Bear Draft v3: Signature Squads

bear_squad

One of most interesting aspects of deck-building in the Conquest LCG is the signature squads. When making a deck, the first decision is which Warlord to use. Warlords are somewhat like heroes in Lord of the Rings LCG. They begin in play, and they constrain the cards that can be  included in a deck. In addition, each Warlord in Conquest comes with signature cards. These are eight cards which must be included in any deck which includes that Warlord. These cards cannot be included in any other decks (without that Warlord), and they support the ability and strategy of their Warlord.

As much as this idea of a signature squad might be intriguing, it doesn’t fit well with traditional Lord of the Rings deck design. First of all, most decks have more than one hero – most often three. Secondly, the idea of limiting a deck’s design by forcing 8 cards (16% of a 50 cards deck) into it would not sit well with most players. With a larger card pool and the potential provided by multi-sphere decks, it just doesn’t make sense to force cards on players. Lastly, there really isn’t a need for something like signature squads. Even in the case of mono-sphere decks, Songs and events like A Good Harvest allow any deck the flexibility it needs to implement most strategies.

While all of these criticisms might apply to traditional deck-building, the area where I can see signature squads making the most sense is in a draft format. One piece of consistent feedback that I received from running the first version of Bear Draft at Gen Con last year was the difficulty in drafting and building a deck with a cohesive strategy. In retrospect, this makes complete sense, but it is often best to see a system in action before you decide how to improve it.

Celebrian's StoneAn example of the challenge to cohesive deck-building is a card like Celebrían’s Stone. In a traditional deck, this card will almost always be included with a version of the Aragorn hero. Granted this card is excellent even in decks without him, but the secondary ability on this attachment makes it a great tool in multi-sphere decks built around Aragorn. However, a player who might have already drafted Leadership Aragorn could be hard-pressed to be able to draft even one copy of Celebrían’s Stone, as this is the kind of highly efficient card which other players will be looking to draft. Two resources for 2 bonus willpower is good in essentially every deck that features Leadership.

This is where signature squads come into play in the latest version of the Bear Draft. The concept is simple, and it should provide some much-needed cohesion and consistency for draft decks. After drafting their hero and players, each player will select their three starting heroes. Then, they may optionally select one of these heroes to be their General. Much like a Warlord in Conquest, a General has its own signature squad. Instead of 8 cards, the signature squad in Bear Draft v3 consists of 6 cards. Instead of these cards being a requirement they are optionally available to include in a deck which features that General.

Galadriel's-Handmaiden-smallThe idea is to give a few extra cards to help flesh out the core strategy of your deck, not to force you to include cards which may not match your overall deck design. To provide an example, let’s say that I choose the following as my starting heroes: Celeborn, Arwen, and Beregond. For the sake of this hypothetical, let’s say that I was able to draft a good mix of Silvan allies among my player cards. Before building my deck, I can choose one of these heroes to be my General. In this example, the choice is an easy one as I want to build a deck around the powerful synergy that Celeborn brings to Silvan allies.

Celeborn-TDT-smallBy choosing Celeborn as my General, I have the option of adding the following cards to my deck: Naith Guide, O Lórien!, and Feigned Voices (see the list of signature squads at the end of this article). Unless otherwise specified, up to two copies of each signature squad card can be added to a player’s deck. Exceptions are for more niche cards, or cards like Black Arrow which have a limit of 1 per deck. These are marked with a (x1) in the list below.

This means that I can add these cards to my deck, and combine them with whatever player cards I have drafted. My minimum deck size is still 40 cards, but I know that 6 of them are directly relevant to the strategy of my chosen General. Because I was able to draft some Silvan-related cards to add to my signature squad, there is an excellent chance that my 40 card deck will play consistently. I might not be able to field a deck where every ally is Silvan, but I can have enough of them to avoid having Celeborn’s unique ability go to waste.

