Encounter Card Set Review: Dol Guldur Orcs
One thought that crossed my mind recently is that while I have a good handle on the character of different spheres and player cards, and though I know each scenario pretty well, I don’t feel connected to the theme and features of individual encounter sets. This bothered me because one of the interesting aspects of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, in my opinion, is the use of these encounter card sets to form the adventures that players face. I wanted to rectify this sense of disconnection on my own part, and help players of all skill levels in their strategica planning, by adding a new type of article to the existing stable of ongoing features (Deck Building 101, Deck/Card Spotlights, etc.): Encounter Card Set Reviews. In these articles, I will pick out one encounter card set and analyze it in-depth. While many enjoy playing a scenario blind the first time, in order to enjoy an element of surprise, eventually strategy and success comes from understanding exactly what you are up against. Thus, when planning for a particular scenario, you will be able to look at the appropriate Encounter Card Set Reviews for the quest you are facing, and use them to guide your deck-building and approach to play. In this first edition, we’ll be looking at an oldie-but-goodie from the Core Set: the Dol Guldur Orcs set.
Quests Included In:
Passage Through Mirkwood
Journey Along the Anduin
Escape from Dol Guldur
A Journey to Rhosgobel
The Hills of Emyn Muil
Card Breakdown (14 cards total):
1x Chieftain Ufthak (Enemy)
3x Dol Guldur Orcs (Enemy)
2x Dol Guldur Beastmaster (Enemy)
2x Necromancer’s Pass (Location)
2x Enchanted Stream (Location)
3x Necromancer’s Reach (Treachery)
1x Driven By Shadow (Treachery)
Cards With Shadow Effects: 29%
Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 1.6
Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 2.2
Average Attack Value of Enemies: 2.5
Average Defense Value of Enemies: 0.8
Average Hit Points of Enemies: 4.2
Average Quest Progress of Locations: 2.0
As we can see from these statistics, Dol Guldur Orcs is a relatively enemy-heavy encounter set, with a smaller proportion of locations and treacheries. The enemies have a moderate attack value, on average, and a not inconsiderable number of hit points, but the average defense values are negligible. With a low average threat for the overall set, and a moderate average threat for just the enemies and locations, these cards will not be posing a large impediment to quest progress.
Individual Card Breakdown:
* Chieftain Ufthak (2 threat, 3 attack, 3 defense, 6 hit points): By far the strongest enemy in the set. With 3 defense and 6 hit points, it takes a total of 9 attack to kill the Chieftain. You will want to clear him off the board as quick as possible once he engages with you, as after each attack, he gains a +2 bonus to his attack value. Fortunately, his 2 threat is not imposing enough that you will feel compelled to pull him out of the staging area immediately. With an engagement level of 35, feel free to keep Chieftain Ufthak at bay until you have enough attack power to kill him in 1 or 2 rounds.
* Dol Guldur Orcs (2 threat, 2 attack, 0 defense, 3 hit points): These Orcs, which the encounter card set is named after, are not too much of a threat as far as pure combat is concerned. With an attack value of 2, there are quite a few heroes and allies that can block them without anxiety, while their defense of 0 means that heroes with an attack value of 3, like Legolas and Glorfindel, can kill them with one swat. The main threat from these Orcs is their “when revealed” effect, which causes the first player to deal 2 damage to 1 character currently committed to a quest. Knowing that you are facing the Dol Guldur Orcs set means that you should be ready to deal with direct damage being dealt to characters committed to a quest. The one nice thing about this effect is that the first player gets to choose who the damage is placed on.
* Dol Guldur Beastmaster (2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points): The Beastmaster’s attack of 3 is high enough to cause some concern, especially when coupled with its ability, which gives it an additional shadow card when it attacks. With many shadow cards increasing enemy attack values, you should almost never take a Beastmaster attack undefended, or defend with a hero whose defense and hit points do not provide a buffer. With its 1 defense and 5 hit points, you will need to deal a total of 5 damage to kill the Beastmaster. If you are using a combat-focused deck, this should not be too difficult. However, with a more questing-focused deck, you might want to neutralize the Beastmaster’s moderate threat of 2 in the staging area through several available means and simply avoid it until you are ready or you hit the fairly high engagement level of 35.
* Necromancer’s Pass (3 threat, 2 progress): The main problem with this location is its high threat of 3. When it flips off the encounter deck, it can possibly hurt your questing progress if you were not expecting such a high threat value to emerge. The travel effect is substantial, causing the first player to discard 2 cards at random (card advantage and having options in your hand is an important key to success), which makes the decision to travel to the Pass a bit interesting. With only 2 progress required, it is fairly easy to get rid of the Necromancer’s Pass without suffering the travel effect using a Northern Tracker, Asfaloth, The Riddermark’s Finest, multiple Snowbourn Scouts, etc. However, the high threat of 3 means you will not want to leave it in the staging area for too long if you don’t have these cards immediately available and have to wait to draw them.
