Welcome one and all!

Tis the season to be jolly! Well…. Unless you are a Baratheon player! Big thank you to Joe for asking me to do this cycle review! Well…. It was really Richard, his hired thug, who asked, but Joe is nicer, so I’ll thank him.

Much like Richard and Alex…. And a lot of the other people involved in these reviews these days, I am a UK player. I am based in the hell hole that is Northampton, the upside of this? We have quite a big meta playing lots of different card games trying to escape the scenery around us.

So, what is my history with the game? I played first edition very casually, couple of core sets and some big boxes with friends at University. When I moved home I had no one to play against so played Netrunner (don’t lynch me yet). When 2.0 was announced I pushed it hard at the brilliant club we have in Northampton. I took on organising tournaments and have thrown myself into running bigger and bigger tournaments (Northampton Regional and UKTC) which has shown me the exponential increase in stress level as the size of a tournament increases. All this, along with being a teacher, means I have not travelled to as many tournaments as I would like, but perform above average when I do.

This is where I was going to include a link to my ELO, not because of the score but because it would show how much Baratheon I play. The summary? I play a lot of Baratheon and Night’s Watch and dabble in Martell and Targaryen (I like control decks), but when it comes to tournaments I play almost exclusively Baratheon. This has meant when Baratheon is strong in the meta I have performed very well (even winning my own tournaments sometimes, oops!) but when they are struggling (like now) I perform middling.

Now, going into this cycle, Baratheon and stall was doing all right. We could counter rush with our kneel, against aggro decks we could struggle but the table and chair would let you keep gaining power if you could survive the onslaught. However, this cycle has seen cards come out like Plaza of Pride (fuck that non-loyal stand card), a significant increase in the disposable income of decks and a significant boost to Targaryen and Tyrell (who are negative match ups). However, the popularity of Tear of Lys has waned…. Which is nice for Baratheon.
Now, onto the actual Baratheon cards, were they any good?

14) Northern Encampment

So, this is the worst Baratheon card in the cycle!

I don’t actually believe this is the worst Baratheon card in the cycle (there is some serious hot trash coming up), but this card being below the curve compared to the other two cost economy locations has damaged Baratheon more than any other ‘bad’ card in this cycle. What Baratheon really needed for all of its builds was better economy, which is why the only Baratheon deck which has made a consistent performance at a range of big tournaments was variants on a Baratheon big dudes deck (Sniper Mel, Big Bob, King Stannis and Ser Barristen Selmy) because it could utilise Great Halls.

Now, why is this card bad? It is turned on turn one, excellent, most of these locations aren’t. It feeds into your stall game plan, excellent, you want to win dom. However, it pigeon holes Baratheon into dominance focused decks. Your opponents can switch them off if they want/play well (them winning dominance just before they Valar so you don’t have your economy switched on just feels awful!). Stall and reset decks such as Martell Stag compete to win dominance and their economy isn’t reliant on winning Dominance (Never mind the upcoming Greyjoy Drowned Gods deck).

I just don’t like what this card has done to Baratheon as a faction. (I will be revisiting why I hate this card so much through the rest of the review).

13) Light of the Lord

Oh, a card that helps you win dominance and not much else apart from get back an event? This must be excellent because now you can play your economy location. Perfect, great card!
Now, back in reality. This card is terrible. Yes, it helps you win dominance and helps you get around Core Stannis. However, Core Stannis hurts you more than he benefits you at the moment because Targaryen and Tyrell are so consistent, and prolific in the meta and Stark are always there, all of whom have more stand than Baratheon do. To play a TWO cost attachment (something there is plenty of hate for) just to get around Stannis when your opponent is probably playing stand which lets them actually use the characters twice rather than just getting around how one of your own cards hurts you. Honestly, I don’t really understand this card, I know it is meant to give you gold to play Ritual of R’hllor or recur Saving the Kingdom, but outside this jank/potential game breaking combo deck, it has no place out of the binder/box/trash can/bonfire.

