Fastred Outwits the Black Serpent

Fastred Outwits the Black Serpent

At last week’s Austin LotR group I had a chance to test out a multiplayer version of a Fastred deck. The deck was based on this design by Seastan, and I wanted to see if it was possible to adapt it for three and four player games. Unfortunately, Fastred’s ability does not lend itself to multiplayer. While I was able to consistently use ally Arwen to give Fastred sentinel, there are more problems with returning enemies to the staging area.

Until Dúnhere is loaded up with weapons, he is unable to defeat most enemies in the game, so while Fastred’s threat reduction benefits me, it does so at the cost of the board state and can put other players in danger of being overrun by a horde of enemies. I suspected that Fastred was mostly intended as a solo hero and today afforded me the opportunity to test this out.

First, I subbed the solo-specific cards like Steward of Orthanc back into the deck (Doomed is frowned upon in most 4 player games). At that point I was ready to test the deck solo against The Black Serpent. While I expected Fastred to be more effective in solo, I was pleasantly surprised at just how powerful the deck can be. The game went even more smoothly than it did recently with my Aggro Caldara deck.

We can add this anecdote to the mountain of evidence that solo is a fundamentally different game from multiplayer. With a low starting threat and the slower pace afforded by solo, you are given precious rounds to draw and play the attachments which are so essential for each of your heroes to maximize their abilities. Even though I never saw a single copy of Gondorian Shield for Fastred, I was able to make do with Captain of Gondor, Arwen’s defense boost and some timely help from Honour Guards.

The fact that Fastred’s ability is a response lead to some interesting interactions with enemies in this particular quest. A treachery named Nowhere to Hide can be particularly troublesome to low threat decks that want to turtle and avoid engagement and methodically build an army. By forcing a random enemy to engage during the quest phase, regardless of that enemy’s engagement cost, this treachery can lead to some very dangerous situations.

This is particularly true when you consider that many of the enemies in this quest have forced effects which trigger when they engage a player. Take Southron Soldier, for instance. Unless you remove 2 progress from main quest when he engages, he will make an immediate attack – not something that most decks want to see during the quest phase. Even if you are able to survive the surprise attack from the Soldier, he will stay engaged with you to attack you again during the combat phase.

This is where Fastred really showed his quality. Because Nowhere to Hide was revealed on a turn when I had just advanced to stage 2, I did not have any progress to remove to avoid the forced attack from Southron Soldier. Instead, I had Fastred defend the attack and then triggered his response. Thanks to Arwen’s (thematically ambiguous) winsome whiles, Fastred was able to avoid any damage from the attack, then I returned the Soldier to the staging area and lowered my threat by 2.

Instead of facing multiple attacks from an enemy I would not have engaged (my threat was in the mid twenties at the time), Fastred tricked the hapless soldier to wander the desert. Later that round, Dúnhere lifted the veil of confusion from the soldier’s eyes, when he ran it through with a spear and a dagger at the same time. Being able to utilize a card which rarely sees play is a nice bonus of this new archetype. Because of the repeatable threat reduction offered by Fastred, your threat in solo can stay low enough to make cards like Unseen Strike much more consistent. Being able to “spend” some of that low threat to draw extra cards via the Steward of Orthanc is a nice bonus.

Without strong coordination between multiple decks, I can’t advocate Fasted in a multiplayer environment. If multiple players have decks designed around staging area control, he may be viable – but it will take a strong opening hand and support from other players. On the other hand, Fastred delivers his promise in solo play. Repeatable threat reduction and the synergy with Dúnhere and weapons like Spear of the Mark means that Rohan finally has another viable archetype. Let’s hope that the newly spoiled Éomer hero gives a corresponding boost to the ally-discard strategy.

Posted in Deck Lists, Fun, Live Play, Photo, Solo, Staging Area Control, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Caldara bests the Black Serpent

Caldara against The Black Serpent

After a couple of futile attempts with other decks (Hobbits and Gondor never had a chance), I had to pull at the big guns and bring my Aggro Caldara deck against The Black Serpent. It was a pitched battle, with archery and forced effects consistently whittling away at my army of allies. At one point, I lost four allies in a single round and the quest looked like it might be slipping away. Caldara prevailed in the end – with my threat at 43 I was able to finish off the Black Serpent.

