Hey folks, we’re back again with the Baratheon Cycle 4 Review, this time brought to you by Daniel Mulchrone of the UK! Let’s see if he can find some comfort in this cycle after the depressing cycle 3 for Baratheon……..
Baratheon Cycle 4 Review
Hello one and all…. Huh, this feels like Déjà vu….
Oh yea, here we are again, time for the Baratheon cycle review! Let’s get Hyped! I am NOT going to be moaning about Northern Encampment for the whole review like last time! While I have not been super high on some of the Baratheon themes developed this cycle, I have played with almost all of them anyway.
If you want to know why you should care about my opinion on Baratheon? Look at last cycles review. Since then I have won a Store Championship with Baratheon and top four’d at a lot more and made the cut at a 30 person fan run tournament. Most of these were with VERY different Baratheon builds and I will hint on some of them through this article. However, here is where I admit my bias; I prefer kneel decks and general control themes in Baratheon to other styles of playing them (Mid-range/ big guys).
So, I am going to review these in order, Let’s start with the fun stuff. The REALLY bad cards!
Okay, I do not even know where to start with how much I hate this card. Are you running core Mel? Your three cost slot is waaaaay too full already, less so if you are running mini-curve but you never take this over a card which will trigger Mel. If this card had cost two I might have given it a second look. Just as a two cost character which wasn’t a monocon and actually did something?? As he is, he fits into a cost slot where he just isn’t needed. Maybe it ends up in a Baratheon Kraken deck? Please don’t put it in your deck.
So, I wanted to like this card so badly….. It is an answer to characters which Baratheon traditionally struggle with; Randyll, Drogo, Mirri, Wildling Jon, Arianne (obviously you can can still bounce her in other phases but stop some tricks), Big Arianne and New Dany. If you are kneeling these characters with abilities which don’t care about being knelt and are then able to blank them as well? That is amazing. However, they are an expensive body, which is tempo hit against Tyrell when you struggle already, and Targaryen just burn them off the face of the planet. A for effort, F for execution. Just run Milks and Nightmares.
Banner card, boring… good for Martell and Lannister… I don’t really care everything in Baratheon has a power icon except for your three cost drops.
Banner card, bor-….. wait a minute, a non-three cost military, intrigue bicon? Okay, I am intrigued…. (get it?). You play this with Greyjoy, no choice in the matter, either Baratheon Kraken or Greyjoy Stag. This is quite nice, another way to steal challenge phase gold, with shadows coming back, challenge phase gold greatly increases in value and when you can run this with Corsair’s Dirk you can force your opponent to bring cards out of shadows much earlier than they wanted.
I just wish it stole the gold as a reaction to bypassing with stealth to make Marya more playable… That card makes me so sad… I really want kneel to be less reliant on a single extremely vulnerable centrepiece. At the end of the day, nice icons, an effect that might be more impactful as time goes on, only works with a banner… and banners are just bad now. You won’t be seeing this in decks.
Now, we are getting onto cards I actually like. Sacrifice a City Watch for a Mel? Yes please, Sacrifice new Selyse for another Selyse, yes please. These are all excellent things; even sacrificing a milked Mel for a new Mel is good. However…. There always seems to be a however with Baratheon cards.
The cost for this event is something Baratheon just can’t pay… now… I made a promise… no complaining about Northern Encampment… Baratheon cannot afford to sacrifice board presence unless they are already established; if you are already established, you probably don’t need this card. This is even truer against decks likes Targaryen or aggro variants of Stark (which I have been abused by a lot recently, thanks Richard), in this match up you need every single body on the table you can afford. In the end this feels like a card which one day may be a lot better than it is now, and even now… it is alright.
Alright cards which get cut
Intimidate is nice, VERY nice. But… who do you trigger this on? Core or King Stannis with light bringer is nice, a Bastard we will get to later is alright, Barristan Selmy is nice (but non loyal and screw Breaking Ties), 7 cost Melisandre is maybe the best target aside from Stannis for this, as a 6 strength loyal character.
