It’s been nearly two weeks since I won North American Continentals, and I’m finally getting a chance to decompress and process the events of the weekend. GenCon is always a whirlwind of events, friends, meals and games, and this year was certainly no different from that perspective. Every year I tell myself, “Well, this is the year I’ll start skipping GenCon- I don’t have a specific reason to go, and it’s a lot of days off work.” And yet every summer, I inevitably find myself on a flight to Indianapolis, excitedly planning out my first bowl of 5-way chili at Steak N Shake.
Since 2012 and FFG’s move from GenCon to their Event Center in Roseville, MN, as the home of the World Championships, GenCon has not been a high priority for SoCal Thrones. I have attended every year, and often done well (placing fourth in the Joust in 2013, and making the cut in both 2014 and 2015), but by and large the summer has been a bit of a ‘break time’ for SoCal before we begin testing in earnest for Worlds. My esteemed SoCal Thrones teammate and one of my favorite people in the world, Johnny Wright, has an article coming later today that discusses the triggering event for my decision to go to GenCon 2016, and our team’s preparation for it, so I won’t go into too much detail on that here. Instead, please check out his article over on The White Book (http://www.whitebook...r-a-tournament/).
Part of the reason that I hadn’t planned to go this year was due to the schedule- starting the Joust on Thursday meant that I’d have to travel on Wednesday and take three days off of work. But once I knew I wouldn’t be going it alone, I pulled the trigger. David M., who is new to AGOT as of 2.0 but is already making waves locally as a strong player, was my traveling companion for the trip, and had arranged with his brother for us to stay at his house. This was a huge boon- rather than paying for a hotel room, we simply paid for Uber rides back to his brother’s house each night, and were driven into town each morning. Additionally, it was a much more relaxed setting than a downtown hotel room crammed with people in order to save money. After collecting our convention badges and 5-way chili, we ended up getting to David’s brother’s house at about 2:30 AM on Thursday morning, but mercifully the Joust didn’t start until 1 PM, so we were able to get a decent amount of rest before heading down for Day 1. We got there a little early, filled out our decklists, said hello to all of the familiar faces, and got down to work. The field of 221 was very impressive- definitely the biggest AGOT tournament that I’ve participated in, and an excellent sign for the health of the game in general.
My game descriptions are not as good as they could be. If we played and I messed up some details please forgive me- I’m working off the 2-week old notes file from my phone.
ROUND 1- Shaun M.- Greyjoy Banner Dragon
WELP. As you might have gleaned from Johnny’s article, Shaun was one of the 4-5 people who I was most actively testing with for this event, and only abandoned reason (SoCal) for madness (South Carolina) about a week before this event. We were both rather disappointed that we were paired, and I was told after the match that there may in fact be a provision in the Tournament Rules for repairings if you are paired with someone you traveled with. Unfortunately, though, that was a bit too late. Game on. Having tested with Shaun, I knew that he was running Naval, and that I’d have to do everything I could to avoid getting beaten by it- not easy with my plot deck, I’ll admit. I flopped Gregor, a reducer and a Roseroad, he flopped Magister Illyrio, a Salty Navigator and a Kingsroad. I open with Calling the Banners to try to squeeze some economy if he plays Naval, but he doesn’t. He plays a Mirri, though, and follows it up with Pyke. So from here on out, I have to deal with potentially 2 Mirri challenges with stealth- rough. I play out some guys and have a Treachery for Mirri’s ability (he didn’t have the gold for Illyrio this turn, thankfully) to keep everyone alive. Next turn, he decides that I’m definitely going to play a Naval-bait plot, so he plays Naval, and I play Winds of Winter. Bullet dodged! He told me after the game that he ended up one gold short of dropping a Captain’s Daughter this turn, and I was able to hold Mirri off for a second turn. The next turn I played A Noble Cause, drew a second copy of Tywin and deployed him with his duplicate. I believe there was a Put to the Sword on this turn as well, and Tywin slowly turned the game in my favor. (1-0)
ROUND 2- Adam H.- Martell Banner Lion
I wish I had more notes about this game, as I remember it was quite an excellent one. I do know that I did not see Tywin or Gregor through the course of the game, and Tyrion ate a Tears on the first turn from a Nymeria activation. Despite all of that, I managed to pull out a win, Milking Nymeria three separate times through the course of the game. The third Milk after the first two have been dealt with, I find, is often the most brutal. (2-0)
ROUND 3- Bretton R.- Lannister Banner Kraken
