Poll Results: Favorite Archetype as of 2015

Rivendell

At times, the meta-game can seem as fickle as a springtime thundershower. Just as one archetype disappears, two new ones appear in a bolt of lightning. Other archetypes change drastically, thanks to new cards which bring new-found strategies. It’s finally time to close our poll on favorite archetypes as of 2015.

It will be a surprise to few that Noldor decks are the most popular according to voters. A bevy of powerful new cards have been released in the last year which has bolstered some already impressive roster of heroes. Galadriel and her ring facilitate ally-heavy decks, but her powers are not specifically suited to Noldor decks. It was later heroes that truly rounded the archetype into form. Erestor brings an unprecedented level of card draw for a hero, as well as fueling the new strategy of using cards from this discard pile.

Arwen-UndómielThe hero version of Arwen Undomiel also utilizes a discard-based strategy, along with providing an impressive level of resource smoothing. While she can fit into other archetypes- particularly ones based on Aragorn – the daughter of Elrond plays a very important role for the Noldor archetype. Noldor decks have numerous ways of taking advantage of cards – both in hand and in a player’s discard pile – but it sorely needs resource acceleration.

Many of the most powerful unique allies in the game are Noldor. While effects like To The Sea, To The Sea can help reduce the cost of these allies, resource acceleration for attachments and events remains a vital part of any consistent deck. Building a deck around heroes with different spheres and still being able to afford 2-cost cards from the opening hand gives Arwen almost unmatched versatility.

Woodland-CourierElves, it seems, are what is popular these days. The second most-voted archetype from this poll was Silvan. It has been a while since we saw any new cards to support these decks, but the Dream-chaser cycle promises to add further options. With low-cost allies and powerful “comes into play” effects, Silvans have the makings of the ultimate utility faction.

The Lost Realm and Angmar Awakened cycle brought the  Dúnedain archetype into prominence. One of the more unique strategies in the game,  Dúnedain decks thrive on keeping enemies engaged, rather than defeating them like other archetypes. Their ability to handle large swarms of enemies make these decks particularly well-suited to multi-player games where an unlucky draw from the encounter deck can leave a staging area filled with enemies.

Aragorn-TLR-smallEldahirThe new Tactics version of Aragorn is most certainly the highlight of this exciting style. His multiple abilities are tailor-made for such an aggressive strategy. High-impact allies already feature prominently in Dúnedain decks, and the Dream-chaser cycle looks to add to this roster.

At least one such ally, Eldahir, has been spoiled from the second AP: The Thing in the Depths. With an off-sphere splash, he provides additional support for controlling shadow effects, something much-welcomed in an archetype that consistently faces multiple attacks each round. In games with multiple players, someone else can even power his shadow-cancelling ability. It will be intriguing to see how and whether these “any player pays” effects fair in actual fact. For now, this unique ally shows at least theoretical promise.

Northern TrackerOne of the difficult choices facing a would-be Dúnedain deck-builder is which spheres to include. Tactics brings Aragorn and numerous combat options, but many of the best supplemental heroes belong to the Leadership sphere. On the other hand, Lore brings powerful card draw from both heroes and allies. Likewise, traps need to at least be considered, as they make a multiple enemy engagement strategy much less risky. Spirit brings multiple forms of cancellation effects, along with some of the most powerful location control in the game.

Rounding out the top five most popular archetypes, we have Ents and Dwarves. It is perhaps surprising to some people, seeing the sons of Durin remain among the popular archetypes. Decks built around Dain remain among the most powerful in the game, despite other newer factions stealing much of the spotlight. Voting was close for those that missed the top five, as Hobbits, Rohan and Gandalf decks all appear to be quite popular. How did your favorite archetype fair? Are you surprised by any of the results? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments as I am curious to hear others’ reactions to these results. Lastly, don’t forget to take part in the latest poll and thanks again to everyone who voted!

bear print

Archetype Votes Percentage
Noldor 72 13.2%
Silvan 69 12.6%
Dúnedain 66 12.1%
Ents 64 11.8%
Dwarves 61 11.2%
Hobbits 55 10.1%
Rohan 44 8.0%
Gandalf 35 6.4%
Secrecy/Low Threat 24 4.4%
Gondor 17 3.1%
Victory Display 15 2.6%
Valour/High Threat 7 1.3%
Eagles 5 0.7%
Outlands 4 0.6%
Ranger 3 0.5%
Encounter Scrying 1 0.2%
Beorn 1 0.2%
Posted in Community, Deck Building, Discussion, Metagame, Poll Results, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Grudge

white tower of Gondor

Power is fickle. Men think to themselves, and indeed proclaim to others, that they “possess” it. As though power is some physical thing, with heft and dimension, a good which can be ferried to and fro. At best, this belief is a dangerous abstraction, at worst it is mortal folly.

