Continuing in our recent series of thematic decks that propose alternate histories, we will explore one of the most fascinating locales in all of Middle-Earth. Founded by Durin the Deathless, eldest of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, Khazad-dûm was once the jewel in the crown of all dwarven kingdoms. Of all the creations of the Dwarves, the Dwarrowdelf (also know as Moria) was their greatest achievement and source of pride. As is so often the case in Tolkien’s works, this pride sewed the seeds of their downfall. After digging too deep and awakening one of Morgoth’s terrible demons, a Balrog forever more know as “Durin’s Bane”, the dwarves were forced to flee their ancestral home.
It was not until hundreds of years later, in the Third Age, that Balin left Erebor and entered Moria with a company of dwarves including Flói, Óin, Ori, Frár, Lóni, and Náli. Emboldened by his recent success with Thorin & Company at retaking Erebor from the fell dragon Smaug, Balin hoped to reclaim Durin’s great halls from the Orcs and other nameless things which now inhabited them.
Astute readers will notice the absence of certain “auto-include” cards from each sphere. Even though the deck makes use of all four spheres, key cards like Sneak Attack, Feint, A Test of Will and Warden of Healing are not included. This is intentional and fits thematically with the story that this deck is telling. In their arrogance, Balin and Company essentially showed up at the gates of Moria and assumed that they would be able retake their ancestral home with little resistance.
It is no slight to Balin, but the demon of Khazad-dûm had faced far mightier foes and their once great halls were teeming with Orcs. In returning the way he did, Balin showed great bravery, but he also showed the same hubris that was the bane of so many of his kindred. It’s telling that this deck would be much better served with Dain Ironfoot. The King Under the Mountain at Erebor actually warned Balin not to go, but heedless of the advice of his elders, Balin was not to be deterred.
For those that want a more competitive build of this deck, feel free to swap out some of the thematic choices for more traditional cards. Ever My Heart Rises and Untroubled By Darkness, for example, are perfect in terms of the mood they reflect. However, for above ground scenarios, these cards will be less useful and can be swapped out for the staples of your choosing. Regardless of where on the thematic vs. competitive spectrum you choose to play it, as a multi-sphere deck, this will take a few rounds to get going.
On of the interesting things about making this deck, is that in order to remain true to the history, my hero choices were made for me. This meant that, like it no, this deck has have access all four spheres. Typically I prefer to design decks a bit more focused, but this exercise in historical fiction was a great opportunity to utilize some cards that haven’t yet made any appearances in my decks. A Good Harvest has tremendous potential in multi-sphere decks as the ultimate resource smoothing event. In combination with Gaining Strength and the time-honored, and very much appropriate, We Are Not Idle + Lure of Moria, the resource acceleration in this deck should greatly ease the friction that comes with a multi-sphere deck.
Another interesting aspect of this deck is the inclusion of 2 copies of most cards, rather than 3. Again, necessity is the mother of invention, and the reasons were two-fold. With an explicit goal of wanting to include as many thematically appropriate cards as possible, it became obvious early on that I would need to include fewer copies of each card. At first glance this would seem to put us in danger of terrible inconsistency, particularly with cards from each of the four spheres being drawn all willy-nilly.
Fortunately, like the moon runes on Thror’s Map, the constraints of the hero choices helped point to a solution. Ori has one of the better card draw abilities in the game, and in an exclusively Dwarf deck, he has natural affinity with Legacy of Durin and Daeron’s Runes (yet another thematic win). Balin, in turn, is a natural fit – both historically and strategically – for King Under the Mountain, so that is included as well. All told, there is an almost absurd amount of card draw, which should make it a bit easier to get the resources going, once we can get 5 dwarves in play.
More so than most typical dwarf decks, this one can start really slowly, but once it gets going it can hold its own admirably. Unfortunately, and again accurately so, this deck is not really capable of handling the more challenging scenarios like Shadow and Flame. Poor Balin, if only he had shown a bit of humility and heeded Dain’s counsel.
Erebor Record Keeper x3
Miner of the Iron Hills x2
Zigil Miner x3
Bofur (TRG) x2
Erebor Battle Master x2
King Under the Mountain x2
Narvi’s Belt x3
Dwarrowdelf Axe x2
Ring Mail x2
Ever My Heart Rises x1
Legacy of Durin x2