Dockside Brothel Days 2016 was my first major tournament as a Game of Thrones player and my first time meeting many of the players on the European circuit (on the UK one, too!). Having been made to feel so welcome by the universally charming team of Dutch heroes in charge (and having come one poor decision away from making the cut!), coming back was one of my most looked-forward-to weekends of 2017; it did not disappoint.
Settling on a deck proved to be incredibly difficult. With the Watchers on the Wall box confirmed legal, I was keen to play a Night’s Watch/Lion deck as I had played something similar for a long time in the second half of last year, including at UK Nationals. The release of Now My Watch Begins made for a very tempting combo with Tyrion, but testing showed the deck to be inconsistent and very reliant on seeing and affording Varys at just the right time. I knew that I couldn’t risk it if I wanted to be competitive. Talking it over with meta-mate Joel (also coming) and others, I considered Stark/Fealty, Tyrell/Wolf and Bara/Fealty in a vain effort to find something that would be good for the field and get me excited to play it for seven rounds or more.
I was very close to resignedly taking the Baratheon deck when Joel mentioned Greyjoy/Lion, a deck which I had played and enjoyed earlier this year following the release of Relentless Assault. I had subconsciously shelved it from my plans after an utter blowout at the hands of Baratheon in the OCTGN League but I took another pass at the list after he brought it up and couldn’t shake the old feeling that it was still pretty good as long as Bara wasn’t everywhere – and why would it be in a Tyrell- and Targ-dominated meta? Plus, it just so happened that I’d played a Greyjoy/Lion deck last year. Why not threaten to make it a tradition? So, at the last minute, with no testing games played, I sleeved it up alongside the Bara and hopped onto a plane.
You can check out the deck on ThronesDB here, where I’ve talked a bit more in detail about how it operates and changes that I would consider after the tournament, but the headline is simple. Play King Balon and Core Jaime, flip A Storm of Swords and trigger Relentless Assault to do all the military challenges you can without ever kneeling to attack. It’s a beefy renown deck that can burst out of nowhere and accumulate massive amounts of power on well-protected characters.
After meeting up with the rest of the travelers from the southern UK meta (otherwise known as the #DocksideBrothelBaes) as well as the marvellous Ruben and Simon, we found time for a handful of last-minute testing games in the afternoon, where I took the revamped list for a spin – and, oh, how it sang. Now I was committed, and I went along to the enjoyably chaotic Dockside Friday dinner with my mind comfortably settled. All I really needed was to avoid Baratheon the next day…
On Saturday, exactly one player of the 66 attendees brought a Baratheon faction card. So that was nice. And so began the joust…
Round 1: vs Tyrell/Wolf (Daniel Gobl) – W
I fancy my chances to outrush Tyrell/Wolf even if this deck gets Tinder Marge going – but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit nervous when Daniel sets her up with a dupe and a chud. I forget my setup but it had a bit of economy and, Marge aside, Daniel did not. By the second round I have King Balon out and he starts to rack up renown along with a healthy board, while Daniel uses the Eyrie on Rickon in the challenges phase. In round three, he flips Wildfire in order to replace Rickon with Randyll and come out ahead on characters four to three. Then he drops Brienne and gives Randyll a Crown of Golden Roses, turning off my Balon. He still has no economy, though, and by now I have Great Kraken to stealth through one of his bigs and keep winning power challenges. On round four I confiscate his crown and drop some more stealth, and my ever-expanding board lets me push through the win.
Round 2: vs Targaryen/Fealty (Joe Zimmer) – L
I was hoping not to have to face Joe for a number of reasons. Firstly, he was one of the eight members of the southern UK meta who’d made the trip and we didn’t want to hurt each other’s chances; secondly and more importantly, I knew his deck well and didn’t fancy my chances of protecting Tyrion, Asha, Jaime and Balon from Dracarys, Dany and Blood of the Dragon.
