Deck: Haldir the Hunter

Haldir-on-the-hunt

GenCon is one of those experiences that is so massive, so overwhelming, that it takes a bit of time to recover and adjust to the day-to-day routine of life. Now that I’ve finally had a chance to settle in and take stock of all of the latest Adventure Pack, the first order of business is to build a deck around our newest hero. Haldir of Lórien has long been one of my favorite allies, so it comes as no surprise that his hero card is also fantastic.

Noiseless-Movement-smallOne of the more interesting, and as of yet, under-utilized themes of the latest cycle is the pseudo-secrecy events. First it was Noiseless Movement, then Trouble in Tharbad brought us Courage Awakened. I refer to these as psuedo-secrecy because they can be used for full effect even when we are not within the 20 threat secrecy threshold. Where they really shine of course, if when we are under the cloak of secrecy. In this case, we can repeatably use this powerful cards. In the case of Noiseless Movement, this card is tailor-made for Haldir.

Lembas (TiT)-smallAs anyone who has ever played a Dunhere deck well knows, the biggest risk to staging area attack decks are enemies with a low engagement cost. In the case of Haldir, his ability is specifically limited to rounds in which we have not engaged an enemy. This means that even if the enemy we want to attack is still in the staging area, a smaller enemy, with lower engagement, can ruin our carefully-laid plans. In this regard, Haldir is actually more limited than Dunhere. Still, there are many tricks that the Protector of Lórien can use to help defend his people.

The goal of this deck is to stay in Secrecy range for most if not all of the early rounds. Ideally, we will play Resourceful on Glorfindel. Master of the Forge and Galadhrim Minstrel provide powerful and focused card-drawing effects. Ultimately the goal is the have Expert Treasure-Hunter and Imladris Stargazer to sustain our effects. For as long as we are in secrecy range, or have extra copies to spare, we will use Noiseless Movement when necessary.

Dagger of WesternesseHaldir will use his Rivendell Blade and Dagger of Westernesse to slay enemies where the idle in the staging area. With an abundance of threat reduction, we should be able to stay under the engagement cost of most enemies, if not within secrecy itself. This deck is decidedly light on allies – they merely serve to support the powerful heroes. In the rare cases where enemies do engage, do not hesitate to sacrifice an ally to spare your heroes the trouble.

With some powerful reading effects, and Glorfindel’s ability to quest without exhausting, your heroes should be freed to work double-duty. In the cases where willpower is less important, Merry can be held back and serves as a potent combination with his Elven friends. Assuming your other heroes are already suitably equipped, a Dagger of Westernesse can always go to the brave little Hobbit.

There is obviously more to this strategy than I have outlined here, but this type of decks take a deft hand, and are not well suited for all scenario. If used too much, they can become boring, but navigating the more interesting scenarios with this strategy can still be quite challenging, and interesting. When they are effective, you can often defeat a scenario without ever having to see your enemies up close. As a bonus here is a screen shot of an earlier version of this deck defeating Trouble in Tharbad.

Haldir the Hunter - Trouble in Tharbad

The strategy of this deck seems quite appropriate, as Haldir served as a scout for the lady Galadriel. In protecting Lórien, many a foul Orc was slain on the border of the woods, before it ever knew of Haldir’s presence. This is just one way to implement a Haldir deck, I am looking forward to a Spirit Silvan hero, so that I can finally build Elf decks without the Secrecy staple (and crutch), Glorfindel.

Haldir-of-Lórien (TiT) - smallmerry-tbr-smallglorfindel

Heroes:
Haldir of Lórien (TiT)
Merry (TBR)
Glorfindel (FoS)

Allies: 15
Silvan Refugee (TDF) x3
Arwen Undómiel (TWitW) x2
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Galadhrim Minstrel (TiT) x2
Master of the Forge (SaF) x2
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 22
Expert Treasure-Hunter (TH:OHaUH) x3
Dagger of Westernesse (TBR) x3
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x2
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Miruvor (SaF) x2
Lembas (TiT) x2
Protector of Lórien (Core) x2
Asfaloth (FoS) x2
Resourceful (TWitW) x3

Events: 13
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x2
Courage Awakened (TiT) x2
Noiseless Movement (TTT) x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3

Posted in Deck Lists, GenCon, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deck: GenCon 2014 (Updated)

GenCon2014-badgeAnother year has flown by, and it is once again time for my pilgrimage to the far-off kingdom of Indianapolis. The convocation of nerd-wizards always brings some surprises, and an early look at the latest expansions for our fair game. Best of all, it will provide an opportunity to play multi-player games with friends, and without the need for OCTGN and Skype.

Gandalf-TRDThis year, recent talk has focused on the just-announced Gandalf hero, and how dramatically he looks to shake up the meta-game. I for one and very excited about the GenCon exclusive quest. This year we will be traveling to the Barrow Downs. This bear is hoping to run into an old friend, Mr. Tom Bombadil, along the way. As good as my honey cakes are, the only food that I’ve had to better them is the food served by Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry. In any case, there will no doubt be lots of nasty undead enemies to slay along the way, which should help to build up a powerful appetite.

We of The Grey Company have decided to coordinate our decks this year, so that we can play four player games using heroes that represent the members of Fellowship of the Ring. The hope is that The Road Darkens will be available at GenCon, so that we can play it together with these decks. With 12 heroes between us, and only nine in the original fellowship, we will obviously have to make some allowances for more minor characters in our decks. Another interesting twist, and one that needs to be accounted for when gauging the relative strength of the new Gandalf hero, is the impact of not being able to use either version of his ally card. Looking at the deck list below, the absence of Sneak Attack and Core Set Gandalf are both notable.

Campfire TalesAside from the omission of the ever-present wizard, this deck has several other features which mark is as a multi-player and support deck. Bill the Pony, while always a worthwhile ally to include in any deck with Sam Gamgee, is also here to boost the other decks which will include Hobbit heroes, as well as the Frodo Baggins fellowship hero. Campfire Tales, often not worth including in a solo deck, is quite strong in four-player games, especially when some of the other decks will lack card draw. Vassal of the Windlord and Rivendell Bow will provide some much-needed Range – always vital in multi-player games. The latter card is an excellent target for another player’s Glorfindel, as that hero will often be ready for combat after the quest phase.

Elven-Mail-smallAs illustrated in one of last year’s GenCon decks, Elrohir can become quite the defensive power with aid from Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Shield. The latest adventure pack brought us Elven Mail, which provides two things our defender has typically lacked: Sentinel and extra hit points. Those extra two hit points are almost as important as the Sentinel, because this deck lacks shadow cancellation. Still, the Sentinel is the biggest advantage of this attachment, with it Elrohir should be able to defend for all players at the table.

the-wizardss-voice-smallIn cases where we lack the Leadership resources for extra defending, or the enemy is simply too large, Feint is a logical inclusion for a support deck. In case of emergency, this deck even features two copies of The Wizard’s Voice. While Doomed 3 might seem like a hefty cost, the idea of being able to use 1 card to prevent 4 attacks in a critical round makes this a worthwhile inclusion. While a player might complain about raising their threat by 3, if it means saving one of their heroes from death, it seems like a fair trade.

This deck also includes an excessive amount of readying effects, if it was to be used for solo play. Given that each of our heroes already has an ability to ready themselves, some might wonder at the choice to include three copies of Cram and Grim Resolve. The idea here is that these cards are for the benefit of the other three players at the table. Grim Resolve, in particular, is an amazingly powerful card in a four player game. Cram will most likely be attached to Legolas, or Aragorn, given their useful keywords.

Errand-rider is a must in any deck which features resource acceleration or heroes from different spheres. In the case where there are fewer enemies, and Elrohir starts to pile up excess resources, we can always send them to other players. It is always a good idea, for example, to ensure that the players who include Spirit in their deck can afford to pay for their cancellation cards. If for some reason other players don’t need extra resources, this deck has a handful of powerful but expensive allies that it can pay for as well.

FaramirThe last card worth mentioning is Faramir. Three copies may seem excessive, but like Grim Resolve, the power of this card is so magnified in a four player game, that we want to make absolutely certain that we can get him on the table at some point. To be clear, it is very unlikely that I will be using Faramir to boost my own characters. This deck is much more designed as a combat and support deck – it’s primary role is not to quest. Other decks at the table however, will be committing many more characters to the quest, at which point Faramir’s ability becomes truly game-changing.

Apart from the as-yet unknown fate of The Road Darkens, it is always fun going into a new GenCon scenario not knowing what you will face. Four player games can be particularly challenging, as a bit of bad luck or an odd mix of locations can mean staging area lock and a quick death for all. This risk is precisely why this deck is so extreme in some of its choices. The main goal of this deck is two-fold: to use Elrohir and combat tricks (Feint, Wizard’s Voice) to ensure that we can safely engage most enemies immediately, and to use global boosting and readying effects to ensure that the other players can focus on making quest progress unimpeded. The fact the the readying will also allow other players to help out with combat is another benefit of this approach.

In any case, it will be interesting to see whether or not the lack of Core Set Gandalf greatly hinders this deck. I am also curious to see whether or not The Wizard’s Voice can be a life-saving card, or it just sits dead in my hand. More than anything, I can’t wait to see my friends from the Grey Company and enjoy some intense multi-player games of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. For anyone attending GenCon 2014, we will be at the Cardboard of the Rings event Friday morning, as well as hosting our own event off-site that same evening. Safe travels to all those attending, and I look forward to meeting you there!

Fellowship – Elladan, Elrohir, Sam Gamgee

elladanelrohirSam Gamgee

Heroes:
Elladan (RtR)
Elrohir (TRG)
Sam Gamgee (TBR)

Allies: 18
Errand-rider (HoN) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Bill the Pony (TBR) x3
Bofur (TH:OHaUH) x2
Denethor (EaAD) x2
Erestor (TLD) x2
Faramir (Core) x3

Attachments: 18
Cram (TH:OHaUH) x3
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Rivendell Bow (TWitW) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Elven Mail (TTT) x3

Events: 14
The Wizard’s Voice (VoI) x2
Foe-Hammer (TH:OHaUH) x3
Campfire Tales (THfG) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Grim Resolve (Core) x3

Post-GenCon Update!

