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Outlands Deck Building + Ally Rankings and other thoughts

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Microbadge: 5 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: Hanabi fanMicrobadge: Battlestar Galactica fanMicrobadge: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game fanMicrobadge: LotR:LCG fan - I build Resource Engines!
It is a very exciting time for Lord of the Rings the card game. With the recent spoilers for Druadan Forest we are seeing introductions of cards that push for a variety of strategies. It barely seems like we’ve had a chance for the dust to settle from the atom splitting significance of the introduction of Outlands. This post was intended to focus on deck building with Outlands, but I’ll go ahead and touch on some other notable strategies that will be available once the 2nd adventure packs finally make it to our eagerly waiting hands.

Outlands Deck Building

One of the neat things about Outlands is that the dependencies are small. You need either Elrond or Hirluin along with the 15 Outlands characters (plus a Forlong or two). Beyond that, you just need to fill out the deck. It leaves a lot of options. So what are we looking for when we are building the rest of the deck? I’ll list my top five things:

1. Early combat survivability – You are going to have to make it through the first couple of turns before you can reasonably accumulate enough Outlands characters to dominate. Until you get at least 2-3 Anfalas Herdsman or Warrior of Lassarnachs out, your rank and file Outlands ally is unlikely to defend without dieing. And without a Knight of the Swan, your Outlands characters won’t be able to kill much. You want these guys to survive, so the combat hit has to go somewhere. This is the primary challenge with an Outlands deck as anyone can crush the game once you have a bunch of Outlands characters out. Having other cheap chump blockers like Errand Rider or Vassal of the Windlord is one way to keep your Outlands characters alive. You can also run heroes that are well equiped for early game survival like Frodo, Beorn, Boromir, Beregond, or Prince Imrahil.
2. Card draw – You need to get, not just some Outlands characters in hand, but the right ones. On some quests you’ll want to push willpower others you need attack/defense or hit points. But ultimately you are going to want them all. Nothing kills the strategy more than having your supplies of Outlands character cards run out.
3. Early willpower – If you get 3 Ethir Swordsman in play, you won’t have any willpower concerns. But this won’t be in place for the early turns. So you better be able to hold down the fort until you get 1 or 2 out.
4. A Very Good Tale – If you have access to Leadership, you are going to want A Very Good Tale in your deck for Outlands. This is one of the best power curving cards, and it is highly effective at getting Outlands characters in play since they are so cheap.
5. Treachery cancellation – Having a 10 Gandalfs in play doesn’t protect you from treacheries. My position on the necessity of A Test of Will is no secret which means that Spirit is all but required.

Elrond, Frodo, Glorfindel – Our first example has excellent early survivability with the strong combat stats from Glorfindel and Elrond along with Frodo as a backup just in case an undefended attack or large attacker is out there. Card draw can be obtained through the ample lore options that Elrond brings to the table and the combo features excellent early willpower (as much as 8 first turn). No leadership means no A Very Good Tale though. Options for filling out the deck would be spirit focused and Elrond’s resources are going to be overcommitted just to get the Outland characters out since the other two will only be able to assist with Ethir Swordsman. Zigil Miner could probably be used to get additional resources by rigging the deck with mostly 1 or 2 cost cards. More likely there will need to be a paired deck with Leadership or Tactics to send a card with Gondor in the title over to Elrond. This dependency will cause slow starts when the resource acceleration isn’t available. Especially with easy access to Fast Hitch, this is an initially exciting combo that falls apart when you try to put the pieces together.

Elrond, Loragorn, Glorfindel – This features three of the best all around heroes in the game. There are a lot of hit points to soak damage here along with two good defenders and two good attackers. Card draw and will power are once again relatively easily accessed. The high starting threat may be an issue on some quests. Having a Lore hero instead of a second Spirit hero means that one of the heavier Outlands spheres is covered better. Warrior of Lassarnach and the upcoming Forlong would be expensive to access without resource acceleration from another deck.

Elrond, Beravor, Glorfindel – Swapping out Loragorn for Beravor substantially boosts card draw and gets the starting threat down to 28 at a cost of some survivability. Some additional threat reduction may be necessary beyond Elrond’s council in the form of the expensive Galadhrim’s Greeting, but that can be saved up for only if it is necessary. This deck (as do the others above) also misses out on A Very Good Tale which is an obscenely good option. I’ve been moving away from doing tri-sphere decks, but they make a lot of sense in this case since the allies are so cheap and rarely require saving up for.