12) Fickle Bannerman

Now, I have ranked this card very low, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see this card in a good deck one day, but for now? It is trash. It is low cost, high strength renown character, excellent! Goes in a rush deck then…. Oh, wait… You are going to lose power challenges in a pure rush deck (such as crossing). Maybe a control deck which doesn’t want to loose power challenges? Use it as a huge defender? Oh, wait, Fiery Followers, Asshai Priestess and Cressen are some of the best three costers around for what your deck is doing (barring things like the Dragons of course) even if you wanted to try to make this card work, there just isn’t the space.

Now, on to what will be the recurring theme of this review, bestow is shit until you have better economy, Baratheon’s economy location was bad. Therefore, playing bestow cards in Baratheon is hard, especially when you want to be spending that additional gold on other tricks.

So, people disliked Knights of Summer for a while because Ward could straight up lose you a game. This card poses that same risk without even having to play against Stark. I shouldn’t need to say anything else.

11) Patchface

Best card in the cycle! I was genuinely tempted to put this card at number one in my rankings… it is just so much fun. Whether it is in Lannister Stag with Motley and Big Cersei or Baratheon Wolf for ladies and Ser Dontos, which even lets you keep Dontos perpetually knelt with Core Stannis to continually save ladies. This card is just pure fun.
While he IS be fun, it is also bad. It is a two cost power monocon which you have more than enough of in Baratheon and even those you are only playing because they have better effects/insight in Shireen, Moon boy and Edric Storm never mind playing the most cancerous of lancers.

10) Flea Bottom Bastard

So, I like this card, genuinely like this card. For a long while I played with a couple of house maesters or other neutral 2 costers with an intrigue icon and now there is one in house? Like it, but its only 1 strength, came out at the height of Blood of the Dragon’s popularity and you will never be using its ability unless you and your opponent don’t want to do either intrigue or power challenges.

9) Storms End

This is a card I would have ranked lower as Baratheon like power on their house card (City Watch), have to be careful about Valar, as they are extremely reliant on their key characters, and the ‘save’ they got this cycle loses you this power. However, a deck running this won a regional in the UK this year by playing Baratheon Kraken, to save the characters you put the additional power on…. Turns out it was a good deck. So, maybe this pops up every so often? With this said, outside of this specific deck, this is not a card you should be playing.

8) King’s Blood

On to the real controversy card, the online community (read Facebook group) lost their freaking minds about this one. Surprise, surprise it was not as bad as everyone thought it would be. However, a number of level headed podcasters preached sanity and mentioned how delayed this is, how many simple answers there are, such as confiscating before it can be used. Which does open up the interesting play of playing this out and then Navalling next turn…. But Baratheon don’t want to play Naval.

We are back to the bestow issue; this card can be hard to stomach… You need it most when behind against an aggressive deck, when it goes off, or a rush deck when you don’t see enough kneel. The aggressive deck you will struggle to keep this on the board (as it will most likely go on a chud) and in both match ups you need this money to maintain board parity.

Now, the bigger issue, to run this card you need to be running a good number of bastards but a deck that wants to run this also wants to run Vanguard Lancers and at a certain point I think you struggle with an overly full 2 cost slot between your uniques, Lancers and bastards. So, the deck I think this is actually good in? Martel Stag, of course, you have the added Bastards, you want to run a low curve, and the Cancer Lancer deck already exists. However, I think you want to run it out of an attachment heavy version of the deck, so that you can play this and Locked Away and the icon stripping attachments, but this comes with the issue of anti-synergy between removing icons and trying to win dom. Anyway…. Enough half-formed deck ideas.
This is a middling card for now with some situational uses, has potential to slow down your opponent but does nothing to advance your own board state unlike the Lancer. Someone will likely break it at some point.

7) Marya Seaworth

I love this card! Mostly only good out of Banner Lion for Tyrion or Kraken (though this struggles with economy)

I have built and played a number of aggressive go first kneel decks with this card, it feels so fun to play this style of Baratheon deck and this is where I really wish Northern Encampment had been better. One gold a turn for a kneel is great, but getting to a point where you have Marya, a stealth character and that one gold, feels expensive and a good economy location might have helped this.

