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Deck-Building 101: Core Set Construction

by on January 10, 2013

sphere cards

Continuing Tales from the Card’s deck-building series, this article will document the process of building a deck from start to finish. One of the obstacles to initially building decks is not having experience and also not being able to see models for how to do it. When I was first experimenting with mashing all these different cards together, looking at other people’s deck lists was marginally useful, but I benefitted far more from reading or hearing them talk about how they went about choosing cards. In order to start at a very basic level, I will build this sample deck using only cards from the Core Set, though I will cheat a bit by assuming ownership of two Core Sets worth of cards.  For those who are new to the game, I hope that using only this limited set of cards will successfully demonstrate how to go about constructing a deck. The main purpose of this article is to convey some of the key considerations that emerge during this process, and to outline what kinds of questions you should be asking of the cards in front of you (just don’t ask them out loud, or any people nearby might think you’re a bit odd). I will apply the concepts mentioned in my last article on Deck Abilities, so if you haven’t read that one yet, you may want to give it a quick read. In later articles, I will discuss dealing with deck building when you have the whole card pool at your disposal, which can prove a different kind of challenge. As I walk through this example, keep in mind that this is only one possible way to approach building a deck. Other players will have their own personal methods, all of which are valid. However, I hope that a concrete example like this can at least prove to be a useful starting place.

Before I begin, I want to explain a crucial idea when it comes to building your decks: proportionality. This refers to two things: the ratio between card types (allies/attachments/events), and the ratio between the different spheres included in your deck. Striking the right balance is a matter of experimentation and reflection, but there is no magic number or formula out there to guide you. You can build a successful deck with a ton of attachments and events and only a few allies. However, with that caveat out of the way, I think it does help when first starting out to have a general guideline in mind. With more experience, these guidelines become less important. One rule of thumb that I have seen suggested, and that makes as good a starting place as any, is to roughly adhere to a ratio of 1/2 allies, 1/4 attachments, and 1/4 events. The logic behind this is that allies are the lifeblood of most, though not all, decks by providing the raw bodies you need to quest, attack, and defend beyond what your limited amount of heroes can do. Although, you will see me doing a lot of number-crunching in this article, I don’t want you to think that building a deck is necessarily a math exercise (though it can be if you want). The numbers are there just to make sure that the deck is as consistent as possible, which is a product of proportionality.

Step One: Picking Deck Abilities

Often I begin conceiving of deck by coming up with a certain theme, like “I want to build an Eagles deck” or “What would a deck consisting only of Elves look like?”. In our case, the Core Set unfortunately limits the thematic options. Instead, in our first step I will hearken back to the Deck Abilities article, and choose 3-4 of them as my primary focus. I want my deck to be able to willpower boost, as making progress on quests is the fundamental key to victory. I also want to focus on card draw, because having more options throughout the game will make sure I have what I need when I need it. Finally, as I will not be including much combat ability, I’m going to be including some encounter deck manipulation with a touch of threat management to make sure that I can avoid the nastiest of the enemies for as long as possible. Hopefully, since I am focusing on quest progress, I can move through quest stages faster than enemies can build up. As a secondary focus, I will include some treachery cancellation just to make sure that treacheries don’t foil my plans. When thinking through your abilities, always keep in mind how you will deal with the three types of encounter deck cards: enemies, locations, and treacheries.

Step Two: Picking Spheres

With this abilities wish-list decided, it is time to select the sphere(s) that will be the foundation for my deck. In general, the sphere and ability breakdown goes like this:

– LORE: card draw, encounter deck manipulation, location management, threat management, healing, and player deck manipulation

LEADERSHIP: resource generation, readying, player deck manipulation

– TACTICS: direct damage, defense/tanking, attack/hulking

SPIRIT: treachery cancellation, player deck manipulation, location management, threat management, willpower boosting, readying, and healing (card resurrection)

It is fairly easy to see that I should base my deck on Lore and Spirit cards. How many spheres should you include in one deck? In general, dual sphere decks are the standard for this game, especially when first starting out. Tri-sphere decks are very possible and can be extremely effective, but take a bit more expertise. Mono-sphere decks are becoming more feasible as the card pool grows, but still need some progression to be able to function well (mostly because they can’t cover enough deck abilities on their own to be successful).

Step Three: Picking Heroes

It is possible that you could build your deck first and go back and choose your heroes last. However, I always begin by choosing my heroes before picking out allies, attachments, and events, and I imagine that most players do as well. The reason why is that some cards synergize directly or indirectly with certain heroes, and you want to be able to plan for their inclusion. For example, a card like Celebrian’s Stone, included with the Core Set, gives Aragorn a Spirit icon if it is attached to him. If I know that I am including Aragorn, then I will know in advance to probably include the Stone as well. 

Back to the deck at hand, knowing that I want to focus on willpower boosting and questing, I am going to choose Eowyn as my first hero, the quintessential choice for that deck ability. She allows me to discard a card to boost her willpower by one, and her 4 willpower is the highest out of the Core Set heroes (this is actually still the case even with the entire card pool).Eowyn card

My second deck ability focus is card draw, which leads me straight into the arms of Beravor as my second hero. She is Lore, so I now have 1 Spirit and 1 Lore hero, and her ability allows her to exhaust in order to grant me the power to draw 2 cards. This will be a consistent basis for card draw. When possible, it is always nice to have heroes that work well together and support each other’s abilities. In this case, the extra cards that I get from Beravor can possibly be discarded to feed Eowyn’s ability.

At this point, after selecting 2 heroes, I usually like to stop and take stock of the situation, meaning taking a moment to assess my starting threat level and possible roles before choosing my third hero. With Eowyn starting at 9 threat and Beravor at 10, I am already at a total of 19. I will want a third hero with a fairly low starting threat, since a main focus of my deck is threat management. Regarding roles, heroes generally should be specialized into either the role of quester, attacker, or defender. This helps to make sure all of the main bases of the game are covered, and that each is specialized enough to be effective. Eowyn is the obvious quester. Beravor, with her very balanced stats of 2 willpower, 2 attack, and 2 defense, can fulfill the role of either attacker or defender, depending on who I choose for my third hero. With that in mind, I look at the possible choices for the last hero:

Denethor: He will give me encounter deck manipulation, as he can exhaust to look at the top card of the encounter deck, moving it to the bottom if he so chooses. He is the best natural defender in the Core Set (3 defense), so he fits the balance of roles i in my current scheme well. His starting threat of 8 gives me a bit of pause. Including him would put me at a starting threat of 27. Not terrible by any means, but not as low as it could be.

Dunhere: This hero provides direct damage, being able to exhaust to attack an enemy in the staging area. This is not one of my current deck ability focuses, however. He will definitely fit into the attacker role though. His starting threat of of 8 is equal to Denethor’s, again giving me a starting threat of 27.

Eleanor: She has the benefit of allowing consistent treachery cancellation, as she can exhaust to cancel a “when revealed” effect, replacing it with a new card afterwards. She has fairly low stats (1 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense), but would probably fit into the defender role given my current balance of heroes. Her starting threat of 7 makes her very tempting, as I would begin with a threat of 26. One point of threat may not seem like a huge difference, but it can be the difference between having an enemy engage with you and being able to avoid it.

