After my recent screenshot of a solo victory against The Dunland Trap, some readers have voiced interest in seeing the deck list that I used. The Dunland Trap is a very unique scenario. Many decks which can dominate against more traditional scenarios will find that they struggle, especially with the trap that the Dunlendings spring in stage 2.
Losing all by one ally can stop many decks in their tracks. Dwarves, Outlands, and even Secrecy decks can all suffer from such a massive loss of numbers. With a constant wave of Dunlendings, eventually joined by their Chief, this scenario requires a deck that can defend and counter-attack efficiently. Since many decks rely on allies for numerical superiority, this scenario is tailor-made to challenge the meta-game.
Likewise, for decks which rely on powerful mounts like Asfaloth or Rohan Warhorse, the second stage can be difficult. Still other decks may rely on powerful armor and weapons to bolster the combat effectiveness of their heroes. Since all of these attachments are discarded before the showdown with Chief Turch, these decks will find themselves vulnerable at the worst possible time.
As I have played this scenario more, I have come to realize that one solution to the puzzle of The Dunland Trap is a style of play which I rarely employ. In a recent poll, 8% of voters said that they prefer an aggressive strategy, with high threat heroes and an emphasis on combat. Personally, I have tended to favor the more deliberate strategies; utilizing low-threat heroes and a less directly confrontational approach.
One of the great things about the newer scenarios is the way that they force us out of our comfort zone. When I first started playing this game seriously, I was always very mindful to have a starting threat below 30. In some ways, 30 threat is a magic number. Early scenarios like Journey Along the Anduin will punish a deck that starts with high threat. Traditional wisdom has long been to pair one powerful, “leader” hero with a few weaker, supplemental heroes, so that your starting threat is somewhere in the mid to high 20’s.
Traditional wisdom exists for a reason, and there are still many scenarios where a high starting threat is a bad idea. However, The Dunland Trap is a different kind of animal entirely. A starting threat of 32 might seem suicidal in some quests, but here it makes all kinds of sense. For one thing, having enemies engage is not a bad thing. Not only do we need enemies to engage in order to complete stage 3 and win the scenario, but we don’t really want to leave them in the staging area in the early rounds. Sure, we might get away with leaving one or even two enemies waiting for a little while, but the average threat value is rather high in this scenario, and we risk getting staging area locked with some very unpleasant locations.
With that in mind, this deck is designed to aggressively engage enemies and finish the off as quickly as possible. Éowyn is our dedicated quester, and she is helped by some inexpensive and effective Spirit allies (technically, the Envoy is neutral). Beorn and Boromir handle combat, and are two of the best heroes in the game at this task. The idea is to be assertive in keeping the staging area clear, so that by the time Chief Invincible shows up, we can deal with him without distractions. As a bear, and fearless killing machine, Beorn is always ready for a fight. As a man, brave though he is, Boromir will need a bit more time to get fully prepared for battle.
The only attachment that will be lost in the second round is Gondorian Shield, still it is often useful to play this card early. Helping to keep Boromir undamaged is essential for our late-game strategy, especially if we get caught without A Test of Will to cancel Low on Provisions. Besides, by the time the shield is discarded, Boromir will often have gained the Support of the Eagles, making additional armor unnecessary.
The idea is to spend a few rounds (but not too many – our starting threat is high), in the first stage, loading up Boromir with attachments and getting an Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play. Try not to sacrifice other Eagles allies until you have one, use other allies for this purpose. In one game, I managed to have two copes of Vassal of the Windlord and one Winged Guarded, joined by an Eagle of the Misty Mountains. When I arrive at stage 2, I of course chose to keep the Eagles of the Misty Mountains. This allowed me to actually gain something from the sacrifice of the other eagles – my one remaining ally had 5 attack and 5 defense.
Non-Eagle allies should not be played needlessly in the early game. If there are a lot of locations in play, feel free to drop Silvan Refugees and Arwen to help with questing, but try to save Tactics resources on Boromir as much as possible. In many games, he will have Gondorian Fire and Blood of Númenor by the later stages, just in time to deal with more Dunlendings and their Chief.
There are a few other subtleties to this deck worth mentioning. The Eagles Are Coming! is a fantastic way to get Eagles of the Misty Mountain in hand as quickly as possible. It has the added advantage that is searches and adds Eagles card to your hand. Since this does not count as drawing a card, it does not trigger any of the nasty forced effects in this scenario. It is worth reiterating, wait for The Eagles of the Misty Mountains, they are your ticket to being able to survive the onslaught of stages 2 and 3.
Minas Tirith Lampwright was a surprisingly important piece of this deck. The Dunland Trap has quite a bit of surge. The key to the Lampwright was not so much canceling surge (since you have to guess), but rather avoiding the worst case scenario. Think of him as surge insurance. Think about the one card that would hurt you most in a given situation. Would an ill-timed treachery bring your heroes to their knees? Name treachery. Would one more enemy be too much for Boromir and Beorn to handle (unlikely as that sounds)? Name enemy. Are there already too many troublesome locations in the staging are? Name location. The more prevalent that surge becomes, the more useful Minas Tirith Lampwright is.
One last note is to be very careful of questing with just Eowyn when you don’t have A Test of Will in hand. I learned this the hard way when a game that seemed well in hand suddenly turned disastrous thanks to In Need of Rest. On the third stage, this card is an auto-loss if you can’t cancel it – unless you only have one or two time counters left. Because you have to remove time counters to win the game, and even a solo game will have 5 time counters on stage 3, there is no way that a hero will survive this card.
The trick that I used was this: stop questing with Éowyn if you don’t have cancellation. With combat well in hand, I would send Silvan Refugees, Envoys, Bofur and my Eagles of the Misty Mountains to the quest. Because the card only targets a hero, the effect completely fizzles if you do not have Éowyn committed to the quest. Knowing about the treacheries in a scenario as challenging as The Dunland Trap is an essential part of any strategy.
I hope that readers enjoy playing this deck as much as I did.
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Silvan Refugee (TDF) x3
Minas Tirith Lampwright (EaAD) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Arwen Undómiel (TWitW) x3
Bofur (TRG) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x2