‘Why are you so unfriendly?’ said Boromir. ‘I am a true man, neither thief nor tracker. I need your Ring: that you know now; but I give you my word that I do not desire to keep it. Will you not at least let me make trial of my plan? Lend me the Ring!’
—The Breaking of the Fellowship
One of the strengths of this game is how it allows you to recreate – even change – iconic moments from Tolkien’s books. However, scale can be problematic for many traditional decks as you will find your heroes surrounded by dozens of nameless generic allies. We can always hand wave away these extra characters as the background to the epic tales of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but they can at times detract from the theme that a deck is striving to recreate.
For players who play purely for the power and mechanics, the previous paragraph probably sounds like the deranged growling of a mad bear. If you don’t appreciate theme-first decks, this deck is most likely not for you. This deck makes thematic advantage of Forth The Three Hunters contract in that it allows us to focus on the two most important characters from this passage at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring: Boromir and Frodo. Sam Gamgee is included to round out the cast, and he fits the theme and narrative. Once he and Frodo escape down the river.
The full deck list can be found at RingsDB. The sideboard offers a traditional Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Fire build, but I’ve intentionally left that combination out of the main deck as I find it a bit boring. Besides, the relevant passage of the book is much more personal, and it related to the conflict which The One Ring ultimately causes between Frodo and Boromir.
This deck uses the first version of Boromir and the last version of Frodo and these heroes compliment each other perfectly. At first, it might seem odd to use Frodo’s ability on Boromir as the eldest son of Denethor only has 1 printed willpower. However, thanks to Golden Belt, Boromir will easily don 4 restricted attachments in this deck. Once each of our heroes are kitted out with gear and we flip to the B side of the contract, Boromir will be questing for at least 5. Suddenly, being able to ready him after questing seems quite a bit more appealing.
There is a poetry to the push and pull between Boromir’s ability raising our threat and Frodo’s ability lowering it. This deck represents many first for me, from a design standpoint. It is the first deck I’ve built with the player card version of The One Ring. Include me in the camp of players who prefer to use that card thematically. As much as it might be fun to imagine Hirluin the Fair becoming Hirluin the Not-so-Fair after he wields Sauron’s Ring, this is a card feels more appropriate to use thematically.
Fittingly, it is also the first deck I’ve ever made which centers it’s early game strategy around the valour-based effects. That might at first seem crazy, given that The One Ring lowers our threat elimination by 5. However, this deck includes multiple forms of threat reduction. Frodo’s ability is of course the lynch pin to keeping our threat right around 40, but with it we have Favor of the Valar and Secret Vigil. In multiplayer, this deck works great sitting across from a deck featuring Galadriel as one of its heroes.
The highlight of the valour strategy is definitely Pillars of the Kings. If you are lucky enough to find this card in your opening hand, you will often find that you can flip the contract to the B side at the end of the first round. One of my favorite combinations in this deck is using Pillars to draw into Open the Armory, which can then be used for it’s Valour Effect to put an expensive attachments like Ancestral Armor directly into play. Balancing at 40 threat can be precarious, but that fits the precarious nature of this battle of wills between Frodo and Boromir.
The ideal attachment allotment is a blue print of any Three Hunters deck, and first this build it is fairly intuitive. Frodo stats the game with The One Ring, which is restricted. This means that we only need to play 5 more restricted attachments to flip the contract. The cost reduction of A-side combined with zero cost attachments like Round Shield make this easier to accomplish than you might imagine.
Ideally, Boromir has a Golden Belt along with Raiment of War, Ancestral Armor, and a War Axe. If you need a more aggressive version of Boromir, substitute the Armor for a Valiant Sword. For the invincible version of Boromir, equip Gondorian Shield, Ancestral Armor, and Raiment of War. This also requires Golden Belt, but it transforms Boromir into a tank, with up to seven defense and 9 hit points. Not bad, for a deck which eschews Gondorian Fire and Blood of Númenor.
For Frodo, Red Book of Westmarch is the perfect compliment for his costly ability as it provides resources acceleration and fills a restricted slot. Beyond that, Celebrían’s Stone is another good option. In this deck, it serves as a sort of proxy for Phial of Galadriel, as there is no version of that card outside of Saga campaigns. Unless you really need the cancellation provided by The Master Ring, you will usually add Power of Command to your hand on setup. Between this, Celebrían’s Stone, Strider, Frodo will easily quest for more than 10 once you flip the contract.
The ideal assortment of Attachments on Sam depends on the quest. An attacking version of Sam loads up with Daggers of Westernesse. On the other hand, the gardener can be a stout defender, particularly against enemies with high engagement cost. In that case, load him with The gardener with Ancestral Armor, Gondorian Shield, Round Shield, Ring Mail, or Armored Destrier.
Some of the inclusions are purely for theme, and serve little purpose to the mechanics of the deck. A prime example is Horn of Gondor, which plays a critical role in the narrative of this chapter but does essentially nothing for a Three Hunters deck where you (hopefully) never lose characters. Still, it is a Restricted attachment which can be held by any heroes, so it’s not completely useless. Cards like Round Shield and Gondorian Shield are included to help flip to the B side of the contract quickly, feel free to replace them with more powerful attachments as necessary.
I quite enjoyed using the contract to help design a thematic deck to fit the narrative and I hope that you enjoy this snapshot of a very specific passage from The Lord of the Rings. Please contact the Hall if you are interested in printing your own version of the deck. I wish you all safe and happy holidays, and many wondrous adventures in Middle-earth!