GlorfindelHis power gives me some healing, as he can spend 1 resource to heal 1 damage on a character. This is not one of the abilities on my wish list, though. He has strong stats (3 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense), meaning he could be my attacker, and if I can find a way to ready him consistently, he could help with questing as well. However, his starting threat of 12 is way too high. It would put me at a threat of 31 to start the game. With the deck abilities I have focused on, which do not include any from the Warrior category, I cannot afford to start with so high a threat as enemies will be engaging me too early. Therefore, I will immediately eliminate Glorfindel from consideration.

Denethor, Dunhere, and Eleanor would all be viable choices. At this point, three different people making this deck could easily diverge, as a case could be made for each hero. For this example, I am going to rule out Dunhere, because he does not give me one of the deck abilities that I want. I keep in mind that this means I will have to figure out some other way of getting rid of enemies when required. Denethor is a strong choice, but I don’t like the slightly higher starting threat he gives me, and I want more Spirit in my deck than Lore. The reasoning here is that Spirit will give me more willpower boosting and questing power, as well as threat management and treachery cancellation, while I only need Lore for card draw and encounter deck manipulation. With this in mind, I will choose Eleanor as my third hero. In addition to being of the sphere I want, I also like her very low threat cost, and her ability gives me some natural treachery cancellation. However, I will need to compensate and plan for her low stats, which could prove to be a liability.

With the starting trio of Eowyn, Eleanor, and Beravor, I am rocking an alliance of the Women Warriors of Middle-Earth. I like that this is turning out a bit thematic after all. Eowyn will be my quester, Eleanor will be my defender, and Beravor will be my attacker. Both Eleanor and Beravor have to exhaust to use their abilities, so I am either going to need some means to ready them, or I will need to include lots of cheap allies to take on defending and attacking and thus free them up for bigger and better things.

Step Four: Picking Allies

There are different ways to go about picking the cards in your deck from this point. You can look through the pool and pick out the strongest regardless of type, filling in the gaps afterwards. You can select the cards that fit your chosen deck abilities, again rounding out the deck once you are done with that initial process. You can also use my preferred method, which is to go through each category (allies, attachments, events) one by one, selecting the cards that best fit the deck abilities and theme that you have chosen. I tend to either look through the cards using the deckbuilder on cardgamedb or actually physically sort through piles of cards (the first option is much quicker).

When judging ally cards against each other, I take the following criteria into consideration:

Card effects: Does the ally have a special ability? If so, does it match, either directly or indirectly, with one of the deck abilities I want to include? If not, does it somehow cover for a weakness of my deck or facilitate the work of other characters?

Stats: What is the distribution of willpower, attack, defense, and hit points? How long will it survive? Can it be of help in any of the phases of play?

Cost: Given the cost of this ally, how often will it actually come into play? Is the opportunity cost of this ally (yes, an economics term snuck into my deck building article) justified by the stats and card effects of this ally? In other words, are the resources spent on this ally better spent somewhere else more often than not?

Utility: Will this ally primarily be in play as a body, taking part in questing/attacking/defending, or will it be exhausted most of the time to use its ability? Am I including too many of the latter, so that I will not have enough back-up for my heroes in the main phases of play? For those who are active participants in questing/attacking/defending, will their contribution be meaningful or will they mostly serve as a chump blocker?

Using these criteria, I review each possible card and say “yay” or “nay”, also making an initial judgement on how many copies to include. How do you decide the magic number? I personally come from the field of education, and we often have to figure out what information to leave out and what is absolutely necessary. One way to do this is dividing things up into the categories of “need to have”, “would like to have”, and “nice to have”. I take a similar approach to thinking about how many copies of each card to put in my deck:

One copy = “nice to have” (it will be a welcome sight)

Two copies = “would like to have” (I want this to show up fairly consistently)

Three copies = “need to have” (I need this to come into play every game)

Keep in mind that this is another place where different players will give you different advice. Some tend to use three copies of most cards, which means less variety, in order to improve consistency. Others tend to use two copies of most cards, which means a bit more variety, but at the cost of consistency. I tend to come from the latter school of thought, and my deck here would normally reflect that. However, since I am using only the Core Set, my selection is rather limited, which means I will be using 3 copies of cards when I usually would not do so. Keep in mind that at this point, the number of copies you decide upon is tentative. I almost always have to go back at the end to make adjustments

Diving right in, I am first going to run through the list of Lore and Spirit allies and pick the ones that directly give me one of my chosen deck abilities: willpower boostingencounter deck manipulationtreachery cancellationcard draw, and threat management. This leads me to choose:

Gleowine (card draw) – 3 copies: You can exhaust Gleowine to draw 1 card. This will supplement Beravor’s ability, or provide coverage when I can’t afford to exhaust her. I usually only include 2 copies of unique characters, as I don’t like to have wasted copies of a card in my hand (although with Eowyn, these can be fodder for her ability), and his actual stats (1 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points) are not that great, but he does give me one of the core abilities I am looking for.

Henamarth Riversong (encounter deck manipulation) – 2 copies: You can exhaust this character to look at the top card ofhenamarth the encounter deck. While I can’t do anything with that card, like discard it or move it, at least it will let me know what is coming and to plan accordingly. This will be very helpful so that I can plan whether to have Eleanor ready so she can cancel an upcoming treachery or to keep some characters back to deal with an enemy that will be able to engage me this turn. Henamarth is easily killed, with only 1 hit point, so I would like to include 3 copies to make sure he can be replaced easily. Unfortunately, two Core Sets only allows me to include 2 copies.

Next, I will look back through the rest of the allies and include those who may indirectly give me the abilities I want or support them in some way.

Northern Tracker (location management) – 3 copies: While location management was not a focus of mine, it will prove helpful in clearing out locations and thus making maximum progress on quest stages (which does happen to be a main focus). He also has strong stats (1 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points), which gives me some much-needed attack and defense strength when enemies come sniffing around. Because of this all-around utility, I will include 3 copies.

Miner of the Iron Hills (treachery cancellation) – 3 copies: His ability allows me to discard a condition attachment when he comes into play. This is a form of treachery cancellation, though of an indirect nature. His stats (0 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points) are not superb, but not the worst around either. He can pitch in when it comes to combat, and survive at least one damage-dealing treachery. With a low cost of 2, I am fine with throwing 3 copies in to my deck.

Lorien Guide (location management) – 3 copies: The ability to put 1 progress on an active location does help to make progress on a quest, similar to Northern Tracker. However, it is a bit more limited in scope than its location managing cousin. Lorien Guide’s stats are just ok (1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points) for the relatively high cost (3 resources). For those reasons, I would usually include just 2 copies, but with the limited card pool and only a few Spirit allies to choose from, I will include 3.

