Journey up the Anduin and into Mirkwood

We had a special guest at the Austin LotR group tonight! Dan M., author of the Unfinished Trails blog, joined Terence and I for some epic three player games against The Wilds of Rhovanion. After a false start where my Dale deck refused to draw attachments, we switched out decks and were able to survive our Journey Up the Anduin and find our way after getting Lost in Mirkwood.

After a couple of failed multiplayer attempts last week, against Journey Up the Anduin, I went ahead and designed a deck specifically for that quest. Caleb did a masterful job of making Journey 2.0 a well-balanced quest. Like its Core Set twin, Journey Up the Anduin attacks decks from multiple angles. Survival requires decks which can quest and hold their own in combat, along with bringing timely support tricks. This is easier said than done, because a variety of crippling encounter effects are actively undermining the most common deck strategies.

The Evil Creatures deck features familiar enemies like Goblin Sniper, Hill Troll, and the always obnoxious Wargs. Brutal treacheries bring direct damage, attachment discard, and can make you discard every card from your hand. Lastly, Hills of the Wilderland is an absolutely devastating counter to ally swarm decks. This last card is so powerful that I specifically brought 3 copies of Thror’s Key, just to counter it.

I needed power questing, location control, readying, threat reduction, along with treachery and shadow cancellation. There aren’t many decks which feature all of these categories, so I went back to an archetype I haven’t played in a while. The steep demands of this quest provided my first opportunity to design a post-errata Caldara deck. At first glance, it looks like most typical Caldara decks (now that Fortune or Fate is useless), but there are a few notable differences.

As mentioned above, Thror’s Key is essential for mitigating the terrible threat of Hills of Wilderland. In addition, Weighed Down can quickly wreck any strategy which relies on heroes with multiple powerful attachments. Many modern decks rely on hero attachments, including this incarnation of Caldara with Cirdan and Light of Valinor + Narya. Dan’s Dale deck is also at risk to be Weighed Down, with the aim being to load Brand Son of Bain with King of Dale and a host of low-cost attachments. As a safeguard, I added two copies of Power of Orthanc.

Dan’s Dale deck performed admirably. The Redwater Sentry, loaded with Raiment of War and a Hauberk of Mail, is an excellent ally for multiplayer games. Terence ran a Rohan staging area attack which featured Fastred and Dúnhere and complimented the other two decks well. In one notable round during while we were Lost in Mirkwood, the Lord of Dunharrow used two Spears of the Mark and an Unseen Strike to mow down a Mirkwood Patrol.

Eliminating the larger, high engagement cost-enemies from the safety of the staging area makes the rest of combat much more manageable in multiplayer. This becomes especially important when the quest keeps finding ways to flood the staging area with enemies. The Dale archetype is impressive, so far. As long as you can draw King of Dale, the deck can field several powerful allies, for all facets of the game. As a bonus, it makes  excellent use of previously under-used attachments like Spare Hood and Cloak. We had a blast playing the first two quests of The Wilds of Rhovanion, and I look forward to meeting up with Dan again in the future.

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