Hirluin, Beravor, Glorfindel – Dropping Elrond for Hirluin brings A Very Good Tale back into play, but Hirluin is far less effective in the early game than Elrond both in combat and for willpower. Still this is a pretty strong option with no obvious holes beyond being a touch fragile early on with no solid defenders and only modest attack strength.

Hirluin, Beravor, Frodo – Swapping out Glorfindel for Frodo helps to guarantee early survivability, but where is the combat power to actually kill something early on? This was a bit of a concern above, but if you don’t get a Knight of the Swan out early, you won’t be killing much. If this deck were supported with a paired deck that featured ranged attackers (Legolas) to kill off early enemies, it could be quite effective. An Elrond, Legolas, Glorfindel paired deck could feature Eagles. As a pair, this seems like a very good path to take.

Hirluin, Frodo, Beorn – Working the survivability angle, we could add Beorn in place of Beravor. Beorn practically guarantees that you will survive the first two rounds of combat. Obviously you lose a huge amount of card draw potential as well as willpower. This could be balanced out in a paired deck. But the big problem is Beorn can’t help much in paying for Outlands characters (just the Knights). So resources won’t be focused where they ideally should be. All in all, I find a Tactics hero to be an awkward match with an Outlands deck since Tactics resources don’t align with what you need to purchase and a knight or two solves most of your attack power needs.

Hirluin + Glorfindel – Taking an entirely different approach, Brandon/scwont has been posting this combo recently. It solves the survivability problem by simply avoiding early combat through low threat. Hopefully before you are engaged with nasties, you’ll have an army of Gandalfs to take ‘em down. It also comes with the added benefit of secrecy with, most notably, Resourceful and Timely Aid. Card draw is a little rough with no Lore and Willpower is only adequate from the get go. Although failing a quest or two can be afforded with such a low threat of 13. This is a tough deck to find a pair for, but as solo it is an interesting option.

Elrond + Glorfindel – Swaping out Hirluin for Elrond loses you A Very Good Tale and Timely Aid, but you pick up easier card draw access and better stats to weather the early turns. You also get a higher threat of 18, so secrecy probably won’t last long, and there is no sneak attack Gandalf to help drop your threat down again. I think this is also an interesting solo option.

Elrond, Prince Imrahil, Glorfindel – Finally, I’ll cover the combo I am actually using as previously posted (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/19610/the-stewards-fea...). I love this combo of heroes for survivability derived from the first turn power that you get from Imrahil and the plentiful stats from all three heroes. Ideally you get a Light of Valinor and an Errand Rider out first turn. You can then quest for 8 willpower or 8 attack (Battle) and still have a chump blocker ready to defend and a counter attack of 6 coming from the Imrahil and Glorfindel. Hirluin could be swapped in if you aren’t worried about the early turns and believe you’ll have time to spam out Outlands characters. Card draw is relatively plentiful with Lore access and possibly Gandalf/Sneak Attack if needed. Although admittedly nothing beats having the guaranteed access from Beravor right at the start of the game. I balanced this deck out with the uber sturdy Frodo and Beorn in the paired deck as shown in my previous post.

Strategic blocks

Touching on the paired deck a bit more, I noted in my earlier http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/18446/deck-meta-strategies deck meta strategies post my frustration around finesse strategies. It brought me to the edge of simply leaving them out of my decks (or not building extensively around them) because of their inherent vulnerabilities. But I really like doing direct damage when it is a solid route to victory on a quest, so I wanted to find a way to still include it without having to tear apart my decks. Unfortunately, my traditional method for on the fly customizing decks (hero swapping) wasn’t good enough to swap a whole strategy into a deck. I mean Thalin isn’t nearly as fun if he doesn’t bring along some cards with “spear” in the title somewhere. I found this to primarily be an issue with Tactics. I am looking for 3 things when I include Tactics:
1. Combat superiority
2. Battle questing
3. Siege questing
Tactics is excellent at these things . . . but often not all at the same time. On the Doorstep established that Battle and Siege quests are not something just local to Heirs of Numenor or even the Numenor cycle. I have to assume that it will be an occasional game mechanic which means flexibility is all the more important. Unfortunately, battle and siege quests by themselves tend to push for different card pools. So while Defender of Ramas can be the best possible card in the game in Siege at Cair Andros, it is average at best on Into Ithlien.

