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 Uncategorized | 4 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%
Posted in Community, Poll Results, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Early Spring Cleaning

Yogi with Broom

For those that enjoy deck-building, a bigger card pool is always better. Each additional release opens up more archetypes for those who want to branch out and try something different. Greater depth for making refinements to an existing deck to handle new challenges. The metagame is constantly shifting, so having options allows players to adapt and kept decks relevant.

ultra_pro_binderFor those of us who prefer to play with physical cards, there is one practical downside to a growing card pool, however. It becomes challenging to find space to store everything. For the last couple of years I have been using the same storage strategy, and it has worked well until recently. I have four colored binders (red, purple, blue and green), one for each sphere, and a fifth (black) for neutral cards and heroes. Scenarios are organized by set or cycle and kept in card boxes.

As the card pool has grown, the four sphere binders have been filled to the bursting point, so I’ve had to look into alternate strategies for storing player cards. My first attempt at a fix was to move all player cards from saga expansions into a sixth binder, but this did not work out well. Ultimately unless you strictly collect the game but do not play, whatever storage strategy you use should facilitate deck building. When the card pool was smaller, I could memorize which cards came from which expansions, but the game has been around long enough that it is now difficult to hold the entire card pool in one’s head.

Ent-DraughtBoomed-and-TrumpetedIf I’m building an Ent deck, I don’t want to have to remember which Ent cards are from APs and which were released in saga expansions. This is where the sphere-based binders are so convenient. Ideally, I can grab the Red (Tactics) and Green (Lore) binders, along with the Black (Neutral/Heroes) binder and be ready to make an Ent deck. After choosing my heroes and what few neutral cards I need from the Black binder, I am down to using only two binders to complete the deck.

This is, by the way, why I don’t just put all of the player cards into a single huge binder. Most decks use two spheres (with possibly a third splashed in), so it doesn’t make sense to have look through every single player card while building a deck. Just because a bear can carry everything in his paws, doesn’t mean that he should. The one binder to rule them all would also be much less convenient to transport in the event that I want to deck build outside of the Hall.

This leads to my current conundrum, and the solution that I ultimately found. I wanted to continue to use the colored binders for each sphere, but with two more Saga expansions and an entire new cycle on the way, there was no way that this would work. For good or ill, some cards seldom if ever make it into any of my decks, so it made little sense for them to take up space in the binder. Ultimately, I made a list of cards that I never use, and these got moved into the sixth “extras” binder, to collect dust in the corner. Moving these little-used cards frees up space for all of the new cards that will be flooding in this year.

As with anything subjective, others will disagree with some of these choices. That’s the fun of deck-building. We all do it a bit differently. Ian has a great card spotlight feature over at Tales from the Cards about this very issue. What one player deems a coaster, another might use to build an entire strategy. Those who remain skeptical have only to see what enterprising deck-builders are doing with long forgotten cards – for example Seastan’s Love of Tales deck.

One final caveat, before I share my “coaster” list. Just because I don’t use a card in my decks does not mean that the card is bad. For that matter, it doesn’t even mean that I don’t see the value in the card. It just means that, for whatever reason, it doesn’t fit my personal deck-building style. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are 10 cards from each sphere which are now relegated to the “collecting dust” binder. Feel free to leave a comment with your own coaster list, or if you think that I am missing something with any of these cards.

Leadership

Brok Ironfist (Core Set): Too expensive, with a near-useless ability
Keen-eyed Took (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Terrible stats with a very situational ability
Sword of Morthond (Assault on Osgiliath): Only useful in a dedicated Outlands deck
Common Cause (Core Set): Not actually action advantage – Leadership has better options
Rear Guard (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Much to expensive for such a minimal effect
Ever Onward (Khazad-dûm)Doom Hangs Still makes this card obsolete
Taking Initiative (The Redhorn Gate): Powerful, but much too situational to be reliable
Grave Cairn (The Watcher in the Water): Situational, with a real potential to be useless
Men of the West (Assault on Osgiliath): I’m not interested in a dedicated Outlands deck
Follow Me! (The Nîn-in-Eilph): Potential use in multi-player, but too situational

