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Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Lore)

by on February 21, 2013

lore sphere

Welcome back to the wonderful world of mono-sphere decks! In the last installment of Deck Building 101, I explained the thought process behind a mono-sphere Leadership deck. This article will explore another mono-sphere build, this time of the Lore persuasion. Before we begin, I want to explain that I designed this mono-Lore deck to work in conjunction with its mono-Leadership counterpart. I am fairly confident that both decks can function in a pure solo environment, but they also work quite well together. One of the reasons why this is important to know is that you will see me making some character and card choices that I might not otherwise, but they are necessary in the context of being paired with the mono-Leadership deck. Therefore, the focus of this article will be in further exploring and giving some guidance about how to build mono-sphere decks, but also how to build two decks that work reasonably well together, while also functioning independently. So far I’ve taken these two decks through over half of the existing scenarios, and have only lost once (against Massing at Osgiliath, and I was pleasantly surprised when I flew through it on the second attempt). To me, this has been an affirmation that mono-sphere is a completely viable and powerful approach, and that I can indeed survive without Spirit and treachery-cancellation. With that said, onward to my favorite and greenest of all spheres!

Lore is the sphere, according to the rulebook, that:

…emphasizes the potential of a hero’s mind. Intellect, wisdom, experience, and specialized knowledge are all under the domain of this sphere.

The primary abilities of Lore in game terms are card drawhealing, and encounter deck manipulation. While it is not quite as versatile as Leadership, it is also not quite as specialized as Spirit or Tactics. You can fit Lore into a variety of different play-styles and be fairly successful. On the other hand, one of the biggest drawbacks of Lore traditionally is that some of the cards, especially the allies, tend to be a bit on the expensive side. This is why Leadership and Lore often can be an extremely powerful combination, as the former provides the resources that the latter needs. Together they provide two of the most essential abilities in the game: resource generation and card draw.

Initial Deck Planning

As with the mono-Leadership deck, I will focus on emphasizing the natural strengths of the Lore sphere while attempting to cover for its main weaknesses. This approach, rather than trying to make one sphere do everything, tends to get the best results when building mono-sphere. Thus, for this deck, I will emphasize card draw, healing, and encounter deck manipulation. The main weaknesses for mono-Lore will be treachery cancellationresource generation, and threat management.

While the Leadership deck I created is fairly competent at combat, with heroes that have high attack values and competent defensive capabilities, while also being capable of pumping out a steady stream of allies, it is not at the level of a specialized Tactics combat deck. With this in mind, I will need to create a Lore deck that can handle its fair share of combat, since I can’t expect the Leadership deck to handle all enemies. Traditionally, combat is not the main focus of Lore, but it does have some tricks up its green sleeves.

Heroes

One of my favorite parts of building decks is hero selection. Again, as I mentioned last time, mono sphere restricts your choices a bit, but there are still meaningful decisions to be made. Since I want to make card draw a key focus of this deck, I will want to beravorinclude it somewhere in my trio of heroes. That way I’m not dependent on luck of the draw to get it functioning, and will have a consistent source to rely upon (unless that hero is killed of course). Lore provides three possible card drawing heroes: Beravor, Bilbo, and Ori. I will immediately eliminate Ori from contention, as his ability depends on having 5 or more Dwarf characters in play, and, as I mentioned in my last article, running mono-sphere does not allow you to get the most out of Dwarves. I also know that I am not including Dain Ironfoot in the mono-Leadership deck, which eliminates some of Ori’s usability. This leaves me at the mercy of the eternal Bilbo vs. Beravor debate. Players have been arguing the relative merits of these two card drawing heroes for awhile now, and I personally happen to like and use both. The tale of the tape between Beravor and Bilbo goes roughly like this:

BERAVOR

+ Provides more cards with her power and you have control of which player receives them.

+ Has better stats and is more durable.

– Has to exhaust to use her card drawing ability.

