|A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 04 January 2012|
They fought with blunted weapons in a chaos of mud and blood, small troops fighting together and then turning on each other as alliances formed and fractured, until only one man was left standing. The victor was the red priest, Thoros of Myr, a madman who shaved his head and fought with a flaming sword. He had won melees before; the fire sword frightened the mounts of the other riders, and nothing frightened Thoros.
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Grégoire on the A Game of Thrones European Melee Championship:
I have to admit my favorite melee games are just casual games with friends. Heading to Stahleck, I had a Sand Snake deck that wasn’t that great but changed it for a Lannister deck an hour before the tourney. I had strongly considered playing the draft that was running, but finally decided to play the melee. This was my best choice of the weekend.
European players don't seem to play very much melee. A lot of the championship players didn’t make decks for the tourney but used the decks they were planning to play in the joust. As a result, tables didn’t see very many dealing plots like Summoning Season (Core Set, 181) and Building Season (Core Set, 195), which are essential in this format. As I've said, I prefer the format for casual play, but in the French national championship you have to be good in both formats if you want the champion’s title. I guess that's why French players did well in melee (six of us made the semi-finals and two made the final table) even while Spanish players ruled the joust.
My deck was inspired by the deck I played in the French melee national championship six months earlier. I ran Knights of the Realm (Kings of the Storm, 39) as my agenda since it doesn’t have any real drawback in melee. Your table will always have an opponent who doesn’t play knights, and from time to time, you get to draw an additional card. The central card is Widow’s Watch (Gates of the Citadel, 2) to get duplicates of key characters. The melee game typically starts slow (so your opponents don’t smash you too hard at the beginning) but can go really fast after second round, and the deck is built to fit the game’s tempo.
Knights of the Realm
Timmet, Son of Timmet x2
Shagga, Son of Dolf x2
Ser Barristan Selmy x2 (Core Set)
Ser Arthur Dayne x2
Ser Gerold Hightower x2
Ser Arys Oakshield x2
Maester Creylen x2
Jhalabar Xho x2 (The War of the Five Kings)
Grand Maester Pycelle x2 (Core Set)
Ser Meryn Trant
Ser Mandon Moore
Ser Balon Swann
Cersei Lannister (A Time of Trials)
Ser Jaime Lannister (Core Set)
Littlefinger (Secrets and Spies)
Maester Aemon (Core Set)
Mountain Refugee x3
Kingsguard Squire x3
Greedy Councilor x3
Pyromancer’s Cache x3 (restricted)
Slander and Lies x2
Make an Example x3
You’ve Killed the Wrong Dwarf! x3
Widow’s Watch x2
Queen Cersei’s Chambers
Golden Road x3
Street of Steel
Street of Sisters
Golden Tooth Vaults
If I built the deck today, I would make some changes: no Greedy Councilor, no Dawn, no Golden Tooth Vaults, more weenies, more cancellation (Paper Shield is needed in melee), more Creylen, and the plot At the Gates instead of Bungled Orders.
Round One: Luca, House Martell (Italy); Iker, House Martell (Spain); Michael, House Targaryen (Czech Republic); and me
The Targaryen player and I are the only ones to reveal dealing plots at the table, so we deal together. The Targaryen player destroys one of my Pyromancer's Caches but quickly realizes that the Martell players didn’t like the first deal at all and are playing together. So I’m spared from all the Targaryen burn coming from across the table, but I become the target of all the copies of Game of Cyvasse that make Creylen and Timmet (and all their power) return to my hand. A lot of cancellation effects hit the table, the game runs long, and we arrive at the time limit. To help his Italian friend, the Spanish player returns Littlefinger to my hand instead of a Knight and all of his power. Thank you! The game finishes, and I’m tied for first with the Italian player, both of us at 11 power.
Round Two: Jakub, House Greyjoy (Poland); Jiri, Neutral Brotherhood (Czech Republic); Asier, House Lannister (Spain); and me
I wasn’t very smart at the beginning of this round. Because I have two dealing plots, I tried to barter for better deals from my opponents, except with Asier who didn’t have any dealing plot. The Greyjoy player got bored and traded with the neutral one. It was bad timing for me since my setup was awful–only Ser Arthur Dayne and a Refugee. I went looking for Widow’s Watch (giving the other location to Asier) with Building Season but could play nothing else. Of course, I end up as first player on both the first and second turns, so I didn’t attack; I just kept Arthur Dayne standing. I started in such a poor position that no one really cared about me (and Asier agreed not to attack me in exchange for the chance to grab a location).
First and second turn, I won dominance to earn two power. I defended an unopposed challenge for the player I was supporting with Ser Gerold who has Renown and stood immediately afterward with the help of Ser Trant. I lost my two Slander and Lies on intrigue claim that would have help me a lot with Beric Dondarrion hitting the table first round. Meanwhile, my opponents attack the Grejoy player a lot since he has too many people on the table. On the third turn, I play Winter Festival to claim a fourth power. Westeros Bleeds finishes the Greyjoy player; his locations only save characters from death, not discard. Then Asier takes everyone by surprise and wins in a rush of unopposed challenges and a copy of Make an Example. Oops! I’m caught with only 4 powers… But the remaining players have even less! I end up second at the table, without having initiated a single challenge. Cheap!