Here, I stop and assess. I’ve included 14 ally cards. If I’m aiming for approximately 1/2 the deck (25 cards), I have some work to do. I also want to make sure about 2/3 of the allies are from the Spirit sphere, since 2/3 of my resources will be of that sphere as well. This is not a hard and fast rule, as you can include songs and other means of adding resource icons once you expand your card pool, but it is helpful to keep that ratio in mind, so that you don’t end up with a bunch of allies that you don’t have enough resources to pay for. At this point, 6/14 of my allies are Spirit, with 8/14 being Lore. The remaining allies really need to come from the Spirit sphere in order to achieve the proper balance, so that will be an ongoing consideration. If you already have a pretty solid ratio, this is the point where you really start including allies based on what stats they can give you, as well as if they can cover some of the weaknesses of your deck.

– Wandering Took – 3 copies: Unfortunately, this card’s ability is not useful in pure solo play. However, I do need another Spirit ally, and its stats are not bad (1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points) for a relatively low cost (2 resources). They can make good chump blockers or contribute to questing, attacking, or defending. I will not hesitate to include 3 copies.

– Gandalf – 3 copies: The big G is pretty much a must-include for any deck, but he is especially useful with such a limited card pool (with all the cards available to you, it is possible to build decks without Gandalf). Gandalf is especially valuable in that his ability can provide threat managementcard draw, or direct damage. His stats (4 willpower, 4 attack, 4 defense) can also help this deck deal with enemies, both through inflicting damage directly, and by participation in traditional combat. In fact, with a healthy amount of threat management and card draw to be included in this deck, I imagine that Gandalf’s main role will be as a damage-dealer.

At this point, we now have a total of 20 allies, with a ratio of 9/20 being Spirit, 8/20 being Lore, and 3/20 being Neutral. While not an ideal ratio, this is the best we can do with the card pool, and should suffice for our purposes. We will have to ensure that the attachments and events are heavily from the Spirit sphere to make up for not achieving our ideal ally ratio.

So far our deck list looks like this:

HEROES

Beravor

Eowyn

Eleanor

ALLIES

Gleowine 3x

Henamarth Riversong 2x

Miner of the Iron Hills 3x

Northern Tracker 3x

Lorien Guide 3x

Wandering Took 3x

Gandalf 3x

————————————

20 cards total

Step Five: Picking Attachments

Now we will move on to selecting attachments. Similar to how I began picking allies, I am going to first examine the list of Spirit and Lore attachments to find those that directly give me the deck abilities I want.

– Favor of the Lady – 3 copies: This attachment falls under the willpower boosting ability. It will give any hero it is attached to an additional 1 willpower for the rest of the game. Even better, it is not unique, so you can stack as many as you want on one hero (or spread them out, if you so choose). My strategy will be to pile these on Eowyn, so that she can be even more of a one-woman quester. Being not unique and a central part of this deck’s approach, 3 copies is a no-brainer.

– Protector of Lorien – 3 copies: Protector of Lorien allows a hero to discard up to 3 cards a turn to boost either willpower or defense. This attachment also matches with willpower boosting (as well as defense/tanking). I can throw this on my defender, Eleanor, and use the cards I am generating through Beravor and/or Gleowine to boost her mediocre defense into something more respectable. If I have a way to ready her, I can also use Protector to help Eleanor become a strong quester as well. Versatility of heroes and effects is always a good thing. I will definitely need the extra defense, so for that reason 3 copies is a must to ensure a consistent source.

I now have 6 cards worth of attachments, 3 from each sphere. If I keep the goal of attachments being 1/4 of my deck, I should end up with about 12-13 attachment cards. So that leaves me with 6-7 more attachment cards to include, and they should be from the Spirit sphere to reach the ratio I want. At this point, I am looking for attachments that will either cover for any weaknesses or support the existing deck abilities.

unexpected-courage-core

Such a staple of decks, it should be renamed Expected Courage

– Unexpected Courage – 2 copies: I have mentioned in a few places already that I might need a way to ready my heroes. Unexpected Courage, which allows me to ready a hero once per turn, is just what I need (Note: I would love to have 3 copies of this actually, but I am building with the assumption of 2 Core Sets only.) While readying was not one of the focuses of my deck, it will allow me to get the most out of Beravor and Eleanor, both of whom need to exhaust in order to use their powers. It thus covers for a major weakness: the fact that my heroes’ abilities take away from their questing and combat capabilities. By doing this, it also enhances the card draw capabilities of the deck. By placing the first Unexpected Courage that comes up on Beravor, I will allow her to use her card draw power and still contribute to attack (or defense/questing if needed). Note that originally Beravor could use her ability as many times as she could be readied, but this was modified through errata, and now she is limited to once per round. Still, Unexpected Courage will mean that I will reliably be able to draw those extra 2 cards every round, whereas without it, I might not be able to use her card draw because she would be needed for combat or questing. The second copy will go on Eleanor, who hopefully has a Protector of Lorien attached by that point as well. She can then both quest and defend at potentially strong levels or she can use her ability to cancel a treachery and still be available for something else.

– Forest Snare – 3 copies: This is a form of encounter deck manipulation by allowing me to permanently neutralize an enemy. This is perfect for those quests that have a nasty enemy that will pose a hefty challenge for a deck so light on combat abilities (Hill Troll, I’m looking at you). While this messes with my sphere ratio once again, it is too essential to ignore, and fulfills one of my deck ability needs.

I now have 11 attachments, with a roughly equal amount from each sphere. I could include a couple more, but I’m not in love with any of the other options, and I will wait to see if I have any space at the end. My sphere ratio is still off, with it being approximately a 50/50 split between Lore and Spirit, so I will try to tip the balance with mostly Spirit cards when I choose my events.

Here is the updated deck list:

HEROES

Beravor

Eowyn

Eleanor

ALLIES

Gleowine 3x

Henamarth Riversong 2x

Miner of the Iron Hills 3x

Northern Tracker 3x

Lorien Guide 3x

Wandering Took 3x

Gandalf 3x

ATTACHMENTS

Protector of Lorien 3x

Forest Snare 3x

Favor of the Lady 3x

Unexpected Courage 2x

————————————

31 cards total

Step Six: Picking Events

Again, as with attachments and allies, I will first pick out the cards that give me the deck abilities I want.

– A Test of Will – 3 copies: This card provides treachery cancellation, supplementing Eleanor’s ability and keeping her available for questing or combat (particularly important if she doesn’t have an Unexpected Courage attached yet). Also note that Eleanor can only apply her ability to treachery cards, whereas A Test of Will can cancel any “when revealed” effect, including those that are included on enemy and location cards.

– The Galadhrim’s Greeting – 3 copies: One of the best threat management cards in the game, I can use this to lower my threat bythe-galadhrims-greeting-core 6. This will help keep those pesky enemies away and allow me to selectively pick them off one by one.

– Radagast’s Cunning/Secret Paths – 2 copies each: Very effective threat management of the indirect kind (by canceling encounter deck threat). Radagast’s Cunning cancels the threat of an enemy in the staging area, while Secret Paths does the same for a location. Removing threat from the staging area during the quest phase is also a form of willpower boosting, therefore these cards fit very nicely into my deck.

