LOTR LCG: The Great Wall of Endless Text

Currently, my main gaming focus is on Lord of the Rings the card game. I feel the need to rant and rave about my strategic and mental transgressions and figure it is better to not clog up the forum with it.
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Deck-building Manifesto Featuring Hero Rankings + Deck-building Ten Commandments

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I was very excited about Heirs of Numenor. I was excited about the day that Gondorian reinforcements would ride in allowing the race of men to be properly represented in LOTR TCG. I was excited to simply get more cards! But are the Gondorians up to task? With the game having as many cards as it has now, there are always more tricks to discover. So I've decided to make some meta-reflections after awaking from my recent deck-building coma.

It has been nearly two months since my last deck-building binge. Back in the day of weekly spoilers, reworking my decks was a constant addiction spawning a deck reshuffle every couple of weeks or so. As of the past two releases, FFG dumps the cards on me wholesale which triggers the inevitable relapse into deck-building analysis paralysis. It is a very good thing that the spoilers came out right near thanksgiving. It was just in time to allow me time to focus on what is really important without getting myself fired (I am lucky that my family is largely supportive of my addiction). After 4 days of shuffling hero combos around on paper and in my head I finally settled on the approach. I can’t possibly hope to recreate all of the madness, but I can say that I actually wrote down on paper 44 different hero combinations for the 6-7 deck slots I was trying to fill. I had run 6 decks previously, and figured that with Gondor there were probably enough cards to go to 7 decks without going overboard on proxies or thinning the decks too much.

But let me take a step back again and state my general intentions when I build decks:
1. I build general purpose decks that are not targeted towards any particular scenario.
2. I try to make the decks self sufficient
3. I try to allow the decks to work with each other such that most deck combos can be used
4. The more decks the better as it provides more choices when playing
5. I try to minimize proxies

So when it comes time to play quests there are a bunch of pre-made decks ready to go. We just pick the ones we feel like playing and play. Also, we play quests blind the first time. So while I have the player cards for Heirs of Numenor, I know very little about the quests. I usually don’t bother to read the encounter set spoilers.

Additionally, I realized that over time I have constructed a variety of rules by which I deck build. It is pretty easy to say to yourself, “hey this group of cards will do cool stuff together”, but one off card synergies don’t make a full deck. These are the key guiding principals that keep me on task towards creating a deck that “works”.

Deck Building Ten Commandments:

1. Thou shalt have enough willpower to quest at 4 or 5 first turn. Furthermore I want to do this such that I have a hero to spare for defense. Hence I usually want two heroes that have a combined questing of 4 or more. This protects you from taking on a ton of threat first turn on a failed quest.
2. Thou shalt have some method to reduce threat. Return to Mirkwood makes this required, but it is incredibly useful on all quests for both engagements and for preventing loss due to threat.
3. Thou shalt be able to battle enemies. Kind of a duh, but it is pretty important. Much of my strategic machinations center around constructing systematic ways to clear enemies.
4. Thou shalt amass additional questing power beyond the initial set of heroes. There must be willpower reinforcements of some kind sprinkled prominently throughout a deck or you risk falling behind the location/threat curve. Speaking of curves . . .
5. Thou shalt power curve. In general, I strive to include some kind of key economic advantage to every deck which drives an accelerated power curve rather than just depending on drawing 1 card and spending 2-3 resources a turn. Very few card synergies are strong enough to offset the power of simply playing more cards or more powerful cards. I find A Very Good Tale to be an exceptionally low footprint way to insert an accelerated power curve into a deck. Another key element of power curving is playing permanents (attachments + allies) rather than events. Permanents improve your future turn capabilities, events generally do not unless they have a profound effect on the board. So when in doubt, choose the permanent.
6. Thou Shalt use A Test of Will. Every deck with Spirit gets 3 A Test of Wills. Most decks should have Spirit. A deck control deck is a potential option to violate this rule, but otherwise you are completely exposed on some quests.
7. Thou shalt have a starting threat of less than 30. This rule has progressively gotten more negotiable with one of the best reasons (hill troll) left back in Mirkwood. And, while Smaug the Magnificent presents a recent motivation, I could see removing this rule at some point or at least altering it to a more general concept that a lower starting threat is better. But I certainly continue to evaluate starting threat strongly in my deck construction.
8. Thou shalt be prepared for shadow effects. There are lots of ways to do this: direct shadow cancellation, attack cancellation (feint), direct damage (kill the bastards before they attack), and super defenders. Having excess defense and hit points on a defense at least protects you from attack boosting shadow effects.
9. Thou shalt have at least 1 hero with 5 hit points. This prevents hero loss against undefended attacks with big attackers like Wolves from Morder or Striking Tentacle as well as nasty treacheries like Gollum’s bite or a Foe from Beyond. I generally count Frodo as a solution to this as well given his special ability.
10. Thou shalt minimize and/or find a use for dead cards. I hate looking at a hand full of cards that I can’t use. This means that I am ruthless about narrowing down how many uniques I have in a deck. It means that situational event cards are rarely included. It means if I must have many duplicate unique cards, I’ll try to include a card discarding effect to make better use for them (Eowyn, Hama, Protector of Lorien, Trollshaw scout, Erestor, Daeron’s Runes).
11. Thou shalt consider thematic integrity of the deck. This is a bonus commandment that I use as a tie-breaker. I am sure that for some this is rule number 1, but you are definitely talking to a Boromir deck builder here.

