An Imry story - Top 16 and best Baratheon at Stahleck 2023

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Odrl 1206

Hi folks. :)

Nothing revolutionary here, but I thought someone might like to see the deck I played at Stahleck this year. It is basically just another variation of the deck Djokovic and Anselme have perfected over the last year and a half. If you want a long description of how the deck works, you can check the version I posted after last year's 8 Regents tournament. This one is still very similar, but I definitely took a lot of inspiration from the versions that have been played since.

I played Bara Summer in the previous few major events, but this time I had a suspicion it wasn't the right call. Greyjoy and Martell (at least Knights of the Hollow Hill) seemed weak in the run up to Stahleck, while unfavourable matchups such as Tyrell White Book and all kinds of Targaryen were everywhere. I thought a Black Cells deck would give me a better chance against those, while still holding its own against most other decks. In the end, it proved to be the right call.

I won't go through all the individual card choices again, but just to recap briefly, the idea of this deck is to lock the most dangerous threats the opponent has by using Black Cells in the challenges phase. With the agenda being able to put anything into shadows, there should always be a Black Cells trigger available. The second aspect is controlling challenges with the help of Traitor to the Crown, and then either using Storm's End offensively to give yourself another challenge, or using it defensively to stop pressure or something like Rains triggers. And the third aspect is dominance with Throne and Chamber. Of course there is the usual Melisandre kneel package to support all of the above as well.

The one thing I was never quite sure about in this deck was the choice of plots. My original version had a few more econ plots in it, but other versions made good use of Close Call and Duel. In the end, Close Call definitely wasn't needed in the tournament. Apart from being able to draw an extra card, I was never in a position where I would need it. Duel would have been more useful, especially in the Lanni Crossing matchup, but in the end I didn't miss it all that much either. My plan was to test several different options in the run up to Stahleck, the first one being A Feast for Crows, but it turns out I ran out of time in the end, and I was pretty happy with the plot anyway. It has good gold in case you run into econ problems, and it can gain you just enough power to close some games or to put pressure on the opponent. Reserve is not a huge problem either, since some of the cards can be put into shadows anyway. I would keep this plot if I played the deck again.

The other part of the deck that keeps changing a little bit is economy. The -1 from the agenda hurts a lot, but of course it also saves you from having to pay 2 additional gold to put stuff into shadows. Only 9 economy locations is on the low side at the moment, but I seemed to survive quite well. I went all in on Northern Encampment, since any location that gives 2 gold is extremely crucial whenever Political Disaster is played. It's unfortunate if you don't have the Throne in play, but at least Eldon can stand it if it doesn't stand itself. Then I went for the six 0-cost locations, simply to avoid the extra tempo hit of having to marshal more expensive locations. I didn't miss the potential draw of King's Gate a lot, but not having Stormlands Fiefdom did matter a little bit, since you cannot save the power from Fickle Bannerman without it. I probably wouldn't change this aspect of the deck either though.

Regarding characters, Ser Imry Florent was the undisputed MVP of the deck at Stahleck, hence the name. :) Having two copies of him in the deck is an absolute must. And if you get him early, the thing to do is to put him into shadows immediately and save him for the end game, even if it means having a slower start. Once you get towards the end and you have Clash of Kings revealed, the power swing with Imry's ability can be huge. I also wish I could include more copies of Shireen in this deck. She is fantastic once she's in play, and great as a surprise from shadows after a challenge is initiated against you. Her cost is a bit silly, but you can treat her as if she didn't have shadow and just imagine you are putting a normal 3-cost character into shadows with the agenda. She just comes with the added bonus that you can sometimes marshal her into shadows if you have 2 gold to spare, and that can also give you some additional counterplay against First Snow.

I was less impressed with Devan Seaworth on this occasion. In theory, you can save 4 gold, put him into shadows, and then bring him out with 2 gold on him when it's clear you will be able to win dominance. Getting Throne or Chamber into play in that way is really helpful, but the plan didn't work out for me at Stahleck. Tried it twice, but somehow my opponents played around it each time, and then it was just a giant waste. He's still not a bad character if you just forget about the bestow though. I also went back to a copy of Old Bill Bone in preparation for Stahleck. He is a very cheap shadows trigger with the printed shadow keyword, and I figured the faction card kneel would be more useful than usual, given what was being played. No regrets there, he definitely messed up some White Book plans along the way. Finally, I decided to drop my copy of Selyse Baratheon on this occasion. She wasn't being used much, so a copy of R'hllor Infiltrator just worked out much better for the Melisandre trigger and for Dohaeris, with the added bonus of having a icon and an ability that just might win you the game at some point over the course of a long tournament.

