Generally Cressen can take care of most things you would want to confiscate, but Stark and banner Wolf can really dominate you with Ward and Frozen Solid, so it's probably worth including if you are expecting that matchup. Queensguard sucks to play against as well.
  • Wildfire Assault - Could be useful against decks that play lots of small characters who can survive Valar D.
  • Valar Morghulis - Mmmm... I think every single deck ever created has lost games where having Valar M would have saved them. This one certainly has. Having no way to get rid of Fat Cat with 10 power on her sucks, or seeing your opponent play Trade Routes and put on a bunch of big characters after you have already used your reset... The question is, does Valar M help you more than it hinders you? This particular deck often goes to the 6th or 7th plot, sometimes even beyond that, so most of the time you would be forced to play it whatever happens. The economy is already a struggle, and Melisandre is the only character you would usually have duped. It would be a nice surprise to play two resets though.


Other notable omissions

  • Stannis Baratheon - Core Stannis is one of the first cards I considered for this deck, because of his obvious synergy with BB. Unfortunately his one big downside is that he cannot survive Valar D with Melisandre, so he just doesn't fit this deck. You can build one with him in mind, but it would have to be a lot different than this. Same goes for King Stannis, one extra card for BB each round, but a 7-coster in a HRD deck and a faction with poor economy is just too difficult to make work.
  • Robert Baratheon - Same as above. You're not really trying to win through renown and challenges anyway, so I don't miss him at all.
  • The Bastard of Nightsong - I played him a bit in this deck, but I found he stayed in my hand a lot because of his relatively high cost, or because he simply wasn't needed on the board. He has nice synergy with Stormlands Fiefdom though, so one copy could be worth it.
  • Gendry - Another card I tried, as you now actually have a way of getting his power onto your faction card, but I felt he didn't do enough for his cost. Whenever I had him and Cortnay in my hand at the same time, I always wanted to play Cortnay first.
  • Red Ronnet - One to consider in the future if shadows become difficult to deal with, although claim raise is not really something you care about in this deck.
  • Stannis's Cavalry - Not enough gold to play it, and doesn't survive resets well.
  • Lem Lemoncloak - I had one copy of him in my deck in about 95% of the games I've played, and he was alright. The only loyal character that can block his ability is Selyse, and she usually doesn't stay on the board too long. I hate that he can't be reduced with reducers though.
  • Shadow Priestess - Probably a decent option, although getting her in through shadows is expensive for this deck. Kneel in the challenges phase can sometimes be crucial though.
  • Queen's Men - Can't really use the second part of their ability, so I think Asshai Priestess is the better choice in this slot.
  • Moon Boy - Not a bad option to help with setup, and he has half a chance of winning an unopposed challenge, but draw is really not a problem for this deck.
  • Light of the Lord - I was sad to see this one going down to 0 copies, but something had to go when Privileged Position was released.
  • Stinking Drunk - Same as above. It was the easiest kneel effect to cut, mainly because it's not an event and you can't replay it with Annals.
  • Traitor to the Crown - Another victim of Privileged Position. I love this card, but desperately protecting the challenge is not as important in this deck as it was in Bara Summer.
  • Dragonstone Castle - I used to play a copy of this, with mixed results. It can be absolutely game-changing against cards like Victarion, Randyll Tarly and Queensguard, and even against Plaza of Pride, but it's a real struggle to pay for it. And if you manage to fetch it with Devan, you're probably winning anyway.
  • Spears of the Merling King - This would actually work nicely with both Devan and Selyse, but what to cut for it?
  • Isle of Ravens - Another card that would work well with Devan. It's a nice counter to Flea Bottom and it would be handy to remove potentially problematic events before the Annals turn, but unfortunately I can't find any space for it.
  • Northern Encampment - Big risk, big reward, but if you have a weak setup and fail to win dominance in the opening round, you're probably never going to recover from it. Also, it sucks with Withering Cold.
  • In the Name of Your King! - Another card that can save you in some situations, but it competes with Selyse for the faction card kneel, and Withering Cold blocks the faction card kneel for one round. Also, I always hate this card when playing against decks that completely ignore challenges.
  • The Iron Bank Will Have Its Due - Not particularly useful in this deck. Selyse is the only real target for it, and unfortunately they both kneel your faction card.



