¡Viva Las Chingonas!

Na'asiyah Art

I finally had a chance tonight to try out my Las Chingonas deck, and the setting could not have been more appropriate. My friend Stephen and I sailed our ships against the Raider Flagship in A Storm on Cobas Haven. I am a fan of most all of the Dream-chaser cycle, but this particular quest es un favorito especial. It is all the more appropriate that my first time using the game’s only Corsair hero would be in such a nautically themed adventure.

Sea-ward TowerAt the heart of this quest is a set of powerful Objectives, of which the players choose one to start in play. They represent different locations in Dol Amroth, guarded by the enemy but of great benefit to the players once freed. Since neither of our decks features much healing, we chose to start with Tower of the Heron in play. Never one to miss an opportunity for irony, the quest decided that our anti-archery objective would be guarded by a Siege Ship.

Until we killed that ship, it’s archery would keep chipping away at our characters. Once killed, the tower would protect us from the archery of future ships? I guess? Anyone who plays this game for long knows that the best laid plans are theoretical once they meet the fickle hand of fate – the encounter deck. With the help of a Feint and a timely visit to Cobas Haven (the location), we were able to rid ourselves of the Siege Ship without too much trouble.

After a false start and a bit of turtling, Mirror of Galadriel helped me grab a copy of Resourceful. Along with a lucky draw of my Magic Ring, Na’asiyah finally had the resource acceleration upon which she thrives. As an added bonus, those extra resources allowed me to pay the exorbitant fees demanded by Dol Amroth Warship. As long as we kept ourselves on course, those warships were potent weapons against the seemingly endless swarms of enemy ships.

All things considered, I was quite happy with how the deck fared. The highlight of the night was when Na’asiyah single-handedly sunk a Corsair Skirmisher. There is something so satisfying about being able to pay resources for exactly the attack strength necessary to defeat a foe. The moment feels all the more epic when that enemy happens to be a ship filled to the gills with blood-thirsty Corsairs.

While the deck is by no means a powerhouse, it worked quite well once it had a few rounds to setup. Thanks to Na’asiyah’s efficiency and the might of Éowyn with Herugrim, this hero lineup can actually handle itself admirably in combat. It also provided much needed early game questing while Stephen’s Dwarving digging deck was locating it’s pipes and pick-axes.

I will continue to tweak around the edges, but the heart of this deck is solid. I need to craft a sideboard for multiplayer, but overall I am quite pleased with how it performed. It’s a sign of a healthy card pool when you can have success using a deck which lacks the more obvious power-hero choices. Las chingonas no tienen miedo!

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Posted in Alternate-Art, Austin LotR Group, Community, Control, Deck Lists, Fun, Live Play, Photo, Playtesting, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poll Results: Where Should the Game Go?

The announcement of a digital variant of the game came as a fascinating surprise. It’s not often that my day job as a programming bear is directly relevant to the game, but I have many years of experience with complex software projects. I empathize with the developers who are attempting to translate a mature and complex card game like this one into a more streamlined digital form. As the streams have elucidated, the digital game will not be a direct translation of the card game.

An apt comparison would be the way that Philip K. Dick’s classic “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” inspired a very different film called Blade Runner. Both were excellent creations, but in very different ways for very different reasons. This translation comes as little surprise, given the usability and complexity constraints of a digital platform which simply do not exist with physical cards on a table. Still, I suspect some players will have a bit of an adjustment period adapting to what in truth is a distinct game with a deceptively familiar name.

The poll has been open for months now, with several hundred votes tallied, so it well past time to close it up and take a look at the community consensus. With 139 votes and 20% of the total responses, many players wanted the game to continue with deluxe boxes, cycles, and nightmare releases just as it has up to this point. With the announcement of the Wilds of Rhovanion and its accompanying Ered Mithrin cycle, it looks like many players will be getting exactly what they wanted.

The resurgence of Beornings in the game will not go without a comment from the hall. Not only is Grimbeorn the Old one of the most exciting heroes to be spoiled in quite some time. Moreover, the archetype hinted at from cards like Beorn’s Rage looks both interesting and effective.

Outside of Bard the Bowman, Rivendell Blade, and a few seldom-used cards, reducing enemy stats is not something that has seen much use in the game. As a huge fan of Beorn hero, I especially like the way these effects do not target the player’s characters. Because they target the enemies instead, they remain effective when the defending or attacking character might be immune to any kind of stat boosting effect. When supplemented with cards like Horn’s Cry and Keep Watch, this nascent archetype already shows promise.

