Ours Is the Fury, Part 2

House Baratheon in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

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The visitors poured through the castle gates in a river of gold and silver and polished steel, three hundred strong, a pride of bannermen and knights, of sworn swords and freeriders. Over their heads a dozen golden banners whipped back and forth in the northern wind, emblazoned with the crowned stag of Baratheon.
  
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

From Robert Baratheon ruling as King of the Seven Kingdoms, to Renly’s alliance with House Tyrell, to Stannis Baratheon’s fiery rituals with the aid of Melisandre, the House of the crowned stag has taken many forms throughout A Song of Ice and Fire. Today, guest writer Ryan Wood returns to focus on some of the most prominent Baratheon decks over the lifespan of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game!

Ryan Wood on Prominent Decks for House Baratheon

With the key elements of a Baratheon deck highlighted in my previous article, let’s talk about some of the most popular builds throughout the first eighteen months of the game and how they use the main Baratheon themes of power superiority, control, and stall to open a path to victory!

An Oath of Fealty

“Robert was never the same after he put on that crown. Some men are like swords, made for fighting. Hang them up and they go to rust.”
   
–Donal Noye, A Clash of Kings

The first popular Baratheon archetype, Fealty (Core Set, 27), was a premier competitive deck at the start of the game and to this day remains incredibly strong. Built around the trio of Melisandre (Core Set, 47), Stannis Baratheon (Core Set, 52) and the literal King of the Core Set, Robert Baratheon (Core Set, 48), this deck relied on kneel effects to control small boards. With Wildfire Assault (Core Set, 26) the only on-demand reset available at this time, these three powerful characters together often assured victory.

Core Set Baratheon Fealty capitalized on the efficiency of kneel in a small card pool (fewer impactful characters to be controlled) and built support around its central characters. Maester Cressen (Core Set, 46) assured irritating Conditions such as Milk of the Poppy (Core Set, 35) couldn’t hamper your game plan, while Selyse Baratheon (Core Set, 49) shored up the intrigue icon deficiency, preventing Robert and Stannis from falling victim to Tears of Lys (Core Set, 44).

The Kings of Summer

“Kings and corpses always draw attendants.”
   
–Ser Davos Seaworth, A Dance with Dragons

More recently, many Baratheon players have stepped away from Fealty and towards Kings of Summer (Called to Arms, 37), such as Tupaq Castro’s Worlds 2016 list. The extra gold produced by Summer plots lends itself to a higher cost curve, with multiple copies of City Watch (True Steel, 108) and the inclusion of Ser Barristan Selmy (True Steel, 107). The lord commander of the Kingsguard protects key characters from an untimely demise as well as being another source of renown who can wield Lightbringer (Core Set, 58).

Changing from Fealty to Kings of Summer also freed the faction card to be knelt for In the Name of Your King! (The Road to Winterfell, 28) or more card advantage through Shadowblack Lane (The Road to Winterfell, 38). Finding extra kneel events such as Even Handed Justice (Wolves of the North, 26) and Consolidation of Power (Core Set, 62) further improves the deck’s consistency, especially if it allows you to reliably win power challenges on offense and defense and draw additional cards with The Red Keep (Core Set, 61).

For Fealty or Kings of Summer, the ever-popular Lannister and Night’s Watch decks are relatively straightforward to take down, due to their respective lack of power icons and reliance on defending challenges. Defensive builds dread facing Baratheon, as kneel can easily open a hole in their formation, leading to an unopposed challenge bringing The Wall (Core Set, 137) down—though this is more difficult since the release of The Haunted Forest (There Is My Claim, 66). Chamber of the Painted Table (Core Set, 60) also helps in this matchup, allowing you to stall more effectively, and ultimately outpace your opponent in the race to fifteen power.

Negative matchups are decks with an abundance of standing effects and ways of gaining power. The soft control from kneel can be countered by Stark and Targaryen, and potentially backfire when using Stannis Baratheon, especially with cards like Robb Stark (Core Set, 146) and Magister Illyrio (Core Set, 163) in play. If your control tools aren’t in place fast, a rush deck out of Stark or Tyrell can also outpace you with their abundance of renown.

Challenge Control with Banner of the Sun

“Robert… He is in my dreams as well. Laughing. Drinking. Boasting. Those were the things he was best at. Those, and fighting. I never bested him at anything.”
   