Here are the rest of the Grey Company’s Decks.

Ian’s Deck

Gandalf-TRD-smallAragorn (TWitW)glorfindel

Heroes:
Gandalf (TRD)
Aragorn (TWitW)
Glorfindel (FoS)

Allies: 16
Bilbo Baggins (TRD) x3
Elrond (TRD) x2
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Ithilien Tracker (HoN) x2
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3

Attachments: 18
Miruvor (SaF) x3
Gandalf’s Staff (TRD) x2
A Burning Brand (TWitW) x2
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x2
Expert Treasure-hunter (TH:OtD) x2
Asfaloth (FoS) x2
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2

Events: 18
Flame of Anor (TRD) x3
Feint (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3

Matthew’s Deck

Boromir (Core)Gimlilegolas

Heroes:
Boromir (TDM)
Gimli (Core)
Legolas (Core)

Allies: 25
Westfold Outrider (VoI) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Beorn (Core) x2
Landroval (AJtR) x2
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Farmer Maggot (TBR) x2
Knight of Minas Tirith (AoO) x2

Attachments: 19
Rohan Warhorse (VoI) x2
Blade of Gondolin (Core) x2
Horn of Gondor (Core) x3
Dwarrowdelf Axe (KD) x2
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x2
Ring Mail (TLD) x3
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Gondorian Fire (AoO) x2

Events: 6
Foe-Hammer (TH:OHaUH) x3
Feint (Core) x3

Derek’s Deck

fatty-bolger-tbr-smallmerry-tbr-smallPippin (TBR)

Heroes:
Fatty Bolger (TBR)
Merry (TBR)
Pippin (TBR)

Allies: 14
Farmer Maggot (TBR) x2
Barliman Butterbur (TBR) x2
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Arwen Undómiel (TWitW) x2
Bilbo Baggins (TRD) x2
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3

Attachments: 12
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Good Meal (TRG) x3
Hobbit Pipe (TBR) x3
Dagger of Westernesse (TBR) x3

Events: 24
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Take No Notice (TBR) x3
Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3
Test of Will (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x2
Smoke Rings (TBR) x3
Unseen Strike (TRG) x2
Halfling Determination (TBR) x3
Power of Orthanc (VoI) x2

Posted in Community, Deck Lists, Fun, GenCon, The Grey Company, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Metagame: Part 4 – Core Set Supplements

the-hobbits-start-their-journey

One of the biggest challenges to introducing new players to this game is the Core Set. This statement might at first seem controversial, but anyone who has played this game this for long will begin to notice certain flaws in the game’s introductory set. A quick search in any of various forums for the phrases “Core Set” and “Tactics Deck” will serve to underscore this point.

The core set is designed to be an introduction to the game, and it is a wondrous game. Unfortunately, the game takes much more time to reveal its quality than I believe it should. On the forums, on my blog, and in person, I have had many people ask me how to build decks to handle the game’s early scenarios. The fact is, core set deck building is more limited and challenging than it needs to be.

This game is not easy, and I would not want it to be otherwise. It is possible to build viable decks using only the Core Set, as shown in Beorn’s Path, at Tales from the Cards, and elsewhere. However, these decks are at best marginally cohesive, thematically and strategically. Building strong decks, that also reflect the rich tapestry of Tolkien’s writings is one of the biggest reasons that I started this blog in the first place. The fact that it takes hundreds of dollars of investment to realize the true, deeper, potential of this game is a real shame.

core-setFor various reasons, political and practical, it is unrealistic for FFG to release a completely redesigned Core Set for this game. Instead, it makes more sense to supplement the existing product. Providing an easier introductory experience, for those less familiar with deck-building and card game strategy, makes all kinds of sense.

What I propose here are five decks, that could be provided as supplements to the core set. Whether they would be sold individually, or packaged together into a single more expensive product, is left to others to contemplate. To be clear, I am most interested in this problem from the perspective of new players and community building – the commercial aspects of productization are frankly boring. As a bear, and fearless Orc-slayer, the only gold that interests me is the honey from my hives.

There were several important goals that I had in mind when I was designing these deck lists. First and foremost, I wanted them to be fun to play. In each case, and often in very different ways, these decks provide excellent examples of the kind of dynamic and thematic game play that the game affords. At its best, this game is a battle of wits between players and the Dark Lord Sauron (or the encounter deck, if you prefer to be pedantic). To me, an good introduction would throw the players right into this fray.

Rather than puzzling about why their pre-built 30 card Tactics deck cannot achieve a single point of progress on the first quest in the entire game, it seems more interesting for a new player to puzzle over the best way to use their Gondorian army to overcome Ungoliant’s Spawn in the final stage. Purists might argue that an Army from Gondor amassing in the middle of Mirkwood is wrong, thematically. While they would not be wrong, the Core Set suffers from this same problem, only more so. What exactly is it that Aragorn, Théodred and Glóin have to do with each other again?

Tolkien-BooksUltimately, what makes this game unique are two key factors: deep strategy against a dynamic and evolving set of quests, and the wondrous setting of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. It seems only right then, that an introduction to the game would introduce players to both of these things. While the core set decks do teach the rudiments of in-game strategy, it is only in the most basic form. By mixing the decks, players can begin to understand certain deck-building concepts, but again, the limited pool means that there are only so many ways to combine those cards. Ideally, an introduction would provide a broader glimpse of this magical world.

The goal here is to provide ready-made decks, which are strong and thematic, and which also help players to understand key game concepts and learn to recognize combinations as well as general strategies. There is a reason why no strategy guide is included for the core set decks. The strategy with these decks, particularly Tactics and Spirit, is lacking in any sort of nuance. Each of the decks below would include a deck list, a thematic flavor text insert, and a brief description of the kinds of strategies recommended when playing the deck.

It is important to stress that these decks would serve as supplements to the Core Set. It is, after all, the Core Set which includes the game rules, threat trackers, and various tokens which are necessary for playing the game. The Core Rules should also be updated to include the most important of the games many errata. A player, having purchased the Core Set and any one of these decks, would be able to make a good showing against Passage Through Mirkwood and Journey Down the Anduin.

Hill TrollThe high threat decks might struggle against the Hill Troll at the beginning of Journey Down the Anduin. Likewise, the tri-sphere decks would be severely challenged by having a hero held captive before their Escape from Dol Guldur. The goal is not to make decks that will be equally successful against all scenarios – indeed this would be an impossible goal. The aim of these decks is rather to provide examples of cohesive and interesting archetypes, which provide a good introduction to the games deeper strategy.

Players could combine the cards from any of these decks with heroes and player cards from the Core Set and make new and interesting decks. As a new players expand their card pool with Adventure Packs and Deluxe Expansions, they could easily make changes to and improvements to these decks, or even combine them into entirely new archetypes.

A small but vocal minority has complained about the lack of 3 copies of each player card in the Core Set. As even the CEO of FFG has explained, it was a design decision to include a greater variety of cards rather than a more limited pool with a full set of each card. Honestly, with some of the cards in the Core Set, this is a completely irrelevant argument. I can’t imagine that anyone wants 2 extra copies of Brok Ironfist of Beorn’s Hospitality.

Unexpected CourageAs for the “power” cards like Unexpected Courage and Feint, I can certainly see the argument that it would be useful to have a full play set of these cards. As I stated at the outset, it is unrealistic to assume that the Core Set would change, even just to include 3 copies of each player card. One of the aims of these decks is to address this aspect of the Core Set, and fill in the gaps for these power cards.

As much as possible, the best cards with less than 2 copies have been included in these decks. This will allow players to build a full play set of the more powerful cards, without having to purchase multiple copies of the core set. In addition, players that prefer a particular sphere could easily use these decks to provide extra copies of key cards, to allow for building multiple decks. Ultimately, having options is a good thing, and being able to increase those options without having to purchase the same product twice is something that will appeal to many players.

In any case, there will no doubt be many who take issue with this proposal. Naysayers may well argue that the core set should not need supplementing to begin with. While the optimist in me would love to see a world where every hollow log was filled with honey; trolls never invaded my land – or online forums; and Wizards came to me with presents, instead of itinerant Dwarves. Sadly, that is not the world in which we live. As is so often the case, practical is the enemy of the ideal and expedient the death of perfection. 

By definition, the Core Set was designed before the game was ever released. Judged on its own merits, and despite what might seem are harsh criticisms, it has been an overwhelming success. These supplements were designed with the benefit of hindsight. Without exaggerating, I can say that this game is one of the best games, card game or otherwise, which I have ever had the pleasure to play. These proposals are made with the respectful goal of improving the game, particularly for new players. I welcome the feedback, criticisms and suggestions of all readers in the comments section below.

bear print

Guardians of Minas Tirith

Heroes
Boromir (HoN)
Prince Imrahil (AJtR)
Denethor (Core)

Allies: 26
Errand-Rider (HoN) x3
Squire of the Citadel (TBoG) x3
Guard of the Citadel (Core) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HoN) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Pelargir Ship Captain (TMV) x2
Ithilien Archer (EaAD) x2
Faramir (Core) x2
Anborn (TBoG) x2
Gandalf (Core) x2
Citadel Custodian (HoN) x2

Attachments: 12
Ranger Bow (AoO) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Visionary Leadership (TMV) x3
Ranger Spikes (HoN) x2
Forest Snare (Core) x2

Events: 12
Wealth of Gondor (HoN) x3
Deep Knowledge (VoI) x3
Sneak Attack (C0re) x2
For Gondor! (Core) x2
Grim Resolve (Core) x2

Riders of Westfold

Heroes
Éomer (VoI)
Éowyn (Core)
Dúnhere (Core)

