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GenCon 2011 3rd Place Deck (Top Targ Joust Deck)

I want to take a few minutes to discuss what I think is currently the most powerful House Targaryen build in joust. I don't mean to suggest this is somehow the "perfect" list, but just that the Maester's Path agenda is clearly the best build for House Targaryen, and an "optimized" list would look similar to the one below.

At GenCon, the following list went 4-2 in the preliminaries and won another two games after that, ultimately losing to a Martell Knights of the Hollow Hill deck that ran Narrow Escape and an unimaginable amount of draw/reveal tech. One of the preliminary losses was a modified loss to a Martell summer deck that would have been an outright win for Targ had the 50 minute time limit been 1 hour instead (the game was stopped at 11 to 13). The other loss was an unequivocal mauling at the hands of a Greyjoy Maester deck piloted by former world champion Casey Galvan.

Why Maester's Path rather than Summer?

In the run-up to GenCon, the Maester's Path was not the favored agenda for House Targaryen, or at least that was my impression. Not only is the summer build more popular for its burn and resource support, but many would argue summer is a safer metagame decision, given the popularity of Martell Summer and the expectation that many decks would run attachment hate this year. After a bit of playtesting, however, I found that the maester version moved much faster in the early game, and was more consistent as the game ran on.

The maester version boasts several advantages over the summer version. First, maesters are less reliant on locations. Although many players list House Targaryen's powerful location-based effects as an asset, most competitive summer Targaryen decks I have seen are bogged down in 16-20 locations. The high number of locations slows down the early game, and makes the deck much more vulnerable to both location-discard and character control, since characters make up a smaller portion of the deck.

Second, the Maester's Path provides incredible card advantage. Chains pulled off the house and onto characters essentially functioned as draw + gold. When combined with Xaro's Home, and recurred with Lady Daenarys' Chambers, a well-played Targaryen maester build can easily draw an extra 1-2 cards and recur 2-3 cards per round. Moreover, the Pale Steel Link provides an easy way to take advantage of the Pyromancer's Cache's powerful draw ability without paying the +2 gold penalty for an out-of-house card. (On average, I drew 2-3 extra cards by round 4, easily outdrawing Martell players.)

Third, despite the lack of Carrion Birds, maester decks are more reliable and efficient at dealing with opponents' Black and White Ravens. With a combo using the Copper and Tin links, a player can discard an opponent's summer raven with a single kneel of a maester.

Fourth, a Targaryen player can easily boost the strength of the (often otherwise inefficient) characters using Apprentice Collar. This makes it easier to win challenges and results in fewer characters lost to your own or an opponent's Threat from the North.

Finally, the maester focus allows the deck to run the most efficient burn mechanic House Targaryen has ever seen: Killer of the Wounded/Apprentice Collar + Lead Link. During a round in which Threat of the North is revealed, the Killer can discard an opponent's character from play every phase in what functions as a one-sided Valar that requires no cards from hand.

The Decklist

House Targaryen (The Maester's Path (GotC))
[Chains attached to agenda--6]*
Copper Link (GotC)
Bronze Link (FtC)
Tin Link (CbtC)
Lead Link (CbtC)
Pale Steel Link (FtC)
Apprentice Collar (GotC)

Note: The above 6 attachments were the only chain attachments legal for GenCon.

Characters (28)
1x Horseback Archers (QoD)
2x Ser Jorah Mormont (PotS)
1x Craster (WotN)
1x Khal Drogo (QoD)
1x Shadow Prophet (SaS)
2x Jhogo (OSaS)
1x Green Hatchling (TWH)
3x Killer of the Wounded (QoD)
3x Shadow Seer (FtC)
3x Dragon Thief (AE)
1x Varys (SaS)
3x Refugee of the Plains (RoW)
3x Advisor to the Crown (QoD)
1x Pyat Pree (QoD)
1x Black Hatchling (DB)
1x Brown Ben Plumm (Core)

Locations (15)
2x Khal Drogo's Tent (Core)
3x Eastern Fiefdoms (Core)
2x Lady Daenerys's Chambers (Core)
1x Rhaenys's Hill (TBoBB)
2x Xaro's Home (Core)
3x Summer Sea (Core)
1x Meereenese Brothel (BtW)
1x The Red Keep (TftRK)

Events (4)
3x The Hatchlings' Feast (ASitD)
1x Favorable Ground (QoD)

Attachments--excluding those on house (7)
2x Apprentice Collar (GotC)
3x Flame-Kissed (Core)
2x Pyromancer's Cache (TWot5K) [restricted card]

At the Gates (GotC)
Retaliation! (ASoSilence)
Regroup (KotStorm)
City of Soldiers (TBoBB)
Loyalty Money Can Buy (QoD)
Valar Morghulis (Core)
Threat from the North (PotS)


Great idea with link+killer :)
But why shadow seers ?
Outstanding explanation and description of the deck. You put together an excellent deck and you played it very well. Congrats on 3rd place. Well done Dan!
He probably ran Shadow Seers because they are a 1-cost, 2 STR, Intrigue icon Targ.
Thanks again for another great Targ article!