In my effort to allow decks to generally work together, it is very important to not have overlapping heroes. I bring this up because hero alignment is probably the most restrictive portion of deck-building. So to frame my thinking on this, I’ve rated every hero according to two facets: Strategy is the rating of how much the card creates strategies or synergizes with certain strategies in the game. I generally include combat worthiness, economic advantages, and special powers in this bucket. The second category is Glue. This is the rating of the hero in its ability to fill out a hero grouping. Key aspects include having a lower threat, higher willpower, and, to some degree, the sphere with the following ranking (Spirit, Lore/Leadership, Tactics). Spirit is a heavily needed sphere, often you just need a spirit hero to fill out a hero combo. Tactics on the other hand either can be ignored or is already built into the strategy. I’ll rate on a scale of 0 to 10.

Hero rankings

Starting from the bottom:
32. Eleanor Strategy(0), Glue(3) – Someone has to be at the bottom. I know there are some that swear by Eleanor’s ability, and I freely admit that I undervalue it partially because I rarely play with more than 2 players, but I hate the fact that it has no direct effect on the card economy. Her being one of the weakest combat heroes in the game with no synergies allows me to take full advantage of the 0->10 strategic scale. As glue, she is low threat in a high value sphere which means something, but not enough to save her from the depths of the hero rankings.
31. Dwalin Strategy(2), Glue(2) – Dwalin has decent combat statistics, but nothing remarkable. His ability is possibly the weakest in the game with it literally being useless on around 40% of the quests. He does get some modest strategy points for dwarven synergies which can’t be disregarded. In particular, I find he is the only dwarf hero I actually want to bother equipping with weapons, but that is personal preference. He is very weak glue as his questing and threat leaves a lot to be desired, particularly for a Spirit hero.
30. Elladan Strategy(3), Glue(2) – I have always wanted to use the so called "Ninja Twins". Their strategy is too resource hungry for my liking and they are extremely hard to glue together in a deck. Starting with Tactics + Leadership is generally how I try to avoid building a deck. Ultimately I find I need multiple defenders way more than I need multiple separate attacks, so Elladan gets the short end of the ability lottery here. A splash of Noldor synergy and his brother saves Elladan from the being strategically bankrupt. He could be good glue with his decent questing/starting threat ratio (for tactics), but the restriction of having Elrohir is a huge limitation.
29. Boromir (Leadership)Strategy(5), Glue(1) – I was so excited when Boromir was spoiled. “Global” effects are the type of thing you should get excited about in this game since they tend to have far reaching implications. But in this case, the options just aren’t that great. Hopefully this will improve in the future, although I was reminded when trying to build a Gondor deck just how difficult it is to build with Boromir since he is nearly bankrupt in the Glue department. His fighting statistics are good, but not good enough that I want to depend on him, and he has almost no synergies to assist.
28. Dunhere - Strategy(4), Glue(2) – Dunhere presents a niche strategy that focuses on attacking the staging area which is interesting and fundamentally different from other options. I have always found this obnoxiously difficult to pull off properly largely because Dunhere is such a pain in the ass to build around. Achieving decent questing along with the support he needs to do significant amounts of damage is challenging all while keeping your threat low to prevent the enemies from slipping out of the staging area before you smite them. Note that despite spirit being the most sought after sphere, it features some of the worst heroes in Dwalin, Eleanor, and Dunhere. There are some strong heroes on the other end of the spectrum, but the lack of depth here means that future introductions of Spirit heroes could be quite refreshing from a deck-building standpoint.
27. Boromir (Tactics)Strategy(5), Glue(1) – I know there are some huge supporters of Boromir out there. I suspect that as Gondor synergies grow that the Tactics version of Boromir will actually end up being the star instead of the Leadership version. But for the moment I find Boromir not compelling to deck build around. Although, I do recognize that if managed right, he can be a true battle stud with his readying ability in combination with attachments (weapons, armor, dunedain marks). But you have to build around him due to his high threat, low questing, and sphere.
