Top Table: The Clash of the Midwest

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Song of Ice and Fire Players, today I’d like to discuss a topic near and dear to my own heart, the tournament scene. As many of you know, the Midwest hosts two of the  biggest tournaments in the US: AdeptiCon and Gencon. Some of the best national and international players attend these tournaments, and as a result they tend to generate significant buzz. AdeptiCon 2020 is right around the corner, and with that in mind the Indiana community decided to host a primer. We were fortunate to know Martin Gaska, the gentleman running ASOIAF at AdeptiCon. We were even more fortunate that he was willing to travel to Indiana with his tournament package in order to test out the moving parts. What follows is a condensed report of the 2020 Indiana Grand Tournament and AdeptiCon Primer.

(from left to right) John Ailes, Brett Lanpher, Kimberly Gaska and Gary Luther duke it out in the doubles tournament

The Doubles Tournament

We began the weekend with a doubles tournament. The event rules were the following: 

  1. You do not talk about the Indiana Doubles Tournament.
  2. You do not talk about the Indiana Doubles Tournament.
  3. Ignore rules one and two.
  4. Each player makes two lists (each team should have a total of 4) and they can be mixed and changed around in any combination for maximum versatility. 
  5. Each team must consist of 2 separate houses. No Lannister and Lannister, etc. 
  6. Each player brings 25 points and is permitted the normal 50% neutrals allowance unless one player uses the neutral deck. Essentially, neutrals can never exceed 50% combined. 
  7. Each player brings 1 copy of each house card and one copy of each commander card. This is essentially two half decks combined to make one deck. The deck must be sleeved the same. 
  8. Each 25 point army has a separate commander. This means it is possible to have 2 commanders from each side getting bonus points from objectives.

This style of game is just plain FUN. From a competitive standpoint it gives you the opportunity to build dream combos. It has multi-layered list building because you have to build synergy within both your own and your partners lists.. Another plus to this style of play is that each person has their own play-style. When you’re both making decisions, you can bounce ideas off one another and develop strategies you might never have thought of on your own, a great exercise for skill-building. Finally, the nature of playing doubles is just extra fun because self high fives are never as fun as high fiving your partner. Now, your personal experience may vary based on your local players, but I’ve always found these collaborative games to be about fun first.

The winning team featured a combination of Starks and Targaryens commanded by Shane Priddy – owner of Family Time Games- and Cameron Wright. They used Robb Stark and Khal Drogo for movement tricks and a solid punch. As you might imagine, combining two mobile armies and a mix of cards and characters to make them even more mobile is powerful.

The runner up was a combination of Stark and Night’s Watch, fielded by Brett Lanpher (your humble author) and Jon Ailes. We chose a strategy of card control and Rodrik defense mixed with Jon Snow for maximum survivability.

The third place team, commanded by Gary Luther and Kimberly Gaska,  featured Night’s Watch and Targaryens, and was nicknamed the ‘fast and felonious.’ They combined Othell Yarwyck with an aggressive unit of Dothraki Veterans(the fast) and a surprisingly effective unit of conscripts with Alliser Thorne (the felonious). 

The 4th place team, led by Justin Lewis and David Meckler, was a combination of Baratheons and Starks. Despite dropping to 4th, they actually battled with Shane and Cameron on top table. As you can imagine, this combination multiplied the effects of two armies who really like to counter-punch opponents in the face. They used Baratheon Wardens as a defensive unit and Umber Greataxes as the offensive hammer.

The 5th place team combined Neutrals and Starks, and was commanded by Chad Wallace and Zachery Dodd. They used Neutral control and that amazing house deck to balance out the Stark aggression. This was a very fun event and I am really looking forward to an entire day of this at Adepticon.

The Singles Tournament

On Sunday we held the singles tournament. Since players travelled in from other states, we wanted to make sure they had Saturday night to rest before straining their brains in competitive play. The missions we played in the singles event were as follows : A Clash of Kings, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons. Adepticon will also feature the Game of Thrones mode, and there is a possibility that Clash will be swapped out for Fire and Blood.

The top 5 houses and players were as follows :

Night’s Watch – Brett Lanpher
Stark – Craig Gruenhagen
Stark – John Hurley
Neutral – Justin Lewis
Stark – David Meckler

Without fully disclosing lists(as it is likely they will be used again at Adepticon) I will reveal some commander information and some general trends that were noticed.

Stark

The three Stark lists all featured Brynden Tully – The Blackfish as a commander. This seems to be a direct reaction to the changes in panic. When panic is devastating enough to damage elite units with high morale, then cards and attachments that boost morale go up in value. Passive damage is always popular as well. This is accomplished with “set for charge”. When you combine panic resistance with healing abilities and ncu’s like Tycho Nestoris and Eddard Stark; you can make lists that stick around and excel in scenarios like A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, where panic failure can lead to the loss of a token.

stark-brynden_tully_tb-back

Neutral

neutral-ramsay_snow_tbob-front

The Neutral player had much better luck with Ramsay Bolton as his commander. While Roose does offer control, Ramsay has a field presence that cannot be ignored. He tends toward an aggressive playstyle which often pays off in competitive settings.

Night’s Watch

My Night’s Watch lists featured maximum healing and maximum defense with passive damage and specialist support. One of my lists has 3 units of veterans. Counterattack is a great way to punish foes for attacking,  and when combined with a high defense stat can often cause more damage to the attacker than they do to your unit. Their morale stat of 5 is also above average but Veterans are not immune to panic. I have found that panic damage causes more casualties than failed defense saves so like others in the meta, I am trying to build lists that can resist panic.

NW-veterans_of_the_watch-Front

Tournament Post-Mortem

Here are some other takeaways from the event. Varys has all but disappeared from not only the Midwest meta, but from the US meta. I have spoken with clubs from the
East and West coast as well as some gentlemen from Germany and Australia and Singapore and this seems to be across the board in all metas. I’m not saying Varys is unusable and doesn’t EVER see the table, but his value has substantially dropped.

N-Lord_Varys-The_Spiderv1.5
Maximum Frey, maximum control

Walder Frey doesn’t appear to be as popular as expected either.. He is certainly not an auto-include. Only 3 lists at the entire event included him. Those lists were all secondary lists and he only saw the table 2 times. Walder is very strong and he can be crippling, but a 5 point ncu is a larger non-combat investment than most people are comfortable with.. In my case, it could be the difference between Sworn Brothers and Veterans. That doesn’t seem like a bad trade off, but it also means losing Aemon or Bowen Marsh or Tycho. When you weigh all of the choices, I believe a lot of players are choosing to just leave him out. 

Starks are popular in America. They have always been popular, but the Stark loyalists don’t seem to waver in their support. The Midwest meta seems to be about 50% starks and that feels crazy. Even at Gencon 2019, Starks were in full force at the championship event. From what I recall, they accounted for 50% of all houses. I personally played Starks all 4 rounds and this was before Tully Cavaliers were released.

Free folk and neutrals are the least popular, but they are not the worst performers. I’m unsure why this is the case, but I would attribute it to their harsh learning curve. I genuinely believe both houses can be incredibly good in the hands of the right player. I would expect the popularity to rise with the emergence of skin changers and tweaks to the house coming soon. I know I would love to see more Free Folk and Neutrals in the future.

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