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

Metagame Part 6 – A Unique Challenge

Brown Bear Play Fight

There are several core mechanics which all of Fantasy Flight’s Living Card Games share. In a sense, these fundamental aspects are what defines all of the disparate games as LCGs. The concept of unique cards is one such rule, and it is as important for theme as it is for game balance. Unique cards are inherently more iconic, they represent the distinctive people, places and things that underpin a particular world.

FrodoMiddle-earth is no different. There was only one Frodo Baggins, so it wouldn’t make any sense to include him in your company alongside the Frodo Baggins that is included as a Fellowship hero in the early Saga quests. Likewise, there was only one Sword that was Broken – you would not have met two heroes who both carried the precious remnant of Narsil in their scabbard. The limitation that prevents players from having multiple copies of such cards in play at once allows the designers to create more dynamic and powerful cards, and it makes the game feel more real.

Sword that Was BrokenHowever, having a card pool filled with multiple versions of unique cards (e.g. three different non-Saga versions of Aragorn, and counting) can pose some serious challenges, particularly in casual multi-player games. It is great to have options, and many marquee characters like Gimli and Legolas even have ally versions now as well. This is great from a deck-building standpoint as it opens up so many avenues that we’re available before. Say you’re making a Noldor and Silvan deck, with Elladan and Elrohir, but you don’t want to go with a second Tactics hero. You can still include Legolas as an ally and he will fit right into that deck, taking advantage of powerful cards like Rivendell Blade without forcing you into a particular sphere.

From a solo player’s perspective this level of flexibility is all well and good, but as someone who plays frequently in a group setting it can sometimes be frustrating. The logistics for multi-player can reach a comedic level of complexity. You won’t always know who will be present, the quest being played, or the play-style preferences of other players for a given night. With that in mind, I bring a box of several decks, most of them already tested and ready to go. With the increasing number of variations on the same unique characters, it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid conflicts with other players’s decks.

GamlingSome players complain when a new expansion or pack features an FFG-created hero or even just a lesser-known character from the Tolkien Legendarium. While it may be frustrating not to see your favorite hero, it is important to remember that these lesser known characters serve an important purpose in the meta-game but avoiding conflicts with other marquee heroes. This frees players to choose their heroes without having to miss out on a critical piece to their strategy.

A great example is Gamling from The Land of Shadow. Choosing this less-heralded of the Rohirrim to possess this ability was an excellent decision on the part of the designers. By using a character that does not exist in other ally or hero versions (and is far less likely to be represented again soon), they have given breathing room to the Spirit Rohan archetype. With so many powerful Spirit allies that are discarded from play, Gamling’s ability facilitates a powerful new strategy. Paired with the new Spirit version of Théoden to lower the cost for playing this expendable allies, Gamling is at the heart of these decks.

HámaIf the designers had instead chosen a more well-known character from among the warriors of Rohan, it could have crippled many potential decks in this nascent archetype. A counter-example to prove this point is the ally version of Háma from the Treason of Saruman. This ally gives Spirit Rohan decks that feature Gamling a viable alternative (or at least supplement) to using a hero as a dedicated defender. However, because Háma is also a Tactics hero, it limits the options for Spirit/Tactics Rohan decks.

Éomer is the obvious first choice for the Tactics hero in such decks, but what do you do if another player is using him in their deck. For example, a mixed-Faction deck featuring Prince Imrahil and Éomer with chump blockers can be a very effective combination against certain scenarios. Because of Háma’s value as a defender in a Spirit-heavy Rohan deck, there is essentially only one Tactics hero that you can use and still take advantage of the various other Rohan synergies.

HamaThe Háma Tactics hero has plenty of value in powerful decks which are not in any way Rohan-themed, and likewise you could supplement a Spirit/Tactics Rohan deck with a non-Rohan Tactics hero. It is just frustrating when you have cards like Steed of the Mark, Éomund and a bevy of interesting and powerful events that all key off of the Rohan trait. It makes sense – not only thematically but strategically – to want to build more pure faction decks. It certainly seems like a larger card pool would allow for this, but with so much overlap among unique characters this can be difficult in practice.

To be clear, as a solo player I really appreciate the different versions of the more popular characters. Aragorn is a great example of a universally-loved character where his diverse representations only serve to better portray the many aspects of his history and personality. Still, the saturation of multiple versions of these key characters is starting to make ad hoc multi-player games almost untenable. This might not be a popular opinion, but I appreciate the appearance of these unique FFG creations, along with the characters who play only minor roles in Tolkien’s stories. These side characters allow for interesting and often powerful decks, with the advantage that they don’t conflict with the main characters that feature so prominently in so many decks.

