When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf, and sap is in the bough;
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow;
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain-air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!
When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade;
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid;
When shower and Sun upon the Earth with fragrance fill the air,
I’ll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair.
When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold;
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!
When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I’ll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!
When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee; I’ll come to thee again!
When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I’ll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!
Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.
Contracts represent a radical and refreshing shift to the metagame; I only wish they had come sooner. Still, we’re spoiled to be given such a dramatic finale to this iteration of the game. While Forth, The Three Hunters has been holding most of my attention these days, I have been thinking about the other contracts. The constraints and benefits of contracts are such that it requires deck-builders to rethink many of their principles and question their assumptions. Just as in life, it is important to be faced with situations where we are introspective and adapt our thinking to new circumstances.
To be honest, when I first saw it spoiled, The Grey Wanderer was not my favorite contract. Starting with a single hero puts any deck at a considerable disadvantage, especially in quests which require a fast start. It is unlikely that we will see more cards in the vein of Strider: specific support for with fewer than three heroes. This means that the pool of viable starting hero choices for The Grey Wanderer will remain limited in size.
Still, there are some intriguing choices. Any of the high threat heroes seem like a natural choice as they are inherently powerful heroes. Moreover, the most iconic characters inevitably come equipped with a plethora of supporting cards. Aragorn, Gandalf, Elrond, and Círdan all seem like natural choices for this contract. Lately, I’m more interested in using contracts to give new life to heroes which I previously found lackluster.
With that as a driving impetus, I set out to make a thematic deck around Treebeard which can hope to be viable for multiple scenarios. The nature of a single hero deck is that it will be a poor fit for some quests, but decks which excel against every quest are less interesting to me, particularly in the context of contract-based design. Observant readers will note that this deck bears a superficial resemblance to an earlier deck I made as a political statement.
The goal is to elevate Treebeard into the upper echelon of heroes, where he has always belonged. It should come as no surprise that Strider is the starting attachment chosen here. Action advantage and additional willpower are essential for our early game survival. Beyond having only one character to start, the biggest handicap of Wanderer decks is gaining only a single resource per planning phase.
Granted, the contract provides resource acceleration, but we must take advantage of our low starting threat to ramp our resources and allies in play. This is where Resourceful and Timely Aid are invaluable tools. As long as it is the first card we play during planning, we can pay for Tactics Ent allies without a matching sphere. Timely Aid can likewise be played without a matching hero, but we must be judicious in or decision making for which card to play.
Timely Aid is ideally used to get Gandalf into play, as quickly as possible. Our low starting threat will mean that we can keep him in play long enough to buy time for our Ents to wake up and be roused into action. The extra threat necessarily to keep Gandalf in play is not to be taken lightly, so we want to use our card draw to find and play as many Secrecy cards as we can, before passing the 20 threat threshold.
Once we have Gandalf and at least one powerful Ent in play, preferably a Wellinghall Preserver, the deck starts to run smoothly. Narya is particularly effective with this version of Gandalf, as he does not exhaust to commit to the quest. It also helps to wake up our sleepy allies, who would otherwise take an extra turn to enter the fray.
Single hero decks are always going to struggle against some quests, especially ones with many effects which exhaust characters. Still, it is pleasantly surprising to see how effective this deck can be, in solo and multiplayer. I’ve made alternate arts cards for this deck, featuring some beautiful art, and you can find the full deck list on RingsDB. I hope that you enjoy Treebeard’s Wanderings, and let me know in the comments what your favorite hero choice is for a Grey Wanderer deck. As always, contact the hall if you want printable copies of these alternate art cards.