Among other mechanics, the Haradrim cycle has introduced the concept of using progress on the main quest as a resource. I am quite enjoying this design as it make quest control (being able to specifically decide how much progress you make) a vitally important facet of the game. In an interesting twist, there are times when you don’t want to complete the current quest card (for the earlier stages) because the next quest card will be without progress for the rest of the round. Because the enemies and shadow effects interact with progress on the main quest card, these rounds tend to be some of the most dangerous.

There are several troublesome encounter cards in this cycle, but one of my nominations for most annoying would have to be Southron Champion. Every time this card shows up it throws your plans for the round straight out the window. Because of the timing, you will often have to face multiple attacks from whatever enemy becomes the champion, and it prevents you from passing the quest – particularly troublesome on a round when you might be spending cards and resources to make a major willpower push. Kudos to Caleb – the quests in this cycle have been consistently excellent.

Posted in Aggro, Fun, Live Play, Mono-Sphere, Photo, Solo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Deck: Solo First Turn Win

Bear’s Note: This article was written by a member of the community named Rouxxor, I merely helped a bit with the translation. Rouxxor can be found on the FFG Community Forums. You can read the article in the original French, si vous parlez français. The deck list is also available on RingsDB.

Bear-Running

This article is long, but the I do my best to explain the combo in detail and the essential pieces are outlined at the beginning. You don’t need to read all the way to the end to get an idea of what this deck is about or how the combo works.

I. Introduction – Combo Decks

This deck is an absolute 100% combo deck. The goal it to win before the first quest phase, so the encounter deck never has a chance to do anything. It is really surprising and it is the only deck I know of which can do this now. That is not to say that this is the best deck in the Lord of The Rings LCG. Like most combo decks, some quest mechanics can completely shut it down – making it useless. Fortunately, these quests represent only 5% or 10% of the game (Escape from Dul Guldur, The Nîn-in-Eilph, The Drúadan Forest Nightmare). Regardless of the quest, when the combo doest not work the deck can stall and you will lose very quickly (the Doomed cards have way of raising your threat to dangerous levels). Compare to traditional strong solo decks, combo decks like this one are fragile and clunky.

In the past, FFG has responded to these sorts of powerful combos by issuing errata. Will of the West, Love of Tales, Horn of Gondor and Master of Lore, all have errata to prevent broken combos. With resource acceleration like Legacy of Númenor and efficient card draw like Daeron’s Runes and Deep Knowledge, these kinds of powerful decks have become part of the balance of the game. This deck features those powerful cards, but it features an unexpected card at its heart: Second Breakfast. Without that often-overlooked card, the loop in this deck would not exist.

II. The Deck List

Hero (3)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Ally (13)
3x Dwarven Sellsword (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)
3x Ered Nimrais Prospector (The Morgul Vale)
1x Glóin (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep)

Attachment (7)
3x Good Meal (The Redhorn Gate)
1x Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Scroll of Isildur (The Morgul Vale)
1x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)

Event (30)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Gaining Strength (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Justice Shall Be Done (A Storm on Cobas Haven)
3x Legacy of Númenor (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Lórien’s Wealth (Core Set)
2x Lure of Moria (Road to Rivendell)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Ravens of the Mountain (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep)
1x Second Breakfast (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x The Seeing-stone (The Voice of Isengard)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

III. The Goal

The entire deck is devoted to the combo, so there is no backup plan. Every card is chosen to help you create a loop. Once the loop is setup, we will have use a few cards to defeat the quest: Rod of The Steward, Scroll of Isildur, Tome of Atanatar, Ravens of the Mountain and Second Breakfast.

The rest of the deck consists of a few Dwarf allies and then card draw and resource acceleration for setting up the loop. In some cases we might reach 49 threat from playing all of the Doomed cards, but it doesn’t matter. When played correctly, you can beat most quests in a single planning phase using Ravens of the Mountain, so your current threat won’t matter. Now to describe the loop.

IV. Setup: Draw your entire deck

We need to draw all 50 cards of our deck. That might sound impossible, but the deck features so much card draw that this, is in fact, pretty easy.