In reality, power is more like the ocean. It ebbs and flows, but to think that one can command the waves is the worst kind of arrogance. It takes years, and not a little blood and sweat to build a kingdom. Generations spent amassing the kind of power that men might call “great”. Yet all can be lost in the blink of an eye. The power so carefully garnered, slowly crumbling away in the span of one man’s life.

PalantirSo it was with Denethor II, son of Ecthelion II, and steward of Gondor at the time of the War of the Ring. A proud man, from a long line of proud men, tasked with governing a once great empire as it fall into decrepitude. One can imagine the ambivalence of such a man. To watch everything that your ancestor’s have built crumble to a memory. The blood of Númenor was not yet spent from his people, all wisdom had not yet been lost. Yet what wisdom he had at hand – literally, in the case of the Palantir – only cast a shadow on the future of Gondor.

War was on his very doorstep. From the South and East, enemies bayed and snapped like packs of hyenas, eager at the scent of wounded prey. Still the Easterlings and Haradrim were no more than henchmen. The real threat came from Mordor. Gondor’s mortal enemy had returned in force, and its menace was a existential threat to a kingdom which had stood since the Second Age.

The idea that the any of the blood of kings still existed in Middle-earth must have seemed to Denethor like a dangerous fantasy. The kind of story that boys daydream about in their moments of idle play. The lord of a dying land would have no time for such optimistic fictions. He held on to what power his office still possessed with the grim determination of a man who has foreseen his own death.

ruins of osgiliath

With a game as narratively rich as LotR LCG, there is a wondrous potential for writing alternate histories. The “what if?” question is fascinating part of any game as deeply rooted in its source text as this one. The Denethor of the Lord of the Rings was a bitter man. Years of watching the decline of his people had poisoned his optimism, even turned him against his second-born son. To push matters from bad to worse, his reliance on the seeing-stone of Anárion allowed his enemy to fill his mind with hopelessness and doubt.

Whether we are joining in the new adventures of Deluxe expansions and cycles or following in the footsteps of the Fellowship in Saga expansions, players are constantly writing their own story. Like all stories, the most interesting parts are filled with contrast – the surprises that no one sees coming. This deck represents one such surprise. What if Denethor were not overcome with bitterness, was not ruled by his grudge for a king who had been missing for generations?

Rod-of-the-StewardThe story might seem familiar, but the outcome is decidedly different. Rather than begrudge the wisdom of Gandalf, and the lineage of Aragorn, Denethor accepts his king as the last in the true line of Westernesse. Rather than live in exile as a ranger in the wilds of Arnor, Aragorn is given a kingly welcome to the Citadel. If Denethor had given all of the support of his office to the rightful king, the War of the Ring would have run a different course.

Aragorn and Arwen live as king and queen in the citadel, with Denethor and his sons Boromir and Faramir at their side. All give their support, their unconditional allegiance to the last king of the Third Age. In Aragorn, the power of Men is restored in Middle-earth.

From a strategic standpoint, this deck is a straight forward affair. All attachments by right belong to Aragorn. Most critically, Steward of Gondor and Sword that was Broken form the heart of our strategy. Once Aragorn has the Gondor trait, Denethor can transfer resources to his king. Likewise, Arwen’s ability allows us to transform duplicate cards into resources for her husband.

While this deck runs light on allies, Aragorn’s extra resources will not be going to waste. Gondorian Fire and Blood of Númenor are very powerful when used on a hero with such a surplus. What allies we do have serve to support the deck’s main strategy of revealing Aragorn as the king returned. Arwen’s grandmother Galadriel helps to fetch critical attachments and grant them to Aragorn at no cost. She also helps bolster the deck’s questing efforts.

FaramirBoromir (RD)Boromir and Faramir, brothers united by their father’s love rather than divided by his bias, serve their king well. Boromir brings excellent combat stats and an ability that can be useful against certain forms of direct damage. Faramir supplements our already impressive questing power, and can serve as a defender in a pinch. Galadriel’s Handmaiden and Honour Guard are quintessential support allies, with minor abilities that help us survive while Aragorn is rebuilding his kingdom.

