So at today's tiny SC (3 rounds, no cut), I played Lannister Crossing. I came 2nd, quickly winning 2 games in 4 plots and a timed loss by 1 power difference against a Night's Watch player who got a lead then stalled the game like a pro (10 minutes called before plot 5 choices, he flipped Fortified Position to negate 3 renown characters, time was called during dominance). However, I learnt valuable insights that I thought I would share.THE DECK
Firstly, this was the deck and I will explain some of my choices.House Lannister
The Lord of the Crossing
Packs: From Core Set (3) to The King's Peace
1x A Clash of Kings
2x Calling the Banners
1x Calm Over Westeros
1x Counting Coppers
1x Wardens of the West (The Road to Winterfell)
3x Lannisport Merchant
3x Burned Men
3x The Queen's Assassin
3x Hedge Knight (The King's Peace)
1x The Tickler
3x Brothel Madame (The Road to Winterfell)
2x The Hound (Taking the Black)
1x Grand Maester Pycelle
1x Cersei Lannister
1x Syrio Forel (The Road to Winterfell)
3x Tyrion Lannister
3x Ser Jaime Lannister
3x Ser Gregor Clegane (The King's Peace)
3x Tywin Lannister
3x The Kingsroad
3x The Roseroad
3x Western Fiefdom
1x Seal of the Hand
3x Milk of the Poppy
1x Widow's Wail
3x Put to the Sword
3x Tears of Lys
3x The Hand's JudgmentDECK BUILD DECISIONS
The theme was simple: be a Swiss army knife deck. Lord of the Crossing is ideal for such a versatile concept as it empowers you to focus on different challenges to suit your match-up, game state and card draw.
Note it's a gentler curve than some Lannister Crossing lists with 3 Assassins, disliking dupes for side uniques (Pycelle dies to Plaza, Cersei is Dracarys bait) with 3 each of the renown trio, 3 Tyrions and 2 Hounds. This was to play around Wildfire, already the bane of Crossing, as Hound runs from a predictable Wildfire and if you have all 4 top Lannisters in play, you're winning and the dwarf is toast to save your renown. Assassins give more reliable set-ups (also synergy with 2 of the plots). The build very much follows my early principles of 3-4 tentpoles of triplicates with bodyguards and the rest are expendable.
Bodyguards are there not only to make sure your key characters stick (you often don't have the manpower to defend and launch 3 challenges) but for the GJ match-up. Obviously either Jaime or Gregor is needed to turn on Hedge Knights (they also use each other so 1 Hedge Knight is looking to pair with any of 8 cards) and I prefer Bodyguards to Knighted with its added resilience to Varys (just beware Treachery). At worst, Bodyguards are 1 cost claim soaks with no board presence, needed with the deck's curve.
I value initiative (not necessarily going second: if you have Jaime, Gregor and Sword in hand is very different to if you have Tyrion and Tears in hand). Hence I have 2 Callings despite the Aggro credentials because of its initiative. It also helps as a catch-up plot. It is only worse than Noble Cause (assuming you open Calm Military to expand your set up for your agenda) when facing less than 4 characters - when you are usually winning. And actual gold is far more valuable for your ambush and threatening Treachery of Kingsroads.
The lack of Treachery was due to its usual card disadvantage (like Things I Do For Love, Hear Me Roar, Gold Cloaks, Never Bet etc.) but also because the deck is resilient to Varys, its best use. I recall Aioria, after he won with Lannister Fealty, saying he didn't play Treachery which was often "anecdotal", preferring more impactful events, and his words influenced me. As a big fan of redundancy, I personally prefer the 9 targeted cards I have to situational denial (Judgement is a meta-call to cancel their cancel of your removal and for the Targ match-ups).
At its heart, the deck is Aggro-Control (like most Targ). Its Control elements are 9 targeted cards (3 Tears, 3 Swords, 3 Poppy) and 6 denials of targeting (3 Judgements, 3 Bodyguards). Aggro is from a military bias, led by Jaime, Gregor and ambushed Burned Men on a +2 STR third challenge.
However if the cards come out right, the deck can Rush (Crossing helps, as does the 9 initiative closer Clash), the only Crossing house with 3 renown characters. I discovered today knowing what role to play is key to piloting it optimally (if I had practiced the match-up, I would've known it can out-race turn 1 Pentoshi => Wall with 6 opposing characters covering all icons twice instead of trying to breach The Wall - which I never did).