At the start of the game we draw 6 cards. We want to have as many events as possible in hand. The best are Doomed cards and Justice Shall be Done (assuming it is possible to best the current quest in one turn – otherwise consider subbing this card out). Use your mulligan if you have no one of these cards, and consider a mulligan if you only have one of these cards. Next, we draw 2 cards, thanks to Bilbo, and we start to produce resources and use our most efficient card draw first. Once we have some Dwarf allies in hand, we attach Legacy of Durin to Bifur and play some Dwarf allies. This is followed by We Are Not Idle, to gain more resources and draw another card. We can repeat this with more Dwarves and draw more events. A second We Are Not Idle then a Lure of Moria allows us to repeat this gain. All the other Dwarf allies and card draw effects with our final copy of We Are Not Idle and our second copy of Lure of Moria. At this point our deck will be empty and we are ready to win.

When everything happens perfectly, we don’t need Heed the Dream. But if the only copy of Legacy of Durin and Justice Shall Be Done don’t show up, we must use Heed the Dream to find them (usually Justice Shall be Done is the more important of the two cards).

Good meal is here to be used with Lorien’s Wealth, but it can also be used for Mithrandir’s Advice or Heed the Dream. Ideally, we can use Good Meal up to 6 times if we can perfectly time when we play each copy of Erebor Hammersmith. Any resources that we save from Good Meal make it that more easier to continue playing Dwarves, drawing more cards and gaining more resource. We can also discard them from our hand for Daeron’s Runes if we are about to play a Hammersmith.

Daeron’s Runes should only be played when we already have a card to discard. Ravens of the Mountain, Scroll of Isildur and any extra copies of Good Meal, can all be safely discarded. Even Heed the Dream can safely be discarded, as long as we have our other forms of card draw available. In any case, we should play the other draw events first, and wait to play Daeron’s Runes when we have suitable choices for discard.

Because of the risk of discarding critical cards, we almost never trigger the response on Ered Nimrais Prospector while setting up the loop.

V. First Loop: Infinite Resources

To enable the first loop, we need to be the following situation:
– An empty deck
– Denethor with Rod of the Steward and 7 resources
– All 14 Dwarves (Bifur + 13 Dwarf allies) in play and ready
– Tome of Atanatar in hand
– Second Breakfast, We Are Not Idle and Lure of Moria in our discard pile

This combo breaks down into 14 steps:
1. Play Tome of Atanatar [Cost: 3 resources, remaining: 4, deck is empty, hand is empty]
2. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. The Tome of Atanatar is now back in your hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of your deck (which is also the top because the deck is empty) as per the effect of Tome of Atanatar. [Cost: 1 resource, remaining: 3, deck: Second Breakfast, hand: Tome of Atanatar]
3. Play Tome of Atanatar [Cost: 3 resources, remaining: 0, deck: Second Breakfast, hand is empty]
4. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing We Are Not Idle from the discard. Exhaust 14 Dwarves to generate 14 resources on Denethor II and draw a card (which will be Second Breakfast) [cost: 0 resources, remaining: 14, deck: We Are Not Idle, hand: Second Breakfast]
5. Play Second Breakfast that bring back Tome of Atanatar [cost: 1 resource, remaining: 13, deck: We Are Not Idle, hand: Tome of Atanatar]
6. Play Tome of Atanatar [cost: 3 resources, remaining: 10, deck: We Are Not Idle, hand is empty]
7. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. He bring back Tome of Atanatar, again. [Cost: 1 resource, remaining: 9]
8. Play Tome of Atanatar [cost: 3 resources, remaining: 6, deck: We Are Not Idle and Second Breakfast, hand is empty]
9. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Lure of Moria [cost: 3 resources, remaining: 3, deck: We Are Not Idle and Second Breakfast and Lure of Moria, hand is empty]
10. Use Rod of the Steward to draw We Are Not Idle [cost: 2 resources, remaining: 1, deck: Second Breakfast and Lure of Moria, hand: We Are Not Idle]
11. Play We Are Not Idle and exhaust 14 Dwarves to generate 14 resources on Denethor II and draw a card (which will be Second Breakfast) [cost: 0 resources, remaining: 15, deck: Lure of Moria, hand: Second Breakfast]
12. Use Rod of the Steward to draw Lure of Moria [cost: 2 resources, remaining: 13, deck is empty, hand: Second Breakfast and Lure of Moria]
13. Play Lure of Moria [Cost: 3 resources, remaining: 10, deck is empty, hand: Second Breakfast]
14. Play Second Breakfast on Tome of Atanatar [cost: 1 resource, remaining: 9, deck is empty, hand: Tome of Atanatar]

We are back at the initial state of the loop with one critical different: 9 resources remaining instead of 7. We can repeat this process one million times on each hero so we have enough resources for the rest of our actions.

