Deck: Rally the Troops

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In a sense, new heroes represent a puzzle to be solved. Heroes form such an important part of a deck’s design, but it is not always immediately obvious how a new hero will best integrate with the existing cards, to say nothing of the player cards released concurrently with that hero. The creative aspect of deck-building holds particular appeal for me – like a good scratch behind the ears it tickles my fancy. As the card pool grows, and the variety of scenarios continues to diversify, identifying the potential synergies of a new hero can feel like a search for a few chocolates in a giant bag full of raisins. Fortunately, bears have an excellent sense of smell, so I am here to help sort out the good stuff. In some cases, cards which never saw much play will suddenly become relevant again.

Ever-VigilantIn the case of Leadership Faramir, it has taken me a bit of tinkering before I was finally able to build a deck around him that I am happy with. Perhaps it was the huge influx of cards from Gen Con 2015, or just the distractions of life, but the design of a proper deck for the Captain of the Rangers of Ithilien has taken some time. Faramir has always been one of my favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings, but with the potency of the Core Set ally, I have never fully accepted the Lore version of this character. The new Leadership version – Captain Faramir I like to call him – gives us access to Gondor’s biggest strength: resource acceleration. His ability might at first seem unexciting, especially for decks that rely so heavily on powerful heroes with action advantage. Once again, other changes in the metagame have coincided to bring this ability into focus for me.

Boromir (HoN)While the first assumption would be to make Faramir the leader of an ally-heavy Gondor deck – perhaps even pair him with his brother Boromir – this doesn’t quite work. Most of the Gondor allies have mediocre stats, which is the entire reason you need the global boosts from Boromir, Visionary Leadership and For Gondor!, to be begin with. When it comes to allies with powerful exhaust effects, the Core Set version of Faramir is the obvious choice, an unfortunate case where a hero would have great synergy with an ally of the same name. From a thematic standpoint, I really want the new Faramir to work well in a Gondor Army deck, I just don’t see it with the current crop of Gondor allies that we have. It’s not to say that these allies could not contribute to combat after questing – they most certainly could – it just would not be making the best use of Faramir’s ability. As with all effects in this game, it is important to note the limit. Faramir’s response has no cost (other than the trigger condition) and can be used one per phase. This means that we will look for cards that help us to engages enemies multiple times in a round.

Treebeard-TACWith Gondor off the list, we naturally turn to the newest powerhouse archetype in the metagame: The Ents. On closer inspection, this is a perfect match – and not just because the Ents have amazing stats for a low cost. Other than not being able to wield weapons and armor (of little concern for characters with such potent base-stats), the one real limitation for Ent allies is that they enter play exhausted. This means that you will not ordinarily be able to use the great stats from the Ent ally that you just played until the round after you payed the price. While this drawback is most certainly worth it, it is nevertheless a drawback. Scenarios that ambush the players from the first round will be more than happy to see you spending precious resources for an ally that does nothing the round it enters play.

Faramir-TLoSThis is where the new Leadership Faramir and a bit of creativity can lead to a very potent deck. The is an aggressive deck with a pretty straight-forward premise: muster big allies with useful abilities as quickly as possible. Then, engage as many enemies as can be safely managed, all while reaping multiple benefits for each enemy engagement.

While it still feels half-finished, there are some powerful new cards in the Dúnedain archetype from this cycle. Engagement-based effects are a perfect fit for this deck. Dúnedai Hunter n is an amazing ally for the bargain price of nothing. Ordinarily, the requirement of engaging an enemy can be a bit scary, but in this deck it will actually net you a resource (thanks to Mablung) and ready a potentially devastating ally like Treebeard or Gandalf.

A Very Good TaleThis is where the smart-ass bears in the back of the room raise their paws and ask the rhetorical question: “Why would your ally even be exhausted during the planning phase for this combo to work?”. As a bear, and merciless slayer of straw-men, I am more than happy to answer this rhetorical question. Between the Ents, which all enter play exhausted during, and A Very Good Tale, there are plenty of ways to get our allies exhausted during the planning phase. Honour Guard can exhaust during any phase to prevent damage – very useful for a deck without access to healing. In some rare cases, encounter card effects can deal damage during the refresh, resource or planning phases. If the Honour Guard happened to be exhausted in such a situation, his friend the hunter would allow him to be ready for the all important quest phase when most of the direct-damage nastiness comes. The point of this rhetorical exercise is to encourage you to look for ways to use Faramir’s ability as much as possible.

