Following a discussion on Facebook a few days back, I decided to put together a deck with a starting threat of 37 – the highest possible in the game so far.
The basic idea is fairly straightforward – can the sheer power of these heroes counteract the fact that they have such a high starting threat – most enemies are going to engage straightaway, and the default position is that the game will end after 13 rounds. Therefore, this deck needs to generate plenty of questing power, be able to handle enemies, and generally push through before things get too messy.
Let me start by saying, I’m not a particularly skilled deck-builder. I generally end up with decks that are far too fat to be consistent, or too few allies to survive. Having highlighted those weaknesses, I’m going to do my best to rein them in for this particular build.
Elrond is currently the only hero with a starting threat of 13, so he goes straight onto the team sheet. This leaves 6 other heroes, competing for the remaining two slots: Aragorn (Core), Glorfindel, Aragorn (Lore), Beorn, Thorin, and Theoden.
Whilst undoubtedly a powerful hero, Beorn has major drawbacks in his inability to be targeted by any player cards, or have attachments played on him, this also means that Theoden’s ability would be useless in this deck, aside from targeting himself, so I decided to rule out both of the tactics heroes.
With a starting threat of 37, I thought that threat management was going to be fairly important, but unfortunately none of the 12-cost heroes are from Spirit. Therefore, I wanted heroes who would be able to access multi-sphere options. Aragorn can pay for spirit cards through Celebrian’s stone, so I decided to go for him, along with Thorin, for Narvi’s belt. Loragorn’s ability is simultaneously very powerful and thoroughly underwhelming, as it does potentially let you take 12 off your threat, but I decided to go for the Leadership version, as it increases the chances of getting a 1st-turn Steward of Gondor.
As I’m already running Lore, I’ll throw in 3 copies of Rivendell Minstrel and a Song of Travel. In terms of other cards, 3x Steward of Gondor, 3x Sneak Attack, and 3x Gandalf are an auto-include for any deck I run with leadership in. For lore, Daeron’s Runes is similarly automatic. Lore also has a decent number of cheapish dwarf allies, and I decided to stick a fair number of these in, along with Fili and Kili – in an ideal world, I‘ll play Fili, search for Kili, then exhaust them both and drop another couple of allies for a Very Good Tale. As there are quite a lot of cards that will make this deck truly tick, I decided to throw in the Imladris Stargazer, to fish for cards (Elrond can pay for these, even without sphere-fixing) Lastly, I threw in Sword that was Broken, and a few ancient mathoms, along with a Master of the Forge to fish for them. I thought about we are not idle, but ultimately couldn’t make room for it.
This is what I ended up with:
Ally (24) –
3x Rivendell Minstrel
2x Arwen Undomiel
2x Imladris Stargazer
2x Erebor Record Keeper
2x Miner of the Iron Hills
2x Erebor Hammersmith
2x Master of the Forge
Attachment (13) –
2x Celebrian’s Stone
2x Sword that was Broken
3x Steward of Gondor
2x Light of Valinor
1x Narvi’s Belt
1x Song of Travel
2x Ancient Mathom
Event (14) –
3x Elrond’s Counsel
3x A Very Good Tale
3x Daeron’s Runes
3x Sneak Attack
2x Dwarven Tomb
I’m instantly aware that this isn’t the world’s most powerful deck. It runs a lot of dwarves without Dain, and it has some potentially awkward decisions early on – if you draw your resource acceleration before your sphere-fixing, where do you play it? Whilst I’ve tried to minimise the number of cards which can’t be played straight out of the gate, this deck can still stand or fall by the opening hand – if you start with Celebrian’s stone, Steward of Gondor, Elrond’s Counsel and Light of Valinor, then I could see this punching through some quests fairly powerfully. Ideally I’ll get the mathoms out early on and recycle them with the Hammersmith, although again this is dependent upon some means of playing spirit cards. I’ll post back once I’ve had an opportunity to play-test.
I tried this out on a few different quests, with mixed results. I beat Passage through Mirkwood at the first attempt, although an undefended attack followed by Ungoliant’s Spawn as a Shadow made a real mess of my threat – including sneak attacks, I think Gandalf appeared 5 times in that game. Thankfully the Hummerhorns only appeared on the final round, as engaging them would have resulted in death for a hero.
I also tackled Flies and Spiders, and made it through this, although again, it was only down to repeated Gandalves – I had to swallow a lot of threat to generate extra Baggins resources via the Ring, in order to re-ready characters. I staggered across the line with 49 threat and around 4 damage on my heroes, including Bilbo being a point from death, having been assigned poison by a treachery, and then damage equal to his poison.
The Lonely Mountain seemed like it was going ok, until Smaug went mad and killed all my heroes -I’d foolishly hoped that 3 chump-blockers would be enough for a single round. This happened twice before I gave up – I may revisit it with “Dawn take you all” thrown in, to see whether I can get rid of his shadow card.