It is only fitting that Mithrandir’s role is different in this brighter alternate universe. Rather than ostracized as a bringer of bad news, Gandalf is heeded for his wisdom and welcomed for his power. The versatility of the wizard can overcome whatever early game challenges might assail us. Sneak Attack works with Gandalf to form one of the earliest and most effective combinations. Once we have readying and Blood and Fire attached to Aragorn, we will be less reliant on tricks like this, but it is always nice to have an Istari in the case of an emergency.

Allowing us to write our own narratives in such richly populated worlds is a unique strength of LCGs. Tolkien’s world is one of richest in literature – it features characters that we know like our own family. When playing an LCG don’t hesitate to surprise yourself, to craft a new narrative. This kind of creativity affords tragic characters like Denethor the opportunity for an honorable redemption which seems fitting to Tolkien’s themes.

Denethor (FotS)Aragorn-TLRArwen-Undómiel

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Ally (17)
2x Boromir (The Road Darkens)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Galadriel (The Road Darkens)
2x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)

Attachment (21)
3x Blood of Númenor (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Fire (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)
1x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (12)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Flight of the Stormcaller

Decklist built and published on RingsDB

Posted in Deck Building, Deck Lists, History, Theme, Tolkien | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deck: Counsels of the Wise

counsels of the wise

As a fan of unique deck designs, the Noldor archetype is particularly appealing. The Erestor hero is probably the most iconic as a foundational piece for Noldor decks as three extra cards at the start of every turn is so obviously powerful. With a plethora of effects that involve the discard pile, the down-side of Erestor is even a strength. In games as in life, the less obvious choices can often be just as fulfilling as the ostentatious ones.

Erestor-ToR-smallTo-the-Sea-to-the-SeaWhile Erestor holds the attention of many players, and rightly so, there are a few other cards that deserve equal attention – or even more so. As faction-based reducers go, To the Sea, To the Sea! is a thematic and strategic win. The primary mechanic of Noldor decks is discard, and the archetype features powerful unique character across multiple spheres. It is only fitting then, that the reducer for this faction is based on discarding cards – a feat easily accomplished. As important, it can reduce the cost of allies in any sphere, rather than being tied to the sphere of a particular hero.

Elven-lightThe other critical cog that turns the Noldor engine is Elven-light. Make no mistake, this is the most powerful card to be released in quite some time. Assuming you have a reliable means for discarding cards (Arwen hero, Éowyn and Protector of Lórien are all good choices – but there are a multitude of others), Elven-light allows you to trade 1 resource for 1 card as many times as you want. At first glance this might seem underwhelming – certainly Lore has more efficient single-use card draw effects. The power of Elven-light comes from the repeatability. Assuming you have resources but don’t like the cards in your hand, you can keep drawing until you have good cards. Presumably you used repeatable resource acceleration to pay for Elven-light to begin with, so you can use that acceleration over the remainder of the game to help pay for all of the good cards that you just drew. When other Noldor effects are actually giving you benefits for for discarding Elven-light in the first place, the true might of the first-born begins to manifest itself.

Elrond-SaFWhile it is good to celebrate these new and game-changing additions to the archetype, it’s not as if Noldor decks were entirely bereft of powerful options before these last two cycles. The release of the last of the Elven rings of power only cements the raw efficiency of Elrond and Vilya. Galadriel and Neyna are invaluable for controlling questing – a very underrated aspect of the game. We haven’t had time yet to fully explore the potential of Narya (The Grey Havens) (with either bearer) but it is clear that there are many options for action-advantage with large allies. Still, being able to put the top card of your deck into play for no cost can completely alter the basic economics of the game. The utility of the combo, and of the Elrond hero that supports it, remains unparalleled.

GaladrielRather than use new heroes to utilize these powerful Noldor effects, this deck takes advantage of some tried and true heroes. Beyond his fantastic stats, Elrond gives us access to Vilya and unlocks the potential for cards like The Long Defeat. With all Lore heroes, we will use attachments like Vilya and Sword that was Broken to pay for out-of-sphere cards. A Good Harvest also helps in this regard, though for allies we can save up resources on Elrond in a pinch.

Bear in mind the off-sphere needs of this deck when using ally Galadriel, and give preference to attaching cards like Sword that was Broken and Vilya before less important options. Though less thematic, giving Steward of Gondor to Elrond will almost single-handedly solve your problems with non-Lore allies. Still, with resource acceleration and such an abundance of card draw effects, the ultimate goal is to be playing multiple powerful allies at once. Elrond bearing his ring of power certainly supports this premise.