All in all, this deck has a decent success rate, but not quite good enough to complete with the best decks. I've won 57 games with it, lost 34, with two games ending prematurely at a point where it was too close to call the winner. The numbers were a little better at the time when Tyrell was still popular and have understandably dropped a little with the rise of Stark and Targaryen in recent times. It would be interesting to see what a more skilled player than myself could do with it. :) The only "competitive" games I have played with this deck were in the Champions of Westeros online league. In the Summer edition I think I only played it in the cut and lost to Reim and his Targ deck, in a game that actually went much better than I expected it to. In the current league I made it to top16, which I think is my best-ever result. I was somewhat lucky to only face Targ three times, including a game my opponent conceded without me actually having to beat him, and I managed to avoid Stark altogether. The format of this event also allows changes to the deck for each individual game, so there were times where I had a pretty strong suspicion what my opponent would play and was able to change a card or two to help with that particular matchup. The top16 game will haunt me for some time though... I was on the verge of losing when I managed to get to 13 power with two copies of CoP in the discard pile, so I knew Annals was my one and only hope of winning. The opponent had two cancels in his discard pile, but I also had two copies of Privileged Position. The only way I could be stopped from winning was if my opponent won initiative, went first, drew his third cancel, and at the same time I didn't draw my third copy of either CoP or PP, or any of the three copies of Selyse I still had in what remained of my draw deck. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened. :( My opponent had an interesting deck and played a good game though, so I wish him all the best in the remainder of the tournament and I hope he wins. I won't go into any more detail about any of my games, since some players I played are still in the tournament and might not appreciate the games being discussed here. I really wanted to make the top8 and have another crack at an opponent who had smashed me earlier in the tournament though. :) I don't know if there will be another chance as good as this one...

Anyway, let's talk about some specific matchups. It's a pretty small sample size for some, so I feel the stats don't entirely reflect my own personal opinions in some cases, but let's go from worst to best according to what the stats say:


Targaryen (4W-9L):

All Targ decks I have played against in this time are basically slight variations of the same deck, and it's really tough to play against. Military pressure and burn alone I could probably deal with, but it's all the stand and "ambush" that really gets you here. The restricted list didn't really do a lot to help, but at least they don't play Wars now, so their plot deck doesn't have an answer for everything. Of the main agendas that are played nowadays, I feel Crossing probably gives you the best chance. It focuses a little more on getting multiple challenges through every round, so if you can block that you can sometimes make the game go long and grind them out. HRD Meereen is probably the worst, every round is like Counting Coppers for them and they just keep going. Milks are very important in this matchup, as is Privileged Position to cancel their locations and Begging Brother to cancel stuff like Aegon and Drogon. Annals also does decent work, especially if you can play it against You Win Or You Die. Unless you keep some of their characters standing that is, in which case they can replay all of their burn from the discard pile. Targ decks usually don't have too much focus on gaining power quickly, so the Throne and Chamber combo can keep you in the game for a long time here. As for location control, Dromonds obviously work better than Seized against Targ, because of Viserys and Qarth, but unfortunately they can't hit their HRD location. Queensguard is horrible to play against as well, but I've been seeing that more often in banner decks so far. I will also say that one of the wins I had against Targ was the result of a horrendous misplay from my opponent. He had a guaranteed victory that I couldn't stop, but he had a complete brainfart and triggered Flea Bottom just before military claim, so Shireen could kneel his Second Sons and allow me to win in dominance. If I count that one as the loss that it should have been, the stats get even worse. I think this matchup will stay a bad one for the foreseeable future, but at least restricting Meereen would be a step in the right direction, because they wouldn't be able to casually discard all of their cards as "costs" for incredibly strong effects.

Martell (3W-6L):

This one is probably not as bad as the stats suggest, because some games were played before the latest restricted list, when they could completely ruin your plan with Breaking Ties and still play Flea Bottom and Wars. There are a couple of different Martell decks with different game plans, some more favourable than others. Two of the games I lost were against Kings of Winter, which is something this deck cannot handle at all. Martell Wolf that tries to clear your board is tough as well, especially since most of your characters have low STR, so Venomous Blade hits you really hard. Decks that try to pull off a big Doran's Game I find easier to deal with, because you can sometimes get rid of it with Seen In Flames, and you can target all of their icons with kneel. A general problem against almost all Martell decks is that they survive Valar D really well, but on the other hand Consolidation of Power also hits them hard, and you can get by with passing challenges and not feeding Dorne better than most other decks can. You better have a Milk ready when Nymeria hits the board though. :)