BILBO

+ Provides consistent card draw every single turn, without exhausting.

+ As a Hobbit, he can take advantage of Hobbit-centric cards like Fast Hitch and Ring Mail.

– Has weaker stats and can be fragile. In addition, in a multi-player game, there is no control over who gets the extra card.

Although you’ll find die-hards supporters of both heroes, I tend to value them roughly equally. In this particular case, however, I’m going to go with Beravor. I like her well-rounded stats (2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense) and hearty hit points of 4 in a deck like this that will need to be versatile, covering both questing duties as well as some combat. She can pitch in to attack, defend in a pinch, and quest as well. Right now, I’m not super clear on what her exact role will be, but that will become more defined once I choose my other heroes.

With card draw covered, I would like to choose a hero that provides natural encounter deck manipulation. That road leads to our true Steward of Gondor, Denethor. I also like his sturdy defense of 3, although his deceptively fragile 3 hit points always give me a bit of anxiety. Although many powerful heroes have come and gone since the days of the Core Set, I still find a lot of use for Denethor. Equipped with A Burning Brand, he can block most attacks, and when he is not needed for defense, his scrying ability is endlessly useful.

With Denethor filling the role of defender, and sitting at a threat of 18, I need to choose my final hero. Beravor can cover either attacking or questing duties, so I could choose an outright attacking or questing hero to round out my selection. However, I am going to continue to tread the route of versatility. While in previous Deck Building 101 articles, I have tended to adhere pretty closely to defined hero roles, here I will tout the value of creating a team whose roles are more fluid. If you have 2 or 3 heroes who can competently take on multiple roles, you will find yourself more able to respond to the rapid changes in situations that can take place with every flip of the encounter deck or every unforeseen shadow effect.

Keeping that in mind, my third hero choice is going to be a bit unorthodox: the much-maligned Lore version of Glorfindel. While the Spirit version garners all the limelight and fame, Lorefindel usually collects dust because of his high threat of 12 and lorfindelan ability (spend 1 resource to heal 1 damage from 1 character) that some would argue is marginal. However, my choice of Glorfindel here comes down to two main considerations: stats and hero clash. With 3 willpower and 3 attack, Glorfindel can contribute to quest pushes but also give this Lore deck some much-needed teeth. While Denethor’s role will be static, Glorfindel and Beravor can both flow into different areas of play depending on what I most need in a given turn. His hefty hit points of 5 will be invaluable in dealing with undefended attacks, archery damage, and treacheries (it is a rare game that I go without at least one hero with 5 hit points for this very reason). The second consideration is hero clash. While Lore Aragorn would also be a great choice for my third hero, with equally versatile stats (2 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense), a powerful ability (lowering threat back to the starting level) and 5 hit points as well, I am already using the Leadership version of Aragorn in the mono Leadership deck. This hero clash settles me on Glorfindel (if I were to play this deck by itself, I would probably play Lore Aragorn who could provide some much-needed threat management). He also conveniently gives me a dab of healing, and while there are more powerful healing effects in the game nowadays, this will be a consistent source and ensures that my heroes support all 3 of the main Lore abilities. My starting threat will be 30, which is not great, but this deck should be versatile and powerful enough to handle it. Hopefully this hero choice illustrates that selecting a hero is not aways about abilities, but often can be more about stats, role balance, and deck composition.

Before I move on, I want to address the Lore heroes that I did not choose and have not mentioned yet: Bifur and Elrond. Bifur is by far one of my favorite heroes, and unlike many Dwarves, does not rely on Dwarven synergy to be useful. However, in a mono-sphere deck, his resource smoothing becomes a lot less valuable. While it could be useful now and then to transfer some resources over from the cash-rich Leadership deck, in general resource generation and manipulation are not as essential for mono-sphere decks. His stats are also not as powerful and versatile as I would like them to be for this particular deck. That brings us to Elrond. No doubt he is one of the most powerful heroes in the game, boasting a healing effect that is better than Glorfindel’s, and is also infinitely versatile. He could definitely fit into this deck fairly smoothly. The main reason why I chose not to use him is that I feel compelled to use Vilya if I use Elrond, and running pure mono-sphere Lore and Leadership, I won’t have access to Light of Valinor and Unexpected Courage to allow him to both use his ring and participate in other areas of play.