This solves one of the biggest problems with earlier versions of the Bear Draft, which was that is was very difficult to build a solid decks around most archetypes because of the limited availability of critical cards. The same deck-building limitations still apply, so no more than 3 copies of a card can be included in a deck – regardless of whether that card is part of a signature squad. If I happen to draft two copies of Naith Guide, I can only add one of those drafted cards to the two from Celeborn’s signature squad, leaving me with 3 total copies of that card. Signature squads do not let you break basic deck-building rules.

O-LórienAnother advantage to this approach is that is allows me to reduce the number of cards like “O Lórien!” which are included in the main draft pool. While a card like this is essential in a dedicated Silvan deck, it’s narrow focus gives it limited value to other decks. By reducing the number of these kinds of trait and archetype-specific cards in the main draft pool, it leaves more room for general purpose cards which will fit into many kinds of decks. Ultimately, cards like Sneak Attack and Cram – cards with versatility – are necessary to ensure that each player can draft and build viable decks.

This article is the first in a series detailing the latest version of the Bear Draft format, but as signature squads are the biggest change I wanted to cover this concept first. When reviewing the list below, readers will no doubt notice that some heroes have very powerful signature squads. This is by design. Characters like Aragorn, Elrond and Galadriel are very powerful and play important roles in Tolkien’s stories. It is fitting that they should have access to the powerful rings, swords and other artifacts with which they are so closely associated. On the other hand, lesser characters might not be the best choice as Generals, at least for players who care most about making powerful decks.

Free-to-ChooseEven so, I tried my best to make the signature squads thematically appropriate. There are cases where the most powerful combinations where left out of a signature squad in favor of cards which I consider more iconic or thematically appropriate. For those interested in the draft format, or limited formats in general, I am curious to hear feedback on my choices. For some heroes, it proved most difficult to pare down their signature squad to only six cards. With others, especially the lesser-known characters, it was a stretch to come up with a list that made any kind of sense.

You can look forward to a post on the updated player card pool for Bear Draft v3 in the near future. My goal is to find the right mix between the unique challenge of a limited format and the joy which comes from playing a well-crafted deck. Hopefully I can run this updated version of the Bear Draft in the near future, to see how signature squads work in practice. In the mean time, it is a fun exercise to think about which General is your favorite, or which signature squad best fits your aesthetic.

Leadership

Aragorn (Core Set)
Celebrían’s Stone, Sword that was Broken, Roheryn

Théodred (Core Set)
Snowbourn Scout, Heir of Mardil x1, Sneak Attack x1, Gaining Strength

Glóin (Core Set)
Boots from Erebor, Hardy Leadership, Well-equipped

Prince Imrahil (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
Squire of the Citadel x1, Prince of Dol Amroth, Sneak Attack x1, Valiant Sacrifice

Dain Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Ered Luin Miner, Cram, A Very Good Tale

Elrohir (The Redhorn Gate)
Galadriel, Rivendell Scout, Dunedain Warning

Boromir (Heirs of Numenor)
Guard of the Citadel, Visionary Leadership x1, For Gondor!, Grim Resolve x1

Hirluin the Fair (The Steward’s Fear)
Warrior of Lossarnach x1, Knights of the Swan x1, Ethir Swordsman x1, Anfalas Herdsman x1, Lord of Morthond x1, Men of the West x1

Celeborn (The Dunland Trap)
Naith Guide, O Lórien!, Feigned Voices

Erkenbrand (The Antlered Crown)
Snowbourn Scout x1, Warden of Helm’s Deep x1, Armored Destrier x2, The Day’s Rising x2

Halbarad (The Lost Realm)
Weather Hills Watchman x1, Son of Arnor x1, Eldahir x1, Dunedain Mark x1, Descendants of Kings

Amarthiul (The Battle of Carn Dum)
Guardian of Arnor, Sword of Numenor, Feint

Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
Rod of the Steward, Steward of Gondor, Captain’s Wisdom

Elfhelm (Temple of the Deceived)
Ceorl, Armored Destrier, A Good Harvest

Thorin Oakenshield (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Longbeard Orc Slayer, Narvi’s Belt, To Me! O My Kinsfolk!

