I am however curious to see how my build differs from others as I'm always willing to learn insights and incorporate them in my decks (it's why we come to this subforum). So let's discuss the tiny differences your build has and the reasons why so that we can all refine The Deck To Beat.
Ongoing, this archetype will continue to be strong but hopefully not too strong. The design team & playtesters dropped the ball with this (let's face it, none of us thought this Hyperkneel would be this strong, it looked a bit janky on paper). I'm hoping for a 1-cost neutral attachment (ambush 2) that you discard to stand host or something like that to weaken this dominant build but but fatally.
So post away with your differences. And let's see how this thread develops (eg. do we drop Lancers for Entourage? I say yes!)
So, did we drop Lancers for Entourage? My short answer would be "no", but since it feels like an end of an era today, perhaps a slightly longer answer is in order...
First of all, I hope we are past the point where admitting you play this deck brings shame on you, or calls your mental state into question. I admit it was initially my favourite deck to play, but the negative energy surrounding it ruined it a little for me, and like a lot of people, I prefer to try out new things, so Baratheon just became a boring choice after a while. I came back to this deck after its popularity dropped and found it to still be quite formidable, but new threats have emerged since the Core Set, so it required a little adjustment in how it was played.
The first game against Nymeria was a bit of a shock. I managed to get Melisandre killed with Tears of Lys and Stannis killed for military claim, which would have been very unlikely in the past. Syrio Forel completely changes the equation in military challenges even when kneeling, and the Hound can almost completely avoid kneel by bouncing in and out of hand. Decks that play strong intrigue and lots of Tears of Lys have always been tricky to play against, especially if they play Varys as well, so new tricks for Lannister and Martell have definitely made it more difficult for Baratheon. I was worried this deck was a little outdated, but as I played it more I was beginning to find answers for most problems. I think the main strength of Bara Fealty is its adaptability. It's basically a deck designed to counter your opponent's strategy rather than push your own, so the most important thing is being aware of the biggest dangers and potential threats. You often learn more in defeat than you do in victory, and there really is no substitute for experience...
On a positive note, the emergence of Knight and Crossing decks has made things a little easier again, since those decks don't like Wildfire and they really struggle to overcome the Stannis lock. Greyjoy usually struggles against this deck as well. They don't like to see so many attachments and they especially don't like to be knelt all the time. Targaryen is difficult, and I can't see that changing anytime soon, so the best you can do is to hold your own against them.
So, this was my deck just prior to the release of No Middle Ground:
Total Cards: (60)
1x Fealty (Core Set)
1x A Clash of Kings (Core Set)
1x A Noble Cause (Core Set)
1x Calm Over Westeros (Core Set)
2x Filthy Accusations (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x Wildfire Assault (Core Set)
3x Bastard in Hiding (Core Set)
3x Dragonstone Faithful (Core Set)
3x Fiery Followers (Core Set)
3x Maester Cressen (Core Set)
3x Melisandre (Core Set)
1x Moon Boy (The King's Peace)
3x Robert Baratheon (Core Set)
3x Selyse Baratheon (Core Set)
2x Ser Davos Seaworth (Core Set)
1x Shireen Baratheon (Core Set)
3x Stannis Baratheon (Core Set)
2x Vanguard Lancer (Core Set)
2x Bodyguard (Core Set)
2x King Robert’s Warhammer (Taking the Black)
2x Lightbringer (Core Set)
2x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
1x Seal of the Hand (Core Set)
2x Consolidation of Power (Core Set)
1x Ours is the Fury (Core Set)
3x Seen In Flames (Core Set)
2x Support of the People (Taking the Black)
1x Chamber of the Painted Table (Core Set)
3x Dragonstone Port (Core Set)
1x The Iron Throne (Core Set)
2x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Red Keep (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
Looking at this list, it's still remarkably similar to the one from the Core Set environment. It only includes two of the six cards Baratheon got in the chapter packs up to this point, and only one additional neutral card. I've tested a few others as well but I felt they weren't contributing much, so I've kind of gone back to basics. Let's discuss some of the choices, then perhaps a quick look into the future...