On the other hand, the preferred approach for combat superiority on quests can vary radically. Staging area attacks, direct damage, stud defenders, stud attackers, Hama locking, and chump blockers could all be very effective on some quests and not at all on others. While I wouldn’t mind building “one deck to rule them all”, I’ve stated previously that my motivation is primarily laziness. I don’t want to build a deck from scratch before each game, and I don’t want to be doing ad hoc swapping of cards into my decks and possibly lose track of what is or isn’t in my decks or lose the careful balance I try to achieve on numerous axis (resource, card draw, sphere balance, attack, defense, questing. . . among others). The concept of even ad hoc swapping a few cards based on quest needs starts causing my head to spin. What I decided I needed was a relatively small list of prearranged choices that were ready to go and ideally easy to remember. Choices that would let me swap in Thalin and his speary friends when desired. So I established what I choose to call “Strategic Blocks”. The Frodo, Beorn, Legolas deck from my previous post contained two built in strategic blocks:

Beorn + Trollshaw scout x3 + Watcher of the Bruinen x3 – The goal of this block is to provide safe defense early on through a bunch of 2 hit point chump blockers (if needed) and Beorn. This is a strong choice for a deck that comes at you hard with enemies at the start (i.e. Peril at Pelargir and Into Ithlien)

Legolas + Hands Upon Bow x3 + Rivendell Blade x1 + Black Arrow x1 + Support of the Eagles x1 – This combo is about creating a single stud attacker in Legolas and ensuring that some staging area attack is available. Some quests I want Hands Upon Bow specifically to counter certain enemies before they engage.

The idea is that either (or both) of these could be swapped out for one of the following options:

Thalin + Gondorian Spearman x3 + Spear of the Citadel x3 – This is a fantastic combo . . . when there are non-immune enemies with no more than 2 or 3 hit points and the threat of broadly applied ally damage is minimal (i.e. treacheries/shadow/forced effects that do 1 damage to allies). Having or not having this combo appropriately on a quest makes a very large difference.

Beregond + Defender of Ramas x3 + Gondorian Shield x2 + Citadel Plate x1 – This is clearly a strong combo on siege quests or in other situations where early high defense is desired.

Hama + Feint x3 + Hail of Stones x3 – This is a bit weaker of a block compared to the above ones just because Hama brings a dependency on needing card draw that is not satisfied in the swap. But even without additional card draw, Hama locking can’t be ignored as another strong option.

I think this approach can be applied elsewhere as well (i.e. Frodo + Fast Hitches + Galadhrim’s Greeting versus Glorfindel with Light of Valinor + Elrond’s Council), but for now I am limiting to the above listed options. In the deck paired with Outlands, I can swap in and out a strategy in under 30 seconds (even less when my wife doesn’t flip cards upside down when she shuffles shake). That is an investment I can do at the beginning of a game.

Harbor Master

Looking ahead a bit to Druadan Forest, I am really excited about the Harbor Master. This card starts as a 1/2/0/2 ally, but gets +1 defense for the rest of the round every time one of your heroes gains a resource. I love how this works. Most other strategies that involve setting up a stud defender require allocating cards and resources specifically to that purpose (e.g. Dunedain Warning, Ring Mail, and Gondorian Shield or even Blood of Numenor or Protector of Lorien). But in this case, all that is required for the Harbor Master is increased access to resources + resource moving. I tend to want this anyway, so it is a very exciting synergy. It screams for a deck with a bunch of high cost cards or a lot of card draw that require a large amount of resource acceleration. Bifur and Theodred are hero options that can give you a boost from the start of the game such that a Harbor Master is going to be 1/2/2/2 almost automatically. That is a pretty good place to start from. Also keep in mind, that it is not the number of resources you get, rather how many times you get resources. So while Steward of Gondor is a handy option, Resourceful is even better since it is cheaper, neutral, and non-unique. Of course this isn’t cost effective unless you have a secrecy deck. But as luck would have it, adding on Glorfindel with Bifur and Theodred gets you a very versatile 3 hero secrecy deck.