The rest of the voting reflects considerable interest in adaptions of the appendices and the Silmarillion. We can only hope that recent negotiations between Amazon and those with controlling interest of Tolkien’s works are a more general reflection of a loosening of licensing constraints. As a huge fan of the Silmarillion, The Lost Tales, and most especially The Children of Húrin, I appreciate Ian’s fantastic work on his First Age custom expansion. Unfortunately, many players won’t play custom scenarios which are not released through official channels. Ideally, FFG acquires permission to adapt this material and Caleb can work with Ian on making these wonderful stories official.

Thanks to all who participated, and please be sure to take a look at the latest poll. Hopefully, within the next month we will have the new deluxe expansion in our furry paws. Happy travels in Rhovanion!

Future Option Votes Percentage
More Cycles and Nightmare (no major changes) 139 20%
Appendix-based Sets (Scouring of the Shire, Battle of Dale, etc.) 131 19%
Compatible Silmarillion (some existing cards, e.g. Galadriel, can be used) 95 14%
Saga-Cycle POD (Campaign, encounter and quest cards added to existing cycles to provide a narrative) 87 13%
Revised Core Set (some different cards mixed with old cards, errata included, all using existing rules) 76 11%
Core Set 1.5 (new rules and new cards, some old cards are banned, but most existing cards are compatible with new rules) 55 8%
Player Card-only POD (Thematic player card PODs packs with new player cards and possibly alt art, NO quest or encounter cards) 31 4%
Core Set 2.0 (new rules and new cards, not backward compatible with existing rules) 30 4%
Stand-alone Silmarillion (not compatible with existing cards) 26 4%
Nightmare 2.0 POD (Same rules, but even more difficult cards to challenge the Seastanians) 5 1%
Posted in Community, Discussion, First Age, Fun, History, Nightmare Mode, Opinion, Poll Results, Software, Spoilers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deck: ¡Las Chingonas!

I am not a society person. The societies to which I have been exposed seemed to me largely machines for the suppression of women. Society is very important in Mexico. Where women do not even have the vote.

– All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

One of the most obnoxious tropes in modern fantasy writing is the demure female characters which rely on their male counterparts – sometimes to the point of outright dependence. This makes characters like Éowyn all the more important. She provides a vital contrast to the lazy and even misogynistic portrayals which followed Tolkien. While she might seem like a relatively minor character in the context of the story, what she represents exists at the core of the themes in The Lord of the Rings.

The power of the individual to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and affect world-altering changes is a recurring theme of Tolkien’s legendarium. Perhaps no character personifies this more than Éowyn. Told to stay behind and wait while the warriors of her people fought an existential conflict against a terrible enemy, she was unwilling to be a prisoner of her circumstances. Instead, she took control of her destiny and, along with the Hobbit Merry, helped to change the tide of the war.

By defeating the Witch-king of Angmar – an enemy who most thought invincible – she introduced a powerful weapon for the armies of the West: fear. Up to that point, the armies of Mordor were filled with hubris. While they knew nothing of the Rings of Power, his armies were sure of the indomitable strength of their master. They entered battle with Gondor with a certainty of victory. Seeing their general, and the mightiest among them, slain at the hands of their enemies, the seeds of doubt crept into their minds.

Mrs. Beorn is from the not-so-far-away land of Mexico, so the Hall is always filled with more languages than just my native tongue. I learned Spanish in my formative years, but it wasn’t until meeting my wife that I had the joy of learning the richly idiosyncratic treasures which every language hides, like so much buried treasure. One of my favorite words from Spanish inspired the name of this deck.

The challenge with idiomatic expressions is that, as much as you might try, there is no perfect translation. Often, subtle but important differences in cultural context mean that a direct mapping for a concept simply does not exist. The word chingona is a slang term which roughly translates as “badass woman”, but this casual rendering fails to do it justice. A fierce spirit, unwilling to be cowed by her circumstances and the expectations of others, the word contains volumes of meaning.

I made this deck as a homage to all of the chingonas in my life; women whose perseverance and determination make them exemplars for all who meet them. The world is changed by those with the audacity to believe that it can be changed. This mentality, and willingness to take risks in service of your beliefs is what embodies a hero. We can all take inspiration from their example.

