Beginning this series (described in detail here: https://www.agot.cards/2019/01/23/austere-assembly-hub-article/) we have House Baratheon.
Bara are in a weird place with regards to a core deck, insofar as most of their more successful decks being those that ‘stick out’ more due to their regular gameplan being weak. Despite this, I’ll be looking at focusing on a more standard Bara build. Despite what cynics might say, it won’t be weak forever as the meta inevitably moves on, so let’s assume the GoodStuff build comes into prominence at some point.
To that end I present to you the Bara Necessities.
3x Dragonstone Faithful
1x Maester Cressen
1x Melisandre (Core)
1x Moon Boy
1x Old Bill Bone
3x Poor Fellows
3x Robert Baratheon
1x Ser Cortnay Penrose
1x Ser Davos Seaworth
1x Shireen Baratheon
3x Dragonstone Port
1x Gates of the Moon
1x The Iron Bank
1x The Red Keep
This list is driven by three main things Baratheon lacks: strong draw; strong economy; and strong cheap characters. Not all lists will be so neutral-heavy or so core-heavy, but the Baratheon cardpool is what it is so here we are.
Baratheon have a lot of characters in the 3g-5g range that are, broadly, interchangeable. I’ve included very few of them in this list for that purpose. One deck may want The Bastard of Nightsong; where another may want R’hllor cards; where another may want Ser Justin Massey; where another may want Littlefinger; where another may want any combination of those cards. Therefore, including all of them in the core felt wrong to me.
However, what Baratheon do not have a lot of is good characters in the 2g cost slot. As a result, I’ve had to import more neutral characters into this list than I normally would be comfortable with.
Firstly, the Dragonstone Faithfuls. They may seem obvious, but I won’t be including “3x reducer chud” in every list. However, as previously discussed Baratheon need both the economy and the chuds, so in they go. Following on in the 2 gold cost slot we have Moon Boy, Old Bill Bone, Poor Fellows and Shireen Baratheon. Moon Boy again solves two of the problems, in this case chuds and draw. Old Bill Bone and Poor Fellows are good enough that they can basically be considered for any deck in any faction; however for Baratheon I think they’re must-haves. Baratheon are the only faction in the game that don’t have at least one 2 gold, 2 STR character with 2 icons and a further upside. OK, they have Devan Seaworth, and there are certainly decks where I’d consider running him, but his ability is very situational and therefore not suitable for a core list. To that end, Old Bill Bone can as a base-scenario be a blank 2g 2 STR bicon, but for only one gold more can kneel the opponent’s faction card. The three most-recently released agendas all require a faction kneel to leverage, as do numerous others in the game, making this a very powerful effect. Meanwhile Poor Fellows, like Moon Boy, solve the chud problem and the draw problem. They’re particularly good in Baratheon where you may well include Stormlands Fiefdoms, making the choice to give them power instead a much tougher one for your opponent.
The controversial one here, arguably, is Shireen Baratheon – indeed, I showed Bara loyalist Adem Kolar this list and he told me I should remove her. For ages this would have been one of the least-controversial, as she is a phenomenal chud, one of those core cards that has stood the test of time; however, recently Baratheon got Shireen Baratheon MoD, and she’s been making serious waves among the Bara loyalists. Ultimately I decided to keep the original in here due mostly to her being cheaper (as well as an easier card to ‘get’ if you are a less experience competitive player), but this is the card I would add the most caveats to – if you are running icon-granting effects, go with the other Shireen; if your deck is predominantly built around the power challenge, go with the other Shireen; if you are running enough economy to support a more expensive card, at least strongly consider the other Shireen. If you are Adem, play the other Shireen.
Moving on up the cost-curve, we have Maester Cressen. He is one of the best characters in the entire game, with several key attachments – Ward, Milk of the Poppy, Craven, Frozen Solid and more – all having the Condition trait. You may well want more than one copy of him, but everyone should be running that first one at least.