I set up Jaime and marshal Lancel on round 1 to ensure some early Dracarys immunity and Judgment his Fire and Blood when he tries to hit back after claiming Drogon, on my way to an early lead with renown accumulating on Jaime. Around round three, I am holding onto a Euron in hand and fancying my chances if I can steal his discarded Slaver’s Bay Port next round. I win an unopposed intrigue with Lancel and draw off the Great Kraken but at the end of the round we realise that I shouldn’t have, because I’d since marshalled a third Lanni Lord in the shape of Tyrion. Joe gets his card back and I get a random discard to equalise it, with Euron hitting the bin. At this point, in embarrassment as much as anything I start tilting and walk my duped Jaime into a Dany-assisted Dracarys, costing me three power. It probably doesn’t change the outcome, as Joe’s Beggar King and three Roseroads start crapping out more and more people and he starts breaking out the two-claim plots while dropping Drogo. I can’t keep up and lose swiftly.
Round 3: vs Lannister/Rains (Jemiol) – W
My memory of this one is a little hazy but we both get okay setups, him seeing Tower of the Hand and a decent character (Jaime?) early while I get a Bodyguarded Balon, Tyrion, Great Kraken and Iron Mines before too long and Sow his Harrenhal. He hints at Treachery on a couple of occasions while I draw several times off the Kraken but, facing a large amount of board pressure, I decide that I can’t afford to sacrifice one of my other characters and claim Balon as I have two saves on the board. Jemiol treacheries BOTH the Bodyguard and the Mines, and Balon bites the dust. Shortly afterwards, Tyrion gets Towered back into my hand and I’m staring down the barrel. But Jemiol has used up almost all of his tricks at this point and he’s let me draw plenty of cards in the process. I drop Asha and Euron, hoping to pick up that tasty Harrenhal I discarded earlier to use on my own Lanni characters, but it’s just in time for him to marshal another one. His only character left is Tyrion, though, and I have Asha on a Storm of Swords turn. He has Podrick to save the first challenge but is one gold short of reversing the claim on me. On the next turn, he’s out of economy plots so is relying on Harrenhal to get out the only characters he’s drawing – so I drop Sea Bitch to close it out.
Round 4: vs Lannister/Rains (Ian Pollard) – L
I know that I’m in for a heavy kill Clansmen deck this time as I’ve seen Ian playing this deck at previous tournaments, but my mulligan is grim. Not much to say about this one as my deck craps out on me, feeding me limited economy again and again while denying me the saves that I need to maintain any kind of board presence. Ian knows exactly what he’s doing with this deck and doesn’t leave me any room to manoeuvre, keeping my hand empty and setting up the Tower/Harrenhal/Mountains of the Moon to give himself plenty of flexibility. I manage a couple of satisfying fuck-you plays, like marshalling a 0-STR Lancel just to bounce Timett back to hand using Things I Do and Nightmaresing the Hound after he gets Harrenhaled in, but I’m never in with much of a chance. I know that 5-2 is what it takes to get into the cut today, so I have to win out from here if I’m to make it.
Round 5: vs Lannister/Sun (Kenny Virani) – W
Kenny promises me he’s playing a fun deck, then sets up duped Jaime and chud before marshalling duped Tywin. Lies! I get Balon and Theon early doors and we start trading non-kneeling challenges, each unwilling to have our big guys defend the other. I get Littlefinger and the Hound (and I think a Seal on Balon?) while he soon sees Queen Cersei (the point of his deck) and there’s a lot of renown accumulating very quickly on characters, particularly as he Spikes one of my guys to trigger Cersei and jump up to 12 power. It becomes clear that whoever wins initiative next has a great chance, so I play Storm of Swords into his Confiscation(?) and fancy my chances of closing as first player. Then he marshals Nymeria, and I sigh in exasperation. After much consideration, Kenny steals Theon’s military icon as he fears the stealth and reaction, but it proves to be a mistake. I win an unopposed intrigue with Littlefinger then do a power with Theon and the Hound, stealthing Cersei in order to force him to kneel Tywin. Then I’m on 13 and he has to choose whether he blocks one of Balon’s militaries and loses to an unopposed or if he opposes but loses both and loses to the second renown. It’s a game-losing mistake to let Balon keep his icon, but I’m grateful. The dream is alive.
Round 6: vs Tyrell/Watch (Joel Pearson) – W
We knew this was coming. Joel is my Reading meta-mate, and we’d worked with each other more closely than anyone on prepping our decks. Our results (WLWLW) had been exactly the same all day so a face-off grew more and more inevitable, and now one of us would have to knock the other out of the running to make the cut. I was glum about the matchup as I know that Joel’s deck can be fiendishly oppressive but he thinks that the matchup favours me, and he turns out to be right.