Stopping to look at what I have, as you always should do periodically, I see that I have 10 event cards total. Another 2-3 events (keeping to the 1/4 ratio for events) should be sufficient. Since I did not quite hit my goal for allies and attachments, I have room to include even more events than the 1/4 guideline if I so choose. As I did with attachments, I will now look for events that cover weaknesses of the deck or support/synergize with my chosen deck abilities.

– Dwarven Tomb 2 copies: This is a super-valuable and versatile card that will allow me to bring any Spirit card back from the discard pile. I can use this to bring back a Spirit ally if desperate or to recycle A Test of Will or Galadhrim’s Greeting for maximum threat management and treachery cancellation. This is therefore a card that supports various abilities.

– Hasty Stroke – 3 copies: A card that provides tanking/defense through cancelling shadow effects. I am including this card because one of the weaknesses of my deck is combat. In particular, I have a defending hero, Eleanor, with a fairly low defense (2) and amount of hit points (3). Hasty Stroke ensures that I can defend with a bit more peace of mind. Paired with Protector of Lorien, Eleanor can be fairly serviceable in this role.

Note that I would like to include Lorien’s Wealth, which provides some extra card draw (3 resources to draw 3 cards). However, remember that I am trying to achieve the proper sphere ratio of 2/3 Spirit overall, 1/3 Lore. So, here I will stop and summarize where my deck stands:

HEROES

Beravor

Eowyn

Eleanor

ALLIES

Gleowine 3x

Henamarth Riversong 2x

Miner of the Iron Hills 3x

Northern Tracker 3x

Lorien Guide 3x

Wandering Took 3x

Gandalf 3x

ATTACHMENTS

Protector of Lorien 3x

Forest Snare 3x

Favor of the Lady 3x

Unexpected Courage 2x

EVENTS

Radagast’s Cunning 2x

Secret Paths 2x

A Test of Will 3x

The Galadhrim’s Greeting 3x

Dwarven Tomb 2x

Hasty Stroke 3x

————————————

46 cards total

Step Seven: Round Out Deck

With 46 cards, I only need 4 more to reach the 50 card minimum limit. As much as possible, you should try to hit 50 cards exactly. The fewer cards in your deck, the more consistent it will be. During this stage of deck building, you will either have to add a few cards to reach the minimum or take out some to get your number closer to 50. With a bigger card pool, you will more likely have the latter problem, and will have to make some hard choices about what to leave out. In general, I find a 50-52 card deck to be acceptable while still maintaining consistency. I see that my overall sphere balance is 25/46 Spirit (54%), 18/46 Lore (39%), and 3/46 (7%) neutral, which is pretty decent. The card type balance is 20/46 allies (43%), 11/46 attachments (24%), 15/46 (33%) events.

Taking into account those ratios and my deck abilities, I see a few options for rounding out my deck:

1) Add allies: This will bring the percentage of allies included closer to 50%, which will mean that I will have a greater likelihood of getting allies into my hand throughout the game. Unfortunately, the only allies left available are from the Lore sphere, which would mess with the sphere distribution. My choice would be between Erebor Hammersmith, whose power to bring back attachments from the discard pile is of limited utility, as only Forest Snare is disposable, and there probably won’t be too many occasions where it is used multiple times. Daughter of the Nimrodel has a better ability, giving my deck some healing (she can exhaust to heal 2 damage on a hero). However, this is an example of where cost can really influence card choice. I would rather include the Hammersmith, as it costs only 2 resources compared to 3 for the Daughter, and I like its stats (1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) better as well. I’m also taking into consideration the fact that I already have a couple of allies that will be exhausting to use their abilities (Henamarth Riversong and Gleowine), so I need another ally that will be an active participant in questing, attacking, and defending. I could add 2 copies of each, but that would decrease the consistency of my deck, and possibly add too much Lore.

2) Add 2-3 copies of Stand and Fight: This Spirit event allows me to bring any ally back from my discard pile (other than Gandalf), paying the cost using Spirit resources. In effect, this is an event that acts as an ally, and also has the benefit of adding more Spirit to my deck.

3) Add 2-3 copies of Lorien’s Wealth: I previously mentioned wanting to include this event to add even more card draw. However, it still has the problem of adding more Lore to my deck, and upsets the balance of card types a bit as well (by giving me too many event cards).

Looking at those three choices, I feel that the best overall pick will be to add the 3 copies of Stand and Fight, a choice that puts more allies in play and provides more Spirit. I will throw in 1 copy of Erebor Hammersmith to round out the deck as a potentially useful card that I will not miss if it doesn’t emerge. Here is the final deck:

HEROES

Beravor

Eowyn

Eleanor

ALLIES

Gleowine 3x

Henamarth Riversong 3x

Miner of the Iron Hills 3x

Erebor Hammersmith 1x

Northern Tracker 3x

Lorien Guide 3x

Wandering Took 3x

Gandalf 3x

ATTACHMENTS

Protector of Lorien 3x

Forest Snare 3x

Favor of the Lady 3x

Unexpected Courage 2x

EVENTS

Radagast’s Cunning 2x

Secret Paths 2x

A Test of Will 3x

The Galadhrim’s Greeting 3x

Dwarven Tomb 2x

Hasty Stroke 3x

Stand and Fight 3x

————————————

50 cards total

Step Eight: Plan for the Mulligan

Now that the deck is built, you need to ask yourself: What cards do I want in my opening hand? When will I use the one mulligan to reshuffle my deck and draw again? You will often find that attachments end up on your list of must-have cards to start the game with, as their abilities are permanent and often powerful. This deck is no exception. I will want Unexpected Courage in my opening hand to facilitate the Beravor card draw engine from the start. If I can get Protector of Lorien as well, then I would be very happy to begin with a more solid defense.

Step Nine: Play and Revise

A deck is never really finished. It must be tested against a variety of scenarios to see how well it works and what tweaks need to made. After playing each game you should ask the following questions:

How well did my deck abilities work? For this deck, I would ask questions like: Did I end up drawing many cards? How often was my threat reduced? Was I able to cancel the nastiest treacheries? If not, what happened? How much quest progress did I make each turn?

Were there any obvious weaknesses to the deck? How could those be addressed? For this deck, I would ask questions like: Did my defense hold up? Was I able to deal with and clear out enemies consistently? Did enemies pile up at any point?

Were there any cards that stayed in my hand for a long time without ever being used? If so, was it because I didn’t have the resources to play them, because there wasn’t a good reason to use them, or because other cards were more suitable?

Did allies end up playing the role I thought they would? Did they actually get to use their abilities?