Congrats on your performance at "Worlds", and extra kudos for not being a clone and running yet another Summer Martell deck...
Great article. Made me like my targ/maester's path deck much more. Had missed both the combo of using lead link on my killer and putting pyromancer's cache into play (which I now include in my deck). Can't wait for Prices of the Sun now.

How useful was Xaro's home for draw? Maester agenda, ambush, and attachments played through pale steel link don't draw from the location.

Here's a question, with Citadel Raven now legal, is copper link required? If Tin Link were triggered by kneeling Citadel Raven is that enough to satisfy removing a season raven?
Are you referring to Oldtown Raven? If so, how does it make Copper Link less necessary? Tin Link would not be able to remove a Black/White Raven because it doesn't have a Raven trait. It doesn't matter what card it is attached to.
I meant Oldtown Raven. Apparently Copper Link would still be necessary.
Any good substitutions for 2 of the hatchling feasts?
I had this very detailed response typed up, then my computer restarted just before I hit "submit," grrr. Here's a less-detailed version.

@hoyalawya: Xaro's Home is incredibly powerful draw in this deck. If you think 2x is too many, try just 1x, but I've always been happy drawing these locations early. (On a side note, are you a GU law grad? I went there for undergrad and have some friends who attended GU law.)

@Garrick: This would change how the deck plays out somewhat significantly, though the end result is probably the same. Try cutting all three hatchling feasts, favorable ground, the red keep, and 1x advisor. Then add in 2x Forever Burning, 2x King's Landing Assassin, and 2x Paper Shield. With these changes, you lose the ability to swing the game with *big* effects like the Hatchling Feast and Favorable Ground, but you gain smaller more efficient burn.

Alternatively, you can focus more on the killer of the wounded combo. If you don't expect to play against Martell players very often (for example, Martell isn't popular in your meta), then the killer-focused combo is very powerful. You would make the same changes as above, but fit in 1-2x maester save location (oldtown citadel?) and maybe even run summoning season. You would also add in 2x Linked Advisor (new targ maester) and 1x Maester Aemon (with learned crest) + Outwit. I don't remember what I'd pull to fit all that in (probably 1x Jorah, Pyat Pree, and the Shadow Prophet), but just experiment until the deck feels right. When you play your round-1 At the Gates, you would want to consider searching for a maester with a learned crest, so that if you have your combo on round 1-2, you also have a learned crest in play ready to pair with Outwit against an opponent's Valar.
Thanks for the info, Twn2dn! I have nothing against The Hatchling feast itself, but I wasn't too keen on buying two more copies of that particular chapter pack. Your first substitution suggestion means I only need to buy one more chapter pack to make this deck (Secrets and Spies) rather than 4 chapter packs (Secrets and Spies, Takes from the Red Keep, A Sword in the Darkness x2).
I am a GU law grad. We also played each other at the DC Regional first round when your Targ deck did what you wanted and destroyed my Targ deck. Even though I lost all my rounds (to be expected for building my own deck with very limited card pool and only about 3 games under my belt before the tourney), you beat me more soundly than anyone else that day and did so extremely graciously.

When I have time to play I will have to try both 1x and 2x of Xaro's home. If you're playing attachments from your hand a lot, then 2x would be the way to run it. With the play/put into play distinction and the way chains and flame kissed will be often put into play, I thought that might impede the effectiveness of draw on Xaro's Home. Of course, that's theory without having played the deck. If it's strong draw, 2x is the way to play it.
Do you think you'd add more Rhaenys's Hill after Gencon? Or Paper Shield to combat Narrow Escape?
@Dan: Fantastic question. Rhaenys' Hill (I really hate that they spelled it "Rhaenys's") quite possibly won me 2-3 games. Or to be more exact, the large amount of draw I had that allowed me to dig through my deck to get to the hill probably won me those (and other) games.

I've thought about adding an extra hill, and would ultimately say it's a bad idea. This card is just too expensive and slow early game, considering the speed of GJ winter, Martell KoS, and a few other builds. Instead, I would likely pull the City of Soldiers (which I really liked) for a Building Season. Building Season would be very useful in those games where you need some additional attachment removal but haven't drawn your brothel. This is a really tough decision though...the extra 2-claim plot + kill effect was incredibly useful in a couple games and only marginal in 1 game that I can think of. Building Season would be the opposite...amazing 20% of the time, and lackluster the other 80%. Still, fetching the hill or brothel can mean the difference between winning and losing a game, so it's worth experimenting with.