Allies: 24
Westfold Horse-breeder (VoI) x3
Westfold Outrider (VoI) x3
Escort From Edoras (AJtR) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x3
Westfold Horse-breaker (THfG) x3
West Road Traveler (RtM) x3
Horseback Archer (Core) x2
Éomund (CatC) x2
Elfhelm (TDM) x2

Attachments: 12
Spear of the Mark (TMV) x3
Rohan Warhorse (VoI) x2
Firefoot (TDT) x2
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3
Steed of the Mark (TMV) x2

Events: 14
Feint (Core) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Mustering the Rohirrim (THfG) x2

Legacy of Durin

Heroes
Dain Ironfoot (RtM)
Balin (TH:OtD)
Bifur (KD)

Allies: 26
Erebor Record-keeper (KD) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Ered Nimrais Prospector (TMV) x3
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x2
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x2
Dwalin (TH:OtD) x2
Fili (TH:OHaUH) x2
Glóin (TH:OtD) x2
Kili (TH:OHaUH) x2
Erebor Battle Master (TLD) x2

Attachments: 12
Cram (TH:OHaUH) x3
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x3
Narvi’s Belt (KD) x3

Events: 12
A Very Good Tale (TH:OHaUH) x3
We Are Not Idle (SaF) x3
Durin’s Song (KD) x3
Lure of Moria (RtR) x3

Lords of Imladris

Heroes
Elrond (SaF)
Aragorn (TWitW)
Glorfindel (FoS)

Allies: 21
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Master of the Forge (SaF) x3
Harbor Master (TDF) x2
Rivendell Minstrel (THfG) x2
Northern Tracker (Core) x2
Gandalf (TH:OHaUH) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x3

Attachments: 18
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Miruvor (SaF) x3
Vilya (SaF) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x3
A Burning Brand (CatC) x3
Asfaloth (FoS) x3

Events: 11
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Lore of Imladris (Core) x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x2

Watchers of the Woods

Heroes
Celeborn (TDT)
Legolas (Core)
Mirlonde (TDF)

Allies: 24
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x3
Naith Guide (TDT) x3
Galadhrim Minstrel (TiT) x2
Silverlode Archer (Core) x2
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x2
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Rúmil (TTT) x2
Haldir of Lórien (AJtR) x2
Gandalf (Core) x2

Attachments: 14
Elf-Stone (TBR) x3
Protector of Lórien (Core) x2
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Rivendell Bow (TWitW) x2
Elven Mail (TTT) x2

Events: 12
Feigned Voices (TTT) x3
Gaining Strength (TSF) x3
Foe-Hammer (TH:OHaUH) x3
The Tree People (TDT) x3

Posted in Community, Metagame, New Players, Opinion, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Deck: Out of Ithilien

battle-of-waterloo-william-holmes-sullivan

All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called “guessing what was at the other side of the hill.”
–Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

One of the fascinating – and to some most enjoyable – things about a game that evolves is to see the way that new cards change old scenarios. Low-threat heroes like Spirit Glorfindel made quests like Conflict at the Carrock (still a personal favorite) much less intimidating, because they gave players the time to really prepare a solution to the troublesome trolls. As the game has grown, scenarios have gained nuance and dimensionality; the solutions are not so simple. For example, it is no longer sufficient to simply include a new hero or swap some old player cards for their latest, shinier, editions. What is needed is a real shift in thinking, away from the antiquated modes of thought and towards a new way of solving existing problems

glorfindelNew strategies do not spring Athena-like, fully formed from our heads and ready to fight. We must evolve these new ways of playing. Old cards can be used in new ways. Lessons can be taken from past experiences to make decks which are better prepared from the particular challenges of a quest. New cards, which can at first seem weak or overly situational, must be examined objectively and embraced.

Just as the Wellington quote above says so eloquently: it is important that we use what we know to help us learn about what we don’t know. We must be humble to the fact that some scenarios are so challenging when we first play them, and use that humility to learn about our enemy. Let there be no dissembling, the encounter deck is our enemy, and in order to beat the most difficult scenarios in the game we must use every weapon at our disposal to pummel it into submission.

Ever since Heirs of Númenor was released, Into Ithilien has been the source of some controversy. The first article that I wrote on this blog was about this meddlesome scenario, and my first thoughts on a strategy for surviving it. Suffice it to say, the last year and a half has brought many changes, not only to the card pool but the high-level metagame strategies. Against the Shadow has, if nothing else, proven that the seismic shifts brought in Heirs of Númenor were no fluke. Just looking at the first two Adventure Packs of the Ring-maker cycle we can see more evidence of this. Scenarios are only going to continue to test our deck-building and in-game strategy skills.

Blocking WargsIn the time since its release, Into Ithilien has become one of my favorite scenarios. That a past version of me would have found this last sentence ludicrous is a testament to the evolution of the game, and my own progression as a player. Certainly, the errata of Blocking Wargs helped to mellow its sting just a bit. Regardless, this scenario remains a serious challenge and is still considered one of the most difficult standard scenarios. Even with the latest cards and strategies, the encounter deck for this scenario can seem almost cruel in its severity.

Until more recently, I had held to the notion of having one or two solid all-around decks, which I would use for most scenarios. If Against the Shadow puts cracks in the foundation of this idea, The Voice of Isengard and Ring-maker cycle have been a pile of dynamite. The idea that single deck, even with a “sideboard” of cards to swap out, can handle every scenario in the game is increasingly becoming a myth. The simple fact is that modern quests are too varied in their approach, and two divergent in their requirements to be easily answered with a single deck.

This realization is a constant frustration for that small but vocal group of players that enjoy that game but do not enjoy the process of building new decks. While I share my co-host Matthew’s incredulous bafflement at the though of playing a Living Card Game when you don’t like to deck build, the issue remains. With such a vibrant community around the game, there is an alternative for those that want to enjoy the theme and strategic challenge of playing, without going through the process of building a deck: use a deck built by someone else.

With that in mind, I encourage those that want an excellent deck for Into Ithilien to try this build. I have evolved it over dozens of plays, and when played carefully it will net a very favorable win ratio against this daunting quest. While I have only played it solo, I have no doubt that it will perform admirably against this scenario in multi-player games, as well. Without further preamble, let’s get into what makes this deck work.

One of the first things that comes to the eye, when looking over the deck list below, is the disproportionate ratio of allies to attachments and event. Almost half of this deck is allies. Most of these allies cost 1 or 2 resources. It is no coincidence that this deck skews the 24/13/13 ratio that can be found in a vast majority of my decks.

With only 9 attachments – a full play set of 3 different cards – this deck runs very light on attachments. On the other hand, all of the 12 events cost either 1 resource or are absolutely free. This is yet another example of aggressive strategy that has been showing up in some of my other recent decks. Of all the scenarios in the game, Into Ithilien is one of the most relentless and unforgiving, so more than anything we need a deck that is ready from the first round.

Boromir (TDM)It should come as no surprise that this deck features Tactics Boromir. Of all the heroes to bring to a scenario that features Battle and Siege quest stages, Boromir is one of the best. The fact that he can always be counted on to commit significant stats to the quest and still help out with combat duties, makes the first son of Denethor the heart and soul of this deck.

ThalinBoromir will not be going through Into Ithilien alone, with him will be one of the unheralded heroes from the Core Set: Thalin. Not only is his ability essential for mitigating one of the more obnoxious enemies in the scenario, but his well-rounded stats mean that he will be a worthwhile contribution to the quest, not matter what the stage is. Don’t underestimate Thalin’s nullifying the bats. In a scenario with so many nasty cards, having 3 cards in the encounter deck that now do absolutely nothing is a huge win for us.

The last of our heroes should come as no surprise. Spirit Glorfindel is the most efficient way to gain access to treachery and surge cancellation effects. His stats are amazing in both the first and third stages of this quest, and with Light of Valinor he can join Boromir in combat after he has contributing in the earlier rounds. Still, the number one reason why our third hero must be Spirit is to protect ourselves from the truly awful assortment of effects that the encounter deck brings to bear.

While many of the ally choices are pretty straightforward, there are two particular characters that I want to highlight here. Ian has a great spoiler of the Minas Tirith Lampwright over at Tales from the Cards. While his review of the card was more balanced, it is fair to say that many have found this ally to be underwhelming. From what I can see, he does not seem to appear in many deck lists and he is not spoken of by many as being a solution card. I have been using him more lately, and I can personally vouch that this card is actually very useful.

Minas-Tirith-LampwrightBlocking Wargs and Watcher in the Wood, two of the most troublesome cards in this scenario, both feature some form of surge. Watcher in the Wood technically does not surge in the final quest stage if your threat is below 37, but you will very seldom find yourself in that situation, so the point is only of interest to the most trollishly pedantic. The point is this, Into Ithilien is bad enough only revealing one encounter card per player per round, surge is something to be avoided at all costs. A Test of Will and Eleanor provide no protection from surge, and something like Denethor would be far to passive a solution to be viable in this scenario.

What we need is a cheap, easily expendable ally that we can use to mitigate the risk of surge. The biggest criticism of the Lampwright is that you have to guess the surging card in order to cancel it. I’m going to let you all in on a secret. The locations are not going to be the things that kill you in this scenario. In fact, once we clear the Ithilien Road on the first round, we can pretty much be grateful whenever locations are revealed from the encounter deck. Under no circumstances have I ever discarded the Minas Tirith Lampwright and named location.

Morgul-SpiderThis leaves enemies and treacheries. With Boromir and his army of eagle allies, enemies are very seldom going to pose a problem for this deck. The only enemy in the entire encounter deck that this build has any trouble killing is a single copy of the mighty Mûmak. With its engagement cost at 38, and our starting threat at 25, our goal will be to never engage that terrifying beast. Even i f we need to optionally engage the Oliphaunt, it will be before we quest out to win the game on the final stage. The only truly obnoxious enemy in this scenario ends up being the Morgul Spider, simply because of its nasty When Revealed effect and low engagement cost.