Unexpected CourageAstute readers will notice the lack of Unexpected Courage in this deck, and with Vilya requiring Elrond to exhaust this is a logical solution. Here we have to take a bit of a side quest and discuss the issue of fatigue. Like many, I built and played an Elrond-Vilya deck back in the days of the Dwarrowdelf cycle. He is one of the heroes in the game that really can do everything. I’m frankly not interested in the strategy so I have intentionally left it out of the deck. For those that disagree, feel free to slot in one or two copies of Unexpected Courage. For our purposes, Light of Valinor is sufficient as it allows Elrond to quest and defend on the same turn, or quest and then use Vilya.

Imladris StargazerIt would seem that without Imladris Stargazer, we will often be using Vilya blind – another strategic mistake for the original Elrond archetype. This deck is designed that you will rarely miss if you find yourself using Vilya without knowing the top card of your deck. Still, we are not without some options for scrying our cards. Ally Galadriel has a nice secondary effect of letting us stack the top 4 cards of our deck, so even if response fails to garner us a powerful item, we may still be able to set the top of our deck with an otherwise costly ally. Again, for those that prefer a more traditional-style Elrond deck, feel free to substitute a few copies of the Stargazer. For this deck I am more interested in the allies and attachments than the lord of Imladris himself.

Gandalf-OHaUHSpeaking of allies, we would be remiss if we did not mention with the lone non-Noldor ally brings to this deck. Ordinarily, Core Set Gandalf would be the obvious choice for a deck of this nature. However, we want to take full advantage of Lore Aragorn’s powerful ability, and the wizard allows us to do just that. The idea is to use the early game (where doomed effects like Deep Knowledge are especially helpful), to establish our critical attachments. In particular, we want to get Vilya, To the Sea, to the Sea! and Sword that was Broken into play but no one attachment is an absolute must for this deck.

Once we have a solid group of allies at our command, we can bring Gandalf into play and reset our threat. At that point there should be very few quests that we cannot manage. Even with Mirlonde’s ability, 30 starting threat is relatively high so this deck will often perform better when paired with an aggressive deck that wants to engage enemies. That will buys us a few critical rounds to get our attachments setup. For a thematic win, try pairing it with any Dúnedain deck which does not rely on Aragorn. Alternatively, something like The Bear’s Revenge should work well when paired with this deck.

Aragorn-TWitWdeep-knowledgeThe-Long-Defeat

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)

Ally (18)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
3x Galadriel (The Road Darkens)
1x Galdor of the Havens (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Lindir (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
3x Rivendell Minstrel (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (20)
1x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
1x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
1x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)
2x The Long Defeat (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x To the Sea, to the Sea! (The Grey Havens)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)

Event (12)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
2x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)

Sideboard

Ally (3)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (4)
2x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)

Event (8)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elwing’s Flight (The Grey Havens)
3x The Evening Star (The Grey Havens)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Posted in Combo, Deck Lists, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Game is Dying

alaska-bear-sleeping

  1. RingsDB is Too Good

    After 5 years, we finally have an excellent site for deckbuilding and sharing. RingsDB has taken the community by storm. Most people would see this as a clear sign of the health of the community – a promise for a better future. They’re wrong. The arrival of RingsDB is the last good thing before everything falls apart.

  2. The Saga Expansions are Nearly Complete

    We have 4 of the 6 saga expansions already released with one more on the way in the next few months. The scenarios are only getting more exciting, and we have yet to see the climatic battles of Pelennor Fields and Cormallen, not to mention the final destruction of the One Ring! Still, rather than see this as the culmination of an epic tale I recognize it for what it truly is: the end of everything. Just like the events of the The Lord of the Rings brought a close to the Third Age, the Saga expansions will be the end to this fine game.

  3. Three Elven Rings is All We Need

    With the release of Narya in The Grey Havens, we finally have a player card for each of the Elven Rings of Power. With the rings released, there are no cards left to release. The game is done, we can all go home.

  4. The Game’s Popularity Only Grows

    The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game remains one of FFG’s best-selling products. From its inception the game has been a near-constant presence on the Board Game Geek The Hotness list. Our local Austin LotR group has been growing again and has been going strong for years. I and other blog-writers in the community continue to receive correspondence from new players who have found the game, and love it just as we do. Still, this is all a sure sign that FFG will discontinue the game at any minute. It’s the only logical thing for them to do with such a popular game.