Tactics

Veteran of Nanduhirion (Khazad-dûm): Cheaper alternatives – Battle Master or Sentry.
Watcher of the Bruinen (The Watcher in the Water): Too weak for a dedicated defender
Dwarven Axe (Core Set): Expensive and weapons are often overkill for Dwarves
Born Aloft (Conflict at the Carrock): Only useful in combos that do not interest me
Blade Mastery (Core Set): So many better tactics events
Stand Together (Core Set): Using multiple characters to defend is not action-advantage
To the Eyrie (A Journey to Rhosgobel): Much too expensive for the effect
Meneldor’s Flight (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Like Born Aloft, limited to specific combos
Heavy Stroke (Foundations of Stone): Tactics is resource-poor, I prefer Khazad! Khazad!
Trained for War (The Drúadan Forest): Mono-Tactics lacks the readying for questing

Spirit

Damrod (Heirs of Númenor): I will always prefer Northern Tracker for this cost.
The Favor of the Lady (Core Set): Spirit has so many better ways to get willpower
Power in the Earth (Core Set): Too weak of an effect to warrant deck space
Ever My Heart Rises (The Long Dark): A sideboard card at best, too conditional
The Fall of Gil-galad (The Dunland Trap): Only useful in combos that do not interest me
Warden of Arnor (The Three Trials): Another sideboard card, too weak for most scenarios
Star Brooch (The Lost Realm): Far too conditional of an ability for limited impact
Strength of Will (Core Set): Too situational for a limited effect, action-disadvantage
A Light in the Dark (Core Set): Expensive, with more effective alternatives
Against the Shadow (The Drúadan Forest): I have yet to find a use for this card

Lore

Bombur (Road to Rivendell): Expensive, terrible stats, situational ability, otherwise great?
Isengard Messenger (The Voice of Isengard): No trait synergy, situational ability
Dark Knowledge (Core Set): Superior alternatives for shadow control
Healing Herbs (Foundations of Stone): Better alternatives without action-disadvantage
Gandalf’s Search (Core Set): Expensive, Lore has so many superior alternatives
Beorn’s Hospitality (Core Set): Expensive, Waters of the Nimrodel makes this card useless
Infighting (A Journey to Rhosgobel): Too situational/fiddly for my taste
Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm): Action-disadvantage with situational value
Advance Warning (The Drúadan Forest): Noiseless Movement is superior for my style
Message from Elrond (The Three Trials): Interesting, difficult with ad hoc multi-player

 
Posted in Card Lists, Discussion, Metagame, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Alternate Art Staples

Core Set Alternate Art Staples

Beautiful art is one of the underrated aspects of this game. With a world as rich and wondrous as Middle-earth, it takes special art to create that sense of immersion. Like any LCG, there are certain staple cards that find their way into a large number of your decks. Even the most magnificent peace of art can become just a background, when you are looking at it every day.

With that in mind, I have created alternate art versions of some of my favorite staples in the game. These might not be staples for every player, but surely some of these cards will find their way into your decks. For the other cards, perhaps a different artistic interpretation will provide inspiration to try them in your next deck. For those who want to use the Strange Eons files to print your own cards, you can download them here. From the Hall of Beorn to everyone out there around the world, happy holidays and have a wonderful and safe New Year!

Faramir-Front-Face

Steward-of-Gondor-Front-Face

Sneak-Attack-Front-Face

Beorn-Front-Face

Gondorian-Shield-Front-Face

Feint-Front-Face

Arwen-Undómiel-Front-Face

Unexpected-Courage-Front-Face

A-Test-of-Will-Front-Face

Quickbeam-Front-Face

A-Burning-Brand-Front-Face

Daeron's-Runes-Front-Face

Gandalf-Front-Face

Posted in Art, Custom Cards, Lord of the Rings, Tolkien | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Deck: The Dúnedain Trappers

Damrod

Seastan here. Beorn has graciously invited me to write a guest article for his excellent blog. With, I might add, almost no proof of my blog-writing ability. I hope he is ready for the writing quality on his blog to take a sharp dive. [Bear’s Note: Your writing is just fine, sir!] Now, let’s begin.

