If you are new to exploring Game of Thrones 2.0 deckbuilding, you will soon realize something that those of us who have been playing it since it came on OCTGN have known for the past two months: Baratheon is very strong.
In fact, the Baratheon Fealty kneel-based synergy deck (“Bara Kneel”) is both so strong and so easy to build that it has been declared “The best deck” by many people, even before 2.0 released in stores!
The deck is easy to make, you simply throw together all the good Baratheon cards. Even if your list isn’t completely optimal, as long as you have Robert, Melisandre, and the Red Keep, you’ll be doing fine (and Stannis is pretty great too).
One could say that ever since the first couple weeks of the game’s release on OCTGN, many people have been focused on finding something that could go up against this deck in at least an even game, and some thought it would not be possible until we had some expansions.
I believe I have found a deck that can play Bara Kneel at least evenly, while being strong against other decks as well! Behold our new hope:
Our savior has come to free us from the slavery of Bara Kneel!
Inspiration for this deck came from various people in the second edition Targaryen thread, who helped me figure out what was worth playing in Targaryen decks, and the Lannister No Agenda deck:
So why does this deck work against Bara Kneel? It combines a numerous amount of stand effects to help keep your strong characters active against the kneel, with plenty of kill effects capable of killing Robert, Stannis, and Melisandre, and then it throws in Jaime and Tyrion for good measure.
The kill potential is real, and it works great against almost any deck. This deck is not a one trick wonder to only beat Baratheon. Instead, while Baratheon is strong and remains a tough matchup, but one that it is possible to win, this deck performs very well against anything I have played.
This deck is all about board control. Everything you are doing is about trying to get ahead on the board and kill your opponent’s characters. Until achieving this the amount of power you have does not matter much, once you achieve it you will win quickly. Often when you win it will be through opponent concession after you kill a couple important characters.
The Lannister banner provides two very strong characters: Jaime and Tyrion. Jaime has amazing synergy with Drogo, while Tyrion has synergy with your kill events and Illyrio. Both cards are incredibly strong and are the primary reason that Lannister is a solid banner faction for almost any deck!
An explanation of card choices:
Wildfire Assault: Including Wildfire Assault might be the most important plot card to include. While not every deck needs Wildfire, I believe that pretty much all military focused decks really do need wildfire. This should be one of the first things that a new player picks up about the 2.0 game.
This is a military claim focused deck, and any time your opponent musters out 5-6 guys early on and has lots of small claim soak characters, it makes your deck far less effective. Wildfire is to clean your opponent down to useful characters and make your claims relevant again. It is true that when you are winning you don’t need it. When you are winning you also win before turn 7 and therefore do not end up playing it. But when you need it, it is absolutely essential.
Finally, Wildfire has good synergy with Viserys to trigger him and act like a Confiscation plot as well. Also, losing your dragons to wildfire is not all that bad, since you can bring them back with Fire and Blood.
Marched to the Wall: This card does more than simply prevent your opponent from playing setups of only one large character. Due to the kill potential of this deck, you are often managing to wipe out your opponents small characters with military claim (or Plaza of Punishment), and often your opponent will have just enough claim soak to lose their small guys but keep all their big important characters alive. When this occurs, Marched to the Wall kills off one of those big characters at the start of the next turn. The other useful play with this card is that if you have more than 3 characters and your opponent has 3 or less, and you strongly expect their Wildfire is coming, you can play it. You will get initiative (barring a bonus for them), and choose to trigger your plot effect first, killing one of your guys who would’ve died to wildfire anyway. It can also trigger Viserys.
The Winds of Winter: This card is also critical in my experience. If you manage to get off a kill or two, you can play this against your opponent’s weak board to essentially finish the game. It’s great with Drogo to potentially give you 4 military claims in one turn. I like to play it with a stand effect in place on the board such as Illyrio or Handmaiden to help ensure my turn will be strong, even if my opponent plays Filthy Accusations.
A Noble Cause: Important due to your abundance of very high cost characters. If you want to run a second I wouldn’t fault you for it! The risk is Naval Superiority. The second copy might actually be good to run as a counter to Naval Superiority, in case the first is countered.
