‘Ride forward! Ride!’ cried Glorfindel to Frodo.
He did not obey at once, for a strange reluctance seized him. Checking the horse to a walk, he turned and looked back. The Riders seemed to sit upon their great steeds like threatening statues upon a hill, dark and solid, while all the woods and lands about them receded as if into mist. Suddenly he knew in his heart that they were silently commanding him to wait. Then at once fear and hatred awoke in him. His hand left the bridle and gripped the hilt of his sword, and with a red flash he drew it.
‘Ride on! Ride on!’ cried Glorfindel, and then loud and clear he called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!
After a long absence wandering the Misty Mountains, I have returned to bring you a new deck list. The Steward’s Fear introduced some powerful new player cards. While most of the Adventure Pack focused on character with the new Outlands trait, I find myself more interested in one of the attachment cards.
The Ring of Barahir was originally given to Barahir by the Elven Lord Finrod Felagund, in reward for saving his life in Dagor Bragollach. It was a sign of eternal friendship between Finrod and the House of Barahir and it became an heirloom which Aragorn ultimately inherited.
In game terms, it has a particularly interesting effect, giving the bearer an additional hit point for each Artifact they carry. Since the ring is itself an Artifact, it conveys a minimum of 1 additional hit point to the wearer. With so many powerful artifacts available to the Heir of Isildur, one of the themes of this deck is to load Aragorn up with all of his heirlooms and empower him in his struggle to hold off the Black Riders.
The Flight to the Ford is a critical moment in the Lord of the Rings. The Dark Lord has finally showed his hand and sends the Nazgûl, in broad daylight, to catch Frodo before he can reach the safety of Elrond’s house in Rivendell. If not for the bravery and quick thinking of his companions, Frodo, the One Ring, and the future of all Middle-Earth, would have been lost. This deck is an attempt to recreate this epic moment in the story.
Rather than simply choose all of the most powerful cards, I tried, where possible, to adhere to the most thematically appropriate choices. That is not to say that this deck is not powerful – far from it. The choice of heroes, and many of their corresponding attachments, all have a great deal of synergy. For the Boromir players who prefer more competitive decks, I encourage you to replace the more theme-centered cards with your favorite power cards.
One last note: I designed this deck with one Core Set in mind. For those who own multiple copies of the Core Set, or don’t mind proxies, you may want to add 1 additional copy of the following cards: Celebrian’s Stone, Unexpected Courage, Steward of Gondor and A Test of Will. You can cut a copy of Ancient Mathom, Asfaloth, Miruvor and Word of Command to make room for these cards. The deck should play just fine without these extra copies, but you will find that their addition allows it to perform more consistently.
Song of Kings x3
Celebrian’s Stone x1
Steward of Gondor x2 (admittedly less thematic)
Sword that was Broken x2 (technically, Aragorn doesn’t get this until he arrives)
Ancient Mathom x2
Light of Valinor x3
Ring of Barahir x2
Unexpected Courage x1
Fast Hitch x1
A Burning Brand x2
Self Preservation x2
With a low starting threat and heroes with balanced stats, the deck can handle the various challenges that the Dark Lord’s servants might present. The most important thing to look for in the opening hand is a Song of Kings, or at least a card that will help us draw one. Between Master of the Forge, Rivendell Minstrel and Word of Command, there are plenty of ways to find the song. With Word of Command, don’t forget to use it during the Refresh phase, after Gandalf has readied, and before he leaves play, that way we can get the most use from the Istari.
Once you do have Aragorn singing that song, he will be able to assume the title of Steward of Gondor. This allows him to pay for all of the Artifacts that are his birthright. With the Sword that was Broken, Celebrian’s Stone and the Ring of Barahir, Aragorn will have 5 willpower and an impressive 8 hit points. Give him A Burning Brand and a knack for Self Preservation and he will have no problem facing the Black Riders.
Ancient Mathom pairs well with Asfaloth for even more chances at drawing your most need cards. While the horse would normally attach to Glorfindel, you can attach him to Frodo for stylistic bonus points (Yes, technically Asfaloth can only be attached to Silvan and Noldor characters, but I consider this a design oversight given the horse’s actual role in the story). Miruvor, Light of Valinor, Fast Hitch and Unexpected Courage all provide action advantage, something that is all the more valuable as each of our heroes has at least two good stats. Self Preservation and Lore of Imladris round out the deck with some healing and we can freely use Frodo’s ability to cancel damage from undefended attacks, knowing that Strider will be able to reset our threat later in the game.
While building decks for some of the more difficult recent scenarios, I find that I sometimes lose sight of the deeper beauty of this game. The cards are more than just numbers to be analyzed for maximal utility, they represent actual characters and events from Middle-Earth. The world of Tolkien is a magical place, filled with wonder and adventure, sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the minutiae of strategy and focus on the narrative. With the announcement of the first of the new Saga Expansions based specifically on the story of the Lord of the Rings, we can look forward to many more cards to help us build these kinds of thematic decks.