Andy | Hello and good tidings to you as embark upon a new quest. Richard and I have challenged each other to come up with a Stark deck worthy of challenging the elite houses, to be inspired by the Wolves in the North and become a weapon of honour to battle against the foul wretched in the land.
Rich | Yes and as soon as started we realised how much of a challenge that still might be. We haven’t actually played much Stark before so we were both at a loss as to where to start. Below we both chat about our decks and more importantly our decisions behind our choices. Then later this week you’ll see a battle between the two to see how they play but most importantly, which wins the battle.
Andy | IRON MAN!
I’m a simple man so my goal always clear: try and kill everything my opponent put out on the board. The strategy was to win power through renown and win easy power challenges and laugh maniacally while doing so. That called for one man, and one man alone, WotN Ned (Eddard, fine!) Stark. The unfortunate head of House Stark seemed perfect for leading the pack. Chuck him in an easy military challenge with someone like King Robb’s Host and reap the benefits of two power tokens! Rinse and repeat.
With my big dude and fun killing machine (I miss you Ser Gregor) I needed to fill out the rest of the characters. At which point I just went a bit crazy. Chuck ‘em all in I say. Which may or may not be a good plan. I ended with 36 characters whereas I normally aim for 30. In particular I was very much looking forward to seeing a bit of Osha on the table, her ability allowing you to bluff how strong your challenge will be is a fantastic addition to the game. Hodor as well, obviously because a) Kristian Nairn is a legend but more importantly b) he’s lovely for defensive play. Adding Core Set Robb also meant as soon as I had one death I could defend further challenges with my full line up standing so that seemed like a no brainer. I felt like a had a roughly good assortment of characters but I’m way way down on intrigue. I accepted this as a reasonable set back. Yes I’d lose some cards throughout the game but my sword would be swinging with the full might of the North at my opponent.
So then I needed to look at events. Bolstering my military challenges, ensuring they were effective and efficient was the name of the game. Put to the Sword is a no brainer but also the lush one cost Winter is Coming which increases military claim by one was a necessity. For attachments I went for the usual array of Stark weapons, which are too powerful to ignore. This is also where I became jealous of one of Richard’s choices during play. My lack of Green Dreams seems like a big mistake. Missing that card draw (along with the exclusion of Gates of Winterfell which we’ll discuss in the next paragraph) meant I had fewer options throughout play which became an annoyance.
Locations meant Winterfell, it’s too powerful a card to be ignored – that extra one strength changes challenges for the better. I couldn’t justify Winterfell Castle or Gates of Winterfell. There is no doubt they are good but much like the boots made for walking, my deck is made for killing. Card draw was a concern before playing but I was sure I could carry on and that +2 strength is tidy, however that’s a total of 5 gold spent, which I wanted for bodies in the fight. I knew it was a bit of a gamble but went for it anyway and hoped for the best.
Which was a mistake.
For plots I went with Calm Over Westeros, Calling the Banners and a Noble Cause as standard. I then chose Filthy Accusations to help with some strong military challenges. I had originally picked Rangers Cache for some much needed resources but after a practice game swapped it out for A Storm of Swords. That extra military challenge when I’ve got King Robb’s Host out meant I had some fiercesome attacks coming. I then chose Wardens of the North for some mild trickery if needed but failed to use the special action. However, it’s a 5 gold, 5 initiative card so it’s pretty nice anyway. Closing it off I went with The Long Winter as a nice 2 claim card to use as and when I need.
Overall my deck worked out okay-ish. I don’t think it’s likely to compete and I really missed the control aspect of my Lannister deck. To be honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy my matches when playing. Perhaps this was due to us playing Stark vs Stark to get associated with the new cards but it was a bit of a drag. There are some great new cards in the box though and I think it’s really helped the Starks. Not quite sure they’ve caught up to the stronger houses though which is a real shame….
Rich | TULLY-TASTIC!
I started by taking a look at all those highly powerful characters Stark have access to at the upper end of their cost curve and wanted to find a way of getting as many of them to the board as possible. With the prevalence of ways to gain power on characters through renown and other card effects the House Tully Septon seemed like a good way of getting some of those heavier characters on the board. Unfortunately reducing via him only applied to Tully characters, but that gave me enough to get started. Once I knew I was looking at a Tully-centric deck it made a few choices pretty easy: I wanted the WotN Catelyn because I like to make my opponents pay for killing my characters and I wanted the Blackfish so that I could keep my forces standing. Of course the Blackfish needed a way to quickly get those four power tokens on him, so I put in the WotN Ned as well.