The following is a list of all of the characters printed (or spoiled) to date with at least two different cards. I have here included Baggins and Fellowship heroes, along with Objective Allies – while they don’t feature in player decks they can still cause conflicts with the unique characters that players might include in their decks.

Hero Versions
Amarthiúl Leadership Hero and Objective Ally
Anborn Lore Ally and Leadership Ally
Aragorn Leadership, Lore, Tactics and Fellowship Heroes
Arwen Undómiel Objective Ally, Spirit Ally and Spirit Hero
Beorn Tactics Ally and Tactics Hero
Bifur Lore Hero and Lore Ally
Bilbo Baggins Lore Hero, Baggins Hero and Spirit Ally
Bofur Spirit Ally and Tactics Ally
Bombur Lore Ally and Lore Hero
Boromir Tactics Hero, Leadership Hero and Tactics Ally
Damrod Spirit Ally and Lore Hero
Denethor Lore Hero and Leadership Ally
Dori Lore Ally and Tactics Hero
Dwalin Spirit Hero and Spirit Ally
Elrond Lore Hero and Lore Ally
Erestor Leadership Ally and Lore Hero
Faramir Leadership Ally, Lore Hero, Objective Ally and Leadership Hero
Frodo Baggins Spirit Hero and Fellowship Hero
Galadriel Spirit Hero and Leadership Ally
Gandalf Neutral Ally (x2) and Neutral Hero
Gildor Inglorion Lore Ally and Objective Ally
Gimli Tactics Hero and Leadership Ally
Glóin Leadership Hero and Leadership Ally
Glorfindel Lore Hero, Spirit Hero and Spirit Ally
Gríma Lore Hero and Objective Ally
Haldir of Lórien Lore Ally and Lore Hero
Háma Tactics Hero and Spirit Ally
Legolas Tactics Hero and Tactics Ally
Mablung Tactics Hero and Lore Ally
Merry Tactics Hero and Spirit Hero
Pippin Spirit Hero and Lore Hero
Sam Gamgee Leadership Hero and Spirit Ally
Théoden Tactics Hero and Spirit Hero
Treebeard Neutral Ally and Lore Hero
Posted in Card Lists, Community, Deck Building, Discussion, Metagame, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Poll Results: Favorite Support Hero

supporting_bear
The game has many facets. Beyond just questing and combat, there are many important aspects of a successful deck. Where many of the marquee heroes will directly address fundamental aspects of the game, a support hero might be less obviously powerful, but is often just as necessary. The definition of a support hero is a bit ephemeral, but at their essence they provide an ability which supplements the main strategy of a deck. This might be an ability that fills a niche or weakness in your strategy, or it could represent a pillar of your chosen archetype, but a support hero is one that helps your other heroes and allies to overcome the challenges of a particular quest.

Galadriel-SmallReaders were asked to vote on their favorite support heroes, and there are some interesting results. Few will be surprised at a strong showing of Noldor in this list, with Galadriel and Elrond holding first and second place, respectively. It would be a disservice to either of these heroes to reduce their contributions to a single archetype, but there unique abilities – and access to rings of power – allow them to anchor several interesting strategies. Galadriel in particular is an excellent example of a support hero. Without the ability to quest or participate in combat, she by definition is limited to supporting your allies, and providing card draw and threat reduction. The lady of Lórien serves as a telling admonition against judging a hero in isolation. With powerful allies like Core Set Gandalf, the action advantage granted by Galadriel can be a tremendous boon to any strategy.

The next top vote getter might be a bit of a surprise, but I agree with other voters whole-heartedly. Sam Gamgee is a less assuming hobbit in some respects, but for 8 starting threat a hero with 3 willpower is not to be overlooked. A built in readying ability that can be triggered fairly consistently in the early game is also welcome for decks that might need a few rounds to setup. Lastly, access to Leadership at the low cost of 8 threat is an underrated benefit of everyone’s favorite gardener. It is possible to find resource acceleration, or more often cost-reduction of some kind, in other spheres; these effects are often narrow or come with additional costs. As much as the metagame is broadening with alternatives for many strategies, Steward of Gondor remains the most effective form of resource acceleration, and Sam Gamgee gives you access to this essential card.