With that in mind, we need to talk about Legolas. We discussed this on episode 30 of The Grey Company Podcast (available soon), but the ally version of everyone’s favorite Mirkwood Elf is fantastic. An earlier version of this deck featured weapons and Foe-Hammer as supplemental card draw. As anyone who relies on that strategy with support from Lore can tell you – that strategy is not very consistent. There is nothing more frustrating that looking at a Foe-hammer in an opening hand bereft of weapons. Fortunately, this deck has a more reliable form of card draw. Yes, pedantic bears in the back row, you first need to draw Legolas, but the same can be said for Foe-hammer (but it also requires a weapon on an attacking hero in addition). In any case, once you get him out, your card draw problems are solved, particularly when there are enemies that can be left in the staging area after the encounter phase.

Aragorn-TLR-smallThis is where our third hero comes into the picture – Mablung can’t steal all of the glory. Not only does Tactics Aragorn feature one of the most underrated passive effects of any hero in the game, but his response in this deck is just silly. Again, it should be stressed that this deck is designed to work in multi-player, were there are consistently multiple enemies in play. Aragorn all but ensures that this deck can ready an ally during every combat phase – a particularly useful time to be readying, I might add.

Donning our fuzzy hypothetical hats once more (trust me, you’d much rather wear the warm and furry hypothetical hat than the burlap and irony-wrought curmudgeon hate), let’s look out how Aragorn and Legolas work together to create a powerful team. First let’s assume that Aragorn and Legolas both participate in an attack which kills an enemy – not too outlandish when they have a combined attack of 6 and Aragorn’s passive weakens all non-immune enemies. First we trigger Legolas’ response and draw a card. Next we trigger Aragorn’s response and engage an enemy from the staging area (or stuck with another player). Lastly we trigger Faramir’s ability to ready Legolas.

Legolas-ToSIf Aragorn happens to have a Rohan warhorse, he could also ready and help out with the subsequent slaughter. The important point here is that there is no limit to the number of times you can trigger Ally Legolas’ response, provided you can ready him. A silly version of this deck even features Hands upon the Bow, Sword-thain and Rohan Warhorse so that Legolas can just keep killing enemies until you run out of enemies to kill. Even in less ideal circumstances, Legolas should be able to help kill at least one enemy a round, which is an extra card that an Aggro deck featuring resource acceleration desperately needs.

Some games, Legolas might not show up. Have no fear, even without card draw, this deck can muster a formidable host of allies. As we said earlier, and it bears repeating, Ents are under-costed for their stats. Try to exhaust at least 6 points worth of characters when you use A Very Good Tale – this will allow you to choose a four cost ally and a 2-cost ally from among the cards discarded. With 30 allies in the deck, it will be almost impossible to miss on that card, so play it early and often. Treebeard also helps muster his friends once he comes into play, so there is actually quite a bit of resource acceleration available here.

Even if this deck struggles along without Legolas or Steward of Gondor for a few rounds, you will still make enough money between your heroes and Mablung’s ability to pay for any of the Ents and Eagles in this deck. Assuming threat is not an issue, use Gandalf for card draw to find the missing piece. Gather Information is also included to help find whatever card is needed to get everything setup. Support of the Eagles can turn Aragorn into an amazing attacker, or Mablung into a super-defender, but the heroes are really just here to help you survive until your army is raised.

GandalfOne last card that bears mentioning is Ever Vigilant. To my knowledge, I have not included this card in a deck that I built (Core Set pre-constructed decks don’t count). It always seemed like either a niche card (use with ally Faramir of Gandalf) and lost out space to other in-sphere gems like Sneak Attack. In this deck however, this card is fantastic. Legolas has the Ranged keyword after all. Aragorn is sometimes not ready or able to kill an engaged enemy – or perhaps you don’t want to deal with the engagement effect on an enemy fighting against another player. Whatever the reason, the worst case scenario for this card is to allow you to ready Legolas to swing in two attacks and net you two extra cards.

The deck is not without its weaknesses. With a 33 starting threat, it is unabashed in its aggression. Because we are not using the Hobbit-style “sneaky” engagement effects, we do get the full benefit from each engagement – even the non-optional variety. This is good, because the high starting threat will mean that many enemies come running at us from the first round. The sideboard has some cards to help mitigate this, and feel free to swap them in for particular scenarios. Doomed and threat raise effects can also be an issue. Secret Vigil and Sneaky Gandalf can certainly help with this, but this strategy is honestly paired best with a deck featuring Spirit, for stronger questing (this deck can often be mediocre in that department), treachery and shadow cancelation, and threat control. While you can play this deck solo, my best games with it so far have been two player, paired with Mrs. Beorn’s White Council Deck.