26. Prince Imrahil Strategy(4), Glue(3) – Another hero that I see the strategy for, but I haven’t used much. I think the discardable Rohan ally synergy is interesting, but it is too card hungry for my taste. Of course any quest with difficulty is going to find a way to kill your allies anyway, but often this isn’t at a controlled rate that will allow you to optimize Imrahil’s ability. He does have decent questing and resource plentiful sphere, so it is possible that he is the right guy to fill out a deck in some cases, even with his relatively high threat.
25. ElrohirStrategy(5), Glue(2) – I really like Elrohir (assuming he is defending at 3). The strategy is so simple: put an in sphere Steward of Gondor and Dunedain Warning on him and defend all attacks efficiently. Further optimize with attack boosters since Elrohir can do an additional attack after defending (assuming you can afford it). Rivendell Blade is a great weapon synergy to facilitate this. It all sounds good, except I generally want to use my resources to buy things. And he has that inconvenient dependency on Elladan. And while the pair conveniently achieves my 4 minimum questing standard, it seems a bit of a waste to use the “Ninja Twins” simply for questing. So these guys usually get cut.
24. Beregond Strategy(6), Glue(1) – One of the few heroes in the game that are optimized for their purpose. Beregond is a stud defender out of the box, and he is designed to facilitate an expansion of his studlyness with attachments. Hopefully at some point we’ll get a piece of armor that is Gondor compatible and similar to Ring Mail. Nothing against the citadel plate, but I’d use Ring Mail instead if I could. Although, clearly you have to build around him as he provides little else beyond defense. But I think it is worth it. Although I worry that if there aren’t expanded Gondor synergies, he is going to get cut for more subtle approaches to defending attacks since Tactics hero slots in my decks are so precious.
23. Legolas Strategy(6), Glue(2) – Legolas has a lot of synergies with him being ranged, silvan, and Tactics making him an interesting hero that commonly sits right on the bubble of making it into my decks. His indirect questing is really neat but also can be a waste of an ability on some quests. If you could count on his ability consistently triggering every round, it would be hard to not include him and his Glue rating would go up.
22. Beorn Strategy(8), Glue(0) – Beorn is clearly incredible when it comes to fighting. He single-handedly presents the safest turn 1 with regards to dealing with enemies. This by itself justifies a massive strategy rating. And while he in theory should have no synergies, he does have a few given that Song of Mocking works with him (Dori as well). But you would be insane to factor Beorn into your questing plans, and his 12 threat in Tactics makes him as un-gluey as possible.
21. Aragorn(Leadership)Strategy(6), Glue(3) – Sword that was broken by itself is a strong argument to include Aragorn. He single handedly provides a solution to fantastic mid/late game questing. Of course Faramir is a much cheaper way to achieve this. There are other cards as well (Rivendell Bow, Celebrian Stone, Blood of Numenor) that Aragorn can take advantage of. All in all he is a solid battle hero. His ability is more balanced (questing + fighting) than Elrohir, and more predictable/dependable than Imrahil.
20. DenathorStrategy(5), Glue(4) – Yet another hero that doesn’t have as much respect from me as he probably should. He has the potential to be a great defender (although the 3 hp is weak), but there are many other superior options to build defenders around. His peek ability is fantastic, but not nearly as good in multi-player. For the moment the Gondor synergy doesn’t give him much (with the interesting and thematic exception of Blood of Numenor). For the sake of having a viable Gondor deck some day, I hope he gets powered up in future expansions. His low starting threat does save him to some degree, but he has much more gluey competition from dwarves that are also in sphere.
19. Thalin Strategy(6), Glue(4) – Thalin is the only hero that provides direct damage naturally in the game. This by itself is powerful, and he single handedly counters numerous cards (crows in particular). This effect can be further amplified with additional direct damage and I have often built my attack/defense strategy around this concept. Unfortunately, it is a bit brittle as things can slip through your direct damage defenses if you are not careful. Enemies added to the staging area outside of the quest phase are the bane to Thalin. But Thalin is also a Dwarf which is by itself a powerful strategic synergy. His low threat and potentially decent questing (due to Dain) makes him one of the best Glue options in Tactics.
18. Brand Strategy(5), Glue(5) – I think there is an argument that Brand is the most versatile and generally useful Tactics hero in the game. He is an affordable 2 quester at 10 threat, and his being a ranged attacker with good attack power makes him extremely valuable in combination with his power. If you are planning a pair of decks that work closely together, Brand can be an incredible asset synergizing extremely well with numerous heroes and allies (Elrond, Beravor, Denathor, Dain, Gildor, Henamarth . . .). If you build decks in isolation, the case is not as strong and he tends to become yet another Tactics hero that I’d like to use but can’t find a place for.
