I’m Hanno, and I have the honour of presenting you the Baratheon cycle review this time!
As a die-hard Baratheon loyalist, I played the stags at several tournaments this year no matter the handicap: at 2 SCs, 1 Regional and most importantly Stahleck! I prefer the midrange/power challenge stuff over kneel/dominance, but occasionally also play the Chair & Table deck, most prominently in July at a 46-player fan-run tournament, which I was lucky enough to win.
Baratheon pretty much only has 2 viable competitive decks right now: Knights (Rose or more often Rose Qohor) or Kneel/Dom (best builds Wolf or Summer). Knights made Top 8 at Fracas and top 16 at Worlds, and won 1 regional (me ). Bara Wolf also made top 16 at Worlds and won Regionals in France and Russia. I will evaluate this cycle with these 2 decktypes in mind.
Now onto the cards, I’ll follow Dan Mulchrone’s lead ranking the cards in order starting with the worst. I started a survey about this cycle in our Baratheon Facebook group (join! https://www.facebook.com/groups/459243884599264/) and made an aggregate ranking, which you can find at the bottom of this review.
Glamor is the unanimous winner of the worst card competition! I wouldn’t even play this for 2 gold. This doesn’t even protect against the best kill spell in the game! How many more high-cost R’hllor attachments do they want to collect dust in our binders? Well, Lightbringer is not bad, and I like Light of the Lord, but Ruby and Blessing badly need some kind of support. Maybe after the Bara Deluxe, I would love to play a R’hllor trait deck that’s more than providing Core Mel triggers.
March on Winterfell
I have to admit I never played March on Winterfell. I don’t know what kind of decks has space for this. In a power challenge deck with the Red Keep you could do a chud challenge to lure your opponent into defending, but keeping 2 gold for that kind of trick doesn’t seem to be worth it. I can’t imagine a situation where Nightmares for half the cost would be worse than this. Sorry guys, I’m a bit lost with this card.
The first card I actually have played! (well, put into play once with Aegon…) The card effect is really cool! STR 5 stealth with the icons Bara lacks isn’t too shabby, but non-unique cost 6 is. Small excursion incoming: The general problem with Bara is the lack of good economy. We don’t have strong econ cards (only Northern Keep was worse last cycle, and only Miner’s pick this cycle) and the only Bara econ trick is Salladhor Saan, oh wait the Bara Renly of course. Compare this to Hizdahr, Missandei, Qotho, Ward, Water Gardens, good characters to use with Flea Bottom, Core Arianne, Queen of Thorns, Starfall Spy, Raider from Pyke, Vince, the list is endless…Back on topic: Smuggler was a bigger Bara theme in 1st edition, so let me relegate to the Bara Deluxe again, where this kind of themes can be fleshed out. If Valyrian’s Crew’s card effect is any indication, this theme should be fun.
Storm’s End Maester
Bara needed more draw options since the Red Keep isn’t as reliable as it used to be, so we should be thankful for anything. But this dude is underwhelming. Let’s compare to Greenblood Trader: It’s delayed draw, he has to kneel, he has a condition and no filter effect. The Trader is bad for setup, and isn’t repeatable, but seriously how long is this maester gonna stick on the board? I really expected the Maester to draw 2 cards, especially considering Hobb is in the same chapter pack! Yeah, the maester is non-unique, but still, would anybody have complained with Umber Loyalists and Wyman coming out this cycle?
At first glance this card looks good. 4 for 4 bicon with a positive trait and a strong situational ability is not bad, this card is definitely playable. But we got better options at this cost slot: Penrose, even Davos. Sure, these guys can be stolen by Ward, but Ronnet’s immunity also means he can’t get King at the Wall, which is a key card in the mentioned Knights Deck. I do play 3x Red Ronnet in my Bara Shadows deck with Banished followed by 2x Barring the Gates, so he’s definitely got his place in the shadows meta. Maybe next cycle we’ll all be playing shadows decks, then Ronnet will move up the food chain.