By taking a moment to really analyze what happened in each game, you can make small changes to your deck to make it more effective. In some cases, you might need to make larger modifications, but it all depends on what you notice. Maybe Protector of Lorien is not working well because there aren’t enough cards to feed it. In that case, there might be something wrong with my card draw. Is the problem that Beravor is too occupied to use her power consistently? Does Gleowine get killed too quickly? Perhaps I need to add in the Lorien’s Wealth after all to make sure that I get the card draw I need. Looking at another situation, what if I find that Eleanor is getting killed too often as a defender or not really making use of her ability? In that case, it might make sense to go back to the drawing board and pick Denethor as the third hero after all. This would require shifting the whole deck to account for a new 2/3 Lore, 1/3 Spirit ratio, but that wouldn’t be too difficult to manage if it was deemed essential to make the deck function better. The point is that deck-building is an ongoing process that hinges on asking the right questions at all steps of the process, especially when the deck actually sees play.

Step Ten: Have Fun!

I hope that all this talk of ratios and abilities and mechanics has not made the deck-building process seem dry and dull. It actually can be a quite creative and rewarding endeavor. Once you start to internalize the key concepts and considerations, you become more free to experiment and push the boundaries with your deck designs. I mentioned previously that I play guitar. I’ll tell you one thing, learning to play scales and notes is a methodical and plodding activity that is extremely boring. But once those movements become automatic, musicians become liberated to improvise, create, and express themselves. The same is true of building decks for this game. Have fun, enjoy the journey, and don’t forget that a defeat is just preparation for victory.

Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below!

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58 Comments
  1. gaudyls permalink

    But Henamarth Riversong is not a unique card in the deck like Dwarven tomb or unexpected courage?

  2. gaudyls permalink

    Sorry, I tried to say unique card in the core set, so you only can put 2 in a deck by using two core sets.

    I’d like to say, also, that I love your blog. It’s wonderfull for all the followers of this great game.

    • You are indeed correct about Henamarth Riversong. I would only be able to put 2 copies in. I will go back and make the necessary edits, thanks for catching that! Thanks for reading and the kind words as well!

  3. Great article! It’s invaluable to see the process that other players go through when building a deck. There are similarities, and important differences, in the way each player makes these critical decisions. Having this detailed break-down will really help new players. One minor point, Denethor has a starting threat of 8, not 9, but this in no ways changes your analysis of him as a potential hero.

    • Yikes! Another mistake crept past my guards, I will edit that one as well. On your point of there being differences in how players make decisions about cards, I whole-heartedly agree. Part of what makes deck-building a challenge but also a creative task is that there is no one right way to do it. I’m glad there isn’t, otherwise it’d be a very boring process personally. The fact that it is open-ended means everyone gets to bring their personal stamp and priorities to it.

  4. RollingSherman permalink

    Thanks for writing this blog! I really appreciate all the insight from someone with experience and a love for the game. I am going to try my hand at deck building soon, I just started out as I used gift money to buy this after Christmas. I am pretty excited after reading this article!

  5. chlorine permalink

    Very interesting article. I particularly appreciate that you built this game with core cards only, because this means I don’t have to go and check what every card does.
    One thing I didn’t understand: is this designed to be a solo deck or to be played with another deck?

    Coincidentally I’m experimenting with a 2/3 spirit 1/3 lore deck to play with a leadership/tactics deck against Journey along the Anduin. My gut feeling after reading your post is that you don’t have enough allies (especially spirit ones) with only one core game to make a viable deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for reading. To answer your question, this was designed to be a solo deck, although it could work very well with a Leadership/Tactics deck that could deal with combat duties. Working by itself, the biggest challenge will be managing enemies, which is where keeping threat low comes in, allowing the deck to pick them off one by one as much as possible. I’ll be honest, building decks with just the core set means your options are very limited, especially when it comes to allies, but they are viable, at least against the core set scenarios (although the third one is a nasty challenge). I went back and tested this deck I’ve built here to see how it would perform against Passage Through Mirkwood and Journey Along the Anduin. It was a nice blast from the past, and I was able to beat both scenarios with the deck playing pure solo. To get the sphere balance right, you really have to tip the balance with the event cards, as I did here, since you can’t really get a good balance with the allies, but it works out ok in practice. Its not ideal, and I missed all those cards I can use to build decks with the full card pool, but its a matter of experimentation and figuring out the best gameplay strategy for each scenario.

      • chlorine permalink

        Thanks for the answer. I’m glad to learn you were able to beat Journey along the Anduin with this deck, as I’m still struggling with this one. I’ll definitely try to play it solo with the 33 cards deck as Mitchell F. suggests.
        Then as you say, I probably need to get better at gameplay strategy. Currently I feel like I’m always overwhelmed by emergencies (enemies attacking, threat skyrocketting, …) and that I should be able to prevent them rather than fighting them after they occur. BTW a post on strategy during the games would be highly appreciated, but I guess it must be really difficult to write.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I will be looking to write up some articles in the near future about concrete gameplay strategy approaches for some of the older quests like Journey Along the Anduin. It is a tough quest. Even with experience and having played it tons of times, beating it was a definite challenge with this deck and the core set card pool, and if I played against it ten times, I would probably have as many losses as victories. The best help I can give you right now is to direct you to the video series the guys over at the Cardboard of the Rings podcast have created, which shows a couple of people playing against the scenarios card-by-card: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6agV3Ll1nNihJiCSotL0itNwUiiXkF2t. Journey Along the Anduin is one of the scenarios they cover, and if you notice, even they lose the first time! Beyond that, some basic gameplay tips for beating this one:
      – Forest Snare is your best friend. Having it in your opening hand is key, so if it is not there, I would take the one mulligan to try to get it. Toss the Snare on the Hill Troll and beat it down at your leisure.
      – Keeping threat low is highly important so that you can build up your forces and resources to deal with the Hill Troll.
      – For the second quest stage, the biggest danger is that enemies will pile up. You can still optionally engage one per turn, and I would do so as much as possible to keep it clear. Using Denethor can also be helpful for this stage, as he can manage the encounter deck for you, so that you avoid the high threat locations and really difficult enemies coming out.
      – I remember what helped me when I started playing and was really struggling against this scenario is to play it using the starter deck of just the Spirit cards (a mono-Spirit deck). This will give you a feel for what a winning strategy feels like to play, and then from there you can try to replicate the same thing with your own deck.

      Good luck and stay with it! JatA is the first big challenge that players come across when starting to play this game.

      • chlorine permalink

        Woooo! 🙂
        I kind of followed your advice and had a game yesterday with a custom leadership/tactics deck and the starting spirit deck, and _I beat JatA_!
        This was probably due to lucky card draw (though I had to deal with not one but two hill trolls during the first stage), but I’m really glad to know it’s doable. I’m looking forwards to experimenting new scenarios and new cards with the expansions now.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Congrats! Any time you can take on two Hill Trolls in the first stage and live to beat the scenario, you should be proud.

  6. This is an amazing article! I have learned so much from this series and I am excitedly awaiting more! I went from grabbing deck lists online to making my own decks and loving it. Because of your article I used Beravor (who I never would have used) and it worked really well with the rest of my deck. I’ve been guilty of using the best cards instead of the most synerg…ious…est ones.

    The main difference is that I play with 33 card decks, two copies max of a card. This gives me a similar distribution and it all but eliminates the “I only have one core set” problem.