17. Bilbo Strategy(7), Glue(3) – Guaranteed card draw right from the start is very interesting, particularly if you are playing single player. Also those little hobbits have a lot of things going for them (Ring Mail + Fast Hitch in particular). Add on the Burning Brand synergy and you’ve got one of the better stud defender combos for a standard set of enemy attacks. This does require some hardware to be effective as he is quite fragile at the start, and he doesn’t do much else. It also doesn’t help that there are 3 quests that he is disqualified from (Hobbit OHaUH), with possibly more to come in the next “Saga” expansion. Plus, I think there are better options for card draw and better options for a super defender.
16. Gimli Strategy(6), Glue(4) – Gimli provides a nice packaged solution to getting attack strength on the board, and the Dwarf synergies are strong. My main issue is that I think Gimli has been lapped by another hero (Beorn) with the key exception of questing. And 2 questing dwarves are quite common. If I want to put together truly absurd dwarf based damage, I no longer look to Gimli. Erebor Battle Master is the choice. Gimli suffers from being able to do multiple things well, and nothing that he does is unique and irreplaceable. This is a dangerous qualification in a sphere with so many stout battle heroes.
15. Hama Strategy(9), Glue(2) – Hama presents a completely different approach to doing those standard attack/defenses that we are used to, and the list of synergies grows. Repeatable Feint is still probably the strongest options albeit a bit resource/card hungry. But being able to reuse goblin cleaver, foe hammer, and quick strike are also nearly as valuable. He definitely needs some help, but with the right events in hand, Hama can hold down the fort as early as first turn.
14. Aragorn(Lore) Strategy(8), Glue(3) – Shares the strategic advantages of his Leadership counterpart, but turns it up a notch with a great ability. Having guaranteed threat reduction available is an amazing asset that can be key to multiple strategies – dropping your threat for secrecy, abusing the wandering earendil strategy, and managing threat hungry cards like Gandalf, Frodo, and Boromir. High threat means low glue, but he can still be counted on for decent questing. He presents some very interesting and unique options. Yet he is always on the bubble for me because I don’t feel like I am getting full value for his starting threat. He is solid as a questor, attacker, and defender, but excels at none of them.
13. Thorin Strategy (5), Glue(6) – Thorin combines top notch questing, resource generation, dwarven synergies, and 5 base hit points into a very solid choice. Getting 3 (or 4 willpower with Dain) makes him very strong for rounding out a hero bunch. Thorin’s main issue is that he shares the same sphere with Dain who is a much stronger choice to represent Leadership for dwarves. This keeps him in the second tier. While his high questing can make him a good choice to round out a deck, his high threat often makes that challenging.
12. Glorfindel(Lore)Strategy(6), Glue(5) – With Light of Valinor, Asfaloth, and Rivendell Blade, Glorfindel has some very strong synergies available to him. While his ability leaves a bit to be desired, particularly now that Warden of Healing is available, his high questing helps the hero math. Honestly, until now, I have barely given him a second look since his lower threat doppelganger showed up. And it is hard to imagine the scenario where I choose the Lore version
11. Eowyn Strategy(1), Glue(10) – The segregation into two ratings hints at why there is wide ranging disagreement on Eowyn’s value. From one perspective, she is nearly strategically bankrupt offering little more than a way to dump cards (which is a useful thing in some cases). From the other side, she is often the solution to allowing numerous hero combinations work since she can essentially handle the questing component on her own. Even more, she scales with the number of players if players are willing to discard. This is immensely valuable the first couple of turns where you may be able to hold back both of your other heroes for attack/defense. At the same time, I feel like I’ve failed whenever I’ve constructed a strategy that is dependent on Eowyn balancing it out. I find that there is usually a deeper and more interesting solution available.
10. BeravorStrategy(6), Glue(6) – While not nearly as overpowered from the days of her UC abuse, Beravor is still one of the best ways to secure card draw while still being versatile enough for attack, defense, and questing at a reasonable threat.
9. GloinStrategy(6), Glue(7) – Still my first love amongst heroes in LOTR tcg. I find Gloin tantalizing as a resource engine even if it is a tad flimsy. That and his dwarven synergies continue to bring me back over and over again in an attempt to better utilize him in a deck. He consistently rates ahead of Thorin for me due to his more economical starting threat and the possibility of more extreme abuse of his ability.