This deck is filled with all sorts of fun interactions. It might not seem like much at first glance, but it can end up being quite powerful. With a good draw and few rounds to setup it can handle all aspects of the game with ease. While this may seem odd to say about a deck which starts at 23 threat, but the key is to get into secrecy as quickly as possible.

The ideal opening hand will have Elrond’s Counsel and Resourceful. You can drop your threat to 20 during the first round and then attach Resourceful to Na’asiyah. Obviously you won’t be able to rely on the ideal opening hand every game, but we have many options to help us get setup. Galadriel‘s ability not only helps you draw into the cards you are looking for, but it keeps your threat low in the mean time.

Beyond this, The Galadhrim’s Greeting and Island Amid Perils can help you drop your threat low enough to play Resourceful. I particularly enjoy using Island Amid Perils to return a copy of Galadriel’s Handmaiden or Galadhrim Minstrel to my hand. A nice side effect of all of the threat reduction is that we should have time to setup without having to worry about most enemies. Nenya along with Éowyn‘s 4 willpower means that this deck is excellent at questing, even before allies enter the picture.

Thanks to Galadriel’s passive effect, allies are ready to help with combat the round they enter play. Other than Dúnedain Hunter, the allies don’t have any relevant combat stats but that doesn’t stop them from being used for chump blocking. Silvan Refugee is an especially good choice for this unfortunate role.

The allies are just here for support, the real strength of this deck is in the three strong female heroes. Éowyn gets Herugrim and Snowmane (or Magic Ring/Unexpected Courage) and serves as our primary quester. Once she has the sword and readying she can use Battle-fury and Quick Strike, and her once-per-game ability to kill an engaged enemy. Just one example of a fun combo in this deck is to use Dúnedain Hunter to engage an enemy during the planning phase. Then, during the quest phase you can exhaust Galadriel and Nenya to give +4 willpower to Éowyn. Finally, you can play Battle-fury (and pay the kicker) to attack the engaged enemy for 9 and then commit 8 willpower to the quest. This is clearly a complex combination, but the various pieces can still be useful on their own.

As for defense, Na’asiyah with resourceful is a great starting point. Raiment of War of war is the perfect supplement to her already solid combat stats. Likewise, Captain of Gondor is excellent once Na’asiyah has readying. Most of the Tactics cards in this deck only cost 1 resource, so you should typically be able avoid spending resources from Na’asish’s pool on Attachments and Events. Our only Tactics ally doesn’t actually have a cost, this deck is not hindered by her passive effect, in any case.

It’s a quirky deck, but one that highlights the power of these unique women in many interesting ways. I hope that readers enjoy playing the deck as much as I enjoyed building it. If you have a chance, thank a chingona who inspires you. We all owe much to those who have made sacrifices in our names.

¡Las Chingonas!

Hero (3)
Éowyn (The Flame of the West)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Na’asiyah (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Ally (14)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
2x Galadhrim Minstrel (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Galadhrim Weaver (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Silvan Refugee (The Drúadan Forest)

Attachment (17)
1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)
2x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Mirror of Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Nenya (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Raiment of War (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
2x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (18)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Battle-fury (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Feint (Core Set)
2x Island Amid Perils (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Crossings of Poros

Sideboard

Ally (5)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Galadhon Archer (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
2x Galadhrim Healer (The Dread Realm)

Attachment (3)
2x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Event (7)
2x Children of the Sea (The Blood of Gondor)
2x O Elbereth! Gilthonial! (Shadow and Flame)
3x Unseen Strike (The Redhorn Gate)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Posted in Combo, Control, Deck Building, Deck Lists, Fun, History, Lord of the Rings, Lore, Strategy, Theme, Tolkien | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’re Having Cubs!

April 1st 2018

With much excitement, and a bit of nervousness, I am pleased to announce that Mrs. Beorn is pregnant with cubs! We’re obviously pleased as bees in honey here at the Hall, and I am sure to be a proud poppa bear. It only sweetens things, being able to share this momentous news with everyone. Now that we know for sure, we can barely wait for the big day.

Grimbeorn the YoungAlthough the average it two cubs, we’re hoping for triplets. The first born will obviously be named Grimbeorn the Young, but we can’t decide on names for any cubs who come after him. So I wanted to reach out to the fine community of ours for help on this momentous decision. What should we name our little Beornlings?

If we have a girl, I’m quite partial to the name Ursa Minor. As much as it tickles my fancy, that name does also crease my furry brow with lines of apprehension. What will we do if she ends up taking after my great aunt, Björnhild? There is naught more nonsensical than calling a 600 pound child “minor”. No, I think that our search for suitable names needs must continue.

