Poll Results: Your preferred play style

© Valtteri Mulkahainen/Solent News & Photo Agency

The fall is a busy time for a bear, what with preparing for hibernation and all, but I’ve finally had a chance to poke my head up and do some housecleaning around the hall. Our last poll asked players about their preferred play styles and the results where enlightening. Let’s dive into the numbers, and I can mumble my ursine mumblings afterwards.

Play Style Votes Percentage
Thematic 157 44%
Control 58 16%
Combo 33 9%
Whatever Seastan is playing 26 7%
Aggro 25 7%
Secrecy 23 6%
Tempo 18 5%
Jank 10 3%
RingsDB home page 6 1%
Draft 1 .2%
Winning 1 .2%

When I think about my own answers to this poll, it’s a fascinating reflection of changes in the metagame as well as my own evolving preferences in play style. Whether it was Secrecy, or just low threat decks featuring Spirit Glorfindel hero, the Dwarrowdelf cycle provided a multitude of tools for control play styles. In particular, low cost cards like Daeron’s Runes and Elrond’s Counsel made it much easier for players to slow the game down and control their engagement and quest progress. Location control, another fundament pillar of control style decks, practically came into being with the release of Asfaloth (with apologies to Northern Tracker).

Among other seismic shifts, the Heirs of Númenor and its accompanying cycle were a boon to the Tactics sphere. Encounter cards ushered in an upswing in the Aggro play style, with iconic quests like Into Ithilien forcing players to play at a quicker pace and more aggressive engagement and combat strategies. The Voice of Isengard brought with it powerful effects to punish ally swarms and players who hoarded too many cards in their hands. In particular, heroes like Celeborn and Éomer paired with quests like The Dunland Trap to support a “tempo” play style where allies are continually cycled in an out of play. This provided an interesting contrast to the traditional ally-swarm decks that dated back to Dain Ironfoot.

It’s gratifying to find the hidden gems among player cards, abilities which form surprising combinations or solve previously intractable problems. Of all the play styles, combo can be the most troublesome when it comes to game balance. Still, when it hits that sweet spot of being different enough without making the game too easy, it is one of my favorite styles. Using Círdan and Emery to super-charge my (pre-errata) Caldara deck was a particular delight. Some combo decks, like Rouxxor’s ingenious first turn win are fascinating as a thought experiment and design challenge, but not something I would ever play.

A benefit of a maturing card pool is the diversity of these and other play styles and deck archetypes. As with any game, once you become familiar with the mechanics and core strategies, it’s nice to spice thing up. If I grow tired of crushing orcs under the boots of two dozen dwarves, I can try my paw at a tricksy Silvan deck, where I only ever have three or four allies in play at a time, but I make maximal use of timing and player action windows. Likewise, I’ve found that a combo deck or “jank”-style that isn’t quite top tier can be a blast to take against one of the less difficult quests. The achievement of winning a quest with a sub-optimal but enjoyable deck can be as sweet for me as hyper-optimizing against the hardest saga quests. It also keeps the game fresh, which is important after all of these years.

Thanks to all who participated in this poll, and feel free to expound upon your preferred play styles in the comments below. The latest poll asks a question which is near and dear to many hearts: where should the game go now? We know that Caleb will make a “big announcement” about the game in a few weeks, and I’ve got my own fuzzy thoughts, but I’m curious to hear what other players want that announcement to be. Have happy and safe holidays, everyone!

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3 Responses to Poll Results: Your preferred play style

  1. Kjeld says:

    What’s your take on the 44% of people who prefer a thematic deck? I tend to believe that the development of the card pool, while fleshing out many thematic options, has also counter-intuitively made playing thematic decks more challenging as the difficulty level of quests has ramped up. It’s one of my frustrations with the game, actually, that’s it’s simply so hard to put together a deck that doesn’t thematically clash with itself or the quest. Not that it can’t be done, there are decks on RingsDB and in various blogs that accomplish thematic success, but it requires a whole lot of expertise in deck-building and playing. In particular, this is because different thematic groups generally don’t have sufficiently powerful options to satisfy some of the core game elements — specifically card draw, resource acceleration, and a quickly established board state (i.e. on turn 1 or 2). There are also many coasters in the card pool that seem cool in theme but turn out to be pretty useless in the game outside of very particular circumstances. I should add that I hardly play the game anymore, and haven’t bought new product since the Angmar Awakened cycle. I do follow the news, but find that playing the game is more of a chore and a disappointment than it is a joy. And I think that’s because, for me, it feels more like an optimization puzzle to solve the mechanics than an immersive and exploratory experience in the story.

    • Onidsen says:

      As one of that 44%, who jumped into the game around the middle of the Dreamchaser cycle, I don’t feel like my thematic decks are handicapped, even against modern quests. I primarily run with Gondor or Rohan, but I have been known to enjoy a good Noldor deck as well. All of them feel powerful enough to run against modern quests. I’ve also experimented with dwarves and Silvans, and though I haven’t them against the hardest modern quests, I haven’t felt out of my depth.

      Now, if you’re talking about decks that are themed to the quests they are facing, Authraw has a blog series that goes through each of the nightmare quests with a deck matched to the theme of the quest. It’s covered Aragorn and Arwen secrecy (in nightmare mode, no less!), one of the most exciting Silvan decks I’ve ever played, Gondor Rangers and Traps (against Into Ithilien!), various permutations of Gondor and Rohan, and is just finishing up the Against the Shadow Cycle.

      The series hasn’t gotten to modem quests yet, but it is running nightmare mode, and some of those quests in nightmare mode are as hard or harder than the average modern quest. (Carn Dum excepted, of course – but I expect to see a themed Dunedain or Noldor deck when we get there)

      I guess it all depends on what you mean when you say theme. The term is used by different people to mean different things.

      • Beorn says:

        You are correct, thematic means something different to each player. I agree that trait-centric or “thematic” decks have become more powerful as the card pool has grown. This is a healthy and positive evolution for the game, as I see it. In the early days we had to cobble together what we could to defeat many quests. Then Dwarven decks came into their own with Dain and that was the dominant archetype until the end of the Dwarrowdelf cycle when Glorfindel and Elrond ushered in an early (over) powerful Noldor proto-archetype. It’s nice to see the variety in the modern metagame. Allowing players to build decks that capture the essence of a particular faction or aspect of the stories (e.g. Three Hunters) is one of the greatest strengths of this game. Thanks for your comments!

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