As the card pool expands, designing decks around a specific faction becomes a more realistic option. While many see the new spirit hero from Gondor as a disappointment, Caldara has decent stats, and her ability can be used effectively in late-game emergencies. Thanks to Blood of Númenor, Eleanor finally has a second role to play, when you don’t end up using her to cancel a treachery. By attaching Resourceful to Eleanor and using cards like Envoy of Pelargir to give her additional resources, she can become a defensive wall thanks to Blood of Númenor. Rounding out the deck, we have the ever-present Spirit Glorfindel. While I see over-reliance on this card as a deck-building crutch, there is not another Gondor hero in the Spirit sphere, and his starting threat of 5 makes Secrecy work on the first turn.
Hopefully, as the card pool continues to grow, we will get another Spirit Gondor hero, so that this deck can be completed in a more thematically appropriate way. In the mean time, there are some interesting facets to this deck. While it can certainly handle its own in solo play (in testing, it crushed Journey Along the Anduin, even after both Hill Trolls made an appearance), it is an excellent support deck. Between Eleanor, A Test of Will, and multiple ways to get the event back, unwanted treacheries will not be a problem.
It is important to point out that Map of Earnil does not allow you to play A Test of Will, or any other response event, from your discard pile. However, if you find yourself needing more cancellation, you can use the map to play Dwarven Tomb from your discard pile. Granted, it’s a two-step process, but it can be a life-saver. Especially in a multi-player games, where surge can cause treacheries to overwhelm you, having the option of more cancellation effects is most welcome.
Another stand-out in this deck is the Pelargir Shipwright. Three willpower for three resources is a great deal, and his stats are actually hardy enough that I could even use his as a defender, in a pinch. Thanks to Ancient Mathom and some luck on the draw, I was able to get all three of my shipwrights out in one game. Being able to quest for 12 every round using only 4 characters (Glorfindel with Light of Valinor joined the quest) makes questing a breeze, and allows you to hold back everyone else for combat.
Combat might seem like a weakness in this deck. To be sure, martial prowess is not historically a strength of this sphere, but the deck was able to hold its own against the Hill Trolls. In any mono-sphere deck, White Tower Watchmen is a great choice for an extra defender, especially because you don’t have to exhaust him to use his ability, giving you strategy flexibility.
When it comes to attacking, this deck is all about numerical superiority. While Spirit decks can always rely on Gandalf to aid in combat, it is important to have a backup plan, for when the wizard isn’t around. Except Gandalf, Glorfindel and Damrod, no one in this deck has more than 1 attack. However, once the Shipwrights and Glorfindel have questing under control, every other character can be saved for combat.
When it came time to kill the second hill troll, I was able to use an army of allies to deal 9 points of damage to the troll, in a single counter-attack. This was without the grey wizard in play. In a multi-player game, with Boromir and his army in play, this deck can actually be quite formidable in combat. To this end, Light the Beacons is a fantastic late-game card. While it might seem expensive at 5 resources, it wasn’t hard to pay for thanks to a couple copies of Resourceful (one under secrecy, the second one paid for with help from the first).
On the round that you play Gandalf, holding him back as a defender with 6 defense, who does not exhaust to defend is just ridiculously powerful. When the wizard is done holding off the hordes of enemies, he still gets to swing on the counter-attack. Even Glorfindel, not normally known as a good defender, becomes a 3 attack, 3 defense, non-exhausting powerhouse on the round you play this card.