Calm over Westeros: Solid second economy plot that is also good early against other military claim decks. Doesn’t get hit by naval superiority. I like to not always lead the game with A Noble Cause because this is too predictable and lets your opponents ruin you with Naval Superiority, so this is another good option.
Filthy Accusations: A solid midgame plot that kneel their strongest character and helps you have a good turn. I often kneel a big military character to help me connect for military claims. It kneels Robert!
Confiscation: Maybe the plot that I would cut first if needed, it is good again Milk or big Attachments like Seal of the Hand, but maybe you could run more Viserys instead.
Other plots that are interesting but didn’t make it:
Heads on Spikes is interesting to add to the kill potential, hoping to deny one more character form the start. However, early on I always find myself needing more than 4 gold from my plot, and this deck doesn’t care as much about the power gain as other decks do.
Sneak Attack is a solid choice as another good economy plot that doesn’t get crushed by Naval Superiority. It can be strong on turn 1 for a double military claim to put your opponent in a bad spot, but it has negative synergy with Drogo.
Summons is a plot that I think definitely does NOT have a place in this deck, but I see many people playing in Targaryen. This deck has an abundance of large characters and in my experience it isn’t that important which of them you have in play, they are all strong. You will always get a couple big characters to play, and your money will be tied up playing them, so playing a plot that is weak in other areas to fetch out even more big guys is not what you want to be doing.
Counting Coppers might be useful to refresh late in the game after running out of cards, but I find that with so many large characters, I often have plenty to do and don’t run out. The abundance of high impact cards helps to counteract the Targaryen weakness of lack of card draw, which is another reason why I like the Lannister banner and adding Tyrion and Jaime.
Naval Superiority would be an interesting addition, you can build a nice lead by playing it against an opponent’s Noble Cause, but this is risky for you as well, because you can hurt yourself by playing it against Sneak Attack or Calm over Westeros. This is a meta call. If all your opponents are going turn 1 Noble Cause, play this and beat them with it until they start mixing it up.
I think Heads on Spikes, Sneak Attack, and Naval Superiority are probably worth considering playing.
3 Dany, 3 Drogo, 3 Jaime, 3 Tyrion: Don’t skimp, play 3 of them. This is not 1.0, duplicates are great now. They help keep your important characters alive through a variety of kill effects, and maybe more importantly, you need to draw these characters. Due to Wildfire, this game is mostly about what the three best guys you have in play are. Make sure yours are bigger by drawing your biggest guys.
2 Illyrio: You don’t really want him early, but he is great later on once you are running out of cards, and is strong against Bara Kneel. 2 is probably correct in my experience.
1 Drogon, 3 Viserion, 3 Rhaegal: I find Drogon to be the least impactful dragon. Renown on Dany is not a big deal for this deck, and he has only one icon. I play one to have more Dragons because being able to play Dracarys is critical, but if you cut him I wouldn’t fault you for it. Rhaegal is the best dragon, his effect to stand Dany is incredible, and his icons and 3 strength are nice.
2 Braided Warrior 3 Handmaiden: I go back and forth on this. I think it is important to have at least 2 of each of these characters. Handmaiden is actually very important because the bane of this deck is an opponent who kneels Dany over and over again. Handmaiden is strong against Baratheon, and lets you play extra tricks with Dracarys, like using Dany to play it, and then standing her for the extra -1 again. If you want to play only 2 Handmaiden that’s probably fine as well.
3 Jorah: He is amazing, play 3. If you get extras, you can get free claim soak or you can wait until he betrays you and then replay him. He is the best 2 drop in the entire game. He is very solid at intrigue attacks to help you land Tears of Lys!
1 Viserys: I might be wrong about this, it’s quite possible that more Viserys is optimal. In fact, maybe you should be playing 3 Viserys and not playing Confiscation plot, this still needs more testing. There are ways to trigger Viserys without him ending up in the dead pile, such as Marched to the Wall! Test with more of him and let me know what you think!
3 Targaryen Loyalist: Duh.
1 The Tickler, 1 Lannisport Merchant: The Tickler mostly exists to help give you more ways to play Treachery, but is occasionally great if he gets a hit with his ability. The Lannisport Merchant is really a filler 12th Lannister card because you need to play at least 12. You could also try Burned Men, Moneylender, or something else. His 1 cost helps setup, and he might let you play Jaime with a 5 gold plot, as Jaime can be hard to play sometimes. I expect Burned Men to become stronger in the future when the plot that bounces all 3 or less cost characters to hand comes out.