I always liked this hero combo, but there was never really anything that drove me to maintain the deck. And I had a lot of reasons to tear it apart since the heroes (especially Glorfindel) are such handy heroes to have around for filling out a deck. In my somewhat dated (pre-Battle/Siege mechanic) post where I last ranked heroes (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/15114/deck-building-ma...), I had them listed as 2, 3, and 6. Take them away and it is very difficult to build other decks without proxies. Glorfindel in particular continues to be a hero that I carefully select how he will be deployed. There are numerous deck approaches that just don’t work unless you have Glorfindel as there are few other substitutes. But I think that I want to dip back into the secrecy well for my next round of decks. With 3 Resourcefuls, 3 Errand Riders, and maybe a Steward of Gondor or two, a 3 or 4 defense Harbor Master should be very attainable within the first 3-4 rounds. And by mid/late game 6-7 defense doesn’t seem silly at all especially with a Master of the Forge fishing for Resourcefuls. With Harbor Master’s natural sphere match with Burning Brand this is a very solid defensive curve.

Of course, now what do I do with the Outlands if Glorfindel is busy being sneaky and hanging out with the Harbor Master? I settled on the following hero combo:

Frodo, Loragorn, Hirluin – I think this is a general step down from the Elrond/Glorfindel/Imrahil combo as it will certainly struggle more at the beginning with significantly less stats. But with Frodo natively on board and Loragorn’s threat dropping ability, there is a lot of power to weather the early turns. While the previous deck was designed to fight off early threats, this one is designed to endure and wait for reinforcements. I’ll go into more details in my deck list below.

Ally Rankings

Reshuffling my decks got me thinking a lot about which allies were in high demand when I was making decks. The below rankings are intended to comment on the allies general usefulness, not necessarily their role in an uber strategy. So Erebor Battlemaster doesn’t even merit discussion because, while he is certainly the most powerful attacker in the game, you need dwarves in play to make that happen. Take those dwarves away, and he is laughably awful. These are the allies you would want in any deck if you can afford them.