* Enchanted Stream (2 threat, 2 progress): The threat of 2 is pretty much the standard for cards coming off the encounter deck during staging. Anything lower is gravy; anything higher is painful. The Enchanted Stream has a negative effect when it is the active location: it prevents players from drawing cards. How harmful this is depends on what point you are at in the game, and how many cards you currently have in hand. With 2 progress tokens, you can simply get rid of it without ever suffering its ill effect through the same means mentioned in the Necromancer’s Pass entry. Since it only has 2 threat, and not the 3 threat of the Pass, this strategy is even more appealing. However, with a low amount of progress needed to clear it, it is also often a fairly simple matter to travel to it, lose out on one turn of drawing, and clear it in one turn (If you have Legolas or some Blades of Gondolin and enemy targets available, you can travel to it and clear it without ever having to worry about the effect).
* The Necromancer’s Reach: This card caused a lot of fits during the Core Set and Passage Through Mirkwood days, and I still have nightmares about it. The effect is simple and deadly: “Deal 1 damage to each exhausted character”. This has an array of harmful consequences. It can destroy all of your 1 hit point allies in one fell swoop, pile on damage to your heroes, and possibly kill a questing character if you are not careful. Knowing that you are facing the Dol Guldur Orcs set, the #1 card you should worry about preparing and strategizing for is The Necromancer’s Reach. There are a few good strategies you can employ to mitigate its effects:
1) If you have allies that exhaust to use their abilities (Gleowine, Daughter of the Nimrodel, Faramir, etc.), wait until after staging to exhaust them. This way, if The Necromancer’s Reach comes up, it can’t hurt them.
2) Don’t commit to a quest with heroes that are 1 point away from death.
3) Use readying effects to ready characters, especially heroes, immediately after they have committed to a quest (i.e. Unexpected Courage, Boromir, Leadership Aragorn’s power, etc.). They will still contribute to quest progress but be immune to Necromancer’s Reach.
4) Prioritize the inclusion of allies that have more than 1 hit point where possible.
* Driven by Shadow: This is a treachery that can hurt in certain situations, but overall, it is not one of the nastier ones around. It adds 1 point of additional threat to each enemy and location in the staging area. If there are no cards in the staging area, it gains surge. The ideal situation is for this card to hit when you only have 1 or 2 enemies/locations in the staging area, thus adding only 1 or 2 threat to quest resolution calculations. Driven by Shadow can mess with your plans, but it is one of the many examples of why managing your staging area is one of the key skills to acquire if you want to be successful on a consistent basis. Since this treachery adds threat to an existing enemy or location, note that a card like Radagast’s Cunning or Secret Paths that cancels all threat from one particular card can help to neuter Driven by Shadow.
Only 4 cards out of the 14 included in the set have shadow effects. The 3 copies of Dol Guldur Orcs have the following shadow effect: “Attacking enemy gets +1 attack. (+3 attack instead if this attack is undefended.)” This is your standard attack-boosting shadow effect. Knowing that these are in the encounter deck means that you should be wary about taking any attack undefended, unless you have enough of a defense/hit point buffer or shadow-cancellation effects available. The 1 copy of Driven By Shadow has the other shadow effect, which causes the defending character to discard one attachment (if the attack is undefended, then you have to discard all attachments). With only 1 copy in the set, mixed in with other sets, your chances of drawing this particular shadow are low. However, this can be extremely painful if it causes you to discard a Citadel Plate, unintentionally leading to hero death. It can also cause you to get rid of an important attachment that is a key part of your deck strategy. Other than the usual shadow-cancellation, including means to recover attachments, like Erebor Hammersmith or Second Breakfast, can be a way of partially negating the effects of this shadow.
Overall, Dol Guldur Orcs is on the lower end of the difficulty scale as far as encounter card sets are concerned. The main cards to concern yourself with are Chieftain Ufthak for enemies, Necromancer’s Pass for locations, and The Necromancer’s Reach for treacheries. Of those, by far the primary threat in this set is The Necromancer’s Reach. As long as you are adequately prepared for that particular treachery, and how it can combined with the direct damage of the Dol Guldur Orcs themselves, then you should be able to adequately prepared to deal with what this encounter card set throws at you.
This concludes our first Encounter Card Set Review. Coming up next time: Sauron’s Reach!