Let me apologize in advance for not knowing many names of my opponents. Unless I personally knew you before the tournament or hung out with you at GenCon the chances of me remembering your names is almost zero. Nothing personal against you, I am just terrible with names. I’ll be referring to players by name when possible and by deck when not. Also, I don’t really remember any game specifics except from the final table. And even those are kind of hazy. So stick with it and I’ll try to use as much detail as I can muster.
Going into the tournament I expected to see a ton of Baratheon (as Bara is almost always the most popular deck in melee due to the fact that it can just win sometimes) followed by Stark, Greyjoy, and Martell in that order. I have never considered Lannister or Targaryen very competitive in melee due to the controlish nature of these houses since most of their control is best when focused on one opponent. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but generally I feel that is a fairly accurate house assessment in melee. I was fairly surprised at the popularity of Stark, but in hindsight Stark Siege is a very powerful deck in the format. It can arguably be just as fast as Bara Rush or Greyjoy unopposed, especially because of the fact that they can take Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in order to get at least one military challenge on defense.
Table 1 – Darryl Loyd playing Stark Siege, Ben playing Bara Rush, Stark Siege
At my first table I was lucky enough to be seated with one of my best friends and metamate Darryl Loyd (playing a solid Shaggydog deck) as well as Ben, a player I met at the MO regional from Iowa who was playing the Bara rush deck. I was able to spend most of the early rounds building myself up and after plot two or three I was sitting at 9 or so power with probably the strongest field including two Scouting Vessels, Tarle (with only 1 power on him), and a few other characters. The next highest up was Darryl who had six power, then Ben who had 1 or 2. The other Stark player was sitting in last place as I don’t think he had any power (I had been farming off of him all game with several intrigue challenges as well as power challenges he couldn’t defend via Scouting Vessel and stealth). On the turn I could win I looked to Darryl and asked if he was OK with placing second at the table. After some ho-humming he agreed to not mess with any of my challenges with his Shaggydog tech. I flipped Rise of the Kraken and won initiative choosing to go last. Darryl chose Crown Regent as his title, Ben chose Master of Laws, Stark chose Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and I chose whatever title Master of Laws supported. Because of this I was very confident in my chances to win that turn as Darryl would not be attacking me, Ben couldn’t attack me, and Stark had the weakest board position and couldn’t win anything except for military against me which would actually help my position because of Tarle. Very little happened in other challenges, and nothing notable happened to my board position. On my challenges I won my intrigue and power, and on military challenged Darryl which was going to win me the game if he unopposed. He did, but in an incredibly awesome play the other Stark player knelt two characters to kill my Harbor Thug with Lethal Counterattack. I was shocked (as I had never realized that you could play it if you weren’t being challenged), but got over it and used an Iron Mine on my character. At that point he used his title to redirect the challenge to himself and used Feigned Retreat to win. I was sitting 1 power away from the win but was still confident. On the next turn I flipped Take Them by Surprise and won initiative, choosing to go first and taking Crown Regent. In the challenges I won the single challenge needed to win the game and took first at the table.
Table 2 – Daniel Machado playing Bara Rush, Bara Rush, Greyjoy Unopposed
This was a table set up I had expected to see a lot of as I feel that Bara and Greyjoy are the most powerful houses in melee. No matter what happened I knew this game would be over fast. The first few turns were very back and forth between myself and Daniel with the other two players slipping behind. Nothing exciting happened at all, it was fairly standard power grabbery. It wasn’t until plot 3 or so that the other Bara player started to get set up, and the other Greyjoy player was near the bottom as both Daniel and myself had been feeding off of him. He had a fairly strong board position including Balon Greyjoy (KotS) and Balon’s Host (which was incredibly annoying, I had never played against that card before). Because of Balon’s Host the game went on at least a plot or two longer than it should have since I couldn’t stealth and Dan couldn’t gain renown. Finally I got to the point in which I saw that I could win that turn. So I flipped Rise of the Kraken and chose to go first, snagging up Crown Regent. I proceeded to drop my hand and it looked like there was nothing anyone could do as I could simply direct all three challenges at someone who couldn’t defend them and win. But then the other Bara player dropped Marshal Law onto my Scouting Vessel. Go ahead, check and read what it does. I sure as heck hadn’t expected it. Doing that sealed the deal for Dan to win, as I needed the Scouting Vessel to win in the challenges. This is one of the things that sucks about melee but you have to get used to. There was absolutely no reason for the Bara player to do that. As far as I know he and Dan weren’t friends, it wasn’t going to make him win, and it wasn’t even retribution for an earlier slight. I could at least understand why he made that play if any of those reasons were true. The only thing that I can think of that would make him do that was so that he could choose who won the table. Dan did in fact go on to win as there was nothing any of us could do to stop him. I placed second which is still very strong in melee, but I still feel as if I should have won the table.
Table 3 – Justin Fox playing Stark Kingsguard/Shadows, Martell Control
Oh, the dreaded three player table. Luckily for me I was paired with Justin, another friend and Springfield player. We knew going into the table that one of us was going to be first and the other second, we just needed to see how the game played out. I felt bad for the Martell player, as he had no chance from the beginning. Three player tables suck, and I apologize to you for what happened. I’m sure it was probably the worst experience of the day for you, if not the whole weekend. As expected Fox and I took an early lead, and I’m not sure our opponent realized we knew each other for most of the game. There was lots of building up boards and making safe challenges, but we did challenge each other for an unopposed here and there. Eventually Martell flipped Condemned by the Realm allowing Fox to choose and kill a character. Martell had no characters in play, and I controlled a few throw away characters, Tarle, and Melisandre. With no ways to protect any of them. This is where Martell must have realized that we were friends, as Fox chose a Harbor Thug to die and I went on to win that turn. Either Fox or myself would have won that turn, but I was able to make it happen first. All in all it was actually a very dull game as there were no big plays or power swings.
Table 4 – Bara Rush, Stark (Siege?), Greyjoy
I remember less about this table than any other, and I apologize for it. I knew that I needed to win the table to make final four and I was beginning to freak about it. All of my opponents were very nice guys, but I definitely turned into a power gamer for this game. This table involved more table talk and coercion than any other I have every played in. I’m fairly sure that I was wheeling and dealing with every player almost every turn of the game. There were several times that I was able to convince someone that the wrong play which benefited me was the right play, and was able to pull out a win because of it. By the end of the game one of the Bara players was not exactly and ally, but he was willing to take second at the table and at least not challenge me. The other two were openly antagonistic and tried to take me down. But I was able to squeeze out the win with Rise of the Kraken and going first before either of them could challenge me. So I ended the preliminary rounds with 3 firsts and s second, which easily qualified me for the final table.