Deck: The Bear’s Revenge

bear's revenge

For obvious reasons, Beorn is my absolute favorite hero. Unfortunately the metagame seems to have moved away from him of late. Whereas older quests had more 2 and 3-attack enemies, it has become all too common to see 3, 4 and even 5 attack enemies as the “front-line” troops of the encounter deck. While it was fine to have enemies of this power as “boss” enemies, it puts a much greater burden on a defender with only 1 defense to see these enemies throughout an entire scenario.

What’s worse, shadow effects seem to have become more and more dangerous. The game has added quite a few powerful attachments to combat these bigger enemies and nastier shadow cards – but to no avail. As a bear, my giant paws are better suited for mauling Orcs than donning armor. Besides, a shield would be a silly thing to cary when you are endowed with tough hide and monstrous size. Not to mention that the other skin-changers would cast aspersions on my character if they heard that I needed man-tools to protect myself.

Honour-GuardFortunately, there are some new cards to help keep a bear in fighting shape. Honour Guard in particular is very popular with giant bears. Since his ability targets the damage being dealt and not the character being damaged, he can be used with Beorn. With so much direct damage running out in current quests, the ability to prevent damage is invaluable, even if Beorn is done with defending duty. Damage preventing, combined with healing effects makes a Tactics/Lore deck particularly good at survival. It also means that this deck excels as a support deck in multi-player games.

Horn's-CryOn the other side of combat, there are two new cards which can reduce the attack strength of enemies. This is welcome news to my fury ears, as it allows me to more easily defend against multiple enemies and take advantage of my built-in action advantage. For the larger enemies – the ones that hit like a Misty Mountain avalanche – we always have Feint and chump blocking in an emergency. Derndingle Warrior with an Ent Draught can help serve as a backup defender.

Horn’s Cry is the best of these new events, as it reduces the attack strength of all enemies in play. If you happen to be a 40 threat or more (giant bears do tend to attract the enemies attention), you can reduce your engaged enemies attack by 3 for the rest of the phase. When you have a hearty who can block multiple attackers, reducing the attack strength of each of your enemies is an incredibly powerful effect.

In-the-ShadowsA slightly more limited option, but one that supplements Horn’s Cry well, is In the Shadows. Unfortunately, the effect only targets engaged enemies with an engagement cost higher than our threat, but it can still be quite useful in the early game. Pippin’s passive ability does help with this a bit, and the sideboard includes Take No Notice if we want to pursue this strategy further. As long as a scenario does not include too many low-engagement enemies, this can be a very effective strategy.

With one Hobbit and one Ranger hero, we are only paying 1 for In the Shadows, and its limitations seem less onerous at that discount. As an added bonus, it also reduces the defense of the affected enemies, making it easier to finish them off on the counter-attack. The ideal goal of this deck is to create one epic turn where we use Horn’s Cry and Shadows give way to effectively nullify the enemies’ attack. With Beorn not exhausting to defend, and surrounded by an army of angry Ents, we want to overrun our foes.

Ent-DraughtBy including Ents, we get access to an underrated attachment Ent Draught. While we unfortunately cannot attach this card to the bear himself (I’ll stick with mead, thank you very much), Dori is a great substitute. With healing and the extra hit points, it should be possible to keep our primary defender alive for the entire game. In the rare cases where the encounter deck overwhelms us, we have Landroval to bring Beorn back from hibernation.

DoriIf all else fails, we can resort to the tried and true tactic for dealing with troublesome enemies and attach Song of Wisdom and A Burning Brand to Mablung. Along with a Shield, this makes him a great support defender for those situations where we don’t want to needlessly risk ursine lives. Regardless of the Burning Brand we will want to get the Song attached to Mablung as quickly as possible. His built-in resource acceleration is a great fit for a deck without much else beyond Ally Treebeard to help in that regards. The deck is skewed a bit heavier to Lore cards than it should be with two Tactics heroes, so this will help tremendously with resource smoothing.

Surprisingly, Horn of Gondor is not a good fit for this deck.  With such hearty characters, and multiple cards dedicated to keeping those characters alive – we hopefully won’t have anyone leaving play. It just doesn’t make sense to pay for an Ent, wait a turn to be able to use them, and then chump block with them just to blow some silly horn. The horn-blowing in this deck will be limited to our amazing new event card. This deck is my attempt to bring my favorite bear back into relevance in the modern metagame, so I hope you like it and I look forward to your feedback in the comments.

BeornMablung-smallPippin (TBR)

Beorn (TH:OHaUH)
Mablung (NiE)
Pippin (TBR)

Allies: 23
Derndingle Warrior (EfMG) x3
Honour Guard (TWoE) x3
Galadhrim Minstrel (TiT) x1
Quickbeam (ToS) x2
Warden of Healing (TLD) x2
Beechbone (TBoCD) x2
Bofur (TH:OHaUH) x1
Dori (TH:OHaUH) x2
Rivendell Minstrel (THfG) x1
Wellinghall Preserver (AtE) x2
Treebeard (TAC) x3
Landroval (AJtR) x1

Attachment: 12
Song of Wisdom (CatC) x2
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Elf-stone (TRD) x2
Ent Draught (ToS) x3
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2

Events: 14
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Entmoot (ToS) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Horn’s Cry (TToR) x3
In The Shadows (TLoS) x2

Side Quests: 1
Gather Information (TLR) x1

Sideboard: 15
Elrond (TRD) x2
Rivendell Minstrel (THfG) x2
Song of Battle (TDM) x2
Secret Vigil (TLR) x3
Book of Eldacar (EaAD) x2
Thicket of Spears (Core) x2
Take No Notice (TBR) x2

Posted in Aggro, Beornings, Deck Lists, Fun, Strategy, Tempo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Contest: Bree-land Investigators


I am a fortunate bear; living in a city with a thriving board game and card game scene has definite advantages. The Austin Lord of the Rings LCG group was able to participate in two separate Fellowship events, one yesterday and another from which I have just returned. Caleb and Matt are only improving in their scenario design skills. Murder at the Prancing Pony is one of the best scenarios in the game, certainly among the best of the Gen Con and Fellowship decks.

Some players expressed skepticism about a murder-mystery themed quest set in Middle-earth. It’s one bear’s humble opinion, but after playing the scenario a few times I think that it fits the theme of Tolkien’s writings just fine. Bill Ferny features fairly prominently in the quest, especially depending on the which Hideout the Suspect ends up using, so its not as if the cast of characters are solely FFG creations. It is plain to see the inspiration that this quest takes from the Bree-based chapters in The Fellowship of the Ring, and this connection is appreciated.

Bill-FernyWhat really makes this quest shine is the dynamic nature of the 5 different suspects, 5 hideouts, and the way that they interact with the rest of the encounter cards. Like all of the best quests, Murder at the Prancing Pony is a devilishly intricate puzzle. It rewards clever use of location control effects Thror’s Map, Distant Stars and West Road Traveler. Likewise, engagement effects like ally Mablung, Westfold Outrider and Tactics Aragorn can all be instrumental in dealing with the wily brigands and other ne’er-do-wells hanging about Bree.

