Ever since I first opened the Core Set, I have always wanted to be able to make a powerful deck featuring an army of Gondorian characters. Epic battles like Pelennor Fields and the Morannon are memorable events from the books, and it would be nice to in some sense re-create them in the game. The meta-game shifts as the card pool grows, and to some extent or another it has always been possible to make a decent deck with Gondor characters. After all, the faction has the undisputed king of resource acceleration in Steward of Gondor. Other factions have waxed and waned, but I have grown frustrated at what seems inconsistent support for the Gondor faction – particularly the Gondor Army archetype.
Notably absent from this deck is Horn of Gondor. After the recent errata, Boromir’s iconic Horn fits even less into this archetype than it did before. While allies like Squire of the Citadel might seem to hint at a defensive strategy based on chump-blocking, that runs completely at odds with Leadership Boromir’s strengths. Also relevant, recent scenarios have begun to heavily punish chump blocking in all but the most dire of situations.
To be fair, Sneak Attack with Gandalf was the primary means for benefitting from the Horn without having to chump block, and that is a combo that cannot be relied upon. Still, it does feel weird that neither version of Boromir has an archetype where his horn makes strategic sense. In any case, Steward of Gondor, Wealth of Gondor and the cost-reduction built into hero Damrod should provide more than enough resource acceleration for our ally engine. A three-sphere deck can often struggle with getting the right resources at the right time, but allies like Errand-rider, Envoy of Pelargir and Pelargir Ship Captain can all help with resource smoothing.
The primary goal of this deck is to get Visionary Leadership attached to the first son of Denethor, and take advantage of numerical superiority with an army of Gondor allies. If we keep losing allies to attrition we will never achieve sufficient numbers to warrant this strategy. The presence of Beregond – along with Gondorian Shield and Honour Guard – highlights the fact that this deck is not looking to needlessly sacrifice allies. Rather, each hero has a specific facet of the game on which to focus, and the heroes exist to support what should be a steadily grow force of allies.
Besides the smoothing, three copies of Gandalf and a fair bit of card draw, it is a safe bet that any excess resources should not go to waste. Beregond will often have resources to share as the deck includes only a few Tactics cards (and the Shield is free). Still, the captain of the guard is of vital importance to our strategy of keeping allies in play – as well as being a reliable defender against ever-present boss enemies. Tactics characters have many virtues, but willpower is not typically among them, so most of the ally mix in this deck is from Leadership and Lore. Once we have Visionary Leadership (or at least Faramir) in play, the deck should be solid at questing.
Like most decks that rely on allies, this deck can suffer from slow starts. Assuming a decent opening hand, and with the aid of card draw in multiple forms (don’t hesitate to use Gandalf for the extra cards in the early game, and threat reduction later on), it should be possible to survive the early rounds. With a starting threat of 30, there is no time to waste, however. A Doomed card like Deep Knowledge might seem like an odd fit with such a deck, but the reality is that – in the early game at least – threat is less important than establishing our critical attachments.
Resources are the engine that drives Gondor, so our goals begin with having Steward of Gondor attached to Boromir. From there, we have a host of excellent supporting allies – many with powerful abilities – which should help us to survive the onslaught of the encounter deck. As with most strategies in the current meta-game, the first few rounds are pivotal. With a horde of allies joining Damrod in questing, Beregond defending, and Boromir and the remaining allies pitching in on the counter attack, the deck has at least a solid plan for success.
Overall it is nice to see the Gondor Army archetype evolve – albeit slowly. Cards like Veteran of Osgiliath are a welcome addition as they can prove to be far more substantial than old standbys like the Guard of the Citadel and its ilk. A massive army is a powerful thing, once you have it mustered. Still, it is helpful to have a few larger allies that can shoulder a bit more work in the critical early rounds. With the bonus from Boromir, characters like the Veteran and Knight of Minas Tirith can be quite formidable in their own right. The fact that the Veteran becomes even more powerful in the late game is a welcome benefit.
This deck is by no means perfect, and I do find myself continuing to make small tweaks around the edges. On the one hand I hope that the upcoming cycle brings a bit more support for Gondor Army decks, but I can’t shake the feeling that the archetype remains just one or two key pieces away from being more consistently viable. While this deck should fair well in multi-player surrounded by other top tier decks, or easy mode, or against the less difficult recent scenarios, I remain optimistic that Gondor will eventually have its day in the sun.
Boromir (Heirs of Númenor)
Beregond (Heirs of Númenor)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Errand-rider x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Pelargir Ship Captain x1 (The Morgul Vale)
Defender of Rammas x1 (Heirs of Númenor)
Honour Guard x2 (The Wastes of Eriador)
Ithilien Tracker x1 (Heirs of Númenor)
Mablung x1 (The Land of Shadow)
Warden of Healing x3 (The Long Dark)
Envoy of Pelargir x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Ingold x1 (The Wastes of Eriador)
Veteran of Osgiliath x2 (Escape from Mount Gram)
Knight of Minas Tirith x1 (Assault on Osgiliath)
Faramir x2 (Core Set)
Anborn x1 (The Blood of Gondor)
Gandalf x3 (Core Set)
Heir of Mardil x1 (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Gondorian Shield x3 (The Steward’s Fear)
Wingfoot x1 (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
Steward of Gondor x2 (Core Set)
Visionary Leadership x3 (The Morgul Vale)
Ranger Spikes x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Forest Snare x2 (Core Set)
Wealth of Gondor x3 (Heirs of Númenor)
Daeron’s Runes x3 (Foundations of Stone)
Deep Knowledge x2 (The Voice of Isengard)
Sneak Attack x2 (Core Set)
Sword of Númenor x2 (The Dread Realm)
Ambush x3 (The Land of Shadow)
Sword-thain x2 (The Dread Realm)
Mutual Accord x2 (Heirs of Númenor)
Behind Strong Walls x2 (Heirs of Númenor)
For Gondor! x2 (Core Set)
Send for Aid x1 (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Gather Information x1 (The Lost Realm)