THE MAIN PROTAGONISTS
3x Robert Baratheon
3x Stannis Baratheon
No controversy there. We have three cards that work really well together, and you are generally looking to get at least two of them on the board. Stannis is a somewhat underrated member of this trio, and I sometimes see only two copies of him played, but I think that's a mistake. He is more situational than the other two, but there are some decks that just cannot deal with him, especially since the Lord of the Crossing came out. These decks rely on lots of different icons and characters, and they can't deal with most of their board being knelt. I have fond memories of two games where Melisandre got hit with Heads on Spikes in round 1, but I still won comfortably because of Stannis. Just thinking about it, it was against the kind of decks where one targeted kneel wouldn't have been that powerful, so I never really missed Melisandre. If you don't have any of your big characters in your opening hand, you will probably be playing an early Summons, and you might need to make a decision. Don't automatically take Melisandre without considering how Stannis would affect the game...
KEEPING THEM ALIVE
3x Seen In Flames
3x Selyse Baratheon
The deck is generally very resilient and hangs in there even with a slow start, but one thing that can ruin your chances is if someone dies who wasn't supposed to die. If you are playing three copies of your main characters, there is a decent chance you can dupe them, and you have two Bodyguards for additional protection. The Bodyguards automatically protect you from the Seastone Chair as well. The first round or two are where you are the most vulnerable, so you have to be careful not to play a big character if you can't protect them. Opening with Calm Over Westeros is a good move most of the time. It protects you from high military claim, and it wins initiative against plots such as A Noble Cause and Summons, so there is a decent chance you could go second and know exactly what kind of threat you are facing.
Targeted kill can be a problem for this deck. Three copies of Selyse may seem excessive, but I've found Tears of Lys to be a bigger danger than Put to the Sword or military claim recently. Her cost is a problem though, as it's difficult to play her alongside Robert or Stannis early on and still have the gold left to pay for her ability. I think the role of Seen in Flames has changed a little since the Core Set days. It used to be a luxury to be able to look at your opponent's hand and just discard their best card, but now I see Seen in Flames as more of a defensive tool. It basically works as a Hand's Judgement with a cost of 1, and it helps you pre-emptively discard Tears of Lys or Put to the Sword, or at least check if your opponent has it. You might also need to use it as a "delayed kneel", in case you are going first and something nasty comes on, such as Ice on a character that is still standing.
The other problem you might be facing is the Varys reset, so it's very useful to keep one of your big characters on the board after it happens, along with something you can march to the wall. That's easier said than done though...
2x Ser Davos Seaworth
3x Selyse Baratheon
3x Maester Cressen
Davos is a nice character to have on the board, but he is not really essential, and there is no real need to dupe him. I think two copies are fine. He also works well with Wildfire, especially in the later rounds where you usually have the gold to just replay him. Selyse has some use beyond protecting from Tears as well. She can give someone like Robert or Davos an intrigue icon to use offensively, or she can just participate in intrigue challenges herself, since Baratheon doesn't have that many intrigue icons currently. She also works even when kneeling, which is great for the Stannis lock, and of course she has the R'hllor trait.
Maester Cressen is an extremely important piece of the puzzle for this deck. You have a couple of options here... You can play Confiscation to make him less essential. You can play Here to Serve to find him on demand, which I've decided against, because I didn't want to play a search plot with only one available target. Or you can play all three copies and hope to draw him, or perhaps find him with Summons as a last resort. I think this is probably the best option. I like to keep him in my hand until I actually need to use his ability, otherwise he tends to die in Wildfire and you might be stuck with an unremovable Milk and no Confiscation.
3x Bastard in Hiding
2x Vanguard Lancer
1x Shireen Baratheon
3x Dragonstone Faithful
Now we come to the Royal Entourage dilemma. Frankly, I think its forced reaction is too difficult to play around. Intrigue decks are everywhere and they kneel it immediately if they go first. If they go second, you often have no real need for Royal Entourage in an attack, but if you leave it to defend, the opponent will just open with intrigue and kneel it anyway. There are still a lot of situations where it might work, but it's a little too unreliable for my taste. Bastard in Hiding is clearly better, and I prefer the Vanguard Lancer as well, despite it only having one icon and an uninspired ability that only makes a difference in a small percentage of games. The Royal Entourage just doesn't impress me, so I will wait for the next generic Baratheon character to come along before I consider replacing the current ones.