VI. Second Loop: Infinite Progress

From here on out we won’t keep track of resources as it is assumed with have an infinite number of them from the first loop.

First, we must have all attachments back in our hand:
1. Play Tome of Atanatar
2. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. The Tome of Atanatar is now back in your hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of your deck (which is also the top because the deck is empty) as per the effect of Tome of Atanatar.
3. Use Rod of the Steward to draw 1 card (which will be Second Breakfast)
4. Play Second Breakfast on the first attachment in the discard pile.
5. Repeat these steps with Second Breakfast until we have all of our attachments back, including Scroll of Isildur.

Then, we will play Ravens of the Mountain with the help of Scroll of Isildur
1. Play Tome of Atanatar
2. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. The Tome of Atanatar is now back in your hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of your deck (which is also the top because the deck is empty) as per the effect of Tome of Atanatar.
3. Play Scroll of Isildur
4. Use Scroll of Isildur, discarding it, choosing ravens of the mountain from the discard. I exhaust Bifur and put (may be) tokens on the active quest step.
5. Play Tome of Atanatar
6. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Lure of Moria to ready Bifur and then it goes to the bottom of the deck.
7. Use Rod of the Steward to draw 3 times: Second breakfast, Ravens of the Mountain and Lure of Moria
8. Play Second Breakfast to bring Tome of Atanatar back to our hand
9. Play Tome of Atanatar
10. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. The Tome of Atanatar is now back in your hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of your deck (which is also the top because the deck is empty) as per the effect of Tome of Atanatar.
11. Use Rod of the Steward to draw 1 card (which will be Second Breakfast)
12. Play Second Breakfast to bring Tome of Atanatar back to our hand
13. Play Ravens of the Mountain and exhaust Bifur
14. Play Lure of the Moria and ready Bifur

We have just played Ravens of the Mountain twice and we are back at our initial state. We can repeat this loop until we have placed all of the necessary progress on each quest card. In this way, we can defeat any scenario which only requires progress to be placed on quests. As mentioned above, this does not solve quests which have other requirements, like boss enemies that must be defeated or locations which must be explored. This is where the sideboard comes into play.

VII. Sideboard: Other Win Conditions

Each scenario has its own win condition, and many quests need more than just progress to defeat. We must include cards to fulfill these other win conditions. Here are some of the cards that we can use:
– Lore of Imladris to heal (Wilyador);
– Out of the Wild to remove the whole encounter deck or select the few cards you want to stay in there;
– Risk Some Light to select the order of the cards inside the encounter deck;
– Needful to Know to reduce my threat;
– The Evening Star to explore location in the staging area;
– Gandalf to kill enemies and reduce the threat (you must include also Born aloft and Song of Battle and remove Scroll of Isildur)
– Dúnedain Pathfinder to put location in the staging area (you must include also born aloft, song of Battle and Song of travel and remove Scroll of Isildur)
– Durin’s Song to power up Bifur

Each card that we include from our sideboard will require us to remove a card that was helping to setup the combo. Here is what we should remove first:
– Gaining Strength
– One copy of Heed the Dream
– One copy of Good Meal
– Rod of the Steward (if Born aloft is included)
If we need to include more than 4 cards we must first change Bilbo for Erestor and remove each copy of Good Meal and wealth of Lorien.

For some quests it is simply impossible to win on the first turn (e.g. with cards which are immune to player card effects). In that case, we no longer want to include Justice Shall be Done and we should consider other changes:
– Add: Legacy of Durin x2
– Add: Gaining Strength x1
– Add: Needful to Know x1
– Add: Risk Some Light x1 or Out of the Wild x1
– Remove: Heed the Dream x3
– Remove: Justice Shall Be Done x1
– Remove: Ravens of the Mountain x1

in this situation, we will take our time and control the encounter deck to win the scenario over multiple round.