Where is the however… this is a Baratheon card… there hard to be a however. Oh, it isn’t an action? It is a reaction to declaring a challenge so there is very little threat of activation and you will always see it coming. I think this is less of a downside than a lot of other people seem to, half the fun of intimidate is seeing your opponent panic and realise they need to properly defend or just leave it unopposed.
I think this card will see more play when Baratheon get a wider range of characters this works really well with and more cards to develop a go first more proactive strategy which seems to have been pushed this cycle. This card then goes significantly up my rankings, but for now it just ends up getting cut.
P.S. This card is far more likely to see play if Baratheon get a fully fleshed out power gain theme which doesn’t rely on dominance tech, because in those builds you are just so overloaded with locations.
I love this card. Target kneel some of the most powerful characters in the game? AMAZING! AND it only costs 1??? WHAT? It is a straight up action and not a reaction or limited by phase? So you can just play it in the standing phase? WOW…. But I need a King and while Baratheon have a lot of kings and have received more king tech this cycle, the tech they received doesn’t necessarily go in the same deck as this card, so you may struggle to consistently see the king you need to trigger this. With this said, I love this card and love that it is non R’hllor kneel which targets impactful characters and isn’t limited by strength.
That I have ranked this above Bend the Knee belies my innate bias to how much I like Baratheon Sun as a deck. There is the control icon stripping deck, there is the intimidate deck, there is the hand stripping deck and any combination of the above options. I love this combo and it is maybe my one exception to the ‘banner decks kinda suck’ argument. It is probably even better in Martell banner of the Stag… but this is a Baratheon article… so… let’s ignore that.
Even without the Sun banner, this card can kneel some annoying characters. However most impactful characters have power icons, but kneeling AK Arya in the standing phase when you expect a Valar Morghulis is very good, though Saving the Kingdom is just better for this.
Holy ****, a two cost character which actually does things!! WOW! This card does a lot for Baratheon Dominance decks and definitely helped push the three Iron Throne dominance build. Even if you don’t draw him until late game you can go and get Spears of the Merling King or other 1x locations in your deck like Tobho Motts Armoury.
I think some people will find this card… controversial in a couple of ways, some will rate it a lot higher, some a lot lower. I really… REALLY, like it… and I think it pushes a range of interesting decks. Baratheon banner of the Rose and Kraken are objectively the best, as they both have 0 drop locations along with their reducer location to import. However, the Kraken build runs almost as a false banner except for key unique character to put this on (screw Breaking Ties for making fun decks less fun). This makes the banner Rose version better; making some of the great knights Baratheon have gotten this cycle even stronger is great.
This card lets Baratheon more reliably use their king tech and use King in the North. This should be one of the best plots for Baratheon this cycle, except it doesn’t help against the Tyrell match up, where you can already do very little to improve your win ratio. While it helps versus Targaryen, they still have the threat of their events, and against Martell it moves from a 50/50 match up, to a significantly positive matchup.
I haven’t even touched on the fact that this card gives Baratheon draw which isn’t dependent on stopping other houses (like Tyrell who are a lot better at it than Baratheon) from winning power challenges; you just need to win one yourself. I wish this draw wasn’t reliant on running a banner…. I really do.
I really like these/ f***ing awesome
So…. the fact there are cards in this section is baffling enough. The fact there are more than 2/3 is utterly insane. I think Baratheon have actually had a solid cycle; yes they are probably nearer the bottom of the barrel than other houses but they have had the sort of cycle they needed 12 months ago.
I really like all of these cards and wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to order these in a different matter. This is my ranking of them based on the type of Baratheon deck I like to play and how I value cards based on this.
So, on with the show.
This has basically been an empty cost slot for most of the game for Baratheon. We have received Axel (expensive), and Stannis’ Cavalry (which I know people like but I really don’t rate because they are so expensive, I prefer to just run Stannis and deal with the double edge nature of his ability)…. So, we were left running Davos, unless your name is Jesse Carpenter and can crack a Baratheon Bestow deck… still not sure how that deck works, kudos.