On the other paw, we are both silently hoping that our cubs take more after Mrs. Beorn and her kin. Bjarnfríður, undoubtedly the most famousest of den mothers in my wife’s illustrious clan would serve as a perfect role model for our offspring. Now old tales are tall tales, or so say the wise. All the same, if even one whisker of the stories about old móðir Bjarny are true then that is a legacy we all should aspire to continuate.

April 1st 2018As the story goes, or at least the version that we prefer – and I still tell around the fire after two or three mugs of mead; to frighten the nieces and nephews, I’m sure… – where was I?… apologies… an old bear gets fuzz in his brains ever and anon. Yes, the old apocrypha claims that móðir Bjarnfríður, newly sowed with two cubs of her own, came upon three trolls in The Wilds of Rhovanion. They say it happened one fine spring evening, much like tonight.

Like any good mother, she was terrible in her wroth to defend her young. So fearsome was her countenance, that one of three immediately turned to stone of the fright, even though the sun was long in slumber and the moon shone bright and high above. In a moment, the other two trolls would wish that they had shared their brother’s ignominious fate. With a cry that was heard clear as Elf-song on the other side of the Misty Mountains, Bjarny the Berserker tore off the arms of one troll and, using them as cudgels, beat the last woeful troll to death with them.

What I’m saying is, in a world filled with orcs, corrupted wizards, and monsters in ever guise, I want to teach our cubs not to take sass from anyone.

Posted in Beornings, Community, Nature, News, Spoilers, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My favorites from the Sands of Harad and Haradrim Cycle

With the release of The Crossing of Poros, now is an excellent time to look back on this last Deluxe Box and its accompanying cycle. While a deluxe box in some ways sets the tone for the Adventure Packs which follow, the theme of a given block is by no means strictly defined by this initial set of cards. Especially when it comes to the player cards, the designers weave multiple themes throughout a block (the term that I use for deluxe box + cycle APs).

Whenever Choosing favorites, there is the ever-present risk of getting stuck in the mire of subjectivity. The choices here reflect my play style and current deck-building tendencies, so interpret them within that context. While the most game-changing cards are not always immediately obvious, this block had a variety of powerful cards to choose from. Selecting favorites from this cycle, particularly when it comes to allies, involves a series of difficult decisions.

Favorite Hero: Hirgon

I’ve long been a fan of Mono-Tactics decks, and the archetype has steadily been growing stronger with the addition of a few powerful heroes and some especially effective events. The Haradrim cycle provided yet more support to these decks, beyond just heroes, with Wait No Longer, Oath of Eorl and Proud Hunters. Hirgon joins the Tactics version of Prince Imrahil, as a new hero which provides interesting alternatives for getting Tactics allies into play more quickly. In Hirgon’s case, we even have the option of giving them a temporary stat boost, which can be invaluable in supporting early game momentum and keeping critical defensive allies alive.

Two of the biggest challenges with Mono-Tactics decks have always been resource acceleration and card draw effects. Ally Legolas has given Tactics-heavy decks their best solution for card draw, especially for decks which don’t want to include multiple weapons to power Foe-hammer. With his errata, Háma might not be considered an effective card drawing engine for Tactics, especially in longer quests which prefer repeatable card draw. Besides, with so many other powerful tactics events, you might want to save Háma’s ability for something else. For these situations, other forms of pseudo card draw like Prince Imrahil can be a more appropriate choice.

Where Prince Imrahil’s search ability provides something akin to a card draw effect, Hirgon plays a different role. His cost reduction can either be used in lieu of, or as a supplement to, resource acceleration. Obviously you can include Leadership with a hero like Denethor and staples like Steward of Gondor, and all of your resource problems are solved. As someone who predominately plays multiplayer, where hogging the staple cards is frowned upon, I am more interested in how Hirgon facilitates a less obvious approach to deck-building.

As with heroes like Théodred and Arwen Undómiel, which feature resource acceleration, the power of cost reduction on a hero is that you can use it from the first round. Not being reliant on seeing a critical attachment in your opening hand will make you deck that much more consistent. The secondary aspect of Hirgon’s ability is not to be overlooked. High threat is less of an issue with Mono-Tactics decks, as you are designed to engage and kill multiple enemies. With that in mind, being able to trade 1 threat for a combat boost on the ally which you bring into play is a powerful option.