8. Ori Strategy(5), Glue(8) – With cards like Erebor Record Keeper and the plenitude of dwarven heroes, it is not particularly difficult to get Ori’s ability to activate assuming that your allies are not being wiped out. But outside of this, Ori offers little in the strategy department as he is second only to Eowyn in ineffectiveness in battle (most notably on defense). But the questing is solid, affordable, and Dwarf boostable.
7. Elrond Strategy(10), Glue(3) – Elrond is almost in a league of his own strategically. He is one of the best defenders in the game, plus he synergizes with Vilya to offer a unique economic option. Hence you can achieve a power curve quite easily by including him and 3 Vilya’s in a deck. On the downside, he has the fattest initial threat in the game that can severely limit who you can team him with despite his 3 questing.
6. TheodredStrategy(8), Glue(7) – Theodred is the most reliable source of resource acceleration in the game. Even better, it is versatile and can be applied much easier to other spheres other than Leadership (unlike Thorin and Gloin). He also has the lowest threat in Leadership often making him the choice to achieve certain starting threat targets. The most notable example is running 3 hero secrecy with Glorfindel and a 7 initial threat hero. This gives access to leadership secrecy cards (most importantly Timely Aid) without giving up a hero slot.
5. Nori Strategy(7), Glue(8) – Having threat reduction in the bag at the beginning of the game is a powerful thing. Of course it is dependent on you having a plenitude of Dwarves on hand, but that is generally not too hard to achieve. Add on to that, he is a rather decent defender who could be made better by utilizing dwarven synergies (hardy leadership, boots from erebor, ring mail). Or you could use him as an economical quester who shines even more with Dain on the board. Plus he is in the Spirit sphere. I actually overlook how good this card is because I spent very little time analyzing it. It just didn’t take long to realize it was a must play. It is an auto add for any dwarf based strategy.
4. Frodo Strategy(7), Glue(9) – Frodo is another hero that I have always been partial to. Strategically, he can be deployed as a stud defender using his synergies with ring mail and fast hitch. Additionally, his ability to apply damage to threat is a nearly unmatched get out of jail free card for a whole variety of nasty things the encounter deck can throw at you. In some ways, I view Frodo as coming with Shadow cancellation since I know that if I am blocking with Frodo, no matter what happens he is almost certainly safe (with a few notable exceptions . . .). Additionally, he packs solid questing at a rock bottom initial threat in spirit making him one of the most sought after heroes to fill out a party. Frodo is often a more interesting choice for a deck than Eowyn and makes numerous additional strategies available if you can afford the loss of some questing.
3. Bifur Strategy(6), Glue(10) – Bifur’s resource moving ability opens up a lot of options in deck-building as it makes Lore cards much more accessible even if the sphere is under represented. Suddenly those 3 cost Lore cards can be played turn two (Rivendell Minstrel in particular) with only 1 Lore hero. Even Gildor and Haldir are plays accessible without needing to save money for half the game. On top of that, he is the lowest threat hero from Lore, and has solid questing. His dwarven synergies can improve that or possibly turn him into a stud blocker with ring mail and burning brand. Furthermore, Bifur has little competition in the roles that he plays. I find myself wanting to put him in numerous decks and having to change my fundamental deck strategy around because he is not available.
2. Glorfindel(Spirit) Strategy(6), Glue(10) – I think it is unanimous that this is one of the best hero cards. He has numerous synergies like his Lore counterpart, while being the best glue character in the game. I think you could make a reasonable argument that Glorfindel is an upgrade over every other Spirit hero in the game in any deck. Of course, you can only have one Glorfindel out at a time, so you have to figure out where on the table he will sit. Glorfindel and Bifur are the heroes I shuffle around the most trying to find where they are most needed.
1. Dain Ironfoot Strategy(10), Glue(7) – Finally, we get to the king. Dain’s ability is incredible, and it is only getting better as they release more dwarves. While his threat is high and he has poor questing, the fact that he boosts other’s questing means that if he is paired with two other dwarven heroes, he essentially can quest at 2 for free without exhausting. His boosting of other dwarves in battle is quite useful, but not nearly as much as his innate ability to absorb attacks. Given his initial fighting prowess and dwarven status, he is a great hero to pile on attachments (dunedain warnings or ring mails) to create an impenetrable barrier. All hail Dain!

