Ours Is the Fury

House Baratheon in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

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Floating above them were the largest banners yet, royal standards as big as sheets; a yellow one with long pointed tongues that showed a flaming heart, and another like a sheet of beaten gold, with a black stag prancing and rippling in the wind.
  
–George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

From the days of Robert’s rebellion, House Baratheon has held a position of superiority in Westeros, claiming the fealty of the other Great Houses and ruthlessly stamping out rebellion. Yet the foundation of Baratheon power is already growing shaky, and they must  fight ruthlessly if they would protect their claim to the Iron Throne.

In A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, House Baratheon is just one of the factions you can lead to victory, but the way they play the game can look very different than the other factions. Today, guest writer Ryan Wood offers his thoughts on some of Baratheon’s key themes and the ways they excel at the game of thrones.

Ryan Wood on Winning with House Baratheon

Of all the factions competing in the game of thrones, House Baratheon have the most single-minded focus on a single challenge type: power. Their sub-themes of kneel and dominance only support their power superiority by (temporarily) preventing threats to the crown and tightening their grip on the realm. In this article, I’m going to discuss the key cards that turn Baratheon decks into an efficient machine, purpose-built to achieve victory by any means.

Challenges

“I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I've won it.”
   
–Robert Baratheon, A Game of Thrones

Standard Baratheon decks are constructed to control your opponent’s board state while leveraging power disparity—in other words, focusing on the power challenge at the expense of military and intrigue. This focus is provided through cards such as The Red Keep (Core Set, 61) and Moon Boy (The King’s Peace, 47). These cards offer tremendous value, fueling your card draw by capitalizing on the task that you are most keen to achieve—winning power challenges.

Now that Robert has retired his warhammer, you can occasionally ignore military challenges thanks to In the Name of Your King! (The Road to Winterfell, 28), which neuters claim and prevents your opponent’s more aggressive plans. Motley (Wolves of the North, 25) locks out a character or strips your opponent’s hand, while Seen in Flames (Core Set, 64) offers a singular, superior form of hand control. Providing crucial hand knowledge, this event removes threats before they hit the table, giving you a significant advantage over standard intrigue challenges.

Kneel

“Half my knights are afraid even to say her name, did you know? If she can do nothing else, a sorceress who can inspire such dread in grown men is not to be despised. A frightened man is a beaten man.”
   
–Stannis Baratheon, A Clash of Kings

Uniquely, House Baratheon is the only faction that, so far, contains no in-faction “hard control”—the facility to remove cards from your opponent's board entirely. Instead, they focus on “soft” or temporary control, through kneel. For that reason, Melisandre (Core Set, 47) finds herself at the center of many Baratheon decks—through a steady supply of R’hllor cards, she provides reliable control of the biggest threat each round.

You can kneel more characters with Robert Baratheon (Core Set, 48), the strongest character at House Baratheon’s disposal. Robert’s STR increases in direct correlation to your opponent’s weakening position, and with the intimidate keyword, this King can kneel almost any character on your opponent's board. Robert’s intimidate isn’t the only instance of STR-based control either, with Asshai Priestess (For Family Honor, 47) and Consolidation of Power (Core Set, 62) both kneeling characters with low STR.

Ultimately, the utility offered by Melisandre, Robert Baratheon, and other kneel cards such as Even Handed Justice (Wolves of the North, 26) cannot be understated. There is obvious application for kneeling aggressive heavy-hitters, such as Ser Gregor Clegane (The King’s Peace, 49) or Qhorin Halfhand (Tyrion’s Chain, 105), but there are also times where kneeling an innocuous character can be greatly beneficial, such as a Lordsport Shipwright (Core Set, 75) who’s been preventing your Chamber of the Painted Table (Core Set, 60) from triggering.