Stark (6W-7L):

I'm surprised this one is so even, since Stark is usually a real nightmare to play against. The obvious problem is all of their stand. Robb can completely negate your entire plan if he goes unchecked, Wyman can sacrifice all of the knelt characters to draw cards and stop you from drawing, and you have no effect that gets Fat Cat off the board, so she can gain power pretty quickly if you don't milk her. Their non-limited economy location gives them an extra stand, they frustrate you by bringing characters into play in challenges through shadows and Flea Bottom, they can freeze your only source of draw, and Bran can cancel events on demand. And when you load up a Begging Brother to deal with some of that stuff, they take it with Ward. :) One thing the restricted list did is to get rid of Breaking Ties, but they keep getting new toys like Skagos to compensate for that. Unfortunately they are really resilient to resets with cards like Wyman and Summer, and good players will smell Valar D from a mile away and play around it. Some Stark decks focus a little more on attrition than getting power quickly, but they use most of the same cards and are equally difficult to deal with. I did beat the Qohor decks both times I've played them though.

Greyjoy (6W-5L):

One of the most favourable matchups for Bara kneel back in the day, but it's getting worse all the time as they keep getting cards that really mess up your strategy. First of all, Drowned God decks are horrible to play against, because they fight you for dominance and usually win, unless you somehow manage not to feed their dead pile and boost Nagga's Ribs. More traditional Greyjoy decks are not as bad, but they too have a bunch of stuff that directly counters your strategy. First of all, Lordsport Shipwright is one of the few ways to cancel BB, and Greyjoy doesn't mind going first if they can do that. Saving the Kingdom helps a lot here, and sometimes they hesitate with the trigger and allow you to kneel it with other stuff as well. Then we have Drowned God Fanatic, which makes Selyse really unreliable unless you can get a Begging Brother on the board first. The Fanatic also has an annoying habit of coming into play in challenges and avoiding your kneel. The fact they can casually discard your Iron Throne with Newly-Made Lord sucks as well. Victarion Greyjoy can also be a huge problem, especially in decks that are designed around him, but luckily a single Milk takes care of him pretty well. On the plus side, Valar D hits them pretty hard, especially when they don't see it coming, and if you can block Asha they usually don't draw too well. If one of my wins against Targ should have been a loss, one of the losses here could very well have been a win. When playing online, sometimes your opponents will trigger stuff outside of the action window, then declare a challenge before you can react, and in one of the games that resulted in me losing Mel to The Seastone Chair, which I could have easily prevented. I couldn't be bothered to complain at the time, but I'm sure the game would have gone in a completely different direction without that setback. :) It will be interesting to see what direction Greyjoy will go in after their deluxe box, but I strongly suspect they will get tougher to play against.

Baratheon (4W-2L):

Small sample size here, but generally I feel pretty positive about this matchup. They can be annoying if they fight you for dominance, but most Bara decks don't deal with Valar D too well and they usually don't see it coming in the mirror match. As soon as Robert and Mel are on the board at the same time, preferably duped, you can really mess them up with a single plot. Also, BB outdraws the Red Keep pretty easily, and you are sure as hell not going let King at the Wall trigger if you are playing against a banner deck.

The Free Folk (3W-1L):

Okay, this one can go pretty badly if you have a bad start and they get you with First Snow and Famine, or if they manage to trigger their agenda on a 2-claim plot in the first round. On the other hand, they usually can't get anything through if you successfully block them early on. CoP usually hits multiple characters, Selyse hits everything except Ygritte, and Forced March can also kneel most of the board. Withering Cold is also great in this matchup, either to block one entire round or at least to keep the faction card knelt. I think HRD is actually a hindrance in this matchup because of your vulnerability in setup, so I would play a different agenda if I really wanted to beat Free Folk with Bara kneel, but I think this agenda still does the job more often than not.

