As a fan of unique deck designs, the Noldor archetype is particularly appealing. The Erestor hero is probably the most iconic as a foundational piece for Noldor decks as three extra cards at the start of every turn is so obviously powerful. With a plethora of effects that involve the discard pile, the down-side of Erestor is even a strength. In games as in life, the less obvious choices can often be just as fulfilling as the ostentatious ones.
While Erestor holds the attention of many players, and rightly so, there are a few other cards that deserve equal attention – or even more so. As faction-based reducers go, To the Sea, To the Sea! is a thematic and strategic win. The primary mechanic of Noldor decks is discard, and the archetype features powerful unique character across multiple spheres. It is only fitting then, that the reducer for this faction is based on discarding cards – a feat easily accomplished. As important, it can reduce the cost of allies in any sphere, rather than being tied to the sphere of a particular hero.
The other critical cog that turns the Noldor engine is Elven-light. Make no mistake, this is the most powerful card to be released in quite some time. Assuming you have a reliable means for discarding cards (Arwen hero, Éowyn and Protector of Lórien are all good choices – but there are a multitude of others), Elven-light allows you to trade 1 resource for 1 card as many times as you want. At first glance this might seem underwhelming – certainly Lore has more efficient single-use card draw effects. The power of Elven-light comes from the repeatability. Assuming you have resources but don’t like the cards in your hand, you can keep drawing until you have good cards. Presumably you used repeatable resource acceleration to pay for Elven-light to begin with, so you can use that acceleration over the remainder of the game to help pay for all of the good cards that you just drew. When other Noldor effects are actually giving you benefits for for discarding Elven-light in the first place, the true might of the first-born begins to manifest itself.
While it is good to celebrate these new and game-changing additions to the archetype, it’s not as if Noldor decks were entirely bereft of powerful options before these last two cycles. The release of the last of the Elven rings of power only cements the raw efficiency of Elrond and Vilya. Galadriel and Neyna are invaluable for controlling questing – a very underrated aspect of the game. We haven’t had time yet to fully explore the potential of Narya (The Grey Havens) (with either bearer) but it is clear that there are many options for action-advantage with large allies. Still, being able to put the top card of your deck into play for no cost can completely alter the basic economics of the game. The utility of the combo, and of the Elrond hero that supports it, remains unparalleled.
Rather than use new heroes to utilize these powerful Noldor effects, this deck takes advantage of some tried and true heroes. Beyond his fantastic stats, Elrond gives us access to Vilya and unlocks the potential for cards like The Long Defeat. With all Lore heroes, we will use attachments like Vilya and Sword that was Broken to pay for out-of-sphere cards. A Good Harvest also helps in this regard, though for allies we can save up resources on Elrond in a pinch.
Bear in mind the off-sphere needs of this deck when using ally Galadriel, and give preference to attaching cards like Sword that was Broken and Vilya before less important options. Though less thematic, giving Steward of Gondor to Elrond will almost single-handedly solve your problems with non-Lore allies. Still, with resource acceleration and such an abundance of card draw effects, the ultimate goal is to be playing multiple powerful allies at once. Elrond bearing his ring of power certainly supports this premise.
Astute readers will notice the lack of Unexpected Courage in this deck, and with Vilya requiring Elrond to exhaust this is a logical solution. Here we have to take a bit of a side quest and discuss the issue of fatigue. Like many, I built and played an Elrond-Vilya deck back in the days of the Dwarrowdelf cycle. He is one of the heroes in the game that really can do everything. I’m frankly not interested in the strategy so I have intentionally left it out of the deck. For those that disagree, feel free to slot in one or two copies of Unexpected Courage. For our purposes, Light of Valinor is sufficient as it allows Elrond to quest and defend on the same turn, or quest and then use Vilya.
It would seem that without Imladris Stargazer, we will often be using Vilya blind – another strategic mistake for the original Elrond archetype. This deck is designed that you will rarely miss if you find yourself using Vilya without knowing the top card of your deck. Still, we are not without some options for scrying our cards. Ally Galadriel has a nice secondary effect of letting us stack the top 4 cards of our deck, so even if response fails to garner us a powerful item, we may still be able to set the top of our deck with an otherwise costly ally. Again, for those that prefer a more traditional-style Elrond deck, feel free to substitute a few copies of the Stargazer. For this deck I am more interested in the allies and attachments than the lord of Imladris himself.
Speaking of allies, we would be remiss if we did not mention with the lone non-Noldor ally brings to this deck. Ordinarily, Core Set Gandalf would be the obvious choice for a deck of this nature. However, we want to take full advantage of Lore Aragorn’s powerful ability, and the wizard allows us to do just that. The idea is to use the early game (where doomed effects like Deep Knowledge are especially helpful), to establish our critical attachments. In particular, we want to get Vilya, To the Sea, to the Sea! and Sword that was Broken into play but no one attachment is an absolute must for this deck.
Once we have a solid group of allies at our command, we can bring Gandalf into play and reset our threat. At that point there should be very few quests that we cannot manage. Even with Mirlonde’s ability, 30 starting threat is relatively high so this deck will often perform better when paired with an aggressive deck that wants to engage enemies. That will buys us a few critical rounds to get our attachments setup. For a thematic win, try pairing it with any Dúnedain deck which does not rely on Aragorn. Alternatively, something like The Bear’s Revenge should work well when paired with this deck.
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
3x Galadriel (The Road Darkens)
1x Galdor of the Havens (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Lindir (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
3x Rivendell Minstrel (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
1x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
1x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)
2x The Long Defeat (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x To the Sea, to the Sea! (The Grey Havens)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
2x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
Deck built on RingsDB.