The Road to Gencon 2020: Reflections on Gencon 2019 and competitive list building

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by Brett Lanpher GenCon 2019 Champion and host of the Small Council Podcast

Gencon 2019 feels like such a distant memory… Baratheons were merely a previewed tactics deck and Targaryens were just a rumor. In the past year, the game has had some major changes, but the core concepts remain the same. Brett Lanpher, Gencon 2019 Champion and host of Small Council Radio, reflects on his experience and previews what to expect at the Laughter is Poison to Fear event at Family Time Games taking place in lieu of the Gencon Tournament this year.

Gencon is a huge event that brings gamers from around the globe together. 2019 was not only my first Gencon; it was my first convention and I knew I wanted to play my favorite game with my favorite army led by my favorite commander… Tyrion Lannister of House Lannister. What did I look for in creating my lists and do these principles hold up a year later?

GenCon 2019 List 1 (Pre 1.5 Update)

Faction: House Lannister

Commander: Tyrion Lannister – Halfman

Points: 40 (14 Neutral)

Combat Units:

  • Lannister Guardsmen (5)
    • with Tyrion Lannister – Halfman (0)
  • House Clegane Mountain Men (6)
    • with Gregor Clegane – Lord Tywin’s Mad Dog (3)
  • House Bolton Flayed Men (10)
  • Knights of Casterly Rock (8)

Non-Combat Units:

  • Lord Varys – The Spider (4)
  • Tywin Lannister – The Great Lion (4)

Made with ASOIAFBuilder.com

GenCon 2019 List 2 (Pre 1.5 Update)

Faction: House Lannister

Commander: Tyrion Lannister – Halfman

Points: 40 (4 Neutral)

Combat Units:

  • Lannister Guardsmen (5)
    • with Tyrion Lannister – Halfman (0)
  • Knights of Casterly Rock (8)
  • Knights of Casterly Rock (8)
  • Pyromancers (7)

Non-Combat Units:

  • Tywin Lannister – The Great Lion (4)
  • Lord Varys – The Spider (4)
  • Cersei Lannister – Queen Regent (4)

Made with ASOIAFBuilder.com

At first glance, you will notice that Flayed Men were 10 points. They were a bit different at this time with a potent 2+ defense save. You’ll also probably notice that the primary list has 6 activations (!!!). The meta has changed so much since then! 

Despite the shift in specific units people are currently fielding, some basic principles remain the same. When designing a competitive lists there are a few key elements you want to address, control, mobility, defense, healing, damage potential, multipliers.

Control – this can be board control with lots of combat units to create pressure or some seriously elite units to act as a deterrent or “zone control”.

My 2019 list addressed this by bringing 2 units who acted as mobile hammers AND anvils. I also added tactics board control and Tywin’s ability to cancel any big plays. 

In today’s meta that looks almost the same but Flayed Men are not quite what they used to be. This list could easily swap the Flayed Men (10 points) for another combat unit and another NCU. 

Gregor Clegane - Lord Tywins Mad Dog v1.4
Lord Tyrwin’s Mad Dog can help to fill the Mobility slot thanks to his ‘Uncontrolled Rage’

Mobility – This isn’t always cavalry but it typically is. Lord Tywin’s Mad Dog or units like Bastard’s Girls count as well. Lady Val, Arya, and Harma’s attachment count here as well. You need to be able to get your units in their best position when necessary or “alpha strike” your opponent. 

My 2019 list addressed this by bringing a minimum of 2 cavalry units and adding Lord Tywin’s Mad Dog to increase the threat from his unit. 

In today’s meta that looks almost identical. That unit of Mountains Men stands today as one of the most potent offensive units in the game. 

Defense – units who can take a hit and survive to keep a unit tied down. Ghost with “It shall not end until my Death” counts here as well. Units like Veterans of the Watch and the Knights of Casterly Rock can fill multiple roles. Thenn warriors may only have a 4+ defense but ignoring flank and rear bonus at all times is HUGE. Also, don’t forget that high morale is an extension to defense!! 

My 2019 list addressed defense by using Flayed Men and Knights of Casterly Rock as very strong anvils. 

In today’s meta this remains valid, but Knights of Casterly Rock fill the role better than Flayed Men and the additional points could be used to upgrade an NCU or add an attachment. For example, you could add Pycelle for an activation and access to a weakened token every round. You would also have points to add crossbows with Preston Greenfield, granting additional tactics board pressure and some nasty ranged abilities. 

Healing – Some NCUs and commanders provide staying power with their abilities. Even if a unit takes a lot of casualties, they can stay in the fight if you bring some healing power to the table.

My 2019 list didn’t bring healing outside of the ability to claim the wealth zone. As a compensating factor, I leaned more into defense and control to prevent damage as much as possible. 

In today’s meta Tycho Nestoris is readily available to all armies (except Free Folk) and adding him can provide a surprise heal at the start of any turn that can essentially mitigate an entire round of attacks! 

Damage potential – You need to have something that is capable of dealing heavy damage to your opponent. It can be a panic-inducing unit or a unit with lots of attacks and sundering.

My 2019 lists each had 4 units who had ways to modify morale and add panic damage. The Mountains Men provided the trinity of key words (sundering, vicious, critical blows) and provided threats on the charge and in static combat. 

In today’s meta this philosophy holds true. Panic is the best way to consistently cause direct wounds and erode even the best units. Vicious has only become more powerful than ever. 

Specialist/Support units – Units like Outriders (Stark or Dothraki) or Ranger trackers come to mind. They function fine on their own but they really shine as a unit working in tandem with another. Ranged units work really well as “weakeners” or “finishers.” They can be key to overcoming units like Umbers or Baratheon counterattack cards. 

My 2019 list addressed this again with the Mountains Men in the primary list and with Pyromancers in the secondary list. 

In today’s meta it remains valid to bring these types of units. Each army and house provides these tools that will have glaring weaknesses but when used properly; they can turn the game around. 

Multipliers – Cersei Lannister comes to mind because she is basically “vicious on demand”. The High Sparrow and any attachment with Stalwart multiplies defense potential by adding higher morale and as a result, less panic damage. Fast units can become faster (Pathfinder and Enhanced Mobility), hard-hitters hit harder (Boldness and Courage, Powerful Blows, Inhuman Strength). There are many ways to multiply what a unit can do. 

My 2019 list had the mother of all attachments to take a relatively strong unit to an absolute terror. Lord Tywin’s Mad Dog adds mobility, attack dice at all ranks, and sundering. There are few attachments in the game who do so much for a unit. 

In today’s meta Cersei is better than she was before. Panic has become so consistent and reliable and many of the player’s choice scenarios have mechanics that reward players for causing enemies to fail panic tests. Some armies (like Starks and Free Folk) can change their identity simply by adding attachments and they become way more versatile than they would be with generic NCUs and combat units.

Using the past to forge ahead

The meta is constantly changing, but the core concepts remain the same; look to address control, mobility, defense, healing, damage potential, and multipliers in your list-building. Every new faction and each new release brings a new piece to the puzzle. It is important to keep in mind that these basic principles will remain the same even if they happen to apply to a different unit. Build your lists and complement your choices with one another, shore up weaknesses, and bolster strengths. With the Laughter is Poison to Fear event on the horizon, we’ll have an opportunity to examine some top-tier lists and examine these principles in the current meta. Stay tuned!

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