The top seven vote-getters are rounded out by a trait-staple and two absolute gems for multi-player games. Dain Ironfoot is the first and most obvious choice as a support hero for any Dwarf deck. Even without readying, or taking actions of any kind – he can still lead an army of Dwarves to victory against most scenarios. The fact of the matter is that global passive effects are powerful, being able to impact every character in play with a particular (and fairly common) trait makes it much easier to construct an effective deck. Of the next three heroes in the results, none are nearly as powerful as the King Under the Mountain, but they all are excellent at what they do, and are a welcome sight in multiplayer games. Beravor gives you access to one of the most important spheres for the Dúnedain archetype, as well as having great synergy with cards like Protector of Lórien and to a lesser extent A Burning Brand. Most importantly, Beravor provides a powerful form repeatable card draw. This can be especially beneficial in multi-player games where many Tactics and Leadership-heavy decks lack access to such an effect.

EleanorEleanor is a hero that some players might not consider, especially those who prefer solo play. Anyone who has played their share of multi-player games will immediately recognize and appreciate the value of repeatable treachery cancelation. The fact that the cancelled card is replaced is not nearly as bad as it at first seems because there will often be one or two treacheries which are game-ending in multi-player. Having insurance against these kinds of effects on a critical turn is precisely why Eleanor is so valuable in a game where 6 or more cards can be revealed during a single staging step.

TheodredLast but not least we have Théodred. Another hero of seemingly lesser prestige, the son of Théoden is nonetheless vital to many strategies. No matter how bad your opening hand is after a mulligan, if you have Théodred among your starting heroes you are guaranteed at least some form of resource acceleration. This is all the more valuable in the first few rounds, when getting that extra ally into play can be the difference-maker. Théodred is even better in multi-player games, where he can benefit other players with a critical resource needed for cancelation, or other quest-phase trickery, at just the right time. If you are going to adopt such a strategy, just remember that it is better to start the game as the last player, to maximize your options for where his extra resource is given.

There are many other worthy heroes featured here. Anyone looking to improve a struggling deck, or even just shake up a stale one, would do well to take heed of the names listed below. Support heroes might not always be the most obviously powerful, but they can often be just as critical to a deck’s success than their more heralded counterparts. You can, in fact, construct a deck consisting entirely of support heroes. As an exercise, I have built one just now, using the top three support heroes as voted by the readers. Thanks for participating , and be sure the check out the latest active poll on the side panel at right.

With a little help from my friends

Heroes
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Allies: 20
Bill the Pony x1 (The Black Riders)
Arwen Undomiel x1 (The Watcher in the Water)
Imladris Stargazer x2 (Foundations of Stone)
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x2 (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Zigil Miner x2 (Khazaddûm)
Galadhrim Healer x2 (The Dread Realm)
Master of the Forge x1 (Shadow and Flame)
Lindir x1 (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
Harbor Master x1 (The Drúadan Forest)
Erestor x1 (The Long Dark)
Galdor from the Havens x1 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Haldir of Lórien x1 (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
Gildor Inglorion x1 (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
Gandalf x3 (Core Set)

Attachments: 15
Light of Valinor x2 (Foundations of Stone)
Mirror of Galadriel x2 (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Nenya x3 (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Unexpected Courage x1 (Core Set)
Silver Harp x2 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
A Burning Brand x2 (The Watcher in the Water)
Vilya x3 (Shadow and Flame)

Events: 13
Elrond’s Counsel x3 (The Watcher in the Water)
Daeron’s Runes x3 (Foundations of Stone)
Sneak Attack x2 (Core Set)
Elven Light x3 (The Dread Realm)
A Test of Will x2 (Core Set)

Side Quests: 2
Gather Information x1 (The Lost Realm)
Double Back x1 (Escape from Mount Gram)

 

Hero Votes %
Galadriel 83 18.04%
Elrond 57 12.39%
Sam Gamgee 35 7.61%
Dain Ironfoot 34 7.39%
Beravor 33 7.17%
Eleanor 26 5.65%
Theodred 19 4.13%
Denethor 18 3.91%
Pippin (TBR) 15 3.26%
Bifur 14 3.04%
Rossiel 13 2.83%
Mablung 12 2.61%
Celeborn 11 2.39%
Balin 10 2.17%
Halbarad 9 1.96%
Merry (TWoE) 9 1.96%
Thalin 9 1.96%
Bilbo Baggins (THfG) 7 1.52%
Caldara 7 1.52%
Mirlonde 6 1.3%
Ori 6 1.3%
Damrod 5 1.09%
Gríma 5 1.09%
Merry (TBR) 5 1.09%
Boromir Needs No Support 1 0.22%
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