To make a long story short: you should almost always choose Treachery when you discard the Minas Tirith Lampwright to cancel a surge effect. I could not tell you the number of times I’ve cancelled a surge into Southron Support or Watcher in the Woods and been grateful to have a poorly animated, lamp-lighting, friend along for the journey. What to do with him on the fortunate trips through Ithilien that don’t involve any surge?

The answer to that quest is staring us right in the face. His stats are only useful for siege, and that barely a factor, so do not hesitate to offer up Lampwright pie as a main course to any one of the deadly foes in this scenario. The aforementioned spider is a great example of this strategy. In a battler quest where we want to hold back defenders, the spider easily be swinging for 7 or 8 attack. There is absolutely no reason to put Boromir in front of that attack, even if we have Support of the Eagles ready. A much safer option is to let the Lampwright take one for the team, and save our threat, and Boromir action, for a better opportunity.

Gondorian DisciplineChump blocking is not without its Risks in Into Ithilien. Blocking Wargs can be every bit as bad as a shadow card as it is when revealed from the encounter deck. It would spell disaster to have this shadow effect remove the Lampwright as our defender against one of the many powerful enemies, we cannot afford to lose a hero in this scenario. This is where the Lampwright’s trait proves useful. Gondorian Discipline, another consistently underrated card from Against the Shadow cycle, comes to rescue. There are only 3 copies of Blocking Wargs in the encounter deck, so odds are pretty good that it won’t be a shadow card when we choose to chump block, but just in case Gondorian Discipline makes the perfect insurance policy.

If the shadow effect is one of the many that boosts the attack still further, we can heave a sigh of relief as our Lampwright is torn to shreds by a vicious band of Haradrim. Otherwise, we will be glad that we had a contingency plan. Gondorian Discipline is not just for chump blocking, it can also help if we need to defend against a Southron Company before we have defensive cards like Gondorian Shield of Support of the Eagles attached. In a pinch, it can even soak archery damage if we don’t want to risk putting our heroes too close to death. The fact that it is a response, and costs nothing, makes this card amazingly versatile, particularly when Boromir is going to be doing most of the heavy lifting.

Westfold-Outrider (small)In a recent article, I spent quite a bit of time singing the praises of the Westfold Outrider. I won’t bore everyone by repeating it all here, but everything that I said about this great cards applies for Into Ithilien. Along with the Lampwright and the Gondorian Discipline tricks, this card is one of the changes in strategy that allows this deck to be so successful against this quest.

Going back to my first article, it has always made the most sense to me to try to rush through the first stage with Celador alive. There are simply too many things that can go wrong with waiting. Southron Support, Blocking Wargs and Watcher in the Wood are all a constant threat to wipe you out. Wait too long and even death by Mûmak becomes a very real possibility. To top it all off, the built-in archery in stage 2 is a very immediate problem for any deck that does not include healing effects.

In general, aggressive questing is a solid strategy for many scenarios, and Into Ithilien is no exception. However, arriving at stage 3 without enough help can be a deadly mistake. Because engagement checks are no longer made, enemies can pile up in the staging area and make progress impossible. The locations in this quest tend to have a lot of quest points, so that will bog us down as well. Still, the risk of location lock is great, so we should almost always travel when given the option. There is nothing more hopeless that watching the staging area fill with threat and knowing that the game will end before we even make it to the final stage.

Silvan RefugeeEven if we do manage to escape stage 3, if we spend too many rounds there it will make little difference. It is a rather unpleasant experience engaging 4 enemies at once in the final stage after they all piled up in the staging area. Even with the support of his eagle friends, Boromir is not actually invincible.

The best approach is to arrive at stage 3 with sufficient willpower that we can clear it in about 2 rounds. This is where the Outrider, along with Silvan Refugees, form an essential part of this deck’s strategy. It might at first seem odd to include an ally that is discarded after another ally leaves play. True, this can be an incredibly devastating effect when combined with the forced effect on Celador.

This is why we will never play the Silvan Refugee in the first stage of this quest. The refugee is included in this deck for one and only one reason: making a mad dash through stage 3. Nothing in this scenario punishes us for holding cards in our hand. So if we draw a Refugee early in the game, great, we can hold onto it until we actually need it.

The 3rd stage then presents us with two viable strategies. We either try to keep every ally in play and power through, or we use Westfold Outriders and direct damage from Gandalf to remove enemies from the staging area and make it easier for our heroes and other questing allies. While we obviously can’t use both strategies at the same time, there is no reason why we can’t switch from one strategy to the other, half way through the stage.

A good example of this happened in a recent game. With no Test of Will in hand, but two Silvan Refugees in play, I took the risk and committed them both to the quest. As it turned out, luck was not in my favor, and Blocking Wargs killed both Refugees, which in turned proved the death of Celador. With 6 willpower lost, one might think that my chances of victory had died with them, but this deck is a bit more resilient than that.

Watcher-in-the-WoodArwen, Eagles of the Misty Mountains and each of my heroes still survived. Since I no longer had to worry about things leaving play, I discarded a Minas Tirith Lampwright and named treachery. The Watcher in the Woods that was revealed next would have raised my threat by 5, but instead was cancelled. Being able to use a 1 cost ally as another copy of A Test of Will is pretty amazing, if you ask me.

In any case, on the next round I spent 7 resources for a Westfold Outrider and a Gandalf, which killed the only enemy in play, a Southron Company with 1 damage from Thalin. Granted, this only removed 1 threat from the staging area, but in a scenario this demanding, ever little advantage helps. After questing with all of my heroes, Arwen, Eagles of the Misty Mountain and Gandalf, a Southron Mercenaries was revealed. Before resolving the quest, I discarded the Outrider to immediately engage the mercenaries.

This left no threat in the staging area and allowed me to complete stage 3. Gandalf took the archery damage and Boromir readied to defend the attack with his Gondorian Shield. Lastly, Boromir and a Vassal of the Windlord were able to finish off the pesky archer so that I was ready to power through the final stage. The Vassal leaving play after its attack was no longer a problem, as I had now switched completely to the “discard a will” strategy. With all four copies of Blocking Wargs in the discard pile, I could safely quest on the final stage knowing that the only card to beat me would be the last copy of Watcher in the Wood.

After all that, there was still one card in the encounter deck that could defeat me if I did not quest carefully. This is a testament to just how tense and thrilling an experience it is to survive a trek Into Ithilien. Feel free to leave your own war stories in the comments, and I hope that this deck inspires players to go back and look at this scenario with a fresh perspective. Good luck, making it out of Ithilien!

You can also download this deck in OCTGN format.

Heroes:
Boromir (TDM)
Thalin (Core)
Glorfindel (FoS)

Allies: 29
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Minas Tirith Lampwright (EaAD) x3
Silvan Refugee (TSF) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x2
Defender of Rammas (HoN) x3
Westfold Outrider (VoI) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 9
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Events: 12
Gondorian Discipline (EaAD) x3
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x3
Feint (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3

Posted in Deck Building, Deck Lists, Metagame, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

3 Things I Like About the Ring-maker Cycle

Everybody Just Calm Down Bear (large)Something about the nearly-instantaneous speed of the internet, and our instant gratification-obsessed culture seems to have given everyone license to complain. The pseudo-anonymity of online forums only exacerbates this problem. Take a perfectly happy and well-adjusted human being and give them a browser and some time to kill, and the world just becomes a little bit sadder. The truth is, we love to complain, about everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good gripe as much as the next bear, but at a certain point it serves no useful purpose. Take the delays in the Ring-maker cycle. Setting aside for the moment that design, playtesting and art all take time, everyone just really needs to take a deep breath and relax. The game is in good hands, and everything is going to be okay. If we have to wait a bit longer than expected, it will not be the end of the world.

So, as a bear of action, I would like to put my honey where my mouth is, so to speak. In the spirit of contributing something positive to serve as counterpoint to all of the whinging and grousing, I want to talk about a few things that I like. What follows are three things that have me very excited about The Voice of Isengard and it’s accompanying Ring-maker cycle.

Westfold Outrider

Westfold-Outrider (small)There is just so much to love about this ally. For starters, 2 attack for 2 resources is solid for a Tactics ally, regardless of their traits and abilities. The fact that our Rohirrim friend also has 1 defense and 2 hit points means that he can safely be used as chump blocker, without worrying about direct damage shadow effects.

But his stats are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what makes this card so good. It is not exaggeration to say that the ability on this card is one of the most versatile in the game. This is especially true when you consider that you are only paying 2 resources for the Outrider. Tactics is not a resource-rich sphere, so saving resources is essential. So what makes this ability so great?, you ask.

Heavy tactics decks can easily kill most enemies. Heroes like Boromir, Legolas and Gimli are all quite adept at quickly dispatching powerful foes. The age-old problem for Tactics is this: how to help with the quest phase, before enemies encounter. A dedicated Tactics deck might be able to get away with not sending anyone to the quest in a multi-player game. In fact this is often the best strategy to leave all of the characters with combat prowess ready for that phase of the game.

However, many scenarios are not so simple. Some enemies, like Goblin Archer and Bill Ferny, cannot be optionally engaged. Other enemies such as Morgul Tracker have high threat and punish you for optional engagement. Still others like Attercop, Attercop will automatically engage a particular player, often not the Tactics player that would be ideal.

East-gateWhat’s more, many locations and scenarios prevent engagement of any kind. The East-Gate in Khazad-dûm and The Hidden Way of Into Ithilien are just two such examples. As the game evolves, the designers devise new and clever ways to challenge decks out of there sweet spots. This is why an ability like Westfold Outrider is so critical for Tactics decks. We know that we will be able to win the fight, once we engage them, the real problem is ensuring that we can engage the enemy in the first place.

To be clear, this ability can be used for more than just forced engagement. Just last night, I was in a three player game of Conflict at the Carrock and I was able to use the Outrider to help finish off a pesky troll. With four trolls and only three players, the first player was stuck with one too many trolls. Éomer was ready to help slay the foul monster, but he unfortunately does not have range. This is where the player order actually matters.