Bretton posted a good recap of our game, which can be found in his tournament report here: https://thronesdb.com/decklist/view/5787/i-m-so-tired-a-gencon-tale-part-1-1.0
I was a bit taken aback at the beginning of the game when I was told I was ‘a name,’ but touched by his words nonetheless, and I’m glad that he came away with a positive opinion of me. He was an excellent opponent himself, and I think his ‘mistake,’ while tough, was both understandable and a non-obvious play, so I don’t fault him for it at all. Captain’s Daughter is a really interesting card- difficult to really playtest the impact of her on a game, since she often strands characters in your opponent’s hand so you don’t really have a good idea of her true effect on the game. I look forward to trying her out more in the future. One fun play that he didn’t include in his report was when we both had dueling Tywins, but mine had been Milked on turn 1. I attacked with a Tywin and Rattleshirts into his Tywin with a Seal of the Hand and a large pile of gold. He understandably defended, as I was threatening a PTTS with 2 gold, and I played Nightmares on his Tywin to win and un-Milk mine, then Treachery on the Seal so he couldn’t threaten a PTTS on the crackback. (3-0)
ROUND 4- Cliff F.- Martell Banner Lion
A theme of both of my Martell Lion matches is that I was not able to take copious notes, because the deck is very resilient, and the icon removal can cause games to become drawn-out slugfests that often run up against the clock. This game was no different. He extended his board very far, but with some less-than-stellar characters. At one point in the game, though, I was getting beaten down by Harmen Uller simply by virtue of him having Renown and a power icon. I held my Wildfire as long as I could, finally flipping it on turn 5, and he wisely flipped his the same turn and immediately refilled the board. He was unable to deal with Jamie well for most of the game, luckily, and on turn 6 I used Jamie to Tears his Harmen Uller, bringing the game back within reach for me. I finally drew Tywin on plot 8, and he immediately ate a Tears himself. Luckily, however, Jamie’s renown closed it out right there. (4-0)
ROUND 5- Bill A.- Baratheon Fealty
Bill was a very nice opponent, and we chatted before the game started about how he was somewhat out of practice and was surprised to be in the undefeated bracket after four rounds. I told him that he had to have at least SOME skill to be piloting Bara Fealty through the field, as it was a bit unexpected. Unfortunately, the game was a bit of a blowout, through no fault of Bill’s. He set up Fiery Followers, Shireen and a duped Red Keep, and I hit the nuts with Tywin, Reducer, Goldroad. I opened with Trading, he opened with Summons. I had him go first, and he pulled Stannis from his top 10 with his plot, and marshaled him, saving a gold. My turn 1 was Ilyn, murder Fiery Followers, marshal The Hound. He plays a Seen in Flames before challenges, only to reveal my TWO PTTS. Stannis died on that plot, and Mirri came around on the second plot to kill Melisandre, who had also just been marshaled. He did draw quite a few cards over the next few turns with Red Keep and a Tobho Mott’s Armory, but never managed to draw anything relevant and I quickly closed it out (5-0)
ROUND 6- Tim O.- Lannister Banner Wolf
Tim is from the awesome Boston play group, and I had played against an early version of this deck during Store Championship season, so I knew it would be a tough game. We both flopped Gergor, a reducer and a Roseroad, which was rather amusing. I got Mirri down first turn, while he got Eddard (WotN) and a dupe, as well as Arya. I played a Milk on his Gregor so I only had to worry about PTTS math and not the roulette wheel. On the key turn of the game, he played Treachery on the Mirri trigger that round and then put her to the sword, but I swung back and returned the favor on Gregor himself. Next marshaling phase I Milked Eddard as well and slowly ground the game out. He played a late First Snow of Winter, but I had enough money to marshal Tywin, and drew a dupe for the Hound as well, and together with the remainder of my board they finished the job. (6-0)
Day 1 ended with me at the top of a pile of four 6-0s by virtue of SoS. I proudly noted that David had also survived the graduated cut at 4-2, as had another SoCal player Greg, who had daringly played Night’s Watch Banner Lion. There were some activities going on, but I declined in favor of a quiet dinner with Rings, David and a couple of non-Thrones buddies of mine at Rock Bottom Brewery. I received a couple messages congratulating me on “King of Swiss,” which I politely declined, because 1) it wasn’t accurate, as we had 3 more rounds of Swiss to go, and 2) duh, the curse. No thanks! We headed back to our lodging, have a restful night’s sleep, got up and grabbed Shapiro’s diner for lunch. If you happen to find yourself in Indy, I highly recommend Shapiro’s. It’s a few blocks from downtown, but it is excellent. It’s a Jewish deli with what I assume must be the biggest sandwiches in the city, and delicious potato pancakes to boot. Secret tech!
