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.
Sure, 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.
Rather 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.
On 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.
Protector 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.
Aside 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.
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Warden of Healing x3
Ithilien Tracker x3
Ithilien Archer x2
Citadel Custodian x2
Gandalf (Core) x3
Steward of Gondor x3
Fast Hitch x2
Protector of Lorien x2
Ranger Bow x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Poisoned Stakes x2
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!