Breaking News: Giant Bear Dominates In Battle, None Surprised

Nightmare Into Ithilien-small

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
—Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias”

Wow, what a rush. I just finished Nightmare Into Ithilien and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. I took a modified version of a solo deck which I had tuned to beat the normal version, and was able to survive Nightmare Into Ithilien by the slimmest of margins. I did not take detailed game notes, but I honestly assumed that I would get crushed and need to make changes. It turns out that this deck is pretty well-suited to handle the quest (as much as you can say about any deck in the context of a Nightmare Scenario).


I will provide the deck list below, but I want to stress that there is no guarantee that you will have the same good fortune in your attempts at this quest. Nightmare Into Ithilien is punishingly difficult – it will take solid play and a bit of luck to survive it. Win or lose, this scenario is a great opportunity to adopt a hyper-aggressive strategy.

Two things are notably missing from this list: card draw or resource acceleration. This is probably the most pure aggro deck I’ve ever built for the game. Rather than spend time and resources,on card draw effects I have built the deck with very specific ratios, and enough flexibility that it has a chance to overcome all but the worst draw. Choosing heroes that are very efficient at multiple aspects of the game is what makes this strategy viable.

As for resource acceleration, that would certainly be nice, but is simply not an option with these spheres. Neither Spirit nor Tactics gives me ready access to resource-ramping effects, unless you are willing to do something fiddly like Zigil Miner and Imladris Stargazer. Those kinds of combos are cute for more leisurely scenarios, that give you a couple of rounds to get all of your tricks setup. Into Ithilien is not that kind of scenario, the Nightmare version doubly so. Horn of Gondor is effective in multi-player games, but this deck is designed to be played solo. If all goes as planned, I won’t be losing enough allies to get much of a benefit from that card in any case.

The basic strategy here is to quest very aggressively, holding back a Feint or chump blocker. Chump blocking is dangerous in this scenario, which is why Hasty Stroke is included. As if the original wasn’t bad enough, the Nightmare version has even more Archery. One solution to this would be healing, but with an encounter deck that includes so many terrible effects, I see no good reason to spend my time healing characters. The watch-word of this day is “run”. If you have a chance to cut down an enemy or two on your way out of the forest, so much the better.

Mûmak-EliteBarring extremely bad luck, you should be able to make it out of stage 1 with Celador still alive, which allows you to skip one of the Mûmak Elite (the other comes out once you make it to stage 4). Stage 3 presents the greatest risk to this deck, particularly with all of the archery that was added. The Nightmare version did not disappoint: no sooner had I made it to Stage 2, when Haradrim Captain showed up, ready to fill all of my characters with arrows. To make matters worse, I already had an Ithilien Outlook in play, which severely limited my options for where to assign the archery damage. Fortunately, I brought a giant bear with me to the fight, and he eats arrows for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ithilien-OverlookBy traveling to a new location each round, and questing aggressively, I was able to prevent all of these nasty effects from staying into play for long enough to start create combos for the encounter deck. That is the key to the aggressive strategy. I don’t much care if I have to raise my threat to perform multiple actions with Boromir, so long as I am under 40 by the time I make it to stage 4 (so that I have 2 rounds to try and beat it). It is vitally important to keep the staging area as clear as possible at all times.

Westfold-Outrider (small)To this end, I always optionally engaged an enemy, if able. Westfold Outriders are amazing in stage 3, when the staging area can fill with enemies, many of whom will now have archery. The deck takes a subtle hand to play, because their are some important decisions to make around which allies you play when. You want to save resources on some rounds, and avoid over-committing allies because of cards like Blocking Wargs and those damned Spiders (thankfully, Watcher in the Wood, probably the worst card from the original quest, has been removed).

West-Road-TravellerObviously the cheaper eagles can be more freely sacrificed once you have an Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play. Chump blocking, using the Outrider’s ability, and deciding when to play Gandalf, all have implications for cards like Silvan Refugee. My favorite way to use the Refugee is to save any of them (and West Road Traveller) in my hand for stage 3. Once I get there, I hopefully have some Spirit resources saved up, and I can play them and start questing like mad. Watch out for Blocking Wargs, it can be devastating to this deck. I had to use my one A Test of Will to cancel it in stage 3. Once I felt like I was ready for the final push to move on to stage 4, I played Gandalf, knowing that the Refugee would leave play at the end of the round. At that point, it doesn’t really matter – she has more than paid you back for your paltry investment.

I even optionally engaged the Mûmak Elite, as crazy as that might sound. His archery was going to hit me either way, but I would rather have his 5 threat of out of the staging area while my heroes raced to Cair Andros. Fortunately he is not added until stage 4 (assuming you skip stage 2), so I only had to deal with 2 of his attacks. Boromir, loaded up with Gondorian Shield and Support of the Eagles, was easily able to handle all attackers. I focused counter-attacks on archery enemies, as this deck has no healing.

I actually did chump block the giant Oliphaunt at one point, even though Boromir could have probably defended it unharmed. The reasons were two-fold: I had a Hasty Stroke in hand to cancel the inevitable extra attack shadow effect, and I didn’t want to raise my threat to ready Boromir unless I absolutely had to. Remember that Stage 4 raises your threat by 3 each round, on top of ridiculous effects like Southron Support, so you really only have a couple of rounds to escape alive. Threat management, along with all of the other concerns of this quest, is very important.