I feinted one of the two trolls engaged with the first player, so that he wouldn’t have to deal with two huge attackers at once. Since counter-attacks are declared in player order, I waited until after the first player counter-attacked and put some damage on one of his trolls. Then, before it was my turn to declare attacks, I discarded my Outrider to pull the wounded troll over to me.

Prince Imrahil stood up and took notice of my Outrider’s sacrifice and winded the Horn of Gondor. Likewise, Éomer was understandably upset at the loss of one of his compatriots. Together my two heroes were able to finish off the smelly troll so that we would not have to face another of its frenzied attacks. This kind of tactic is useful when you lack heroes with Ranged that can participate in attacks against enemies engaged with other players. The fact that discarding the Outrider plays perfectly into Éomer’s ability only underscores how useful this ally is.

For now, the Rohan trait is mostly flavor, but this will not always be the case. True, you can devise some esoteric strategy with Éomund to ready the Outrider, but this seems like a lot of work for little pay off. You can also use Mustering the Rohirrim to fetch him from your deck. This, at least, seems a bit more useful, especially in scenarios with those pesky enemies that get stuck in the staging area. As good as the Westfold Outrider is now, with an amazing ability, good stats and a useful trait, I suspect that this card will only get better with time.

Dunlendings

Dunland-Berserker (small)My favorite scenarios are like intense puzzles. Where at first everything seems a mess, and it is not clear what belongs where, with persistence and patience the bigger picture emerges. The process of discovery and progression that comes with evolving a deck and strategy for a particular scenario is one of the best things about this game.

Newer scenarios in particular have been pushing the boundaries of the metagame. While at first it can be a bit disconcerting, this pushing of the envelope is ultimately a very good thing for the long-term health of the game.

The Voice of Isengard and its Dunlending enemies brought some serious card-hate to the metagame. Gone are the days where using Legacy of Durin to draw 6 cards in one turn is a safe bet. Likewise, scenarios like the Dunland Trap prevent you from saving key cards like A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke for when you need them most. In general, the game is forcing many players out of their comfort zone and into a much more aggressive style of play.

This has been especially true for me, where the extreme card denial of The Dunland Trap pushed me to make my most aggressive deck to date. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and I have been having a blast playing this style of hyper-aggressive deck. These decks distill the old saying: the best defense is a good offense. If you know that the first stage will force you to discarding your hand every other round, build a deck that relies on powerful heroes rather than an army of allies. If stage 2 takes away all of our allies but one, then have that ally be an Eagles of the Misty Mountains with monstrous stats. If our weapons and mounts are going to get stolen, then lets rely on Skills and Conditions instead.

Some players prefer to try to make one deck an play it against all scenarios. As someone who really enjoys deck building, and the enjoyment that comes for developing strategies around different cards, I have never quite understood that. The way the game is evolving name, the why of a one-deck-to-rule-them-all philosophy is moot. It simply is not possible any more to rely on a single deck, a single archetype or even a single strategy to reliably succeed against the wondrous multitudes of challenges that face us.

I for one embrace this change in the game. Until I made Aggro Boromir, the idea of playing a deck with a 32 starting threat just seemed crazy. It is fun to be proven wrong. Not only is this deck not crazy, it has been the most consistent of any of the decks I have played against The Dunland Trap. Kudos to Caleb and Matt on the decisions that went into this scenario. Not only is this a very thematic adventure what with the raiding and plundering Dunlendings, but it forces the metagame to adapt in ways that are really intriguing.

The Tempo Archetype

Éomer (small)Ever since I saw Prince Imrahil and Horn of Gondor, I always wanted to design a deck around allies leaving play. My initial attempt with Sneak Attack, Valiant Sacrifice and an army of eagles was somewhat disappointing. While the deck had its moments, it relied too heavily on Sneak Attack and Gandalf, a combo which is dominate in every deck since the game was released.

There were several challenges that kept this from being a viable archetype. For one thing, there was a serious lack of cheap allies early on this game. Sure Snowbourn Scout is cheap, but it doesn’t really do much once its in play, and you still had to pay for all of these sacrificial allies. The rest of the allies in these early decks would cost 2 or 3 resources, and at that point it hurts to be chump blocking.

Squire of the CitadelThis is where two new Gondorian allies came to the rescue. Errand-rider is an excellent ally, and gets consideration for just about any Leadership deck that I build. His ability is particularly critical for multi-sphere decks, to ensure that resources never sit unspent. The fact the Errand-rider has 2 hit points for soaking Archery or safely chump blocking just makes him that much better.

The other ally is a personal favorite, and one that is just so much fun to sacrifice to the biggest meanest enemies in the game. The poor Squire of Citadel was designed with this archetype in mind. His stats are effectively non-existent, he is the physical manifestation of a mythological concept.

Every fair tale since the dawn of time has the wide-eyed innocent would stumbles into a situation that is truly and simply beyond their understanding or abilities. Terrible world of Dark Lords, Dragons, Fell Beasts and Balrogs, meet Squire of the Citadel. I would say “get to know each other”, but your relationship is not going to last long.

Philosophical musing aside, the Squire fills an essential roll in this new tempo archetype: he is the ideal trigger for all of your other effects. With Horn of Gondor on Prince Imrahil, you will actually gain a resource for sacrificing this poor boy to the forces of darkness. Tough luck for him, but hey, we’ve got a war to win!

It is not uncommon when I play my favorite tempo deck to trigger 5 different effects of this poor sap meeting some terrible end. Éomer, Prince Imrahil, Horn of Gondor, Valiant Sacrifice and the Squire himself all have abilities that trigger when he leaves play. This is a lot of benefit for a – no offense – minimal cost. With enough chump blockers you can essential guarantee action advantage for Imrahil, tactical advantage for Éomer and card or resource advantage from your various tricks. This is a potent combination of effects.

The reason why I call this new archetype Tempo is because it plays differently that the Turtle or Aggro archetypes. Aggro decks rely on the fact that just about everything should be engaging immediately. This is why Aggro Boromir has 8 attack strength ready to go from turn 1. A tempo deck like Westfold to the Rescue can potentially bring this kind of power to bear, but it is not necessarily going to do so from the first round. Turtle decks on the other hand want to drag the game out as long as it takes to get a stranglehold on the staging area and the scenario’s win condition.

Tempo decks exist between the margins of the Turtle to Aggro spectrum. As the name suggests, there is a cadence to playing this style of deck. You might save up a few allies, questing with Éowyn and Imrahil and waiting to get your Horn of Gondor and Rohan Warhorse online. Whereas an Aggro deck needs to be ready from the jump, a Tempo deck can spend a few rounds to setup. Unlike a Turtle deck however, you don’t want to wait too long.

Northern TrackerTempo decks will often lack the kind of big-ticket allies like Gildor or Northern Tracker that a Turtle deck relies on for the end-game. Sure, you could includes these kinds of allies in a tempo deck, but once you slow the game down and rely on powerful allies, you are by definition no longer playing a Tempo-style. A Tempo wants to get setup within the first few rounds then use all of its cool tricks to quickly rush to victory.

To use a real example, I was playing a modified version of Westfold to the Rescue in the aforementioned multi-player game of Conflict at the Carrock. With a Snowbourn Scout and Squire of the Citadel in play, and Horn of Gondor on Imrahil and Rohan Warhorse on Éomer, I was ready to take on some trolls. By discarding an Outrider, I was able to ready Imrahil and boost Éomer. After some chump blocking (sorry Squire!), The son of Éomund and Prince of Dol Amroth finished off one troll. Éomer on his trusty steed then readied and took a health chunk out of the other troll. The Horse-breeder that brought Éomer his mount was no longer needed on the subsequent turn, so she succumbed to death by Troll-smash. Éomer and Imrahil then were able to finish off the last troll.

Because of all of the chump blocking, a Tempo deck can struggle with sustaining this kind rhythm. What is really is needed for this archetype is more card drawing, as Valiant Sacrifice can be a bit anemic. In any case, the point is not to chump block for the 10 or 12 rounds that a Turtle deck would spend to defeat a scenario. The idea is to setup a couple of critical turns where you use you sacrificial allies to maximal effect and then race to the finish.

This archetype is not new, per se, but it has certainly been made much more consistent by some of the newer cards. In addition to all of the great things I said about it above, The Westfold Outrider will be a staple in these decks. As yet another way to play, the Tempo Archetype is an exciting addition to the metagame.

So there you have it, three new things to be excited about. Complain if you must, but there are some great developments to look forward to. If the latest announcements are to be trusted, The Three Trials should be released soon. In the mean time, stay positive, and have fun thinking about what you will do with the next batch of cards!

Posted in Card Lists, Community, Fun | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Beorn’s Path: Part 14 – Into the Pit

bear-pit

Welcome back to Beorn’s Path! After some time off to relax, I have emerged from my cave and am ready to resume my journey through Middle-Earth. For those that have not had a chance to follow Beorn’s Path up to this point, I encourage you to go back and read about all of the adventures that brought us here. Our next stop on Beorn’s Path takes us into the depths of the abandoned Dwarven Kingdom of Khazad-dûm.

BifurKhazad-dûm was the first deluxe expansion released for this game, so it only seems fitting that we would create a Dwarf-themed deck to play against the scenarios therein. As always with Beorn’s Path, decks will only include cards that were released as of the scenario being played. Since we have mastered some of the more basic concepts of deck building, we are going to be a bit more ambitious and try out a three-sphere deck. Building and playing a deck with heroes from 3 different spheres is not easy, but Khazad-dûm gives us a hero in Bifur which makes this a much less daunting task.

Here is the deck list that I will be using for the first Khazad-dûm scenario: Into the Pit. As with past installments, we may be tweaking these decks as we progress through the scenarios, but the basic deck design should stay consistent. One last note for those with only 1 copy of the Core Set. I have included 3 copies of key cards like Steward of Gondor and Feint even thought the Core Set only has 2 copies of these cards.