ROUND 7- Nick H.- Baratheon Fealty
Another down-to-the-wire game. Nick hit me with Naval turn 1, which was slightly surprising from a Bara deck- I imagine this is one of the reasons he was placed so highly- and my Noble Cause went to waste. I was able to marshal a Milk of the Poppy on his flopped Davos though, so I kept a board presence by blocking his military challenge with Gregor. Turn 2 he was able to marshal both Robert and Melisandre, and those two obviously did some work. Both of his next two plots were Filthy Accusations, and a Melisandre trigger on the turn after that ensured that Gregor did not participate in any further challenges that game. Despite all that, I clawed through the game and nearly had it turned around. On the second-to-last plot, he ambushed in a City Watch against me, and I had a Tears ready for it (Robert had a dupe by then). However, in my fervor to plan my turn ahead, I skipped right past the Tears trigger, and on the next plot that City Watch won him dominance, which was a 2 power swing due to Chamber, and that put him ahead when time was called. A dumb mistake, but at least it was at a time when I could afford one. (6-1)
ROUND 8- Jonathan H.- Stark Fealty
I was beginning to wonder if there were any Stark Fealty decks in the field, as I hadn’t seen one all day despite all of our planning and teching for the matchup. I flopped Tyrion, Jorah, Kingsroad to his Syrio, Roseroad, Bran, Winterfell Steward. He got Blackfish out on turn 1, I Summons looking for Tywin but only find Gregor. I played him and Milked Syrio. Turn 2 I got Mirri out, but he answered with Winterfell, Sansa (WotN) and Lady. The Sansa/Lady combination was extremely good for him all game, and threw off my combat math quite often. By turn 4 though, I had a couple of my best monsters and he had no hand and had, in my judgment, overextended quite a bit. I dropped Wildfire to nuke the boards down to Blackfish with Lady, Sansa and a Rattleshirt’s Raiders for him, and Mirri, Gregor and Tyrion for me. He was ahead on power but I felt like I had control of the board at that point. However, his draw for the turn absolutely saved the day: Summer to retrieve the just-killed Bran, who re-entered play, and a Milk of the Poppy for Mirri. I drew some dead events and he closed out the game a turn later. (6-2)
ROUND 9- Aaron G.- Martell Banner Lion
Aaron and I sat down, and he immediately notices that he has been paired up (he is 5-3 at this point) and snap-concedes the game. He asked to play a fun game and I happily obliged, having locked up a spot in the cut. We played what is perhaps the fastest game of AGOT I have ever played- not necessarily in terms of total time, but the individual action economy was blindingly fast, and I’m sure I made a few mistakes because of it. Each of our phases was not more than 30 seconds each. I’m glad it didn’t count. (7-2)
So after pretty bad series of games compared to the day before, I wasn’t feeling especially great going into the cut, but as they say in poker, all you need is a chip and a chair. The final standings are posted, one of the players drops to play Star Wars which allows Darknoj into the cut, and we play on.
