By James Booker

I had the Michigan regional date circled on my calendar from the time regional dates and locations were announced. I’ve grown fond of AGOT over the past few months. Being declared the Greatest Baratheon Player in the World and making the top 16 at FFG Worlds gave me the incentive to travel to AGOT tournaments and take the game more seriously than some of the other games I play. The group of guys who play in my region – Yeezus, Col Sanders, Krey, Romo, Letux, Toggle, Meathook, Kohls, and Herr are all stellar dudes and it’s always a pleasure to play games with those guys during the tournament season. So it was an easy decision to decide to attend some AGOT regionals.

The week before the Michigan regional, Yeezus and I went to play at the Indy regional. Going into round 5, I was 3-1 with Baratheon Fealty. I was feeling poised to make a move. After 5 repairs, I lost my will to live and I succumbed to a Greyjoy LOTC deck. In that matchup, if I get Stannis, I don’t lose. However, my opponent enjoyed power 10 armies while I enjoyed the company of Fiery Followers. After hitting 3-2, I ran against a dragon deck piloted by long-time pal Brian Fred. Sometimes the Baratheon deck can withstand the dragons, but I fell to Brian and I ended the day at 3-3. Yeezus, who was playing with the fervor of a newly made lord, blazed through the event like wildfire. Unfortunately, his day was ended by Jon Herr.

Before the Indianapolis regional, I liked Lannister LOTC, but I didn’t like the JumpmanJumpmanJumpman deck, or as the kids like to call it, leaping lions. It seemed too inconsistent and you had to fend off Hand’s Judgments and other defensive cards. I enjoyed a more solid Lannister deck. Yeezus settled for the solid Lannister deck, and I played Baratheon. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have played Baratheon. The deck is good, but it lacks explosiveness. Yeezus made the right choice, and was subsequently rewarded for doing so.

The night before the Michigan tournament, Yeezus (Brad Eier) and Letux (Josh Johnson) and I met at my Cleveland residence to prepare for the tournament. That night served as my last sort of middle-schoolish slumber party because my wife and I are expecting a child next month. I think I went 1-8 in my 9 playtest games. I was somewhat discouraged with my playtest results and figured I was going to get crushed at the event.

It was cool to stay up late, have absurd movies play in the background, eat pizza, play cards, and fellowship with my fellow gaming brethren. Sometime around 2:00 AM, my wife Emily comes down the stairs and admonishes me for being up so late before I have to leave to drive 4 hours at 6:30 AM. I finish building the Lannister LOTC deck I plan to use. You can view my deck here.

Josh and Brad have an arm wrestling contest to see who sleeps in the guest room and who sleeps on the couch. Brad wins the arm wrestling match and chooses the guest room. Josh is fortunate, because my wonderful tuxedo cat Mr. Klown is already sleeping on the couch. Josh snuggles up with Mr. Klown, who is a great source of positive energy. Josh, who was contemplating selling his cards a few weeks ago and not comfortable with any decks, must have received quite the treatment from Mr. Klown that night as Josh was able to finish quite well the next day.

My alarm goes off at 6:00 AM and I am greeted with about 5 inches of snow. It takes some time to get the snow off the car, but we clear it off and get a late start. The roads were pretty slick the entire way to Michigan, and we definitely saw a fair number of cars that skidded out and wrecked. I think we avoided most of the disastrous period, but our drive was grim and I thought about turning back at the beginning. However, I was in a SUV and I was feeling pretty good about the weather clearing up. Between the cautious driving, listening to the Drake and Future album, and listening to some Elvis, the drive went by pretty well and we reached our destination in 4 hours.

Game 1 – BYE

I was fortunate enough to win the Art of War (RIP) Store Championship in Cincinnati back in January with Baratheon Fealty. YEEZUS, who also had a bye, and I left the store to go get some food. I didn’t use my bye in Indianapolis, and I lost round 1. I was not going to suffer the same fate again.

