Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and it is no different for a Living Card Game. After a couple of cycles worth of experimenting with low threat decks that try to avoid direct confrontation at all costs, a change of pace was most welcome. When I’m not experimenting with the new Secrecy cards, I have really been enjoying taking my decks in the opposite direction in this latest cycle and playing aggressive decks with high starting threat.
This strategy is not new, but it is no longer as risky as it was at the game’s beginning. What a difference a few cycles makes. Where a high-threat deck would struggle to survive the early onslaught of enemies like the Hill Troll, the expanded card pool has provided solutions to many of this scenarios. Among these solutions, Strength of Arms has always been an intriguing option. With the already strong mustering events in Leadership, this card seemed poised to usher in a new top-tier archetype of ally armies.
Sadly, Against the Shadow never quite delivered on the promise of mono-Sphere, and Strength of Arms has remained a tantalizing curiosity. This deck is an attempt to finally take advantage of the sheer efficiency of this event. As with any deck that utilizes numerical superiority, the key here is not the size of the allies we bring to the fight, but the number that we can get in play within the crucial first few rounds.
In this case, the ally mustering has been taken to almost absurd lengths. The new Herald of Anórien is put to great use, allowing us to drop two Gondor allies for the price of one – including useful characters like Minas Tirith Lampwright and Warden of Healing that are not even in the Leadership sphere. Having multiple means of mustering non-Leadership allies is a secret weapon for this deck. The threat raise that comes with triggering the Herald’s ability does not have to be downside as our 34 starting threat means that we want to engage enemies immediately.
Such a high threat will put us in immediate danger, particularly in scenarios like Journey Along the Anduin. Still, if you can survive long enough for the resource acceleration and mustering to take hold, this deck can be amazingly powerful. It also pairs well in multi-player – so long as other decks include ranged characters and can handle some combat on their own. With so many global willpower boosting effects, so long as we can keep a decent number of allies in play, it can be quite easy for this deck to quest for 30+ willpower.
Like any army, the generals can be just as important as the front-line troops. With two consistent forms of readying, we should have sufficient combat strength to defeat most enemies immediately. Once we have at least one form of willpower boosting in play, it should be safe to hold back Boromir for combat. For larger enemies, this deck is not designed to use its heroes for defense. Chump blocking comes with multiple benefits, resources from the Squire, card draw from Valiant Sacrifice and readying for Prince Imrahil.
Boromir’s ability can turn our otherwise ineffective foot soldiers into a decent fighting force, but this deck’s real strength will always be the quest phase. Still, with Strength of Arms, the true potential of this strategy is realized. After questing all-out, and even using Faramir’s ability a second time, we can have all of our allies ready for combat. With Tome of Atanatar, it becomes possible to use this power event multiple times in a row, which should be enough to finish off all but the most challenging scenarios.
An aggressive deck like this brings with it many risks – not the least of which is losing to threat if for some reason we fail to quickly muster our army. However, with a potent mix of resource acceleration, mustering and global effects in this deck, it should be possible to completely dominate many scenarios. Like any extreme strategy, this approach works best when it is paired with a counter-balance which covers its weaknesses.
For example, an elf deck featuring threat reduction, cancellation and ranged characters will pair quite well with this deck. Alternatively, hobbits and traps, to keep enemies in the staging area, is a solid strategy given the sheer questing power at our disposal. Even if the particular strategy embodied in this deck does not appeal to you, I encourage everyone to try an aggressive deck, especially if you have traditionally played low-threat control decks. A change of pace can bring a welcome change, even to familiar scenarios.
Errand-rider (HoN) x3
Squire of the Citadel (TBoG) x3
Minas Tirith Lampwright (EaAD) x2
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x2
Herald of Anórien (TiT) x3
Defender of Rammas (HoN) x2
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
White Tower Watchman (TDF) x2
Faramir (Core) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3