Deck: Rangers and Traps

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After much tweaking, I’ve finally settled on deck featuring Rangers and Traps that I’m pretty happy with. The fact that it does not include Faramir, second only to Aragorn in renown as a Ranger, is a real shame. I did not take the decision to exclude Faramir from this deck lightly. The reality is, I could not find a good way to integrate his ability into the deck. While on the surface, his ability may seem great when you are filling the staging area with traps, it works at cross-purposes with the deck’s overall strategy, which is to not engage enemies.

That’s not to say that a Ranger deck with Faramir is impossible. He can be paired with a Tactics hero (Thalin, most likely) and equipped with A Great Yew Bow. This is actually one of the decks that I brought to GenCon. While that deck performed fairly well, it had one big problem: threat. With a starting threat of 11, paired with Thalin’s starting threat of 9 (which is actually low for a Tactics hero), the starting threat of the deck was too high. In order to maximize the usefulness of these cards, the goal is to consistently keep enemies in the staging area, where they can sniped at from a distance.

Ithilien ArcherSure, Ithilien Archers can send enemies back to the staging area, but they are expensive, and conditional. It is unwise to base an entire strategy on a 3 cost ally, especially in a multi-sphere deck without resource acceleration. At least at this point, Ranger decks built around Tactics and Lore seem to be fragile, especially in the critical early game when resources are scarce.

Another major problem that this archetype seems to have is willpower. While Lore does have some high willpower allies like the Rivendell Minstrel, they are expensive. Pairing expensive questing allies with relatively expensive Ranger allies and trap attachments is not a recipe for success. The best way that I’ve found to make this archetype work is by pairing it with Leadership, to get access to Steward of Gondor and some crucial willpower boosting.

Peace and ThoughtRather than use weapons from Tactics, this deck instead focuses heavily on card drawing effects – a strategy that is a much more natural fit in Lore. Having a large number of card drawing effects also makes it much more likely that we see our critical cards like Anborn and Gandalf (hopefully with Sneak Attack). It’s hard to go wrong when the core of your deck design is resource generation and Card drawing effects, but that doesn’t mean that the deck built itself.

AnbornOn the one hand, we want to design for our ideal scenario, where Gandalf is keeping our threat low, and a squad of Ranger allies are waiting, bows bent, ready to unleash hell on the staging area. We do however, also need to have backup plans for the less ideal scenarios.

What about enemies with extremely low threat, that engage immediately? What about nasty treacheries that deal direct damage to our exhausted allies? What about getting location locked, while our low-willpower allies look on helplessly. All of these issues need to be addressed, otherwise our deck will be simply a curiosity, and not represent a truly viable archetype.

FaramirProtector of Lorien is a great card, especially in a deck with as many card drawing effects as this one. In addition to helping Denethor weather attacks from the rare enemies that sneak past our guard, this card also allows Sam to becomes a power quester, thanks to all of the extra cards from Beravor.

One of the biggest reasons why Faramir is not included as a hero is because this deck desperately needs the willpower boost that his ally version provides. Sam provides excellent questing, and we can send Beravor to the quest as well, when we need the extra help. Ultimately though, we want to an army of cheap allies, rallied by captain Faramir, to let our heroes focus on more pressing tasks. Denethor is perfect in this regard, when he is not defending against engaged enemies, we will always want him scrying the encounter deck, to see what our future holds.

Regardless of how we solve the problem, we cannot risk failing on questing. This is especially true when it comes to locations. With no location management whatsoever, the only means that we have for avoiding location-lock is questing like a Balrog is chasing us. The ultimate goal of this deck is to maintain a low threat and build up a base of Ranger allies, ready to attack any enemy in the staging area that avoids our traps. Any ally that does not wield a bow or have a specific skill (Anborn, Faramir) can be sacrificed for the greater good. Don’t be afraid to send an Envoy of Pelargir on a one-way mission to meet with a Troll.