TOP 8- Jonathan H.- Stark Fealty
I was not especially happy to see this matchup again after the last game, but I felt it was still very winnable, and in the end it was. Rob St. John has posted a video of this game on his channel, and you can view it here: Please ignore the embarrassing INT block on turn 1, AFTER I had told myself I’d be more careful of combat math where Lady/Sansa/Winterfell were concerned. *cringe*
TOP 4- Jon P.- Lannister Banner Wolf
I will admit that I have not yet had a chance to re-watch this game, as I only just noticed that it was posted about 10 minutes before writing this report. I will say that I’m really looking forward to watching it, though, as it was one of the most tense, skill-testing games that I can recall participating in since the outset of 2.0. (along with the finals.) Jon was both very skilled and very personable, which is a refreshing combination when the games get to such high stakes.
After this game, the tournament ended and nothing else interesting happened.
...what’s that you say? There was another game? Oh, well then. If I must.
FINAL- Seth L.- Martell Banner Wolf
“We come to it at last...the last great battle of our time.” -Gandalf
For those unaware, the SoCal Thrones crew and the DC crew have a (mostly friendly) rivalry dating back many years, and this game was simply the latest installment in that rivalry. Both groups have incredibly skilled deckbuilders and talented players, and every time we match up at a tournament, a figurative bloodbath is sure to ensue. To bury any of the remaining controversy now: Seth asked me before the game began if I was okay with the game not being filmed, and I told him that I would like it to be filmed so that I could watch it later in order to review my play, but that I accepted his decision not to publish it. Due to the incredibly high quality of play that I believe we both displayed (with some notable exceptions, as you’ll see- also I missed THREE Tyrion triggers :/ ), I am disappointed in that decision after the fact, and hope that Seth will change his mind and allow it to be published, but I understand and accept his reasons for making the request. Thanks once again go out to Rob for filming the game, even with the knowledge that the public might not get to see it. The time stamp on the video for the game is 1:56:13. Nearly two hours, and if it had been strictly timed to the 120 minute timing now prescribed in the tournament rules, we would have run right up against that. Let’s get to the action.
Seth and I both took mulligans, and I started with Tyrion, Burned Men and a Lannisport Merchant to his Eddard Stark (WotN), Desert Scavenger and Roseroad. We both flipped Calling the Banners on our first turn. I can’t speak to Seth’s thinking here, but I wasn’t sure if he had Naval Superiority, as it had been around quite a bit throughout the tournament, and I couldn’t risk getting completely blown out on the first plot. I spent my first turn marshaling a bunch of cheap guys and crossing my fingers that he didn’t play First Snow, as Tyrion is literally the only character that would’ve survived the winter, and he certainly wouldn’t have been long for the world after. He put out Arianne and some chuds of his own as well as Condemning Tyrion, and swapped into Nymeria before challenges began. He attempted to steal Tyrion’s intrigue, but I had a Treachery for it.
Turn 2 I Summons, looking for Tywin, but once again found only Gregor. He countered with Counting Coppers (alliteration!), and had quite a full grip at this point. I marshaled Jamie, while his 3 gold got him only a couple more chuds. During challenges, I was able to Tears his Eddard and pull Tyene from his hand all in the same challenge, which I took to be a very good sign. However, Seth’s deck is far more focused on the power challenge than one might think from looking only at the house cards, and my lack of power icons proved to be a theme throughout most of the game. Plot 3 I flipped Noble Cause to his Filthy Accusations, kneeling Jamie. I was able to marshal Gregor, but with Nymeria on the board I knew that he would be little more than an expensive Iron Throne unless I could deal with her.
Meanwhile, he was slowly but surely racking up power from unopposed challenges, power challenges and dominance, and I saw the game beginning to slip away. I knew I’d have to play absolutely lock-down defense the rest of the way if I were to have any shot at all. At one point in plot 4, he was up 10-1 in power, and had both Ghaston Grey and the Boneway on the table, and I had just played my first economy location of the game (a Roseroad). I drew into a second Treachery at that point, knowing that I’d need to save it to clear the Boneway. Unfortunately that meant that I couldn’t effectively attack with Jamie, Tyrion or Gregor, as GG would then set me back very far. Seth was also able to get Caleotte out and two copies of Knights of the Sun, who had renown by that point, and was really pushing the advantage. I was able to use the Hound to hold him off a little bit, but wasn’t able to push back much.
Finally, on plot 5, I found an opening. Seth flipped Marched to the Wall, and I flipped Trading with the Pentoshi. I still had not seen Mirri or Tywin by that point, and I knew that with my lack of economy and my last two plots being Winds of Winter and Wildfire Assault, this was my last turn to draw them unless I hit perfect-perfect and drew a Kingsroad with them. They were nowhere to be found. Seth chose to play first during round 5, though, and ran the score all the way up to 12-3, with four tokens on his Boneway. However, to get there he had knelt out his board completely, and I was able to get all three challenges through unopposed. Between the Hound, the threat of Gregor staying his hand from popping GG, and Jamie not kneeling, I was able to turn the corner, and the game was 11-9 going into plot 6, with the Boneway having been used and Treacheried.
Plot 6 he flipped his Wildfire Assault to my Winds of Winter, and the board appeared to be tilted in my favor. I had Ser Ilyn Payne (a power icon!), Jamie with Widow’s Wail and Tyrion against his Knights of the Sun x2 (each with a power on them) and a House Dayne Knight, also with a power. Nymeria had eaten the Marched the turn before to clear my Milk, but he had not managed to come up with another copy. He managed to refill nicely, though, with Arianne and a Greenblood Trader, while I could only put the Hound back out. We traded blows, and moved on to our final plots.
I flipped Wildfire back at him, while he flipped Trading. Amusingly, our boards were the same after this Wildfire due to an Arianne bounce and of course the Hound. I was at 13 power to his 12, with Jamie in play and the third Treachery for his Gaston Grey, expecting that I could win on the spot. I chose myself as the first player, counted my gold, and made a near-fatal error. The two turns before, as the second player, I had marshaled the Hound out both times, as with the gold from Tyrion I would always have a chance to include him in at least two challenges. So, out of habit, I played a Kingsroad, popped it for the Hound, and sat on 8 gold, anticipating 3 Hound uses this turn. Seth carefully counted out his (tons of!) gold, marshaled Arianne, and then said “You’re going to regret marshaling that Hound.” He dropped Ward on Hound, and my heart sank, thinking that I may have just given away the game and the tournament. But! I still had Ilyn Payne. I asked Seth for a moment, and then tanked for 8 minutes (very glad the match was untimed!) The choice was this: I had a Hound in hand, so if I killed the Hound I would have a dead card, AND if he used the Hound in anything but the game-winning challenge, I’d get the Hound back as he didn’t have any cards in hand. After my long tank, I knelt Ilyn to kill House Dayne Knight, who had a power on him from Eddard back on turn 2, and had managed to survive this whole time until now. Seth and I went through challenges, with him studiously and smartly not using the Hound, and at the end of the phase it was 14-10 in my favor. My board was Jamie with Widow’s Wail and Imprisoned with 2 power, and Tyrion with Milk of the Poppy. His board was my Hound, 2 Knights of the Sun, Arianne, Gaston Grey and Boneway with 3 tokens.