The Tickler can be randomly amazing, so I might even consider playing more of him, but I hesitate to play multiples of a 2 cost unique that will probably die to Wildfire or claim soak often.
2 Widows Wail, 2 Seal of the Hand, 0 Milk of the Poppy: Widow’s Wail is a great combat trick, and can be played with Tyrion money. Seal of the Hand is amazing on Dany, Drogo, or others, and helps a lot against Bara Kneel. Compared to Drogo’s Arakh, it is probably better than it on Drogo because it doesn’t get blanked if Drogo is knelt by Melisandre or Filthy Accusations, and it is actually playable on your other guys as well. Playing it is just infinitely better than the Arakh. I didn’t have room for Milk of the Poppy, even though they are good. However, this deck wants to kill characters not Milk them, so I think this is the correct choice. Also, Milk sometimes doesn’t work well against Bara Kneel because they have Maester Cressen.
3 Dracarys: Utterly essential. Probably your strongest card in the deck, and it’s actually pretty hard to play around. Sometimes the threat of this will stop your opponent from making challenges that would actually work against you.
3 Tears of Lys, 1 Put to the Sword: Tears of Lys is one of the most important cards in the deck and you absolutely need 3. Put to the Sword is a good surprise to have 1 of, and can be played with Tyrion money. You could even consider a second copy. Sometimes you can end up killing characters with both Tears and PTTS in one challenges phase, which can be very backbreaking.
Note that you can often trigger PTTS by attacking with a 5 str character like Jaime or Drogo and then when they block with a small guy to keep it within 5, you blow him up with Dracarys. The combined Dracarys kill + claim kill + PTTS kill can completely ruin your opponent’s board, and can be followed the next turn with Marched to the Wall to kill off whatever big character remains.
Tears isn’t only good on big characters, sometimes killing an army or even a small character is fine as well, especially if doing so reduces your opponent to only important characters and thus sets up Marched to the Wall next turn. However, make sure you do your military claim before you go for intrigue and play Tears of Lys, or else the opponent will lose their poisoned character to your claim.
2 Fire and Blood: Brings back Dragons from Wildfire or after losing them to claim. Most importantly, this allows you to trick your opponent into thinking you cannot play Dracarys, and then playing it anyway. The most awesome play that I have had happen yet with this deck was:
Opponent attacks me with Jaime on Intrigue. This triggers my Tyrion and gives me 2 gold. Pay one of the gold to play Fire and Blood to bring back a dragon. Pay 1 gold to play Dracarys in Jaime. Combine with Daenerys stand go reduce Jaime by 1 more, Jaime dies! Both the Gold and the Dragon came out of nowhere!
2 Treachery: A strong card that I was initially playing 3 of, but I found that sometimes I had no Lannister characters in play to activate it. Countering a Kingsroad activation early on can be amazing, and they still lose the Kingsroad! This can ruin their early turn play and result in your being able to dominate their board and get way ahead early. Other strong cards to counter are Gashton Grey, Varys, Melisandre kneeling your best character, draw 2 locations, etc.
3 Illyrio’s Estate, 3 Roseroad, 3 Kingsroad: Duh. Kingsroad is critical in this deck, you have lots of high cost characters that you might need it to get out. Definitely play 3.
1 Plaza of Punishment: The effect is amazing for this deck, it can help kill bigger characters with Dracarys, or it can remove claim soak. However, landing the power challenge win to activate it is tricky, since power is your weakest icon! Tyrion can be very useful for this, which is another reason the Lannister splash is strong. Because of the difficulty of landing this, and also the difficulty of getting it into play and also playing a big character on the same turn, I am playing only 1 copy. It’s even possible that 0 is correct.
Other interesting cards that didn’t make my deck:
Waking the Dragon might be interesting, mostly to trigger Viserys, in a version with more Viserys. But it could also give you surprise ability to play Dracarys, or could allow you to stand Dany or Drogo and then save them from the bounce by discarding a duplicate. I just didn’t have room for it.