Game 2 – vs. Matt Davey aka Toggle (Stark/Tyrell)

Toggle is a top notch dude. We roomed together at Worlds and we are essentially BFFs. Toggle has some insane record of 342-5 against me in Star Wars LCG. He starts off with New Ned Stark with a Lady and a reducer guy. I started a duped Tyrion, a reducer, and a Burned Men. I was able to get a first turn Milk on Ned and I believe I was able to get Jaime out on my first turn. Toggle played a bunch of small guys, including Hodor and new Sansa. After he goes wide with a bunch of cheap dudes, I play First Snow to bounce people back. After this, I get a pretty good lead. Eventually, the Knight of Flowers and Margery hit the board for Toggle along with the guys that got bounced back to his hand and he is able to stabilize. It’s at this point I am able to play Wildfire to get the board down to my best characters. Eventually, I play Tywin and am able to seal the deal.

Game 3 – Jon Neal (Baratheon Fealty)

This was a camera match – Game of Thrones: The Card Game – Michigan Regional Championship 2016

Sometimes Baratheon is able to smother someone from the beginning with Stannis and Melisandre and that is what happened in this game. Our game wasn’t particularly close. I start with Tyrion, Burned Men, and a reducer while he started Melisandre and a Wildling Scout. I started Trading with the Pentoshi because I am greedy. With a Hand’s Judgment, Treachery, Tywin, Put to the Sword, and Tyrion on board, I thought I could murder Melisandre and make an easy game of it. Boy, was I wrong! He drops down Stannis and plays Consolidation of Power on my Tyrion. I wrongly try to cancel it, and I am successful in doing so, but I lose my canceller. Of course his Melisandre trigger is Seen in Flames, and he is able to take my Treachery away and this leads to Tywin getting kneeled. He later said he had a Hand’s Judgment in his hand, so I was dead anyway. However, my aggressive strategy at the outset led to me getting blown out. Here I am, the Greatest Baratheon Player in the World, losing to Baratheon. The world is a funny place.

Game 4 – Nice Fellow who was playing Targ Fealty.

He started 2 dragons and a Jorah and I started Jaime, two reducers, and a Roseroad. This game sadly wasn’t too close because he didn’t see any of his heavy hitters and I was careful to play around Dracarys! He was doing some Shadowblack Lane shenanigans and was able to search once, but couldn’t find an event. I was able to fill the board with Burned Men and assorted people like Cersi and Gold Cloaks. Eventually I got Ser Gregor out and that was it.

Game 5 – Travis (Baratheon Fealty)

Poor Travis, for as bad of a game as I had in Round 3, I had all of the answers in this game. I have the almost-dream start of Tywin and a reducer. He starts Melisandre, a Roseroad and a Bastard in Hiding. I go greedy again and start Naval Superiority, but he starts Calm of Westeros. I have a Milk and a King’s Road and I believe I play the Milk and a Tyrion. Travis is able to play and duplicate a Gendry, but that’s all that he is able to muster. On a subsequent turn, he is able to play Confiscation on the Milk, but I think I draw my other Milk. He makes a last stand by playing King Rob, but he gets hit with a Tears of Lys and Travis extends his hand.

Round 6 – Brad Eier aka Yeezus (Unknown)

Great, I get paired up against one of my best good friends in the last round. We look at the standings and we are 3rd and 4th respectively. We seek out the judge and discuss drawing and we decide to take the draw.

Top Eight – Jeff (Targ Fealty)

This match was recorded and you can watch it here – Game of Thrones: The Card Game – Michigan Regional Championship 2016

I am the eighth seed and I am paired up against the guy who hadn’t lost all day. I hit the miracle again with Tywin, a reducer, and a Roseroad. He starts two dragons and a Plaza of Punishment Unfortunately for Jeff, I have never seen a Targ deck start a non-Kingdom plot. When it’s time to reveal plots, I show my Naval Superiority and he shows his A Noble Cause. That pretty much was the game right there as Jeff never fully recovers from my amazing start. It took me a long time to determine what to play first turn because I had a ton of options, but I didn’t want to leave myself open to anything too harsh.

He eventually gets out a Daenerys, but I am able to get her with a Put to the Sword when Tywin attacks unopposed. After that, the game shortly ends.