But, on to this card, he is a seriously efficient character with good traits (Knight), who stands, a subtheme of Baratheon which hasn’t been developed since Fiery Followers and Lightbringer. The fact he stands on the one challenge Baratheon most care about is just icing on the cake. There is nothing more satisfying than putting Penrose into a challenge with Bob or Stannis when they have Lightbringer. You are saying ‘I am winning this challenge and my board presence isn’t going to suffer at all’.
This hits to the crux of why I like this card so much; not only does he synergise with Baratheons’ power theme and Core Stannis, he provides Baratheon with board advantage. You pay four and effectively get two characters and sometimes even three (against crossing or bad players). A concept I continually harp on about is how Baratheon are weak against aggro, because they want to construct a board to allow them to use their soft control but struggle with the money to do this. A card which is efficient and provides excellent board presence at a mid-cost point is therefore wonderful.
This card was all the rage when it came out and has fallen to the wayside. I still really like this card though and if Baratheon’s power challenge theme continues to be developed, I think this card will come back into the meta more.
One of the reasons I think this hasn’t seen as much play as it could have is because of the next two cards and how they have pushed Baratheon Kneel this cycle. However, a deck I played a lot around Store Championship season was a Baratheon reset dominance deck which ran 3x Varys, Valar Morghulis, and Valar Dohaeris, I ran this out of a few agendas, but primarily The House with the Red Door. This deck loved this card; it allowed you to easily control the power challenge even with a small board. It synergised well with limiting their options, they could not steal your power because the big character they got out didn’t count strength in power challenges and they couldn’t stop you winning dominance.
My fondness for this particular deck and how much work this card did in that deck is why I have ranked it above Penrose.
So, I love this card. Repeatedly denying your opponent their best card is wondrous. However, it also doesn’t help that much in the Targaryen and Tyrell match up which Baratheon struggle with. Why not? Because even if you stop the character standing in the standing phase they are able to stand it in challenges. This is a bigger issue with Targaryen than Tyrell as a lot of their stand does rely upon getting a character into a challenge before they can be stood.
With that said, this is the best Red Door location for Baratheon and I really wish that the agenda provided more protection than it does.
So, this card is so… strange? It can cripple NW, butcher Targ, and it can hurt Martell. But both of those last two factions have plenty of tricks to get around the down side. Between Arianne, Flea Bottom and Plaza of Pride you can end up very upset.
The combination of playing this on a Withering Cold turn can really stall out your opponent enough for you to establish a board, slowing the game down by those couple of turns can be exactly what Baratheon need. However, this combo also means you can only trigger Chamber of the Painted Table for one of those two turns. Is this an issue? Maybe not, if you are purely focused on a kneel deck, and definitely not if you are running Banner of the Rose and have imported in Ladies, especially the non-kneeling Brienne.
Overall, I really like this card but it hits you hard as well so I think you need to be very careful when you choose to use this card rather than it simply being a ubiquitously good card. It is ranked over some general good stuff cards because of its blow out potential or its ability to allow you to get re-established though.
I think I might be showing my own bias here again. I knew these card was good for a really long time, its power level in Martell banner of the Stag when it was first release was insane. However, I never really rated it as a Baratheon card. I don’t generally like Banners, but this cycle HAS got me looking at banner again. Which has led to my recent experience with Baratheon Sun.
The deck started off simply trying to build a Baratheon deck which hosed Targ and Baratheon Sun definitely does this. Seized by the Guard (one of the most important neutral card for Baratheon this cycle) and lots of hand destruction and knowledge (sometimes just taking a look what burn they have is enough, even if you don’t have non-Baratheon chud to kneel) completely removed all of Targaryen’s options when I played this match up (a lot).
This is the deck which really pushed me to like this card as a Baratheon card and not just a banner Stag card.
Since then, I think this card has just gotten stronger, the release of the Martell box meant taking these, Shadow City Bastards and being able to use Flea bottom in Baratheon has been amazing, or just running the House Dayne package so you can import Dawn and Intimidate Darkstar, and these are all really strong options.
