Adem KolarA few months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Australian National Championships for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (AGOT)! It was held at a local games store in Canberra, and I attended for the full weekend with some friends. Quite a few friends in fact, we had to take three cars down for the trip just to fit us all in! All of the players in our cars were regulars at Good Games Burwood, so we knew that the Sydney meta would have a good representation at this year’s Nationals – the first time in two years that an AGOT Nationals event was held outside of Sydney (for any edition of the game).

Saturday was the main Joust event. 41 players attended which ensured the event beat last year’s Nationals attendance by 1 to become the most well attended AGOT event in Australian history. 41 players also meant a mammoth six rounds of Swiss. Regardless of who qualified for Sunday’s Top 8, it would be a truly gruelling journey to get there! The deck I had selected for the event was one I had been honing and tweaking for months leading up to the Nationals. It was House Baratheon, Banner of the Kraken. A particularly fun deck to play as it utilised the ‘bombs’ (expensive and powerful characters) of both House Baratheon and House Greyjoy to great effect. The deck focused primarily on winning power challenges, winning dominance, gaining renown, kneeling out characters with intimidate, and then saving the bombs with duplicates, Bodyguards and Iron Mines to ensure that once I got ahead I stayed ahead. Victarion Greyjoy was one of the stars of the deck in this regard, singlehandedly doing almost all of the above. Apart from being a fun deck to play, I also found it to be particularly good, beating most decks in the meta with the exception of opposing Greyjoy decks. Greyjoy decks, on average, had more saves than my deck, and also had the capability to blow up my own saves – We Do Not Sow works quite well against the aforementioned Bodyguards and Iron Mines! In any case, I went into the Nationals with a 32-4 record in testing and was feeling quite confident.

GT01 203AMy first round opponent was Arthur Chen from Sydney. Arthur was playing Stark Banner of the Watch. I had played against Arthur before and knew him quite well. He likes to play decks that are contrary to what you might expect in the meta and, as a result, my games against him are always full of surprises. Unfortunately for Arthur, I felt like this game was never in doubt. From the get go, I played out a steady stream of bombs and saves. On two consecutive turns I played Nightmares against his Harrenhal to stop him from killing off my bombs as they came in. Eventually, the glut of characters, plethora of saves, and lockdown of dominance was too much for his smaller character count to handle and I cruised to victory. 1-0.

My second round opponent was Warren Tegg, who is a GG Burwood regular and one of the players I travelled down to Canberra with from Sydney. I’ve known Warren for a while now and knew that he was a good player playing a good deck, having already finished as a runner-up at the 2017 Kingsmoot (a player-organised Thrones tournament held earlier in the year). Warren was playing Lannister Rains of Castamere. This was a particularly tense game – probably the closest game I played all day. Warren definitely had the early advantage with Tywin Lannister and The Hound, but I managed to claw my way back into the game. The critical turning point of the game was when I used a Nightmares on Lancel Lannister when he was participating in an intrigue challenge with astronomical strength. It stopped the Rains trigger from going through, and allowed me to counterattack in force. Melisandre proved to be a particularly important card as it allowed me to kill off The Hound and manage what was in Warren’s hand. We almost went to time, but I came out on top in what was a struggle! 2-0.

A short lunch break was followed by the third round, and my opponent for that round was Russell Olorenshaw from Adelaide. Russell had won the South Australian Regional earlier this year and, as a result, cashed in a first round bye at these Nationals. Russell was playing Night’s Watch Fealty, and it appeared to be a classic defensive Wall deck. Fortunately for me, my deck was almost custom built to take down Wall decks thanks to big renown characters and the  Chamber of the Painted Table. A combination of those two factors allowed me to outpace the quick passive power gain of the Wall and secure the win before Russell’s board became simply too big for me to handle. 3-0.

My fourth round game was against Jaidyn Batt from Canberra who was playing Greyjoy Kings of Winter. This was the moment I had feared. I was now 3-0 up at the Nationals and a good chance of making the Top 8 cut as long as I got just one more win from my final three games. House Greyjoy, though, posed a problem, and I wasn’t confident going into my match with Jaidyn. My fears proved legitimate as Jaidyn rushed out to an early lead thanks to a bunch of beefy renown characters. I managed to clear off some of the renown power with Valar Morghulis, but he maintained his choke thanks to the Kings of Winter agenda and some extremely irritating Lordsport Shipwrights. Despite equalising the board, I wasn’t able to come back in power, and the rarely seen King Balon closed out
the game for him. 3-1. 

house greyjoyIt was disappointing to cop my first loss of the day, but there was no time to brood on it. My fifth round opponent was David Zhu from Sydney, who was playing Greyjoy Rains of Castamere. David Zhu is a highly professional opponent who I’m sure gains his skills from the various card games he must play. I think the only time I’ve ever beaten him was in a Store Championship final back in early 2016! His deck was a good one too, using the usual Greyjoy tricks but with the addition of Varys to keep the board small. I had a bad setup and never really recovered from the economic setback. David won in a fairly one-sided affair. 3-2.

To quote Kenny Loggins, I was now in the Danger Zone. I still needed one more win to be assured of a place in the Top 8, but my last two games were severe losses against the faction my deck most struggles against. Safe to say that I was on tilt at this point, which was problematic as a clear and composed head was required when it came to my sixth round opponent: Tiernan Maier. Tiernan was a player from Melbourne who I had met previously when I attended the Melbourne Regional last year. A good player, playing a dangerous deck in Targaryen Banner of the Rose. The first round was fairly even, and in the second round I had the opportunity to either play Robert Baratheon or the 7- cost Melisandre (a card the Burwood meta affectionately calls .50 Cal Mel due to her ability to ‘snipe’ cards from the opponent’s hand). Despite the immediate benefit in board presence that Robert would bring, I elected to play Melisandre and focus on the dominance long game. I thought it was the right option at first, as for the next couple of rounds I managed to snipe key characters from Tiernan’s hand, including Mirri Maz Duur. But I was ill-prepared for Tiernan’s clutch 2-claim turn where he played Khal Drogo to make two 2-claim military challenges and wipe my entire board. There was no coming back from that. Despite all the characters I was able to snipe throughout the game, Khal Drogo was all that Tiernan needed to secure the win. 3-3.

And so ended my run at the 2017 Nationals with 3 wins and 3 losses. After originally cruising to 3 wins, I committed what could only be referred to as a choke to bundle out of Top 8 contention and finish 15th. Still, it was a fun event and all my opponents were both tough players and respectable gentlemen. My consolation prize was being to commentate on the Top 8 matches on live stream and witness my close friend and GG Burwood ‘teammate’ Aaron Russell reach the Final! All in all, a fantastic event.