In multiplayer, the fact that Hirgon does not raise other players’ threat is important. On the other hand, there are many threat control options for other decks to help keep the Hirgon deck in the game. I can see potential for interesting Valour decks, which use Hirgon’s ability to control their threat, specifically when they enter valour range. The math of card cost is quite important. For example, many of the most powerful Tactics allies cost 4 resources, making them impossible to play on the first round, without other card effects. Hirgon allows you to play ally Boromir, Legolas, Déorwine, or Eagles of the Misty Mountains on the first round.

Using Legolas as an example, this is a fantastic opening for a Mono-Tactics deck. At the cost of three resource and 1 threat, you have a 4 attack ranged ally, which gives you card draw for the rest of the game. Hirgon can work just as well in multi-Sphere decks, assuming you include enough Tactics allies to make use of his reduction. While his ability might be as obviously powerful as some heroes, Hirgon opens a multitude of possibilities for Tactics decks.

Honorable Mention: Fastred and Folco Boffin
Featured Deck: The Red Arrow

Favorite Unique Ally: Jubayr

JubaryShadow cards are one of the great mysteries of this game. Each round consists of critical decisions: how many characters to commit to the quest, how much attack and defense to hold back for the combat phase, saving resources for cancellation effects. All of these plans can be laid bare from one untimely shadow card that goes uncanceled. Any card which provides shadow cancelation without an additional resource cost gives players an invaluable tool to mitigate this risk.

The average size of enemies continues to creep up – by necessity as player cards allow heroes and allies to become ever more adept at martial aspects of the game. For most quests, in order for an ally to be an acceptable option for defense they need at least 3 defense. Three defense and 3 hit points is makes an ally a natural choice as a dedicated defender. In all but true-solo, Sentinel is the ideal keyword for your defender, even combat decks can end up with one too many attackers.

NaryaBefore we even get into his response Jubayr is already a great defender: 3 defense, 3 hit points, with Sentinel, all in a sphere without many strong defenders. The ability to discard a facedown shadow card from a non-unique attacker immediately catapults Jubayr into the upper echelon of best defending characters. In the early card pool, a cost of 5 would have been an impediment to playing him, but there are now many resource acceleration and cost reduction options, not to mention other tricks for getting allies into play without paying their full cost.

His response is limited to once per phase, rather than once per round, which is an under-appreciated detail. Treacheries can cause enemies to make immediate attacks during the quest phase. With access to ally readying effects like Narya, I’ve been able to trigger Jubayr’s shadow discard effect multiple times in a round. Whether you feature him in a thematic Harad deck, or a Spirit-heavy deck, Jubayr is one of the best defenders in the game.

Honorable Mention: Firyal
Featured Deck: Aggro Caldara v4

Favorite Generic Ally: Emyn Arnen Ranger

Emyn Arnen RangerWith the release of Ranger Spikes in Heirs of Númenor, Trap decks became a distinct archetype. It has been a strong archetype against certain quests, and a solid choice for a support deck in multiplayer games. One area of struggle for Lore decks in general, and Trap decks specifically, is questing. It’s all well and good to mitigate threat from the staging area, but sometimes you need willpower to make progress in a hurry.

The Haradrim cycle in particular features quite a few race-style quests. These scenarios require that you put as much progress on the quest card as you can, as quickly as possible. In this context, cards like Ranger Spikes and Ithilien Tracker are reactive cards, because they need enemies to enter the staging area before they are effective. These types of reactive effects are not sufficient for aggressive quests.

In this landscape, Emyn Arnen Ranger and Followed enter with much fan-fare. While they both technically require an enemy, these are the kind of proactive cards that the archetype desperately needed. Once you have an enemy trapped with Followed, your Emyn Arnen Ranger becomes a questing powerhouse. Followed is not the only trap which pairs well with the ranger. There is nothing more satisfying than trapping a giant Troll with a Forest Snare and then giving that enemy’s threat as willpower to your ranger.

Even if a quest doesn’t feature many high threat enemies, there are many opportunities for strategic advantage. For example, I like to trap enemies with Surge, Doomed, and annoying “When Revealed” effects and leave them in play for the rest of the game. Until one of your Ranger Spikes ensnares another enemy, your Emyn Arnen Ranger might only have 1 or 2 willpower, but you are also helping to keep annoying effects out of the encounter deck. Dúnedain decks, which benefit from keeping multiple enemies engaged, are particularly effective when paired with these kinds of effects. It’s appropriate that there would be such powerful synergy between the Rangers of Gondor and their northern brethren.