It's more than a week since the tournament now, so I don't exactly remember all the details anymore, but I will try my best:

Lanni Crossing can be difficult if Cersei is in play and starts collecting power immediately, but luckily this wasn't the case here. Instead it was Gregor Clegane, but he was an easy target for the Melisandre kneel. The fairly small board made it difficult for Sam to seriously threaten taking the Crossing bonus, and going second allowed me to just take some easy power back. I think this one was pretty much over within a few rounds.

Greyjoy can be tricky if Victarion is in play, since he can kneel Black Cells and all the other locations before they can be used. I'm not exactly sure now, but I think he might have been in hand when I played an early Seen In Flames, so I was able to get rid of him. I basically had complete control of the game on a small board for a long time, but eventually a Lordsport Shipwright knelt my Black Cells, and I had to choose between locking core Balon or little Theon. It didn't make much difference, I was going to concede an unopposed challenge either way. It's amazing how quickly the game can go from completely one-sided to almost even with one successful challenge, but luckily I was able to re-establish control after that and close the game without much fuss.

One of the main reasons I chose this deck was to give myself a chance against Tyrell White Book. However, this one didn't go so well. I think this version that plays The Hollow Hill and Ghost of High Heart is particularly tough to beat, because it never runs out of characters. I was also hit with Political Disaster here when I went wide with locations and nothing was duped. So I was up against it all game, and I just tried to delay my Dohearis until the last possible moment, hoping that Ryan would spend the second White Swords by then. But he could not be tempted. :) In the end he played it into my Dohaeris, then followed that with Tourney to close the game. When I looked at my deck, Imry was the very next card I would have drawn, but I would have needed to sacrifice all of my remaining locations just to survive the round, so it wouldn't have mattered in the long run.

A strong deck that I played myself in preparation for the 8 Regents this year, so I knew it could potentially be tricky. My opponent opened with Name Day Tourney and gained a bunch of early power. When I played Seen in Flames, there were two copies of Growing Strong in there, a Lady Sansa's Rose, and a Garlan. Seeing that my opponent played out all of his other characters, I decided to discard Garlan, knowing that LSR would be played successfully. I then went into Dohaeris and won initiative against Compelled by the Faith. Of course that meant that I had to go first just so my opponent would lose some power. I think he kept Knight of Flowers and Brienne, which I was delighted to see, because only two big characters are much easier to control than a bunch of small ones. After that, Traitor to the Crown and Black Cells were just impossible to overcome, so the rest of the game was pretty easy work for me.

I don't have a good recollection of how this game went, but I remember saying to my opponent after the game how lucky I was to see Storm's End early. Obviously that just shuts down Rains completely, so there wasn't much Juan could have done. I think there might have been Anders and one of the Vipers as the two biggest threats (hopefully I'm not thinking of a different game here), but even then I had Melisandre for a bit of kneel. A fairly easy win.

Another Lanni Crossing, but this one didn't go so well. The problem was that there were non-kneeling characters right from the start, I think Jaime and Myrcella, so it was difficult to stop the quick power gain. I think the first Heads on Spikes actually missed, but it hit Traitor to the Crown instead, which was almost worse. When Alchemists' Guildhall came out as well, there was not much else I could do. I forced it to be used one time for Melisandre, which left the way open for Imry to trigger in marshaling. That gave me one decent round, but I couldn't actually close the game with it, so I was then left with no locations and no further way to stall the game.

I needed to win the last two games to make the cut. Another Tyrell White Book, but this time I opened with a duped Delena, which really slowed Alex down in the beginning. She got pinched one time, but I decided not to save her, since I could replay her and get another trigger. I also had an Old Bill Bone from shadows to stop everyone standing, and I think even a surprise Storm's End one time to stop those without a icon. Political Disaster was played, but this time I had some crucial dupes to survive it well. The key moment of the game was probably when Alex put Pinch on my reducer and failed to win a challenge by 5, so the Pinch was then stuck there for the rest of the game. Delena came back into play through shadows, and Alex eventually played an unfavourable Dohaeris on himself before I was forced to play my own. With a Traitor or two in circulation, I was able to control the challenge and win from there. There might have been an Imry trigger at some point as well, but I can't say for sure. I had too many throughout the day. :)