6) Black Betha

This card is great, but you’re running so many locations out of Baratheon already, it is hard to fit. I have been playing Baratheon Rose recently and this is great fun with Randy, it is also good in a lower curve deck where you want to push through challenges. The problem is simply deck slots. Are you going to run this or another kneel event? The kneel probably supports your theme better, unless you are playing Brotherhood without Banners and want to boost the strength of your intimidate character…. But then why aren’t you running Big Bob…. Oh and it gives Davos Renown…. You know… that character who is constantly leaving play. Don’t even talk to me about six cost Davos, Richard.

5) Ser Axell Florent

Straight up solid four coster, which the more you invest in can act as temporally better intimidate (because you can trigger this and intimidate in a single challenge). Baratheon hadn’t had a card they would actually play in this slot before this one so some of its ranking is simply because it filled a hole in your cost curve.

However, bestow issue, you do not have the money to pay for this card. If you are over investing in this instead of using that money to get out one of your big characters either you have drawn terribly or you are likely already ahead on board state. Though it can bring you closer to that mystical 16 House Florent Knights.

4) Stannis’s Cavalry

A better card than Axel, poor Axel. Out shone in his cost slot one pack later. You get less from this if you are just pay 5 gold for either of them. However, it has the wonderful versatility that I really like in bestow cards of letting you add more gold later, if you want (Partially getting around needing a lot of economy at once). This card alone can force a reset from a deck that runs heavy on any cost slot in their deck, which is brilliant.

Bestow issue, it is expensive and Northern Encampment fucked Baratheon, seriously, fuck that card.

3) Melisandre

Great card, brilliant effect, the insight is what Baratheon really wanted (when you don’t draw that Red Keep your engine can stall). It is yet another Dominance focused card…. One day one of our other themes will actually be competitive and I will be happy, especially as I have been trying to get a pure kneel deck to work for quite a while (between fealty, banner Lion and banner Rose).

She is a hard counter to Combo, but you NEED her turn one for this. I love peeling out non-character cards with her ability and the playing Heads on Spikes the next turn.
Biggest disadvantage… her name…. terrible way to criticise her, but it is true, even more so when the new cycle is releases and everyone gets a terrible case of VD.

2) Saving the Kingdom

More expensive than Consolidation of Power, but doesn’t give them the power. Doesn’t let you make the Banter play of kneeling your own dudes for that magical 15th power (the only one that matters). Keeps the characters knelt for two turns. This card can be game winning against certain decks (Nights Watch with Aemon, Tyrell with Argie Margie or Targayren with dragons) or a completely dead card (Tyrell with queen Marg/Lannister big dudes or Lannister Jumpers). So, it becomes a bit of a meta call. Think you will see big dudes? Play Even Handed Justice. Think you will see a lot of mini-curve/low curve? Play this.

It is a great card, just a shame it is so expensive… if only we had got economy card that could have helped pay for this… Sorry, guys, I really hate Northern Encampment.

1) Spears of the Merling King

This card should be in every Baratheon deck. It is a straight up brilliant and versatile card. It lets you play out your big characters early even if you haven’t found your dupes or bodyguards without getting totally screwed by Valar. Once your saves have turned up you can kill off a R’hllor character to get off another core Melisandre trigger. It lets you recycle chuds against that sometimes-difficult aggro match up (when they go off, or you don’t see your pieces) or keeps Bob safe from Tears of Lys. This is a boring, versatile but great card. The fact that I think this is the best Baratheon card in the cycle says a lot for how poor this cycle has been for Baratheon.

My biggest issue moving forwards is that it still feels like Baratheon decks are relying on the bomb characters in the core set. While these are great characters, it leaves Baratheon decks feeling stagnant and the best cards of a cycle being ways to keep those characters safe or ways to kneel stuff in a slightly different way. Moving forwards into the new cycle, what I would really like to see is a new bomb character or two which promotes different themes within Baratheon that forces interesting choices…. And not just because characters have the same name.
I’m not going to hold my breath. Hopefully I will have nice things to say at the end of the next cycle.

Feature Image Source: HBO