In our previous key concepts article, we talked about how important is to have each hero in your party excel at a particular role (the best heroes can even excel at multiple roles). But the Lord of the Rings LCG is about more than just questing, attacking and defending. For solo players, you will need to find a way for your deck to do a little bit of everything, but one of the great things about playing with multiple players (or multiple decks) is that each deck does not need to be a jack of all trades.
Whether for thematic reasons, or because you just like seeing a buffed up Gimli kill the Witch-King of Angmar in one hit, you can divide the responsibilities between each deck however you choose. You may have a Rohan deck that does nothing but questing supported by a Gondor deck with sentinel and plenty of ways to dispatch enemies. Or perhaps you pair a Spirit/Lore deck with your Tactics/Leadership deck to provide some much needed healing and treachery cancellation. There are an infinite number of ways to share the load, but designing a deck that does all of the little things is a worthy endeavor.
Some scenarios will deal a lot of damage to your characters, even with the toughest heroes in the game, if you have no way to heal them you risk having them picked off one by one by treacheries and shadow effects on attacking enemies. In other cases, your deck can have all of the perfect cards to deal with a scenario, and plenty of resources to pay for these cards, but without a way to draw cards, you can find yourself stuck playing a single card a turn. Still other scenarios are chock-full of nasty treacheries that can seriously hamper your heroes ability to fulfill their roles; without a way to cancel or discard that Caught in a Web, your hero is stuck exhausted, just when you need them most. This is where support decks enter into the discussion. A primary deck might be able to handle the essential tasks of questing, attacking and defending, but a support deck is equally important because it fills in the gaps. A single deck can’t do everything, the best support decks help in the areas where other decks lack answers.
Examining the Orc-Hunters of Imladris deck from our last article, we see that it is designed to handle each of the essential tasks of the game. That said, it would be problematic to play this deck solo against many scenarios because of a few key weaknesses that it has. Let’s examine the weak points of this deck so we can design the ideal support deck to pair with it.
With virtually no card draw (you will often have other, more important things to do with Gandalf when he comes into play), this deck risks sputtering out after a few turns. Sure your heroes are solid, but what if you don’t draw the right allies, or an ill-timed treachery slips through your defenses and thins out your defenses. With Steward and Horn of Gondor, along with the errand-riders to move resources around, paying for cards should not be a problem. But, you can’t pay for what you don’t have in your hand so card draw represents a real weakness that we need to address.
Similarly, there is absolutely no healing in this deck. It is already a three sphere deck as it is, and splashing Song of Wisdom just to include some healing cards would stretch this deck to the point of breaking. Still, healing can be essential in many scenarios. At 3 defense, Elrohir is a great blocker, but what happens when you need him to absorb hits from a Hill Troll for a few turns?
The last thing missing from this deck is an ability to manipulate the encounter deck or non-enemy encounter cards in play. Glorfindel’s horse, Asfaloth is probably the best card in the game for dealing with locations, unfortunately, being in the Lore sphere, it does not fit into this deck. A location-heavy scenario like The Hills of Emyn Muil could give this deck some real problems.
Between Glorfindel and Elladan, this deck is very good a combat, but there may still be times that we aren’t yet ready to deal with a larger enemy. Other than Feint, there is nothing in this deck to protect us from a boss enemy coming our way.
With these considerations in mind, let’s build a deck to support the Orc-Hunters of Imladris on their quest. As we put the deck together I am going to explain the decisions I am making, particularly in how they relate to supporting the other deck.
Wardens of Imladris
Since we know that we need card draw and healing, it makes sense for the deck to be primarily Lore-based with Aragorn and Beravor. Additional threat lowering and treachery cancellation would be nice, so one of the heroes should have the Spirit sphere. Aragorn’s ability allows you to reset your threat to its starting level, which has great synergy with Frodo, so we will include him as our Spirit hero. Beravor is a great way to draw cards, so we are already well on our way to bolstering that aspect of our strategy.
Warden of Healing x3
Erebor Hammersmith x2
Henemarth Riversong x1
Imladris Stargazer x2
Master of the Forge x2
Master of Lore x3
Ithilien Tracker x1
Mirkwood Runner x1
Northern Tracker x1
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x1
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Our two primary goals with this deck are to provide card draw and healing so 3 each of Gleowine and Warden of Healing makes perfect sense. Ordinarily, we should be wary of including 3 of a unique card in a deck, but Gleowine is so efficient for a mere 2 resources that we want this card to be in our opening hand as often as possible. Besides, we can always discard any duplicates to Daeron’s Runes or Protector of Lorien, so this is worth the risk of an occasional dead card.
