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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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The Druadan Forest – How It Has Changed The Game

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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!
Steward’s Fear single handedly redefined optimal game play. So from a game changing perspective, it should come as no surprise that Druadan Forest comes up notably short of the influence from its predecessor. That said, there was clearly a lofty goal of making mono-sphere decks a more viable if not desirable option. Such a change would be truly game changing . . . if they were to succeed.

The Druadan Forest quest goes after the players in mostly indirect manner. A far cry from the in your face battles in Heirs of Numenor, this quest goes after your resources to throttle your power curve while hoping to location lock you. The player card immune Secluded Glade makes a return ensuring that player card shenanigans don’t single handedly blow through all locations being revealed. The encounter deck is also quite good at suddenly having a lot of archery damage on the board which is likely to cause you more trouble than the enemies themselves. These gaming elements certainly support a thematic feeling to the quest as you are being harassed in your attempted explorations of the Druadan Forest.

I will say that the final quest card sent my mind spinning a bit as the 3 primary statistics are scrambled around in their purpose (defense for questing, willpower for attacking). This is made worse by Dru-Buri-Dru boosting these stats once he is defeated. The use of progress tokens for “damage” further added to my sanity woes since progress tokens and damage tokens didn’t work together. I screwed up the combat math countless times including a few times when I didn’t discover my error until after I had resolved the attacks.

At the end of the day, I see Druadan Forest going down as an unremarkable quest that will be known as “that quest that screws with your resources”. While I do think it is well designed, I suspect it will get passed over in favor of other quests that present a more conventional challenge. I admit it. I don’t like it when the encounter deck directly messes with my economy.

Trending Up
Outlands - As if the Outlands trait wasn’t strong enough already, now they have a re-enforcement. And this is not just another ally, rather it is one that can put OHaUH Gandalf to shame if fully powered up. I tend to think that Forlong is not really a game changer for Outlands as you are quite possibly better off using resources to play Outlands characters that actually boost their brethren early in the game. He is obviously a very strong play in the mid to late game when the Outlands characters are established on the board. But by that point, the player’s board is likely to be powerful enough that Forlong isn’t critically necessary. However, if you have no stat boosting Outlands characters in hand to play, Forlong is definitely a good option if you can afford his uncharacteristically high cost (for an Outlands character). He is strong enough that it is hard to imagine not including at least one in any Outlands deck.

Horn of Gondor - One cost allies in general work very well with the Horn of Gondor since the cards essentially “pay for themselves”. Recent additions (Outlands, Errand Rider) tended to be the type that you would rather keep around if you could – so the synergy wasn’t as strong. With Sylvan Refugee, you have to assume that you will lose the card within a turn or few. If you have a Horn of Gondor in play, you can go in knowing that you will get your resource back.

Resource Acceleration – Not only does Harbor Master heavily synergize with resource acceleration, but the quest also is as resource hungry as we have ever seen. Admittedly, there are locations that completely foil resource acceleration.

Silvan Tracker – I really liked Silvan Tracker when it came out. The tracker’s stats aren’t very good, but being able to heal while doing something else is quite good. Unfortunately there were precious few benefactors from the ability with the list previously being Legolas, Mirkwood Runner, Haldir, and the Silvan Tracker itself. This was a weak list to work with. Adding Mirlonde makes it immediately more feasible to leverage the Silvan Tracker’s ability. Ultimately, Silvans are just not that strong right now. It is the trait I am most interested in seeing them flush out.

Healing in general – The Druadan Forest quest is quite capable of piling up a ton of archery damage. Having some healing available is rather handy.

Secrecy – Mirlonde opens up additional options for 3 hero secrecy decks because of her low threat and ability to lower other’s threat. The options aren’t particularly great largely because Mirlonde herself isn’t particularly great, but it is very exciting to see some options that don’t require Glorfindel. The upcoming Pippen will provide even more options in this department, although we could really use a few more cards with the Secrecy keyword.

Direct Damage - By no means is A Mighty Prowess an overpowered card, but you can’t ignore any card that offers repeatable direct damage. I hold my judgment on this card a bit as I really need play with it some more. On one hand, it could be a great way to slowly clip off nasty enemies in the staging area or to get one more damage on the board to assist with another kill. On the other hand it could be a big pile of frustration if there aren’t available targets. For now I’ll likely add a single one to any deck that features a Tactics hero that is supposed to be killing things (e.g. Legolas). I think such a footprint is worth it. Furthermore, direct damage is highly effective on this quest with most enemies having relatively low health. Although watch out for the final stage where direct damage doesn’t synergize with normal attacks.

Boss Battles - The quest features a set aside enemy boss that you inevitably “fight” at the end of the quest. This is becoming increasingly common (Bolg, Steward’s Fear Villains). While the bosses in these quests were for the most part not overly challenging, I continue to applaud including set aside bosses in quest design.