Honorable Mention: Kahliel’s TribesmanRider of Rohan and Steward of Orthanc
Featured Deck: Portugal. the Deck

Favorite Attachment: Magic Ring

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of cards with effects that involve choices, and multiple potential uses. Back when I had more time to write posts about metagame and strategy, I even devoted and entire article to the concept of versatility. When a card is limited to 1 copy per deck, it’s a pretty good indication of how powerful the designer’s deem it to be.

In the case of Magic Ring, it’s not that any one of the effects on the card is too powerful. Having healing, resource acceleration, and readying effects all available in one place immediately makes this one of the versatile cards in the game. The cost of 2 resources from any sphere is totally reasonable for a card of this power level.

Early in the life of the game, the cost of raising your threat when using the Magic Ring would have been more prohibitive. Spirit decks now have a bevy of built-in threat reduction with heroes like Nori, Galadriel, Merry, Beregond and now Fastred. Even spheres without this kind of repeating threat control have access to effects like Core Set Gandalf, Keen As Lances, and Favor of the Valar. Ultimately, the few points of threat that you gain from using the ring are more than offset by the benefit to the attached hero.

For all of the things that it has, the Magic Ring is also powerful for what it lacks. Without the restricted keyword, it keeps both restricted slots available for weapons and armor. This is important, as the Magic Ring will be attached to your hero that carries the bulk of the load. The readying and healing are both excellent benefits for Ents, who cannot wield restricted attachments at all.

A limit of one per deck might at first make this seem like a niche card. However, powerful search effects like Gather Information, Heed the Dream, and Ally Galadriel can help make it easier to find this card. In general, the game has so many more card draw effects than it did in the early days that a one copy does not doom this card to be forever lost in the depths of your deck. In any case, even a minor ring of power like this is worth dedicating the resources to find.

Honorable Mention: Followed and Fireside Song
Featured Deck: Songs for Rosie

Favorite Events: Proud Hunters

Hirgon and Prince Imarhil provide new options for Tactics to muster allies quickly, one of the most essential requirements for any effective early game strategy. However, Tactics decks need to pay for powerful attachments and events, in addition to allies. Having extra resources gives a deck vital options, to adapt to whatever challenges a quest presents. This is where Proud Hunters fills a critical role, one that has been lacking for Tactics ever since Horn of Gondor received errata.

The Sands of Harad introduced these interesting cross-trait play requirements. These events were continued in the Haradrim cycle and many of them are quite unique and effective. While the requirement of two different unique characters with a particular trait can seem like a steep cost, it is often possible to fulfill this requirement with your starting heroes. This constraint can even make you consider hero combinations which you might no otherwise use.

By thinking creatively about your hero choices, it is often possible to include these events without sacrificing the core strategy of your deck. In the case of my featured deck, Éowyn is our dedicated quester and provides the Noble trait. Mablung, in addition to being one of my all-time favorite versatile heroes, brings more resource acceleration to pair with Proud Hunters, along with the essential Ranger trait. Rounding this all out is everyone’s favorite giant Troll-slaying bear.

Between Mablung and Proud Hunters, the featured deck has resource acceleration on par with all but the most resource-hoarding Leadership builds. Paired with card draw and search effects, readying and action advantage like Beorn, and this level of resource acceleration, Mono-Tactics has gone beyond a viable archetype and can often be a powerhouse. Decks like Bear on Vacation are proof that all three pillars can be built into an archetype which was previously relegated to combat duty. As a long-time fan of mono-Sphere decks, it is encouraging to see this level of versatility finally available for Tactics.

Honorable Mention: Heirs of Eärendil, Wait No Longer, and Oath of Eorl
Featured Deck: A Bear on Vacation

Favorite Player Side Quest: The Storm Comes

When they were first released, player side quests seemed powerful but the fact that they were each limited to one copy per deck made them seem like nice bonuses, rather than the lynchpin of a particular archetype. Every archetype needs a champion, and Thurindir is undeniably the champion of player side quests. Along with a new set of quests which allow three copies to be included in a players deck, a nascent strategy matured into a full-fledged archetype.

With no cost and only 5 quest points, The Storm Comes is not a difficult side quest to get into play, or to complete. Sure a one (or two) round hit can be a steep price, but once you complete this quest it completely changes the game for multi-sphere decks. Like all of the new player side quests, you are limited to one copy in the victory display but the way it is worded it would not make sense to complete multiple copies of The Storm Comes. This card is so powerful, that it even allows you to play allies for which you don’t even have a hero sphere match.