One of the goals with this deck was to keep it consistent with the themes of Gondor and Rangers, so cards like Envoy of Pelargir and Citadel Custodian have been included. For those who are more interested in the power of this archetype, and care less about thematic cohesion, there are alternatives to these choices. Master of the Forge, Gleowine and Erebor Hammersmith are all great cards for this deck. Additionally, allies like Erestor can be included to provide additional questing, and the ability to sift through our deck more quickly. I encourage those that are looking to maximize the power of this deck to make substitutions as they see fit.

Ranger BowAside from Steward of Gondor, the priority for this deck is to have Ranger Spikes and Ranger Bow in hand, as quickly as possible. The main goal early on, is to stall until we can get a Trap and some Rangers in play, ready to control the staging area. A Sneak Attacking Gandalf can lower our threat, or clear a pesky enemy out of our way. Readying effects allow us to quest and trigger abilities, or deal with enemies when necessary.

Cram is particularly good on Beravor, as her all-around stats are useful once we’ve exhausted her to draw cards. If we manage to get a Fast Hitch on Sam and a Cram on Beravor, we can even play Peace, and Thought at minimal cost. Any extra unique cards that we draw can always be discarded to Protector of Lorien, during whichever phase we need a boost.

This deck is by no means a world-beater. Scenarios that fill the staging area with tough enemies (which cannot be safely left there) are going to cause this deck serious problems. If most decks are a broadsword, you can think of this deck like a rapier. What it lacks in brute force, it makes up for with finesse and precision. While Faramir and his brethren will never be as overtly powerful as Boromir leading a legion of Gondorian warriors, Rangers can be every bit as effective at killing and incapacitating enemies. In multi-payer games, the healing and card draw that is deck provides will pair quite well with other more traditional decks.

Heroes:
Beravor
Sam Gamgee
Denethor

Allies: 20
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Warden of Healing x3
Ithilien Tracker x3
Ithilien Archer x2
Anborn x2
Faramir x2
Citadel Custodian x2
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 19
Cram x2
Steward of Gondor x3
Elf-Stone x2
Fast Hitch x2
Protector of Lorien x2
Ranger Bow x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Poisoned Stakes x2

Events: 11
Daeron’s Runes x3
Peace and Thought x3
Sneak Attack x3
Fresh Tracks x2

As a bonus, here is a screenshot of this deck in action. Rangers and Traps worked great against all of the trolls in Conflict at the Carrock!

Rangers and Traps - Conflict at the Carrock

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12 Responses to Deck: Rangers and Traps

  1. I find it interesting that you didn’t include Faramir hero partially because his threat is so high, yet, there are numerous decent options to have a lower threat while keeping Farmir:

    Faramir – Mirlonde – Pippin (Lore): 22
    Faramir – Pippin (Lore) – Sam Gamgee: 25
    Faramir – Denethor – Pippin (Lore): 25
    Faramir – Mirlonde – Denethor: 24

    It seems like you really wanted the powerful, consistent card draw with Beravor, though, which would have made it impossible to keep the threat down with Faramir included, unless you include Mirlonde, in which case you’d tie the 26 threat.

    But it’s difficult pass up getting rid of hero Faramir to add Leadership for resources and the Faramir ally, so I cannot fault you for wanting to do that. Also Denethor is a great way to inform decisions for a deck of this type, and is more consistent than adding 6+ other scrying cards into the deck.

    Basically, I’ve found several decent ways to build a trap deck, and it’s difficult to choose one, though I rarely consider doing it without Faramir. Maybe I should consider not including him some more, especially if I’d replace him with Lore Aragorn.

    • Beorn says:

      I agree that it is possible to create a low-threat deck which includes Faramir. The problem that I have is what to do with him in this deck? Without Great Yew Bow or Hands Upon the Bow, there is no way to take advantage of his extra attack strength to keep the staging area clear. Sure, you can engage enemies, but that is contrary to what this deck is trying to do. As far as finishing power, Anborn and Ithilien Archers have enough for most enemies. Gandalf and Poisoned Stakes can handle anything else.