  5. Seastan Literally Broke the Game

    This is why we can’t have nice things, Chris. As some of you may know, Chris (aka Seastan) has a penchant for making decks that bend – or in some cases break – the balance of the game. Most players appreciated his creative designs and innovative take on under-utilized cards. Few saw his decks as the threat that they were. His decks have not only broken the game, but they have broken the designer’s will to continue making it. Any day now, FFG will announce that Caleb and Matt are on indefinite leave, a well-earned sabbatical on which they can recover from the psychic damage inflicted by Seastan’s deck designs. Thanks for nothing, Seastan!

  6. The Discord Channel is a Hit

    The new discord channel that Cardboard of the Rings started is bringing the community together on a level of that none of the forums ever could. Players from around the world are sharing their thoughts on the meta-game, strategies for the latest quests, deckbuilding tips, and creating a friendly environment. It’s too bad that this welcoming community of like-minded people as about to disperse. Just like gravity, the evidence that the game is dying is incontrovertible. It’s best that we all just accept it and prepare to move on to better games.

  7. Still No FFG News Updates

    Here it is, the first day of April, and we still don’t have any news about the game on the FFG website. Do they think we’re stupid? It’s as plain as day to anyone who is paying attention that the game has been cancelled and they just don’t have the heart to break the news to the players. I for one hope that they tell us soon, while there’s still time for us to sell all of our cards and become Magic players.

Posted in Fun, News | Tagged | 11 Comments

Make Middle-earth Great Again

lord_of_the_rings_by_studiomuku

Dear Númenor,

It’s been a long slow decline into mediocrity for this fair island. It’s time to make Middle-earth great again, starting with our proud country. People say it can’t be done. Idiots. Not only is it possible – but I’m just the sorcerer to do it.

Everything was fine when it was just the Edain, but ever since these Eldar started immigrating we have lost our greatness. Without the permission of the Valar, these foreigners have come into our land with their weird languages and customs, and sowed the seeds of chaos. We had a wise ruler in the form of Melkor, but the Eldar waged an unjust war against him. Now Middle-earth is adrift without a strong leader to guide us. The only way to give our land the peace and security it deserves is to elect a new Dark Lord, and submit unconditionally to his will. I am just the Dark Lord for the job.

I vow to make Middle-earth great again. Tell your local priest that you want to worship me in ritual blood sacrifice. We will build a wall to hold off the immortal hordes, and we will make the Eldar pay for it. Some people think that Dwarves make the best walls. Others think it is the Noldor. They’re all wrong. I make the best walls. Everyone knows my walls are huge. Ask anyone – Angband had the best walls in Arda.

The Eldar are not sending their best. They are sending thieves, kin-slayers and weaklings. Just look at Celebrimbor. What a lightweight. He’s weak. Ask anyone. Everyone knows that I am better at making Rings than the Elves. My rings, they’re powerful. People know that when a ring is made by Sauron, it is filled with Power. When they are held in fetters as thralls in my slave armies, they know exactly whose ring holds them against their will. Celebrimbor’s rings? Weak. Everyone knows they’re weak. I have the best rings.

Some have accused me of feasting on mankind’s fear and ignorance. They’re just jealous. Weaklings want to praise the Eldar without respecting the power of their own race. Elves get credit for introducing language, art, poetry, ship-building, farming and animal husbandry. What has that done for man, other than bring more misery? At the end of day, we cannot trust anyone but ourselves. Elves are simply too alien. The only way to ensure safety in the face of such an unknowable force is to keep the races of Elves and Men apart. We must be separate but equal.

I urge you to let your voices be heard in the long droning chant of the doomed. Until darkness reigns over all of Arda, I remain your humble slave-master.

Sauron

Lidless Eye

Posted in History, Stories | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Círdan, A Power Long Hidden

Cirdan by Quinton HooverLately, I’ve been pushing myself to build more thematic decks. With powerful new archetypes like Ents and Noldor, as well as the resurgence of older archetypes like Rohan, the game is in a great place when it comes to thematic deck-building. As someone who enjoys designing and tinkering, it is rewarding to build something that feels true to the source material and remains viable against many quests. Still, it can be nice to diverge from strictly theme-based decks and try a different approach. This deck is unabashedly a “combo deck” and is not intended to be particularly thematic.

To-the-Sea-to-the-SeaThanks to cards like To the Sea, To the Sea! and Lords of the Eldar, there will no doubt be some very powerful Noldor decks that field armies of impressive elves. The Ring of Power, Narya will fit right into such decks. The idea of readying allies multiple like Gildor Inglorion or ally Glorfindel is appealing to any deck. The fact that the ring also boosts their already impressive combat stats is almost too good to be true.