Epilogues - The “Do Not Read Until the Heroes Have Defeated the Quest” sections of the rule inserts are enormously welcome. Traditionally, the final thought that goes through my mind when I defeat a quest is “Is that it?” immediately followed by wondering about what happens next. An epilogue lets you revel in your victory a bit beyond the self created fist bumps that ensue upon quest completion. Now, the epilogues themselves have not been particularly amazing, but it has been just enough to get me jazzed about the next quest while tying my experience back into the underlying story.

Trending Down
Escort from Edoras - This is not a card that was seeing much play from me, but I frequently look at it as a cheap way to add some questing to a deck. Sylvan Refugee completely trumps the Escort from Edoras in all but the most Rohan crazy decks. Off hand, ½ the willpower for ½ the cost is a decent deal. The fact that the Sylvan Refugee could possibly supply two or more turns of questing makes this nearly a no-brainer.

Tactics - The options for high defense from an ally are exceptionally limited outside of Tactics. Winged Guardian, Defender of Ramas, and Eagles of the Misty Mountains present some of the stronger reasons to delve into the red sphere especially on quests with siege. Harbor Master has the capability to top them all in delivering the defense stat and being a quality stud defensive ally. While it is subjective whether Harbor Master is a better option, the very fact that the option exists outside of Tactics is notable and significant. There are just so few reasons to include Tactics in a deck at this point. Direct damage is about the only capability unique to the sphere (where Dunhere could be considered an exception).

Eagles of the Misty Mountains - Eagles of the Misty Mountains draws an interesting comparison to Harbor Master. To get a 5 defense EotMM out, you need to play at least 4 cards and 7-10 Tactics resources. With a little help from a couple of heroes from the start (two of Bifur, Theodred, and Thorin), you need 4 cards and 6-7 resources to get a single Harbor Master out and consistently buffed. This would include 3 Lore resources for the Harbor Master card, and 3-4 more to cover some combination of Errand Rider, Steward of Gondor, and Resourceful (secrecy priced). Even if you can’t get the secrecy price for a Resourceful card, the overall cost is still in the same neighborhood as an EotMM where Vassal of the Windlords don’t happen to be available. So from a card cost and resource cost standpoint, the two options are pretty comparable. A 2 hero buffed Harbor Master is relatively comparable to EotMM while you are trying to power them up with EotMM having an advantage on hit points and willpower. EotMM also comes with the detriment that you must have it in play BEFORE the rest of the eagles are killed. The end state has an EotMM with much higher attack, higher hit points, and little bit of extra will power. Harbor Master has the same defense and compatibility with Burning Brand. But it is also important to note that the player can still benefit from the cards that are buffing HM for other purposes. I find the concept of powering up my economy also powering up my defense very exciting. Finally Harbor Master also has the advantage that a second or third Harbor Master benefits from the same amount of buffing while another EotMM would need another pile of dead eagles. Of course my scenario is based on the assumption that you’ll be playing with two of three particular heroes which is certainly limiting. EotMM is also limiting because of the amount of concentrated Tactics resources you need. You need at least 2 tactics resources a turn to get out the Eagles strategy in any kind of vaguely reasonable time. There are not many ways to do this without two Tactics heroes which is not a particularly optimal way to construct a general purpose deck. As described in the previous items, Tactics just doesn’t offer as much to the general effectiveness of a deck as the other spheres. It certainly can be done, but it currently seems to me more suboptimal than working with the resource manipulation heroes who tend to be desirable anyway. The Eagles will likely retain their advantage on battle and siege quests given the absurd value achieved from Vassals and Guardians, but I am prepared to say that, in general on “normal” quests, I prefer Harbor Master as stud defender over EotMM.

Hero threat markers- What is the deal with the threat font on heroes in the past two expansions? Both Hirluin and Mirlonde have a much darker and harder to read starting threat number. I had assumed that Hirluin was some kind of printing mistake, but now it looks intentional.

Mono-sphere decks - Listing this in the trending down is a bit of an overreaction. Obviously mono-sphere decks have improved with the additional cards made available. But my excitement for the possibility for mono-sphere decks being a powerful option has certainly gone down. Having a mono-sphere deck is a very restrictive choice that drastically limits your card pool. I’d like to think taking on this sacrifice would come with powerful rewards. This just simply isn’t the case right now. White Tower Watchmen’s ability is definitely nice, and if I were to do a mono-sphere deck it would be an auto-add. But, there just simply isn’t enough here to motivate me to build one. It is most certainly not game changing.

A Test of Will - My favorite crutch takes it on the chin in the Druadan Forest quest. All treachery cards are highly manageable save one. Leaves on a Tree can be rather brutal on players that depend on attachments since it can potentially discard them all. But even this can be managed to some degree if you are selective about resource spend/attachment plays. On top of the not particularly pressing targets, AToW is often difficult to pay for when you need it due to all of the resource sucking effects on the cards. This is punctuated by Stars in Sky which triggers Prowl 2 before you get a chance to stop the When Revealed.

With only a few minor tweaks, my decks are largely unchanged from my most recent postings save an additional deck. Proxies are limited to Sneak Attack, A Test of Will, and Warden of Healing.

Elves Galore
This is a bit of a leftovers deck, so it is certainly not intended to be optimal. But I have enjoyed playing it a bit lately to fiddle with the elven synergies. Threat reduction is a bit lacking and it is missing the traditionally requisite A Test of Will. But I like the auto healing that is available with a Silvan Tracker especially now that two heroes can benefit. This deck works reasonably well with the Outlanders or the 3 hero secrecy deck.

Hero (3)
Elrond (SaF) x1
Legolas (Core) x1
Mirlonde (TDF) x1

Ally (33)
Gandalf (Core) x2
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
Gleowine (Core) x1
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x1
Master of the Forge (SaF) x1
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Trollshaw Scout (FoS) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HON) x3
Watcher of the Bruinen (TWitW) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x1
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Silvan Refugee (TDF) x3

Attachment (14)
Black Arrow (OtD) x1
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x2
Rivendell Bow (TWitW) x1
Vilya (SaF) x2
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Mighty Prowess (TDF) x1
Asfaloth (FoS) x1
Expert Treasure-hunter (OtD) x3
Protector of Lorien (Core) x1

Event (3)
Hands Upon the Bow (SaF) x3

Aragorn's Outlanders
Frodo and Aragorn allow for early rope-a-doping in preparation for the Outlands counter punch. Fast Hitch and UC are intended to help line up an affordable play of Peace and Thought to keep the card supply rolling. A Very Good Tale is perhaps the ideal opening hand option due to its ability to jump start the deck. Although depending on the quest, it may be more important to mulligan for the right Outland ally.

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
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM 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
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. Timely Aid or Resourceful should be mulliganned for on most quests to take advantage of secrecy. Using Wandering Took is an affordable way to drop a few your threat momentarily to get back into secrecy. Ultimately the goal is to get out one or two Harbor Masters with a Burning Brand to ensure solid defenses.

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

Ally (26)
Dunedain Wanderer (RtR) x1
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
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) 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

Dwarf Swarm Leadership + Tactics
The deck functions its best with a Kili with We Are Not Idle or a Fili in hand to start the game giving quick access to the Tactics sphere on Oin and resource boosts if Thorin is in play. Although it is not requisite as an early focus on attachments also presents a strong start as a support deck, but it will rapidly become stunted. Steward of Gondor is intended for Bombur to fuel the other deck as is the Gondorian Shield to pair to leverage the SoG synergy. As usual Dain can be a stud defender, although Bombur will often be a better choice with his access to Burning Brand. Balin is preferred on quests requiring lower starting threat or extensive shadow cancellation, otherwise, Thorin is likely the more optimal option. Ideally, King Under the Mountain will allow for a discard of an Erebor Battle Master.

Hero (3)
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) x1
Balin (OtD) x1 or Thorin Oakenshield (OHaUH) x1
Oin (OtD) x1

Ally (24)
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x3
Gloin (OtD) x3
Fili (OHaUH) x3
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Erebor Battle Master (TLD) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Kili (OHaUH) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachment (17)
Cram (OHaUH) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
King Under the Mountain (OtD) x3
Ring Mail (TLD) x2
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x1

Event (9)
We Are Not Idle (SaF) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3

Dwarf Swarm Lore + Spirit
A first turn hand of a miner, hammersmith, or record keeper combined with Dwalin can easily result in a two ally first turn play. Legacy of Durin adds to the card draw abuse from Ori and is best targeted at this deck to take advantage of the most dwarven plays from hand. The player of this deck will constantly root for an Erebor Battle Master to show up in the discard pile in the other deck so that it can be Stand and Fight-ed for ultimate attack power. While the Bofur/Nori combo has been nerfed, Nori is still likely all of the threat reduction you’ll need. Between Ring Mail, Dunedain Warning, and Gondorian Shield in the other deck, and Blood of Numenor and Arwen in this deck, there are many paths to getting Bombur up to high defense values. For the moment I am playing non-dwarf decks more often so there has been some modest pillaging in favor of other decks. I haven’t quite broken down and proxied Burning Brand yet, ideally there would be at least one more in this deck.

Hero (3)
Bombur (OtD) x1
Ori (OHaUH) x1
Nori (OHaUH) x1

Ally (33)
Wandering Took (Core) x1
Zigil Miner (KD) x3
Bofur (TRG) x2
Dwalin (OtD) x3
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Bifur (OtD) x3
Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x1
Gleowine (Core) x1
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x2

Attachment (5)
Blood of Numenor (HON) x1
A Burning Brand (CatC) x1
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x3

Event (12)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x3
Daeron's Runes (FoS) x3
Strider’s Path (THFG) x2
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x1
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