Top Four – Josh Johnson aka Letux (Targ Fealty)

I get paired against my good buddy Josh in the top 4. We have been duking it out in Star Wars, with Josh getting the better of me for better part of the last 18 months or so. Josh is keen of my Naval Superiority strategy, so I am careful to play around his knowledge. To be honest, I don’t remember much, but I believe I started Jaime with Widow’s Wail, a reducer, and the Lannister location while he started some dragons. I think his start prompted me to just fire off with First Snow of Winter to get rid of the dragons and I believe this was wildly effective because I played a King’s Road and a Cersei to accompany Jaime and attack into a wide open board with Burned Men for backup. Josh played Drogo on his turn, but I think I answered with a Tywin. This game was pretty close despite my strong start as Josh was able to stabilize with a good board presence. There was a turn where I had a gut feeling Josh had a Put to the Sword, so I didn’t send Tywin in to attack during my challenges phase. This was his reaction after I passed my challenges phase with standing Tywin while he had 6 military on the board – Game of Thrones: The Card Game – Michigan Regional Championship 2016. On the next turn, when I took my claim for my intrigue challenge, I pulled the Put to the Sword out of his hand. Soon afterwards, I obtained my 15th power.

Final Confrontation – AJ (Lannister/Greyjoy)

Well, isn’t this exciting? I get to play for all the marbles. I was hoping to play Yeezus in the finals so we could play a real relaxed final. However, AJ was able to beat Brad to square off against me in the final.

The footage from our match can be seen here – Game of Thrones: The Card Game – Michigan Regional Championship 2016

AJ starts Tyrion, a duplicate, a reducer, and a King’s Road. I start off with a Jaime, a Wildling Scout, and a Lannister location. I decide to start Naval Superiority and I run it into his Summons, which he uses to grab Asha. I play a Queen’s Assassin and leave a gold up to kill his King’s Road when he pops it. I attack with the assassin, and I do a military challenge with Jaime to gain a power and get rid of Tyrion’s duplicate. I pass the challenges over to AJ, and I want to protect my hand because I have a Tywin, a Cersei, The Hound, and some other goodies. I determine I can protect my hand if I sacrifice the Wildling Scout to give Jaime stealth to block the intrigue challenge. I fail to appreciate the following risks: (1) an ambushed military guy would leave Jaime alone after military claim, and (2) Jaime being left alone would lead to him getting discarded by Marched to the Wall. I should have just let AJ take a card and kept my board presence, and this failure to account for the possibility of the ambush guy and Marched played a big role in my defeat. Hindsight is 20/20, and if he doesn’t have a guy with Ambush or play Marched to the Wall I’m still in good shape, but I should have been more conservative after my solid start.

On the Marched to the Wall turn, I start Trading with the Pentoshi to get my Tywin out and try to get something going for the next few turns. If I can gain some power, get some guys out, and play some Put to the Swords, I can get right back into the game. However, the game takes another terrible turn due to some shenanigans  – go to the 9:39:31 mark of the video – Game of Thrones: The Card Game – Michigan Regional Championship 2016

As some of the Youtube commenters pointed out, AJ takes 3 gold from my plot, but takes 5 gold for his plot and Roseroad. AJ somehow played Asha and Theon that turn, which should have cost 9 gold. When both of those guys with stealth hit the board at that time, I was definitely toast. Sure, I should have been more vigilant, but I trust my opponent to pay the correct costs. Did AJ do this on purpose? I don’t believe he did and I would hope not, but I have seen some shenanigans during my card playing days. I just advise everyone to be careful, and take the necessary steps to assure your opponent pays the correct amount for his cards.

The tournament ends with AJ taking the crown. AJ was a cool dude, and I don’t believe his gold maneuvering was malicious. It sucks that it happened and that it affected the final, but what can you do after the fact? Congrats to AJ on the win.

The event was well ran and organized. Mad props to the store, the judge staff, Robert St. John, Mr. Throne Runner, and the other folks responsible for making the event accessible to those present and the online community. It was also great to meet some of the folks who I’ve ran across on the internet, like John, the AGOT 2nd Edition Facebook administrator.

Brad, Josh, and I hit the road and get back to Cleveland around 1:30. It was pretty cool to have 3 of the top 4 players come from one car at a 52 man event. If these results are accompanying our relative inexperience, I can only imagine what our AGOT ceiling is. I look forward to attending Origins and GenCon and seeing many of you there. If you see me, please introduce yourself.

Feature Image Source: Fertate