Lannister (13W-3L):

Despite Lannister's recent struggles, people still really love to play it on theironthrone, which definitely helps this deck's win ratio. :) Most Lannister decks I've faced were basically rush decks, mostly Crossing and sometimes Rains, and they rely a lot on getting multiple challenges through with characters that don't kneel to attack, such as Cersei, Jaime and Myrcella, but they can't actually stand them if you kneel them before challenges. I've lost a couple of games where I simply didn't see enough kneel early on to stop the rush, and that's always a danger against decks that win really fast. Treachery is also a strong card for them in this matchup, because it can cancel both BB and Selyse, and sharp players will usually know what's worth cancelling and when. They tend to play Heads on Spikes as well, so it sucks if they hit your Melisandre or Selyse. That's just about all of the advantages they have against you. They struggle with kneel, they usually don't fight you for dominance, and Valar D can hit them pretty hard as well since they try to rush with big characters. The other Lannister deck type I have faced several times is the mill deck, and I actually find this much tougher to play against. You are drawing a lot as it is, so things can get dangerous pretty quickly, especially since some of their mill such as Glass Candles or Greensight is not linked to challenges and can't really be blocked. One thing you can do is not to trigger your BB, but since your deck is so slow in gaining power, you really need to draw the dominance stuff before it gets discarded. I've actually lost one game against this deck, and I played another couple where I was down to 7 and 8 cards in my deck before I got to 15 power, and that's after putting some characters back in the deck with Valar D. It's a good thing they don't expect to see Annals, otherwise they would leave stuff like Dragon's Tail in the discard pile rather than kindly shuffling it back into their decks. :)

Tyrell (8W-1L):

Similar story to Lannister, Tyrell rush can get you within a couple of rounds if you don't find enough kneel early on, but the longer the game goes on the less chance they have of winning. Generally stand effects that work through one character standing another are fairly easy to deal with, you can just kneel those Highgarden Courtiers in the marshaling phase and they are no longer a factor. Randyll Tarly is the most annoying card because he stands himself, so save your Milk for him if you can. They don't really have any annoying stuff that hurts you, even their ambush is fairly benign. Withering Cold hits them hard, as does Valar D. Too bad their popularity has dropped in recent times...

Night's Watch (9W-1L):

There are a few different NW decks being played at the moment, but the one I come across the most is the one that steals your characters with the new Wall and other effects. It's also the deck my one loss was against. Basically, an early Greensight or Queenscrown trigger that gets Mel or Selyse can be tough to recover from, assuming your opponent knows he should try to keep them on the board when you play Valar D. On the plus side, most of your characters are fairly unimpactful if your opponent steals them, so most of the time it's not really a big deal. The Withering Cold keeps the faction card and locations knelt for a round, and cancelling the Wall with Privileged Position is a big tempo hit for your opponent. Not to mention that the Wall can be seized really nicely. Just don't give them Cressen if you can help it. :) Traditional Wall defence decks should be easy to play against as well, since your dominance triggers are faster then their Wall even if you can't kneel or cancel it in challenges. As for the more offensive Ranger decks, they suffer from most of the same problems as Tyrell and Lannister. Non-kneeling characters are useless if you can get them before challenges, characters that stand other characters are also not that great if you target them first, and all versions of Jon Snow can be knelt and kept away from challenges. I guess Bara sucks to play against for NW in the same way that Targ sucks for Bara. :)


I think the only thing I haven't mentioned yet is that Political Disaster can indeed be a disaster for this deck regardless of the matchup, but luckily most decks can't find a space for it now that Wars is restricted. On the other hand, shadows should get bigger in the near future, and I suspect that will not be easy to deal with for this deck.

Anyway, congratulations if you've made it this far and thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I would be very interested to hear them. :)

5 comments

Diomedes 1379

Great write up! I agree with literally everything you wrote. I tried Red Door Blackwater Bay, but couldn't get it to work reliably. I love your use of The Annals of Castle Black! Well done, ser! :)

sirkamlot 1

Wow - huge job. Very interesting

BlueHill 29

First game with this today against Stark HRD. So much good control elements that it was almost easy. I think having good money from the start either makes or breaks the game. Cool deck, I'll continue play this! Also, best write-up ever.

Odrl 26

Thank you, I'm glad you like it. Just don't expect Stark to always be easy. :)

@DiomedesThank you, that's a great compliment coming from you. :)

While I do think Blackwater Bay is a strong card and a fantastic draw engine, I wish it didn't force you to go "all in" like this to use it to its full potential. I almost wish it was a 4-cost location instead, because then you could play it reasonably safely and not have to worry about it being discarded by stuff like Newly-Made Lord and Jade Sea Dromond, so you wouldn't need to play HRD in the first place. It's a really crippling agenda when you don't have strong economy, but unfortunately it's the only one that makes it worth basing your deck around a 3-cost non-limited location. Especially since Greyjoy is about to get a lot more popular over the next couple of months...

SonOfBattles1 98

Leaning into the kneel!!! I like it!