The most stressful game of the day. The stakes were extremely high with both of us on 5-2, and it really did go all the way. At first I thought it would be Lannister when I saw the agenda, but I was delighted to see that it wasn't. I was less familiar with Martell MFG as a deck. This one was Sand Snakes with The Red Viper (SoD), and I found it impossible to stop his quick power gain in and challenges. I think my opponent would have had barely any power if the Viper was milked, but this way he got to around 11 at one point, with a good chunk of that on the Viper himself. Venomous Blade was played immediately, but my opponent didn't even bother to kill Delena, since most of his characters were Bastards anyway. He killed Edric instead. But I was lucky to have Seen in Flames in hand, so Venomous Blade was gone the moment Shadow City Bastard was sacrificed. After that, I had to use Storm's End to maximize my own power gain and to at least try to stop some challenges from going through. When time was called, it looked like it would be a tough round, with my opponent possibly ending up on top, but I topdecked Imry at just the right time to save the game. I knelt everything, opening the way for unopposed challenges and dominance, which was enough to close the game. Not sure I could have done it otherwise, although I did have Black Cells and Storm's End in play at that point. I also have to thank my opponent for some very fair play here, because he could have easily insisted that I had passed some of my action windows before using Black Cells and such, but he didn't.

Another tough one. House Florent Knights were in circulation right away to reduce my board, but I held my own by controlling the challenge pretty well. I think I had multiple Traitors in this one, plus Shireen to stop me losing on defence. No Political Disaster this time, so my locations competed well against the jumping Knights. I tried to delay my Dohaeris and play it into Tourney, but Tourney came a round earlier than I expected, which put me under great pressure. I had Imry in shadows all game, so I had to use him there. I knelt everything, got my challenges and dominance, and I believe I ended up 12-4 ahead at the end of the round. Time was called in the standing phase, but we went into another round anyway, since I had played rather slowly throughout that sequence. I think only a second Tourney could have beaten me though, because the gap was too big by that point. Emils played Dohaeris instead, while I played Clash and made the rare decision to go first. I had Shireen and Fickle Bannerman, which meant I just needed to win a challenge with them to get to 15. It looked guaranteed after Emils had spent all of his gold and didn't have enough defence, and I was later criticized for not bringing Old Bill Bone out of shadows to stop TIBWHID from being played. Didn't matter though, because Emils found nothing else. And I still had a Milk and Chamber in shadows, just in case the game got too close for comfort.

I think Štěpán and I both knew this wasn't a winnable matchup for me, because the economy is tight as it is and can't possibly handle any additional choke. I was still hoping for a miracle, but Štěpán set up two Botley Crew, then played White Tree and a Nightflyer on my Roseroad, so that was it. :) I played Seen in Flames at one point to also see Yoren, Coldhands and Mutiny in his hand, but there was just never any need for them. I still stalled the game into Round 5 or something, just with my Traitor on his only icon, but eventually all the unopposed against my empty board added up to 15.

All in all, I am quite happy with how the tournament went. In the Online Worlds I somehow avoided the Martell 321 matchup I had prepared for, but this time I had better luck with my opponents. Didn't get any Targ, but there was plenty of Tyrell, plus two agendas that can be completely nullified by Storm's End. Last year I made the cut with what I described as a "5-3" deck, but this time I would have said "6-2" before the tournament, given how testing had gone. There are never any guarantees at Stahleck though, and that's even if you disregard the very realistic prospect of my playing poorly with lots of mistakes. :)

Anyway, thanks for reading if you got this far. As usual, any comments or suggestions are more than welcome. :)

I'll also try to write something about my general Stahleck experience this year, if I can. Will post it on discord when I find some time. :)

4 comments

Anselme. 64

Very good deck and very interesting choices, well played and congrats for the best baratheon ! At the gate was not an option for the opening instead of maiden and deal with the gold drawback ?

Odrl 1206

@Anselme. Thank you. :) As you said in your description last year, opening with The Maiden is crucial if you want to control initiative. My original deck had Peace and Prosperity as the opener, but I guess that was a time when Summer Harvest was particularly popular. It was just not worth it anymore. I did consider opening At the Gates for Gates of the Moon, but I really didn't want to be giving an extra 1 gold to my opponent when playing a control deck. And no other location really works here. You can't take Great Hall or Kingsroad really, so I just had to make room for LSF and Trade Routes to compensate. It wasn't too bad, apart from the choke matchup obviously.

Dave007 1

What would you cut if Red Priest is not restricted anymore? I guess you would play it 3x, right?

Odrl 1206

@Dave007 Yes, I think Red Priest is too good not to include. I'd cut Devan and R'hllor Infiltrator, but I think the cost curve would suffer a bit. Would probably need to consider cutting another 3-coster instead.