Obviously these rankings are highly subjective, so let me know in the comments below about where I am wrong here and why.

Deck List

Proxies with 2 core sets are down to 11 A Test of Wills, 2 Stewards, and 2 Sneak Attacks. Although, I am very close to moving Warden of Healing into the “ok to proxy” category.

Dain Dwarf Deck

In many ways I have squashed down my pair of dwarf decks into a single deck. Dain teams with the best dwarf hero powers to focus on playing low cost dwarves. The warnings go on Dain to make him indestructible. EBM is included despite the lack of access to Tactics. He can be put in play by a discard + stand and fight or you can hope for drawing him on A Very Good Tale. EBM is key to having boss killing attack power, otherwise this deck is a tad flimsy in the killing department especially if you need to exhaust Dain to defend. EBM can be discarded randomly through a Zigil Miner usage (guess 1 or 2, both are about 25% chance per card draw) or through Daeron’s Runes. I have recently learned to love using Cram in this deck as a quick start option that can be used again with Erebor Hammersmith recalling the card, but I couldn’t find a way to slip it in this time. Cheap dwarves and possibly a legacy of durin are the ideal early draws unless you need to power up Dain to defend against a particular threat. We are Not Idle + Kili or Fili makes a fantastic first turn hand depending on your first round questing needs. Exhaust Nori and Ori to put resources in the right place to play Kili and Fili. Ori’s card draw will trigger second turn with a modest cost of 2 will power on the first turn questing (questing with Kili and Fili instead of Nori and Ori). If A Very Good Tale is also in hand, you can risk your first turn further by exhausting Kili and Fili to put even more allies in play.

Hero (3)
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) x1
Nori (OHaUH) x1
Ori (OHaUH) x1

Ally (26)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
Bofur (TRG) x2
Erebor Battle Master (TLD) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
Fili (OHaUH) x2
Kili (OHaUH) x2
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Zigil Miner (KD) x3
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x3

Attachment (6)
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x1
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x2

Event (18)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
A Very Good Tale (OHaUH) x3
Daeron's Runes (FoS) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x3
We Are Not Idle (SaF) x3

Beorn, Dwarves, and Gandalf

The “other” dwarf deck takes a bit of a detour from what I have done lately. This deck will work very well with the Dain deck, but it stands on its own as well. Beorn provides early turn safety while a Gloin/heal economy is set up. The money is primarily targeted at spamming Gandalf with sneak attack + Born Aloft. Also the resources can be fed over to Bifur (through Bifur’s power) to load up for Longbeard Map-Maker boosting. The mulligan should target a Song of Mocking or a Rivendell Minstrell to fetch a Song of Mocking for early play on Gloin. Gloin can then soak the damage/resources from a defending Beorn. Dori also presents an option to protect Beorn or Gloin from unexpectedly large damage. Boots of Erebor, Hardy Leadership, and Ring Mail are all available to boost Gloin’s hit points to handle attacks better (either directly or through Song of Mocking). The Steward goes on Bifur to help crank out Lore cards and power up Longbeard Map-Maker. Obviously this deck lacks Spirit and hence A Test of Will so it is vulnerable to treacheries. Gandalf play is needed to keep the card draw in line with the resource accumulation if everything is going as planned.