It starts awkwardly as I forget that Here to Serve exists and open Varys’s Riddle, expecting to catch a Building Orders, but at least it gives me the money to afford Tyrion and a chud along with my setup Victarion – the latter of whom gets swiftly Cravened. Joel also finds Milk quickly for Tyrion and finds the Wall and a Haunted Forest, but has no big characters and First Snow clears his board. I follow up with Plenty to afford Asha and a Shipwright, which starts kneeling the Forest so that Asha can stealth past Halder and his Practice Blade. Asha gets a Milk of her own but crucially lets me Sow the Craven off Victarion, while I just keep drawing into big dudes and spend a turn Sea Bitching his Wall. The Shipwright is MVP and Joel only finds Highgarden after it’s too late, with his character count of 26 unable to compensate for the neutralisation of his key locations. He semi-jokingly warns me that I’d better win my last game now…
Round 7: vs Stark/Fealty (Petar Stefanov)
I see the faction/agenda combo and assume that I’m in for a nice, gentle, standard Stark good stuff build (after all, Joel and I had considered exactly such a deck as a good meta call for the tournament). So I keep a setup of Theon, Bodyguard and Kingsroad as I have two Balons in hand and am fine with a standard Stark deck opening Marched. Then I see Petar set up Harrenhal along with Osha and Rickon and wonder if I’ve made a huge mistake. It turns out that I have. Unknown to me at the time, I am later informed that Petar always plays Stark murder at these tournaments, but I find out by example. My hand is stacked full of big guys – two Balons, two Ashas and two Tyrions – and I have to sacrifice Asha to Harrenhal so that I can afford to play Tyrion. But the lack of chud means that I’m rapidly chewing through my saves as Petar finds Arya and multiple Ices plus Winter is Coming. Meanwhile, all I’m drawing is the third Asha. It’s over in about 15 minutes and I head over to sheepishly apologise to Joel and try not to get tempted to shuffle my deck and see what my mulligan ‘would have been’.
In the end, I placed 21st out of 66 players; an overall improvement on my record from 2016 so hard to complain too much about that. The blow of just missing out on the cut was softened, meanwhile, by watching the end of Thrones giant Even’s final match afterwards. I had spent the whole day idly wondering why Even – a premier player who always performs strongly – had been stuck on the bottom tables throughout. Then I saw him round out his day by successfully milling out his opponent with a Lanni/Kraken pillage deck, and understood. Bravo, Even.
Day 2: Draft
On Day 2, I threw some money at draft packs and drafted a truly awful pool of cards, with precisely the 40 minimum cards to make my Stark/Protectors of the Realm deck legal. One of those 40 was Syrio’s Training. Whoopee. I went 1-2 and that’s really all I’d like to say about that!
Day 2: The Driver, Not the Car
For our last event of the weekend, I join a 10-person DNTC pod and let my joust deck loose for others to pilot (my only other deck was Bara/Fealty, and that would just have been cruel). I didn’t see much of its second and third games, but I certainly saw its first because I had to play against it.
Round 1: piloted by Caitlin Woods vs Stark/Fealty (me!) – W
I get a rough mulligan, setting up Bodyguarded Jeyne Westerling and Winterfell against Jaime and Red Cloaks and drawing up to two Ices but Summer as my only available military icon and not a lot else. I spend most of my first couple of turns begging my Gates to draw me something useful (Core Cat arrives, but still not a military icon!) while Caitlin starts to race ahead thanks to a beefy Lancel arriving to join cousin Jaime, who has a Bodyguard and an Iron Mines keeping himself safe. Luckily I have Bran to cancel a Relentless Assault and a Nightmares for Balon when he arrives with a dupe.
Soon, though, Caitlin has two power on duped Balon and four on guarded Jaime, along with Asha and her two-costers. I know that it’ll take something big for me to pull this one back, so I take a gamble. I know that Caitlin’s deck doesn’t need to Valar me to win, but I suspect that she won’t be able to resist it if I use up my only save, so I claim Cat’s Bodyguard and flip my own Valar. She takes the bait and, with only three saves to deal with four kills, must choose between Balon and Jaime to survive (she opts for Jaime as he has more power). She then can’t marshal enough to stop me from marching Jaime the next round. I have a chance again, but she has a big lead on power thanks to that good start. Now I have Roose with duped Ice (finally!) in case of a Sow as I’m second player, joined by Jon and Jory against duped Tyrion and Littlefinger plus chud. But a Nightmares on Roose ends my hopes of double-killing Tyrion, who proves crucial on the final turn as his stealth gets past my only intrigue icon to win the final unopposed.