Legolas-alt-artAs great as this quest is, availability of Fellowship events is limited by their very nature. Some areas don’t have big enough LCG scenes to support Fellowship events. In other cases, stores with excellent sales of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game simply choose not to run a Fellowship event. I’m not sure if it’s because of the cooperative nature or the game, the fact that many play the game solo, or simply because stores put more focus on high profile games like Magic and Netrunner. In any case, there are less Fellowship events than the popularity of the game actually warrants.

With that in mind, we at the Hall of Beorn are always looking for ways that we can give back to the community. I am happy to find myself with an extra copy of the quest, including an exclusive play mat and alternate art Legolas. It is time for another contest, with the winner receiving these highly desirable items.

The rules of this contest are simple. Design a custom card related to this quest. Hall of Beorn Card Search has full spoilers for those who aren’t yet familiar with this scenario, but the card that you design does not have to directly reference these cards. What I’m looking for is something that fits in with the theme of heroes helping Barliman Butterbur by unraveling the mystery of the Murder at the Prancing Pony. Entrants are encouraged to use Strange Eons to design their cards and they can either link to those images directly in the comments or email them to me and I will post them here myself. The last day for entries will be midnight on Monday, November 30th. The winner will get their free copy of the quest, the alternate art card, and the play mat – via special Eagle delivery anywhere in the world.

Best of luck, and happy investigating!

investigating bear

Posted in Community, Contest, Custom Cards, Fun | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Gen Con 2015 Bear Draft – Deck Lists

As promised, here are the deck lists from the 8 player Bear Draft that I ran at Gen Con this year. Unfortunately, I was not able to get each player’s name when I was collecting their decks at the end of the event, so many of these lists are uncredited. If you are the creator of any one of these decks, please let me know in the comments and I will credit you accordingly. It was eye-opening to see just how good draft decks could be – some of the decks are very close to constructed equivalents for their respective archetypes.

In some cases I was not able to get an exact list (some cards were shuffled into the “extras” pile of unused cards), so some of these lists are incomplete. In any case, I thought that players would be interested to see what kind of decks can be made in a draft format. Remember, the minimum deck size for this format is 40 cards, so these lists are shorter than the “tournament” size from the rule book. Since I ran this event I have updated the format based on player feedback, so anyone interested in running their own draft should check out Bear Draft version 2.

Leadership/Lore – Gondor (Matt Newman)

Aragorn (Core)
Boromir (HoN)
Denethor (Core)

Allies: 15
Snowbourn Scout x2
Herald of Anorien x1
Weather Hills Watchman x1
Honour Guard x1
Gleowine x1
Ithilien Tracker x2
Envoy of Pelargir x1
Ingold x1
Dori x1
Gimli x2
Ranger of Cardolan x1
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 11
Healing Herbs x1
Dunedain Warning x2
Gondorian Shield x1
Song of Battle x2
Celebrian’s Stone x1
Steward of Gondor x2
Visionary Leadership x2

Events: 12
Parting Gifts x2
Close Call x1
Gondorian Discipline x1
Daeron’s Runes x1
Campfire Tales x2
Sneak Attack x2
Radagast’s Cunning x1
For Gondor! x1
Grim Resolve x1

Spirit/Lore Hobbits (Matthew John Elias)

Frodo Baggins
Pippin (TBR)
Merry (TWoE)

Allies: 15
Silvan Refugee x1
Imladris Stargazer x1
Wandering Took x2
Erebor Hammersmith x1
Galadhrim Minstrel x1
Warden of Healing x1
Escort from Edoras x1
Eomund x1
Lorien Guide x1
Daughter of the Nimrodel x1
Saruman x1
Northern Tracker x1
Ranger of Cardolan x1
Gadalf (Core) x1

Attachments: 13
Spare Hood and Cloak x3
Expert Treasure-hunter x2
Ring of Barahir x1
Song of Earendil x1
Fast Hitch x1
Song of Wisdom x1
Unexpected Courage x1
Silver Lamp x1
A Burning Brand x1
Resourceful x1

Events: 10
Free to Choose x1
Power of Orthanc x1
Hasty Stroke x1
Ride to Ruin x1
Expecting Mischief x1
Noiseless Movement x1
Secret Paths x1
Lore of Imladris x1
Astonishing Speed x1
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x1

Leadership/Lore/Spirit – Men with Elf and Dwarf Support

Prince Imrahil

Allies: 30
Snowbourn Scout x1
Minas Tirith Lampwright x2
Silvan Refugee x1
Westfold Horse-breeder x1
Erebor Record Keeper x1
Henamarth Riversong x1
Naith Guide x1
Pelargir Ship Captain x1
Weather Hills Watchman x1
Arwen Undomiel x2
Blue Mountain Trader x1
Imladris Stargazer x2
Wandering Took x1
Zigil Miner x2
Erebor Hammersmith x1
Wandering Ent x1
Envoy of Pelargir x1
Longbeard Elder x2
Rivendell Minstrel x2
Bofur (TRG) x2
Ranger of Cardolan x1
Treebeard x1
Gandalf (Core) x1

Attachments: 15
Ancient Mathom x3
Elf-stone x1
Protector of Lorien x3
Song of Kings x2
Song of Travel x1
Song of Wisdom x1
Dunedain Quest x1
Silver Lamp x1
Ranger Spikes x1
Herugrim x1

Events: 4
A Good Harvest x1
We Are Not Idle x2
A Test of Will x1

Gondor and Rohan Aggro (Justin Jeffers)


Allies: 20
Dunedain Hunter x1
Pelargir Ship Captain x2
Weather Hills Watchman x1
Booming Ent x1
Defender of Rammas x2
Galadhon Archer x2
Honour Guard x1
Veteran Axehand x1
Westfold Outrider x1
Winged Guardian x2
Galadriel x1
Warden of Helm’s Deep x1
Boromir x1
Landroval x2
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 12
Cram x2
Dunedain Warning x1
Arod x1
Blade of Gondolin x1
Captain of Gondor x1
Gondorian Shield x1
Horn of Gondor x1
Rohan Warhorse x2
Secret Vigil x1
Song of Kings x1

Events: 8
Gaining Strength x1
Close Call x1
Campfire Tales x1
Sneak Attack x1
Hail of Stones x1
Tireless Hunters x1
Quick Strike x1
For Gondor x1

Tri-Sphere – Silvan and Noldor (David Gearhart)

Brand son of Bain

Allies: 19
Dunedain Hunter x1
Errand-rider x1
Vassal of the Windlord x1
Naith Guide x1
Defender of Rammas x1
Master of the Forge x2
Miner of the Iron Hills x1
Galadriel x1
Silverlode Archer x1
Daughter of the Nimrodel x2
Silvan Tracker x1
Elrond x1
Defender of the Naith x2
Legolas x2
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 9
Expert Treasure-hunter x1
Healing Herbs x1
O Lorien! x2
Blade of Gondolin x1
Dagger of Westernesse x1
Song of Battle x1
Song of Kings x1
Song of Wisdom x1

Events: 13
A Very Good Tale x1
Feigned Voices x2
Gaining Strength x1
The Tree People x1
Feint x1
Hands Upon the Bow x1
Quick Strike x1
Radagast’s Cunning x1
Strider’s Path x1
Lore of Imladris x1
The White Council x2