Round Three: Gilles aka Jekolathep, House Baratheon (Luxemburg); Henrique, House Martell (Portugal); Thaya, House Stark (Spain); and me
Once again, only Jeko and I have dealing plots, so we traded the effects of our plots. During that time, we started to smell the Starks’ cold and blood as the Lady Thaya arrived quickly to nine power. She was given a lot of help by the Martell player (today, I still don't know why). So the Lady is crushing us, especially with her Northern Cavalry Flank (Scattered Armies, 103) while we are stabbed at the back by Martell assassins. The Stark/Greyjoy Theon (Princes of the Sun, 38) doesn’t help me at all as my money locations are trashed under the Martells’ assaults. Now, the Stark Lady gained nine power, but she was missing some key cards. To help her, the Martell player revealed Summoning Season and let her search for a Val (Return of the Others, 117). Whoa! I didn’t see this one coming, and I still don't understand why Henrique helped her this way since it couldn’t help anyone to let her win that quickly. So, of course she wins, destroying what was left of Jeko’s people. Just before that, the Martell attacked me. I decide to defend with every available character since Timmet and Shagga would still be able to defend against the Stark armies. The power I won from Renown and Make an Eample left me with more than him, and I finished at second place.
After three rounds, I was once first ex aequo and twice second. Not a great result, but it was enough for 13th place and an entrance into the semi-finals. Altogether, more than half of the French players made the semi-finals, which made us quite happy.
Semi-final: Mathieu, House Targaryen (France); Martí aka Harren, House Baratheon (the joust champion); Thomas aka Diana Olympos, House Baratheon (France); and me
Six French players in the semi-finals! That was very cool, but three at my table is less cool. Harren has no deal for a first plot. This time–as I should have proposed during my second game–we deal the three plots together. It's a really good idea: everyone gets to search for two cards except Harren, who is punished for not dealing with the others.
And whoa! It's off to a massive rush. Diana’s unopposed Melisandre as well as Harren’s Knight of Flowers and Renly with safeguards are a little bit scary. Diana starts and declares an Intrigue challenge against Mathieu, stealing his Wedding Feast (Mountains of the Moon, 54). Apparently, that was the only copy of Wedding Feast Mathieu had drawn the entire day. Mathieu didn’t like that at all and decided that Diana would pay, forgetting the other players. Mathieu’s Fortified Position (Lords of Winter, 50) and then my Jhalabar slowed down the Baratheon players. Despite Mathieu’s request, I refused to play Valar Morgulis (Core Set, 201), and I arrived at eleven powers with a Make an Example and some Renown. On the next turn, I played Winter Festival (Wolves of the North, 20), Formal Petition (Princes of the Sun, 44), and You've Killed the Wrong Dwarf!. All of a sudden, I was at 13 power and won the game. Mathieu had been at 11 power going into the turn, also, but I went ahead of him. I had another Make an Example in my hand and likely would have won anyway, but this was a fun ending!
Finals: Oriol aka Kiba, House Stark (Spain); Joseph, House Stark (France); and Miguel, House Baratheon, (Portugal); and me
I made two major mistakes that could have cost me this game: I forgot to grab a duplicate for Creylen with Widow's Watch, and I once forgot Creylen’s ability while I had the gold for it.
My set up was decent, but my deals with Joseph helped me a lot, and once again, the other players didn't have any dealing plots. I knew I would have to be quick because Joseph traveled with me from Paris, and he has an unstoppable game once everything is in place. He would get Baratheon’s Iron Throne (A Sword in the Darkness, 46) into play to win dominance, then claim three additional power for his house with The Ministrel's Muse (Return of the Others, 120)… and do it again with Den of the Wolf (A Change of Seasons, 58).
Until the last turn, my goal was just to get second place since my game is too slow. Still, my diplomacy worked well because no one attacked me. In fact, Kiba didn’t care about me at all since R’hllor’s armies were really growing strong on Miguel’s side of the table. Miguel didn’t like the attacks from Kiba, so he struck back. When Miguel played The Power of Faith (Kings of the Storm, 51), I made him the first player. Grateful, he decided not to attack me at all with his massive armies.
On the third turn, Joseph allowed me to make an unopposed military challenge, letting me win two power–one for unopposed, one because I opposed his title. He allowed that because:
I then won an unopposed intrigue with a Deadly character directed at Kiba's side, who had lost nearly all of his characters under the attacks of the two other players, and followed it with a power challenge with 10 strength to play Make an Example. There I was, very quickly, at 14 power. Joseph gained some power in dominance and with a Winter Festival he summoned with Bran.
I chose Winter Festival as my plot also after that, and I was sitting at 15 power. Victory! And I still can’t believe it.
I want to offer a huge thanks to Wolfgang for his work to organize such a huge event. Stahleck was as magical as I’d hoped! Also thanks to the French and Swiss community for being so cool, especially to Mirgwael, who was so dedicated to both tourneys. Thanks to Mathieu and Chris; I made the melee because of them. Thanks also to my “car mates” for such a wonderful trip (Joseph, sorry again for the stolen title). Last, but not least, thanks to Thierry, for driving and also for helping me to conciliate both my gaming addiction and a life as a couple. You’re the best.
Thanks, Grégoire, and congratulations!
Whether you like ferocious combat of house versus house in the joust format or you’re inspired by the wheeling and dealing of the melee format, the Tourney of Stahleck provided some of the year’s best lessons in deck-building and play strategies. In the meantime, watch for the melee format to keep growing richer with the dynamic new cards of the A Tale of Champions cycle and the numerous tools they provide players to make and break timely alliances.
Based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, playable by 2-4 players, brings the beloved heroes, villains, locations, and events of the world of Westeros to life through innovative game mechanics and the highly strategic game play. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Chapter Pack expansions to the core game.
Thanks for the write-up, really enjoyed reading it. Congrats on the victory!
Melee is the stuff. Great write-up.