I thought I’d manage to defeat the Battle of Five Armies, comparatively comfortably after the last two scenarios. However, whilst clearing up, I realised I’d forgotten to trigger Bolg’s Forced effect, giving Surge to the first Goblin each round. I think I might still have made it through, as there weren’t that many Goblins revealed who would have triggered the surge, but I still can’t really count it as a win.
Overall then, this deck certainly has some uses – With the Fili-Kili combo and A Very Good Tale, it can hit the 5 dwarf threshold quite easily, especially with all the cheap Lore Dwarves out there. Once there is some kind of sphere-fixing, Elrond allows access to Elrond’s Counsel for threat reduction, and it has potential for decent card draw. However, it lacks any really big hitters, and often struggles to finish big enemies off – even if you re-ready Aragorn, and hold Thorin back from the Quest, 6 isn’t enough to finish off a lot of enemies these days. With no Dain on the table, the dwarf-swarm isn’t nearly as overwhelming.
So far, I’d only tried this in solo – multi-player it might do well paired with a full-blown dwarf deck, that could add Dain, some weaponry or power-hitters, and in-built access to Spirit for cancellation. I decided to try Dain, Oin, Gimli. As I was specifically looking for a pair of matched decks, I moved a few cards like Light of Valinor and Arwen over to the support deck, and added things like Legacy of Durin to this one.
After a bit of tweaking I arrived at this:
In many respects, this is a more conventional dwarf deck: staples like We are not Idle and Lure of Moria making the cut, where the last deck didn’t quite have space. It also has far fewer conditional cards – aside from the 2 copies of Elrond’s Counsel which are dependent upon Arwen showing up, everything here can be played immediately if you have resources.
I’m tempted to throw in the ring of Barahir, as it would make Aragorn tri-sphere with Celebrian’s stone, and smooth the resources out even further for the first deck- (thereby reducing the “who do I make Steward of Gondor” dilemma). As Celebrian’s Stone and Sword that was Broken are both Artifacts it gives him the potential to acquire a massive pool of hit-points. I’m also wondering about putting a Burning Brand or two into the first deck, as it now has a couple of potential monster defenders, with Lore icons, and once Arwen shows up, the option for sentinel. I could easily drop a Rivendell Minstrel to do this, as I move away from the song of travel on Elrond, towards the Artifacts on Aragorn for sphere-matches.
The main issue I have, looking at these decks, is that I want to swap Thorin and Dain around, which would mean that Thorin automatically started 2 nearer to that 5 dwarf threshold, and was more likely to start boosting resources early on. It would also allow me to drop Narvi’s belt as I’m unlikely to bother putting resource acceleration on Dain.
However, the problem with this, is that it would drop the threat of the Elrond deck to a rather tame 36 (whilst boosting the other deck to 31) – thus defeating the initial point of the exercise. Already I’m wondering about swapping Elrond out for a Lore dwarf – probably Ori.
Ultimately then, I’m not quite convinced by this deck. It has a lot of good parts, but not many of them really seem to fit together. Elrond is useful for being a unique Noldor (relevant for ‘counsel,’ and for allowing you to pay for allies from multiple spheres, but without any healing, only half his ability is being used. Also, it’s much harder to get action advantage on him than in most Elrond builds, and as I noted in an earlier article, I’m not sure I really approve of giving him Light of Valinor anyway…
Aragorn re-readies when there’s cash available, but without Celebrian’s stone, you don’t always want to put Steward on him, which leaves the deck pulling you in different directions. Obviously, there are a lot of decks where the question of “which card do I play now” depends on the card you’re going to draw next round, but this deck makes that even more of an extreme. For proper solo play, I think I’ll stick with either the dedicated dwarf deck (Dain, Thorin, Ori) an Elrond/Glorfindel combination (the third hero varies) or some kind of mono-leadership willpower surge.
As a last thought on the original deck, it’s particularly useless for pick-up games against someone with Doomed! Or if your regular gaming partner is Brandon from Cardboard of the Rings.
One last thing I wanted to look at, was the idea of having a “reckless” mode – I believe this was discussed briefly on Cardboard of the Rings a while back. I don’t believe they took it much further than “this might be an interesting concept” so I thought I’d try to flesh it out a bit.
If your threat is 40 or higher, you are considered to be in “reckless” mode. Cards which read “reckless X” cost X fewer resources when in reckless mode.
As for the cards themselves, they needed to provide a boost for players – as we’ve seen, stats alone don’t really justify having the ultra-high starting threat – but at the same time, I didn’t want to make them so powerful that they were automatic.
I hope that what I’ve come up with here is powerful, but has enough of a sting in the tail to make you think twice before including it.
What are people’s thoughts? Is this something you’d like to see fleshed out?