Beorn the Arrow-eater

Glorfindel (FoS)

Allies: 27
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Silvan Refugee x2
Defender of Rammas x2
Westfold Outrider x3 (proxied with Veteran Axehand in the photo above)
Winged Guardian x3
Arwen Undómiel x3
West Road Traveler x3
Bofur (TH:OHaUH) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 9
Gondorian Shield x3
Light of Valinor x3
Support of the Eagles x3

Events: 14
The Eagles Are Coming! x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Feint x3
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x2

This entry was posted in Aggro, Deck Building, Nightmare Mode, Screenshot, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Breaking News: Giant Bear Dominates In Battle, None Surprised

  1. lleimmoen says:

    How about Horn of Gondor for resource acceleration?
    Otherwise, amazing feat, I am sure these really are nightmare.

  2. lleimmoen says:

    Also, another thematic inclusion could be Stand and Fight. Probably not as important but sometimes it is nice to bring Vassal of the Windlord back, especially if you had used him before you had a chance to play Eagles of the Misty Mountains.

  3. lleimmoen says:

    Elven Weapons and Foe-Hammer is probably a stupid idea, not reliable enough. In a supporting deck perhaps. Too bad we have not got any attacking weapons for Gondorians, I am sure Boromir would appreciate it.

  4. Beorn says:

    Yes, I could see making a few changes to improve this deck. Horn of Gondor probably would not be one of them, however. I try as much as possible not to let any allies leave play during stage 1, otherwise Celador dies and you are stuck going through stage 2. With the built-in archery and a Mûmak Elite adding 5 threat and even more archery, that does not seem like a promising course of action. Horn of Gondor is sadly not a good fit for my preferred strategy on this quest. Granted, it might pay me back in the last round or two of the game, but until that time the card risks being completely dead (as it would have been in this game).

  5. lleimmoen says:

    I see. I meant more in general, I understand the situation is quite different considering you want to bypass stage 2. Then, Stand and Fight is also quite meaningless.
    Normally though, if you have trouble generating resources, Horn of Gondor will grant you a cheaper Gandalf (in retrospect) and should often trigger with Silvan Refugee, Vassal of the Windlord or Westfold Outrider.

    • Beorn says:

      Absolutely, against other scenarios, Horn of Gondor is a great fit on Boromir. Not having any Gondor weapons is actually an advantage in this case, since it frees up the Restricted slot for the Horn.

  6. Owen Edwards says:

    I hate to be a pedant, but Ozymandias is by Percy Shelley (not his wife Mary, the author of Frankenstein).

  7. wehemarc says:

    Bofur is here for it’s willpower or it reminisces from an old version of the deck with weapons? Cause I don’t see any weapon in the list now.

  8. TalesfromtheCards says:

    Awesome stuff! My go-to Into Ithilien deck has been Boromir/Beregond/Glorfindel, and it is almost identical to this with the exception of about 4-5 cards! Great minds think alike and all that jazz. I haven’t tried Nightmare yet though and it seems like your build will be better given the increased archery in that version and the particular nastiness of Ithilien Outlook. I”m even tempted to throw in Thror’s Key just to deal with it.

    One thing I’ve been using a lot in my Heirs decks lately is Blade of Gondolin. It’s an awesome aggro weapon and Boromir can churn out progress like candy.

    • Beorn says:

      Thanks, Ian! Good call on Blade of Gondolin, with Boromir you can do some serious location-clearing. It’s too bad there aren’t any Orcs in this scenario, or he would get the attack bonus as well.

      As far as Thror’s Key is concerned, I am lukewarm on that card for this scenario. While the locations are bad, by questing aggressively I was able to ensure that there was never more than one in the staging area. From what I’ve found, this is the best way to deal with the nastiness: minimize how long it is in play. Still, the key is cheap, so I might have to give it a shot in this deck.

  9. Khamul says:

    What are those that you are using for damage tokens? Skulls? They look pretty slick!

  10. Michael says:

    Did the bear also manage to defend the nightmarish attacks/siege on Cair Andros in the meantime? 🙂

    • Beorn says:

      Not yet, but hopefully soon I will have a chance to tackle that quest.

      • divad1126 says:

        I see you sleeved your cards in unique sleeves. Do you sleeve the enemy deck before play or have you sleeved all enemy cards?

        I have given in and sleeved every single card. I don’t want to take the time to sleeve then before play. But I sure would welcome any ideas.

        Also do you use a binder for storing cards or boxes? So many cards I’m always curious of others storage solutions.

      • Beorn says:

        I have all of my cards sleeved. Player cards I have in 5 separate card binders (Purple for Leadership, Red for Tactics, Blue for Spirit, Green for Lore and Black for Neutral and heroes). Quest cards are sleeved in clear sleeves (since they need to be readable on both sides. Encounter cards are sleeved in FFG “Eye of Sauron” sleeves. Because regular encounter cards are often mixed with the thinner “print on demand” sleeves, I find that using the heavier sleeves helps so that I can’t tell the difference between the original encounter cards and the POD cards – also the deck tends to shuffle better.

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