In the eponymous featured deck, Thurindir assures that we will always have The Storm Comes in our opening hand. At a steep cost of 5 resources each, the unique Harad allies are not easy to muster in a tri-sphere deck. The Storm Comes is the only thing that makes this crazy deck concept possible. It not only helps us with the expensive Harad allies, but the resource smoothing of not having to match the first ally you play even helps with smaller allies like Rider of Rohan – another amazing card in this side quest archetype.

This deck provides merely one example of how to exploit the power of The Storm Comes. There are as many ways to take advantage of ally resource smoothing as their are multi-sphere decks. My hope is that the upcoming cycle includes more player side quests, so that this archetype does not wither on the vine like some older strategies from past cycles. I look forward to seeing the radically dynamic decks that players design around The Storm Comes and the other powerful player side quests.

Honorable Mention: Keep Watch, Prepare for Battle
Featured Deck: The Storm Comes

Posted in Card Lists, Community, Control, Deck Building, Deck Lists, Discussion, Fun, Metagame, Mono-Sphere, Opinion, Strategy, Tempo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portugal. The Country, and the Deck.

Mrs. Beorn and I had a wonderful trip to Portugal over the winter holidays, and I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and write a bit about it. Being adventurous sorts, we have a list of all the countries we want to visit in our travels. As a bear who loves to eat and drink, Portugal has always been near the top of this list. Among other things, Portugal is especially famous for Port Wine, which is a particular favorite of mine.

The photo above was taken at the end of a glorious day in the town of Porto, the eponymous city from which Port Wine takes its name. We walked all along the Douro river, sampling various wines, along with an amazing spread of cheeses and meats. My French is a bit rusty, but I believe “charcuterie” roughly translates to “all of the yummy things that you can fit on a piece of wood”. If there is an Ursine Heaven, I suspect it looks something like this.

At it’s heart, the city of Porto is built around a Roman Wall that was created in the 11th century. The sense of history is one of my favorite things about Tolkien’s writing, just as it is one of my favorite aspects of traveling to distant places. Once you have visited another land, tried (sometimes unsuccessfully) to speak the language, and shared bread and wine with the people, it is difficult to hold on to mistrust and apprehension. I suspect that many who blithely throw around negative generalizations about other countries have never actually visited the places they so casually disdain.

A highlight of our trip was visiting the capital city of Lisbon. It is a beautiful city in its own right, but in very different ways than Porto. After finding a group of friendly players in Versailles during our trip to France, I’ve made it a point to try to meet up with members of the community during my travels. We were truly humbled by the hospitality we found in Portugal, as one member of the community even invited us to dinner! Manuel (mtpereira from the forums) and his girlfriend Daniela graciously hosted us on multiple nights while we visited Lisbon.

One of many advantages to visiting a country with the help of locals is that they know where the more interesting and out of the way places are. Anyone can take a selfie in front of the most iconic example of architecture that a country has to offer, but this strikes me as a rather facile oversimplification of what it means to be in that country. I’m far more interested in the esoteric beauty, sights and experiences that a country hides a bit deeper beneath the surface.

Mrs. Beorn and I are quite fond a style of tile which the Portuguese adapted from North Africa, called Azulejo. Our visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejos in Lisbon was a personal favorite. In an age of automation and disposable goods, seeing entire walls and buildings covered in painstakingly hand-painted tiles is awe inspiring. I am particularly fascinated by the intersections of cultures and Azulejos represent an intriguing hybrid between Arabic and Christian cultures and artistic styles.

We were able to make time on our trip for some geeky fun, and met up with another member of the community named Nuno for a night of board games and traditional Portuguese food. We learned to play a new, and devilishly challenging, cooperative game called Magic Maze. The premise of this game was quite amusing, as you are a band of fantasy adventurers trying to escape from a shopping mall. It’s interesting how even seemingly insignificant details can highlight the differences between two places and peoples.

Travel can’t help but make one a bit introspective about one’s own society. This game’s silly premise along with the general contrast of being in Portugal, caused me turn a critical eye to my native culture. In America, much of our society is deeply obsessed with physical possessions as an outward symbol of status and “happiness”. I’m a simple bear, looking to enjoy experiences, meet new people and broaden my perspective on life. My adventurous sense of freedom, and even stubborn assertion of individuality certainly fit with the culture that I was born into. However, I completely reject the notion that my success is defined by how many things I own.