If you’re kneeling multiple characters in one round, such as marshaling an Asshai Priestess with Melisandre on the table, it’s often best to focus on a single icon type, limiting the number of challenges your opponent can make. This is a particularly good strategy against defensive decks, or factions with a relatively low number of power icons (such as Lannister). Reducing your opponent’s options suits House Baratheon’s narrow focus, and when combined with Stannis Baratheon (Core Set, 52), multiple kneel effects can often lead to a full board lock-down.

Dominance and Stall

“I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.”
   
–Stannis Baratheon, A Storm of Swords

Stalling your opponent with kneel and other control effects will temporarily keep your opponent under check, but you still must reach fifteen power before the R’hllor cards run dry and your deck runs out of steam. Baratheon decks can gain power quickly through power challenges and renown, but also through their suite of dominance tools.

When combined with cards like Fiery Followers (Core Set, 54) and Edric Storm (Lions of Casterly Rock, 25), The Iron Throne (Core Set, 38) all but guarantees the Baratheon player wins dominance. Cards such as Stannis Baratheon (There Is My Claim, 67), Gendry (No Middle Ground, 68), and Tobho Mott's Armory (No Middle Ground, 69) all trigger from winning dominance, giving additional kneel, power gain, and draw—the three most important aspects to a Baratheon deck.

With no action window before dominance is awarded, it can be hard to prevent these triggers outside of Treachery (Core Set, 102) and location control such Lordsport Shipwright. Opponents have to change their game plan to compensate, and try to win dominance themselves—usually by declaring fewer challenges, which can be difficult to balance with the need to win power challenges.

The card that causes the most grief for opponents, however, is Chamber of the Painted Table. By taking power from your opponent, the dominance phase effectively becomes an additional power challenge only available to the Baratheon player. The resulting power swing each round can be difficult to overcome, and quickly outraces other passive power-gain cards such as The Wall (Core Set, 137) and The Boneway (The King’s Peace, 56).

The furniture set of The Iron Throne and Chamber of the Painted Table puts a timer on the game, with each dominance phase bringing you closer to victory and stalling your opponent by moving them in the opposite direction. Combined with stall cards such as Vanguard Lancer (Core Set, 57), Chamber of the Painted Table can reverse a power deficit and extend the game until a win is within sight.

Pure Iron

“Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends."
   
–Donal Noye, A Game of Thrones

House Baratheon is great at winning power challenges and dominance, but sometimes your opponent can push through nonetheless. With your in-faction draw tied to these mechanics (The Red Keep, Moon Boy, Tobho Mott’s Armory), one bad round can cause a downward spiral. Control effects are fueled by draw (e.g. seeing a R’hllor card each round), and without a constant supply of cards, the wheels on the Baratheon power machine can quickly fall off.

Staying ahead and in control of the game is crucial. Cards like Disputed Claim (Lions of Casterly Rock, 26) serve no purpose unless you are already in a winning position. Perhaps the most glaring example of Baratheon's “brittle” nature is the newly released Fickle Bannerman (All Men Are Fools, 7). At first glance, the Fickle Bannerman is a highly efficient, non-unique character with renown, but they have the downside of switching control after losing a power challenge. This can be stopped twice thanks to bestow, increasing reliability at the cost of efficiency.

After falling into a losing position, it can be hard for House Baratheon to recover, but it’s not impossible. By focusing on their strengths, it’s possible to claw your way back to victory, perhaps even without initiating any challenges. For the Stags of Storm’s End, the focus is not on playing the game, but winning, before the throne slips from their grasp and they themselves are usurped from the crown.

Next time, we’ll look at how the above cards can be implemented in deck building by studying some of the most powerful Baratheon decks since release!

Ryan Wood was introduced to A Game of Thrones: The Card Game in 2014, whilst studying in the USA. Adopted by the Boston meta, he was trained in competitive play by traveling to events flying the stag banner of House Baratheon. With the release of the second edition, he embraced each faction and his Jaime nature. Tournament successes include winning the UK Nationals, placing Top 8 at Worlds, and most recently, taking 3rd at Batalla por el Muro 2017. He is a host of The Southron Bannermen podcast.

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