CONTROLLING YOUR OPPONENT
3x Fiery Followers
1x Seal of the Hand
2x King Robert’s Warhammer
2x Consolidation of Power
2x Milk of the Poppy
Since preventing your opponent from playing is your main strategy, you need as many cards as possible that help you do that. Three copies of Fiery Followers is a pretty unanimous choice in Bara Fealty decks, as they work so well with Melisandre, Stannis and the Chamber of the Painted Table. The other cards in this group, however, are more debatable.
Lightbringer is not the most inspired of weapons. Robert and Stannis are its only realistic targets in this deck, and it's a completely dead card on anyone else. It's even dead on Robert if he gets milked. Still, I like to see it in my hand. If nothing else, it's a very cheap R'hllor card to trigger Melisandre, and it's great on Robert once you have succeeded in stalling your opponent and you start accumulating power yourself. It basically works as a cheaper Seal of the Hand in that case, but I prefer to include a copy of Seal as well, in case Robert gets knelt before challenges.
King Robert's Warhammer is one of the few new cards I have included since the Core Set, and I've been very pleased with it. Ideally you want it on Robert to kneel virtually all of your opponent's board, but it's a bit of a waste if everything stands at the end of the round, so this card is at its best when combined with Stannis. It's a great advantage that Baratheon doesn't really need to obsess about the initiative battle. Usually you want to go second to make sure you use Melisandre on the biggest threat, but going first means that Robert can intimidate someone big most of the time, and your opponent definitely doesn't like to see you play the Warhammer when going first. Stannis means you can use the Warhammer to great effect even when going second, since it's more of a long-term investment in that case. And if you only have Stannis out with no Robert, I would still use the Warhammer at the earliest opportunity. Consolidation of Power goes along nicely with this tactic as well. Yes, you can use it to kneel a 4-strength character if that gets you out of trouble, but it can also be good to go for quantity over quality with this card sometimes. Kneeling two reducers and a Lordsport Shipwright is as good as anything, especially with Stannis out. You can also surprise your opponent with this when you go second, since you can reduce its cost to 0 with Fealty. It's such a great card that even three copies wouldn't be excessive, but alas, you can't have everything.
Could we do without Milk of the Poppy in this deck? Possibly, but kneel doesn't work against everything, and I like to have an answer for characters that still hinder you even when kneeling. Robb Stark is the single most annoying character for this deck, as mass stand completely destroys your strategy. Nymeria is a great target as well, as are Tyrion, Arianne and Drogo. It's nice if you can intercept Varys with a Milk as well, but that's not something you can realistically plan on.
DRAW AND DOMINANCE
3x The Red Keep
1x Moon Boy
2x Support of the People
1x The Iron Throne
1x Chamber of the Painted Table
I think the Red Keep is non-negotiable, you want it in play as soon as possible. Once in play, it helps to defend itself and makes triggering Support of the People a lot easier. Baratheon should generally be strong enough in power challenges to trigger the Red Keep more often than not, and if the opponent goes out of their way to prevent it, at least they are wasting most of their resources on something that is only mildly annoying for you. The addition of Moon Boy has been very helpful in recent times. Unlike Royal Entourage, Moon Boy's forced reaction is quite easy to play around. You can usually tell whether you are going to win the challenge before declaring Moon Boy, and if there are any possible surprises, just leave him out. I mostly just stick him in a challenge that I can't fail to win, possibly alongside Robert or Davos. He can also be used as a sort of a consolation prize when the Red Keep doesn't trigger. If your opponent plays a big power challenge that you can't defend, just concede it and save Moon Boy for your counter to at least draw one card. It's really nice to draw Moon Boy early, but I'm reluctant to include more than one copy, since he dies pretty easily.
I have seen two copies of Support of the People in a lot of Bara Fealty decks and I like this idea myself. It basically replaces additional copies of the Iron Throne and the Chamber of the Painted Table. I usually wait until I have one of the locations in hand, then search for the other one with Support of the People, which is fairly easy to do in this deck. The downside of having only one copy of each is that it's gone forever if something happens to it, and of course the Newly-Made Lord is something you can't really defend against. The Iron Throne and the Painted Table is a nice combination to have on the board, but at the end of the day, having only one is still pretty good. You can also use Support of the People to find the Red Keep if you haven't drawn it early, so it's definitely an event worth including.