I wouldn't add Paper Shield. This deck will just lose to decks like Greg's. What surprises me is that Greg's deck didn't lose to some of the faster decks earlier on. In fact, my understanding is Brett's Bara deck that won the finals game was too fast for Greg. Greg's deck is incredibly good against decks like mine that have a large amount of character control/removal, but it seems like they would not be particularly good against the Martell KoS deck that runs Ghaston Grey, or particularly strong against GJ choke. I could be wrong. Either way, I think the best thing to do is just figure that you won't see many decks like Greg's, and even if you do, they won't be played by someone as skilled as him.
I like the suggestions you had for adding in Linked Advisor and Outwit, and I was wondering, if they were legal for Gencon, if you would have run a version with those. I've put together something like this and I'm excited to take it for a spin at Black Friday. :)
Yes, my version would look similar as it does above, except that I would run 2-3x linked advisor, 2x Maester Aemon (learned version), outwit and probably cut 3-4 locations. I might even cut the caches. I wouldn't have as much draw, but the deck would be more resilient without having to worry about Valar. In my experience, if you can flood the board AND get through Valar with this deck, you will pretty much always win the game.

Oh yeah, I'd likely play 2x Red Keep and run 2x Favorable Ground as well.
Great post! It's very refreshing to see new decks out from a Summer based tactic; it seems very solid and well constructed. But I like to make a question: if I take a chain from the agenda and attach it to a character, do I play that chain "from my hand"? I mean, can I use the Xaro's home after attaching that chain? (I should say that most of the questions here in Spain arise from the translations of the text in the cards; in the LOTR LCG some of the texts are simply awful...)
Thank you!!
@Lexar - You can't trigger Xaro's Home when moving a chain from the agenda. In the English FAQ it says that "play" is specifically playing from hand by paying its cost. "Put into play" however bypasses the cost.
    • Lexar likes this
@Danigral: thank you, that was what I supposed (and that was the reason of my question). But there are a few concepts that, here in Spain, are not understood in the same way by every body. I use to check out the FAQ's and usually all my doubts are solved by checking those FAQ's but whe talking to other players in the (spanish) forums I always find new interpretations of some rules that, in some way, have sense.
I know that those opinions are nothing but... personal opinions (I mean, they aren't anything official); thanks to God (ops, I think it's very literal to say "Gracias a Dios"...) we have some experts here that control every aspect of the game but, even being thus, it's good to know (valid) opinions all over the web. Thank you again!

If Rhaenys is a person and the word that follows is singular, then Rhaenys's is correct.
Would you run any additional (or simply different) chains, now that there are significantly more legal than when the deck was originally played? Specifically it seems like both steel and Valyrian steel could be strong.
@sWhiteboy: I checked the Chicago style book and it looks like I'm not quite up on the times (http://www.chicagoma...ibutives01.html)...good to know, though it still looks ugly to me with the extra "s"!

@imrahil327: Yes, the draw chain is definitely an auto-include. I'm less certain about the stand-location link. I do really like the idea of running it with The Red Keep, then whenever Killer (or any maester) kneels, you can trigger both the stand location and bronze link (return attachment). If you work out the order correctly, you can basically ambush Flame-Kissed every phase...since you're also playing killer combo, you're basically killing up to 7 large characters every round that you have the Killer of the wounded + bronze link + steel link. (In other words, every "no-attachments" character the opponent controls that doesn't already have an attachment is dead within 1 round, and any other characters are likely to die to claim.) Barring that combo though, I don't think the steel link is particularly good...and I much prefer the Iron Link for the STR boost, or the Black Iron Link for the added control. (If you're wondering why, I've posted my reasoning on the FFG threads here: http://www.fantasyfl...=545472&efpag=2).
    • imrahil327 likes this
Thanks very much for the info!
Sep 29 2011 09:51 AM
This is a great deck and just as i have finally assembled the pieces to put it together and try it,the errata on The Maester's Path (GotC) in the new FAQ 3.0 came out. Trying to find ways to deal with the problem i came up with Initiate of the Citadel (QoD) and using his ability to return the chains to my hand, then play them on Killer next round...What is your opinion on this? Is it viable or is it a lost cause...Also is there a more efficient way than the aforementioned?
The event Called by the Citadel FtC is probably better. Initiate is too vulnerable at 1 STR. It's worth a few test games to see if it can work.