Heroes:
Aragorn (TLR)
Faramir (TLoS)
Mablung (NiE)

Allies: 30
Dúnedain Hunter (TLR) x3
Errand-rider (HoN) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Booming Ent (TaC) x1
Derndingle Warrior (EfMG) x3
Honour Guard (TWoE) x2
Orophin (CS) x1
Skinbark (TLoS) x1
Treebeard (TAC) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Legolas (ToS) x3
Rúmil (TTT) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments: 10
Rohan Warhorse (VoI) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x2
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Events: 9
A Very Good Tale (TH:OHaUH) x3
Ever Vigilant (Core) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x2
Quick Strike (Core) x2

Side Quests: 1
Gather Information (TLR) x1

Sideboard: 15
Booming Ent (TAC) x1
Honour Guard (TWoE) x1
Captain of Gondor (TAC) x1
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x2
Secret Vigil (TLR) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x1
Firefoot (TDT) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x1
Feint (Core) x2
Tireless Hunters (TLR) x2

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16 Responses to Deck: Rally the Troops

  1. “The important point here is that there is no limit to the number of times you can trigger Ally Legolas’ response”

    What about the fact that you can only ready him once per phase with Faramir? I see a couple copies of Ever Vigilant, but otherwise I don’t see how you’re getting more than 2 kills out of him.

    • Beorn says:

      In my experience 1-2 extra cards per round with this deck is more than enough. Those who want to get silly with it can include Sword-thain, Rohan Warhorse and Hands Upon the Bow (as I mentioned) but I have found that to be overkill. The lack of a limit on Legolas’ ability is worth pointing out because of how rare card draw is in Tactics – and how important it is for a deck that features multiple forms of resource acceleration.

      • ThomasS says:

        Doesn’t Legolas have to destroy the enemy to trigger his response? Without attachments that beef up his attack, is this possible in most scenarios when he is attacking on his own? I always find 3 tends to wound most of the time.

        Love the ideas here. I think you can still make a Gondor thematic deck work though, including readying those allies that have useful non-questing actions like Warden of Healing, Knight of MT, Ithilien tracker, Anborn etc.

      • Beorn says:

        Yes, he does have to destroy the enemy. The idea here is to have Legolas and Aragorn work together to kill enemies, joined by Ents and/or Eagles as necessary. Their combined strength, along with Aragorn’s passive effect, is enough to kill many enemies. Certainly the Ents can help with any particularly troublesome enemies. You might not be able to trigger Legolas every round, but having consistent card draw (without needing a weapon) is essential for a Tactics-heavy deck.

        As for a Gondor deck taking advantage of Faramir’s effect, it is much harder to make this work. Knight of Minas Tirith only works when each hero has the Printed Tactics sphere – so its not going to happen with Faramir as a hero. Warden is ok, but in my experience you don’t often need him multiple times in a round, once you’ve had him out for a few rounds. There are some direct damage or archery-heavy exceptions, but I don’t feel like he’s the best target for Faramir’s effect either. Ithilien Tracker actually seems like a very poor choice for this effect, as he only has 1 attack and his ability does nothing if you trigger it more than once per round. Granted, Leadership Boromir can boost these allies to have better stats, but it makes more sense to me to muster bigger allies to begin with, rather than rely on global effects to be consistently available. This is especially relevant because you will sometimes need to spend all of the resources from Boromir which would cause all of your allies to lose these benefits. Thanks for your reply!

      • Ok. I guess I just misunderstood and thought that you were saying you could keep engaging (with Aragorn) and readying Legolas (with Faramir) to be able to get more kills and more cards. I definitely don’t disagree that 1 or 2 more cards is good, I just thought you were saying that this particular deck could get 3+ uses out of Legolas many times.

  2. Kjeld says:

    It would be strategically sound and thematically sensible to pair this deck with a hobbit secrecy/avoidance strategy. I feel like it would be a great partner for the mono-spirit Pippin + Fatty + Merry deck I want to build. A deck that doesn’t want enemies + a deck that wants all the enemies it can get is a win-win in my book!