3x Dragonstone Port
3x The Roseroad
2x The Kingsroad
I think this deck can do without the third Kingsroad. The only really expensive characters are Robert and Stannis, both reducible by Fealty, and you are playing A Noble Cause to make sure you can always play them. My version of this deck has an additional economy bonus, because all 30 characters are Baratheon, as are most of the locations and attachments. So Dragonstone Port reduces almost every card, which is bound to make a slight different over the course of a game. If you include more expensive neutrals such as Littlefinger or Syrio, or even Varys, then a third Kingsroad will probably be needed as well.
1x Ours is the Fury
I'm not sure what else to call this card. The beauty of this deck is that the cards work so well with one another and most of them perform more than one task, but Ours is the Fury doesn't really have much synergy with anything else. It's useless if you go second, which is mostly going to be the case against decks that try to kill your big characters early on. It's also a little too expensive to play when you are already under pressure, and Robert is your only character that can single-handedly turn challenges in your favour, so ideally you want to use it on him. On the plus side, its cost can make it difficult for your opponent to cancel, and it is a strong play when it comes good. I am not a fan of cards I can't fully rely on, so I will either replace this with something better in the future, or find a more reliable way of using it.
King's Hunting Party - Too expensive for what it provides, and no power icon is a big liability in this deck.
Renly Baratheon - Designed with the banner agenda in mind. His text may as well be blank in this deck, and 6 cost for a 4-strength blank tricon is just not worth it.
Littlefinger - I was surprised by how little use I had for Littlefinger in recent games. For some reason the Red Keep seems easier to defend these days. Maybe it's because the opposition is different, or perhaps I've just learnt to play a little better. Littlefinger just seems like a really expensive way to draw two cards now, so I've dropped him.
Syrio Forel - Annoying to play against, so perhaps this is one card I should consider. I don't really play much offensive military though, so the main use of Syrio would probably be to make sure Robert can't be stealthed on defence.
Put to the Sword - As above. Robert is strong enough to allow you to occasionally trigger this, but I prefer kneel over kill. I would actually rather include Put to the Torch, because Ghaston Grey blocks all of your plans with Robert, but that's just one card...
Superior Claim - I used to have three copies of this at one point, but the chapter packs have made it increasingly more difficult to survive the early game, so Superior Claim was a luxury I could no longer afford.
The Hand's Judgement - I think we can do without this for the moment, as Seen in Flames can be used for a similar purpose.
In the Name of Your King! - I've tried this and it was nice the one time I used it successfully, but it can easily become a card that does nothing and just sits in your hand. Also, it clashes with Fealty.
1x A Clash of Kings
1x A Noble Cause
1x Calm Over Westeros
2x Filthy Accusations
1x Wildfire Assault
These are pretty standard. Playing only 30 characters is very low in the current environment and I do get an occasional weak setup because of it. Opening with Calm Over Westeros on military claim is therefore a common play, and I find that the deck survives slow starts fairly well. Summons is needed if you don't see any of your big characters early on, or it can grab Cressen or a R'hllor character mid game. I try not to waste it when it's not needed though, because things can happen. Still having Summons available after a Varys reset can be invaluable, for example.
Wildfire Assault usually splits opinion. I like it in this deck, because the deck is very strong in a 3 on 3 situation, and kneel can turn the numbers even more in your favour. It also has Shireen who dies well in Wildifre, and Davos who returns to your hand to be played again. Another thing you need to be careful with is committing fully to the Stannis lock, because it can get broken unexpectedly. An untimely Milk or a Fortified Position can be devastating, so it's nice to save your Wildfire to counter a potential mass stand situation. Most games involving this deck are decided in Round 5 or 6, so there is decent chance you can avoid playing Wildfire if it doesn't suit you. There will be various resets and partial resets available in the future, but I can definitely see Wildfire surviving as Baratheon's preferred choice for some time.
A Clash of Kings is a very important plot in this deck, and I usually play it in the round I plan to win in. It wins initiative against closing plots such as Rise of the Kraken and A Tourney for the King, and also against Wildfire and Marched to the Wall. You just need Robert with one of his attachments and it should be enough to either get you over the line or close to it.
