There are many scenarios which could be described as location-heavy. Indeed, several scenarios have a ratio of more than one out of 3 locations to non-location encounter cards. These scenarios can pose real challenges to many deck-archetypes, particularly Tactics and combat-oriented decks that tend to have low willpower and little if any location control.
This deck is designed as a support deck to not only handle locations in a scenario, but to turn the high ratio of locations to the players’ advantage. Using cards like Shadow of the Past, and the newly released A Watchful Peace, this deck has ways to return locations to the top of the encounter deck. This is a very specific form of encounter deck manipulation, as we are ensuring that locations, card this deck is specifically designed to handle, will keep being revealed. Instead of having to deal with all of the tough enemies and nasty treacheries in many scenarios, we can play to our strengths and keep the staging area filled with lots of locations. In most decks, a staging area filled with locations can be a real problem, but with cards like Northern Tracker, Asfaloth and Thror’s Map, this deck can easily handle this situation.
Because locations are typically less likely to have a shadow effect, and you can choose which locations to return to the top of the encounter deck, this deck is often able to preemptively prevent shadow effects. There is no need for Hasty Stroke or A Burning Brand when you can control the shadow card that gets dealt to an attacking enemy. In cases where there are no enemies engaged, which is more likely in location-heavy scenarios, the returned location will be revealed again next round and handled along with all of the other locations.
This deck even integrates card drawing into its central location-control strategy as Ancient Mathom is used to great effect to draw more cards for explored locations. With Erebor Hammersmith to return the Ancient Mathom from the discard pile, and A Watchful Peace to return the explored location to the top of the encounter deck, it is possible to create small, but very beneficial, loops where you explore the same location multiple times, and draw 3 cards for it each time.
The Steward of Gondor, Denethor, is one last important piece to this deck’s location-control theme. As long as he is not needed to defend, you can use Denethor’s ability at the end of the combat phase to ensure that easily-explored and exploited locations are kept on the top of the encounter deck. With an Unexpected Courage you can even use Denethor’s ability multiple times in a round, especially useful in combination with Henemarth Riversong to keep tabs on the encounter deck through all phases of a round. Denethor’s ability is equally useful for banishing troublesome enemies and deadly treacheries to the bottom of the encounter deck, while keeping locations untouched.
To support all of the location manipulation, this deck includes a few other tricks up its sleeves. Imladris Stargazer and Zigil Miner are included as a way to help pay for multiple Northern Trackers as quickly as possible. In general, you will want to look for the Stargazer in your opening hand as she helps ensure access to the key pieces of this deck. Likewise, with 15 attachments, Master of the Forge becomes an invaluable way to hunt down the key Asfaloth or Thror’s Map. With recursion thanks to Erebor Hammersmith, Dwarven Tomb and Will of the West, it may even be possible to start cycling Ancient Mathom along with all of the nifty events in your discard pile.
In a deck with only 22 starting threat, the new Gandalf makes an appearance as a great way to provide strong questing each round. He also makes a fantastic blocker in the event Denethor is busy scrying. Beyond the Grey Wizard, there are numerous cards like Miruvor and Elrond’s Counsel that, among other things, can be used to boost willpower on a key round to ensure that the active location is explored.
It is important to point out that this deck works best as a support deck. Even location-heavy scenarios have enemies, some of whom must be engaged in order to complete the quest. This deck is designed for subtlety and trickery, so pairing it with another, more combat-oriented deck is a good idea for all but the most location-centric scenarios. Focused decks like this one are the opposite of general-purpose. Indeed there are many scenarios where this deck would not fare well, particularly solo. Like any purpose-built tool, used in the right situation, and with the right support, this deck can be very effective.
Henemarth Riversong x2
Erebor Hammersmith x2
Master of the Forge x2
Imladris Stargazer x3
Zigil Miner x2
The Riddermark’s Finest x2
Lorien Guide x1
Northern Tracker x3
Gandalf (THOHaUH) x2