Allies

First up, it’s time to look for some allies that can provide healingencounter deck manipulation, and card draw.

Gleowine sails straight into my deck, with his always useful card drawing ability. He provides a good option to either provide a little something extra in addition to Beravor, or coverage when I need her for other uses. As a unique character, I will toss 2 copies of him into my deck.

For encounter deck manipulation, Henamarth Riversong gets the nod. While it may seem that I am duplicating effects, since Denethor already allows me to look at the top card of the encounter deck, Henamarth provides scrying while saving big D for only those moments when I need to get rid of whatever is on top. He also serves as a cheap, 1-cost body. As a unique character, I put 2 copies in.

By far, my favorite healing ally is the Warden of Healing. While the Daughter of Nimrodel can heal 2 damage on 1 character, that person has to be a hero. By contrast, the Warden can heal 1 damage on any 2 characters, and it is cheaper as well (2 resources vs. 3). I don’t find that I use his repeatable healing feature (pay 2 resources to ready him again) that much, but it is nice as an emergency option. I definitely include 3 copies in my deck with him being non-unique.

Now we come to one of the central cards in this deck: Master of Lore. This card provides an opportunity to cover one of Lore’s essential weaknesses that I mentioned earlier: resource generation. master-of-lore-honWhile I did also say that mono-sphere decks are not as pressed for resources, it still is something that is important to address, as certain Lore cards can be expensive. In addition, more resources can never be a detriment, as it will allow me to get cards out quicker, which dramatically increases the success rate of a deck. Master of Lore, when it is exhausted, lowers the cost of playing Lore cards of a certain type by 1. The great thing is that this power stacks if there are multiple Masters of Lore in play. With a mono-sphere Lore deck, I will be able to get maximum value from this ability, netting an extra 1+ resources almost every turn. Not only will I put 3 Masters of Lore in my deck, but I will likely mulligan if I don’t get one in my starting hand.

With my strengths enhanced and a key weakness addressed, the rest of the ally round-up goes like this:

3 copies of Dori: I was initially lukewarm towards Dori, but I have grown to love this ally immensely. If I have heroes that are close to death, or have reason to believe that there are treacheries, shadow effects, or when revealed effects that could cause hero death, I keep Dori ready at all times. He can exhaust to save a hero from their fate, and also allow you to put damage from an undefended attack on him instead of a hero. Dori basically serves as a buffer, and although he is unique, I will include 3 copies for a couple of reasons. One is that his ability means that he will be dying often, so 3 copies gives me a better likelihood of replacing him. Second, I want him to come up quickly in a game, so I can get my buffer in place early on. His attack strength of 2 also comes in handy, as since he often stays ready until after defending is over, I can throw him into attacks if he was not needed to soak up damage.

2 copies of Gildor Inglorion: There is no denying that Gildor is one of the most powerful allies in the game. With 3 willpower, 2 attack, 3 defense, and 3 hit points, he is basically a fourth hero (albeit without resources). His ability, which grants player deck manipulation, also can be quite handy. Still, his cost of 5 means that he often gets left out of decks where Lore resources are more scarce. Given that I am playing mono-sphere and with Master of Lore lurking around, including Gildor becomes a no-brainer.

2 copies of Ithilien Tracker: This ally, when it exhausts, cancels the threat of the next enemy revealed from the staging area. This is a form of willpower boosting through canceling threat in the staging area, which is an area in which Lore excels. In fact, I have found that including multiple effects of this type dramatically increases the rate at which you can accrue quest progress. The Ithilien Tracker is also fairly low-cost (2 resources), and boasts a surprisingly high 3 hit points, which means he can stay in play for awhile. Even though he is not unique, I will only include 2 copies, as multiple copies don’t really do you much good, as the Ithilien Tracker’s ability does not stack.