Hero (3)
Beorn (OHaUH) x1
Bifur (KD) x1
Gloin (Core) x1

Ally (27)
Dunedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x1
Rivendell Minstrel (THFG) x3
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x1
Daughters of the Nimrodel (Core) x2

Attachment (17)
Boots from Erebor (KD) x1
Self Preservation (Core) x2
Song of Mocking (TDM) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Born Aloft (CatC) x3
Ring Mail (TLD) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x2
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x1

Event (6)
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Hail of Stones (RtR) x3

Elves, Elrond, and Aragorn

I switched Elrond over to commanding elves with Aragorn. There are a lot of Lore cards in this deck and Master of Lore is intended to be used to help pay for them. Spare Hood and Cloak can be used to ready Master of Lore so that his power can be used twice, so a single early play of MoL can result in a rapid playing of multiple Lore allies. Standard Elrond tricks apply using Vilya, Master of the Forge, and Imladris Stargazer to optimize your economy. Miruvor and Spare hood and cloak are used to ready Elrond for additional actions. If a spare hood and cloak ends up on Elrond, use a Miruvor to get it off effectively recharging the effect. Another neat trick is if you have two Spare hoods and Cloaks in play with Arwen, you can swap them every turn with another ally (like a stargazer) and allow Arwen to use her power twice. Sword that was Broken is to be played with Vilya as a mid-late game quest boost. If you draw it in hand, Gildor can put it back in the deck. Perma-Gandalf is intended to be kept in play. Aragorn’s power can of course be used to fix the threat problems that Gandalf creates. Burning Brand can be used to make a solid defender out of Aragorn, Gildor, or Elrond. I still long for the day that the game gives us an elven character with cross racial synergy that would really pull an elven deck together.

Hero (3)
Aragorn (TWitW) x1
Elrond (SaF) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1

Ally (29)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Gandalf (OHaUH) x2
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Lorien Guide (Core) x2
Master of the Forge (SaF) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x2
Master of Lore (HoN) x3
Bofur (TRG) x1

Attachment (18)
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2
Asfaloth (FoS) x2
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Miruvor (SaF) x2
Protector of Lorien (Core) x2
Vilya (SaF) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x1
Spare Hood and Cloak (OHaUH) x3

Event (3)
A Test of Will (Core) x3

Beregond + Eagles

Beregond handles early defenses. Power him up with a Citadel Plate if you can. Although the primary long term goal is to equip him with a Steward of Gondor and/or Horn of Gondor so that he can crank out eagles. Errand Rider also allows for resource shifting over to Beregond. UC goes on Beregond to further abuse his excellent blocking ability on all boards. Line up powered up Eagles of the Misty Mountains for mid-late game combat as well as Support of the Eagles for even better defense from Beregond or even a late game attack. This deck does not have a 5 hp hero until a citadel plate has been played at which point it should be quite sturdy to most attacks.

Hero (3)
Eowyn (Core) x1
Theodred (Core) x1
Beregond (HoN) x1

Ally (27)
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Faramir (Core) x1
Landroval (AJtR) x2
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
Radagast (AJtR) x2
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Rider of the Mark (RtR) x2
Eomund (CatC) x1
Errand Rider (HoN) x3

Attachment (11)
Citadel Plate (Core) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x2
Horn of Gondor (Core) x1
Celebrian's Stone (Core) x1
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2

Event (12)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x1
Campfire Tales (THfG) x3
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x3
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x2

Hama and Direct Damage Defense

This deck uses standard Hama tricks particularly with Feint, but it also intends to use defense as the best offense. Equip a Gondorian Spearman with a Spear of the Citadel, and then get a Goblin Cleaver in hand. Any enemy with 4 or less HP or an Orc with 5 or less HP will go down without ever resolving an attack. Hama can then attack another enemy to recharge this defense. Ravenhill Scouts are meant to be used to aggressively shift around progress tokens generated by the Blades of Gondolin on Hama. The blades are needed to use Foe Hammer and Goblin Cleaver, although a Spear of the Citadel is a backup option if a Blade cannot be located. An ally can be discarded with Hama and resurrected for cheaper play using Stand and Fight with Good Meal.

Hero (3)
Beravor (Core) x1
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Hama (TLD) x1

Ally (19)
Bofur (OHaUH) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HoN) x1
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Gleowine (Core) x1
Ravenhill Scout (TRG) x2
Wandering Took (Core) x3
Hunter of Lamedon (HoN) x3
Damrod (HoN) x1

Attachment (13)
Blade of Gondolin (Core) x3
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Good Meal (TRG) x3
Thror's Map (OHaUH) x1
Spear of the Citadel (HoN) x3

Event (18)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x2
Feint (Core) x3
Foe-hammer (OHaUH) x2
Goblin-cleaver (OHaUH) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x2
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x2
Fortune or Fate (Core) x1

Dunhere + Gondor

Another attempt at a viable Dunhere deck. This is a bit of a leftovers deck, but I do like the hero combination as it provides decent questing and excellent direct damage synergies between Thalin, Dunhere, Gondorian Spearman, and Fresh Tracks. Gondor characters provide additional defense if the enemies make it through the forward assaults. Questing is a bit of a weakness. Obviously the attack boosts go on Dunhere with quick strike being available to wipe out an enemy before its threat is included in the quest resolution. Sneak Attack + Gandalf is critical for threat reduction so high threat enemies don’t attack before Dunhere can take them down.

Hero (3)
Dunhere (Core) x1
Thalin (Core) x1
Thorin Oakenshield (OHaUH) x1

Ally (27)
Bofur (OHaUH) x1
Faramir (Core) x1
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x3
Wandering Took (Core) x1
Guard of the Citadel (Core) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Rider of the Mark (RtR) x1
Northern Tracker (Core) x1
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Defender of Ramas (HoN) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x3
Citadel Custodian (HoN) x3

Attachment (11)
Blade of Gondolin (Core) x1
Celebrian's Stone (Core) x1
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x3
Dwarven Axe (Core) x3
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3

Event (12)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3

Paths not taken:

This is a quick rundown of the things I tried but didn’t end up doing this time around.

Gondor I tried to make Gondor work, but at its core, there just isn’t that much to work with. Sure there are numerous Gondor characters at this point, but I find their abilities don’t mesh. In fact, I want them spread through my other decks to serve specific purposes. Errand Rider in particular is a very handy ally to have to assist with resource balancing and I generally view it as a superior option to songs. For the moment, Citadel Custodian and Boromir (Leadership) are really the only reasons I would consider making a Gondor themed deck, and they just don’t have the punch needed to justify building around. To make matters worse, the Gondorians provided are rather inept at questing, so they are quite far from self sufficient. I intended to solve this with Rohan helping out, but I was then reminded why I never really maintained a Rohan deck. Rohan has a similar problem where there are precious few synergies that drive playing them together. So after much effort, I finally gave up and put Boromir back in the box.

Two deck Elrond I considered returning to a two deck Elrond deck. Doing a strongly paired Elrond deck is a formula for an incredible power curve. Ultimately it violates my preferred deck building principals, so I went back to a single Elrond deck which is described below. However, thinking about the fact that I wasn’t splitting out the Elrond deck convinced me it was time to rework the dwarf decks to also be self sufficient. There will likely be a small drop in power here, but this can be afforded given the strength of the dwarf synergies. I am sure I will give into building deck pairs again some day, but for now they have been eliminated.

Secrecy The problem I have with secrecy is that you need the best glue characters to make it work, particularly with 3 hero secrecy. I really wanted to go a different direction with both Bifur and Glorfindel, so that meant that I was stuck with looking at 2 hero secrecy approaches. Still I looked very hard at Thorin/Frodo and Thorin/Bifur combos as well as the old staple Eowyn/Theodred. But ultimately I decided to ditch the whole concept and focus on high threat decks.

Blood of Numenor I looked at building my mid/late game defense strategy around BoN, but ultimately I didn't find a fit that I was excited about. This is an interesting card that I suspect I will look at some more, and it has a rather intriguing synergy with Steward of Gondor. I suspect that I will build around it some day though.
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Subscribe sub options Sat Dec 1, 2012 6:29 pm
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