The reason for this is simple: I want to make the best deck that I can make. Earlier versions of this deck that limited themselves to 2 copies of the key cards did not play consistently enough in playtesting. For those that want to play use this deck, but don’t want to buy a second copy of the Core Set, I encourage you to proxy the missing cards. Alternatively, you can show Caleb and Matt your appreciation and buy a second copy. You can also download this deck in OCTGN format, if you just want to play online.

Heroes:
Dain Ironfoot (RtM)
Thalin (Core)
Bifur (KD)

Allies: 26
Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x2
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Gléowine (Core) x3
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core) x3
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 14
Dúnedain Warning (CatC) x3
Dwarrowdelf Axe (KD) x2
Protector of Lórien (Core) x3
Narvi’s Belt (KD) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3

Events: 10
Parting Gifts (AJtR) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x2

Setup and Opening Hand

Our opening hand is as follows: Gondorian Spearman, Steward of Gondor, Daughter of the Nimrodel, Dúnedain Warning, Miner of the Iron Hills and Longbeard Orc Slayer. This is a perfect opening hand, so we will most certainly keep it. The key to a multi-sphere deck is always going to be resources, and having Steward of Gondor to start the game will ensure that we have enough resources to go around. Bifur will also benefit, as there is more likely to be a spare resource on one of our other heroes that we can transfer to him.

01a Setup

For setup we will attach Cave Torch to Thalin and reveal one card from the encounter deck: Branching Paths. We can expect to see a fair number of locations in these scenarios, and all things considered this is one of the more benign ones. The forced effect that triggers after we explore it can actually be a benefit, as it allows us to move some potentially deadly treacheries to the bottom of the encounter deck. The one sphere that our deck lacks is Spirit, so treacheries are one of the few things that can pose major problems. In any case, since Branching Paths is a Dark location, we also have the option of using the Cave Torch to explore it without having to travel there.

Round 1: Stage 1B (0 of 7 progress)
27 threat (First Player)
Hand: Gondorian Spearman, Steward of Gondor, Daughter of the Nimrodel, Dúnedain Warning, Miner of the Iron Hills and Longbeard Orc Slayer
— Dain: 1 resource, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 1 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 1 resource, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: East Gate (0 of 7 progress)
Staging Area: Branching Paths

To start the game we draw a second copy of Daughter of the Nimrodel. Extra healing is not necessarily a bad thing, as we can expect quite a bit of combat in this scenario. With swarms of enemies a very real potential, we may even have to take an undefended attack at some point. Having the Silvan along for the journey should make these attacks much less dangerous.

To start off planning we are going to immediately exhaust Cave Torch to explore Branching Paths. Exhausting the torch means that we have to discard the top card of the encounter deck: Zigil Mineshaft. Since this is not an enemy we can go ahead and leave it in the discard pile. The forced on Branching Paths makes us look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck: Burning Low, Stairs of Náin and Signs of Conflict. We will reveal Burning Low and put the other two on the bottom of the encounter deck. Since Burning Low’s effects only last until the end of the planning phase, it will have no meaningful impact right now. Since we need two resources on Dain before we can play the Steward of Gondor, we will go ahead and save up resources for this round.

For the quest phase we will exhaust and commit Bifur and Thalin for a total of 5 willpower.
At staging get a Goblin Follower. It takes 1 damages and engages us immediately (we count as the first and last player in a solo game). Ordinarily, we would not be able to engage enemies while the East Gate is in play, however the Goblin Follower’s specifically circumvents the effects of the Gate as he sneaks up behind us.

Already, we can see the benefit of Thalin’s ability as the Goblin has been damaged without us having to do a thing. With nothing in the staging area, our 5 willpower translates to 5 progress on East Gate, so hopefully we will be able to clear that location next round. It is essential for us to clear this first gate quickly, as waiting could be fatal. Having enemies and locations pile up in the staging area before we have had time to muster our allies would mean that we never make it past the first stage.

For combat we deal a shadow card to the Goblin follower and exhaust Dain to declare his an a defender. The shadow card is a Goblin Scout so Dain does not take any damage from the attack. With no characters left to counter-attack, we will leave the Goblin where he is and wait patiently for help to arrive.

01b Combat

Round 2: Stage 1B (0 of 7 progress)
28 threat (First Player)
Hand: Gondorian Spearman, Steward of Gondor, Daughter of the Nimrodel x2, Dúnedain Warning, Miner of the Iron Hills and Longbeard Orc Slayer
— Dain: 2 resources, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resources, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 2 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: East Gate (5 of 7 progress)
Staging Area: Empty
Engaged: Goblin Follower (3 of 4 hit points)

For our second card we will draw another Minor of the Iron Hills. Again, this duplication is not necessarily a bad thing as Watchful Eyes is a very dangerous Condition attachment, so it will be good to have a solution if that card comes up.  For planning we will pay 2 from Dain to given him Steward of Gondor. This is not the most thematic attachment for our King Under the Mountain, but Dwarf-themed resource acceleration was simply not available at this point in the game. We will exhaust our Title attachment and add 2 resources back to Dain’s resource pool.

Next, we will pay 2 from Thalin to play Gondorian Spearman. The Spearman combined with Thalin’s ability is going to give us a tremendous advantage in this scenario. Many of the Goblins have only 2 hit points, so as long as they are revealed while Thalin is questing, the Spearman will be able to kill them without having to risk dangerous shadow effects. Lastly, we will transfer 1 resource from Dain to Bifur so that we have 3 Lore resources to spend. We will use these to play a Daughter of the Nimrodel. With healing in play, we can defend with Dain and worry less about shadow effects that might boost an enemy’t attack strength.

Entering the quest phase, we will again commit Bifur and Thalin for 5 willpower. The staging step brings us a nasty surprise: Signs of Conflict, which raises our threat to 30 and surges into a Goblin Swordsman. The Swordsman does take 1 damage from Thalin. With 5 willpower against 1 threat, we make 4 total progress. The first 2 of this progress explores East Gate, and it is added to our victory display. Once East Gate leaves play, we add the First Hall to the Staging Area. The other 2 progress goes to stage 1B where we have 5 progress left. We’re not so concerned with progress on the stage itself, since we have to clear First Hall and Bridge of Khazad-dûm before we can move on to the next stage.

For our travel phase, we will raise our threat to 33 to make First Gate the active location. We could wait to do this, but our threat will only get higher, and we need to be aggressive moving through this scenario. The more that we let locations pile up in the staging area, the harder that it will be to make progress. For the encounter phase, the Goblin Swordsman engages us.

During combat, our Gondorian Spearman will get to show his value. By declaring the Spearman as a defender against the Goblin Swordsman, the Goblin is killed instantly – before it’s shadow card is even resolved. Dain will again block the Goblin Follower. The shadow card for that attack is another Signs of Conflict, so our threat climbs ever higher to 35. We started this round at 28 threat – all of these doomed effects have put us in danger of not having enough time to make it through this scenario alive.

02a Combat

Round 3: Stage 1B (2 of 7 progress)
36 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Dúnedain Warning, Miner of the Iron Hills x2 and Longbeard Orc Slayer
— Dain: 4 resources, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 1 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 1 resource, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: First Gate (0 of 2 progress)
Staging Area: Empty
Engaged: Goblin Follower (3 of 4 hit points)

For the third round, we draw another copy of Dúnedain Warning. Sometimes I wonder just how random the “shuffle” feature on OCTGN really is. In any case, we will be able to transform Dain into a fantastic defender, which will come in useful if we can survive to the later rounds. For planning we will transfer one resource from Dain to Bifur. We can then pay 2 resources from Bifur to play Miner of the Iron Hills. We don’t have any Condition attachments to target with his ability, but we need his as another character to help dealing with enemies.

For the quest phase we will commit Thalin and Miner of the Iron Hills for a total of 3 willpower. The idea here is to hold back Bifur as a defender so that we can hopefully start putting some damage on our engaged enemy. For staging we reveal another Goblin Follower. Now we are starting to see some of the swarming that this scenario can bring. The follower takes 1 damage from Thalin and engages immediately.

Bridge-of-Khazad-dûmOur 3 willpower against an empty staging area means that we make 3 progress. The first two progress explores First Hall, adding Bridge of Khazad-dûm to the staging area. The final 1 progress goes on stage 1B leaving us 4 progress left for this stage. We are going to skip traveling for now. We cannot risk going to the bridge just yet, we need a few more allies in play before we can afford to not be able to play cards.

For combat, we are going to take a risk and not declare a defender for one of these attacks. With a Daughter of the Nimrodel in play, as long as an attack does not deal more than 4 damage, we can survive it without losing a hero. For the undefended attack, the shadow card is Stairs of Náin, which forces us to exhaust Daughter of the Nimrodel. The three damage from this undefended attack will be dealt to Dain.

03a Combat

For the next attack, we will defend with Bifur. The shadow card for this attack is Dark and Dreadful which deals 1 damage to Bifur. The 3 attack strength of the Follower also deal 1 damage to Bifur so he is close to death’s door. We took a risk here with both of these attacks and fortunately we survived without losing a hero. The fact of the mater is that this game involves hard decisions. Barring extremely lucky draws from the encounter deck, you will find yourself in situations where you have to take risks. This is what makes this game fun. For our counter-attack, Dain and Gondorian Spearman will attack the first Goblin Follower for 3, dealing 1 damage to him.

03b Counterattack

Round 4: Stage 1B (3 of 7 progress)
37 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Dúnedain Warning x2, Miner of the Iron Hills x1 and Longbeard Orc Slayer
— Dain: 6 resources, 3 damage (2 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 1 resources, 2 damage (1 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: None
Staging Area: Bride of Khazad-dûm
Engaged: Goblin Follower (2 of 4 hit points), Goblin Follower (3 of 4 hit points)

For the resource phase we draw an Erebor Hammersmith. This is another useful ally that will help us to get numerical superiority against this scenario. Though we don’t have any attachments in our discard pile to take advantage of his ability, we can definitely use another Dwarf to help us fight off all of these Goblins. We will transfer 1 resource from Thalin to Bifur. Next, we will pay 4 resources from Dain to play Longbeard Orc Slayer.