    Anyways, thanks again!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m glad it has been helpful! Your solution of using 33 decks sounds perfectly reasonable to me to avoid some of the core set limitations while keeping to the spirit of the rules.

  7. Although I’ve got years of deck building experience in card games department, it was still an enjoyable read. Great attention to detail.

    Is it just me, or is Leadership actually better (more versatile, faster and handles various situations well) than Spirit amongst core set decks? I’ve bought the LotR LCG starter box a week ago and so far every game I played with Leadership was a breeze. Mirkwood took about 4 turns (and it was my first game of LotR ever). Anduin took 5 or 6 turns. Haven’t played Escape from Dol Guldur yet, but like everyone else said, Tactic is useless on its own, Lore is close to being similar. But Spirit isn’t that great too, although it is my favourite sphere. It has a ton of useless cards. I mean, I don’t think they will ever make any difference unless some obscure encounter card needs it. -1 to threat on location? Shuffle discard pile into deck? I’ve won almost as many games with core Spirit as with Leadership deck but it always took 10 turns more. I see Spirit cards more as an addition (1/3 against 2/3 of another sphere) to provide some very cheap counter effects and Eowyn with The Favor of the Lady to boost questing.

    Also, I am the only one who prefers to kill Hill Troll on turn 2 or 3 instead of using Forest Snare on it? Pure Leadership took care of it on turn 2 or 3. Same with Gimli/Legolas/Eowyn setup. Just have to have one ally/Gandalf or even Gimli to tank the initial strike.

    I hope Escape from Dul Guldur will destroy me. Game is too easy so far. Or I just quickly forgot about the losses.

  8. TalesfromtheCards permalink

    Sounds like you’re having more success early on than the average player; your experience with other cards games seems to be serving you well. As far as spheres go, one thing you’ll notice if you keep going with this game is that the power of each sphere fluctuates over time as the card pool grows. I agree with you that with the core set, Leadership is one of the strongest. With the entire card pool currently, I would say that Leadership has become probably the weakest. Spirit was pretty powerful with the core, became practically essential over the next two cycles, but has fallen in value a bit with the release of Heirs of Numenor. Its one of the interesting parts of the LCG experience.

    As a matter of preference, I personally used Spirit more than Leadership during my days of building with the core set, but it is admittedly a slower-paced type of playstyle. Killing the Hill Troll outright as opposed to using the Forest Snare is definitely a doable and fun strategy, as well as giving you some bragging rights! It all depends on the deck you’re using. The Spirit/Lore deck I’ve built here is too weak in the combat department to avoid using the Snare. A different type of deck, especially one using Gimli/Legolas, can definitely take it on head-to-head. I’m interested to hear how your Escape from Dul Guldur experience is, the difficulty definitely gets ramped up, depending on if you’re playing solo or with multiple players.

    • Jean D permalink

      I liked the theme of the “Women of Middle-Earth” so I built my own deck using those three heroes. My deck ended up being very similar to yours (it sort of has to given core set restrictions). I breezed through Mirkwood which I thought would be a good test of snaring an enemy (Ungoliant’s Spawn) and then draining away hit points. In Journey to Anduin, I brought out the snare against the Hill Troll, but I just find myself not having enough attack to do damage. So I basically sit around until I build up resources to bring out Gandalf or a couple other allies. That seems okay, especially since I can use Galadhrim’s Greetings to lower threat, but I just feel that my play style demands having a better attacking hero. Using the techniques that you discuss, I’m going to look at a Leadership/Spirit or a Spirit/Tactics to give me that attacker.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Lack of attack power is definitely the main weakness of a deck such as the one I’ve built here. The only way to muster enough attack power to kill the Hill Troll is a combination of building up an ally swarm and getting Gandalf into play a couple of times, as you mentioned. Either Leadership/Spirit or Spirit/Tactics would be great choices to kill the Troll more quickly. Gimli, in particular, eats Trolls for breakfast!

  9. Jenna Sheridan permalink

    *Thank* you. I’m new to the game, and to deck building games in general. I have just one core set, and I have been struggling even to beat Passage Through Mirkwood consistently. After reading this I realized what was wrong with the deck I’d been playing with – I was convinced it had all the “best” cards I could include, but it was heavily tilted toward event cards that were used once and thrown away, and very weak on allies. I used your deck as the base to build my own, which came out a bit differently since I only had one set – I used as many of the same cards as I could, and pulled other cards in to fill the spots for the additional copies I didn’t have. This ended up tilting me toward Lore, as I was short several allies, but there were only Lore allies left to add in. As a result, I used Denethor instead of Eleanor, making him my defender.

    Compared to what I’ve been doing, this deck was amazing – I flew through PTM twice, with very little difficulty. I can’t wait to finally branch out and try some of the more challenging scenarios. I have some other sets on the way that will give me more options to experiment with, but this was a great education on how to build properly.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m glad it was helpful! This is an amazing game, but it is definitely a difficult one to get to grips with at first. Good luck with your adventures!

  10. Glauco Tabet permalink

    Seriously, seeing someone taking such a professional aproach to this game, creating this amazing blog that REALLY helps alot, beyong any expectations is trully a joy. I bet that FF could hire you as a consultant of any kind, because this clearly demonstrates how well you understand this realm.

    Im really glad i stumbled across and will be your advocate!

    My sincere thanks for all the posts in your blog! Keep up the amazing job!

    I have one little question: What would you do instead if you had just one core set? Do you recommend buying another one? I felt really appealed by the 2 handed playstyle, so i guess ill have to do it! I bought a bunch of expansions, the whole first cycle. Would that be enough to make 2 decks?

    Best regards!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Wow, thank you so much for the kind words! It really means a lot, and I’m glad you’ve found the blog to be a useful resource.

      I don’t think a 2nd Core Set is strictly necessary. I bought my second copy after about a year of having the game when it was on sale. With the Core and first cycle, you should be able to build 2 decks just fine. If you really see yourself wanting to get a second one for those second and third copies of key cards, then I would recommend waiting until one of those sales comes around on Amazon or the like, as you’ll be able to pick up a second set for pretty cheap.

  11. Abirum permalink

    Is it possible to make 4 effective dual sphere decks using only the cards available in 2 core sets? I imagine it might be difficult to keep them balanced especially since this would require using 2 card maximums, in order to make 4 viable decks. I am wondering if it is enough so we can mix and match the decks in order to play solo, 2 player or 3-4 player games. I don’t mind it being more flexible strategy wise, and less consistent since in my opinion this makes it much more interesting/challenging.

    Going to be ordering 2 core sets soon to play around with some buddies, but do the 1st three expansions:mirkwood, anduin and gul durr add a lot to the deck building experience significantly or do they only add more quests?