    • Did you say Spirit Pippin? Sounds like the one deck he’d work well in…

    • Beorn says:

      Yes, this deck pairs really well with a spirit-heavy deck, for multiple reasons. Being able to pull away enemies from a less combat-oriented deck gives the push/pull dynamic that you are talking about, and is a definite strength. Also, having someone to help with cancelation, threat reduction and condition attachments (which can be brutal if they land on the wrong hero) makes this strategy a natural fit for those kinds of decks. I guess Spirit Pippin’s ability *could* work in that case, but raising your threat by 3 essentially negates Spirit Merry’s ability – which seems like serious action disadvantage since the Spirit deck also needs to help out with questing.

      In any case, I see the value of Spirit Pippin in such a deck simply because he has low starting threat and gives you access to powerful “All Hobbit” cards like Hobbit-sense. That card, by the way, is fantastic paired with this deck, since it only stops the Hobbit player from attacking, it does nothing to hinder Aragorn from pulling those enemies and slaughtering them one by one. The only trick then is finding a way to engage multiple enemies with the Hobbit deck to maximize the utility of Hobbit-sense. Still, it is an excellent pairing because it provides so many options.

      • The deck’s starting threat is so low that Spirit Pippin’s ability should rarely need to be used, especially if you’re using other hobbit cards to prevent enemies from wreaking havoc. It’s more of a fail-safe, though personally I might prefer Lore Pippin just to take advantage of the fact that Aragorn can pull enemies over to him by strategically engaging for card draw. There are certainly a few options. Maybe even Frodo would be a good option because then we have someone who can defend when we need it. I’d probably do Frodo, S Merry, and L Pippin. There are pros and cons to each approach.

      • Beorn says:

        Agreed. Lore also gives you access to Barliman Butterbur, the ultimate failsafe for that style of play.

      • Kjeld says:

        The interesting thing about Spirit Pippin — especially now that Hobbit Pony is in the card pool — is that you don’t really need a backup plan because you should never, ever be engaged with an enemy: Pippin should always be able to bounce them back to the staging area (with the exception of those quests where there are auto-engage effects that target enemies that can’t be affected by player cards). This is especially true of those annoyingly low-threat enemies (like Ugluk) — bounce it back to staging and then the aggro player is forced to engage it (which is a good thing!). As for direct damage effects, you’re playing spirit, so you can laugh off treacheries. Worried about questing? Don’t, if you’re going to fail just let Fatty take the threat gain off of the aggro deck. With Merry and so much spirit, threat should never be a problem (and Song of Earendil would be a good choice here as well). The more I think about it, the more I honestly think that a mono-spirit Merry, Pippin, Fatty deck is not only possible paired with the Rally the Troops deck, but also can address all of the downsides of that deck. I would be willing to empirically test this hypothesis on OCTGN.

      • I’d love to see the SPippin, SMerry, Fatty deck tested with this deck. There are only 2 real issues I can foresee:

        1) If things go wrong and you need to use Fatty and SPippin more than expected and you can’t keep up with the threat gain, which in turn forces you to need to use SPippin more. This is another of SPippin’s weaknesses: the more you use him, the more you’ll need to use him. There are certainly plenty of ways to lower your threat in Spirit, but you need to find the balance of threat reduction cards (and other “prevention” cards) vs other cards that directly move you forward (largely willpower allies).

        2) Somewhat weak starting willpower. Your heroes have a total of 5 starting willpower (assuming you don’t use Merry and/or Fatty’s abilities instead), so if you can’t get some allies into play quickly, this deck isn’t pulling its questing weight. Of course, it shouldn’t take too long to set up and get under control, though.

  3. Kjeld says:

    I was most interested in trying to think of a deck that could *theoretically* make use of both Fatty and Spirit Pippin =D

  4. William O'Brien says:

    Yeah, the Gondor allies aren’t quite there yet to build a completely thematic deck. There is a pretty cool Gondor setup you can get going with Faramir + Damrod heroes, Lore Anborn, and Ambush. Use Anborn to get Ambush back, Damrod plays it cheap and draws a card when it hits, Faramir readies Anborn to join in on the attack. I use Denethor as the third hero. There are a couple other Lore Gondor allies that are solid attackers, but the deck is a little short on willpower in location-heavy scenarios. You can almost get there with Visionary Leadership, but it’s better to just fill that need with Ents for the moment.

  5. Pingback: Hero of the Month Deck: Ents of Ithilien – The Second Hand Took

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