NaryaI’ll leave these ally-heavy decks for others to work out, and I have every confidence that such decks will be among the most powerful in the game. Although Círdan was a Teleri, the game has chosen to portray him as Noldor, and his powerful hero card will be yet another boon to that faction. With this deck, I have decided to focus on Círdan himself, rather than his ring or it’s accompanying strategy.

This is fitting in a way, as he gave the ring to Gandalf, when the Istari first showed up in Middle-earth. No small gesture for one of such noble lineage, Círdan was one of the few elves who did not seem burdened by the hubris of many of his brethren. Being able to willingly gift a ring of power to someone else has always struck me as an impressive level of generosity. Don’t let his beard  or generosity fool you, though, Círdan was no weakling.

“Take this ring, Master, for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you.”

He was among the eldar who fought alongside Gil-galad at the War of the Last Alliance. It was he, together with Elrond, who urged Isildur to destroy the One Ring. Until the end of the Third Age, he remained one of the wisest and most powerful of the Eldar in Middle-earth. This deck is an fun attempt to portray just how powerful Círdan can be, even when he is without his ring.

Elven-lightThe premise is simple, we will use the incredible draw engine of Erestor and Círdan, along with cards like Elven-light, to find our combo as quickly as possible. The combo in question is to attach Nor Am I A Stranger to Círdan and then give him Théoden’s sword, Herugrim. In most decks, building your entire strategy around a two card combo would represent a huge risk. Of all the factions, Noldor has by far the most powerful card-drawing capabilities, so it makes combo decks like this much less difficult to play.

Elwing's-FlightIn addition, the resource acceleration afforded by Arwen Undómiel will help to mitigate Erestor’s drawback. Having to discard your entire hand might at first seem like a terrible cost, but there are several tricks included that should make this much less of an issue. Besides discarding for Arwen, we have several cards which can be played from our discard pile. To add to this strategy, we have the new Spirit event from The Grey Havens – Elwing’s Flight – which becomes more powerful with each copy in the discard pile. Essentially, we are turning Erestor’s drawback into a strength.

Nor-am-I-a-StrangerOnce we have our combo in play, we won’t need any additional copies of our combo cards, so we can safely discard those as well. There are very few allies in the deck; the aforementioned ring is relegated to a sideboard card. Instead, we are looking to get maximum use of our  heroes, particularly the Shipwright.

His 4 willpower is impressive, but we want to benefit from this strength during more than just the quest phase. With the help of Light of Valinor (it feels good playing that card on someone other than Glorfindel), Círdan does not exhaust to quest. This, along with other Spirit-based readying effects, should ensure that he is standing tall when the combat phase arrives. That is where we have another chance to take advantage of his impressive willpower.

Herugrim-ToSHerugrim is an expensive card, and one that is typically only attached to Rohan heroes like Théoden or Éowyn. I wanted to have a bit of fun with this deck, and see how difficult it would be to make the sword work with a completely different hero. I won’t even attempt a narrative to explain how one of the oldest elves in Middle-earth, master of the havens, would come to wield the King of Rohan’s sword. Even a shape-changing bear finds some things inexplicable. After all, every deck tells a story, but not all stories make sense.

Star-BroochFrom a strategic standpoint, though, this deck can make all kinds of sense. Other then card-drawing effects, this deck is loaded to overflowing with willpower-boosting effects. I admit to a certain joy in discovering an actual use for cards like The Favor of the Lady and Star Brooch. When your hero gets to add his willpower to his attack, suddenly these cards don’t seem so inefficient. Unlike true combo cards, it’s not like they are dead without the sword, either. A worst case scenario with this deck is that you are relegated to one of the best questing decks every conceived.

Supplemental cards like Fair and Perilous can also help keep you alive while the combo gets setup. With 3 copies of key cards, do not be afraid to discard a copy of the combo early if absolutely necessary. As far as your opening hand is concerned, look for Nor Am I A Stranger, not the Sword. The title is a requirement before you can attach the weapon, and it will take a perfect hand (including A Good Harvest) to play both of them on the first turn. It’s easier to setup the combo in pieces, and get some less expensive support cards like Light of Valinor in play as well.