Round 2: piloted by Franke Roders vs Tyrell/Wolf (Chris Meeuwsen) – W
I saw the end of this one. Chris was using the legendary Nanterbridge deck and his Renly made Franke’s Sealed Balon a little worse, but Franke had Euron, Theon and Great Kraken plus a hefty support board to generate a telling numbers advantage.
Round 3: piloted by Tim Bos vs Targaryen/Crossing (Chris Meeuwsen) – W
Didn’t see this one at all – I was busy having an absolute ‘mare with Nanterbridge in which I handed Conny’s nonsense Bara/Kraken/Dragon a nightmarish suite of bomb characters – but I’m told that First Snow did a lot of work.
After those three rounds, there were two decks left on 3-0 and a playmat at stake for the best deck so a playoff was called for! This time we’d have to pilot our own decks, or whoever won initiative on round one would just concede immediately…
Round 4: vs Greyjoy/Stag (Giovanni Woltinge) – W
I had a bad feeling about this one, Bara kneel being my non-kneeling characters’ worst nightmare and having heard a great deal by this stage about the potency of Giovanni’s Marya-and-Esgred-abusing deck. I mulliganed into a setup hand of Balon, two Jaimes and a Roseroad, so reluctantly went for Balon in full expectation of a Marched on the other side, while Gio mulliganed into a setup of just Davos and Marya (which was thematically cute). I opened Riddle and was relieved to be forced to give my opponent three gold with his own Trading.
I used my extra money to put a Seal as well as Bodyguard on Balon after marshalling Littlefinger and a Shipwright, while Gio started investing in saves as well as Melisandre and chud. Knowing that I was looking at getting knelt and re-knelt when he hit back at me, I just started going all-in on challenges and built up a bit of renown on Balon as we both made some early power gains. On the second round, I played Plenty into a Riddle of Gio’s own and was relieved when he made me first player as I dropped my duped Jaime (who was quickly knelt, but allowed Balon to stay standing). Much the same kind of turn happened but Gio had a bigger board (boasting a Victarion now) and kept me at a total of five by the round’s end.
With a Roseroad and Littlefinger on the board plus Asha and a Relentless Assault in hand, I figured that I would go for the Storm of Swords and try to push through for some big gains before Gio could draw into any more of his key pieces. He flipped Summons and fetched a Priestess, which was a shame as it would mean one of my big guys being out of action for my crucial turn. With this in mind and a Hound newly topdecked, I reluctantly abandoned the plan to drop Asha and instead played Nightmares on Mel and passed, hoping against hope that Gio hadn’t found a Seen in Flames to trigger her in the challenges phase. Thankfully he did not and chump-blocked my first military, allowing the Assault to trigger, which led to an enormous haul of six renown falling onto my characters without a single one of them having to kneel for it. He let Littlefinger through for an unopposed intrigue so as to block my power with Mel and Marya, his only two characters left standing, but the Hound joined Balon to ensure that I could win on both attack and defence before taking dominance with Jaime, so he conceded.
It was a great personal note on which to end my weekend as the event wound down gently, and a nice compensation for finishing just outside the cut in the joust.
Thanks to my opponents, who were charming and gracious without exception. Thanks to the #DocksideBrothelBaes: Joel, Gabbi, Joe, Rebecca, Richard, Ryan and the Lord of Lit himself, ‘Daye Kaniel’, for whom this event was practically custom-designed. Joe and Ryan represented the Baes in the cut but special congratulations to Rebecca, who came just wanting two wins but made it all the way to the top four with some superb performances. Bravo, too, to Tamas Albeck, the dominant Dockside champion!
Most of all, thanks to all of the Dutch team for putting on a sensational event. Corné, Asha, Remko, Donovan, Bambi, Conny, Rick and all of the many other locals who helped to organise and populate the tournament are the best hosts that you could want. This third instalment of Dockside saw a jump in attendance of over 50%, and it deserves even more next year. You should go; I’ll see you there. In the meantime, I’ll be hoping that Greyjoy/Lion is still a viable faction/agenda combo this time in 2018…