Iron Throne could be interesting to help counter your opponent’s dominance power gain, but ultimately I found it didn’t do much for this deck. This deck either gains board control and wins, or it doesn’t gain board control and loses. It really doesn’t care very much about the early power count totals, it needs to focus on board control. Ultimately I decided it didnt work well in this deck, but its a solid card so maybe palying 1 is correct.
The Hand’s Judgment: I would love to fit this in if there was room, but I can’t find room. Mostly it would counter the opponent’s Judgment, to ensure that your Dracarys or Tears of Lys actually goes off! But it also has plenty of other good things it can counter, and the Tyrion money is great for helping you play it.
Put to the Torch: I am even considering playing this as a way to kill The Red Keep (or other good locations), but I think I would prefer more Put to the Sword in that case.
Littlefinger: I have so many huge guys already that playing more 5 costers is just too hard. The card draw would be nice however, later on in the game. I just oculdnt fit him in but maybe thats a mistake.
Varys: I tested Varys a fair amount but found him to not work in this deck. In addition to the fact that he is high cost, and you are already overloaded with high cost guys, in this deck you have better ways to kill your opponents characters without losing your own. I think Varys is better suited to a Lannister deck. Varys simply hurt my setups too muhc and was too clunky for this deck. Also, this deck doesnt really want to play Bodyguard, which is good with Varys to keep your guys alive, and even if you manage to pull off an imbalanced Varys where you keep a big guy and they dont, you could get hit with Marched to the Wall and lose your big guy anyways.
Playing against Bara Kneel:
When playing against Bara Kneel, you need to focus on killing Robert, Stannis, and Melisandre at any cost. I have had games where I managed to get all three into my opponent’s dead pile! Once you kill them, their deck falls apart, but of course killing them is challenging.
You want to keep your opponent low on random claim soak dudes, by playing Wildfire and continuing to hit them hard on military. Once you get them down to only important characters, Marched to the Wall comes out.
Stand effects are of course critical in this matchup, which is why we play Handmaidens, Seal of the Hand, Illyrio, etc.
Very early on against Baratheon, I actually consider gaining power to be a BAD thing! They will be winning power challenges against you and stealing it back with Chamber of the Painted Table. You are in a race with them to gain board control and kill their important characters before they get too much power, so you actually don’t want to have power yourself so you cannot feed them!
Of course, you might get power anyway when they don’t block your challenges, which you must accept, but you should keep in mind that turn 1 power gain is not necessarily good.
I find it very useful to go second against Baratheon on the first turn of the game, since this allows you to play a big character and not have it get knelt right away by Melisandre! Also, this way your turn 1 power gain comes after your opponent has a chance to power claim you. As Baratheon often plays Noble Cause turn 1 to get out Robert, consider playing Calm over Westeros to get initiative over them. If you include a Sneak Attack plot, this would be the time to play it, and the 2 claim military hit you should get out of it is excellent.
If you fall behind in power early but have managed to kill Robert or Melisandre, you have done well.
Hope that your opponent doesn’t draw The Red Keep, as it is incredibly strong. Shutting it down is a high priority, as you need to deny the flow of card draw which will keep them flush with small claim soak characters. Of course, this is tough to do.
While I won’t say this deck crushes Baratheon, I definitely feel it is solid against it and gives it a good game, which is more than can be said of most other decks. I feel confident in saying that the meta should contain a minimum of two tier 1 decks, Bara Kneel and this. I hope that more will be added to that list as we get to play the game more now that it is released.
This deck also performs very well against all other decks I have faced. Those decks are weaker than Bara Kneel, and they are easier to defeat.
Additionally, I find this deck very fun to play. In fact, I find it a LOT more fun to play than Bara Kneel, while also being strong!
You have many tricks up your sleeve and cards to play during the challenge phase. It is a control deck aiming at board control, and ignoring power gain early. It does this by aggressively attempting to reduce the opponent to zero characters in play. This is your win condition, not 15 power. (Of course, once you get ahead, you can often just keep them low on guys and keep pounding them until you have 15 power, if they do not concede, but at that point the victory is almost inevitable).
This deck is not simple to play, there are plenty of decisions, and it rewards experience. I definitely feel that experience improved my decisions about the order to play out my big characters, when to play my combat events, and so on.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your thoughts and testing experience! Try out some other cards or choices in this deck and tell me how they went! How are your games going against Bara Kneel, and against other decks?