Galadhrim-WeaverWill of the West and Galadhrim Weaver allow you to get back critical cards if they find their way to your discard pile, but many of the cards in this deck are designed to be discarded. The Noldor discard archetype is a very different sort of deck because cards in your discard pile can as relevant to your strategy as the ones in your hand – often even more so. Silver Harp remains a staple, as there will be times when you have a card in your hand that you are not ready to discard.

This deck has almost nothing in the way of defense, and as powerful as Herugrim is it can only be used for a single attack each round. With these limitations and a starting threat of 31, this deck is not intended for solo play against most quests. Still, the level of willpower that you can quickly and easily bring to the table is impressive. Paired with a Dúnedain or other defensively-minded deck, this strategy can really shine. I look forward to the traditional Noldor decks that will emerge from The Grey Havens and Dream-chaser cycle. Still, it is fun to mix things up and try a very different strategy from time to time. Let me know what you think, and share your own combo deck ideas in the comments.

Círdan-the-ShipwrightErestor-ToRArwen-Undómiel

Heroes:
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Erestor (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)

Allies: 10
Galadhrim Weaver x3 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Lindir x1 (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
Galdor of the Havens x1 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Glorfindel x1 (Flight of the Stormcaller)
Gildor Inglorion x1 (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
Gandalf x3 (Core Set)

Attachments: 20
The Favor of the Lady x2 (Core Set)
Light of Valinor x3 (Foundations of Stone)
Miruvor x2 (Shadow and Flame)
Nor Am I A Stranger x3 (Conflict at the Carrock)
Star Brooch x1 (The Lost Realm)
Protector of Lórien x1 (Core Set)
Silver Harp x3 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Unexpected Courage x1 (Core Set)
A Burning Brand x1 (Conflict at the Carrock)
Herugrim x3 (The Treason of Saruman)

Events: 19
Elrond’s Counsel x3 (The Watcher in the Water)
A Good Harvest x3 (The Steward’s Fear)
A Test of Will x2 (Core Set)
Elven-light x3 (The Dread Realm)
Fair and Perilous x2 (Across the Ettenmoors)
Will of the West x2 (Core Set)
Elwing’s Flight x3 (The Grey Havens)
Lords of the Eldar x1 (The Battle of Carn Dûm)

Side Quests: 1
Gather Information x1 (The Lost Realm)

Sideboard: 15
Galadriel x2 (The Road Darkens)
Elrond x2 (The Road Darkens)
To the Sea, To the Sea! x2 (The Grey Havens)
Asfaloth x2 (Foundations of Stone)
Narya x3 (The Grey Havens)
The Evening Star x3 (The Grey Havens)
Double Back x1 (Escape from Mount Gram)

Posted in Combo, Fun, Metagame, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Deck: Reaches of the Realm

Gondor from Horseback

Ever since I first opened the Core Set, I have always wanted to be able to make a powerful deck featuring an army of Gondorian characters. Epic battles like Pelennor Fields and the Morannon are memorable events from the books, and it would be nice to in some sense re-create them in the game. The meta-game shifts as the card pool grows, and to some extent or another it has always been possible to make a decent deck with Gondor characters. After all, the faction has the undisputed king of resource acceleration in Steward of Gondor. Other factions have waxed and waned, but I have grown frustrated at what seems inconsistent support for the Gondor faction – particularly the Gondor Army archetype.

Horn of GondorNotably absent from this deck is Horn of Gondor. After the recent errata, Boromir’s iconic Horn fits even less into this archetype than it did before. While allies like Squire of the Citadel might seem to hint at a defensive strategy based on chump-blocking, that runs completely at odds with Leadership Boromir’s strengths. Also relevant, recent scenarios have begun to heavily punish chump blocking in all but the most dire of situations.

To be fair, Sneak Attack with Gandalf was the primary means for benefitting from the Horn without having to chump block, and that is a combo that cannot be relied upon. Still, it does feel weird that neither version of Boromir has an archetype where his horn makes strategic sense. In any case, Steward of Gondor, Wealth of Gondor and the cost-reduction built into hero Damrod should provide more than enough resource acceleration for our ally engine. A three-sphere deck can often struggle with getting the right resources at the right time, but allies like Errand-rider, Envoy of Pelargir and Pelargir Ship Captain can all help with resource smoothing.

The primary goal of this deck is to get Visionary Leadership attached to the first son of Denethor, and take advantage of numerical superiority with an army of Gondor allies. If we keep losing allies to attrition we will never achieve sufficient numbers to warrant this strategy. The presence of Beregond – along with Gondorian Shield and Honour Guard – highlights the fact that this deck is not looking to needlessly sacrifice allies. Rather, each hero has a specific facet of the game on which to focus, and the heroes exist to support what should be a steadily grow force of allies.