The Erebor Hammersmith is included because, on top of his good stats, he gives us extra uses of Miruvor, Ranger Spikes or Forest Snare. Henamarth Riversong is great for only 1 resource, and he lets us peek at the encounter deck to get optimal use of our Ranger Spikes, Ithilien Tracker and Gildor’s Council. Imladris Stargazer has a great ability, with the added advantage that we can use it on other players. Master of the Forge is invaluable to help draw the many attachments in this deck, and as an added bonus he reshuffles our deck. So, even if we’ve already peeked with Stargazer and there are no attachments in the top 5 card, we can use the Master of the Forge to ensure that we are looking at a new set of cards next round.
Master of Lore is the engine that makes this deck work because we do not have any resource generation. Most of the cards in this deck are lore, getting an early Master of Lore into play means that, for the rest of the game, we will be able to save at least 1 resource on most turns. Lore has no way (other than the very conditional Love of Tales) to generate resources, so every little thing that we can do to reduce the cost of our cards goes a long way.
The reason for including only a single copy each of Ithilien Tracker and Mirkwood Runner is two-fold. First of all, their stats are not great for their cost. More importantly, their abilities don’t work particularly well when we get multiple of them in play. Especially in the case of the Ithilien Tracker, he only works on the first enemy revealed from the encounter deck each turn, so having two of him in play is essentially useless.
On the other hand, Haldir and Northern Tracker are included in singleton because, although they both have great stats and abilities, they are expensive. This is an example where deck tweaking comes into play, depending on the scenario, we will want to drop Haldir for a second copy of Norther Tracker, or vice versa.
In the aforementioned Hills of the Emyn Muil, another Norther Tracker is a must, and you probably want to also include a second Song of Travel. On the other hand, Haldir’s ranged ability is essential for killing things like the Black Forest Bats so we want two of him for A Journey to Rhosgobel.
Gildor Inglorion is another unique card worth playing multiple of. He is very expensive at a cost of 5 resources but he is absolutely worth the price. Hopefully we have at least one Master of Lore out by the time we want to play him. Gildor’s stats are fantastic, 3 defense is actually better than any of our heroes, and makes it him a great target for A Burning Brand. On top of that, his ability is very good in a deck with a lot of card draw and ways to reshuffle the deck. For these reasons, we will include two of him in our deck, knowing that the duplicate can be discarded to Daeron’s Runes or Protector of Lorien as needed.
The attachments help control locations and enemies, as well as readying our heroes to allow them to take multiple actions. Asfaloth is played on Glorfindel in the other deck and provides super-efficient location control. Miruvor, Unexpected Courage and Fast Hitch all ready heroes, and all but the later can be played on heroes in the other party. It can be especially helpful to allow Beravor to use her ability and do something else in the same turn or allow Aragorn to defend and counter-attack in the same combat.
Protector of Lorien fits thematically and is great in a deck with a lot of card draw, it even has some versatility depending on the situation. A Burning Brand is the best way to deal with shadow cards in a Lore Deck and can be attached to any number of characters, including Gildor Inglorion. Ranger Spikes and Forest Snare are here to help deal with enemies without having to necessarily fight them, something this deck needs. Especially in the early game, this deck is not as good at combat as our first deck.
Lastly, a single copy of Song of Travel is included to help ensure that we can pay for the more expensive Spirit cards like Northern Tracker and The Galadhrim’s Greeting. While 1 copy may seem like a risk, we have help in retrieving this card. Gelowine, Master of the Forge, Imladris Stargazer and Daeron’s Runes should all help find the cards that we need most.
Rounding out the deck, we have some very useful events to help with the kinds of challenges that will cause our primary deck to stumble. Daeron’s Runes is just one more kind of card draw, with a nice side-effect that it gives us something to do with any duplicate unique cards that we might draw. A Test of Will gives us extra cancellation of “when revealed” effects in case the primary deck doesn’t have one handy. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is a very valuable card because the other deck has no way to lower it’s threat.
The last three sets of cards concern themselves with manipulating, or mitigating encounter cards. Radagast’s Cunning and Secret Paths can help us push through on a critical round of questing. As with Northern Tracker, another Secret Paths should be added for location-heavy scenarios. Similarly, increasing the number of Radagast’s Cunning cards to three makes sense in quests filled with high-threat enemies. Lastly, Gildor’s Council is a great card in a support deck. By reducing the number of cards revealed from the encounter deck, we significantly reduce the odds of a blow-out round.
That’s enough jawing for me, time to go for nice cold dip in the Anduin. I welcome your comments and feedback below. Check back soon for more in this continuing series of key concepts. Next up, we will examine different play styles.