Tacitcs/Lore – Ents and Dwarves

Bilbo Baggins

Allies: 25
Vassal of the Windlord x2
Erebor Record Keeper x2
Booming Ent x2
Honour Guard x1
Westfold Outrider x1
Erebor Hammersmith x1
Ithilien Tracker x1
Miner of the Iron Hills x2
Quickbeam x1
Wandering Ent x1
Envoy of Pelargir x1
Bofur (TH:OHaUH) x2
Erebor Battle Master x1
Dori x1
Silvan Tracker x2
Defender of the Naith x1
Boromir x1
Treebeard x1
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 10
Boots of Erebor x2
Captain of Gondor x1
Dagger of Westernesse x1
Gondorian Shield x1
Elf-stone x1
Fast Hitch x1
Song of Kings x1
Narvi’s Belt x1
Dwarven Axe x1

Events: 12
We Are Not Idle x1
Foe-hammer x2
Gondorian Discipline x1
Khazad! Khazad! x2
Feint x2
Quick Strike x1
Expecting Mischief x1
Secret Paths x1
Shadow of the Past x1

Leadership/Tactics/Spirit – Silvan (Patrick B.)


Allies: 19
Errand-rider x2
Silvan Refugee x1
Westfold Horse-breeder x1
Henamarth Riversong x1
Naith Guide x1
Galadhon Archer x1
Trollshaw Scout x1
Winged Guardian x1
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x2
Galadhrim Minstrel x1
Warden of Healing x1
Orophin x1
Silverlode Archer x2
Lorien Guide x1
Northern Tracker x1
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 17
Dunedain Mark x1
Arod x1
Blade of Gondolin x1
Dagger of Westernesse x1
Horn of Gondor x1
Rohan Warhorse x1
Light of Valinor x2
Nenya x2
Song of Battle x1
Song of Travel x1
Song of Wisdom x2
Elven Mail x1
Unexpected Courage x1
Asfaloth x1

Events: 15
Gaining Strength x1
Unseen Strike x1
Elrond’s Counsel x1
Power of Orthanc x1
A Good Harvest x1
A Test of Will x1
Dwarven Tomb x1
Hail of Stones x1
Hands Upon the Bow x2
Tireless Hunters x1
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2
Stand and Fight x2

Spirit/Lore – Rohan and Ents


Allies: 14
Westfold Horse-breeder x1
Escort from Edoras x1
The Riddermark’s Finest x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x1
Gleowine x1
Quickbeam x1
Wandering Ent x1
Eomund x1
Hama x2
Elrond x1
Gandalf x1

Attachments: 11
Miruvor x3
Steed of the Mark x1
Thror’s Key x1
Elf-stone x1
Song of Wisdom x1
A Burning Brand x1
Ranger Spikes x2
Herugrim x1

Events: 11
Free to Choose x1
Daeron’s Runes x2
A Test of Will x1
Hasty Stroke x2
Ride to Ruin x1
Mithrandir’s Advice x2
Radagast’s Cunning x1
Astonishing Speed x1

Posted in Community, Deck Lists, Draft, Fun, GenCon, GenCon 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bear Draft version 2


It’s been a while since Gen Con, but with so much happening at the Hall these the delay was longer than expected before I had a chance to write a retrospective. As part of the Grey Company‘s listener even, Ian hosted a four player game of his wonderful First Age custom expansion. While Ian/Morgoth was mercilessly slaying heroes, I was running the first ever 8-player Bear Draft. Both events were a smashing success and I’ve just now had a chance to go back over the deck lists from the draft and review all of the feedback from participants.

First of all, let me extend my utmost gratitude to everyone who participated. It was tremendous fun to run this event and I hope that I will have a chance for a follow-up in the future. While the event was an overwhelming success this was my first attempt at a limited format version of the game at this scale. As such, there were aspects of the process that could be improved. I have taken some excellent constructive criticism from those involved and others in attendance in designing a second version of the Bear Draft. In particular, feedback from Matt Newman and Matthew John Elias was incisive in aiding me to further refine the card pool – so a particular thanks to you both. While there were various suggestions among, the changes ultimately fell into three main categories.

The first and most vital issue with the v1 card pool was that there were not enough allies. In retrospect this was a rather obvious mistake as the ratio of card types did not match that of typical decks. For each of the four spheres, the breakdown by card types was as follows: 40 allies, 30 attachments and 30 events. When the “average” constructed deck will often have closer to 50% allies, these ratios are obviously problematic. Since players end up drafting 55 cards (along with one copy of Core Set Gandalf and a Song of their choice), I had hoped that they would be able to draft enough allies to create balanced decks. While the deck lists from Gen Con were quite excellent, with a couple in particular that I will highlight in a moment, they did suffer from a consistent lack of allies.


Many decks had under 20 allies and some even had closer to 15. My deck lists are not perfect because some cards were shuffled into the extras before I could get a perfect accounting of the contents of players decks. Still, this seemed to be a fairly consistent concern across the event. In any case, this has been addressed by not only adjusting the ratios to match standard deck conventions, but by also expanding the card pool slightly to allow players to build their deck using more total cards. Each sphere now consists of 120 player cards: 60 allies, 30 attachments and 30 events. Neutral cards now number 48 with 24 allies, 18 attachments and 6 events. With these changes, half of the overall card pool (264 cards) are allies. Instead of 55 cards, each player now has access to 66 cards (plus the free Gandalf and Song card) from which to make their 40 card deck. This should ensure that player who want to build decks with more allies can easily do so, as well as facilitating decks of more then the minimum 40 cards. As we will see, a change to the card rarities has also allowed more decks to access so-called utility allies which are generally useful in most decks.

A Test of WillWith the issue of ally shortage resolved, the next problem to solve with Bear Draft v2 was the high demand for staple cards. As any player who has expanded their collection beyond the Core Set well knows, there are simply no replacements for certain must-have cards, even with the overall card pool at a now healthy size. In particular, cards like A Test of Will are critical for many scenarios where a handful of “game-ending” treacheries make success a difficult proposition for decks without access to cancelation. Eleanor hero is included among the hero pool, but only 1 player will be able to select her, and the remaining 3 copies of A Test of Will simply where not enough to cover an 8 player draft. While the challenge of building decks with arbitrary constraints (e.g. no healing, no cancelation, etc.) is quite enjoyable to advanced players, the goal of a limited format is to test the players’ deck-building skills in a limited environment, not to determine their level of masochism.

With that in mind, within each sphere and card type, a single card has been given a new rarity of “staple” and 6 copies of that card have been included in the card pool. This expands the requirements for building the draft pool to 3 Core Sets (and two copies of a few Adventure Packs like Celebrimbor’s Secret and Shadow and Flame), but my hope is that this won’t prove too onerous a change for those who are interested in trying out this awesome format. I would encourage anyone interested in playing Bear Draft who is held back by the multiple set requirement to consider using proxies of other cards, or substituting new cards in place of the extra staple cards. Most of the choices of staple cards will be fairly obvious and non-controversial, though there are a few that bear further mention because of the way that they interact with traits.