Beregond-smallBesides the smoothing, three copies of Gandalf and a fair bit of card draw, it is a safe bet that any excess resources should not go to waste. Beregond will often have resources to share as the deck includes only a few Tactics cards (and the Shield is free). Still, the captain of the guard is of vital importance to our strategy of keeping allies in play – as well as being a reliable defender against ever-present boss enemies. Tactics characters have many virtues, but willpower is not typically among them, so most of the ally mix in this deck is from Leadership and Lore. Once we have Visionary Leadership (or at least Faramir) in play, the deck should be solid at questing.

deep-knowledgeLike most decks that rely on allies, this deck can suffer from slow starts. Assuming a decent opening hand, and with the aid of card draw in multiple forms (don’t hesitate to use Gandalf for the extra cards in the early game, and threat reduction later on), it should be possible to survive the early rounds. With a starting threat of 30, there is no time to waste, however. A Doomed card like Deep Knowledge might seem like an odd fit with such a deck, but the reality is that – in the early game at least – threat is less important than establishing our critical attachments.

Resources are the engine that drives Gondor, so our goals begin with having Steward of Gondor attached to Boromir. From there, we have a host of excellent supporting allies – many with powerful abilities – which should help us to survive the onslaught of the encounter deck. As with most strategies in the current meta-game, the first few rounds are pivotal. With a horde of allies joining Damrod in questing, Beregond defending, and Boromir and the remaining allies pitching in on the counter attack, the deck has at least a solid plan for success.

Veteran-of-OsgiliathOverall it is nice to see the Gondor Army archetype evolve – albeit slowly. Cards like Veteran of Osgiliath are a welcome addition as they can prove to be far more substantial than old standbys like the Guard of the Citadel and its ilk. A massive army is a powerful thing, once you have it mustered. Still, it is helpful to have a few larger allies that can shoulder a bit more work in the critical early rounds. With the bonus from Boromir, characters like the Veteran and Knight of Minas Tirith can be quite formidable in their own right. The fact that the Veteran becomes even more powerful in the late game is a welcome benefit.

This deck is by no means perfect, and I do find myself continuing to make small tweaks around the edges. On the one hand I hope that the upcoming cycle brings a bit more support for Gondor Army decks, but I can’t shake the feeling that the archetype remains just one or two key pieces away from being more consistently viable. While this deck should fair well in multi-player surrounded by other top tier decks, or easy mode, or against the less difficult recent scenarios, I remain optimistic that Gondor will eventually have its day in the sun.

Boromir (HoN)visionary-leadership-smallDamrod

Heroes
Boromir (Heirs of Númenor)
Beregond (Heirs of Númenor)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)

Allies: 25
Errand-rider x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Pelargir Ship Captain x1 (The Morgul Vale)
Defender of Rammas x1 (Heirs of Númenor)
Honour Guard x2 (The Wastes of Eriador)
Ithilien Tracker x1 (Heirs of Númenor)
Mablung x1 (The Land of Shadow)
Warden of Healing x3 (The Long Dark)
Envoy of Pelargir x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Ingold x1 (The Wastes of Eriador)
Veteran of Osgiliath x2 (Escape from Mount Gram)
Knight of Minas Tirith x1 (Assault on Osgiliath)
Faramir x2 (Core Set)
Anborn x1 (The Blood of Gondor)
Gandalf x3 (Core Set)

Attachments: 15
Heir of Mardil x1 (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Gondorian Shield x3 (The Steward’s Fear)
Wingfoot x1 (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
Steward of Gondor x2 (Core Set)
Visionary Leadership x3 (The Morgul Vale)
Ranger Spikes x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Forest Snare x2 (Core Set)

Events: 10
Wealth of Gondor x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Daeron’s Runes x3 (Foundations of Stone)
Deep Knowledge x2 (The Voice of Isengard)
Sneak Attack x2 (Core Set)

Sideboard: 15
Sword of Númenor x2 (The Dread Realm)
Ambush x3 (The Land of Shadow)
Sword-thain x2 (The Dread Realm)
Mutual Accord x2 (Heirs of Númenor)
Behind Strong Walls x2 (Heirs of Númenor)
For Gondor! x2 (Core Set)
Send for Aid x1 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Gather Information x1 (The Lost Realm)

Posted in Aggro, Deck Building, Deck Lists, Metagame, Strategy, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments