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Flaying around with House Bolton

I’mgoing to start this article with a little about me and our local meta. Firstly,I have about three months of actual play experience that was interrupted by a year at University. Our meta is a small group, ranging from about 5 to 10,giving us a subpopulation of decks that might not be anything like the big tournaments or larger metas. It consists of mostly new players having between one year and one month under their belts, but its slowly growing.

To this week’s game night I am bringing a Stark tribal deck using the House Bolton trait from the Brotherhood Without Banners chapter cycle. For new players this cycle is great, giving each house everything they need for a deck that is synergistic, and with enough interacting pieces to be fun to play, without being intimidating to pilot.

Running a successful House Bolton deck, from my experience, requires two things: The Dreadfort (DB) being active early on and keeping your Boltons on your side of the board. The Dreadfort gives you card advantage in a house typically weak on draw, and with such low cost characters you can get a large board presence quickly. I fetch it consistently through the use Building Season if it isn’t in my setup or first hand. To keep my Boltons on my side of the board Roose Bolton (DB) is an obvious choice. Abandoned Fort (RoR) is another method, letting you bounce your traitorous character back to your hand so that you can play it again. Mypersonal favorite is Valar Morghulis + Narrow Escape, which brings all your Boltons back to your side of the field post reset. The rest of the deck isrounded out by Old Nan, Qhorin Halfhand, Refugees, and less basic toolbox cardsthan I am comfortable with.

“Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” – Roose Bolton

HouseBolton vs. Targaryen Armies

Mysetup was strong, with Northern Fiefdoms, Street of Steel, The Flayed Men (DB), and The Dreadfort. I drew back up into an Abandoned Fort, The Bastard of Bolton (IG), Wolf Herald, and another Fiefdoms, to compliment my Price of War, Bloody Scourge and Bolton Loyalist. When I saw my opponent had setup a Training Grounds, Plaza ofPride, and Great Pyramid, I assumed he was running an Army based deck.Unfortunately for him, House Bolton has plenty of cheap armies, and his global effects (like Scorched Earth) wouldn’t hamper me.

I ate a few early military challenges in lieu of losing my Flayed Men, and my opponent ramped up to about 4 or 5 power over the first few turns, while I successively hit him for claim 2 intrigue challenges three turns in row. Bythat point I was hitting my draw cap every turn thanks to Steelshanks' Reserves (ASoSilence) going back and forth, the help of the Heralds, and a decent income. Once he had no hand left, and was not drawing into enough characters, the game ended aroundturn six – a turn before I would have had to run through my Valar.

HouseBolton vs. Martell Targaryen Alliance

Thisis probably the deck I am the most impressed with in our local environment. It is a Summer build based around using Street Waif (AToT), Orphans, The Viper’s Rage,Summer Encampment, Maester of the Sun, and some other events to get a nicere cycle of the discard pile that stalls me out by denying me challenges. I knew that if his machine got going, it would be over. The good thing is that he really needs a few turns to get going, giving me a nice window where I have the ability to rush.

I used a mulligan into Hodor, Great Keep, Street of Sisters, The Hound (PotS), Steelshanks’ Reserves, and Abandoned Fort. His setup was a little slower, with a Lost Spearman, Street Waif, Orphan, and Dany’s Chambers. I figured he must below on characters or locations since he didn’t max to five gold and I wouldfocus on early board control.

Turn 1 I used Building Season to get myself The Dreadfort, which almost lost me thegame when my opponent fetched a Summer Encampment (SA). My opponent marshaled twoSummer Encampments into play and a Black Raven. After playing a Bastard’s Elite and The Dreadfort I was sitting with two copies of The Bastard of Bolton in myhand and a Steelshanks’ Reserves in play with some other vanilla. He was goingfirst, so he took control of my Steelshanks’ Reserves, which I would return tomy hand using Abandoned Fort for a few rounds. Luckily, this let me drop a duped Bastard of Bolton into play for free. Some challenges went back in forth,I won a claim 2 intrigue and military and thought I was off to a good start,even though I kept forgetting to consider his vengeful Maester who kneels to save, but I had a solid board position. Plus, getting Steelshanks’ Reserves back let me draw into a Narrow Escape thanks to my dreaded fort.

Turn 2 My opponent used At the Gates to flop Aemon onto the board, but when The Dreadfort kicks in and you keep drawing characters its hard to compete withthat card advantage. I was taking the extra gold from his Alliance agenda to use with my lower gold claim 2 plots. He marshaled some characters, and then the gears started moving. He kneeled Street Waif to bring back an Orphan, which he marshaled. Then he used Summer Encampment to return the Waif to hand, and replay it, and re-kneel it. Then he used his second Summer Encampment in the same way. By this point I was praying he didn’t have a Burning in his hand orthe game was done: I would be locked out. I got hit with The Viper's Rage (TftRK) and had to end challenges after an initial military that got eaten up by his bouncing and saves.

Turn 3 was the decisive turn, where he flopped a Valar. I let him bounce his Street Waif using his Maester, kneel Aemon to save himself, and let the Maester die.Then I used no save effects and lost all my characters. He had no actions, so I used Narrow Escape. This left him with one knelt character, Aemon, and astanding Maester. My whole board came back – about seven or eight characters.He chose not to discard his hand, but by then the game was done. He didn’t draw into a Burning, I hit his Encampments with Price of War to stall out his recursion, and used Qhorin Halfhand to kill a Darkstar.

We played a few more games against each other, but they all ended in the same way– he couldn’t get his stalling cycle out before I overpowered him with a wall of weenies.

This game really brings up an aspect of smaller metas that you don’t see in larger tournaments. In a small meta like we have, we can pretty much guess what deck strategies our opponents will be using after the first two turns, unless its our first time against a new deck. Even though a matchup like this one would normally favor the control deck, because I knew what he was running I could play around his strengths, targeting what I knew to be his key cards before the combinations could set in. With a little more play testing I can see this deck running the show at our local meta.

HouseBolton vs. Lannister Kneel

Lannister Kneel continues to be a tournament staple. Even though I look at Boltons as casual, I reminded a friend to bring his kneel as you can expect to play it at some level of most tournaments. I thought Bolton would be able to hold its ownas long as the characters kept coming. Weeping Water also gives me a way backin the game after I have lost a few intrigue challenges or discarded my refugees, something I more than expected.

Setupwas 3/3. I was staring down the barrel of Toll Gate (AE) and two characters. TollGate is always a problem that if used properly is a major thorn. I setup two Frozen Outposts and a Narrow Sea. Now, with a Bloody Scourge, Steelshanks Walton, and a Bastard of Bolton in my hand it might not have been the best ofstarts, but with all the war crests I have it was a huge pump on defense early,and I just needed to bide my time until I could get rid of his Toll Gate. This also looks at the importance of the restricted list. Since he was playing vanilla kneel I knew I didn’t have to worry about Fear of Winter (and insteadhad to worry about Castellans, for which I had an answer). I settled in for along game with my setup. I drew back up into a refugee, Roose, and Qhorin.

Turn 1 I Building Seasoned into The Dreadfort, drew another Walton and Bloody Scourge. My opponent used At The Gates for Pycelle, I believe. This let me marshal Roose, draw a card, marshal Walton, draw a card, and sit with two Price of Wars in my hand. My opponent played a second Toll Gate (from the Building Season), a Castellan to kneel Roose, and some weenies that included Enemy Informer (I think).

The next few turns went back and forth slowly, I continued to win dominance but was mostly knelt out, and ended up using both my Narrow Seas to keep up with his gold production. He was taking military challenges at claim 1 and I was trying not to lose intrigues, but was lucky enough to only eat characters and the Scourges in those first few turns. Because of his Pycelle I ended up sitting with two Heralds in my hand, which I would hold on to until Pycelle vacated the area, playing a slower early game in exchange for not feeding his hand with powerful events. This brings in the weakness inherent in a cookie cutter deck,which I find kneel to be susceptible to. In its consistency is predictability,which gives me the upper hand in this matchup – I know what is coming and canprepare for it.

Afterthese first few rounds I had lost the dupe on Walton, and my opponent won dominance, took control of Walton, then brought out Varys in taxation to discard a knelt Hodor. I was worried.

By this time Pycelle was gone and I marshaled a Herald, sealing my Bastard’s Elite on the top of my deck, and letting me get rid of these Toll Gates.

I flipped Take Them by Surprise (LoW) and went second, but he flipped some City plot kneel. Thisdidn’t bother me as long as the Bastard’s Elite could hit the ground running.Roose was alive but locked out (for five turns thanks to an early Lannisport Brothel), but I played the Elite, playing the Elite drew me into a Flayed Men,which drew me into the Weeping Water, and I dropped Qhorin. Going second didn’t worry me with two Frozen Outposts. The big swing was when I used The Price of War (KotS) on both Toll Gates, breaking my opponent’s heart. After that it was pretty much over for him. After some Flayed Men changing hands and a little bit of that foolishness he ended up sweeping and giving me the win.

Because I knew what I was up against I could build a basic strategy. I used an initial flux ofcharacters to lure him into using his passive sweep (Wildfire Assault) early because he underestimated the draw potential not commonly found in Stark. This let me comfortably flood the board with characters and not have to worry for another four or five turns, by that point I planned to draw into a Narrow Escape, get rid of his key locations, or win.

After playing this deck for about three weeks on and off, there are some inherent weaknesses that are hard to overcome out of Bolton. The deck is based around controlling the challenges phase with board presence. Some times this means not attacking so you can win on defense, so I cannot stress this enough: run triple Qhorin Halfhand (LoW). With Qhorin out you can deter them from going on military challenges against you with the fear of triggering his ability, or just kill characters on defense and attack. Any ability that lets a player go on more challenges causes House Bolton decks to take a big hit. Edric Storm (Core), Robert Baratheon (KotStorm), An Empty Throne, Storm of Swords, amongst others, are all effective at this because it dilutes our character base – if you go on the offensive with 4 challenges in one round, with only four characters on the board I wont be going on the offensive. Losing an early extra claim 1 power challenge doesn’t mean to much when you have no power on your house, but if your also losing two Str 5 armies at the same time it is a much bigger deal.This brings me to Frozen Outpost (LoW), which is worth its weight in gold. I would run 3 if I had another copy of it. Luckily for me, I didn’t end up playing against a Stark Siege or Baratheon Power Rush build today. For the future, some attachment control (Frozen Solid) and character control outside of cutesy Old Nan + Abandoned Fort or kill effects is needed too.

If you do try this deck out, I would recommend that you mulligan into either the Dreadfort or Abandoned Fort if you have to. This will let you Building Season into the other one, giving you a draw engine and some buffer in case you start losing characters. As soon as you lose one Bolton, the chances of losing a second go up. Having Abandoned Fort in play lets you bounce them back, and draw another card off of The Dreadfort. If you have Weeping Water out at the sametime, it is just a really good time.

Happy gaming,


The Deck:

Total Cards (60)

House (1)
House Stark (Core) x1

Agenda (0)

Plot (7)
Building Season (Core) x1
Respect of the Old Gods (LoW) x1
Retaliation! (ASoSilence) x1
Take Them by Surprise (LoW) x1
The Power of Arms (Core) x1
The Minstrel's Muse (RotO) x1
Valar Morghulis (Core) x1