3 copies of Longbeard Map-Maker: This ally is included for some additional willpower boosting, and often provides utility in covering any gaps in willpower you need or participating in a last big quest push. He also has well-rounded stats with a sturdy 3 hit points.

3 copies of Mirkwood Runner: The Mirkwood Runner is there to provide combat support. He can either attack alone to put some damage on a high-defense enemy who might otherwise be untouchable, or he can use his decent attack of 2 together with Glorfindel to put 5 attack down on an enemy.

3 copies of Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill version): Why this copy of Gandalf and not the Core version? Essentially it comes down to already including the Core version with alternate gandalfthe mono-Leadership deck, and wanting to do something different for this deck. While the Core version is endlessly useful for managing threat, providing card draw, or dealing direct damage, the OHaUH version is a beast, mainly because he does not exhaust to quest. He gives you an extra 4 willpower (or 4 attack/defense for battles and sieges) for questing, while still being available to provide some extra combat support for this deck. While the extra threat gain he brings can be troublesome, I will plan on bringing him in mid-to-late game to see a quest out or bail me out of a jam.

This completes my ally selection, but there were a couple of Lore allies on the bubble that I should mention: Silvan Tracker, Miner of the Iron Hills, Haldir, and Master of the Forge. The Silvan Tracker is a well-rounded ally, who can self-heal and provide some healing for Silvan characters as well, but as that would be of limited utility in this deck because of the race restriction, I can’t justify putting him in at the expense of any of the other allies who have a more defined purpose. On the other hand, I know that the Miner of the Iron Hills is an ally that I will substitute into this deck quite often when facing any scenario with condition attachments. Haldir is a strong ally as far as stats go, with the versatility of both ranged and sentinel, but I tend to either use Haldir or Gildor, not both because of their expense, and Gildor wins out here. Finally, Master of the Forge is player deck manipulation to grab an attachment I really need, but not anticipating including any attachments that are absolutely essential to deck function like Light of Valinor, Vilya, etc., that ability is an added luxury that I don’t really need.

Here’s the deck list so far:

Hero
Beravor (Core)
Denethor (Core) 
Glorfindel (Core)

Ally (26)
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Gleowine (Core) x2
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x2
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Master of Lore (HON) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3

Attachments

Lore is pretty rich in useful attachments, so I will have to be very thoughtful about what I include and what I leave out. I could include Self Preservation or Healing Herbs for additional healing, but between Glorfindel, Warden of Healing, and possible event healing, I don’t think I will want to use up a valuable attachment slot for that purpose. With Legacy of Durin being dependent on Dwarves, and there not being any other card draw attachments in the Lore spehre, that ability will have to fall to the side as well unfortunately. Encounter deck manipulation is currently not supported as far as attachments go, so it looks like my main deck abilities will have to wait until I choose events.

This leaves me free to round out my deck with some other abilities that I haven’t yet included. Immediately I leap to include what is probably the most powerful Lore attachment of all: A Burning Brand. This gives me the most consistent and effective shadow-cancellation in the game, and immediately provides a bit of security in one of the riskiest areas of the game. 3 copies, auto-include, with Denethor targeted as the main recipient.

Beravor and Gleowine will be providing card draw, so I can safely include Protector of Lorien for either willpower boosting or defense/tanking. Any extra cards I protector of loriendon’t need can be used to feed these abilities. One copy can be put on Denethor, which combined with A Burning Brand, will allow him to soak up the majority of attacks with peace of mind. Another could be put on Beravor to enhance her versatility, transforming her into a monster quester or defender depending on need. 3 copies.