The more that I travel, I realize that I am part of a community that is unique. So many genuinely warm and caring people are part of the online world which has built itself around this game, and I am deeply appreciative to find joy in a beautiful and fragile thing. The internet has changed many aspects of our world, for the better and the worse. It seems to me far easier to tear something down through destructive acts, or even let it deteriorate through neglect, than it is to build it up through toil and diligence. I am grateful to all of the people who I’ve met through this game, and all of those who I will never meet but whose work benefits me every day. Being fortunate enough to experience the breadth of good in this community inspires me to never take it for granted.

For those might prefer more of the game-related content, and less of an old Bear’s ramblings, I haven’t forgotten you. Here is a thematic Ranger deck which I designed, in my great fuzzy head, while I wandered the fog-covered streets of Porto. Safe travels everyone!

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Braving the Crossings of Poros


It’s been a while in coming, but The Crossings of Poros finally arrived and we had a chance to play it this week at our Austin LotR group. The wait was worth it as this quest is both unique and challenging. It uses several of the encounter sets from the Haradrim cycle, but unlike traditional quests, not all of the encounter cards are added when the scenario is setup. Instead, the heroes path to Gondor takes random windings and turnings, reflected in the cards which are added to the encounter deck.

One path leads through the Desert, adding the Desert Sands encounter set to the encounter deck, with its dunes, and sandstorms, and constant threat of dehydration. The alternative is for the heroes to take Kahliel’s refugees through the mountains of The Ephel Dúath reflected by the Mountains of Shadow encounter set. While this path avoids the scorching sands of the desert, it brings its own peril in the form of dangerous locations and a troublesome side quest which prevents threat reduction. Regardless of the path you take, The Black Serpent and his host are hot on your trail.

We went into our first play of the quest blind, and were fortunate that our decks had an ideal mix of strengths for many of the challenges we faced. Every location has a forced effect which punishes players for traveling. There is a very real danger of location lock in this scenario, and regardless of the path taken this pressure does not let up. Desolate Land, in particular is a brutal counter to the ally army which most questing decks employ.

Stephen’s location control deck helped us avoid the worst of these forced effects as Northern Tracker and Asfaloth could clear many locations from the staging area. Depending on the path taken, this scenario has counters for most common strategies. In the desert, Towering Duns will mitigate Northern Tracker and Rhovanion Outrider, and needs to be targeted first.

Luckily, we took the mountain pass through the Ephel Dúath so the location control served us well. Jeff saved his copies of Secret Paths for the few times that Desolate Land showed up. Once Jeff had Sword that was Broken on Aragorn, and we were able to consistently quest successfully and avoid location lock. That left enemies as the primary challenge, and in this quest that is a considerable impediment.

I played an updated version of my Bear on Vacation deck, mono Tactics with Beorn, Mablung, and Éowyn. At its heart, it is an Aggro combat-focused deck, but it includes a few tricks which proved useful. Vigilant Guard can in handy, as I was able to redirect damage from all over the table, including damage that Beorn took while defending. Stephen and Jeff were both running Warden of Healing to heal the redirected damage. Healing is essential choice as this quest features quite a bit of archery.

Another highly effective card was Azain Silverbeard. Regardless of which path is trod, the scenario features a large number of Harad enemies, and the other encounter sets include enemies that share a trait. During most rounds, there will be a valid target for Azain’s direct damage response, especially because it can target enemies in the staging area. Resource acceleration from Mablung and Proud Hunters helped pay for Azain’s ability.

On the final stage, Poros Garrison comes to the players’ rescue, while enemies pour into the staging area. Wait No Longer might seem like a counter-intuitive choice for such a situation, but events like Thicket of Spears and Oath of Eorl allow the deck to handle a large number of enemies. Many of the enemies in this scenario have “when revealed” effects and Wait no Longer allows you to add one of these enemies to play and avoid this effect. Thanks to this card we only had to reveal two cards on our critical round, which allowed us to hold back more character for combat.

This quest was tense and required coordination with a bit of luck, but that made for a thrilling victory. With the random branching structure of this quest, future games will take a very different track. This is a quest that may to some extent defy a single strategy deck archetype, because of this variability. Of all the quests in this cycle, The Crossings of Poros probably has the most replay value. It might have stretched out longer that anyone would prefer, but the conclusion to this cycle was a satisfying one.

 

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