30. Northern Tracker – Once upon a time, I was of the view that this is the best ally in the game. But with the addition of Asfaloth and the increase presence of immune locations, its utility has decreased. On top of that, my deck building style usually involves wanting to only assign 1 Spirit hero to each deck (primarily for A Test of Will access). This means it is very very hard to get the resource concentration to actually purchase the NT. I realize this every so often and try to build a deck that specifically tries to get NTs out, but I almost always end up pulling back so that I can focus on more higher synergy strategies. This is another reason why I am excited about 3 hero secrecy getting some additional synergies. This is a great way to pay for NTs.
29. Trollshaw Scout – If you aren’t running a dwarf deck, I really like the trade off you get when you compare Trollshaw scout to Veteran Axehand. They are both solid chump blockers with 2 hit points and 1 defense. And while the Axehand isn’t a card drain, having the ability to attack multiple times while picking up the ranged keyword is a very good deal. He can be a great early play to get attack power in multiple attacks on the board for dealing with an initial push of enemies. And the ranged keyword is immensely helpful on certain quests, and he is a good to great quester on battle/siege quests. I think this is one of the most easily overlooked ally cards given the versatility it provides.
28. Eagles of the Misty Mountains – Obviously the strength of the Eagles is their potential for being buffed by other eagles leaving play. But the stats on the EotMM are quite strong on their own with the 2 willpower being particularly notable in a sphere nearly devoid of questers. The cost is the major downside, but still if you are running at least 2 Tactics heroes in a deck, it will always be tempting to at least splash 1 or 2 of these guys for the versatility in attack, defense, and questing.
27. Bofur (Tactics) – Much like the EotMM, 2 questing is a big help in the Tactics sphere and is well worth the 3 resources to purchase it. He is also a strong attacker and has a very solid 3 hit points. I don’t find his ability that useful yet, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. His uniqueness makes it hard to do anything more than splashing 1 in a deck, but this tends to be a very strong addition assuming that tactics resources are plentiful.
26. West Road Traveller – This card has lost much of its luster over the past few expansions given its one dimensional contribution (2 willpower). The introduction of more in your face enemy focused quests and more importantly the Battle and Siege keywords. It is also quite frail with its 1 hit point and hence is vulnerable to suddenly being killed by a whole range of trickery from the encounter deck. Furthermore, between Dain, Outlands, Sword that was Broken, and Faramir, there are increasingly more options to ramp up your willpower. Still 2 willpower for a cost of 2 with a sometimes handy ability can’t be entirely scoffed at. I’ve largely moved away from using this card, but it still represents an extremely efficient way to source willpower in a deck.
25. Imlaris Stargazer – I suspect that some will question putting the Stargazer this low on the list. I think we can all agree that her stats suck and at best she is a decent chump blocker when there are no damage oriented shadow effects on a quest (i.e. Blocking Wargs). Her value is almost entirely in her ability. Ignoring synergies, this is a decent but not ground breaking ability. Sure you can potentially access a card a turn or two earlier, but I would never include her just for that. However, there are numerous strong synergies to her power (Zigil Miner, Hunter of Lamedon, Vilya, and Expert Treasure Hunter) along with a few others (Timely Aid, Bofur, Master of the Forge). Trying to play Imladris stargazer is almost entirely a statement that you believe your current situation is stable enough that you can afford to invest in your power curve since the immediate benefit is almost nothing unless you already have a synergy card already out. There are many options at this point in the game that allow for power curving with a more explicit immediate effect (A very good tale, Dwarves, Eagles, Outlands, Steward of Gondor, Attack/defense boosters on heroes). Hence I am shying away a bit from strategies that require a notable investment(songs, vilya, Gloin).
24. Haldir of Lorien - An overlooked ally that I am adding after the fact based on comments. With his great stats, Sentinel, and Ranged, adding at least one of these guys to a deck is a great option if you can afford it.
23. Faramir – Faramir delivers an absurd amount of mid to late game value with his ability. He also makes for an acceptable defender. He is expensive and unique though so he is often hard to fit in.
22. Master of the Forge – Statistically, Master of the Forge isn’t so good, but his ability more than makes up for it. Even in a deck with a modest representation of attachments (10-15), he is a solid card draw source for a reasonably cost of 2. I also really like that he opens up the possibility of running fewer of certain attachments where you only want 1 in play (Vilya, Steward of Gondor, Blood of Numenor, Sword that was Broken), under the assumption that your Master of the Forges will be able to sift through the deck and find them. While it isn’t that hard to have a deck end up being a good match for Master of the Forge, often it doesn’t really make sense until you start pushing the deck in that direction. Plus his 1 health point makes him quite vulnerable. So often Master of the Forge just doesn’t make the cut. But he is always in strong consideration for a deck with Lore.
21. Dori – The stats by itself make Dori a pretty strong ally. Getting 2 attack for only 3 cost in any sphere outside of Tactics is a very good deal. He is also versatile as a decent defender (1 defense + 3 hit points) and a contributor to questing (1 willpower). His ability is one of the few hero saving options in the game. The only issues are his uniqueness and cost. Given that you’ll want to sacrifice Dori to save your heroes at times, I don’t see uniqueness to be a big deal. His cost of 3 is high enough that you need to be able to establish a concentration of Lore resources and he can easily be overshadowed by higher priority options, particularly when you are sourcing Lore resources from Elrond and also counting on Elrond’s resource versatility. If you are running multiple Lore heroes, it is going to be exceptionally tempting to find a spot for him.
20. Knight of the Swan – 1 cost allies are exceptionally handy. This one gives you at least a little attack and is a very cheap chump blocker. The weak hit points requires you to be selective when doing the latter. It is hard to imagine running this guy without his brethren, but he would still be a solid addition.
19. Envoy of Pelargir – There are a large enough number of heroes that are either Gondor or Noble that it is pretty easy to meet the requirement to reclaim 1 resource after paying 2. This ability by itself is handy for moving resources around. On top of that you get an ally that can chump block or contribute to attacking or questing.
18. Gildor Inglorion – 5 cost allies are hard to justify, but Gildor approaches hero territory with Elrond like stats. If you have a deck that can come close to affording the 5 resources, it is very hard to leave Gildor out . . . but that is a big if.
17. Miner of the Iron Hills - Another one I overlooked on my first pass and am adding based on the comments below, he is a very solid chump blocker with a great ability on certain quests. I tend to think he suffers a bit from so many other great Lore allies being available and I never seem to have space for him. But he is still a very good multipurpose ally that is worthy of consideration on any deck with Lore and is a no brainer in dwarf decks.
16. Defender of Ramas – For a cost of 2, Defender of Ramas does one thing very well, defend. The lack of hit points is what holds this card back as it is nearly useless on quests with direct damage shadow effects unless you have cancellation ready to go. While I recognize that this ally is an exceptionally strong option, I tend to find that I am looking for more sturdy alternatives to fill out Tactics strategies built around other 1 cost allies (Gondorian Spearman and Eagles). Beware of overstacking your deck with allies with just 1 hit point.
15. Gandalf (Core) – I tend to view core Gandalf as more of an event than an ally. Lack of options for threat reduction make him at least a decent choice for almost any deck and it is hard to imagine a deck with Leadership without Gandalf paired with Sneak Attack.
14. Ithilien Tracker – Ithlien Tracker is a great chump blocker with 3 hit points. Additionally, he has a decent chance to contribute the equivalent of at least 2 or 3 questing. This is huge for a 2 cost ally, particularly in a multiplayer game where more cards are being revealed. The only downside to this card is that you can’t effectively use the Ithilien Tracker power multiple times on the same round of questing. This limits the effectiveness of stacking a deck or the table with a bunch of these. But putting even just 1 into any deck running Lore is likely to be worthwhile.
13. Vassal of the Windlord – Very similar to Knight of the Swan. All in all, bumping an attack up to 3 and making it ranged is worth having the attack force the discard of the Vassal. As either a chump blocker or a contributor to an attack, Vassal of the Windlord is a fantastic, versatile, and affordable early turn play.
12. Ethir Swordsman – Even without Outlands synergies from other cards, Ethir Swordsman functions as a more versatile West Road Traveller for the same cost. Adding Ethir Swordsman to a deck (any deck) is one of the best ways to rapidly improve the willpower potential.
11. Anfalas Herdsman – The perfect chump blocker. For 1 cost you get 2 hit points. I could see including 3 of these in every lore deck, particularly since Lore tends to have good access to card draw.
10. The Riddermark’s Finest – This card has grown on me lately as I increasingly look for character versatility (1 willpower AND 1 attack) and sturdyness (2 hit points). It can solidly contribute in all phases at a cost of two. On top of that, it can help take out locations. This is just a great all around card that can only be bumped out of a deck by high synergy core Spirit cards.
9. Wandering Took – Another card that I think is easy to overlook. As previously stated, I think the 2 hit points is a feature of an ally that I really appreciate and look for. The Wandering Took has it making it a solid chump blocker on all quests. It also can contribute on attack and on questing even in battle and siege quests. Plus its ability can function as if it has sentinel or as a way to move threat around the board.
8. Sylvan Refugee – I worry a bit about ranking this card this high without having played with it as I could see getting frustrated with it and kicking it out of my decks. I could also see it being a favorite card that I am hoping to see in my opening hand. I look at it this way, it is at a minimum an Escort from Edoras at half the price and half the effectiveness. With a little luck or strategy it could be at full effectiveness or more. Now Escort from Edoras is not a great card by any means, but it is a great way to get willpower on the board, even if temporarily. What little business that the Escort has is likely to go to to this little Sylvan unless there is a Rohan synergy being leveraged.
7. Bofur (Spirit) – Bofur has very solid stats for a 3 cost ally. 2 willpower and a sturdy 3 hit points being the most important. The possibility to put him into play for just 1 cost and/or to sneak him into play to alter a quest after the fact is an amazing ability. Even with his uniqueness limitation he is still close to an auto-add for at least one deck at every gaming table.
6. Henemarth Riversong – Another one cost ally. The 1/1/0/1 stat set means that it can contribute in all areas or chump block. Add on to that a great (and relatively unique) ability and it is a must at every table. Henemarth is only limited by his low hit points and uniqueness.
5. Gleowine – 2 hit points for safe chump blocking, 1 willpower for questing, and a straight forward and dependable card draw ability. It is hard to come up with an argument for not including him at every table.
4. Errand Rider – 1 cost for 2 hit points means that he is guaranteed to make my list. On top of that, his ability is highly useful for ensuring that resources are in the right place. I love seeing this guy in my opening hand as I think he is one of the more useful allies to have on hand at the beginning of the game
3. Warden of Healing – The most cost effective and versatile healing in the game. On top of that, you even get a single willpower and defense making him valuable for questing on most quests. Even further, if enough resources are available, he can execute his ability and then ready. Given the myriad of ways that the encounter deck can damage your characters and heroes, I feel much more secure knowing I have a way to get rid of some of that damage. I occasionally get concerned that I over value having healing available when I have some games where the Warden has little to heal. But these are usually balanced with games with liberal damage application where the Warden is the best card on the board.
2. Arwen Undomiel – Questing with Arwen is one of the most powerful things you can do with an ally in the game. Not only do you get 2 willpower, but you can also substantial improve your defenses with +1 defense and sentinel. This is an obscenely strong ability. With solid survivability from the 2 hit points, the only thing holding back Arwen is her uniqueness. It should be a priority for someone at the table to get Arwen in play and you should of course be running at least 1 copy in someone’s deck.
1. Erebor Hammersmith – Oh how valuable is the Erebor Hammersmith, let me count the ways.
a. He has incredible and versatile stats for his cost and can contribute in all areas. 1/1/1/3.
b. His 3 hit points is huge relatively speaking. He is easy to keep alive or to use as a damage soaker
c. His ability if played right is essentially equivalent to a card draw when he enters play. Plus this can be used to recycle specific attachments if you ensure they are fetched early enough.
d. His Lore/dwarven status opens up the option to pile burning brands and ring mails on him to make him a stud defender
e. As far as I can tell, his ability can be triggered with sneak attack, To me! Oh my kinsfolk!, and stand and fight (Happy to be corrected on this . . .)
f. You get all of this for only a cost of 2
g. AND he is a dwarf which synergizes him with many many other cards
There are just a ton of ways that Erebor Hammersmith can help a deck. He isn’t necessarily a must add across the board since at worst he is “only” a highly efficient ally. And a large number of strategies benefit greatly from him. If I fully gave into my proxy addiction, there would likely be three of these guys in every deck with Lore.

Dwarves remain esentially the same, so if you want to see those decks, refer to my previous post. One of the more notable things about the 4 decks that I plan on running once I get my Druadan Forest cards, is that I don’t plan to use any Tactics heroes. They just don’t seem to have a place anymore. I am still building though and I may put together a mono Tactics deck just for fun, or possibly a Elf/Sylvan deck (Elrond, Legolas, Mirlonde) if I can figure out how to get the resources to balance with the card expense.

Aragorn's Outlanders
Outlands with Forlong. A heavy focus of this deck is to be full of cheap cards that can be easily deployed early in the game. Sylvan Refugee is certainly an interesting card to be able to deploy first or second turn for cheap early questing. I will note that if you wanted to go proxy crazy, this deck would work reasonably well with an Elrond/Glorfindel/Imrahil deck that also uses Outlands.

Hero (3)
Hirluin the Fair (TSF) x1
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Aragorn (TWitW) x1

Ally (28)
Bofur (TRG) x1
Gleowine (Core) x1
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Hunter of Lamedon (HON) x3
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x1
Anfalas Herdsman (TSF) x3
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Knights of the Swan (TSF) x3
Warrior of Lossarnach (TSF) x3
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3
Forlong (TDF) x2
Sylvan Refugee (TDF) x3

Attachment (6)
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x1
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2

Event (16)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
A Very Good Tale (OHaUH) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x3
Peace, and Thought (SaF) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x1

3 hero secrecy + Harbor Master
I covered the Harbor Master extensively above. Lots of resources line up for plays of 4 cost and 5 cost allies if you can’t get them out cheap with Timely Aid. Also the resources can be used to pump up the Longbeard Map-Maker or the Warden of Healing.

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Theodred (Core) x1
Bifur (KD) x1

Ally (26)
Dunedain Wanderer (RtR) x2
Erestor (TLD) x1
Faramir (Core) x1
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x1
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x1
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x1
Master of the Forge (SaF) x2
Warden of Healing (TLD) x2
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
Errand-rider (HON) x3
Wandering Took (Core) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x1
Harbor Master (TDF) x3

Attachment (12)
Asfaloth (FoS) x1
Resourceful (TWitW) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x1
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2
Light of Valinor (FoS) x2
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3

Event (12)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Elrond's Counsel (TWitW) x3
Timely Aid (TRG) x3
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x3
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