VIII. Alternate Loop: Born Aloft instead of Scroll of Isildur in step 3

1. Play Tome of Atanatar
2. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it, choosing Second Breakfast from the discard. The Tome of Atanatar is now back in your hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of your deck (which is also the top because the deck is empty) as per the effect of Tome of Atanatar.
3. I play Born Aloft on Erebor Hammersmith
4. Use Born Aloft, discarding it to return Erebor Hammersmith to our hand
5. Play Erebor Hammersmith, draw Second Breakfast and return Born Aloft to our hand
6. Play Born Aloft on Ered Nimrais Prospector
7. Use Born Aloft, discarding it to return Ered Nimrais Prospector to our hand
8. Play Second Breakfast and return Born Aloft to our hand
Repeat this process for return all 3 copies of Erebor Hammersmith to our hand
9. Play Tome of Atanatar
10. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it to put Lure of Moria on the bottom of our deck
11. Play Erebor Hammersmith (don’t use Legacy of Durin’s effect) and return Tome of Atanatar to our hand
12. Play Tome of Atanatar
13. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it and put Lure of Moria on the bottom our deck
14. Play Erebor Hammersmith (don’t use Legacy of Durin’s effect) and return Tome of Atanatar to our hand
15. Play Tome of Atanatar
16. Use Tome of Atanatar, discarding it to play Second Breakfast from the discard. Tome of Atanatar is now back in our hand while Second Breakfast is at the bottom of our deck
17. Play Ered Nimrais Prospector, discard the three cards of the deck and put the chosen cards as the only card in our deck
18. Play Erebor Hammersmith and return Tome of Atanatar to our hand and draw a card.

With this combo, we can draw any card we want without Scroll of Isildur but instead by using Song of Battle and Born Aloft. The card that we draw doesn’t even have to be attachment or belong to a specific sphere. This is obviously more versatile and powerful but it requires Song of Battle before we can set it up, so Scroll of Isildur is preferable unless we also need Born Aloft to go with Gandalf.

IX. Results

It took many revisions to get to this version, so only some of my tests can be used. But I recently started a campaign to test this latest iteration of the deck. Here are my results against all the Nightmare quests for the first three cycles:

– 21 wins in 21 games when I included Justice Shall be Done, so 100% wins for the moment
– 6 wins in 8 games when I was unable to win on the first turn, so a 75% for the downgraded version
– I conceded against Escape from Dol Guldur Nightmare, which seems absolutely impossible with this kind of deck

Posted in Combo, Community, Deck Building, Deck Lists, Solo, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Poll Results: Where should the next cycle go?

Bear Photographer

With Beneath the Sands, we’re half way through the Haradrim cycle already. The final Saga expansion, The Mountain of Fire, should be released at GenCon 2017, so we can start to look ahead a bit, and wonder about where the next cycle will go. Chronologically speaking, cycles have taken us through Mirkwood; the Dwarrowdelf; Gondor, Pelargir and outlying areas; Rohan and Dunland; Fornost and the Northern reaches; the Grey Havens, and now Harad.

Beorn heroBard the BowmanOne cannot help but speculate where the designers might take us next. The poll has closed, all votes are tallied, and the consensus is that players want to see the next cycle set in Erebor and Dale. Both of the Hobbit Saga boxes are based in that region, and in addition to a bevy of Dwarves they gave us such iconic heroes as Bard the Bowman and yours truly.

It would be interesting to see a return to the North. Perhaps we could see a different version of Dain Ironfoot. It is unlikely that we will ever see a Dwarf hero with anything approaching Dain’s power level, but that is for the best as her is one of the more unbalanced heroes. A version of Dain in a different sphere (Spirit perhaps) with an ability based around the new digging archetype would be interesting. Given the proximity to Northern Mirkwood, we could even finally see a version of Thranduil in such a cycle.

The second most voted destination for the next cycle was surprising to me. We know that The Mountain of Fire will be going to Mordor, but it could be fun to have a cycle go there outside of the narrative of the books. I do wonder what sorts of heroes we would see in Adventure Packs based in and around Mordor, but I have no doubt that the quests would be thrilling and mercilessly difficult. Deluxe boxes allow players to live out an alternate history and it would be cool to see an army of Gondor and Rohan lay siege to Barad-dûr, or similarly outrageous hypotheticals.

