“Yes, they are elves,” Legolas said. “and they say that you breathe so loud they could shoot you in the dark.” Sam hastily covered his mouth.
The latest hero in the Against the Shadow cycle, Mirlonde, has an interesting ability to points to a very specific kind of deck. By decreasing the starting threat of each of your heroes from the Lore sphere, it makes sense to include her in Mono-Lore decks. While some might see her ability as underwhelming, I believe that it has great potential. Some of the most powerful heroes in the game are Lore heroes with a high starting threat. By allowing you to pair two high-threat heroes in a deck without a starting threat above 30, Mirlonde creates a whole new niche for Lore decks.
As a Silvan hero, we can also take advantage of her trait to get healing, essentially for free. Silvan Tracker is a card that has always seemed full of potential, but with so few Silvan characters it was hard to make a cohesive deck to truly realize that potential. By pairing Mirlonde with the Tracker and other Silvan allies like Haldir of Lorien and Mirkwood Runner, we can create an army of wood elves who heal automatically at the end of each round. This is particularly effective in many of the more recent scenarios that include a lot of archery damage.
To accentuate this effect, we will include Elrond, the lord of Imladris and a master of healing. With Elrond in our party, each Silvan character will heal 2 damage each refresh phase, as long as we have a Tracker in play. One of the great advantages of all of these response effects is that they do not require us to spend additional resources, or to exhaust our characters. This is the power of passive effects, they provide tremendous action superiority.
With Elrond boosting our healing, including the Lore version of Glorfindel would be overkill, so we will deviate from an all-elf party and include the Lore (“Strider”) version of Aragorn. Hopefully, in the future we will see more elf heroes in the Lore sphere, but for now Aragorn’s ability to reset our threat back to its starting level (30 in this case, thanks to Mirlonde’s ability) will be invaluable. In addition to his threat management and being a solid all-around character, Aragorn will let us include Celebrian’s Stone to help with the spirit cards that we will be splashing into this deck.
Rather than design this deck as an “Elrond and Vilya” deck we will keep it a bit more balanced. Players that want to explore that particular strategy can feel free to include an third copy of the elven ring, and invest more heavily in the spirit sphere to include Imladris Stargazer. These changes can easily be facilitated by swapping out Aragorn for the Spirit version of Glorfindel and Celebrian’s stone for Asfaloth. Find room for Light of Valinor and Unexpected Courage and the result will be a very powerful deck. I myself have been avoiding spirit Glorfindel lately, as I was using him in too many of my decks. So I will leave this variation of the deck as an exercise for the readers.
This deck will continue our recent trend on this blog to hew more closely to thematically accurate decks. With that in mind, we will look to characters like Daughter of Nimrodel in preference to the more popular, and efficient, Warden of Healing. While this might make the deck slightly less competitive, it will certainly make it more cohesive thematically. Hopefully, the Silvan and Noldor traits will gain more support in future releases, so that these decisions are ultimately validated strategically, and are not just a stylistic.
One of the nice things about playing a deck with a single sphere, is that it gives us many options strategically, for how to handle a given scenario. For example, this deck was originally conceived as part of a two player game to tackle The Drúadan Forest. Because that scenario includes a unique enemy which cannot be blocked by allies, it makes sense to attach A Burning Brand to Elrond and use him as our defender. In other scenarios, where allies can better serve as blockers, Haldir of Lorien makes a great choice for A Burning Brand as he already had sentinel and being a Silvan benefits from the automatic healing provided by the Silvan Tracker.
Protector of Lorien also proved to be an invaluable attachment in this scenario. Not only aided in defense in the early game, but it also can be used in the final quest stage which is a Siege. There are treacheries and shadow effects in this particular scenario that cause attachments to be discarded. This is where Erebor Hammersmith comes in handy. Assuming we don’t have A Test of Will handy, and we cannot afford to pay to keep our attachments, we can always put our most important attachment on the top of the discard pile and use the dwarf to get it back.
One other scenario-specific note, observant readers will notice the absence of Ranger Spikes, a favorite in any decks on this blog that include the Lore sphere. Instead, Expecting Mischief serves as the only means the mitigate enemies in the staging area. Examining this choice is critical to understanding the strategy for surviving the forest of the Woses.
Essentially every enemy in this scenario has archery. Even the ones that don’t have the printed keyword will often be given archery by other card effects. Pay close attention to the locations in this scenario, they have many nasty effects. This deck does not include Asfaloth because my wife includes Glorfindel and his mount in her deck. Some form of location control will be as vital to survival as the healing needed to offset all of the archery.
With so much archery, Ranger Spikes are a terrible idea as they will simply trap an archer in the staging area, or some other Wose which has trait synergy with the rest of the enemies in the deck. Sure, the trapped enemy may not contribute much if any threat, but the trap won’t stop them from filling your characters with arrows every round. To make matters worse, the second quest stage requires that archery damage be assigned to allies.
This might be a major problem for Outlands decks, especially if they don’t have enough Anfalas Herdsman in play. This deck was able to handle this stage without a problem as we spread damage among the various Silvan allies and let the Tracker and Elrond do their magic to heal them during the refresh phase. Expecting Mischief helped keep some of these archers out of the staging area. The encounter deck has enough enemies that, in a two player game, we never missed with it, and a large number of the enemies have 2 hit points and die instantly.
Another area where this deck excels is questing, aided in no small part by the Rivendell Minstrel. The primary use of the minstrel is obviously to fetch Song attachments that allow us to splash Spirit and Leadership in this deck. Once the minstrel has done its job, they are used exclusively for questing. The one exception to this is the final quest stage of The Drúadan Forest. In an interesting twist, the heroes are trying to talk our way out of a confrontation instead of fighting which is reflecting in using willpower instead of attack during combat. In this case, the Elven singers are uniquely suited to helping deescalate the situation with the Woses.
As with past decks featuring Elrond, Gildor Inglorin plays an uniquely important role here. Not only does he possess excellent stats, but the Noldor’s ability works perfectly with Elrond and Vilya. Rather than maximize the effectiveness of the ring with cards like Imladris Stargazer, we are taking a somewhat more casual approach to that particular strategy. In a recent test against The Drúadan Forest, Vilya was notably absent for most of the game. Even so, Mrs. Beorn and I were still able to successfully survive our encounter with the Woses.
More and more, I find myself interested in decks which are most balanced and afford adaptive strategy on the fly. The fact that we were successful against 8-10 points of archery a round and some serious resource constraints, all without the aid of a ring of power, is a sign that this deck is more than a one trick pony. It will be interesting to see if we get any more trait synergies for Silvan and Noldor characters in this cycle, it will certainly help elevate this deck from a thematic curiosity into a top tier deck.
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x2
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x2
Master of the Forge (SaF) x3
Master of Lore (HoN) x3
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core) x2
Rivendell Minstrel (THfG) x3
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x2
Haldir of Lórien (AJtR) x2
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x3