Filthy Accusations can be a luxury in some situations, but you do need it when you don't have Melisandre, and it does have half a chance of winning initiative as well. I have two copies, because I see it as the default plot to include when there is no other obvious choice. A Feast for Crows was a decent alternative, as Baratheon is strong in dominance, but the low reserve makes it impossible to play early, and the low initiative is a problem later in the game. Besides Confiscation and Here to Serve, I've also considered the two high-gold plots, Trading with the Pentoshi and Calling the Banners, but I reckon your economy is strong enough to make the extra kneel of Filthy Accusations a more valuable option. Heads on Spikes is another plot I tried out. I thought it would be a good counter for characters such as Arianne and the Hound that go back to hand, and Seen in Flames could maximize your chances of hitting a character. It was a nice theory, but unfortunately it didn't work as well in practice as I'd hoped.
Oh, and before I forget, I obviously considered the King's Peace as well but I think it would be an awful choice. The gold is nothing special, it automatically loses initiative, and just to rub it in, it has poor reserve as well. As for the text, I can just imagine the opponent laughing in my face after reading that. There is no chance in hell I would even consider it if it was a neutral plot.
So, where do we go from here?
There are only 13 neutral cards in my deck at the moment, so there is definitely some room for improvement there. It's interesting, the First Snow of Winter is expected to be a pivotal plot that changes the way this game is played, but most people are focusing on the negative effects it will have on their deck, rather than the potential to use it to their advantage. That makes me think everyone will prepare for this plot, but it might end up seeing less play than is expected at the moment. Still, at least two copies of Gendry will probably need to be included, and it's a nice card regardless of First Snow. The forced reaction doesn't seem too bad, and you do have the Bastard in Hiding to sacrifice if the worst happens. Tobho Mott's Armory could be another good target for Support of the People, so I would initially include one copy. Both cards enhance Baratheon's dominance theme, so A Feast for Crows just might replace one Filthy Accusations, as you could now gain 5 power in one round from dominance alone.
The King's Hunting Party might also be worth considering now. It's a strong military presence that survives First Snow and helps protect your key characters, and the upcoming King characters in the next cycle will make it more likely for the Hunting Party to get the intrigue icon, which has been almost unheard of until now. I would also reconsider In the Name of Your King!, because avoiding military claim when you have no expendable characters on the board will now be a necessity.
Personally, I am more worried about Blood of the Dragon than First Snow. The Crown of Gold is already annoying enough when it kills Melisandre, but the prospect of it killing Robert or Stannis in the Marshalling Phase, and no way to prevent it? That really would be a setback that would be difficult to recover from. The upcoming Quentyn Martell will be tough to play against as well, with his ability to kill Robert in the Plot Phase during Wildfire. It seems the Eyrie will have to be seriously considered, despite its cost. Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. As for know, these would be my updates of the above deck:
-1 Filthy Accusation
+1 A Feast for Crows
-1 Selyse Baratheon
-1 The Red Keep
-1 Seal of the Hand
-1 Ours is the Fury
+1 Tobho Mott's Armory
+1 In the Name of Your King!
Selyse's value goes down a little with First Snow, so replacing her with Gendry seems obvious. Another copy of Gendry also makes it 31 characters now, still low, but slightly better than it was. I said the Red Keep was non-negotiable, but the Armory seems like a fairly reliable card draw as well, and this gives you the chance to get both on the board and draw three cards per round. Too optimistic perhaps? I'm also not sure about In the Name of Your King! Only one copy means you are less likely to have it in your hand when you really need it, but I think it could get you out of trouble more often than Ours is the Fury can. The Seal also has to go, in favour of the second Gendry. It's a shame, but I can't think of any other card to cut.
Time will tell I suppose. As someone who is relatively new to this game and the concept of card games in general (I've enjoyed it immensely, so I only wish I'd discovered this passion sooner), I can admit that a lot of decks I build are fairly weak at first, and quite often I just have to concede that they don't work and give up on them. But Bara Fealty has a habit of eventually finding answers for most problems, and after losing with it, I always feel like there was something I could have done differently to give myself a chance. I think I probably have a slightly better record with Targaryen Fealty (though I'm not keeping any stats), but at the risk of being called "mean spirited", I just find Bara Fealty more fun to play. Hopefully it remains a formidable force in the game for the foreseeable future.