The Shire comes in a distant third place in the voting. We saw a smattering of Hobbit and Hobbit-based cards (Fast Hitch) early in the game’s life, but there were only ever supplemental to other deck styles. It wasn’t until The Black Riders that Hobbits became an archetype in their own right. I quite the the engagement shenanigans that you can pull with Hobbit decks, and the way that the blend so well with Dúnedain is one of my favorite thematic wins in this game.

I would definitely like to see the game return to the Shire in a cycle as there are so many great characters which have yet to be represented in the game. The Gaffer is one of my personal favorites and I can only imagine how the designers would choose to represent an Hobbit with the fortitude to stand up to a Black Rider. They could even get adventurous and choose to represent the events of the Scouring of the Shire in a cycle, in case we don’t get those as part of a Fellowship event. For such a small quiet place, there is a lot of material left to explore.

Lorien

Rounding out the voting we have lesser known locales like the Iron Hills and Rhûn, along side famous havens like Rivendell, Dol Amroth and Lórien. In our latest episode of the book club (to be released soon), we discuss Lórien at some length. With the descriptions of that magical place fresh on my mind it certainly seems like it would make a great setting for a cycle. Woe to any Orc or Warg that is foolish enough to cross into that wondrous land!

Thank to everyone who voted (even whoever wrote in “Tatooine” or “Space, the final frontier”). There is a new poll up, so make sure to weigh in on your favorite play styles. For obvious reasons, my heart is set on the next cycle being set around the Carrock, with an entirely new archetype around Beorning characters. It may be a faint hope, but a bear has to dream. No matter the destination, it will be exciting to see where the game takes us next.

Region Votes %
Erebor/Dale 125 17.31%
Mordor 109 15.1%
The Shire 68 9.42%
Iron Hills 66 9.14%
Rhûn 57 7.34%
Rivendell 31 4.29%
Mirkwood 31 4.29%
Dol Amroth 30 4.16%
Withered Heath 30 4.16%
Rohan 28 3.88%
The Old Forest 27 3.74%
Khand 27 3.74%
Lórien 25 3.46%
Bree 25 3.46%
Ithilien 15 2.08%
The Carrock 10 1.39%
The Western Sea 10 1.39%
Other 2 .28%
Beleriand 2 .28%
Lindon 1 .14%
Forodwaith 1 .14%
Blue Mountains 1 .14%
Gondolin 1 .14%

As a bonus, here is a picture of the newest helper animal here that the Hall of Beorn. We found him stranded in a tree, so we named him Monkey.

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A Vacation, with Spider Ceviche

Horn's Cry Valour Action

After what seemed like an interminable wait, I finally got my massive paws on Beneath the Sands – the latest AP from the Haradrim cycle. A warning for anyone with arachnophobia, this quest features more spiders than you can shake a stick at. I would not recommend hanging around long on the third stage as the Brood Mother boss is invincible until you get 5 progress on the quest, and she keeps popping out annoying spider babies.

For a change of pace, I brought my A Bear on Vacation mono-Tactics deck to the party. While it wasn’t entirely stress-free, there were moments of quiet introspection, cocktails with little umbrellas, and plenty of spider ceviche (a Carrock delicacy). By far the highlight was hitting 40 threat just after reaching the final quest stage with Horn’s Cry in hand. With Brood Mother, a Giant Scorpion, and three Spider Broodlings engaged, it was the perfect time to give all engaged enemies -3 attack.

This situation proved how powerful Valour Effects can be, as one of Broodlings ending up attacking 3 times in a row because of a bad run of shadow cards. Since the baby Spider’s attack had been reduced to 0, all of those attacks amounted to nothing more than an invertebrate massage – with far too many appendages. No matter, friends like Legolas, Dúnedain Hunter, and Eagles were on hand to chop the Broodlings into delicious hors d’oeuvres.

The ending to the quest was nearly equally as epic as that round. Éowyn used her boss-killing super move to finish off the Brood Mother. I can see why Caleb said he was inspired by a certain classic 80’s Horror Sci-Fi movie in designing this scenario. That movie happens to be a favorite here at the Hall and I could wandering the underground halls killing spiders was a fun bit of nostalgia.