Longbeard-Orc-SlayerAfter the Orc Slayer enters play, we can trigger his response to deal 1 damage to each Orc in play. This means that one of Goblin Followers only has 1 hit point remaining – a perfect target for our Gondorian Spearman. Lastly, we will pay 2 resource from Bifur for Erebor Hammersmith. Again, we can’t take advantage of his ability, but having an extra ally is useful.

For the quest phase we will once again commit Thalin and Bifur for 5 willpower. Staging brings us another copy of Branching Paths. Since it is a Dark location, we could use Cave Torch to explore the Branching Paths. However, we already have our hands full with engaged enemies and wounded heroes, so in this case we will play a bit more conservatively. Our 5 Willpower against 5 threat in the staging area means that we do not make any progress this round. For travel, we will go to Branching Paths to get that threat out of the staging area.

04a Combat

For combat, the Follower with 3 damage will be blocked by our Gondorian Spearman, and the hapless Goblin dies immediately. The shadow card for that attack would have been a Goblin Swordsman, an annoying card that contributes to the enemy swarm in this scenario. Because the Spearman killed the attacked before the attack could resolve, we are spared from these and other dangerous shadow cards. The power of the Spearman underscores the importance of having direct damage or shadow cancellation for this scenario.

04b Counterattack

The other Follower, with only 2 damage is blocked by our Erebor Hammersmith. With any luck, it might survive this attack. Sadly, luck has run out for our Erebor Hammersmith. The shadow card is Burning Low, which means that the Follower is attacking for 5 and kills our defender. With Dain ready, our Longbeard Orc Slayer and and Miner of the Iron Hills can counter-attack and kill the other follower. We are finally getting this scenario under control by killing off our engaged enemies.

Branching-PathsDaughter of the Nimrodel will now exhaust to heal 2 damage from Bifur. Next, we will exhaust Cave Torch to put 3 progress on Branching Paths. Again, we could have done this earlier in the round, but it would have run the risk of another enemy engaging. After the Cave Torch exhaust we discards Fouled Well, which is not an enemy so it is not added to the staging area.

In addition, exploring Branching Paths means that we have to look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. Watchful Eyes, Crumbling Ruin, Goblin Swordsman are on the top of the encounter deck. Since we have a Miner of the Iron Hills in play and Dain is ready we can safely attach Watchful Eyes to our King and put the other two cards on the bottom of the encounter deck.

Round 5: Stage 1B (3 of 7 progress)
38 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Dúnedain Warning x2, Miner of the Iron Hills
— Dain: 5 resources, 3 damage (2 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 1 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: None
Staging Area: Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Our fifth round begins with us drawing Gléowine. As we move forward he should help us to draw more allies so that we aren’t left with too many unspent resources on our heroes. For planning we will transfer 1 resource from Thalin to Bifur. Next we will pay 2 for Miner of the Iron Hills and discard Watchful Eyes from Dain. After that, we will pay 2 resources from Dain to attach both Dúnedain Warnings to him. With a defense of 5, and healing in play, Dain should be able to handle even the most powerful of attackers.

Zigil-MineshaftFor the quest phase, we will commit Bifur, Thalin and Miner of the Iron Hills for a total of 6 willpower. During the staging step, we reveal a Zigil Mineshaft. We do not want to leave that much threat in the staging area, so we will exhaust Cave Torch to put 3 progress on the Mineshaft. This forces us to discard Cave In, which is not an enemy, so we don’t have to add it to the staging area. So far, we have been fortunate with our use of the Cave Torch.

With 3 progress on the Zigil Mineshaft, we will raise our threat to 40 to place 2 more progress on the Mineshaft to explore it. Our 6 willpower against 3 threat in the staging area means that we make 3 progress on stage 1B. This leaves us with only 1 progress left to make on this stage, but we still need to clear our third unique location. For travel, we are finally ready to make Bridge of Khazad-dûm the active location. It is now of vital importance that we quest aggressively, because we won’t be able to play any cards while we are on the bridge. Before the end of the round, we will exhaust Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal 2 damage from Dain Ironfoot.

Round 6: Stage 1B (6 of 7 progress)
41 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Gléowine
— Dain: 6 resources, 1 damage (4 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 1 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: Bridge of Khazad-dûm
Staging Area: Empty

Four round six, we draw another copy of Longbeard Orc Slayer. This ally will always be a welcome sight in the Khazad-dûm scenarios. With so many Orcs roaming around, his ability is quite powerful – particularly in concert with Thalin. As long as Dain is ready, the Orc Slayer’s 3 attack is not to be underestimated either. For planning we will transfer 1 resource from Dain to Bifur. Unfortunately, there is nothing else that we can do this round as we are stuck on the bridge.

For questing, we will commit Bifur, Thalin, both copies of Miner of the Iron Hills and a Daughter of the Nimrodel. Our total of 8 willpower should be enough to allow us to clear the bridge and finally move on to the next stage. The staging step reveals a Goblin Swordsman, which immediately takes 1 damage. Our 8 willpower against the 1 threat for the Swordsman means that we make 7 progress.

Patrol-LeaderThis allows us to explore the Bridge and put 4 progress on stage 1B. We add the Bridge of Khazad-dûm to our victory display an immediately advance to stage 2A. This forces us to add Patrol Leader to the staging area.

The Patrol Leader can be a particularly troublesome enemy, as every there is about a 30% chance that any damage dealt to him is immediately cancelled. Although we can pass stage 2B by making 11 progress, it is preferable to clear the board of enemies and skip directly to the final stage.

Patrol Leader is not going to make that task easy. For the encounter phase, we will engage both Patrol Leader and the Goblin Swordsman. Our current threat of 41 means that we will be engaging most enemies from here on out. The hope is that by this point we have enough of an ally army to survive whatever the encounter deck throws at us.

To start off combat, the Gondorian Spearman will block the Goblin Swordsman and kill it immediately. The shadow card was Sudden Pitfall, which would have killed our defender and caused an undefended attack. If not for Thalin and Gondorian Spearman, we would not stand a chance on this scenario. Our super-defender Dain will block Patrol Leader. The shadow card  is Cave In, so Dain does not take any damage.

06a Attack

Round 7: Stage 2B (0 of 11 progress)
42 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Gléowine
— Dain: 8 resources, 1 damage (4 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 3 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 3 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: None
Staging Area: Empty

For our seventh round, we draw Feint. Perfect timing, we now have the perfect solution to Patrol Leader. We just have to hope that we get lucky and the damage that we deal to him is not cancelled. For planning, we pay 4 from Dain for Longbeard Orc Slayer. This deals 1 damage to Patrol Leader, and we are now forced to discard the top card of the encounter deck to see if the damage is cancelled. Signs of Conflict is a nasty card, particularly with our current threat above 40, so it is a welcome to sight to see it discarded here. As an added bonus, Patrol Leader does take the damage from the Orc Slayer’s effect.

Next we will pay 2 resources from Bifur to put Gléowine into play. Flush with resources, we are looking for a wizard to help us finish off this quest. We will exhaust Gléowine right away to draw another card. We draw Erebor Record Keeper. While not a wizard, this is a very helpful card as it can be used to ensure that Dain stays ready. Lastly, we will transfer 1 resource from Dain to Bifur, so that we can use the Record Keeper if needed.

This quest phase will be a bit different as enemies cannot be revealing during stage 2. This is the one time when we do not need to commit Thalin to the quest. We will instead send Bifur and a Miner of the Iron Hills. This total of 4 willpower should be enough to keep us from having to raise our threat.

Cave-InFor staging we reveal Cave In. Since there is no progress to remove, it surges into Branching Paths. Our 4 willpower against the 2 threat in the staging area means that we make 2 progress on stage 2B. For Travel we will make Branching Paths the active location. Being able to put potentially devastating cards on the bottom of the encounter deck makes Branching Paths a rather helpful card in this scenario.

For combat we will pay 1 resource from Thalin to play Feint on the Patrol Leader. With our enemy unable to attack this round, we will send both Longbeard Orc Slayers and Thalin to counter-attack for a total of 9 strength. Now comes the moment of truth: will this damage be cancelled? With a sigh of relief, we discard Watchful Eyes from the top of the encounter deck so the damage is not cancelled and Patrol Leader is killed. Since there are no enemies in play, we immediately advance to stage 3. Before the end of the round, we will exhaust Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal the last of the damage on Dain Ironfoot.

07a Counterattack

Round 8: Stage 3B (0 of 12 progress)
43 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel
— Dain: 5 resources, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 0 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: Branching Paths
Staging Area: Empty

At 43, our threat is dangerously high. With the doomed cards in this scenario, we need to try to finish this stage as quickly as possible. It is not safe to assume that we will have 7 more rounds in which to make it out of the pit. Unfortunately on stage 3, our heroes do not collect resources during the resource phase. Steward of Gondor and Bifur’s ability will mean that we can still play some cards, but we will need to rely heavily on what we already have in play.

We do still get to draw a card, in this case we add a second copy of Erebor Record Keeper to our hand. We will transfer 1 resource from Dain to Bifur and use it to pay for the Erebor Record Keeper. Thanks to Dain, the record keeper has 2 willpower that it can contribute to the quest. With little time remaining, questing aggressively is vital if we hope to survive.

08a Quest

For the quest phase we commit the following: Bifur, Thalin, 2x Record Keeper, 2x Miner, Daughter and Gléowine for 13 total willpower. For staging we reveal another Patrol Leader. While killing him may prove troublesome, at this point we do not need to clear out all of the enemies, we just need to get 12 progress on this stage. We discard a card from the top of the encounter deck and Lightless Passage means that the 1 damage from Thalin is not cancelled.

Our 13 willpower nets us 10 progress against the 3 threat from Patrol Leader. We could use the Cave Torch to explore the Branching Paths before resolving the quest. However, there is a risk that this would reveal another enemy, and not net us any less threat in the staging area. Instead we will remain patient and content in the knowledge that we should be able to clear this stage completely on our next turn.