Ranger Spikes is currently one of my favorite attachments around, and as such, playing Lore basically means an automatic 3 copies of this card. I’ve never regretted spending resources on Ranger Spikes, as not only does it serve as a form of willpower boosting by canceling a good chunk, if not all, of the threat of most enemies, but it also allows you to engage an enemy only when you are good and ready for it. In this way, Ranger Spikes prevents you from becoming overwhelmed by enemies, while facilitating quest progress.

Finally, I put in 3 copies of Forest Snare. While this is a card that I don’t always include in my decks, here I feel that it finds a good home. Even though it is expensive at 3 resources, playing mono-sphere makes this easier to stomach. With neither the mono Leadership deck nor this mono Lore deck equipped with attack/hulking effects to deal with the larger enemies, Forest Snare gives me an invaluable way to neutralize the threat these monsters might otherwise cause. If I was playing with a mono-Tactics deck or any deck that included ways to boost attack power, I might not feel obligated to include Forest Snare.

At this point, the two attachments that remain tempting are Asfaloth and Thror’s Map. Both are forms of location management, and as such, I would probably only want to include one. Thror’s Map gets locations out of the staging area and avoids nasty travel effects, while Asfaloth can be used because of the inclusion of Glorfindel, and puts consistent progress on locations. However, because I am already sitting at 12 attachments, and because I have plenty of questing power between this mono Lore deck and the mono Leadership deck (not to mention alternative ways of neutralizing location threat), I will hold off on including either attachment.

Here’s the deck list as it stands now:

Hero 
Beravor (Core)
Denethor (Core) 
Glorfindel (Core) 

Ally (26)
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Gleowine (Core) x2
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x2
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Master of Lore (HON) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3

Attachment (12)
Ranger Spikes (HON) x3
Protector of Lorien (Core) x3
A Burning Brand (CatC) x3
Forest Snare (Core) x3

Events

I’m pretty happy overall with the composition of the deck so far. There’s some healingcard draw, and encounter deck manipulation, along with a fair bit of willpower boosting and defense/tanking. I will use events to emphasize certain areas and sand down the rough edges, knowing I have about 12-14 copies worth of events to work with since I’m sitting at 38 total currently.

3 copies of Secret Paths/3 copies of Radagast’s Cunning: These help me with willpower boosting and location management. It is a rare occurrence for me to build a Lore deck that doesn’t include these cards. I’ve already talked at length in other places about the value of these cards, so I won’t go on and on here, other than to say that Secret Paths and Radagast’s Cunning allow you to neutralize threat exactly when and where you need it.

3 copies of Needful to Know: This actually is a card that hasn’t seen much play in my needful to knowdecks previously. However, one of the big areas that this deck is lacking is threat management. There aren’t really any other options for Lore in this department other than Core Gandalf, which I have chosen not to include. With Denethor and Henamarth Riversong hanging around, I should be able to maximize the value of this card by looking at the top card of the encounter deck before I pull the trigger.

3 copies of Gildor’s Counsel: An extremely powerful card that reveals one less card during staging. In a two-player game, this means only 1 card will be revealed instead of 2, which is a huge difference. Sometimes this card can be a bit hard to pay for in other decks, but in a mono Lore deck, it is an auto-include all day, every day.

2 copies of Word of Command: With the OHaUH version of Gandalf at my side, I can include this card to fetch something that I particularly need at a given moment (WoC requires an Istari character to exhaust to pull one card out of your deck). For example, if a troll is about to ruin my day, and my Forest Snares have somehow gone missing, I can use Word of Command to grab one. Another example is retrieving a Master of Lore early in the game if none have come up so far, which is a card that can serve as a lynchpin of this deck.

(Note: After playing with this deck for awhile, I eventually replaced Word of Command with Lore of Imladris, since every time I had Word of Command I never seemed to have a use for it, and I wanted some extra healing power.)