      When it comes to mono-Lore, you get some really powerful cards like Mithrandir’s Advice, and Advanced Warning even makes sense in a deck like this. The problem that I have, is that it doesn’t make sense to have so much card draw without resource generation. Every mono-Lore deck I’ve ever played ends up having 20 cards in hand, and no way to pay for more than 1 card a round. This, and the willpower boost from ally Faramir, is why I feel that Leadership/Lore is currently the best way to go with Rangers and Traps. That said, Elf-Stone is so good that I could see getting away with a mono-Lore deck without resource generation. Particularly if you can recycle elf-stone using Erebor Hammersmith. Being able to drop allies like Anborn, Gildor Inglorion and Gandalf, at no cost, is insanely powerful.

      I suppose you can quest with Faramir, but at that point I’d rather have Beravor for 1 less threat and a superior ability. For Battle quests, Faramir is obviously superior, but I’m not sure that the Ranger/Traps decks are good for those sorts of quests anyway. I guess it depends on the quest, but something like Into Ithilien would be really tough. With Haradrim Elite attacking immediately and the staging area quickly filling with high-threat enemies, a heavy-Tactics deck is probably a better choice, as long as you can muster enough willpower for stage 3.

      I’m sure that a deck will emerge which allows Faramir to realize his full potential, I’m just not sure what that deck is right now. In any case, I’m going to keep playing with this archetype, because it is a lot of fun to play, and it requires a lot more finesse to play than something like Dwarves or Outlands. I definitely see promise in Lore Pippin, I’m thinking about pairing this deck with an all-Hobbit Spirit/Lore deck that features Frodo, Fatty and Pippin. The idea would be to quest like crazy, keep everything in the staging area by continually raising it’s engagement costs and lowering the player’s threat. I need to work out the details, but I really like that Hobbits are providing such a dramatically different way to play the game.

      • I agree the Faramir pretty much requires Great Yew Bow and/or Hands Upon the Bow, but you can just throw a Song of Battle in to get access to those. Faramir was made for Trap decks, but he would have had better luck with lower defensive stats so he could have lower threat and make better use of his ability. Seems like FFG purposefully made him have high threat so that you’d have to be more clever in order to get the full potential out of him. All-in-all, this is why I like 2-player. The second deck can give this deck the Steward and take over more of the questing responsibility. When making a single-player deck, you probably made the wiser choices.

      • Beorn says:

        It does seem like Faramir was designed to be a bit more subtle. I actually like that, it even fits thematically with his character in the books. He was the less heralded of Denethor’s sons, but in the end he proves that he has the heart of warrior and the wisdom of a true leader. I only think that he will improve with time, as will the Ranger and Traps archetype. We have already seen that with Elf-Stone. Being able to play Anborn in the first or second round, for a net cost of 1 resource, makes this deck a lot more effective. Thanks for your thoughts on this deck. I look forward to seeing how people evolve this archetype.

  2. Glowwyrm says:

    Nice deck! It’s definitely given me some ideas for when I finally get my hands on Blood of Gondor and Black Riders.

    It’s hard leaving hero Faramir out of a deck that he make so much sense in thematically. I think it’s funny that his dad fits with the rangers so well mechanically. Maybe he was using the Palantir the whole time to relay messages to the rangers in Ithilien. 🙂 And I agree that ally Faramir makes a lot more sense for this deck, especially as a solo deck.

    I think where Faramir really shines is multi-player. You’ll see more enemies hit the table, and with excellent card draw you can get one or two Ranger Spikes out for a permanent attack boost. Running tactics (Thalin, as you mentioned, was my hero preference) will help you get the most out of his ranged ability, and provide you with even more direct damage options (Rain of Arrows can be great fun). When Faramir first came out, I built an ally-light, attachment and event heavy lore/tactics deck that handled combat while a leadership/spirit combo handled questing. It trapped and damaged well, defended solidly with a burning brand, and the ranger allies were killer with Leadership Boromir across the table.