The last major piece of feedback from Gen Con was that trait-based cards were often very difficult to use effectively. For example, a card like Support of the Eagles is very powerful in a constructed deck with 3 copies of The Eagles Are Coming and other means for drawing the attachment itself. In a limited format like Bear Draft powerful but cheap Eagle allies are likely to be drafted by players with entirely difficult archetypes in mind. Eagles benefit everything from “leaves play” decks built around Prince Imrahil and Éomer, to aggressive Tactics decks with a high starting threat and a need for inexpensive chump blockers to help survive the early game. This leaves a more dedicated Eagle deck out in the cold as the pieces required to make a card like Support of the Eagles work simply are not available.

Support of the EaglesOne simple solution to this problem would be to simply remove all of the heavily trait-based cards from the draft pool. I opted not to go with the easy choice in this situation because I believe that it would remove much of what makes the card pool interesting. The expression “throwing the baby out with the bath-water” is one of those idiosyncratic yet eloquent Americanisms that is most fitting here. One of my very favorite things about this game is precisely the way that it blends mechanics with theme. That fact that so many players want to build “pure” faction decks in this game whereas players of other LCGs and CCGs largely do no care is a great indication of the degree to which the lore matters when it comes to Tolkien. While the expedient of removing trait-heavy cards from the pool would have solved the immediate issue, it would have created a much larger and more serious problem of a very dry and one-dimensional card pool. The goal is not to design a card pool where all of the decks look the same.

With that in mind, some of the decisions for staple cards have been made not only to bolster a particular sphere, but also to facilitate drafting of more trait-based decks. A good example of this is the decision to include the Wandering Ent as the staple Lore Ally. To get equivalent stats from any other non-unique ally in Lore, you would be paying at least 3 resources, so just from the standpoint of helping make Lore more self-sufficient as a sphere the Wandering Ent is an obvious choice. Moreover, cards like Ent Draught and Boomed and Trumpeted require a Ent character to be played so we want to prevent them from being “dead” cards in the draft pool. Likewise, Vassal of the Windlord is the staple Tactics Ally. As mentioned previously, a cheap Tactics ally with Ranged that leaves play is welcome in many decks, so this is by no means a wasted slot for a staple card. It does also have the benefit of making Support of the Eagles a much more viable card to include. Still astute readers will note that only 2 copies of Support of the Eagles are included in the list below as we don’t want to oversaturate our pool with trait-conditional cards. The idea is that just about any Tactics deck would be happy to run a full set of Vassal of the Windlord regardless of the particular archetype. If you happen to pick up a late round copy of Support of the Eagles as a possible trump card, so much the better.

Steward of GondorIt should be stated that the presence of 6 copies of staple cards in the draft pool does not change the official deck-building rules so at most 3 copies of any one card can be included in a deck. The new card pool also includes Player Side Quests, which are of course limited to one per deck. Only two copies of each of these is included in the card pool, so this should not be much of an issue. There was an optional rule that we instituted first in Austin, and was used to great success at Gen Con. We gave each team the option to have their first player draw 1 less card in their opening hand (with or without a mulligan). If they choose to do so, they were allowed to start with a copy of Gather Information in their opening hand. While this is obviously a very powerful option it helps balance the game in two important respects. First of all, many draft decks by there very nature are highly dependent upon a few cards. A Leadership Gondor deck quite simply needs to get Steward of Gondor on the table as quickly as possible. Where a constructed deck will include 2 or 3 copies of this card, along with multiple ways to fetch it, draft decks do not always have this same luxury. An early game Gather Information helps to ensure that decks can have at least part of their intended setup, and stand some kind of a chance against the scenario.

This leads to the second reason for using such an optional rule. Depending on the scenario (at Gen Con they played Weather Hills), four player games can be brutally difficult. While the two teams are competing against each other, the overall goal is for everyone to have fun, and to at least feel like there is some chance for success – however slim that may be. Another thing to consider is that players often plan ahead for 3 or 4 player games, designating that one deck will be responsible for questing, another healing/encounter cancelation, another combat, while the fourth might provide support for whatever particular challenge a quest brings (e.g. condition removal, or threat reduction). With the difficult of some recent quests this kind of pre-game strategizing is no longer a luxury, it is often a requirement. In a draft environment the flexibility of each player’s deck is limited at best. Allowing each of the decks to go fetch that key early piece (e.g. Warden of Healing) helps to mitigate the fact that the format effectively prevents players from any sort of pre-game planning.

Gather-Information-smallStill, a case can be made that a first turn Gather Information is too imbalancing, especially against earlier or easier quests. Ultimately, there is a reason that this last piece is an optional rule. If you like this idea, and you want to see decks with more strategic variety, then let players know going into the draft that this will be in play, so that they can draft accordingly. Suddenly, Support of the Eagles and Boomed and Trumpeted won’t seem like such worthless cards. On the other hand if you want to more fully test a players ability to build a balanced deck from a limited card pool, you are encouraged to ignore this particular option rule. As always, the best way to play the game is whatever way you find most enjoyable.

What follows is the revised card pool list. The heroes have been mostly unchanged, with extensive updates to the player cards. With 528 total cards, each pack will still consist of 11 cards (with a mix of staple, common and uncommon cards). The draft now runs 6 rounds, which leaves 66 total cards drafted (in addition to the 5 heroes). Each player then gets 1 copy of Core Set Gandalf and 1 Song of their choice from among Song of Battle, Song of Kings, Song of Travel and Song of Wisdom. With those 68 cards and 5 heroes, players will then build decks of at least 40 cards and from 1 to 3 heroes. If you choose to use the optional Gather Information rule, the first player on each team will draw 1 less card – as though Gather Information was in their opening hand. Since this article is already lengthy enough, I have decided to include the deck lists from Gen Con 2015 in a follow-up article, so the curious can look forward to that. I plan on brining this version of the Bear Draft to one or more of the upcoming Fellowship Events in Austin, so it will be interesting to see how these changes effect the draft. With natural ursine curiosity I am always interested in hearing feedback, questions, criticism and random grunting noises – all of which should be left in the comments below.

bear print

Leadership (120 cards)

Heroes x1 (10)

Sam Gamgee (TBR)
Théodred (Core)
Balin (TH:OtD)
Halbarad (TLR)
Boromir (HoN)
Celeborn (TDT)
Erkenbrand (TAC)
Prince Imrahil (AJtR)
Aragorn (Core)
Thorin Oakenshield (TH:OHaUH)

Allies (60)

Staple x6 (6)

Errand-rider (HoN)

Common x3 (30)

Snowbourn Scout (Core)
Guard of the Citadel (Core)
Pelargir Ship Captain
Naith Guide (TDT)
Warrior of Lossarnach (TSF)
Weather Hills Watchman (TLR)
Longbeard Elder (FoS)
Silverlode Archer (Core)
Veteran of Osgiliath (EfMG)
Warden of Helm’s Deep (TAC)

Uncommon x2 (24)

Bill the Pony (TBR)
Herald of Anorien
Dúnedain Watcher
Fili (TH:OHaUH)
Ingold (TWoE)
Galadriel (TRD)
Anborn (TLoS)
Denethor (EaAD)
Erestor (TLD)
Gimli (ToS)
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core)

Attachments (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Steward of Gondor x6

Common x3 (12)

Cram (TH:OHaUH)
Dúnedain Mark
Dúnedain Warning
Ranger Provisions (AtE)

Uncommon x2 (12)

O’ Lorien! (TiT)
Dúnedain Signal
Celebrían’s Stone (Core)
Dúnedain Cache
King Under the Mountain (TH:OtD)
Visionary Leadership (TMV)

Events/Side Quests (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Sneak Attack (Core)

Common x3 (12)

Gaining Strength (TSF)
We Are Not Idle (SaF)
Campfire Tales (THfG)
Swift and Silent (TDT)

Uncommon x2 (12)

A Very Good Tale (TH:OHaUH)
Feigned Voices
Send for Aid (TToR)
For Gondor! (Core)
Lure of Moria
Grim Resolve (Core)

Tactics (120)

Heroes x1 (10)

Merry (TBR)
Legolas (Core)
Thalin (Core)
Beregond (HoN)
Brand son of Bain (THoEM)
Éomer (VoI)
Mablung (NiE)
Bard the Bowman (TH:OtD)
Gimli (Core)
Beorn (TH:OHaUH)

Allies (60)

Staples x6 (6)

Vassal of the Windlord (TDM)

Common x3 (30)

Knights of the Swan (TSF)
Booming Ent
Defender of Rammas (HoN)
Derndingle Warrior (EfMG)
Galadhon Archer
Gondorian Spearman
Honour Guard (TWoE)
Veteran Axehand (Core)
Westfold Outrider (VoI)
Winged Guardian

Uncommon x2 (24)

Dunedain Hunter (TLR)
Trollshaw Scout
Bofur (TH:OHaUH)
Erebor Battle Master
Longbeard Sentry (AtE)
Skinbark (TLoS)
Boromir (TRD)
Eagles of the Misty Mountains
Legolas (ToS)

Attachments (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Dagger of Westernesse (TBR)

Common x3 (12)

Blade of Gondolin (Core)
Gondorian Shield (TSF)
Rohan Warhorse (VoI)
Dwarven Axe (Core)

Uncommon x2 (12)

Horn of Gondor (Core)
Rivendell Blade
Firefoot (TDT)
Spear of the Citadel (HoN)
Support of the Eagles

Events (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Feint (Core)

Common x3 (12)

Foe-hammer (TH:OHaUH)
Hail of Stones (RtR)
Hands Upon the Bow (SaF)
Quick Strike (Core)

Uncommon x2 (12)

Gondorian Discipline
Khazad-khazad! (KD)
The Eagles Are Coming!
Boomed and Trumpeted
Tireless Hunters (TLR)
Horn’s Cry (TToR)

Spirit (120)

Heroes x1 (10)

Merry (TWoE)
Eleanor (Core)
Frodo Baggins (CatC)
Dúnhere (Core)
Éowyn (Core)
Dwalin (KD)
Galadriel (CS)
Nori (TH:OHaUH)
Idraen (TTT)
Théoden (ToS)

Allies (60)

Staple x6 (6)

Galadriel’s Handmaiden (CS)

Common x3 (30)

Minas Tirith Lampwright (EaAD)
Galadhrim Weaver (TToR)
Ethir Swordsman (TSF)
Westfold Horse-breeder
Escort from Edoras
Imladris Stargazer (FoS)
The Riddermark’s Finest
Wandering Took (Core)
Westfold Horse-breaker
Zigil Miner (KD)

Uncommon x2 (24)

Arwen Undomiel (TWitW)
Bilbo Baggins (TRD)
Elven Jeweler (EfMG)
Bofur (TRG)
Dwalin (TH:OtD)
Kili (TH:OHaUH)
Lorien Guide (Core)
Pelargir Shipwright (AoO)
Northern Tracker (Core)
Éomund (CatC)
Gamling (TLoS)
Háma (ToS)

Attachments (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Miruvor (SaF)

Common x3 (12)

Ancient Mathom
Song of Earendil
Steed of Imladris
Silver Lamp

Uncommon x2 (12)

Hobbit Pipe
Hobbit Pony
Light of Valinor
Unexpected Courage (Core)

Events/Side Quests (30)

Staple x6 (6)

A Test of Will (Core)

Common x3 (12)

Dwarven Tomb
Hasty Stroke
The Galadhrim’s Greeting
Stand and Fight

Uncommon x2 (12)

Double Back (EfMG)
Elrond’s Counsel
Power of Orthanc
Ride to Ruin
Astonishing Speed
Fortune of Fate

Lore (120)

Heroes x1 (10)

Bilbo Baggins
Haldir of Lorien
Beravor (Core)
Glorfindel (Core)

Allies (60)

Staple x6 (6)

Wandering Ent (CS)

Common x3 (30)

Anfalas Herdsman
Erebor Hammersmith (Core)
Ithilien Tracker (HoN)
Galadhrim Minstrel
Master of the Forge (SaF)
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core)
Warden of Healing (TLD)
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core)
Silvan Tracker
Wellinghall Preserver (AtE)

Uncommon x2 (24)

Erebor Record Keeper (KD)
Henamarth Riversong (Core)
Ered Nimrais Prospector
Gleowine (Core)
Mablung (TLoS)
Quickbeam (ToS)
Rivendell Minstrel
Dori (TH:OHaUH)
Elrond (TRD)
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR)
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM)

Attachments (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Ranger Spikes (HoN)

Common x3 (12)

Protector of Lorien (Core)
Ambush (TLoS)
Forest Snare (Core)
Self Preservation (Core)

Uncommon x2 (12)

Ent Draught (ToS)
Fast Hitch
Legacy of Durin (FoS)
A Burning Brand (CatC)
Asfaloth (FoS)

Events/Side Quests (30)

Staple x6 (6)

Daeron’s Runes (FoS)

Common x3 (12)

Mithrandir’s Advice
Noiseless Movement
Secret Paths (Core)
Lore of Imladris (Core)

Uncommon x2 (12)

Distant Stars
Scout Ahead (TWoE)
Entmoot (ToS)
The Tree People
Gildor’s Counsel
Take No Notice (TBR)

Neutral (48)

Allies (24)

Staple x6 (12)

Envoy of Pelargir (HoN)
Ranger of Cardolan (TWoE)

Common x3 (6)

Defender of the Naith (TiT)
Treebeard (TAC)

Uncommon x2 (6)

Saruman (VoI)
White Tower Watchman (TDF)
Radagast (AJtR)

Attachments (18)

Uncommon x2 (18)

Boots from Erebor (KD)
Elf-friend (TToR)
Nenya (CS)
Song of Battle (TDM)
Song of Kings (THfG)
Song of Travel (THoEM)
Song of Wisdom (CatC)
Resourceful (TWitW)
Sword-thain (TDR)

Events (6)

Common x3 (6)

A Good Harvest (TSF)
The White Council (TDT)


Gandalf (Core) x8 [one for each player]
Songs x8 [one for each player, of that player’s choice]

Optional Rule (for more difficult quests):
The first player on each team starts with Gather Information as one of the 6 cards in their starting hand

Posted in Community, Fun, GenCon, The Grey Company | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Custom Cards: Defenders of the Carrock


Apologies for the long delay in posting. Life has been a bit of a roller-coaster lately. Some advice from an old bear, don’t ever think “things can’t possibly get worse”, because life can and will prove you wrong. In any case, it is good to be back writing on the blog, and I hope that you all enjoy the release of this project which has been long in development.