Bubble cards in this case were Shadow of the Past, Out of the Wild, and Daeron’s Runes. The first card (SofP) is a useful form of encounter deck manipulation, allowing you to mitigate some of the uncertainty of the encounter deck. With it, I would be able to put that fairly harmless location or weak enemy in the discard pile back on top of the encounter deck, giving me knowledge of what is coming and substituting it for something potentially more harmful. However, I didn’t feel it was a necessity and valuable enough to replace any of the other cards. Out of the Wild was definitely a contender as it would allow me to cover for one of the main weaknesses of this deck: treachery cancellation. Using Out of the Wild, I could peek through the top 3 cards of the encounter deck and remove the nastiest treachery I found from the game. This is a means of indirectly canceling or neutralizing a treachery. However, I had to choose between Out of the Wild and Needful to Know, and the slightly lower cost of the latter combined with the necessity for some threat management made my choice for me. Finally Daeron’s Runes could provide some extra card draw at no cost, but that would be a matter of giving me something I already had and was already probably well-covered with Beravor and Gleowine.

(Note: As another aside, after using this deck against many quests, I am tempted to replace Needful to Know with Out of the Wild after all. Threat management has surprisingly been a non-issue while treacheries have been a larger concern.)

Since I’m sitting at 52 cards, I will not go back and add Asfaloth or Thror’s Map, which is an acceptable omission. Here’s the final deck list:

The Or Deck* (Mono-sphere Lore deck)

*Based on Beravor, Denethor, and Glorfindel)

Hero
Beravor (Core) 
Denethor (Core) 
Glorfindel (Core) 

Ally (26)
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Gleowine (Core) x2
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x2
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Master of Lore (HON) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3

Attachment (12)
Ranger Spikes (HON) x3
Protector of Lorien (Core) x3
A Burning Brand (CatC) x3
Forest Snare (Core) x3

Event (14)
Secret Paths (Core) x3
Radagast’s Cunning (Core) x3
Needful to Know (TRG) x3
Gildor’s Counsel (THoEM) x3
Word of Command (TLD) x2

Strategy

I will be looking to get Master of Lore in my opening hand or at least within the first few rounds, in order to pump cards out more quickly. I will attach A Burning Brand to Denethor as soon as I am able in order to fortify my defense. Since this deck is sorely lacking in the readying department, I will need to be very strategic about when to use Beravor for questing or combat and when to keep her ready for card draw. In general, if there is no anticipated need for attack, I can send Glorfindel on the quest and keep Beravor back for possible combat usage or ideally to draw some cards. The Leadership deck can throw Crams to Beravor as well to help grease the wheels. The interaction between the two decks will be very intriguing, as there is no clear distinction or specialization between combat and questing. Both decks can quest very well, and both can handle combat. As such, the duties will shift between them depending on the way the game is flowing (who has more allies in play, what attachments are on the table, etc.).

Strengths and Weaknesses

The stengths of this deck lie in healing any damage that is inflicted, as well as in neutralizing the encounter deck and making it more predictable. With many cards that can cancel threat in the staging area, and with allies and heroes that can contribute willpower, this deck is also no slouch in terms of questing. Glorfindel, Dori, Beravor, and Mirkwood Runners can team up to slay enemies, while Forest Snares and Rangers Spikes help to manage the flow of enemies overall. The main strength of this deck is in its versatility and balance, which becomes even more pronounced when paired with the equally balanced mono-Leadership deck.

Still, not everything is roses and a clear path to victory. The most apparent weakness of this deck, especially when combined with its Leadership counterpart is the lack of treachery cancellation. Again, these will be very noticeable in those quests that boast the nastiest of treacheries. Threat management can also be a issue, since the deck starts at the relatively high level of 30 and only has Needful to Know to stem the tide. Finally, with a lack of attack/hulking effects, the stronger enemies will be tough to take down quickly. This of course is where Forest Snares shine, but that is not always a viable option because of certain immunity effects. Also, sometimes enemies sit in that gray area between being just powerful enough that they are causing trouble and hard to kill but not strong enough to justify using a Forest Snare.