    I am probably just going to be playing with the pre-con solo sphere decks and the straight up dual sphere decks just to learn the game and teach it. Then i will think of building and trying out custom decks, since i am better at grasping games after i experience the feel of the game.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      2 Core Set decks should be enough for a 4-player game (and any variations within that from 1-4 players). You’ll get the four mono-sphere decks of 30 cards each, which aren’t the greatest on their own, but should be fun in 4-player and will allow you to get a feel for the game. From there, you should definitely be able to build 4 viable decks. They won’t necessarily be the strongest around, of course, but should give you a basis to explore the game. As for the Mirkwood cycle, I recommend looking at my New Players Buying Guide under the New Player Guides tab to get an idea of what the best packs are in the game. I would maybe pick up a couple of the AP’s, since they’re only about 10-15 each, before you commit to the more expensive deluxe or sagas, unless you find yourself really loving the game (which may well happen). Let me know if you have any specific questions once you get the sets.

  12. ulrik permalink

    what do you think about the idea of simply building two 40 card decks for 2player games, thus not needing to buy an additional core set (instead of strictly following the 50 card limit stated in the rules)? i mean, the likelihood of drawing the singleton or pair of powerful cards would be roughly the same in a 40 card deck as having two respective three copies of them in a 50 card deck, thus creating decks of fairly the same powerlevel.

    40 card decks would of course be too strong when one has a lot of expansions and 3-ofs all the strong cards, but from the perspective of only having the core set, and maybe one or two small adventure expansions?

    • You’ll see that some of us have done that – playing with 40 cards or 45 cards for 2-player games. That works until you get to the first three quest sets and then you can mandate the 50-card minimum.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think that’s definitely a good idea, and I don’t see anything wrong with it. With a limited card pool, 40 card decks is a good way to build decks that are fun and feel internally consistent (and aren’t overpowered, either).

  13. Stefaan permalink

    Just finished reading through this article, and I can only confirm other peoples praise! Very well written,and as a new LOTR player with little knowledge on deckbuilding, this article is pure gold.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful.

  14. Manos permalink

    What a great blog for our favourite game.
    Although i am an experienced player of Lotr, i read the whole article and found it very interesting. All information are pretty solid and you give new people the breeze they need to understand the way this game works.
    Always great to read your posts
    Greetings from Athens, Greece

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome! I’m glad you enjoy the blog!

  15. Thank you for this article, and the entire Deck Building 101 series! These have been a huge help for me and several others only just getting into the game. I wanted to build a deck around the female heroes of the Core Set myself, and reading this article convinced me to do it, and I’m enjoying it tremendously. A question: what expansions would you buy first to expand this deck? As mentioned in the earlier comments, combat is its biggest weakness, so where should one look to address that? I’d love some more powerful Spirit allies, for instance. Or would you recommend something else?

    Thank you!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m glad you’ve found the series helpful!

      If I were going to build out this deck and keep with the all-female theme, I’d really be interested in The Three Trials pack, which gives you the FFG-created female hero, Idrean. She’s Spirit but is very strong in combat with 2will/3att/2def. If you buy further into the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, you can also get access to some strong Lore allies (Haldir – Journey to Rhosgobel, Gildor – Hills of Emyn Muil, Mirkwood Runner – Return to Mirkwood) who can help with combat. You’ll just have to find ways to pay for them!

  16. Great post on how to build a deck. I always like seeing how other people go about building their decks. I build something similar to this, but went the Denethor instead of Beravor route. If you get a chance to check it out let me know what you think.
    https://theclichedtavern.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/lotrlcg-deck-building/

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Looks good and nice writeup! Denethor certainly is a strong defensive option.

  17. bluebolt2 permalink

    I am very new to this game (actually card games in general) so have struggled somewhat. Reading your blog has helped immensely as I am now beginning to see how building a deck isn’t just about picking cards that sound great or picking the most powerful heroes. There needs to be a synergy within the deck for it to stand a chance and it certainly needs to be tailored to the particular scenario.

    I managed to get through Passage through Mirkwood after a few attempts without giving much thought to deck building and using Aragorn, Eowyn and Boromir. I now understand the difficulty I was having was the initial high threat count. Will go back and try this quest again giving more thought to the deck and heroes.

    Having massive trouble with JdtA using the same deck and was finding I wasn’t getting past the first stage so starting reading and found your blog which has been very helpful. I thought I would try JdtA with the deck you built above but I only have 1 core set so had to add some other cards. I have 3 expansions, Khazad-Dum, Heirs of Numenor and Voice of Saruman.

    To make up the ally numbers I added in 2x Ithilien Ranger for threat management, 2x Ramrod for threat management plus stats aren’t too bad but maybe a little expensive but with 2 spirit heroes resources wouldn’t be a major issue to pay for him. I then added 1x daughter of Nimrodel (maybe not necessary as I included 2x self preservation) and 1x vigil miner. Question regarding Ithilien Ranger, if exhausting both to cancel threat of the next enemy does it cancel the next two enemies if both are exhausted or is it just the next enemy? Would you include 3 copies?

    In terms of attachments I added 2x self preservation which pretty much negated the goblin archers if you could get them both attached early. 2x blood of numenor and 2x power in the earth and 1x ranger spikes. I can see a problem with this as half are lore and quite expensive when there is only one lore hero.

    I added 1x Lore of Imladris and 1x Lorien’s Wealth to events.

    So deck looked like this

    HEROES

    Beravor

    Eowyn

    Eleanor

    ALLIES

    Gleowine 2x

    Henamarth Riversong 1x

    Miner of the Iron Hills 2x

    Northern Tracker 2x

    Lorien Guide 3x

    Wandering Took 2x

    Gandalf 3x

    Damrod 2x

    Ithilien Tracker 2x

    Zigil Miner 1x

    Daughter of Nimrodel 1x

    ATTACHMENTS

    Protector of Lorien 2x

    Forest Snare 2x

    Favor of the Lady 2x

    Unexpected Courage 1x

    Ranger Spikes 1x

    Blood of Numenor 2x

    Power in the Earth 2x

    Self Preservation 2x

    EVENTS

    Radagast’s Cunning 2x

    Secret Paths 2x

    A Test of Will 2x

    The Galadhrim’s Greeting 2x

    Dwarven Tomb 1x

    Hasty Stroke 2x

    Stand and Fight 2x

    Lorien’s Wealth 1x

    Lore of Imladris 1x

    Quest started off fine and got through first phase quite easily but found in the second phase the number of enemies in the staging area got particularly nasty. I was exhausting almost all characters to quest to get some progress. I was also running the risk of running out of draw cards. Needless to say I lost the game. Any suggestions appreciated.

    Cheers

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi, I’m glad you’ve found the blog useful and welcome to the game! To answer your first question, the Ithilien Tracker’s ability only applies to the first enemy, even if you exhaust two. For that reason, I generally only include two in my deck, as additional copies don’t add that much value since they don’t stack.

      As for deck suggestions, there are a couple of things I see based on the expansions you have:

      – The cost of the allies overall seems a bit high. You might want to include a few more cheaper allies instead, like Erebor Hammersmith or Envoy of Pelargir, that can contribute questing/combat bodies for fewer resources.
      – Because this deck is overall light in combat help, I might take a look at Saruman. The doomed cost is heavy, but he can help you out of some binds.
      – If card draw seems like a problem, throw in Deep Knowledge (also from Voice of Isengard). Great card draw. Again, it comes with a threat cost so you’d have to manage threat carefully.

      Hope this helps!

      • Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll certainly give them a go. I had a look at Saruman but was wary of the doom cost but will add him in and see how it goes. I went back to Passage through Mirkwood with a revised deck and managed to get a score of 106 which was much better than my previous best of 139. Think the cards came out right for me that game. Funny how if the wrong card comes out at the wrong time it can spell game over. The more I play though the more I’m learning and seeing gaps in my deck. Now it’s a matter of filling the gaps and trying out different cards. Thanks for your help.

  18. kallisto73 permalink

    Excellent blog! Got the game this week, came up with some similar initial “gut feeling impressions” after 3 plays and failures. Will build the above deck and see how I fare.

  19. Alicia permalink

    Your website is such an amazing resource. Thank you so much for all of the hard work you put in! I think the rule book for the core set needs one of those qwerty codes that takes new players to this site. Your New Player Buying Guide has been a huge help, and now I’m learning so much from your deck building articles, as well as enjoying your expansion reviews. And I also love the Grey Company podcast. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were hired by FFG one of these days!

    So prior to a few days ago, I had not read all that much about deck building. After a couple unsuccessful attempts at Anduin a few months ago, I looked up the Back to Basics deck in the BGG forums and eventually pulled out a win. I thought I was just in it for the quests and not for the deck building. However, while beating Anduin was fun, I missed that sense of accomplishment I had when my first deck building attempt best Passage Through Mirkwood. And while it’s a great deck to play, I didn’t want to keep playing it over and over.

    So I have since embraced deck building, but never really had a structure to it. I felt like I was just flipping through cards, saying “that one is cool, oh I like that one…” After losing terribly at Return to Mirkwood solo, I decided to start reading your deck building series. After reading the first article and this one, I put together a solo deck that has beaten Return to Mirkwood twice (and has also been beaten horribly by horrible draws, such as two Attercop, Attercops in the final stage, and once pulling it in the very first round…but hey, you never know how the quest will play out, and that’s what I love about the game!). It feels great to have built a solid deck that can tackle a challenging solo quest (though I know the expanded card pool has taken some of the sting out of its bite). It’s giving me the confidence to give solo Dol Guldur another try.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks! I’m on 70 plays, and I owe a big part of my enthusiasm for the game to your excellent work here!

    • Alicia permalink

      So I think I got a little bit ahead of myself…apparently I lucked out with two plays in which the encounter deck was uncharacteristicaly kind. I played the same deck against Return to Mirkwood for five more solo plays, and those five all resulted in brutal losses, featuring harsh treacherous at the worst times, plenty of annoying bats to directly damage my heroes, untimely Hill Troll and Marsh Adder appearances, and, of course, enough reveals of Attercop, Attercop to make me seriously question my shuffling skills. One game might have ended in a win if I had made better use of Gandalf (chose the threat reduction when he could have taken out Ungoliant’s Spawn, saving me to deal with the encounter decks next curveball of…you guessed it, Attercop, Attercop), but even then, it was unlikely.
      Anyway, this leads me to believe that my deck might need a bit of tweaking…and that Return to Mirkwood solo is as much of a challenge as they say! Time to read more deck building articles on here!

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        No worries! Return to Mirkwood solo is tough, so getting even a couple of victories in is impressive. Many times you need a bit of luck from that encounter deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks so much for the kind words and I’m glad that you have found the site so useful! One of my goals in starting TftC was to help new players, so I’m always glad to hear stories of this being the case. Building a deck that can beat Return to Mirkwood solo is certainly no easy feat! I know from personal experience that getting the hang of deck building and being successful at this game can be tricky, but it looks like you are on your own way, and I’m glad to have played a part in helping you to enjoy the game!

      • Alicia permalink

        Thanks! I must admit, I allowed myself to use cards from Khazad-dum/ my three Dwarrowdelf packs in my deck/hero selection, so that obviously helps, but it’s still such a tough quest! I was using Spirit Glorfindel, Eowyn and Lore Aragorn (obvious pick for this quest), and won twice, but then decided to try a higher-threat group of heroes with Eowyn with Elrond, so with Vilya he could bring out cards during the stage in which you can’t play cards from your hand. I won once this way, but it’s definitely a bit harder when the threat hits from treacheries and shadow effects happen, and without a readying effect on at least one or two heroes, questing is hard, as Elrond needs to exhaust to use Vilya. Might try Denethor instead for his scrying ability. So many choices!
        Thanks again for all your hard work!

  20. Congratulations for the nice Article.
    What about the balance in the cost of allies/attachments/event. In other card games (e.g. MTG) it is very crucial to have a good balance between less and more costing cards in your deck.
    I purchased the game recently, so just with the core set I haven’t perception for this. Yes, I made 50 cards Spirit/Leadership deck, but out of only 60 cards plus 3 neutral – so anyway, no much options to think about the cost of cards.
    But after having some expansions I will probably have to make a ratio about this as well?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes, this is a consideration in this game as well, although it depends on if you have any resource generation effects in your deck. Generally, it’s a similar pyramid shape as in other card games, where most of your deck is 1 to 2 cost cards, then a bit less 3 cost cards, and only a few 4 and 5 cost cards. If you have only one hero from a sphere, then you prioritize cheaper cards even more. Those are some rough guidelines anyway!

  21. Andy permalink

    Thanks for all you do here. I own pathfinder and warhammer adventure card games but I have fallen in love with this game. Thank you.

  22. Jeroen Jorssen permalink

    Being new to this game, and having only the core set, my question is this:
    I play this game 100% solo. Would you say that having a 50-card constructed deck is too much for playing solo? I have tried to beat the first quest with the mono-decks (which count 30 cards each), and only succeeded with Leadership twice or so.
    Getting frustrated, I have set out to create a Spirit/Leadership (Eowyn, Eleanor, Aragorn) 30-card deck (so keeping the card count stable), and I’m now able to consistently beat the first scenario. However, I’m affraid that if I move on to make a 50-card deck, it will hurt my deck’s consistency.

    What do you have to say for and against the Tournament deck construction rules (50-card deck) that are found in the rulebook, from a solo player’s standpoint.

    PS: Playing 2-handed does not appeal to me personally..

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Jeroen

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The 50-card deck is standard as far as what players use and what the scenarios are designed to balance against. That being said, if you are playing just with 1 Core Set, I would say you should feel free to avoid 50 card decks for now. Play 30 card or 40 card decks for now to get comfortable with the game and the cards. if you feel good with those sizes, then you can move to 50 card decks or start expanding from there. Hope that helps!

      • Jeroen Jorssen permalink

        Makes sense. Thank you very much for sharing your views.
        Great job on the blog by the way – the sheer amount and quality of info on here is astounding.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Leadership) « Tales from the Cards
  2. Talking about my Deck | Questing through Lord of the Rings
  3. Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Spirit) | Tales from the Cards
  4. Deck Building 101: Healing | Tales from the Cards
  5. Metagame: Part 4 – Core Set Supplements | Hall of Beorn

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