For this card to be rated this high it has to be good in more than just one deck though so… here are a few others; Baratheon Kings of Winter (heavy reset with location destruction with Jade Sea Dromonds and Nothing Burns), and Baratheon banner of the Kraken (with the upcoming ridiculous Nighttime Marauders).
Going first on turn one with one of these in hand against Tyrell can also keep you in the game and is one of the best ways of evening that match up, because you can take Hightower out of their hand turn one before they have had marshalling. This can seriously slow that deck down, as they often do not run much other draw, and if you can then milk Mace it becomes a fairer fight.
The Holiest of Cards
I am going to try really hard not to write an essay on this card… let’s see how successful that is.
This is single handedly the best card Baratheon has received since the Core Set. There I said it. FIGHT ME! Anyyyyway! Why do I love this card so much? So, traditionally Baratheon decks did two things, they tried to win dominance, they knelt some of your characters and they used this kneel to try and stop you winning power challenges so they could draw cards to keep kneeling characters. Now, this was an extremely fine balance for a really long time. Would you run out of kneel? Could you draw into all the dominance pieces? How do you fit in all those locations? Especially now with Political Disaster being played more?
This character single handily offers Baratheon a new win condition which you can keep on the board with Melisandre when they inevitably Valar D you. It is a win condition which you CAN run with dominance tech if you want, but you don’t HAVE to. The fact that this makes running dominance tech optional is incredible.
One of the reasons I started playing a heavy reset Baratheon deck was because Valar D screwed up Baratheon so much. This may be a confusing sentence for some people; traditional Baratheon decks don’t run as heavy on the top end as some decks which got hit by Valar D. Yes, they don’t have the economy to recover that some decks do (this isn’t the big problem though) even though they have the draw to recover… so what was the problem? As Baratheon, you won the game when you got two of your three centrepieces on the board. Melisandre, Stannis and Bob. So, when you need two centrepieces to win, but you aren’t allowed two, what do you do? Just put a clock on the game, as a package it could drag you back into games you have no right still being in, and leaning into heavy resets meant your curve goes low enough to keep repopulating.
Nightsong changes all of this though. When they Valar D you, you can now keep two of your centrepiece characters to Valar D. A control piece and a win condition which isn’t vulnerable to Political Disaster and which actually allows you to play a fast game as Baratheon. This card combines with other houses brilliantly, especially Tyrell, Pavilions to boost his strength? Courtiers to stand him back up after you have used him? Then run Sailing the Summer Sea or Informers for multiple power challenges? There are so many nice synergies.
So, an amazing mid cost character, with an ability which helps you win the game, with FIVE strength so he doesn’t just die immediately on a Blood of the Dragon turn when they Dragon is No Slave you, wow.
If they can continue to give Baratheon cards like this next cycle, then I am getting excited about writing this report again in six months already!!! If Justin Massey is anything to go by I think we are in for an exciting six months for Baratheon!
This is basically a Baratheon card everyone else is also allowed to run? Right? I love this plot and just needed to say how important it was for all of the Baratheon decks which have been able to do anything in tournaments in recent months. It doesn’t need an essay, it is just excellent kneel.
I have mentioned a range of other card through this article which have been important for Baratheon the most important one I haven’t mentioned is…
This card seriously helped Baratheon’s economy issues and allowed Baratheon to run some of their more money hungry cards more consistently. I also think Baratheon is one of the best homes for this card, just because of Core Stannis’ ability to keep a lock on the board.
If you are still here, why? You are insane, that is over 3,000 words you just read. I think Baratheon have had a good cycle; not a Cycle One Nights Watch cycle, but a cycle which has given them solid options. This is a cycle which has developed new and old themes, which in the long term means that Baratheon can continue to get good cards. Good cards without people crying about it as they did about Lannister or NW once upon a time and led to them just receiving tripe for a long time.
Writing this review leaves me feeling excited to play a wide range of Baratheon decks over Regional season, but also knowing I will probably still have to play Tyrell if I wanted to get close to winning one. Let’s check back in six months and see if I was able to top 4 at a 30+ man regional with Baratheon. If the next cycle is anything like this one, I reckon it will be my fault and not House Baratheon if I don’t.