I want to write about the latest and greatest craze in the Lord of the Rings LCG. No, not Noldor. As much as I love them at their current state, I think we will have to wait until a couple more expansions to come out before we can see them at their full potential.

I am talking about Dúnedain! The trait that was introduced to us in the long-forgotten days of the Core Set, patiently awaiting the developers’ attention. Well, now at last, with the Angmar Awakened cycle winding down, we can see how far they’ve come. Spoiler alert – they’ve come far.

We see that the theme surrounding the Dúnedain trait has been focused on engaging and remaining engaged with many enemies. It’s an interesting idea, but at first glance it seems counter-intuitive. To make the most out of all these Dúnedain cards, you need to have 3+ enemies constantly engaged with you! And if you kill them all, you lose important benefits, like the extra resource from Amarthiúl each turn.

The new ally, Guardian of Arnor, certainly helps deal with the flood of enemies you’ll be facing. Even if you just try to keep 2 enemies around, he boasts a solid 3 defense and 3 hit points, and even sentinel if you need to help out your friend.

Guardian-of-Arnor

While Guardian of Arnor is a key player, he’s not quite enough to get the deck rolling. We want at least 4+ enemies engaged with us. Why? Well, that means our guardians will be at 5 defense, able to hold off the stronger enemies that the encounter deck has to offer. More important, however, is that it will enable us to use Heir of Valandil to play our allies for free!

Forest Snare

So, how can we keep 4+ enemies engaged with us without breaking a sweat? Two words: Forest Snare. Forest Snare lets us lock up an enemy permanently, providing us with juicy Dúnedain benefits but no danger. The only issue now is that Forest Snare is so expensive.

Enter Damrod. I don’t think it is too far fetched to think that Damrod would help out the Dúnedain on their quest. They are all rangers after all. Damrod reduces the cost to play all traps by 1, and provides a nice card draw bonus whenever a trap attaches to an enemy.

Now we just need a second lore hero to ensure that we can play a Forest Snare every turn if need be. Between Aragorn and Beravor, I have to pick Aragorn without hesitation. My starting threat is very high, and I know my third hero is going to be Amarthiúl, so I am not going to have much reliable access to other forms of threat reduction. Aragorn also enables access to Sword that was Broken and Celebrían’s Stone, allowing his resources to be used for Leadership and Spirit cards.

Last comes Amarthiúl, with his bonus resource and very useful Tactics icon which will allow us to play Feint on the big enemies before we snare them. As for filling out the rest of the deck, my main goal was to focus on getting out the Forest Snares as soon as possible. This means lots of card draw through Daeron’s Runes and Deep Knowledge, and attachment fetching cards like Galadriel and Master of the Forge. There are also Ranger Spikes in the deck so you can hold off enemies in the staging area to buy time to find your snares.

Heir-of-Valandil

The remaining spots are filled with the Dúnedain cards. So we have most of the decent allies, which you shouldn’t have too much of a problem paying for with the help of Heir of Valandil. Dúnedain Watcher is there if you have an urgent need to cancel a shadow effect.

A typical start will look like this:

  • Draw your staring hand, and take a mulligan if you don’t find a Forest Snare or Master of the Forge.
  • On the first turn, play your Master if you have him.
  • Quest with Damrod and Aragorn, then use Amarthiúl to defend an attack.
  • Dig for Forest Snare using your Master.
  • On your second turn, use your Master again. By now, after looking through so many cards, you hopefully have a Forest Snare. You play it on the enemy and draw a card.
  • Repeat the same process, continuing to get out Forest Snares as often as possible.

Master of the Forge

In a couple turns you should also acquire a Steward of Gondor, which goes on Amarthiúl, along with a Gondorian Shield to bump up his defense. He is now getting 4 resources a turn and you can start calling for Galadriel’s aid, and she will hopefully provide you with nice toys like The Sword that was Broken and Heir of Valandil, or perhaps she’ll be really nice and set up a Forest Snare on an enemy you are engaged with. Remember that if you are desperate for a snare, use your Master before Galadriel. This will allow you to look at more cards in your deck, because the Master shuffles after looking, and Galadriel does not.