    Faramir is and interesting and not obviously powerful hero, but because of my love for the character from the books, I’m going to keep trying different ways to use him.

    • Beorn says:

      I absolutely agree that hero Faramir is better in multi-player games. The one game at GenCon where I used him (Faramir, Denethor, Thalin), he was easily killing Nazgul, without help, by the end of the game. I likewise really like the character, and I have by no means given up on including him in these style of decks. I’m just waiting to find the right way to use him. I think that your suggestion of having a second deck play resource acceleration is the best way to go about this. This makes a low-threat mono-Lore deck much more viable. Card draw + Steward of Gondor is an amazing combination.

      Faramir, Denethor and Pippin would be my choice, with Denethor getting his rightful title. The new lore event from Black Riders would also work wonders in this deck. The other deck could be Tactics/Leadership with Thalin, Sam and Merry. I agree that Rain of Arrows is a great fit in these style of decks, and it’s nice to see new uses for old cards that no one plays. I will have to test out this idea more. Thanks for your comments.

  3. tomtomiszcze says:

    This deck pretty much sums up the whole Gondor Cycle – from now on we can legitimately call it “A Cycle Full Of Lousy Heroes”. I’ve always liked to play tactics direct damage decks, so the Ranger/Trap playstyle seemed to be tailored for me, but in the current state of the game that kind of deck falls well short from the intended finesse, elegant way of dealing with scenarios. And the fact that the Rangers work better without their leader just adds injury to insult. Every time I tried to get together mono-lore trapers, the results were not exactly appealing and it always ended with not exactly Ranger heroes (Denethor, Bifur; by the way he is great solution for Lore resource woes in multiplayer) or not exactly Lore heroes (Balin, Elrohir, core Aragorn). That of course led to elimination of some more expensive thematic cards which of course resulted in pretty standard Lore/Leadership deck.
    I’m afraid that with his high threat and really conditional ability, nothing short of errata can move poor Faramir up the hero ladder.

  4. iskander4000 says:

    Just a thought, if I used a deck like this with leadership Faramir for TMV, would I essentially get to thin my deck down since Faramir is taken out during setup?

    • Beorn says:

      Howdy, iskander4000. When a scenario prevents you from playing a character with a particular title (like Faramir in The Morgul Vale), it does not change the deck-building rules. In order to have a legitimate deck, you would need to replace Faramir with some other card so that you still have 50 cards. You are free to play how you want, but the official minimum deck size is 50, and so far no quest has ever changed that rule.

      • iskander4000 says:

        Card 1A reads “add To the Tower to the staging area” and To the Tower reads “remove Faramir from the game”. So can I build a 50 card deck with 3 copies of Faramir and then, per card instructions, remove them at the start of the game, thereby loopholing my way into playing with a 47 card deck? (I’m not trying to be difficult, I just wonder what order everything happens in.)

      • Beorn says:

        Hmmmm. I assumed it was worded differently. I seems like it actually does nothing to the ally though, since it does not instruct you to go through your deck it would only affect a Faramir hero in play. I wonder if it says elsewhere in the rules that you cannot include Faramir as one of your heroes or in your deck. Otherwise, it seems you’ve found a loophole.

      • iskander4000 says:

        Hmmm…of course it also depends on what they mean by “in play”. If it refers only to cards on the table, then I guess it means that Faramir stays in my deck but can never be played; in that case I’m stuck with 3 useless cards in my deck.

        (BTW I’m working my way through The Grey Company podcasts as I journey through the expansions and I’m in December of 2013 right now so maybe by the time I get to 2016 I’ll hear you and the other guys talk about this!)

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