As Rohan’s original bad-ass finished off the Brood Queen I found myself shouting out the movies iconic line. Éowyn didn’t even need a robot loader for support, what with a giant Spider-eating bear on hand. All things considered, it was an exciting and enjoyable vacation. It is encouraging to see how much better mono-Tactics has become with the help of Valour, Legolas, and recent aces like Proud Hunters. While they could certainly use an exterminator, I give Beneath the Sands resort two paws up. 🐾

Posted in Art, Beornings, Combo, Community, Deck Lists, Fun | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Mûmak’s Name is Homer

Caldara vs The Mumakil

I’m presenting my trek through the Haradrim Cycle a bit out of order, but I wanted to give a snapshot of my victory against The Mûmakil with my Aggro Caldara deck. With the help of an army of allies, Caldara was able to capture and tame one of the mighty beasts of legend. She named her elephantine pet Homer, in honor of the renowned poet.

Home Feeding Ganesh a PeanutWhile the end-game can be a bit less dramatic, I am really enjoying playing with aggressive decks, as it makes the crucial first few rounds that much more tense. The decisions that you make in the early rounds are interesting and important. In particular, figuring out how to survive while you get your support online (Sword-thain, Prince Imrahil, Glorfindel, Jubayr/Háma, etc.) makes every quest a unique experience.

While there are versions of this archetype with more consistency – extra copies of critical allies like Glorfindel and Jubayr – I find that not being able to rely on any one ally (outside of Imrahil) brings a welcome bit of variety and ultimately makes quests more fun. I guess this speaks to play style, but I like knowing that a sub-optimal draw with this deck could still put me in a position where I could lose to an early onslaught. Even with bad draws, I’ve been able to pull out of some pretty dire situations – Fortune or Fate is a big help in that regard. The best games teach us to appreciate overcoming seemingly unsurmountable odds, tempting fate only to emerge victorious. I aspire to take that lesson and apply it elsewhere in life.

Spirit Elrohir AllyWith the announcement of The Mountain of Fire saga expansion, and a Spirit Elrohir, I look forward to yet another powerful Spirit ally to add to this deck. Granted, Elrohir needs his brother so that only works in multiplayer, but that won’t be a problem. The slew of fantastic new allies has me tinkering with a Noldor deck to pair two-handed with Caldara. Together, they will soon tackle the saga quests from the beginning.

It’s exciting to imagine that we soon will be able to play through the entire story of the Lord of the Rings. One can’t help but look back with nostalgia on my first experiences with the LotR LCG. It’s startling to realize what a huge role this game and its community have played in my life. I started this blog, created a  search engine, joined The Grey Company, got to meet the guys from Cardboard of the Rings – along with other fine community members at GenCon, and was even able to interview Caleb. These are all things that I never would have imagined when I opened that Core Set all those years ago.

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Caldara and friends win the Race Across Harad

Race Across Harad

I finally had a chance to sit down tonight and play the second AP in the Haradrim cycle, Race Across Harad. After multiple failed attempts with lesser decks, I had to bring out the power deck with the latest version of my Aggro Caldara design. This was my first chance to play with the deck using the alternate art cards from Printer Studio. As convenient as OCTGN is for testing, having beautiful art to look at only enhances the experience of playing with physical cards.

As the name implies, Race Across Harad requires a deck that can come out of gate at full speed. With two quest decks, one for the Orcs and one for the players, if the enemies ever pass your quest stage with theirs you immediately lose the game. There are, of course, plenty of tricks in the encounter deck to keep the Orcs’ pace from ever being predictable and many of my earlier games ended quickly in defeat. Fortunately, I was able to get Sword-thain on Emery on the opening turn, along with a Prince Imrahil and Pelargir Shipwright into play with the first (of many) sacrifices of Caldara.

By the end of the game I had all three copies of the Shipwright in play. Amassing 12 willpower with only three characters was essential action advantage for this quest as the Orc enemies are no slouches and I needed other allies to help with combat. Narya and Light of Valinor on Círdan allowed powerful unique allies like Glorfindel and Jubayr to pull double duty. As powerful as this deck is, the quest was still tense right up to the end. The round that I won I had maybe one more turn before the Orcs would catch me.

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