Here’s how I assess this deck in terms of abilities:

Resource Generation     ♦♦◊◊

Card Draw     ♦♦♦◊

Treachery Cancellation     ◊◊◊◊

Encounter Deck Manipulation     ♦♦♦◊

Location Management     ◊◊◊◊

Threat Management     ♦◊◊◊

Direct Damage     ◊◊◊◊

Defense/Tanking     ♦♦♦◊

Attack/Hulking     ◊◊◊◊

Healing     ♦♦♦♦

Readying     ◊◊◊◊

Player Deck Manipulation     ♦◊◊◊

Willpower Boosting     ♦♦♦♦

*Just as a caveat, remember that the power of a deck cannot be judged solely in terms of deck abilities, but also in hero composition, consistency, versatility, balance of stats, etc. The above profile simply gives you an idea of what abilities are included, and to what degree.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, I have been surprised by how effectively this deck has functioned, especially when combined with its Leadership counterpart. I have used these two decks together with great success, even racking up a fairly clean victory over Peril in Pelargir. I haven’t tested this yet, but my intuition is that the two quests that they might struggle against are Into Ithilien and Siege of Cair Andros, as some of the willpower boosting will be wasted and the allies and heroes are lacking a bit in terms of defense strength and attack boosting which will hurt for battles and sieges. However, at the end of the day, mono-sphere has proved to be an effective approach to the game, which only gets more viable with each card released. For new players, it can be a way to ease into deck-building as well, however it does become more difficult to pull off with a smaller card pool. The final point I want to emphasize one more time is that having defined roles for heroes and decks is a great way to approach the game, but versatility can be extremely powerful as well in that it allows you to be flexible in dealing with the changing fortunes of adventuring in Middle-Earth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I smell the acrid odor of smoke in the air, and in the distance I hear the beating of great wings. I’m off to rescue Lake-Town, I’m afraid. See you next time.

11 Comments
  1. This is excellent work, sir. Apart from the stellar deck, I really like the analysis at the end, where you discussed the balance between defined roles and versatility. One of the great things about this deck is that it can be successful solo, but it becomes even stronger when paired with other decks (like your mono-Leadership deck). I look forward to more mono-sphere goodness.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I definitely have tended towards dual-sphere for most of the life of the game, only recently drifting towards mono-sphere, and I’m really enjoying it. The one type that I’m going to explore more because I don’t use it that much is tri-sphere. I notice that you use a lot of tri-sphere builds, so I’m going to be drawing from some of your wisdom in that area.

  2. Very impressive writeup. Truth is I haven’t read it all yet, but look forward to finishing. I wanted to comment that I’d love to have a +1 button for Google+. Take care.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I just added the button for Google+.

  3. It should come as no surprise that Lore is my favorite sphere so I loved this article. I went through a similar process trying to create a monosphere Lore deck (1 core set and all expansions except Hobbit saga).

    The main differences are:

    (1) I like Bilbo’s consistent card draw and with Fast Hitch, Burning Brand, Boots of Erebor, and a regular healing he can be quite the little defender!

    (2) The Strider version of Aragorn is just too cool for me not to use. Plus with him, I let the threat run wild early in the game while I get out Master of Lore and some key allies. When it gets into the upper 40s, Strider drops it back down.

    It certainly wasn’t easy, but I felt very satisfied to beat Peril at Pelargir with this deck which I named the “Peril of Pe-lore-gir”.