Balin (On the Doorstep)
Longbeard Elder, We Are Not Idle, Lure of Moria

Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
Bill the Pony, Hobbit Cloak, Taste it Again!

Faramir (The Land of Shadow)
Anborn, Ranger Provisions, Visionary Leadership x1, Ever Vigilant x1

Tactics

Gimli (Core Set)
Legolas x1, Song of Mocking, Arod x1, Citadel Plate

Legolas (Core Set)
Arod, Blade of Gondolin, Hands Upon the Bow

Thalin (Core Set)
Azain Silverbeard, Hail of Stones, Swift Strike

Brand Son of Bain (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
Black Arrow (x1), Great Yew Bow, Skyward Volley, Hour of Wrath (x1)

Boromir (The Dead Marshes)
Captain of Gondor, Horn of Gondor, Horn’s Cry

Elladan (Road to Rivendell)
Rivendell Blade, Elven Mail x1, Rivendell Bow x1, Revealed in Wrath

Háma (The Long Dark)
Spear of the Mark, Foe-hammer, Forth Eorlingas!

Beregond (Heirs of Numenor)
Defender of Rammas, Gondorian Shield, Behind Strong Walls

Théoden (The Morgul Vale)
Guthlaf x1, Deorwine x1, Rohan Warhorse x1, Golden Shield x1, Charge of the Rohirrim

Éomer (The Voice of Isengard)
Westfold Outrider, Firefoot, Quick Strike

Mablung (The Nin-in-Eilph)
Gondorian Spearman, Knight of Minas Tirith x1, Gondorian Fire, Tireless Hunters x1

Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Dunedain Hunter, Legolas, Rohan Warhorse x1, Tireless Hunters x1

Dori (Across the Ettenmoors)
Longbeard Sentry x1, Ring Mail x1, Raiment of War x1, Khazad! Khazad!, Hold Your Ground! x1

Prince Imrahil (The City of Corsairs)
Boromir (The Road Darkens) x1, Captain of Gondor x1, Prince of Dol Amroth x1, Last Stand x3

Beorn (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Landroval, Honour Guard, Close Call

Bard the Bowman (On the Doorstep)
Black Arrow (x1), Great Yew Bow, Straight Shot, Hands Upon the Bow (x1)

Merry (The Black Riders)
Dagger of Westernesse, Halfling Determination, Unseen Strike

Éowyn (The Flame of the West)
Golden Shield x2, Sterner than Steel x2, Battle-fury x2

Spirit

Éowyn (Core Set)
The Riddermark’s Finest, Ancient Mathom x1, Astonishing Speed x1, Ride to Ruin x2

Eleanor (Core Set)
Minas Tirith Lampwright, Blood of Numenor, A Test of Will

Dúnhere (Core Set)
Westfold Horse-breaker, A Light in the Dark, Ride them Down

Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Sam Gamgee, Free to Choose, Courage Awakened x1, O Elbereth! Gilthonial! x1

Dwalin (Khazad-dum)
Zigil Miner x1, Bofur x1, Ever My Heart Rises, Dwarven Tomb x1, Untroubled By Darkness x1

Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
Imladris Stargazer, Light of Valinor, Elrond’s Counsel

Pippin (Encounter at Amon-din)
Wandering Took x1, Hobbit Pipe, Smoke Rings, Elevenses x1

Caldara (The Blood of Gondor)
Emery, Map of Earnil, Fortune or Fate

Idraen (The Three Trials)
Northern Tracker, Warden of Arnor, A Watchful Peace

Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Mirror of Galadriel, Nenya

Merry (The Wastes of Eriador)
Curious Brandybuck, Hobbit Pony, Courage Awakened

Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Miruvor, Steed of Imladris, Elven-light

Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Sailor of Lune, Narya, Elwing’s Flight

Lanwyn (The Thing in the Depths)
Minas Tirith Lampwright x1, Celduin Traveler x1, Rhovanion Outrider, Warden of Arnor x1, Scouting Party x1

Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Blue Mountain Trader, Dwalin, Untroubled By Darkness

Óin (On the Doorstep)
Fili x1, Kili, Blue Mountain Trader x1, Dwarrowdelf Axe x1, Dwarven Axe x1

Fatty Bolger (The Black Riders)
Curious Brandybuck, Wandering Took, A Light in the Dark

Théoden (The Treason of Saruman)
Westfold Horse-breeder, Snowmane, Herugrim

Beregond (The Flame of the West)
Livery of the Tower, Tides of Fate, Desperate Defense

Lore

Denethor (Core Set)
Master of Lore, Palantir, Heed the Dream

Glorfindel (Core Set)
Elrond, Elf-stone, Asfaloth

Beravor (Core Set)
Sarn Ford Sentry, Forest Snare, Distant Stars x1, Expert Trackers x1

Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum)
Rivendell Minstrel, Love of Tales, Peace and Thought

Bifur (Khazad-dum)
Erebor Record Keeper, Thror’s Map, Secret Paths

Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Wingfoot x1, A Burning Brand, Strider’s Path, Expert Trackers x1

Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Imladris Caregiver, Vilya, Lore of Imladris

Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)
Galadhrim Minstrel, Scroll of Isildur, Mithrandir’s Advice

Faramir (Assault on Osgiliath)
Mablung, Ranger Bow, Ranger Spikes x1, Arrows from the Trees x1

Gríma (The Voice of Isengard)
Isengard Messenger, Keys of Orthanc, Deep Knowledge

Haldir of Lórien (Trouble in Tharbad)
Silvan Tracker, Lembas, Noiseless Movement

Rossiel (Escape from Mount Gram)
Leave No Trace, None Return, The Door is Closed! x1, Out of the Wild x1

Erestor (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Guardian of Rivendell, Protector of Lorien, The Evening Star

Galdor of the Havens (The Grey Havens)
Lindon Navigator, Master of the Forge, The Long Defeat

Ori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Erebor Hammersmith, Legacy of Durin, Daeron’s Runes

Bombur (On the Doorstep)
Dori, Healing Herbs, Ancestral Knowledge

Pippin (The Black Riders)
Barliman Butterbur, Robin Smallburrow x1, Fast Hitch, Take No Notice x1

Treebeard (The Treason of Saruman)
Wellinghall Preserver x1, Wandering Ent x1, Ent Draught, Entmoot

Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Anborn, Ithilien Pit x1, Ambush x1, Forest Patrol

Argalad (The Drowned Ruins)
Distant Stars, Ranger Spikes, Expecting Mischief

Neutral

Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Narya, Gandalf’s Staff, Shadowfax

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7 Responses to Bear Draft v3: Signature Squads

  1. First of all, I hit the like button just because the featured image made me laugh. Then I read the article. Though I have yet to try Bear Draft, I have to say that the concept of Signature Squads (I’ll admit I didn’t know about this aspect of Conquest either) in this game is very interesting and makes me want to go out and draft now!

    • Beorn says:

      Ha, I’m glad that others appreciate this image as well. I can tell you from my own experience that drafting LotR might at first sound a bit strange, but it ends up being a ton of fun. I especially like how it forces you to make use of cards which you would not ever consider in your constructed decks.

  2. Anonim says:

    It would have been cool having Strider’s Path with Loragorn.

  3. Anonim says:

    It was only a statement!

  4. Pingback: Bear Draft v3: Havens | Hall of Beorn

  5. Pingback: Bear Draft v3: Card Pool | Hall of Beorn

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