In many ways, this is similar to the seminal ancient article that the hugely knowledgeable BWM team discussed in their last episode - Mike Flores' "Who's the Beatdown?"http://www.starcityg...e_Beatdown.html
(You need to know basic Magic to understand this but it applies to Thrones.)
However, whilst Flores' article seems to treat decks in 2 flavours, Aggro and Control, Thrones has a Rush archetype as well and you need to expand the article from a spectrum of 2 polarities to a triangle of 3. This is what I learnt today with my failure to play correctly against a strong 5 card set up Night's Watch opening (as I also failed to draw any Limited card to his 1 per turn land drops). Let me explain further...GAME STRATEGY: WHO'S THE RUSH? WHO'S THE AGGRO? WHO'S THE CONTROL?
Facing Night's Watch Fealty, I kept a dodgy opening hand of Tyrion, Burned Men and Widow's Wail (which I placed on Burned Men, anticipating collecting it when it dies, another mistake as it never died). My rationale was that Tyrion will be golden against Night's Watch (I also had a second Burned Men in hand as well as a Put to the Sword) which is true, except he was Milked turn 1. My other reason is despite a gentler curve than some Lanni Crossing lists, the build can have unforgiving mulligans and I was scared that I may end up with a single Tywin mulligan. But this was a mistaken fear as Night's Watch Fealty would not play Marched - the learning is to mentally list the 7 plots I expect in a match-up right at the start (perhaps during a shuffling stall).
In turn 1, with Pentoshi bonus, I had a choice of Gregor plus a standing reducer or more characters and I intuitively chose more characters as Crossing needs breadth, not depth. In retrospect, I think this was the wrong choice. I should have realised this match-up is a race and Gregor will help me win a race (we never saw Aemon). As I kept drawing my renown characters (Tywin, then Jaime), Gregor ended up last of my top characters on the board - whilst I had too many inconsequential minor characters on the board due to that turn 1 mistake.
Rush is the same as Red Deck Wins in Magic. It doesn't care about the untenable board position at game end as long as it gets past the line first (or it's ahead when time is called in a far too slow game that helped the turn 1 Wall vs. the growing renown). Again another classic Mike Flores article comes to mind, The Philosophy of Fire, where he tries to perfect the ultimate Rush win.
So faced with Rush, a vomit of weenies via Pentoshi after a 5 card set-up and no Wildfire (which I don't regret, it has no place in a Crossing deck), the normal option of Aggro (because Aggro > Rush > Control > Aggro) was not open to me. My mistake was to not realise this versatile build had to play Rush in this situation.
"Beatdown" is associated with Aggro - but Aggro is actually board control. Like "Sligh" decks in Magic that would remove blockers so that its glass cannon creatures can damage the opponent. This is different to the Red Deck Wins philosophy that almost always aims all its burn "at the head" (opponent), a race to deal 20 damage (or gain 15 power here) with a hopeless board position when you squeak the win.
Now in my other 2 rounds, I responded correctly (Control vs. turn 1 Drogo, Arakh + Jaime, Aggro vs. opponent's poor 3 character set-up in a mirror match I won most unsatisfyingly due to better set-up). But here, my best option was to just Rush and race The Wall, forget about board control or card advantage, just play Renown dudes each turn and win my third Crossing challenge each turn. It flies in the face of my card advantage instincts but if you play a versatile deck, you need to also be a versatile player (which sadly I'm not). I didn't even play Clash after we were told we had 10mins left (I expected to have 1 more plot) as a 2 power swing would have got me the timed win. Even that last plot, I should have just resigned myself to never breaching the Wall and passed to get another turn of renown instead of trying to breach it. Sometimes brutal direct simplicity beats all the planning, cunning and finesse in the world.SUMMARY
So my epiphanies today were:
1. Play a deck that suits your style (a versatile deck needs a versatile player - so not me yet).
2. Devise the optimal game plan based on match-up and game state but be ready to switch as game state changes.
3. Understand who will win faster (or be ahead when time is called as every deck has its own win trajectory, a Varys deck wants longer games), who needs to be aggressive (pressing for board control, options depletion and/or proximity to victory) and who needs to stall the game and play defensive.
As a control player, I'm naturally defensive, I like to take a longer safer route. But it's a handicap in timed tournament rounds. It's an artificial timed game, it's not the same as practice games that go on for some time and are great fun. Add professional stall plays and you need to be able to jettison your principles and play brutal power grab when you realise the game will never end in time.
So more learnings about the game for me to absorb before a big prestige SC then Regionals. This game is deceptively deep - despite its casino aspects (I feel so dirty using Gregor or Tickler successfully).