The first 3 of this progress explores Branching Paths so we look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck: 2 copies of Signs of Conflict and 1 Burning Low. Once again, Branching Paths has worked to our benefit. Surging Signs of Conflict could have been fatal here, instead we will reveal Burning Low and stick those doomed cards on the bottom of the encounter deck. Since we have already resolved the quest, the extra threat from Burning Low is harmless. Finally, we put 7 progress on stage 3B. We are 5 progress away from victory.

08b Combat

For the encounter phase we must engage the Patrol Leader. Fortunately, Dain should be more than capable of handling the Patrol Leader’s attack. We exhaust the King Under the Mountain as our defender and reveal Fouled Well as a shadow card for the Patrol Leader’s attack. Dain does not take any damage.

Next, we will exhaust both Longbeard Orc Slayers and the Gondorian Spearman to attack the Patrol Leader for 5. A Goblin Scout is discarded from the top of the encounter deck so all damage from their attack is cancelled. Patrol Leader is definitely one of the more obnoxious enemies in the game. Fortunately, we should be able quest out next round and his continued presence will not be an issue.

Round 9: Stage 3B (7 of 12 progress)
44 threat (First Player)
Hand: Daughter of the Nimrodel
— Dain: 6 resources, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
— Thalin: 2 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Bifur: 0 resources, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
Active Location: None
Staging Area: Empty
Engaged: Patrol Leader (3 of 4 hit points)

For what should be our final round, we again do not collect resources. This is of little importance, as we have by now amassed and army of Dwarven allies to carry us to victory. We draw Narvi’s Belt, a useful attachment when Dain is the only hero with a means for collecting new resources. We spend 2 resources from Dain to give him Narvi’s Belt. We then exhaust the Belt and choose to give Dain access to the Lore sphere for the remainder of the round. Finally, we will spend 3 more resources from Dain to play our second copy of Daughter of the Nimrodel. At this point, another ally is probably overkill. Still, it is better to be safe than sorry.

For the quest phase we will commit 14 willpower in the form of Bifur, Thalin, both Record Keepers, both Miners, both Daughters of the Nimrodel and Gléowine. This should be more than enough willpower to put the necessary progress on the final stage and win us the game. For staging we reveal Many Roads, which shuffles all of the locations in the encounter discard pile back into the encounter deck, then surges. Our final card for staging is another copy of Branching Paths. With 14 willpower against 2 threat in the staging area, we make 12 more progress on stage 3 and win the game.

09a Victory

Conclusion

The Khazad-dûm scenarios can be quite challenging, especially if we get an unlucky combination from the encounter deck. With some truly horrific shadow cards, even a relatively harmless enemy can suddenly ruin all of our best-laid plans. As we saw, one of keys to this scenario was that most the enemies are not very hearty. By using Thalin and Gondorian Spearman to maximum effect, we were able to avoid the worst of the combat effects that this scenario was trying to use to punish us.

Dealing with swarms of enemies can be challenging for any deck, so we need to use every trick at our disposal to avoid being overrun by hordes of Goblins. As we move deeper into Moria, we might make minor changes to this deck, but overall it seems to be handling things quite well. We were able to use resource acceleration and Bifur’s ability to ensure that we weren’t stuck with too many cards in our hand that could not be used. The advantage of a multi-sphere deck was also highlighted in this game as we had access to some very powerful cards to help us out of tight spots. Check back soon, as we continue our adventure and move on to the Seventh Level.

Black Bear front paw print

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Deck: Aggro Boromir

Boromir in Osgiliath

After my recent screenshot of a solo victory against The Dunland Trap, some readers have voiced interest in seeing the deck list that I used. The Dunland Trap is a very unique scenario. Many decks which can dominate against more traditional scenarios will find that they struggle, especially with the trap that the Dunlendings spring in stage 2.

Dain IronfootLosing all by one ally can stop many decks in their tracks. Dwarves, Outlands, and even Secrecy decks can all suffer from such a massive loss of numbers. With a constant wave of Dunlendings, eventually joined by their Chief, this scenario requires a deck that can defend and counter-attack efficiently. Since many decks rely on allies for numerical superiority, this scenario is tailor-made to challenge the meta-game.

AsfalothLikewise, for decks which rely on powerful mounts like Asfaloth or Rohan Warhorse, the second stage can be difficult. Still other decks may rely on powerful armor and weapons to bolster the combat effectiveness of their heroes. Since all of these attachments are discarded before the showdown with Chief Turch, these decks will find themselves vulnerable at the worst possible time.

As I have played this scenario more, I have come to realize that one solution to the puzzle of The Dunland Trap is a style of play which I rarely employ. In a recent poll, 8% of voters said that they prefer an aggressive strategy, with high threat heroes and an emphasis on combat. Personally, I have tended to favor the more deliberate strategies; utilizing low-threat heroes and a less directly confrontational approach.

One of the great things about the newer scenarios is the way that they force us out of our comfort zone. When I first started playing this game seriously, I was always very mindful to have a starting threat below 30. In some ways, 30 threat is a magic number. Early scenarios like Journey Along the Anduin will punish a deck that starts with high threat. Traditional wisdom has long been to pair one powerful, “leader” hero with a few weaker, supplemental heroes, so that your starting threat is somewhere in the mid to high 20’s.

Traditional wisdom exists for a reason, and there are still many scenarios where a high starting threat is a bad idea. However, The Dunland Trap is a different kind of animal entirely. A starting threat of 32 might seem suicidal in some quests, but here it makes all kinds of sense. For one thing, having enemies engage is not a bad thing. Not only do we need enemies to engage in order to complete stage 3 and win the scenario, but we don’t really want to leave them in the staging area in the early rounds. Sure, we might get away with leaving one or even two enemies waiting for a little while, but the average threat value is rather high in this scenario, and we risk getting staging area locked with some very unpleasant locations.

BeornWith that in mind, this deck is designed to aggressively engage enemies and finish the off as quickly as possible. Éowyn is our dedicated quester, and she is helped by some inexpensive and effective Spirit allies (technically, the Envoy is neutral). Beorn and Boromir handle combat, and are two of the best heroes in the game at this task. The idea is to be assertive in keeping the staging area clear, so that by the time Chief Invincible shows up, we can deal with him without distractions. As a bear, and fearless killing machine, Beorn is always ready for a fight. As a man, brave though he is, Boromir will need a bit more time to get fully prepared for battle.

The only attachment that will be lost in the second round is Gondorian Shield, still it is often useful to play this card early. Helping to keep Boromir undamaged is essential for our late-game strategy, especially if we get caught without A Test of Will to cancel Low on Provisions. Besides, by the time the shield is discarded, Boromir will often have gained the Support of the Eagles, making additional armor unnecessary.

Eagles of the Misty MountainsThe idea is to spend a few rounds (but not too many  – our starting threat is high), in the first stage, loading up Boromir with attachments and getting an Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play. Try not to sacrifice other Eagles allies until you have one, use other allies for this purpose. In one game, I managed to have two copes of Vassal of the Windlord and one Winged Guarded, joined by an Eagle of the Misty Mountains. When I arrive at stage 2, I of course chose to keep the Eagles of the Misty Mountains. This allowed me to actually gain something from the sacrifice of the other eagles – my one remaining ally had 5 attack and 5 defense.

Non-Eagle allies should not be played needlessly in the early game. If there are a lot of locations in play, feel free to drop Silvan Refugees and Arwen to help with questing, but try to save Tactics resources on Boromir as much as possible. In many games, he will have Gondorian Fire and Blood of Númenor by the later stages, just in time to deal with more Dunlendings and their Chief.

There are a few other subtleties to this deck worth mentioning. The Eagles Are Coming! is a fantastic way to get Eagles of the Misty Mountain in hand as quickly as possible. It has the added advantage that is searches and adds Eagles card to your hand. Since this does not count as drawing a card, it does not trigger any of the nasty forced effects in this scenario. It is worth reiterating, wait for The Eagles of the Misty Mountains, they are your ticket to being able to survive the onslaught of stages 2 and 3.

Minas-Tirith-LampwrightMinas Tirith Lampwright was a surprisingly important piece of this deck. The Dunland Trap has quite a bit of surge. The key to the Lampwright was not so much canceling surge (since you have to guess), but rather avoiding the worst case scenario. Think of him as surge insurance. Think about the one card that would hurt you most in a given situation. Would an ill-timed treachery bring your heroes to their knees? Name treachery. Would one more enemy be too much for Boromir and Beorn to handle (unlikely as that sounds)? Name enemy. Are there already too many troublesome locations in the staging are? Name location. The more prevalent that surge becomes, the more useful Minas Tirith Lampwright is.

One last note is to be very careful of questing with just Eowyn when you don’t have A Test of Will in hand. I learned this the hard way when a game that seemed well in hand suddenly turned disastrous thanks to In Need of Rest. On the third stage, this card is an auto-loss if you can’t cancel it – unless you only have one or two time counters left. Because you have to remove time counters to win the game, and even a solo game will have 5 time counters on stage 3, there is no way that a hero will survive this card.

The trick that I used was this: stop questing with Éowyn if you don’t have cancellation. With combat well in hand, I would send Silvan Refugees, Envoys, Bofur and my Eagles of the Misty Mountains to the quest. Because the card only targets a hero, the effect completely fizzles if you do not have Éowyn committed to the quest. Knowing about the treacheries in a scenario as challenging as The Dunland Trap is an essential part of any strategy.

I hope that readers enjoy playing this deck as much as I did. For those who play on OCTGN, you can download a copy of the deck.

Boromir (Core)BeornEowyn

Heroes
Beorn (THOHaUH)
Boromir (TDM)
Éowyn (Core)

Allies: 25
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Silvan Refugee (TDF) x3
Minas Tirith Lampwright (EaAD) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Arwen Undómiel (TWitW) x3
Bofur (TRG) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x2

Attachments: 10
Blood of Númenor (HoN) x2
Gondorian Fire (AoO) x2
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Events: 15
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3

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