–Stannis Baratheon, A Storm of Swords

The most controlling of Baratheon builds, the Banner of the Sun agenda offers additional challenge denial through icon manipulation, and when combined with kneel, this severely limits your opponent's options. Popularized by Jannis Roepert’s second place Stahleck 2016 list, this deck uses multiple resets (two copies of Wildfire Assault) to keep character presence low. With the icon removal attachments— Attainted (The King’s Peace, 55), Condemned (No Middle Ground, 77), and Imprisoned (True Steel, 116)—and Nymeria Sand (The Road to Winterfell, 35), you can lock down the challenges phase, leaving your opponent’s characters knelt or lacking the icons to participate in challenges.

Non-terminal attachments that can be replayed after a reset especially slow down The Lord of the Crossing (The King’s Peace, 60) decks, and Condemned helps ensure that The Red Keep consistently triggers—fueling a constant supply of control cards. Additional kneel from cards like Asshai Priestess (For Family Honor, 47) and Stinking Drunk (Calm Over Westeros, 88) have rounded out this control package over the last two cycles.

However, like most Baratheon decks, this deck relies on just a few key characters. If you are unlucky enough to not draw Melisandre or Nymeria Sand, be prepared for a tough fight. This is also a slow deck—eschewing the typical dominance package and big renown characters in favor of a low cost curve supplemented with cheap, repeatable control effects. As such, this deck can be outpaced by a rush deck if the control tools are not in place quickly.

Stalling with the Stag Banner

“Why the oldest son, and not the best-fitted? The crown will suit me, as it never suited Robert and would not suit Stannis.”
   
–Renly Baratheon, A Clash of Kings

Baratheon also has an excellent banner package—the majority of the dominance and kneel cards are non-loyal and a popular banner choice for control decks. The store championship 2016-2017 season has seen the rise of stall, predominantly Night’s Watch defending The Wall and Baratheon utilizing the dominance suite.

The release of Valar Morghulis (There Is My Claim, 80) has helped these stall decks considerably. Used in conjunction with other resets such as Varys (Core Set, 29), the Baratheon stall effects let you take advantage of a small or empty board. In this meta, locations have received more importance as a way to move towards victory, even with no characters in play.

Recently, “Deergarden” and “No Bigs for You” have demonstrated this exact approach using the main factions Tyrell and Martell, respectively. Just as the riches of Highgarden funded Renly’s campaign, the draw and deck filter of Tyrell—e.g. Pleasure Barge (Taking the Black, 6) and "A Rose of Gold" (Lions of Casterly Rock, 38)—provide a constant supply of stall effects. Leveraging resets, “Deergarden” manipulates the speed of the game until its (dominance-based) win condition is in place.

Rather than giving you the extra card advantage to find key pieces, Jeremy Hammond’s “No Bigs for You” provides even more stall effects, such as Ghaston Grey (Core Set, 116) and Burning on the Sand (There Is My Claim, 76) to ensure boards are kept to a minimum and your opponent’s power level remains low. As well as using dominance, these decks gain power passively through plots like Heads on Spikes (Core Set, 13) and Winter Festival (Called to Arms, 40), setting a clock on the game.

Other Builds

"A certain Lysene pirate once told me that a good smuggler stays out of sight," Davos replied carefully. "Black sails, muffled oars, and a crew that knows how to hold their tongues."
   
–George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

The builds above are just a few of the most common; other popular Baratheon archetypes focus on defense or rush. Baratheon Banner of the Watch, such as Dydra’s The Great Builders, doubles down on passive power gain by using The Wall in addition to dominance. Kneel helps to control your opponent's stealth characters, making sure each challenge can be successfully opposed.

Rush-focused decks, predominantly using Banner of the Rose and The Lord of the Crossing agendas combine large renown bodies with Baratheon’s focus on power challenges to easily trigger cards like Superior Claim (Core Set, 43). Finally, niche cards like Salladhor Saan (Tyrion’s Chain, 107) open up interesting new decks, such as a Stark or Greyjoy list with surprise triggers of Ice (Core Set, 153) or Throwing Axe (Core Set, 77). The upcoming Marya Seaworth (Watchers on the Wall, 25) hints at a synergistic stealth and Smuggler-themed deck, and as Ser Davos Seaworth is my favorite character, I can’t wait to build a mini-Voltron deck themed around the Onion Knight.

Thanks for reading these two articles. Whether you pledge allegiance to Robert, Stannis, or Renly, hopefully the topics we’ve covered will give you the tools to control the realm and assert your dominance over all pretenders!

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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