Character (33)
Bolton Refugee (RoW) x3
The Bastard of Bolton (IG) x3
Catelyn Stark (LoW) x1
Steelshanks' Reserves (ASoSilence) x3
Hodor (Core) x1
The Hound (PotS) x1
The Bastard's Elite (RoR) x3
Bolton Loyalist (DB) x3
The Flayed Men (DB) x3
Wolf Herald (SB) x3
Old Nan (BoRF) x1
Steelshanks Walton (OSaS) x2
Qhorin Halfhand (LoW) x3
Roose Bolton (DB) x3

Location (19)
Narrow Sea (LoW) x3
Great Keep (LoW) x2
Street of Steel (Core) x1
Street of Sisters (Core) x1
Lord Eddard's Chambers (Core) x1
Northern Fiefdoms (Core) x2
The Dreadfort (DB) x3
Abandoned Fort (RoR) x3
Frozen Outpost (LoW) x2
The Weeping Water (OSaS) x1

Attachment (3)
Bloody Scourge (DB) x3

Event (5)
The Price of War (KotS) x3
Narrow Escape (KotStorm) x2


Jun 01 2011 03:11 PM
At one point, you mentioned you used Qhorin to take out Darkstar - that's an illegal play, so I assume you killed someone else? Qhorin can only kill non-unique characters, unfortunately.

That's a very interesting deck, though. I actually like it, and will be building something similar and playing online a bit to see if I can get the hang of it. Bolton was always someone I didn't like in the game (though I did in the books), so this really helped me out. Thanks for posting it.
I don't think you can trigger the dreadfort when you bounce a card back to your hand, unless you're referring to the fact that you can draw again next marshalling phase when you play that character. Also, running 3x Qhorin is risky with flame kissed and venomous blades floating around. But with so much draw I guess it's not that big of a problem compared to the benefits.

Have you had to deal with a deck that has a lot of stealth? I would think that would be a major weakness of Boltons.

Thanks for the write up! It was an interesting read, I'm now inspired to try my hand at building a Bolton deck again.
Jun 01 2011 07:54 PM
You are more than correct about Darkstar, I must have killed him with claim. I don't want this to water down my opinion of Qhorin, he gives a challenge control element to a deck that absolutely requires control over the challenges phase.
Once you get the hang of it the deck pretty much runs itself. The hardest part is not flooding the board early on, and balancing what king of challenges your losing. Heralds are an easy way to get a dupe out too.
Jun 01 2011 07:57 PM
venomous isnt as frequent now as i find. narrows are more frequent choice for the interation with vipers bannermen.

however good article matt, looking forward to seeing your coverage of our hand of the king tourney this weekend.
Jun 01 2011 08:00 PM
Yeah, Dreadfort only draws you cards when they come back to you or you marshall them from your hand. What I find ends up happening every once in a while is that I lose initiative and Marshall out a Reserves' to let me draw a card for one gold. Then in Challenges I get attacked with him, and I return him to my hand thanks to the Abandoned Fort, making an overly complex interaction to give you a net of "Pay one gold and kneel Abandoned Fort to draw a card."

Qhorin is really vulnerable, and venomous blades are a real threat. I actually tend to keep him in my hand until a turn where I either win initiative OR can clearly win a military challenge on defense, giving me an opportunity to kill the attached character before the blades can return to shadows. The draw is really solid, and with the addition of any search or deck thinning it gets more consistent. The game against Lannister Kneel left me with about 15 cards left in my draw deck.
Jun 01 2011 08:01 PM
And the timing structure of getting rid of those VB is wrong, but you get my idea.
Jun 01 2011 10:48 PM
Thanks for the article.
Great to see this tourney report here--thanks!
What a great report! Thank you very much for posting!
May 15 2012 02:54 PM
Northern fiefdoms+Street of steel+Abandoned fort+the flayed man makes it 7 for setup? (street of steel being out of house card)
Feb 01 2013 03:06 PM

Northern fiefdoms+Street of steel+Abandoned fort+the flayed man makes it 7 for setup? (street of steel being out of house card)

You never pay OOH penalty for Neutral cards.