If the title of the blog wasn’t proof enough, I have always been specifically fascinated by the character of Beorn, and his people the Beornings in a more general sense. There is something mysterious and mythologically significant about a man with the ability to change into an animal. While some readers may find the lack of detail frustrating, the fact that Tolkien leaves his story vague only adds to his appeal. If only George Lucas could have learned from this – sometimes less information makes a character better.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have always wanted a deluxe expansion focused on the Beornings. While I even went so far as to (jokingly) try to bribe Caleb at GenCon, this wish will probably never be fulfilled. There are so many other parts of Middle-earth to explore, and my particular obsession with Beorn and his people is not necessarily reflective of the desires of players of the game. Fortunately, I have access to Strange Eons and a blog where I get to write about whatever crazy idea I want.

This custom expansion is called Defenders of the Carrock and consists solely of player cards. Good design is very challenging – which is what makes the job that Caleb and Matt have been doing lately all the more impressive. It was more than enough of a task to come up with a set of player cards that were balanced, interesting and thematically cohesive, so that is what I have done. I will leave the custom scenarios to those with more talent for such things.

As I alluded at the top, this expansion has been in the works for quite some time. That’s not to say the results are anything impressive, just that this has been a labor of love that I have developed off an on over the last year. It is not easy to make a faction that is unique and interesting, while also maintaining a balance between powerful and game-breaking. Some players may find the designs here rather conservative, which is to some extent intentional as I designed the kind of cards that I like to play. I am far more motivated to use cards with fun and interesting interactions than just the most obviously powerful cards. In short, the game doesn’t need another Spirit Glorfindel or Dain Ironfoot and it seems silly to design custom cards to compete with them.

With that in mind, I wanted to design this expansion around a couple of sub-themes and I wanted it to fit in with the existing card pool. One of the most impressive things that Caleb and Matt have done in their recent designs is to skillfully integrate new archetypes with existing cards. This is no trivial task as there were multiple designers who held stewardship over the game before either of them came along. To give an example of new archetypes that blend seamlessly with existing cards, look at the nascent Noldor decks built around hero Erestor. I take particular joy when I notice how fluidly cards like Protector of Lórien and Trollshaw Scout interact with this new archetype.

This is certainly a deck-building win as it provides a whole host of Noldor and discard-related cards that are ready to slot into decks of this archetype. As importantly to players like me though, it makes the Noldor faction feel real – as opposed to a bunch of arbitrary abstractions that are manifested as some game mechanics. Honoring past designs, while forging ahead into new and interesting territory is exactly what I wanted to do with this expansion.

Beorn (Core Set)With very few existing Beorning cards to work with, this proved quite the challenge. Outside of Gandalf and Faramir, Beorn is the most powerful ally in the Core Set. His transformational stat boost is still one of the most effective – not to mention fun – ways to finish off a boss enemy. He also has the interesting cost of shuffling into your deck, which is not a cost seen in other factions up to this point.

I wanted to avoid an archetype that assumes the presence of Hero Beorn – noting that he is a very difficult card to build around in general. So, the Core Set version of Beorn acted as the first prominent design inspiration. This immediately put me in the mindset of allies with high hit points and abilities that require them to be shuffled into their owner’s deck. One of the pleasant side effects of this particular sub-theme is that is removed the need to design healing as-such into any cards, as allies leaving play is a somewhat indirect, though granted inefficient, replacement for healing effects. In any case, I didn’t want to take the lazy way out and just give Beorning a “Warden of the Carrock” ally as that would be both obvious and boring.

Beorning-BeekeeperAt a cost of 4, with an ability that requires him to be discarded, the Beorning Beekeeper is much maligned by most players. While his direct damage can be devastating in the right scenarios (hello Khazad-dûm), his ability is conditional and Tactics has limited forms of resource acceleration. Even for players running Horn of Gondor or Mablung, there are so many better choices for a four-cost ally. Also, with the more aggressive style of recent play, it isn’t often that you find yourself leaving that many enemies in the staging area to take full benefit of this effect.

The direct damage did catch my eye, and it made me think about what is was thematically that I wanted the Beorning faction to embody. If Gondor is a defensive-minded faction (Gondorian Shield, Behind Strong Walls, For Gondor!, etc.), I wanted Beorning to be an inherently aggressive faction. Taking one look at hero Beorn should paint a much more vivid picture than I ever could with words. Put simply, Beornings are good at killing things, particularly when those things are Orcs and Trolls. This idea of aggression coupled with damage gave me the second major sub-theme of the Beorning faction. Beornings will get bonuses when they are dealing with damaged enemies.

It is easy to forget just how humorous Tolkien’s writing can be. The entire Queer Lodgings chapter is chock-a-block with jokes and silly details – it is clear that the professor had a great deal of fun writing it. With the mechanical concerns of designing cards, this most important kind of fun can sometimes be lost. Which leads to the last major sub-theme for the Beorning faction. Beornings, like all of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, hold good food and drink as high ideals. This respect for the simple pleasures may seem quaint or anachronistic to some modern readers, but as I get to be an older bear, I realize the deeper wisdom in this idea. Being able to appreciate good food and drinks with your friends and loved ones is one of the most magical things a person can do. Even with the would-be acolytes of Sauron seemingly running amuck these days, an old bear can’t become too cynical to appreciate the joy of a delicious meal in welcome company.

The food and drink did push me to add a new keyword, which warrants an explanation:

Portion X: Attachments with the Portion X keyword enter play with X resource tokens on them. They cannot ever have more than X resource tokens on them (sadly, you can’t overfill a stein or eat a honey cake that doesn’t exist). These attachments have effects which can only be triggered by exhausting them and removing one or more resource tokens. If they have no remaining resource tokens the attachment is not discarded, its triggered effect simply cannot be used until it is refilled by another card effect. Many cards with the Portion X keyword can optionally be attached to another valid target after their ability is triggered (sharing is caring).

I suppose it’s silly how much I have thought about these unofficial cards, but this project is dear to my ursine idiosyncrasies. As such, I could ramble on and on about the particular designs of individual cards, but I am more curious to hear feedback from other players of the game. What do you guys think of the cards? Would you play with them – or would they be relegated to the dust-bin along with poor old Brok Ironfist? Are there any obviously broken combos (and yes, I know that Anduin Lookout is awesome with A Very Good Tale – that was intentional). Are any of the cards too weak? If so, how would you improve them without making them too powerful? Please do leave comments below as I am interested to hear your thoughts. Hopefully wizards stop sending evil storms to impede my progress and I can return to a more regular blog-posting schedule. In the mean time, be well everyone!

UPDATE: By popular demand, I have created printable versions of these cards. You can download them here.
















