Balin is the latest hero to be revealed from the upcoming On The Doorstep saga expansion. I really like his ability, particularly when you consider the large number of scenarios where less than half the cards have a shadow effect, which means that the replacement card will often times be blank.
On the other hand, being able to play the Heirs of Numenor scenarios and know that you have a cancel on the table for the first heinous shadow effect each round, is pretty nice. Sure, sometimes you may get unlucky and replace one shadow effect with another but you can always save your other cancelation for those times. In any case, if you use him like Eleanor, and only use his ability for the worst shadow effects, you get very powerful, and repeatable, shadow cancelation that simply is not available by any other means.
With inspiration from comments made by Ian over at Tales from the Cards and Jared of Cardboard of the Rings, here is a fun Balin deck. The newest leadership dwarf is an interesting hero. Not only can he quest and defend, but Balin’s ability will ensure that we can handle combat, even if we haven’t yet fielded our dwarf amy. Some might question why Dain is not taking Balin’s place in this deck. Indeed, I suspect the true King Under the Mountain will do just that, in many players’ decks. In this deck however, I wanted to use a different strategy. With Eowyn for questing and Nori on board for threat-reduction, we are taking more of a low-profile approach. Certainly, Dain would work great here, as he does in any deck that includes lots of dwarves, but I wanted to take this opportunity to make a deck without him, just to spice things up.
With less starting threat, and by using Nori to keep our threat low, the goal is to quest heavily and simply ignore most of enemies in the staging area. When combat is unavoidable, instead of using Dain’s superior defense, we will use a bevy of chump blockers and the shadow cancelation that Balin offers. Balin has 2 defense, so he is no slouch as a defender when the need arises.
Erebor Battle Masters and Longbeard Orc Slayers will help out on the counter-attack, as will Gandalf. Still chump blockers are a good option, as they play right into another strategy of this deck. We are utilizing some of the other spoiled cards from the second Hobbit expansion to get maximum use of allies in the discard pile.
King Under the Mountain provides us with a great source of card draw, with the added side-effect that we can intentionally put cards in the discard pile. In most decks, this detail would not matter, but Stand and Fight, and To Me! O My Kinsfolk! both allow this deck to bring allies into play after they have been discarded. Additionally, we can get dwarves into the discard pile by using them to fuel Eowyn’s already stellar questing ability.
This deck is not limited to playing discarded dwarves. Once you get Fili and Kili into play, you can exhaust them both to pay for A Very Good Tale. This is a great way to get more expensive allies out without paying a thing. Just be sure to play either Fili or Kili from your hand, as the brothers’ abilities cannot be triggered when they enter play, only when they are played from your hand. Having alternative ways to play allies is essential because we don’t actually possesses the resources to play the Erebor Battle Master or Miner of the Iron Hill. With Sneak Attack and To Me! O My Kinsfolk, the Battle Masters can even be used as spot enemy removal. As for the Miner of the Iron Hills, their ability triggers when they enter play, so even if there only stay for a phase, we still get to remove pesky condition attachments. Still, if these combos are not showing up, Steward of Gondor gives us extra resources to pay for cards the old-fashioned way as well as fueling Balin’s great ability.
Nori is another key to this deck. While all of these dwarves are bouncing in and out of play, Nori is constantly lowering our threat, which allows us to just ignore many enemies in the staging area and power-quest with Eowyn. Bofur definitely helps in this regard, adding 2 willpower to the quest and lowering our threat by 1 each time he comes into play. Another nice side effect of this deck is that that chump blocking is really not a problem. Dwarves in the discard pile are almost as useful as dwarves in hand, especially when this allows us to get multiple uses out of the comes into play abilities of the Miners or Orc Slayers.