Then next thing I turned to look at was my economy, I already knew I wanted to pay for characters with House Tully Septon, so I took three of those along with the ever suffering Winterfell Stewards. Next up was three Heart Tree Groves, and a couple of Roseroad and Kingsroads to bolster the numbers. I wanted an additional way of making sure the House Tully Septons would fire, so I also added in a trio of Riverrun Minstrels to make sure there was power on characters to be spent.
I was then ready to round out the rest of my characters, I took a trio of Tumblestone Knights for their House Tully trait, and two Oshas to further mess with my opponent. Shaggydog and Rickon went in next for their cheap military strength that I wouldn’t mind killing off. Finally I added in the WotN Sansa and Arya to bolster my intrigue icons. I really liked the idea of flexibility that Arya gives (although due to the lack of important 3 strength characters this may have been a mistake), and Sansa was another cheap body that would pay off even once she’d lost her strength: giving me a hopefully regular source of card draw.
Next was attachments and, given how highly we praised it in our discussion of the non-Stark cards, it should be of no surprise that I took along a couple of Green Dreams, I knew that a lot of the cards I wanted would be highly situational, and I needed to make sure I had a way of sifting through them and so getting them at the right time. No Stark deck is complete without at least a couple of Ice, so that went in, as did Needle for it’s strength and the ability to bounce a character back to my hand instead of it dying. This deck needed Catelyn and the Blackfish on the field, and having them forced back to my hand was a damn-sight better than having them dead. The Stark location cards are all incredibly powerful, so I wanted to take along a Frozen Solid to stop them in their tracks and force a decision as to whether my opponent was better to remove that or the Milk of the Poppy I also added in. Finally I added in two Ladys and two Nymerias, I knew challenges would be tight and the ability to move them from one character to another, along with a +2 strength bonus or the ability to kneel characters, would be incredibly valuable.
As I was running Green Dreams I knew I wanted to take along Gates of Winterfell: combined they make a great pair and would give me a great engine for sifting through my deck and getting what I needed into hand. I also took along Winterfell Castle and Winterfell for the much needed strength boost and the latter’s ability of stopping card effects. I knew I wouldn’t be taking much gold through to the challenges phase, so a Tourney Grounds made up my last location pick.
As with Ice, it just doesn’t feel like a Stark deck without a Put to the Sword, but at this point I was running out of space. Given that I was hoping to take down my opponent with sheer force of numbers on my challenges this wasn’t too much of a concern though. I took along two For the North!s for their strength boost and card draw. I knew that some of those locations might get lost in the shuffle, so added a Support of the People to take advantage of the Starks Power prevalence. Finally I added in As Hard As Winter and The Pack Survives to help keep bodies on the table.
With what was hopefully a decent amount of econ built into my deck I was able to look towards card effects rather than production on my Plot cards. That being said I did add in A Noble Cause to ensure I would be able to get out one of my central characters and Calling the Banners just in case everything went wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever made a deck without Calm Over Westeros to give myself some breathing room, so that took up my third slot. Summons was next, so that I could pull my core characters even if they were hiding somewhere in the depths of my deck. My final three were all in there based on the idea that I’d be able to swing out hard with my Tully characters and have them remain standing, so I went for two claim plots: The Winds of Winter, Sneak Attack, and The Long Winter.
As I’m sure many of you reading this already know: this deck needs work. Currently it’s more than a little unreliable, and between matches against Andy and against randoms on OCTGN I’ve only got it up and running properly: using the core idea of spending renown to get Tully characters out, then swinging hard; about 50% of the time. When the planets align and it does work it tends to really work, which is great, but I’ll need to spend some time tinkering (and perhaps waiting for a few more Tully cards) before I’ll have something I’m happy to play regularly against Andy’s monstrous Lannister and Greyjoy decks. Drop me some comments here or on ThronesDB with any suggestions of tweaks!
Andy | That’s our Stark decks! What did you think? Have you put something stronger together? Let us know in the comments below because we’d love to get an idea of how to play them as majestically as they deserve! Thank you for reading and be sure to check out our game videos on YouTube!