Posted in Beornings, Custom Cards, Fun, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Deck: Rally the Troops


In a sense, new heroes represent a puzzle to be solved. Heroes form such an important part of a deck’s design, but it is not always immediately obvious how a new hero will best integrate with the existing cards, to say nothing of the player cards released concurrently with that hero. The creative aspect of deck-building holds particular appeal for me – like a good scratch behind the ears it tickles my fancy. As the card pool grows, and the variety of scenarios continues to diversify, identifying the potential synergies of a new hero can feel like a search for a few chocolates in a giant bag full of raisins. Fortunately, bears have an excellent sense of smell, so I am here to help sort out the good stuff. In some cases, cards which never saw much play will suddenly become relevant again.

Ever-VigilantIn the case of Leadership Faramir, it has taken me a bit of tinkering before I was finally able to build a deck around him that I am happy with. Perhaps it was the huge influx of cards from Gen Con 2015, or just the distractions of life, but the design of a proper deck for the Captain of the Rangers of Ithilien has taken some time. Faramir has always been one of my favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings, but with the potency of the Core Set ally, I have never fully accepted the Lore version of this character. The new Leadership version – Captain Faramir I like to call him – gives us access to Gondor’s biggest strength: resource acceleration. His ability might at first seem unexciting, especially for decks that rely so heavily on powerful heroes with action advantage. Once again, other changes in the metagame have coincided to bring this ability into focus for me.

Boromir (HoN)While the first assumption would be to make Faramir the leader of an ally-heavy Gondor deck – perhaps even pair him with his brother Boromir – this doesn’t quite work. Most of the Gondor allies have mediocre stats, which is the entire reason you need the global boosts from Boromir, Visionary Leadership and For Gondor!, to be begin with. When it comes to allies with powerful exhaust effects, the Core Set version of Faramir is the obvious choice, an unfortunate case where a hero would have great synergy with an ally of the same name. From a thematic standpoint, I really want the new Faramir to work well in a Gondor Army deck, I just don’t see it with the current crop of Gondor allies that we have. It’s not to say that these allies could not contribute to combat after questing – they most certainly could – it just would not be making the best use of Faramir’s ability. As with all effects in this game, it is important to note the limit. Faramir’s response has no cost (other than the trigger condition) and can be used one per phase. This means that we will look for cards that help us to engages enemies multiple times in a round.

Treebeard-TACWith Gondor off the list, we naturally turn to the newest powerhouse archetype in the metagame: The Ents. On closer inspection, this is a perfect match – and not just because the Ents have amazing stats for a low cost. Other than not being able to wield weapons and armor (of little concern for characters with such potent base-stats), the one real limitation for Ent allies is that they enter play exhausted. This means that you will not ordinarily be able to use the great stats from the Ent ally that you just played until the round after you payed the price. While this drawback is most certainly worth it, it is nevertheless a drawback. Scenarios that ambush the players from the first round will be more than happy to see you spending precious resources for an ally that does nothing the round it enters play.

Faramir-TLoSThis is where the new Leadership Faramir and a bit of creativity can lead to a very potent deck. The is an aggressive deck with a pretty straight-forward premise: muster big allies with useful abilities as quickly as possible. Then, engage as many enemies as can be safely managed, all while reaping multiple benefits for each enemy engagement.

While it still feels half-finished, there are some powerful new cards in the Dúnedain archetype from this cycle. Engagement-based effects are a perfect fit for this deck. Dúnedai Hunter n is an amazing ally for the bargain price of nothing. Ordinarily, the requirement of engaging an enemy can be a bit scary, but in this deck it will actually net you a resource (thanks to Mablung) and ready a potentially devastating ally like Treebeard or Gandalf.

A Very Good TaleThis is where the smart-ass bears in the back of the room raise their paws and ask the rhetorical question: “Why would your ally even be exhausted during the planning phase for this combo to work?”. As a bear, and merciless slayer of straw-men, I am more than happy to answer this rhetorical question. Between the Ents, which all enter play exhausted during, and A Very Good Tale, there are plenty of ways to get our allies exhausted during the planning phase. Honour Guard can exhaust during any phase to prevent damage – very useful for a deck without access to healing. In some rare cases, encounter card effects can deal damage during the refresh, resource or planning phases. If the Honour Guard happened to be exhausted in such a situation, his friend the hunter would allow him to be ready for the all important quest phase when most of the direct-damage nastiness comes. The point of this rhetorical exercise is to encourage you to look for ways to use Faramir’s ability as much as possible.

With that in mind, we need to talk about Legolas. We discussed this on episode 30 of The Grey Company Podcast (available soon), but the ally version of everyone’s favorite Mirkwood Elf is fantastic. An earlier version of this deck featured weapons and Foe-Hammer as supplemental card draw. As anyone who relies on that strategy with support from Lore can tell you – that strategy is not very consistent. There is nothing more frustrating that looking at a Foe-hammer in an opening hand bereft of weapons. Fortunately, this deck has a more reliable form of card draw. Yes, pedantic bears in the back row, you first need to draw Legolas, but the same can be said for Foe-hammer (but it also requires a weapon on an attacking hero in addition). In any case, once you get him out, your card draw problems are solved, particularly when there are enemies that can be left in the staging area after the encounter phase.

Aragorn-TLR-smallThis is where our third hero comes into the picture – Mablung can’t steal all of the glory. Not only does Tactics Aragorn feature one of the most underrated passive effects of any hero in the game, but his response in this deck is just silly. Again, it should be stressed that this deck is designed to work in multi-player, were there are consistently multiple enemies in play. Aragorn all but ensures that this deck can ready an ally during every combat phase – a particularly useful time to be readying, I might add.

Donning our fuzzy hypothetical hats once more (trust me, you’d much rather wear the warm and furry hypothetical hat than the burlap and irony-wrought curmudgeon hate), let’s look out how Aragorn and Legolas work together to create a powerful team. First let’s assume that Aragorn and Legolas both participate in an attack which kills an enemy – not too outlandish when they have a combined attack of 6 and Aragorn’s passive weakens all non-immune enemies. First we trigger Legolas’ response and draw a card. Next we trigger Aragorn’s response and engage an enemy from the staging area (or stuck with another player). Lastly we trigger Faramir’s ability to ready Legolas.

Legolas-ToSIf Aragorn happens to have a Rohan warhorse, he could also ready and help out with the subsequent slaughter. The important point here is that there is no limit to the number of times you can trigger Ally Legolas’ response, provided you can ready him. A silly version of this deck even features Hands upon the Bow, Sword-thain and Rohan Warhorse so that Legolas can just keep killing enemies until you run out of enemies to kill. Even in less ideal circumstances, Legolas should be able to help kill at least one enemy a round, which is an extra card that an Aggro deck featuring resource acceleration desperately needs.

Some games, Legolas might not show up. Have no fear, even without card draw, this deck can muster a formidable host of allies. As we said earlier, and it bears repeating, Ents are under-costed for their stats. Try to exhaust at least 6 points worth of characters when you use A Very Good Tale – this will allow you to choose a four cost ally and a 2-cost ally from among the cards discarded. With 30 allies in the deck, it will be almost impossible to miss on that card, so play it early and often. Treebeard also helps muster his friends once he comes into play, so there is actually quite a bit of resource acceleration available here.