This deck is not really meant to kill enemies very often, just tie them all up. In many quests, however, there is a big bad guy that you must destroy. That’s why I have Gondorian Fire in the deck (for Amarthiúl), but feel free to omit it for another card if you prefer. Often times playing Descendants of Kings on the last turn will provide you with enough attack.

There’s also a Tactics ally that was just released in The Dread Realm expansion. Feel free to experiment with him as well, although as I mentioned, the deck is not built around needing consistent heavy hitters. In fact, you may often find yourself regretting destroying that enemy on the previous turn!

I’ve recorded a video on my Youtube channel in which use this deck to beat Into Ithilien Nightmare. Hopefully it gives a good example of the deck in action. I thoroughly enjoyed the archetype and I plan on taking it against many more scenarios!

Thanks for reading, and happy questing!

Aragorn-TWitWAmarthiúlDamrod

Total Cards: 50

Heroes (starting threat: 31)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Amarthiúl (The Battle of Can Dûm)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)

Allies (20)
Dúnedain Watcher x2 (The Dead Marshes)
Galadriel x3 (The Road Darkens)
Guardian of Arnor x3 (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
Dúnedain Hunter x2 (The Lost Realm)
Northern Tracker x3 (Core Set)
Warden of Annúminas x2 (The Lost Realm)
Master of the Forge x3 (Shadow and Flame)
Sarn Ford Sentry x2 (The Lost Realm)

Attachments (17)
Celebrían’s Stone x2 (Core Set)
Heir of Valandil x2 (The Lost Realm)
Steward of Gondor x3 (Core Set)
Sword that was Broken x2 (The Watcher in the Water)
Gondorian Fire x1 (Assault on Osgiliath)
Gondorian Shield x2 (The Steward’s Fear)
Forest Snare x3 (Core Set)
Ranger Spikes x2 (Heirs of Númenor)

Events (13)
Descendants of Kings x2 (Escape from Mount Gram)
Tighten Our Belts x2 (The Nin-in-Eilph)
Feint x3 (Core Set)
Daeron’s Runes x3 (Foundations of Stone)
Deep Knowledge x3 (The Voice of Isengard)

Posted in Aggro, Control, Deck Lists, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Contest Winners: Bree-land Investigators

2015-fellowship-event

The most difficult part of holding a contest is choosing the winner. Fortunately, with help from a generous reader (special thanks to David G!) as well as Mrs. Beorn donating her own copy, I am able to offer additional prizes. Still, I can’t help but wish that there were more prizes to give out. There were many players who were unable to attend this year’s Fellowship event, and with so many players in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world it is unfortunate that the event could not have a broader reach. Still, it is nice that FFG is showing some love to the game with exclusive events like this. In the spirit of the holidays, it feels good to be able to give back to the community.

Without further ado, the winners of the contest are as follows:

Dirk Meijer (Pippin)

Sam Cook (Nob)

Xardas Xardas (Bree-land Eavesdropper, Dangerous Pursuit, and Bribe)

Facecheck (Auction House, The Forsaken Inn, The Greenway, Mr. Mugwort, Squint-Eyed Southerner, Shirriff, Bob, and Nob)

John Michel (Enemy Informant and Make Contact)

Vardaen (Barliman Butterbur, Bill Ferny’s Papers, Blind Alley, Costly Investigation, False Lead, More Houses, Opportunist, and Squint Eyed Conspirator)

Chad G. (Beorning Muscle and Clever Hobbits)

A hearty congratulations to all of the winners, and I am truly sorry that I was not able to give prizes to everyone. Please contact me here at the Hall with your shipping addresses and I will have your prizes sent by special eagle delivery. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Posted in Community, Contest, Contest Winner, Custom Cards, Fun, Stories, Thanks | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments