Deck Spotlight: Where Eagles Dare
In my last post, I mentioned an Eagles deck that I use fairly often. This post is the first in what will be an ongoing series of deck spotlights, as this blog for the first time turns to strategy discussion. A few disclaimers before I begin. One, I by no means consider myself a deck-building guru or expert. However, I have learned much by other people sharing their decks and thoughts on how they go about their construction, so I hope that my deck spotlights can be useful for others in the same way. Second, I generally always play solo double-fisted style with two separate decks and two separate sets of heroes. I have found this to be the most enjoyable way to play, as it is fun to build synergies between two decks instead of just one, it allows you to try out a wider range of cards, and it also allow you experience the joys of certain cards and traits that you can’t use playing solo traditionally. That means that this deck is built with the idea that it needs to be paired with another deck to compensate for its weaknesses. I will share that particular deck in the next spotlight (it is a Lore/Spirit questing deck). With all that said, let’s get started!
Legolas (Core) x1
Prince Imrahil (AJtR) x1
Boromir (TDM) x1
Beorn (Core) x1 – Beorn provides some strong attack power. The fact that he pops out of play when done fits the theme of the rest of the deck as well. Not a key component so only one goes in.
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x3 – Key component of the deck as it deals direct damage. Used with Sneak Attack and Born Aloft.
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x2 – As Eagles leave play, they feed these guys, who can become pretty powerful defenders or attackers.
Gandalf (Core) x2 – Standard Gandalf usage, and can provide extra direct damage if desired.
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x2 – Not an Eagle, but they deal direct damage when defending and are cheaper than most of the other allies, which comes in handy in the early part of a game.
Landroval (AJtR) x2 – Really in here as another Eagle, and if it happens to be destroyed, it can feed Eagles of the Misty Mountains.
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x2 – If the quest doesn’t have a heavy orc presence, then I take these out and add 1 each of Vassal and Winged Guardian. Mostly in because it fits the direct damage strategy.
Radagast (AJtR) x1 – Helps pay for the costly Eagle allies (and can heal them). However, more often than not, his resources are not needed, so I stick one of him in the deck. Nice to have, but not necessary.
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x2 – Cheap Leadership ally that serve as chump blockers to protect my more valuable Eagles. When they go out of play, I don’t cry, I cheer as Imrahil and Horn of Gondor activate.
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x2 – Attack power and feed Imrahil, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, Support of the Eagles, Grave Cairn, and Horn of Gondor.
Winged Guardian (THfG) x2 – Same as Vassal, except for defensive.
Born Aloft (CatC) x2 – Primarily used to pop Descendant out of play to give direct damage. Also can be used with Beorn or Gandalf, or if I need Imrahil to ready and have no other way to make it happen that turn. Preferred over Meneldor’s Flight, because that card is restricted to use on Eagles.
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3 – I use 3 because it is one of my weakness cards (we all have certain cards that we have a weakness for and almost always use). I put them on Boromir or Imrahil to turn them into stronger defenders to maximize their ability to do more than one thing per turn.
Horn of Gondor (Core) x1 – In a deck where allies are constantly leaving play, the Horn provides a lot of resources.
Song of Battle (TDM) x1 – Used so that Imrahil can help pay for expensive Eagle allies. Alternative in case Radagast doesn’t show up.
Song of Kings (THFG) x1 – Used so Imrahil gets some help paying for Leadership cards.
Steward of Gondor (Core) x2 – No brainer. Eagle decks need resources and Steward of Gondor is usually placed on either Legolas or Boromir.
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x2 – Almost always placed on Boromir, because he can ready as much as is necessary. Boromir becomes a heavy-hitting attacker, especially when paired with a buffed up Eagles of the Misty Mountains.
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x2 – Dwarrowdelf Axe fits in more with the direct damage strategy, but I’m not using Dwarves. Rivendell Blade makes the cut instead of Blade of Gondolin, because I place it on Legolas, who helps lower the defense of an enemy that the other deck is facing.
Dawn Take You All (RtM) x2 – Doesn’t really fit with the main strategy/theme of this deck, but I find it to be a useful card to help both decks get rid of nasty shadow effects.
Feint (Core) x2 – Always useful, mostly to neutralize attacks from big baddies and in the early rounds.
Hail of Stones (RtR) x2 – Fits direct damage theme, and with characters readying so much, this cards gets some good utility.
Sneak Attack (Core) x2 – Used mostly to sneak Descendant in and out of play for direct damage.
Swift Strike (Core) x1 – Provides direct damage in defense, especially effective with Gondorian Spearman. I would include 2 of these, but I should mention that I have only one core set.
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x2 – Used to bring Eagle cards quickly into my hand.
Grave Cairn (TWitW) x1 – With allies constantly leaving play, this card can add some extra attacking power when needed. I only include one as it is useful, but fairly conditional.
Quick Strike (Core) x2 – The main purpose of this card is to eliminate enemies that might overload my defenses. I often use this with Legolas to help out the other deck by preemptively taking out one of their enemies before they can swing.
A Very Good Tale (OHaUH) x2 – Since Eagle allies are expensive, this card can be useful in getting some of them out more quickly. Sometimes I replace this with Valiant Sacrifice, which helps remedy one of this deck’s main weaknesses (lack of card draw). With characters leaving play frequently, Valiant Sacrifice can be used pretty often to draw extra cards.
Theme: Eagles (with a light Gondor presence)
Spheres: Leadership/Tactics (about 2/3 Tactics, 1/3 Leadership)
Strategy: This deck is designed for one main reason: to be able to fight and destroy enemies fairly quickly. It has a focus on dealing direct damage to enemies as well as fighting them. This, for the most part, is not a deck designed to buff one character, like a Gimli or Erebor Battle Master, who is swinging for crazy amounts of damage. Instead, the idea is that heroes and allies will ready constantly and pop into combat, allowing them to combine their strength. It has had great success in both clearing large swarms of enemies and destroying big baddies, like The Watcher and Durin’s Bane.
How It Was Constructed: Every deck should be built with some kind of foundation to prevent it from being haphazard and ineffective. In general, there are three main ways to come up with that initial core idea for a deck. You can:
1) Pick a theme (i.e. “I want a Dwarf deck”, “I like Eagles, let’s make a deck around them”, etc.)
2) Pick a gameplay strategy (i.e. “I want this deck to focus on dealing with treacheries”, “I want this deck to clear locations quickly”, “I want maximum resources”, etc.)
3) Pick cards that complement your heroes (i.e. “I have Elrond, which cards will best make use of his ability”, “I have Brand Son of Bain, how can I help him ready other characters”)
This doesn’t mean that all three don’t come into play eventually (in fact, they usually do), but in general one of these lays the initial foundation for a deck. In the case of this deck, my initial idea was a gameplay strategy. I wanted to focus on creating a direct damage deck, meaning one that could quickly destroy enemies both through traditional combat and through effects that could place damage directly on enemies outside of the usual combat process. I usually always default to using dual sphere, and it was pretty obvious that Tactics would be the dominant sphere, as it has the most direct damage abilities. Leadership became the second sphere as I wanted the complementary deck to this one to be a Lore/Spirit cancellation deck. From there, eagles became a no-brainer thematic choice, as they form the bulk of Tactics allies, and I had a specific card in mind: Descendant of Thorondor, which deals 2 damage to an enemy in the staging area any time it pops in or out of play. This one card, along with the general flavor of the eagles, led to me focusing on the idea of readying and bringing allies in and out of play as a main focus of this deck, alongside of direct damage. The final step was to pick the heroes, and Prince Imrahil jumped out first, as I realized that with allies continually leaving play, he would be able to use his readying ability quite often. Boromir made sense in order to have another hero with a readying ability, and that had a high attack strength (and could deal direct damage if I ever wanted to use his sacrifice power). Finally, Legolas fit in nicely as the third hero because I wanted a ranged character to help out the other deck, which wasn’t as effective at combat, and to help provide some progress tokens. It also meant that all three heroes would have 3 attack strength.
1) Sneak Attack + Descendant of Thorondor: A no-brainer, but a super-strong combo nonetheless. It deals 4 damage to one enemy in the staging area (2 when entering, 2 when leaving), and has the added benefit of readying Prince Imrahil, and possibly putting a resource on whoever has the Horn of Gondor (always Boromir for thematic reasons).
2) Grave Cairn + Vassal of the Windlord (super sized version – Grave Cairn + Born Aloft + Beorn): After Vassal does its attack and leaves play, Grave Cairn can be used to add that 3 attack to a character. Of course, Vassal leaving also triggers Imrahil and Horn of Gondor effects. If you want to impress who you’re playing with (or put a smile on your own face), use the super sized version and have Beorn use his +5 attack ability to swing at an enemy, then Born Aloft him out of play, and use Grave Cairn to add a cool +8 attack to a character of your choice.
3) Gondorian Spearman + Swift Strike: Spearman does 1 damage when it declares as a defender, Swift Strike adds another 2 to that, meaning that you can insta-kill any enemy with 3 hit points or less before it can even get an attack off.
This deck can actually work with a variety of heroes, other than the three I use. For example, I sometimes substitute Hama for Legolas, when dealing with a boss-fight type scenario where I need to recycle feint to neutralize attacks. Hama can also be useful in recycling some of the other events like Swift Strike or Hail of Stones. I haven’t tried this yet, but if you feel that resources won’t be a problem, then Elladan and Elrohir can work well in this deck as well, as they fit the readying strategy (but need to pay resources to do so).
Also, there are different philosophies regarding how many of each card should be put in a deck. Some adhere to the idea that, as much as possible, three of each card should be included to make it more consistent. Others feel that using one or two of some or most cards is a valid strategy as although it is less consistent, it provides more variety. As you can see by looking at this deck list, I tend to follow the latter philosophy, although I feel that both make sense.
As always, feel free to leave your comments, questions, and thoughts below!
If you are new to deck-building or want a refresher, I recommend taking a look at the article series, “Forging Your Fellowship”, on CardGameDB. It is a set of three articles that give some initial things to consider.