Even if this deck struggles along without Legolas or Steward of Gondor for a few rounds, you will still make enough money between your heroes and Mablung’s ability to pay for any of the Ents and Eagles in this deck. Assuming threat is not an issue, use Gandalf for card draw to find the missing piece. Gather Information is also included to help find whatever card is needed to get everything setup. Support of the Eagles can turn Aragorn into an amazing attacker, or Mablung into a super-defender, but the heroes are really just here to help you survive until your army is raised.

GandalfOne last card that bears mentioning is Ever Vigilant. To my knowledge, I have not included this card in a deck that I built (Core Set pre-constructed decks don’t count). It always seemed like either a niche card (use with ally Faramir of Gandalf) and lost out space to other in-sphere gems like Sneak Attack. In this deck however, this card is fantastic. Legolas has the Ranged keyword after all. Aragorn is sometimes not ready or able to kill an engaged enemy – or perhaps you don’t want to deal with the engagement effect on an enemy fighting against another player. Whatever the reason, the worst case scenario for this card is to allow you to ready Legolas to swing in two attacks and net you two extra cards.

The deck is not without its weaknesses. With a 33 starting threat, it is unabashedly in its aggression. Because we are not using the Hobbit-style “sneaky” engagement effects, we do get the full benefit from each engagement – even the non-optional variety. This is good, because the hight starting threat will mean that many enemies come running at us from the first round. The sideboard has some cards to help mitigate this, and feel free to swap them in for particular scenarios. Doomed and threat raise effects can also be an issue. Secret Vigil and Sneaky Gandalf can certainly help with this, but this strategy is honestly paired best with a deck featuring Spirit, for stronger questing (this deck can often be mediocre in that department), treachery and shadow cancelation, and threat control. While you certainly could try this deck solo, my best games with it so far have been two player, paired with Mrs. Beorn’s White Council Deck.

Aragorn (TLR)
Faramir (TLoS)
Mablung (NiE)

Allies: 30
Dúnedain Hunter (TLR) x3
Errand-rider (HoN) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Booming Ent (TaC) x1
Derndingle Warrior (EfMG) x3
Honour Guard (TWoE) x2
Orophin (CS) x1
Skinbark (TLoS) x1
Treebeard (TAC) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Legolas (ToS) x3
Rúmil (TTT) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 10
Rohan Warhorse (VoI) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x2
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Events: 9
A Very Good Tale (TH:OHaUH) x3
Ever Vigilant (Core) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x2
Quick Strike (Core) x2

Side Quests: 1
Gather Information (TLR) x1

Sideboard: 15
Booming Ent (TAC) x1
Honour Guard (TWoE) x1
Captain of Gondor (TAC) x1
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x2
Secret Vigil (TLR) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x1
Firefoot (TDT) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x1
Feint (Core) x2
Tireless Hunters (TLR) x2

Posted in Aggro, Deck Lists, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Poll Results: Favorite Defending Hero

mother bear defending cubs

It seems like Tulkas was still wrestling with Melkor the last time we posted poll results. It is high time we discovered which heroes are most preferred by players for defense. As the game evolves and enemies grow larger and more fearsome, having a dedicated defender is essential for most decks. Some archetypes, like the Silvan deck built around Celeborn, can get away with mostly using allies for defenders. Still, scenarios will often punish this strategy, and it is often more safe over the course of a game to have a single strong defender.

Beregond-smallThe results are in, and it should come as little surprise that Beregond is by far the most popular hero to use a defender. With 4 defense, the Sentinel keyword, and a discount card when it comes time to shop for armor, the captain of the Citadel is the obvious choice. His Gondor trait is valuable as well, as we see with some of the other heroes receiving votes.

Gondorian Shield is the biggest reason for the defensive value inherent in the Gondor trait. Other less-heralded cards like Gondorian Discipline and For Gondor also contribute to that faction’s formidable reputation. The only thing missing is some readying – either repeatable like Unexpected Courage, or one-time from events like Behind Strong Walls – and Beregond can safely defend against most enemies in the game. Shadow cancellation can also be a concern, particular in scenarios with chaining shadow effects, and that is where the next two heroes come in.

A Burning BrandRounding out the top three vote-getters we have Denethor and Erkenbrand. While Erkenbrand’s built-in shadow cancelation makes him another obvious candidate for a dedicated defender, Denethor is a less likely choice at first glance. The key to the Steward of Gondor’s prowess as a defender of his people is more than just his ability to wield a Gondorian Shield (no doubt a mean feat in itself at his advanced age). The fact that he has the Lore sphere makes him a natural choice for A Burning Brand. It doesn’t take a palantir to know that a hero with 5 defense that cancels all shadow effects on attacking enemies is powerful indeed.

Other notable heroes can be found as you scan down the list of votes: Elrohir, Frodo Baggins, Boromir, Dain Ironfoot, Elrond and Gandalf all received votes. Obviously there are many factors at play in deciding which hero to use as your primary defender: the spheres that your deck includes, whether or not your deck is primarily focused on questing, combat or support, and which traits or strategies you are trying to explore.

All of these considerations are what make deck-building for this game so interesting. For me it is often more fun to take a less-obvious choice and transform them into an epic defender. In my solo saga deck, Sam Gamgee gets loaded with a Hobbit Cloak, Staff of Lebethron and Sting, and ends up laughing off most attacks. This just goes to prove that you never have to take any card at face value – the card pool gives you plenty of options for brining out the hidden qualities in a hero.

Inspired by your votes, I am planning on building a deck with Beregond, Denethor and Erkenbrand and attempting to survive the Siege of Cair Andros. That is one of my all-time favorite quests, and these heroes should be well-suited to the task of holding off the onslaught of the enemy. Keep an eye out soon for a video (with deck list) of this bit of community-driven deck building.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to vote in the latest poll which is online now. Lastly, I want to give special acknowledgement to the brazen individual with the write-in vote for Spirit Pippin. Whoever you are, you are my winner of Troll of the Week!

Hero Votes %
Beregond (HoN) 139 35.28%
Denethor (Core) 47 11.93%
Erkenbrand 36 9.14%
Frodo Baggins (CatC) 28 7.11%
Elrohir (TRG) 20 5.08%
Boromir (TDM) 19 4.82%
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) 17 4.31%
Gimli (Core) 13 3.3%
Elrond (SaF) 12 3.05%
Gandalf (TRD) 8 2.03%
Aragorn (Core) 7 1.78%
Bilbo Baggins (THfG) 6 1.52%
Sam Gamgee (TBR) 6 1.52%
Beorn (TH:OHaUH) 5 1.27%
Eleanor (Core) 4 1.02%
Aragorn (TWitW) 4 1.02%
Treebeard (ToS) 4 1.02%
Idraen 3 0.76%
Prince Imrahil (AJtR) 2 0.51%
Mablung (NiE) 2 0.51%
Gloin (Core) 2 0.51%
Bombur (TH:OtD) 2 0.51%
Posted in Community, Deck Building, Poll Results | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments