Early Spring Cleaning

Yogi with Broom

For those that enjoy deck-building, a bigger card pool is always better. Each additional release opens up more archetypes for those who want to branch out and try something different. Greater depth for making refinements to an existing deck to handle new challenges. The metagame is constantly shifting, so having options allows players to adapt and kept decks relevant.

ultra_pro_binderFor those of us who prefer to play with physical cards, there is one practical downside to a growing card pool, however. It becomes challenging to find space to store everything. For the last couple of years I have been using the same storage strategy, and it has worked well until recently. I have four colored binders (red, purple, blue and green), one for each sphere, and a fifth (black) for neutral cards and heroes. Scenarios are organized by set or cycle and kept in card boxes.

As the card pool has grown, the four sphere binders have been filled to the bursting point, so I’ve had to look into alternate strategies for storing player cards. My first attempt at a fix was to move all player cards from saga expansions into a sixth binder, but this did not work out well. Ultimately unless you strictly collect the game but do not play, whatever storage strategy you use should facilitate deck building. When the card pool was smaller, I could memorize which cards came from which expansions, but the game has been around long enough that it is now difficult to hold the entire card pool in one’s head.

Ent-DraughtBoomed-and-TrumpetedIf I’m building an Ent deck, I don’t want to have to remember which Ent cards are from APs and which were released in saga expansions. This is where the sphere-based binders are so convenient. Ideally, I can grab the Red (Tactics) and Green (Lore) binders, along with the Black (Neutral/Heroes) binder and be ready to make an Ent deck. After choosing my heroes and what few neutral cards I need from the Black binder, I am down to using only two binders to complete the deck.

This is, by the way, why I don’t just put all of the player cards into a single huge binder. Most decks use two spheres (with possibly a third splashed in), so it doesn’t make sense to have look through every single player card while building a deck. Just because a bear can carry everything in his paws, doesn’t mean that he should. The one binder to rule them all would also be much less convenient to transport in the event that I want to deck build outside of the Hall.

This leads to my current conundrum, and the solution that I ultimately found. I wanted to continue to use the colored binders for each sphere, but with two more Saga expansions and an entire new cycle on the way, there was no way that this would work. For good or ill, some cards seldom if ever make it into any of my decks, so it made little sense for them to take up space in the binder. Ultimately, I made a list of cards that I never use, and these got moved into the sixth “extras” binder, to collect dust in the corner. Moving these little-used cards frees up space for all of the new cards that will be flooding in this year.

As with anything subjective, others will disagree with some of these choices. That’s the fun of deck-building. We all do it a bit differently. Ian has a great card spotlight feature over at Tales from the Cards about this very issue. What one player deems a coaster, another might use to build an entire strategy. Those who remain skeptical have only to see what enterprising deck-builders are doing with long forgotten cards – for example Seastan’s Love of Tales deck.

One final caveat, before I share my “coaster” list. Just because I don’t use a card in my decks does not mean that the card is bad. For that matter, it doesn’t even mean that I don’t see the value in the card. It just means that, for whatever reason, it doesn’t fit my personal deck-building style. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are 10 cards from each sphere which are now relegated to the “collecting dust” binder. Feel free to leave a comment with your own coaster list, or if you think that I am missing something with any of these cards.


Brok Ironfist (Core Set): Too expensive, with a near-useless ability
Keen-eyed Took (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Terrible stats with a very situational ability
Sword of Morthond (Assault on Osgiliath): Only useful in a dedicated Outlands deck
Common Cause (Core Set): Not actually action advantage – Leadership has better options
Rear Guard (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Much to expensive for such a minimal effect
Ever Onward (Khazad-dûm)Doom Hangs Still makes this card obsolete
Taking Initiative (The Redhorn Gate): Powerful, but much too situational to be reliable
Grave Cairn (The Watcher in the Water): Situational, with a real potential to be useless
Men of the West (Assault on Osgiliath): I’m not interested in a dedicated Outlands deck
Follow Me! (The Nîn-in-Eilph): Potential use in multi-player, but too situational


Veteran of Nanduhirion (Khazad-dûm): Cheaper alternatives – Battle Master or Sentry.
Watcher of the Bruinen (The Watcher in the Water): Too weak for a dedicated defender
Dwarven Axe (Core Set): Expensive and weapons are often overkill for Dwarves
Born Aloft (Conflict at the Carrock): Only useful in combos that do not interest me
Blade Mastery (Core Set): So many better tactics events
Stand Together (Core Set): Using multiple characters to defend is not action-advantage
To the Eyrie (A Journey to Rhosgobel): Much too expensive for the effect
Meneldor’s Flight (The Hills of Emyn Muil): Like Born Aloft, limited to specific combos
Heavy Stroke (Foundations of Stone): Tactics is resource-poor, I prefer Khazad! Khazad!
Trained for War (The Drúadan Forest): Mono-Tactics lacks the readying for questing


Damrod (Heirs of Númenor): I will always prefer Northern Tracker for this cost.
The Favor of the Lady (Core Set): Spirit has so many better ways to get willpower
Power in the Earth (Core Set): Too weak of an effect to warrant deck space
Ever My Heart Rises (The Long Dark): A sideboard card at best, too conditional
The Fall of Gil-galad (The Dunland Trap): Only useful in combos that do not interest me
Warden of Arnor (The Three Trials): Another sideboard card, too weak for most scenarios
Star Brooch (The Lost Realm): Far too conditional of an ability for limited impact
Strength of Will (Core Set): Too situational for a limited effect, action-disadvantage
A Light in the Dark (Core Set): Expensive, with more effective alternatives
Against the Shadow (The Drúadan Forest): I have yet to find a use for this card


Bombur (Road to Rivendell): Expensive, terrible stats, situational ability, otherwise great?
Isengard Messenger (The Voice of Isengard): No trait synergy, situational ability
Dark Knowledge (Core Set): Superior alternatives for shadow control
Healing Herbs (Foundations of Stone): Better alternatives without action-disadvantage
Gandalf’s Search (Core Set): Expensive, Lore has so many superior alternatives
Beorn’s Hospitality (Core Set): Expensive, Waters of the Nimrodel makes this card useless
Infighting (A Journey to Rhosgobel): Too situational/fiddly for my taste
Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm): Action-disadvantage with situational value
Advance Warning (The Drúadan Forest): Noiseless Movement is superior for my style
Message from Elrond (The Three Trials): Interesting, difficult with ad hoc multi-player

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15 Responses to Early Spring Cleaning

  1. Fouilloux says:

    Storing cards have been my burden for a loooong time. Although I do use some of the cards you put aside, I understand your points.
    By the way, I do use only two binders, but I store the same copies of a card in the same spot. Its works pretty weel, but the binders are a bit big. And they have a very low WAF (Wife acceptance factor). I still can’t find a way to store encounter card+the little booklets that comes with it.

  2. Steven A says:

    I agree with most of your choices (and the exceptions are very situational so it’d still work to just get those cards out only when building the relevant kind of deck), but not necessarily your reasons for some of them.

    • Beorn says:

      Interesting, can you give an example of a card where your reason for excluding it is different? I am curious to hear another perspective on this topic.

      • Steven A says:

        Hmm, now I come to look again I’m struggling to remember my thoughts at the time of that comment – the only one which comes to mind is that for Heavy Stroke you say Tactics is resource-poor, which has never really struck me as being the case (though the “I prefer Khazad! Khazad!” part I do agree with. Also this can fall into a similar category to Dwarven Axe – Dwarves don’t really need attack boosts, at least not with Dain and Battle Masters in the mix).

      • Beorn says:

        Gotcha. I consider Tactics resource poor, because other than Horn of Gondor (which doesn’t make sense in Dwarf decks) and Mablung (not a good thematic fit), there isn’t any resource acceleration. With powerful allies and attachments that require Tactics resources, I prefer my events to be universally powerful, like Feint, or free. Heavy Stroke costs a resource and is only useful in certain circumstances.

  3. TalesfromtheCards says:

    This is truly a growing challenge. I would probably think about it more if I didn’t play 99% on OCTGN! I’ve been using the “one binder” strategy so far, but that thing is getting ridiculously heavy and will soon be filled to bursting. I’ll have to think of a new solution soon.

  4. dylansharek says:

    Watcher of the Bruinen is a good, cheap defender–WITH SENTINEL–that can soak up multiple attacks from weaker enemies, which ARE still a thing! Sure, it’s at the cost of a card, but you get to decide when to cut your losses and move on….

    Will he always live to soak multiple attacks? No…but no skin off my back. I’ll keep my card and he’ll die just like anyone else I was going to slot into that deck spot.

    Now that I think of it…sentinel, doesn’t exhaust to defend, low defense…doesn’t he remind you of a certain bear?

    • Beorn says:

      You make solid points, and the Watcher was one of my most reluctant choices, but the reality is that he doesn’t make it into ANY of my decks these days. He belongs to a sphere where both cards and resources are a precious commodity and he just isn’t good enough to warrant space in my decks. If I am just looking for a good defending ally with Sentinel, I would always choose a Winged Guardian or Derndingle Warrior before him. I understand that they don’t have repeatable defending, but their higher defense means that they are more likely to survive, which is critical because of how much chump-blocking is punished in newer quests.

      His trait doesn’t really do me much good, either. The only card that boosts him (Lords of the Eldar) is expensive and requires a Spirit presence in my deck. At that point ally Arwen becomes a pretty compelling option – especially because I can change who gets the benefit each round. If I am not running ally Arwen (ie. I’m using hero Arwen instead), then I would be much more likely to spend 2 resources to give Elven Mail to a hero (probably Elrohir, but there are other options). In modern quests, smaller allies are very vulnerable, so 2 defense and 2 hit points feels like a risky investment of my precious Tactics resources, I would rather give a hero sentinel and the extra hit points.