Ser Davos Seaworth is one of only two of Bara’s several efficient mid-range characters I deemed mandatory, simply because he fits so many different styles of play. If you’re running a low curve, his stealth is excellent for opening up routes past the opponent’s big characters; if you’re going Knights, he has the trait; if you’re playing a mid-range control list, he will stick around through pretty much all resets; he’s just a complete character. The other, Ser Cortnay Penrose, is less ‘complete’ than Davos, but is just really, really efficient. He helps you win power challenges on attack and defence, something Baratheon wants to do, with no loss of tempo. He also has reasonable stats for his cost and an occasionally-important Knight trait.
Melisandre used to be a 3x centrepiece card, but with kneel currently at (hopefully) its lowest ebb I think decks can afford to branch out further in that regard. However, even if your focus is not kneel, there’s still very little reason not to run a single copy of her – even if you don’t want to run Fiery Followers, Asshai Priestess et. al., she still triggers off herself and that’s plenty-good value. The only caveat here is that, like Shireen, there is another version of Mel in the game. Personally I think she’s a much tougher include than the other Shireen is, but nonetheless it of course goes without saying that if you’re running Melisandre GtR, you’re not running the core version.
Finally for characters we have 3x of Big Bad Bobby B, Robert Baratheon. In a meta where it seems like every faction has gained shiny new powerful characters, Robert Baratheon remains a reason for Bara loyalists to stay calm despite their lack of equivalents themselves. Bob is an absolute powerhouse who can still dominate a table to this day. He will, often by himself, be able to win challenges, kneel out the opponent’s characters to stop them winning challenges, and gain power to get you closer to victory. He’s just about the only “must-answer” character Baratheon have in the entire cardpool, and fully deserves to be 3x in any Bara deck, with the sole exception of a mini-curve that’s running Duel.
Moving onto locations, and again we have gold and draw. As with the Dragonstone Faithfuls, I won’t always highlight the 3x 0g limited – but with one of the weakest 2g limited econ cards and one of the weakest 2g non-limited econ cards, what choice do Bara really have? Similarly I won’t always recommend Gates of the Moon, and definitely won’t always recommend The Iron Bank, but for Baratheon right now I feel they’re necessary. I personally like to run 3x Iron Bank, but I think even if you don’t want to rely on it you should run at least 1 in my opinion – this is a card some people dislike and some people love, and while I fall somewhere in the middle, the upside is very strong for a deck that predominantly relies on relatively expensive (or at least overpriced) characters and effects..
Lastly we have The Red Keep. There was a point where this was a mandatory 3x card for Bara; however, with more sources of draw (the likes of Blackwater Bay and King at the Wall, amongst others) its importance has dropped off. Despite that, it’s well worth the inclusion at 1x still. It forces your opponent to make a challenge they might otherwise not necessarily want to make; it helps you win power challenges on both attack and defence; and it can draw you cards round after round for no effort on your part.
Baratheon of course have other good locations available to them that you should consider, particularly if you are running a dominance- or kneel-based gameplan. However, as some decks may run one or the other, or both, or neither, they are left out here.
Lastly, events. I’ve gone on record before, and probably will again, that every deck needs to include ways of blanking characters and ways of cancelling events. As a result, my default include in these slots will be 2x Nightmares and 2x The Hand’s Judgement, explaining why they’re left out rather than included. To that end, I’ve left out The Hand’s Judgement here because Baratheon have a few different ways of handling events. Firstly, they have Privileged Position, a tremendous card that not only cancels events but also location effects, and may well consider this over HJ. However, if the deck is not built to protect the power challenge, PP can get switched off. They also have another option, Seen in Flames, which doesn’t cancel events but can pull them from an opponent’s hand before they ever get the chance to play them. Seen in Flames is an absolutely outstanding card, and the only reason it’s not 3x in this list is that you won’t necessarily include a R’hllor package. However, if you do include a R’hllor package, Seen in Flames isn’t only a 3x, but is probably the reason you’re doing so in the first place, even more than Core Mel is. So while neither Privileged Position nor Seen in Flames are going to consistently go in every single Bara deck, between them they certainly mean Hand’s Judgement won’t either.
So there we have my list of every card I think Baratheon need to run right now, regardless of their deck. Agree, disagree? Have cards you strongly believe should be added to this list or removed from it? Please let me know below – this is obviously a series that will be prone to being hotly debated, and I relish the opportunity to hear the views of the community.