Thanks to an intrepid player in Australia, we finally have the full lists for the four Starter Decks. The cards from Defenders of Gondor, Dwarves of Durin, Elves of Lórien, and Riders of Rohan have also been added to Hall of Beorn card search and the Discord BeornBot. Starter decks are something I suggested several years ago, so it’s nice to see them finally in the hands of players. For many new players, the Revised Core and these Starter Decks will be their first foray into deck-building for the game.
With the sea of content available, one of the biggest challenges for new players is knowing “what to buy next?”. With this article, I will present some adventure packs with player cards which can be used to supplement the Starter Decks. The designers did an excellent job of capturing four distinct archetypes in the design of these decks, and they will offer a wide variety of experiences for players who are still in the process of discovering which play style and deck types they prefer. If you find one of the Starter Decks in particular matches your play style, a few well-chosen packs can give your deck a welcome boost or enhance a sub-theme which was not fully realized, out of the box.
Defenders of Gondor
Leadership Gondor is a swarm archetype. Steward of Gondor is the most powerful form of resource acceleration, so the idea is gain resources and fill the board with Gondor allies as quickly as possible. Then, global boosts like Leadership Boromir, Visionary Leadership, and For Gondor! become incredibly powerful.
Mablung, the main Tactics hero included in the deck, fits more into the Trap theme but he can be swapped out for Tactics Beregond for quests with powerful enemies. Unlike ally swarm, the Trap archetype is more of a control style of play. Rather than focusing on Leadership, Trap decks are heavily Lore with some Tactics, and they rely on the cost reduction of hero Damrod. In my experience, Swarm and Traps don’t necessarily mix well so it’s probably best to pick one theme or the other, rather than trying to create a hybrid.
Fortunately, some adventure packs provide support for both archetypes. The City of Corsairs, for example, provides a powerful hero in Tactics Prince Imrahil as well as useful cards for both swarm (Knight of the White Tower) and Trap (Guardian of Ithilien) archetypes. Flight of the Stormcaller includes Leadership Denethor, one the best heroes in the game, Gondor or otherwise. It also gives Gondor some much needed repeatable card in the form of Rod of the Steward.
Another sub-theme found in Gondor is Valour: card effects and cards which become more powerful when your threat is 40 or higher. The deck includes a few such cards in Pillars of the Kings, Angbor the Fearless, and Soldier of Gondor. This is a fun but risky archetype to play, so look into other Leadership and Tactics cards with valour effects if you want to concentrate on this theme. Just remember to include threat control so an ill-times Doomed effect doesn’t eliminate you.
The Battle of Carn Dûm: Doom Hangs Still (Valour, Quest Control), Hold Your Ground! (Valour, Readying), Favor of the Valar (Valour, Threat Control)
Flight of the Stormcaller: Denethor (Resource Acceleration and Smoothing), Rod of the Steward (Card Draw), Head the Dream (Card Search)
Temple of the Deceived: Armored Destrier (Readying, Shadow Control), Entangling Nets (Trap), Arrows from the Trees (Stating Area Control, Direct Damage)
The City of Corsairs: Prince Imrahil (Ally Mustering), Knight of the White Tower (Champion Ally), Guardian of Ithilien (Trap/Staging Area Control)
Dwarves of Durin
Dwarf decks built around Leadership Dáin also tend to involve ally swarm, though they typically use different means for getting allies into play. While you can of course include a card like Steward of Gondor in a Dwarf deck, this is not a thematic choice. Instead, Dwarf decks typically use events like A Very Good Tale and We Are Not Idle to amass an army of Dwarves. Dwarves tend to be hardier than the men of Gondor, so the kind of chump blocking seen in Gondor (e.g. Squire of the Citadel) is not really seen in Dwarf decks. On the other hand, events like Durin’s Song can combine with the stat boost from Dáin to turn a single Dwarf into a unstoppable force.
Dwarf Swarm decks were a powerful archetype for much of the game, but the Mining sub-theme that was introduced later in the game is my personal favorite. Mining involves effects like King Under the Mountain and Zigil Miner which discard cards from the top of your deck. It might seem risky, putting so many cards into your discard pile, but the pay-off when you hit cards like Hidden Cache and Ered Luin Miner makes it a risk worth taking. A critical hero for the mining archetype is actually the Spirit version of Dáin Ironfoot, so most decks choose one theme or the other.
Elves of Lórien
Silvan Elves are one of my favorite archetypes to play as they are a well-rounded toolbox style archetype which presents multiple interesting decisions to make every round. The nickname which many players have given these decks is Silvan Bounce as they rely on effects which benefit Silvan allies which are entering and/or leaving play. Unlike swarm archetypes such a Gondor or Dwarves, a Silvan deck often does not want all of their allies in play at the same time. Celeborn and Galadriel’s boosts only apply to allies the round they enter play, so Silvan allies become weaker once they’ve been in play for a round. Instead, you want to ensure that at least one ally is entering play each round, while another ally is leaving.
One of the critical pieces of this ally bouncing strategy is the attachment The Elvenking, so players who enjoy this style should definitely consider acquiring the Fire in the Night adventure pack. This pack also includes Thranduil hero and several quality cards to enhance the archetype. Other Silvan allies with useful “toolbox” effects are found scattered throughout the game, but I’ve highlighted a few here. Remember that all allies benefit from Celeborn and Galadriel when they enter play, but other allies like Defender of the Naith benefit when a Silvan ally leaves play.
Riders of Rohan
Rohan has two primary archetypes: ally sacrifice and staging area attack. The starter deck mostly focuses on the ally sacrifice theme, though it does include a few cards to support staging area attack. The starter deck does a good job of covering the ally sacrifice, but those interested in community created content should definitely take a look at the Children of Eorl expansion created by A Long-extended Party. Thengel from that expansion is a perfect addition to this starter deck.
Beyond Thengel, there are some toolbox options of additional allies with discard (sacrifice) abilities. This is one case where the best options are not an adventure pack, but instead saga expansions. The Treason of Saruman provides great additions to a Rohan Sacrifice deck in the form of ally Hama and Helm! Helm!. The Land of Sorrow provides Gamling, which makes the ally sacrifice engine viable without card draw. For staging area attack, The Mountain of Fire brings a strong Leadership version of Éomer with his sword Gúthwinë and one of his trusted lieutenants in Tactics Elfhelm.