      I understand your arguments about where he fits in a strategy, but my Noldor decks have so many better effects for me to spend that discarded card on, and weaker enemies are becoming more and more rare. If he had 1 more defense (or some way to boost his defense), I could absolutely see a place for him in a Noldor deck. As it is, his cost is too high and he just doesn’t fit my deck-building style. Thanks for your feedback, though, I really appreciate hearing other players’ perspectives on cards.

  5. I use the same method of binder organisation as you – blue, green, red, purple, black for neutral and saga cards, and I don’t remember if I stole the idea from you or if it was birthed fully-formed from my own brain – and it seems to be holding together all right so far, with three sleeved cards in each pocket for 27 cards per page. The flicking back and forth can be a bit problematic, of course, since I’ve stored the cards alphabetically (Allies, Attachments, Events), don’t do any deck-building myself, and take all my decks from blogs and forum posts.

    Decks listed online seem to not follow any real format other than being listed under Ally, Attachment, Event. Maybe they’re listed by cost? Sometimes alphabetically, spanning spheres? I dunno, but the point is, the flicking back and forth can be cumbersome. Your deck lists are the most sensible (though I long for the day where you colour code them so I don’t have to click the link in case I’m not instantly familiar with the sphere of the card!)

    So I don’t know enough about the cards to know which ones are duds or not, and sometimes I will really go off the hook and throw some substitutes or even extra cards into a deck I’ve found – if cards were stored in a random “duds” folder, I’d either never look at them or it’d be yet another folder to go through.

    The biggest problem for me is stashing all the adventure cards. With two core boxes, one of them containing a Thunderstone Advance insert, I’m managing okay. Stuff I haven’t played yet gets sleeved and goes in the box with the Thunderstone insert, stuff I’ve played gets unsleeved and goes in the other core box with the original FF insert inverted. But I’m still running out of space and don’t want to have to get one of those ugly white card storage boxes. Then there’s all the instructions and rulebooks and printouts and whoo, boy.

    It’s a big, sprawling thing, this game of ours. I sometimes feel like I should have spent all that money on something else, since the game is like 50% building decks and I don’t build decks, and I only ever play solo since nobody else around here seems interested.

    At the end of the day, I just wish FF would be a little more cooperative with their LCG boxes and inserts. The deluxe and saga expansions don’t need to be as big as they are, and they don’t need to be the configuration that they are. Since they (presumably) know well in advance every card that a cycle is going to contain, I really wish the deluxe expansions were released in boxes that are literally the dimensions of the deluxe decks + adventure packs, with breathing room for people who sleeve their cards. The “visibility on the store shelf” argument doesn’t hold water any more for LCGs that are four or five years in, with thousands of cards in the pool. You either play LotR and are going to buy everything anyway, or you’re going to be buying the core set and going from there.

    That said, I enjoy organising my games almost as much as I enjoy playing them, so I guess I’ll survive, somehow. I actually just wanted to say “great blog”.

    TL;DR: great blog.

  6. Help me out here. I loved your binder idea so much I went out and bought my own binders (5, colored as you suggest). Because you said you were running out of room, I apparently went WAY overboard!! I bought 1.5″ binders for the four main, and a 1″ black. I’m not even remotely close to filling these and I own every set ever released as I’m sure you do as well. From what I can tell, even if I’d done 1″ binders, I’d have an extreme amount of extra room. How are you running low on space? Are your binders < 1"? Which binders do you use?

    My second question is more topical – how are your cards within a binder organized? I think it would be maddening to keep it all alphabetized, particularly when a new set came out (you'd need to shift every card!) and frankly alphabetization isn't a winning strategy in a game so trait-focused. So how do you organize them? Just Ally/Attachment/Events/Sidequests and wherever-the-cards-fall within that structure?

    • Beorn says:

      The binders I use hold 360 cards. I sleeve each player card and put a single card in each card slot. If you are putting multiple cards in a card slot that would explain why you have plenty of extra room. As far as organization, I have separate sections for allies, attachments, events and finally side quests. Within each section I put the cards in release order. The Neutral binder is a bit different. I have sections for the heroes from each Sphere (including Neutral for Gandalf). Then, I have sections for allies, attachments, events and side quests, all in release order like the sphere binders. This makes it easy to add new cards from a pack or expansion as I just sort them by type then add them to each section within the appropriate sphere binder. Heroes and Neutral cards are added to the Neutral binder. I hope this helps clarify my storage strategy. If you put multiple cards in a slot you will have plenty of room to spare, otherwise you will encounter the problem that I did with running out of space.

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