I knew that he had Marched available again, and that it would look attractive to him- he would March my Hound and my Tyrion, essentially, and have what appeared to be a commanding position with only Jamie left on my side and GG to help clean him up. I decided on Confiscation as the only real option- if he didn’t March, I could get the Hound back, and if he did, I’d at least clear Jamie’s military icon for renown & defense. Both of the plots happened as advertised- Hound and Tyrion went down, along with Imprisoned. He chose to play first, and put out a third Blood Orange Grove, a Greenblood Trader and a Palace Spearman to empty his hand, and I counted my gold and passed. He started off with intrigue, I deployed my backup Hound and he took Magister Illyrio from my hand. I was at 14, so he couldn’t do a military challenge unless he would definitely win the challenge, as Jamie’s renown would end the game. He decided on a power challenge with Arianne, which I allowed to go unopposed to put him to 14 and me down to 13. Finally, he decided on a military challenge with two of his 4-str characters, which the Hound blocked and died nobly for. He passed challenges to me, and I went in with Jamie for military (renown), showed him the Treachery for his Gaston Grey, and did an unopposed intrigue to finish the game.
The rest of the day, and indeed the convention, was a bit of a blur. I hugged a lot of people, drank a lot of drinks, and sang several karaoke songs, some of which you can see in Dennis’ GenCon wrap-up. Saturday I joined the draft, which was neat and I look forward to doing more of- the four agendas make things very interesting. Sunday was a final walk through the convention, a shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo Steakhouse (absolutely mandatory) and good-byes. I flew home, weary but excited, to find a welcoming committee waiting for me at the airport. Johnny Wright, Matt Jenkins, David and my wife were all waiting for me with a hand-made “Welcome Home Champ” banner that I will proudly hang in my game room.
Here is the deck list- as I mentioned before, Johnny Wright was instrumental in putting this together, and he has a lot to say about it in his article. If there are any questions that he or I didn’t answer, I’ll be happy to do so.
Banner of the Dragon
1x A Noble Cause (Core Set)
1x Calling the Banners (Core Set)
1x Confiscation (Core Set)
1x Summons (Core Set)
1x The Winds of Winter (Core Set)
1x Wildfire Assault (Core Set)
1x Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell)
3x Rattleshirt's Raiders (Core Set)
1x Grand Maester Pycelle (Core Set)
2x Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tyrion Lannister (Core Set)
3x Tywin Lannister (Core Set)
3x Burned Men (Core Set)
3x Lannisport Merchant (Core Set)
3x Magister Illyrio (Core Set)
2x Ser Jorah Mormont (Core Set)
1x Viserion (Core Set)
3x Targaryen Loyalist (Core Set)
2x The Hound (Taking the Black)
2x Ser Gregor Clegane (The King's Peace)
2x Wildling Scout (No Middle Ground)
3x Mirri Maz Duur (Calm over Westeros)
2x Ser Ilyn Payne (True Steel)
1x Mance Rayder (Wolves of the North)
3x The Kingsroad (Core Set)
3x The Roseroad (Core Set)
2x Western Fiefdom (Core Set)
3x Milk of the Poppy (Core Set)
1x Widow's Wail (Core Set)
2x Put to the Sword (Core Set)
2x Tears of Lys (Core Set)
3x Treachery (Core Set)
2x Nightmares (Calm over Westeros)
I haven't had a chance to reply much to the various posts and pictures, but I've read them all and I want to thank all of you who have offered congratulations. The support, kind words, compliments and congratulations that I've received in the last few days is truly humbling, and mean a great deal to me. Some specific thanks:
•Johnny, Shaun, David and Kevin: for all of the tuning and testing that they did in the weeks leading up to the tournament (during some of which I was completely absent due to work). I may have been the pilot, but you all deserve a ton of credit for getting the deck to where it was.
•My Team SoCal teammates. Y’all are the best teammates and friends a guy could ask for. The offers of testing, the constant encouragement throughout the two days of the tournament, the shower of texts and calls that I got after winning, the greeting party at the airport. I can’t say enough how much it all means to me, and I’m glad that I was able to represent our meta and make you all proud.
•All of my opponents across the two days of competition. You all made the games nearly uniformly enjoyable, and always fiercely competitive. It’s already said a lot, but it deserves repeating: The AGOT community is full of some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. Thank you all.
•All the friends I met or reunited with over the weekend. See above- this community is just excellent and I am so grateful for all of your friendships. To all friends both new and old- thank you so much! You’re the reason to come to events.
•All of you reading this. I’m impressed you managed to make it this far Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.