    Hero (3)
    Aragorn (TWitW) x1
    Denethor (Core) x1
    Bilbo Baggins (THFG) x1

    Ally (25)
    Gandalf (Core) x3
    Master of Lore (HON) x3
    Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
    Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
    Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x2
    Gleowine (Core) x2
    Master of the Forge (SaF) x3
    Envoy of Pelargir (HON) x1
    Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x2
    Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
    Ithilien Tracker (HON) x1
    Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x2
    Warden of Healing (TLD) x2

    Attachment (16)
    A Burning Brand (CatC) x3
    Fast Hitch (TDM) x2
    Protector of Lorien (Core) x2
    Boots from Erebor (KD) x2
    Forest Snare (Core) x2
    Ranger Spikes (HON) x3
    Self Preservation (Core) x2

    Event (9)
    Lore of Imladris (Core) x2
    Radagast’s Cunning (Core) x2
    Infighting (AJtR) x3
    Secret Paths (Core) x2

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Lore Aragorn is definitely one of my favorite heroes. I especially like pairing him with Frodo, which to me feels very thematic, as after Frodo attracts too much attention by using the Ring to escape enemies, it is Strider Aragorn who is able to lose the pursuit in the trackless wild (lowering threat). Unfortunately, pairing this deck with the mono Leadership deck which used Aragorn meant I couldn’t use Loragorn.

  4. scwont permalink

    Mono-sphere deckbuilding seems to be in vogue at the moment! I’d recently built some monosphere decks myself just before the mono-Leadership article was posted. Perhaps the relative slowdown in new player cards over the past 6 months or so has given people some breathing room to explore the possibilities in the existing card pool a bit more than usual?

    Mono-sphere decks also give you an excuse to try out cards that you may have been curious about but never had the courage to try in multi-sphere decks – in my case, Radagast’s Cunning and Secret Paths.

    It’s also interesting to note that the core set heroes often end up being the best option for mono-sphere decks – in fact the one in this article runs all the core set Lore heroes! The expansion heroes tend in general to be more specialised, or better suited to multi-sphere decks for various reasons.

    I built a deck for each sphere, and Lore was my favourite to play. With all the options to peek at the encounter deck and manipulate encounter cards in different ways, mono-Lore provides a unique and refreshing play experience compared to other decks.

    My mono-Lore build went for Denethor, Beravor and Aragorn as heroes. Like Master of Lore, I found Aragorn’s ability to let you take liberties with your threat level extremely useful. If I were playing Glorfindel, I’d find it hard to leave out Asfaloth myself – not only is it a very strong card but playing it with the Glorfindel of the matching sphere would ironically be a new experience!

    I’m strongly on the side of Beravor when it comes to the Beravor-Bilbo debate. For a difference of only 1 starting threat, Beravor just seems too much stronger and more flexible, even allowing for a solo, mono-Lore deck where Bilbo’s card draw isn’t spread around and Fast Hitch is an option but Unexpected Courage is not. The pro-Bilbo arguments (“he’s good when loaded with attachments!”) apply to basically any hero, and A Burning Brand and Boots from Erebor can still only delay the inevitable when faced with 3+ attack power enemies – which are pretty much the norm in most scenarios these days. Fast Hitch seems of minimal value too when he’s so feeble until loaded up with a bunch of other attachments. Still, I guess the proof is in the pudding and others have tried and still like him, so I must give him a proper go at some point.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think you’re right about the slowing of player card release leading to more experimentation. I know that’s definitely true for myself.

      I also noticed that the core set and early heroes tend to be the most useful for mono-sphere decks. If you look at my mono-Leadership deck, it uses Aragorn and Theodred (both Core Set) and Imrahil (Rhosgobel).

      There being so many good Lore cards and it being my favorite sphere made it very difficult to make the final cuts. If it wasn’t for a hero clash with Leadership Aragorn in my other deck, I would have put Loragorn in over Glorfindel. Still, I’m a bit happy it worked out this way, as it gave me a chance to play with Lore Glorfindel for the first time in a long while. I think for location-heavy quests, I might substitute Asfaloth in, but I haven’t found it necessary yet because of the other tricks in the deck.

  5. Norm permalink

    Love the analysis and step-by-step thought process; it’s a great series of deck building articles.

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  1. Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Spirit) | Tales from the Cards

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