I really like Bara’s “more power on faction card” theme, but it’s inherently win-more unless we get more effects like the fiefdom. I would also like effects to move power away from the opponent’s faction card to support this theme. Sadly, compared to the other economy locations, this effect is pretty weak. Note that you can move power from stolen characters to your faction card, which is useful with the Bannerman and against Ward. You can play this card in the Knights or a power challenge deck with lots of renown on “smaller” characters (Tourney of the King, Ser Justin Massey, Fickle Bannerman), but the tempo hit is still tough for a Bara rush deck. I also played this in Bara Summer with Storm’s End, but that’s another niche use.
She’s got the best body of our non-unique R’hllor characters, and can still provide a kneel by her own when you don’t see Core Melisandre. I’m not a huge fan of hers, though. Paying 5 gold for a one-use kneel is just too much with all the stand around, especially considering you can’t trigger Mel when you bring her out of shadows. But the R’hllor cost 3 guys are still needed in kneel decks, and she might be the better choice, so she’s a welcome addition to the cardpool. Until we finally get a cost 2 R’hllor guy!
Bara players had high hopes for this card. I tested this a lot with House with the Red Door, but the setup penalty is just too harsh for Baratheon. We’ve got no Hizdahr, Qotho or Missandei like the Meereen decks to get some immediate board presence. Card draw is nice, but no win condition by itself. This card definitely has potential, but the Bara community hasn’t unraveled it yet.
Banished from the Light
This must be the first Baratheon aggro card, so I’m very glad we have this option now. It’s like a very easy to trigger, twice as expensive, slightly worse Put to the Sword. I like it! But 4 gold is a lot of gold for Baratheon, even in an Assault deck, where it’s effectively a faction card kneel and 3 gold. The worst part is to keep the 2 gold after marshaling, and then a dupe on their key character or Core Bran can just destroy your game plan. And I haven’t even mentioned running into Hand’s Judgment, which can cancel Banished for 0 gold! In my Bara Assault deck I got the feeling that Pinch of Powder is way more reliable than Banished.
Shireen Baratheon (MoD)
Finally more support to dominate the power challenge like Baratheon is supposed to do! For a long time, Bara’s power challenge theme was basically if you lose a power challenge, you’re screwed: White Raven, Kingswood, Fickle Bannerman, to a lesser extent Red Keep and Moon Boy. Traitor to the Crown last cycle was a huge step into the right direction. This Shireen can be surprisingly annoying for the opponent. She’s definitely better than she looks at first sight.
An exclusive cancel for Bara? That’s unexpected. It’s no Treachery or Vince, but it’s a valuable card nonetheless. The flexibilty to cancel events or locations is great, especially against the top factions Targ & Stark right now. Cancel Meereen, Flea Bottom or Skagos? Yes, please! The drawback on the card didn’t hurt me that much to be honest, but I was running this event in power challenge decks with New Shireen and Fickle Bannerman, so I’m maybe a bit biased.
Ser Justin Massey
Without a doubt the best card we got this cycle! Massey is still a situational card, which says a lot about Bara’s strength this cycle. But when you get Massey activated, he is sooo good. He perfectly fits into the Knights deck, where you can use Qohor to get King at the Wall and play Tourney for the King. In other decks, he depends on an audience with King Bob, but standing the Big Bob instead of himself is an even bigger upside.
Exchange of Information: This is a good card for the Bara Summer decks.
Trading With Qohor: A really fun agenda that Bara can use effectively with King at the Wall and another banner agenda.
Poor Fellows: This is a good chud for Bara, especially when playing Forced March. Bara can use Stormlands Fiefdom to move power on Poor Fellows to the faction card. They’re also worth a look if you want to play Queen’s Men.
A Pinch of Powder: Winning Power challenges by 5 shouldn’t be too difficult for Baratheon, and then you got some nice repeatable character removal. You can also use this with Salladhor Saan (even the same pinch twice in the same challenge!), but this needs either some support to win intrigue by 5 (Valyrian’s Crew, Competitive Mel?) or Sea Dragon Tower.
Old Bill Bone: A good 1x with the icons that Bara lacks, and his ability can be life-saving against Free Folk or the upcoming Sea of Blood agenda.
Assault from the Shadows: The best Baratheon use of this agenda I can think of is Traitor to the Crown. In testing this has been amazing to protect the Red Keep and Fickle Bannermen or to push Pinch or Banished through.
This cycle was a bit underwhelming for Baratheon. Even our best card isn’t impressive without supporting cards. That’s different from last cycle when we got Nightsong, Penrose, Traitor, King at the Wall, Big Selyse, and Dragonstone Castle. These cards work almost on their own, while King at the Wall is a card to build your entire deck around. Stark and Targ got sooo strong cards this cycle that only an updated restricted list can get Bara back in the game. On the other hand, Vince and Wyman alone were enough to give their respective factions substantial boosts, so maybe we can get such a card next cycle. Pretty please, FFG!
A first glance at Kings of the Isles
Stand for the faction that kneel was more effective against is the final nail in the coffin for pure kneel decks. As if Vince canceling Selyse wasn’t catastrophic enough, now the squids got Silence, Qarl the Maid, and Maiden’s Bane even though the last one cannot directly counter kneel (if you kneel them all, yeah I know…). Only non-kneeling Lannister and Baratheon mirrors are prone to kneel now.
Drowned God gets more consistent, bad news for Bara Dominance! Isles Aeron is no Wyman, but he can be quite the draw engine. Priest of Old Wyk might not see that much play actually, but more Drowned God players with Nagga’s Ribs is bad enough.
Khorane needs cheaper, non-unique Warships to work in mono Bara. Sadly, all Bara Warships (even the other the one in this box) need to kneel for their abilities. At this point you need to play Banner of the Kraken. Then his ability is not bad at all. Shut down Drogon and Meereen or Robb and Skagos? Yes please! It’s great that his action is Any Phase, you can use him in the standing phase before a reset hits.
I love the intimidate part on Fury. These abilities should have been on all the warships: Sea Bitch for Theon, Arbor Queen for Paxter Redwyne, The Valyrian for Salladhor Saan, and Golden Storm for Aeron Damphair. But I disgress, this card rewards Baratheon even more for going all-in with the power challenge, I like it! Now we only need more effects that move power to characters, preferably from their faction card.
Desert Raider can steal power icons, which especially hurts the King at the Wall decks. At least we can save the power with Stormlands Fiefdoms…
Karhold completely destroys the Knights deck. Wow, this card does nothing in certain matchups, and it sometimes is an auto-win if you dont have location control. I don’t like this kind of card design.
Ser Talbert Serry is a nice little addition to the Knights deck. Immune to Ward is a plus!
Shield Islands is interesting. At first glance this card only seems playable in dedicated Reach decks, but it’s also a non-unique out-of-faction card for King at the Wall. 2 gold and 1 card for a symmetric effect is a lot to ask, though.
Rogue Wildling provides stand for Free Folk, fantastic!
The Starry Sept looks like a third Baratheon card, especially if we get more “additional power challenge” cards. There’s synergy with Fury, but the best effect might just be the additional power. Dedicating extra ressources to defend the Red Keep? Not that bad when you also gain a power on defense.
Reckless and Traitor to the Crown, anyone? Maybe in Qohor, but 0 cost attachments don’t really fit. This might be better for Greyjoy with Little Theon, Core Balon, The Drumm, Throwing Axe and Golden Storm.
Sea of Blood will make In the Name of Your King! our best friend!
Heir to the Throne is nice with either Shireen and Core Selyse to get our big guys, but the upside in other factions is even higher, especially Stark with their sacrifice tech, Flea Bottom synergy and abundance of cost 2 Lords and Ladies. Fat Cat can even immediately trigger…
Vanquish the Unbeliever’s artwork suggests this is made for the R’hllor trait. Maybe with Red God’s Blessing…..